Article 43


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Price of a Caronavirus Test

image: caronavirus

Back in March 2020, CDC DIRECTOR ROBERT REDFIELD went on record saying the goverment will pay for testing and treatment of coronavirus regardless of insurance coverage.

Watch him speak his empty words HERE:

image: cdc director redfield

Here’s the LAW Representative PORTER pointed out that gives him the power:

The Director may authorize payment for the care and treatment of individuals subject to medical examination, quarantine, isolation, and conditional release

In the time that’s passed since, I haven’t been - and probably won’t be - tested.

I splurged for a mask to wear in public to help protect others, but if the disease winds up in my body, I hope it isn’t painful, and kills me quick, cause I can’t afford to get it fixed.




Q&A: How much does it cost to get a COVID-19 test? It depends.

Josh Sharfstein, professor of practice and vice dean for public health practice and community engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, on the nuances of insurance coverage and expenses that accompany COVID-19 testing.

Widespread testing for the novel coronavirus has proven an essential tool in fighting the spread of the disease. Testing allows public health officials to track the viruss path, understand disease prevalence, and determine the need for isolation and quarantine. As the demand for COVID-19 testing has grown, so too have questions about who bears the cost. To understand more about the nuances of insurance coverage and expenses that accompany COVID-19 testing, we reached out to Josh Sharfstein, Professor of Practice and Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

How much does a viral test for COVID-19 cost?

There is a wide range in charges. An investigation by the Kaiser Family Foundation determined that the cost of a test can range anywhere from $20 to $850, with $127 being the median cost. Currently, the Medicare reimbursement rate for a COVID-19 test is either $51 or $100, depending on the type of test offered. For those who end up paying out of pocket, there was a smaller range of $36 to $180 per test. Again, any test would also likely require additional charges for specimen collection and a physician’s visit, which could potentially add to the cost significantly.

Does the cost vary depending on where you live?

Yes, in part. The cost for a COVID-19 test may vary a great deal based on type of laboratory where the test is processed, region of the country, insurance provider, and other factors. This unpredictability of cost is part of the larger, fragmented healthcare system in the United States that leads to a wide variability in medical expenses.

Does insurance cover the costs of a COVID-19 test?

Federal law requires insurers to cover the costs of COVID-19 tests, but unfortunately patients are still being charged for related expenses. The law does not require insurers to cover the cost of the medical consultation or doctors referral that may be required before a test will be administered. Another reason is that federal guidance only requires reimbursement for “medically appropriate” testing. An insurance provider might decide that certain types of testing (such as testing after a trip) may not be considered “medically appropriate.”

What about the uninsured?

The federal government has provided a path for reimbursement for COVID-related testing and treatment expenses for the uninsured, including testing. Details about this program are available here. There is no requirement that clinics or physicians avail themselves of this program. As a result, it is possible that the uninsured could still be charged for testing by their healthcare provider.

Why is there so much confusion about pricing and payment for COVID-19 tests?

Early on in the pandemic, in March, several faculty members at Johns Hopkins - myself included - recommended a very different approach to the piecemeal strategy adopted by the federal government. The idea would be to build a crisis insurance system centered on paying to test for and treat COVID-19, and to use the existing Medicare infrastructure and network to provide a payment system for all providers. Since the scale of the problem is national, a federal program would have the capacity to negotiate prices on a global scale, which would help reduce costs. It would also provide an easy route for billing among the large influx of requests for tests and materials that are inundating labs, emergency departments, and hospitals. Additionally, centralizing the expenses from coronavirus care under a crisis insurance program would greatly improve our data collection efforts as we continue to track the virus. Such an alternative path would have prevented many of the current frustrations with accessing and paying for diagnosis and care.



COVID Testing Is Supposed to Be Free. So Why Are People Still Getting Huge Bills?

By Kristen Bahler
CNN Money
August 18, 2020

Free, universal coronavirus testing is critical to flattening the arc of infection. But while federal law aims to make such testing EASY TO ACCESS and WIDELY AVAILABLE, those efforts have fallen short for many Americans.

The U.S. healthcare system - chaotic in any normal year - is being stretched tissue-paper thin by a flood of coronavirus cases, and squabbling between insurers and legislators about who should pay for that influx isnt making things easier.

So while President Donald Trump has signed multiple orders designed to ensure Americans can get tested for COVID-19 for free, regardless of their insurance coverage, policy loopholes have left numerous ways for patients to get stuck with a bill anyway. (See: The California essential worker who was charged nearly $2,000 for COVID-19 testing, or the woman in Austin, Texas who got a $6,000 bill, according to NPR and the NEW YORK TIMES, respectively.)

Here’s everything we know about how much coronavirus tests actually cost and why some people are having to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket.

[Note: The type of testing referenced throughout this story refers to the COVID-19 diagnostic test, not the antibody test. A complete guide to the where to buy coronavirus antibody tests and how much they cost CAN BE FOUND HERE].

How much is a COVID-19 test SUPPOSED to cost?

Prices for coronavirus testing aren’t federally regulated, according to a REPORT from The Peterson Center on Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation (Peterson-KFF). Like other types of medical fees, insurance companies have to negotiate the cost with the providers and labs that dole out the tests.

