Thursday

How Tesla, Nikola and Donald Trump are all connected

CC™ Introspective - Andy Serwer with Max Zahn

On January 9, 1943, two days after Nikola Tesla died destitute in a New York City hotel, the FBI called MIT professor and esteemed electrical engineer, John G. Trump, to determine if any of the belongings in the inventor’s estate—which included a purported weapon of mass destruction Tesla called the death ray—would be dangerous if they fell into enemy hands. 

After a three day investigation, Trump – in fact the late uncle of Donald J. Trump – determined there was no risk. (It turned out Tesla never actually made his death ray.) Still the mystery and exaggerated claims, along with the soaring success and failures associated with Tesla, an eccentric Serbian-American polymath futurist continue to be played out today on a scale that only he could have imagined. 

That two high-profile electric vehicle companies, one named after the inventor’s last name, ‘Tesla,’ headed up by Elon Musk—very much an intellectual descendent of the inventor, and another ‘Nikola,’ after his first name, would both be creating huge waves and headlines—though for very different reasons—80 years later, seems to be beyond. Yet for those who’ve believed in the man and his vision, maybe it isn’t so surprising. It’s also the case that Tesla, brash and successful and Nikola, speculative and troubled both reflect facets of their namesake. (It’s perhaps poetic that Tesla’s Musk, sometimes spars with and sometimes emulates Professor Trump’s nephew, the President of the United States.)

In this Thursday, March 7, 2019 file photo, a shadow of Milica Kesler, curator and archivist is cast onto a poster of Nikola Tesla at the Nikola Tesla museum in Belgrade, Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
In this Thursday, March 7, 2019 file photo, a shadow of Milica Kesler, curator and archivist is cast onto a poster of Nikola Tesla at the Nikola Tesla museum in Belgrade, Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Here’s a bit more on Nikola Tesla: A visionary who among countless other inventions and ideas helped develop and commercialize the AC or the alternating current electricity supply system, Tesla was a tall, reed-thin vegetarian who dined at Delmonico's restaurant nearly every night. Possessing an eidetic memory, Tesla was prone to fantastic claims and forever tapping Wall Street, including J.P. Morgan himself, for vast sums of money in part because of his lavish spending. (Trivia alert: Tesla was played by David Bowie in Christopher Nolan’s “The Prestige,” while Ethan Hawke has the lead role in this year’s “Tesla.” Also see “The Current War.”) Tesla also battled powerful rivals (including Marconi and Edison) and endured a love/hate relationship with the press, who called some of his work a hoax.

Any of that sound familiar?

Let’s now flash forward to September of 2020.  It would be an understatement to say that Tesla and Nikola, (the two EV companies that is) had a crazy week, yet in a way that’s pretty much normal for both of them. 

Tesla is more than a car

Let’s start with Tesla’s week: The company was following a court case involving a Russian ransomware attack. It sued the U.S. government over Chinese import tariffs. And in a court document filed this week, Tesla accused Nikola of itself stealing a truck design, a filing it made in response “to a lawsuit in which Nikola alleges that Tesla stole Nikola's design of its electric truck— the Nikola One — for the Tesla Semi…” (Got that?) Oh and California Governor Gavin Newsom announced he was banning gas powered cars in his state by 2035, which would certainly benefit Tesla (and Nikola.)

But all that was just a sideshow (if you can imagine) for Tesla’s main event, the company’s first “Battery Day,” where the company introduced a battery that it says has six times more power and five times more energy than its previous batteries. Musk also indicated that the company could produce an EV for some $25K in three years. (The fact btw, that Tesla can hold a Battery Day—capital B, capital D—speaks both the company’s incredible marketing machine and to the actual import of these batteries going forward.)

“From someone working in the battery research field for two decades, I give them an A+,” says Shirley Meng, a professor of energy technology at the University of California San Diego. “They are doing this incredible vertical integration so they can ensure cost and performance control, and also meet a sustainability goal. In the battery field there were so many claims based on dollar per watt hour, energy density, watt hour per kilogram. There was a lot of fatigue in terms of those claims. But when the Tesla team announced this kind of very holistic approach to look at this entire supply chain of the batteries, I think it’s very forward looking. I’m impressed.”

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk reveals a Tesla Energy battery for businesses and utility companies during an event in Hawthorne, California April 30, 2015. (REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon)
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk reveals a Tesla Energy battery for businesses and utility companies during an event in Hawthorne, California April 30, 2015. (REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon)

And yet the announcement underwhelmed Wall Street and Tesla’s share price fell some 10% (which happens with this volatile stock, and it has since recovered a bit.) But that drop produced agita and even outrage among Tesla’s sometimes maniacal customer base and Musk’s nearly 39 million Twitter followers. 

In fact, one Tesla bull got into a kerfuffle this week with a Yahoo Finance reporter who was questioning some of Musk’s claims, causing the Tesla bull to Tweet his displeasure which prompted Musk to Tweet that “Yahoo Finance is as dumb as it sounds.”

Musk’s Twittering and his dust-ups with the media are predictable and Trump-like and I say unnecessary too, as they detract from his accomplishments and are beneath him. But maybe I’m old school. The fact is, (and it is a fact), Tesla is the real deal. If you’ve never driven a Tesla, you may not get it. These babies are super cool and more importantly really what cars will be. Tesla is more than a car though, its software and charging stations make it a network. Tesla is miles ahead of its competitors, EV or legacy car company. In just a few short years Musk has built a world-changing product and brand. He’s driving the vehicle business forward in a way no one else is, or has since maybe Henry Ford. 

