America’s mask makers face post-pandemic meltdown

By Timothy Aeppel

(Reuters) – The small U.S. manufacturers that rushed to produce face masks over the past year are now stuck with hundreds of millions of unsold face coverings because China is flooding the market with below-cost masks, and most may not survive the end of the pandemic.

That’s the thrust of a letter to President Joe Biden released Tuesday by a trade group representing 26 small manufacturers that set up production of the badly needed safety items as the health crisis took hold last year.

The manufacturers said over half their production would be forced offline in 60 days if they don’t get immediate federal aid, costing thousands of jobs. They blame low-priced imports, especially from China.

“We write to you with a request for immediate help against unfair trade practices by foreign nations that threaten the viability of the U.S. domestic PPE mask manufacturing industry, as well as future U.S. pandemic preparedness efforts,” the newly formed group, the American Mask Manufacturer’s Association, said in the letter.

The group said they have capacity to produce 3.7 billion surgical masks and more than 1 billion of the higher-protection N95 masks a year – and are now sitting on stockpiles of 260 million surgical masks in their warehouses that they are struggling to sell. Another 20 million N95s are also on factory shelves.

When masks were in short supply last year, prices surged. But prices have now crashed, and hospital administrators and others are shopping for the best prices in a market crowded with new offerings.

A box of 50 surgical masks which sold for more than $50 a year ago can be found for $5 now.

The trade group said while there are 3 to 6 cents in raw material in every surgical mask, imported Chinese surgical masks now sell for an average of 1 cent each. “China … is effectively dumping masks on the U.S. market at well below actual costs.”

“If this remains unchanged, 54% of our production will go offline in 60 days and 84.6% in less than a year,” the group said in the letter. The group said they’d created more than 7,800 U.S. jobs in the last year, but roughly a third of those have already been lost to production cuts.

PROTECTING PRODUCERS

The Biden administration has pledged to look at ways to support domestic producers of protective equipment – including potentially finding ways to subsidize U.S. producers – but the government reviews are still underway.

“The idea that everyone expressed during the crisis – that we need to avoid (PPE shortages) ever happening again – hasn’t changed profit-driven institutions,” said James Wyner, chief executive of Shawmut Corp., a West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, maker of engineered materials that expanded into mask production during the crisis. “The distributors are still sourcing their stuff at the lowest price.”

Wyner said he’s selling masks from his new production lines, but “substantially less than we would like.”

Adam Albrecht, senior quality control manager at Indiana Face Mask, another small producer, said when the firm first started producing the higher-filtration N95 masks last year, “People came out of the woodwork, saying: ‘We can sell this, we can sell this.’ But it seems no matter how much we adjust prices down, the Chinese stay just below.”

Some of the small mask makers are confident they will survive.

Dan Izhaky, who together with a partner has invested $4 million in a new mask factory outside Los Angeles, said the challenge is greater for makers of surgical masks, the ubiquitous safety masks that are relatively easy to make. Izhaky’s company makes more complex N95 masks and he said he has continued to expand. “But we also believe the Biden administration is going to take a number of steps down the road to really help us be sustainable,” he said.

The mask trade group – which doesn’t include industry giants such as 3M Co. and Honeywell International Inc. – urged the Biden administration to take immediate action to support the industry.

Their recommendations include requiring the federal government and any other institution receiving federal dollars for buying protective equipment to buy only U.S.-made masks that comply with government rules on domestic content and remove any masks in the federal stockpile that don’t meet federal standards. They also want the administration to require any hospital that accepts federal funds to earmark 40% of its spending on PPE for domestic producers by 2023.

They are also asking the government to consider buying the 260 million masks now stockpiled at the new factories.

(Reporting by Timothy Aeppel; Editing by Dan Burns and Andrea Ricci)

To go electric, America needs more mines. Can it build them?

By Ernest Scheyder

(Reuters) – Last September, in the arid hills of northern Nevada, a cluster of flowers found nowhere else on earth died mysteriously overnight.

Conservationists were quick to suspect ioneer Ltd, an Australian firm that wants to mine the lithium that lies beneath the flowers for use in electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

One conservation group alleged in a lawsuit that the flowers, known as Tiehm’s buckwheat, were “dug up and destroyed.” The rare plant posed a problem for ioneer because U.S. officials may soon add it to the Endangered Species List, which could scuttle the mining project.

