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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

Earlier this year, former special counsel Robert Mueller completed an in-depth investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election — and Mueller’s report made it clear that the Russian government could easily try to do the same thing again in 2020. Federal law technically forbids foreign entities from spending money to influence U.S. elections. But in a report for Mother Jones, journalist Pema Levy describes the ways in which they can get around U.S. federal law.

A “gaping loophole” in federal law, Levy explains, could “allow substantial foreign spending on the 2020 presidential election, fully within the boundaries of the law.” Levy cited Zekelman Industries, a Canadian company, as an example of a foreign entity that was allowed to legally influence the campaigns of Republican candidates in 2018.

“While a foreign corporation or person is prohibited from spending money to influence an election,” Levy notes, “a foreign-owned company that is incorporated in the United States can make such a donation” — and Zekelman donations to candidates were technically legal last year because “the money came from Wheatland Tube, a Chicago company wholly owned by Zekelman Industries. As long as the foreign owners are not involved in the decision to donate, the political spending is legal.”
Levy goes on to report that another way to “legally flood elections with foreign money” is through political advertising online. The Mother Jones journalist reports, “Foreigners can legally place political ads that attack or promote candidates on Facebook, Google or YouTube without any need to funnel funds through a U.S. entity. In 2016, Russia paid for Facebook ads in rubles, prompting criticism of Facebook for not catching the Kremlin.”

Levy warns that Russian interference in the 2020 election is a very real possibility — and it could be done “through media outlets masquerading as news and promoting fake, misleading or divisive articles through social media.”

Michael Carpenter, a former foreign policy adviser for Vice President Joe Biden, told Mother Jones, “We’re very vulnerable because our campaign finance system is so opaque, and because there’s all these loopholes and back doors. Any creative, resourceful foreign power could easily set up all kinds of shells and fronts to channel money into, at a minimum, super-PACs — if not into campaigns themselves.”

IMAGE: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin makes his annual New Year address to the nation in Moscow, Russia, December 31, 2016. Sputnik/Mikhail Klimentyev/Kremlin via REUTERS

 

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.