Vincent van Gogh Branches Of An Almond Tree In Blossom in Red 1890
No records, nothing terribly spectacular, but the numbers remain elevated. When you look at the daily new cases in the US since mid-June, that’s quite the graph.
Slaughterhouses and care homes. What do they have in common?
• Coronavirus Traveled Nearly 30 Feet At German Slaughterhouse (ZH)
COVID-19 particles traveled 26 feet across a German slaughterhouse where approximtely 1,500 workers contracted the virus, according to researchers who reconstructed the likely cause of the outbreak at the Toennies Groups slaughterhouse in Rheda-Wiedenbrueck. According to Bloomberg, a combination of cold, stale air allowed the virus to spread over such a long distance, raising concerns that the same might happen at meat plants worldwide. And while the virus is significantly less deadly than originally thought, it can lead to significant disruptions, as it takes between two weeks and several months to recover. Some patients still report symptoms, though how contagious they are is yet to be seen.
“Similar conditions at plants globally are a reason they’ve become virus epicenters, according to the report from groups including the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research. Meat plants from the U.S. to the U.K. and South America have seen the rapid spread of the virus, infecting thousands of employees who often work in close proximity on processing lines. Dozens of workers have died, and labor advocates have said that a lack of social distancing could continue to put people at risk. Outbreaks also forced American meat plants to close earlier this year, sparking some protein shortages”. -Bloomberg
The Tonnies outbreak is believed to have been caused in May by a single employee who infected the rest of their co-workers in the plant’s dismantling area, where temperatures hover around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Adam Grundhoff, co-author of the study, chilly air circulated without frequent changes, combined with a strenuous work environment, helped move virus particles long distances. “It is very likely that these factors generally play a crucial role in the global outbreaks in meat or fish processing plants,” said Grundhoff, a research group leader at the Heinrich Pette Institute, Leibniz Institute for Experimental Virology. He added that distances of 1.5 to 3 meters (5 to 10 feet) is insufficient to prevent transmission.
“The Toennies plant — Germany’s largest pork abattoir — reopened last week after a month-long closure and plans to gradually ramp up output. The company, which posted a link to the research report on Twitter, also recently released a 25-point plan detailing measures it’s making to prevent further outbreaks. They include testing employees twice a week, hiring workers directly and overhauling ventilation. The report’s findings show that no factory worldwide was built for such a crisis, and the company has invested in air filters and other mechanisms to protect employees, a Toennies spokesman said by email. -Bloomberg The workers’ housing conditions were not found to play a significant role in the outbreaks.
Keep the profit making out of it.
• US Clears Way For Drugmakers To Share COVID Antibody Capacity (R.)
The U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday said it will not stand in the way of efforts by companies, including Eli Lilly and Co and Amgen Inc, to share information to help scale up capacity to manufacture antibody treatments for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus. In a letter to Lilly, Amgen, AbCellera Biologics, AstraZeneca Plc, Roche Holding’s Genentech unit and GlaxoSmithKline Plc, the DOJ said demand for monoclonal antibodies targeting COVID-19 is likely to exceed what one firm could produce on its own. The drugmakers are in various stages of developing experimental monoclonal antibodies – manufactured proteins designed to bind to a targeted cell, neutralize it and mark it for destruction by the immune system – for treatment, or even prevention, of COVID-19.
Monoclonal antibodies are among the most common type of biotech medicines, used for cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and many other conditions. The DOJ did not include Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc, which expects to have definitive trial results for its dual-antibody treatment by late summer or early fall. The Department of Health and Human Services in June awarded Regeneron a $450 million contract and the company has cleared the way for U.S. manufacturing of its antibody cocktail by moving production of its other products to a plant in Ireland. “Waiting until regulators approve specific treatments before scaling up manufacturing might delay access to these potentially life-saving medicines by many months,” the agency said in its letter.
I don’t think they’ll let it happen. But only at the very last minute, or even a step beyond that. It’s not about people, it’s about power.
• Over 30 Million Americans About to Lose $600 in Unemployment Benefits (Mish)
How Many Set to Lose $600 Checks? CNBC says More than 25 million Americans are set to lose the $600 unemployment boost next week. The Century Foundation says More than 25 Million Americans Are About to Lose an Essential $600-a-Week Unemployment Insurance Benefit. Forbes says “some 25 million unemployed workers are finishing the last week of the expanded federal unemployment benefits and will soon only receive state unemployment benefits, which average $378 per week.” To determine a better number, let’s review the Department of Labor Guidelines.
