August 10, 2020

USA: Minnesota Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar Pays Husband’s Firm Another $600,000 In Just Three Weeks, Bringing Total Over $1.7 Million. Ilhan Omar Under Investigation By The FBI, ICE, Education IG.

The Daily Caller
written by Peter Hasson
Thursday July 30, 2020

Democratic Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar’s re-election campaign paid her husband’s consulting firm more than $600,000 in the first three weeks of July, Federal Election Commission (FEC) records show.

Omar’s campaign has now paid E Street Group, the consulting firm run by Omar’s husband, Tim Mynett, more than $1.7 million since August 2018, according to FEC records.

The most recent payments, which were first reported by the Washington Free Beacon, come despite an ongoing FEC complaint against Omar’s campaign.

The conservative National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) filed the complaint in August 2019, alleging that Omar broke federal laws by using campaign funds to pursue an affair with Mynett. Both Mynett and Omar were married to other people when their affair first began.

The NLPC’s complaint zeroed in on travel expenses Omar’s campaign began disbursing to E Street Group in April 2019, which aligned with an accusation by Mynett’s ex-wife, Beth Mynett, who said in a divorce filing that he confessed on April 7, 2019, to being “romantically involved” with Omar.

Beth Mynett stated in the divorce filing that her husband’s “more recent travel and long work hours now appear to be more related to his affair with Rep. Omar than with his actual work commitments.”

Omar has faced other campaign finance issues in the past as well.

Minnesota’s campaign finance and public disclosure board ruled in June 2019 that Omar improperly spent thousands of dollars in campaign funds on non-campaign expenses in 2016 and 2017 while she was serving in the state legislature.

The state board ordered Omar to personally reimburse her campaign for expenditures on out-of-state travel for Omar and on her joint tax returns, which amounted to just under $3,500.

The board also ordered her to pay a civil penalty of $500 for using campaign funds to pay for travel to a conference in Florida, where she received an honorarium for speaking.
The Washington Free Beacon
written by Joe Schoffstall
Thursday July 30, 2020

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) funneled an additional $606,000 to her husband's firm in the first three weeks of July alone, according to new campaign filings.

Federal Election Commission records released Thursday show that over the first three weeks of July, Omar's campaign sent $606,000 to the E Street Group, a D.C.-based consulting firm run by Tim Mynett, Omar's husband. The money accounted for 77 percent of the campaign's disbursements during that time.

Omar has sent massive sums to her husband's firm even as her Democratic opponent, Antone Melton-Meaux, significantly outraised her ahead of the primary. The challenger drew national attention with a $3.2 million fundraising haul over the past quarter, six times the amount Omar's campaign pulled in over the same period despite paying Mynett's firm large sums for fundraising assistance. Melton-Meaux is also drastically outraising the incumbent in Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District, signaling he may pose a challenge to the "Squad" member in the August 11 primary.

Mynett's firm is Omar's biggest campaign vendor. The campaign had already doled out $1 million to the firm this cycle before July. The $1.6 million in total payments accounts for nearly half of Omar's $3.4 million in net operating expenditures this cycle.

Omar's new campaign filings also show that the congresswoman raised $407,000 over the first three weeks of July, nearly equal to the $471,000 she pulled in over the previous three months. Omar now has $732,000 in cash on hand. Melton-Meaux, meanwhile, finished the last quarter with $2 million at his disposal. His campaign's pre-primary report was not submitted at the time of this writing.

Omar's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the payments.
written by Scott Johnson
Monday August 10, 2020

Ilhan Omar’s father was the late Nur Said Elmi. Omar has vehemently denied that Nur Said Elmi was his name because the name reflects the fraternal relationship of Ahmed Nur Said Elmi to her — Ahmed Nur Said Elmi being the younger brother she married for fraudulent purposes in 2009. Even though the marriage had long since served its fraudulent purpose(s), Omar didn’t didn’t get around to dissolving the marriage to Elmi until 2017, just in time to marry and divorce the father of her three children before marrying her consultant and fundraiser earlier this year. It’s quite a story for someone who has repeatedly invoked her “faith tradition” as both a shield and a sword.

Omar’s father died this past June. His death provided the occasion for the public expression of condolences from many who knew him. Today David Steinberg reports that he was known by one and all in the Somali community as (Colonel) Nur Said Elmi, obviously because that was his name. See David’s Blaze column here. See also David’s Twitter thread here.

As is his custom, David dives into the story in great detail. Long story short: the case that Omar married her brother is closed.

USA: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin Said Democrats Are Holding Up Benefits To Hardworking Americans. Trump Suggests Some States May 'Pay Nothing' As Part Of Unemployment Plan.

Fox News published August 9, 2020: Mnuchin: Democrats are holding up benefits to hardworking Americans. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin joins Chris Wallace on 'Fox News Sunday.'

