Sep 292020
 


Fred Stein Times Square at Night 1947

 

Rapid-Testing Drive Unveiled As Virus Deaths Pass One Million (Y!)
Young People Are At Risk Of Severe COVID19 Illness (NBC)
Putin To Be Among First To Receive ‘Controversial’ Sputnik Vaccine (ZH)
Seeing Through Pea Soup (Kunstler)
Biden’s Texas Political Director Accused of Illegal Ballot Harvesting (NF)
Alleged Ilhan Omar Cash-For-Ballot Transaction Caught On Tape (ZH)
New York Times Trump Tax Story Disappoints (Reilly)
Airlines Demand New $25B Bailout after Burning $45B on Share Buybacks (WS)
Ai Weiwei: ‘Too Late’ To Curb China’s Global Influence (BBC)
The Surreal US Case Against Assange (Mercouris)
Julian Assange Faces ‘Torturous’ Months In Parking Space-Sized Cell In US (PA)
I Lived Through Collapse. America Is Already There. (Samarajiva)

 

 

Ron Johnson

 

 

$5 a piece. Remember, Holland charges €225. But 270 million tests is nothing. You need 600 million a week just in the US.

WHO Unveils $600 Million Rapid-Testing Drive (Y!)

Coronavirus tests that deliver results in 15-30 minutes are to be rolled out across the United States and in scores of poorer countries, as health authorities worldwide try to get a handle on a disease that has now killed more than a million people. US President Donald Trump announced 150 million tests would be distributed in America, while the World Health Organization said 120 million more would be available for the developing world at $5 each as long as funding was secured. The testing push comes as the virus shows no sign of receding, with infection numbers climbing rapidly in Europe again and governments there clamping down on movement in an attempt to curb the surge.

Paris, London and Madrid have all been forced to introduce controls to slow infections, and on Monday Dutch authorities became the latest to tighten curbs, while the Czech Republic and Slovakia said they were preparing to declare a state of emergency. The WHO said its $600 million scheme to roll out the quick diagnosis kits across 133 countries in the next six months would enable low- and middle-income nations to close the gap in testing with the rich world. The kits are far faster, cheaper and easier to administer than regular standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab tests but are less sensitive and more likely to return false negatives.

“This will enable the expansion of testing, particularly in hard-to-reach areas that do not have lab facilities or enough trained health workers to carry out PCR tests,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press conference. Experts have for months been calling for widespread adoption of this low-cost technology so that people can test themselves several times a week. Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina said the testing drive “is terrific and is a great start”. But the amount being distributed by the US government was “simply not sufficient” and production should be multiplied ten- or twentyfold, he added.

The tests are part of a limited toolkit available to governments as they seek ways to get the wheels turning on economies that have been crippled in recent months by lockdowns and other restrictions on people’s lives. A million Madrid residents are under partial lockdown, with the city and the surrounding region at the centre of Spain’s second wave. The national government on Monday warned the local authorities of drastic measures if the region failed to move decisively to slow the uncontrolled spread.

Read more …

“Young people should not assume they are immune to the consequences of this disease, and they should do everything they can to avoid it.”

Young People Are At Risk Of Severe COVID19 Illness (NBC)

New findings published this month further reveal how severely Covid-19 can affect young adults. A research paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that among more than 3,200 adults ages 18 to 34 who were hospitalized with the disease, 21 percent required intensive care, 10 percent required mechanical ventilation and nearly 3 percent — 88 patients — died. Of those who survived, 3 percent — 99 patients — had to be discharged to another health care facility to continue their recoveries. “While the vast majority of young adults who get Covid are not going to require hospitalization, those who do have really high risk for these adverse outcomes,” said the study’s author, Dr. Scott Solomon, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “It is not trivial.”

The research is worrisome because the incidence of Covid-19 in the United States is now highest among young adults ages 20 to 29, who from June to August accounted for more than 20 percent of all confirmed cases, according to the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported Wednesday. Adults ages 30 to 39 made up the second-largest group of cases. As young adults return to college campuses — and parties — multiple outbreaks already have been reported across the nation. Doctors are concerned about the spreading infections and the serious cases that can result. “We’re seeing a really rising incidence of Covid-19 in young people, and that’s in part due to activity over the summer, and obviously we’re all very worried about this as they come back to colleges,” Solomon said.

“It’s unfortunate, but I think that we are likely to see an increased percentage of young people who experience these bad outcomes as the number of infections in this group goes up,” he said. Solomon and colleagues used a large health care database to look at serious Covid-19 illnesses in young adults hospitalized in April, May or June. Of the more than 1,000 U.S. hospitals in the database, which treated a total of 63,103 Covid-19 patients during the study period, 3,222 patients, or 5 percent, were young adults admitted to 419 hospitals. Overall, 58 percent of the young adult patients were men, and 57 percent were Black or Hispanic. More than a third were obese, including 25 percent who were morbidly obese (with body mass indexes of 40 or higher), 18 percent had diabetes, and 16 percent had hypertension. [..] Results also showed that the risks of dying or needing mechanical ventilation were more than double in young adult patients who were either morbidly obese or had hypertension.

Read more …

He should offer a free jab to Fauci. And Trump.

Putin To Be Among First To Receive ‘Controversial’ Sputnik Vaccine (ZH)

After previously touting that his own daughter was among the first to take the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, standing in as a prominent early ‘guinea pig’ of sorts vouching for its safety, Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he plans to receive it soon, according to a story in Newsweek on Monday. Without specifying precisely when he would receive the vaccine, which was met with approval by government regulators in August, Putin reportedly indicated it would come before his next trip to South Korea. “Putin has not yet committed publicly to receiving the vaccine—the development of which has been financed by the state Russian Direct Investment Fund—but told South Korean President Moon Jae-in by phone Monday that he would have the shot before a planned visit to Seoul, Newsweek reports.


Moon personally invited Putin to come to South Korea during a call upon the occasion of the 30th anniversary of establishment of the Russian-South Korean diplomatic relations. According to a summary of the call, Russian media sources indicate that Putin told Moon: “I will come to South Korea… I will personally take the Russian vaccine and go.” Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine was developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya research institute with help from the Russian defense ministry. It was tested at Moscow’s state medical university. Initially met with broad global skepticism, Russia’s health ministry last month announced it expects to begin mass anti-coronavirus vaccinations by October, with the first rounds to be administered to front line medical workers as well as teachers.

Read more …

“Then wait to see if he pulls the mask down under his chin as though he was acting the role of Abe Lincoln in a middle school history pageant.”

Seeing Through Pea Soup (Kunstler)

If Joe Biden does show up at Tuesday’s debate, it will be under at least one severe disadvantage: the contest happens at night. Through the preceding weeks, Mr. Biden’s handlers have “put a lid” on his campaign activities at ten o’clock in the morning more days than not, and sometimes at eight-thirty a.m., before the press pool has even digested its oat-milk honey lattes. “A lid” means the candidate makes no appearances nor is available to the media that day. You have to wonder whether Ol’ White Joe can even function after sundown. Senile dementia typically presents more vividly in the evening. The Biden team may seek to counter that with doses of Adderall, an amphetamine.


The side-effects are interesting: “mental / mood changes (such as agitation, aggression, mood swings, abnormal thoughts) uncontrolled movements, continuous chewing / teeth grinding, outbursts of words / sounds, prolonged erections (in males).” Watch for these. Also watch to see whether Mr. Biden steps onstage wearing his trademark black mask. (Mr. Trump, of course, will not mask himself.) The optic will be two-fold: 1) Mr. Biden has something to hide, and 2) Mr. Biden is a weakling for playing up Covid hysteria. Then wait to see if he pulls the mask down under his chin as though he was acting the role of Abe Lincoln in a middle school history pageant. That will be a visual-to-remember! Also, wait for Mr. Biden to deliver a self-knockout punch to himself when he attacks the President’s Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, for being a Catholic.

Read more …

Ballot harvesting was never NOT going to be a story. Let’s see where it goes.

Biden’s Texas Political Director Accused of Illegal Ballot Harvesting (NF)

The Joe Biden campaign’s Texas Political Director has been formally accused of helping to run an illegal ballot harvesting operation, according to two separate affidavits filed Monday at the Texas Supreme Court. Two private investigators, including a former FBI agent and former police officer, testify under oath that they have video evidence, documentation and witnesses to prove that Biden’s Texas Political Director Dallas Jones and his cohorts are currently hoarding mail-in and absentee ballots and ordering operatives to fill the ballots out for people illegally, including for dead people, homeless people, and nursing home residents in the 2020 presidential election. The affidavits were filed as part of the class-action lawsuit against Harris County and the state of Texas, filed by citizens, called Steven Hotze, M.D. et al. Journalist Patrick Howley of NATIONAL FILE has exclusively obtained this testimony and much more evidence will be coming out in the case. Dallas Jones was named the Biden campaign’s Texas Political Director in early September.

HERE IS THE AFFIDAVIT OF PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR AND RETIRED HOUSTON POLICE OFFICER MARK A. AGUIRRE, SUBMITTED UNDER OATH.: AFFIDAVIT OF MARK A. AGUIRRE “My name is Mark A. Aguirre. I am above the age of eighteen years and am fully competent to make this affidavit. The facts stated in this affidavit are within my personal knowledge and are true and correct. “I am a retired captain with the Houston Police Department I am now a private investigator. “I am currently involved in an investigation related to a wide-ranging and fraudulent ballot harvesting scheme in Harris County intended to rig the elections in the Houston/Harris County area. This scheme involves voter fraud on a massive scale.

“Based on interviews, review of documents, and other information, I have identified the individuals in charge of the ballot harvesting scheme. These individuals includes political consultant Dallas Jones who was recently hired by the Joe Biden for President campaign to oversee their Harris County initiative. District 13 Texas State Senator Borris Miles, who is the handler of Mr. Jones, political consultant Gerald Womack, and Precinct 1 Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis. One of the companies these individuals are using as a front for this operation is AB Canvassing, although there are others that have been identified that we are investigating.”

“I have in my possession video-taped interviews of witnesses attesting to the aforementioned people having groups of people completing thousands of absentee and mail-in ballots, including completing ballots for deceased individuals; illegally going into nursing homes, with the complicity of the nursing home staff, and filling out and forging the signatures of nursing home residents; signing up homeless individuals to vote using the ballot harvester’s address then completing the ballot and forging the homeless individual’s signature.

Tulsi Gabbard Ballot harvesting
https://twitter.com/i/status/1307067070283218952

Read more …

There’s also a police investigation into this case. Again, let’s see where that goes.

Alleged Ilhan Omar Cash-For-Ballot Transaction Caught On Tape (ZH)

Update (2338ET): Following an appearance on Fox News’ “Hannity,” James O’Keefe released a second ballot-harvesting video featuring an apparent purchase of a ballot from a Somali resident of Minnesota. The video then features several allegations made by local Somalis regarding the alleged scheme – including Rep. Ilhan Omar’s direct involvement. “She’s [Ilhan Omar] the one who came up with all this [pay-for-vote],” said one source who added. “She’s [Ilhan Omar] the one, somehow. Nobody knew, but, yeah, this is something like new with Ilhan [Omar].” “Jamal Omar said cash for votes is an open secret in Minneapolis. “The techniques that he [Ali Isse] uses to exchange money for vote — that’s not a secret. It’s, it’s open, and everybody knows about it,” he said. “$200, $300 per ballot received!” -Project Veritas


“Nobody would say that Ilhan Omar isn’t part of this,” said Omar Jamal – a Somali community insider and chairman of the Somali Watchdog Group. “Unless you’re from a different planet, but if you live in this universe, I think everybody knows it.” According to Jamal, senior Ilhan Omar staffer Ali Isse Gainey is at the center of the vote-buying scheme. Jamal also said that Ilhan Omar operatives would accompany Somali residents to the voting booth and do the actual voting for the person. “They help us at the voting booth. They allow them to help us,” said one Minneapolis ballot harvester recorded on hidden camera. “They go inside with us and help us, and they actually do that inside there.”

Steve Drazkowski

Hannity Project Veritas

Read more …

I don’t have the impression that many people understand the details. And then it’s easy to shout: SCANDAL.

New York Times Trump Tax Story Disappoints (Reilly)

The main story, Long-Concealed Records Show Trump’s Chronic Losses And Years Of Tax Avoidance, is kind of disappointing. In some ways, the headline shows the problem with their perspective. “Long-Concealed”- As a CPA I am fanatical about protecting confidential client information. I have nightmares about inadvertently letting something out. But I don’t think of that as “concealing”. More to the point they are disclosing that it appears that President Trump has flat out been losing a lot of money – hemorrhaging cash-, which we are supposed to be shocked at. And he has not been paying much if anything in the way of taxes which if the previous is true is not that shocking. In a side highlight piece by David Leonhard, there is a sort of odd comparison.

“In 2017, the average federal income rate for the highest-earning .001 percent of tax filers — that is, the most affluent 1/100,000th slice of the population — was 24.1 percent, according to the I.R.S. Over the past two decades, Mr. Trump has paid about $400 million less in combined federal income taxes than a very wealthy person who paid the average for that group each year.” Presumably that .001 % group is not static. I really don’t see the point of the comparison. Maybe there are a few people who were in it every year for decades, but I doubt it is many. On the underpaying tax theme the reporters seem to be on something of an Easter egg hunt trying to find little tidbits that will excite us.

Even while declaring losses, he has managed to enjoy a lavish lifestyle by taking tax deductions on what most people would consider personal expenses, including residences, aircraft and $70,000 in hairstyling for television. Now they tell us that they have obtained “tax-return data extending over more than two decades”. The graphs show 2000 to 2018, which is odd because they say they did not get the 2018 return. Regardless, apparently somebody went to the trouble of digging the hairstyling for television out of that morass and toting it up to be $70,000. Is that a lot? Trump was in The Apprentice for 14 seasons and he is on television in a lot of other contexts. If the hairstyling is just for The Apprentice, that works out to about $400 per episode.

I reached out to my filmmaker friend Jonathan Schwartz of Audacious Media. He told me that if the styling was taking place on the set with union stylists, it is perfectly reasonable. The fundamental problem with the main story is that it is presenting two contradictory narratives. One is of a very successful person who is managing to not pay any income taxes. The other is of someone whose fortune is melting away.

$0 in taxes

Read more …

Fire the CEO. Easy.

Airlines Demand New $25B Bailout after Burning $45B on Share Buybacks (WS)

October 1 is the day US airlines that accepted their portion of the $25-billion bailout under the CARES Act can start involuntary layoffs of their employees. They’ve been shedding large numbers of employees since March but through voluntary buyouts, early retirements, and other programs that induced employees to temporarily or permanently leave. Now the airlines are engaged in a desperate lobbying effort to get legislation signed into law that would provide the next $25-billion bailout package. Threats have been flying, so to speak, to motivate Congress to get this done. American Airlines CEO Doug Parker told CBS News on Sunday that if there isn’t a new bailout program, “there are going to be 100,000 aviation professionals who are out of work, who wouldn’t be otherwise.”

This would include the 18,000 employees American Airlines has threatened to lay off. So airlines have been lobbying hard. “You know, we have everyone putting us in every bill they have,” Parker said. “We just need the bills to be laws. We need laws not bills.” American Airlines was also the airline that blew, incinerated, wasted, and trashed more than any other airline on share buybacks. Buybacks ceased in the second quarter, but from 2013 through Q1 2020, American Airlines incinerated $13.1 billion in cash on share buybacks. That cash would now come in very handy. 2013 was also the year Mr. Parker became CEO of American Airlines.

Delta blew, wasted, and incinerated $11.7 billion in cash on share buybacks over the period; Southwest Airlines, $10.9 billion (starting in 2012); and United $8.9 billion. In total, the big four airlines blew, wasted, and incinerated $44.6 billion in cash on share buybacks from 2012 through Q1 2020, and now the airlines want an additional $25 billion bailout, for a total of $50 billion, much of it in forms of grants, from taxpayers (data via YCharts):

In terms of the numbers of passengers entering airports in the US, over six months into the Pandemic, the business is still down nearly 70% from last year, according to TSA airport screenings. The interesting thing is how the recovery is not happening, and how the strong seasonal patterns have disappeared. Normally, the passenger count drops sharply in the weeks before Labor Day from the summer peak in June, July, and early August. But after Labor Day, business travel picks up, and older folks with kids out of school start traveling, and the passenger count rises sharply in September. But none of that is happening this year. The chart below shows TSA checkpoint screenings per day, as a seven-day moving average through September 27, last year (black) versus this year (red):

The airline industry invented a new metric during the Pandemic: “daily cash burn.” The purpose is to give investors a feel for the progress in implementing the airlines’ survival strategies. Every airline now cites this metric. The idea is to make this number as small as possible by cutting capacity, shedding employees, and reducing costs wherever possible. Investors who’ve been coddled over the years through share-buybacks, have helped fund the airlines’ daily cash burn by buying the newly issued bonds and shares. They have done so because they counted on support from taxpayers and the Fed. Investors should continue to step up to the plate and fund that daily cash burn. But taxpayers – they’re already sitting on billions of dollars in tickets they can’t get refunds for though they can use the “credits” or whatever in the future – shouldn’t be shanghaied into funding airlines. That’s Wall Street’s job.

Read more …

“The official government slogan was: “Hide your light and bide your time”.

Ai Weiwei: ‘Too Late’ To Curb China’s Global Influence (BBC)

The leading Chinese dissident, the artist and filmmaker Ai Weiwei, says China’s influence has become so great that it can’t now be effectively stopped. “The West should really have worried about China decades ago. Now it’s already a bit too late, because the West has built its strong system in China and to simply cut it off, it will hurt deeply. That’s why China is very arrogant.” Ai Weiwei has never minced his words about China. “It is a police state,” he says. The artist famously designed the Bird’s Nest stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but ran into serious problems after he spoke out against the Chinese government. Eventually, in 2015, he left China to come to the West. He lived first in Berlin, and last year settled in Cambridge. Mr Ai believes that China today uses its immense economic power to impose its political influence.


It’s certainly true that China has become much more assertive in recent years. Until around a decade ago, China presented a modest face to the world. The official government slogan was: “Hide your light and bide your time”. Ministers insisted that China was still a developing country with a lot to learn from the West. Then Xi Jinping came to power. He became secretary-general of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012, and President the following year. He introduced a new tone. The old modesty faded, and there was a different slogan: “Strive for achievement”. In some ways China is still a developing country, with 250 million people below the poverty line. Yet it is already the world’s second-biggest economy, and is on course to overtake the US over the next decade or so. China’s influence in the world is becoming more and more obvious, at a time when America’s authority has visibly declined.

Read more …

Very good and long explanation of what is going on. We’re in the 4th and last week.

The Surreal US Case Against Assange (Mercouris)

Following the Julian Assange case as it has progressed through its various stages, from the original Swedish allegations right up to and including the extradition hearing which is currently underway in the Central Criminal Court in London, has been a troubling and very strange experience. The U.S. government has failed to present a coherent case. Conscious that the British authorities should in theory refuse to extradite Assange if the case against him were shown to be politically motivated and/or related to Assange’s legitimate work as a journalist, the U.S. government has struggled to present a case against Assange which is not too obviously politically motivated or related to Assange’s legitimate work as a journalist. This explains the strange succession of one original and two superseding indictments.

The U.S. government’s first indictment was based on what was a supposedly simple allegation of computer interference, supposedly coordinated in some sort of conspiracy between Assange and Chelsea Manning. This was obviously done in an attempt to dispel the idea that the request for Assange’s extradition was politically motivated or was related to Assange’s legitimate work as a journalist. However lawyers in the United States had no difficulty pointing out the “inchoate facts” of the alleged conspiracy between Assange and Manning, whilst both lawyers and journalists in the United States and elsewhere pointed out that the facts in the indictment in fact bore all the hallmarks of action by a journalist to protect a source.

The result was that the U.S. government replaced its indictment with a first superseding indictment, which this time was founded largely on the 1917 Espionage Act, and was therefore closer to the real reasons why the case against Assange was being brought. However, that made the case look altogether too obviously politically motivated, so it has in turn been replaced by a second superseding indictment, presented to the court and the defence team virtually on the eve of the trial, which has sought to veer back towards strictly criminal allegations, this time of involvement in computer hacking. The allegations in the second superseding indictment have however faced major difficulties, in that they do not seem to concern the United States and may not even be actual crimes.

Also they rely heavily on the evidence of a known fraudster, whose “evidence” is inherently unreliable. The U.S. government has failed to make clear whether the additional allegations in the second superseding indictment are intended to constitute a separate standalone case. Initially they appeared to deny that they did; then they hinted that they might do; now however they seem to be acting as if they don’t. As if that were not confusing enough, the U.S. government and its British lawyers have floated confusing and contradictory theories about whether or not the British authorities can extradite Assange even if the case against him is politically motivated, and even if it is related to his journalistic activities.

Initially they seemed to be arguing that — contrary to all British precedent and the actual text of the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Britain — Britain can in fact extradite Assange to the U.S. on a politically motivated charge, because the enabling Act which the British Parliament passed, which made the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Britain a part of British law, is silent on whether or not individuals can be extradited to the U.S. on a politically motivated charge. This argument of course came close to conceding that the case against Assange is politically motivated after all. This threadbare argument, at least for the moment, seems to have been abandoned. At least nothing has been heard of it throughout the current hearing. Instead the U.S. government and its British lawyers have argued, in the face of the incredulity of a string of expert and factual witnesses, that the case is not politically motivated after all.

Read more …

It’s criminal to inflict this on anyone.

Julian Assange Faces ‘Torturous’ Months In Parking Space-Sized Cell In US (PA)

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange could be left “twiddling his thumbs” in a cell the size of a parking space if extradited to the US, a court has heard. The 49-year-old is fighting extradition to the US on charges related to leaks of classified documents allegedly exposing war crimes. Assange’s defence have claimed he is a “high” suicide risk, having already spent 16 months in top security Belmarsh jail in south London. On Monday, the Old Bailey heard from witnesses with experience of the Alexandria Detention Centre in Virginia, Assange’s likely pre-trial destination if he was extradited. The court heard that due to his high profile and his perceived national security risk, he could be placed in an administrative segregation (ad seg) unit.

Prisoner advocate Joel Sickler told the court there was a historical tendency of detainees with “some notoriety” or facing allegations involving national security to be placed in “ad seg”. Assange’s case involved “broad publicity internationally” and the US government allegation that he was a “national security concern, if not outright threat”, the witness said. Sickler added that there were issues over Assange’s safety from the “more sophisticated inmate population” and self harm. On conditions in an “ad seg” unit, he said: “It’s a very small confined space with a steel door and a small window, a little slot where meals are pushed through. “It’s a very small area – like a parking space.” Sickler said there would be limited contact with other inmates, saying the suggestion they could communicate between cells was “ridiculous”.

He said: “You have to scream. There’s a lot of noise and a lot of screaming because from a mental health standpoint, people are angry and confused and there’s a lot of yelling.” On the issue of sensory deprivation, he said: “First of all you have very limited social interaction with any others. “You have little access to the outside world except from a rare few monitored phone calls and meeting with counsel. “You are twiddling your thumbs. You have access to reading material but otherwise your whole world is the four corners of that room.” Defence barrister Edward Fitzgerald QC asked: “If someone wishes to commit suicide in pre-trial detention would it be possible to stop that?” Sickler said: “Based on decades of experience, I have probably had a dozen or so clients commit suicide. I can say if they are intent on committing suicide, it can be done.”

Suzie Dawson

Read more …

Well written. But are things as similar as suggested?

I Lived Through Collapse. America Is Already There. (Samarajiva)

l Iived through the end of a civil war — I moved back to Sri Lanka in my twenties, just as the ceasefire fell apart. Do you know what it was like for me? Quite normal. I went to work, I went out, I dated. This is what Americans don’t understand. They’re waiting to get personally punched in the face while ash falls from the sky. That’s not how it happens. This is how it happens. Precisely what you’re feeling now. The numbing litany of bad news. The ever rising outrages. People suffering, dying, and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner. If you’re trying to carry on while people around you die, your society is not collapsing. It’s already fallen down.

I was looking through some old photos for this article and the mix is shocking to me now. Almost offensive. There’s a burnt body in front of my office. Then I’m playing Scrabble with friends. There’s bomb smoke rising in front of the mall. Then I’m at a concert. There’s a long line for gas. Then I’m at a nightclub. This is all within two weeks. Today I’m like, “Did we live like this?” But we did. I mean, I did. Was I a rich Colombo fuckboi while poorer people died, especially minorities? Well, yes. I wrote about it, but who cares. The real question is, who are you? I mean, you’re reading this. You have the leisure to ponder American collapse like it’s even a question. The people really experiencing it already know.

As someone who’s already experienced societal breakdown, here’s the truth: America has already collapsed. What you’re feeling is exactly how it feels. It’s Saturday and you’re thinking about food while the world is on fire. This is normal. This is life during collapse. Collapse does not mean you’re personally dying right now. It means y’all are dying right now. Death is sometimes close, sometimes far away, but always there. I used to judge those herds of gazelle when the lion eats one of them alive and everyone keeps going — but no, humans are just the same. That’s the real meaning of herd immunity. We’re fundamentally immune to giving a shit.

It honestly becomes mundane (for the privileged). As Colombo kids we used to go out, worry about money, fall in love — life went on. We’d pop the trunk for a bomb check. Turn off our lights for the air raids. I’m not saying that we were untouched. My friend’s dad was killed, suddenly, by a landmine. RIP Uncle Nihal. I know people who were beaten, arrested, and went into exile. But that’s not what my photostream looks like. It was mostly food and parties and normal stuff for a dumb twentysomething. If you’re waiting for a moment where you’re like “this is it,” I’m telling you, it never comes. Nobody comes on TV and says “things are officially bad.” There’s no launch party for decay. It’s just a pileup of outrages and atrocities in between friendships and weddings and perhaps an unusual amount of alcohol.

Perhaps you’re waiting for some moment when the adrenaline kicks in and you’re fighting the virus or fascism all the time, but it’s not like that. Life is not a movie, and if it were, you’re certainly not the star. You’re just an extra. If something good or bad happens to you it’ll be random and no one will care. If you’re unlucky you’re a statistic. If you’re lucky, no one notices you at all. Collapse is just a series of ordinary days in between extraordinary bullshit, most of it happening to someone else. That’s all it is.

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site.

Click at the top of the sidebars for Paypal and Patreon donations. Thank you for your support.

 

 

Upton Sinclair quote, from his 1927 novel “Oil!”.

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime, election time, all the time.

 

Aug 272020
 


Boris Ignatovich Moscow At the Hermitage, Leningrad 1930

 

Hurricane Laura Makes Landfall as Cat. 4 Storm, Moves Inland (WC)
Biden’s Polling Lead Has Collapsed (Palumbo)
Trump Job Approval Rating Hits Record At 52%, Up With Blacks, Even Dems (WE)
DOJ Asks Four States For COVID Data On Nursing Home Deaths (JTN)
Obesity Increases Risk Of COVID19 Death By Almost 50% (G.)
Non-Woven Masks Better To Stop COVID19, Says Japanese Supercomputer (G.)
6 Feet May Not Always Be Enough Distance To Protect From COVID19 (NBC)
The Tragic Hydroxychloroquine Debate and Dr. Fauci’s Denial of Evidence (RCP)
What Is Gilead’s Role In The War On Hydroxychloroquine? (Chaves)
Airlines Threaten October Jobs Massacre Unless they Get 2nd Bailout (WS)
France & Italy Throw Weight Behind Greece As Naval War Games Kick Off (RT)
The New Media Elite Are Rapacious Monopolists, And We Are Their Food (Lewis)
Good News for Birds – and Wind Power (Adler)
Your Dreams Are A Continuation Of Your Reality (RT)

 

 

US new daily cases look sort of okay, as a trendline, when you watch the past 2 months. But they have crossed the 6 million figure now, as global cases are gunning for 25 million, and the trend there is much less positive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We don’t do jobs

 

 

Be safe.

Hurricane Laura Makes Landfall as Cat. 4 Storm, Moves Inland (WC)

Laura is near the extreme southwest Louisiana coast and tracking to the north-northwest at about 15 mph. The hurricane is a Category 4 and steady weakening is now expected through the morning hours. Laura’s maximum sustained winds jumped from 75 mph to 140 mph in the 24 hours ending 1 p.m. CDT Wednesday. That increase in maximum sustained winds easily meets the definition of rapid intensification in a hurricane. Hurricane conditions are ongoing in southwestern Louisiana. More than 9 feet of storm surge is inundating the coast near Cameron, Louisiana. A water level station at Eugene Island, Louisiana reported about 3.2 feet of inundation above ground level early Wednesday afternoon and a wind gust of 45 mph.

A 133 mph gust and an 85 mph sustained wind were measured in Lake Charles early Friday morning. A 127 mph wind gust was measured early Thursday morning at Calcasieu Pass, Louisiana and a sustained wind of 93 mph was recently measured in Cameron, Louisiana. NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center has issued a tornado watch valid until 8 a.m. CDT for parts of Louisiana and southeastern Texas. The watch area includes Baton Rouge, Alexandria, Lake Charles and Beaumont. Laura has prompted hurricane and storm surge warnings for the northwest Gulf Coast.


A storm surge warning is in effect from Freeport, Texas, to the mouth of the Mississippi River in southeast Louisiana, including Galveston Bay and areas inside the Port Arthur, Texas, hurricane flood protection system. This means a life-threatening storm surge is expected in the next 36 hours. Residents in these areas should heed all evacuation orders and instructions from local emergency management and take necessary precautions to protect life and property.

Read more …

Rasmussen is changing fast.

Biden’s Polling Lead Has Collapsed (Palumbo)

Just a month and a half ago, Rasmussen Reports had Joe Biden 10-points ahead of President Donald Trump in the polls. Now he’s only ahead by one point, within the margin of error. Even if Biden’s now-slim lead in the polls were to remain frozen as of today, Trump would still have a clear path to an electoral college victory, as Hillary Clinton lead Trump in the popular vote by just over two points in the 2016 election. While it is impossible to know the exact reason (or reasons) for Biden’s polling collapse, it comes as the economy continues to rebound from the coronavirus, riots continue to ravage liberal run cities longer than anyone expected (to no condemnation from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris), and a Democrat National Convention widely viewed to be a snoozefest was held.


It’s hard to imagine how anyone could’ve had their mind changed by the extended Zoom meeting that was the DNC, but the RNC is changing hearts and minds – or at least some. Of note, Rasmussen was among the closest mainstream pollster in approximating the popular vote in the 2016 election. Rasmussen had Hillary Clinton up 1.7 points over Trump on election day 2016, while she ended up winning the popular vote by 2.1 points above him (48.2% vs. 46.1%). The Real Clear Politics average of polls had Hillary up for six points. Unlike the other polls, Rasmussen correctly saw Trump had a path to victory in the electoral college.

Read more …

The tables are starting to turn. Is it just the riots? Or should I ask again if Dems really want to win?

Trump Job Approval Rating Hits Record At 52%, Up With Blacks, Even Dems (WE)

Buoyed by blacks and independent voters, as well as urban dwellers shocked by the Black Lives Matter protest violence raging in some cities, President Trump’s approval rating has hit a new high, according to a survey heavy with minority voters. The latest Zogby Analytics poll just shared with Secrets had Trump’s approval at 52%. “The president has recorded his best job approval rating on record,” said pollster Jonathan Zogby. What’s more, his approval rating among minorities was solid and, in the case of African Americans, shockingly high. Zogby said 36% of blacks approve of the president, as do 37% of Hispanics and 35% of Asians. Approval among independent voters is also up, to 44%. And “intriguingly,” said Zogby, 23% of Democrats approve of Trump.