“First Tesla and electric vehicles were largely dismissed as a fad,” says Joseph Osha, an equity analyst at JMP. “After that, automotive manufacturers started saying ‘this is real but we’ll just do it.’ Expectations were that a big company — Ford, GM, Volkswagen —would show up and that would be the end of Tesla. What you saw — was a whole series of basically blown launches, from the Audi e-tron to Mercedes EQC to Jaguar I-PACE to numerous promises from GM. All of those cars were supposedly going to run right up against Tesla. Now you’re seeing a scramble because the original manufacturers dramatically underestimated how hard this is. It’s quite something. I’m curious about which one is going to make big company decisions to drop $5, $10, $15, $20 billion into catching up.”

Does Musk sometimes make outlandish claims and fall short? Sure, but I don’t think you can say this is all about fake-it-to-you-make-it. With apologies to Marty McFly and Jeff Bridges, Tesla—with a reported million plus EVs sold worldwide and 48,00 employees—is no DeLorean or Tucker. 

The one giant question about Tesla, is its stock price, which has climbed by 10X this year. 10X! In other words, yes, Tesla is a revolutionary company, but is it worth $377 billion—more than Ford, GM, Fiat Chrysler and Toyota combined ($278 billion)?

It’s a sky-high valuation, but is it justified? Of course no one really knows.

Can Nikola make hydrogen work?

Let’s shift gears now, (actually an inappropriate cliche when talking about EVs) and delve into Nikola, which has a market cap of some $7 billion—though four months ago it was five times higher. 

Have you not been following the Nikola saga? An EV truck company founded in Utah six years ago (the name must have driven Musk crazy), founded by one Trevor Milton, Nikola went public this June through a SPAC (special purpose acquisition company—the Wall Street entity of the moment) run by former GM exec Steve Girsky. Nikola has a number of trucks in design phase, using battery-electric and hydrogen-electric fuel cells, but has yet to deliver any vehicles. Nonetheless Nikola’s stock soared this summer, powered at least in part by young, so-called Robinhood investors.

On September 8, GM CEO Mary Barra announced a partnership with Nikola where GM would buy 11% of Nikola and work with the startup producing vehicles and batteries. Nikola’s stock popped 50% on the news.

A mere two days later, Hindenburg Research, which “specializes in forensic financial research,” published a damning 67-page report, “Nikola: How to Parlay An Ocean of Lies Into a Partnership With the Largest Auto OEM in America” stating that “we believe Nikola is an intricate fraud built on dozens of lies over the course of its Founder and Executive Chairman Trevor Milton’s career.”

Nikola did not respond to a request for comment from Yahoo Finance regarding the Hindenburg report but issued this statement on Sept. 14 (partial excerpt): “Nikola believes that the Hindenburg report, and the opportunistic timing of its publication shortly after announcement of Nikola's partnership with General Motors Co. and the resulting positive share price reaction, was designed to provide a false impression to investors and to negatively manipulate the market in order to financially benefit short sellers, including Hindenburg itself.”

Founder of U.S. Nikola Trevor Milton speaks during presentation of its new full-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell battery trucks in partnership with CNH Industrial, at an event in Turin, Italy, December 2, 2019. REUTERS/Massimo Pinca
Founder of U.S. Nikola Trevor Milton speaks during presentation of its new full-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell battery trucks in partnership with CNH Industrial, at an event in Turin, Italy, December 2, 2019. REUTERS/Massimo Pinca

Hindenburg and Nikola traded barbs back and forth for several days, while for her part, Barra insisted that GM did its due diligence. Still, last Sunday night, Milton stepped down as CEO and Girsky became the chief executive. Nikola stock now trades at $19, down from its high of $93. Oh, and the DOJ and SEC are investigating.

“Having studied the Hindenburg report pretty closely, there’s nothing in there that points to Nikola’s ability or inability to execute on the plan. 90+ percent of the argument made is that the founder of Nikola has made untruthful statements or promised things that haven’t played out. And he resigned on the back of those,” says Emmanuel Rosner, an analyst at Deutsche Bank. “But if you go back to the arguments, there’s nothing in there that gives investors clarity on whether Nikola can make hydrogen work or not work. Nothing has changed from that point of view.”

That’s the company though. As for the man, Milton, who still owns 25% of the company worth some $2 billion, things could get worse. Yahoo Finance’s Alexis Keenan reports that many of Milton’s hyped-up claims along with Hindenburg’s charges are “...likely at the heart of inquiries now undertaken by federal agencies tasked with deciding whether legal action against the short seller, Milton, or Nikola is warranted.”

But wait, Elon Musk has made claims that haven’t come true, right? “Overall no question in our mind that Elon has a track record of setting bold targets and [the new battery strategy] is certainly a bold target as it relates to improvement and cost reduction” says Rosner. “...even achieving a piece of it, let’s say there’s a smaller cost reduction, would still have enormous implications.” 

So is that wrong to do?

Steve Jobs too made bold, sometimes outlandish promises. And by extension, so has Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos. In fact, this has essentially been her defense, which is to say that forward-thinking entrepreneurs need to put out stretch goals and challenge conventional thinking. But somehow Milton and Holmes aren’t Musk and Jobs. Is it because the latter two were more successful? Or is it a question of degree? Certainly it’s a matter of intent.

So just what is a promise in business—and in politics too? Where do we draw the line between hyperbole and fraud?  

Those are questions Nikola Tesla faced 100 years ago, and today, Nikola, Tesla and Donald Trump face them too. 

This article was featured in a Saturday edition of the Morning Brief on September 26, 2020. Get the Morning Brief sent directly to your inbox every Monday to Friday by 6:30 a.m. ET. Subscribe

Andy Serwer is editor-in-chief of Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter: @serwer.

