Monthly Archives: February 2020

Panasonic said it will stop producing solar cells and modules at Tesla’s factory in Buffalo, N.Y., ending a four-year joint venture with the electric automaker.

Nikkei Asian Review was the first to report that Panasonic planned to end its production agreement with Tesla . Panasonic has since issued an announcement to explain its decision. Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

Panasonic said it will cease solar manufacturing operations at the Tesla factory by the end of May. The company will exit the factory by September.

Panasonic employs about 380 people at the factory. Those employees will be given severance packages. Panasonic said it will work with Tesla to identify and hire qualified applicants from its impacted workforce. Panasonic said in its announcement that Tesla plans to hire qualified applicants to new positions needed to support its solar and energy manufacturing operations in Buffalo.

Panasonic struck a deal in 2016 to jointly produce solar cells at Tesla’s “Gigafactory 2” plant in Buffalo, N.Y. Panasonic committed to share the cost of equipment needed for the plant. The joint venture deepened the relationship between the two companies, which already had established a partnership to produce battery cells at Tesla’s factory near Reno, Nev.

Panasonic’s decision to exit the factory comes as Tesla tries to scale up its energy business as well as meet employment requirements at the state-funded factory. The Buffalo factory was built with $750 million in taxpayer funds and then leased to Tesla. Under a deal reached with the state, Tesla must employ 1,460 people there by April or face a $41.2 million penalty.

As reports of Panasonic’s exit circulated, Tesla told Empire State Development, the New York economic development authority that oversees the factory, that it has exceeded its hiring commitment.

“Tesla informed us that they have not only met, but exceeded their next hiring commitment in Buffalo. As of today, Tesla said they have more than 1,500 jobs in Buffalo and more than 300 others across New York State,” Howard Zemsky, chairman of Empire State Development said in a statement.

Panasonic’s decision to move away from global solar products has no bearing on Tesla’s current operations nor its commitment to Buffalo and New York State, according to Tesla, Zemsky said.

The development authority will verify the company’s data, Zemsky said, who added that the count does not include the Panasonic positions.

Panasonic never received incentives from the state, according to Zemsky.

As Panasonic exits New York, it still works with Tesla under a separate joint venture to produce battery cells at a massive factory near Reno, Nev. Panasonic said in a statement that the decision “will have no impact on Panasonic and Tesla’s strong partnership in Nevada.” The two companies will continue their electric vehicle battery work taking place at Tesla’s Gigafactory, according to Panasonic.

In recent years, reports have suggested the relationship between Panasonic and Tesla has become strained. Tesla’s acquisition in February 2019 of Maxwell Technologies fueled speculation that the automaker wanted to develop its own battery cells.

Community Conversation on December 2019 Police-Involved



On Tuesday, March 10th, the Police Advisory Board (PAB) will host a public event

with Black Love Resists in the Rust (BLRR) to address the Buffalo police-involved

shooting that occurred on December 29th, 2019. During a traffic stop at the

intersection of Lonsdale and Northland, a 30 year old man was shot by a Buffalo

Police Officer. BLRR has been actively working with residents who were impacted

by this shooting and seeks to start a conversation with Council Members, Police, and

the community. This is an opportunity for the family of the shooting victim and

Buffalo residents to voice concerns to the members of the Common Council on

policing and community-police relations in the City of Buffalo. The PAB has

previously hosted community forums and shared concerns and policy

recommendations with the Common Council and the Buffalo Police Department at

the Police Oversight Committee Meetings of the Common Council.

Details of Event:

Public Community Meeting:

Tuesday, March 10th, 2020


Delavan-Grider Community Center

877 East Delavan Avenue, Buffalo, NY


The PAB is an independent advisory committee created by the Buffalo Common

Council to focus on policing and community-police relations in the City of Buffalo.

Members of the Board are all volunteers and Buffalo residents who represent a

diverse range of backgrounds, neighborhoods, issues, expertise, and generations.

The PAB works by consulting with Buffalo residents and advocating on their behalf

by making recommendations to the Common Council and Buffalo Police

Department about how policing and community-police relationships can be

improved. Over the past 2 years, the PAB has issued reports and testified to the

Common Council on issues including the police body-worn camera policy, police

officer performance evaluations, community policing, officer trainings, and the

police union contract.

    Pedestrians wear masks in central Seoul People wear masks while walking in central Seoul on June 9, 2015. South Korean health authorities announced the same day that a 68-year-old woman became the seventh fatality linked to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus and reported eight new cases, raising the total number of infections to 95. PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxHUNxONLY pedestrians Wear masks in Central Seoul Celebrities Wear masks while Walking in Central Seoul ON June 9 2015 South Korean Health Authorities announced The Same Day Thatcher a 68 Year Old Woman became The Seventh Fatality Linked to The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus and reported Eight New Cases Raising The total Number of Infections to 95 PUBLICATIONxINxGERxSUIxAUTxHUNxONLY

    MILAN (Reuters) – At the epicenter of Europe’s worst outbreak of coronavirus to date, daily lives have taken on an eerie, aimless calm. It’s at night that the worry takes over

    “You can hear the ambulances coming and going, and maybe they’re going to sick people who have nothing to do with the coronavirus but it worries you just the same,” said Davide Benelli from his home in Casalpusterlengo, a town of around 15,000 in Italy’s quarantined “red zone” where the disease broke out a week ago.

