René Magritte L’avenir (the future) 1936
• According to Johns Hopkins University there are at least 1,069,534 cases of coronavirus in the U.S.; at least 63,001 people have died in the U.S. from coronavirus.
• On Thursday, JHU reported 29,625 new cases and 2,035 deaths.
• Cases 3,323,935 (+ 90,943 from yesterday’s 3,232,992)
• Deaths 234,471 (+ 5,951 from yesterday’s 228,520)
From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-
From Worldometer – Among Active cases, Serious/Critical fell to 2%
50 million Americans unemployed and Wall Street has a record month. What is wrong with this picture? Why would we want to re-open this system?
• Wall St. Caps Best Month In 33 Years With Broad Sell-Off (R.)
U.S. stocks lost ground on Thursday as grim economic data and mixed earnings prompted investors to take profits at the close of the S&P 500’s best month in 33 years, a remarkable run driven by expectations the economy will soon start recovering from crushing restrictions enacted to curb the coronavirus pandemic. While risk-off selling pulled all three major U.S. stock averages into the red, the S&P 500 and the Dow posted their largest monthly percentage gains since January 1987, with the Nasdaq having its best month since June 2000. The three indexes remain well within 20% of record highs reached in February, having quickly rebounded since shutdown efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic brought the economy to a grinding halt.
The five-week tally of unemployment claims topped 30 million and consumer spending has plummeted, according to the latest round of dismal indicators providing another snapshot of the crushing economic effects of the widespread shutdown. “We’ve had a tremendous run but we’ve had the worst economic data since the Great Depression,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago. “Business and earnings might not be snapping back as quickly as the v-shaped recovery on Wall Street would imply.” The Federal Reserved announced that it would broaden its “Main Street Lending Program” by lowering the minimum loan size and expanding eligibility. “Wall Street is liking all the programs that the government and the Fed are putting together,” Nolte added. “So Wall Street is doing fine but Main Street is going to be a longer process.”
Does he have info we don’t? If not, this is a crazy statement.
• Dr. Fauci Says Developing A COVID Vaccine By January Is ‘Doable’ (SAC)
The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie Thursday that developing a vaccine to combat the coronavirus outbreak by January is “doable.” “What the plan is right now is, as I mentioned to you a couple of times on this show, we’re in the early phases of a trial, Phase 1. When you go into the next phase, we’re gonna safely and carefully, but as quickly as we possibly can, try and get an answer as to whether it works and is safe,” Fauci said.
He added, “And, if so, we’re gonna start ramping up production with the companies involved. And you do that at risk. In other words, you don’t wait until you get an answer before you start manufacturing. You at risk proactively start making it assuming it’s gonna work, and, if it does, then you could scale up and hopefully get to that timeline. So we want to go quickly, but we want to make sure it’s safe and it’s effective.” The Trump Administration announced “Operation Warp Speed” to accelerate the development of a vaccine, Bloomberg News first reported Wednesday. The report states. “The project’s goal is to have 300 million doses of vaccine available by January, according to one administration official. There is no precedent for such rapid development of a vaccine.”
Perhaps when the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons speaks, we should pay attention?
• Hydroxychloroquine Has About 90% Chance of Helping COVID-19 Patients (AAPS)
In a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) presents a frequently updated table of studies that report results of treating COVID-19 with the anti-malaria drugs chloroquine (CQ) and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ, Plaquenil®). To date, the total number of reported patients treated with HCQ, with or without zinc and the widely used antibiotic azithromycin, is 2,333, writes AAPS, in observational data from China, France, South Korea, Algeria, and the U.S. Of these, 2,137 or 91.6 percent improved clinically. There were 63 deaths, all but 11 in a single retrospective report from the Veterans Administration where the patients were severely ill.