I typed this transcript below of the first 6 minutes of the video I shared with you above. I looked for a transcript to save me time and could not find one. BUT, I did find that Fox News posted a rush transcript for Speaker Pelosi's interview with Chris Wallace right before Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's interview. This thought this interview had information that you needed to hear. So, please forgive me in advance if I made an errors. Thank you.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: White House negotiators and Democratic Congressional Leaders met 11 times to discuss a coronavirus relief package before President Trump took his executive action yesterday. Joining us now from the White House Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Mr. Secretary welcome back to Fox News Sunday.

TREASURY SECRETARY STEVEN MNUCHIN: Thank you Chris it's good to be with you.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: You just heard Speaker Pelosi's reaction to the steps President Trump took yesterday, your response.

TREASURY SECRETARY STEVEN MNUCHIN: Well first of all let me just say it was the President's first choice for us to go up and negotiate a fair deal. So Mark Meadows and I negotiated nonstop. We went through every line item with them for two weeks. Let me just give you a sense of this, on education they wanted $100 BILLION, we agreed to $105 BILLION. They then raised their number to $400 BILLION. As the Speaker just said they wanted money for food, we compromised on food we actually reached an agreement on that. We had the postmaster general up.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Wait wait wait, let me ask you about Mr. Secretary let me just ask you about that because she kept referring to $250,000 for food relief. Is that true?

TREASURY SECRETARY STEVEN MNUCHIN: We came up to a very fair compromise. We actually reached an agreement on what they wanted without long term changes on policy and we knocked that off the list. But let me just tell you what they've refused to negotiate on. We said tell us where you want to compromise for state and local. They said we're at a TRILLIONS dollars. We said tell us where you are on enhanced unemployment. We've told the American we'll keep it at $600 while we negotiate for a week or two. They refused to do that. Those two issues they refused any compromise. On mostly every single other issue we've reached an agreement. And what happened on Friday was, they said call us back. We said to the President, look now you've got to move forward with an executive action so that you can help American workers and American people.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: But Mr. Secretary let's talk about what the President's action that he took yesterday. We've talked about what they did. Let's talk about what they don't do. They don't provide another $1,200 direct payment to people. They don't restore the Payment Protection Plan (PPP) which helps small businesses. That ran out yesterday. Here's what Democrats said during the negotiations. (VIDEO PLAYED) Mr. Secretary you heard Speaker Pelosi say she would like to resume talks. Are you ready to do so and frankly given these differences and what you heard from her today why should we think that negotiations this week would go any better than the failed negotiations of the last two weeks.

TREASURY SECRETARY STEVEN MNUCHIN: Well Chris I've told the Speaker and Senator Schumer anytime they have a new proposal I'm willing to listen. But let me just say that you're right. We agreed with the Democrats we both want to send more checks to the American workers. We want to send more PPP to those hardest hit businesses. We've said let's pass legislation on the things we agree on and knock these off one at a time and they've refused to do that until they get their TRILLION DOLLARS for the states. I've also spoke to many Governors over the last few days. We offered more money for the states. They still have $150 BILLION from last time. Most of them haven't even used half of money. Governors are saying we need more money for education, we need help and the President said we'll give it to you but not a TRILLION DOLLARS.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Mr. Secretary I want to refer to something that Speaker Pelosi referenced and that was a comment from Republican Senator Ben Sasse that this governing by executive action is his words, unconstitutional slop. What makes you think that spending over $100 BILLION DOLLARS that congress has not appropriated for these specific purposes is legal and what happens if there's a court suit and all of the actions of the President took yesterday are blocked by a federal court.

TREASURY SECRETARY STEVEN MNUCHIN: Well Christ let me just say we've cleared with the office of legal council all these actions before they went to the President. The President knew unemployment insurance was ending. He said let's continue at $400. By the way, the 25% from the states they can either take that out of the money we've already given them OR the President can waive that. We've been told by the states they can get this up and running immediately and I would say if the Democrats want to challenge us in court and hold up unemployment benefits to those hardworking Americans that are out of a job because of covid, they're going to have a lot of explaining to do.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: As we say, you have cut the federal unemployment benefit from $600 to $400. $300 from the feds, this is a week, $100 from states but you say a lot of that would come from federal money that they've already received. Do you really think that the hundreds, that the millions of families that lost jobs because of the virus don't need that money, that they don't need the extra $200 per week.

TREASURY SECRETARY STEVEN MNUCHIN: Chris let me be clear, first of all on the 25% that's coming from money we already gave the states. So this is effectively 100% paid for by the federal government. Let me also remind you that Obama during the financial crisis paid a $25 top up. So this has never been done in the history of time. We thought $400 was a fair compromise. But let me just also say we offered to continue to pay $600 while we negotiate and the Democrats turned that down.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Sir, that was only for one week.

TREASURY SECRETARY STEVEN MNUCHIN: Actually Chris we extended it to two weeks but they made perfectly clear they're not going to agree on a piecemeal deal. They want to hold up the America public from getting the money they need until they get everything they want. Which is just a bad outcome.
The Hill
written by Rebecca Klar
Sunday August 9, 2020

President Trump suggested some states may “pay nothing” as part of the unemployment plan included in the coronavirus executive orders the president signed on Saturday.