    People in the zone wake up to closed cafes, restaurants and schools; farmers worry that planting should be starting around now. Parents try to keep their children amused with games or jobs around the house, or go on bike rides or drives to break the boredom.

    As the economic shocks triggered by this paralysis in the country’s northern industrial heartland reverberate across Europe, Italians are still trying to get to grips with how a seemingly isolated case could balloon within days, to bring the eurozone’s third-largest economy to the brink of recession.

    Almost 900 coronavirus cases have been confirmed. Authorities have put part of Italy’s most productive region into lockdown, shut the Venice carnival, one of its main tourist events, and postponed Milan’s showpiece design fair.

    Lombardy, the region around Italy’s financial capital, Milan, sits on the border with Switzerland and is one of the richest and most productive in Europe. Along with neighboring Veneto, the other main area hit by the coronavirus outbreak, it generates around a third of Italy’s economic output.

    Economists expect the crisis to tip Italy’s already struggling economy into recession by the end of the first quarter, with knock-on effects likely to last for months.

    “In Veneto, we have 600,000 businesses and we make 150 billion euros ($165 billion) of GDP per year, if we go into recession, Italy will fail,” said Luca Zaia, governor of the region of Veneto.

    The lockdown, which started on Feb. 23, affects 10 towns in Lombardy and one in Veneto and isolates some 50,000 people from the outside world. Trucks can get in and out with bare essentials, but police roadblocks keep everyone else in.

    Italy’s case reveals how vulnerable a Western economy can be to unexpected outside events. The red zone and the region around it is a microcosm of the Italian economy. The area contains everything from warehouses and logistics centers for companies to cheese and dairy processing centers.

    Local engineering unions say some 6,000 manufacturing workers, mainly those living in the red zone, have been sent home or put on short hours.

    “We are very worried. We’ll have to wait a couple of months for a reliable estimate of the effects on employment … but the initial signals are alarming,” said Andrea Donega, secretary general of the regional branch of the FIM-CISL union.

    Banks are taking steps to ensure people can access cash. Banco BPM SpA, one of the region’s main banks, has temporarily stopped charging customers from other banks who use its ATMs.

    The impact is hurting areas of Italy barely touched by the virus. Italy’s tourism federation, Assoturismo, said up to 90% of hotel and travel agency bookings had been canceled in Rome and up to 80% in Sicily for March, as school trips and conferences across the country were called off, and foreigners opted for caution.

    “Italian tourism never experienced a crisis on this scale in recent history. This is the darkest moment. Not even 9/11 hit our business so hard,” said Assoturismo chief, Vittorio Messina.


    Italians want to know why their country has become the Wuhan of Europe. The first two cases in Italy came to light at the end of January when two Chinese tourists from the city that is ground zero of the deadly disease fell ill during a trip to the country.

    The couple were immediately put into isolation, everyone they had come into contact with was tested for the virus, and Italy’s government became the first in Europe to ban all direct flights to and from China, in a bid to halt further contagion. The two Chinese are not believed to have infected anyone else.

    “The system of prevention put into place by Italy is the most rigorous in Europe,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told reporters reassuringly on Jan 31.

    His confidence was misplaced.

    On Feb. 21, Lombardy announced that a 38-year-old Italian man, named only as Mattia, from the town of Codogno, 60 km (40 miles) southeast of Milan, had tested positive for the virus. Within a week, 888 people were confirmed to have caught the disease, of whom 21 had died.

    “We were considered to be the country that had adopted the most drastic and fastest preventative measures,” said Massimo Galli, head of the infectious diseases department at Milan’s Sacco hospital, where some coronavirus patients are being treated. But he said the epidemic probably started well before Codogno resident Mattia, dubbed “patient one,” fell ill.

    The illness is spread through the air and can leave some people symptom-free while local authorities say about two in 100 develop fatal complications including pneumonia, making it a stealth killer able to infect thousands without their knowing it.

    When Mattia first showed up in the Codogno hospital on Feb. 18, no alarm was raised about his symptoms because he had not been to China, local officials said.

    The consequences were dramatic.

    After spending time in the emergency room that day, surrounded by other sick patients, he decided to return home, the local health authority said. But his condition worsened and he was back in hospital the next day with no protection in place.

    He was not diagnosed until the night of Feb. 20 and by then he had infected five health workers and at least one fellow patient, besides his pregnant wife and a friend. They in turn spread the disease before going into quarantine.

    A nurse from the hospital told Reuters on Thursday that he suspected the illness had been circulating days before Mattia arrived seeking help.