The antiviral properties of these drugs have been studied since 2003. Particularly when combined with zinc, they hinder viral entry into cells and inhibit replication. They may also prevent overreaction by the immune system, which causes the cytokine storm responsible for much of the damage in severe cases, explains AAPS. HCQ is often very helpful in treating autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Additional benefits shown in some studies, AAPS states, is to decrease the number of days when a patient is contagious, reduce the need for ventilators, and shorten the time to clinical recovery.
Peer-reviewed studies published from January through April 20, 2020, provide clear and convincing evidence that HCQ may be beneficial in COVID-19, especially when used early, states AAPS. Unfortunately, although it is perfectly legal to prescribe drugs for new indications not on the label, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that CQ and HCQ should be used for COVID-19 only in hospitalized patients in the setting of a clinical study if available. Most states are making it difficult for physicians to prescribe or pharmacists to dispense these medications. As the letter to Gov. Ducey notes, “Many nations, including Turkey and India, are protecting medical workers and contacts of infected persons prophylactically.
According to worldometers.info, deaths per million persons from COVID-19 as of Apr 27 are 167 in the U.S., 33 in Turkey, and 0.6 in India.” After Morocco and Algeria began using HCQ, a trend break and sharp reduction in their COVID-19 case fatality rate occurred. Vaccines and results of randomized double-blind controlled trials of new drugs are at best months away. But patients are dying now, while affordable, long-used drugs would be available except for government restrictions, AAPS states. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) has represented physicians of all specialties in all states since 1943. The AAPS motto is omnia pro aegroto, meaning everything for the patient.
As expected, the Texas sharpshooting style ex post change of initial target.
Now let's look at the implications. https://t.co/M9KC1ZhcHm
— Nassim Nicholas Taleb (@nntaleb) May 1, 2020
The FDA “cites an observed risk of heart complications”. Okay, okay, but let’s see the reports on heart complications among 70 years of malaria-, lupus-, and RA sufferers.
By the by, HCQ was never a controversial drug until Trump mentioned it.
• Turkey Claims Success Treating COVID-19 With Hydroxychloroquine (CBS)
Turkey has the biggest coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, with more than 117,000 confirmed infections. More than 3,000 people have died. But the government claims to have a lower fatality rate than the global average estimated by the World Health Organization at over 3%. The Turkish government imposed weekend-only lockdowns and banned only those under the age of 20 and over 65 from leaving their homes during the week, in an effort to limit the economic impact of the pandemic. Turkey’s Ministry of Health says the relatively low death toll is thanks to treatment protocols in the country, which involve two existing drugs — the controversial anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine touted by President Trump, and Japanese antiviral favipiravir.
“Doctors prescribe hydroxychloroquine to everyone who is tested positive for coronavirus” Dr. Sema Turan, a member of the Turkish government’s coronavirus advisory board, told CBS News. Hospitalized patients may be given favipiravir as well if they encounter breathing problems, she said. Turan said the combination of drugs appeared to “delay or eliminate the need for intensive care for patients.” But it’s important to note that Turkey’s use of the drug is not a clinically controlled trial; there’s no control group of patients not given the medication to compare the results against. Clinical trials have been underway in the U.S. and elsewhere, but the results aren’t yet clear. Preliminary studies on hydroxychloroquine have yielded uninspiring results thus far.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved emergency use of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus patients, but has warned it should only be used in clinical trials or under the close observation of doctors, citing an observed risk of heart complications.
They refused entry to the WHO team for many weeks in January-February. Anyone remember how long, and what dates?
• WHO ‘Not Invited’ To Join China’s COVID-19 Investigations (Sky)
China has refused repeated requests by the World Health Organisation to take part in investigations into the origins of COVID-19, the WHO representative in China has told Sky News. “We know that some national investigation is happening but at this stage we have not been invited to join,” Dr Gauden Galea said. “WHO is making requests of the health commission and of the authorities,” he said. “The origins of virus are very important, the animal-human interface is extremely important and needs to be studied. “The priority is we need to know as much as possible to prevent the reoccurrence.” Asked by Sky News whether there was a good reason not to include the WHO, Dr Galea replied: “From our point of view, no.”
