Trump says it’s ‘badge of HONOR’ for US to lead world in Covid-19 cases

President Donald Trump says that it is a “badge of honour” that the the US has more cases of the coronavirus than any other country.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting this afternoon, the president put the high figure down to the volume of Covid-19tests being carried out.

“When we have a lot of cases, I don’t look at that as a bad thing — I look at that in a certain respect as being a good thing because it means our testing is much better. … So I view it as a badge of honour, really,” he said.

Mr Trump added that this was “a great tribute to the testing and all of the work that a lot of professionals have done.”

The US has conducted 11.28 million tests for the coronavirus, according to figures updated on Monday by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

A total of 1.59 million cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed — approximately 14 per cent of those tested.

More than 91,000 American deaths have been officially recorded as directly caused by the virus.

The president brought up the topic of testing in his response to a question about whether he was considering a travel ban on Latin America, specifically Brazil which now has the third highest number of cases in the world after the US and Russia.

Initially responding that the administration was considering a travel ban, Mr Trump continued: “We hope that we’re not going to have a problem. The governor of Florida is doing very, very well testing — in particular Florida, because a big majority come in to Florida. Brazil has gone more or less herd, and they’re having problems.”

“I worry about everything, I don’t want people coming in here and infecting our people,” he continued. “I don’t want people over there sick either.”

[The Independent]


Trump touts new ‘super duper’ missile but Pentagon won’t confirm details

President Donald Trump on Friday boasted that the US military is developing a new “super duper” missile that he claimed can travel 17-times faster than anything in the current arsenal, a claim the Pentagon was unwilling to confirm.

“We are building, right now, incredible military equipment at a level that nobody has ever seen before. We have no choice. We have to do it — with the adversaries we have out there. We have a — I call it the ‘super-duper missile.’ And I heard the other night, 17 times faster than what they have right now,” Trump said at a White House event to sign the 2020 Armed Forces Day Proclamation.

Trump was speaking alongside some of the country’s top military leadership, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.

“You take the fastest missile we have right now — you’ve heard Russia has five times, and China is working on five or six times. We have one 17 times. And it’s just gotten the go-ahead,” Trump added.

[CNN]


Trump moves the coronavirus goal posts, pre-spinning 100,000 deaths as ‘a very good job’

On Feb. 26, when there were 15 reported cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, President Trump predicted the number of cases would soon be “down to close to zero.”

On March 5, he hailed the fact that there were about 3,000 deaths worldwide but only 11 in the United States.

On March 9, he noted that there were just 22 U.S. deaths and compared the virus to the seasonal flu, which has killed 37,000 people this year.

On March 13, he said the 2009 swine flu had killed 14,000 people in the United States and called the Obama administration’s response to it “a disaster.”

On Sunday night, the same president set the goal posts for his administration’s response to the coronavirus in a very different place. In a White House briefing in the Rose Garden, Trump referenced new data from his task force and said that between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths would represent a victory over the coronavirus.

In doing so, Trump seemed to suddenly embrace coronavirus projections that he had previously shrugged off and downplayed. Rather than put an optimistic spin on what lies ahead, he instead sought to use the most dire projections to pre-spin his administration’s response as a success.

As The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker reported, Trump pointed no fewer than 16 times to the most dire projections of 2 million or more U.S. deaths in the Sunday briefing. This was most prominently projected in an Imperial College London study that spurred a more aggressive response in the United States and Britain two weeks ago.

“So you’re talking about 2.2 million deaths, 2.2 million people from this,” Trump said. “And so if we could hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000 — it’s a horrible number, maybe even less — but to 100,000. So we have between 100 and 200,000, and we altogether have done a very good job.”

Trump added, “But to point to up to 2.2 million deaths and maybe even beyond that, I’m feeling very good about what we did last week.”

As The Post’s William Booth reported when the Imperial College London study came out, that 2.2 million figure was a worst-case scenario in which virtually no precautions were taken — and Trump, to his credit, acknowledged that at one point Sunday.

The number was halved if the two countries were more aggressive:If Britain and the United States pursued more-ambitious measures to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, to slow but not necessarily stop the epidemic over the coming few months, they could reduce mortality by half, to 260,000 people in the United Kingdom and 1.1 million in the United States.