    “For at least a week before the first case was discovered, we had observed an abnormal number of pneumonia cases. All these persons were treated and sent back home,” he said, asking not to be named.

    He said confusion reigned in the hours after news broke that Mattia had tested positive.

    “At the beginning (management) kept us in the hospital for 30 hours. Then they told us to go home and place ourselves in quarantine. Eventually, they told us to come back to the hospital,” he added. “As a result, more health workers than patients were infected in Codogno hospital.”

    The local health agency responsible for the hospital did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Prime Minister Conte has accused the hospital of mismanaging the case and contributing to spreading the virus, saying it did not follow the right protocols.

    The hospital has said it did, as has Lombardy’s regional government, which oversees the local health service. It argues that Rome changed its guidelines at the end of January on testing possible coronavirus patients. The new rules said swabs only had to be taken from people with connections to China — something that did not apply to Mattia.

    Prompted by Conte’s complaint, prosecutors have opened an investigation into the procedures followed by the hospital. It may take many weeks before they reach any conclusions.

    No one knows who brought the illness to Italy’s wealthy north: Scientists initially believed the unwitting “patient zero” might have been a colleague of the Codogno patient who had recently returned from a business trip in China. But he tested negative, leaving no other obvious candidates.

    Dr. Marino Faccini leads a team of experts in Milan who are tasked with trying to find the source of viral outbreaks. However, after days of plotting possible paths for the infection, he has drawn a blank.

    “We are (now) working to limit the virus and not so much looking for patient zero, whose (illness) dates back quite some time and is difficult to locate,” Faccini told Reuters.


    The authorities have had to strike a difficult balance between ensuring public safety and trying to prevent panic.

    “Only 0.1% of the country is involved,” Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio told reporters on Thursday. But local authorities say they have had to impose broad restrictions to prevent the spread of contagion, which would overload the health service to the point of collapse.

    “If this outbreak spreads, hospitals will face a serious crisis, not only for the coronavirus admissions but for all patients,” the Lombardy regional government said in a statement on Friday.

    In the red zone, only strictly necessary services such as supermarkets are open. School children have been doing homework remotely and communicating with their teachers by WhatsApp.

    The economic shockwaves have been felt across the country, in businesses of all sizes. The area is a rich agricultural producer, with around 500 farms and some 100,000 cattle and pigs. With planting due now, “everyone should be working flat out,” said Gianpiero Gruppi, who raises pigs and mixed cereal crops in San Rocco al Porto, near Lodi.

    Instead, two of his farm workers are in lockdown and he and his brother have been forced to do the work of four on their own. “I don’t know how long we’ll be able to go on like this,” he said.

    The only way to get things in and out is to hand them to police on the checkpoints or leave them to be picked up.

    Carlo Migli, a dairy farmer near Lodi who has 300 head of dairy cattle, has struggled to get the necessary health checks on milk samples because the nearest testing centers are outside the red zone.

    If he can’t get the checks done, he’ll have to throw out daily production of 3,000 liters of milk, he said.

    Local producers worry future sales will suffer as buyers shy away, even though the virus does not affect food safety. Coldiretti, an agricultural lobby group, has already warned that food products from Italy are facing additional sanitary checks in some places.

    Carlo Cornali, owner of Pasticceria Cornali, a century-old bakery in Codogno which makes a famous biscuit sold locally and beyond, has had to stop production altogether. Just ahead of the normally busy Easter season, he has canceled his own orders to suppliers.

    “We can’t do anything because the eggs come from outside the red zone,” he said.

    “I don’t know when we’re going to open and if we open, what it will be like, because we’ll have to see the effects of this general psychosis.”

    Angelo Amante reported from Rome; Additional reporting by Andrea Mandala, Elisa Anzolin, Silvia Aloisi; Writing by Crispian Balmer and James Mackenzie; Edited by Sara Ledwith and Jason Szep


    In this May 29, 2012 file photo, Bishop Richard Malone speaks during a news conference in Buffalo, N.Y. The embattled Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo filed for bankruptcy protection Friday, Feb. 28 2020, taking another major step in its effort to recover from a clergy misconduct scandal that's been the basis for hundreds of lawsuits, Vatican intervention and the resignation of Malone on Dec. 4, 2019. (AP Photo/David Duprey)

    (February 28, 2020) – Today the Diocese of Buffalo announced it has filed for bankruptcy following a recent wave of child sex abuse lawsuits brought against the Catholic Church – the second such bankruptcy in New York State since September.  Since mid-August, hundreds of child sex abuse lawsuits have been brought against the Diocese of Buffalo in the aftermath of New York’s groundbreaking Child Victims Act which opened a one-year “lookback” window that allows previously time-barred survivors of childhood sexual abuse to seek justice regardless of when their abuse occurred.

    The Diocese of Buffalo’s bankruptcy filing will begin a process in which a bankruptcy judge will oversee the division of the Diocese’s assets in a way that is fair to all survivors who timely file claims in the bankruptcy.