It was the latest to show that Trump’s approval went up during the Democratic National Convention. Rasmussen Reports had it at 51% at the end of the convention. In a shock from past election years, Joe Biden got no convention poll bounce, according to a newly released Reuters/Ipsos poll. The Republican National Convention still has two days to go. Last night’s address by first lady Melania Trump won good reviews. Tonight, Vice President Mike Pence speaks, and Thursday is Trump’s night. Pollsters have been somewhat at a loss to explain the rise of Trump’s approval ratings, considering that there has been little positive news to help his standings other than the peace deal he helped negotiate between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.


Zogby, in his analysis, took a stab at the reasoning. First, he said, his and other polls are confirming that the nation is nearly evenly divided politically and that despite some showing a big Biden lead, the race is extremely close. He suggested that the battle is for the “10%-20%” who haven’t made their minds up on whom to vote for and who likely won’t make up their minds until Election Day, just like in 2016. “We are as polarized a nation, on a level not seen since the Civil War,” said Zogby. He also said that the violence playing out in cities such as Kenosha, Wisconsin, and Portland, Oregon, are pushing urban voters to Trump.

Rasmussen

Read more …

This should happen in many countries. Familes have a right to know.

DOJ Asks Four States For COVID Data On Nursing Home Deaths (JTN)

The Justice Department on Wednesday requested COVID-19 data from four states it says required nursing homes to accept residents infected with the coronavirus, policies that may have rendered elderly Americans “unnecessarily put at risk.” The department said in a Wednesday press release that it was seeking “COVID-19 data from the governors of states that issued orders which may have resulted in the deaths of thousands of elderly nursing home residents.” The department named New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan as the states in question.

Data indicate that a significant percentage of all COVID-19 deaths worldwide—possibly approaching half of all fatalities—have been in long-term care facilities, locations where advanced ages and chronic medical conditions make patients much more vulnerable to infectious diseases. The Justice Department notes that in late March New York State ordered that “no resident shall be denied re-admission or admission to [a nursing home] solely based on a confirmed or suspected diagnosis of COVID-19.” “Protecting the rights of some of society’s most vulnerable members, including elderly nursing home residents, is one of our country’s most important obligations,” Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Division Eric Dreiband said in the press release.

“We must ensure they are adequately cared for with dignity and respect and not unnecessarily put at risk.” The requests “are not accusations of fault or wrongdoing by the states or any other individual or entity, and the department has not reached any conclusions about these matters,” the department noted. The letters to the four state governors request various types of state-run nursing home-related data, including the number of residents and staff of such homes that contracted COVID-19, the number of deaths at the homes, and “all State-issued guidance, directives, advisories, or executive orders regarding admission of persons to Public Nursing Homes.”

Read more …

Keto. Ditch sugar, ditch carbs. Someone open a chain of keto restaurants.

Obesity Increases Risk Of COVID19 Death By Almost 50% (G.)

Obesity increases the risk of dying of Covid-19 by nearly 50% and may make vaccines against the disease less effective, according to a comprehensive study using global data. The findings, which the lead researcher described as “scary”, show that the risks for people with obesity are greater than previously thought. The study, commissioned for the World Bank, will increase pressure on governments to tackle obesity, including in the UK where Boris Johnson has put himself at the head of a drive to reduce the nation’s weight. The prime minister hit out last year at “sin taxes” such as the UK’s sugary drinks levy, but his own spell in intensive care with Covid-19, which he blames on his weight, has convinced him that tough measures are needed to reduce obesity levels.


It is understood that even taxes are no longer off the table. The US and UK have some of the highest obesity rates in the world. US government data shows that more than 40% of Americans are obese. The figure in England is more than 27% of adults. The new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill into the effects of Covid-19 on people with obesity, defined as a BMI over 30, finds they are at greater risk from the virus in every way. Their risk of ending up in hospital with Covid-19 increases by 113%, of needing intensive care by 74%, and of dying of the virus by 48%. The study was led by Prof Barry Popkin, of the department of nutrition at the UNC Gillings Global School of Public Health, who said he was shocked by the findings. The risk of dying of Covid-19 for people with obesity was significantly higher than anyone had thought.

“That’s a pretty big effect for me,” he said. “It is a 50% increase essentially. That’s a pretty high scary number. All of it is actually, much higher than I ever expected.” The risk of being admitted to hospital for people with obesity was doubled, he said. “That, ICU admission and mortality are really high. They all shocked me, to be honest.” The study, published in the journal Obesity Reviews, is a meta-analysis, bringing together data from many studies carried out around the world, including China, France, Italy, the UK and the US. Obesity is a global problem that no country has yet successfully tackled. People with obesity often have underlying medical conditions that put them at greater risk from the coronavirus, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Obesity can also cause metabolic changes, such as insulin resistance and inflammation which make it harder for the body to fight off infections.

Read more …

“Cotton and polyester masks were slightly less effective, but were still able to block at least 80% of droplets.”

“Polyester and cotton masks allowed up to 40% of the smaller droplets to escape.”

The whole mask thing is made so complex by the “experts” and the media that nobody understands it anymore, so you got all these people walking the steets with masks on, where they serve zero purpose, and people in confined spaces, where they do, wearing none and clamoring about their liberty and birth rights. Some things we can still figure out ourselves. Wear the things where they are appropriate, but only there.

Non-Woven Masks Better To Stop COVID19, Says Japanese Supercomputer (G.)

Face masks made from non-woven fabric are more effective at blocking the spread of Covid-19 via airborne respiratory droplets than other types that are commonly available, according to modelling in Japan by the world’s fastest supercomputer. Fugaku, which can perform more than 415 quadrillion computations a second, conducted simulations involving three types of mask, and found that non-woven masks were better than those made of cotton and polyester at blocking spray emitted when the wearer coughs, the Nikkei Asian Review said. Non-woven masks refer to the disposable medical masks that are commonly worn in Japan during the flu season, and now during the coronavirus pandemic.

They are made from polypropylene, and are relatively cheap to make in large numbers. Woven masks, including those used in the Fugaku simulation, are typically made from fabrics such as cotton, and appeared in some countries after non-woven versions were temporarily in short supply. They can be reused and generally offer more breathability but, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), should be washed in soap or detergent and water of at least 60C at least once a day. The non-woven variety blocked nearly all droplets emitted in a cough, according to experts at Riken, a government-backed research institute in the western city of Kobe.

Cotton and polyester masks were slightly less effective, but were still able to block at least 80% of droplets. Non-woven “surgical” masks were slightly less effective at blocking smaller droplets measuring 20 micrometres or less, with more than 10% escaping through gaps between the edge of the mask and the face, according to the computer model. One micrometre is one millionth of a metre. Polyester and cotton masks allowed up to 40% of the smaller droplets to escape. [..] Makoto Tsubokura, team leader at Riken’s centre for computational science, encouraged people to cover up despite the heatwave gripping large parts of Japan.

“What is most dangerous is not wearing a mask,” Tsubokura said, according to the Nikkei. “It’s important to wear a mask, even a less effective cloth one.” Fugaku, which was named the world’s fastest supercomputer last month, has also run simulations on how respiratory droplets spread in partitioned office spaces and on packed trains when the carriage windows are open. Although it will not be fully operational until next year, experts are hoping the 130bn yen ($1.2bn) supercomputer will help identify treatments for Covid-19 from about 2,000 existing drugs, including those that have yet to reach the clinical trial stage.

Read more …

No, you don’t get to change your ideas every other day just because you call yourself an expert.

This has nothing to do with COVID19 specifically. This is a general virus issue, and we could have defined these things well before the pandemic. And some people did.

6 Feet May Not Always Be Enough Distance To Protect From COVID19 (NBC)

The current guidance for safe social distancing may not be enough to stop the spread of COVID-19, a new analysis suggests. In the report, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Oxford say other factors, such as ventilation, crowd size, exposure time and whether face coverings are worn, need to be considered, as well. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the advice has been to keep at least 6 feet away from other people indoors and outdoors. “COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period of time,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, in the report, published Tuesday in The BMJ, the researchers wrote that “physical distancing should be seen as only one part of a wider public health approach to containing the covid-19 pandemic.” Lydia Bourouiba, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at MIT and co-author of the report, said, “It’s not just 6 feet and then everything else can be ignored or just mask and everything else can be ignored or just ventilation and everything else can be ignored.” It’s important to distinguish between high-risk and low-risk exposure, Bourouiba said.

Some evidence suggests that the coronavirus may travel more than 6 feet through activities like coughing and shouting, the researchers wrote. In the highest-risk situations, such as indoors with poor ventilation, large crowds, prolonged contact time and no face coverings, distancing beyond 6 feet should be considered. Locations that fall under this category include bars, stadiums or restaurants. In low-risk scenarios, such as in outdoor spaces with few people nearby, less stringent social distancing should be adequate.

Read more …

Nobody is testing HCQ, azithromycin or doxycycline, and zinc (“triple therapy”) appropriately.

The Tragic Hydroxychloroquine Debate and Dr. Fauci’s Denial of Evidence (RCP)

There are well-established criteria for when an observed association can be ascribed to causation, which Dr. Risch meticulously took into consideration. These criteria were originally developed by the pioneering British epidemiologist Sir Austin Hill. Thus Dr. Risch’s scientific inference of the treatment efficacy of administering HCQ, azithromycin or doxycycline, and zinc (“triple therapy”), as early as possible in outpatient settings to people at greatest risk, in order to prevent the SARS-CoV-2 infection from turning into a dangerous life-threatening “florid disease” is sound. In an open letter to Dr. Anthony Fauci, George C. Fareed, MD, of Brawley, California, Michael M. Jacobs, MD, MPH, of Pensacola, Florida, and Donald C. Pompan, MD, of Salinas, California, demonstrate the flaws in the positions adopted by NIH and FDA and give strong support to Dr. Risch. In particular, they criticize the nihilism of demanding proof of efficacy from randomized clinical trials (RCTs), when time is short and when highly suggestive observational proof of the efficacy of these inexpensive drugs exists.

In the past, the FDA has approved many drugs without RCTs; penicillin was so efficacious in the treatment of pneumonia that there was no need for an RCT to have penicillin registered. Perhaps most disturbing is that not a single RCT is designed to test the efficacy of the triple therapy in outpatient settings as early as possible among those most at risk. Nevertheless, the official position is that “the overwhelming evidence from properly conducted RCTs indicates no therapeutic efficacy of HCQ,” though the RCTs are simply designed not to answer the right question: whether the triple therapy prevents deaths among the elderly and those with comorbidities when taken in outpatient settings, even before people are notified about the lab result as to whether they have Covid-19. It cannot be ethical for public health bodies to demand impossible standards of proof for potential lifesaving therapies.

[..] Dr. Fauci’s position seems remarkably similar to that of the famous English statistician Ronald A. Fisher, who, in 1957, denied that tobacco smoking caused lung cancer, despite evidence of the strong statistical relationship. Fisher argued vehemently that observational data cannot prove causality. It is disturbing that Dr. Fauci does not engage in honest scientific debate based on observational evidence but rather resorts to personalized attacks. As Dr. Risch put it: “The pushback has been furious. Dr. Anthony Fauci has implied that I am incompetent, notwithstanding my hundreds of highly regarded, methodologically relevant publications in peer-reviewed scientific literature.”

Read more …

Yes, the Lancet screwed up badly.

What Is Gilead’s Role In The War On Hydroxychloroquine? (Chaves)

Is Gilead, the maker of Remdesivir, waging war on HCQ (hydroxychloroquine)? Attacks on the drug have been continuous ever since Dr. Didier Raoult used this quinine derivative to save the lives of COVID-19 patients last March. The first attempt to discredit HCQ was a hastily compiled Veterans’ Administration hospital system study last April. Notably, one of the study’s authors had in the past received numerous grants from Gilead, with one grant in 2018 totaling nearly a quarter of a million dollars. After deep flaws in the V.A. study were exposed, Surgisphere came to the rescue in May with a “15,000 patient” megastudy allegedly compiled from hospitals all over the world.

This strategy succeeded: following its publication in the Lancet and the NEJM, all outpatient use of HCQ was severely restricted in the U.S., Australia, and most of Europe. When the Surgisphere scam was exposed, both articles were quietly retracted, and the editor-in-chief of the Lancet tried to wash his hands of this embarrassing incident by denouncing Surgisphere’s “monumental fraud.” However only a few days earlier, Lancet editors played a major role in persuading the WHO to suspend all trials for HCQ. Who put them up to it? The study’s main author, Mandeep Mehra, also apologized for his reliance on a third party for the data. He may not have known that the data were fabricated, but the hospital he directed was conducting two trials for Remdesivir. Was he under pressure from his sponsors?

These are the stakes: a five-day treatment with Remdesivir costs around $3,000. A five-day supply of generic HCQ costs around $10. Drug companies have every right to recoup their cost of research and development, but lobbying to suppress access to a life-saving treatment that is both cheaper and more effective is a crime against humanity. Progressives mistakenly believe that socialized medicine protects patients from the abuses of big pharma, but the first nation to severely restrict access to HCQ was France. This policy compelled Dr. Raoult to testify against Gilead’s disproportionate leverage over the medical community during a meeting of the French National Assembly last June.

Notably in the U.S., a third of the FDA’s budget comes from pharmaceutical user fees, and according to the NIH’s website, eight out of 55 members of the panel responsible for COVID-19 treatment guidelines are currently affiliated with Gilead. These government ties to Gilead more than triple when you include panel members with past associations.

Read more …

We need to stop looking in the rear view mirror only. Some things will never return. And the more we try to hold on to them, the harder it gets to replace them with other things.

Airlines Threaten October Jobs Massacre Unless they Get 2nd Bailout (WS)

October 1 and the days that follow are going to be rough in terms of tens of thousands of well-paid service jobs – that’s what airlines are threatening unless they get another $25-billion bailout. Airlines have been trying to shed employees by offering packages that induce employees to depart voluntarily because the $25-billion bailout package under the CARES Act banned “involuntary” furloughs or layoffs through the end of September. The air passenger business is still down roughly 70% in the US, six months after the initial collapse of traffic began, according to TSA airport screenings of air travelers entering into security zones. And demand has hardly improved any since early July, and airlines continue to slash costs and cash-burn to survive:

“It was assumed that by Sept. 30, the virus would be under control and demand for air travel would have returned. That is obviously not the case,” American Airlines CEO Parker and President Robert Isom told employees in a grim message on Tuesday. Under its buyout, early retirement, and long-term leave-of-absence programs, 23,500 employees had already voluntarily departed. But that wasn’t enough. So the executives told employees what the next step would be: 19,000 “involuntary” furloughs on October 1. American, which started the year out with about 140,000 employees, expects to have fewer than 100,000 employees in October. “The one possibility of avoiding these involuntary reductions on Oct. 1 is a clean extension” of the bailout package, they said.


So if given another bailout, American, which received $5.8 billion under the first bailout package, will then not lay off those employees on October 1 – but instead on the date when the second bailout package would expire? In the fourth quarter, American expects to fly only one-fourth of its usual international schedule and less than half of its usual domestic schedule. Last week, it announced that it would pull out of 15 smaller cities in October, “as a result of low demand and the expiration of the air service requirements associated with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This is the first step as American continues to evaluate its network and plans for additional schedule changes in the coming weeks.”

Read more …

Greece is not impressed with EU and US support so far.

France & Italy Throw Weight Behind Greece As Naval War Games Kick Off (RT)

France, Italy, Greece and Cyprus are staging a massive maritime exercise in the Eastern Mediterranean, in an apparent veiled nod to Turkey, which recently began researching oil and gas deposits in the area, raising ire in Athens. Codenamed ‘Eunomia’, the aeronautical exercises launched on Wednesday off the southern shores of Cyprus, the host nation of the war games. Athens’ defense minister announced the start of the drills earlier in the day, saying they are to reinforce “the rule of law as part of the policy of de-escalating tensions.” France, in turn, also confirmed the news, having dispatched its ‘Lafayette’ frigate, as well as three Rafale fighter jets. Italian and Cypriot vessels were also said to have joined the exercise in the eastern part of the Mediterranean.


A day prior, separate drills kicked off near the Greek island of Crete, this time involving Hellenic and US armed forces. The string of military exercises appears to be upping the ante in the festering feud between Greece and Turkey. Formally allies within NATO, the two nations have been at loggerheads over a number of issues, from historical discords to overlapping territorial claims in the Eastern Mediterranean. Tensions recently flared up when a trove of gas and oil was discovered in the contentious waters. This week, Ankara announced that its Oruc Reis research vessel will carry on navigating the disputed waters between Cyprus and Crete. The news has caused outrage in Greece which views the research activities as unlawful and considers them an affront to its sovereignty.

Read more …

More revolving doors. Just what we needed. Taleb has addressed this.

The New Media Elite Are Rapacious Monopolists, And We Are Their Food (Lewis)

The likes of Facebook & Google are spending tens of millions on lobbying and buying up government insiders. We need to call their bluff and bring in controls over their ever-growing financial and networked empires. In recent weeks, there has been heightened media concern that Facebook is cultivating a close relationship between government and big tech monopolies by poaching and recruiting former senior policy officials. The findings reveal a systematic hiring of government insiders with knowledge of regulation by offering them huge incentives to join. Three senior regulatory staff at the UK’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport are among those who recently joined Facebook. Other policy officials joined from the Cabinet Office, the Home Office and UK Counterterrorism Policing.

And earlier this year, it was revealed that Facebook had recruited Tony Close as their new director of content regulation. Close was Ofcom’s director of content standards, who had been heavily involved with drawing up rules to rein in the tech giants and protect the public. And, of course, do not forget the fact that Facebook recruited former UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as its vice president for global affairs and communications, who has been leading Facebook’s policy and communications work, as part of a concerted effort to preach and lobby against Big Tech breakups. But it is not only Facebook that is behaving like this. The Times reports that at least 14 special advisers had moved to tech companies, including Uber, Google and Facebook, in the past five years after a stint in ministerial offices.

These officials have had access to departmental chiefs and the policy formation process. In the face of growing concern about online content and antitrust investigations, the monopolistic positions of Silicon Valley’s Big Tech giants have increasingly come under scrutiny. As a result, they have all been ramping up their lobbying capacities by recruiting well-connected insiders. The Wall Street journal revealed that in 2019, Facebook increased its expenditure on lobbying by nearly 25 percent, to $12.3 million, through the first nine months of the year. Amazon notched a 16 percent jump in lobbying outlays, to $12.4 million. Apple boosted its spending by eight percent, and Microsoft by nine percent.

The main goal of this is the protection of their existing and future businesses. When Facebook announced its move into the financial sphere by unveiling plans for a global cryptocurrency, it drew a barrage of trenchant criticism. Undaunted, it hired seven new outside lobbying firms to work on financial issues, including two former aides to the GOP chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Amazon, too, has brought on seven additional outside lobbying shops since the middle of 2018, including former members of Congress and congressional aides who work to influence federal spending.

Taleb Carney

Read more …

Got to love the simplicity: “Painting one blade black dramatically reduces bird kills by wind turbines..”

Good News for Birds – and Wind Power (Adler)

Birds have been a problem for wind power. Wind turbines, whatever their other merits, have the tendency to kill birds, and possibly bats. This has been a longstanding problem, particularly because those areas best for wind power are often important for birds, particularly those species that tend to ride on wind currents. The bird problem has meant that environmental organizations have been inconsistent advocates of wind power, endorsing the such carbon-free power in the abstract, but often opposing particular wind power development proposals. I wrote about this problem over twenty years ago in The Weekly Standard, and it has not gone away.


New research suggests that one solution to the bird problem is rather simple: Painting one blade black dramatically reduces bird kills by wind turbines–70 percent in one location under study. This is an important development because the effect appears quite large, and it’s a relatively inexpensive fix. Assuming this research pans out, there is a cheap way to address the biggest environmental drawback of wind power, and that’s a big deal.

Read more …

“..everyday life influences what you dream about and vice versa..”

Your Dreams Are A Continuation Of Your Reality (RT)

A groundbreaking new study of over 24,000 dreams has provided the strongest evidence yet that our dreams are a continuation of our waking lives, with certain recurring elements shared between our sleeping and everyday selves. “Most dreams are a continuation of what is happening in everyday life,” say the researchers led by computer scientist Alessandro Fogli from Roma Tre University in Italy. The scientist explained that everyday life influences what you dream about and vice versa. So anxiety in life leads to anxious dreams, while on the positive side, dreaming can help solve problems that present themselves during waking hours.

On the one hand, traditional psychological analysis of dreams dates back to the days of Freud, who posited that the hidden meanings of dreams could be revealed through analysis of their waking experiences in the real world. On the other hand, modern dream analysis looks for symbols, metaphors, structures and characters which might correspond to other parts of a person’s life. Such methodologies include the Hall and Van de Castle system, which codifies all of the aforementioned elements and explores how they interact with each other in the dreamworld. This is, however, an extremely slow and time-consuming process, as evidenced by Christopher Nolan’s film Inception.

Dream scientists have long sought an algorithmic solution to automate the task of sifting through dream reports, the academic equivalent of counting sheep, which is exactly what Fogli and his team undertook to accomplish at scale. The researchers devised a way to track large numbers of dreams at scale, by parsing the language from dream reports of 24,000 dreams contained in a giant public database called DreamBank. More specifically, they honed in on characters, social interactions, and emotional words to search for recurring patterns. These three dimensions are considered the most important aspects of dream interpretation, defining the overall “plot.”

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

 

 

Zschaepitz USD debasement

 

 

Biden clown. Don’t know who made it, but it’s done well.

 

 

And this is just some stupid fun:

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Aug 142020
 


Marlon Brando screentest 1951

 

US Obesity Epidemic Threatens Effectiveness of Any COVID Vaccine (KHN)
Israeli Hospital Trials Fast Saliva Test for COVID-19 (R.)
The Pandemic and Medicare for All (TMI)
NYC Is Dead Forever. Here’s Why (Altucher)
What Kamala Harris Really Thinks of WikiLeaks (Lauria)
Some Questions About Kamala Harris’ Eligibility (NW)
China’s Banks At Risk As $500 Billion In Non-Performing Loans Revealed (SCMP)
China’s Debt Collectors Flourish As Consumers Flounder (R.)
US Seizes $2 Million From Terror-Linked Cryptocurrency Accounts (CNBC)
United Arab Emirates Sells Out Palestine For Israel (EI)
Experts Debunk Claims of GMO Crops Success (OffG)
Ford Is Slashing 10,000 Jobs, 6 Factories In Europe (ZH)
7 Million Jobs At Risk, European Airlines Could See “Further Declines” (ZH)
Volume of Greek Air Traffic Plunged 74.3% in 2020 (GR)

 

 

I was reading a piece by law professor John Eastman yesterday, before the entire left stumbled over each other to condemn it. I was thinking in my innocence that it’s interesting to know if questions over who’s a “natural born citizen” in America have ever truly been settled by politics or courts.

But I’m naive, and it’s attack time. They will defend Kamala Harris with all they got, with the entire MSM serving as their bullhorns. Which means Trump and his people have no choice but to go after her with all they got. Still, remembering the Obama birther fiasco, do they really want to die on this hill? Can’t we just leave it to the court system and legal experts? Or simply answer Eastman’s questions?

It’s all among signs of things to come between here and Nov. 3. Bill Barr yesterday promised that a first news flash from the Durham investigation into Russiagate origins will come out today, and that all of it will before Nov. 3. US elections are really just entertainment. Opium for the masses. Clickbaits, drama, anger, scandal. And I always thought it should be about people.

 

 

Not much movement in the numbers. We’re stuck in a broken record, with no progress anywhere. Not good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are 328 million Americans. 74 million of them are children. That leaves 254 million adults, of which 107 million are obese, or 42%. 42.4% have a BMI over 30. 9% are morbidly obese.

From this point of view, COVID is hardly the worst threat to either the people or the health care system. Or, to put it another way, it’s the people themselves that are the threat to the health care system.

Again, take high fructose corn syrup out of the diet, and you solve a huge chunk of that problem. Ban stuff that kills people, or make it much harder to get.

US Obesity Epidemic Threatens Effectiveness of Any COVID Vaccine (KHN)

For a world crippled by the coronavirus, salvation hinges on a vaccine. But in the United States, where at least 4.6 million people have been infected and nearly 155,000 have died, the promise of that vaccine is hampered by a vexing epidemic that long preceded COVID-19: obesity. Scientists know that vaccines engineered to protect the public from influenza, hepatitis B, tetanus and rabies can be less effective in obese adults than in the general population, leaving them more vulnerable to infection and illness. There is little reason to believe, obesity researchers say, that COVID-19 vaccines will be any different. “Will we have a COVID vaccine next year tailored to the obese? No way,” said Raz Shaikh, an associate professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

“Will it still work in the obese? Our prediction is no.” More than 107 million American adults are obese, and their ability to return safely to work, care for their families and resume daily life could be curtailed if the coronavirus vaccine delivers weak immunity for them. In March, still early in the global pandemic, a little-noticed study from China found that heavier Chinese patients afflicted with COVID-19 were more likely to die than leaner ones, suggesting a perilous future awaited the U.S., whose population is among the heaviest in the world. And then that future arrived.

As intensive care units in New York, New Jersey and elsewhere filled with patients, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that obese people with a body mass index of 40 or more — known as morbid obesity or about 100 pounds overweight — were among the groups at highest risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19. About 9% of American adults are in that category. As weeks passed and a clearer picture of who was being hospitalized came into focus, federal health officials expanded their warning to include people with a body mass index of 30 or more. That vastly expanded the ranks of those considered vulnerable to the most severe cases of infection, to 42.4% of American adults.

Read more …

More rapid testing. Good. Bring it. Test yourself everyday at breakfast.

Israeli Hospital Trials Fast Saliva Test for COVID-19 (R.)

A newly developed saliva test aims to determine in less than a second whether or not you are infected with the novel coronavirus, Israel’s largest medical center said Thursday. Patients rinse their mouth with a saline wash and spit into a vial. This is then examined by a small spectral device that, in simple terms, shines light on the specimen and analyzes the reaction to see if it is consistent with COVID-19. With machine learning it gets more accurate over time. Eli Schwartz of the Center for Geographic Medicine and Tropical Diseases at Sheba Medical Center, who is leading the trial, said it was easier to use than PCR swabs commonly used to detect COVID-19.


“So far we have very promising results in this new method which will be much more convenient and much cheaper,” he said. The center said in an initial clinical trial involving hundreds of patients, the new artificial intelligence-based device identified evidence of the virus in the body at a 95% success rate. Amos Panet, an expert in molecular virology at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University, said he would like to see more data and comparisons with existing tests before making a final judgment. The amount of virus present in saliva increases as patients get sicker, he said, and a big challenge is to detect in “people who are borderline.” “It will be a game changer only if we see validation of this technology against the current technology,” he said.

Read more …

Would M4A benefit the obese and hence diabetic? A long time ago, someone said: we’re raising a generation of blind amputees. How would a health care system deal with that?

The Pandemic and Medicare for All (TMI)

When the novel coronavirus first arrived in the United States, it spurred on remarkable message discipline among America’s political class. The consensus that emerged on both sides of the aisle dictated that no matter what happened, Americans ought to be glad they do not live in a country with socialized medicine. At the final Democratic presidential debate on March 15, former Vice President Biden pointed to COVID numbers in Italy as evidence that not only was Medicare for all not a solution to the crisis, but it would put the country at greater risk. “With all due respect for Medicare for all, you have a single-payer system in Italy,” the former vice president said. “It doesn’t work there. It has nothing to do with Medicare for all. That would not solve the problem at all.”

Weeks later, in early April, Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden echoed the sentiment in a Twitter spat with a Medicare for All supporter. “You might want to check out the death rate in France before you think the form of health system is the answer here,” she tweeted. Not long after, the Washington Post ran an op-ed by former George W. Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen declaring the COVID-19 pandemic was “an indictment of socialized medicine.” “If you think today’s pandemic bolsters the case for socialized medicine, then ask yourself a simple question: If you came down with a serious case of COVID-19, would you rather be in an Italian hospital or an American one?” the piece opens, before lauding Biden’s debate answer.

Such arguments were never fair — the pandemic was only just starting in the United States, while COVID-19 had indeed rampaged across Europe, there were contributing factors like years of austerity and a lack of supply chain redundancy in the modern globalized economy. But now, just a few months later, these arguments completely and utterly fail. New infections are still surging in the U.S. while countries with national health care programs have long since gotten a handle on the virus. On Tuesday, the U.S. reported more new COVID cases in a single day than Italy, France, and the U.K. reported last month combined, and roughly 45 percent of their total deaths.

Read more …

Nice account from James Altucher. is he just getting old, or is New York really beyond salvation?

NYC Is Dead Forever. Here’s Why (Altucher)

People say, “NYC has been through worse” or “NYC has always come back.” No and no. First, when has NYC been through worse? Even in the 1970s, and through the 80s, when NYC was going bankrupt, and even when it was the crime capital of the US or close to it, it was still the capital of the business world (meaning: it was the primary place young people would go to build wealth and find opportunity), it was culturally on top of its game – home to artists, theater, media, advertising, publishing, and it was probably the food capital of the US. NYC has never been locked down for five months. Not in any pandemic, war, financial crisis, never. In the middle of the polio epidemic, when little kids (including my mother) were going paralyzed or dying (my mother ended up with a bad leg), NYC didn’t go through this.

This is not to say what should have been done or should not have been done. That part is over. Now we have to deal with what IS. In early March, many people (not me), left NYC when they felt it would provide safety from the virus and they no longer needed to go to work and all the restaurants were closed. People figured, “I’ll get out for a month or two and then come back.” They are all still gone. And then in June, during rioting and looting a second wave of NYC-ers (this time me) left. I have kids. Nothing was wrong with the protests but I was a little nervous when I saw videos of rioters after curfew trying to break into my building. Many people left temporarily but there were also people leaving permanently. Friends of mine moved to Nashville, Miami, Austin, Denver, Salt Lake City, Austin, Dallas, etc.

Now a third wave of people are leaving. But they might be too late. Prices are down 30-50% on both rentals and sales no matter what real estate people tell you. And rentals soaring in the second and third-tier cities. I’m temporarily, although maybe permanently, in South Florida now. I also got my place sight unseen. Robyn was looking at listings around Miami and then she saw an area we had never been to before. We found three houses we liked. She called the real estate agent. Place #1. Just rented that morning 50% higher than the asking price. Place #2. Also rented (New Yorkers – “they came from New York for three hours, saw the place, got it, went back to pack.”). Place #3. “Available.” “We’ll take it!” The first time we physically saw it was when we flew down and moved in. “This is temporary, right?” I confirmed with Robyn. But…I don’t know. I’m starting to like the sun a little bit. I mean, when it’s behind the shades. And when I am in air conditioning.

Read more …

All US politics is united against Julian Assange.

What Kamala Harris Really Thinks of WikiLeaks (Lauria)

During a September 2017 U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee debate on an intelligence bill a line was inserted that said WikiLeaks “resembles a non-state hostile intelligence service” and that the U.S. “should treat it as such.” “This language would help investigators secure the authorization needed to surveil those U.S. citizens thought to be associated with WikiLeaks,” a McClatchy report quoted a government lawyer as saying. “You need to show that someone is an agent of a foreign power,” said the lawyer, Robert Deitz, who held senior legal positions at the Pentagon, the CIA and the National Security Agency. “It’s possible that Assange has colleagues in this country that they need to focus on,” McClatchy quoted Deitz as saying, “noting that such action can only be done under court order.”