Ioneer denies harming the flowers. Their cause of death remains hotly debated – as does the fate of the lithium mine.

The clash of environmental priorities underpinning the battle over Tiehm’s buckwheat – conservation vs. green energy – is a microcosm of a much larger political quandary for the new administration of President Joe Biden, who has made big promises to environmentalists as well as labor groups and others who stand to benefit by boosting mining.

To please conservationists, Biden has vowed to set aside at least 30% of U.S. federal land and coastal areas for conservation, triple current levels.

But that aim could conflict with his promises to hasten the electrification of vehicles and to reduce the country’s dependence on China for rare earths, lithium and other minerals needed for EV batteries. The administration has called the reliance on China a national security threat.

The administration will be forced into hard choices that anger one constituency or another.

“You can’t have green energy without mining,” Mark Senti, chief executive of Florida-based rare earth magnet company Advanced Magnet Lab Inc. “That’s just the reality.”

Rare earth magnets are used to make a range of consumer electronics as well as precision-guided missiles and other weapons.

Two sources familiar with White House deliberations on domestic mining told Reuters that Biden plans to allow mines that produce EV metals to be developed under existing environmental standards, rather than face a tightened process that would apply to mining for other materials, such as coal.

Biden is open to allowing more mines on federal land, the sources said, but won’t give the industry carte blanche to dig everywhere. That will likely mean approval of mines for rare earths and lithium, though certain copper projects – including a proposed Arizona copper mine from Rio Tinto Plc opposed by Native Americans – are likely to face extra scrutiny, the sources said.

The White House declined to comment for this article.

DIGGING NEEDED

Demand for metals used in EV batteries is expected to rise sharply as automakers including Tesla Inc, BMW and General Motors plan major expansions of EV production. California, the biggest U.S. vehicle market, aims to entirely ban fossil fuel-powered engines by 2035.

Biden has promised to convert the entire U.S. government fleet – about 640,000 vehicles – to EVs. That plan alone could require a 12-fold increase in U.S. lithium production by 2030, according to Benchmark Minerals Intelligence, as well as increases in output of domestic copper, nickel and cobalt. Federal land is teeming with many of these EV metals, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

“There is no way there’s enough raw materials being produced right now to start replacing millions of gasoline-powered motor vehicles with EVs,” said Lewis Black, CEO of Almonty Industries Inc, which mines the hardening metal tungsten in Portugal and South Korea.

Despite that shortage, proposed U.S. mines from Rio Tinto Ltd, BHP Group Ltd, Antofagasta Plc, Lithium Americas Corp, Glencore Plc and others are drawing stiff opposition from conservation groups. The projects would supply enough lithium for more than 5 million EV batteries and enough copper for more than 10,000 EVs each year.

Mining companies insist that federal lands can still be protected while the U.S. boosts output of minerals needed to accelerate the EV transition.

Earthworks and other environmental groups are now lobbying automakers to only buy metals from mines deemed environmentally friendly by the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), a nonprofit group. BMW, Ford Motor Co and Daimler have agreed to abide by IRMA guidelines, and other automakers may follow suit.

PROJECTS AT RISK

Biden has not weighed in on two controversial copper mine projects in Minnesota’s environmentally-sensitive Boundary Waters region from PolyMet Mining Corp and Antofagasta Plc’s Twin Metals subsidiary.

Tom Vilsack – the secretary of agriculture, the department that oversees the Boundary Waters – has in the past opposed the Twin Metals project, arguing that it threatened wilderness and marshlands.

Deb Haaland, the new secretary of interior, the department that controls most federal land, previously voted for a bill that would have banned copper sulfide mining in northern Minnesota. That bill, authored by U.S. Representative Betty McCollum, a Minnesota Democrat, will be reintroduced this month, her aides told Reuters.

Conservationists nonetheless remain concerned that the appeal of copper for EVs and other renewable energy devices may help the mines ultimately get approved.

“If these were coal mines, I’d feel much more comfortable knowing they wouldn’t be approved,” said Pete Marshall of Friends of the Boundary Waters.