    “Abuse survivors need to understand the Diocese has assets and insurance.  A bankruptcy is simply a way to give the Diocese a legal ‘time out’ from the current litigation so that one judge can ultimately decide a fair way to compensate all people who timely file a claim in the bankruptcy,” said Michael T. Pfau, a sexual abuse attorney at Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala (PCVA) who has represented thousands of abuse survivors and who played a key role in major bankruptcy proceedings against Catholic Dioceses in other states.  “The ‘bankruptcy’ process has been utilized by the Catholic Church to resolve claims involving at least 20 different Catholic dioceses and religious orders across the country.  Bankruptcy allows the Diocese to restructure its assets and finances to continue operating while also providing some measure of accountability for child sexual abuse claims.  Now is the time for Buffalo survivors to come forward and file a claim with the bankruptcy court in order to ensure their rights are protected.”

    The bankruptcy judge will ultimately announce a deadline by which individuals must file claims for any alleged abuse.  This deadline is called a “bar date” deadline because people will likely be forever “barred” from filing a claim against the Diocese after the deadline.

    PCVA and its co-counsel, the Marsh Law Firm, have filed 18 cases against the the Diocese of Buffalo. The firms have collectively represented hundreds of abuse survivors in substantial and complex bankruptcy proceedings around the country, including the Rochester Diocese, the Spokane Diocese, the Pacific Northwest Order of Jesuit Priests, the Christian Brothers of Ireland, and the Milwaukee Archdiocese.  In bankruptcy proceedings for the Oregon Province Society of Jesus, PCVA represented almost 140 survivors in one of the largest Catholic clergy settlements in the nation.

    “These bankruptcy proceedings should not and will not prevent survivors from seeking justice and accountability in Buffalo,” saidJames R. Marsh of the New York-based Marsh Law Firm. “For decades, the Diocese of Buffalo enabled and covered up crimes against the most vulnerable parishioners.  We will fight in court and in every venue to ensure the Diocese answers for the lives they endangered and in some cases destroyed.”

    PCVA and Marsh Law Firm have filed lawsuits on behalf of survivors against the Buffalo Diocese and the following local entities:

    • St. Francis High School
    • Basilica of Our Lady of Victory Church and School
    • Corpus Christi Church and School
    • St. Andrew’s Church and School
    • Bishop Turner High School
    • Queen of Peace Parish
    • Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church and School
    • St. Bonaventure Catholic Church
    • St. Mary’s Catholic Church and School
    • St. Aloysius Church and School
    • All Saints Roman Catholic Church and School
    • Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church and School
    • St. Vincent de Paul Church and School
    • Queen of Heaven Church and School
    • Holy Angels Academy
    • Most Precious Blood Catholic Church and School
    • St. Joseph Parish (Most Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Parish)
    • Saint Peter and Paul Church (Holy Apostles Parish)
    • St. Mary of the Lake Church and School

      New York – Stocks tumbled once again on Friday, adding to the market’s worst week since the financial crisis, as worries over the coronavirus and its impact on the economy continue to rattle investor sentiment

      The Dow was down more than 500 points after plunging 1,000 points earlier. The S&P 500 fell 1.5%, while the Nasdaq fell 0.7% after sinking more than 3% earlier.

      The major averages were under pressure Friday in part because investors kept adding to their bond market exposure. The benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yield touched a fresh record low. It was last at 1.18%. Yields move inversely to prices.

      New Zealand and Nigeria reported overnight their first coronavirus cases. South Korea, meanwhile, confirmed more than 500 new cases. China reported 327 additional cases.

      Caterpillar, a bellwether stock for global growth, was the worst performer among Dow stocks, sliding more than 3%. Apple shares slid 2.9%, while Chevron and Cisco Systems dipped more than 2% each.

      The Dow plummeted nearly 1,200 points on Thursday — its biggest one-day point drop ever — as worries over the coronavirus possibly spreading sent stocks spiraling lower. The 30-stock average closed in correction territory along with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite.

      “The reason it happened so quickly is because the momentum going up was so great,” said Liz Ann Sonders, chief investment strategist at Charles Schwab. “The hedge funds, the algorithmic trading, the quants: They play on momentum.”

      The Dow had closed at a record high on Feb. 12. It only took the S&P 500 six days to fall from an all-time high into correction levels, marking the broad index’s fastest drop of that magnitude outside of a one-day crash.

      “People have been so preconditioned to buy the dip and to always expect the market to recover that people can get smacked around with moves like this,” said Patrick Hennessy, head trader at IPS Strategic Capital. “No one knows how this thing ends.”

      Thursday’s declines also put the Dow and S&P 500 down more than 10.5% each for the week, on pace for their worst weekly performance since 2008. Norwegian Cruise Line and American Airlines are among the worst-performing S&P 500 stocks this week, dropping more than 20% in that time. Las Vegas Sands has lost more than 10% week to date.

      “The timing of this was just the worst with respect to investor sentiment being elevated,” said Doug Ramsey, chief investment officer at The Leuthold Group, referring to the coronavirus outbreak. “I’m not sure that the market has really priced in the potential economic impact of this.”