The CARES Act requires hospitals and other medical providers to disclose the CASH PRICE of COVID-19 tests on their websites, which, in theory, could help could people looking to take the test know exactly how much money they’ll be out if they end up having to pay for it on their own. But not all medical providers are following that CARES Act rule - and those that are publicly posting coronavirus test prices are disclosing costs ranging anywhere from $20 to $850 per test, according to the Peterson-KFF report. That’s quite a spectrum, and it doesn’t include fees for other services that may be required, like doctors visit charges, specimen collection, or other types of diagnostic testing.

How to get free COVID testing

Insurers are legally required to pay for in-network testing, so try to find a medical facility where you know you’ll be covered. Many insurers have also agreed to cover the cost of a COVID test if its done at an OUT-OF-NETWORK facility, but you’ll want to reach out to your insurance company (or Medicare/Medicaid provider) before your visit.

As of this writing, the government is REIMBURSING MEDICAL PROVIDORS that give coronavirus tests and treatment to uninsured Americans, as long as certain qualifications are met. So as long as you have a SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER AND A STATE I.D., you should be able to get a test for free or for a nominal fee - even if you don’t have insurance.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Insurers aren’t required to pay for fees incurred by patients who seek a COVID-19 test but don’t actually GET the test. So if a doctor decides not to test you for the virus, or the facility has run out of tests completely, you could still be on the hook for whatever fees you happen to rack up during your visit from a strep test to a five-night HOSPITAL STAY.

THE RULES for out-of-network coverage are even more muddled, which can be particularly burdensome for people living in rural and low-income pockets of the country where medical providers ARE FEW AND FAR BETWEEN.

“Such charges - can be financially burdensome or prohibitive for uninsured or self-pay patients, especially given the current labor market and high rates of unemployment,” the KFF report says.

Where to get a coronavirus test

Your state and local health department websites should have a list of the hospitals, clinics, and “drive-thru” screening facilities offering COVID-19 tests in your area, according to the CDC.

Many doctors and medical centers are scheduling TELEHEALTH APPOINTMENTS over video prior to administering the test in-person, so make sure you know what the procedure is before trying to get a walk-in appointment (you might get turned away if you just show up). Pharmacies like CVS and WALGREENS are also operating pop-up testing sites appointments for those facilities can be booked online.



How capitalism made the world sick.

By Sarah Jones
The Nation
August 25, 2021

No one should pay for a coronavirus test. This is not a moral judgment but a statement of fact; the US government has decreed it so. Insurers are supposed to cover the tests, at no cost to the consumer. But hospitals recognized an opportunity for profit.</b> The prestigious Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan BILLED ONE PATIENT $3,358 for a test in March, The New York Times reported. Northwell Health, the nonprofit that operates the hospital, justified the bill as a necessity: Its emergency room care is simply that good, it claimed. The hospital billed another family $39,314 for 12 tests.

The Lenox Hill bills are shocking not just because they are so high but because they should not exist. They violate a principle that has come to the fore during the pandemic: that the public’s health transcends all other concerns, including the profit margins of hospitals and insurers. The tests should be and are free. The same for the Covid vaccines; in many cases, they are administered by local, state, or federal agencies at sites set up for this purpose for the sole benefit of the public. For now, at least, a world of health care that’s very different from the one were used to is not only possible but exists.

What the pandemic reminds us is that this alternative world has long been possible. Yet we are still mired in A SYSTEM that EXTRACTS PROFITS from people’s health and puts thousands of families and individuals into crippling debt. In their new book, Inflamed, Rupa Marya and Raj Patel chart the HUMAN COSTS of this for-profit health system and look beyond it to what they call “colonial capitalism,” the root system of our moribund world. They also argue for an alternative: a society informed by “deep medicine,” which can heal whats gone so terribly wrong. Comprehensive in scope, Inflamed moves from environmental pollution to debt to misogyny to settler colonialism and empire, arguing that this vast array of maladies are all consequences of capitalism.

“When something upsets our ecosystems, whether it’s pollution or a pandemic, the consequences show up in our bodies,” the authors write. “So: salmon are to rivers as hearts are to blood vessels. They both function as nutrient pumps in systems of circulation.”

Our inflamed condition is ultimately, Marya and Patel argue, a political one. Politics has failed us by not creating a society that seeks to increase the health - physical, emotional, financial - of all its members. As Renee Hsia, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told the Times, Lenox Hills billing practices are what to “expect from a market-oriented approach to health care.” Its the behavior our laws have “incentivized.” If the public is a kind of body, it needs a cure: a politics that can confront and replace our current market-based approach.

To tell their story, Marya and Patel reject the standard military analogies for the immune system. Inflammation, they argue, is a sign that the body is trying to heal itself - fnot so much that it is under attack but that it is ailing from within. While they indulge in this metaphor perhaps a bit too much, they aren’t comparing contemporary life to, say, cancer. Rather, theyre asserting that capitalism forces people to live in a way that causes higher rates of illnesses like cancer - and that alternatives have always existed.