But it was significantly lower for Britain if the most aggressive steps were taken:Finally, if the British government quickly went all-out to suppress viral spread — aiming to reverse epidemic growth and reduce the case load to a low level — then the number of dead in the country could drop to below 20,000. To do this, the researchers said, Britain would have to enforce social distancing for the entire population, isolate all cases, demand quarantines of entire households where anyone is sick, and close all schools and universities — and do this not for weeks but for 12 to 18 months, until a vaccine is available.

As Booth noted, the model didn’t provide a number for the United States in the case of the most aggressive response. But if you apply the same percentage-wise decline to both Britain and the United States — as the study did between the worst-case scenario and the middle option — it would be about 85,000 deaths in the United States. That’s pretty close to what Trump is now aiming for.

Whether that would actually be the victory that Trump says it would be is subjective. But it’s notable that he’s now playing up those projections, after he spent the initial weeks of the outbreak suggesting the situation was “under control” and floating the idea that the virus could suddenly, miraculously disappear. The number of deaths he’s now talking about would be substantially higher than the seasonal flu and swine flu numbers he has repeatedly compared the current situation with — and in the latter case argued signified a failed response.

The swine flu, of course, was significantly less deadly than the coronavirus. But that didn’t stop Trump from making a comparison that has now turned out to be rather shortsighted. The flu comparison also was faulty from the start because the mortality rate and the transmission rate have been shown to be substantially lower.

The problem with setting the goal posts for your own success in the middle of a crisis is that there is so much you don’t know, and you can wind up setting an expectation that will later suggest you didn’t take things seriously enough or that your response was a failure. But Trump did it again Sunday — albeit in a significantly less optimistic way.

[Washington Post]

Trump Boasts of Stock Market In Wild Tweet: ‘HOW ARE YOUR 409K’S DOING?’

President Donald Trump touched on a series of topics in his Thursday morning Twitter statements, and in the most recent one, he declared that the stock market is soaring and everyone’s “409K’S” are doing great.

“STOCK MARKET AT ALL-TIME HIGH!” Trump tweeted in all-caps. “HOW ARE YOUR 409K’S DOING? 70%, 80%, 90% up? Only 50% up! What are you doing wrong?”

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1215285845336502272?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Here’s a picture of the tweet before it got deleted:

Long story short, there’s no such thing as a 409k. 401k, sure. Not 409.

[Mediaite]

Trump tweets support for Republican candidates in Virginia

President Donald Trump is tweeting support for Republican candidates in Virginia ahead of the state’s highly watched legislative elections.

Trump urged Virginia voters via Twitter to use Tuesday’s election to “send a signal to D.C.” by supporting candidates who support gun rights, lower taxes and other GOP priorities.

The Sunday and Monday tweets are Trump’s first public comments on the election that is widely viewed as a referendum on how voters feel about the president and his possible impeachment.

Virginia is one of only four states holding legislative elections this year and the only one where Democrats have a chance of flipping control of the state house.

Voter antipathy toward Trump has powered Democratic gains in the last two election cycles in Virginia.

[Fredericksberg.com]

Trump says US is building a wall in Colorado

President Trump declared Wednesday that the U.S. is building a border wall in Colorado despite the fact that the Western state does not sit on the U.S-Mexico border.

“You know why we’re going to win New Mexico? Because they want safety on their border. And they didn’t have it,” Trump said during a speech at the Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh.

“And we’re building a wall on the border of New Mexico,” he continued. “And we’re building a wall in Colorado. We’re building a beautiful wall, a big one that really works that you can’t get over, you can’t get under.”

He added, “And we’re building a wall in Texas. And we’re not building a wall in Kansas, but they get the benefit of the walls we just mentioned. And Louisiana’s incredible.”

Colorado sits directly on top of New Mexico, and aside from Trump’s comments, there are no reports that his administration is building a wall in the state.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill.

There is a piece of the border wall being built along the Colorado River in Arizona, which shares a border with Mexico.

Lawmakers and other officials knocked Trump for his comments, with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) tweeting a photo of a U.S. map with a Sharpie outline along the Colorado border.

Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) tagged New Mexico Sens. Martin Heinrich (D) and Tom Udall (D) in a tweet, saying, “Do one of you want to break it to @realDonaldTrump that Colorado’s border is with New Mexico, not Mexico…or should I?” 