      Concerns over the coronavirus have also led several companies to issue earnings and revenue warnings. Microsoft said Wednesday one of its key divisions may not meet the company’s previous revenue guidance. PayPal also warned about its outlook on Thursday.

      Goldman Sachs’ David Kostin warned U.S. companies will see no earnings growth this year. “Our reduced profit forecasts reflect the severe decline in Chinese economic activity in 1Q, lower end-demand for US exporters, disruption to the supply chain for many US firms, a slowdown in US economic activity, and elevated business uncertainty,” said Kostin, the bank’s chief U.S. equity strategist.


      C.D.C. Officials Warn of Coronavirus Outbreaks in the U.S.

      Clusters of infection are likely in American communities, health officials said. Some lawmakers questioned whether the nation is prepared.


      Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah), a prominent Republican voice in Congress, told senior Trump administration officials Tuesday that they are not adequately prepared for the possibility the coronavirus may spread more widely in the United States.

      Romney confronted administration officials at a private briefing on Capitol Hill about the same time that President Trump downplayed concerns about spreading infections, telling reporters in New Delhi the situation is “under control” and is a “problem that’s going to go away.” 

      Romney, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said he does not think the administration has done enough to prepare for the infectious virus spreading widely among the domestic population.

      “I’m very disappointed in the degree to which we’ve prepared for a pandemic, both in terms of protective equipment and in terms of medical devices that would help people once they are infected,” he said.

      “At this stage, I think we are substantially underinvesting in what would be appropriate for a setting which could be serious,” he added.

      Romney said he hopes a dire scenario can be avoided but added “we don’t know what the future holds.”

      “I think we should be pulling out all the stops,” he said.

      Romney raised these concerns with administration officials Tuesday morning at an all-senators briefing.

      Dr. Bob Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services; Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health; Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principle deputy director at the Center for Disease Control, were among the officials who briefed senators.

      Other Republicans have also raised concerns about how the Trump administration is handling the rapid spread of the virus, which originated in China, but has registered hundreds of cases in South Korea, Japan, Iran and Italy.

      So far 57 cases have been reported in the U.S., most of whom contracted the disease abroad and were then repatriated.

      Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), a member of the Senate Appropriations homeland security and health and human services subcommittees, said the administration needs to do a better job communicating the level of the threat. 

      “Here’s what they need to do, and I would suggest that Secretary Azar be the one to do it,” he said, referring to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

      “There’s some real basic questions that the American people need answers [to.] How many cases do we have? Based on their modeling, how many do they think we will have? How’s the virus transmitted?” he said.

      “What is the mortality rate? What’s the mortality rate compared to influenza? How many facemasks are we going to need and are we working on getting more? How many respirators are we going to need and are we working on getting more?” he said.

      Kennedy said he wants to know “what steps in a concrete way” the administration is taking to stop the virus from spreading throughout the United States.

      He said the Department of Homeland Security and health officials at other departments have given conflicting answers on how long it’s likely to take to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

      “God made these things called telephones and they could get on the phone and talk to each other,” he said.

      Kennedy had earlier in the day grilled acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf during a subcommittee budget hearing, appearing increasingly frustrated as Wolf was unable to answer questions about coronavirus preparedness measures.

      A senior administration health official warned Tuesday that the spread of the coronavirus to the United States now appears to be inevitable and could cause “severe” disruptions to daily activities and the economy.

      Nancy Messonnier, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters Tuesday that containing the virus will become increasingly difficult as more and more countries are affected.

      “It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses,” she said, warning: “Disruption to everyday life might be severe.”

      Nathaniel Weixel contributed. 


        The campaign and the Kremlin had an overarching deal: help beat Hillary Clinton for a new pro-Russian foreign policy


        Mr. Frankel was the executive editor of The Times from 1986 to 1994.

        Collusion — or a lack of it — turns out to have been the rhetorical trap that ensnared President Trump’s pursuers. There was no need for detailed electoral collusion between the Trump campaign and Vladimir Putin’s oligarchy because they had an overarching deal: the quid of help in the campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy, starting with relief from the Obama administration’s burdensome economic sanctions. The Trumpites knew about the quid and held out the prospect of the quo.

        Run down the known facts about the communications between Russians and the Trump campaign and their deal reveals itself. Perhaps, somewhere along the line, Russians also reminded the Trump family of their helpful cooperation with his past financial ventures. Perhaps, also, they articulated their resentment of Mrs. Clinton for her challenge as secretary of state to the legitimacy of Mr. Putin’s own election. But no such speculation is needed to perceive the obvious bargain reached during the campaign of 2016.

        Early on, emissaries of the Russian oligarchs sent word of their readiness to help embarrass and undermine the Clinton candidacy. And in June 2016, the Russians lured the Trumpites to a meeting in Trump Tower with a promise of “dirt” against Mrs. Clinton only to use the meeting to harp on their hunger for sanctions relief. As the Trump family openly acknowledged, the Russians spoke at that meeting of a desire to again allow Americans to adopt Russian children. Since the adoptions were halted to retaliate against the American sanctions, it required no dictionary to interpret the oligarchs’ meaning: “dirt” for sanctions relief.

