Mar 232020
 


Harris&Ewing House-Capitol tunnel (may get moving walk), Washington, DC 1939

 

How Long to 1 Million US Cases? (Mish)
Nobel Laureate Predicts A Quicker Coronavirus Recovery (LAT)
Canadian Doctor Rigs Ventilator to Treat 9 Patients Instead of One (IE)
Coronavirus May Have Existed In Italy Since November: Local Researcher (CGTN)
The Epicenter of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Humanitarian Crises in Italy (NEJM)
The Government Budget Deficit Is About To Explode (CNBC)
Senate Democrats Block Mammoth Coronavirus Stimulus Package (Hill)
Blame Game Heats Up As Senate Motion Fails (Hill)
Total Cost of Her COVID-19 Treatment: $34,927.43 (Time)
Coronavirus Reveals Financial Irresponsibility Of Americans (Hill)
Preventing COVID-19 From Infecting the Commercial Mortgage Market (Barrack)
Singapore Airlines Slashes 96% Of Capacity, Grounds Most Planes (CNA)
China’s Housing Bubble Bursts (ZH)
New Zealand To Go Into Month-Long Lockdown (G.)

 

 

Cases 345,292 (+ 33,496 from yesterday’s 311,796)

Deaths 14,925 (+ 1,854 from yesterday’s 13,071)

 

 

Haven’t shown these two graphs from Worldometer in a while. Obvious enough?!

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

One look at the US suffices:

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 13% !! –

 

 

From SCMP: (SCMP appears to have given up on timely updating)

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

Reported US coronavirus cases via @CNN:

3/1: 89
3/2: 105
3/3: 125
3/4: 159
3/5: 227
3/6: 331
3/7: 444
3/8: 564
3/9: 728
3/10: 1,000
3/11: 1,267
3/12: 1,645
3/13: 2,204
3/14: 2,826
3/15: 3,505
3/16: 4,466
3/17: 6,135
3/18: 8,760
3/19: 13,229
3/20: 18,763
3/21: 25,740
Now: 35,070

Note: unlike many other nations, US numbers are updated several times a day.
Note 2: about half of US cases are in New York State. It it were a country, it would be in 7th place in the world.

 

 

The US would have to pass China in total infections by Thursday, 35,000 vs 81,000 now. Almost tripling in 3 days. I don’t know, and I’m not the biggest optimist around here.

How Long to 1 Million US Cases? (Mish)

Inquiring minds are investigating a relatively new data feed from the Covid Tracking Project. I plot four data series for the US: Negative tests, positive tests, hospitalized, and deaths. Arguably, hospitalizations are the most significant column but the project only has two days worth of data. Once I have another dfats point or two, I will plot a trendline manually.


Trendlines At the current pace, the number of positive coronavirus cases would hit 100,000 on March 26, and 1,000,000 on April 3. At the current pace, the number of coronavirus deaths would hit 1,000 on March 26, and 10,000 on April 5. Those are not my projections, those are observations of what would happen if the current trends last that long at the same pace.

Read more …

Your good news of the day. Based on new deaths levelling off.

Nobel Laureate Predicts A Quicker Coronavirus Recovery (LAT)

Michael Levitt, a Nobel laureate and Stanford biophysicist, began analyzing the number of COVID-19 cases worldwide in January and correctly calculated that China would get through the worst of its coronavirus outbreak long before many health experts had predicted. Now he foresees a similar outcome in the United States and the rest of the world. While many epidemiologists are warning of months, or even years, of massive social disruption and millions of deaths, Levitt says the data simply don’t support such a dire scenario — especially in areas where reasonable social distancing measures are in place. “What we need is to control the panic,” he said. In the grand scheme, “we’re going to be fine.”

Here’s what Levitt noticed in China: On Jan. 31, the country had 46 new deaths due to the novel coronavirus, compared with 42 new deaths the day before. Although the number of daily deaths had increased, the rate of that increase had begun to ease off. Essentially, although the car was still speeding up, it was not accelerating as rapidly as before. “This suggests that the rate of increase in number of the deaths will slow down even more over the next week,” Levitt wrote in a report he sent to friends Feb. 1 that was widely shared on Chinese social media. And soon, he predicted, the number of deaths would be decreasing every day.

Three weeks later, Levitt told the China Daily News that the virus’ rate of growth had peaked. He predicted that the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in China would end up around 80,000, with about 3,250 deaths. This forecast turned out to be remarkably accurate: As of March 16, China had counted a total of 80,298 cases and 3,245 deaths — in a nation of nearly 1.4 billion people where roughly 10 million die every year. The number of newly diagnosed patients has dropped to around 25 a day, with no cases of community spread reported since Wednesday. Now Levitt, who received the 2013 Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing complex models of chemical systems, is seeing similar turning points in other nations, even ones that did not instill the draconian isolation measures that China did.

He analyzed 78 countries with more than 50 reported cases of COVID-19 every day and sees “signs of recovery.” He’s not looking at cumulative cases, but the number of new cases every day — and the percentage growth in that number from one day to the next. [..] Based on the experience of the Diamond Princess, he estimates that being exposed to the new coronavirus doubles a person’s risk of dying in the next two months. However, most people have an extremely low risk of death in a two-month period, and that risk remains extremely low even when doubled.

Read more …

More good news. He can do it in 10 minutes.

Canadian Doctor Rigs Ventilator to Treat 9 Patients Instead of One (IE)

As hospitals scramble to secure more ventilators, some doctors are getting creative in order to help their patients. Such is the case with Canadian doctor Dr. Alain Gauthier, an anesthetist at the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital in Ontario. Gauthier, who has a Ph.D. in respiratory mechanics, turned one hospital ventilator into a machine that can serve nine clients using do-it-yourself mechanics. The process was so brilliant that some have even called him an “evil genius.” Gauthier was inspired by YouTube videos created by two Detroit doctors in 2006, according to CBC News. He said he created a complex ventilator to offer people the best chance at survival. “At one point we may not have other options,” Gauthier told CBC News. “The option could be well, we let people die or we give that a chance.”

Read more …

I would lend much more credence to this if it didn’t come from the state-run China Global Television Network. It feels like they want to plant the narrative out there that it didn’t start in China at all.

Coronavirus May Have Existed In Italy Since November: Local Researcher (CGTN)

As COVID-19 spreads across the world, many are interested in the origin of the virus behind this deadly disease. Fingers have been pointed at China, the U.S. and other places. Recently, a pharmacological researcher provided another possible lead to National Public Radio (NPR), a U.S. media outlet. Dr. Giuseppe Remuzzi, director of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Italy, said he heard from general practitioners in the country’s Lombardy region that “they remember having seen very strange pneumonia, very severe, particularly in old people in December and even November.” “This means that the virus was circulating, at least in [the northern region of Lombardy and before we were aware of this outbreak occurring in China,” he told NPR.

Though Dr. Remuzzi originally used these words to answer a different question – why Italy acted later than expected on COVID-19 – NPR singled out this particular information in a tweet because it may relate to the origin of the novel coronavirus. China’s CCTV did the same thing by putting it on the headline of their report, though Dr. Remuzzi’s latest research mainly concerns how dire the situation is for Italy rather than the origin of the disease. What’s more interesting is that the English-language comments under the NPR tweet seem to completely differ from the Chinese-language ones under the CCTV Weibo. Many English comments suspect that China hid the situation from the world for a long time and that’s why similar symptoms showed up in Italy before the outbreak.

“China lied, people died” was most liked comment under NPR’s tweet. “So the Chinese government covered it up for even longer than we thought,” another comment said. A lot of Chinese comments, on the other hand, concluded that the virus originated in the U.S., so both China and Italy are victims. “Go to Trump for answers,” said a Weibo comment with more than 2,500 likes. “COVID-19 is a U.S. virus,” said another comment.

Read more …

When hospitals become super-spreaders. All it takes is enough sick people.

“Lombardy’s health care workers have been badly hit w/ infections–the differences with other regions are staggering. A recent paper by local docs argues that hospitals might be a key source of transmission there.”

The Epicenter of the COVID-19 Pandemic and Humanitarian Crises in Italy (NEJM)

In a pandemic, patient-centered care is inadequate and must be replaced by community-centered care. Solutions for Covid-19 are required for the entire population, not only for hospitals. The catastrophe unfolding in wealthy Lombardy could happen anywhere. Clinicians at a hospital at the epicenter call for a long-term plan for the next pandemic. We work at the Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, a brand-new state-of-the-art facility with 48 intensive-care beds. Despite being a relatively small city, this is the epicenter of the Italian epidemic, listing 4,305 cases at this moment — more than Milan or anywhere else in the country. Lombardy is one of the richest and most densely populated regions in Europe and is now the most severely affected one. The WHO reported 74,346 laboratory-confirmed cases in Europe on March 18 — 35,713 of them in Italy.


Our own hospital is highly contaminated, and we are far beyond the tipping point: 300 beds out of 900 are occupied by Covid-19 patients. Fully 70% of ICU beds in our hospital are reserved for critically ill Covid-19 patients with a reasonable chance to survive. The situation here is dismal as we operate well below our normal standard of care. Wait times for an intensive care bed are hours long. Older patients are not being resuscitated and die alone without appropriate palliative care, while the family is notified over the phone, often by a well-intentioned, exhausted, and emotionally depleted physician with no prior contact. But the situation in the surrounding area is even worse. Most hospitals are overcrowded, nearing collapse while medications, mechanical ventilators, oxygen, and personal protective equipment are not available.

Patients lay on floor mattresses. The health care system struggles to deliver regular services — even pregnancy care and child delivery — while cemeteries are overwhelmed, which will create another public health problem. In hospitals, health care workers and ancillary staff are alone, trying to keep the system operational. Outside the hospitals, communities are neglected, vaccination programs are on standby, and the situation in prisons is becoming explosive with no social distancing. We have been in quarantine since March 10. Unfortunately, the outside world seems unaware that in Bergamo, this outbreak is out of control.


Western health care systems have been built around the concept of patient-centered care, but an epidemic requires a change of perspective toward a concept of community-centered care. What we are painfully learning is that we need experts in public health and epidemics, yet this has not been the focus of decision makers at the national, regional, and hospital levels. We lack expertise on epidemic conditions, guiding us to adopt special measures to reduce epidemiologically negative behaviors. For example, we are learning that hospitals might be the main Covid-19 carriers, as they are rapidly populated by infected patients, facilitating transmission to uninfected patients. Patients are transported by our regional system,1 which also contributes to spreading the disease as its ambulances and personnel rapidly become vectors. Health workers are asymptomatic carriers or sick without surveillance; some might die, including young people, which increases the stress of those on the front line.

Read more …

“It’s truly a bridge to the other side of an act of God…”

The Government Budget Deficit Is About To Explode (CNBC)

Remember when people were all worked up over trillion-dollar government budget deficits? Those might seem like the good old days, once Congress and the White House finish up the coronavirus rescue package expected to be approved in the next few days. Estimates of just how big the final bill would be vary, but it’s assured that it will be a historic moment for sheer fiscal force being exerted at a time of economic duress. Administration statements over the past few days point to something on the order of $2 trillion in economic juice. By contrast, then-President Barack Obama ushered an $831 billion package through during the financial crisis.

That type of fiscal burden comes as the government already has chalked up $624.5 billion in red ink through just the first five months of the fiscal year, which started in October. That spending pace extrapolated through the full fiscal year would lead to a $1.5 trillion deficit, and that’s aside from any of the spending to combat the coronavirus. Already, the national debt stands at more than $23.5 trillion and will be on track to eclipse $25 trillion. Taxpayers shelled out $574.6 billion in fiscal 2019 on interest payments for the debt and another $229.1 billion in fiscal 2020. In short, the shock from the COVID-19 spread will blow a fiscal hole through Washington, D.C., that could take years if not decades to patch.

Hand-wringing over what this will all do to the debt and deficit situation, however, will have to wait for another day. In times of crisis, there is little patience for fiscal austerity, only a sense of urgency that while government spending can’t stop the virus from spreading, it can mitigate what will be profound economic damage. “It’s truly a bridge to the other side of an act of God,” economist Paul McCulley told CNBC.com. “We’ll deal down the road with the impacts on so many fronts of society with the whole thing. Right now, worrying about fiscal incontinence is the exact opposite of where we should be. We should have fiscal robustness implemented through effectively a joint venture between fiscal and monetary policy.”

Read more …

Romney to Senate Dems: “Keep this up a little longer and we will go from social distancing to social destruction.”

Senate Democrats Block Mammoth Coronavirus Stimulus Package (Hill)

Senate Democrats on Sunday blocked a coronavirus stimulus package from moving forward as talks on several key provisions remain stalled. Senators voted 47-47 on advancing a “shell” bill, a placeholder that the text of the stimulus legislation would have been swapped into, falling short of the three-fifths threshold needed to advance the proposal. Hopes of a quick stimulus deal quickly unraveled on Sunday as the four congressional leaders and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin failed to break the impasse. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also delayed the procedural vote for three hours as they tried to get a deal. Democratic senators argue that the GOP bill includes several “non-starters” and walks back areas of agreement, such as expanding unemployment insurance, they thought they had reached with Republicans.

They emerged from a closed-door lunch fuming over the bill circulated by Republicans and called for McConnell to hold off on the 3 p.m. cloture vote. “We are pleading with McConnell not to call this vote,” Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said after the lunch. “It’s a serious mistake. We have not negotiated this to the point of agreement yet.” Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), who is up for reelection in a deeply red state, said that the Senate needed to be “as unified as possible.” “We don’t need split votes,” he said. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) added that the proposal put forward by Republicans was “totally inadequate.” That resulted in McConnell delaying the vote to 6 p.m.

