News Round-Up: May 26, 2020

Francisco José Alvarado (via Instagram)

Some news items you might have missed:

Washington Post: Costa Rica became the latest country to legalize same-sex marriage early Tuesday when a ruling from its supreme court went into effect ending the country’s ban. Costa Rica is the first country in Central America to make marriage equality the law of the land.

13WMAZ: A married youth pastor in Georgia created a wild story about being kidnapped to cover up his family learning he’d hired a male prostitute to meet him at a local motel.

Reuters: The AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. coalition of labor unions, endorsed Democrat Joe Biden for president on Tuesday, promising to launch an effort to beat Republican President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 election. The group represents 55 unions and 12.5 million workers.

Instinct Magazine: Francisco José Alvarado (top photo), a 30-year-old doctor from Spain, beat COVID-19 and became Mr. Gay World 2020. This year’s competition was canceled, but the organizers decided Alvarado – who was the runner-up in 2019 – should be given the title for as this year’s global ambassador for LGBTQ rights.

AlterNet: In late March, when every other European country was in lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Sweden’s officials decided that Swedes could be relied upon to follow sanitation guidelines themselves. Restaurants, shops, and recreational spots were allowed to stay open. As of May 19, Sweden had more coronavirus deaths per capita than any other country in Europe.

The Daily Beast: The Justice Department informed lawyers for Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) there will be no insider trading charges filed against Loeffler. The senator and her husband, New York Stock Exchange chairman Jeffrey Sprecher, have denied that their sales of millions of dollars in stock – made shortly after a closed-door Senate intelligence briefing on the coronavirus in early January – had anything to do with that information.

Talking Points Memo: A new study produced by business school profs at Columbia and University of Chicago suggests that viewing Fox News is strongly correlated with ignoring social distancing guidance during the first weeks of the COVID19 epidemic and is in fact driving that non-compliance.

Social Media: The Bidens paid tribute to the nation’s veterans on Memorial Day, appearing in public at a wreath-laying ceremony near his Delaware home. Over the weekend, Biden took a swipe at Donald Trump’s golf habit tweeting, “The presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart. It requires taking on the ultimate responsibility for the biggest decisions in the world. Donald Trump simply wasn’t prepared for that. I promise you I will be.”


2nd GOP Senator Sold Millions In Stock After Receiving Intel On Coronavirus

Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA)

Wow. Turns out a second Republican senator sold off millions in stock holdings after receiving high-level intelligence on the coronavirus.

From The Daily Beast:

The Senate’s newest member sold off seven figures worth of stock holdings in the days and weeks after a private, all-senators meeting on the novel coronavirus that subsequently hammered U.S. equities.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) reported the first sale of stock jointly owned by her and her husband on Jan. 24, the very day that her committee, the Senate Health Committee, hosted a private, all-senators briefing from administration officials, including the CDC director and Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institutes of Health of the United States, on the coronavirus. 

“Appreciate today’s briefing from the President’s top health officials on the novel coronavirus outbreak,” she tweeted about the briefing at the time.

That first transaction was a sale of stock in the company Resideo Technologies worth between $50,001 and $100,000. The company’s stock price has fallen by more than half since then, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average overall has shed approximately 10,000 points, dropping about a third of its value.

Daily Beast reporter Sam Stein notes Loeffler had not made a single stock transaction during the three weeks she served in office prior to this one. This was her first. The day she got the coronavirus briefing.

Earlier today I reported that Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) sold more than $1.5 million in stock after being briefed on the impending coronavirus crisis while publicly telling the public everything would be fine.

Note – Loeffler is married to Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, and the chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, which is NYSE’s parent company.


Receiving Intel Reports GOP Senator Sold Stocks A Week Before Market Tanked

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)

After assuring the public about the government’s coronavirus preparedness, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Richard Burr, in one day, sold off up to $1.6 million in stock. A week later, the market began its fall.

ProPublica reports “Burr sold off a significant percentage of his stocks, unloading between $582,029 and $1.56 million of his holdings on February 13 in 29 separate transactions.”

As the head of the intelligence committee, Burr, a North Carolina Republican, has access to the government’s most highly classified information about threats to America’s security. His committee was receiving daily coronavirus briefings around this time, according to a Reuters story.

A week after Burr’s sales, the stock market began a sharp decline and has lost about 30% since.

His committee was receiving daily briefings.

Additionally, NPR is reporting today that the North Carolina senator “warned a small group of well-connected constituents three weeks ago to prepare for dire economic and societal effects of the coronavirus, according to a secret recording obtained by NPR.”

The remarks from Burr were more dire than any he had delivered in more public forums.

According to the NPR report, Burr told attendees of the luncheon held at the Capitol Hill Club: “There’s one thing that I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything that we have seen in recent history … It is probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”


Trump Health & Human Services Secretary Nominee Introduced Legislation That Helped Company He Owned Stock In

More “swampity-swamp-swamp” regarding Donald Trump’s nominee for Health & Human Services Secretary, Rep. Tom Price.

According to Salon, Price introduced legislation last year that helped a biotech company he had just bought shares of stock in.

From Salon:

Less than a week after buying between $1,001 and $15,000 of shares in Zimmer Biomet, Price introduced a bill known as the HIP Act. Its objective was to delay until 2018 a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services regulation that would have impacted payments for the knee and hip implants in which the corporation specializes, CNN reported on Monday. Zimmer Biomet’s political action committee subsequently made a donation to Price’s reelection campaign.

This isn’t the first time that Price has been criticized for pushing legislation that could financially benefit medical companies in which he had invested stock. Last month, it was reported that over the last four years Price had traded roughly $300,000 in shares in health companies that would directly benefit from legislation he was pursuing.

In 2012, Congress passed The Stock Act which was designed to prevent lawmakers from profiting from stock trading based on any knowledge they could have from the legislative process.