DPC Mott Street, Chinatown, New York c1900
• Cases 95,880 (+ 4.563 from Tuesday’s 91,317)
• Deaths 3,288 (+ 168 from Tuesday’s 3,120)
• Fittingly, No Time To Die was postponed
• Biggest news: Scientists find two different corona strains. So what is everyone exactly testing for, at least those that do testing?
• Italy to close all schools and universities, cinemas and theaters, all sports games behind closed doors.
– 587 new cases, 3,089 cases in total, 1,346 hospitalized, 107 deaths, 295 in intensive care
• South Korea 435 new cases, 4 more deaths, 60% linked to Shincheonji church; 136,000 tests
• CDC’s Dr. Fauci said 15-20% of infected people need hospitalization. Britain has 15 beds for worst cases. How many does US have?
• California declares state of emergency, follows WA, FL
– cruise ship stuck off coast
• France 28 new cases, total to 285. 8 deaths.
• UK cases up 34 to 85 – 66% surge.
• Netherlands 40 cases
• Greece 10 cases
• First airline collapses, Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline
• 290 million children worldwide locked out of school.
– 13 countries closed all schools, among them Italy, China, Japan, Iran. 9 others have reginal closures, US, Germany, France and more
• “On Tuesday, Ford Motor Company, which employs nearly 200,000 people, told workers to stop all international and U.S. domestic air travel..”
From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate at 6%):
All is good.
• Wuhan Coronavirus Infections Spike (R.)
Mainland China reported a rise in new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Thursday, reversing three straight days of declines, because of a spike in new infections in Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak. Mainland China had 139 new confirmed cases as of Wednesday, the National Health Commission (NHC) said, bringing the total accumulated number of cases to 80,409. Authorities reported 119 new cases the previous day and 125 the day before that. The increase was driven by more cases in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei, where the virus is believed to have emerged in a market late last year.
Wuhan’s new infections climbed to 131 from 114 a day earlier. There was no immediate elaboration and health officials were due to hold a briefing later in the day. After what some critics said was an initially hesitant response to the new virus, China imposed sweeping restrictions to try to stop it, including transport suspensions, lockdowns of cities and extending a Lunar New Year holiday across the country. WHO officials have said other countries have much to learn from the way China has handled the outbreak and Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said many countries had asked for help and China was responding.
The number of new confirmed cases in Hubei, excluding Wuhan, has remained in single digits for seven consecutive days, with three new infections recorded on Wednesday. In the rest of mainland China, outside Hubei, there were only five new confirmed cases, the health commission said. The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 3,012 as of the end of Wednesday, up by 31 from the previous day. Hubei accounted for all of the new deaths. In Wuhan, 23 people died. With the downward trend in new cases, Chinese authorities have turned their attention to stopping the virus being brought in from new coronavirus hot spots abroad.
A remarkably bland version of the story.
• Chinese Scientists Identify Two Strains Of The Coronavirus (CNBC)
Researchers in China have found that two different types of the new coronavirus could be causing infections worldwide. In a preliminary study published Tuesday, scientists at Peking University’s School of Life Sciences and the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai found that a more aggressive type of the new coronavirus had accounted for roughly 70% of analyzed strains, while 30% had been linked to a less aggressive type. The more aggressive type of virus was found to be prevalent in the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan — the Chinese city where COVID-19 was first detected late last year. But the frequency of this type of virus has since decreased from early January.
The researchers said their results indicate the development of new variations of the spike in COVID-19 cases was “likely caused by mutations and natural selection besides recombination.” “These findings strongly support an urgent need for further immediate, comprehensive studies that combine genomic data, epidemiological data, and chart records of the clinical symptoms of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” they said. Researchers cautioned that data examined in the study was still “very limited,” emphasizing that follow-up studies of a larger set of data would be needed to gain a “better understanding” of the evolution and epidemiology of COVID-19.
This is more like it. But again, what are we testing for, if we are testing at all? Are all tests exactly the same? And then: do they cover both strains?
• On The Origin And Continuing Evolution Of SARS-CoV-2 (NSR)
The SARS-CoV-2 epidemic started in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and has since impacted a large portion of China and raised major global concern. Herein, we investigated the extent of molecular divergence between SARS-CoV-2 and other related coronaviruses. Although we found only 4% variability in genomic nucleotides between SARS-CoV-2 and a bat SARS-related coronavirus (SARSr-CoV; RaTG13), the difference at neutral sites was 17%, suggesting the divergence between the two viruses is much larger than previously estimated.