The non-state hostile agency phrase was directly lifted from a scurrilous speech by Mike Pompeo in his first address as CIA director. The language survived the committee and made it into the bill voted on by the full Senate. But before it did two senators raised objections to it. One was Ron Wyden of Oregon. The other was Sen. Kamala Harris of California, the presumptive Democratic vice presidential candidate in November’s election. According to the McClatchy report, “Harris declared that she is ‘no supporter of WikiLeaks,’ which she said had done ‘considerable harm’ to the United States. But the clause on the group is ‘dangerous’ because it ‘fails to draw a bright line between WikiLeaks and legitimate news organizations that play a vital role in our democracy,’ according to her remarks for the record.”

Harris left no doubt that she is an enemy of WikiLeaks, as is her running mate, Joe Biden, who agreed it was more like a high-tech terrorist organization that Daniel Ellsberg’s release of the Pentagon Papers. Harris made clear she cared only about establishment media (which almost universally undergirds aggressive U.S. foreign policy) and was worried about it getting caught up in a WikiLeaks dragnet. She said she wants a “bright line” between publications such as The New York Times and WikiLeaks. Except, there can be no such legal line drawn as both establishment papers, like the Times, and WikiLeaks have done the exact same thing: possessed and published classified material.

Because there is no legal distinction, the Obama administration, which desperately wanted to indict WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, backed away citing its “New York Times problem.” The Trump administration had no such qualms and had Assange arrested in April 2019 and indicted on conspiracy to commit computer intrusion and 17 counts of the Espionage Act. The only bright line that can be drawn is political: a decision by the Department of Justice to not prosecute big media but to prosecute WikiLeaks for the same “crime”, which conflicts with First Amendment press freedoms. This is what Harris was calling for: Protect the state-managed corporate media but go after a serious publication that dares to reveal crimes of the U.S. government, which Harris wants to protect. In other words, for the same activity, the Times is afforded First Amendment protections, but WikiLeaks is not.

Read more …

There are questions one can’t ask.

Some Questions About Kamala Harris’ Eligibility (NW)

The fact that Senator Kamala Harris has just been named the vice presidential running mate for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has some questioning her eligibility for the position. The 12th Amendment provides that “no person constitutionally ineligible to the office of President shall be eligible to that of Vice-President of the United States.” And Article II of the Constitution specifies that “[n]o person except a natural born citizen…shall be eligible to the office of President.” Her father was (and is) a Jamaican national, her mother was from India, and neither was a naturalized U.S. citizen at the time of Harris’ birth in 1964. That, according to these commentators, makes her not a “natural born citizen”—and therefore ineligible for the office of the president and, hence, ineligible for the office of the vice president.

“Nonsense,” runs the counter-commentary. Indeed, PolitiFact rated the claim of ineligibility as “Pants on Fire” false, Snopes rated it simply “False,” and from the other side of the political spectrum, Conservative Daily News likewise rated it “False.” All three (and numerous others) simply assert that Harris is eligible because she was born in Oakland—and is therefore a natural-born citizen from location of birth. The 14th Amendment says so, they all claim, and the Supreme Court so held in the 1898 case of U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark. But those claims are erroneous, at least as the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment was originally understood—an error to which even my good friend, renowned UCLA School of Law professor Eugene Volokh, has fallen prey.

The language of Article II is that one must be a natural-born citizen. The original Constitution did not define citizenship, but the 14th Amendment does—and it provides that “all persons born…in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens.” Those who claim that birth alone is sufficient overlook the second phrase. The person must also be “subject to the jurisdiction” of the United States, and that meant subject to the complete jurisdiction, not merely a partial jurisdiction such as that which applies to anyone temporarily sojourning in the United States (whether lawfully or unlawfully). Such was the view of those who authored the 14th Amendment’s Citizenship Clause; of the Supreme Court of the United States in the 1872 Slaughter-House Cases and the 1884 case of Elk v. Wilkins; of Thomas Cooley, the leading constitutional treatise writer of the day; and of the State Department, which, in the 1880s, issued directives to U.S. embassies to that effect.

The Supreme Court’s subsequent decision in Wong Kim Ark is not to the contrary. At issue there was a child born to Chinese immigrants who had become lawful, permanent residents in the United States—”domiciled” was the legally significant word used by the Court. But that was the extent of the Court’s holding (as opposed to broader language that was dicta, and therefore not binding). Indeed, the Supreme Court has never held that anyone born on U.S. soil, no matter the circumstances of the parents, is automatically a U.S. citizen.

Read more …

I’ve said it often before: none of this means much without also tallying shadow banks’ numbers.

China’s Banks At Risk As $500 Billion In Non-Performing Loans Revealed (SCMP)

China’s top banking regulatory official said on Thursday that the country’s banks have to deal with 3.4 trillion yuan (US$489.5 billion) worth of non-performing loans in 2020 – flagging a big risk for the banking system in the world’s second-largest economy. The total marks a hefty increase from 2.3 trillion yuan in 2019, and the value of bad loans could be even higher in 2021. Guo Shuqing, chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, said in an interview with the official Xinhua News Agency that the increase in non-performing loans (NPLs) – loans in default or close to default – will put huge pressure on the country’s banks, especially small and regional ones.

“As many loans are rolled over [in 2020], some problems will only emerge next year,” Guo was quoted by Xinhua as saying, adding that a rebound in bad loans is “inevitable” since the coronavirus shock has adversely affected so many companies. The warning by Guo, who is also the Communist Party secretary at the People’s Bank of China, came at a time when many of the country’s small banks are facing a moment of reckoning after years of undisciplined balance sheet expansion, as well as instances of fraud and corruption. Meanwhile, Guo said, Chinese banks have improved their loan structure – with more lending going toward manufacturing, infrastructure, technology and small businesses.

Guo added that Chinese banks are now being told to enhance their support of small businesses. In addition, he said he will encourage banks to invest more in corporate bonds. According to official statistics from Guo’s agency, the NPL ratio in China was among the lowest in the world. The ratio for Chinese commercial banks rose 0.03 percentage points in the second quarter to 1.94 per cent at the end of June. But hidden bad loans, if exposed, could easily wipe out bank profits and erode capital bases. In the first half of this year, the combined profits of Chinese banks dropped for the first time in more than a decade – falling 9.4 per cent to 1 trillion yuan in the first half of the year, government data shows.

Read more …

So, question is: who are the shadow banks’ debt collectors? Vinnie the Kneecapper and his friends?

China’s Debt Collectors Flourish As Consumers Flounder (R.)

It’s not a good sign for any economy when debt collectors are booming and in China right now, the industry is on a hiring spree. Whole Scene Asset Management, a debt recovery firm based in the southern province of Hunan, plans to double staff numbers to 400 people this year as it expands into new cities. “Debt collection companies have been mushrooming,” said company founder Zhang Haiyan. “And with bad loans growing this year, everyone is adding new hands.” Rival Bricsman is also hiring – hoping to boost headcount of around 1,000 by 400-500 this year after landing a deal to collect delinquent consumer loans for China Minsheng Bank (600016.SS), people with knowledge of the matter said, declining to identified as they were not authorised to talk to media.

Bricsman, which is based in the eastern province of Jiangsu and counts other large banks amongst its clients, did not respond to a request for comment. As increasing numbers of consumers struggle with lost income in an economy battered by the coronavirus and U.S-China tensions, a burgeoning wave of non-performing loans is sparking concern among lenders – both at specialist consumer financing firms and traditional banks – and even among debt collectors. China is the midst of “an unfolding debt crisis”, says Joe Zhang, a business consultant and until last month vice chairman at the country’s largest debt collector YX Asset Recovery. The delinquency rate for consumer debt is climbing and collecting on those loans has become much harder, he added, estimating that at some weaker non-bank consumer lenders, soured loans may account for 30% to 50% of their portfolios.

[..] Chinese consumer debt has ballooned over the past five years, fuelled in part as banks scrambled to issue credit cards, with outstanding debt for bank-issued cards doubling to 17.6 trillion yuan ($2.5 trillion). Internet-based consumer financing, which is only lightly regulated, has also grown – by a dizzying 400 times to nearly 8 trillion yuan since 2014, according to the Guanghua School of Management. And Chinese household debt – including mortgages and unsecured consumer loans – has swollen to levels equivalent to nearly 60% of GDP, up from 18% in 2008, the peak of the global financial crisis.

Read more …

300 anonymous accounts?!

US Seizes $2 Million From 300 Terror-Linked Cryptocurrency Accounts (CNBC)

The Justice Department said it dismantled an elaborate cyber campaign used by overseas terror organizations to finance their operations and seized $2 million from more than 300 cryptocurrency accounts in what it described as the largest-ever seizure of its kind. The Justice Department said three overseas terrorist groups — al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military wing; al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIS — used cryptocurrencies and social media to raise funds for their terror campaigns. “It should not surprise anyone that our enemies use modern technology, social media platforms and cryptocurrency to facilitate their evil and violent agendas,” Attorney General William Barr said in a release.


“As announced today, we will seize the funds and the instrumentalities that provide a lifeline for their operations whenever possible,” he added. “Terrorist networks have adapted to technology, conducting complex financial transactions in the digital world, including through cryptocurrencies. IRS-CI special agents in the DC cybercrimes unit work diligently to unravel these financial networks,” Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin said in a release. In one of the cases, the U.S. secretly took over websites that were operated by al-Qassam Brigades and monitored those who thought they had opened up their cyber wallets to the terror group but instead donated money to an account controlled by the U.S. government, according to court documents unsealed Thursday in the District of Columbia.

Read more …

Successfully dividing the Arab world’s support for Palestinians.

United Arab Emirates Sells Out Palestine For Israel (EI)

The United Arab Emirates and Israel have agreed to full normalization of relations, bringing their decades-long clandestine dealings proudly into the open. The so-called “Abraham Accords” sealing the deal were brokered by US officials. The deal is named for “the father of all three great faiths,” David Friedman, the US ambassador to Israel, told reporters at the Oval Office on Thursday. Religious and cultural tolerance is often used by Arab states and Israel to mask their efforts to normalize ties. Painting conflict in the region as stemming from a lack of understanding among religions is also a way to obscure its true origin: Israel’s violent dispossession of Palestinians and ongoing military occupation and steady ethnic cleansing of their land.

In exchange for normalization, Israel agreed to suspend plans to annex large swaths of the occupied West Bank “and focus its efforts now on expanding ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world,” according to the joint statement. However, this is spin. In reality, it was the United States that put Israel’s annexation plans on ice weeks ago. In fact, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed his commitment to annexation shortly after the announcement of the agreement. The UAE is merely using the American-imposed freeze as an opportunity to bring its secret ties with Israel dating back to the 1990s into the open. These secret relations have included military and intelligence cooperation and even joint military exercises.

[..] Relations between Israel and Gulf States including Saudi Arabia and the UAE are founded on a mutual enmity towards Iran. Liquidating Palestinian rights and bypassing the Palestinian issue is seen as key to building up this anti-Iran alliance under American oversight. Annexation, moreover, would only be a formal rubber stamp for what Israel has been doing on the ground for decades: stealing land, forcibly displacing Palestinians and building colonies in flagrant breach of international law. This violent colonization has never ceased and will not stop as a result of this agreement.

Read more …

India is Monsanto’s wet dream.

Experts Debunk Claims of GMO Crops Success (OffG)

On 6 July 2020, an article extolling the benefits of genetically modified (GM) crops appeared on the BloombergQuint website based on an interview with Dr Ramesh Chand, a member of the key Indian Government think tank Niti Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) . On 17 July, another piece that placed a positive spin on GM crops and gene-editing technology (Feeding 10 Billion People will Require Genetically Modified Food) appeared on the same site. According to Prof Andrew Paul Gutierrez, Dr Hans R Herren and Dr Peter E Kenmore, internationally renowned agricultural researchers, the pieces reported “sweeping unsupported claims” about the benefits of and need for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and related technologies in agriculture in India.

The three academics felt that “a responsible and factual response” was required and have written a letter – containing what could be described as the definitive analysis of Bt cotton in India – to Dr Ramesh Chand, Dr Rajiv Kumar (Niti Aayog Vice Chancellor) and Dr Amitabh Kant (Niti Aayog CEO). Chand is reported as saying that there is no credible study to show any adverse impact of growing Bt cotton in the last 18 years in the country (India’s only officially approved GM crop). This is simply not the case. Moreover, Gutierrez et al argue that all of the credible evidence shows any meagre increases in cotton yield after the introduction of Bt cotton in 2002 were largely due to increases in fertiliser use. Before proceeding, it is pertinent to address the claim that ‘feeding 10 billion people will require genetically modified food’.

If we take the case of India and its 1.3 billion-plus population, it has achieved self-sufficiency in food grains and has ensured that, in theory at least, there is enough food available to feed its entire population. It is the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses and millets and the second-largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnuts, vegetables and fruit. However, food security for many Indians remains a distant dream. Hunger and malnutrition remain prevalent. But that is not because farmers don’t produce enough food. These problems result from other factors, including inadequate food distribution, social and economic policies, inequality and poverty. It is a case of ‘scarcity’ amid abundance (reflecting the situation globally). India even continues to export food while millions remain hungry. Productivity is not the issue.

And while proponents say GM will boost productivity and help secure cultivators a better income, this too ignores crucial political and economic contexts; with bumper harvests, Indian farmers still find themselves in financial distress. India’s farmers are not experiencing hardship due to low productivity. They are reeling from the effects of neoliberal policies and years of neglect. It’s for good reason that the calorie and essential nutrient intake of the rural poor has drastically fallen. Yet the pro-GMO lobby has wasted no time in wrenching these issues from their political contexts to use the notions of ‘helping farmers’ and ‘feeding the world’ as lynchpins of its promotional strategy.

Read more …

Everything travel related is getting hammered. There is no telling when it all will be back, or if it ever will. Bailing out the firms involved seems an awful waste of money. You do that for firms that have a future, not those that have a past.

Ford Is Slashing 10,000 Jobs, 6 Factories In Europe (ZH)

The auto industry continues to grapple with one of the worst recessions ever for the notoriously capital intensive sector. Ford, which feels like it has been in the midst of a yearslong “restructuring” that has never fully panned out or ended (and has involved numerous CEOs), continues to make major changes to its global personnel to try and find the right mix for its business going forward. This means that 10,000 positions are now being cut across Europe, the automaker disclosed yesterday. Ford is also going to be reducing the number of its plants in Europe to 17 from 23, the company revealed in a JP Morgan conference presentation on Wednesday.

In a slide called “Ford Euope: Road to Sustainable Profitability”, the company also disclosed it would be discontinuing underperforming vehicles, like its C-MAX and Grand C-Max. The company also plans on “leveraging” its relationship with VW. The company says it is on track to deliver on its 2020-2021 CO2 targets without credits or penalties and 13 new electic vehicles will be on sale by the end of 2020, up from just 5. This news comes days after it was announced that Ford would be replacing its CEO on relatively short notice. Ford said days ago it had tapped Jim Farley to replace a relatively still-newly appointed Jim Hackett as CEO. Hackett replaced former CEO Mark Fields and, for the most part, has failed to inspire confidence during his tenure at Ford.

Ford is currently in the middle of an $11 billion restructuring that is supposed to help to accelerate its development of new vehicles, including hybrids and EVs. Hackett had only just started with Ford back in 2017 and has said he will retire effective October. General Motors is following with a C-suite shakeup of its own, as its CFO leaves after just two years to work at a fintech startup. The company announced earlier this week that John Stapleton, GM North America chief financial officer, has been named its acting global chief financial officer, effective Aug. 15, after the resignation of the company’s current CFO, Dhivya Suryadevara.

Read more …

Isn’t that what we wanted? Less flying, less pollution?

7 Million Jobs At Risk, European Airlines Could See “Further Declines” (ZH)

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) published a new report Thursday that warns the virus-induced downturn will continue to pressure air passenger numbers, employment and economies across Europe. IATA said passenger flights are expected to decline by 60% in 2020, resulting in millions of job losses in the aviation and tourism industries. IATA issued a similar warning of what has been announced by airlines, of which, complete recovery in passenger demand might not be seen until 2024. “The near-term outlook for recovery in Europe remains highly uncertain with respect to the second wave of the pandemic and the broader global economic impact it could have. Passenger demand in Europe is expected to recover gradually and will not reach 2019 levels until 2024. -IATA

IATA’s job loss estimate was increased by 17% from its June report, from 6 million to 7 million, mostly because the highly anticipated V-shaped recovery has failed to materialize. “It is desperately worrying to see a further decline in prospects for air travel this year, and the knock-on impact for employment and prosperity. said Rafael Schvartzman, IATA’s Regional Vice President for Europe. Schvartzman said, “It shows once again the terrible effect that is being felt by families across Europe as border restrictions and quarantine continue. It is vital that governments and industry work together to create a harmonized plan for reopening borders.”

If another wave of the virus were to hit Europe, justifying nationwide lockdowns, it could intensify the recession. Though the German tabloid newspaper Bild has said: “There will be no second hard lockdown in Europe because that would lead to a monster recession that would not be accepted by the population.”

Read more …

20% of Greek GDP is tourism. So are at least 20% of jobs.

Volume of Greek Air Traffic Plunged 74.3% in 2020 (GR)

A report came out on Thursday confirming the worst fears of Greek economic experts, stating that the country had seen a drop of 74.3% in the number of passengers who had traveled through their airports so far this year. This amounts to only 9 million air travelers who had used airports in the country so far in 2020, a staggering drop of almost three-quarters of its business. The number of international visitors coming into Greek airports this year so far amounts to 1,126,429, a stunning decrease from last year’s banner tourism season, which saw a total of 4,096,657 international arrivals. Although very disappointing, the numbers did not come as a shock to any in the sector, due to the punishing effects of travel bans imposed on many nations because of the coronavirus pandemic.


According to Greek media reports, the Civil Aviation Authority, or CAA, reported the precipitous drop in business in the first seven months of this year relative to the numbers seen in 2019. For the month of July 2020 alone, the high season for summertime travel to the country, passenger traffic at Greek airports had decreased 72.6%. During the month of July, a total of only 2,722,854 million passengers came through Greece’s airports; in that same period, there was a precipitous drop of 72.5% in the number of foreign arrivals. This means that there were fewer passengers overall in the first seven months of 2020 than there had been in the month of July only in 2019.

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Aug 112020
 


Joan Miró Caballo, pipa y flor roja (Horse Pipe and Red Flower) 1920

 

FBI Director Wray Subpoenad For All Records Related to Crossfire Hurricane (GP)
Sen. Johnson Subpoenas FBI Director Wray, Puts Bidens On Notice (ZH)
House Will Be Out Of Session For Additional Week In September (Hill)
Schumer Says Democrats Ready For Coronavirus Aid Talks, If Republicans Move (R.)
MSNBC Public Editor Pekary: A Strained Symbiosis With Obama (CJR)
US Demands Hong Kong Exports To US Be Relabelled ‘Made in China’ (SCMP)
No, Americans Aren’t Suddenly Flying Again, Despite What the Media Says (WS)
Let The Dogs Out (Jim Kunstler)
Seattle City Council Approves Millions In Police Budget Cuts (JTN)
Lebanon PM, President Were Warned About 2,750 Tonnes Of Ammonium Nitrate (R.)
US Special Forces Active in 22 African Countries (MPN)
Libya Begins Negotiations With Greece To Demarcate Maritime Borders (LibyaR.)
Greece Armed Forces Placed On High Alert (K.)

 

 

You keep going with these numbers like this, and you might just turn me into an optimist!

The discovery of “SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive antibodies in uninfected individuals, particularly prevalent in children and adolescents”, could well do the rest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mostly for the doctors amongst us (let’s hear you!), but a bit of good news for everyone:

“SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive antibodies were readily detectable [..] in SARS-CoV-2-uninfected individuals and were particularly prevalent in children and adolescents.”

Pre-Existing And De Novo Humoral Immunity To SARS-CoV-2 In Humans (Biorxiv)

Several related human coronaviruses (HCoVs) are endemic in the human population, causing mild respiratory infections1. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the etiologic agent of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is a recent zoonotic infection that has quickly reached pandemic proportions2,3. Zoonotic introduction of novel coronaviruses is thought to occur in the absence of pre-existing immunity in the target human population. Using diverse assays for detection of antibodies reactive with the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) glycoprotein, we demonstrate the presence of pre-existing humoral immunity in uninfected and unexposed humans to the new coronavirus.

SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive antibodies were readily detectable by a sensitive flow cytometry-based method in SARS-CoV-2-uninfected individuals and were particularly prevalent in children and adolescents. These were predominantly of the IgG class and targeted the S2 subunit. In contrast, SARS-CoV-2 infection induced higher titres of SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive IgG antibodies, targeting both the S1 and S2 subunits, as well as concomitant IgM and IgA antibodies, lasting throughout the observation period of 6 weeks since symptoms onset.

SARS-CoV-2-uninfected donor sera also variably reacted with SARS-CoV-2 S and nucleoprotein (N), but not with the S1 subunit or the receptor binding domain (RBD) of S on standard enzyme immunoassays. Notably, SARS-CoV-2-uninfected donor sera exhibited specific neutralising activity against SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-2 S pseudotypes, according to levels of SARS-CoV-2 S-binding IgG and with efficiencies comparable to those of COVID-19 patient sera. Distinguishing pre-existing and de novo antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 will be critical for our understanding of susceptibility to and the natural course of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Read more …

“..Crossfire Hurricane was a scam, based on absurd gossip and innuendo. This document is Exhibit A to Obamagate, the worst corruption scandal in American history.”

FBI Director Wray Subpoenad For All Records Related to Crossfire Hurricane (GP)

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) FINALLY subpoenaed FBI Director Christopher Wray for all records related to the bureau’s CI investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane.” The subpoena, which was issued on August 6, demands Wray appear before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee by August 20 with all documents related to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. In July of 2016, Peter Strzok opened a counterintel investigation into Trump’s camp dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane” on suspicions (based on no evidence) that the Russians had infiltrated Trump’s circle. The “electronic communication” that launched Crossfire Hurricane was written by Peter Strzok and obtained by Judicial Watch in May of this year as the result of a FOIA lawsuit.

The EC reveals Peter Strzok opened Crossfire Hurricane based on third-hand information that the Russian government “had been seeking prominent members of the Donald Trump campaign in which to engage to prepare for potential post-election relations should Trump be elected U.S. President.” Peter Strzok also alleged Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos claimed to an unnamed individual that “they (the Russians) could assist the Trump campaign with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton.” Republican lawmakers have asked why documents related to Crossfire Hurricane have been kept secret for so many years.

Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said its because the Obama Admin had no basis for opening the investigation. “No wonder the DOJ and FBI resisted the public release of this infamous ‘electronic communication’ that ‘opened’ Crossfire Hurricane – it shows there was no serious basis for the Obama administration to launch an unprecedented spy operation on the Trump campaign,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton previously stated. “We now have more proof that Crossfire Hurricane was a scam, based on absurd gossip and innuendo. This document is Exhibit A to Obamagate, the worst corruption scandal in American history.”

Read more …

Maybe that basement is soundproof, and he can’t hear you.

Sen. Johnson Subpoenas FBI Director Wray, Puts Bidens On Notice (ZH)

FBI Director Christopher Wray has been subpoenaed by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to produce “all documents related to the Crossfire Hurricane Investigation,” which includes “all records provided or made available to the Inspector General” regarding the FISA probe, as well as documents regarding the 2016-2017 presidential transition, according to Politico. The subpoena was issued by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) as part of his investigation into the origins of Russiagate. It gives Wray until 5 p.m. on Aug. 20 to produce the documents. Johnson also released a lengthy letter on Monday in which he defended his Committee’s investigation and accused Democrats of initiating “a coordinated disinformation campaign and effort to personally attack” himself and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in order to distract from evidence his committee has gathered on Joe and Hunter Biden’s Ukraine dealings.

“We didn’t target Joe and Hunter Biden for investigation; their previous actions had put them in the middle of it,” reads the Monday letter, which outlines the timeline and connections between Joe Biden’s policy actions in Ukraine and his son Hunter’s relationship with Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company, according to Just The News. “Many in the media, in an ongoing attempt to provide cover for former Vice President Biden, continue to repeat the mantra that there is ‘no evidence of wrongdoing or illegal activity’ related to Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board,” wrote Johnson. “I could not disagree more.”

Johnson noted evidence gathered by his committee showed Joe Biden met with his son’s business partner, Devon Archer, in April 2014 and within a month the vice president then visited Ukraine and both his son Hunter and the business partner were put on the Burisma board as the firm faced multiple corruption investigations. “Isn’t it obvious what message Hunter’s position on Burisma’s board sent to Ukrainian officials?” Johnson asked. “The answer: If you want U.S. support, don’t touch Burisma. It also raised a host of questions, including: 1) How could former Vice President Biden look any Ukrainian official (or any other world leader) in the face and demand action to fight corruption? 2) Did this glaring conflict of interest affect the work and efforts of other U.S. officials who worked on anti-corruption measures?” -Just The News

Johnson also denied that he had been on contact with, or received documents from, Russian-tied Ukrainians. “The only problem with their overblown handwringing is that they all knew full well that we have been briefed repeatedly, and we had already told them that we had NOT received the alleged Russian disinformation,” wrote Johnson. “The very transparent goal of their own disinformation campaign and feigned concern is to attack our character in order to marginalize the eventual findings of our investigation.”

Read more …

What? They’re going campaigning in COVID time? And what’s even better, they are, but Biden is not?

There are 19 weeks left in the year. House members will only be in Washington for 6 of them.

House Will Be Out Of Session For Additional Week In September (Hill)

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced Monday that the chamber won’t be called back into session until the week of Sept. 14, giving members an additional week in their districts next month. Lawmakers have been advised that they could be called back before then if there’s a deal on coronavirus-relief legislation. He said they would given 24 hours notice in the event of a vote. The House was previously scheduled to be back in session Sept. 8. Monday’s announcement gives incumbents more time to campaign in their districts ahead of November’s election. If lawmakers don’t return until mid-September, they’ll face a tight deadline to pass government funding legislation by Sept. 30 to avert a shutdown. Under the new schedule, House lawmakers will only be in Washington for six weeks through the end of the calendar year.

Read more …

Everyone’s ready as long as the other side moves first so they themselves don’t lose face. It’s a game, and not a very uplifting one.

Schumer Says Democrats Ready For Coronavirus Aid Talks, If Republicans Move (R.)

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Monday that Democrats are ready to return to the negotiating table over coronavirus relief, if Republicans would agree to a larger bill than they have been willing to accept up to now. “Democrats remain ready to return to the table. We need our Republicans to join us there and meet us half way and work together to deliver immediate relief to the American people,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. Last week, Schumer used similar language to urge White House negotiators to agree to a legislative package at least $1 trillion larger than the $1 trillion bill that Senate Republicans have already proposed. The White House rejected the offer, ending nearly two weeks of almost daily negotiations.

Read more …

“A less corrupt, less wealth-enslaved, less warmongering Democratic Party—a party that had paid more than lip service to the needs of working people over the previous eight years—would have walked away with the 2016 election.”

MSNBC Public Editor Pekary: A Strained Symbiosis With Obama (CJR)

Barack Obama and MSNBC have a lot in common. They are rich, sleek, and corporate-friendly. They staff their organizations with urbane meritocrats. Both institutions rely on a kind of soft-focus patriotism that stops shy of nationalism—an American-exceptionalist-lite rhetoric that takes refuge in hope and in appeals to “who we are,” among other superficial aspirational slogans. Consequently, it’s no surprise that Obama meets with little criticism on MSNBC. The alignment isn’t merely political; it’s aesthetic, generational, and class-based. Reverence for Obama is by now the network’s stock-in-trade. It has never critically assessed his presidency.

[..] The Obama brand is appealing, especially in comparison with the current president. Obama is everything that Trump is not: handsome, well read, reasonable-seeming, beautifully turned out; even today, the sight of Obama on television is enough to persuade people that things are still halfway okay. Sadly, however, things are really not all that okay. I’d like to believe the highly artificialized vision of the world that television conjures up in order to seduce, titillate, and comfort the maximum number of people. But how well does the glossy, TV-friendly facade serve the needs of the network’s viewers? Not very, according to former MSNBC producer Ariana Pekary, who quit her job some days ago in an apparent crisis of conscience.

Pekary wrote a much-circulated blog post about her decision to quit the network in early August, calling the cable news obsession with ratings “a cancer” that stokes political division by amplifying the most outrageous voices. The ratings obsession risks lives, she said, by focusing on Trump’s failures in the pandemic, in preference to vital scientific and epidemiological news; it risks democracy itself, by allowing Trump’s excesses to dominate coverage, in preference to intelligent and serious discussion of the threats our society and our world are facing. All of this is true, and worth thinking about, but MSNBC’s coverage demonstrates something subtler and farther-reaching still. Though Pekary was held up by right-wing media as a critic of MSNBC particularly, her concerns were economic, not ideological. “The flawed structure of the industry,” she said, “affects everyone.”

Read more …

Even if opinions are divided on this, at least the direction is clear. Endless talks have provided too little result.

US Demands Hong Kong Exports To US Be Relabelled ‘Made in China’ (SCMP)

Goods made in Hong Kong for export to the United States will have to be labelled “Made in China” after September 25, according to a draft US government notice. The move, in accordance with the suspension of the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 and the invoking of US President Donald Trump’s executive order on “Hong Kong Normalisation”, will see Hong Kong companies subjected to the same trade war tariffs levied on mainland Chinese exporters, should they make products subject to these duties. A notice will be published on the US Federal Register on August 11, stipulating that “45 days after the date of publication”, goods “must be marked to indicate that their origin is ‘China’”. The move is “due to the determination that Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous to justify differential treatment in relation to China”.


The confirmation of a move implied by Trump’s previous legislation is another blow to Hong Kong’s struggling economy and to the high-value, if low-volume base of exporters in the city. Goods that fail to comply will face a punitive 10 per cent duty at US ports. Hong Kong has a higher trade deficit with the US than with any other economy, though this dropped by 16 per cent last year to US$26 billion. From January to May this year, Hong Kong’s exports to the US fell by 22.3 per cent in volume from a year earlier. Hong Kong is much more significant as a re-export hub than a direct trading hub in its own right. Its economy is a much different beast than in the 1970s and ’80s, when it was a manufacturing stronghold. Now, only 1 per cent of goods shipped from Hong Kong are made in the city, which instead serves as a logistical gateway to mainland China for both goods made there and going there.

Read more …

Between all the work from home scheduled, and the holidays by car, you have to wonder where airlines will be a year from now.

