Thursday, September 28, 2023

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Defense Secretary Austin’s salary cut to $1 under GOP budget plan 

House Republicans on Wednesday approved a measure to slash Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s salary from more than $221,000 annually to less than $1, based on their dissatisfaction with his work so far.

The move has little chance of becoming law, but underscores the growing animosity between conservatives and military leaders reporting to President Joe Biden. House Democrats dismissed the move as little more than a political stunt.

As part of debate on the fiscal 2024 defense appropriations bill, GOP lawmakers approved multiple similar proposals to cut salaries for Defense Department positions they dislike.

The Pentagon’s director of diversity and inclusion, the head of the department’s equity and inclusion office, the military’s chief diversity officer, and the assistant secretary of defense for readiness — a transgender woman — were all targeted with amendments that would trim their annual salary to less than $1.

Austin, as Biden’s top civilian military leader, was lambasted by Republican lawmakers on the House floor Wednesday for the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the military’s recent recruiting shortfalls and COVID-19 vaccine policies during the pandemic.

“Many Americans agree: We do not want the United States’ military led by failure, causing us to be weak,” said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green, R-Ga. and sponsor of the Austin salary provision. “We need to pass this amendment.”

A proposal to cut Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley’s pay to $1 was also floated by Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., but dismissed by party leaders before Wednesday’s debate.

Green’s amendment was approved by a voice vote. Democrats did not press for a roll-call vote which may have prevented the provision from being adopted.

However, the pay cut is already unlikely to advance beyond the House, given Democratic control of the Senate and Democratic dissatisfaction with the defense budget bill. Party leaders have already publicly opposed the appropriations plan over Republicans’ inclusion of controversial social policy provisions, including language that would overturn the Pentagon’s abortion travel leave rules and restrict medical care for transgender troops.

“You may disagree with the administration’s policies, as we all have done over the years with different administrations. But Secretary Austin has done nothing to merit this,” said Rep. Betty McCollumn, D-Minn., and ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel. “There’s no need for us to make such a personal, drastic attack by eliminating his pay.”

The White House has already threatened to veto the appropriations bill.

Republican leaders also included other amendments offered by the right-flank of the party, including the Freedom Caucus, on the floor. An amendment from Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, would bar the Pentagon from implementing President Joe Biden’s climate change executive orders, mirroring language he added to the defense policy bill in July.

A bevy of other bipartisan amendments would dock funding from the Defense Department’s Operation and Maintenance account in order to bolster various research and development programs.

The House is expected to vote on the full defense spending bill later this week. Even if it passes, a government shutdown starting Sunday remains likely, since House Republicans continue to disagree with Senate Democratic leaders over federal spending levels for a short-term government funding bill.

ExxonMobil loses bid to truck millions of gallons of crude oil through central California 

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) — ExxonMobil lost a court bid Wednesday to truck millions of gallons of crude oil through central California — a crucial part of its efforts to restart offshore oil wells that were shut in 2015 after a pipeline leak caused the worst coastal spill in 25 years.

A federal judge refused to overturn a 2022 decision by the Santa Barbara County Board Supervisors that denied ExxonMobil's request to use trucks to carry crude from the three wells.

A request for comment from ExxonMobil about the decision wasn’t immediately returned.

The pipeline was shut down on May 19, 2015, when a corroded section above ground and running west of Santa Barbara ruptured, sending 140,000 gallons (529,958 liters) of oil onto a state beach and into the ocean.

Three decades-old drilling platforms were shuttered in the wake of the disaster.

ExxonMobil proposed sending up to 24,820 tanker trucks a year on coastal Highway 101 and and State Route 166 for up to seven years, arguing that was the only option for getting the oil from the offshore wells to onshore processing plants until a pipeline becomes available.

But county supervisors voted against issuing a permit amid concerns over the effect on local traffic and the potential for spills and accidents.

Environmental groups praised the court decision.

“ExxonMobil’s plan to restart its offshore platforms and truck millions of gallons per week through Santa Barbara County is reckless, dangerous, and totally unwelcome by this community,” said Linda Krop, chief counsel of the Environmental Defense Center, which represents four activist groups. "Today’s decision puts the safety of our communities, climate, and coastlines first.”

Meanwhile, a separate proposal to replace the pipeline remains under review by regulators.

California's oil and gas industry supports hundreds of thousands of jobs. But with climate change expanding the threat of wildfires and drought, the state has positioned itself as a global leader in renewable energy and pioneering policies intended to slow the planet’s warming. California plans to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars and trucks by 2035 and end oil production a decade later.

White House Spokesperson Explains Why Hunter Biden's Checks From China Were Sent to Father's House

White House Spokesperson Explains Why Hunter Biden's Checks From China Were Sent to Father's House 

White House spokesperson for oversight and investigations Ian Sams explained why Hunter Biden was using his father's Wilmington, Delaware, home address where payments from Chinese investment fund CEO Jonathan Li were wired.

"Imagine them arguing that, if someone stayed at their parents' house during the pandemic, listed it as their permanent address for work, and got a paycheck, the parents somehow also worked for the employer," he wrote on X, formerly Twitter. Mr. Sams is a special assistant to the president and senior adviser to the White House counsel's office. "It's bananas. Yet this is what extreme House Republicans have sunken to."