The memo Trump signed Saturday extends the enhanced unemployment benefits that expired about two weeks ago. The benefits will be lowered from $600 to $400 per week, with states required to cover 25 percent of the cost.

Speaking to reporters Sunday on his way home from his New Jersey resort, however, Trump said some states may not have to pay, adding that "it will depend on the states." He said states will make an application that will be reviewed by the White House.

“We have a system where we can do 100 percent or we can do 75 percent, they pay 25,” Trump said, according to CNN.

"So, you know, they may be — they'll pay nothing in some instances or maybe they'll — a little bit like the National Guard, like the National Guard, as you know. Sometimes we'll pay all of it depending on the tragedy, or whatever it may be, the disaster," he added. "Sometimes the state will pay 40 percent, 25 percent, 10 percent or nothing — depending on how it works out."

Earlier on Sunday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow predicted that individuals on average will receive $800 from federal and state enhanced unemployment benefits each week.

CNN’s Dana Bash pressed Kudlow on his comments, noting the memo states $400 dollars and the state would pay 25 percent of it.

“You’re talking about some other money that I don’t know about,” Bash said.

“We will stand ready to repurpose if states put in a little bit more,” the economic adviser replied.

Kudlow said the White House will “probably find out today and tomorrow” which states and territories will be able to afford the payment.

Ohio unemployed residents should be receiving $400 FPUC enhanced unemployment benefits.
NOTHING LESS. It's covered.
Apparently, Democrat California Governor Newsom
is trying to screw unemployed Californians too.
Californian unemployed residents should be receiving
$400 FPUC enhanced unemployment benefits.
NOTHING LESS. It's covered.
The Sacramento Bee
written by David Lightman
Monday August 10, 2020

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that it will be extremely difficult — and likely impossible — for the state to provide funding needed to give California’s unemployment workers the entire $400 additional benefit President Donald Trump has announced.

That benefit would cost the state an estimated $700 million each week, Newsom said at an afternoon news conference, at a time when California’s government is struggling to balance a budget ravaged by the sudden economic slump triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under another scenario, Newsom said, the state would have to come up with an additional $2.8 billion weekly.

For the state to absorb another $700 million a week in spending, let alone more, “would create a burden the likes which even a state the size of California could never absorb without again massive cuts to important services or further burdening...businesses and individuals,” Newsom said.

Labor experts were skeptical people would soon see any extra money, if ever.

“Participating in what is laid out in the executive order would be a difficult gamble for the state — besides having to chip in to supplement by a $100/week (which given the rules of the UI program have to be borrowed from the federal government),” said Till von Wachter, faculty director of the nonpartisan California Research Lab UCLA, which studies state unemployment trends.

He said to implement the Trump program, the governor would have to sign on to an approach whose legal foundations are dubious and that is predicted to yield supplementary benefits for only a limited number of weeks.

Michele Evermore, senior researcher and policy analyst at the National Employment Law Center, saw practical problems.

“I seriously don’t get how states can do this remotely quickly,” she said.

Washington wants California and other states to use some of their pandemic relief funds, but Newsom said more than three-fourths of that money has already been “obligated and distributed.”

“There is no money in the piggy bank” from that fund, he said.

He said the president’s plan also would put further strain on an unemployment system that remains under fire from consumers and state lawmakers. It’s taken four to six weeks to get calls returned, and Employment Development Department officials have said their system is antiquated and badly in need of modernization.

“We would have to reprogram a system that is well-defined as hardly perfect at EDD,” he said.

Most of the state’s unemployed workers, like those around the country, received an extra $600 a week from late March through late July. The program has not been revived, as the White House and congressional Democrats deadlocked on how to proceed. Democrats wanted to keep the $600 intact, federally funded, through January. Many Republicans believed that the amount too often was more money than people would have earned working, and wanted it cut.

But the nonpartisan California Research Lab found in a study released last week that in the state, “Without the $600 per week additional benefits...half of all individuals receiving unemployment insurance benefits would have received payments below the federal poverty level.”

While unemployment insurance traditionally provides enough money to be a lifeline while someone is out of work, it is not intended to be so generous that people will not be motivated to seek work. Supporters of the $600 benefit argued that people should not be jeopardizing their health by leaving their homes to seek employment, so the larger payments were needed.

As negotiations collapsed, Trump Saturday issued an executive order saying the federal government would pay $300, while states picked up the rest.

The average California benefit has been $347 a week, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Nationally, the aggregate weekly benefit is $364.

Trump said states would be asked to be “using existing funding, such as the tens of millions of dollars available to them through the coronavirus relief fund.”

The U.S. Labor Department, which works with states to do just that, has so far offered little specific guidance.

Shortly after Trump’s statement, Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia issued a three sentence statement. It criticized Democrats for not being more cooperative, and added “The Department of Labor will now work closely with the States and the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA to assist in providing the relief made available by the (White House) memorandum.”