WORRIES ABOUT WILDLIFE, SACRED GROUNDS, FLOWERS

In Arizona, Biden promised Native Americans – whose votes helped him win the battleground state – that they would have a “seat at the table” if he defeated Trump. But he has yet to meet with them to discuss worries that Rio Tinto’s Resolution proposed copper mine would destroy sacred sites considered home to religious deities.

Other controversial projects include Idaho’s Stibnite proposed mine, from John Paulson-backed Perpetua Resources Corp, which is under fresh scrutiny by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency staff over fears it would pollute Native American fishing grounds. The mine would produce gold and antimony, used to make alloys for EV batteries.

In Nevada, the Department of Wildlife worries that the lithium mines planned by ioneer and Lithium Americas would harm trout, deer and pronghorn habitats. The Lithium Americas mine received federal approval last month, but ranchers have sued the U.S. government to reverse that decision.

“Renewable energy and electric cars aren’t green if they destroy an important habitat and drive wildlife extinct,” said Kelly Fuller, of the Western Watersheds Project, which opposes the Lithium Americas project.

In Nevada, the death of the Tiehm’s buckwheat flowers at ioneer’s proposed mine site remains a point of contention. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has theorized that thirsty squirrels may have gnawed the roots of more than 17,000 flowers for water amid a drought in the state.

The Center for Biological Diversity, which opposes the mine, said there was evidence that humans destroyed the flowers. “The targeted nature of the damage, combined with the lack of feces, pawprints, hoofprints, or other evidence of wildlife suggest human involvement,” the group said in a court filing.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is now set to rule this summer on whether the flower is an endangered species – a designation that would prevent development on much of the land ioneer is trying to mine.

Ioneer has hired scientists to move the flowers to a new site, though it’s unclear if that process will succeed. “We can extract this lithium and also save this flower,” said James Calaway, ioneer’s chairman.

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; editing by Amran Abocar and Brian Thevenot)

In farewell address, Trump urges prayers for next administration

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump, in a farewell address released on Tuesday, urged prayers for the new administration.

“This week, we inaugurate a new administration and pray for its success in keeping America safe and prosperous,” the Republican president said in the video remarks. “We extend our best wishes, and we also want them to have luck – a very important word.”

“The greatest danger we face is a loss of confidence in ourselves, a loss of confidence in our national greatness,” Trump said. “America is not a timid nation of tame souls who need to be sheltered and protected from those with whom we disagree.”

In the recorded remarks Trump sought to highlight aspects of his presidency.

“We did what we came here to do, and so much more,” he said. “I took on the tough battles, the hardest fights, the most difficult choices – because that’s what you elected me to do.”

Trump noted Middle East peace deals his administration brokered, and his foreign policy agenda.

“We revitalized our alliances and rallied the nations of the world to stand up to China like never before,” he said. “I am especially proud to be the first president in decades who has started no new wars.”

Trump acknowledged the Capitol riots. “All Americans were horrified by the assault on our Capitol. Political violence is an attack on everything we cherish as Americans. It can never be tolerated,” he said.

“Now, as I prepare to hand power over to a new administration at noon on Wednesday, I want you to know that the movement we started is only just beginning,” Trump said.

“I go from this majestic place with a loyal and joyful heart and optimistic spirit, and a supreme confidence that for our country and for our children, the best is yet to come.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; additionaal reporting by Mohammad Zargham and Doina Chiacu; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

As America counts, the world holds its breath for U.S. election outcome

By Luke Baker, Libby George and Daria Sito-Sucic

LONDON/LAGOS/SARAJEVO (Reuters) – A day after Americans voted in a bitterly contested election, the rest of the world was none the wiser on Wednesday, with millions of votes still to count, the race too close to call and a mounting risk of days or even weeks of legal uncertainty.

Donald Trump’s pre-emptive declaration of victory at the White House was condemned by some U.S. political commentators and civil rights groups, who warned about the trampling of long-standing democratic norms.

Most world leaders and foreign ministers sat on their hands, trying not to add any fuel to the electoral fire.

“Let’s wait and see what the outcome is,” said British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. “There’s obviously a significant amount of uncertainty. It’s much closer than I think many had expected.”