        That relief and a warm new relationship with Russia were then freely discussed in public and in private. There was even an effort to concoct a grand diplomatic bargain by which the Russians would be allowed to legalize their seizure of the Ukrainian Crimea. Michael Cohen and other Trump advisers promoted the idea of letting the Russians “lease” the seized territory for up to 100 years so as to sanitize the reciprocal lifting of the sanctions that Mr. Obama had imposed to punish the land grab.

        Sanction relief seems to have been discussed in some of the other secret contacts between Trump operatives and Russians. We know that Michael Flynn lied to the F.B.I. when he denied discussing sanction relief with the Russian ambassador.

        As Robert Mueller surely discovered in tracking down these dealings, the promise of policy changes was not in itself illegal. Candidates routinely promise policy changes, often with foreign governments. (Move the embassy in Israel, anyone?)

        So why all the secrecy and lying? Candidate Trump made no secret of his intention to forge a warm relationship with the Kremlin. But pledges of sanctions relief and other specific moves while not yet in office were unseemly at best and clearly offensive to the American convention that we have only one president at a time. Mr. Flynn especially had to lie because though already in transition to power he was directly undermining Mr. Obama’s still active and punitive diplomacy against Mr. Putin.

        Mr. Flynn, remember, was deemed so helpful to the Mueller investigation that the special counsel pleaded to have him spared any time in jail. He was “colluding” all right, but with legal policy promises, not apparently with election sabotage. And true to the campaign minuet, despite great resistance in Congress, President Trump has watered down the sanctions and otherwise appeased Russian interests, even at the expense of America’s allies. Call it the art of the deal.

        Max Frankel was the executive editor of The Times from 1986 to 1994.

        The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email:


          CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — With the Nevada caucuses less than a week away, Democratic presidential candidates campaigning were fixated on a rival who wasn’t contesting the state.

          Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg all went after billionaire Mike Bloomberg and made clear they were eager to take him on in a debate.

          “He thinks he can buy this election,” Sanders told a Carson City rally Sunday. “Well, I’ve got news for Mr. Bloomberg — the American people are sick and tired of billionaires buying elections!”

          Bloomberg hit back Monday with a video mashup posted to Twitter of aggressive and threatening comments made by people who appear to be Sanders supporters, juxtaposed with Sanders calling for “civil discourse.”

          “We need to unite to defeat Trump in November,” the former New York mayor tweeted. “This type of ‘energy’ is not going to get us there.”

          Their attacks are a sign of how seriously the field is starting to take Bloomberg as he gains in the race and is on the cusp of qualifying for Wednesday’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas. Bloomberg has bypassed the traditional early voting states including Nevada, focusing instead on the 14 states that vote in the Super Tuesday primary on March 3. He has spent more than $417 million of his own multibillion-dollar fortune on advertising nationwide, an unprecedented sum for any candidate in a primary.

          The focus on Bloomberg comes with many establishment-aligned Democrats anxious about the early strength of Sanders, who won last week’s New Hampshire primary and essentially tied for first place in Iowa with Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Sanders is hoping to notch a victory in Nevada on Saturday as moderates struggle to unite behind a candidate who could serve as a counter to the Vermont senator, who has long identified as a democratic socialist.

          The hundreds of millions of dollars that Bloomberg has pumped into the Super Tuesday states has only heightened the sense of uncertainty surrounding the Democratic race.

          At Sanders’ rally, the crowded cheered as the Vermont senator joked that Bloomberg is “struggling, he’s down to his last $60 billion” and derided him for skipping the early primary states.

          It marked an escalation of the salvo Sanders launched Saturday against the former mayor, when he ticked off conservative positions Bloomberg has taken in the past, including opposing a minimum wage hike and a number of Barack Obama’s policies while president. On Saturday, Sanders suggested the former mayor’s past conservatism and controversial comments make him a weak candidate against President Donald Trump, charging that Bloomberg, “with all his money, will not create the kind of excitement and energy we need” to beat Trump.

          And on Sunday, he was joined by the current mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, who endorsed Sanders days ago. De Blasio introduced Sanders with an attack of his own on his predecessor, telling the crowd, “I’m sorry to report to you the chief proponent of stop and frisk is now running for president.”

          Klobuchar, speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” accused Bloomberg of avoiding scrutiny by blanketing the airwaves and sidestepping debates or tough televised interviews.

          “I think he cannot hide behind the airwaves and the money,” she said. “I think he has to come on the shows. And I personally think he should be on the debate stage.”

          Klobuchar said she’s raised $12 million since her better-than-expected finish in third place in New Hampshire. She’s maintained her campaign through a series of strong debate performances and argued that Bloomberg being on stage with his rivals would level the playing field.