August 8, 2020

Long Live Disco! Happy Saturday Night Vibes...๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ˜˜ Because it feels like that kind of night. ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ‘✨ Let's Celebrate LIFE. ๐ŸŽ‰๐ŸŒŸ Cheers! ๐Ÿฅ‚

I don't have a care in the world. Shift your focus. Right now you can be sad all night long because of an unfortunate situation you find yourself in OR you can realize that you can't fix whatever is bothering you tonight so you're going to decide to lift your spirit up, be happy and dance.

I hope you're having a great night too doing whatever it is that puts a smile on your face. ๐Ÿ˜Š

BIG hugs! Dance. Enjoy yourselves. Life is way too short. ๐ŸŽ‰๐Ÿ˜˜✨๐Ÿ’–

ENJOY! and dance, dance, dance...๐Ÿ˜

I would love to hear song suggestions from all of you that I should add to my Long Live Disco playlist I created on YouTube. These songs bring back such great fun filled memories for me. I have no regrets. All of my past experiences, both the good and the bad, have made me who I am today and for that I am grateful. Each experience was a puzzle piece to my life story. The message I share with you below helps us to realize life puzzle pieces falling into place as they should. Even when we don't understand the why of an experience. Love you! ๐Ÿ’–

๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ‘‡ LOVE this great video. ๐Ÿ‘‡๐Ÿ˜
This was before deadly diseases came out of laboratories
and before crack cocaine hit the streets.

๐Ÿ’– 1979 World Disco finals ๐Ÿ’–

USA: President Trump Signed Executive Order Today To Extend Unemployment Benefits, Provide A Payroll Tax Holiday, Defer Student Loan Payments And Extend The Federal Moratorium On Evictions.

NTD News
written by Allen Zhong, The Epoch Times
Saturday August 8, 2020

President Donald Trump took executive action on Saturday to extend the weekly enhanced unemployment payment at a reduced level.

He signed a memorandum during a press conference on Saturday afternoon as the negotiations between the White House and the Democrats collapsed.

The new payment will be $400 per week. The federal government will cover 75 percent of the cost while the states will pay the rest, he said.
I'm not sure yet, but I think this might mean that the states will cover the remaining $200 of the original $600 pandemic unemployment assistant payment (PUA). I'm looking into this right now. I'll let you know as soon as I find out. $400 is so much better than the nothingness Congress was giving Americans suffering because they are being FORCED NOT TO WORK because businesses are FORCED to shut down. Americans are unemployed due to no fault of their own. People have living expenses and bills that need to be paid and had income suddenly cut off and snatched away from them BY STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS. (emphasis mine)
The president said that some governors might not be happy with the actions, suggesting that he didn’t negotiate with all governors before the announcement.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) didn’t immediately respond to an email request for comment.

The president also, via executive orders or memorandums, deferred payroll tax for Americans earning less than $100,000 per year from Sept. 1, authorized The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to offer eviction protections to renters and homeowners, and extended the term of relief to student loan borrowers from Sept. 30 to the end of the year.

The payment—which was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and was $600 per week on top of existing unemployment benefits—expired on July 31. The White House and the Democrats failed to reach a deal on extending the payment.

The White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin started negotiations with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Aug. 1.

“At this point, it’s clear Democrats want to play politics with American jobs,” Meadows wrote in a Twitter post right before Trump’s press conference. “Since Democrats won’t step up and do their job, @realdonaldtrump will do it for them.”
There are several areas in which the two sides disagree with each other. The Democrats want a comprehensive stimulus package costing $3.4 trillion, while the White House prefers a smaller bill as the first step in addressing the most important issues, including an extension of enhanced unemployment payments and eviction protections for tenants.

Pelosi and Schumer also want $915 billion in aid for state and local governments included in the bill, to which the White House offered $150 billion.
Trump said on Saturday that many requirements from the Democrats are irrelevant to the outbreak, including bailout money for states and local governments, articles to ban voter ID and signature verification, and universal mail-in ballots.

Meanwhile, the Democrats are blocking measures supporting K-12 school reopening, additional money for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), additional money for hospitals, testing, and vaccines, and direct payments of $3,400 for families of four, he said.

The president said on Friday that he will use executive power to extend the enhanced unemployment payment and suspend the payroll tax.

He announced during an unplanned press conference on Friday that he would defer the payroll tax until the end of the year, enhance unemployment benefits until the end of the year, defer student loan payments and forgive interest indefinitely, and reinstate a federal moratorium on evictions.

The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, also known as novel coronavirus and caused the disease of COVID-19, originated from Wuhan city in China and has infected over 19 million people and claimed lives of more than 718,000 outside China according to government data collected by The Johns Hopkins University.

The Chinese regime claimed—which has been highly doubted—that there are only 88,649 infection and 4,681 death inside China.