But while Raab and others urged caution, the Slovenian prime minister broke ranks, congratulating Trump and the Republican party via Twitter.

“It’s pretty clear that American people have elected @realDonaldTrump and @Mike_Pence for #4moreyears,” wrote Janez Jansa, one of several east European leaders, including Hungary’s Viktor Orban, who are fervent Trump allies. “Congratulations @GOP for strong results across the #US.”

The latest vote tally showed Democrat challenger Joe Biden with a lead in the Electoral College – 224 votes to 213, with 270 needed for victory – but with counting still be completed in at least five major ‘battleground’ states: Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Georgia.

In 2000, the election between George W. Bush and Al Gore hinged on Florida. It was ultimately decided in Bush’s favor by the U.S. Supreme Court, in a ruling five weeks after the vote.

In his comments, Trump suggested the Supreme Court – to which he has nominated three of the nine justices – would have to decide the winner again.

On Twitter, the hashtags #Trump, #Biden and #USElections2020 were trending from Russia to Pakistan, Malaysia to Kenya and across Europe and Latin America, underscoring how much every region of the world sees the outcome as pivotal.

In Russia, which U.S. intelligence agencies have accused of trying to interfere in the election, there was no official reaction.

But Pro-Kremlin lawmaker Vyacheslav Nikonov, the grandson of Stalin’s foreign minister, advised Russians to stock up on popcorn to watch the show he predicted was about to unfold, saying U.S. society was fatally split.

“The result of the elections is the worst outcome for America,” Nikonov, who welcomed Trump’s 2016 win, wrote on Facebook. “Whoever wins the legal battles half of Americans will not consider them the lawful president. Let’s stock up on large quantities of popcorn.”

‘IT AFFECTS US ALL’

In Australia, crowds watched the results roll in while drinking beer in an American bar in Sydney.

“The news is so much better when Trump is in,” said Glen Roberts, wearing a red ‘Make Europe Great Again’ baseball cap. “You never know what he said, it’s so good. I think it’ll be less interesting if Trump loses.”

Others were quick to underline the ramifications of the U.S. vote worldwide. “I think it affects us all, what happens over there really matters for the next four years over here,” said Sydney resident Luke Heinrich.

New York-based Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s leading civil rights groups, warned about the need to reserve judgment on the results until every vote is counted. With a very high number of mail-in ballots this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, full tallies are expected to take days in some states.

Executive director Kenneth Roth said premature declarations of victory were dangerous.

“Autocrats might be perfectly happy to undermine democracy in the United States by welcoming a premature declaration of victory,” he said.

China, whose relations with the United States have sunk to their worst in decades under Trump, said the election was a domestic affair and it had “no position on it”.

Chinese social media users, however, were quick to mock the failure of the U.S. electoral system to deliver a quick and clear result.

“Whether he wins or loses, his final mission is to destroy the appearance of American democracy,” one user on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform wrote on Wednesday.

“Let Trump be re-elected and take the U.S. downhill,” another wrote.

In Nigeria, one leading politician, Senator Shehu Sani, said the uncertainty in the United States was reminiscent of Africa.

“Africa used to learn American democracy, America is now learning African democracy,” he tweeted to his 1.6 million followers.

(Reporting by Luke Baker in London, Libby George in Lagos and Daria Sito-Sucic; Additional reporting by Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva, Crispian Balmer in Rome, Justyna Pawlak in Warsaw, Andrew Osborn in Moscow, Gabriela Baczynska in Brussels and Tony Munroe and Gao Liangping in Beijing; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Teenager killed in Seattle protest zone shooting, one wounded

(Reuters) – Seattle police on Saturday said they were investigating the fatal shooting of one person and wounding of another in a part of the city occupied by activists protesting against police brutality and racial inequality across America.

The Seattle Police Department said it was investigating a shooting at 10th Avenue and East Pine inside the Capital Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) area, which has been occupied by activists without any known police presence since June 8, when Seattle police abandoned the East Precinct located there.

The police said they responded to a report of shots fired in Cal Anderson Park at about 2:30 a.m. PDT (0930 GMT) only to learn that two male victims had already been moved to Harborview Medical Center by CHOP medics.

Harborview spokeswoman Susan Gregg confirmed the hospital received two shooting victims from Capital Hill in the early hours and that one, a 19-year-old, died shortly after arrival while the other was in critical condition in intensive care.