In a separate post, he said claims that the president received money from China was a "flat-out lie."

The claim came as a response to a statement made by House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.). The committee has been investigating the financial dealings of the Biden family.

On Tuesday, the committee chairman revealed that the payments were sent to Joe Biden's home when he was running for president. He had subpoenaed and obtained two bank wires in July and August of 2019, sent from Mr. Li to Mr. Biden. Upwards of $250,000 were paid to Mr. Biden by Mr. Li.

Mr. Comer issued a statement accusing President Biden of lying to the American public when he said that his family never received money from China.

"Bank records don't lie but President Joe Biden does," Mr. Comer stated on X.
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Mr. Sams's statement suggests the checks were sent to Mr. Biden, who was residing at the Delaware address. However, court documents filed (pdf) by Mr. Biden's legal team for a now-defunct plea bargain show he was living in California in 2019.

The filed memo states Mr. Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company and a Chinese private equity fund from 2017 to 2019, which paid him millions in compensation. It notes that Mr. Biden moved to Los Angeles in 2018 as his drug addiction worsened, and continued to earn and spend large sums of money made through his consultancy work. It states that he got sober in May 2019, and "remained in California" that summer, spending much of his time painting and developing his memoir.

Mr. Sams responded to those arguments in a separate post, claiming it was a well-known fact that Mr. Biden used his father's address during this time.
"Hunter listing his parents’ as his only permanent address during this period of turmoil in his life has long been known," he wrote, responding to a reporter's post showing the court filing.

Joe Biden Involvement?

While running for president, Joe Biden refuted claims that he or his son made money from China.
"My son has not made money in terms of, this thing about, what are you talking about, China," he said in a debate against Donald Trump.
The president has also refuted claims this year, as investigations into his son were made public, that he knew anything about his son's business.

The New Yorker reported in 2019 that Mr. Biden introduced Mr. Li to his father when the vice president took a trip to China in 2013. Mr. Li had formed the Chinese investment fund BHR after signing a deal with Rosemont Seneca, the consulting firm Mr. Biden worked for.

The New York Post had also found that soon after Vice President Biden left his post, he had written college recommendation letters for Mr. Li's son and daughter.

Emails obtained by Fox News revealed that Mr. Li had reached out to Mr. Biden and his business partners at Rosemont Seneca asking for advice and help for his son, who was applying to Brown University, Cornell, and NYU.


Mr. Biden has been indicted on three felony gun charges and will have to make an appearance in Delaware for his arraignment on Oct. 3.

The charges brought by special counsel David Weiss do not touch on any tax crimes.

Mr. Weiss has been leading the investigation into Mr. Biden since 2018, and Mr. Biden revealed in 2020, after his father was elected into office, that the investigation had to do with his "tax affairs."

Charges failed to materialize after five years of investigation, until this summer when two IRS whistleblowers approached the House Ways and Means Committee alleging the Department of Justice purposely hindered the investigation.

The DOJ charged Mr. Biden with two tax misdemeanors and a plea deal to divert a felony gun charge, which Republicans denounced as a slap on the wrist for failing to pay taxes on millions in income.

However, during Mr. Biden's first arraignment, the plea bargain fell apart after the judge questioned both parties about the terms and asked for additional information at a later hearing. Mr. Weiss retracted the bargain, which the government says was never formally entered into, and pulled the case.

He later charged Mr. Biden with possessing a firearm while abusing drugs and lying on his application about it.

Abbe David Lowell, Mr. Biden's attorney, says the statute preventing drug users from owning guns is unconstitutional and has already been deemed as such in other cases, and that "on the facts" he has a successful defense.

Trump and sons rage after judge delivers "the corporate death penalty for the Trump Organization" 

Former President Donald Trump and his sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., erupted on social media in response to a New York Judge's ruling Tuesday that the elder Trump committed fraud for years as he built his real estate empire, dubbing the ruling "politically motivated" and attacking the judge and the state's attorney general across a number of posts.

In the Tuesday afternoon decision, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron found that Trump and his company deceived insurers, bankers and other entities by heavily exaggerating his assets and his net worth in paperwork used when making business deals and securing financing. He also found that Trump, his company and its executives had repeatedly lied about his wealth on his annual financial statements in order to take advantage of favorable loan terms and lower insurance premiums. The judge ruled that those actions violated the law and, thus, canceled the certificates of 10 of Donald Trump's key New York businesses, including the Trump Organization, as well as any other New York entities "controlled or beneficially owned by Donald J. Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump, Allen Weisselberg, and Jeffrey McConney." Engoron ordered the parties to identify three independent receivers within a 10-day period to manage the entities' dissolution.

"It's essentially the equivalent of the corporate death penalty for the Trump Organization in New York state," conservative attorney George Conway said on CNN on Tuesday night.

In a lengthy statement to Truth Social (compiled from previous posts on the platform shortly after the decision), the former president took aim at New York Attorney General Letitia James, who filed the civil lawsuit, while defending his actions.