The Australian government has said that an independent public enquiry should be held into the origins of COVID-19, a measure EU countries are reportedly considering publicly endorsing. China has reacted angrily, saying that the investigation into the virus should be a matter for scientists. Dr Galea also told Sky News that the WHO had not been able to investigate logs from the two laboratories working with viruses in Wuhan, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan CDC. “From all available evidence, WHO colleagues in our three-level system are convinced that the origins are in Wuhan and that it is a naturally occurring, not a manufactured, virus,” he said.
Nevertheless, according to Dr Galea, the laboratory logs “would need to be part of any full report, any full look at the story of the origins”. Dr Galea defended the WHO’s role in the early days of the novel coronavirus outbreak. “We only know what China is reporting to us at that period in time.” From 3 January to 16 January, Wuhan officials reported no new coronavirus cases beyond the 41 already published. “Is it likely that there were only 41 cases for that period of time? I would think not,” Dr Galea told Sky News. [..] The WHO has been criticised for a tweet it posted on 14 January, saying “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission”. The same day, in Geneva, a WHO official said there had been “limited” human-to-human transmission.
Dr Galea told Sky News that, at the time, the “WHO was increasingly worried and convinced, suspecting strongly there would be human-to-human transmission. But as yet the cases that had been presented to us and the investigations had not yet confirmed that 100%.”
The difference between underestimated and undercounted.
• Sweden Forced To Admit Significant Under-Counting Of Coronavirus Deaths (Wsws)
Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare released figures Tuesday revealing that the death toll from the coronavirus has been underestimated in public figures. This came as total infections in the country of 10 million passed 20,000 yesterday, with almost 2,500 deaths. The discrepancy is due to the Public Health Agency’s policy of only counting deaths following a positive COVID-19 test confirmed by a laboratory. However, the National Board of Health and Welfare noted that as of 21 April, only 82 percent of the deaths it linked to coronavirus had a positive lab test. Assuming that this difference has persisted over the last week, there would have been approximately 400 more deaths from the virus than the 2,462 officially recorded yesterday by the Public Health Agency.
This significant under-counting of deaths is not to be explained by an error, but is the direct product of the Swedish government’s “herd immunity” strategy. Unlike its Nordic neighbours and other European countries, Sweden avoided imposing a general lock-down and even delayed for some time the issuing of limited social distancing guidelines. Gatherings of up to 50 people are still permitted, and shops, restaurants, schools, and non-essential businesses of all types remain open. As a result, the population has been subjected to a reckless experiment that some scientists have likened to playing “Russian roulette.” Even taking the lower official death toll as a point of comparison, the death rate in Sweden dramatically exceeds neighbouring countries.
In Norway, for example, which has a population approximately half the size of Sweden’s, 7,660 cases and 206 deaths have been recorded. Sweden therefore has a death rate more than five times higher than its neighbour per head of population. The refusal to impose strict social distancing measures is stretching the health care system to its limits. At Tuesday’s daily briefing, Johanna Sandwall, crisis manager at the National Board of Health and Welfare, stated that across the country, intensive care units have 30 percent spare capacity. However, she acknowledged that in some areas, there was zero spare capacity. Asked where these were, she refused to answer.
DYNAMIC vs STATIC
While the wisdom of a tail-risk decision under asymmetries is not to be decided after, comparative numbers for Sweden are much worse.
Sweden’s numbers are growing at ~50-150 a day, Norway’s 1-5. So expect the ratios to soon be 4000-6000 vs 220-250 for Norway. https://t.co/PeFQtNyfQD
— Nassim Nicholas Taleb (@nntaleb) April 30, 2020
The problem in the US is that proportion of overweight (or, to be polite, “exceedingly well fed”) & metabolically challenged pple; the chief vulnerability for Covid. That makes any comparison or mortality rates between the US and Europe unrigorous.