The police said that the suspect or suspects, for which they had no description, had fled and were still at large.

The occupation of the district came as widespread protests against police abuse and injustice took place across the United States after George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died while he was in Minneapolis police custody. A bystander recorded video of the officer who was charged with murder holding a knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Video footage after the Seattle shooting from Omari Salisbury, a reporter for Converge Media, showed a small group of police entering part of the protest zone on foot, holding riot shields and firearms, as occupants raised their hands and shouted at officers to drop their guns.

The footage, seen by Reuters, also showed people surrounding multiple police cars, which then left the area.

In a statement, the police called the protesters a “violent crowd that prevented officers safe access to the victims.”

(Reporting by Sinéad Carew; Editing by Tom Brown and Daniel Wallis)

Factbox: Latest on the worldwide spread of the new coronavirus – May 1st

(Reuters) – More than 3.27 million people have reportedly been infected by the novel coronavirus globally, and 232,200 have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 0200 GMT on Friday.

DEATHS AND INFECTIONS

* For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

* For a U.S.-focused tracker with state-by-state and county map, open https://tmsnrt.rs/2w7hX9T in an external browser.

EUROPE

* Britain was now past the peak of its coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, promising to set out a plan next week on how the country might start gradually returning to normal life.

* Death toll in Italy climbed by 285, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 1,872.

* Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has been diagnosed with the coronavirus, as confirmed cases surged past the 100,000-mark.

* Ukraine reached 10,000 cases.

AMERICAS

* More than 1.07 million people have been infected with the new coronavirus in the United States and 62,891 have died, according to a Reuters tally as of 0200 GMT on Friday.

* Half of all U.S. states forged ahead with their own strategies for easing restrictions on restaurants, retail and other businesses shuttered by the coronavirus crisis.

* U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday his hard-fought trade deal with China was now of secondary importance to the coronavirus pandemic and he threatened new tariffs on Beijing, as his administration crafted retaliatory measures over the outbreak.

* California ordered beaches in Orange County to close after crowds defied public health guidelines to throng the popular shoreline last weekend.

* Canada’s coronavirus curve is flat but worrying trends are emerging, according to its top medical officer, as Alberta unveiled a plan to reopen its economy gradually.

* Brazil reported a record 7,218 cases in the last 24 hours and 435 additional fatalities.

* Peruvian authorities closed a busy food market in Lima after mass rapid testing confirmed more than 160 positive cases.

ASIA-PACIFIC

* China reported 12 new cases for April 30, up from four a day earlier, bringing the national tally to 82,874.

* Japan will formally decide as early as Monday whether to extend its state of emergency, which was originally set to end on May 6.

* Thailand reported six new cases and no new death.

* Malaysia will allow majority of businesses to resume operations from May 4.

* Australia will consider next Friday whether to relax coronavirus-related mobility restrictions.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

* Turkey’s death toll rose by 93 in the last 24 hours to 3,174, with 2,615 new cases of the virus.

* The International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved $411 million in emergency assistance for Ethiopia.

ECONOMIC FALLOUT

* Initial claims for state unemployment benefits totalled a seasonally adjusted 3.839 million for the week ended April 25, the U.S. Labor Department said, while the Commerce Department said consumer spending slumped by a record 7.5% in March.

* Irish manufacturing activity suffered its sharpest monthly decline on record in April as output collapsed, while British factory output risks falling by more than half during the current quarter, a trade body said.

* South Korean exports plunged at their sharpest pace since the global financial crisis in April.

* Consumer prices in Japan’s capital city fell for the first time in three years in April and national factory activity slumped, increasing fears that the pandemic could tip the country back into deflation.

* France suffered its sharpest economic contraction since records began in 1949 in the first quarter.

* Democratic Republic of Congo has cut its 2020 economic growth forecast to -1.9% and is expecting its economy to contract, its central bank said.

* Chile’s unemployment rate rose to 8.2% in the first quarter from the same period a year ago, hitting a decade high.

(Compiled by Vinay Dwivedi and Uttaresh.V; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Sriraj Kalluvila)

9/11 We will not forget!