Read more …

I vote against all politicians.

Blame Game Heats Up As Senate Motion Fails (Hill)

The finger-pointing on Capitol Hill reached a fever pitch Sunday evening, as both sides rushed to blame the other after a Senate motion to move a mammoth coronavirus relief bill failed on the chamber floor. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) quickly took to the floor to hammer Democratic leaders, particularly Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), for what he characterized as petty obstruction that ignores the urgency of the crisis. “We were doing a good job of coming together until this morning, when the Speaker showed up — we don’t have a Speaker in the Senate, that’s in the House — and when the leader [Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.)] and the speaker came in [they] blew everything up,” an agitated McConnell, his face flushed, said walking off the Senate floor.

Democrats quickly countered with accusations that it was McConnell who had abandoned the negotiations the night before, when the Senate leader announced that Republicans would begin drafting the massive stimulus package before Democrats had endorsed it. “There was a good spirit of negotiation into early last night. And right about 8 o’clock, our side sensed a sort of change in attitude, an unwillingness to give and negotiate, for reasons we don’t fully understand,” said Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.). The tense back-and-forth came moments after Democrats blocked a procedural motion to advance Congress’s third round of emergency relief — a package approaching $2 trillion — in response to the global coronavirus pandemic, which has devastated markets, sparked mass layoffs and ravaged businesses large and small across the country.

Democrats have raised a long list of objections to the Republicans’ proposal, saying the bill does too little to protect the unemployed, feed the hungry, subsidize states and cushion students facing mounds of debt. They’re also up in arms over language to provide up to $500 billion in loans and guarantees for corporations, at the sole discretion of the administration.

Read more …

And she was lucky enough to get tested.

Total Cost of Her COVID-19 Treatment: $34,927.43 (Time)

When Danni Askini started feeling chest pain, shortness of breath and a migraine all at once on a Saturday in late February, she called the oncologist who had been treating her lymphoma. Her doctor thought she might be reacting poorly to a new medication, so she sent Askini to a Boston-area emergency room. There, doctors told her it was likely pneumonia and sent her home. Over the next several days, Askini saw her temperature spike and drop dangerously, and she developed a cough that gurgled because of all the liquid in her lungs. After two more trips to the ER that week, Askini was given a final test on the seventh day of her illness, and once doctors helped manage her flu and pneumonia symptoms, they again sent her home to recover. She waited another three days for a lab to process her test, and at last she had a diagnosis: COVID-19.

A few days later, Askini got the bills for her testing and treatment: $34,927.43. “I was pretty sticker-shocked,” she says. “I personally don’t know anybody who has that kind of money.” Like 27 million other Americans, Askini was uninsured when she first entered the hospital. She and her husband had been planning to move to Washington, D.C. this month so she could take a new job, but she hadn’t started yet. Now that those plans are on hold, Askini applied for Medicaid and is hoping the program will retroactively cover her bills. If not, she’ll be on the hook. She’ll be in good company. Public health experts predict that tens of thousands and possibly millions of people across the United States will likely need to be hospitalized for COVID-19 in the foreseeable future.

And Congress has yet to address the problem. On March 18, it passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which covers testing costs going forward, but it doesn’t do anything to address the cost of treatment. While most people infected with COVID-19 will not need to be hospitalized and can recover at home, according to the World Health Organization, those who do need to go to the ICU can likely expect big bills, regardless of what insurance they have. As the U.S. government works on another stimulus package, future relief is likely to help ease some economic problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but gaps remain.

Read more …

Of course there are Americans who borrow and spend too much. But how for the love of God is that a licence to even risk labeling people working 3 jobs and still not making ends meet, as irresponsible idiots who should save more? Who is irresponsible around here?

Coronavirus Reveals Financial Irresponsibility Of Americans (Hill)

How long could you sustain your household if you were to stop earning income? If you are like most Americans, the answer is not for long. Only 40 percent of Americans can afford an unexpected $1,000 expense with their savings. In fact, nearly 80 percent of workers are living paycheck to paycheck. It is no surprise that the probability of an economic recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic caused many to worry. In major cities such as Boston, New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, restaurants and businesses have been ordered to close. For many hourly workers, this means no paychecks in the coming weeks. Almost one in five Americans have already lost their jobs or have reduced hours.

At the same time, salaried workers are concerned about job security, as mass layoffs at numerous companies loom. While the situation is understandably stressful for every person affected, it serves as a sobering reminder that Americans must learn to live within their means and regularly save money. The need for all Americans to be able to sustain themselves for at least a few months on savings is accentuated during a time of crisis. This means planning ahead when times are good. Financial planners suggest saving at least 20 percent of take home income, while spending at most 30 percent on discretionary items. Yet too many workers still fail to think twice about spending entire paychecks for things they want but do not need.

Recent decades have offered us relative luxury. More than 80 percent of Americans own smartphones. The same portion of households own one high definition flat screen television, while over half of households own more than one. Over 60 percent of Americans dine out at least once a week, while nearly 20 percent dine out three or more times a week. The current panic is refocusing us on what is important. We now stockpile the things necessary for our health. Smartphones, fancy televisions, and restaurant meals are usually luxuries rather than necessities. Living within our means is not just rhetoric. It is a means of guarding ourselves during times like these. We have so much to learn from those who came before us. How many of our grandparents fared the austerity of the World Wars and the Great Depression, discovering to save, mend, and repair?

Read more …

The richer suffer more, they’ll have you know. What pricks this dick’s balloon, though, is suggesting that prior to corona, there was a “normal chain of revenue generation etc.” and “solid economic fundamentals”. There haven’t been any normal markets, and that includes commercial mortgages, since Alan Greenspan. You may like to disagree, but just wait till the Fed folds.

Preventing COVID-19 From Infecting the Commercial Mortgage Market (Barrack)

As a major participant in the non-bank real estate lending industry, I am fully supportive of the nation’s extraordinary response to contain COVID-19. The profound impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the public health and safety of all Americans is unprecedented and the response measures being taken by federal, state, and local government agencies are essential and critical. One aspect of this all-out assault on an invisible enemy — in the effort to suppress the contagion and manage the precious resources of our medical community and first responders — has been the unfortunate but necessary cessation of general commerce nationwide.

Now everyone, from corporations and small and mid-sized businesses to employees and laborers from all walks of life, has been displaced from the normal chain of revenue generation, cash flow, and income necessary to meet their obligations, from payment of salaries, rent payments, mortgage payments, and all other debts and bills required in the daily life of every business and every American. As a direct consequence of the necessary response measures to COVID-19, high performing mortgage loans across the entire commercial real estate sector (approximately $16 trillion in aggregate), which had previously been grounded in solid economic fundamentals, are suddenly experiencing a temporary meltdown in cash flows.

We are seeing the beginning of a second crisis that will occur in the financial markets that underpin the lifeblood of these employees, workers, and businesses. Based on my own personal past experiences I would like to share with you some thoughts on how to alleviate the potential blockage in the commercial mortgage market which is beginning to raise its perilous head. Addressing this major looming crisis in liquidity in a coordinated manner will be essential in averting a crisis in credit and a long term economic recession.

Read more …

This is just one of many such reports, of course. What I found interesting is that just 5 days ago, Singapore Airlines said it would cut flight capacity by 50%. And you wonder: what happened since Wednesday?

Emirates announced yesterday they would cut all flights, only to be told some flights are essential to services. Those are reinstated.

Singapore Airlines Slashes 96% Of Capacity, Grounds Most Planes (CNA)

Singapore Airlines (SIA) will cut 96 per cent of its capacity that had been scheduled up to the end of April, said the airline on Monday (Mar 23). The decision was made after the further tightening of border controls around the world over the last week to stem the COVID-19 outbreak, SIA said in a news release. About 138 SIA and SilkAir planes, out of a total fleet of 147, will be grounded as a result. Scoot, the company’s low-cost unit, will suspend “most of its network” and will ground all but two of its 49 planes. This comes amid the “greatest challenge that the SIA Group has faced in its existence”, the company said.


“It is unclear when the SIA Group can begin to resume normal services, given the uncertainty as to when the stringent border controls will be lifted,” it said. “The resultant collapse in the demand for air travel has led to a significant decline in SIA’s passenger revenues.” Over the last few days, the SIA Group has drawn on its lines of credits to meet its immediate cash flow requirements, it said, adding that it is in discussions with several financial institutions on its future funding requirements. “The company is actively taking steps to build up its liquidity, and to reduce capital expenditure and operating costs,” it added. SIA said it is in talks with aircraft manufacturers to defer upcoming deliveries, in the hopes of delaying payment for those deliveries.

Read more …

This is a bigger threat to Xi than the coronavirus. And why does it happen? Because China’s second-largest property developer wants to be the world’s biggest maker of electric cars…

China’s Housing Bubble Bursts (ZH)

Now that the world is firmly focusing on apocalyptic forecasts about the state of the US and global economy, with St Louis Fed president James Bullard the latest to pour gasoline into the fire with his worst-case prediction of a 50% GDP drop and 30% surge in unemployment in Q2, it is easy to forget that China, which started this whole pandemic, is still in economic lockdown. And while Beijing is pretending that the Shanghai Sniffles are now firmly behind it, and forcing people back to work while openly fabricating disease numbers – because like Lloyd Blankfein it has realized that an economic depression is an even worse outcome than millions infected – the reality is that China’s economy is facing an unprecedented crisis of its own.


Today we got a stark reminder of that, when Evergrande Group – China’s second-largest property developer by sales – tumbled in early trading Monday after saying it expects full-year earnings to fall by half. As Bloomberg first reported, the residential property developer said in an exchange filing Sunday that net profit for 2019 is expected to come in it around 33.5 billion yuan ($4.7 billion), a drop of about 50% from the previous year. “The decrease in profit is mainly attributable to the delivery and settlement of the lower-priced clearance stock properties in 2019, which drove down the unit price of the property delivered,” Evergrande said. That sent the firm’s Hong Kong-traded shares down as much as 17.4% on Monday, the biggest intraday drop since July 2015.

And with the stock tumbling by more than two-thirds since its late 2017 highs, Citigroup downgraded the stock to “sell” and slashed its price target by 56%, as the expected decline in core profit was far below Citigroup’s estimate of a 27% year-on-year drop. To be sure, there are plenty of reasons to dump the stock: Evergrande is one of China’s most-indebted developers with net debt of $88.5 billion as of June. As Bloomberg reminds us, the company has been pouring billions of dollars into acquisitions as its Chairman and major shareholder Hui Ka Yan pursues an ambition to make Evergrande the world’s biggest maker of electric cars in the next three to five years.

Read more …

Ardern sounds a bit too convinced. It’s still just one view.

New Zealand To Go Into Month-Long Lockdown (G.)

New Zealand is preparing to enter a month-long nationwide lockdown from Wednesday night, with the entire country ordered to stay home apart from those in essential services. On Monday the nation was given two days to prepare for schools, businesses and community services to turn off the lights in a desperate bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The move came after the number of cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand rose past 100. In an address to the nation, the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said she was not willing to put the lives of her citizens in danger. “The worst-case scenario is simply intolerable, it would represent the greatest loss of New Zealanders’ lives in our history and I will not take that chance.”

Ardern announced the country would move to level three measures immediately, and then to four – the highest level – on Wednesday from 11.59pm. “I say to all New Zealanders: the government will do all it can to protect you. Now I’m asking you to do everything you can to protect all of us. Kiwis – go home.” The lockdown will last a month, and if the trend of cases slowed, could be partially eased in specific areas after that. Ardern said it was now established that community transmission was happening in New Zealand and that, if it took off, the number of cases would double every five days, with modelling advising the government that tens of thousands of New Zealanders could die.

[..] Ardern said if the country did not lock down it would face a death toll beyond anything ever experienced before, and she wanted to give health services “a fighting chance”. Thirty-six new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed on Monday, bringing the nationwide total to 102, spread across the North and South islands. Ardern said she knew the measures would be anxiety-inducing for many New Zealanders and they needed to be “strong and kind” to each other during the unprecedented crisis. “Today, get your neighbour’s phone number, set up a community group chat, get your gear to work from home, cancel social gatherings of any size or shape, prepare to walk around the block while keeping a two-metre distance between you.

Read more …

 

 

Oddly appropriate:

 

 

 

 

 

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Mar 222020
 
 March 22, 2020  Posted by at 11:25 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  44 Responses »


DPC Grand Central Station and Hotel Manhattan, NY 1906

 

Italy To Shut All Non-Strategic Business Activities Until April 3 (R.)
India Starts 14-Hour Curfew To Curb Virus Spread (R.)
FDA Approves New Coronavirus Test That Can Diagnose Within Hours (Solomon)
Most Cases In New York City Are Of People Under 50 (NBC)
38 Positive For Coronavirus In NYC Jails, Including Rikers (AP)
Britain ‘Two Or Three Weeks’ Behind Italy On Coronavirus: PM Johnson (R.)
NHS Could Be Overwhelmed Like Italy – Boris (R.)
Doctors Given New Guidelines On Choosing Which Patients To Treat (Ind.)
Airlines Appear To Come Up Short In Bid To Win Cash Grants In Rescue Package (R.)
Grocery Clerks Unlikely Heroes In US Coronavirus Fight (R.)
Banks Pressure Health Care Firms To Raise Prices On Drugs, Supplies (IC)
Russia Ready to Send 100 Specialists Including Virologists to Italy (Sp.)
The Coronavirus Did Not Escape From A Lab. Here’s How We Know. (LiveScience)

 

 

 

Cases 311,796 (+ 32,476 from yesterday’s 279,320)

Deaths 13, 071 (+ 1,481 from yesterday’s 11,587)

 

 

I dubbed it “Virus Time” myself, but even my brain has trouble comprehending what that truly is. It’s been less than two days since I wrote:

My prediction: The US has overtaken France, and will in the next few days pass Germany, Spain, and then Iran.