Programs which entitle an individual to receive FPUC. This program provides an additional $600 per week to individuals who are collecting regular UC (including Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) and Unemployment Compensation for Ex-Servicemembers (UCX)), as well as the following unemployment compensation programs: • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) • Extended Benefits (EB) • Short-Time Compensation (STC) • Trade Readjustment Allowances (TRA) • Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) • Payments under the Self-Employment Assistance (SEA) program
[..] Republicans, especially Trump, do not want to extend the $600 benefit because many make more being unemployed than they did working. This is what the bickering is all about. The last full week in July ends Saturday July 25 for most state UI programs. And that is when the benefits expire, not July 31. Rubio proposes taking up the lapse in insurance “by the first week in August.” That would be too late.
Don’t use Twitter for anything confidential. Easy.
• More Than 1,000 People At Twitter Had Ability To Aid Hack Of Accounts (R.)
More than a thousand Twitter employees and contractors as of earlier this year had access to internal tools that could change user account settings and hand control to others, two former employees said, making it hard to defend against the hacking that occurred last week. Twitter Inc and the FBI are investigating the breach that allowed hackers to repeatedly tweet from verified accounts of the likes of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Twitter said on Saturday that the perpetrators “manipulated a small number of employees and used their credentials” to log into tools and turn over access to 45 accounts.
On Wednesday, it said that the hackers could have read direct messages to and from 36 accounts but did not identify the affected users. The former employees familiar with Twitter security practices said that too many people could have done the same thing, more than 1,000 as of earlier in 2020, including some at contractors like Cognizant. “That sounds like there are too many people with access,” said Edward Amoroso, former chief security officer at AT&T. Responsibilities among the staff should have been split up, with access rights limited to those responsibilities and more than one person required to agree to make the most sensitive account changes. “In order to do cyber security right, you can’t forget the boring stuff.”
Another matter, like the pandemic preparedness, that has festered for decades, waiting to see the light. Communities should be able to solve this, but not if you make it profit-based.
• How the Child Care Crisis Will Distort the Economy for a Generation (Pol.)
Schools across the U.S. are closed because of the coronavirus, and unlikely to reopen safely anytime soon. Parents are exhausted from constant, round-the-clock care while trying to work from home; some have chosen to leave their jobs, or switch to part-time work, just to take care of their kids. And kids themselves are slipping behind academically. Now comes the bad news: We haven’t seen the worst of it yet. When the economist Betsey Stevenson looks at the pandemic-era economic crisis, she sees a long-simmering child care crisis that has suddenly surged to the foreground of people’s lives—and whose true scope we’ve barely begun to reckon with. Its potential to inflict lasting damage to the economy is enormous, and it’s getting short shrift in the recovery plans coming out of Washington.
“The work of recovering from it will not end just because we have a vaccine,” says Stevenson, a labor economist at the University of Michigan and former member of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. “We are making choices right now about where we will be as an economy in 20 years, in 30 years, based on what we do with these kids.” Among those most likely to be affected are working mothers, who shoulder an outsize share of child care responsibilities, and have suddenly had far more work dropped in their laps. Women already need to make difficult choices between work advancement and their family roles, which can bring down their incomes over time; Stevenson expects the crisis to make that conflict sharply worse: “The impact of the child care crisis on women’s outcomes is going to be felt over the next decade.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that both parents work in two-thirds of families in which married parents have children — as do the majority of America’s 13.6 million single parents. For all of them, there are major long-term financial repercussions of dropping out of the labor market, even temporarily. “When you talk about upward mobility,” she says, “this puts families on just a completely different trajectory that’s not about losing two or three years of income; it’s about being on a lower earnings trajectory for the rest of your life.”
And for anyone hoping a vaccine will allow a quick, healthy reopening sometime next year, she says: Don’t count on it. “We are letting the whole child care system erode in such a way that it’s not going to be there for us when we are fully ready to go back. You’re seeing child care centers that can’t stay in business. They can’t figure out how to reopen. They can’t keep their employees on staff. They’re letting people go,” Stevenson says. “Once we are ready to have all the jobs come back and we’re really ready to recover, even though we’ll have opened the schools, opened the child care centers, the workers aren’t going to be there, the slots aren’t going to be there.”
Apparently nobody is clear on what the law says, or what the plans are, who’s responsible for what.
• Georgia’s Governor And Atlanta’s Mayor Ordered To Mediate Face Mask Fight (R.)