"I have been unfairly sued by the Trump Hating Democrat Attorney General of New York State, Letitia James, over the false fact that I inflated my Financial Statements in order to borrow money from Banks, etc. The Judge in this case, Arthur F. Engoron, refused to allow this case to go to the 'Commercial Division,' where it belongs because he is a Trump Hater beyond even A.G. James, who campaigned against me spewing horrible inflammatory statements which are False & Defamatory," Donald Trump began, then lamented the non-jury status of the case.

Trump went on to list what he deemed the facts of the case: that he is worth more than his valuation on his financial statements; he excluded his "MOST VALUABLE ASSET," his brand, from those statements; there were no victims in the case; the financial statements include a "STRONG 'DISCLAIMER CLAUSE'" advising reviewers against trusting the values and to do their own research; and that his company has millions in cash with very little debt.

"It is a great company that has been slandered and maligned by this politically motivated Witch Hunt. It is very unfair, and I call for help from the highest Courts in New York State, or the Federal System to intercede," he concluded. "THIS IS NOT AMERICA!"

Donald Trump echoed those sentiments in another post to the conservative platform Wednesday morning, leveling more insults at James and Engoron.

"I have a Deranged, Trump Hating Judge, who RAILROADED this FAKE CASE through a NYS Court at a speed never seen before, refusing to let it go to the Commercial Division, where it belongs, denying me everything, No Trial, No Jury. He made up this crazy 'KILL TRUMP' decision, assigning insanely low values to properties, despite overwhelming evidence. AS AN EXAMPLE, HE VALUES THE MOST SPECTACULAR PROPERTY IN PALM BEACH, FLORIDA, MAR-A-LAGO, AT $18,000,000, WHEN IT IS WORTH POSSIBLY 100 TIMES THAT AMOUNT," he began.

"His anger & hatred is politically motivated & unprecedented by those who watched! My actual Net Worth is MUCH GREATER than the number shown on the Financial Statements, a BIG SURPRISE to him & the Racist A.G., Letitia James, who campaigned for office on a get Trump Platform," he continued. "While murderers roam the sidewalks of New York, my banks are happy, all loans are current, or paid off in full, sometimes early, with no defaults or problems of any kind. There is also an IRONCLAD DISCLAIMER CLAUSE!"

Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump had also released statements across several social media posts decrying the judge's ruling and accusing Engoron and James of weaponizing the government against their father and the family.

"Today, I lost all faith in the New York legal system. Never before have I seen such hatred toward one person by a judge - a coordinated effort with the Attorney General to destroy a man's life, company and accomplishments," Eric Trump wrote in the first of a handful of posts to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. "We have run an exceptional company - never missing a loan payment, making banks hundreds of millions of dollars, developing some of the most iconic assets in the world. Yet today, the persecution of our family continues…"

He then accused Engoron of attempting to "to destroy my father and kick him out of New York," lambasting the $18 million valuation of Mar-a-Lago that Engoron cited as the low-end of the Palm Beach County Assessor's appraisal of the property from 2011 to 2021 and calling the case "so corrupt and coordinated."

Eric Trump went on to compare values of homes on smaller stretches of land in Palm Beach despite Mar-a-Lago, as Engoron noted in the filing, not being legally classified as a residence but a private social club with restrictions on its use and modifications. He also posted a video with spliced clips of James' attorney general campaign speeches, in which she vowed to follow Trump's money and sue him and asserted that she'd never be afraid to challenge him, statements Politifact clarified last year were taken out of context in the video.

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"While everyone can see that this case is egregious, the only thing worse than weaponizing the legal system against a political opponent is unfairly going after their family. Both the Attorney General and the Judge know I had absolutely NOTHING to do with this case. Every single person has testified that my job has always been acquiring, developing and managing properties, not back office functions," he said.

"The only reason I am collateral damage is because my last name is Trump and I am unwavering in the support of my father, his accomplishments and what he has done for our country, a nation which is now rapidly in decline," he concluded.

"Anyone with even a basic understanding of the law should read the ruling and see for themselves how nonsensical and asinine the whole thing is," Donald Trump Jr. tweeted shortly after Eric Trump began his rant in response to the decision. "This is weaponized Blue State Marxist America, & another example of the sheer impossibility of a fairness & impartiality in these areas."

He, too, disputed the low-end valuation of Mar-a-Lago cited in the ruling, arguing that "legal system has been commandeered by radicals hell bent on destroying America" and even joking that if property is worth $18 million, he wants 10 of them.

"If my father tried claiming the property was worth $18 million, he would probably then get charged with trying to underpay his real estate taxes!" Donald Trump Jr. added. "They've set the game up so it's always lose/lose in these blue states. If you don't abide by their narrative they will target you."

Engoron's decision, however, addressed many of the former president and his sons' claims, some of which resembled previously rejected arguments brought by the defendants' legal teams to the judge.

He noted that the defense's assertion that the record lacked any evidence of default, breach or complaint of harm from the victims, while correct, was "completely irrelevant" to the case, citing the precedent set by People v. Ernst & Young. He also declared that the disclaimer written on the statements of financial condition by non-party accountants Mazars "put the onus for accuracy squarely on defendants' shoulders."