George Conway, husband to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and an outspoken Trump critic, tweeted that “we can confidently say that Mexico is never going to pay for a wall with Colorado.”

[The Hill]

Trump congratulates Poland as it commemorates Nazi invasion

President Trump is known to make the odd comment here and there about foreign nations, often because he doesn’t seem particularly versed in what’s happening in them. But even by his standards, this was quite a weekend.

Trump was asked Sunday about the trip to Poland he canceled to monitor Hurricane Dorian. Asked if he had a message for that country, which was commemorating the anniversary of the start of World War II, Trump decided to … congratulate it?

Q: Mr. President, do you have a message for Poland on the 80th anniversary of the Second World War?

TRUMP: I do have a great message for Poland. And we have Mike Pence, our Vice President, is just about landing right now. And he is representing me. I look forward to being there soon.

But I just want to congratulate Poland. It’s a great country with great people. We also have many Polish people in our country; it could be 8 million. We love our Polish friends. And I will be there soon.

For those not versed in World War II history, Sunday was the anniversary of the day Nazi Germany invaded Poland, which led France and Great Britain to declare war two days later (i.e. 80 years ago Tuesday). Poland would wind up losing nearly one-fifth of its population in the war, according to estimates.

As such, it was more of a day for somber remembrance than a day of triumph. The German president asked for Poland’s forgiveness, for instance. And Trump’s comment struck a significantly different tone than the man sent to Poland in his stead, Vice President Pence.

[Washington Post]

Media

Trump doesn’t think he’s ‘ever even heard of a Category 5’ hurricane. Four such storms have threatened the US since he took office

President Donald Trump said Sunday that he’s “not sure that (he’s) ever even heard of a Category 5” hurricane, despite four such storms — including Hurricane Dorian — having threatened the US since he took office.

“We don’t even know what’s coming at us. All we know is it’s possibly the biggest. I have — I’m not sure that I’ve ever even heard of a Category 5. I knew it existed. And I’ve seen some Category 4’s — you don’t even see them that much,” Trump said at a briefing with officials at FEMA’s headquarters in Washington, DC.

“But a Category 5 is something that — I don’t know that I’ve ever even heard the term other than I know it’s there. That’s the ultimate, and that’s what we have unfortunately,” he added, in reference to Hurricane Dorian.

The comments from the President came just before Dorian, a dangerous Category 5 storm, made landfall on the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas. The storm is the most recent of four Category 5 hurricanes to endanger parts of the US since Trump assumed the Oval Office. As of Monday morning, Dorian is still battering the Abaco and Grand Bahama Islands. The hurricane — the strongest on the planet anywhere this year — lashed the region overnight and is forecast to continue through much of Monday. The storm is now expected to move northward and possibly bring hurricane-force winds to Florida Monday night before moving up the east coast.

In September 2017, nearly eight months into Trump’s presidency, Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest Atlantic basin hurricane ever recorded outside the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, affected at least nine US states. That same month, Hurricane Maria devastated the US territory of Puerto Rico, leaving behind an island that is still struggling to recover.

Last October, Hurricane Michael, which was originally designated as a Category 4, barreled into the Florida Panhandle as the third Category 5 hurricane to blast the US since Trump.

Trump has pledged to provide federal assistance to state and local officials to deal with Hurricane Dorian.

Not the first time Trump said he’s never heard of a Category 5

Trump has previously indicated several other times that Category 5 hurricanes are unprecedented weather events that either he or others had never heard of or witnessed.

In the days between the landfalls of Hurricane Irma and Maria, he said he “never even knew” they existed and said days later that “people (in Puerto Rico) had never seen anything like” the storm.

In October 2017, Trump claimed “nobody has ever heard of a (Category) 5 hitting land,” and earlier this year, he again said he had never heard of a hurricane of that intensity.

While the US has seen a number of Category 5 storms in recent memory — including Hurricane Katrina in 2005 — scientists estimate that Atlantic hurricanes could become more common in the coming years. And while researchers can’t definitively say the climate crisis is leading to more intense hurricanes, scientists have found that rising sea levels due to global warming can further exacerbate the impact of Atlantic hurricanes.