Our results suggest that the development of new variations in functional sites in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike seen in SARS-CoV-2 and viruses from pangolin SARSr-CoVs are likely caused by mutations and natural selection besides recombination. Population genetic analyses of 103 SARS-CoV-2 genomes indicated that these viruses evolved into two major types (designated L and S), that are well defined by two different SNPs that show nearly complete linkage across the viral strains sequenced to date. Although the L type (<±70%) is more prevalent than the S type (<±30%), the S type was found to be the ancestral version.
Whereas the L type was more prevalent in the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan, the frequency of the L type decreased after early January 2020. Human intervention may have placed more severe selective pressure on the L type, which might be more aggressive and spread more quickly. On the other hand, the S type, which is evolutionarily older and less aggressive, might have increased in relative frequency due to relatively weaker selective pressure. These findings strongly support an urgent need for further immediate, comprehensive studies that combine genomic data, epidemiological data, and chart records of the clinical symptoms of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
— Rabih Alameddine (@rabihalameddine) March 4, 2020
Because no testing.
• Official US Coronavirus Numbers Are Wrong, and Everyone Knows It (Atl.)
We know, irrefutably, one thing about the coronavirus in the United States: The number of cases reported in every chart and table is far too low. The data are untrustworthy because the processes we used to get them were flawed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s testing procedures missed the bulk of the cases. They focused exclusively on travelers, rather than testing more broadly, because that seemed like the best way to catch cases entering the country. Just days ago, it was not clear that the virus had spread solely from domestic contact at all. But then cases began popping up with no known international connection. What public-health experts call “community spread” had arrived in the United States. The virus would not be stopped by tight borders, because it was already propagating domestically.
Trevor Bedford’s lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, which studies viral evolution, concluded there is “firm evidence” that, at least in Washington State, the coronavirus had been spreading undetected for weeks. Now different projections estimate that 20 to 1,500 people have already been infected in the greater Seattle area. In California, too, the disease appears to be spreading, although the limited testing means that no one is quite sure how far. In total, fewer than 500 people have been tested across the country (although the CDC has stopped reporting that number in its summary of the outbreak). As a result, the current “official” case count inside the United States stood at 43 as of [Tuesday] morning (excluding cruise-ship cases). This number is wrong, yet it’s still constantly printed and quoted. In other contexts, we’d call this what it is: a subtle form of misinformation.
This artificially low number means that for the past few weeks, we’ve seen massive state action abroad and only simmering unease domestically. While Chinese officials were enacting a world-historic containment effort—putting more than 700 million people under some kind of movement restriction, quarantining tens of millions of people, and placing others under new kinds of surveillance—and American public-health officials were staring at the writing on the wall that the disease was extremely likely to spread in the U.S., the public-health response was stuck in neutral. The case count in the U.S. was not increasing at all. Preparing for a sizable outbreak seemed absurd when there were fewer than 20 cases on American soil. Now we know that the disease was already spreading and that it was the U.S. response that was stalled.
Just spoke with ER doc who say he's seeing cases he's 99% sure are #coronavirus. Negative for flu, recent travel, work in airports. Not allowed to test. Patients return to work because they can't take time off w/out a firm diagnosis. Other ER docs seeing the same thing.
— Matt Stoller (@matthewstoller) March 4, 2020
There’s more where that came from.
• Flybe, Europe’s Largest Regional Airline, Collapses (G.)
Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline, has collapsed into administration less than two months after the government announced a rescue deal. The impact of the coronavirus on flight bookings proved the last straw for the Exeter-based airline, which operates almost 40% of UK domestic flights, as the government stalled on a controversial £100m loan. The UK Civil Aviation Authority announced early on Thursday morning that the airline had entered administration. It said all flights were cancelled and urged passengers not to go to airports. Flybe’s bankruptcy has come just a week before a budget that it hoped would help bolster its precarious finances, after the previous chancellor said he would look again at levels of air passenger duty (APD) .
However, the airline’s owners Connect Airways – a consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Air and hedge fund Cyrus Capital – have pulled the plug, a little over a year after buying it. The airline employed more than 2,000 people and was one of the leading carriers at airports including Belfast, Southampton, Manchester and Birmingham. Around 8 million people a year used its services. Unions have warned that other jobs would be put at risk by Flybe’s collapse, and transport links lost on dozens of domestic routes where it is the sole operator. Flybe has long struggled to balance the books, despite cost-cutting plans and redundancies, and was reporting losses of around £20m a year before the Connect takeover. [..] It is the second major British airline to go bankrupt in six months, following the collapse of Thomas Cook last September.