No, Americans Aren’t Suddenly Flying Again, Despite What the Media Says (WS)

The best day – meaning the least catastrophically worst day – in terms of air passengers entering to security zones at airports to board flights during the Pandemic wasn’t yesterday, as the financial media wanted to have us think, but July 2, when the count of TSA airport security screenings was down by only -63.4% from the same weekday in the same week last year, and on July 3, when the count was down by only -67.1% from a year earlier. That was over the extended Independence Day travel weekend. Now it’s peak summer travel season. Yesterday’s TSA screenings – Sunday being a peak travel day – reached 831,789, the highest during the Pandemic. But it’s peak travel season and Sunday is one of the peak travel days, so last year on that Sunday, the TSA performed 2.65 million screenings, and this Sunday’s was down by -68.6% from Sunday a year ago. And the year-over-year decline has remained roughly in the same range since the beginning of July:

People are traveling to go on vacation. But they’re driving. All kinds of lodgings near or in national parks are booked. People want to get out and do stuff, and they have the stimulus money and the extra $600 a week in federal unemployment insurance. Early indications are that they’re driving more for vacation purposes than they did last year. That’s the big thing. But flying is still an iffy proposition for most people. The seven-day moving average of the daily TSA screenings, which irons out the day-to-day ups and downs, has remained about the same since its best days since the beginning of July – “best” meaning least catastrophically down days. This indicates that the recovery of passenger volume has stalled since the beginning of July and is still terrible, terrible, terrible for the airlines:

Nevertheless, this situation caused the financial media to hyperventilate in an effort to pump up the shares. For example, CNBC reported breathlessly:

No capital-intensive business, such as an airline, can survive for long with roughly three-quarters of its business wiped out overnight, unless it undertakes a large-scale trimming-down, and unless it gets lots of financial help from all corners, including central banks and taxpayers. And that’s happening with airlines. That’s the part in CNBC’s headline that nailed it: Another $25 billion bailout has been tucked into the next stimulus package. It comes on top of the prior $25 billion in bailouts, mostly grants, that were designed to preserve airline jobs until September 30. Airlines have since told over 70,000 employees that they could lose their jobs after the deadline, and have incentivized them to leave voluntarily before the deadline, using a range of incentives, from buyout packages to early retirements.


Today, the WOLF STREET airline index of the seven largest US airlines – Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United – jumped 7.0%. Since word of the second $25 billion bailout package started circulating last Monday, the index has surged 15.7%. But it’s still down 44% from the end of the Good Times in mid-January 2020, and down a whole bunch more since January 2018. That 15.7% gain since last Monday is the little thing sticking up on the right of the chart (market cap data via YCharts):

Read more …

“..America unleashes its dogs of war upon itself…”

Let The Dogs Out (Jim Kunstler)

Attorney General Barr sat through a leisurely chat with Mark Levin on TV last night, a curious hour of understatement and elision, especially concerning the momentous matter of US Attorney John Durham’s way-overdue actions in the Russia Collusion hoax. Mr. Levin dropped the ball so many times in his questioning that it seemed deliberate — for instance failing to ask whether Mr. Barr had detected any prosecutorial misconduct in the pursuit of General Michael Flynn. There’s plenty of reason to suppose that Robert Mueller’s lawyers royally misbehaved in that case, colluding with FBI director Christopher Wray to withhold a ton of exculpatory evidence even to this day.

There are plenty more reasons to suppose that the entire Mueller investigation was a knowing, seditious sham, and that several of his “team” members — e.g. Andrew Weissmann, Jeannie Rhee, Brandon Van Grack, Zainab Ahmad, Aaron Zebley, plus US Attorney Tanisha Guahar, and possibly Mr. Mueller himself — deserve to be indicted for their efforts to overthrow a president. (And, of course, there’s a long list of other now well-known characters in the DOJ, FBI, CIA, and other festering places who played roles in Coup-O-Rama).

Speaking of General Flynn, his mandamus petition comes before an en banc session of the DC Court of Appeals on Tuesday. It’s hard to see how they can get around their earlier three-judge panel’s order under a mandamus petition for DC District Judge Emmet Sullivan to vacate the case, as now demanded by the federal prosecutors who brought it in the first place. We won’t rehearse the tedious legal arguments, except to say that where there is no prosecution, there is no case, and Judge Sullivan has no standing to act as prosecutor himself under the separation of powers in the constitution. But in these dark days of a weaponized judiciary, with its Lawfare henchmen grubbing away in the shadows, there’s no telling what bad faith gears may be turning in that mill.

So, buckle up for what, all of a sudden, looks like an action-packed week. Lay in some tonic water and gin for both Covid-19 relief and some self-prescribed anesthesia as America unleashes its dogs of war upon itself.

Read more …

I don’t know enough about how police are funded across the US. It appears to be a cesspool with many different faces.

Seattle City Council Approves Millions In Police Budget Cuts (JTN)

In the state of Washington the Seattle City Council on Monday approved millions of dollars in police budget cuts. “Total initial cuts to SPD’s budget during the summer session are a down-payment for future potential reductions to the SPD budget. These reductions equate to nearly $4 million in cuts, which actualized over a year will equate to an estimated $11 million,” according to a release. “Cut 32 officers from patrol,” is one of the multiple funding decreases listed. Self-described socialist council member Kshama Sawant, who blasted the city’s budgetary maneuvering, which included other moves in addition to the police funding decreases, said that the police budget cuts were not nearly large enough.


“This budget fails to address the systemic racism of policing, trimming only $3 million from the bloated department’s remaining 2020 budget of $170 million just weeks after 6 of the 8 other Councilmembers publicly declared they would support defunding SPD by 50 percent, as our Peoples Budget and the Justice for George Floyd movement have demanded” Sawant said in the statement.

Read more …

No wonder they resign en masse.

Lebanon PM, President Were Warned About 2,750 Tonnes Of Ammonium Nitrate (R.)

Lebanese security officials warned the prime minister and president last month that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port posed a security risk and could destroy the capital if it exploded, according to documents seen by Reuters and senior security sources. Just over two weeks later, the industrial chemicals exploded in a massive blast that obliterated most of the port, killed at least 163 people, injured 6,000 more and destroyed some 6,000 buildings, according to municipal authorities. A report by the General Directorate of State Security about events leading up to the explosion included a reference to a private letter sent to President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab on July 20.


While the content of the letter was not in the report seen by Reuters, a senior security official said it summed up the findings of a judicial investigation launched in January, which concluded the chemicals needed to be secured immediately. The state security report, which confirmed the correspondence to the president and the prime minister, has not previously been reported. “There was a danger that this material if stolen, could be used in a terrorist attack,” the official told Reuters. “At the end of the investigation, Prosecutor General (Ghassan) Oweidat prepared a final report which was sent to the authorities,” he said, referring to the letter sent to the prime minister and president by the General Directorate of State Security, which oversees port security. “I warned them that this could destroy Beirut if it exploded,” said the official, who was involved in writing the letter and declined to be named.

Read more …

So does China. And France is going back in.

US Special Forces Active in 22 African Countries (MPN)

A new report published in South African newspaper The Mail and Guardian has shed light on the opaque world of the American military presence in Africa. Last year, elite U.S. Special Operations forces were active in 22 African countries. This accounts for 14 percent of all American commandos deployed overseas, the largest number for any region besides the Middle East. American troops had also seen combat in 13 African nations. The U.S. is not formally at war with an African nation, and the continent is barely discussed in reference to American exploits around the globe. Therefore, when U.S. operatives die in Africa, as happened in Niger, Mali, and Somalia in 2018, the response from the public, and even from the media is often “why are American soldiers there in the first place?”

The presence of the U.S. military, especially commandos, is rarely publicly acknowledged, either by Washington or by African governments. What they are doing remains even more opaque. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) generally claims that special forces go no further than so-called “AAA” (advise, assist and accompany) missions. Yet in combat, the role between observer and participant can become distinctly blurry. The United States has roughly 6,000 military personnel scattered throughout the continent, with military attachés outnumbering diplomats in many embassies across Africa. Earlier this year, The Intercept reported that the military operates 29 bases on the continent. One of these is a huge drone hub in Niger, something The Hill called “the largest U.S. Air Force-led construction project of all time.”

[..][ Washington claims that the military’s primary role in the region is to combat the rise of extremist forces. In recent years, a number of Jihadist groups have arisen, including Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and other al-Qaeda affiliated groups. However, much of the reason for their rise can be traced back to previous American actions, including the destabilization of Yemen, Somalia, and the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya. It is also clear that the United States plays a key role in training many nations’ soldiers and security forces. For example, the U.S. pays Bancroft International, a private military contractor, to train elite Somali units who are at the forefront of the fighting in the country’s internal conflicts. According to The Mail and Guardian, these Somali fighters are likely also funded by the U.S. taxpayer.

Read more …

This is all about Turkey. Greece already has a new deal with Egypt on maritime borders. Turkey is seeking to claim a lot of area in the region.

Libya Begins Negotiations With Greece To Demarcate Maritime Borders (LibyaR.)

Libya’s Interim Government’s Foreign Minister, Abdul-Hadi Al-Hawaij, revealed that his ministry has held talks with its Greek counterpart. Both Libya and Greece agreed to begin negotiations to demarcate their maritime borders, as well as discuss a number of issues between the two countries. Al-Hawaij noted that Libya welcomes a solution through Article 74 of the Law of the Sea, relating to solutions based on agreements and good-neighbourliness. The Libyan FM welcomed the agreement demarcating the maritime borders between Egypt and Greece. He stressed that Libya welcomes any agreement that is in line with the UN’s Law of the Sea and which preserves the rights of Libyans.


He pointed out that the visits of the Libyan Speaker of Parliament, Ageela Saleh, to a number of countries was meant to clarify the Libyan-Egyptian political initiative. The Speaker claimed that the Libyan people were exhausted from the presence of the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. “One of the most significant conditions for consensus among Libyans is to push the Turkish intervention in the country away, and leave the matter for Libyans to address the crisis”, he added. Al-Hawaij called on Libyans to end the use of force, and to diminish the power of militias. He stressed that the international community was managing the crisis, and not trying to solve it. He pointed out that Libyans were able to establish a leadership in 1922, in similar circumstances in the city of Sirte, and could be able to do so again.

Read more …

This is serious. The Turkish lira is under severe stress; the central bank tried to support it by buying lira with its dollar reserves two weeks ago, but that failed, and now it has no dollars left. This could be very bad for Erdogan, who will go for support among patriots, muslims (re: Hagia Sophia). Prediction: Greece will not give in.

Greece Armed Forces Placed On High Alert (K.)

Greece was placed on high alert Monday after Turkey sent its Oruc Reis survey ship into an area within the Greek continental shelf, a move which Athens described as a threat to peace and stability in the region. According to a navigational telex it issued, Ankara reserved an area south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo to conduct research over the next two weeks. In response, Greece’s armed forces were placed in a state of absolute readiness, with units of the Hellenic Navy and Air Force deployed in the wider sea area where the Turkish research was expected. When the Oruc Reis accompanied by ships of the Turkish Navy entered the Greek continental shelf, Greek warships sent messages at a frequency of about 15 minutes requesting the vessel’s removal from the area.

The messages went unanswered by the vessel which, however, moving at a low speed – similar to that appropriate for a search process – had prepared cables to lower to the seabed in order to proceed with research activities in the area. However, according to sources, exploratory activities were rendered impossible due to the noise caused by the many naval units sailing in the area. This is because exploration of this sort entails the transmission of data from the seabed and the noise of the ships made this transmission impossible. In Athens, an emergency meeting of the country’s top decision-making body on foreign affairs and defense matters, KYSEA, was convened. Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias issued a stern statement calling on Turkey to “immediately end its illegal actions that undermine peace and security in the region.”

He added that the Turkish navtex “is a new serious escalation and exposes in the most obvious way the destabilizing and threatening role of Turkey.” “Greece will not accept any blackmail. It will defend its sovereignty and sovereign rights,” he said.

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

Full Moon Aug 3, Astypalea Island, Greece. Photo George Tsitouras.

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jun 122020
 


Gustave Dore Dante looks upon the negligent rulers 1868

 

Here’s What Caused The Worst Stock Market Sell-Off Since March (F.)
Trump Admin. Won’t Disclose Corporate Recipients of $500 Billion Bailout (CD)
The Real Economic Catastrophe Hasn’t Hit Yet. Just Wait For August (BF)
UK Economy Suffers Record Slump With GDP Plunging By 20.4% (Sky)
BA, easyJet and Ryanair Begin Court Action Over UK Quarantine Rules (G.)
US Virus Hotspots Reopen Despite Second Wave Specter (R.)
Trump Campaign Rally Signup Form Includes COVID19 Warning/Disclaimer (JTN)
Retired Generals Who Denounced Trump Could Be Recalled, Prosecuted (JTN)
Twitter Deletes Over 170,000 Accounts Tied To Chinese Propaganda (Hill)
US Intel Bulletin Says ‘Malign Actors’ Target US Over Protest Fallout (ABC)
Obama Retread Sees Moscow’s Hand in Protests (Giraldi)
Flynn’s Lawyers Say Judge ‘Exceeded His Power’ In Not Dismissing Case (JTN)
Flynn Case: 85 Lies, Contradictions, Oddities, and Unusual Occurrences (ET)

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 9 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 136,757. Another new record.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is + 139,460 cases.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 23,300
• Brazil + 39,928
• Russia + 8,987
• India + 11,128
• Pakistan + 6.397
• Mexico + 4,.790

 

 

Cases 7,622,021 (+ 139,460 from yesterday’s 7,482,561)

Deaths 424,325 (+ 4,837 from yesterday’s 419,488)

 

 

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

“Fed chair Powell yesterday really reminded investors that there’s a huge, huge gap between the economic reality and the market reality..”

He should know, because he’s created that gap. It’s dead simple: there is no stock market left, only something that looks like it.

To have a market, you need price discovery. Jay Powell makes sure there isn’t any, because everyone’s afraid of what price discovery would do.

The entire financial world fears honesty and truth, and the Fed makes sure these are gone.

Here’s What Caused The Worst Stock Market Sell-Off Since March (F.)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 6.9%, nearly 1,900 points, in its worst single-day drop since the coronavirus sell-off in March. The S&P 500, which fell 5.9%, also had its worst day since March. Stocks plunged on rising concerns about a second wave of coronavirus infections: Many states that loosened lockdown restrictions saw a spike in new cases. Texas and Florida, for example, were among some of the first states to reopen, and they are now reporting record numbers of hospitalizations. A total of 21 states reported an increase in new cases last week, according to a Reuters analysis. Thursday’s sell-off follows the Federal Reserve’s grim update on the economy:


A day earlier, the Central Bank forecasted a long recovery, with unemployment set to remain high for years and interest rates staying near zero until at least 2022. “Fed chair Powell yesterday really reminded investors that there’s a huge, huge gap between the economic reality and the market reality,” Tom Essaye, founder of the Sevens Report, told CNBC. “Just that reminder combined with a lot of the second wave headlines prompted an opportunity to take profits… stocks can’t go up forever.” Expectations for a quick economic recovery are dwindling: Investors are now dumping stocks that would benefit from a reopening—including airlines, retailers and cruise operators—after they led the market rally over the past month.

Wall Street traders are instead rotating back into stay-at-home stocks, such as Netflix and Zoom, as well as big tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google-parent Alphabet. The stock market’s fear gauge, the CBOE Volatility Index, skyrocketed over 47% on Thursday, breaking above the 40 threshold for the first time in over a month. “The REAL reasons stocks are down doesn’t have much to do with fundamentals – the tape had become GROSSLY overbought (with valuations hitting multi-decade, unsustainable highs),” according to Adam Crisafulli, founder of Vital Knowledge. “A lot of reluctant buyers were sucked in off the sidelines these last few weeks, creating a giant downside air pocket that’s now being filled.”

BIG NUMBER: MORE THAN 44 MILLION. That’s how many people have filed for unemployment over the last three months, as the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to shut down on an unprecedented scale. Jobless claims fell for the tenth week in a row on Thursday, with 1.5 million more Americans filing for unemployment during the week ending June 6. While that number continues to decline, millions are still unemployed and the job market’s recovery is expected to take years. TANGENT “We can’t shut down the economy again,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Thursday morning. “I think we’ve learned that if you shut down the economy, you’re going to create more damage,” he warned.

Both the S&P 500 and Dow are still up more than 40% from their coronavirus low point on March 23. Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell reiterated at his press conference on Wednesday that while “there is great uncertainty about the future,” the Central Bank is strongly committed to doing “whatever we can, for as long as it takes” to help support the economy.

Read more …

Fits perfectly in the climate the Fed has created.

Trump Admin. Won’t Disclose Corporate Recipients of $500 Billion Bailout (CD)

Progressive critics and advocacy groups are responding with alarm and anger to the Trump administration’s refusal to disclose the names of more than 4.5 million companies that have collectively received over $500 billion in corporate bailout money through a federal program created to provide businesses with relief from the coronavirus pandemic. The over $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed by President Donald Trump in March established the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) with $349 billion in funding for forgivable loans. After the initial capital ran out in just 13 days, lawmakers approved $310 billion more—though over $130 billion of that amount was still left as of Tuesday.


Although, as the Washington Post reported, the Small Business Administration (SBA) “typically discloses names of borrowers from the loan program” on which the PPP is based, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testified to the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship that he won’t be following that model for the Covid-19 program, despite concerns about which companies are benefiting from it. As Mnuchin told the Senate committee Wednesday: “We believe that that’s proprietary information, and in many cases for sole proprietors and small businesses, it is confidential information.” The secretary’s comments provoked a barrage of condemnation, particularly among individuals and groups that had previously expressed concern about the PPP.

Read more …

Getting poorer as your income rises.

The Real Economic Catastrophe Hasn’t Hit Yet. Just Wait For August (BF)

More than 40 million people lost their jobs in the last few months, in the fastest and deepest economic slowdown ever recorded. More than half of all households with low incomes in the United States have experienced a loss of earnings, as have a quarter of all adults. The numbers are grim — but as bad as things look today, they’re on track to get much, much worse. The US economy right now is like a jumbo jet that’s in a steady glide after both its engines flamed out. In about six weeks, it will likely crash into the side of a mountain. What’s kept us in the air so far is an extraordinary government relief effort. In most states, evictions have been temporarily banned, preventing a mass homelessness crisis.


Most federal student loan payments have been put on hold, removing one of the largest recurring monthly expenses that millions of people face. Banks were ordered to give their customers a six-month break on mortgage payments if requested. Most importantly, and counterintuitively, household income sharply increased in April as hundreds of billions of dollars in lost wages were replaced by trillions in government spending. The government sent out more than 159 million stimulus payments of up to $1,200 per adult (more if you have kids), and more than 20 million unemployed people became eligible for an extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits. The result, according to Bloomberg, was the largest monthly increase in household income ever recorded.

This happened in April, when there were far fewer things to spend your money on; shops and restaurants were closed, nobody went to the ball game or took the kids to a theme park, and a shaggy nation longed for a haircut. Meanwhile, the prospect of a massive economic crash meant that Americans who were still on the job were more likely to tuck money away that they might otherwise have spent. So the national savings rate — the share of people’s income that is saved rather than spent — hit 33%, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, also the highest level ever recorded. In the same month that we reached the worst mass unemployment in living memory, Americans saved a total of $6.15 trillion — up by $4 trillion from the month prior.

Read more …

What’s worse for the UK is this is not the worst. They have allowed the virus to be everywhere.

UK Economy Suffers Record Slump With GDP Plunging By 20.4% (Sky)

Britain’s economy suffered a record collapse during April’s coronavirus lockdown with GDP plunging by 20.4%, the Office for National Statistics said. The fall is the biggest the UK has ever seen – worse than anything during the financial crash – and underlines the damage inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw many businesses shut down in a bid to curb the spread of infection. The economy was around 25% smaller in April than it was in February, bringing the threat of mass job losses. Reacting to the figures, health minister Edward Argar told Sky News the drop was “clearly a significant contraction” but was “not unexpected” given the coronavirus crisis.


Widespread contractions across the economy contributed to the fall in GDP. In the three months to April, the ONS data shows that accommodation and food services plummeted by 40.1%, with the closure of hotels, bars and restaurants throughout March and April. Manufacturing and construction also saw significant falls of 10.5% and 18.2% respectively. The ONS will not reveal what happened to the economy in May until next month, but it is likely to show another dramatic drop, as it covers the a period before restrictions started to ease in some parts of the economy. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “In line with many other economies around the world, coronavirus is having a severe impact on our economy.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics, said: “April’s fall in GDP is the biggest the UK has ever seen, more than three times larger than last month and almost 10 times larger than the steepest pre-COVID-19 fall. “In April, the economy was around 25% smaller than in February. “Virtually all areas of the economy were hit, with pubs, education, health and car sales all giving the biggest contributions to this historic fall. “Manufacturing and construction also saw significant falls, with manufacture of cars and housebuilding particularly badly affected. “The UK’s trade with the rest of the world was also badly affected by the pandemic, with large falls in both the import and export of cars, fuels, works of art and clothing.”

Read more …

It’s too late anyway. But is going back to “normal” a good idea?

BA, easyJet and Ryanair Begin Court Action Over UK Quarantine Rules (G.)

Britain’s three biggest airlines have filed papers in the high court to seek an urgent judicial review of the government’s quarantine laws, which they say are having a devastating effect on tourism and the wider economy. British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair say the rules, which came into effect on Monday and require passengers arriving from abroad to self-isolate at a single address for 14 days, are flawed and will cost thousands of jobs. The airlines sent a letter to the government last week to start their legal challenge, and court proceedings are now in train. The airlines have requested a hearing as soon as possible.

Despite reports of private briefings that “air bridges” allowing travel between the UK and some other European countries could be established by the end of the month, the three airlines say they have not yet seen any evidence of how and when they would be implemented. Instead, they are urging the government to revisit a policy briefly introduced in March that targeted passengers entering from “high-risk” countries for quarantine. They said: “This would be the most practical and effective solution and enables civil servants to focus on other, more significant issues arising from the pandemic while bringing the UK in line with much of Europe which is opening its borders mid-June.”

The airlines’ chief executives have been outspoken in their criticism of the rules. Willie Walsh, the boss of BA’s parent company IAG, has described them as “irrational and disproportionate”, while Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary has said they are “nonsense”. In the legal filing, the airlines argue that the rules are more stringent than those applied to people who have Covid-19 and leave their home, that there was no consultation on the policy and no scientific evidence provided to support it, that exemptions for commuters undermine the policy, and that the government is seeking to ban travel to and from countries with lower infection rates than the UK.

Read more …

Some of the numbers get scary.

US Virus Hotspots Reopen Despite Second Wave Specter (R.)

The moves by governors of states such as Florida and Arizona came as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the United States could not afford to let the novel coronavirus shut its economy again and global stocks tanked on worries of a pandemic resurgence. As Florida reported its highest daily tally of new coronavirus cases on Thursday, Governor Ron DeSantis unveiled a plan to restart public schools at “full capacity” in the autumn, arguing the state’s economy depended on it. North Carolina reported record COVID-19 hospitalizations for a fifth straight day on Thursday, a day after legislators passed a bill to reopen gyms, fitness centers and bars in a state where more than one in ten workers are unemployed.

Governors of hotspot states face pressure to fire up economies facing fiscal year 2021 budget shortfalls of up to 30% below pre-pandemic projections in the case of New Mexico, according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities think tank. Nevada, which has seen cases increase by nearly a third in the past two weeks, is suffering 28% unemployment, based on U.S Bureau of Labor statistics. “This is about saving lives, this is also about livelihoods in the state of Arizona,” Governor Doug Ducey told a news briefing, adding that a second shutdown of the economy was “not under discussion” despite official figures showing a 211% rise in virus cases over the past 14 days. About half a dozen states including Texas and Arizona are grappling with rising numbers of coronavirus patients filling hospital beds.

[..] A second wave of coronavirus deaths is expected to begin in the United States in September, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said on Thursday, citing a surge in mobility since April. Its latest model projects 170,000 deaths by Oct. 1, with a possible range between 133,000 and 290,000. A note of caution came from Utah, where Governor Gary Herbert said most of the state would pause its reopening after a 126% rise in cases over the past two weeks. Austin, Texas on Thursday also said it would likely extend stay-at-home and mask orders past June 15 after the state reported its highest new case count the previous day. Austin health officials blamed a record week of infections on easing business restrictions and Memorial Day gatherings.

Read more …

Coming to a theater, sports arena etc, near you.

Trump Campaign Rally Signup Form Includes COVID19 Warning/Disclaimer (JTN)

President Trump is slated to hold a campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., on June 19, but people who sign up for tickets will encounter a warning about possible exposure to coronavirus. “By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present,” the warning says. “By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; BOK Center; ASM Global; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury,” the note declares.


The event will be the the president’s first campaign rally in some time. Areas around the nation are emerging from coronavirus-related lockdowns and restrictions, and large protests have sprung up around the country in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minnesota. The Associated Press reports that many states have seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Read more …

They appear convinced Trump will lose, and want to get out of the way.

Retired Generals Who Denounced Trump Could Be Recalled, Prosecuted (JTN)

Retired four-star military officers who lambasted President Trump could be recalled to active duty and prosecuted for violating the U.S. Code, military law experts told Just the News. “Retired officers can’t make contemptuous remarks of the commander-in-chief,” said John Dowd, a former Marine Corps Judge Advocate and former Trump legal advisor. “They’re all subject to recall. They’re subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice until they die.” The pertinent law is Title 10 of the U.S. Code, Section 888, the experts said. “As part of the UCMJ, governing military law, you cannot use contemptuous words against certain officials, including the president,” one active duty Army Judge Advocate General Corps officer said. “That is a court-martial offense, and yes, you can be recalled to active duty to be court-martialed.”

The outspoken retired officers know they could be held to account, the JAG officer said. “I don’t know who the hell they think they are,” Dowd said. “It’s stunning to me. I guess the law doesn’t apply to them.” The retired officers comprise some of the biggest marquee military names in recent times. They include former Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis and former Special Operations Command chief Adm. William McRaven. With increasing frequency over the past couple years, and in quick succession over the past week, they have leveled serious accusations against Trump, and have called for him to be removed from office. In late 2019, McRaven published a New York Times op-ed titled “Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President,” and later told CNN interviewer Jake Tapper that Trump is working to destroy the country.

On June 7, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell — also speaking to CNN’s Tapper — said that Trump has “drifted away” from the U.S. Constitution. Elsewhere, Powell said Trump “lies all the time,” and called him a “menace.” Retired Lt. Gen. John Allen, who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in an interview that the Constitution is under threat — not from violent anarchists, but from the president of the United States. Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who led U.S. Southern Command and served in Bill Clinton’s cabinet, denounced Trump as a threat to national security. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen — who in 2012 surrendered his computers to the FBI in the course of a cybersecurity investigation — accused Trump of giving succor to foreign detractors.

Read more …

I guess it gets ever easier to confuse me. The 170,000 accounts “had tweeted almost 350,000 times before being shut down.” That’s barely 2 tweets per account. How does one influence anything that way?

If the “[25,000 accounts that formed what Twitter described as the “core network]” tweeted more often than 2x, scores of the accounts must have never tweeted. Hardly effective.

At the same time, the 1,000 “Russian” accounts and 7,000 Turkish ones tweeted 40 million times. How then is this a story about China? Remind me what rats smell like.

Twitter Deletes Over 170,000 Accounts Tied To Chinese Propaganda (Hill)

Twitter announced Thursday that it had deleted more than 170,000 accounts tied to a Chinese state-linked operation that were spreading deceptive information around the COVID-19 virus, political dynamics in Hong Kong, and other issues. Almost 25,000 of the accounts that were deleted formed what Twitter described as the “core network,” while around 150,000 accounts were amplifying messages from the core groups. “In general, this entire network was involved in a range of manipulative and coordinated activities,” the company wrote in a blog post. “They were Tweeting predominantly in Chinese languages and spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China (CCP), while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong.”

Twitter noted that the accounts taken down this week were tied to a Chinese state-backed operation last year that attempted to sow political discord in Hong Kong. Those accounts were also taken down. According to an analysis of the accounts by the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO), many of the accounts shut down were tweeting about the COVID-19 pandemic, with activity around this issue beginning in late January and reaching its peak in late March. The accounts primarily praised China’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. While most of the accounts had less than 10 followers and no bios, the SIO found that they had tweeted almost 350,000 times before being shut down.

“Narratives around COVID-19 primarily praise China’s response to the virus, and occasionally contrast China’s response against that of the U.S. government or Taiwan’s response, or use the presence of the virus as a means to attack Hong Kong activists,” the SIO wrote in its analysis. “The English-language content included pointed reiterations of the claim that China – not Taiwan – had a superior response to containing coronavirus.”

Twitter on Thursday also shut down thousands of accounts tied to Russian and Turkish state-linked misinformation efforts. The over 1,000 Russian accounts removed were tied to state-backed political propaganda within Russia, while the over 7,300 Turkish accounts removed were primarily spreading information favorable to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his political party. While the amount of Russian and Turkish-linked accounts was less than those tied to China, the Russian and Turkish accounts were found by the SIO to have tweeted a combined almost 40 million times before Twitter took action.

Read more …

What can they do without RussiaRussia? It’s their lifeblood.

US Intel Bulletin Says ‘Malign Actors’ Target US Over Protest Fallout (ABC)

As protesters hit the streets in cities across the country, America’s foreign adversaries have flooded social media with content meant to sow division and discord in the wake of George Floyd’s death, according to a U.S. government intelligence bulletin obtained by ABC News. The bulletin, distributed Tuesday to law enforcement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), accuses Russia, China and Iran of “employing state media, proxy outlets, and social media accounts to amplify criticism of the United States related to the death of George Floyd and subsequent events.” These “malign actors” also appear intent on drawing attention to alleged hypocrisy in the Trump administration’s handling of protesters, the report found.

The death of 46-year-old George Floyd last month, at the hands of a former Minneapolis police officer, has sparked outrage and protest from coast to coast, prompting calls for an overhaul of police practices. In the intervening weeks, foreign adversaries have sought to leverage the residual domestic strife resulting from Floyd’s death to pursue geopolitical goals, the bulletin claimed, including an ongoing effort to weaken Washington’s image on the international stage. “These actors criticize the United States as hypocritical, corrupt, undemocratic, racist, guilty of human rights abuses and on the verge of collapsing,” the report found. For Russia, this finding represents the latest chapter in Moscow’s age-old information warfare playbook, according to John Cohen, a former senior DHS official and current ABC News contributor.

“This is yet another indicator that Russia is using the combination of overt propaganda and covertly disseminated disinformation to sow discord across our populace, expand the cracks in our society, and undermine the credibility of the U.S. government,” Cohen said.

Read more …

“..go out and face your people, look them in the eye and try telling them that they are being controlled by the Russians through YouTube and Facebook. And I will sit back and watch ‘American exceptionalism’ in action.”

Obama Retread Sees Moscow’s Hand in Protests (Giraldi)

How convenient is it to fall back on Russia which, together with the Chinese, is reputedly already reported to be working hard to subvert the November U.S. election. And what better way to do just that than to call on one of the empty-heads of the Barack Obama administration, whose foreign policy achievements included the destruction of a prosperous Libya and the killing of four American diplomats in Benghazi, the initiation of kinetic hostilities with Syria, the failure to achieve a reset with Russia and the assassinations of American citizens overseas without any due process. But Obama sure did talk nice and seem pleasant unlike the current occupant of the White House.

The predictable Wolf Blitzer had a recent interview with perhaps the emptiest head of all the empowered women who virtually ran the Obama White House. Susan Rice was U.N. Ambassador and later National Security Advisor under Barack Obama. Before that she was a Clinton appointee who served as Undersecretary of State for African Affairs. She is reportedly currently being considered as a possible running mate for Joe Biden as she has all the necessary qualifications being a woman and black. While Ambassador and National Security Advisor, Rice had the reputation of being extremely abrasive. She ran into trouble when she failed to be convincing in support of the Obama administration exculpatory narrative regarding what went wrong in Benghazi when the four Americans, to include the U.S. Ambassador, were killed.