[CNN]

Trump causes confusion by saying Hurricane Dorian will hit Alabama, forcing national weather service to issue correction

Donald Trump has caused unnecessary confusion by saying Hurricane Dorian – now the joint most powerful storm to make landfall on record – was forecast to hit Alabama, when in fact the state is not among those experts believe is threatened.

Three other states – FloridaSouth Carolina and Georgia – are all ordering part or full evacuations of their coastal areas and North Carolinahas declared a state of emergency, but there are no evacuation orders in place in Alabama.

The US president generated additional bemusement, by saying he had “never even heard of a category 5 storm” before, despite making the same comment at least four times previously during his presidency.

Mr Trump tweeted: “In addition to Florida – South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama, will most likely be hit (much) harder than anticipated. Looking like one of the largest hurricanes ever. Already category 5. BE CAREFUL! GOD BLESS EVERYONE!”

This prompted US weather organisations to refute the president’s statement.

The US National Weather Service branch for Birmingham, Alabama responded to Mr Trump’s tweet saying: “Alabama will NOT see any impacts from #Dorian. We repeat, no impacts from Hurricane #Dorianwill be felt across Alabama. The system will remain too far east.”

Mr Trump also claimed he had never heard of a category 5 hurricane, a remark he has made several times before – despite owning property in Florida, a state routinely affected by tropical storms.

[The Independent]

President Trump Tweets Sensitive Surveillance Image of Iran

President Trump has tweeted what experts say is almost certainly an image from a classified satellite or drone, showing the aftermath of an accident at an Iranian space facility.

“The United States of America was not involved in the catastrophic accident during final launch preparations for the Safir [Space Launch Vehicle] Launch at Semnan Launch Site One in Iran,” the president said in a tweet that accompanied the image on Friday. “I wish Iran best wishes and good luck in determining what happened at Site One.”

NPR broke the news of the launch failure on Thursday, using images from commercial satellites that flew over Iran’s Imam Khomeini Space Center. Those images showed smoke billowing from the pad. Iran has since acknowledged an accident occurred at the site.

Some of the highest-resolution imagery available commercially comes from the company Maxar, whose WorldView-2 satellite sports 46-centimeter resolution.

But the image shown in the president’s tweet appears to be of far better quality, says Ankit Panda, an adjunct senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists, who specializes in analyzing satellite imagery. “The resolution is amazingly high,” says Panda. “I would think it’s probably below well below 20 centimeters, which is much higher than anything I’ve ever seen.”

Panda says that the tweet discloses “some pretty amazing capabilities that the public simply wasn’t privy to before this.”

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence referred questions about the image to the White House, which declined to comment.

The image shows the aftermath of the accident, which experts believe took place while the rocket was being fueled. Clearly visible is the truck used to transport and erect the rocket, and the words “The product of national empowerment,” which have been written along the edge of the pad. The picture also shows extensive debris and charring around the pad.

It was not entirely clear where the president’s photo came from. Panda believes it was most likely taken by a classified U.S. satellite. But Melissa Hanham, deputy director of the Open Nuclear Network at the One Earth Foundation, believes that the resolution is so high, it may be beyond the physical limits at which satellites can operate. “The atmosphere is thick enough that after somewhere around 11 to 9 centimeters, things get wonky,” she says.

That could mean it was taken by a drone or spy plane, though such a vehicle would be violating Iranian airspace. Hanham also says that the European company Airbus has been experimenting with drones that fly so high, they are technically outside the atmosphere and thus operating outside national boundaries. But she says she doesn’t know whether the U.S. has such a system.

Glare in the center of the image suggests the image in the tweet was itself a photo of a briefing slide. Panda suggests it could have been displayed on a computer screen in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. It’s also possible it was a photo of a piece of paper.

Either way, Panda notes that a small redaction in the upper left-hand corner suggests the intelligence community had cleared the image for release by the president.

But both he and Hanham question whether releasing it was a good idea. “You really risk giving away the way you know things,” Hanham says. “That allows people to adapt and hide how they carry out illicit activity.”

“These are closely held national secrets,” Panda adds. “We don’t even share a lot of this kind of imagery with our closest allies.” In tweeting it out to the world, Trump is letting Iran know exactly what the U.S. is capable of. He’s also letting others know as well, Panda says. “The Russians and the Chinese, you’re letting them know that these are the kind of things that the United States has the capability of seeing,” he says.

[NPR]

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