Less than 48 hours later, it’s done. This is what things looked like the day before I said that:

 

 

And here we are this morning:

 

 

 

Difference in timing of emergency declarations between San Francisco and Miami-Dade:

 

 

The virus still is a time machine. Project the next two weeks:

 

 

 

 

Here are the usual graphs. Note: I replaced the last one, COVID2019.app, with COVID2019Live.info, because the former keeps on closing off access.

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 12% !! –

 

 

From SCMP: (SCMP appears to have given up on timely updating)

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info: (Replacement for COVID2019.app, which -again- had their pages closed)

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s real wartime measures. Contrast it with Germany politely asking its car manufacturers to produce medical equipment. Everyone’s waiting till the very last moment, and that’s always too late. But that’s politicians for you, and we’re not going to change that anytime soon.

Italy To Shut All Non-Strategic Business Activities Until April 3 (R.)

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Saturday that all Italian businesses must close until April 3, with the exception of those essential to maintaining the country’s supply chain, in the latest desperate effort to halt the coronavirus epidemic. Italy recorded a jump in deaths from the virus of almost 800 on Saturday, taking the toll in the world’s hardest-hit country to almost 5,000. “It is the most difficult crisis in our post-war period,” Conte said in a video posted on Facebook, adding that “only production activities deemed vital for national production will be allowed”.


Supermarkets, pharmacies, postal and banking services will remain open, Conte said, and essential public services including transport will be ensured. “We are slowing down the country’s production engine but we are not stopping it,” he said. The government is expected to publish an emergency decree on Sunday to make the latest crackdown immediately effective.

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So let them roam free for 10 hours a day, and that should solve what exactly?

India Starts 14-Hour Curfew To Curb Virus Spread (R.)

India launched a 14-hour curfew on Sunday (March 22) to limit the fast-spreading coronavirus epidemic in the country, where 315 people have so far been found to have contracted the disease. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an address to the nation last week, urged citizens to stay indoors from 7am to 9pm local time – a move that he said would be a crucial test for a country to assess its abilities to fight the pandemic. “Let us all be a part of this curfew, which will add tremendous strength to the fight against the Covid-19 menace,” Mr Modi tweeted minutes before the curfew commenced. “The steps we take now will help in the times to come.” Health experts said India’s cases have been growing at a rate seen during the early stages of the outbreak in other countries, which subsequently reported exponential increases in infections.


Several Indian states announced measures to curb the spread of coronavirus. Four cities in Mr Modi’s home state of Gujarat have declared a complete shutdown until Wednesday. The neighbouring desert state of Rajasthan ordered a shutdown until March 31, while eastern and central states suspended inter-state bus operations to prevent an exodus of daily wage earners from urban centres to villages. State leaders urged citizens not to rush to villages and avoid crowding trains and buses to prevent the virus spread. Tensions have mounted, however, with angry labourers protesting at some bus stations against sudden closures of basic transport services.

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Funny they don’t say who gets to be tested, and who doesn’t. Until we know, what’s the difference with today?

FDA Approves New Coronavirus Test That Can Diagnose Within Hours (Solomon)

The Food and Drug Administration announced approval Saturday for a new coronavirus test that can diagnose patients within hours, instead of days. The new rapid test, manufactured by California-based Cepheid, is expected to be in the market by March 30, officials said. “The test we’re authorizing today will be able to provide Americans with results within hours, rather than days like the existing tests,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said. “With the development of point of care diagnostics, Americans who need tests will be able to get results faster than ever before.


“More and more options for reliable, convenient testing are becoming available at an incredibly rapid pace, thanks to the hard work of our FDA team and the ingenuity of American industry.” FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said the approval “marks an important step in expanding the availability of testing and, importantly, rapid results.” Hahn said because the rapid test can be administered at the point of care, it “means that results are delivered to patients in the patient care settings, like hospitals, urgent care centers and emergency rooms, instead of samples being sent to a laboratory.”

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Tell the braindead on the Florida beaches that. I was thinking: let them get infected, good riddance. But they will infect others too, and besides, shouldn’t the blame rest with Florida state for leaving the beaches open, with the stores and bars for serving them, and with the parents who send their kids into the infection pools?

Most Cases In New York City Are Of People Under 50 (NBC)

Most people who have tested positive for coronavirus in New York City are younger than 50, according to figures released by the city Saturday. This does not reflect the ages of those who have died, only people confirmed to be infected with the virus. Overall, 57 percent of those who have tested positive in the city are 49 or younger. People 18 to 49 years old make up the majority, 54 percent, the city said. The next largest group are those age 50 to 64, who account for 23 percent of positive test results so far. The accounting reflects data known to the city through 5:30 p.m. Friday. On Friday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “We are now the epicenter of this crisis” in the United States.

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About 2.5 million people are incarcerated in the US.

38 Positive For Coronavirus In NYC Jails, Including Rikers (AP)

At least 38 people have tested positive for coronavirus in New York City jails, including at the notorious Rikers Island jail complex, the board that oversees the city’s jail system said Saturday. In a letter to criminal justice leaders, Board of Correction interim chairwoman Jacqueline Sherman wrote that at least 58 other people were currently being monitored in contagious disease and quarantine units. “It is likely these people have been in hundreds of housing areas and common areas over recent weeks and have been in close contact with many other people in custody and staff,” Sherman warned, predicting a sharp rise in the number of infections.


“The best path forward to protecting the community of people housed and working in the jails is to rapidly decrease the number of people housed and working in them.” In the past six days, she wrote, the board learned that at least 12 Department of Correction employees, five Correctional Health Services employees, and 21 inmates have tested positive for the virus. The city’s jail agency and its city-run healthcare provider did not respond to messages seeking comment on the letter. On Friday, the city’s Department of Corrections said just one inmate had been diagnosed with coronavirus, along with seven jail staff members.

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Of all the failing “world leaders”, Boris is vying for the no. 1 position. This came one day after he refused to close pubs and schools.

What triggered him is this: “UK yesterday saw total deaths reach 233. Italy was at exactly that figure on March 7th. 2 weeks behind.”

Britain ‘Two Or Three Weeks’ Behind Italy On Coronavirus: PM Johnson (R.)

Britain was only “two or three” weeks behind Italy on the spread of coronavirus, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. In comments carried in the Sunday Telegraph and other Sunday newspapers, Johnson said Britain’s health service could be overwhelmed. “Unless we act together, unless we make the heroic and collective national effort to slow the spread – then it is all too likely that our own NHS will be similarly overwhelmed,” he said.

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Turning around on a dime with no mea culpa whatsoever should really boost people’s confidence in you.

NHS Could Be Overwhelmed Like Italy – Boris (R.)

Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) could be “overwhelmed” by the coronavirus like the Italian health system in just two weeks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned. The death toll in Italy reached almost 5,000 on Saturday, while in the UK it hit 233. In comments carried in the Sunday Telegraph and other Sunday newspapers, Johnson again urged Britons to stay at home to stop the spread of the virus. “Unless we act together, unless we make the heroic and collective national effort to slow the spread – then it is all too likely that our own NHS will be similarly overwhelmed,” he said. “The Italians have a superb health-care system. And yet their doctors and nurses have been completely overwhelmed by the demand,” Johnson noted.


He advised people to keep away from elderly parents on Mothering Sunday (March 22). “The single best present that we can give … is to spare them the risk of catching a very dangerous disease,” he said. Earlier, Britain urged 1.5 million people identified by the NHS as being at higher risk of severe illness if they contract coronavirus to not leave their homes to protect themselves. On Friday, Johnson effectively closed down the United Kingdom, ordering pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and gyms to shut their doors to fight the virus. Stores are also starting to shut.

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Also from f#*king Boris. And I kid you not: in the corner of my eye I see a BBC show called “The Big Questions”, in which people who all sit the “correct” 10 feet or so apart, discuss the urgent issue: “Should fat-shaming be against the law?”, as their health system is set to crash. And I’m thinking: those glaciers can’t melt fast enough.

Doctors Given New Guidelines On Choosing Which Patients To Treat (Ind.)

New guidelines have been published to help doctors and nurses decide how to prioritise patients during the coronavirus pandemic. The advice from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) was produced amid concerns that the NHS would be overwhelmed by the demand for intensive care beds and ventilators. It follows reports from the worst-hit parts of Italy where older and sicker patients had to be rejected in favour of the younger and fitter. The three new Nice guidelines, which have been drawn up within a week rather than the usual timescale of up to two years, cover patients needing critical care, kidney dialysis and cancer treatment.


They say all patients admitted to hospital should still be assessed as usual for frailty “irrespective of Covid-19 status”. Decisions about admitting patients to critical care should consider how likely they are to recover, taking into account the likelihood of recovery “to an outcome that is acceptable to them”. Doctors are advised to discuss possible “do not resuscitate” decisions with adults who are assessed as having increased frailty, such as those who need help with outside activities or are dependent for personal care. The document says critical care treatment should be stopped “when it is no longer considered able to achieve the desired overall goals”, following a discussion with family, carers, the patient or an independent advocate.

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“If there was a meteor racing towards earth right now, they would be passing a bill to give that meteor a tax credit.”
– @jimmy_dore

Airlines Appear To Come Up Short In Bid To Win Cash Grants In Rescue Package (R.)

A last-ditch effort by the chief executives of major U.S. airlines to try to win cash grants to weather the coronavirus crisis looked to be unsuccessful, four congressional aides and airline officials said late Saturday. Airlines had made a last ditch plea urging that $29 billion of $58 billion sought in assistance for airlines be in the form of cash grants. They had offered not to make any job cuts through Aug. 31 if they won the cash and to accept restrictions on executive pay and to forgo paying dividends or stock buybacks. The CEOs of 10 U.S. passenger and cargo carriers had said in a letter that without direct cash assistance, “draconian measures” such as furloughs may be necessary.

Senate Republicans hope to unveil the text of the rescue and stimulus package Sunday that could total $1.6 trillion and is set to include $50 billion in collateralized loan and loan guarantees for passenger airlines and $8 billion for cargo carriers. Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer said there was still “no deal,” so it is possible the final airline provisions could change in negotiations. Senator John Thune, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, said earlier airline grants were not winning backing “at this point, I don’t sense support for it here or with the administration. But like I said, nothing is done.”

Airlines are expected to soon turn their attention to applying for government collateralized loans and the terms the legislation will include. The initial Republican plan said the U.S. Treasury could demand stock, warrants or options as part of any airline loans. The global coronavirus outbreak has forced airlines to cancel tens of thousands of flights and resulted in massive revenue losses. On Saturday, United Airlines said it was canceling 90% of its international flights in April.

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It’s been obvious for a long time that Americans have completely lost sight of what a hero is. But even then. Pay them a decent salary, then we can talk.

The article is the picture painted for you. The reality is:

“I have been coming in sick because I’m worried that I’ll lose my job or just be punished if I call out,” said Angel Duarte, a package handler at a UPS hub in Tucson, Ariz. “I am 23, and I have no savings, and I have a 4-month-old son.“

Grocery Clerks Unlikely Heroes In US Coronavirus Fight (R.)

For Philip, a grocery store clerk, it’s not a matter of if he gets coronavirus, but when. He is among millions of supermarket employees who have been classified as critical U.S. workers at “essential businesses” that will stay open to prevent disruption in food supply. While other workers are being told to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, these employees are being asked to put themselves in constant contact with the public. Coronavirus cases are beginning to appear among them. Whole Foods Market on Thursday reported a positive case in a New York City worker.

California late on Thursday issued an unprecedented statewide “stay at home order” directing the state’s 40 million residents to hunker down in their homes for the foreseeable future. Grocery stores, along with pharmacies, banks and gas stations, will remain open under the order. Working low-paying jobs, these unlikely heroes in the produce section and behind the meat counter are both terrified and gratified to be on the frontlines of the U.S. coronavirus fight. Some employers have raised wages and granted paid sick leave, but there is pressure on them to do more.

“I didn’t sign up to be in a position where I’m constantly exposed to a deadly virus, but I understand too that if grocery stores close then there are way bigger problems,” said Philip, who works in the produce section of a Whole Foods store in a southern U.S. state. Philip asked that his last name and location not be used. “I’d just like to get the virus now, and get it out of the way, so I can come back to work,” said Philip, who is in his 30s. “Everyone’s terrified there, deep down, apart from the few who think it’s not a big deal yet.”

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Words? Not me.

Banks Pressure Health Care Firms To Raise Prices On Drugs, Supplies (IC)

In recent weeks, investment bankers have pressed health care companies on the front lines of fighting the novel coronavirus, including drug firms developing experimental treatments and medical supply firms, to consider ways that they can profit from the crisis. The media has mostly focused on individuals who have taken advantage of the market for now-scarce medical and hygiene supplies to hoard masks and hand sanitizer and resell them at higher prices. But the largest voices in the health care industry stand to gain from billions of dollars in emergency spending on the pandemic, as do the bankers and investors who invest in health care companies.

Over the past few weeks, investment bankers have been candid on investor calls and during health care conferences about the opportunity to raise drug prices. In some cases, bankers received sharp rebukes from health care executives; in others, executives joked about using the attention on Covid-19 to dodge public pressure on the opioid crisis. Gilead Sciences, the company producing remdesivir, the most promising drug to treat Covid-19 symptoms, is one such firm facing investor pressure. Remdesivir is an antiviral that began development as a treatment for dengue, West Nile virus, and Zika, as well as MERS and SARS.