Sunday

WHAT DO YOU WANT ON YOUR TOMBSTONE?

CC™ Perspective - By Yahaya Balogun

"We must always find a way to get into GOOD TROUBLE; speak against all evils, and do the right thing at all times!" - John Robert Lewis (February 21, 1940 – July 17, 2020). 

John Lewis believed in the courage of his convictions. He followed his mind and he conquered his fear and left a great legacy worthy of emulation. - Yahaya Balogun. 

"It's time to prod our minds and look at ourselves in the mirror; ask ourselves the questions: are we going to be part of the problems, or are we going to be part of the solutions? History will judge our decision, action, and inaction" - Yahaya Balogun.

In 1963, John Lewis was, at age 23, the youngest person set to speak at the March on Washington. John Lewis gave a resounding speech of his life during the protest for civil rights in the United States of America. John Lewis was a man of peace, and a conscience of the US Congress and the world. Historically, no one has under any circumstances, stop an idea whose time has come. There's always a reward for every action or inaction. John Lewis was arrested more than 40 times during the civil rights movement in the US. He was brutalized, jailed, and dehumanized. But John Lewis remained steadfast, and never get discouraged. The historic movement he participated in paved the way for the recognition of the dignity of African-Americans.

It seems time has come to systematically put an end to racial profiling and systemic racism in the United States of America. Thanks to the modern well-informed, articulate, and decent American millennials. The American millennials are morally reading American history in congenial ways to turn surreptitious hate to love in the United States. John Lewis was a moral fiber and a quintessential fine man. John Lewis was an epitome of moral values and principles. Values are principles, standards, or qualities by which we live our lives; our values shape the person we become, and our actions to our neighbors and humanity reflect those values. This is the definition of John Lewis in the conscience of his contemporaries in the US Congress.

John Lewis was a liberated man. A liberated man is free, fair-minded, fearless, and humanistic. A liberated mind is not concerned by the noises emanating from the cyborg market, or enemies' territory! A liberated soul is mindful of his association and carefully chooses his friends and acquaintances. He is conscious and informed of what he does to other people. All his actions are from the repository of good ideas for man's humanity to man. A liberated man is a complete man with mindfulness, emulative values, consistency, and love.

The mind of a good man is concerned about how to enlivening and stimulating the souls of his neighbors and adversaries alike for their success and happiness altogether. A man with a purposeful mind is focused and anticipatory about the results of the good he has invested in himself and other people. The ROI-return on investment of the good a good man has done to fellow human beings is the undiluted joy in his heart. The integrity of man is known when his character comes to fore. He keeps true and never gets ashamed of doing what's right or best for him and humanity. The value of a liberated man defines him and shapes the kind of person he becomes in life and after that. A liberated mind has zero-tolerance for pretense, hatred, idiocy, and other negative nuances of life. He pays close attention to discern the evil-minds around. He is not perfect, but his fallibility makes him reasonable and humble when he realizes his mistakes or wrongdoings.

A man with a liberated mind fights fearlessly with no opportunistic expectations and grandstanding. His encumbrance (burden) is his deafening silence in the face of oppression and tyranny. A complete man shares his beliefs, virtues, integrity, principles, and missions with unblemished vigor and robustness for the common good of all. A whole man doesn't mind the short-term consequences or rewards for his act of goodwill, but he's fixated on the imports of his deeds to benefit him and humanity.

On the other hand, a warped mind is a reservoir for uncanny men to deposit resentment, vices, hatred, and manipulations. One of the most significant damages unnatural man has done to society has been his refusal or nonchalant attitude to discover his value through mindfulness. Uncanny man is very narcissistic, jealous, opportunistic, mindless, and resentful of others. He is always in penchant rivalry or competition with others rather than with himself!

Every man has roommates (negative and positive minds). A resentful man listens continuously to his roommate's negative voice (i.e., the blistering spirit of hate and resentment). The sound of roommates is mutually complementary if they agree with each other. Uncanny man has no compliment or encouraging disposition towards the other man making progress. He is always striving for the unwinnable war of envy, and needless struggle with his midget mind to falsely outpace himself.

The completeness of a man is embedded or assembled in his subconscious mind. When a man rediscovers himself, he is liberated from the existential invasion of his mind by the selfish figures of the affluence, bad friends, and influential people around him. He is immune to antisocial behavior and societal vices. A liberated man is ensconced in constant self-evaluation and rediscovery. Through self-discovery, a liberated mind becomes a renewed man and predisposes to self-consciousness. A liberated man only believes in what will be engraved in his tomb after he kicks the bucket-greed, hedonism, resentment, extremism, opportunism, jealousy, bigotry, and hatred, not in his personage or lexicon. He always enjoys constant happiness, and the inner tranquility and peace flowing ceaselessly from the (subconscious) base of his mind.

Collectively, the common humanity that is in all of us should rise now. People must be morally engaged to join other people of goodwill to fight corruption, diseases, unhealthy competitions, hatreds, terrorism, religious and ethnic bigotry, jealousy, and deliberate divisiveness in our society. To bring peace to our environment is better than engaging in the negative nuances that can bring war, hatred, and disorderliness for our mutual destruction.

Generally, life is not fair and just, but it's beautiful to an only, thoughtful, and mindful mind. What divinely unites humanity (Love) is more than those defeatist nuances (racism, bigotry, hate, war, jealousy, false-religiosity, resentment, etc.) that divide the world. Your existential legacy should be your responsibility now before you expire. What man needs now is to rediscover himself through mindfulness; do self-talk; reinvest in moral armament to bring inner peace to himself, peace to his neighbors, and peace to the world.