In her interview with Blitzer, Rice said: “We have peaceful protesters focused on the very real pain and disparities that we’re all wrestling with that have to be addressed, and then we have extremists who’ve come to try to hijack those protests and turn them into something very different. And they’re probably also, I would bet based on my experience, I’m not reading the intelligence these days, but based on my experience this is right out of the Russian playbook as well. I would not be surprised to learn that they have fomented some of these extremists on both sides using social media. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they are funding it in some way, shape, or form.”

It should be noted that Rice, a devout Democrat apparatchik, produced no evidence whatsoever that the Russians were or have been involved in “fomenting” the reactions to the George Floyd demonstrations and riots beyond the fact that Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden all believe that Moscow is responsible for everything. Clinton in particular hopes that some day someone will actually believe her when she claims that she lost to Trump in 2016 due to Russia. Even Robert Mueller, he of the Russiagate Inquiry, could not come up with any real evidence suggesting that the relatively low intensity meddling in the election by the Kremlin had any real impact. Nor was there any suggestion that Moscow was actually colluding with the Trump campaign, nor with its appointees, to include National Security Advisor designate Michael Flynn.

[..] Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova accurately described the Rice performance as a “perfect example of barefaced propaganda.” She wrote on her Facebook page “Are you trying to play the Russia card again? You’ve been playing too long – come back to reality” instead of using “dirty methods of information manipulation” despite “having absolutely no facts to prove [the] allegations… go out and face your people, look them in the eye and try telling them that they are being controlled by the Russians through YouTube and Facebook. And I will sit back and watch ‘American exceptionalism’ in action.”

Read more …

Today at 9.30 am EDT. Court of Appeals hearing.

Flynn’s Lawyers Say Judge ‘Exceeded His Power’ In Not Dismissing Case (JTN)

Lawyers for Michael Flynn argued in a brief filed Thursday that Judge Emmet Sullivan “exceeded his power” when he refused to dismiss a case per a Justice Department request, arguing that the judge is legally compelled to follow federal prosecutors’ desire to end prosecution against the former Trump national security adviser. The Justice Department in a surprise move last month announced it would be dismissing its case against Flynn, who had plead guilty to lying to FBI agents but later withdrew the plea. Federal officials in May claimed the FBI interview with Flynn had been immaterial to its investigation of him, as part of the federal Russia collusion probe, and that his statements in the 2017 meeting were thus legally irrelevant.


But Sullivan, who is overseeing Flynn’s case, refused to accept the Justice Department request, instead calling in ex-Judge John Gleeson to file an an opinion arguing in favor of keeping the case against Flynn. In their Thursday filing, Flynn’s lawyers slammed Sullivan, arguing that he is “not in the Executive branch and, being an Article III judge, has no authority to gin up his own case or controversy where none exists.” “The game is over and this Court should order the umpire to leave the field,” they wrote of the case, arguing that the ultimate authority for dismissing charges lies with prosecutors. Gleeson in his filing earlier this week argued that the court should consider Flynn’s withdrawal of his guilty plea to itself be perjury, and that Sullivan “should take Flynn’s perjury into account in sentencing him on the offense to which he has already admitted guilt.”

Read more …

I have no space for 85.

Flynn Case: 85 Lies, Contradictions, Oddities, and Unusual Occurrences (ET)

The case of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn is inevitably heading toward its conclusion. While the presiding district judge, Emmet Sullivan, is trying to keep it going, there’s only so much he can do, chiefly because there’s nobody left to prosecute the case after the Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped it last month. In the latest developments, the District of Columbia appeals court set a hearing in the case for tomorrow (June 12), while the DOJ’s solicitor general himself, as well as five of his deputies, urged the court to order the lower-court judge to accept the case dismissal. “I cannot overstate how big of a deal this is,” commented appellate attorney John Reeves, former assistant Missouri attorney general, in a series of tweets on June 1. Personal involvement of the solicitor general “is highly unusual and rare,” he said.

“Unusual” seems a fitting euphemism for the Flynn case, which has been filled with contradictions, falsehoods, apparent blunders, extraordinary moves, and strange coincidences. The Epoch Times has so far counted 85 such instances. Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration and former national security adviser to President Donald Trump, pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, to one count of lying to FBI agents during a Jan. 24, 2017, interview. The FBI officially opened an investigation on Flynn on Aug. 16, 2016, based on a suspicion that he “may wittingly or unwittingly be involved in activity on behalf of the Russian Federation which may constitute a federal crime or threat to the national security.”

What activity? The case was opened under a broader investigation into whether the Trump 2016 presidential campaign conspired with Russia to steal emails from the Democratic National Committee and release them through Wikileaks. Flynn was an adviser to the campaign at the time. By its own admission, the FBI had little reason to suspect the campaign. The bureau learned from the Australian government that its then-ambassador to the UK, Alexander Downer, spoke with Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, who “suggested” that the campaign received “some kind of suggestion” that Russia could help it by anonymously releasing some information damaging to Trump’s opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The FBI didn’t know what Papadopoulos actually said or what he was talking about. Officially, this information was used by the FBI to comb through its databases for information on people associated with the Trump campaign and open investigations on four individuals supposedly linked to Russia. Because Flynn’s paid speaking engagements in years past included some for Russian companies—one for Kaspersky Lab and one for RT television in Moscow—the FBI decided to open a counterintelligence investigation on the retired three-star general. But the FBI seemed to have trouble getting its story straight.

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the interaction.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jun 042020
 


G. G. Bain On beach near Casino, Asbury Park 1911

 

Malaria Drug Touted By Trump Fails To Prevent COVID19 In High Profile Study (R.)
Big HCQ Study the Media Went Nuts Over Turned Out to Be a Scam (RS)
Concerns Mount Over Study Attacking Hydroxychloroquine (JTN)
WHO Set To Resume Hydroxychloroquine Trial In Battle Against COVID19 (R.)
Brazil Sets Record For Daily Coronavirus Deaths, Beating Tuesday (R.)
US Airlines Gain Final Approval To Drop Services To 75 Domestic Airports (R.)
Qantas To Boost Domestic Capacity To 15% Of Normal By End Of June (R.)
What Will it Take to Save the Airlines? (Horan)
Protest Disrupts Hong Kong Legislative Debate Over China Anthem Bill (R.)
HSBC Breaks Silence And Backs National Security Law For Hong Kong (SCMP)
Rosenstein Points Clear Finger At FBI (JTN)
Rosenstein: Trump Did Not Commit ‘A Crime That Warrants Prosecution’ (JTN)
With US In Crisis, Germany Reluctant To Be ‘Leader Of The Free World’ (SCMP)
Nation Feigns Surprise At Government Handout To Rich Homeowners (Chaser)

 

 

Worldometer puts global new cases in past 24 hrs at + 121,413. I counted under 80K yesterday, using their numbers.

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 20,578
• Brazil + 28,663
• Russia + 8,536
• India + 9,572
• Chile + 4,942
• Pakistan + 4,801

 

 

The UK had more COVID19 deaths yesterday than the 27 EU countries combined.

 

 

 

Cases 6,596,501 (+ 122,212 from Saturday’s 6,474,289)

Deaths 388,421 (+ 5,507 from Saturday’s 382,914)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-:

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

This just goes on. WIth one study fully discredited, they seamlessly switch to the next. This time HCQ doesn’t kill, but it’s “ineffective”. Ineffective in what? In preventing infection. Only, no-one ever said it would do that. HCQ and zinc combine to prevent the virus, once you are infected, from doing further and grave damage to your body.

That’s all. When used for malaria, the idea never was that HCQ could prevent infection either. Instead, it helps the body fight the pathogen.

Oh, and if you’re Reuters and you think that after all the articles about HCQ, you still must put “Malaria Drug Touted By Trump” in your headline, I’d say you have a very big bias issue.

Malaria Drug Touted By Trump Fails To Prevent COVID19 In High Profile Study (R.)

The malaria drug promoted by U.S. President Donald Trump as a treatment for COVID-19 was ineffective in preventing infection in people exposed to the coronavirus, according to a widely anticipated clinical trial released on Wednesday. The new trial found no serious side effects or heart problems from use of hydroxychloroquine. Vocal support from Trump kicked off a heated debate and raised expectations for the decades-old drug that could be a cheap and widely available tool in fighting the pandemic that has infected more than 6.4 million people and killed over 382,000 worldwide. In the first major study comparing hydroxychloroquine to a placebo to gauge its effect against the new coronavirus, University of Minnesota researchers tested 821 people who had recently been exposed to the virus or lived in a high-risk household.


It found 11.8% of subjects given hydroxychloroquine developed symptoms compatible with COVID-19, compared with 14.3% who got a placebo. That difference was not statistically significant, meaning the drug was no better than placebo. “Our data is pretty clear that for post exposure, this does not really work,” said Dr. David Boulware, the trial’s lead researcher and an infectious disease physician at the University of Minnesota. Several trials of the drug have been stopped over concerns about its safety for treating COVID-19 that were raised by health regulators and previous less rigorous studies. “I think both sides – one side who is saying ‘this is a dangerous drug’ and the other side that says ‘this works’ – neither is correct,” said Boulware.

Read more …

“How many people who might have been helped by the drug, if used properly early in the process, might be alive had countries and doctors not been so discouraged from using it?”

Big HCQ Study the Media Went Nuts Over Turned Out to Be a Scam (RS)

Hydroxychloroquine is back in the news today after a major study, which was widely touted by the media a few weeks ago, has turned out to be a scam. The study was also used to change coronavirus treatment policies by the World Health Organization. Now, we are learning that that the company that supposedly did the study, and has helped push others, is a front company of some kind. Further, the person who put the data together is not a scientist, but a science fiction author. The studies produced by this company were published by Lancet, a renowned medical journal, and used as evidence to attack Donald Trump with.

Lancet has now issued an “expression of concern,” demanding that the company provide details on their data and methodology. Given what’s already been revealed, you’d think they’d just disown the studies altogether, but I suspect they want to save face. While these studies being frauds is bad, what’s worse is that the media took their message far and wide, literally painting hydroxychloroquine as some kind of death sentence. How many people who might have been helped by the drug, if used properly early in the process, might be alive had countries and doctors not been so discouraged from using it? We may never know the answer to that, though the usual suspects continue to dig in behind their narrative.


This does provide some notion to how flawed the medical journal system is. Why would something like this be published and used to make life and death decisions when Lancet wasn’t even aware of their methodology? It seems rather insane on it’s face.

Read more …

Time to seriously investigate Surgisphere, who funds it?, and while you’re at it, look at how the Lancet dumped its own standards when it published this. The suggestion that a scifi writer and an adult content provider are behind Surgisphere are a bonus.

Concerns Mount Over Study Attacking Hydroxychloroquine (JTN)

Two major medical journals have issued alerts that recent scientific data regarding the drug hydroxychloroquine may have significant flaws, with the two journals claiming “substantive concerns” and “significant scientific questions” have been raised regarding the validity of the cited information. A study published on May 22 in the journal The Lancet by medical data analytics company Surgisphere determined that hydroxychloroquine — a drug repeatedly touted by President Trump as a possible viable treatment for the coronavirus — was “associated with an increased risk of in-hospital mortality” when given to COVID-19 patients. A total of 9,273 patients in the study received some form of hydroxychloroquine treatment. Patients given that drug, the study concluded, are also more likely to experience “de-novo ventricular arrhythmia,” a condition in which the heart beats irregularly.

Those conclusions so alarmed the World Health Organization that it announced at the end of last month that it would be pausing its own hydroxychloroquine trials “while the data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board.” Barely a week after that announcement, serious questions are beginning to arise surrounding the study by Surgisphere. The World Health Organization has since resumed its hydroxychloroquine trials. The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine, meanwhile, have both signaled concerns over Surgisphere’s data and analytical methods. A breakdown of the alleged problems surrounding the Surgisphere study — as well as questions regarding the company itself — was published late last month by medical student James Todaro at his website “Medicine (Un)Censored,” an aggregator of COVID-19 news that heavily touts the purported benefits of hydroxychloroquine in treating the disease.


Todaro wrote on the website that the Surgisphere study had numerous data issues, including overcounting COVID-19 deaths on the Australian continent as well as the study’s claim that it included in its dataset nearly every single hospitalized COVID-19 patient in North America. The study also “reports patient data from Africa that requires sophisticated patient monitoring technology and electronic medical record systems,” factors Todaro clams are unlikely to be present in sufficiently high numbers in many African hospitals.

Read more …

The WHO is an empty facade.

WHO Set To Resume Hydroxychloroquine Trial In Battle Against COVID19 (R.)

The World Health Organization will resume its trial of hydroxychloroquine for potential use against the coronavirus, its chief said on Wednesday, after those running the study briefly stopped giving it to new patients over health concerns. The U.N. agency last month paused the part of its large study of treatments against COVID-19 in which newly enrolled patients were getting the anti-malarial drug to treat COVID-19 due to fears it increased death rates and irregular heartbeats. The study continued with other medicines. But the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said its experts had advised the continuation of all trials including hydroxychloroquine, whose highest-profile backer for use against the coronavirus is U.S. President Donald Trump.


“The executive group will communicate with the principal investigators in the trial about resuming the hydroxychloroquine arm of the trial,” Tedros told an online media briefing, referring to WHO’s initiative to hold clinical tests of potential COVID-19 treatments on some 3,500 patients in 35 countries. The WHO’s decision to suspend its trial prompted others to follow suit, including Sanofi, which said on May 29 it was suspending recruitment for its trials. A Sanofi spokesman said the company would review available information and run consultations in the coming days to reassess its position following the WHO’s latest decision on Wednesday. The WHO’s chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, called for other trials of the drug to proceed. “We owe it to patients to have a definitive answer on whether or not a drug works,” she said, adding that safety monitoring should also continue.

Read more …

Hoe much longer for Bolsonaro?

Brazil Sets Record For Daily Coronavirus Deaths, Beating Tuesday (R.)

Brazil registered a record number of daily deaths from the coronavirus for the second consecutive day, according to Health Ministry data released on Wednesday. The nation recorded 1,349 new coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, and 28,633 additional confirmed cases, the data showed. Brazil has now registered 32,548 deaths and 584,016 total confirmed cases.

Read more …

As the country opens up, airlines cut flights. But of course.

US Airlines Gain Final Approval To Drop Services To 75 Domestic Airports (R.)

Fifteen U.S. airlines were granted final government approval on Wednesday to temporarily halt service to 75 domestic airports as travel demand has been crushed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Transportation Department said all airports would continue to be served by at least one air carrier. Despite some objections to a tentative list made public on May 22, the government did not make any changes.The U.S. airline industry has been awarded $25 billion in government payroll assistance grants to help weather the pandemic. While carriers must maintain minimum service levels to receive the assistance, many petitioned to stop service to airports with low passenger demand. The department has previously allowed some airlines to halt service to some airports and rejected other requests.


Both United Airlines and Delta Air Lines won approval to halt flights to 11 airports. Allegiant Air was allowed to halt service to six airports, while JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines gained approval to stop flights to five airports each. U.S. air carriers have said they are collectively burning through more than $10 billion in cash a month as travel demand remains a fraction of prior levels. They have parked more than half of their planes and cut thousands of flights. Cities that Delta can halt service to include Aspen, Colorado; Bangor, Maine; Santa Barbara, California and Flint, Michigan. United can halt service to airports including Chattanooga, Tennessee; Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as well as Key West, Florida.

Read more …

The 15% is a good indication of how long of a battle this will be.

Qantas To Boost Domestic Capacity To 15% Of Normal By End Of June (R.)

Australia’s Qantas Airways and Air New Zealand on Thursday outlined plans for significant boosts to domestic capacity as pandemic-related travel restrictions ease, sending their shares higher. Qantas said it would lift domestic capacity to 15% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of June, up from 5% now. The airline said more flights are likely in July depending on travel demand and further opening of state borders, with the ability to increase to up to 40% of pre-crisis capacity by the end of July. Air New Zealand said it would raise domestic capacity to 55% of normal levels during July and August, up from 20% after a strict nationwide lockdown was lifted in May.


Qantas shares were trading 5% higher at 0240 GMT, while Air New Zealand shares were up 4.8%. Australia and New Zealand have both reported few new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said there was pent-up demand for domestic air travel. “We are already seeing a big increase in customers booking and planning flights in the weeks and months ahead,” he said in a statement.

Read more …

Hubert Horan has 40 years of experience in the management and regulation of transportation companies (primarily airlines). Horan currently has no financial links with any airlines or other industry participants

What Will it Take to Save the Airlines? (Horan)

Coronavirus has created the greatest challenge the airline industry has ever faced. For the large legacy carriers serving intercontinental markets, the threat is comparable to the meteor that caused massive climate change and drove dinosaurs into extinction. While the industry was clearly viable prior to coronavirus, it faced a number of serious competitive and financial issues that will impede efforts to deal with the impact of the coronavirus meteor. The industry requires major, painful restructuring. Baring staggering increases in taxpayer subsidies (beyond the $60 billion already pledged in the US), it is unclear how most (perhaps any) of these carriers survive under current ownership in anything like their current form. None of the needed changes are even being discussed within the industry at this point, and the processes needed to manage the needed restructuring do not currently exist.

Airline economics depend critically on extremely high capacity utilization. Small changes have huge profit leverage. US airlines filled 85% of their seats in 2019 (up from 58% when the industry was deregulated and 70% 20 years ago). Once an airline has committed to the costs of operating a given schedule, almost all of the lost revenue from a shortfall of passengers directly reduces the bottom line. Coronavirus-driven traffic losses have been vastly larger than anyone could have ever imagined. Traffic through TSA checkpoints in US airports was down 96% versus the year before in mid April and 88% in mid-May. While the industry had faced demand shocks in the past (9/11 in the US, various wars, the original SARS outbreak in Asia), none were global in scope, and none were seen as driving permanent declines in demand. Never before has flying on an airplane required accepting serious medical risk.


In a recent poll only 23% of US travelers thought flying on an airplane was safe. While no one knows what will happen, this analysis assumes that there is no widely available vaccine and no reliable way to prove individual immunity during 2020. Perhaps infection rates decline gradually and economic activity gradually increases. Perhaps there are new outbreaks and efforts to reopen the economy are put on hold. Perhaps economic activity declines seriously as companies realize that recent losses are unsustainable, and major new waves of layoffs and bankruptcies occur. But the idea of a rapid, “V-shaped” recovery to the January status quo seems wildly improbable.

Read more …

No Tiananmen square commemoration, but a vote over a bill that would criminalise disrespect of China’s national anthem. Happy days. [UPDATE: the law passed].

Protest Disrupts Hong Kong Legislative Debate Over China Anthem Bill (R.)

Police and firefighters entered Hong Kong’s legislature on Thursday after two pro-democracy lawmakers threw foul-smelling liquid to protest against China’s “murderous” crackdown by Chinese troops in and around Tiananmen Square 31 years ago. Lawmakers Eddie Chu and Ray Chan rushed to the front of the chamber during a debate over a controversial bill that would criminalise disrespect of China’s national anthem, splashing the reeking fluid as guards grappled with them. Police and firefighters later arrived on the scene. “A murderous state stinks forever. What we did today is to remind the world that we should never forgive the Chinese Communist Party for killing its own people 31 years ago,” Chu said later, before he and Chan were removed from the chamber.


A final vote on the bill is expected later on Thursday with people in Hong Kong set to commemorate the bloody 1989 crackdown by lighting candles across the city. For the first time, police have banned an annual vigil to mark the event that is usually held in downtown Victoria Park, citing the coronavirus outbreak. The disruption in the legislature came after pro-establishment lawmakers vetoed most amendments to the anthem bill proposed by democrats. If passed, the bill could punish those who insult the anthem with up to three years jail and/or fines of up to HK$50,000 ($6,450). It states that “all individuals and organisations” should respect and dignify the national anthem and play it and sing it on “appropriate occasions”.

Read more …

You know the oddest thing about this? HSBC backs a law without knowing what’s in it. Not only hasn’t it been released yet, it’s still being drafted.

This is the biggest bank in Europe. Maybe it should no longer be.

HSBC Breaks Silence And Backs National Security Law For Hong Kong (SCMP)

HSBC has broken its silence and offered its support for the national security law that Beijing is drafting for Hong Kong, days after a former city chief who is now a state leader criticised the banking giant for not making its stance on the legislation clear. It posted an article on HSBC China’s WeChat account on Wednesday, with the headline saying the group’s Asia-Pacific CEO had signed a petition supporting the new law. The article noted that the Hong Kong Association of Banks had already issued a statement saying the law would contribute to a stable business environment and raise investor confidence in the city.


“As a key member of the association, HSBC reiterates that under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, it respects and supports all laws that stabilise Hong Kong’s social order and boost the economy to develop prosperously,” it said, referring to the framework under which Beijing governs the city. The HSBC group is headquartered in London. It is the biggest bank in Hong Kong and Europe and is dual-listed in the city and London. China’s top legislature, the National People’s Congress, announced on May 21 that its standing committee would draft a tailor-made national security law for Hong Kong. The law is likely to be passed by August, with Beijing identifying it as a necessity amid anti-government protest violence and perceived external interference. It aims to prevent, stop and punish secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and foreign interference in Hong Kong, but opposition politicians and critics warn it could be used to suppress dissent and erode long-standing freedoms.

Read more …

The Senate questioning is not the main dish. But it’s an okay starter. Let’s see them squirm and turn on each other.

Rosenstein Points Clear Finger At FBI (JTN)

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made clear in his Senate testimony he is no Harry Truman or Janet Reno, two larger-than-life Washington figures from yesteryear who embraced the idea that no matter what went wrong on their watch the bucks stops at the top. During three-plus hours of uncomfortable interrogation by Republicans and Democrats alike, Rosenstein repeatedly tried to blame others – the FBI and its former deputy director Andrew McCabe often – for failures in a Russia probe he personally supervised. Rosenstein testified he would not have signed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant targeting Trump adviser Carter Page for a fourth time in summer 2017 if the FBI had just told him about exculpatory evidence.

He acknowledged the Robert Mueller special counsel probe went on for 18 more months after the FBI knew, by August 2017, that there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. And he claimed the FBI kept him in the dark about the fact that its field agents had recommended closing down an investigation of Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn all the way back in January 2017. McCabe, the former deputy director and acting director of the FBI, “was not fully candid with me,” Rosenstein said in explaining how he could be so in the dark on so many critical Russia probe issues. Rosenstein’s performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday frustrated many of the committee’s members.


“He acted like he wasn’t responsible and, you know, that it was somebody else’s responsibility to verify these facts,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said on Fox News after the testimony. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, took Rosenstein to task during the middle of the hearing. “You came into a profoundly politicized world and yet, all of this was allowed to go forward under your leadership,” Cruz said. “That, unfortunately, leads to only two possible conclusions—either you were complicit in the wrongdoing, which I don’t believe was the case, or that your performance of your duties was grossly negligent.” Rosenstein could only muster this in response: “You always wish you could have done more.”

https://twitter.com/i/status/1268238790184894466

Read more …

Question is: did Rosenstein?

Rosenstein: Trump Did Not Commit ‘A Crime That Warrants Prosecution’ (JTN)

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Wednesday appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee at an oversight hearing about the Crossfire Hurricane investigation and denied that he has ever suggested removing President Trump from office using the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “I did not suggest or hint at secretly recording President Trump,” Rosenstein also said during questioning from Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono. The Hawaiian senator blasted the hearing as a ploy to bolster President Trump’s “conspiracy theories and to help the president’s reelection” and said that it “wastes this committee’s time.”

Hirono asked Rosenstein if he concurred with Attorney General Barr’s statement in a letter to Congress, in which Barr wrote that, “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” “Did Attorney General Barr accurately present your view regarding the obstruction of justice?” Hirono asked.


“Senator I do not believe that the evidence collected by the special counsel warrants prosecution of the president, that is correct,” Rosenstein replied. The senator pressed the issue of the letter again and asked Rosenstein if he concurred “that there was no obstruction of justice involved?” Rosenstein responded to the senator, reiterating his previous response: “Yes, I do not believe that the president committed a crime that warrants prosecution. And that’s the issue that we review as prosecutors.”

Read more …

People read this as if it’s something serious. But the US hasn’t led the world in many decades. The leader of the free world doesn’t bomb Syria, Libya, Iraq.

With US In Crisis, Germany Reluctant To Be ‘Leader Of The Free World’ (SCMP)

Germans have long viewed the United States as a protector of human rights and democracy around the globe, the undisputed leader of the free world. But many have recoiled in horror at America’s chaos in the last week since the killing of black man George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, which US president Donald Trump threatened to end with military force. The demonstrations have resonated in Germany, a deeply pacifist nation for which military force is anathema. Thousands have protested in front of the US embassy in Berlin and elsewhere, as demonstrations against racism and US police brutality spread in other countries including Britain, France and Australia.

The eruption of violence across the United States, coupled with the disorder in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic there, has fed into angst in Berlin and other capitals that the United States has lost its way and could be inexorably abdicating its status as leader of the free world. That could create an ominous vacuum that neither Germany nor the European Union is equipped to handle or eager to fill. “Germany is not the leader of the free world,” Juergen Hardt, the head of foreign policy affairs in parliament for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, told South China Morning Post, flatly making clear that Europe’s leading nation has no such aspirations.


“There are certainly signs that America is losing the unity and virtues that long made it so strong,” the close Merkel ally and unabashed supporter of tight and trusted transatlantic relations added with a heavy heart. “The whole world always had the faith that America could resolve its issues in the end. You always had a sense that they’d figure it out at some point. That’s why there’s always been such enormous confidence in the United States. There are doubts growing about that now.”

Read more …

“The news has come as a great surprise to Liberal Minister Peter Dutton, who had completely forgotten he owned nine houses when he helped make the decision. ”

Nation Feigns Surprise At Government Handout To Rich Homeowners (Chaser)

The nation has put on its best surprised face today, upon learning that the Liberal government has chosen to give the next round of stimulus money to rich homeowners, in order to help them increase the values on their properties. “Wow never saw that coming,” sighed one Australian today. “I’ve always said the one industry that really needs propping up in this country is the housing market. Absolutely nobody there is getting rich off that already. Glad we could give those battlers a hand up.” The news has come as a great surprise to Liberal Minister Peter Dutton, who had completely forgotten he owned nine houses when he helped make the decision.


“Gosh, the government wants to give thousands of dollars to me, a struggling home owner?” blushed Dutton. “Why this is even better than that handout to child care owners a few months back, which coincidentally also benefited me. Good golly, what are the odds.” Asked what they had planned for the thousands of entertainment industry and tourism industry workers who were currently now entering their third month of unemployment, the government said they already had plans underway to retrain them as real estate agents, to help boost the country’s much more needy housing industry.

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the interaction.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

– Seamus Heaney

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 232020
 


Adam Zyglis The son of man May 19 2020

 

US Grants Tentative OK For 15 Air Carriers To Cut Service To 75 Airports (R.)
UK Confirms 14-Day Quarantine Post-Travel (Y!)
Remdesivir Study Finds Mortality Too High For Standalone Treatment (ZH)
NIH Trial: Redesivir Works Best In COVID Patients On Oxygen (R.)
US Veterans Agency Has Given HCQ To 1,300 Coronavirus Patients (R.)
COVID19 ‘Taking Different Path In Africa’, Says WHO (G.)
Peruvian President Extends Nationwide Lockdown Through June 30 (CNN)
Chileans Rediscover Community Kitchens As Coronavirus and Hunger Bite (R.)
Car Rental Giant Hertz Files For Bankruptcy (Solomon)
This Sucker Is Going Down (Kunstler)
Argentina Set For Default As Bondholders Reject New Terms (G.)
FBI Launches Internal Investigation Into Its Handling Of Flynn Case (JTN)
FBI Opened Russia Probe On Third-Hand ‘Suggestion’ Of Collusion (JTN)

 

 

Global new cases in past 24 hours: 107,743

New cases in:
• US + 23,591
• Russia + 9,434
• Brazil + 21.461
• India + 6,568
• Chile + 4,726

New deaths in past 24 hours:
• US + 1,260 (total deaths 97,655)
• Russia + 139
• Brazil + 1,034
• Spain + 688
• UK +351
• Mexico + 337

 

 

https://twitter.com/SteveGuest/status/1263901535462928386

 

 

 

Cases 5,326,230 (+ 107,743 from yesterday’s 5,218,496)

Deaths 340,383 (+ 5,314 from yesterday’s 335,069)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Now that their lockdowns end, the US and UK take measures they should have when they started. The cart and the horse.

How is this not insane? During the lockdowns, US airlines have kept flying everywhere, and people have entered the UK without even being checked (an official policy).

Now that the virus is solidly embedded in the home population, they start acting to prevent it from embedding itself in the population.

US Grants Tentative OK For 15 Air Carriers To Cut Service To 75 Airports (R.)

The U.S. Transportation Department said late on Friday it had granted tentative approval to 15 airlines to temporarily halt service to 75 U.S. airports because of the coronavirus pandemic. Airlines must maintain minimum service levels in order to receive government assistance but many have petitioned to stop service to airports with low passenger demand. Both United Airlines and Delta Air Lines won tentative approval to halt flights to 11 airports, while JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines and Frontier Airlines were approved to stop flights to five airports each. The department said all airports would continue to be served by at least one air carrier.


The Transportation Department said objections to the order can be filed until May 28. U.S. air carriers are collectively burning through more than $10 billion in cash a month as travel demand remains a fraction of prior levels, even though it has rebounded slightly in recent weeks. They have parked more than half of their planes and cut thousands of flights. The department has previously granted airlines waivers to cancel some additional flights and denied others. On May 12, the department said it would allow carriers to halt flights to up to 5% of required destinations.


Getty

Read more …

Millions of travelers since January, and 100,000 air passengers alone from April 1-26, have entered the UK unhindered. No More! We have all the virus we need!

UK Confirms 14-Day Quarantine Post-Travel (Y!)

The UK government confirmed in a statement that it will put in place a 14-day period of quarantine for anyone that lands on British soil in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The move, which was announced at the government’s daily press briefing, will be a huge blow for the airline industry that is predicted to lose $314bn this year, according to the latest prediction from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). That number is still 25% more than previously forecasted. This is also due to a 55% drop in 2020 passenger revenue compared with last year.


Home secretary Priti Patel confirmed at the daily coronavirus briefing from Downing Street on Friday that alongside the 14-day quarantine, those under that lockdown could be contacted regularly throughout this period to ensure compliance. “As the world begins to emerge from what we hope is the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, we must look to the future and protect the British public by reducing the risk of cases crossing our border,” she said in a statement. “We are introducing these new measures now to keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave. “I fully expect the majority of people will do the right thing and abide by these measures. But we will take enforcement action against the minority of people who endanger the safety of others.”

Read more …

When a ‘pivotal’ study is released on a Friday at 6pm, you know something’s wrong. But we still see headlines today like:

“Gilead’s drug works best in COVID patients on oxygen” and “Anti-viral drug ‘remdesivir’ effective against coronavirus, study finds”.

Remdesivir doesn’t work. It may have a little effect on people who already get oxygen, but that’s it. It doesn’t cure a thing.

There’s a Chinese study out on a drug with the great plus that it hasn’t killed anyone in phase 1 testing.

That is the new standard. All investors should move in! This could be the one!