Debt, the authors note, is a tool of the colonizer. It is the means by which European governments accumulated the funds to build their imperial armies and to trap the Indigenous into body-destroying labor and a way to continue to suppress them. In Peru, colonizers adopted the Incas mita system and stamped their own image on it, using it to pay silver miners low wages that kept them indebted. “Mita was debt,” Marya and Patel write, “and debt was death.” Debt provided an early rationale for policing and a way to keep the Indigenous population in servitude. It is unnatural, especially in the context of health care, where it inflicts great stress on those who must go into debt in order to survive. With trade as the global circulatory system, debt becomes “a choke point, a source of stress and thus the cause of biochemical reactions.”

When someone receives a surprise hospital bill, the anticipation of future debt causes a physical as well as a psychological response. The body knows something harmful has occurred. ԓStress is a state of real or perceived threat to homeostasis, the authors write. Without relief, the body remains in that state of stress, activating chemicals and initiating ԓa cycle of alarm that ԓfeeds back on itself. The consequences can be severe: ԓWhen chronic stress is the background noise of life, it impacts our cells, our DNA, and our children.

The planet, Marya and Patel argue, is undergoing a similar process of depletion and destruction. For example, the disappearance of salmon in the Pacific Northwest can upset the regionԒs ecological balance for good. Whats bad for the salmon, and for the Indigenous people who have long relied on them, will eventually be bad for everyone else, creating a chronic background of stress and inflammation in the environment, in the same way that the stress and inflammation of debt hovers in the background of individuals and their families. The salmon are an early warning sign, and so are the human beings who are closest to them.

The extractive nature of colonial capitalism reserves its heaviest burdens for a class that Marya and Patel call the ғimmunes, borrowing a term from the ancient Romans. Because of ԓa legal quirk of the Roman Empire, they tell us, the ԓimmunes lived in ԓnonmunicipal cities under Roman control, exempt from some of the responsibilities of the typical citizen but also deprived of some basic rights under Roman law. The immunes were never quite Romanԗthey were imperial subjects without the privileges of citizenship. Modern immunes, Marya and Patel write, occupy a similar position. Those who live in a society without the full benefits of its rights and protectionssuch as Black Americans and Indigenous peopleחmay find that they have shorter lifespans, a greater likelihood of contracting and dying from Covid, and more illness in general. Immunes know that the time is nigh for fire,Ӕ they write, and itӒs time to get to work.

Puerto Rico provides Marya and Patel with particularly rich material for consideration, because the material damage of colonial capitalism can be found everywhere: ԓWhile Puerto Ricos money matters to its colonists,Ҕ they write, the bodies of the islandӒs inhabitants dont.Ҕ Puerto Ricans live like immunes in their own homeland,Ӕ with the United States wielding tight fiscal control over the [its] debt repayment regimes, through a Financial Oversight and Management Board.Ӕ As a direct result of colonial rule, Puerto Ricans lack reliable medical care, infrastructure, and, often, access to fresh food. In Puerto Ricoindeed, wherever the immunes dwellחtrauma leaves a physical mark as well as an emotional one, a phenomenon that Marya and Patel examine at some length. Discrimination, PTSD and adverse childhood events,Ӕ they observe midway through the book, all set adults up for chronic inflammation, mediated through pathways of stress.Ӕ Yet these experiences can be the basis for something new: Out of the immunes ғcurrent state of emergency, a ԓradically different future might emerge. ԓThe immune is oppressed, the authors argue, but also the potential source of change.

What, then, is the solution? Marya and Patel return frequently in Inflamed to the notion of deep medicine. ԓRather than taking things apart to know (dia-gnosis), they write, ԓdeep medicine puts the pieces back together to understand and to heal whats been divided. It never separates a person or a community҅from the web of relationships that confer sickness or health. It is from that place of understanding that healing actions become possible.

Deep medicine, they add, ԓrequires new cosmologies. Capitalism doesnԒt just take; it severs, breaking the bonds between people and between people and the land. A deep medicine approach can begin to suture these wounds and restore the sufferers to a state of wholeness.

One example they offer: declaring a debt jubilee for poor countries. “Reparations for the historical harms caused by colonial debt are a moral requirement,” they write, as is the need to make public goods of energy, shelter, education, and health care.Ӕ Toward the end of the book, they advocate a global Green New Deal,Ӕ observing: Part of colonialism’s sleight of hand is its normalization of the capitalist political, economic, and ecological framework in which care is practiced. The economic system that allocates care as a good, on the basis of ability to pay, turns something inherently relational into something to be consumed like a hamburger.

A new model is clearly in order. But when it comes to discussing how to create one, Inflamed is short on specifics. No book can be all things, and this one is ultimately a work of diagnosis more than one of prescription. At once empathetic and skeptical of power, it is bold and searching in its examination of the ways in which the human body has exhibited the consequences of a specific economic and political system. Yet Marya and Patel might have reserved more space to consider the kinds of political solutions that will be needed to abolish such a system. The immunes must drive whatever change occurs, but how is another question altogether. Change implies a process, and its shape remains blurry at the end of the book. Perhaps thatԒs a problem no author can solve: Outside fiction, a person must writeabout what exists. A world without colonialism, without capitalism, belongs to the pastand the past is replete with its own horrors. Even so, Marya and Patel argue, the cultures and traditions of those oppressed by colonial capitalism offer us דthe way forward, even if the path isn’t always clear. Settler ideologies have circumscribed the imagination,Ӕ they write. The future is creative work.