A Georgia judge on Thursday ordered the governor and Atlanta’s mayor to enter mediation over the governor’s lawsuit aimed at stopping the city from enforcing its requirement that people wear masks in public during the coronavirus pandemic. Fulton Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick ordered Governor Brian Kemp and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms to attend mediation with another judge and try to resolve the dispute before an emergency hearing scheduled in the case for Tuesday. Earlier this month, Kemp, a Republican, barred local leaders from requiring people to wear masks. Even so, several Georgia cities, including Democratic-led Atlanta, Savannah and Athens, defied the governor’s order and kept local mandates in place in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
Bottoms told reporters that she and Kemp spoke by phone on the matter. “We are both in agreement that masks saves lives,” she said. “Hopefully we can move past this.” The governor’s office filed a lawsuit on July 16 against Bottoms and the Atlanta city council, arguing that local officials lack the legal authority to override Kemp’s orders. “Kemp must be allowed, as the chief executive of this state, to manage a public health emergency without Mayor Bottoms issuing void and unenforceable orders which only serve to confuse the public,” the 16-page complaint read. More than 4 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with the virus, including more than 150,000 cases in Georgia with more than 3,000 fatalities in the state. Kemp has stood apart even from his Republican counterparts on the mask issue. More than half of all states have statewide mask mandates.
There are no “freedom-loving nations of the world”. There are only power-lovong politicians. And they’re everywhere.
• Pompeo Urges More Assertive Approach To ‘Frankenstein’ China (R.)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo took fresh aim at China on Thursday and said Washington and its allies must use “more creative and assertive ways” to press the Chinese Communist Party to change its ways, calling it the “mission of our time.” Speaking at the Nixon Library in President Richard Nixon’s birthplace in Yorba Linda, California, Pompeo said the former U.S. leader’s worry about what he had done by opening the world to China’s Communist Party in the 1970s had been prophetic. “President Nixon once said he feared he had created a ‘Frankenstein’ by opening the world to the CCP,” Pompeo said. “And here we are.” Nixon, who died in 1994 and was president from 1969-74, opened the way for the establishment of U.S. diplomatic relations with Communist China in 1979 through a series of contacts, including a visit to Beijing in 1972.
In a major speech delivered after Washington’s surprise order this week for China to close its Houston consulate, Pompeo called for an end to “blind engagement” with China and repeated frequently leveled U.S. charges about its unfair trade practices, human rights abuses and efforts to infiltrate American society. He said China’s military had became “stronger and more menacing” and the approach to Beijing should be “distrust and verify,” adapting President Ronald Reagan’s “trust but verify” mantra about the Soviet Union in the 1980s. “The truth is that our policies – and those of other free nations – resurrected China’s failing economy, only to see Beijing bite the international hands that were feeding it,” Pompeo said.
“The freedom-loving nations of the world must induce China to change … in more creative and assertive ways, because Beijing’s actions threaten our people and our prosperity.” Recalling remarks he made after meeting British leaders in London this week, Pompeo said “maybe it’s time for a new grouping of like-minded nations, a new alliance of democracies,” while adding: “If the free world doesn’t change, Communist China will surely change us.” Pompeo said “securing our freedoms from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time,” and America was perfectly positioned to lead it.
“..the flood has already raised the water dammed behind the Three Gorges to 50 — fifty — feet higher than the maximum flood level.”
• China’s Three Gorges Dam At The Brink (AC)
China’s massive Three Gorges Dam project on the upper Yangtze River is at risk. If that dam breaks, the resulting flooding would be a catastrophe of world-historical proportions. Hundreds of millions of people live along the lower Yangtze River. And the catastrophe wouldn’t simply be confined to China. The lower Yangtze is China’s commercial and industrial heartland — which means it is perhaps the world’s most important economic region. If it is swept away by a torrent, it could easily crater the already weak world economy. The Wall Street Journal‘s Jonathan Cheng [..] says that the flood has already raised the water dammed behind the Three Gorges to 50 — fifty — feet higher than the maximum flood level.
Rain is still falling this week in central China. I am told by a Chinese media follower that the government has just raised the emergency level in five affected provinces — Shanxi, Henan, Shandong, Anhui and Jiangsu — to the highest level below martial law, as part of last-ditch efforts to protect the Three Gorges Dam. The state is releasing water from tributary dams, flooding those provinces even worse than they already have been, because the alternative — a Three Gorges Dam collapse — is unthinkable. The WSJ’s Cheng said that China has had its worst economic year in four decades because of Covid, but if that dam goes, the damage to China’s economy will “dwarf” what Covid has done to it.
Thank a war party of your preference.