"As the SCFs did not particularize the type of fact misrepresented or undisclosed and were unquestionably based on information peculiarly within defendants' knowledge, defendants may not rely on such purported disclaimers as a defense," Engoron wrote in the filing.

He further elaborated that the disclaimer, referred to as the "worthless clause," does not only fail to "rise to the level of an enforceable disclaimer" but does not say what the defense argued it did and can not be used to insulate fraud.

As for the value of Mar-a-Lago, Engoron cited the Palm Beach County Assessor's appraisal of the property's market value from 2011 to 2021, which valued the club between $18 million and $27.6 million. He dismissed the expert affidavit the defense submitted to support their valuation of the club as "inadmissible because it is conclusory" and its views "apparently based to a great extent on hearsay statements from unspecified witnesses as well as upon speculations on the part of the expert."

He also broke down Donald Trump's efforts to classify Mar-a-Lago as a social club in the 90s, which saw the former president signing a 1995 deed relinquishing his right to use the property as anything other than a club and a 2002 "Deed of Development" forever extinguishing his right to develop Mar-a-Lago and limiting changes to it, including division or subdivision for any purpose like use as single-family homes.

"Exacerbating defendants' obstreperous conduct is their continued reliance on bogus arguments in papers and oral argument," Engoron wrote in the filing. "In defendants' world: rent regulated apartments are worth the same as unregulated apartments; restricted land is worth the same as unrestricted land; restrictions can evaporate into thin air; a disclaimer by one party casting responsibility on another party exonerates the other party's lies; the Attorney General of the State of New York does not have capacity to sue or standing to sue (never mind all those cases where the Attorney General has sued successfully) under a statue expressly designed to provide that right; all illegal acts are untimely if they stem from one untimely act; and square footage subjective."

"That is a fantasy world, not the real world," he added.

House Bill to Strengthen Agricultural Security Against China Advances

House Bill to Strengthen Agricultural Security Against China Advances 

A bill that strengthens U.S. national security through reviews on the risk of agricultural transactions passed the House Financial Services Committee on Sept. 20 with bipartisan support, ready for a floor vote in the House.

The bill, dubbed the “Agricultural Security Risk Review Act,” would give the U.S. secretary of agriculture a permanent seat on the federal national security review panel—the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS)—for agricultural transactions, including purchases of farmland and agricultural biotechnology.

“Protecting America’s agriculture security is a critical part of our national security,” Rep. Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said in a statement released on Sept. 21. “With an increasing amount of foreign investment in U.S. agriculture, including the Secretary of Agriculture as a member of CFIUS is long overdue.”

“I know firsthand just how important the security of our agricultural industry is, which is why I applaud my colleagues on the House Financial Services Committee in taking a critical step to make my longstanding priority law,” he added.

At a White House press briefing on Monday, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack echoed that his department’s representation on CFIUS would be helpful to have a “foolproof system so that nothing gets through the cracks.”

“I think there are legitimate concerns in that space,” Mr. Vilsack said, responding to the question of whether concerns about Chinese purchases of U.S. farmland were overblown.

According to him, one of the reasons his team has “articulated the need as a department to be more engaged in the CFIUS process” was the case in North Dakota, where a Chinese firm bought farmland near a military installation.

In the fall of 2021, a Chinese company bought, through its subsidiary Fufeng USA, 370 acres of farmland to build a corn-milling plant in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

The land is within 15 miles of Grand Forks Air Force Base, which houses sensitive drone, satellite, and surveillance technology. In December 2022, CFIUS determined that the land sale for the Fufeng project was “not a ‘covered transaction’” under the committee’s jurisdiction.

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The project proceeded until, at the end of January, the Department of the Air Force stated (pdf) that the branch has an “unambiguous” view that “the proposed project presents a significant threat to national security with both near- and long-term risks of significant impacts to our operations in the area.”

Mr. Lucas's bill complements existing measures to curb the Chinese Communist Party's access to U.S. farmland and agricultural business.

On July 25, the U.S. Senate passed an amendment offered by Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) to ban China and other foreign adversaries from purchasing U.S. farmland and agricultural businesses. The amendment is included in the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal 2024, passed at the end of July.

Mr. Rounds’s amendment, passed by a 91–7 vote, also adds the secretary of agriculture as a nonvoting member of CFIUS. Mr. Lucas’s bill takes the representation further to offer the secretary permanent membership. The 2024 NDAA is currently under review by the conference committee before it reaches the president’s desk for signature.

CFIUS is an interagency commission led by the Department of Treasury. Its current members include the secretaries of Homeland Security, Commerce, Defense, State, Energy, and Labor, and the attorney general and the director of national intelligence. Currently, the agriculture secretary may be involved on a case-by-case basis, as determined by the U.S. president.

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington on Sept. 25, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House in Washington on Sept. 25, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)

Mr. Vilsack also mentioned the need to improve information collection on Chinese farmland purchasers.

“I would also say that I think there’s work to be done to give us the tools to be able to do an even better job of ensuring that we know when these transactions take place,” he added.

The Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act (AFIDA) of 1978 requires a foreign person to disclose any acquisition or disposal of an interest in U.S. agricultural land. The foreign person must submit filings to the Farm Service Agency within 90 days of the date of the transaction. Failure to report is subject to a civil penalty of one-tenth of 1 percent, or 0.1 percent, of the land’s fair market value for each week the AFIDA report is filed late, up to 25 percent.
In reality, USDA often reduces the penalty amount significantly for fear of disincentivizing filing. For example, in April 2021, the department decreased the fine for a Chinese billionaire for failing to report a 140,000-acre agricultural land purchase in Texas in 2016 from $21 million to $120,000.
As of Dec. 31, 2021, China owned 383,935 acres of U.S. agricultural land, according to a USDA report (pdf). While the acreage under Chinese ownership is slightly less than 1 percent of all foreign-held agricultural land, it represents a nearly 30-fold leap from 13,720 acres in 2010.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

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ONS UK data

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Children Who Took 3 Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine Have Higher Risk Than Ones With 2 Doses: Pfizer-Funded Research

Children Who Took 3 Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine Have Higher Risk Than Ones With 2 Doses: Pfizer-Funded Research 

A new research letter sponsored by Pfizer linked COVID-19 vaccination with reduced medical visits for respiratory illness in children. The detailed data, however, triggered doubt.

The study followed children under the age of 5 who were diagnosed at a hospital or clinic with acute respiratory infections of COVID-19.

When compared to unvaccinated children, children younger than 5 years who received “at least 2 doses” of the original Pfizer vaccine were associated with "a reduced risk of COVID-19 emergency department or urgent care and outpatient visits,” the authors wrote.

This conclusion came after combining the groups of children who took two or three doses. When the authors separated the ambulatory risk of the children who were given two doses against those given three, the data showed that three doses “hardly ‘protect,’” according to Helene Banoun, an independent immunology researcher.

Additional Dose Increased Risk

Children who were given two doses had a 46 percent lower risk of respiratory infection with COVID compared to unvaccinated children. However, children who were given three doses only had a 12 percent lower risk than unvaccinated children.

This means these children had an increased risk of 34 percent compared to children who had two doses.

Furthermore, they had a confidence interval of 0.62 to 1.25 for risk of ambulatory visits.

A confidence interval below one indicates a reduced risk of ambulatory visits, while a confidence interval above 1 could indicate no benefit or possibly even increased risk of ambulatory visits.

"The 12 percent reduction is the best single estimate but what the confidence interval is telling you though, is that the study might have been underpowered to produce that effect," Dr. Andrew Bostom, retired associate professor of medicine at Brown University, told The Epoch Times.

Hence, the risk reduced is not "statistically significant," he added.

Dr. Bostom said that it is particularly important to drive home the message that children who took the three doses of the Pfizer vaccine had statistically insignificant benefits, since Pfizer and the Centers for Disease Control or Prevention (CDC) consider three doses rather two as the standard regimen for a child.

Children who receive Moderna vaccines require two doses to be considered fully vaccinated, whereas those who followed Pfizer's regimen need three doses.

The risk of medical visits for acute respiratory illness in children under 5 years of age who received two and three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. (The Epoch Times)
The risk of medical visits for acute respiratory illness in children under 5 years of age who received two and three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. (The Epoch Times)
The authors gave a reason for the difference in risk reduction between children who received two doses versus three doses. They speculated that by the time children took their third dose, Omicron, which is "more immune-evasive," was the dominant variant, so the vaccine was less effective.

Omicron: Less Lethal Than Previous Variants

Despite the authors' reasoning, studies have shown that Omicron tends to be less lethal than earlier variants.

While the Wuhan, Alpha, and Delta variants infected the lower lung, inducing pneumonia and multisystemic inflammatory diseases that were much more severe in their symptoms and damage, Omicron was more inclined to infect the upper respiratory tract.

The diagnosis of acute respiratory illness referred to in the study can occur in the upper or lower respiratory tract. The authors did not say if they looked for lower or upper respiratory tract infections.

The earlier variants had a stronger dependency on an enzyme called TMPRSS2, which is more prevalently expressed in the lower lungs, which is why they tend to cause more lung damage.

Omicron, on the other hand, is less dependent on the enzyme. It therefore tends to primarily infect the upper respiratory tract, manifesting with typical symptoms of a cold like coughing, sneezing, sore throat, fever, and runny nose.

Conflicts of Interest

Seven researchers and clinicians at Kaiser Permanente Southern California (KPSC) conducted the study, and six out of the seven had conflicts of interest with Pfizer.

Four out of the seven authors were stockholders in Pfizer during the study and the other two received grants from Pfizer.

"The study design was developed by KPSC but approved by Pfizer. KPSC collected and analyzed the data. Pfizer did not participate in the collection or analysis of data. KPSC and Pfizer participated in the interpretation of data, in the writing of the report, and in the decision to submit the paper for publication," the authors wrote.

New Boosters Approved, No Data in Children

The new paper, published on Sept. 15, came days after the Food and Drug Administration and the CDC cleared and recommended new COVID-19 boosters for all Americans aged 6 months or older.
The new Pfizer vaccine was tested in mice and around 400 people aged 12 and older, but only the data on mice was presented at the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) meeting, since the human trial was still ongoing.