The World Health Organization has said there is “only one drug right now that we think may have real efficacy in treating coronavirus symptoms” — namely, remdesivir. The drug, though developed in partnership with the University of Alabama through a grant from the federal government’s National Institutes of Health, is patented by Gilead Sciences, a major pharmaceutical company based in California. The firm has faced sharp criticism in the past for its pricing practices. It previously charged $84,000 for a yearlong supply of its hepatitis C treatment, which was also developed with government research support. Remdesivir is estimated to produce a one-time revenue of $2.5 billion.

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Just days after the EU accused Russia of using the virus to spread disinformation in Europe.

Russia Ready to Send 100 Specialists Including Virologists to Italy (Sp.)

“In accordance with instructions from the Russian Defence Minister, Army Gen. Sergei Shoigu, the Russian Aerospace Forces have completed the creation of a necessary air group to deliver forces and equipment from the Russian Defence Ministry allocated to assist the Italian Republic in the fight against the coronavirus”, the statement says. The ministry added that nine Il-76 military transport aircraft with trained crews had been transferred to the Chkalovsky military airfield in the Moscow Region from the Pskov, Ulyanovsk, and Orenburg regions.


The group of about 100 people, including experienced virologists and epidemiologists, is ready to depart for Italy, the ministry said. On Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte by phone that Moscow was ready to promptly assist Rome in the fight against the coronavirus. The defence ministry then said that Russia would send eight mobile teams of Russian military virologists and doctors, vehicles for aerosol disinfection, and medical equipment to Italy.

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For your daily group discussion,. WHich you’re not allowed to have anymore.

The Coronavirus Did Not Escape From A Lab. Here’s How We Know. (LiveScience)

As the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 spreads across the globe, with cases surpassing 284,000 worldwide today (March 20), misinformation is spreading almost as fast. One persistent myth is that this virus, called SARS-CoV-2, was made by scientists and escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began. A new analysis of SARS-CoV-2 may finally put that latter idea to bed. A group of researchers compared the genome of this novel coronavirus with the seven other coronaviruses known to infect humans: SARS, MERS and SARS-CoV-2, which can cause severe disease; along with HKU1, NL63, OC43 and 229E, which typically cause just mild symptoms, the researchers wrote March 17 in the journal Nature Medicine. “Our analyses clearly show that SARS-CoV-2 is not a laboratory construct or a purposefully manipulated virus,” they write in the journal article.


Kristian Andersen, an associate professor of immunology and microbiology at Scripps Research, and his colleagues looked at the genetic template for the spike proteins that protrude from the surface of the virus. The coronavirus uses these spikes to grab the outer walls of its host’s cells and then enter those cells. They specifically looked at the gene sequences responsible for two key features of these spike proteins: the grabber, called the receptor-binding domain, that hooks onto host cells; and the so-called cleavage site that allows the virus to open and enter those cells. That analysis showed that the “hook” part of the spike had evolved to target a receptor on the outside of human cells called ACE2, which is involved in blood pressure regulation. It is so effective at attaching to human cells that the researchers said the spike proteins were the result of natural selection and not genetic engineering.


© Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

Here’s why: SARS-CoV-2 is very closely related to the virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which fanned across the globe nearly 20 years ago. Scientists have studied how SARS-CoV differs from SARS-CoV-2 — with several key letter changes in the genetic code. Yet in computer simulations, the mutations in SARS-CoV-2 don’t seem to work very well at helping the virus bind to human cells. If scientists had deliberately engineered this virus, they wouldn’t have chosen mutations that computer models suggest won’t work. But it turns out, nature is smarter than scientists, and the novel coronavirus found a way to mutate that was better — and completely different— from anything scientists could have created, the study found.


Another nail in the “escaped from evil lab” theory? The overall molecular structure of this virus is distinct from the known coronaviruses and instead most closely resembles viruses found in bats and pangolins that had been little studied and never known to cause humans any harm. “If someone were seeking to engineer a new coronavirus as a pathogen, they would have constructed it from the backbone of a virus known to cause illness,” according to a statement from Scripps.

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German doctor, during plague in 14th century:

 

 

 

 

If you read us, please support us. Help the Automatic Earth survive.

 

Mar 152020
 


Dorothea Lange One nation indivisible. San Francisco 1942

 

New York Will Be The Next Italy (M.)
America Has No Real Public Health System – Coronavirus Has A Clear Run (Reich)
Hoboken Mayor Imposes Mandatory Nightly Curfew (NBC)
Coronavirus: Why It’s So Deadly In Italy (M.)
France, Spain Implement Massive and Dramatic Quarantine Restrictions (Slate)
UK Doctor: ‘We Don’t Have The Masks, Goggles – Or The Staff’ (G.)
China Could Have Cut 95% Of Cases If It Acted On Whistleblower Warning (HKFP)
Japanese Man Tests Positive For Coronavirus, Again (NHK)
Anti-Inflammatories May Aggravate COVID-19, France Advises (G.)
Google Says It Is Developing A Nationwide Coronavirus Website (R.)
Fed May Announce Commercial Paper Facilities Sunday – BofA (R.)
American Airlines To Cut Nearly All Long-Haul International Flights (R.)
Virgin Atlantic Boss Seeks £7.5 Billion UK Airline Bailout (R.)
‘Euroleaks’: Varoufakis Leaks Recordings Of Secretive Eurogroup Talks (RT)

 

 

France, Spain increase their lockdown measures, but France and Germany still exist on holding their municipal elections. Must be more important than virus response. More important than the survival of small firms too.

In France, over half of COVID19 patients in intensive care are under 60. Holland has 40-50 patients in intensive care, over half of whom are under 50. Some are children. The family of a 16-year old boy on life support in IC pleads with people to take the disease seriously.

Politicians of all colors invent the wheel as they go along, mostly as ignorant as the media whose ignorant news stories they base their decisions on. The model is simple: do the same as others do, so you can blame them when things go awry.

Belgium shut all its stores and bars, Holland did not yet, so Belgians go drinking in cramped Dutch bars en masse. The EU says it has few powers in this, thus ensuring it can’t be blamed.

The US is set for the worst disaster of all, it has to enforce travel restrictions very rapidly or else, ground domestic flights, close down highways, the works. And get hospitals working for ten times as many patients as they’re designed for. Good luck.

The calls for a UBI will grow louder at both sides of the Atlantic, and the power bastions will reject them with equal vehemence and bail out zombie companies instead. Our political systems work only in good times.

 

Cases 157,477 (+ 11,150 from yesterday’s 146,327)

Deaths 5,845 (+ 402 from yesterday’s 5,443)

 

The numbers in this graph are terrifying. 3,500 new cases in Italy in 24 hours.

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

This set of graphs from Worldometer has turned almost straight north:

From Worldometer (NOTE: mortality rate is back up to 7%!)

 

 

From SCMP: (Note: the SCMP graph was useful when China was the focal point; they are falling behind now)

 

 

From COVID2019.app: (New format lacks new cases and deaths)

 

 

 

 

“Close everything but grocery stores, banks, and pharmacies. Convert schools into food distribution centers. Bring in the National Guard to provide essential services like food and augment police and emergency services. Issue checks to all New Yorkers for the length of the quarantine for at least $500 per person per month.”

New York Will Be The Next Italy (M.)

Analysis strongly suggests that the NYC metro area has 5–10 days to quarantine the city or face dramatically overwhelmed hospitals, extremely high death rates, and a ruined economy. The outlook for NYC and COVID-19 is bleak. The policy response is far too slow and too weak to meet the needs of the moment.

The Analysis – The NYC region has approximately 400 cases reported as of Friday Mar 13. That number is obviously an underestimate. After accounting for undercounting of asymptomatic cases and failing to detect cases due to under testing, we estimate that between 1,281 and 2,280 people are infected as of yesterday.

Using an SIR Epidemiology Model (described in greater detail in my previous Medium post), we can use the Low and High estimates for infections on 3/13 to project #COVID19 growth through March. Then using those projections for infections, we can use a conservative 10% severity rate to get the number of people who are infected on that day that will require hospitalization (severe & critical cases).

The NYC region has between 1,200 and 3,000 open hospital beds. This analysis suggests that enough people will become infected by March 23 and March 25 that NYC’s hospitals will be fully at capacity approximately 7 days later. (Infected people who will become severely ill do not immediately need medical care upon being infected. There is approximately a 5–7 day incubation period. After which, most severe cases present to the hospital within 2–3 days.)

The Obvious Choice – NYC must implement more severe social distancing measures and potentially fully shut down no later than a week from now in order to avoid overwhelming its hospital system. Think about the choices here: The Status Quo: The governor and the mayor continue to allow the virus to spread at schools, subways, restaurants, cafes, and workplaces. This is the exact same approach Italy took at the beginning of its outbreak. Seriously take a look at this article from two and a half weeks ago when Italy only had 160 cases (vs NYC’s 500+).

“Strict emergency measures were put in place over the weekend, including a ban on public events in at least 10 municipalities, after a spike in confirmed cases in the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto. Italy’s Health Minister Roberto Speranza announced severe restrictions in the affected regions, which included the closure of public buildings, limited transport, and the surveillance and quarantine of individuals who may have been exposed to the virus. “We are asking basically that everyone who has come from areas stricken by the epidemic to remain under a mandatory house stay,” Speranza said at a Saturday press conference.” — CNN, Feb 24 2020

Sound familiar? It’s the exact same thing New York is trying now. It won’t work here either. After that fails here too, we will wind up with the Italian situation. Overflowing hospitals. Demand at two, three, five times the capacity of the hospitals’ ability to deliver care. What’s worse is that their capacity will decline as cases overflow. Their doctors and nurses will be exposed and have to be quarantined, reducing an already strained workforce. Soon after, chaos in the hospitals will lead to fear in the whole city. You will see reports of people dying in their apartments because there isn’t capacity for them in hospitals. This fear alone will shut down the city. The economy will be ruined and tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of New Yorkers will die this year. This could all start at the beginning of April, if we don’t act within the next 5–10 days.

The Better Alternative: Shut down the city this week. Close everything but grocery stores, banks, and pharmacies. Convert schools into food distribution centers. Bring in the National Guard to provide essential services like food and augment police and emergency services. Issue checks to all New Yorkers for the length of the quarantine for at least $500 per person per month. Limit travel outside of the region. Slow the growth of the virus to a crawl immediately.

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“In America, the word ‘public’ means a sum total of individual needs, not the common good..”

Robert Reich has drowned himself for 3 years in repetitious and utterly boring Orange Man Bad rhetoric, but this is worth a read.

America Has No Real Public Health System – Coronavirus Has A Clear Run (Reich)

As the coronavirus outbreak in the US follows the same grim exponential growth path first displayed in Wuhan, China, before herculean measures were put in place to slow its spread there, America is waking up to the fact that it has almost no public capacity to deal with it. Instead of a public health system, we have a private for-profit system for individuals lucky enough to afford it and a rickety social insurance system for people fortunate enough to have a full-time job. At their best, both systems respond to the needs of individuals rather than the needs of the public as a whole. In America, the word “public” – as in public health, public education or public welfare – means a sum total of individual needs, not the common good.

Contrast this with America’s financial system. The Federal Reserve concerns itself with the health of financial markets as a whole. Late last week the Fed made $1.5tn available to banks, at the slightest hint of difficulties making trades. No one batted an eye. When it comes to the health of the nation as a whole, money like this isn’t available. And there are no institutions analogous to the Fed with responsibility for overseeing and managing the public’s health – able to whip out a giant checkbook at a moment’s notice to prevent human, rather than financial, devastation. Even if a test for the Covid-19 virus had been developed and approved in time, no institutions are in place to administer it to tens of millions of Americans free of charge. Local and state health departments are already bare bones, having lost nearly a quarter of their workforce since 2008, according to the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Healthcare in America is delivered mainly by private for-profit corporations which, unlike financial institutions, are not required to maintain reserve capacity. As a result, the nation’s supply of ventilators isn’t nearly large enough to care for projected numbers of critically ill coronavirus victims unable to breathe for themselves. Its 45,000 intensive care unit beds fall woefully short of the 2.9 million likely to be needed. The Fed can close banks to quarantine financial crises but the US can’t close workplaces because the nation’s social insurance system depends on people going to work. Almost 30% of American workers have no paid sick leave from their employers, including 70% of low-income workers earning less than $10.49 an hour.

Vast numbers of self-employed workers cannot afford sick leave. Friday’s deal between House Democrats and the White House won’t have much effect because it exempts large employers and offers waivers to smaller ones. Most jobless Americans don’t qualify for unemployment insurance because they haven’t worked long enough in a steady job and the ad-hoc deal doesn’t alter this. Meanwhile, more than 30 million Americans have no health insurance.

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Each on and for his own.

Hoboken Mayor Imposes Mandatory Nightly Curfew (NBC)

Days after Hoboken officials announced the city’s first positive case of COVID-19, the mayor declared a mandatory nightly curfew in the latest attempt to stop the spread of the virus. Mayor Bhalla detailed the curfew in a city blogpost late Saturday night, outlining the details of a nightly curfew that will run from 10 p.m. and end at 5 a.m. each night. The curfew is scheduled to begin Monday evening. All Hoboken residents will be required to remain indoors during the curfew hours except for emergencies and required work, the mayor said.


“As I am writing this message on a Saturday evening, I received a call from our Police Chief Kenneth Ferrante notifying me of a bar fight in downtown Hoboken, with at least one person falling in and out of consciousness, and our police having to wait for over 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive, because our EMS is inundated with service calls,” the mayor said in an online statement. “This is unfortunately a contributing factor why we cannot continue bar operations which can trigger calls for service that are delayed in part because of this public health crisis.” In addition to nightly curfews, restaurants and bars within city limits will only be allowed to offer takeout and delivery options, the mayor said. Food and drink establishments will not be allowed to seat diners during the mandated curfew.