By Kami Klein

On September 11th, 2001, we witnessed the worst of humanity; an evil we could not imagine. Over 3000 lost their lives that day when a group of terrorists shook our nation to its core. The loss of so many rippled throughout the world.  Families were torn apart within a few hours. The grief was unimaginable and America’s heart was broken. 

 After the attacks, countless stories unfolded revealing extraordinary acts of courage, sacrifice, kindness, and compassion. In the aftermath of the World Trade Center in New York City alone over 16.000 people performed rescue, recovery, demolition and debris cleanup.  These amazing men and women did not know or care about the dangers of their task but rose up in tremendous courage to show the best of what America stands for. 

Ground zero contained toxic dust that held heavy metals and asbestos and other dangerous chemicals.  We are seeing the aftermath years later as countless of these heroes of 9/11 have died or are very sick from illnesses related to this tragedy.  Scarring in the lungs has effected hundreds of responders and experts say this is only the beginning.   

So far, 156 New York City police officers have died from 9/11 related illnesses. 182 in the Fire Department. Countless others are facing debilitating lung disease and aggressive cancers. 

We cannot forget those who lost their lives on 9/11.  We cannot forget now, those that are still giving their lives for our country because of that day and the days following 9/11.  

Eighteen years ago, the nation turned to God.  The churches were filled and prayers were said all over the world. We embraced each other no matter what political belief or religious faith. We were not offended by each other because together we were at war with evil. 

We are still at war but somehow we have turned on one another. 

The attack of 9/11 is not over.  Our heroes from that day are the victims now. We must remember those who are still suffering and fill our churches with faith and prayer. We the people of the United States must feel called upon to honor these brave men and women.  May we come together again, as we did on that day when Love won over hate, Good over evil, and all of us remembered that we are Americans and were willing to sacrifice for each other.

The Lord worked through the very best of us that day and continued doing so during the months and years that have passed. In our prayers, in our memories, and in the stories that we must pass on, these are the people and heroes we cannot afford to ever forget!   

 

Stopping America’s next hate-crime killers on social media is no easy task

By Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball

WASHINGTON/LONDON (Reuters) – The pattern is clear: Hate-filled manifestos posted on websites populated by white supremacists, followed by gun attacks against blacks, Jews, Muslims, or Latin American immigrants.

In some cases, the killers use their internet posts to praise previous attacks by other white nationalists. And after new assaults, the manifestos get passed around, feeding the cycle of propaganda and violence.

Following the racially-motivated attack that killed 22 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, President Donald Trump said he wants police to do more to stop extremists who are active online before they can turn to murder.

But identifying and stopping the extremists who plan to launch an attack is much easier said than done.

Law enforcement experts say that the constitutional right of free speech means police cannot arrest someone simply on the basis of extremist rants online, unless they make a specific threat.

“You couldn’t just open a case on the words,” said Dave Gomez, a retired FBI agent who has worked on cases of both international and domestic terrorism.

“Posting something like that on the internet doesn’t harm anybody,” he said, adding that police can only successfully investigate a white supremacist when you can “connect his words to an overt act.”

The White House will discuss violent extremism online with representatives from a number of internet and technology companies on Friday, according to a White House spokesman.

Social media companies are reluctant to spy on or censor their users, though increasingly they are responding to demands that they take down obvious incitements to violence. And civil rights groups warn that tighter monitoring can lead to unconstitutional abuses of power

Another former FBI agent, who asked not to be identified, said closer monitoring of extremists’ websites would anyway be unlikely to prevent new mass shootings.

“There is not enough manpower. There is not enough technology to properly monitor the internet,” he said. “This is the number one thing we always say in law enforcement: ‘You can’t stop crazy. You can’t even predict crazy.’”

Trump said after the mass shootings last weekend in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, that he would ask the Justice Department to work with local, state and federal agencies as well as social media companies “to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike.”

Even before those attacks, The FBI in early July requested bids for a contractor to help it detect national security threats by trawling through social media sites.

“The use of social media platforms by terrorist groups, domestic threats, foreign intelligence services, and criminal organizations to further their illegal activity creates a demonstrated need for tools to properly identify the activity and react appropriately,” the FBI said in its request.