Remdesivir Study Finds Mortality Too High For Standalone Treatment (ZH)

… According to a pivotal study published in the New England Journal of Medicine late on Friday, Remdesivir, which was authorized to treat Covid-19 in a group of 1063 adults and children (split into two groups, one receiving placebo instead of remdesivir) who need i) supplemental oxygen, ii) a ventilator or iii) extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), only significantly helped those on supplemental oxygen. Meanwhile, and explaining the 6pm release on a Friday, the study also found no marked benefit from remdesivir for those who were healthier and didn’t need oxygen or those who were sicker, requiring a ventilator or a heart-lung bypass machine.

The NEJM, almost apologetically, stated that “the lack of benefit seen in the other groups might have stemmed from a smaller number of patients in each group.” Still, as a result of the partial benefit for patients in the supplemental oxygen group, the study from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was evaluated early and led to the authorization of remdesivir before the full trial was completed. Our findings highlight the need to identify Covid-19 cases and start antiviral treatment before the pulmonary disease progresses to require mechanical ventilation.

A visual representation of the outcomes is below; it shows that whereas there was a modest benefit only to patients who were receiving oxygen, the results were statistically insignificant vs placebo for patients not receiving oxygen, while in a surprising twist patients on high-flow oxygen or mechanical ventilator/ECMO did modestly better in the placebo group than those taking remdesivir. Also, the overall results showed a very modest, but not statistically significant improvement in the remdesivir group vs placebo. [..] Another disappointment: the study found that overall “mortality was numerically lower in the remdesivir group than in the placebo group, but the difference was not significant”, in other words the alleged “miracle drug” has largely the same effect as a placebo in terms of overall disease mortality.

Read more …

It looks like advertizing gone wrong.

NIH Trial: Redesivir Works Best In COVID Patients On Oxygen (R.)

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Friday said that data from its trial of Gilead Sciences Inc’s (GILD.O) remdesivir show that the drug offers the most benefit for COVID-19 patients who need extra oxygen but do not require mechanical ventilation. The peer-reviewed data was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The trial, for which final results are still trickling in, showed that recovery time for patients given remdesivir was shortened by four days, or 31%, compared to placebo patients. The biggest benefit was seen in patients who were sick enough to need supplemental oxygen, but were not on a ventilator. The data detailed in the journal is similar to early results that the NIH released last month from the study, which began in February with 1,063 participants in 10 countries.


Researchers now calculate that after follow up, 7% of patients given remdesivir will have died, compared with 12% in the placebo group, but they said the difference in the death rate was not significant. “Our findings highlight the need to identify COVID-19 cases and start antiviral treatment before the pulmonary disease progresses to require mechanical ventilation,” the researchers wrote. They noted that “given high mortality despite the use of remdesivir,” it is likely that the antiviral drug would be more effective in combination with other treatments for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Gilead said it expects results from its own study of remdesivir in patients with moderate COVID-19 at the end of this month.

Read more …

Chuck Schumer is only interested because he can smear Trump. That the VA employs thousands of doctors makes no difference. They are all wrong.

US Veterans Agency Has Given HCQ To 1,300 Coronavirus Patients (R.)

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has treated 1,300 coronavirus patients with the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which a study has tied to an increased risk of death, according to a document released by a Senate Democrat on Friday. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, who received the information from the VA in response to questions he submitted on the issue, said he was “deeply troubled” by the data. President Donald Trump has long urged use of hydroxychloroquine against coronavirus and recently said he has been taking it himself, despite evidence that the treatment could be harmful.

A study published on Friday in the medical journal Lancet tied the drug to an increased risk of death in hospitalized patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. In April, doctors at VA itself also said hydroxychloroquine did not help COVID-19 patients and might pose a higher risk of death. The VA, which provides care to 9 million veterans, said that about 1,300 coronavirus patients who received the drug are among more than 10,000 COVID-19 patients it has treated.

It has also dispensed hydroxychloroquine to about 7,500 patients with other conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The VA said it will continue to dispense the drug under the guidelines of the Food and Drug Administration. In answer to a question from Schumer, the VA said it was not pressured into using hydroxychloroquine by the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services or any other federal agency. “VA, like so many medical facilities across this nation, is in a race to keep patients alive during this pandemic, and we are using as many tools as we can,” the VA told Schumer.

Read more …

Sure, younger population. But more than that, no health care systems, no ways to keep track of infected or dead, let alone with what.

Different path alright.

COVID19 ‘Taking Different Path In Africa’, Says WHO (G.)

There had been apocalyptic forecasts for the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic in Africa. On Friday evening, after the 100,000th case was reached, the World Health Organization’s Africa office circulated a note saying that it now seemed clear that the pandemic “appears to be taking a different pathway in Africa.” The note continued: Case numbers have not grown at the same exponential rate as in other regions and so far Africa has not experienced the high mortality seen in some parts of the world. Today, there are 3,100 confirmed deaths on the continent. By comparison, when cases reached 100,000 in the WHO European region, deaths stood at more than 4,900.

Early analysis by WHO suggests that Africa’s lower mortality rate may be the result of demography and other possible factors. Africa is the youngest continent demographically with more than 60% of the population under the age of 25. Older adults have a significantly increased risk of developing a severe illness. In Europe nearly 95% of deaths occurred in those older than 60 years. WHO also noted that African governments swiftly imposed restrictive measures on their populations in an attempt to contain the spread of the disease. However, it also said that despite “significant progress in testing”, rates of testing remain low in comparison to other regions.

It insisted that, despite the relatively low number of cases, “the pandemic remains a major threat to the continent’s health systems”. Now that countries are starting to ease their confinement measures, there is a possibility that cases could increase significantly, and it is critical that governments remain vigilant and ready to adjust measures in line with epidemiological data and proper risk assessment.

Read more …

Peru has it bad.

Peruvian President Extends Nationwide Lockdown Through June 30 (CNN)

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra announced Friday that a national state of emergency, which includes mandatory social isolation measures, will be extended through June 30. He announced that “a national state of emergency is being declared from Monday, May 25 until June 30, including obligatory social isolation, quarantine, due to the grave circumstances that affect the life of the nation due to Covid-19,” according to state news agency Andina. Vizcarra first declared a nationwide state of emergency, which included mandatory self-quarantine and closed the country’s borders, on March 15. With the current extension, Peru will be under a state of emergency for at least three and a half months.

Read more …

“On the first night, the word “hunger” was projected onto one of Santiago’s tallest buildings.”

Chileans Rediscover Community Kitchens As Coronavirus and Hunger Bite (R.)

Poor neighbourhoods in the Chilean capital Santiago have seen a resurgence in the use of community kitchens once prevalent in the darkest days of dictatorship, as coronavirus shutdowns put pressure on jobs and send thousands into poverty. With winter approaching and temperatures chilling, canteen-style operations provide plates of hot food to those with dwindling incomes or nothing at all. They are organized by neighbors, local leaders and councils, who donate money or food. “My people are getting desperate, they have nothing to eat so we asked for help and as always, the people answered,” Sandra Cariz, the president of a community association, told Reuters in the Puente Alto suburb of Santiago on Friday.


The kitchens come alongside a growing number of drives circulating on social media for food, money and clothing donations. Chile has about 62,000 coronavirus cases and 600 deaths. Its economy has taken a hit unlike anything since the 1980s, government officials have said, when almost half of Chileans lived below the poverty line and the country was rocked by protests against Augusto Pinochet’s regime. When the coronavirus hit in March, Chile was just recovering from intense social protests over inequality which included arson attacks and looting. Protests restarted this week, with skirmishes between police and people denouncing the highest job losses in a decade. On the first night, the word “hunger” was projected onto one of Santiago’s tallest buildings.

Read more …

Uber.

Car Rental Giant Hertz Files For Bankruptcy (Solomon)

Hertz Global Holdings on Friday eveing filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as large debts and 700,000 vehicles mostly idled by the pandemic brought the car rental giant to its knees. The Florida-based company, which listed more than $24 billion in debt, took the action in a Delaware bankruptcy court in an effort to avoid permanent closure and a liquidation of its fleet. The company said it had $1 billion in cash to keep operating on a limited basis while it negotiated with its lenders and vendors. Its financial problems became apparent last month when it missed a round of payments. Hertz is the nation’s second largest car rental agency and boasts the brands Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty, and Firefly.

Read more …

“As in any extinction event, it will be the smaller organisms that survive and eventually thrive and that’s how it will go in the next edition of America..”

This Sucker Is Going Down (Kunstler)

It was only a few decades ago that Walmart entered the pantheon of American icons, joining motherhood, apple pie, and baseball on the highest tier of the altar. The people were entranced by this behemoth cornucopia of unbelievably cheap stuff packaged in gargantuan quantities. It was something like their participation trophy for the sheer luck of being born in this exceptional land, or having valiantly clawed their way in from wretched places near and far – where, increasingly, the mighty stream of magically cheap stuff was manufactured. The evolving psychology of Walmart-ism had a strangely self-destructive aura about it. Like cargo cultists waiting on a jungle mountaintop, small town Americans prayed and importuned the gods of commerce to bring them a Walmart.

Historians of the future, pan-frying ‘possum cutlets over their campfires, will marvel at the potency of their ancestors’ prayers. Every little burg in the USA eventually saw a Walmart UFO land in the cornfield or cow-pasture on the edge of town. Like the space invaders of sci-fi filmdom, Walmart quickly killed off everything else of economic worth around it, and eventually the towns themselves. And that was where things stood as the long emergency commenced in the winter of early 2020, along with the Covid-19 corona virus riding shotgun on the hearse-wagon it rolled in on. We’re in a liminal, transitional moment of history, like beach-goers gawking at the glassy-green curve of a great wave in the throes of breaking. Such mesmerizing beauty!

Alas, most people can’t surf. It looks easy on TV, but you’d be surprised at the conditioning it takes, and Americans are way, way out of condition. (All those tattoos don’t give you an ounce of extra mojo.) And so, in this liminal moment, the people still trudge dutifully to the Walmarts with their dwindling reserves of cash money to get stuff, going through all the devotions that we took for granted before the wave welled up and threatened to break over us. Which is happening. Despite all the fake-heroic blather from the Federal Reserve, from Nancy Pelosi, from Mr. Trump and Mr. Mnuchin – from everybody in charge, to be really fair – and in the immortal words of another recent president — this sucker is going down. Specifically, what’s going down is the aggregate of transactions we call “the economy.”

[..] As in any extinction event, it will be the smaller organisms that survive and eventually thrive and that’s how it will go in the next edition of America, whether we remain states united or find ourselves organized differently. Accordingly, the giants must fall. When the communities of America rebuild, it will be the thousands of small activities that matter, because they will entail the rebuilding of social capital as well as exchanges that amount to business. Social capital is exactly what Walmart and things like it killed in every community from sea to shining sea. People stopped doing business with their neighbors. It took a cataclysm for them to finally notice.

Read more …

On average once every decade?!

Argentina Set For Default As Bondholders Reject New Terms (G.)

Argentina is on course for a technical default on its government borrowing on Friday as the country continues to hold talks with international investors over plans to restructure its debts. Financial investors said they expected the country to miss $500m (£410m) in interest payments on its borrowing, according to the Reuters news agency, as the government tries to renegotiate its borrowing before a 2 June deadline. With the economy in recession even before the coronavirus outbreak and spiralling inflation, Argentina has about $65bn in debt owned by overseas investors, which both the state and its creditors believe is unsustainable. The government has asked bondholders to accept significantly lower interest payments on its debts and to defer payments until 2024. Investors had thus far rejected the terms proposed by president Alberto Fernández’s centre-left government, which came to power late last year.


This month, a group of leading economists including Thomas Piketty and the Nobel prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz urged bondholders to take a constructive approach to restructuring Argentina’s debts. They argued debt relief for the country would be “the only way to combat the pandemic and set the economy on a sustainable path”. A group of international investors – including Ashmore, BlackRock and AllianceBernstein – that hold about $16.7bn of Argentinian bonds said on Friday that they recognised the country was seeking a comprehensive deal, even though failure to pay would trigger a default, Reuters reported. Sarah-Jayne Clifton, director of Jubilee Debt Campaign, said that Argentina was right to demand a deep debt restructuring and to default if lenders did not accept a deal. “Reckless lending at high interest rates helped to create the current crisis, so lenders and speculators should share in the costs,” she said.

Read more …

Oh, get serious.

FBI Launches Internal Investigation Into Its Handling Of Flynn Case (JTN)

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Friday ordered an internal investigation into the bureau’s handling of the Michael Flynn case, just two weeks after the Justice Department declared that it was dropping the case against him and that federal investigators had no standing to interview the general in early 2017. Wray “today ordered the Bureau’s Inspection Division to conduct an after-action review of the Michael Flynn investigation,” the FBI announced on Friday. The Inspection Division essentially functions similarly to an internal affairs office found in lower law enforcement agencies. Fox News reported on Friday that the bureau will seek to identify whether any current FBI officials “engaged in misconduct” during the investigation, as well as whether or not the agency can improve its investigation process moving forward.


The bureau “does not have the ability to take any disciplinary action” against former employees, the FBI’s statement said. Flynn’s plight has received new attention in recent weeks, starting with the stunning Justice Department announcement at the beginning of the month. Following the department’s decision, the judge overseeing the Flynn case, Emmet Sullivan, declined to immediately dismiss it per the recommendation from Justice, instead inviting an amicus curiae brief from retired Judge John Gleeson in support of continuing the case against the general.

Read more …

Boy what a sh*tshow.

FBI Opened Russia Probe On Third-Hand ‘Suggestion’ Of Collusion (JTN)

The FBI’s probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia was opened on a third-hand “suggestion” of wrongdoing and the thinnest of suspicions that illegal foreign lobbying had occurred, according to a declassified memo released Friday that shows agents immediately flagged the strong limitations of their evidence. The July 31, 2016 electronic communication that officially open the counterintelligence investigation codenamed Crossfire Hurricane was obtained by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch. It shows the criminal basis for opening the probe was suspected violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, but it did not identify a single episode that it said violated the law.

Rather it focused on a “suggestion” passed on by Australian ambassador Alexander Downer that Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos might be coordinating with Russia the release of damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Downer had heard the information about the Russians during a bar conversation in May 2016 from Papadopoulos, who had heard it two months earlier from a European professor who had heard it from Russians allegedly. The memo shows the case agent, Peter Strzok, expressed some doubts and reservations about the limitations of the evidence even as he opened the probe. The memo cited concerns about “suggestions from the Russians that they (the Russians) could assist the Trump campaign with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton.”

Papadopoulos “suggested the Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia” that it had damaging information, the memo said. But Strzok’s memo immediately noted the limitations of the allegations forwarded from the Australians. “It was unclear whether he or the Russians were referring to material acquired publicly of through other means. It was also unclear how Mr. Trump’s team reacted to the offer,” the memo stated. Kevin Brock, the former chief of intelligence for the FBI, said the electronic communication did not meet the bureau’s rigorous standards for predicating the opening of a criminal or counterintelligence case. [..] Asked whether as an FBI assistant director he would have approved opening Crossfire Hurricane based on what was in the memo, Brock said: “Not in a millions years. I wouldn’t have approved it as a squad supervisor either. This would have set off alarm bells in any FBI field for not meeting our standards for a predicate.”

Read more …

We try to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the interaction.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 132020
 


Harris&Ewing Treasury Building, Fifteenth Street, Washington, DC 1918

 

Don’t Let Governors Fool You About Reopening (Yaneer Bar-yam)
GOP Rejects Pelosi’s $3 Trillion HEROES Act Package (WE)
House Bill Would Provide Some As Young As 16 With $2,000 Monthly Payments (JTN)
HEROES Act Delivers A Win To The Health Insurance Industry (IC)
US Fossil Fuel Giants Set For A Coronavirus Bailout Bonanza (G.)
US COVID19 Death Forecast Revised Upward Again (R.)
Gilead Ties Up With Generic Drugmakers For COVID19 Drug Supply (R.)
Mexico Sees 353 Deaths In Most Lethal Coronavirus Day (R.)
Cuba Begins Mass Testing For COVID19 With Fewer Than 20 New Cases Per Day (G.)
How Hong Kong Did It (Atl.)
EU Faces ‘Existential Threat’ If Coronavirus Recovery Is Uneven (G.)
China’s April Air Passenger Numbers Down 68.5% Year-on-Year (R.)
US Airlines Tell Crews Not To Force Passengers To Wear Masks (R.)
Contacts Exposed Between US Kyiv Embassy, Yovanovitch, Burisma (Solomon)
Judge Delays Flynn Dismissal Decision, Invites Outside Opinions (JTN)

 

 

• US adds 1,894 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours. Monday: 830, Sunday: 776.

 

 

Russia had its 10th consecutive day of more than 10,000 cases

 

 


 

 

 

Cases 4,358,220 (+ 85,116 from yesterday’s 4,273,104)

Deaths 293,236 (+ 5,615 from yesterday’s 287,621)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do the states that are doing well risk seeing their progress wiped out?

Don’t Let Governors Fool You About Reopening (Yaneer Bar-yam)

In March, I called on the US to impose a strict five-week national lockdown with internal and external travel restrictions to bring us to near zero infections. While measures were taken in many parts of the country, it was too little, too late. Now, I and many others are issuing another warning: the decisions of some US governors to prematurely ease social distancing is a disastrous mistake and citizens need to ignore them. Our research — and common sense — show that lifting social restrictions will lead to an explosion of Covid-19 cases and cause countless more deaths. The correct way to relax restrictions is to start with parts of a state that are Covid-free for 14 days and allow only essential travel to those parts of the state with 14-day quarantines for inbound travelers. Why will going along with reopening lead to catastrophe?

First, we must understand that coronavirus is very deadly. Those who claim the death rate is exaggerated are plain wrong and downplaying the emergency. While death rate estimates have varied, recent data from China, the United Kingdom and France, reflecting deaths outside hospitals, including in nursing homes, puts the Covid-19 global fatality rate at around 6.8%, based upon analysis we did at endcoronavirus.org, using data from Johns Hopkins University. Second, almost all reopening states, from California to Pennsylvania, currently have a critical mass of new cases of existing infections that could see new outbreaks in the coming days and weeks. Third, without extreme preventive measures, we’ve seen how coronavirus infections doubled every two to three days at one point in different areas — which equated to about a tenfold increase per week.

That means that a state with 1,000 new cases could have well over 100,000 more in two weeks, if social distancing is loosened. States like Texas have announced precautions to mitigate harm from reopening with measures like limiting restaurants and shopping malls to operating at a 25% or 50% capacity depending on the amount of cases in their areas. But we know from months of studying this disease that communities need more aggressive measures to stop the exponential spread of Covid-19. We prevented the contagion from being much worse by putting in place protective measures throughout the US. We expanded testing capacity. We ramped up our hospitals’ capacity to care for critically ill patients. But this “flattening the curve” isn’t enough. If we lighten up on our protective measures now, all the progress we’ve made will vanish, and we’ll suffer an enormous setback. We need to push even harder to win.

Read more …

View from the right wing.

GOP Rejects Pelosi’s $3 Trillion HEROES Act Package (WE)

Senate Republicans flatly rejected a $3 trillion coronavirus aid package House Democrats introduced Tuesday and said they’ll wait to decide whether more legislation is necessary. “If we reach a decision, along with the administration to move to another phase, that’ll be the time to interact with the Democrats,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “But what you’ve seen in the House is not something designed to deal with reality but designed to deal with aspirations. This is not a time for aspirational legislation. This is a time for practical response to the coronavirus pandemic.” Democrats blasted McConnell’s reaction to the massive bill.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, accused McConnell of ignoring the desperate needs of people out of work and left without paychecks. “We need big, bold action, and yet, Leader McConnell seems totally divorced from that reality,” Schumer said. “We need to act in a big and bold way. The House has started the ball rolling. Republicans and the president ought to understand that and help us move in a big, bold way, not stand in the way.” The House measures are massive in both cost and scope. It provides new $1,200 cash payments to individuals and more than $1 trillion to state, local, and municipal governments. It includes a bailout for troubled state pensions and the U.S. Postal Service and “hazard pay” for healthcare workers and other workers who are unable to stay at home during the coronavirus.

Republicans have no appetite for the wide-ranging measure, they said. Congress has already enacted $2.8 trillion in federal coronavirus relief aid, and both the GOP and President Trump say they plan to wait for that funding to roll out and for economies to begin reopening before assessing the need for new federal spending legislation. Sen. John Thune, the majority whip, said the House bill “is nothing more than a messaging exercise by the House Democrats.” The South Dakota Republican said the bill “is not going anywhere” and said the Senate “will be working in a bipartisan way with the White House” when considering new coronavirus funding.

Read more …

I think we can safely label this UBI. If people making up to $250,000 are eligible, the few percent that remain are negligible.

House Bill Would Provide Some As Young As 16 With $2,000 Monthly Payments (JTN)

House Democrats are proposing a $2,000-a-month stimulus payment for individuals 16 and older to help them during the coronavirus. Reps. Ro Khanna of California and Tim Ryan of Ohio have introduced the proposal as stand-alone legislation titled the Emergency Money for the People Act. A spokesperson for Ryan’s office told Just The News on Tuesday that he is working with House leadership to include his bill in future coronavirus stimulus legislation. The Khanna-Ryan proposal would provide the monthly payments to qualified recipients for one year. To qualify, individual recipients must make less than $130,000 annually and couples filing joint tax returns would have to make less than $260,000.


The proposal has 37 co-sponsors including Reps. Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, and Ted Lieu, of California. Khanna’s office said 16-year-olds would not have to file tax returns to qualify for the $2,000 per month. “They would have to fill out an online form that must be accessible via mobile phone to fill out” with their Venmo, Paypal, “other mobile money or direct deposit” information, a Khanna spokesperson said. Khanna’s office also told Just The News that illegal immigrants and non-citizens who file tax returns with tax ID numbers would qualify for the monthly direct payments in the bill.

Read more …

Here’s what you get for rejecting Medicare For All.

HEROES Act Delivers A Win To The Health Insurance Industry (IC)

The Heroes Act, the new coronavirus relief bill introduced by House Democrats on Tuesday, includes protections for employer-sponsored insurance plans, which the health care industry has been lobbying Congress on for weeks. The proposed legislation includes subsidies for continued coverage for furloughed workers and people using COBRA, a continuing health coverage plan for those who have lost work, even if they don’t pay their premiums. The bill also creates avenues for premium assistance for certain categories of people who want to pay those premiums anyway and would open a special insurance enrollment period a week from the date it’s enacted into law. It also provides nine months of premium payments to health insurance plan administrators who don’t receive them during the ongoing pandemic.

The push to protect insurance premiums comes as some health care companies, like UnitedHealth, Humana, and Cigna, have reported profits during the pandemic amid record-high unemployment levels and have boasted that they don’t expect to take a financial hit. In late April, dozens of industry groups — including the influential, conservative Chamber of Commerce — sent a letter to congressional leadership asking for direct subsidies for COBRA, expanding uses for health savings accounts, and increasing eligibility to access health insurance marketplaces.

A couple of weeks earlier, the nations’ second-largest health insurance lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans, joined a congressional call with members of the conservative Democratic Blue Dog Caucus to ask for protections for employer coverage. According to two sources familiar with the April 13 call, AHIP’s CEO discussed the importance of protecting employer-sponsored plans. One person on the call, who works for an insurer and was not authorized to speak publicly about the conversation, said AHIP’s push for targeted relief to employers who pay premiums to insurance companies was puzzling, given that insurance companies have seen recent profits.

Read more …

The US is no longer capable of passing any law without both parties appropriating huge sums of money to their corporate sponsors. Every single bill that is passed increases inequality.

US Fossil Fuel Giants Set For A Coronavirus Bailout Bonanza (G.)

Fossil fuel companies and coal-powered utilities in the US are set for a potential bonanza under federal government plans for a bond bailout, part of the rescue package for the coronavirus crisis. At least 90 fossil fuel companies, many of them established giants such as ExxonMobil, Chevron and Koch Industries, stand to gain from the Federal Reserve’s coronavirus bond buyback programme, alongside more than 150 utilities including coal-heavy firms such as American Electric Power and Duke Energy, according to a new analysis. The bond buyback scheme is expected to be worth at least $750bn altogether and to benefit thousands of companies by the end of September, and the size of the payout that could go to fossil fuels and utilities is as yet unknown.


The scheme is to be discussed in the US Senate on Tuesday. Jason Disterhoft, a senior campaigner at Rainforest Action Network, which conducted the study, said public money should be used to bail out companies only with strict conditions attached. “Our concern is that these recovery funds should be prioritising people and communities and they are going instead to big companies to pay down their debts,” he said. Ten out of the top 40 fracking companies would be eligible to apply, according to the analysis, which examined all US fossil fuel companies and energy utilities to check whether they would qualify under the published scheme rules. It is not known whether any of these companies will apply for the support, though many are expected to do so.

Read more …

The modeling gets more useless with each update. Just say you don’t know.

US COVID19 Death Forecast Revised Upward Again (R.)

The latest forecast here from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) reflects “key drivers of viral transmission like changes in testing and mobility, as well as easing of distancing policies,” the report said. The revision reinforced public health warnings, including U.S. Senate testimony on Tuesday from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, that prematurely lifting lockdowns could lead to more outbreaks of the respiratory virus. Fauci and other medical experts have urged caution in relaxing restraints on commerce before diagnostic testing and the ability to trace close contacts of infected individuals can be vastly expanded, along with other safeguards.

IHME researchers acknowledged that precise consequences of moves to reopen shuttered businesses and loosen stay-at-home orders are difficult to gauge. “The full potential effects of recent actions to ease social distancing policies, especially if robust containment measures have yet to be fully scaled up, may not be fully known for a few weeks due to the time periods between viral exposure, possible infection and full disease progression,” the report said. COVID-19 has already claimed nearly 81,000 lives in the United States, out of more than 1.36 million known infections, according to a Reuters tally.

[..] The projections are presented as a range, with the latest forecast – 147,00-plus deaths – representing the average between a best-case scenario of 102,783 lives lost and a worst-case scenario of 223,489 fatalities. The forecasts have fluctuated over the past couple of months, with a projected death toll as low as 60,000 on April 18.

Read more …

It’s become normal to label remdesivir an “experimental COVID-19 treatment”.

Gilead Ties Up With Generic Drugmakers For COVID19 Drug Supply (R.)

Gilead Sciences Inc said on Tuesday it has signed non-exclusive licensing pacts with five generic drugmakers based in India and Pakistan to expand the supply of its experimental COVID-19 treatment remdesivir. The pacts allow the companies – Jubilant Life Sciences Ltd, Cipla Ltd , Hetero Labs Ltd, Mylan NV and Ferozsons Laboratories Ltd – to make and sell the drug in 127 countries. The countries consist of nearly all low-income and lower-middle income ones, as well as several that are upper-middle- and high-income, the drugmaker said. Afghanistan, India, North Korea, Pakistan and South Africa are among the countries.


The licensees will also set their own prices for the generic product they produce, Gilead said. The licenses are royalty-free until the World Health Organization declares the end of the public health emergency regarding COVID-19, or until a product other than remdesivir or a vaccine is approved to treat or prevent COVID-19, the company said. Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir earlier this month received the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization to treat COVID-19 patients.

Read more …

Rising in the charts. Close the borders.

Mexico Sees 353 Deaths In Most Lethal Coronavirus Day (R.)

Mexico’s health ministry confirmed 1,997 new cases of coronavirus infections on Tuesday, along with 353 additional deaths, the most deadly day since the pandemic began. The new infections brought confirmed coronavirus cases to 38,324 and 3,926 deaths in total, according to the official tally. Mexico’s previous highest daily death toll was on Thursday, when Mexico reported 257 fatalities.

Read more …

It’s easier for islands. And Cuba has a much better health care system than just about any country, that helps too.

Cuba Begins Mass Testing For COVID19 With Fewer Than 20 New Cases Per Day (G.)

Cuba has begun mass testing for coronavirus as it appeared to have contained infections, amid a partial shutdown that has exacerbated a shortage of basic goods. New cases have fallen to fewer than 20 per day from a peak of around 50 in April. Since the first Covid-19 illness was reported two months ago, there have been 1,804 confirmed cases, of which 70.7% have recovered and 78 people have died. Cuba has closed its borders and the tourism industry, schools and public transportation. Masks are mandatory and eating at restaurants, bars and social gatherings prohibited. Cubans have been urged to stay at home and practice social distancing.

But the public has not been confined to quarters and has taken to trudging about in search of basic supplies, waiting in long lines and even dusting off bicycles from the dark days following the fall of the Soviet Union. [..] While Communist-run Cuba’s universal and free healthcare system has proved key in containing Covid-19, the pandemic has exacerbated shortages of basic goods and a chaotic retail system caused largely by US sanctions and the centralized, state-dominated economy. Cuba’s top epidemiologist, Francisco Durán, said on Monday that mass testing would help better define the prevalence of the coronavirus as many people found to be infected showed no symptoms.

“The objective is to find new cases and then intervene, isolate, seek contacts, and take all possible measures to ensure that Cuba continues as it is now,” he said during his daily virus update broadcast to the nation. Many experts believe Cuba has managed to control the outbreak better than many countries in the region due to its well-staffed preventive healthcare system, mobilization of activists to track cases, a centralized system that allows a better focus, and willingness to quarantine large numbers of people. Cuban scientists announced last week they had adapted a computerized system developed locally to quickly detect antibodies of the new virus, allowing for mass testing in hospitals and clinics at little cost. Until now, the Caribbean island nation has used expensive tests – often donated – that take days to process, old-fashioned door knocking by health personnel and medical students to trace contacts, and isolation.

Read more …

Organizing at a small-scale level works.

How Hong Kong Did It (Atl.)

[..] there is no unchecked, devastating COVID-19 epidemic in Hong Kong. The city beat back the original wave, and also beat back a second resurgence due to imported cases. But unlike in Taiwan or South Korea, this success can’t be attributed to an executive that acted early and with good governance backed by the people. The secret sauce of Hong Kong’s response was its people and, crucially, the movement that engulfed the city in 2019. Seared with the memory of SARS, and already mobilized for the past year against their unpopular government, the city’s citizens acted swiftly, collectively, and efficiently, in effect saving themselves. [..]

On the very day the first known coronavirus case in Hong Kong was announced, the same protest team behind the candidate information sites immediately created a new website—this time to track cases of COVID-19, monitor hot spots, warn people of places selling fake PPE, and report hospital wait times and other relevant information. Many of the key information sources for Hong Kong protesters had been anonymous channels in the popular app Telegram and their own online forums. These anonymous formats protected the protesters from government repression but created a constant threat of misinformation, as someone could always pretend to be a protester or just be wrong or trolling.

Consequently, the protesters learned to become incessant fact-checkers, used to looking up multiple sources and critically analyzing information. Now they turned their powers to critical analysis to the coronavirus: criticizing their own officials, as well as the World Health Organization, which did not advise wearing masks or travel restrictions, and China, which they saw as covering up the initial epidemic (they were right on all counts). In response to the crisis, Hong Kongers spontaneously adopted near-universal masking on their own, defying the government’s ban on masks. When Lam oscillated between not wearing a mask in public and wearing one but incorrectly, they blasted her online and mocked her incorrect mask wearing.

In response to the mask shortage, the foot soldiers of the protest movement set up mask brigades—acquiring and distributing masks, especially to the poor and elderly, who may not be able to spend hours in lines. An “army of volunteers” also spread among the intensely crowded and often decrepit tenement buildings to install and keep filled hand-sanitizer dispensers. When the government refused at first to close the border with mainland China, more than 7,000 medical workers went on an unprecedented strike, demanding border closures and PPE for hospital workers. This strike was only possible because labor unions were formed during the protests. Now they came in handy for collective action.