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Sort of nice, but not satisfying for me. The tweet below says why: testing “methods” are very different. South Korea tests everyone, Italy only tests suspected cases.

Coronavirus: Why It’s So Deadly In Italy (M.)

Many people have already pointed out that Italy has an older population than South Korea. The higher Italian CFR might therefore reflect a higher likelihood that an old person becomes infected with the coronavirus simply because there are more old people among the Italian population. We can easily check the plausibility of this argument by comparing the age structure of the coronavirus cases with the age structure of the total population for both countries. The population data are from the United Nations’ World Population Prospect 2019.


In South Korea, the age structure of the coronavirus cases is remarkably similar to the age structure of the population, in particular for the older age groups. The 20–29-year-olds are still hugely overrepresented among the confirmed cases relative to their population share, but their surplus is balanced by the underrepresentation of cases among the 0–9- and 10–19-year-olds. These three youngest age groups face a very low risk of dying from COVID-19. The South Korean CFR is hence not depressed or exaggerated by an under- or overrepresentation of older Koreans among the confirmed cases.

The same is not true for Italy: The share of confirmed cases at age 70–79 exceeds the population share of this age group by more than a factor of two. Among those aged 80 and more, the case share is almost three times as high as the population share. By contrast, young people and hence low-fatality-risk people are visibly underrepresented among the confirmed cases.

Hence, the question remains why the age distribution of cases is shaped so differently in Italy compared to South Korea. It has also been pointed out that the testing procedures for coronavirus in the countries are very different — Italy has predominantly been testing people with symptoms of a coronavirus infection, while South Korea has been testing basically everyone since the outbreak had become apparent. Consequently, South Korea has detected more asymptomatic, but positive cases of coronavirus than Italy, in particular among young people.

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The continent locks down. People expect this to last 2 weeks or so. What happens if that becomes 4 months?

France, Spain Implement Massive and Dramatic Quarantine Restrictions (Slate)

More European nations have joined Italy in enacting dramatic measures meant to keep their citizens in their homes for all but the most necessary of circumstances in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. On Saturday, Spain ordered all of its citizens to stay in their homes unless they absolutely have to leave to go to work, buy food, seek medical care, or help out elderly or otherwise vulnerable people in need of assistance. All bars, restaurants, and schools were ordered to close. France also ordered all restaurants, bars, cafes, movie theaters, and other “non-indispensable businesses” to close starting at midnight. Grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and gas stations are some of the only exceptions.

Both countries had seen an uptick in cases in recent days. Spain saw 2,000 new cases on Saturday alone, bringing its total up to more than 5,700. The number of cases in France has recently doubled and the country now has around 4,500 confirmed cases. Italy, the country with the most cases after China, has been operating under these restrictions in a full quarantine since Monday. More than 21,000 people have contracted the virus there, and more than 1,440 people have died from it.

Some non-European countries have taken similar measures. Starting Sunday, all restaurants, cafes, calls, hotels, movie theaters, gyms, and schools in Israel will be closed. Israel, which has less than 200 cases, also banned any foreign visitors from entering the country and gatherings of more than 10 people. Iran, which follows Italy as the third hardest-hit, has closed all schools, universities, sporting events, cafes, restaurants, museums, and movie theaters. And like Italy, it cracked down on travel within the country.

Read more …

Health care for profit doesn’t appear to be the best idea out there. In a nutshell: Systems need redundancy.

UK Doctor: ‘We Don’t Have The Masks, Goggles – Or The Staff’ (G.)

NHS staff are asking the same questions as everyone else about coronavirus. How deadly is it? How do we protect ourselves? Are the government’s tactics right? And how will the health service cope when – and it is when – it leaves large numbers of people seriously ill, many fighting for their lives? These questions are even more pressing for us because within two weeks we will be part of the frontline against a threat that we’ve never seen the like of before. I’m worried that our hospital’s beds are already 98% full. We are full of “social patients” – people medically fit to go but who can’t be discharged because there isn’t a place in a care home for them, or the care package to allow them to go home hasn’t been sorted.

So where are all the people needing life-or-death care from Covid-19 going to go? We’re barely two weeks from being in the same situation as Italy, with huge numbers of people needing to be in hospital. Yet we don’t have enough protective equipment like masks and goggles. And the NHS is under-staffed. We have to haggle with management about a minuscule pay rise for doctors willing to work extra shifts and expose themselves to danger. We don’t have enough isolation rooms or ventilators, which will be vital. Intensive care units will be the NHS’s most precious resource, but ours are close to full most of the time. We’re told of plans to increase ICU capacity. Yet you need a specially trained nurse for each ICU bed. Where will the extra staff come from?

Too few beds, staff and equipment; I’m worried that the NHS is completely ill-equipped to handle Covid-19. When Boris Johnson talks about our wonderful NHS and how well-prepared it is, that’s bullshit. He either doesn’t have a clue or is trying to falsely reassure people. The NHS has been hit hard before, by underfunding, terrorist attacks and tough winters. But usually crises are stretched over a period of time. With coronavirus it will all come at once.

Read more …

Just as Xi starts boasting about the approach, these guys try to spoil the party. Do a study like this for Italy too. And the US.

China Could Have Cut 95% Of Cases If It Acted On Whistleblower Warning (HKFP)

China could have prevented 95 per cent of coronavirus infections if its measures to contain the outbreak had begun three weeks earlier, research from the University of Southampton suggests. However, China only took vigorous action in late January – weeks after police silenced a doctor for trying to raise the alarm. First detected in Hubei, more than 146,000 people globally have now been infected with Covid-19, whilst over 5,500 have died from the SARS-like disease. The study published this week by population mapping group WorldPop measured the effectiveness of nonpharmaceutical interventions. The researchers examined how China isolated ill persons, quarantined exposed individuals, conducted contract tracing, restricted travel, closed schools and workplaces, and cancelled mass gatherings.

The analysis – which has yet to be peer-reviewed – found that early case detection and contact reduction were effective in controlling the virus and combined measures can reduce transmission. They can also delay the timing and reduce the size of the epidemic’s peak, and thus buy time for healthcare preparations and drugs research. The simulations drew on human movement and illness data to model how combined interventions might affect the spread of Covid-19. Coronavirus cases could have been reduced by 66 per cent if the measures were taken a week earlier, the study suggested, or by 86 per cent if action began two weeks earlier. If action was taken three weeks later, then the situation could have worsened 18-fold.

Most efforts to tackle the outbreak took place in late January, weeks after Wuhan ophthalmologist Dr Li Wenliang tried to warn about the mystery disease on December 30. He was among eight people who were punished by police on January 1 for spreading “rumours” about the virus. The Public Security Bureau made Li sign a letter stating that he had made “false comments” and had “severely disturbed the social order.” He died last month of the disease, aged 34, prompting widespread outrage in China.

Read more …

Reinfection, false negative?

Japanese Man Tests Positive For Coronavirus, Again (NHK)

Officials in western Japan’s Mie Prefecture say a man who was a passenger on a cruise ship that was hit by the coronavirus has again tested positive after recovering from infection. The man, who is in his 70s, first tested positive for the virus on February 14 while he was onboard the Diamond Princess, which was under quarantine off Yokohama. He left a medical facility in Tokyo on March 2 after he was confirmed negative. He returned to his home in Mie by public transportation. But he started to feel sick and developed a fever of 39 degrees Celsius on Thursday. He went to hospital on Friday, and on Saturday was confirmed to be infected again. He is now receiving treatment at a hospital in the prefecture. Prefectural officials plan to trace his recent activities and carry out checks of people who have had close contact with him.

Read more …

Something for our medical commentariat.

Anti-Inflammatories May Aggravate Covid-19, France Advises (G.)

French authorities have warned that widely used over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs may worsen the coronavirus. The country’s health minister, Olivier Véran, who is a qualified doctor and neurologist, tweeted on Saturday: “The taking of anti-inflammatories [ibuprofen, cortisone … ] could be a factor in aggravating the infection. In case of fever, take paracetamol. If you are already taking anti-inflammatory drugs, ask your doctor’s advice.” Health officials point out that anti-inflammatory drugs are known to be a risk for those with infectious illnesses because they tend to diminish the response of the body’s immune system.


The health ministry added that patients should choose paracetamol because “it will reduce the fever without counterattacking the inflammation”. French patients have been forced to consult pharmacies since mid-January if they want to buy popular painkillers, including ibuprofen, paracetamol and aspirin, to be reminded of the risks. Jean-Louis Montastruc, the head of pharmacology at Toulouse hospital, told RTL radio: “Anti-inflammatory drugs increase the risk of complications when there is a fever or infection.”

Read more …

We really need their greedy fingers in that too.

Google Says It Is Developing A Nationwide Coronavirus Website (R.)

Alphabet’s Google said on Saturday that it was working with the U.S. government to develop a nationwide website that would help Americans with questions about coronavirus symptoms, risk factors and testing. “We are fully aligned and continue to work with the U.S. government to contain the spread of COVID-19, inform citizens, and protect the health of our communities,” Google said in a statement on Twitter. President Donald Trump had thanked Google on Friday for developing a website that he said would help people determine whether they needed a coronavirus test, saying that 1,700 engineers were working on it.


That prompted the search and advertising giant to respond that, in fact, a life sciences division, Verily, was in the early stages of developing a tool to help triage Americans who may need testing for the coronavirus and that it would be tested in the Bay Area and expanded over time. Alphabet’s shares closed up more than 9% after the Friday announcement by the president. Pressure has been rising on U.S. officials to increase and improve testing for the fast-spreading virus, which has reached almost every U.S. state, closed schools and forced the cancellation of thousands of sporting events, conferences and concerts amid efforts to stop its spread by keeping Americans out of big crowds.

Read more …

But bloated corpses contain toxic and smelly gases.

Fed May Announce Commercial Paper Facilities Sunday – BofA (R.)

The Federal Reserve may announce measures on Sunday night aimed at bolstering liquidity in the commercial paper market, used by companies for short-term loans, analysts at Bank of America wrote. The bank’s analysts said they believe the Fed will announce a Commercial Paper Funding Facility, an operation previously used in 2008 in which the Fed buys commercial paper from issuers directly, and a Commercial Paper Dealer Purchase Facility in which the Fed would buy commercial paper from dealers directly. The measures, if taken, would be aimed at buffering the market ahead of potentially large outflows from money market funds in coming days, analysts at the bank wrote.


“We believe it imperative the Fed roll out these facilities on Sunday night given the looming expected prime (money market fund) outflows and necessity of their ability to sell (commercial paper) in order to raise cash,” the report said. “If the Fed waits too long the (money market fund) outflow pressure could mount and the risk of a large scale (money market fund) run could increase.” Liquidity – or the ability for buyers and sellers to easily transact – has dried up in the commercial paper market in recent weeks as the coronavirus has roiled credit markets and hit the price of commercial paper. Expectations of a rush of new issuance has also driven prices lower.

Read more …

“..the changes will result in the airline parking nearly its entire widebody fleet..”

American Airlines To Cut Nearly All Long-Haul International Flights (R.)

American Airlines on Saturday said it will implement a phased suspension of nearly all long-haul international flights starting March 16, amid reduced demand and travel restrictions due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Between March 16 and May 6, American will reduce its international capacity by 75% on a year-over-year basis, it said in a statement, adding the changes will result in the airline parking nearly its entire widebody fleet. The airline also anticipates its domestic capacity in April will be reduced by 20% on a year-over-year basis. Domestic capacity for the month of May will be reduced by 30%, the company added.

Read more …

First you bloat your company beyond proportions, then you demand your recently bloated shape is saved from normalizing.

Save people, not companies.

Virgin Atlantic Boss Seeks £7.5 Billion UK Airline Bailout (R.)

Virgin Atlantic’s chairman Peter Norris will write to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday saying the country’s airline industry needs emergency government support worth 7.5 billion pounds ($9.20 billion) or risks the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, Sky News reported on Saturday. The letter would ask the British government to provide airlines with a credit facility to help them through a potentially prolonged period of slumping revenue amid the coronavirus pandemic, Sky News said, citing sources.

Read more …

Snowing under in the virus.

‘Euroleaks’: Varoufakis Leaks Recordings Of Secretive Eurogroup Talks (RT)

The former finance minister of Greece, Yanis Varoufakis, has released a cache of audio files, secretly recorded in 2015 during the bailout talks with the Eurogroup – a powerful group of eurozone’s finance chiefs.
The recordings and their transcripts were released by Varoufakis on the website of his ‘pan-European’ DiEM25 party on Saturday. The files –dubbed ‘Euroleaks’– were recorded between February and July 2015, when cash-strapped Athens was entangled in painful talks with its creditors. In 2015, Varoufakis was the chief negotiator for then-ruling Syriza party, dealing with the Eurogroup and those behind it – the so-called ‘troika.’ It comprises the three main lenders of the eurozone nations – the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF.

While the Eurogroup is de-jure an informal group, it is actually a powerful decision-making institute that lacks accountability and transparency – and does not keep any records. The main goal in releasing the recordings is to shed light on its secretive activities, Varoufakis said in a video announcing the Euroleaks. The lenders took a tough, ‘take it or leave it’ stance on Greece, effectively presenting it with an ultimatum. At the same time, they blamed Greek negotiators for stalled talks – and no records were available to prove them wrong.