As the world plots a course past Covid, we will need new institutions as well as new medical practices and a new way of imaging our place in the world. To get there, we will also need power. A nearly $40,000 hospital bill is a horror at any time, but Covid unveils its true inhumanity to the world. The time for healing is here.


Posted by Elvis on 10/13/20 •
Section Dying America
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Monday, October 12, 2020

Dictatorship of the Billionaires

image: multinational pledge

The rich will receive $4.95 trillion from the $2.2 trillion stimulus bill.

The $2.2 trillion includes more than $450 billion for large corporations, allegedly in loans. The bill includes a provision that the Federal Reserve can print up to ten times that amount and lend that $4.5 trillion with a nod and a wink to large corporations.

The combined profits of all US corporations in 2018 and 2019 were slightly over $4 trillion before taxes. The rich and their corporations, in other words, are getting more than two years worth of profits from the stimulus bill. This money will mainly go to the largest corporations, which means the money will go to a small number of corporations, pretty much the 100 to 150 largest. This means a massive stock market bubble is on the horizon fueled by the Fed, lies, political corruption, smoke and mirrors.
- The CoronaVirus Stimulus Bill: The Rich Get 5 Trillion, We Get Crumbs, John Hively’s Blog, March 28, 2020

The United States is a Dictatorship of the Billionaires

John Hiveley’s Blog
June 13, 2020

DIVIDE AND CONQUER; nobody has done it better than THE BILLIONAIRES WHO HAVE CONTROLLED the United States via their two major political parties and their Supreme Court for the last forty years. But first a few comments.

I wonder if the downturn of the stock market on June 9-11, 2020 was just a correction, although I am suspicious it marks an increase in market volatility on its way toward the intersection where the real downtrodden economy meets the robust Wall Street market. In which case, we could be looking at a rapid or slow and long-term decline in share prices.

I do not think a lot of people understand that we are at the beginning of a recession and not at the end. I suspect that many people were buying the stocks of corporations for the last two weeks that are going bankrupt (think Hertz) because of desperation of their financial situations since 40 percent of US adults do not have $400 to cover an emergency, not in savings, not in credit cards or other assets, if I remember correctly.

I have read and listened to many experts on the rise of the stock market since March while the economy has tanked, but I have not heard how income and wealth inequality has driven the stock markets to record highs by redistributing trillions of dollars from the 99 to the 1 percent over the last forty years, nor do I hear how financially desperate many people are; not even those who are buying bankrupt Hertz and J.C. Penny shares. Those subjects are not allowed by the billionaires who own all the major news sources.

I have a good neighbor and he just got laid off from his job and fears losing his house. I see desperation written all over his face and in the tone of his voice when I speak with him. I see the middle class families in nice cars and wearing nice clothes rummaging through the recycle bins the night before the trucks pick that stuff up. Most, but not all of these folks, did not begin their rummaging pilgrimages until March. I watched videos a few days ago of the first food lines for the middle class since the Great Depression of 1929-40, a line of 600+ cars deep, people in their new Toyota Lexuss, and other high end newer cars, who needed to gather free food in order to feed themselves. 20 to 40 million people are unemployed and all the congress would do was save the billionaires. See THE CARES ACT. THE RICH GET $4.75 TRILLION AND WE GET THE CRUMBS.

We are at the beginning of a recession that will be severe because 40 years of the greed of sociopathic rich folks who control both major political parties and the Supreme Court, and who can never get enough money, and far more than they could ever spend, and who derive almost, and in many cases, all, of their income and wealth from the ownership of corporate shares, either through capital gains, dividends or corporate bonds.

Then you have the gullible grassroots on the political right who have been led to think the communists are controlling things; and then you have the gullible on the left who think the Democratic Party leaders actually give a rat’s ass about them; for the grassroots of both the left and right, the reality is unhidden and staring straight into their eyes.

All you need to do is look at Nancy Pelosis Heroes Act, the fifth stimulus since coronavirus shut down the U.S.; this legislation extends the government’s extra $600 unemployment insurance per week through the end of the year, and provides other income to the 99 percent too, although much of the money in the proposed legislation will still go to the rich. Pelosi waited to push the Heroes Act through the Democratic controlled House after both Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump said they were not interested in a fifth stimulus. Pelosi knew the Heroes Act was grand theatre for the blind faithful even though she could have easily negotiated more money for the 99 percent with McConnell and Trump during the first, second, and third bailouts, when McConnell and Trump were desperate to save the billionaires who pull their strings, which happen to be the same strings they use to pull Nancy Pelosi with. She did not negotiate for us little folks. Did she?

The billionaires pulled the strings of Pelosi, McConnell and Trump to come up with the notorious CARES ACT [local .pdf], which bailed out the rich and their corporations to the tune of $4.75 trillion while throwing crumbs at the masses, which made for good theatrical effect. The billionaires corporate news media did their duty and only reported on the crumbs and how great they were.