John Lewis came; he saw, but he has left humanity an existential assignment of grace and decency. Our performance in the assessment will determine what people and posterity are going to jot down on our catacombs when we expire or kick the bucket.

May John Lewis's gentle and wonderful soul rest in perfect peace.

Tuesday

Southern, Middle Belt leaders flay demotion of General Adeniyi by Buhari and Buratai's 'Fulani' Army

Major-General Olusegun Adeniyi

CC™ Global News

The forum also condemned the jailing of Adeniyi's assistant for 28 days with hard labor.

In a statement yesterday, the spokespersons of the group, Chief Guy Ikokwu (South East), Senator Bassey Henshaw (South South), Dr. Isuwa Dogo (Middle Belt), and Mr. Yinka Odumakin (South West), said it was unfortunate Adeniyi's ordeal started with his complaints about those who sent him to lead troops to fight Boko Haram insurgencies with bare knuckles.

The forum described the embattled general as a combatant who has won so many awards and commendations for his command of Operation Lafiya Dole but has now lost many troops in combat recently, raising questions on what happened to the last $1billion released for armed forces to buy weapons.

The statement read in part: "The Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, General Olusegun Adeniyi, who once led the country's onslaught against Boko Haram, was found guilty of violating some sections of the rules of engagement.

"Section 15 (g) of the policy specifically forbids personnel from 'posting any video, audio, materials pictures during exercises/operations.'"

The forum noted that the court-martial, however, found Adeniyi guilty of producing and publicizing a video on the counter-insurgency operation in the North East in a manner that embarrassed and ridiculed the armed forces and was demoted while his orderly, Tokunbo Obanla, a private, was also found guilty and sentenced to 28 days in jail with hard labor."

The forum lamented that the Nigerian Army had in July ordered Gen. Adeniyi to face court-martial, four months after he was seen in a rare video confessing that Nigerian troops were being killed by Boko Haram terrorists.

The forum queried: while it might be said that the army was only enforcing its rule, why was the rule mute against northern Muslim officers who were accused of giving out the routes of our soldiers, who were brutally murdered over two years ago, to Boko Haram?

And what has the Air Force done to date over the controversial killing of Tolulope Arotile in Kaduna last year, an officer renowned for deadly exploits against Boko Haram?

According to the leaders, "It is an officer commended for conducting the good fight against Boko Haram who is being promptly court-martialled because he says he now lacks weapons.

This country is incomprehensible."

GUARDIAN

Monday

West African slave Onesimus taught America the science of vaccination (Video)

CC™ Historical Fact

In the 18th Century, Boston, which later became part of what is now called the United States of America experienced a deadly small pox epidemic.

The epidemic killed hundreds of people and there seemed to be no medical solution.

An African, known as Onesimus, who was shipped as a slave from Ghana, provided the therapy, by introducing the principle and procedure of inoculation.

According to what he taught his master, the inoculation worked by extracting the juice of small pox, from an infected person and then cutting the skin of an uninfected and putting a drop of the juice.

It worked.

Puritan minister Cotton Mather, who Onesimus told about this African therapy used this knowledge to advocate for inoculation in the population, a practice which eventually spread to other colonies.

According to Wikipedia, Mather's advocacy met resistance from those suspicious of African medicine.

Doctors, ministers, laymen, and Boston city officials argued that the practice of inoculating healthy individuals would spread the disease and that it was immoral to interfere with the working of divine providence.

Mather was also publicly ridiculed for relying on the testimony of a slave.

Nonetheless, a physician, Dr. Zabdiel Boylston, carried out the method Onesimus had described, which involved sticking a needle into a pustule from an infected person's body and scraping the infected needle across a healthy person's skin.

Dr. Boylston first inoculated his 6-year-old son and two of his slaves.

A total of 280 individuals were inoculated during the 1721-22 Boston smallpox epidemic.

The population of 280 inoculated patients experienced only 6 deaths (approx. 2.2 percent), compared to 844 deaths among the 5,889 non-inoculated smallpox patients (approx. 14.3 percent

Boston and London in 1726 and 1722, respectively, performed trials on citizens and, on average, decreased the mortality rate from 17% to 2% of the infected population.

In a 2016 Boston Magazine survey, Onesimus was declared number 52 on a list of the "Best Bostonians of All Time".

Onesimus's name cropped up recently on MSNBC in this Twitter post shared by a certain Osaretin Victor Asemota:

As the world searches for a vaccine to curb Coronavirus and its accompanying COVID-19 disease, let the world remember that an African pioneered a solution for health crisis of this nature ahead of western medicine.

Sunday

The losing streak continues: Trump loses Wisconsin case while arguing another one


CC™ Politico

By Scott Bauer

President Donald Trump lost a federal lawsuit Saturday while his attorney was arguing his case before a skeptical Wisconsin Supreme Court in another lawsuit that liberal justices said “smacks of racism” and would disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters only in the state's most diverse counties.

U.S. District Judge Brett Ludwig, a Trump appointee, dismissed Trump's federal lawsuit asking the court to order the Republican-controlled Legislature to name Trump the winner over Democrat Joe Biden. The judge said Trump's arguments “fail as a matter of law and fact.”

The ruling came as Trump's attorney in a state case faced a barrage of questions about his claims from both liberal and conservative justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Trump is trying to overturn his loss to Biden in the state by disqualifying more than 221,000 votes in Wisconsin's two most heavily Democratic counties. Trump is not challenging any votes in counties he won.

“This lawsuit, Mr. Troupis, smacks of racism," Justice Jill Karofsky said to Trump's attorney Jim Troupis early in his arguments. "I do not know how you can come before this court and possibly ask for a remedy that is unheard of in U.S. history. ... It is not normal.”