“You will hear the [then-]president of the Eurogroup [Jeroen Dijsselbloem] and other ministers warn me that if I dare table written proposals within the Eurogroup meetings, that would be the end of the negotiations,” Varoufakis said. “At the very same time they were leaking to the press that I was arriving at Eurogroup meetings without any proposals.” Apart from bringing into the limelight the “intransparent action by an unelected group of politicians who influence all our lives,” the leaks also serve another purpose. The putting in the public domain of the secret recordings is aimed at fighting attempts by the incumbent Greek government to “weaponize fake news,” produced by the Eurogroup back in 2015 to justify new austerity measures for the country, Varoufakis said.

Read more …

 

 

 

If you read us, please support us. Help the Automatic Earth survive.

 

Mar 122020
 


Ann Rosener Reconditioning used spark plugs for use in testing airplane motors, Melrose Park Buick plant, Chicago 1942

 

 

 

The Extraordinary Decisions Facing Italian Doctors (Mounk)
‘Healthcare On Brink Of Collapsing’: The Italy Coronavirus Quarantine (ITV)
Politicians, Community Leaders, Business Leaders: What To Do and When (M.)
Trump Suspends Travel From Europe To US (BBC)
Ban On European Travel To US Will Batter Airlines (R.)
Why Does The Coronavirus Spread So Easily Between People? (Nature)
6 Million Low-Income Australians To Get $750 Cash Coronavirus Stimulus (G.)
Boeing Halts Hiring, Limits Overtime To Preserve Cash (CNBC)
Washington State House Passes Bill To Drop Boeing Tax Break (R.)
Mnuchin: IMF, World Bank Funds Won’t Repay Belt and Road Debts To China (R.)
Ghislaine Maxwell ‘Persuaded’ Prince Andrew To Snub FBI’s Epstein Probe (NYP)
Erdogan Slams Greece’s ‘Nazi’ Treatment Of Refugees (RT)
Greece Warned By EU It Must Uphold The Right To Asylum (G.)
Greenland And Antarctica Ice Loss Accelerating (BBC)
New Rules Could Spell End Of ‘Throwaway Culture’ (BBC)
Chelsea Manning Hospitalized After Suicide Attempt (G.)
Internet ‘Is Not Working For Women And Girls’ – Tim Berners-Lee (G.)

 

 

Even though he’s a rich celebrity Tom Hanks is probably lucky to fall ill at the time and place he did (now and in Australia). In Italy they might not treat his 63-year-old ass anymore. Many other countries, including Australia won’t either, in 1-2-3 weeks’ time. NBA suspended, Olympics, Eurocup and all other mass events should follow. They will anyway, so might as well do it nnow.

Other than that, as you’re tempted to criticize your government’s actions with regards to coronavirus, remember that everybody does it, every government is too late and too little, just like all the mainstream media and investors. This doesn’t mean your particular locality’s ‘leaders’ don’t deserve scrutiny, but it does provide perspective. They all dropped the ball and play catch-up, including the WHO. And they all have their eye on the economy, not the virus. Which is an issue for them only insofar as it affects the economy.

In the same vein, governments everywhere, central banks, IMF, World Bank, are all geared towards supporting companies, not people. But if 70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and self-isolation is inevitably the next thing coming to the US, how are people supposed to self-isolate when those paychecks stop coming?

Older people will not be treated, and poorer people will have no choice but to go out and find food and other items just to survive. Northern Italy is quite a rich part of the world, which is why they have such an excellent health care system. Many parts of the US are nowhere near that rich, and their health care matches that difference.

 

Cases 126,644 (+ 7,255 from yesterday’s 119,389)

Deaths 4,639 (+ 339 from yesterday’s 4,300)

 

As China states its peak is over, the rise in cases in European countries is relentless. As I was scribbling yesterday before the latest numbers came in:

“Denmark, Norway each have some 5 million inhabitants. Switzerland has 10 million. Holland has 17. Their cases to date are 340, 440, 652 and 503, respectively.

Germany has 82 million people and 1,622 cases. Ergo, per capita Denmark, Norway should have -to keep level with Germany- 16x more cases, Switzerland 8x, Holland 5x. That would mean 3,440, 7,040, 5,216 and 2,515 cases per capita (not the right term, but you get it).

Norway is by far the worst. After Italy, Iran and South Korea, it’s the worst in infections per million people (if we forget Bahrain). It’s 27x worse than the US. So how many dire reports have you read from or about Norway?”

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

This tells you a whole lot too.

 

 

From SCMP: (Note: the SCMP graph was useful when China was the focal point; they are falling behind now)

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

Another great read from Yascha Mounk at the Atlantic. Looks like I’ll have to pass for the next one, my freebies are up.

The Extraordinary Decisions Facing Italian Doctors (Mounk)

Two weeks ago, Italy had 322 confirmed cases of the coronavirus. At that point, doctors in the country’s hospitals could lavish significant attention on each stricken patient. One week ago, Italy had 2,502 cases of the virus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19. At that point, doctors in the country’s hospitals could still perform the most lifesaving functions by artificially ventilating patients who experienced acute breathing difficulties. Today, Italy has 10,149 cases of the coronavirus. There are now simply too many patients for each one of them to receive adequate care. Doctors and nurses are unable to tend to everybody. They lack machines to ventilate all those gasping for air.

Now the Italian College of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Resuscitation and Intensive Care (SIAARTI) has published guidelines for the criteria that doctors and nurses should follow in these extraordinary circumstances. The document begins by likening the moral choices facing Italian doctors to the forms of wartime triage that are required in the field of “catastrophe medicine.” Instead of providing intensive care to all patients who need it, its authors suggest, it may become necessary to follow “the most widely shared criteria regarding distributive justice and the appropriate allocation of limited health resources. ”The principle they settle upon is utilitarian. “Informed by the principle of maximizing benefits for the largest number,”

[..] they suggest that “the allocation criteria need to guarantee that those patients with the highest chance of therapeutic success will retain access to intensive care.” The authors, who are medical doctors, then deduce a set of concrete recommendations for how to manage these impossible choices, including this: “It may become necessary to establish an age limit for access to intensive care.” Those who are too old to have a high likelihood of recovery, or who have too low a number of “life-years” left even if they should survive, will be left to die. This sounds cruel, but the alternative, the document argues, is no better. “In case of a total saturation of resources, maintaining the criterion of ‘first come, first served’ would amount to a decision to exclude late-arriving patients from access to intensive care.”

Read more …

Note: Italy is rated second in the world for healthcare provision by the WHO. The UK is 18th.

‘Healthcare On Brink Of Collapsing’: The Italy Coronavirus Quarantine (ITV)

I’m just back from Italy and “enjoying” my first day of self-isolation. Getting a real picture of how bad the situation is, especially in Lombardy and the north, has been really difficult for TV news because movement is so restricted, access to the overwhelmed hospitals impossible and the danger of infection so great. But it’s really important people understand just how bad things are, not least because it is where we may be headed. So I will continue to write here about conversations, emails or recordings with those who are still under quarantine in Italy. Some will be Britons who have stayed on, some Italians, some doctors. I start with a voice recording of two Milanese doctors speaking on WhatsApp about the situation at their hospitals.

The first identifies herself as Martina, but I believe she is Martina Crivellari, an intensive care cardiac anaesthesiologist at the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan. She said: “There are a lot of young people in our Intensive Care Units (ICUs) – our youngest is a 38-year-old who had had no comorbidities (underlying health problems). “A lot of patients need help with breathing but there are not enough ventilators. “They’ve told us that starting from now we’ll have to choose who to intubate – priority will go to the young or those without comorbidities. “At Niguarda, the other big hospital in Milan, they are not intubating anyone over 60, which is really, really young.” She added: “This virus is so infectious that the only way to avoid a ‘massacre’ is to have the least number possible getting infected over the longest possible timescale.

“Right now, if we get 10,000 people in Italy in need of ventilators – when we only have 3,000 in the country – 7,000 people will die. “Rome right now is like where Milan was 10 days ago. In 10 days there has been an incredible escalation. “Lombardy, which has the best healthcare in the country, is collapsing, so I don’t dare to think what would happen in less efficient regions. “We’ve had no critical cases among children but with children, viruses are much less aggressive – think chickenpox or measles. “But the very young are crazy carriers. “A child with no symptoms will go to visit its grandparents, and basically kill them. So it’s essential to avoid contact between them”.

Read more …

Comprehensize overview from Tomas Pueyo.

Politicians, Community Leaders, Business Leaders: What To Do and When (M.)

When you’re done reading the article, this is what you’ll take away:
• The coronavirus is coming to you.
• It’s coming at an exponential speed: gradually, and then suddenly.
• It’s a matter of days. Maybe a week or two.
• When it does, your healthcare system will be overwhelmed.
• Your fellow citizens will be treated in the hallways.
• Exhausted healthcare workers will break down. Some will die.
• They will have to decide which patient gets the oxygen and which one dies.
• The only way to prevent this is social distancing today. Not tomorrow. Today.
• That means keeping as many people home as possible, starting now.
• As a politician, community leader or business leader, you have the power and the responsibility to prevent this.

You might have fears today: What if I overreact? Will people laugh at me? Will they be angry at me? Will I look stupid? Won’t it be better to wait for others to take steps first? Will I hurt the economy too much? But in 2–4 weeks, when the entire world is in lockdown, when the few precious days of social distancing you will have enabled will have saved lives, people won’t criticize you anymore: They will thank you for making the right decision. [..] Countries that are prepared will see a fatality rate of ~0.5% (South Korea) to 0.9% (rest of China). Countries that are overwhelmed will have a fatality rate between ~3%-5% Put in another way: Countries that act fast can reduce the number of deaths by ten. And that’s just counting the fatality rate. Acting fast also drastically reduces the cases, making this even more of a no-brainer.

Read more …

Also weeks too late.

Trump Suspends Travel From Europe To US (BBC)

US President Donald Trump has announced sweeping new travel restrictions on Europe in a bid to combat the spread of the coronavirus. In a televised address, he said travel from 26 European countries would be suspended for the next 30 days. But he said the “strong but necessary” restrictions would not apply to the UK, where 460 cases of the virus have now been confirmed. There are 1,135 confirmed cases of the virus across the US, with 38 deaths. “To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe,” Mr Trump said from the Oval Office on Wednesday evening. “The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight,” he added. The travel order does not apply to US citizens. Mr Trump said the European Union had “failed to take the same precautions” as the US in fighting the virus.


A Presidential Proclamation, published shortly after Mr Trump’s speech, specified that the ban applies to anyone who has been in the EU’s Schengen border-free area within 14 days prior to their arrival in the US. This implies that Ireland is excluded from the ban as it is not one of the 26 Schengen countries. Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania are also EU members without being part of the Schengen area. Mr Trump spoke just hours after Italy – the worst affected country outside China – announced tough new restrictions on its citizens. It will close all shops except food stores and pharmacies as part of its nationwide lockdown. He said the travel suspension would also “apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo” coming from Europe into the US. But he later tweeted to say that “trade will in no way be affected” by the new measures.

Read more …

Clean up the planet one step at a time.

Ban On European Travel To US Will Batter Airlines (R.)

The new U.S. ban on foreign citizens entering the country if they have traveled to Europe in recent weeks will heap more pressure on airlines already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic, hitting European carriers the hardest, analysts said. The 30-day restrictions from Friday, which exclude Britain, are similar to those that went into effect targeting China on Feb. 1, and come after the outbreak’s rapid spread across the European continent and in the United States. Industry watchers warned the move could also create chaos at dozens of airports across Europe as passengers attempt a last-minute rush to fly to the United States before the ban takes effect. Flights from Europe can still operate to a limited number of U.S. airports with enhanced screening under measures announced on Wednesday evening.


But only U.S. citizens, permanent residents and immediate family members will be allowed in, severely denting the passenger base and hurting the U.S. tourism industry. U.S. President Donald Trump said the ban was needed because the country was entering a “critical time” in the fight against the virus, which has spread across the United States and killed at least 37 people and infected 1,281. “We made a lifesaving move with early action on China. Now we must take the same action with Europe,” Trump said in an address to the nation. “We will not delay.” The ban stops movement of people, not goods, he later clarified on Twitter. U.S. airlines had already slashed flight schedules to Italy, facing the largest European outbreak, and will take another hit from lower demand for flights from major destinations like France and Germany.

Read more …

Not clear at all. Makes you wonder where a vaccine should come from, and tells you it’ll take long time yet.

Why Does The Coronavirus Spread So Easily Between People? (Nature)

As the number of coronavirus infections approaches 100,000 people worldwide, researchers are racing to understand what makes it spread so easily. A handful of genetic and structural analyses have identified a key feature of the virus — a protein on its surface — that might explain why it infects human cells so readily. Other groups are investigating the doorway through which the new coronavirus enters human tissues — a receptor on cell membranes. Both the cell receptor and the virus protein offer potential targets for drugs to block the pathogen, but researchers say it is too early to be sure. “Understanding transmission of the virus is key to its containment and future prevention,” says David Veesler, a structural virologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, who posted his team’s findings about the virus protein on the biomedical preprint server bioRxiv on 20 February.

The new virus spreads much more readily than the one that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS (also a coronavirus), and has infected more than ten times the number of people who contracted SARS. To infect a cell, coronaviruses use a ‘spike’ protein that binds to the cell membrane, a process that’s activated by specific cell enzymes. Genomic analyses of the new coronavirus have revealed that its spike protein differs from those of close relatives, and suggest that the protein has a site on it which is activated by a host-cell enzyme called furin. This is significant because furin is found in lots of human tissues, including the lungs, liver and small intestines, which means that the virus has the potential to attack multiple organs, says Li Hua, a structural biologist at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began.