Read more …

Since the recovery is 100% sure to be uneven, the ‘Existential Threat’ is inevitable.

EU Faces ‘Existential Threat’ If Coronavirus Recovery Is Uneven (G.)

The risk of an uneven economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis poses an “existential threat” to the European Union, one of its most senior economic policymakers has said. Paolo Gentiloni, a former Italian prime minister and now the EU’s economy commissioner, said the bloc also had a “historic opportunity” as it charts a plan to rescue Europe’s economy. In an interview a few days after the commission said Europe had entered “the deepest economic recession in its history”, Gentiloni said the EU needed a “sound recovery plan” to avoid the risks of economic division. Shuttered shops and factories, grounded planes and stay-at-home consumers as a result of lockdown restrictions mean the EU economy is expected to shrink by 7.5% in 2020, a deeper fall than the 2009 financial crisis.

Gentiloni is concerned that countries do not have the same resources to recover from this economic shock. The hardest hit countries – Greece, Italy, Spain and Croatia – face falls in economic output (GDP) in excess of 9% in 2020, while Germany’s economy is set to contract by 6.5% and Austria’s by 5.5%. Meanwhile countries have varying levels of state resources to rescue ailing companies and pay workers’ wages – emergency measures that have become easier since Brussels relaxed state aid rules to deal with the crisis. Gentiloni said state aid requests from EU member states were very imbalanced.

“What is clear is the uneven level of the recovery and the risks this creates to our single market and the necessary convergence, especially within the euro area. This is something that I could even define as an existential threat to the building of the Union,” he told a group of European newspapers, including the Guardian. “If we want to look from a more optimistic way it is not only an existential threat but also in some sense a historic opportunity to fill the void we have in common tools of economic and fiscal policies.”

Read more …

Good.

China’s April Air Passenger Numbers Down 68.5% Year-on-Year (R.)

China’s passenger numbers fell 68.5% in April from a year ago, for a drop smaller than in March, the aviation regulator said on Wednesday, pointing to a fragile industry recovery from the coronavirus pandemic as other nations reopen economies. The global tourism industry is closely watching trends in China for clues to travel patterns in other major markets as countries race to lift travel curbs. Air passengers numbered 16.72 million in April, Xiong Jie, a spokesman of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, told an online news conference. That compared with a decline of 71.7% on the year in March, when passengers numbered 15.13 million.


China’s tourism sector showed encouraging signs of recovery over the May Day holiday with 115 million trips made, many by car and by younger people emerging from weeks of virus lockdown measures. More than 30% of capacity has returned in the Chinese domestic market in the last two months, aviation data provider Cirium said on Tuesday. But the number of passenger flights in China has not yet recovered to 60% of the levels seen in past years, Jin Junhao, another CAAC official, sadi during Wednesday’s conference.

Read more …

There are few places where you’re more likely to get infected than inside a plane (or a train, subway).

US Airlines Tell Crews Not To Force Passengers To Wear Masks (R.)

The top three U.S. airlines have told their flight attendants not to force passengers to comply with their new policy requiring face coverings, just encourage them to do so, according to employee policies reviewed by Reuters. American Airlines , Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have told employees that they may deny boarding at the gate to anyone not wearing a face covering, and are providing masks to passengers who do not have them, the three carriers told Reuters. Inside the plane, enforcement becomes more difficult.

“Once on board and off the gate, the face covering policy becomes more lenient. The flight attendant’s role is informational, not enforcement, with respect to the face covering policy,” American told its pilots in a message seen by Reuters explaining its policy, which went into effect on Monday. “Bottom line to the pilots: a passenger on board your aircraft who is being compliant with the exception of wearing a face covering is NOT considered disruptive enough to trigger a Threat Level 1 response,” referring to some kind of intentional disruption by a passenger that could cause the captain to divert the flight. American spokesman Joshua Freed said: “American, like other U.S. airlines, requires customers to wear a face covering while on board, and this requirement is enforced at the gate while boarding. We also remind customers with announcements both during boarding and at departure.”

[..] U.S. travel demand has fallen by about 94% in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, prompting carriers to slash their flying schedules to roughly 30% of normal this month. With fewer planes in the skies, some are flying near capacity. Global airlines body IATA came out last week in favor of passengers wearing masks onboard, as debate intensifies in the United States on the role that government agencies should play in mandating new safety measures for flying before a vaccine is developed.

Read more …

Certainly in 2016, there was no way to become US ambassador to Ukraine without the approval of Victoria Nuland et al. So another “hero” falls.

Contacts Exposed Between US Kyiv Embassy, Yovanovitch, Burisma (Solomon)

During President Trump’s impeachment, former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch testified to Congress that she knew little beyond an initial briefing and “press reports” about Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian natural gas firm that had hired Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter and was dogged by a corruption investigation. “It just wasn’t a big deal,” she declared under oath on Oct. 11, 2019. But newly unearthed State Department memos obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show Yovanovitch’s embassy in Kiev, including the ambassador herself, was engaged in several discussions and meetings about Burisma as the gas firm scrambled during the 2016 election and transition to settle a long-running corruption investigation and polish its image before President Trump took office.

Yovanovitch, for instance, was specifically warned in an email by her top deputy in September 2016 — three years before her testimony — that Burisma had hired an American firm with deep Democratic connections called Blue Star Strategies to “rehabilitate the reputation” of the Ukrainian gas firm and that it had placed “Hunter Biden on its board,” the memos show. She also met directly with a representative for Burisma in her embassy office, less than 45 days before Trump took office, a contact she did not mention during her impeachment deposition. The discussions about Burisma inside Yovanovitch’s embassy were so extensive, in fact, that they filled more than 160 pages of emails, memos and correspondence in fall 2016 alone, according to the State Department records obtained under FOIA by the conservative group Citizens United.

[..] The impeachment hearings last fall, which focused on efforts by Trump and his lawyer Rudy Guiliani to find evidence inside Ukraine on the Bidens and Burisma and to remove Yovanovitch from her job as U.S. ambassador, included testimony from Yovanovitch herself. During that deposition in October 2016, she made no mention of direct contact with Burisma representatives and instead suggested her knowledge about the company and its legal travails was limited mostly to a briefing she received in preparation for Senate confirmation as ambassador in summer 2016 and subsequent news media reports.

Read more …

Curious decision.

Judge Delays Flynn Dismissal Decision, Invites Outside Opinions (JTN)

US District Judge Emmet Sullivan on Tuesday delayed a decision on whether to dismiss Michael Flynn’s conviction for lying, indicating he plans to allow for the submission of outside opinions in the form of amicus curiae briefs. Last week, the Justice Department moved to drop the charges against Trump’s former national security advisor, but the judge’s plan to allow for the submission of friend of the court briefs means that the case will not be closed immediately. Sullivan has not issued a decision on the DOJ’s request to drop the charges. Flynn’s legal team blasted the idea of allowing for the submission of amicus briefs, which allow for parties interested in but not involved in a case to present their views.


“It is no accident that amicus briefs are excluded in criminal cases,” Flynn’s lawyers wrote in a filing according to The Hill. “A criminal case is a dispute between the United States and a criminal defendant. There is no place for third parties to meddle in the dispute, and certainly not to usurp the role of the government’s counsel. For the Court to allow another to stand in the place of the government would be a violation of the separation of powers.” Flynn in 2017 pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, but later sought to withdraw his guilty plea. Evidence that has since emerged suggested the FBI had no case against Flynn but set up an interview in hopes it would catch him lying, his lawyers and Justice officials have said.

Read more …

We try to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 062020
 


Harris&Ewing Less taxes, more jobs, US Chamber of Commerce campaign 1939

 

Now-Dominant Strain Of Coronavirus Could Be More Contagious Than Original (LAT)
New Mutation Indicates That Coronavirus Might Be Weakening (NYP)
Coronavirus Started Infecting People Globally Late Last Year (Hill)
UK COVID-19 Death Toll Rises Above 32,000, Highest In Europe (R.)
Pseudo-Science Behind The Assault On Hydroxychloroquine (ZH)
Goat and Pawpaw ‘Test Positive’ For COVID19 In Tanzania (AlJ)
Pennsylvania Woman Jailed For Refusing To Quarantine After Positive Test (Hill)
White House To Wind Down Coronavirus Task Force, Focus Shifts To Aftermath (R.)
UK Government ‘Using Pandemic To Transfer NHS Duties To Private Sector’ (G.)
K Street Requests Taxpayer Bailout Of Corporate Lobbyists (IC)
US Airlines Burn Through $10 Billion A Month As Traffic Plummets (R.)
After The Covid Rush: Brace For America’s Version Of Saudi Aramco (Cox)
Bluetooth Inventors See Problems For Coronavirus Contact Tracing (IC)
French Beekeepers Look To Lockdown Exit To Sell Bumper Honey Harvest (R.)
Did The Mueller Team Violate Brady and Flynn Orders? (Turley)
China Fires Entire Propaganda Team: US Media Already Does Their Job (BB)

 

 

• US #coronavirus deaths rise by 2,333 in 24 hours: Johns Hopkins

 

 

 

Cases 3,744,765 (+ 82,494 from yesterday’s 3,662,271)

Deaths 258,884 (+ 6,137 from yesterday’s 252,747)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

I was reading two things (first two articles in this overview): 1) that a new dominant corona strain appears more contagious, and 2) that it is a weakening strain. Now, that makes perfect sense, it’s a trade-off that’s ubiquitous in nature: when a virus becomes more contagious, it kills fewer of its new hosts. That way the death number remains the same, and enough potential hosts remain.

But that’s not necessarily what people see. The LA Times seems to expect the opposite: “The Los Alamos study does not indicate that the new version of the virus is more lethal than the original.”

It’s of course possible that a more contagious strain is also more lethal, but it wouldn’t seem to be the more logical chain of events.

Now-Dominant Strain Of Coronavirus Could Be More Contagious Than Original (LAT)

Scientists have identified a new strain of the coronavirus that has become dominant worldwide and appears to be more contagious than the versions that spread in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study led by scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The new strain appeared in February in Europe, migrated quickly to the East Coast of the United States and has been the dominant strain across the world since mid-March, the scientists wrote. In addition to spreading faster, it may make people vulnerable to a second infection after a first bout with the disease, the report warned.

The 33-page report was posted Thursday on BioRxiv, a website that researchers use to share their work before it is peer-reviewed, an effort to speed up collaborations with scientists working on COVID-19 vaccines or treatments. That research has been largely based on the genetic sequence of earlier strains and might not be effective against the new one. Scientists with major organizations working on a vaccine or drugs to combat the coronavirus have told The Times that they are pinning their hopes on initial evidence that the virus is stable and not likely to mutate the way the influenza virus does, requiring a new vaccine every year. The Los Alamos report could upend that assumption.

The mutation identified in the new report affects the now-infamous spikes on the exterior of the coronavirus, which allow it to enter human respiratory cells. The report’s authors said they felt an “urgent need for an early warning” so that vaccines and drugs under development around the world will be effective against the mutated strain. In many places where the new strain appeared, it quickly infected far more people than the earlier strains that came out of Wuhan, China, and within weeks it was the only strain that was prevalent in some nations, according to the report. The new strain’s dominance over its predecessors suggests that it is more infectious, according to the report, though exactly why is not yet known.

The coronavirus, known to scientists as SARS-CoV-2, has infected more than 3.5 million people around the world and caused more than 250,000 COVID-19 deaths since its discovery late last year. The report was based on a computational analysis of more than 6,000 coronavirus sequences from around the world collected by the Global Initiative for Sharing All Influenza Data, a public-private organization in Germany. Time and again, the analysis found the new version was transitioning to become dominant.

[..] The Los Alamos study does not indicate that the new version of the virus is more lethal than the original. People infected with the mutated strain appear to have higher viral loads. But the study’s authors from the University of Sheffield found that among a local sample of 447 patients, hospitalization rates were about the same for people infected with either virus version. Even if the new strain is no more dangerous than the others, it could still complicate efforts to bring the pandemic under control. That would be an issue if the mutation makes the virus so different from earlier strains that people who have immunity to them would not be immune to the new version.

Read more …

If it would follow SARS, it would die out completely. But that’s a long way away, and wishful thinking.

New Mutation Indicates That Coronavirus Might Be Weakening (NYP)

A new coronavirus mutation discovered by Arizona researchers mirrors a change that occurred as the 2003 SARS virus began to weaken, the researchers announced. Lead study author Dr. Efrem Lim, an assistant professor at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, and his team use a new technology called next-generation sequencing to rapidly read through all 30,000 chemical letters of the SARS-CoV-2 genome, or genetic code. That technology helps researchers determine how the virus is spreading, mutating and adapting over time. Out of the 382 nasal swab samples the researchers examined from coronavirus patients in the state, a single sample was missing a significant chunk of its genome. 81 of the letters were permanently deleted, according to the new study published in the Journal of Virology.

“One of the reasons why this mutation is of interest is because it mirrors a large deletion that arose in the 2003 SARS outbreak,” Lim said in a statement. During the middle and late phases of the 2003 SARS epidemic, the virus accumulated mutations that lessened its strength, according to the researchers. “Where the deletion occurs in the genome is pretty meaningful because it’s a known immune protein which means it counteracts the host’s antiviral response,” Lim told the Daily Mail. A weakened virus that causes less severe symptoms may get a leg up if it is able to spread efficiently through populations by people who don’t know they are infected, the scientists say. However, it’s too soon to say whether the novel coronavirus is beginning to lose its potency, according to the researchers.

“The takeaway is that one virus had a large deletion which demonstrates that it is possible for the virus to transmit without having complete portions of its genetic material,” study co-author Matthew Scotch said in an email. “This was one virus and we do not suggest that this means a ‘weakening’ of any kind.” All of the patients whose samples the Arizona scientists analyzed had some clinical coronavirus symptoms — meaning that even the version with 81 deletions was still strong enough to make the patient at least somewhat sick, the Mail reported. This is the first time such a deletion has been seen in the 16,000 coronavirus genomes that have been sequenced to date, according to the researchers. That’s less than half a percent of the strains circulating, according to the scientists. There are about 3.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide. “This is a drop in the bucket,” Lim told the Mail.

Read more …

This would be a less contagious strain.

Coronavirus Started Infecting People Globally Late Last Year (Hill)

The coronavirus has been circulating among people since late 2019 and appears to have experienced a highly rapid spread after the first infection, according to a new genetic analysis of 7,600 patients around the world. Researchers in Britain wrote in a report published Tuesday in the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution that they examined samples taken at different times and from different places, concluding that the virus first began infecting people late last year. The researchers found evidence of quick spread but found no indication that it is becoming any easier to transmit the virus, which was first identified in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, in December 2019.


“The virus is changing, but this in itself does not mean it’s getting worse,” genetics researcher Francois Balloux of the University College London Genetics Institute told CNN. The study indicated that infections in the U.S. and Europe specifically could have occurred weeks or months before the first official cases were reported in January and February, making it more difficult to find “Patient Zero” in any particular area. The findings shot down hopes from some doctors that the virus had in fact been circulating under the radar for months before it burst onto the scene, which would have indicated that there could be some immunity already built up. But Balloux told CNN at most only 10 percent of the population has been exposed to the coronavirus.

Read more …

I was wondering why the numbers are so different, but one thing at least is that numbers for the UK, which includes Scotland and Northern Ireland, do not include Scotland and Northern Ireland. Curious.

And then there’s more: the UK appears to undercount deaths by some 20,000.

UK COVID-19 Death Toll Rises Above 32,000, Highest In Europe (R.)

More than 32,000 people in the United Kingdom have died with suspected COVID-19, the highest official toll yet reported in Europe, according to data published on Tuesday. The Office for National Statistics said 29,648 deaths had taken place as of April 24 in England and Wales with COVID-19 mentioned in death certificates. Including deaths for Scotland and Northern Ireland, the official toll now stands at 32,313. That is more than Italy, previously Europe’s worst hit country, though its toll does not include suspected cases. Ministers dislike comparisons of the headline death toll, saying that excess mortality – the number of deaths from all causes that exceed the average for the time of year – is a more meaningful metric.

 

Chris Giles is economics editor at the FT.

Read more …

The case of the “whistleblower”, Rick Bright, is strongly linked to HCQ.

Pseudo-Science Behind The Assault On Hydroxychloroquine (ZH)

Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) was accepted as a COVID-19 treatment by the medical community in the US and worldwide by early April. 67% of the US physicians said they would prescribe HCQ or chloroquine CQ for COVID-19 to a family member (Town Hall, 2020-04-08). An international poll of doctors rated HCQ the most effective coronavirus treatment (NY Post, 2020-04-02). On April 6, Peter Navarro told CNN that “Virtually Every COVID-19 Patient In New York Is Given Hydroxychloroquine.” This might explain decrease in COVID-19 deaths in the New York state after April 15. The time lag is because COVID-19 deaths happen on average 14 days after showing symptoms. But on April 21, several perfectly coordinated events took place, attacking HCQ’s use for COVID-19 patients.

• The COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines Panel of the National Institute of Health issued recommendations with negative-ambivalent stance regarding the use of HCQ as a COVID-19 treatment. This surprising stance was taken contrary to the ample evidence of the efficacy and safety of HCQ and despite absence evidence of its harm. The panel also strongly recommended against the use of hydroxychloroquine with azithromycin (AZ), the combination of choice among practitioners.

• On the same day, a paper (Magagnoli, 2020) was posted on a pre-print server medRxiv, insinuating that HCQ is not only ineffective, but even harmful. This not-yet peer reviewed paper, by unqualified authors with conflicts of interest, received wall-to-wall media coverage, as it if were a cancer cure. It used data from Veterans Administration hospitals, spicing its effects. The paper has shown to be somewhere between junk science and fraud.

• Rick Bright, a government official who was probably more responsible for the low level of preparedness to the epidemic than most others, and had been re-assigned to a lower position earlier, emerged as a “whistleblower.” He claimed he had been demoted for opposing hydroxychloroquine, the claim to be soon debunked by documents bearing his signature. The media also gave him a wall-to-wall coverage.

On April 24, the FDA struck its own blow, issuing a stern warning against use of HCQ for COVID-19 treatment. While these warnings are not binding to doctors, they do produce a chilling effect. Consequently, either patients do not receive necessary treatment, or they receive it with a delay, sharper decreasing its effect. This allows detractors to question HCQ efficacy even more aggressively. Below, I review problems in the NIH COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines and other sources, used to wage anti-HCQ propaganda.

Read more …

Not sure if laughing is the best reaction here.

Goat and Pawpaw ‘Test Positive’ For COVID19 In Tanzania (AlJ)

Tanzania’s President John Magufuli has dismissed imported coronavirus testing kits as faulty, saying they returned positive results on samples taken from a goat and a pawpaw. Magufuli made the remarks during an event in Chato in northwestern Tanzania on Sunday. He said there were “technical errors” with the tests. The president, whose government has already drawn criticism for being secretive about the coronavirus outbreak and has previously asked Tanzanians to pray the coronavirus away, said he had instructed Tanzanian security forces to check the quality of the kits. They had randomly obtained several non-human samples, including from a pawpaw, a goat and a sheep, but had assigned them human names and ages.

These samples were then submitted to Tanzania’s laboratory to test for the coronavirus, with the lab technicians left deliberately unaware of their origins. Samples from the pawpaw and the goat tested positive for COVID-19, the president said, adding this meant it was likely that some people were being tested positive when, in fact, they were not infected by the coronavirus. “There is something happening. I said before we should not accept that every aid is meant to be good for this nation,” Magufuli said, adding the kits should be investigated.

On Saturday, Magufuli announced that he had placed an order for a herbal treatment for the coronavirus touted by the president of Madagascar. “I have already written to Madagascar’s president and we will soon dispatch a plane to fetch the medicine so that Tanzania can also benefit from it,” he said. The herbal remedy, called “Covid Organics” and prepared by the Malagasy Institute for Applied Research, is made out of Artemisia, a plant cultivated on the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar. Despite a lack of scientific evidence, President Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar claimed that the remedy has already cured some Madagascans of COVID-19. Children returning to school have been required to take it.

Read more …

We can neatly divide the country, if not the world, according to people’s reaction to this.

Problem is even if she wasn’t tested at all, she could still be positive.

Pennsylvania Woman Jailed For Refusing To Quarantine After Positive Test (Hill)

A Pennsylvania woman was jailed over the weekend for refusing to quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, officials said Saturday. Erie County President Judge John Trucilla ordered that the woman be kept on electronic monitoring at home for at least a week after she spent a night in jail Friday for repeatedly violating her isolation order, the Erie Times-News reported. County Solicitor Richard Perhacs said the woman, who was unidentified at her Saturday court hearing, attended a party, did some banking and had her vehicle repaired after she tested positive. As a result, 27 people are now in quarantine after coming in contact with her or someone who was in contact with her.

The woman reportedly cried throughout the emergency proceeding as she appeared via a video call from the Erie County Prison, according to the news outlet. She told Trucilla that she did not understand a letter she signed on April 29 saying the county could take legal action if she did not self-isolate. “I want to explain from the bottom of my heart that I apologize,” she told the judge, according to the Times-News. “It was a mistake. I’ve learned from my actions. I want to go home.” Trucilla ruled in a preliminary order that she had to remain at home until she was tested again on Friday but said she could be jailed for longer if she violated the order again. The judge will determine whether her self-isolation period needs to be extended based on that test.

County officials said they explained the letter to her multiple times. The woman first developed symptoms on April 12 and said Saturday that she was no longer experiencing them. Erie County Chief Public Defender Pat Kennedy, who represented the woman, requested she be electronically monitored at her home. “Based on my interaction with her, I don’t think that day in jail was lost upon her,” Kennedy said, according to the news outlet.

Read more …

Shouldn’t Fauci and Birx simply resign? Or do they agree with the re-opening?

White House To Wind Down Coronavirus Task Force, Focus Shifts To Aftermath (R.)

The White House coronavirus task force will wind down as the country moves into a second phase that focuses on the aftermath of the outbreak, President Donald Trump said on Tuesday. Trump confirmed the plans after Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the group, told reporters the White House may start moving coordination of the U.S. response on to federal agencies in late May. “Mike Pence and the task force have done a great job,” Trump said during a visit to a mask factory in Arizona. “But we’re now looking at a little bit of a different form and that form is safety and opening and we’ll have a different group probably set up for that.” Asked if he was proclaiming “mission accomplished” in the fight against the coronavirus, Trump said, “No, not at all. The mission accomplished is when it’s over.”

Trump said Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, doctors who assumed a high profile during weeks of nationally televised news briefings, would remain advisers after the group is dismantled. Fauci leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Birx was response coordinator for the force. “We can’t keep our country closed for the next five years,” Trump said, when asked why it was time to wind down the task force. More than 70,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus. The U.S. death toll is the highest in the world. Trump acknowledged there might be a resurgence of the virus as states loosen the restrictions on businesses and social life aimed at curbing its spread. “It’ll be a flame and we’re going to put the flame out.”

Earlier, Pence said Trump was starting to look at Memorial Day on May 25 as the time to shift management of the response to the pandemic. [..] Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Food and Drug Administration chief Stephen Hahn said the Trump administration was committed to accelerating the search for a vaccine, with the goal of producing 100 million doses by the autumn and 300 million doses by the end of the year. “Whether that can be achieved or not, it is realistic,” said Azar. “We would not be doing this if we did not think it were realistic. Is it guaranteed? Of course it is not.” Most experts have suggested clinical trials to guarantee a vaccine is safe and effective could take a minimum of 12 to 18 months.

Read more …

The government is intentionally doing such a shitty job, might as well let the for-profit boys do it.

UK Government ‘Using Pandemic To Transfer NHS Duties To Private Sector’ (G.)

The government is using the coronavirus pandemic to transfer key public health duties from the NHS and other state bodies to the private sector without proper scrutiny, critics have warned. Doctors, campaign groups, academics and MPs raised the concerns about a “power grab” after it emerged on Monday that Serco was in pole position to win a deal to supply 15,000 call-handlers for the government’s tracking and tracing operation. They said the health secretary, Matt Hancock, had “accelerated” the dismantling of state healthcare and that the duty to keep the public safe was being “outsourced” to the private sector. In recent weeks, ministers have used special powers to bypass normal tendering and award a string of contracts to private companies and management consultants without open competition.


Deloitte, KPMG, Serco, Sodexo, Mitie, Boots and the US data mining group Palantir have secured taxpayer-funded commissions to manage Covid-19 drive-in testing centres, the purchasing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the building of Nightingale hospitals. Now, the Guardian has seen a letter from the Department of Health to NHS trusts instructing them to stop buying any of their own PPE and ventilators. From Monday, procurement of a list of 16 items must be handled centrally. Many of the items on the list, such as PPE, are in high demand during the pandemic, while others including CT scanners, mobile X-ray machines and ultrasounds are high-value machines that are used more widely in hospitals.

Read more …

Not sure I can fully incorporate the irony involved here.

K Street Requests Taxpayer Bailout Of Corporate Lobbyists (IC)

K Street may soon have its own taxpayer-funded bailout. Industries as varied as oil refining, construction, fast food restaurants, and chemical manufacturing are seeking federal cash to support their lobbyists in Washington, D.C. Many of the largest lobbying forces are organized under the 501(c)(6) section of the tax code as trade groups. Corporations with similar concerns pool their money together to fund trade groups, which in turn employ thousands of lobbyists to shape elections and legislation on a daily basis. But the Paycheck Protection Program, the centerpiece of the small business rescue program, excluded such trade groups. That could change in the next round of stimulus legislation, which Congress is scheduled to debate later this month.


Lobbyists have stepped up a campaign to make sure professional influence peddlers are eligible for the PPP, or P3, funds. The push also includes a demand for an additional $25 billion for canceled events and other lost revenue from the coronavirus pandemic. The American Society of Association Executives, which represents trade group leadership, explained in a letter to lawmakers that trade group lobbyists need federal funding to better advocate for their clients. “These organizations are already relied upon to help coordinate federal resources to combat the coronavirus pandemic, and they require staff to fulfill this duty,” ASAE wrote. Trade groups, the ASAE letter notes, have faced declining revenue as corporations wind down dues payments and sponsorship fees in response to the economic downturn.

Read more …

So many sectors of the economy are entire bubbles, and we’re going to bail them all out.

US Airlines Burn Through $10 Billion A Month As Traffic Plummets (R.)

U.S. airlines are collectively burning more than $10 billion in cash a month and averaging fewer than two dozen passengers per domestic flight because of the coronavirus pandemic, industry trade group Airlines for America said in prepared testimony seen by Reuters ahead of a U.S. Senate hearing on Wednesday. Even after grounding more than 3,000 aircraft, or nearly 50% of the active U.S. fleet, the group said its member carriers, which include the four largest U.S. airlines, were averaging just 17 passengers per domestic flight and 29 passengers per international flight. “The U.S. airline industry will emerge from this crisis a mere shadow of what it was just three short months ago,” the group’s chief executive, Nicholas Calio, will say, according to his prepared testimony.


Net booked passengers have fallen by nearly 100% year-on-year, according to the testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee. The group warned that if air carriers were to refund all tickets, including those purchased as nonrefundable or those canceled by a passenger instead of the carrier, “this will result in negative cash balances that will lead to bankruptcy.” Separately, Eric Fanning, who heads the Aerospace Industries Association, will ask Congress to consider providing “temporary and targeted assistance for the ailing aviation manufacturing sector,” in testimony made public by the group. Boeing Co said last week it would cut 16,000 jobs by the end of the year, while GE Aviation plans to cut up to 13,000 jobs and airplane supplier Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc is cutting 1,450 jobs.

Read more …

So much for competition as a model.

After The Covid Rush: Brace For America’s Version Of Saudi Aramco (Cox)

Calamity creates opportunity. That has always been true when it comes to corporate consolidation. Recall how a series of mega-mergers and acquisitions transformed the banking industry after the 2008 financial panic. Wells Fargo snagged Wachovia. Bank of America scooped up Merrill Lynch. Lloyds TSB bought HBOS. BNP Paribas grabbed Fortis. JPMorgan got Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns. And so on. Before the coronavirus has taken its full physical and economic toll, expect more of the same. Strong banks ate the weak, and they were chivvied along by federal and state governments and regulators worried about the sustainability of their financial systems. Governments will play a central role now, too.

Even before the Great Lockdown, leaders were calling for relaxation of antitrust restrictions as a response to the emergence of stronger Chinese competitors. France and Germany railed against the European Commission blocking the merger between the rail businesses of Siemens and Alstom, complaining it would give Chinese giant CRRC free reign. President Donald Trump has tried to encourage telecom mergers to combat Huawei. These concerns have only become more pronounced as China appears to have rebounded from the virus more rapidly than the rest of the world. The political logic of protecting domestic companies through strategic alliances will apply after the pandemic and across a broad range of industries.

Governments will come away from Covid-19 with new priorities, ranging from safer, more domestic, manufacturing and supply chains to less risky balance sheets. If history rhymes, then pre-virus views about competition may take a back seat. As Edward Chancellor argued, this will lead to an unhealthy concentration of power. For the M&A business it opens all sorts of possibilities once considered taboo. Take the oil patch. Sliding demand has combined with efforts by the world’s largest producer, Saudi Arabia, to flood the market and nudge U.S. drillers toward bankruptcy. As the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude has fallen below $20 a barrel from $60 at the start of the year, producers have been lobbying Trump for a rescue.

It’s not inconceivable to imagine the largest American producers banding together to squeeze out costs and take a better grip of U.S. oil supply, maybe even aided by government loans and a streamlined regulatory process, effectively creating a potential rival to Saudi Aramco. Merging Exxon Mobil with Chevron would forge a company worth some $350 billion with 35 billion barrels of proved reserves. Heck, they might even fold in BP’s 20 billion of reserves and $75 billion market cap and “ExChevBrit”. It would be a shrimp compared to Aramco’s $1.6 trillion value and 270 billion barrels of proved barrels of oil – and that’s how they would justify a deal.

Read more …

The sytem cannot tell if you’re 2 meters or 20 meters away. Next!

Bluetooth Inventors See Problems For Coronavirus Contact Tracing (IC)

Named for the 10th century king Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson, famous in Scandinavia for uniting (and Christianizing) the Danes, the humble, oft-derided wireless technology included in some form in nearly every portable device from the past decade and beyond is central to coronavirus contact tracing apps pushed by Apple, Google, and governments across the world. Banking on the standard’s ubiquity, and considerably improved reliability since the ’90s, these entities hope to turn billions of Bluetooth-enabled devices into an army of public health automatons that can map anyone who came into contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19.


Although the exact plans for using Bluetooth vary between governments, the gist is simple: In order for your iPhone to connect to your friend’s Bluetooth speaker, it has to essentially shout its existence into the electromagnetic spectrum, sending repeated radio messages that announce that the device is turned on and willing to pair with another. It’s exactly these short, repeating radio wave bursts that tech companies and public health authorities hope can be used for contact tracing, by collecting an anonymized record of every Bluetooth announcement within a certain range. If one of these “HELLO, I AM BLUETOOTH!” messages ends up coming from an individual who later tests positive for Covid-19, the hope is that anyone else whose phone was able to detect that message could then be alerted and tested (or treated) accordingly.

Read more …

No-one here links the good harvest to less pollution or glyphosate. Odd.