As for the grassroots on the right, the CARES ACT alone should tell them how insanely wrong they are to assume Democratic Party politicians are controlled by communists, and the CARES Act should tell them that Republican politicians would not give a snailҒs fart to help them out during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. And you would think the blind followers of the Democrats could figure out that the Democratic Party politicians have not cared about them since Jimmy Carter was president.

The voters of both sides, you would think, would by now figure out that both Democratic and Republican Party politicians threw them overboard forty years ago. It only takes one thing: using your brains to put two and two together.

Billionaires own this nation, both political parties, they have at least five United States Supreme Court judges in their back pockets, along with a lot of other judges; they own the media and only tell you what they want you to believe, and most of you believe the propaganda and the lies used to turn the grassroots of the right and the left against each other.

No, this economic crisis will not be over soon. This is going to be a long economic nightmare. The rich have gotten richer while the rest of us have been drained financially dryer during the last few months alone.

We have to figure out how, as a people and as a nation, we want to come out of this crisis. Lurching forward into another economic wasteland like Argentina is for the vast majority of its people; or with a strong political change that reins in the obvious corruption at all levels of the U.S. government, and ensuring a government of, by and for the people, rather than just continuing to impoverish ourselves under the dictatorship of the billionaires.

We have a collective choice to make and the time has come to cast aside our petty differences and organize. The 1 percent were taking at least 37 percent of the income produced in this nation in 2019, up from 8 percent in 1980. They are probably raking in over 40 percent so far this year. Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates owned more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of Americans, and that was before the crisis began. They are richer now.

If our situation continues on this path, the rich will steal even more income and wealth than is currently the case. Then we will be a nation like Argentina, once boasting a prosperous middle class on a level with the best European nations, and now with a population of mostly desperate people.

In the USA, the dictatorship of the billionaires will continue and become stronger unless the grassroots of both sides come together and realize they have economic issues that bind them. Until that day, the dictatorship of the billionaires will continue to impoverish us all even more so than today.

The billionaires will continue to use their corporate media to divide us and make permanent their conquest and subversion of our democracy, our Constitution, and our governments at all levels, local, state and federal.


Posted by Elvis on 10/12/20 •
Section Dying America
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Fake Videos

Do you think you’re good at spotting fake videos, where famous people say things they’ve never said in real life? See how they’re made in this astonishing talk and tech demo.

Computer scientist Supasorn Suwajanakorn shows how, as a grad student, he used AI and 3D modeling to create photorealistic fake videos of people synced to audio. Learn more about both the ethical implications and the creative possibilities of this tech—and the steps being taken to fight against its misuse.

Watch the TED TALK below:

image: fake video ted talk


Fake And Manipulated Videos Find Fertile Ground As Elections Approach

By Wayne Rash
July 14, 2020

By now you’ve seen them on Facebook being shared by your friends. They’re videos of one politician or another saying something you never believed they’d say. Perhaps it’s a video of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ENDORSING HIS OPPONENT. Or perhaps its Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitting openly that HE WANTS TO OWN YOU.

But as the 2020 elections draw near in the U.S. you’re seeing more and more unlikely videos involving candidates for President or other high office being shared on social media.

As the technology for creating fake videos becomes more sophisticated, and the videos themselves get better and harder to detect, they’re showing up in all sorts of places, ranging from revenge porn to clickbait. Videos ostensibly of famous people are showing up all over, sometimes to cash in on their wealth, or simply to collect clicks for advertising revenue.

When it comes to elections, however, the threat is more serious. During the 2016 Presidential election, Russian intelligence agencies produced a series of fake videos that purported to show then-candidate Hillary Clinton saying things she never said. At the time, this formed part of the FBI’s investigation into election meddling.

The Russians are Coming

Now the Russians are coming back. They’re joined by intelligence agencies in Iran, China and North Korea in their production of high-quality fake videos attempting to make the rounds on social media. The resulting videos are good enough that gullible people post them and then share them, and of course, people with an agenda that agrees with the video will share them even more. Last year, the Department of Homeland Security expressed its concern about these fakes IN A REPORT to the Homeland Security Advisory Council.

“Information warfare techniques are being used by all sides of the political spectrum, and being used by all governments around the world, now more than ever,” said Alex Heid, chief research officer at SECURITY SCORECARD. “Like any war that is waged between established powers, the casualties are oftentimes civilian and considered collateral damage.”

Finding the Fakes

There are really two types of videos that are considered fakes. One is manipulated video, in which a real video is simply changed. A recent one, revealed by The Washington Post, showed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivering a speech, but the TIMING WAS CHANGED so that it appeared that she was slurring her words. The narrative that accompanied the video suggested that she was drunk. The real video of the event revealed what had been done.

A deep fake video uses a combination of still images and videos to manufacture a video of something that never existed.

College Admissions-Bribery-USC

“We’ve created two generations of deep fake detectors,” said Wael Abd-Almageed, research associate professor at the University of Southern California. We didn’t release them publicly.” The USC DEEP FAKE DETECTOR is said to be 99 percent effective, which is far better than the open-source products that are available for spotting deep fakes. The reason the products aren’t released is that they could be used by purveyors of deep fakes to improve their software.