It’s widely reported that the Chinese regime covered up the outbreak and refused to share information with other countries. As a result of the outbreak, countries around the world became more aware of the dangers of the Chinese regime and its socialist ideologies.
๐Ÿ‘‡ BONUS ๐Ÿ‘‡
๐Ÿ‘‡ AFTER NOT DOING SHIT for the American people because she wanted $915 BILLION to bailout states and local cities that were already in the crapper before the pandemic hit. She refused to budge. Nancy Pelosi has the nerve to say, that President Trump's Executive Action today "PROVIDE LITTLE REAL HELP for families." It's a HUGE HELP TO FAMILIES IN DIRE NEED. ๐Ÿ‘‡

LEBANON: A Massive Explosion At Ammunition Warehouse With 2,750 Tonnes Of Ammonium Nitrate Flattened Much Of Beirut Port District. 154 People Dead, 5,000 Injured, 300,000 Homeless.

Breitbart News
written by Frances Martel
Thursday August 6, 2020

A Lebanese lawmaker revealed evidence on Wednesday that customs officials tried to get the government to secure a stash of ammonium nitrate, a combustible material, at least six times and received no guidance.

Lebanese authorities believe the nitrate was responsible for Tuesday’s deadly blast in Beirut.

As of Thursday, authorities have tallied 157 deaths and 5,000 injuries after a massive explosion reduced much of the Beirut port district to ashes this week. Multiple eyewitness videos show a large fire near the shore that consumed much of the area before erupting and taking down blocks of buildings and shattering the windows of those left standing. Authorities estimate that 300,000 people are now homeless.

Prime Minister Hassan Diab said in an address late Tuesday that authorities had traced the blast to the high concentration — nearly 3,000 tons — of ammonium nitrate in a warehouse in the area. The material had been there, he added, since officials confiscated it from a ship seized at the port in 2013. For nearly eight years, it appears no one attempted to move the material to a less populated and more secure place.

“What happened today will not fly by without accountability. All those responsible for this catastrophe will pay the price,” Diab said. “This is a promise I make to martyrs and injured. This is a national commitment.”

President Michel Aoun announced Wednesday that police would place all officials responsible for storing and securing confiscated materials at the Beirut port under house arrest if they executed that responsibility between 2014 and Tuesday.

On Thursday, Lebanese banks also received orders to freeze any assets affiliated with Beirut Port General Manager Hassan Koraytem and Lebanese Customs Director-General Badri Daher.

Adding to evidence of negligence, lawmaker Salim Aoun published documents on Twitter that he claimed were letters from customs officials in Beirut to the court responsible for the seizure of the ammonium nitrate. According to the New York Times, the officials wrote the court “at least six times from 2014 to 2017” asking how to dispose of the material, or at least remove it from the densely populated port area. They never received an answer and the material stayed in place.

The Times also shared that a local broadcaster interviewed Koraytem, the general manager of the Port of Beirut, on Wednesday who confirmed, “We have been waiting for this to be resolved for six years, in vain.”

The Lebanese outlet al-Akhbar relayed that Daher, the customs chief, similarly insisted that the negligence apparently leading to the explosion did not begin with him, insisting that he had done “more than [his] duty” to responsibly tend to the ammonium nitrate.

Al-Akhbar added information of reports regarding what exactly led to the ammonium nitrate blowing up. Initially, some Lebanese officials claimed on Tuesday that the fire was the result of an accident at a fireworks factory. Officials subsequently changed their story, and some Lebanese outlets reported construction of some kind happening near the warehouse storing the explosive material; there is no evidence any construction crew in the area would know that they were working near highly combustible material.

Welding work overheated an area near the explosive material, al-Akhbar claimed, allegedly resulting in the detonation of the ammonium nitrate.

Senior-level Lebanese officials have not confirmed this report.

The ammonium nitrate reportedly originated in a Russian-owned ship, the MV Rhosus, which made an unannounced stop in Beirut in 2013 allegedly en route to Mozambique. The ship has since reportedly sank, but its former captain Boris Prokoshev confirmed to Radio Free Europe (RFE) that it had been carrying tons of ammonium nitrate when Lebanese officials confiscated its cargo and seized the ship. Russian oligarch Igor Grechushkin reportedly owned the ship; according to Prokoshev, Grechushkin stopped paying them shortly before the seizure.

“They were being greedy,” Prokoshev told Reuters in a report published Thursday, adding the detail that he and his crew spent almost a year on the ship while docked in Beirut, largely because officials did not want to leave its combustible cargo alone.

“The cargo was highly explosive. That’s why it was kept on board when we were there … That ammonium nitrate had a very high concentration,” Prokoshev said.

The ammonium nitrate was reportedly heading to Mozambique to be used by Fรกbrica de Explosivos de Moรงambique (FEM), a company that specializes in manufacturing commercial-grade explosives and never meant to stop in Lebanon.

“Aware that the manufacture of explosives is an activity that requires high standards of control, the Fรกbrica de Explosivos Mozambique directed its strategy for progressive improvement, skill development of their employees focusing constantly on their training and qualification, profitability of resources based on the most up to date technology, never losing its highest
point – safety,” the firm’s website explains.