The finding could explain some of the symptoms observed in people with the coronavirus, such as liver failure, says Li, who co-authored a genetic analysis of the virus that was posted on the ChinaXiv preprint server on 23 February. SARS and other coronaviruses in the same genus as the new virus don’t have furin activation sites, he says. The furin activation site “sets the virus up very differently to SARS in terms of its entry into cells, and possibly affects virus stability and hence transmission”, says Gary Whittaker, a virologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. His team published another structural analysis of the coronavirus’s spike protein on bioRxiv on 18 February.

Several other groups have also identified the activation site as possibly enabling the virus to spread efficiently between humans. They note that these sites are also found in other viruses that spread easily between people, including severe strains of the influenza virus. On these viruses, the activation site is found on a protein called haemagglutinin, not on the spike protein.

Read more …

Nice headline, but it’s only to boost the economy. It should be about the people.

6 Million Low-Income Australians To Get $750 Cash Coronavirus Stimulus (G.)

More than six million low-income earners will receive a $750 cash payment under a $17.6bn government stimulus package targeted at keeping Australians in work and avoiding the country’s first recession in almost 30 years. Announcing the package on Thursday, the prime minister, Scott Morrison, said he was confident the targeted measures would be enough to “do the job” of propping up the economy, as the Coalition abandons a much-touted surplus for the current financial year and shifts it focus to maintaining economic growth. The stimulus boost is equivalent to 0.9% of GDP in the March quarter, and follows initial estimates from Treasury that the effect of the coronavirus downturn in the March quarter would be 0.5%, on top of a 0.2% hit from the summer bushfire crisis.


Three-quarters of the $17.6bn package will be directed to businesses, with a $6.7bn cashflow payment pegged to employee wages, $4bn tied to new investment incentives, $1.2bn to support apprentices, and a $1bn fund for hard-hit sectors such as tourism. Businesses will also be allowed to defer tax obligations, with the Australian Taxation Office announcing that it will offer relief to those hit hard by the downturn on a case-by-case basis. The household stimulus will cost $4.76bn, with payments to begin flowing from 31 March. All welfare recipients and concession card holders will receive the $750 payment, including 2.4 million pensioners and those with a commonwealth seniors card. The government has targeted low-income earners as they are most likely to spend the stimulus payment, with Treasury understood to have estimated a 150% return to the economy for every dollar spent.

Read more …

How much longer can it last?

Boeing Halts Hiring, Limits Overtime To Preserve Cash (CNBC)

Boeing is immediately suspending most hiring and implementing other measures to preserve cash as the rapid spread of the coronavirus roils the air travel industry, sending the manufacturer’s stock to the lowest level since mid-2017. Shares of the manufacturer plunged more than 18% — their biggest one-day percentage drop in more than four decades — to $189.08. Boeing’s plunge shaved more than 284 points off the Dow Jones Industrial Average, helping send the blue-chip index into a bear market. The company also is drawing down earlier than expected the entirety of a $13.8 billion loan it secured in January to give it a cushion to weather the turmoil.


Boeing is already reeling from the damage of two fatal crashes of its 737 Max and the worldwide grounding of the planes, which hits the one-year mark on Friday. “On top of the work of safely returning the 737 MAX to service and the financial impact of the pause in MAX production, we’re now facing a global economic disruption generated by the COVID-19 coronavirus,” Boeing’s CEO, Dave Calhoun, and CFO Greg Smith wrote in a note to employees Wednesday. The company is not laying off workers at this time, a Boeing official told CNBC. Boeing also doesn’t currently have plans to make any changes to its dividend, the official said. The company is also limiting travel and discretionary spending. It will also limit overtime to work necessary for its efforts to bring the 737 Max back in service and “other key efforts in support of our customers,” the executives wrote to employees.

Read more …

Nail. Coffin.

Washington State House Passes Bill To Drop Boeing Tax Break (R.)

Washington state’s House of Representatives passed a measure on Wednesday night that removes a key tax break for Boeing and other aerospace firms, in a bid to head off possible European tariffs on U.S. goods and ease a transatlantic trade dispute over aircraft subsidies. “This measure is important to protect our state’s economy,” House Democratic Majority Leader Pat Sullivan said by phone. “We don’t want tariffs levied by the EU on the aerospace industry but also on other key industries in the state like wine and agricultural products.” The measure passed 73-24 after winning approval on Tuesday in the Senate, a spokeswoman for House Democrats said. However, late changes to the legislation means it must be put to another vote in the Senate before it can go to Washington state Governor Jay Inslee’s desk for signing.


The World Trade Organization has found that Boeing and Europe’s Airbus (AIR.PA), the world’s two largest planemakers, received billions of dollars of unfair subsidies in cases dating back to 2004. The global trade body has faulted both sides for failing to comply fully with previous rulings, opening the door to a tariff war. After years of debate, the focus of the European case against the United States involves a preferential state tax rate for aerospace introduced 16 years ago and renewed in 2013 to help attract production work for Boeing’s 777X. The planned law changes would remove the 40% saving on Business and Occupation tax, which saved Boeing some $118 million in 2018 based on published jetliner revenues.

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Isn’t he supposed to be on the corona team?

Mnuchin: IMF, World Bank Funds Won’t Repay Belt and Road Debts To China (R.)

The U.S. Treasury is working with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to gain full transparency of countries’ debts from China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative and ensure that funds from the institutions are not used to repay China, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday. “We think this is critically important,” Mnuchin told a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. “We’re not ever going to be using money from these international organizations to pay back China.” Some countries saddled by debt from Belt and Road Projects, such as Pakistan, have turned to the IMF for assistance. Pakistan entered a $6 billion loan program with the Fund in July 2019.

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That queenie of yours is morally bankrupt as well.

Ghislaine Maxwell ‘Persuaded’ Prince Andrew To Snub FBI’s Epstein Probe (NYP)

Prince Andrew has hired a crisis management specialist dubbed “the backroom fixer” — after snubbing the FBI on the advice of Jeffrey Epstein’s accused madam Ghislaine Maxwell, according to reports. The Duke of York was on Monday once again shamed by US authorities who say he “completely shut the door on voluntary cooperation” with the investigation into his late pedophile pal’s crimes. Now a family friend of Maxwell’s claims Andrew was “persuaded” to do so at her urging. “Ghislaine told me that yes, the lawyers and Ghislaine have finally convinced Andrew that it would do no good for him to talk to the FBI,” Maxwell friend Laura Goldman told the Sun.


“He wanted to talk to them because he has nothing to hide,” Goldman said of the “honorable” 60-year-old royal. “But it was Ghislaine who persuaded him that it didn’t matter. The FBI will never be satisfied.” Media heiress Maxwell — who has been in hiding since her ex Epstein was busted on serious sex charges before his suicide last summer — is “beside herself” over the damage the scandal has done to Andrew and the British royal family. “She said that the attempt to question Prince Andrew is a publicity ploy and reeks of desperation.”

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Calling those who suffered most from Nazis, Nazis, is a bad idea.

Erdogan Slams Greece’s ‘Nazi’ Treatment Of Refugees (RT)

Athens’ treatment of thousands of refugees who have massed on the Turkey-Greece border is comparable to atrocities carried out by Nazi Germany, Turkey’s president has claimed amid the latest migrant row with the EU. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Greece in an address on Wednesday, claiming that Ankara’s Mediterranean neighbor has mistreated a flood of refugees that are trying to enter the EU through Turkey. “There’s no difference between those images from Greece’s border and what the Nazis did,” Erdogan said, apparently referring to photographs of clashes between migrants and Greek border police. He also announced that Turkey will keep its border open for migrants trying to gain entry to Europe, until Brussels agrees to meet commitments under a 2016 deal which Ankara claims have not been fulfilled.


The tactic has been described by some as tantamount to blackmail. Both sides are hoping to negotiate a new deal by the end of March. The Turkish president has a penchant for accusing other nations of Nazi-like behavior. In 2017, he accused Germany and the Netherlands of employing “Nazi practices” against Turkish citizens and his own government. When local German governments ran afoul of Erdogan that same year, the Turkish leader warned that European leaders “would revive gas chambers.” More recently, Erdogan has used the Nazi label to go after Tel Aviv. In 2018, he stated that “Hitler’s spirit re-emerges in some of Israel’s rulers,” adding that the Jewish state is “the most fascist and racist country in the world.”

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Oh, shut up and do something.

Greece Warned By EU It Must Uphold The Right To Asylum (G.)

The Greek government has been warned by the EU executive that it must uphold the right to asylum, as leaders from Brussels travel to Athens for talks on the migrant crisis at the EU’s borders. Ylva Johansson, EU commissioner for home affairs, said she wanted to discuss a detention centre where asylum seekers were reported to have been captured and beaten, before being expelled from Greece without the chance to speak to a lawyer or claim asylum. The New York Times reported on Tuesday of “a black site” in north eastern Greece where migrants are held without legal recourse before being expelled to Turkey.

Johansson, a Swedish social democrat who took charge of EU migration policy a little more than 100 days ago, said she would raise the issue of the detention centre with Greek government ministers on Thursday. “These kind of temporary detentions that they have set up – is one of the things I would like to know more about … Of course you can have detention for some period of people that have come, but of course you can’t beat them,” she said. The commission has been accused of failing to uphold EU law since Greece announced earlier this month it was suspending asylum applications for one month, a move at odds with European law and the Geneva convention.

While the UN agency for refugees has said the Greek decision has no legal basis, the commission has said it needs time to assess the situation. Sidestepping whether Greece’s decision was illegal, Johansson said: “We are going to discuss actually what they are doing, but they have to let people apply for asylum.” She also said the commission did not plan to suspend the right to asylum by invoking a little-known clause of the EU treaty that allows Brussels to propose “provisional measures”, to help a member state facing an emergency because of large numbers of migrant arrivals.

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Oh well, we’ll all be dead…

Greenland And Antarctica Ice Loss Accelerating (BBC)

Earth’s great ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica, are now losing mass six times faster than they were in the 1990s thanks to warming conditions. A comprehensive review of satellite data acquired at both poles is unequivocal in its assessment of accelerating trends, say scientists. Between them, Greenland and Antarctica lost 6.4 trillion tonnes of ice in the period from 1992 to 2017. This was sufficient to push up global sea-levels up by 17.8mm. “That’s not a good news story,” said Prof Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds in the UK. “Today, the ice sheets contribute about a third of all sea-level rise, whereas in the 1990s, their contribution was actually pretty small at about 5%.

This has important implications for the future, for coastal flooding and erosion,” he told BBC News. The researcher co-leads a project called the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise, or Imbie. It’s a team of experts who have reviewed polar measurements acquired by observational spacecraft over nearly three decades. These are satellites that have tracked the changing volume, flow and gravity of the ice sheets.

[..] Greenland and Antarctica are responding to climate change in slightly different ways. The southern polar ice sheet’s losses come from the melting effects of warmer ocean water attacking its edges. The northern polar ice sheet feels a similar sort of assault but is also experiencing surface melt from warmer air temperatures. Of that combined 17.8mm contribution to sea-level rise, 10.6mm (60 %) was due to Greenland ice losses and 7.2mm (40%) was due to Antarctica. The combined rate of ice loss for the pair was running at about 81 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s. By the 2010s, it had climbed to 475 billion tonnes per year.

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Oh, sure, the European Commission will save the world.

New Rules Could Spell End Of ‘Throwaway Culture’ (BBC)

New rules could spell the death of a “throwaway” culture in which products are bought, used briefly, then binned. The regulations will apply to a range of everyday items such as mobile phones, textiles, electronics, batteries, construction and packaging. They will ensure products are designed and manufactured so they last – and so they’re repairable if they go wrong. It should mean that your phone lasts longer and proves easier to fix. That may be especially true if the display or the battery needs changing. It’s part of a worldwide movement called the Right to Repair, which has spawned citizens’ repair workshops in several UK cities. The plan is being presented by the European Commission. It’s likely to create standards for the UK, too – even after Brexit.


That’s because it probably won’t be worthwhile for manufacturers to make lower-grade models that can only be sold in Britain. It’s all part of what one green group is calling the most ambitious and comprehensive proposal ever put forward to reduce the environmental and climate impact of the things we use and wear. Proposals aim at making environmentally-friendly products the norm. It could mean manufacturers using screws to hold parts in place, rather than glue. The rules will also fight what is known as “premature obsolescence”, the syndrome in which manufacturers make goods with deliberately low lifespan to force consumers into buying a newer model.

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This hurts. Physically.

Chelsea Manning Hospitalized After Suicide Attempt (G.)

Chelsea Manning’s legal team said that the former intelligence analyst had tried to take her own life on Wednesday but was transported to a hospital where she was recovering. The Alexandria sheriff, Dana Lawhorne, said: “There was an incident at approximately 12.11pm today at the Alexandria adult detention center involving inmate Chelsea Manning. It was handled appropriately by our professional staff and Ms Manning is safe.” Manning has been in jail since May 2019 for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks. She was scheduled to appear in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, on Friday for a hearing on a motion to terminate the civil contempt sanctions stemming from that refusal.


Andy Stepanian, a spokesman for Manning’s legal team, said in a statement on Wednesday that Manning “remains unwavering” in her refusal to participate the hearing. “In spite of those sanctions – which have so far included over a year of so-called ‘coercive’ incarceration and nearly half a million dollars in threatened fines – she remains unwavering in her refusal to participate in a secret grand jury process that she sees as highly susceptible to abuse,” her attorneys said in a statement. “Ms Manning has previously indicated that she will not betray her principles, even at risk of grave harm to herself.” In the motion filed last month, Manning’s lawyers argued that Manning had shown during her incarceration that she could not be coerced into testifying before a grand jury. Manning served seven years in a military prison for leaking a trove of documents to WikiLeaks before Barack Obama commuted the remainder of her 35-year sentence in 2017.

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How many Nobel prizes has he received so far?