Deep fakes are becoming extremely sophisticated. It’s hard to find out if a given video is fake or not, Abd-Almageed explained. He said that his group at USC has interests in the entertainment industry where deep fakes are also a problem, and he expects other industries will also want to work with USC. He said that he can work at scale with social media companies, as well as with other organizations.

“Other users could be media outlets,” he said.

So how do you work with USC? “We can give you access to our system where you upload the video,” Abd-Almageed said. “You will get notified when the system gets finished analyzing the video. It’s free for media outlets and other interested parties.”

He said that those interested parties should reach out to him by email at wamageed at

“I think it’s a big problem, part of a bigger problem which is disinformation, he said. “Don’t share something on social networks without thinking. This whole notion that seeing is believing is gone forever.”


Posted by Elvis on 10/12/20 •
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Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Election That Could Break America III

image: nazi trump

Are These the Last 25 Days of American Democracy?
Most Societies Don’t Come Back from the Brink of Collapse. Can America?

By Umair Haque
October 9, 2020

The more desperate that Trump gets, the more egregious his transgressions become. The latest, as he plummets in the polls, is to call for his opponents to BE PROSECUTED AND INDICTED.

That’s straight out of the authoritarian’s playbook. And it should be a clear sign of what is to come. Are these to be the last 25 days of American democracy?

Trump has long understood that he is unlikely to win the election outright. That the majority of Americans don’t back him - THEY DIDN’T THE FIRST TIME AROUND, remember. That’s no mere coincidence: it is the culmination of a trend. The same happened WITH GEORGE W. BUSH, and it was an ominous sign of things to come. Americas RANKED AS A FLAWED DEMOCRACY precisely because it’s obscure “electoral college” system at this point, a remnant of slavery and segregation, designed to EMPOWER WEALTHY LANDOWNERS, stands against the wishes of the majority who want a society more like Canada or Europe than the failed state of Texas.

And so what has developed over the last few months and the over the last several decades, with the GOP - is what looks like a sophisticated, complex strategy to thwart democracy itself, and steal the election. That’s no overstatement or hyperbole. AS I’VE WRITTEN IN THE RECENT PAST, the elements of this are in plain view - for those who care to look.

Before I discuss this strategy, and how its evolving, though, I want to point something out. Americans DON’T QUITE SEEM TO UNDERSTAND that they are living in a pre-authoritarian society now, and have been for quite some time. When the Supreme Court HANDED THE WIN TO BUSH, that was a major, major development in pre-authoritarianism. When Obama - as good a person as he is, he made several major mistakes bailed out the banks, but not Main St, that too was pre-authoritarianism, propping up failed predatory institutions. When WARNINGS OF TRUMP’S ABUSES OF POWER TO COME WERE DISMISSED in 2016, that too was pre-authoritarianism, as it was when Hillary got attacked for “but her emails!!” while Trump was busy scapegoating immigrants, refugees, Jews, Muslims, and everyone else who wasn’t a “real” American.

Pre-authoritarianism isnt just a political phenomenon, though. It’s also a kind of cultural and social current sweeping through a nation. And Americas long been pre-authoritarian in those ways, too. Americans are legendary the world over for their CRUELTY, INDIFFERENCE AND BRUTALITY - all of which are severe blinking-red indicators of pre-authoritarianism. Kids shooting each other up at schools - something which happens nowhere else in the world with such regularity? People having to BEG STRANGERS ONLINE to pay for basic medicine? Generations crippled by unpayable debt, beginning with ”LUNCH DEBT,” becoming “student debt,” then turning into “credit card” and “medical debt” - a society of neo-serfs, in other words?

All these things are severe indicators of pre-authoritarianism, and yet they have also become normalised in America to the extent that many Americans don’t understand that living this way, among such severe cruelty and brutality, is deeply, deeply abnormal. An example I often raise is that of Pakistan, a place where you can buy AK-47s at gun markets - but nobody is shooting up schools. America’s problems are cultural and social.

It’s no overstatement to say that America is a nation in profound social and cultural crisis, with cultural and social problems - like school shootings, medical bankruptcy, skyrocketing despair and suicide, mass distrust, a level of vitriol and indifference that’s truly shocking - that exist almost nowhere else in the world. And all those problems are the ones of pre-authoritarian societies: they are what tend to happen just before societies collapse full on into authoritarianism.

So what is their genesis? What made America fall apart socially and culturally by which I mean become a society in which NO ONE MUCH TRUSTS ANYONE ELSE, where INDIFFERENCE, DESPAIR, and rage are normalized? Like I said: itגs deeply abnormal for a society to feel this way, act this way, think this way, be this way.

America imploded into social and cultural crisis not out of the blue, but for a very simple reason, which predicted just such implosion. ECONOMIC COLLAPSE. The Soviet Union stagnated for thirty years - and that was enough to cause it to fracture into little nations, many of which are failing authoritarian states today. AMERICA STAGNATED FOR FIFTY. That’s almost twice as long, half a century where average incomes haven’t really risen.