Justice Rebecca Dallet, like Karofsky another liberal justice, questioned why Trump didn't raise his same concerns about the absentee ballot process in the 2016 election that he won in Wisconsin. Troupis said Trump was not an aggrieved party that year.

Conservative Justice Rebecca Bradley questioned how the court could reject more than 28,000 ballots of people who said they were indefinitely confined given that it would include people who properly claimed that status.

Wisconsin's highest court agreed to take the case at Trump's urgent request Friday, soon after a state judge ruled against him and with Monday's Electoral College vote bearing down and the state's 10 electoral votes about to go to Biden.

The court is controlled 4-3 by conservatives, but its willingness to take the case isn't necessarily an indicator of how it will rule. The court previously refused to hear the case before it went through lower courts, and a majority of justices have openly questioned whether the remedy Trump seeks is appropriate.

Trump sought to have more than 221,000 ballots disqualified in Dane and Milwaukee counties. He wanted to disqualify absentee ballots cast early and in-person, saying there wasn’t a proper written request made for the ballots; absentee ballots cast by people who claimed “indefinitely confined” status; absentee ballots collected by poll workers at Madison parks; and absentee ballots where clerks filled in missing information on ballot envelopes.

The circuit judge on Friday ruled that none of Trump’s arguments had merit and that state law was followed during the election and subsequent recount.

Biden won Wisconsin by about 20,600 votes, a margin of 0.6% that withstood a Trump-requested recount in Milwaukee and Dane counties.

Trump and his allies have suffered dozens of defeats in Wisconsin and across the country in lawsuits that rely on unsubstantiated claims of widespread fraud and election abuse. On Friday evening, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Texas lawsuit that sought to invalidate Biden’s win by throwing out millions of votes in four battleground states, including Wisconsin.

Also Saturday, former Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a federal case she lost in Wisconsin seeking to order the GOP-controlled Legislature to declare Trump the winner. Powell has also lost similar cases in Georgia and Arizona.

AP

Saturday

DEMOCRATS MUST NOT SAVOR VICTORY FOR LOSS AT SENATE RUNOFF ELECTION


CC™ Opinion Piece

By Yahaya Balogun

Elections have consequences; victory at any election is also consequential. Smart people always attempt to smartly use success----at any time to meet the expectations of the people who make success happen. The recently concluded 2020 general election in America was a blessing in disguise. The election punctuated the last four years of blurry power and chaos in America.

In a nutshell, Democrats need to walk a fine line now. The party should stop amplifying unnecessary rancours and demands; they should be serious about making the Georgia race a national campaign right now. The obstructionist Mitch McConnell's majority leadership must be halted to help Joe Biden meet his progressive agenda and electoral promises. Democrats should begin to mobilize from coast to coast to ensure they make the Georgia elections national campaign for Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock's victory. The US political juggernauts, Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama, must be deployed to Georgia to help sway the Georgian voters to vote overwhelmingly for the two crucial candidates--Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock. The Democratic Party must make the economy and Coronavirus their central and focal points. The victory of the runoff will be determined by the turnout of the Peach's state voters.

Meanwhile, Democrats must measure their political slogans against the police. The clamoring for defunding the police is not only a crazy idea; it is a political suicide mission that might doom Democrats in the mid-term election. One should hope that some Democrats are not playing with political fire. Historically, the inability of the Democrats to manage a victory has always been their encircling encumbrance. The expectation of taking over the house in the last election was dashed. Now, the far-left in the Democratic Party is savoring the temporal triumph of the 2020 presidential election. It must be carefully sustained.

Democrats must be careful not to play into the hands of their political adversaries in the most critical mid-term election. American voters aren't dumb; if they give you their overwhelming votes and support in a general election, you must be careful and not be complacent. You must perform. Don't get fixated on savoring your victory. The Democratic Party should adhere to the admonition of President Barack Obama, who is our smart party leader. Without too much glorification of President Barack Obama, Obama is one of the shrewdest politicians America has produced. He has polished skills at statecraft, administration, and leadership. While management is administrative, Leadership is aspirational. Leadership focuses on what must be done to make sure that the administration and its people succeed. Obama is a master at winning the hearts of the pragmatic and intelligent Americans, especially the educated millennials, to win elections. He is harmonizing the victory of the Democratic Party. 

Obama knows the political underpinnings of the millennials. He is trying to walk a fine line between the agitated progressive and responsive moderate Democrats. But the two groups within the same Democratic Party must listen to Obama's words of wisdom to avoid being winners lose all in the end.

The Democratic Party must not jeopardize the goodwill they enjoyed from the American people in the 2020 general election. Elections have implications; victory at any election also has consequences. The smartest way of maintaining a healthy success from the voters' wrath is to do what you are elected to do. And your victory and governance must accommodate all citizens in the country, otherwise, it will be a yearning for political suicide. However, the President-elect Joe Biden is a pragmatist and experienced politician. Democrats must not sandwich him to do any extreme bidding for their own political perils. Joe Biden is not elected to govern the Democrats alone; he is elected to lead all Americans irrespective of party affiliation. The stakeholders in the Democratic party should carefully savor the historical event as a victory for all American people and the world. Before January 5, 2020, the focus must be on Georgia's peach state to ensure the success of the Democrats for Senate majority in the runoff elections in the state.

African R&D Investment: Nigerian scientists have developed a Covid-19 vaccine candidate but need funding for human trials


CC™ Global News

By Uwagbale Edward-Ekpu

The race for a Covid-19 vaccine has so far been a show of vaccine nationalism as countries are securing prospective vaccines for their populations and prioritizing access for their domestic markets.