FEM has not made any public comments regarding the incident in Lebanon.

Lebanese officials have insisted no evidence exists of a terrorist attack or intentional detonation, a claim that the general population appears to have accepted. Lebanon has experienced months of protests throughout the past year against its government for assorted accusations of incompetence – the collapse of the economy, a lack of consistent access to electricity, and failure to offer basic government services like garbage collection in an appropriate manner.

“For me, this state is a dump — and on behalf of yesterday’s victims, the dump that killed them is going to stay a dump,” Melissa Fadlallah, a Beirut resident volunteering to help clean up the city on Wednesday, told Agence France-Presse (AFP). At the time, AFP said the city was noting a marked “absence of a state-sponsored cleanup operation.”

“If we had a real state, it would have been in the street since last night cleaning and working. Where are they?” she asked.
BBC News
written by Staff
Friday August 7, 2020

UN agencies have warned of a humanitarian crisis in Lebanon after Tuesday's devastating blast in Beirut.

Lebanon was already suffering a major economic downturn before the explosion, which left at least 154 people dead, 5,000 injured and 300,000 homeless.

The World Food Programme said the damage to Beirut's port would interrupt food supplies and push prices up.

The World Health Organization said the health system was seriously damaged, with three hospitals out of action.

Meanwhile, Lebanese President Michel Aoun rejected calls for an international investigation into the explosion, and said local authorities would examine whether it was triggered by "external interference" such as a bomb.

The leader of the militant Hezbollah movement, Hassan Nasrallah, also denied allegations that it had stored weapons or ammunition at the port.

The government has said the blast was the result of the detonation of 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that had been stored unsafely at the port for six years.

The decision to keep so much explosive material in a warehouse near the city centre has been met with disbelief and fury by many Lebanese, who have long accused the political elite of corruption, neglect and mismanagement.

How bad is the humanitarian situation?

Before Tuesday's explosion, 75% of Lebanese were in need of aid, 33% had lost their jobs, and one million people were living below the poverty line.

WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva that the organisation was concerned the severe damage to Beirut's port - the largest in the country - could limit the flow of food supplies and push prices beyond the reach of many.

The WFP was sending 5,000 food parcels that would be enough to feed a family of five for a month, and was planning to import wheat flour and grains, she said.

Christian Lindmeier of the WHO meanwhile warned that Lebanon's hospitals were overwhelmed with the patients, some were damaged and some non-functional, and that 500 beds had been lost.

The UN Refugee Agency, which normally supports Lebanon's 1.5 million Syrian refugees, said it was releasing emergency shelter materials to all those in need.

Many countries have offered aid to help Lebanon, with the US announcing on Friday that it planned to immediately send $15m worth of food and medicine.

What is happening with the investigation?
Lebanon's president and prime minister have said the ammonium nitrate - which is commonly used as a fertiliser but can also made into an explosive - had been stored in a warehouse at the port without any safety precautions since 2014, when it was unloaded from an impounded cargo ship.

On Wednesday, Mr Aoun promised a transparent investigation by Lebanese authorities and to "hold those responsible and those who were negligent accountable, and serve them the most severe punishment".

However, calls for international investigation have grown since then.

The president ruled out such a move on Friday, saying: "The goal behind calls for an international investigation into the port issue is to dilute the truth."

He also said the government-backed inquiry was looking into three possibilities: negligence, accident or what he called "external interference through a rocket or bomb or other act".

Officials have said the explosion appears to have been triggered by a fire and there has been no evidence so far of the third possibility mentioned by Mr Aoun.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Mr Aoun's political ally, meanwhile denied any responsibility for the blast, insisting that his group did not control the port and that it had stored no weapons or ammunition there.

"Not a weapons cache, not a missile factory, not a single missile, not a single rifle, not a single bomb, not a bullet, not nitrates. Nothing at all. Not now, not in the past," he declared in a speech.

BBC Middle East analyst Sebastian Usher says Mr Nasrallah's denial is necessary because many Lebanese believe the exact opposite - he needs to shore up his position and that of his movement, which still wields decisive power in Lebanon.
The Times of Israel
written by Staff and agencies
Wednesday August 5, 2020

At least three Israeli hospitals offered on Tuesday to help treat the thousands of Lebanese injured in the massive explosions that ripped through Beirut.

The explosions flattened much of the city’s port, damaging buildings across the capital and sending a giant mushroom cloud into the sky. More than 70 people were killed and 3,000 injured, with bodies buried in the rubble, officials said.

Israel offered humanitarian aid to Lebanon in a rare show of support for the enemy country, and three hospitals said they were volunteering their services.

Ziv Medical Center in the northern town of Safed and Rambam Medical Center in Haifa both said they would take in injured.

We are “experienced and prepared,” Ziv said. Both northern hospitals have extensive experience treating patients from hostile countries and were involved in treating Syrians wounded in the civil war. Ziv has treated more than 5,000 Syrian patients since 2013, keeping their identities confidential.