French Beekeepers Look To Lockdown Exit To Sell Bumper Honey Harvest (R.)

Beekeepers in France are celebrating a bumper spring honey harvest after weeks of warm weather but will need a smooth unwinding of the coronavirus lockdown if they are to find a market for their produce. Down an overgrown track near the Chantilly Palace, where the James Bond film “A View to a Kill” was filmed in the 1980s, beekeeper Franck Portefaix says it could be the best season in four decades. “The blossom was almost three weeks early and the harvest is very, very good,” said Portefaix, who followed his parents into beekeeping 30 years ago. Nearby, colleagues in protective suits sprayed smoke over hives before opening them to extract the raw honey, most of which Portefaix’s business sells in markets. Temperatures in the l’Oise, north of Paris, in April hit as high as 30 degrees Celsius, more typical of early summer.


In a mediocre harvest, a beehive can produce 4-6 kg of honey, rising to 10 kg in a good harvest, but this spring Portefaix said the best performing among his 500 hives could produce up to 20 kg each. “1976 was really the year of reference, a very good year. And this year has begun much like that year. But not all beekeepers are cheering 2020. While northern and western regions of France basked in ideal April weather, prolonged dry spells hurt harvests in the south. Unfavourable weather also in the Landes region hurt acacia honey production. “With the upheaval to our climate, harvests are becoming increasingly unpredictable. It’s still early in the season, we need to temper our expectations,” said Henri Clement, a spokesman for the National Union of French Beekeeping.

Read more …

The FBI is above the law.

Did The Mueller Team Violate Brady and Flynn Orders? (Turley)

With the release of the new material from the case of Michael Flynn, an array of experts came forward to assure the public that it was all standard procedure for investigators to conclude that there was no criminal conduct uncovered and then prosecutors creating a crime (including the use of a clearly unconstitutional law never used to convict anyone since the start of the Republic). Many of these same experts who have been espousing untethered (and ultimately rejected) theories for criminal and impeachment charges for years. Yet, what was most striking is how many also rejected any claim that the undisclosed evidence, at a minimum, violated Brady, the case requiring the government to turn over exculpatory information.

Indeed, Ben Wittes, a staunch defender of James Comey, assured readers “while you might not know much about federal law enforcement,” this is all “standard practices.” In fact, this is a clear and flagrant violation of the both Brady and the orders of Judge Emmet Sullivan. The fact that such violations are also dismissed by mainstream media and experts reflects how rage has distorted legal analysis in this Administration. Brady v. Maryland is a 1963 decision of the Supreme Court that prosecutors must under the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments disclose favorable evidence to defendants upon request, if the evidence is “material” to either guilt or punishment. There are also due process rights requiring the disclosure of any evidence that would allow the defense to attack the reliability, thoroughness, and good faith of the police investigation or to impeach the credibility of the state’s witnesses. Kyles v. Whitley, 514 U.S. 419 (1995).

Courts like Judge Sullivan in the Flynn case issue standard orders under this and other cases requiring disclosure of evidence that are exculpatory or material to issues like impeachment. Many of us who work on the criminal defense side have long frustrating histories with courts in dealing with violations of Brady and other cases. Often these violations are exposed after sentencing (unlike in Flynn). Courts often cite cases like Strickler v. Greene to decline to order a new trial unless “the nondisclosure was so serious that there is a reasonable probability that the suppressed evidence would have produced a different verdict.” That is a standard that is difficult to overcome. However, this case exposes a particularly obvious set of violations.

Read more …

Babylon Bee

China Fires Entire Propaganda Team: US Media Already Does Their Job (BB)

The Chinese government has laid off its entire propaganda arm, cutting thousands of jobs at China Central Television and other state-run media outlets as the American media is already doing their job for them. “It seemed kinda redundant for us to have a state-run media when we have the American press,” said President Xi at a press conference Monday. “The American media is carrying water for us. It’s pretty incredible. We unleashed a virus on the world and lied about it for months, and the American press can’t stop praising us. As long as they make their orange leader look bad, they’ll repeat any line we feed them.”


“Really, we Commies could learn a lot from the propaganda of the press over in America,” he added admiringly. The Communist dictator sat the nervous, state-owned journalists down and asked them, “What would you say you do there?” to which they responded, “We take the propaganda and tell it to the people.” But President Xi wasn’t fooled, saying that the American press already does that and the redundancy would be eliminated. Luckily for the state-owned journalists and broadcasters who lost their jobs in China today, CNN was hiring.

Read more …

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you.

 

 

A great thread, putting together lots of studies:

 

 

Taleb. People often don’t get why you need not median values but extremes, maxima, to build a good model, building, theory, policy.

EVT= Extreme value theory

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth for your own good.

 

May 032020
 


Wyland Stanley Pedestrians ascending steep grade, San Francisco 1940

 

The US Just Reported Its Deadliest Day For Coronavirus (CNBC) /span>
For Many COVID19 Patients Symptoms Last More Than A Month (BI)
Women, Children Just As Likely To Get COVID19, Men Have Worse Symptoms (F.)
Half Of All New UK Infections Last Week Were Among Healthcare Workers (O.)
Is Sweden’s Covid-19 Handling a Failure or a Success?
New Mexico Governor Quarantines Entire Town Over Coronavirus Outbreak (JTN) /span>
Saudi To Take ‘Strict, Painful’ Measures To Deal With Coronavirus Impact (R.)
Italy’s Daily Coronavirus Death Toll Jumps, New Cases Stable (R.)
French Coronavirus Strain Did Not Come From China Or Italy (SCMP)
France Set To Impose 14-Day Coronavirus Quarantine For Travellers (R.)
European Leaders Join Forces To Combat COVID19 (PA)
China Faces Economic Reckoning As World Turns Against Globalisation (SCMP)
PPP Program Was Not Designed To Help Small Business (BI)
The Coronavirus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations (NYer)
Warren Buffett Sold All His Airline Stocks (MF)
Buffett Says: ‘Never Bet Against America’ (F.)

 

 

• A record 2,909 Americans died of Covid in last 24 hrs;

• U.S. CDC reports 1,092,815 coronavirus cases, 64,283 deaths

• Russia had 10,633 new cases in 24 hours for the first time

 

 

 

 

Cases 3,500,652 (+ 83,170 from yesterday’s 3,417,482)

Deaths 245,048 (+ 5,153 from yesterday’s 239,895 )

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-

 

 

From Worldometer – Among Active cases, Serious/Critical fell to 2%

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Yeah, sure, open it all up.

The US Just Reported Its Deadliest Day For Coronavirus (CNBC) /span>

The United States just had its deadliest day on record due to the coronavirus as states across the country begin to ease restrictions meant to curb the spread of the virus, according to data published by the World Health Organization. The U.S. saw 2,909 people die of Covid-19 in 24 hours, according to the data, which was collected as of 4 a.m. ET on Friday. That’s the highest daily Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. yet, based on a CNBC analysis of the WHO’s daily Covid-19 situation reports. Before May 1, the next highest U.S. daily death toll was 2,471 reported on April 23, according to the WHO. State officials have previously warned that data on Covid-19 deaths are difficult to analyze because they often represent patients who became ill and were hospitalized weeks ago.


The country’s deadliest day comes as state officials weigh reopening parts of the economy and easing stay-at-home orders. Public health officials and epidemiologists have warned that as the public grows fatigued by restrictions and businesses reopen, the virus could spread rapidly throughout communities that have yet to experience a major epidemic. Protesters in at least 10 states on Friday demanded that the government lift stay-at-home orders and other emergency measures put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Among the states that saw protests are California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Tennessee and Washington.

Dozens of states have unveiled reopening plans and several, including Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas, have already begun to allow nonessential retailers to reopen. New York state, which has reported more than 27% of all confirmed cases in the U.S., according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, has borne the brunt of the U.S. outbreak so far. The state has reported at least 24,039 of the country’s 65,173 Covid-19 deaths, according to Hopkins. The toll of the deadliest day of Covid-19 in the U.S. rivals that of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which claimed the lives of 2,973 people in one day, according to a government commission.


The WHO data differs from data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which does not report historical daily Covid-19 deaths. The CDC’s site says that 2,349 people died in the U.S. of Covid-19 on May 1. However, the agency warns that its data might not be complete. CDC spokeswoman Kate Grusich told CNBC that the agency’s data is “validated through a confirmation process with jurisdictions.” “CDC does not know the exact number of COVID-19 illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths for a variety of reasons,” the agency says, adding that asymptomatic patients, delays in reporting and limited testing make it difficult to accurately track the data.

Read more …

More to add to the “We know nothing about the virus” pile.

For Many COVID19 Patients Symptoms Last More Than A Month (BI)

When Lauren Nichols felt a dry, burning sensation in her throat, her first instinct was to laugh it off. “I joked at the start that I was a baby dragon in the making and I was going to be on ‘Games of Thrones,’” she said. A few hours later, she developed diarrhea. The next day, she had a low-grade fever, accompanied by body aches and pounding headaches. A week and a half later, Nichols started feeling short of breath. Just climbing a step ladder made her winded. “I usually walk about 5 to 6 miles a day and I’m very active, very healthy,” she said. “That was sort of my wake up call that this isn’t normal. There’s something going on.”

Nichols, who is 32 years old, got tested for the coronavirus on March 17 in Boston, Massachusetts, where she lives. Her test was positive, but her symptoms still haven’t gone away: Friday was day 51 of her illness. Nichols is still recovering at home. Not a day has passed in which she didn’t have diarrhea. Her appetite has disappeared, she sweats and shivers through the night, and there’s a rattling in her chest. Her second coronavirus test came back positive again on April 20. She is one of a growing number of young coronavirus patients with mild or moderate cases who have reported being sick for more than a month.

Three other patients under 40 gave Business Insider similar accounts of their illnesses. That contradicts guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has suggested that mild coronavirus symptoms typically last for 14 days. For severe or critical patients, the World Health Organization reports, recovery can last up to six weeks. But the limited nature of data about patients in recovery so far means we don’t have much information about how long symptoms typically last. In scientific studies, patients who are considered “recovered” are usually those who have been discharged from the hospital. Since mild cases are encouraged to stay home, they’re less likely to be reflected in that research.

Read more …

Also new information.

Women, Children Just As Likely To Get COVID19, Men Have Worse Symptoms (F.)

n analysis of COVID-19 cases in Shenzhen, China, found that infection rates in young children were no lower than the population average, and that women were roughly equally represented as men, but men were 2.5 times as likely to exhibit severe symptoms. The analysis of cases identified by the Shenzhen Center for Disease Control from January 14 to February 12 included 187 men and 204 women—but the men were 2.5-times more likely to have severe symptoms like respiratory or organ failure, according to the study, which was published Monday in The Lancet. Though children were less likely to develop severe symptoms, they were infected at the same rate as their adult counterparts, though the average age of those who tested positive for the disease was 45.


It took five days, on average, for patients in the study to manifest symptoms of COVID-19, but contact tracing and extensive testing reduced identification time to three days, as the study also looked at 1,286 close contacts of the 391 COVID-19 patients. Only 9% of the patients showed severe symptoms at their first doctor evaluation. On average, each patient infected 0.4 others with coronavirus, and 11.2% of these infections were among housemates; though researchers note this number is observational, it suggests that the “disease that will quickly die out instead of spreading” and is so low due in part “to the Shenzhen CDC’s efforts to detect and isolate the index cases and their contacts.” However, not all cases are created equal: 8.9% of patients known as superspreaders caused 80% of infections among contacts, which could “relatively easily reignite outbreaks.”

Read more …

Never mind, just call them HEROES and you’re fine. Q: at what point do you get to be called a failed state?

Half Of All New UK Infections Last Week Were Among Healthcare Workers (O.)

British scientists are racing to try to answer fundamental questions about the Covid-19 virus and its transmission before the lifting of the current national lockdown is approved by the government in the near future. Researchers say relaxing social distancing should occur only once it is understood why new infections of the disease are still being diagnosed in their thousands every day. Such a rate means efforts to test and trace infected contacts – a key plank in the government’s anti-Covid strategy in coming months – would be quickly overwhelmed. Far more information is needed about the way the coronavirus is transmitted, they say. The new data will feed into the debate about the settings in which lockdown will be lifted first – for instance, whether it’s relatively safe to stage outdoor events.

And last week, several groups launched studies aimed at providing answers. These include projects to analyse how virus-laden aerosols behave in the air in a bid to understand how the disease is passed between humans. In addition, other schemes will target healthcare workers to investigate how the virus is being spread to them from patients and then on to others. The importance of this latter approach was revealed in recent figures for cases of Covid-19 which have shown a drop in numbers of new cases in hospitals but reveal significant rises among health and social care workers. This point was stressed by epidemiologist Anne Johnson at University College London. She said cutting transmissions of Covid-19 to health and social care workers had now emerged as a major priority.

“Half of all new infections reported last week were among healthcare workers,” she told the Observer. “This has now become the leading edge of the spread of the disease.” Lack of protective equipment and clothing may have worsened the situation, she added. “However, what is certain is that care workers are still at risk from their patients from whom they can pick up the virus and, in turn, pass it on to their colleagues, to their own families and possibly to other patients. We need to focus on limiting the spread of Covid-19 among health and social care workers as an absolute priority if we want to have a chance of bringing this epidemic to a halt.”

Read more …

I don’t really see how to call it a success.

Is Sweden’s Covid-19 Handling a Failure or a Success? (Mish)

Sweden did not have a hard lockdown like its neighbors although people were advised to work from home when possible. It also banned nursing home visits on April 7. Sweden says its model worked, but Numbers Suggest a Different Story. Sweden’s Covid-19 deaths per capita are 3 to 6 times its Nordic neighbors.

 

On a per capita basis, Sweden’s Covid-19 deaths are 3 to 5.5 times the other Nordic countries. Sweden has just over 3 times the death rate of Denmark. But note Denmark’s population density disadvantage of 138:25. Success is in the eyes of the beholder. A death rate 5.5x is acceptable to some but not others. But Sweden has a ton of pressure to under-report Covid deaths. I would be shocked if they didn’t. Regardless, one can easily look at this data, ignore the undercounts (perhaps even factor some in), and conclude Sweden did the right thing.

Read more …

This is going to lead to real life battles.

New Mexico Governor Quarantines Entire Town Over Coronavirus Outbreak (JTN)

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Grisham on Friday formally quarantined the entire town of Gallup, a decision she said came at the request of the city’s mayor as the municipality battles a rapidly spreading COVID-19 outbreak. In a press release on the New Mexico state website, the governor’s office announced Grisham had invoked New Mexico’s Riot Control Act, which the state said grants her the authority to “enact further temporary restrictions to mitigate the uninhibited spread of COVID-19.” The order shuts down all roads to and from Gallup. Businesses are ordered to be closed from 5 p.m. until 8 a.m. No more than two individuals may ride in a car at the same time.


And residents are urged to remain in their homes “except for emergency outings and those essential for health, safety and welfare.” Per state law, emergency declarations of this type only last three days. Grisham’s order is set to expire on May 4. In her Apr. 30 letter to Grisham, then-Gallup Mayor Jackie McKinney, who that same day was succeeded as mayor by Louis Bonaguidi, urged Grisham to enact the order to counteract the “unprecedented health crisis” the virus posed to her city and the surrounding county. McKinley County, in which Gallup is located, has seen 20 deaths from the coronavirus out of a little over 1,000 confirmed cases.

Read more …

Saudi Arabia is becoming a hit fast.

Saudi To Take ‘Strict, Painful’ Measures To Deal With Coronavirus Impact (R.)

Saudi Arabia will take strict and painful measures to deal with the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the finance minister said on Saturday, adding that “all options for dealing with the crisis are open”. “We must reduce budget expenditures sharply”, Mohammed al-Jadaan said in an interview with Al Arabiya TV, adding that the impact of the new coronavirus on Saudi Arabia’s state finances will appear from the second quarter of the year. “Saudi finances need more discipline and the road ahead is long,” he said. One measure would be to slow down government projects, including mega-projects, to reduce spending, he said.


The world’s largest oil exporter is suffering from historically low oil prices, while measures to fight the coronavirus are likely to curb the pace and scale of economic reforms launched by Crown Price Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia’s central bank foreign exchange reserves fell in March at their fastest rate in at least 20 years, hitting their lowest level since 2011, while the kingdom slipped to a $9 billion budget deficit in the first quarter as oil revenue collapsed. Jadaan said last month that Riyadh could borrow $26 billion more this year while it would draw down up to $32 billion from its foreign reserves to finance the deficit. On Saturday Jadaan told Al Arabiya Saudi Arabia had used some revenue from investments to plug the deficit, and that the crisis presented investment opportunities.

Read more …

Ease a little and then flare back up.

Italy’s Daily Coronavirus Death Toll Jumps, New Cases Stable (R.)

Deaths from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy jumped by 474 on Saturday, against 269 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, posting the largest daily toll of fatalities since April 21. The steep increase in deaths followed a long, gradual declining trend and was due largely to Lombardy, the country’s worst affected region, where there were 329 deaths in the last 24 hours compared with just 88 the day before. The daily tally of new infections was broadly stable for a third day running at 1,900 against 1,965 on Friday.


The total death toll since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21 now stands at 28,710, the agency said, the second highest in the world after that of the United States. The number of confirmed cases amounts to 209,328, the third highest global tally behind those of the United States and Spain. People registered as currently carrying the illness fell to 100,704 from 100,943 on Friday. There were 1,539 people in intensive care on Saturday, slightly down from 1,578 on Friday and maintaining a long-running decline. Of those originally infected, 79,914 were declared recovered against 78,249 a day earlier.

Read more …

“..the ancestor of Sars-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID19, might have left bats between 50 and 70 years ago..”

French Coronavirus Strain Did Not Come From China Or Italy (SCMP)

The coronavirus outbreak in France was not caused by cases imported from China, but from a locally circulating strain of unknown origin, according to a new study by French scientists at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. Genetic analysis showed that the dominant types of the viral strains in France belonged to a clade – or group with a common ancestor – that did not come from China or Italy, the earliest hotspot in Europe. “The French outbreak has been mainly seeded by one or several variants of this clade … we can infer that the virus was silently circulating in France in February,” said researchers led by Dr Sylvie van der Werf and Etienne Simon-Loriere in a non-peer reviewed paper released on bioRxiv.org last week.

The Covid-19 pandemic has infected more than 128,000 people in France and caused more than 23,000 deaths. France detected the virus in late January, before any other country in Europe. A few patients with a travel history that included China’s Hubei province were sampled on January 24 and tested positive. Benjamin Neuman, professor and chair of biological sciences with the Texas A&M University-Texarkana, said the French strains might have come from Belgium, where some sequences most closely related to the original strain from China were clustered.

“Since the earliest European strains of [the coronavirus] Sars-CoV-2 seem to be associated with Belgium, the idea that the virus spread from Belgium to both Italy and France at around the same time seems plausible, as this paper contends,” he said. France is the latest in a growing number of countries and areas where no direct link between China and local outbreaks could be established. The dominant strains in Russia and Australia, for instance, came from Europe and the United States, respectively, according to some studies.

[..] Some prominent scientists, including Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health, said the virus might have been spreading quietly in humans for years, or even decades, without causing a detectable outbreak. The virus had thus adapted well to the human body. Some genes regulating its binding to host cells were similar, or even identical, to those found in some other highly infectious human viruses, such as HIV and Ebola. According to some estimates, the ancestor of Sars-CoV-2, the virus causing Covid-19, might have left bats between 50 and 70 years ago. A recent study by a team of geneticists in Oxford University estimated the first outbreak of the current pandemic could have occurred as early as September last year.

Read more …

That’s at the very least 3 months too late.

France Set To Impose 14-Day Coronavirus Quarantine For Travellers (R.)

Travellers to France, including French citizens returning home, will face a compulsory two-week quarantine and possible isolation when they arrive in the country to help slow the spread of coronavirus, the health minister said on Saturday. France, which has been the fifth-hardest hit country with 24,594 deaths from COVID-19, is preparing to gradually lift lockdown measures from May 11. The new quarantine rules, however, will be included in a decree specifying measures laid out in a bill extending a state of emergency until July 24, a move that allows the government to restrict freedom of movement.


“This quarantine will be imposed on any person returning on French soil,” Health Minister Olivier Veran told a press briefing after the weekly cabinet meeting. He said the duration and conditions of both quarantine for asymptomatic people and isolation for those showing symptoms of COVID-19, the flu-like disease caused by the new coronavirus, would be defined in a decree to be published. Decisions to isolate people would be scrutinised by judges to ensure they are justified and fair, he added. It was not immediately clear whether the quarantine would only apply to people arriving from outside Europe’s open-border Schengen area, whether they would need to self-isolate at home or in hotels, and for how long the measures would be in place.

Read more …

Incompetence as an official statement.

Many of these countries have strong medicine industries. And only now …..

European Leaders Join Forces To Combat COVID19 (PA)

European leaders have pledged to raise billions of pounds to help find a vaccine and treatments for Covid-19 as part of an “international alliance” fighting the disease. An online pledging conference due to be held on Monday will aim to pull in raise €7.5bn in funding to support the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. Writing in the Independent newspaper, the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and Norway and senior EU officials said the outbreak had “caused devastation and pain in all corners of the world”. They said responding to the “global challenge” required “bringing together the world’s best – and most prepared – minds to find the vaccines, treatments and therapies we need to make our world healthy again”.


This would accompany “strengthening the health systems that will make them available for all, with a particular attention to Africa”. The politicians declared their support for the World Health Organization (WHO) and backed the recent launch of the “Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator”. The “global cooperation platform” aims to accelerate research, development, access and distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine and other treatments, the leaders wrote, adding that it has “laid the foundation for a real international alliance to fight Covid-19”. Money pledged through the online conference on Monday will make up a global funding “shortfall” estimated by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) – an independent monitoring and accountability body that ensures preparedness for global health crises – and others.

Read more …

“One of the more worrying consequences of the coronavirus..”?

I think it’s one of the few positives.

China Faces Economic Reckoning As World Turns Against Globalisation (SCMP)

One of the more worrying consequences of the coronavirus is that it looks likely to become a catalyst for deglobalisation. At the centre of this will be the decoupling of the Chinese economy with developed economies and the US in particular. The world’s three largest free economies – the European Union, the United States and Japan – are all drawing up separate plans to lure their companies out of China. EU trade commissioner Phil Hogan has called on companies to consider moving away from China; US President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser Larry Kudlow has said the government should pay the costs of American firms moving manufacturing back from China onto US soil; and Tokyo has unveiled a US$2.2 billion fund to tempt Japanese manufacturers back to Japan or even to Southeast Asia.


Meanwhile, bills are piling up in the US Congress aimed at reducing America’s reliance on Chinese supply chains and pushing for a decoupling of the world’s two largest economies. While these are recent moves, the truth is the debate on globalisation – and deglobalisation – began more than a decade ago in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008. After decades of globalisation in trade, capital flows and even people-to-people exchanges, the trend has reversed over the past decade as trade and financial integration stalled.

Read more …

I changed the headline to reflect what the article inadvertently says.

PPP Program Was Not Designed To Help Small Business (BI)

As the federal government’s aid to businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic has gone out, a curious new breed of public moralizer has emerged: the wealthy businessman or their political allies angry at businesses getting money that isn’t “meant for them.” People are angry at larger companies that participate in the Paycheck Protection Program, a loan fund created by the CARES Act and administered through banks and the Small Business Administration to help ease the economic pain of the pandemic. The program is designed to give generous loans that would cover 2.5 times the monthly payroll of a qualified business and that loan would then be forgiven if they were spent on a few categories of expenses — most notably paying employees.

The program has been castigated by critics across the political spectrum for a slew of issues, most notably for letting larger companies participate who may not seem like a “small business.” In particular, this criticism is directed at companies that are publicly traded and thus might be able to tap to the equity markets for funding. But it’s not a failing of the PPP that some larger companies got money — the program was designed to include them and, if the purpose of it was to protect employment, then letting a wider as opposed to a narrower range of companies participate could be helpful. The PPP, despite getting another infusion of $320 billion on top of the $349 billion already disbursed, has clearly been underfunded and, second, its actual goal of protecting employment has been confused with its marketing as a way to assist sympathetic small businesses.

The PPP deliberately designed its rules so that large restaurants could access the funding, leading to name brands like Shake Shack, steakhouse chain Ruth’s Chris, sandwich chain Potbelly and others getting checks. This stirred up substantial opprobrium as many truly small businesses have received nothing so far. After the uproar, Shake Shack founder Danny Meyer and the company’s chief executive Randy Garutti took to LinkedIn to say that the burger chain would give back its $10 million loan, while the sushi chain Kura Sushi said it would return its $6 million in PPP funding, along with Ruth’s Chris. None of these companies are “small businesses,” but their qualification under the plan isn’t a “loophole” — it was deliberate. The Treasury’s guidance specifically says that hotels and restaurants get special treatment under the plan, specifically that the standard is that if there are 500 or fewer employees per location, not for the entire business.

“Few, if any restaurants in America employ more than 500 people per location. That meant that Shake Shack — with roughly 45 employees per restaurant – could and should apply to protect as many of our employees’ jobs as possible,” Meyer and Garutti wrote on LinkedIn. Marcus Lemonis, the CNBC host and Camping World chief executive, has been on the warpath against public companies who’ve participated, tweeting, “We will not and cannot accept this… it’s go time… as the largest shareholder of a public company I cannot stand by and watch this… public companies can sell equity or raise debt,” and “These companies have alternative avenues of raising capital…. no excuses… and I will make it my mission to find out why.”

Read more …

“.. “we” includes many other creatures and societies in our biosphere and even in ourselves. Even as an individual, you are a biome, an ecosystem, much like a forest or a swamp or a coral reef. ”

The Coronavirus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations (NYer)

The critic Raymond Williams once wrote that every historical period has its own “structure of feeling.” How everything seemed in the nineteen-sixties, the way the Victorians understood one another, the chivalry of the Middle Ages, the world view of Tang-dynasty China: each period, Williams thought, had a distinct way of organizing basic human emotions into an overarching cultural system. Each had its own way of experiencing being alive. In mid-March, in a prior age, I spent a week rafting down the Grand Canyon. When I left for the trip, the United States was still beginning to grapple with the reality of the coronavirus pandemic. Italy was suffering; the N.B.A. had just suspended its season; Tom Hanks had been reported ill.

When I hiked back up, on March 19th, it was into a different world. I’ve spent my life writing science-fiction novels that try to convey some of the strangeness of the future. But I was still shocked by how much had changed, and how quickly. Schools and borders had closed; the governor of California, like governors elsewhere, had asked residents to begin staying at home. But the change that struck me seemed more abstract and internal. It was a change in the way we were looking at things, and it is still ongoing. The virus is rewriting our imaginations. What felt impossible has become thinkable. We’re getting a different sense of our place in history. We know we’re entering a new world, a new era. We seem to be learning our way into a new structure of feeling.

[..] Margaret Thatcher said that “there is no such thing as society,” and Ronald Reagan said that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” These stupid slogans marked the turn away from the postwar period of reconstruction and underpin much of the bullshit of the past forty years. We are individuals first, yes, just as bees are, but we exist in a larger social body. Society is not only real; it’s fundamental. We can’t live without it. And now we’re beginning to understand that this “we” includes many other creatures and societies in our biosphere and even in ourselves. Even as an individual, you are a biome, an ecosystem, much like a forest or a swamp or a coral reef.

Your skin holds inside it all kinds of unlikely coöperations, and to survive you depend on any number of interspecies operations going on within you all at once. We are societies made of societies; there are nothing but societies. This is shocking news—it demands a whole new world view. And now, when those of us who are sheltering in place venture out and see everyone in masks, sharing looks with strangers is a different thing. It’s eye to eye, this knowledge that, although we are practicing social distancing as we need to, we want to be social—we not only want to be social, we’ve got to be social, if we are to survive. It’s a new feeling, this alienation and solidarity at once. It’s the reality of the social; it’s seeing the tangible existence of a society of strangers, all of whom depend on one another to survive. It’s as if the reality of citizenship has smacked us in the face.

Read more …

The real patriot. Watch airline shares Monday morning. He owned 10 or so of each company.

Warren Buffett Sold All His Airline Stocks (MF)

Warren Buffett has bailed on the airlines, with Berkshire Hathaway selling its entire stakes in Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines and United Airlines. Airline stocks have been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with travel demand all but evaporating. Most airline stocks have lost half of their value or more this year as a result, with the industry now focused more on survival than earnings growth. Speaking at Berkshire’s annual meeting on Saturday, Buffett said he did not sell due to the declining share prices. Rather, “I just decided that I’d made a mistake.” The announcement is sure to put further pressure on airline shares, as investors have made a lot of money over the years doing as Buffett does. But is the Oracle of Omaha right this time around?

Berkshire has a long and turbulent history with the airlines. Three decades ago, he bought shares in USAir (now part of American) but ended up writing off much of that investment. In 2001, he swore off the industry, declaring that “if capitalists had been present at Kitty Hawk when the Wright brothers’ plane first took off, they should have shot it down.” But in recent years he warmed to the sector, becoming one of the largest shareholders in each of the four biggest U.S. airlines. The industry in the late 2000s went through a period of restructuring and consolidation that reduced the number of competitors chasing every passenger and allowing all the remaining participants to be more profitable.

Buffett was so enamored with airlines that in 2019 he broke one of his cardinal rules and allowed Berkshire’s position in Delta, and then Southwest, to climb above the 10% threshold. Crossing 10% led to Berkshire having to make more disclosures about its stakes in those carriers, which back in early April gave us our first hints Berkshire was selling.

Read more …

He doesn’t want it to be a crowded trade.

Buffett Says: ‘Never Bet Against America’ (F.)

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, speaking at Berkshire Hathaway’s first-ever virtual shareholders meeting on Saturday, said that he is optimistic that the U.S. economy can bounce back and overcome coronavirus. While Buffett admitted that “we haven’t faced anything that quite resembles this problem” before, he said that the United States has “faced tougher problems” and overcome them in the past. “I remain convinced… nothing can basically stop America,” he said. “The American miracle, the American magic has always prevailed and it will do so again.” Buffett acknowledged that the virus is “still hard to evaluate” and “we’re learning as we go along,” though he says that he does take solace in the fact that it is “not as lethal as it may have been.”

While he is optimistic about America’s economic future, Buffett said that the fallout from coronavirus is still unclear—and hard to compare to past crises: “In 2008-2009, our economic train went off the tracks,” he described. “This time, we just pulled the train off the tracks and put it on a siding.” The Oracle of Omaha took a big-picture view to demonstrate his optimism about the economy: The United States today is “an incredibly more wealthy country than we were in 1789.” He calculated that the net worth of the United States in 1789 amounted to around $1 billion, while the wealth of the country today is well over $100 trillion: “That’s mind blowing,” he said. “In the end, the answer is: Never bet against America,” Buffett said.

BIG NUMBER: $49.75 BILLION That’s how much Buffett’s investing conglomerate, Berkshire Hathaway, lost in the first quarter. The company reported a massive net loss of nearly $50 billion, as the coronavirus-driven market sell-off took a significant toll on the company’s stock holdings. U.S. economic activity plunged during the first quarter, with GDP contracting by 4.8%—the biggest downturn since the 2008 financial crisis. The benchmark S&P 500 index had fallen over 30% by late March, before recouping some of those losses in April: It’s now down 13% so far in 2020.

Read more …

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thanks for your generosity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth for your own good.