— Nassim Nicholas Taleb (@nntaleb) April 30, 2020
Putin doesn’t meet anyone outside his closed quarters anymore.
• Russian PM Mishustin Tests Positive For Virus (BBC)
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has gone to hospital after he was diagnosed with coronavirus. His positive test came on the same day that Russia recorded a record 7,099 cases, taking the total number of infections above 100,000. Mr Mishustin was given the role of prime minister in January and has been actively involved in Russia’s handling of the epidemic. Russian TV showed him telling President Vladimir Putin of his diagnosis. “I have just learned that the test on the coronavirus I took was positive,” the prime minister said during the video call.
Mr Mishustin suggested that First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov should take his place and Mr Putin agreed. Mr Mishustin will now go into self-isolation. “What’s happening to you can happen to anyone, and I’ve always been saying this,” Mr Putin told him. “You are a very active person. I would like to thank you for the work that has been done so far.”Despite the sharp rise in cases, the Moscow-based coronavirus headquarters says 1,073 people in Russia have now died of coronavirus, a relatively low number for Russia’s size. Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia’s reaction to the pandemic has enabled it to avoid an “Italian scenario”.
Always very late. This would have been good months ago. Now we need to stop non-essential travel. https://t.co/rB2uwG9EU7
— Yaneer Bar-Yam (@yaneerbaryam) May 1, 2020
• American Airlines, Delta, United To Require Facial Coverings On US Flights
Three of the largest four U.S. airlines said Thursday they will require passengers to wear facial coverings on U.S. flights, joining JetBlue Airways in taking the step to address the spread of the coronavirus and convince reluctant passengers to resume flying. United Airlines, Delta Air and American Airlines, along with the smaller Frontier Airlines, which is owned by private equity firm Indigo Partners LLC, announced they will require facial coverings next month. Delta and United’s new rules start May 4, while Frontier’s start May 8 and American’s requirements begin May 11. The policies exempt young children from wearing masks or other facial coverings.
Many U.S. airlines are also requiring pilots and flight attendants to use facial coverings while on board aircraft. Airlines in the United States have seen a nearly 95% drop in U.S. passengers and have slashed flight schedules. They are now working to reassure customers about the safety of air travel by instituting new cleaning and social distancing procedures. Some airline unions and U.S. lawmakers have urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to require facial coverings for all passengers and crew. United said it will provide complimentary masks to passengers. Southwest Airlines), one of the largest U.S. airlines, has not required facial coverings.
Dr. Doom should feel right at home in today’s world.
• Ten Reasons Why A ‘Greater Depression’ For The 2020s Is Inevitable (Roubini)
After the 2007-09 financial crisis, the imbalances and risks pervading the global economy were exacerbated by policy mistakes. So, rather than address the structural problems that the financial collapse and ensuing recession revealed, governments mostly kicked the can down the road, creating major downside risks that made another crisis inevitable. And now that it has arrived, the risks are growing even more acute. Unfortunately, even if the Greater Recession leads to a lacklustre U-shaped recovery this year, an L-shaped “Greater Depression” will follow later in this decade, owing to 10 ominous and risky trends.
The first trend concerns deficits and their corollary risks: debts and defaults. The policy response to the Covid-19 crisis entails a massive increase in fiscal deficits – on the order of 10% of GDP or more – at a time when public debt levels in many countries were already high, if not unsustainable. Worse, the loss of income for many households and firms means that private-sector debt levels will become unsustainable, too, potentially leading to mass defaults and bankruptcies. Together with soaring levels of public debt, this all but ensures a more anaemic recovery than the one that followed the Great Recession a decade ago.
A second factor is the demographic timebomb in advanced economies. The Covid-19 crisis shows that much more public spending must be allocated to health systems, and that universal healthcare and other relevant public goods are necessities, not luxuries. Yet, because most developed countries have ageing societies, funding such outlays in the future will make the implicit debts from today’s unfunded healthcare and social security systems even larger. A third issue is the growing risk of deflation. In addition to causing a deep recession, the crisis is also creating a massive slack in goods (unused machines and capacity) and labour markets (mass unemployment), as well as driving a price collapse in commodities such as oil and industrial metals. That makes debt deflation likely, increasing the risk of insolvency.