The new Moderna vaccine was tested in 50 people with one person suffering an adverse event.

None of the vaccines were tested in children under 5.

"The data on children is not there, and for that I think this discussion needs to be had," pediatrician Dr. Pablo Sanchez, who voted against recommending the vaccine for all Americans 6 months and older, said at the CDC advisory meeting on Sept. 12.

Still, some advisers said it was safe to assume the vaccines will work in children.

"We don't have a lot of data in children, but ... it's likely there will be a benefit," adviser Dr. Oliver Brooks said.

Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.

Longstanding NYC migrants pushed out of jobs by newcomers: ‘Get the f—k out of here’ 

Longtime migrant workers are disgruntled with new waves of arrivals to New York City who they say are undercutting them — claiming anyone hiring them should “get the f—k out of here”.

City data shows over 116,000 migrants have flocked to the Big Apple since last spring and most are making ends meet working in the illegal underground economy — many while still living rent-free at taxpayer-funded hotels and shelters, as the New York Post exclusively revealed.

This poses a problem for more established migrants who have been working cash-in-hand for years.

They say newcomers accept next-to-nothing for work such as painting and concreting, driving down their own earning potential.

A tradesman known as “Parrow” who described himself as an “old timer” said he has been going to the Home Depot on Merrick Boulevard in Queens to pick up construction, plumbing and home improvement work for “20 plus years” but is now struggling.

“Yes, man,” he said right away when asked if migrants were taking jobs away from people like him.
A group of migrants near the intersection of Fort Hamilton Parkway and 37th St. in Brooklyn at a gathering spot for day laborers on September 20, 2023.
James Keivom

“If you can get the work cheaper you are going to use those guys. You are not going to pay $200 when you can get [for] $40. Anything you give them, they’ll take it.

“I’m an old guy…get the f—k out of here. I’m not taking it.”

Around 50 people milled about the parking lot of the Home Depot on Tuesday looking for work and eagerly approaching any trucks or vans which drove up and looked like they needed a hand.
A group of migrants attempted to find work in the parking lot of a Home Depot in Jamaica, Queens on September 19, 2023.
James Messerschmidt for NY Post

Oscar Irias, 38, from Honduras, is staying in a shelter in Astoria. He crossed the border three years ago and previously lived in Florida before moving to New York in June.

“I can get $250 for the day because I can do masonry, sheet racks, painting…but there are times I go for $100 because there is no work.
City data shows over 116,000 migrants have flocked to the Big Apple since last spring.

“They don’t always give us lunch — nothing to eat or drink. We buy food.

“They are taking advantage of us because we don’t have our papers. I wouldn’t do it if I had my papers. I would have my own job in a company.
Oscar Irias, 38, told The Post that he usually gets $250 for a day’s work, but sometimes has to settle for $100.
James Messerschmidt for NY Post

“I was in Florida before I came here but [Gov. Ron] DeSantis said he didn’t want any undocumented people there so I came to New York.

“I filed for asylum but I don’t have money to pay a lawyer. I don’t know what I am going to do.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul celebrated victory Thursday after the Department of Homeland Security announced migrants from Venezuela will now be eligible to apply for work permits straight away rather than waiting six months, as federal law requires of most asylum seekers.

However, any migrants who entered the US through the CBP One app were already able to apply for work permits right away as they are on a different scheme known as parole.
Longtime migrant workers have told The Post that they are upset at new arrivals undercutting them for work by accepting low wages.
James Keivom for NY Post

Despite this, applications for work permits have been slow and city said this week only around 800 people out of more than 100,000 who have come through the city have applied for them.

Of 36 migrants who spoke to The Post this week, only one had applied for a work permit. Most said they were happy with the easier arrangement of working off the books.

Another old timer who has been picking up work from parking lots for four years accused hiring managers and contractors of taking advantage of the undocumented migrants.
Migrants lined up at 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan to apply for federal services on September 20, 2023.
Seth Gottfried

According to him, one man offered to pay just $50 for the day to pour concrete.

“I wouldn’t do that for less than $300,” he said.

“The new ones, they don’t know any better so they take anything. Me, I’m not doing that. I’m not going for $100 or $150. That’s not right.”

Around 14,000 migrants are still arriving in New York each month, which city leaders have warned is stretching the city to breaking point, and noting the city has run out of space to house people after opening some 200 shelters acros the five boroughs.

Mayor Eric Adams has estimated the crisis will cost the city $12 billion by July 2025.


Gov. Hochul Sends More National Guards Members To Address Migrant Crisis 

Another 150 members of the National Guard are being deployed to help New York City deal with the migrant crisis. The goal is to help those seeking asylum with the paperwork needed to receive work permits.

“It is critical that we help secure work authorization for asylum seekers and migrants in New York,” Governor Kathy Hochul said.

The latest deployment means there will now be more than 2,000 National Guard members who are providing support to migrants around New York state.

“We need to ensure individuals can navigate the paperwork necessary to get them established here so they can work and start making their American Dream a reality,” Hochul said.