          “I’m never going to beat him on the airwaves, but I can beat him on the debate stage,” she said

          Biden, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” suggested that Bloomberg will face increased scrutiny as the race continues, pointing to his record on issues relating to race. He said: “$60 billion can buy you a lot of advertising, but it can’t erase your record.”

          Biden knocked Bloomberg’s past support of stop-and-frisk policing policies and his comments suggesting that cracking down on racist mortgage lending practices, known as “redlining,” contributed to the financial crisis. Biden also criticized him for failing to endorse Obama for president in 2008. Bloomberg has released ads that tie him closely to Obama on issues like gun control and climate change.

          When asked on MSNBC whether Bloomberg shares the values of the Democratic Party, Warren also went after the former mayor over his comments on redlining, declaring that “anyone who is out there trying to blame African Americans for the financial crash of 2008 … is not someone who should be representing our party.”

          Even as the front-running candidates kept one eye on their Super Tuesday showdown with Bloomberg, they focused on the more immediate task of winning over minority voters, who are expected to be pivotal in Nevada and South Carolina.

          Biden reminded older parishioners at the First African Methodist Episcopal Church in North Las Vegas of 1960s television footage of black protesters in Birmingham, Alabama, being attacked by police dogs and sprayed with fire hoses on the orders of city official Bull Connor.

          Biden said today’s racists are not “Bull Connors, not out in overalls. They’re wearing fine suits, and they’re living in the White House.”

          The former vice president is relying on his strength among black voters and an explicit appeal to Latinos and other minorities to deliver him a strong showing in the coming contests after posting disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, which both feature electorates that are whiter on average than the national population.

          Biden has been hammering home the need for any Democratic candidate to appeal to voters of color. On Sunday, he told black lawmakers and other political figures at the Nevada Black Legislative Caucus’s Black History Month observance that “the black community has in its power to determine who the next president of the United States is going to be.”


          Jaffe reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jonathan Cooper and Bill Barrow in Las Vegas contributed to this report.


            More than 2,000 former Department of Justice officials are calling on Attorney General William Barr to resign, according to the group Protect Democracy.

            “Political interference in the conduct of a criminal prosecution is anathema to the Department’s core mission and to its sacred obligation to ensure equal justice under the law,” according to the group, which has been critical of the administration in the past.

            The nonpartisan, nonprofit group said that the attorney general has “flouted” that fundamental principal.

            The former DOJ officials said it is “outrageous” the way Barr interfered in the Roger Stone case.

            “Although there are times when political leadership appropriately weighs in on individual prosecutions, it is unheard of for the Department’s top leaders to overrule line prosecutors, who are following established policies, in order to give preferential treatment to a close associate of the President, as Attorney General Barr did in the Stone case,” they wrote

            The group claims that Barr has done the president’s bidding and that those actions have caused damage to the Department of Justice. The letter was signed by officials appointed from both Democrat and Republican administrations, according to Protect Democracy.

            The officials commended the actions of the four line prosecutors who resigned from the Stone case and called on more to resign.

            “We call on every DOJ employee to follow their heroic example and be prepared to report future abuses to the Inspector General, the Office of Professional Responsibility, and Congress; to refuse to carry out directives that are inconsistent with their oaths of office; to withdraw from cases that involve such directives or other misconduct; and, if necessary, to resign and report publicly — in a manner consistent with professional ethics — to the American people the reasons for their resignation.”

            The number of former DOJ officials who signed the statement nearly doubled since Monday morning.On Monday, Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general under George H.W. Bush and former U.S. Attorney, said Barr needed to resign in an op/ed in the Atlantic. Barr was attorney general under Bush, but Ayer did not serve with him.

            “All of this conduct — including Barr’s personal interventions to influence or negate independent investigations or the pursuit of criminal cases, and his use of the department’s resources to frustrate the checks and balances provided by other branches — is incompatible with the rule of law as we know it, and especially as it has functioned since Levi’s Watergate reforms,” Ayer wrote, referring to Edward Levi, who was the attorney general appointed after President Richard Nixon resigned. He was tasked with restoring credibility to the department.

            The Department of Justice has not returned ABC News’ request for comment.

            The calls for resignation come as Barr spoke out for the first time to ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas.

            The attorney general said that President Donald Trump has never asked him to interfere in a criminal case. Barr said that Trump’s tweets, however, “make it impossible for me to do my job.”

            “I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr told ABC News.

            “I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody … whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president,” Barr said. “I’m gonna do what I think is right. And you know … I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”

            A senior adviser to the president told ABC News that while Trump is not happy with Barr’s interview with Thomas, his confidence in the attorney general remains steadfast.


              TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif./GENEVA (Reuters) – More than 300 American cruise liner passengers, including 14 who tested positive for coronavirus, were flown home to military bases in the United States after two weeks under quarantine off Japan

              The cruise ship Diamond Princess, which with more than 400 cases has by far the largest cluster outside China, has become the biggest test so far of other countries’ ability to contain an outbreak that has killed 1,772 people in China and five elsewhere.