Meanwhile, the prices of basics have spiralled completely out of control, becoming flatly unaffordable. Education will cost you as much as a house, and so will falling ill. Food and water and utilities cost far, far more than they do in rich or poor societies. Retirement is an impossibility for three generations and counting right about now. These basics have become things that nobody much can afford in America.

The result of this dislocation - incomes stagnating, while prices rose and rose to amounts that the entire rest of the world finds startling and unbelievable, LIKE $50K FOR CHILDBIRTH - was that the American middle class finally collapsed. It took about two decades for the middle class to eat through its savings and assets, and finally, for the first time, around 2010, the middle class finally BECAME A MINORITY.

Today, the average American DIES IN $62,000 OF DEBT. That’s a figure, an idea, that Americans have normalized - isn’t this how everyone lives? - but it is so profoundly abnormal and perverse that to an economist like me it’s like having a patient who can’t breathe and is about to go into cardiac arrest. There is nothing - and I mean nothing - more alarming in the world of social statistics and economic figures than a nation dying in mass debt.

What happens to societies where people die in mass debt? Debts they have never been able to repay? When entire generations fall prey to that failure? THEY IMPLODE INTO AUTHORITARIANISM AND/OR FASCISM.

That is PRECISELY THE STORY OF WEIMAR GERMANY, after all. It’s also the story of post-Soviet Russia. And the story of the Islamic world.

Why? What is the connection between a collapsing economy and an imploding society? Trust is. If you can’t make ends meet, no matter how hard you try, you live a life of panic, despair, fatalism, nihilism. You are perpetually angry, a human pistol with a hair trigger, ready to lash out. You have been denied the basics, and with them go peace of mind. And with all that goes trust. You being to grow suspicious of your neighbours, who were once friends. Now everyone is just a rival in a bitter, desperate battle for survival. Tribe turns on tribe, group on group. Atop it all stride elites, grinning, satisfied, because now the masses are too weak to even act for themselves. The bonds between them have been severed - and so NO COLLECTIVE ACTION IS POSSIBLE.

A society dies, this way: an economy collapses, and takes trust with it, which produces a political implosion, by way of social disintegration.

That is exactly what happened in America. As the economy collapsed, from 1970 onwards, steadily, slowly, then fast, and finally all at once, collective action stopped being possible at all. Americans by the 2000s distrusted one another so much that they REFUSED TO GIVE ONE ANOTHER HEALTHCARE, retirement, education, and so on. Do you see the irony? That deficit was of the very basics that produced the vicious cycle of implosion, and yet because trust had gone missing from society, collective action to simply give one another the basics was no longer possible.

And that created the opening for a demagogue. Sooner or later, someone was going to come along who blamed already hated minorities for all this. Who scapegoated Jews, Muslims, Mexicans, refugees, immigrants, for the problems of “real” Americans.

And that is exactly what transpired. Trump led A NEO-FASCIST MOVEMENT to power, and soon kids were in camps, being ripped away from their families, minorities being hunted down in the streets, people being beaten and gassed, women FORCIBLY STERILISED in the camps. And there Trump is today, calling for his opponents to be prosecuted and indicted - a classic and predictable authoritarian move, to finalise the seizure of power.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I want you to really understand American collapse, so that you really understand what America is up against in this election. Let me put it bluntly.

For Trump to lose this election - really lose it, not just fail to win a majority but still retain power - America is going to have to commit its first act of collective action in a very, very long time. Its first positive act. Not just a negative one, as in denying everyone else healthcare, education, retirement, and so on - but an affirmative one, as in, we still want to be a democracy.

If that makes you shudder a little bit, then I’ve been successful - because you understand HOW BIG THE STAKES REALLY ARE.

America isnt just up against Trump. It is up against history. A TOXIC POLITICAL PARTY, a failed set of paradigms, a catastrophic set of ways of thinking about the world. That selfishness and cruelty and brutality - politely disguised as “self-interest” and “self-reliance” and “standing on your own two feet” and even “freedom” - can ever lead a society upwards, towards higher living standards.

Instead, those ideologies, toxic REMNANTS OF SLAVERY AND SEGREGATION, which had never really gone away, led to the following sequence: economic collapse, even for the “real” American, which led to social disintegration, as social bonds were severed, and trust died, which led to predictable and inevitable political implosion, into fascism and demagoguery.

That is all what it means when I say “America was a pre-authoritarian society.” It goes deep, deep into the heart of Americas interlinked crises, economic, social, political, cultural, and is the central thread weaving them together, by way of indifference, despair, and enmity.

This election is America’s last chance. It is a pre-authoritarian society. If Trump wins - and remember, I don’t just mean that he loses the majority, but STAYS IN POWER, thanks to legal challenges, the Supreme Court, voter intimidation and suppression - if he wins, whatever way he wins, America is finished. The transformation to an authoritarian society, which has been on the cards for decades now, will be complete.

That is why people like me survivors and scholars of authoritarianism - have been trying to warn you about all these links. Sarah Kendzior has written about THE DESPAIR IN “FLYOVER COUNTR"Y, Peter Daou warned HOW CIVIL WARS ERUPT, Jason Stanley discussed the EVOLUTION OF FASCISM. America’s pundits - the ones you hear, on CNN and in the NYT and whatnot? They have no idea about this. They have been wrong from day one because they have never lived this, experienced it, understood it in a VISCERAL, FIRSTHAND WAY. We have.