Can we close the entire industry yet?
• California-Based Cruise Ship Quarantined Off Pacific Coast (Pol.)
Another Princess Cruises ship has set off coronavirus alarms after a California passenger who traveled to Mexico died this week, more than 10 days after returning home without knowledge of his exposure. Two shiploads of passengers may have been exposed. State and federal officials are scurrying to contact 2,500-plus passengers who disembarked Feb. 21 from the San Francisco-Mexico cruise at the same time as the man who died, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday. California is also keeping Grand Princess passengers on the current San Francisco-Hawaii trip in the Pacific Ocean indefinitely until state and federal officials can assess how many passengers and crew have coronavirus or have been exposed.
“We have a number of passengers and crew members who have developed symptoms on this ship,” Newsom told reporters at a briefing this afternoon to announce a state of emergency. He later specified that 11 passengers and 10 crew members had symptoms, though he described the situation as fluid. Sixty-two passengers remain on the ship from the preceding San Francisco-Mexico journey, and they have been quarantined in their rooms, according to Princess Cruises. The Grand Princess was due back tonight in San Francisco until California requested that it remain at sea as the state sends test kits, Newsom said.
A US Senator who doesn’t like capitalism at its finest. Commie!
• Purell For $400? US Lawmaker Urges Amazon To Tamp Down Price Gouging (R.)
Amazon.com should stop third-party sellers from price gouging for items like Purell hand sanitizer as people seek to protect themselves from the coronavirus, U.S. Senator Edward Markey said in a letter to the online retailer on Wednesday. A box of small Purell bottles that usually sells for $10 was listed online for $400, he said. One third-party seller listed a bottle for $600 on Wednesday afternoon. However, the Amazon brand of hand sanitizer was listed for $8.25 for a large bottle. [..] “As the world confronts the prospect of a serious and far-reaching pandemic, corporate America has a responsibility to prevent profiteering on the sales of items such as hand-sanitizer and surgical masks,” Markey wrote in his letter.
Amazon called the price-gougers “bad actors.” “There is no place for price gouging on Amazon,” a spokesman said in a statement. “We continue to actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies.” Amazon said it was monitoring prices to ensure sellers complied with fair pricing policies and said that it could remove sellers who violate them. Amazon last week barred more than 1 million products that inaccurately claimed to cure or defend against the coronavirus. Amazon also removed tens of thousands of deals from merchants that it said attempted to price gouge customers.
Even Jonathan Turley doesn’t approve of this.
I like Biden claiming, in response to Bernie saying the establishment is circling the wagons for Biden, that literally everybody’s definition of the establishment is wrong: African Americans and single women in suburbia are the establishment. If you don’t boo that out of the room, who are you?
‘The establishment are all those hard-working, middle-class people, those African Americans, those single women in suburbia. They are the establishment,’ said Joe Biden.
Not as bad, though, as abusing his dead son Beau’s memory by saying Mayor Pete reminds him of Beau. Using your dead son for political games is real low.
But the real establishment are now stuck with Sleepy Joe, even though many will realize he’s roadkill.
• The Greatest Victory Of The Establishment Since The Defeat Of The Huns (Turley)
The media and political establishment in Washington was openly celebrating what was portrayed as a near complete victory of Joe Biden over the hoards of Sanders supporters marching toward gates of the Beltway. The establishment united this week behind Biden with candidates like Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and others rallying forces to defeat Bernie Sanders at all costs. Not since the victory over Attila the Hun at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains has the ancien regime experienced such a thrilling moment. However, the history is not good for those celebrating behind the walls of Rome.
I recently wrote how there remains a visceral distaste for the media and political establishment for many voters as they watched the concerted effort to defeat outsider candidates. That was also the case in 2016 with the effort to elect Hillary Clinton. The utter joy expressed this morning will only fuel that feeling of disenfranchisement. What we can expect is the continued strategic endorsements of establishment figures in the coming weeks and exhaustive coverage on the weakening Sanders and the surging Biden. MSNBC was particularly aggressive in framing the election night and attacking the very premise of the Sanders’ movement. MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace bizarrely claimed that there was no effort by the establishment to prop up Biden.