Those fears should be global.
• Deflation Fears Creep Back In Japan (R.)
Consumer prices in Japan’s capital city fell for the first time in three years in April and national factory activity slumped, data showed on Friday, increasing worries the coronavirus pandemic could tip the country back into deflation. The darkening outlook in the world’s third-largest economy is already heightening calls for bigger spending, even after parliament approved an extra budget to fund a $1.1 trillion stimulus package to cushion the blow from the pandemic. “The government will work with the central bank to ensure Japan absolutely does not slip back into deflation,” Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a news conference on Friday.
Core consumer prices in Tokyo, a leading indicator of nationwide inflation trends, slipped 0.1% in April from a year earlier, government data showed, dashing expectations for a 0.1% rise and following a 0.4% increase in March. It was the first year-on-year decline since April 2017. While the drop was largely due to slumping energy costs following the collapse in the crude oil price, it has consolidated expectations that Japan will see consumer prices fall in coming months as the economy feels a sharper hit from the pandemic. A separate business survey on Friday confirmed Japan’s factory activity shrank at its fastest pace in more than a decade in April, as the coronavirus hurt output and new orders.
As the government keeps bumbling its actions.
• UK Factory Output At Risk Of More Than Halving (R.)
British factory output risks falling by more than half during the current quarter after 80% of manufacturers reported a collapse in orders due to the coronavirus, trade body Make UK said on Friday. Make UK said a survey of 297 members, conducted from April 20-27, showed that more than three quarters had already suffered a drop in sales. Britain’s Office for Budget Responsibility said on April 14 that factory output could fall by 55% in the second quarter, as part of a scenario for the broader economy that showed a 35% plunge in total output if lockdown restrictions stay in place. “The extent of the collapse in demand is such it means that the recent OBR forecast could be an underestimate unless there is a quite remarkable turnaround which, to be frank, just isn’t going to happen,” Make UK chief executive Stephen Phipson said.
A separate survey from the Confederation of British Industry showed that private-sector activity fell by the most since July 2009 during the three months to April, and that output expectations were the weakest on record. Britain’s government ordered non-essential businesses to close to the public on March 23 and urged staff to work from home if possible. It is due to review the measures on May 7 but officials have said it is too soon for a major easing. Some 87% of manufacturers are still carrying out some operations, but more than a third had put staff members on leave under a government wage guarantee scheme which was likely to be needed beyond its planned end-June closing date, Make UK said.
The Federal Reserve bought more Treasury securities in the past 6 weeks than the whole foreign sector bought in the past 6 years.
— Lyn Alden (@LynAldenContact) April 30, 2020
• ECB Prepares For More Stimulus, Hints At Junk Bond Buys (R.)
The European Central Bank tweaked policy around the edges on Thursday but kept the door wide open to further stimulus — including potentially controversial purchases of junk debt — to help an economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. Facing an unprecedented recession, the ECB said it would make loans to banks even cheaper but kept the terms of its hallmark asset purchase scheme unchanged, disappointing investors who had bet on even more money-printing. Lockdowns in place across Europe to curb the spread of the virus have already cost millions their jobs and governments are borrowing record amounts just to keep their economies going until restrictions on businesses and households can be eased.
ECB President Christine Lagarde made clear the central bank for the 19 countries that use the euro currency would do its part but said political leaders must agree on more ambitious and coordinated action, a goal that has so far eluded them. “The euro area is facing an economic contraction of a magnitude and speed that are unprecedented in peacetime,” Lagarde told a news conference held via webcast. Speaking to an empty press room, Lagarde said the euro zone economy could shrink by 5 percent to 12 percent this year and may contract by 15 percent in the second quarter alone, a rate that would far outpace any decline during the global financial crisis a decade ago.