Sheba Medical Center outside Tel Aviv also offered aid.

“We have offered any medical assistance needed to the injured in the Lebanon explosion disaster,” hospital director Yitshak Kreiss told Army Radio. “We are obligated to help anyone who needs assistance, especially our neighbors. We are ready and prepared for any mission we will be given.”

Sheba routinely treats Palestinian patients and has run training courses for Palestinian nurses from the West Bank and Gaza

Several of Beirut’s hospitals were damaged in the blast. Roum Hospital put out a call for people to bring it spare generators to keep its electricity going as it evacuated patients because of heavy damage.

Outside the St. George University Hospital in Beirut’s Achrafieh neighborhood, people with various injuries arrived in ambulances, in cars and on foot. The explosion had caused major damage inside the building and knocked out the electricity at the hospital. Dozens of injured were being treated on the spot on the street outside, on stretchers and wheelchairs.

“This is a catastrophe we have on our hands,” said one doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make press statements.

Earlier, Israel offered Lebanon any assistance it needed.

“Israel approached Lebanon through international defense and diplomatic channels to offer the Lebanese government medical humanitarian aid,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said in a joint statement.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he instructed his national security adviser, Meir Ben Shabbat, to discuss with UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov how Israel can assist Lebanon.

Mladenov confirmed Israel’s offer to work through the UN in a tweet, saying, “The region and the world must come together to help the people of Lebanon through this time of anguish.”

President Reuven Rivlin, in tweets in English, Arabic and Hebrew, added: “We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time.”

Lebanon was not expected to take the Jewish state up on the offer, despite the already-ailing country’s woes.

An initial explosion appeared to engulf a fireworks storehouse, which then sparked a massive mushroom cloud, sending a shockwave racing across the city. Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security, said it might have been caused by highly explosive material that was confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port. Local television channel LBC said the material was sodium nitrate.

Though some suspicions around the blast turned to Israel, due in part to its recent clashes with Hezbollah, both sides denied any link.

Israel has fought a number of wars in Lebanon, home of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror group, which is sworn to the Jewish state’s destruction and is part of the Lebanese government. From 1982 to 2000 Israel occupied a swath of southern Lebanon to push out Palestinian groups, and in 2006 fought a devastating war against Hezbollah in the country.

While Israel in the past has avoided direct confrontation with Lebanon’s US-backed armed forces, it has indicated in recent years that it may not do so in a future conflict.

Tensions have been high on the Israeli-Lebanese border recently, after Israel said it thwarted an infiltration attempt by up to five Hezbollah gunmen — a claim denied by Hezbollah. Israel has been bracing for an attack from Hezbollah after the terror group accused it of killing one of its men in an airstrike in Syria last month.

An Israeli government official said Israel “had nothing to do” with the blast. He spoke on condition of anonymity, because he was not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.
UPDATE 8/10/20 at 4:35pm: Added info below.

August 7, 2020

USA: President Trump Just Announced Payroll Tax Suspended Until End Of Year Retroactive To July 1; Eviction Moratorium Reinstated, Extending Enhanced Unemployment Benefits Through End Of Year.

Everybody is asking if the $600 PUA will be extended. President Trump didn't give an exact amount. BUT President Trump DID SAY he is "EXTENDING" enhanced unemployment benefits. So, based off of that it sounds like he is EXTENDING what already existed. From what I understand EDD PUA will be retroactive to August 1st and will automatically be applied to your EDD weekly payment when you certify for your weekly unemployment benefit payment. So, just continue to certify for your EDD unemployment benefit like you have been doing.

Plus, don't forget President Trump already confirmed $1,200 Stimulus Payments are going to be sent out for individuals with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 and $2,400 for married couples who file joint return with adjusted gross income up to $150,000, parents also get $500 for each eligible child under 17. People, this is GREAT NEWS. I can't believe there are people all over social media turning this into bad news and berating President Trump for taking this executive action to help Americans because the Democrats are holding Americans hostage in order to force Republicans to accept their national Vote-by-Mail insert. My gosh, President Trump could cure cancer and Trump haters would find something to make Trump curing cancer a very bad thing.

So, on behalf of Americans like me who are extremely happy about this move, I want to say thank you President Trump. (emphasis mine)
ABC10 News, San Diego local
written by Staff
Friday August 7, 2020

President Donald Trump on Friday said that he is ready to sign an executive order that will offer unemployment supplements, eviction protection, and a payroll tax holiday through the end of the year. Trump said the order could "by the end of the week," and that he has lawyers currently drawing up the order.

The executive order comes as Congress has stalled on negotiations with the White House on another round of stimulus funds. It also remains questionable how some of his edicts will be funded without Congressional authorization.

"You always get sued," Trump said, dismissing concerns that the orders are not legal.

His announcement comes as unemployment remained above 10% in July for the fourth straight month. 