PRESSURE

Top law enforcement and domestic security officials from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand met with leading social media and internet companies in London last week, and pushed them to help authorities track suspicious users.

The government officials noted in an agenda paper for the meeting that some companies “deliberately design their systems in a way that precludes any form of access to content, even in cases of the most serious crimes.”

“Tech companies should include mechanisms in the design of their encrypted products and services whereby governments, acting with appropriate legal authority, can obtain access to data in a readable and usable format,” the agenda paper said.

A final statement from the meeting said little about encryption, however, and neither company nor government officials talked about what was discussed.

Facebook and Microsoft confirmed they attended but Google, which was invited, did not respond to a request for comment. Other attendees included Roblox, Snap and Twitter, the statement said.

FBI agents say that broad surveillance powers enacted by Congress in the wake of the Sept., 11, 2001 attacks helped them track international terrorist groups and stop people with links to foreign groups like al Qaeda and Islamic State before they could carry out crimes.

But they key law criminalizing “material support” for terrorism does not apply to investigations or prosecutions of domestic terrorists, such as violent white supremacists, that commit hate crimes.

This week, the FBI Agents Association called on Congress to make domestic terrorism a federal crime in order to give agents more tools.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which promotes internet civil liberties, said the sheer amount of users posting aggressive content online makes it almost impossible to identify and track the people who pose an actual threat.

“Even though it seems like there is another mass shooting every week, if you are looking at the number of mass shooters versus the total population, it’s still a tiny, tiny number which means this is still a very rare event,” said Jeremy Gillula, the group’s tech products director. “It’s like trying to predict where lightning is going to strike.”

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Mark Hosenball; Editing by Alistair Bell)

As revolution turns 40, Iran taunts U.S., vaunts military

Iranians burn U.S. flags during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran February 11, 2019. Meghdad Madadi/Tasnim News Agency/via REUTERS

By Parisa Hafezi

DUBAI (Reuters) – Hundreds of thousands of Iranians marched and some burned U.S. flags on Monday to mark the 40th anniversary of the triumph of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Shi’ite cleric who toppled the Shah in an Islamic Revolution that rattles the West to this day.

On Feb 11, 1979, Iran’s army declared its neutrality, paving the way for the fall of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the United States’ closest ally in the Middle East.

 

Iranian people gather during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran February 11, 2019. Masoud Shahrestani/Tasnim News Agency/via REUTERS

Iranian people gather during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran February 11, 2019. Masoud Shahrestani/Tasnim News Agency/via REUTERS

State TV showed crowds defying cold rainy weather and carrying Iranian flags while shouting “Death to Israel, Death to America,” trademark chants of the revolution which ousted the United States’ most important ally in the Middle East.

“Much to the dismay of America, the revolution has reached its 40th year,” read one banner.

Soldiers, students, clerics and black-clad women holding small children thronged streets across Iran, many carrying portraits of Khomeini, who died in 1989, and Iran’s current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The large turnout in state-sponsored rallies came as Iranians face mounting economic hardships many blame on the country’s clerical leaders.

Last year, Iran cracked down on protests over poor living standards that posed the most serious challenge to its clerical leadership since a 2009 uprising over disputed elections.

Prices of basic foodstuffs, particularly meat, have soared since President Donald Trump withdrew Washington from the 2015 nuclear deal last year and reimposed sanctions.

In January, President Hassan Rouhani said Iran was facing its worst economic crisis since the Shah was toppled. But he remained defiant as Iranians recalled the end of a monarch who catered to the rich and unleashed secret police on dissenters.

In a speech at Tehran’s Azadi (Freedom) square, Rouhani said U.S. efforts to isolate Iran would fail.

“We will not let America become victorious. Iranian people have and will have some economic difficulties but we will overcome the problems by helping each other,” he said.

Iranians burn U.S. flags during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran February 11, 2019. Meghdad Madadi/Tasnim News Agency/via REUTERS

Iranians burn U.S. flags during a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Tehran, Iran February 11, 2019. Meghdad Madadi/Tasnim News Agency/via REUTERS

U.S. AND ISRAELI “DOGS”

Marchers carried cardboard cutouts of dogs. One had the face of Trump and the other the face of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Yadollah Javani, the Revolutionary Guards’s deputy head for political affairs, said Iran would demolish cities in Israel to the ground if the United States attacked the Islamic Republic.