Wallace declared “Bernie Sanders… he has turned this idea of the establishment – he’s weaponized it against Biden,” she said. “The Democratic establishment did nothing for Joe Biden.” Really? Various establishment figures lined up behind Biden in the last week while CNN and MSNBC continued a relentless series of attacks on Sanders and his supporters. Nevertheless, host Rachel Maddow agreed that sought to downplay the concerted effort in DC to push Biden: “every headline in all political coverage all around the country is like, ‘The establishment is coalescing the establishment.” She then suggested that this is all a lie that was used against that other seemingly wrongly candidate, Hillary Clinton: “It’s what he did against Hillary Clinton in 2016 as well.”
Maddow simply dismisses the admissions of how the DNC rigged elements of the 2016 primary for Clinton or how Clinton took over the debt of the DNC to exercise such control. She also dismisses how polls showed that Clinton was widely viewed as unauthentic and the ultimate establishment figure when the public clearly wanted a change in Washington. Instead, Maddow and Wallace portray the entire movement by Sanders to be a lie. Not to be subtle, Wallace not only calls this all a lie but portrays Biden’s victory (with a long line of establishment endorsement) as a victory over the establishment: “But it’s a lie, I mean, it’s a lie. Listen, and I say this as a dispassionate former Republican who watched my party sort of implode around fake truths and false grievances, the establishment had nothing to do with Joe Biden’s victory. He’s flat broke, he has not a single ad on the air. He’s not advertising in any Super Tuesday states!”
Folks, this Bernie Sanders campaign ad with Barack Obama ad is gonna be a talker
Airing in FLORIDA now pic.twitter.com/WFt5sqJNed
— Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) March 4, 2020
Not a great piece, but few people understand what’s going on.
• Moscow’s Difficult Decision on Idlib (Lawrence)
The Syrian Arab Army, a force for good, must not stop short of decisive victory in Idlib, the governorate in northwest Syria sheltering the last jihadist militias operating on Syrian soil. Russia, which is correctly (and legally) supporting the S.A.A.’s campaign, should try to avoid a direct conflict with a NATO member but should engage Turkish forces if there is no alternative. NATO, breaking its own Article 5 covenant, will not come to the aid of a member nation engaged in so despicable an assault on another sovereign nation. I am not alone in holding this opinion. Don’t forget: Most NATO members are squeamish, mealy-mouthed Europeans who have given up the ghost in Syria. It will do the entire world much good if the egregious Erdogan sustains the bloodiest nose of his six years as Turkey’s dictatorial president in consequence of this drive into Syria.
Let us say precisely the same of what remains of the U.S. presence in Syria. Excellent it will be if Washington must at last acknowledge that it has lost every chip it has put down in Syria since it began arming, training and financing a variety of vicious Islamist factions, including the Islamic State, in early 2012 at the very latest. At this point it claims to be protecting Syrian oilfields from… Syria. This is not Turkey’s first foray into Syrian territory, let us remember. It launched a similar campaign in 2016; it began another incursion last autumn. Turkey has from the start of the Syrian conflict been a conduit for arms supplies to the Islamic State and other jihadists, while transshipping Syrian oil from ISIS–controlled refineries into international markets.
[..] Erdogan has betrayed the Russians so often it is a wonder Moscow has any patience left for him. A Turkish F–16 shot down a Russian jet two months after Russian aircraft deployed in Syria five years ago. Ankara and Moscow agreed two years ago to establish a ceasefire zone in northwest Syria, with Turkey also committing to remove jihadists led by Hayat Tahrir al–Sham, formerly al–Nusra, which was formerly al–Qaeda in Syria in the name-changing shell game these cutthroats play. That accord went the way of the West (so to say) long ago.
How to make normal procedures sound scary. Yes, Russia may have send a few ships through the Bosporus, in case Erdogan would have closed it.
Wonder what will be made public about the talks today. Erdogan will declare victory no doubt. How far will Lavrov go to deny that?
• Russia Reinforces Syria Before Putin-Erdogan Talks (R.)
Russia is racing to reinforce its troops in Syria by sea and air before talks between the Russian and Turkish leaders in Moscow on Thursday, flight data and shipping movements show. The two presidents, Vladimir Putin and Tayyip Erdogan, agreed to meet after a surge in tensions between their countries over fighting in Syria’s Idlib province between Russian-backed Syrian government forces and rebels allied to Turkey. The fighting has raised the prospect of a direct clash between their armies, which operate in close proximity on opposing sides, and Erdogan hopes the talks will yield a ceasefire in Idlib.