This has left Africa in a disadvantaged position as none of the vaccines being developed are in the continent and a majority of African countries lack the power or funds to secure vaccines for their citizens.

There have also been concerns that since the vaccines were developed mostly with data from non-African populations it may result in a low vaccine efficacy for Africans.

To that end, scientists in Nigeria have developed a new vaccine candidate which they say is optimized for the African population. The vaccine has undergone a successful pre-clinical trial but the human trial is being delayed due to a lack of funds.

The cost of developing a single infectious disease vaccine from preclinical trials through to end of phase 2a can easily top $100 million in the United States. Including the cumulative cost of failed vaccine candidates through the R&D process, the costs can go much higher.

The new vaccine candidate was developed by professor Christian Happi, a molecular biologist and genomicist, with his research team at the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases (ACEGID) in Nigeria. ACEGID is a WHO and Africa CDC Reference Laboratory for genomic research in Africa.

The ACEGID Covid-19 vaccine is said to have gone through the required preclinical trial to test the vaccine’s efficacy and toxicity on mice before testing it on humans after working with partners at Cambridge University. “We were able to identify a neutralizing antibody that could knock down up to 90% of the viruses,” says Happi.

Emphasizing the importance of the new vaccine candidate to Africa, he highlighted concerns also shared by some other African scientists that vaccines are often developed in the West without taking into account the local context of Africa only to be brought to Africa for human trials.

 “The genetic makeup or the genetic diversity of the African population has been demonstrated to affect the efficacy of several vaccines that have been developed because the vaccine also depends on who is receiving it and how the body responds to it,” says Happi.

The vaccine is being built on the genome sequences of linages of SARS-Cov-2 circulating in Nigeria and other African countries.

The team says it has done human genetic studies on many African populations and applied the knowledge gained in developing the vaccine.

If fully funded, Happi said the vaccine can be ready in 12 months after the start of the human trials, but he is still searching for funds to start the human trial. “we need a lot of resources so we are trying to see whether the Nigerian government can fund it but we have not received any funding from the government”, he said.

Nigeria’s policy response to the Covid-19 pandemic through its central bank introduced a healthcare grant of 500 million naira (about $1.3 million) limit. Happi says this amount is insufficient for vaccine production and clinical trials. “We are talking to a few people and have been able to show them the data. We want to wait but we have not heard from anybody yet.”

“This development may get some support from a few western funders, but this is not on their priority lists,” says Gerald Mboowa, a bioinformatics scientist at Makerere University in Uganda,. “Being an African led vaccine, African countries through the African Union should be mobilized to fund this endeavor.”

Despite Africa having a history of poor R&D funding, Ike Anya, co-founder of Nigeria Health Watch believe ACEGID’s vaccine will get the needed support within Africa to develop the first African vaccine. “African countries have traditionally not sufficiently funded their intellectual and scientific capabilities, but that there seems to be. a deepening awareness of why this must change.”

Nigeria is not alone in trying to ensure Africans are trialed for a working Covid-19 vaccine. In August, screening began for up to nearly 3,000 South Africans to enroll in the mid-stage study of an experimental vaccine by Novavax, a US drug developer of next-generation vaccines for serious infectious diseases, at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa. The trial is backed by a $15 million grant awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Other trials are also underway in the continent’s most advanced economy.

Quartz Africa

Friday

AMERICA IS BACK: THE WORLD WANTS AMERICA TO LEAD AGAIN

R-L; US President-elect Joe Biden & Vice President-elect Kamala Harris

CC™ Perspective

By Yahaya Balogun

It is gratifying to see America back to lead the world again. The last four years have been very chaotic, tumultuous, and disruptive to the American alliance in the world that is increasingly shrinking into a global village. President-elect Joe Biden is keeping his promise of bringing the fractionalized America together. He has been so measured with mature leadership. Biden's temperament has been very presidential, all-inclusive, confident, and welcoming! Even Biden's staunch enemies cannot deny his grown and measured character to bring sanity back to America and the international stage.

This auspicious period ushered in an experienced man that knows the art of leadership. Biden's wealth of experience will be a great asset to a fractured nation searching for unifiers and economic relief. The majority of Americans are suffering due to the adverse effects of Coronavirus. More than 54 million Americans are going hungry in America as a result of COVID-19. God have mercy on hungry people. It's high time Congress began the second relief package for the vulnerable Americans going through economic pains.

Interestingly, America is a nation of "We the People" and with a tumultuous beginning. The forefathers of this great nation were envisioned and very thoughtful to have created American exceptionalism. Despite America's ugly past, resilience, and ability to imagine great possibilities for her future make America a unique country. This great nation's structure was built on solid strands and stand, thus giving it a formidable entity. The existential threat to America's exceptionalism has been racial inequality. Well-informed voters have always halted the attempts to subvert her

constitution by promoting racism, division, social injustices, and intrinsic biases (subconscious stereotypes affecting how decisions are made). America has withstood so many obstacles and challenges in the past, but the last four years have amplified chaos and psychologically depressing. Thanks to the American voters' thoughtfulness on November 3, 2020, who punctuated and reversed the ugly course of history, and the road to more chaotic situations in the country, alas, worldwide. Trump administration's gross inefficiency altered America's bounteous nature, but now the government is back, striving for a perfect union.