Take the warnings seriously.

These could very well be the last 25 days of American democracy. America is up against all its mistakes, who have culminated in one man, Trump, and his movement of fascists, theocrats, flunkies, sycophants, idiots, and militias. It has never taken a majority to topple a democracy - ONLY A FANATICAL ENOUGH MINORITY.

But do you know what it takes to save one?

A majority, who is capable of doing what is has not, for too long. Finally coming together, to resolve to stand up for decency, goodness, humility, truth, beauty, justice, wisdom, grace.

That is what needs to happen in the next 25 days. America needs to grow more in these last three and a half weeks than it has in the last three and a half decades.

CAN YOU DO THAT? You, my friend, TELL ME.

October 2020


Posted by Elvis on 10/11/20 •
Section Revelations • Section Dying America
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Thursday, October 08, 2020

The Election That Could Break America II

image: dying america

As President Trump refuses to commit to accepting the results of the upcoming election, we speak to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Barton Gellman, whose latest piece in The Atlantic looks at how Trump could subvert the election results and stay in power even if he loses to Joe Biden. Trump’s strategy is never to concede. He may win, he may lose, but under no circumstances will he concede this election, says Gellman. “That’s a big problem, because we don’t actually have a mechanism for forcing a candidate to concede, and concession is the way we have ended elections.”
- The Election That Could Break America, Democracy Now, September 25, 2020

No Civil War: An Urgent Plea to Left, Right

By Ralph Schaffer
LA Progressive

This is NOT THE FUTURE reasonable Americans want for their children and grandchildren.

As this country stands on the brink of a CIVIL WAR, one that will decimate a divided United States, we appeal to activists, left and right, to avoid that civil war no matter what.

Not since 1861 have Americans faced such a calamity. But the destruction that took place in that Civil War was confined largely to the South. This time, every hamlet, town and metropolis in America will be ravaged in the fighting that follows the TURMOIL OVER THIS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION if either side resorts to force in response to an electoral outcome they won’t accept.

In 2000, AL GORE wisely, though prematurely, chose to concede to George Bush as a means of preventing violence.

The stakes are much higher in 2020 and the potential for violence is far greater. But can we expect either a BIDEN OR A TRUMP to follow the precedent set by Gore and concede, coupled with a call for peace?

Considering that people were actually dropping dead in the middle of the streets of China yeah, remember those videos from China?

Considering there are 6,997,468 “cases” in America. Considering there are 203,147 deaths attributed to the “cases” in America.

That’s not the Trump style. He has refused to agree to a peaceful transition of power should the election go to Biden, implying that such a victory for the Democrats would come only from a rigged election. ThatҒs a virtual call to arms, and the right wing militias have already demonstrated their dedication to armed force by marching in the streets. Even one of Trumps advisors has urged the president’s followers to arm themselves and buy ammunition.

The left is not far behind, although at this point they haven’t organized armed units as has the right. But the violent actions - fires, looting, and barricades that have followed peaceful protests over police use of unnecessary lethal force point to a left that will not passively accept a Trump electoral victory they will see a an usurpation.

Biden may not be able to control his outraged supporters if Republicans state legislatures refuse to certify Biden electors, throwing the election into the House where Trump has a majority of state votes. Or, if the electoral college does choose Biden and Trump refuses to leave office, it is unlikely that Democrats will allow him to stay there by peacefully accepting a fait accompli.

Regardless of what scenario takes place on and after election day, the animosities that have arisen between Americans right and left in the past few months have made the likelihood of war greater than the present danger from Covid-19.  We’ve lost over 200,000 Americans to the virus. We will lose millions in the coming civil war if it is not prevented by wise leadership, left and right.

Our great cities will be in ruins. Industrial production will cease. Starvation will be rampant. Those who today are dismayed because kids can’t have in person teaching at the schools will find that there are no schools a all. Neighbors will turn on neighbors. No section, no community will be spared.

Better dead than Red or Blue? Tell that to the millions of dead Syrians! Here it may be tens of millions of dead Americans.

Left wing cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York will be decimated, but so will Trump places like Idaho Falls, Gatlinburg and Abilene. We may not have used A-bombs in foreign wars after 1945, but don’t bet against their use, along with lethal gas, against our own people.

Canada’s population will double almost overnight as Americans flee north. Mexico will become the home for many Americans who had denounced refugees seeking asylum in our country.

The nation will be in chaos for years to come if the leadership of left and right do not call for calm. Trump supporters must accept a Biden victory without resorting to obvious sham efforts to block his inauguration. Biden voters must accept the constitutional rules for deciding a presidential election, regardless of how they feel about the winner.

Failure to accept the election results, whatever they are, will mean the end of the American nation. We will have survived longer than Stalin’s Soviet Union and Hitlers Third Reich, but we will be, like them, an historical footnote.

This is not the future reasonable Americans want for their children and grandchildren.

Ralph E. Shaffer is professor emeritus of history at Cal Poly Pomona.



The Election That Could Break America

American Implosion

Posted by Elvis on 10/08/20 •
Section Dying America
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