• Congress Blocks Defunding the Pentagon: What We Could Do With The Money (MPN)
The majority of House Democrats joined with the Republican colleagues yesterday in voting down progressive legislation that would have cut the Pentagon budget by 10 percent ($74 billion) and used the money to fund healthcare, housing, and education for the poorest Americans. The amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, sponsored by Barbara Lee (D–CA) and Mark Pocan (D–WI) was soundly defeated 93-324, with 139 Democrats joining all 185 voting Republicans in rejecting the idea. Despite the defeat, Pocan vowed to continue pushing an anti-war agenda. “We will keep fighting for pro-peace, pro-people budgets until it becomes a reality,” he said.
Democrats who voted against the military budget cuts received over three times the contributions from the defense industry as those who voted for the reduction. Earlier today, the Senate also voted down the proposal. The result will no doubt disappoint the majority of Americans as well. A poll conducted last week by Data for Progress found that 56 percent of the country supported the idea to defund the military and use the money to fight COVID-19 alleviate the growing housing crisis. Democrat-voters supported the plan by 69 to 19 percent, with Republicans also backing it, by 50 to 37 percent. The proposal is hardly a radical shift; the military’s budget has increased by around 20 percent under President Trump alone, reaching near-historic highs.
Erdogan is not done by a long shot. The talk of the day in Greece is all about war. BILD in Germany says Merkel called Erdogan two days ago and narrowly prevented Greece firing on Turkish vessels in the Med.
• Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia Opens As A Mosque For Muslim Prayers (AP)
Hundreds of Muslim faithfuls were making their way to Istanbul’s landmark Hagia Sophia on Friday to take part in the first prayers in 86 years at the structure that once was one of Christendom’s most significant cathedrals, then a mosque and museum before its reconversion into a Muslim place of worship. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to attend the inaugural prayers inside the sixth-century monument along with around 500 dignitaries, as he fulfills what he has described as the “dream of our youth” anchored in Turkey’s Islamic movement. Thousands of men and women, including many who traveled from across Turkey, are set to perform prayers in segregated areas outside Hagia Sophia. Several camped near the structure overnight.
Orthodox church leaders in Greece and the United States, meanwhile, were scheduled to observe “a day of mourning” over the inaugural prayers. Brushing aside international criticism, Erdogan issued a decree restoring the iconic building as a mosque earlier this month, shortly after a Turkish high court ruled that the Hagia Sophia had been illegally made into a museum more than eight decades ago. The structure has since been renamed “The Grand Hagia Sophia Mosque.” The move sparked dismay in Greece, the United States and among Christian churches who had called on Erdogan to maintain it as a museum as a nod to Istanbul’s multi-religious heritage and the structure’s status as a symbol of Christian and Muslim unity. Pope Francis expressed his sadness.
Built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 537, Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque with the 1453 Ottoman conquest of Istanbul. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founding leader of the secular Turkish republic converted the structure into a museum in 1934. Although an annex to the Hagia Sophia, the Sultan’s pavilion, has been open to prayers since the 1990s, religious and nationalists group in Turkey have long yearned for the nearly 1,500-year-old edifice, which they regard as the legacy of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet the conquerer, to be reverted into a mosque.
What happened to streaming?
• Disney Postpones ‘Mulan’ Indefinitely, Delays ‘Avatar’ And ‘Star Wars’ (R.)
Walt Disney Co on Thursday postponed the debut of its movie “Mulan” indefinitely, dealing a new blow to theater operators that were counting on the live-action epic to help attract audiences during a pandemic. ViacomCBS Inc’s Paramount Pictures also said “Top Gun: Maverick”, the much-awaited sequel to the Tom Cruise-starring “Top Gun”, has been delayed to July 2, 2021 from December 23, 2020. “Mulan” was scheduled to reach theaters in March but its release has been postponed several times as many cinemas remain closed. The film had most recently been set to debut on Aug. 21 and theater operators had hoped it would help spark a late-summer rebound for movie-going.
Disney also said it had delayed the next film installments from two of its biggest franchises, “Avatar” and “Star Wars,” by one year as the novel coronavirus has disrupted production. The “Avatar” sequel is now set to debut in theaters in December 2022, and the next “Star Wars” movie in December 2023. “It’s become clear that nothing can be set in stone when it comes to how we release films during this global health crisis,” a Disney representative said. “Today that means pausing our release plans for ‘Mulan’ as we assess how we can most effectively bring this film to audiences around the world.” The “Mulan” delay follows Warner Bros decision to postpone the August release of Christopher Nolan thriller “Tenet.” The two films were seen as theaters’ best chance to salvage part of the lucrative summer season.
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As the last Qantas 747 jet departed Sydney for Mojave retirement, the plane ‘drew’ a kangaroo in the sky off the Australian coast https://t.co/hf7DHWKrEI pic.twitter.com/LOu4GOvmRo
— Reuters (@Reuters) July 24, 2020
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