In reality, Biden will soon be swimming in the ocean of global troubles. The world is a more dangerous place than when Donald Trump took office nearly four years ago. North Korea Kim Jong Un's recalcitrant attitude to nuclear armament, to Iran's belligerency of nuclear proliferation. The Taliban is on the deadly march again with US troops' jejune withdrawal from Afghanistan by Trump's lame-duck administration. The laundry list of corruption and leadership problems in Africa, the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen, and China's expansionist behavior with its assault on democratic norms in Hong Kong. The Chinese human rights abuses against the Uighurs, and authorities' concentration or secretive internment camps against minority Turkic Muslims, Kazakhs, Kazakhstanis in remote areas in China, etc. The unabated plague of the novel Coronavirus; imminent and existential dangers of the planet to climate change. These, among others, are global inheritance by the incoming Biden administration.

The road ahead for Biden's administration will not be easy as the past domestic impediments are still lurking around. The road will be steep in the short run, but the world will veer away from the current famished highway in the long run if responsible diplomacy is allowed to function. Biden and his carefully chosen diverse team are policy wonks and are well-grounded in administrative and diplomatic skills. Biden's team consists of seasoned diplomats, career intelligence officers, and security experts. The ball is set to roll on a difficult road ahead. The world has also heaved a sigh of relief from chaos to see America lead the world again. The congratulatory messages that President-elect Joe Biden has received from world leaders, the US allies, have been very complimentary and less gratuitous from its geopolitical adversaries, including China and Russia.

Meanwhile, it is pertinent to advise the current boisterous Democrats and their elected members in the House and Senate to see Biden's electoral victory as a victory for all Americans, including those voters who did not vote for Biden. Biden's impending government must be seen as a government of unity with equity, inclusion, justice, and fair play. Biden's administration must not be seen as a vindictive government that will begin to run after Biden's predecessor and his naughty misdemeanors. The American organized jurisprudence must be allowed to function as umpire without fear or favor, and bias against any group in the nation's diversity. American greatness is not contingent only on its military might and power but on the strength of its diversity and inclusiveness.

Once again, one of our sons is soaring in trailblazing America. President-elect elect Joe Biden has Appointed 39-year-old Adewale Adeyemo, a Nigerian-born Attorney, and US citizen as US Deputy Treasury Secretary. Hopefully, if the US Senate confirms him, Adewale (Wally) Adeyemo would be the first Nigerian to get to that exalted position in the United States. America is a place where impossible things are possible. President-elect Joe Biden is assembling the best human resources from the resourceful American system. America, a land of opportunities for possibilities, will undoubtedly benefit from these carefully assembled human capital talents. Predictably, before the year 2035, Nigerian-Americans' contributions to American development will be immeasurable. Nigerian intellectual acumen will continue to be recognized anywhere in the world.

As the President-elect Joe Biden has succinctly maintained, America is back to play its leadership roles: "We are ready to lead the world and not retrieve from it. Once again, sit at the head of the table. Ready to confront our adversaries and not reject our allies. Ready to stand up for our values." The era of isolationism and protectionism is over. America is ready for realignment to globalization and inclusiveness. The GOP's hatchets and its extreme opposition to anything put on the table from its political adversaries must be jettisoned to pave the way for American exceptionalism. America must right the wrongs of the last four years; it must reassuringly bring all its allies together to preserve democracy's norms and other nuances of democracy in the world.

It is pertinent for the boisterous democrats and their elected members in the House and Senate to see Biden's electoral victory as a victory for all Americans, including those voters who did not vote for Biden. Biden's impending government must be seen as a government of unity with equity, inclusion, justice, and fair play. Biden's administration must not be seen as a vindictive government that will begin to run after Biden's predecessor. The American organized jurisprudence must be allowed to function as umpire without fear or favor for and bias against any group in the nation's diversity. American greatness is not contingent only on its military might and power but on the strength of its diversity and inclusiveness.

America must right the wrongs of the last four years; it must reassuringly bring all its allies together to preserve democratic norms and other nuances of democracy in the world.

America, let's go back to work!

Thursday

McConnell and GOP Intransigence: Democratic senator says it is 'absolutely unconscionable for Congress to adjourn' for 2020 without a new stimulus deal

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. (Bill O'Leary/Pool via AP)

CC™ Politico News

By Ben Werschkul

On Tuesday, a group of lawmakers unveiled a bipartisan relief proposal that generated some initial excitement around the notion that perhaps the months-long wait for compromise on coronavirus stimulus was coming to an end.

But so far Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been sticking to his plans -–and apparent topline numbers – he’s been offering for months.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.) told Yahoo Finance the developments are “very disappointing to say the least.”

“I think it would be absolutely unconscionable for the Congress to adjourn in December without getting an additional emergency COVID-19 response bill,” he said.

Republican leadership has consistently pushed a bill that would cost around $500 billion, while Democrats have pushed for a measure closer to $2 trillion.

The Democratic side appeared to move closer to compromise on Wednesday when Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that “in the spirit of compromise we believe the bipartisan framework introduced by Senators yesterday should be used as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations.”

McConnell has apparently not endorsed the plan and appears to be sticking to the targeted framework he circulated among Republicans on Tuesday.

The White House signaled its support for McConnell’s position. “The president will sign the McConnell proposal that he put forward yesterday,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters Wednesday.

And beyond the top numbers, deep divisions remain on certain provisions within the respective proposals. One example is liability reform which McConnell has called crucial, while Democrats, like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) have called a “poison pill.”

Another provision that remains deeply partisan is aid for states and localities.

Also on Wednesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) expressed optimism that House and Senate leaders were working toward a deal on a pandemic relief that could come together by this weekend, although it remained unclear how each side would overcome their deep-seated differences between now and then.

‘It was a move in the right direction’

The seemingly short-lived $908 billion bipartisan proposal was an attempt to find a middle ground in the numbers. Van Hollen was not part of the bipartisan group that unveiled the bill, but he said he largely supported it.