Photo Credit: Getty Images


Mayor Adams, NYPD Commissioner Caban became Freemasons over the weekend 

Mayor Adams had a busy schedule Saturday, including remarks at a Harlem book fair and presenting a proclamation at a Dominican Community Center gala. One item wasn't on his official schedule: a ceremony where the mayor, along with the NYPD commissioner and top uniformed officer, became Freemasons.

Adams, NYPD Police Commissioner Edward Caban and NYPD Chief of the Department Jeffrey Maddrey were “raised” as Master Masons, the “final and highest honor in Freemasonry” by the Prince Hall Masonic Temple on Sept. 23, according to a Facebook post on the group’s website. Tony Herbert, citywide liaison to the mayor’s office, confirmed that the event took place and that he was there, but did not comment on the mayor’s attendance.

The Freemasons are the oldest male-only organization in the world and have long been fodder for conspiracy theories. The ceremony was not posted to the mayor’s public schedule, despite the fact that it was hosted at Gracie Mansion. A spokesperson for City Hall did not immediately respond to an inquiry. A spokesperson for the NYPD also did not immediately respond.

Photos of the ceremony posted on Facebook show the mayor and his top police brass wearing white aprons representing “innocence and upright conduct,” according to a Freemasonry educational page. The trio stood beside Grandmaster Gregory Robeson Smith Jr., who oversees the Harlem-based Prince Hall Masonic Temple, a meeting place for the Prince Hall Freemasonry, also known as African American Freemasonry. A call to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge was not immediately returned.

Several other officials joined the ceremony on Saturday, including Herbert, NYPD Deputy Chief of Manhattan Borough North Ruel Stephenson, Assemblymember J. Gary Pretlow and State Sen. Kevin Parker, according to the Facebook post. Stephenson, Pretlow, Parker and Herbert received their 32nd Degree Freemasonry, making them “Sublime Princes of the Royal Secret of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite Masonry Northern Jurisdiction PHA,” according to the post.

Prince Hall Freemasonry was founded in 1775 by abolitionist Prince Hall and 14 other free Black men who were denied memberships to the all-white Boston St. John’s Freemasonry lodge.

“While we are not a religious institution we all share a belief in a Supreme Being,” the website says.

“Everyone is welcome but not everyone is accepted.”

Nat King Cole, W.E.B. DuBois, Duke Ellington, Medgar Evers, Thurgood Marshall, Al Sharpton and Booker T. Washington are just a few of the famous Prince Hall masons listed on the group’s website.

Agnostics and atheists cannot join the Freemasonry, according to Masonic historians , and the Catholic Church condemns the organization. Of the 39 men who signed the U.S. constitution, 13 were Masons. The last U.S. president to become a Freemason was Gerald Ford. Former Mayor Fiorello Laguardia was also a Freemason

Membership has dropped about 75% in recent years, from a high of 4.1 million people in 1959 when 4.5% of all American men were members , NPR reported.

Conspiracy theories have followed the Freemasons for as long as they have existed. The Eye of Providence — found on the dollar bill — represents “the watchful care of the Supreme Architect” for Freemasons, according to the group’s national museum . George Washington, whose picture is on the other side, was a Freemason.

Cuomo says Adams is ‘right’ to claim migrant crisis could destroy NYC, rips Biden and Hochul policy ‘madness’ 

Former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that Big Apple Mayor Eric Adams “is right” to warn the migrant crisis could “ destroy” the five boroughs .

Cuomo, 65, sided with Adams while bashing their fellow Dems — President Biden and successor Gov. Kathy Hochul — over migrant policies he called “madness.

“The federal government has failed to manage the problem,” Cuomo told the largely black congregation at God’s Battalion of Prayer Church in Prospect Lefferts Garden, Brooklyn — a friendly audience that has welcomed the scandal-scarred thrice elected governor in the past.

“The plain truth is New York City is overloaded,” said the former gov, who has been rumored to be plotting a political comeback after stepping down from his post in 2021 during an avalanche of sexual misconduct and harassment allegations.

“We cannot take more than we have taken. And the plain truth is New York City cannot pay the bill for this migrant problem,” Cuomo said, echoing comments he made on his podcast last week.

“It is billions and billions of dollars for New York City. And this is on top of the homeless problem, the crime problem, people leaving, businesses leaving post-COVID.”
Ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks to parishioners at God’s Battalion of Prayer Church in Brooklyn on Sunday morning, blasting many of his fellow Democrats on the migrant crisis and crime.
Gregory P. Mango
A mother from Honduras crawled through concertina wire with her three children after crossing the Rio Grande river from Mexico into the United States on Sunday.
James Keivom
James Keivom

Cuomo then blasted Hochul, his former lieutenant who was elevated to Albany’s top job in the wake of his resignation. The former governor has denied the accusations against him.

Hochul, for example, has refused to try to force other parts of the state to take migrants.

Cuomo said the steps that the state and feds have taken — or not — to deal with the migrant crisis so far make “no sense.