[..] As part of Thursday’s moves, the ECB said it would allow banks to borrow long-term funds for rates as low as minus 1 percent and it would set up a new shorter-term liquidity operation. Even if markets were disappointed with the measures, Lagarde made clear the ECB would do its job, a signal that more action is coming, perhaps as soon as June. She said the ECB could increase the size of its Emergency Pandemic Purchase Scheme (PEPP) and even extend it beyond 2020. When asked if the ECB could buy bonds below investment grade, she hinted at flexibility. “We have been very clear … we will not accept fragmentation of monetary transmission in the euro area or any pro-cyclical tightening of financing conditions,” Lagarde said. “With these two principles in mind, we will adjust as and when needed.”
The hint at future junk bond purchases is significant as Italy, the euro zone’s third-largest economy, is rated in the lowest investment-grade bracket and seen at risk of downgrades that could lose it access to ECB help just as it needs it most. Letting go of Italy would be politically unacceptable, however and the ECB’s recent decisions to temporarily buy Greek debt and accept bonds recently downgraded to junk as collateral from banks were seen as a way of preparing the ground.
• Trump Says He Could Bring Back Fired Ex-National Security Adviser Flynn (R.)
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he would consider bringing his fired former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a key figure in the probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, back into his administration. The president’s comments, the latest in a string of remarks about Flynn, go beyond prior suggestions by Trump that the retired general could be in line for a presidential pardon. “I would certainly consider it, yeah. I think he’s a fine man,” Trump told reporters, without specifying which role he might give to Flynn. Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements in a charge brought by then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He is now insisting he did not lie and wants to back out of the plea.
Internal FBI documents turned over by the Justice Department on Wednesday showed FBI officials debated whether and when to warn Flynn that he could face criminal charges as they prepared for a January 2017 interview with him in the Russia probe. Trump blamed Flynn’s predicament on “dirty cops” and said the documents show Flynn was a victim. “He’s in the process of being exonerated. If you look at those notes from yesterday, that was total exoneration,” Trump said.
To be continued. People will go to jail.
• Sidney Powell: More Evidence Shows FBI Set Up Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (SAC)
In another dramatic twist of events 15 documents unsealed Thursday show that the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team and senior FBI officials had worked diligently behind the scenes to target former National Security Advisor for President Trump Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has withdrawn his guilty plea and is fighting for his case to be dismissed by the courts. Further, the text messages reveal that there was an original 302 interview with Flynn that was never turned over to the defense. In those text messages between former FBI lovebirds Attorney Lisa Page and FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, they discuss the interview that was conducted with Flynn at the White House and allude to the alteration of the document.
Those explosive documents suggest that the FBI was planning on closing the case on Flynn because there was no proof that he committed any crimes. In fact, the case against Flynn was closed on January 4, 2017 but reopened, according to text messages unsealed and obtained by Powell. The documents, which reveal his FBI code name ‘Crossfire Razor,’ expose that the Department of Justice withheld large amounts of exculpatory evidence from his defense team and, according to his attorney Sidney Powell, reveal egregious government misconduct. “To be clear, we now know by the production of new text messages between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok that there in fact exists an original 302 document created by SSA 1 from his own notes of the January 24, 2017 ambush interview of Gen Flynn,” said Powell.
“Further, we know in fact that SSA 1’s original 302 document went to Stzrok who rewrote it substantially, but tried not to “completely re-write it so as to save [redacted] voice” and then was shared by Stzrok with a “pissed off” Page who revised it substantively yet again, crafting the narrative to charge Gen Flynn with a crime he did not commit.” She noted that as repugnant as this conduct is on its face, “the travel of this vital document establishes continuously – and until this day – the original FBI agents, the prosecutors, and FBI management’s determination to withhold exculpatory evidence required under Brady, among other violations of Gen Flynn’s civil rights. They withheld it not only to try to convict an innocent man, but to hide their own crimes.”
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