              A ground crew in anti-contamination suits met the chartered jet that touched down at Joint Base San Antonio in Texas, and passengers could be seen climbing down the stairs wearing face masks in the pre-dawn mist. Another flight landed at Travis Air Force Base in California hours earlier.

              All the passengers were taken into a two-week quarantine.

              Although U.S. officials had said passengers with coronavirus symptoms would not be repatriated, 14 passengers found at the last minute to have tested positive were permitted to board the planes. The U.S. State Department said the infected passengers were exposed to other passengers for about 40 minutes before they were isolated.

              Across mainland China, the total number of coronavirus cases rose by 2,051 to 70,635, according to the World Health Organization. That was slightly more new cases than were reported on Sunday, but hundreds fewer than reported on Saturday.

              Chinese authorities say the decrease is a sign that measures taken to halt the spread of the disease are having an effect.

              However, epidemiologists say it is probably still too early to say how well the outbreak is being contained within China and its central Hubei province, where the virus first appeared. Official figures of new cases have leveled off in the past, only to jump suddenly after changes in methodology.

              “The real issue is whether we are seeing efficient community transmission outside of China and at the present time we are not observing that,” Mike Ryan, head of World Health Organization’s emergencies program, said at a news conference in Geneva.

              Fewer than 700 cases have been reported in other countries and even within China the epidemic is affecting “a very tiny, tiny, tiny proportion of people,” Ryan said.

              China has responded to the COVID-19 virus by locking down Hubei’s provincial capital Wuhan, a megacity of 11 million people, and imposing restrictions in a number of other cities.

              But the ruling Communist Party is under pressure to prevent the economy from crashing and to get people back to work.

              China’s central bank cut the interest rate on its medium-term lending on Monday, which is expected to pave the way for a reduction in the benchmark loan prime rate on Thursday. Beijing has also announced plans for cuts in taxes and fees.

              Even so, economists expect China’s economic growth to slow. Ratings agency Moody’s on Monday lowered its 2020 GDP growth forecast to 5.2%, making it likely China would miss a goal to double GDP over the decade to 2020.

              CRUISE SHIPS

              Around half of all known cases of the virus outside China have been found aboard the Diamond Princess, which was ordered to stay under quarantine at the port of Yokohama on Feb. 3.

              Several other countries have announced plans to follow the United States in bringing passengers home. Around half of the 3,700 passengers and crew are Japanese.

              Matthew Smith, an American passenger who remained on the ship after refusing to board the voluntary repatriation flights, tweeted that staying behind was the “best decision ever”.

              “US Gov’t said they would not put anyone on the planes who was symptomatic, and they ended up knowingly and intentionally putting on 14 people who actually have the virus,” he wrote.

              Authorities around the world were also trying to track down passengers from another cruise liner, the Westerdam, which was turned away from ports across Southeast Asia for two weeks before docking in Cambodia on Thursday.

              One American passenger who disembarked in Cambodia tested positive for the virus in Malaysia on Saturday.

              Carnival Corp, which operates both cruise liners, said it was cooperating with authorities in trying to trace other passengers from the Westerdam. None of the other 1,454 passengers and 802 crew had reported any symptoms, it said.

              Hundreds of passengers are still in Cambodia, either on the ship or in hotels.

              Holly Rauen, a passenger from Fort Myers, Florida, said she and others will be tested by Cambodian authorities. “We have no idea when we get to get home,” she said.

              CHINA BACK TO WORK?

              After an extended Lunar New Year holiday, China needs to get back to work or will suffer severe economic consequences. There is a proposal to delay the opening of the annual session of parliament, due on Feb. 24.

              Some cities remain in lockdown, streets are deserted, employees are nervous, and travel bans and quarantine orders are in place around the country. Many factories have yet to re-open, disrupting supply chains in China and beyond.

              In Japan, where data showed on Monday that the economy had already shrunk last quarter at the fastest pace in almost six years, the impact of the virus is expected to show up in the current quarter, stoking fears of recession.

              Trade-dependent Singapore downgraded its 2020 economic growth forecast and has said recession is possible. It is set to unveil measures to cushion the blow on Tuesday.

              Organisers of the Tokyo Marathon have decided to limit the March 1 race to top-level athletes, banning 38,000 general participants, a person with knowledge of the issue told Reuters.

              Japan’s Imperial Household Agency said it would cancel Emperor Naruhito’s public birthday address on Feb. 23, his first since his coronation last year. The event regularly attracts tens of thousands of people to the inner grounds of the Imperial Palace in the heart of Tokyo.

              Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Nandita Bose in Washington, David Stanway in Shanghai, Claire Baldwin in Sihanoukville, Daniel Trotta in New York, John Geddie and Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore, Farah Master in Hong Kong and Sophie Yu in Beijing; Writing by Andy Sullivan and Peter Graff; Editing by Mike Collett-White, Nick Macfie and Sonya Hepinstall


              STAY CONNECTED

              WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By :