“It’s madness,” Cuomo said. “Mayor Adams is right. This is unsustainable, and it’s unjustifiable.”
Honduran migrant Maria Argentina, an amputee, and daughter, Nathalie, 2, crossed the Rio Grande river from Mexico into the United States on Sunday.
James Keivom
Cuomo said the steps that the state and feds have taken — or not — to deal with the migrant crisis so far make “no sense.”
James Keivom
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers cut concertina wire to let migrants who crossed the Rio Grande river from Mexico into the United States cross to be processed and transported.
James Keivom

Earlier this month, Adams famously predicted the raging issue could “destroy” New York City as the White House turns a deaf ear to the thousands of asylum seekers arriving in the Big Apple each month.

“I’m gonna tell you something, New Yorkers, never in my life have I had a problem that I didn’t see an ending to. I don’t see an ending to this,” Adams said at the time at a town hall on the Upper West Side . “This issue will destroy New York City.”

Cuomo said Sunday, “It’s not a New York City problem, it’s a federal and a state problem first.

“The federal government has to do its job. Manage the population, do it intelligently. And do it fairly. And the federal government has to pay the bill. Because the last people who should have to pay it are the taxpayers of the City of New York,” he said.
Migrants cross the Rio Grande river from Mexico into the United States on Sunday.
James Keivom
Earlier this month, Adams famously predicted the migrant issue could “destroy” New York City.
James Keivom
Cuomo said the federal government has “failed to manage” the migrant problem.
James Keivom

“It’s time to stand in solidarity with Mayor Adams when he says this should not be on the shoulders of New York City residents alone. We need help from the federal government and the state government.”

Cuomo also bashed his own party over crime.

“Hard truth, people out there on the street or afraid of crime. That is the truth,” Cuomo said.

“And you have too many politicians, and I’m a Democrat, too many Democrat politicians who are hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil. ‘What crime?! I don’t see no crime! It’s a Republican conspiracy.’

“Makes no sense,” Cuomo said. “Because crime hurts our people. Seventy to 80% of the victims of crime, black and brown, and poor.
Former Gov. David Paterson’s praise Sunday of Gov. Kathy Hochul echoed The Post editorial board’s support of her recent new stronger stance on the migrant crisis.

” ‘Defund the police’ are the three dumbest political words ever uttered,” he added, referring to lefties’ push to take money away from cops.

The former governor’s speech echoed predecessor ex-Gov. David Paterson’s recent barrage of criticism of current Democratic standard bearers on the migrant crisis and crime.

Paterson again took to the airwaves Sunday to discuss the topics but praised Hochul, who like him was elevated to office in a sex scandal, for recently taking on the feds over the migrants.

“Gov. Hochul in the last few days has really changed her position about the migrants, completely supporting what Mayor Adams has been saying for a couple of months, which is that this is really a federal problem that got dropped on New York City and New York state without any particular assistance; no plan to solve the problem,” Paterson told host John Catsimatidis on WABC 770’s “Cats Roundtable” on Sunday.

Adams, for his part, took a more conciliatory tone than usual Sunday when asked whether his partners in government were rising to the occasion.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers helped migrants who crossed the Rio Grande river from Mexico into the United States.
James Keivom
Migrants crossing Rio Grande
James Keivom
Migrants wait in line at 26 Federal Plaza in Manhattan to apply for federal services such as a work permit or asylum.
Seth Gottfried

“I want to thank the president, I want to thank his team,” Adams said, referring to the White House’s decision to clear a pathway for migrants from Venezuela and Afghanistan to work , on WABC’s “ Up Close With Bill Ritter .

“We have been speaking about this for several months, now meeting with the White House team, several conversations with the White House Chief of Staff,” Adams said.

“And you know, thank the governor for even adding her voice to it,” Hizzoner added.

But he also continued to sound the alarm bell on the migrant influx — which has seen more than 110,000 asylum seekers come to the Big Apple since spring 2022.
Venezuelan migrant Yonder Urbina injured his foot after jumping off a cargo container while crossing the Rio Grande river from Mexico into the United States on Sunday.
James Keivom
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer holds Olga, 1, as her mother is helped off a shipping containers used to block the passage of migrants across the Rio Grande river.
James Keivom
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers helped migrants who crossed the Rio Grande river from Mexico into the United States scale shipping containers.
James Keivom

“We cannot spike the ball, because this is not going to deal with all of the migrants and asylum seekers who are in this city,” Adams said. “We have about 60,000 in our care, 10,000 a month, and many of those new arrivals won’t be able to apply for the TPS [Temporary Protected Status] and for the other benefits of this [Venezuelan and Afghanistan] initiative.”

Cuomo’s Sunday church appearance came after he showed up at a prominent Brooklyn Democratic club earlier in the month.

He had chosen the same church, God’s Battalion of Prayer Church, in March 2022 for his first public speech after his resignation, during which he complained about being a victim of “cancel culture.”

Basil Smikle told WCBS in March of 2022, “There might be some in the black community who feel he was railroaded, which I think is why going to a black church on a Sunday made sense for him.

“Folks here, not just here central Brooklyn, the whole Caribbean community, they have a love for Cuomo and they really wish he didn’t resign.”