A Reuters analysis of flight data and correspondents’ monitoring of shipping in the Bosphorus Strait in northwestern Turkey show Russia began to step up naval and airborne deliveries to Syria on Feb. 28, the day after 34 Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike in Syria. That incident prompted concern in Moscow that Turkey might close the Bosphorus to Russian warships and bar Russian military transport planes from using Turkish air space. The Russian Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Turkish official, who asked not to be identified, said there was no plan to close the strait, which would force Russia to take longer routes to Syria. But Russia appears to be reinforcing Syria at its fastest rate since October, when U.S. forces withdrew from some parts of Syria and Moscow scrambled to fill the vacuum.
• Tens Of Thousands Blocked At Greek-Turkey Border (K.)
A total of 32,423 individuals were prevented from entering Greece as of Saturday morning and 231 have been arrested, Greek authorities said on Wednesday on the latest count of irregular migrants attempting to enter Greece at the Evros border region with Turkey. According to the data, from 6 a.m. on Wednesday to 6 p.m. the same day, 11 individuals were arrested in Evros, most of which have been identified as Afghani nationals. A total of 4,600 people were prevented from entering illegally in Greece during the same 12-hour period. On Wednesday, Greek authorities fired tear gas and stun grenades to thwart a crowd of migrants making a push to cross the border from Turkey, as tensions increased after Turkey declared it was allowing migrants and refugees to reach Europe.
Hedge funds buying family homes for cheap. That is Europe.
• Greece’s Economic ‘Recovery’ Good News For No One But The Rich (Varoufakis)
Costas runs a small bookshop in my central Athens neighbourhood. Although jovial by constitution, he finds it difficult to hide the worry lines multiplying on his face. Fifteen years ago he put his flat up as collateral for a business loan to spruce up the bookshop. When the Greek debt crisis wreaked its havoc, it was impossible to service that loan. Today, Costas is one of hundreds of thousands facing foreclosures by funds that have purchased debt like his from the banks at bargain basement prices. The bailiff and the auctioneer are circling above distressed homeowners and small business people such as Costas.
Paradox is a Greek word for good reason: today’s Greece proves that it is perfectly possible for the state and for the majority of citizens to be sinking deeper into insolvency while the oligarchy makes a mint from trading in their assets. But why would investors lend to the Greek government cheaply if it remains bankrupt?
The reason is that the troika of Greece’s creditors – the EU, European Central Bank and the IMF – have taken 85% of government debt out of the money markets and placed it squarely on the shoulders of Europe’s taxpayers. They also deferred all repayments until after 2032 and extended another €30bn of official loans to the Greek government to cover its repayments to privateers. So why not lend to the Greek government at a small, yet positive, interest rate when the alternative is to lend to the German or the Dutch governments at the current negative interest rates? As long as the Greek government remains the troika’s model prisoner, lending to Greece’s insolvent state at minuscule rates is lucrative. Paradox solved!
Turning to Greece’s private sector, how can investors profit from it if it too is bankrupt? With great ease is the answer, as Costas’s case illustrates. His loan of €100,000 was sold on by his bank to a hedge fund for €8,000. If the fund auctions off his flat for €20,000, its profit rate will hit an astonishing 250%. The fact that Costas will lose both his home and his bookshop, with detrimental effects on the state’s taxes and outlays (as he begins to draw unemployment benefit), does not even appear on the radar of the hedge fund or the international media.
Maybe down a few percentage points from 2015, but not much. Entire families living on $400-$800 a month. And no, Greece is not cheap.
• Half Of Greek Families Still Cite Pensions As Their Main Source Of Income (K.)
Pensions remain the main source of income for half of Greece’s households, a survey by the Small Enterprises Institute of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants (IME GSEVEE) has shown. The phenomenon is linked to the particularly large number of pensioners – 2.55 million, according to official figures – and the fact that unemployment remains at high levels while salaries remain low. The survey shows that although the country has successfully concluded its third bailout, the decade-long financial crisis is still having a strong impact on Greek society. This is even more obvious in lower income brackets that continue to be at risk of serious social and economic uncertainties.
The survey was held from late December to early January, that is before the coronavirus outbreak and whatever economic impact it has had so far. The IME GSEVEE survey, conducted in association with Marc researchers, showed that 49.4 percent of households declared pensions as their main source of income, up from 49.1 percent a year earlier.
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