Trump did not specify how much the unemployment supplement would be for, but it would be retroactive to the beginning of the month. Previously, a $600 a week supplement for unemployed workers expired on July 31.

Trump announced that his executive order will continue a freeze on federal student loan payments until further notice.

He also said he will continue a moratorium on evictions through the end of the year. And his executive order would implement a payroll tax holiday through Dec. 31.
ABC23 News, Bakersfield local
written by Justin Boggs
Friday August 7, 2020

White House officials and House Democrats said Friday they’re no closer to a deal with on a stimulus package, a week after extended unemployment benefits expired.
While the White House said they believe a compromise can be made on some issues, the two sides remain far apart on funding state and local governments. Many states and municipalities are struggling due to decreased revenues and increased costs amid the pandemic.

There is also disagreement among the parties, including Senate Republicans, on unemployment supplements as unemployment figures remain over 10%. From April into July, unemployed workers received an additional $600 unemployment supplement on top of standard unemployment benefits. But many Republicans grumbled that the supplement gave incentive for workers to stay home amid the pandemic.

Generally, however, if an employer calls an employee back to work, they're no longer eligible for unemployment benefits.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters on Capitol Hill Friday that he is going to recommend executive orders addressing student loan payments, evictions and unemployment supplements. Currently, federal student loan payments are frozen into October. Also, protection ended last week on evictions.

President Donald Trump told reporters late Friday that he plans on signing the order "by the end of the week." But Trump said he expects there will be legal challenges to his order.

Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said that there is broad agreement on some issues, such as funding for schools to safely operate amid the pandemic. Previously, the sides also said there is agreement on providing Americans with $1,200 stimulus checks for the second time this year. But Mnuchin and Meadows pointed the finger at House Democrats for not compromising on the unresolved issues.

“Just to hear the comments from Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi saying they “want a deal” when behind closed doors, their actions do not indicate the same thing,” Meadows said.

Meanwhile, Democrats pointed the finger back at the White House for not reaching a compromise.

While the White House suggested that it would be okay with a partial stimulus package, Democrats are calling for a more comprehensive bill.

“We’re asking them to be fair, to meet us in the middle, not to have a my way or the highway attitude, which they seem to have,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. “We can really get this done, because there are some areas where we didn’t come to an agreement on many things, but we narrowed our differences.”

Both the House and Senate have adjourned for the weekend.

๐Ÿ‘‡ Here's the video if you want to listen to the entire news conference ๐Ÿ‘‡

White House published August 7, 2020: 08/07/20: President Trump Holds a News Conference

UPDATE 8/7/20 at 8:16pm: Added video below.

NewsNOW from Fox published August 7, 2020: SIGN IT TRUMP: Mnuchin and Meadows Recommend President Trump SIGN THIS EXECUTIVE ORDER.

Listen for yourself.

UPDATE 8/7/20 at 10:47pm: Added info below.

written by Zack Friedman
Friday August 7, 2020

If you’re feeling restless about a second stimulus check, you’re not alone. Congress failed to finalize a stimulus package Friday, which has left many Americans wondering if and when they will receive a second stimulus check. Congress was expected to reach a deal by August 7, but that unofficial date has been pushed back as both Republicans and Democrats are too far apart on total spending. Practically, this means it will now take longer for you to get a stimulus check. Importantly, Congress has not officially approved any Economic Impact Payments, although both parties agree that there should be a $1,200 stimulus payment.

When will second stimulus checks be sent?

According to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the IRS, which he oversees, could “start printing [stimulus checks] the following week” if President Donald Trump signs a stimulus package into law. “I could have them out immediately,” Mnuchin said, referring to stimulus checks.

Mnuchin said checks can be printed and sent the week after the president signs the stimulus legislation. This timeline is potentially 10 or more days faster than the Cares Act.

If and when Congress finalizes a stimulus deal, the process works like this:
  1. The Senate votes; and then
  2. The House votes; and then
  3. The president signs the legislation; and then
  4. The legislation becomes law
Congress does not appear in a position to announce a deal early next week. Based on this procedure, here is a potential timeline for when second stimulus checks could be sent if Congress finalizes a deal:

If the Senate passes a stimulus package on August 12, 2020....
  • House votes: August 13
  • President signs: August 14
  • Checks Sent: Week of August 17
If the Senate passes a stimulus package on August 14, 2020....
  • House votes: August 17
  • President signs: August 18
  • Checks Sent: Week of August 24
Of course, it’s possible that Congress could pass a stimulus package on a different timeline, or Congress may not pass a stimulus package. If Congress doesn’t pass a stimulus bill, Trump has already said he would consider an executive order for several components of the stimulus package, including unemployment benefits, a payroll tax cut, a moratorium on evictions and student loan repayment. If that scenario occurs, Congress could pass stimulus checks as separate legislation, for example. If the president, who said that stimulus checks could be more than $1,200, holds off on an executive order, Congress returns from summer recess on September 8. Although it is low likelihood that Congress waits until September to pass legislation, it is a potential consideration.