“The United States does not have the courage to shoot a single bullet at us despite all its defensive and military assets,” he was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.

State TV showed a cartoon of the Shah being thrown into the “dustbin of history”, wearing clothes in U.S. colors and holding Iranian newspapers headlined “The Shah has left!”

Khomeini returned from exile in France two weeks after the Shah and his wife flew to Aswan, Egypt. He was greeted by millions of supporters in Tehran. Revolutionaries later began executing supporters of the Shah including four top generals.

Washington and the Arab world have viewed Iran with

great suspicion since the Islamic Revolution, fearing Khomeini’s radical ideology would inspire militants across the Middle East.

Today, the United States and its Arab allies are trying to counter Tehran’s growing influence in the Middle East, where it has proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

“The world saw when Iran decided to help people of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Yemen, they achieved victory. The enemies are now confessing to their defeat,” said Rouhani.

Some Iranians criticize their leaders for what they say are foreign adventures which squander funds. Iranian leaders say they are protecting national interests.

Tehran was determined to expand its military power despite pressure from hostile states, Rouhani said.

Iran displayed its ballistic missile capabilities during a parade marking the anniversary, including the Zolfaqar, a ground-to-ground missile with a 700 km (435 miles) range and the Qiam, with a range of 800 km, according to Tasnim news agency.

Brigadier General Hossein Salami, the Revolutionary Guards deputy head, said Tehran would not withdraw forces from the region, dismissing U.S. calls for Iranian clout to be curbed.

(Additional reporting by Bozorgmehr Sharafeddin in London and Babak Dehghanpisheh; Writing by Michael Georgy, Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, William Maclean)

Freedom, our national security and protecting Christian values: Morningside welcomes back terrorism expert Brigitte Gabriel

Brigitte Gabriel ACT! for America

By Kami Klein

Brigitte Gabriel, one of the leading experts on terrorism, will be joining Jim and Lori Bakker on Grace Street on Tuesday, August 28th, at 11 a.m. for a show to be recorded and broadcast at a later date.  As a powerful speaker, she lectures nationally and internationally about terrorism and current affairs. Her expertise is sought after by business and world leaders. She has addressed the United Nations, the Australian Prime Minister, members of The British Parliament/House of Commons, members of the United States Congress, The Pentagon, The Joint Forces Staff College, The US Special Operations Command, The US Asymmetric Warfare group, the FBI, and many others. In addition, Gabriel is a regular guest analyst on Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, and various radio stations daily across America.

Brigitte Gabriel

Brigitte Gabriel, Jim Bakker Show, July, 2017

As founder, president, and CEO of ACT! for America, the largest national security grassroots organization Ms. Gabriel has stood her ground against radical Muslims, threats from terrorists, condemnation from critics and attacks from the liberal media, yet she refuses to back down. She has made it her life’s work to reveal the motivations of radical Islamists as well as those in the United States who are dedicated to destroying America as well as attack the Christian faith and values.

Author of two New York Times Best Sellers, BECAUSE THEY HATE: A Survivor of Islamic Terror Warns America. And THEY MUST BE STOPPED: Why we must defeat radical Islam and how we can do it, Gabriel will soon be releasing her next book, “ Rise: In Defense of Judeo-Christian Values and Freedom” where she reveals the people, organizations, and forces at work to dismantle our Judeo-Christian values and freedoms, destabilize and threaten our national security, and radically redefine our very way of life.

Morningside is honored that Ms. Gabriel is returning to The Jim Bakker Show.  We know and understand the value of her experience and brilliant observations on what is happening in the United States and to the Christian community at large. As a preface to her book and a sentiment we do agree with, “You never really own Freedom, you only preserve it for the next generation.” This show will help you understand what you can do to fight the forces that aim to undermine our nation.

Please join us here at here on Grace Street, Tuesday, August 28th as a member of our studio audience for this important conversation and taping.  Admission is free. We ask that you arrive early for a seat as we expect a full house. For those of you that are unable to attend our show, please be looking for this program to be aired at a later date.  You can find this information on The Jim Bakker show website or be looking for announcements on social media. We hope to see you here!