“It was a move in the right direction,” he said.

The prospects now for a stimulus deal as 2020 winds to a close remain an uphill battle. The one deadline that lawmakers must address before adjourning for the holiday is end-of-year spending bills – due by Dec. 11 – to avert a government shutdown.

There is a chance that certain measures, like an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program or some additional unemployment coverage, could be included as part of those measures.

Pressed on whether he would support certain elements being included without a larger deal, Van Hollen remained firm, saying “what I would support is what's reflected in this bipartisan compromise.” He charged McConnell with offering a proposal without enough in it to support struggling Americans, and trying “to leverage a pandemic” to get what he called special interest provisions into his bill.

The bipartisan bill was “exactly what the American people had been looking for,” Van Hollen said. “It is just unfortunate that within hours Sen. McConnell launched a grenade attack on it.”

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

Tuesday

Trump Campaign Lawyer Joe diGenova Could Be Disciplined for ‘Stunning’ Statement That Chris Krebs Should Be ‘Shot’

Joseph E/ diGenova (L) and his wife Victoria Toensing (R)

CC™ Legal Parse

By Matt Naham

Trump campaign lawyer Joe diGenova made a “stunning” comment on Monday in which he called for a former Trump administration official’s head. While some have attempted to frame this as troubling hyperbole, legal ethics experts say that it’s in diGenova’s best professional interest to apologize in advance of possible disciplinary action.

DiGenova, a former U.S. Attorney known for his Fox News appearances and his work with Rudy Giuliani to dig up Ukraine dirt on Joe Biden among other things, was one of several attorneys present in the D.C. lobby of the Republican National Committee’s headquarters on Nov. 19. There, Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Jenna Ellis led the wild charge against the results of the 2020 election. It didn’t take long for the Trump campaign to distance itself from Powell after her performance.

DiGenova, for his part, had Rudy’s back, but he was not the star of that event. He did not speak.

DiGenova certainly spoke loud and clear on Monday during a segment on Newsmax’s The Howie Carr Show. DiGenova, introduced as a member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, said that Chris Krebs—a cybersecurity official Trump fired for saying the 2020 election was secure—should be “taken out at dawn and shot.”

“Anybody who thinks the election went well, like that idiot Krebs who used to be the head of cybersecurity. That guy is a class A moron. He should be drawn and quartered. Taken out at dawn and shot,” diGenova said.

Around the 24:00-minute mark of the Carr program, diGenova used the word “we” when discussing the litigation “we are pursuing”—cementing the capacity he was speaking in. Indeed, President Trump himself confirmed weeks ago that diGenova and diGenova’s law partner and wife Victoria Toensing were part of the Trump campaign legal team.

DiGenova is a licensed attorney in the District of Columbia whose status is in good standing. He was admitted to the bar in 1970. Could he be held accountable for his words?

Krebs, the former Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, already responded to the diGenova remarks on Tuesday morning by saying that he and his lawyers were examining their legal options.

“It’s certainly more dangerous language, more dangerous behavior,” Krebs said. “The way I look at it is that we are a nation of laws, and I plan to take advantage of those laws. I’ve got an exceptional team of lawyers that win in court, and I think they’re probably going to be busy.”

Krebs did not get into specifics, but he did say diGenova “can know that there are things coming.” One conceivable course of action would be to file a complaint with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

Law&Crime asked legal ethics scholar Stephen Gillers, a professor at New York University School of Law, whether diGenova could be held accountable for professional misconduct and, if so, what rules he may have violated.

Gillers pointed to Rule 8.4(b) and Rule 8.4(d).

These say, respectively, that a lawyer commits “professional misconduct” when they “(b) Commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness, or fitness as a lawyer in other respects” or “(d) Engage in conduct that seriously interferes with the administration of justice.”

“With regard to (b), it is not necessary that the lawyer have been prosecuted so long as the act is criminal and it adversely reflects on his ‘fitness,'” Gillers said. “In my view, the comment does reflect on diGenova’s fitness as a lawyer.”

Gillers said there could be a dispute as to whether diGenova’s comment “interfered with the administration of justice,” as stated in Rule 8.4(d).

“To violate (d) the lawyer must interfere with the administration of justice. Krebs is not a judge. He does not himself administer justice. But what Krebs said, and was threatened for saying, is also the subject of court cases where the campaign, diGenova’s client, is a party,” Gillers said. “Those courts are administering justice.”

“So a disciplinary body could find that diGenova’s threats against Krebs for saying the election was fair seriously interferes with the work of the courts in addressing the campaign’s claim that the election was unfair,” he added.

Law&Crime also asked what, if any, discipline diGenova could realistically face.

“The discipline would depend on whether diGenova apologizes and credibly appreciates the wrongfulness of his comment and on whether he has previously been disciplined,” Gillers answered. “I think on these facts a finding of a violation of the quoted rules would at least require a public censure or reprimand and possibly suspension from practice, depending on the presence or absence of mitigating evidence.”

Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development and Hugh Macgill Professor of Law at UConn Leslie Levin, an expert on lawyer discipline and legal ethics, said that diGenova’s words, though “unbecoming of a lawyer,” did not clearly violate a disciplinary rule.

“I don’t think anyone would think his words constitute incitement. There is no D.C. disciplinary rule that he clearly violated,” Levin told Law&Crime. “His language was unbecoming of a lawyer but is protected by the First Amendment.”

Others said diGenova should be disbarred—”full stop”—for making “these kinds of threats.”

And it appears at least one bar complaint, citing Rule 8.4, has already been filed against diGenova.

[Image via CSPAN screengrab]

This article originally appeared on LAW&CRIME