Internet ‘Is Not Working For Women And Girls’ – Tim Berners-Lee (G.)

Women and girls face a “growing crisis” of online harms, with sexual harassment, threatening messages and discrimination making the web an unsafe place to be, Sir Tim Berners-Lee has warned. The inventor of the world wide web said the “dangerous trend” in online abuse was forcing women out of jobs, causing girls to skip school, damaging relationships and silencing female opinions, prompting him to conclude that “the web is not working for women and girls”. “The world has made important progress on gender equality thanks to the unceasing drive of committed champions everywhere,” Berners-Lee wrote in an open letter to mark the web’s 31st birthday on Thursday. “But I am seriously concerned that online harms facing women and girls – especially those of colour, from LGBTQ+ communities and other marginalised groups – threaten that progress.”

The warning comes a year after Berners-Lee launched the Contract for the Web, a global action plan to save the web from forces that threaten to drag the world into a “digital dystopia”. Without tackling misogynistic online abuse, the aims of the contract cannot be achieved, he said. “It’s up to all of us to make the web work for everyone,” the letter states. “That requires the attention of all those who shape technology, from CEOs and engineers to academics and public officials.” Berners-Lee highlights three areas that need “urgent” attention. First is the digital divide that keeps more than half of the world’s women offline, largely because it is too expensive, or they do not have access to the equipment or skills to use it.

Second is online safety: according to a survey by Berners-Lee’s Web Foundation, more than half of young women have experienced violence online, including sexual harassment, threatening messages and having private images shared without consent. The vast majority believe the problem is getting worse. The third threat comes from badly designed artificial intelligence systems that repeat and exacerbate discrimination. “Many companies are working hard to tackle this discrimination. But unless they dedicate resources and diversify teams to mitigate bias, they risk expanding discrimination at a speed and scale never seen before,” he writes.

[..] Berners-Lee said the coronavirus outbreak showed how urgent it was to take action. As workplaces and schools are forced to close, the web should be a “lifeline” that allows people to keep working and children to be educated. He called on companies and governments to tackle online abuse as a top priority this year. More data needs to be collected and published on women’s experiences online, while products, polices and services should all be designed based on data and feedback from women of all backgrounds, he said.

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Mar 042020
 


DPC North approach, Pedro Miguel Lock, Panama Canal 1915

 

 

 

WHO Raises Global Mortality Rate For COVID-19 Up To 3.4% (CNBC)
Maybe Jay Powell’s Not Cut Out For This Fed Chair Thing (Shazar)
Airlines Rush To Boost Demand As Coronavirus Shreds Crisis Playbooks (R.)
Market Mayhem Exposes Fears About Oil Companies (CNN)
China’s Funding Breakdown Emphasises Economic Imbalances (SCMP)
CIA Has Been Attacking Multiple Chinese Bodies For 11 Years (PDaily)
Court: Clinton Must Testify On Email Scandal (Turley)
Napolitano: Hillary Clinton Faces A Catch-22 Over Private Email Server (Fox)
The Establishment Struggles With The “Nightmare” Of Authenticity (Turley)
Russia Says Turkey Does Not Meet Terms Of Pact In Syria’s Idlib (R.)
Russia Says Turkey Trying To Push 130,000 Refugees From Syria Into Greece (R.)
EU Pledges €700 Million To Help Greece Fight Migrant Influx From Turkey (F24)
Planet Plastic (Rolling Stone)

The virus has been reported in 81 countries and counting (+ Diamond Princess).

First cases in last 48 hours:

– Chile
– Argentina
– Liechtenstein
– Ukraine
– Gibraltar
– Morocco
– Senegal
– Tunisia
– Latvia
– Jordan
– Andorra
– Portugal
– Indonesia
– Saudi Arabia

This is from Worldometer (I include them daily, see below), yesterday afternoon. They change to a “new day” at a for me odd time, which would make the numbers unclear. Check the huge increases in cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea -which added aother 435 cases today-. Also, WA state is a cluster. 9 deaths in no time. US cases up to 128 now. Virus may indeed, as has been suggested, have been around for 6 weeks.

 

 

• Germany reports 46 new cases
• Iran: 300,000 “volunteers” and soldiers, 54,000 prisoners out on bail
• Oregon officials warn up to 500 cases may be in state already
• Italy mulls cancelling all sporting events for a month

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate at 6%):

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

And of course there’s Joe Biden’s huge win. CNN and the Dems act as if they own the world and he’s about to beat Trump. Last night, CNN switched to one of their people in one of the Super Tuesday states, and he started off saying: “The Republicans are getting vey nervous…”

Why on earth would they, though? I’ve always maintained the Hunter affair makes him unfit, but there’s more. He’s a desperate choice by those who’ve held the reins in the party for decades. We’ll see stuff like this repeated 1000 times:

 

 

As we already saw yesterday, the mortality rate is very diffrent from one location to another. Much higher in the US and Italy than in South Korea?! Same virus?

WHO Raises Global Mortality Rate For COVID-19 Up To 3.4% (CNBC)

World health officials said Tuesday the mortality rate for COVID-19 is 3.4% globally, higher than previous estimates of about 2%. “Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva. In comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected, he said. The World Health Organization had said last week that the mortality rate of COVID-19 can differ, ranging from 0.7% to up to 4%, depending on the quality of the health-care system where it’s treated. Early in the outbreak, scientists had concluded the death rate was around 2.3%.

During a press briefing Monday, WHO officials said they don’t know how COVID-19 behaves, saying it’s not like influenza. They added that while much is known about the seasonal flu, such as how it’s transmitted and what treatments work to suppress the disease, that same information is still in question when it comes to the coronavirus. “This is a unique virus, with unique features. This virus is not influenza,” Tedros said Monday. “We are in uncharted territory.” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, said Monday that the coronavirus isn’t transmitting the same exact way as the flu and health officials have been given a “glimmer, a chink of light” that the virus could be contained.


“Here we have a disease for which we have no vaccine, no treatment, we don’t fully understand transmission, we don’t fully understand case mortality, but what we have been genuinely heartened by is that unlike influenza, where countries have fought back, where they’ve put in place strong measures, we’ve remarkably seen that the virus is suppressed,” Ryan said.

 

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Unless you think his job is to transfer money to Fed member bannks.

Maybe Jay Powell’s Not Cut Out For This Fed Chair Thing (Shazar)

For 10 days, while the markets were cratering as if they themselves had contracted a very serious case of coronavirus, Fed officials made all of their Fed-y reassuring mouth sounds: We’re keeping an eye on things, we’ll do something if it’s warranted, but it’s not yet, so just calm down. And then the markets did, soaring yesterday and continuing that rise today. At least until, after watching everyone else—including the White House, which although it wants to make clear thinks this whole China-virus or whatever things is totally overblown and invented like climate change to hurt the Dear Leader, did think that Jay Powell & co. were doing their typically horrible job containing a thing that Larry Kudlow said was already contained and oh yea doesn’t exist anyway—overreact for a week and a half, the Fed decided it would like to go a little nuts itself.

“The Federal Reserve cut its benchmark rate by a half percentage point on Tuesday morning, delivering a booster shot to stem potential economic disruptions from the spreading coronavirus epidemic with its first between-meeting move since the financial crisis…. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell at a press conference following the rate cut said the central bank “judged that the risks to the U.S. outlook have changed materially” and that the Fed “can and will do our part, however, to keep the U.S. economy strong as we meet this challenge.” Well, if Powell’s goal was to get the panic-selling on Wall Street to resume, he did his usual heckuva job.

“Stocks initially shot higher, propelling the Dow Jones Industrial Average up more than 300 points. But within 15 minutes, stocks’ initial gains gave way to jerky up-and-down trading action—with the blue-chip average and Treasury yields falling to session lows after Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged the limits of the central bank’s actions in a press conference…. The Dow fell 510 points, or 1.9%, to 26194, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were down 1.7% and 1.6%, respectively. The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note, a benchmark for everything from mortgage rates to student loans, slipped to 1.036%.”

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Much of that industry is set to go under.

Airlines Rush To Boost Demand As Coronavirus Shreds Crisis Playbooks (R.)

The rapid spread of coronavirus cases worldwide is complicating a standard strategy used by airlines when disease, disaster or conflict hit travel destinations: lower fares and redirect flights to trouble-free areas. For now, some airlines have resorted to suspending change fees for new ticket reservations in the hope of winning over hesitant travelers until it becomes clearer where coronavirus outbreaks are localized and which routes could benefit from price drops. While lower fares have proven effective in the past in reviving demand, aviation consultant Samuel Engel said, “The pocketbook only works so far against emotion.” The coronavirus, which emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, has spread around the world, with more new cases now appearing outside China than inside.

JetBlue Airways Corp, which does not fly to Asia, was the first airline to launch free rebooking options last week, as it became clear that cases were not isolated to China. JetBlue pulled together and announced its plan in a matter of hours, President Joanna Geraghty told Reuters. “We tried to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and think about what we would want if we were, for example, booking a spring-break trip right now,” Geraghty said. U.S. majors have since followed suit with varying waivers on change fees for new reservations to many destinations, a switch from a previous policy that covered only pre-booked flights to areas hardest-hit by the coronavirus.

[..] with none of the offers so far guaranteeing money-back refunds, travelers say the policies are not enough. “I understand that there are a lot of question marks right now for the industry on how this will unfold, but I don’t feel like there’s a truly customer-friendly policy out here,” said Amanda Elman-Kolb of Chicago, who has put on hold plans for a family trip to Europe in August. Declining demand to fly abroad is not limited to U.S. travelers. International travel to the United States will fall 6% over the next three months amid coronavirus concerns, the largest decline since the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the U.S. Travel Association forecast on Tuesday.

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And then came cratering demand due to the virus… Putin’s said he’s fine with $40 oil. Few others are.

Market Mayhem Exposes Fears About Oil Companies (CNN)

Oil prices have plunged into yet another bear market in response to demand destruction caused by flight cancellations, factory shutdowns and slowdowns in passenger traffic. Natural gas is sitting near a four-year low. The commodities crash will intensify the financial stress facing oil and gas companies that have piled on debt to capitalize on the shale boom. Energy stocks, already the biggest losers of last decade, are getting crushed. ExxonMobil and Chevron, two giants built to withstand weak oil, have plunged more than 20% apiece this year. “It’s making an already bad situation worse,” said Spencer Cutter, credit analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. The pain is more acute among independent exploration and production companies, some of which are highly leveraged.

Marathon Oil, Devon Energy and Noble Energy have all seen a third of their market values vanish this year. The turmoil has formed deep cracks in the junk bond market. Alarmingly, the gap between high-yield energy debt and ultra-safe government bonds has blown out to levels unseen since 2016, when oil prices crashed to $26 a barrel. The junk ratings for these energy companies aren’t new — only concerns about their financial health are. Cutter found that about one-third of the junk bonds in the Bloomberg/Barclays high-yield energy index are trading at distressed levels (roughly 10 percentage points above benchmark Treasuries, compared with just one percentage point for companies with strong credit ratings). That includes the bonds of companies including Chesapeake Energy, Whiting Petroleum, California Resources and Range Resources.

At those levels, highly leveraged oil and gas producers have effectively been locked out of the junk bond market. To raise cash, they will have to slash costs, sell assets, accept harsh borrowing terms from a hedge fund or seek a financial lifeline through a merger. Some debt-riddled oil companies won’t survive at all. “You could see a wave of bankruptcies,” said Cutter, the Bloomberg Intelligence analyst. The bill is coming due on a mountain of debt in the coming years. North American exploration and production companies have roughly $86 billion of debt maturing by 2024, according Moody’s Investors Services. More than half of those maturities, 62%, are in junk bonds.

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“After decades of pursuing balanced development nationwide, China now aims to concentrate resources on the best-performing provincial and municipal economies rather than pumping money into poor areas to help them catch up..”

China’s Funding Breakdown Emphasises Economic Imbalances (SCMP)

Cash from China’s financial system flowed mainly to the affluent Pearl River and Yangtze River Deltas in 2019, while funding for hard hit rust-belt provinces dried up, according to new figures published by its central bank. The figures offered fresh evidence of an increasing unequal financial landscape in the world’s second biggest economy. Rich areas continue to absorb more funds and talent to become richer, while poor areas lag behind. This imbalance presents a significant challenge for Beijing, as it attempts to navigate the wider issues that come with slowing economic growth.

Guangdong, the economic powerhouse adjoining Hong Kong, topped the list of provincial funding compiled by the People’s Bank of China, receiving 2.92 trillion yuan (US$417 billion) in the form of bank loans, bond issuance, and trust investments. This was 11.4 per cent of the national total. Guangdong accounts for 8.1 per cent of China’s population and 10.9 per cent of economic output. In second place was Jiangsu, China’s second largest provincial economy, which received 2.41 trillion yuan, followed by Zhejiang, another economic heavyweight, on 2.22 trillion. China’s capital of Beijing was the only northern region to feature high up in the rankings, absorbing 1.46 trillion yuan in financial flows. Hubei, meanwhile, the epicentre of the coronavirus, was in 10th position, with funding of 873.4 billion yuan (US$125 billion) last year.

Funding from China’s banking system, the bond market and even the shadow banking network is often key to regional economic growth. China’s southwesterly Yunnan province, for example, registered a nationwide high 8.1 per cent in gross domestic product growth. Over the same period, its fundraising rose by 43.5 per cent year-on-year to 492.6 billion yuan. [..] The disparity is also a product of a shift in policy by the Politburo, the 25-member decision-making body headed by President Xi Jinping, taken last summer. After decades of pursuing balanced development nationwide, China now aims to concentrate resources on the best-performing provincial and municipal economies rather than pumping money into poor areas to help them catch up.

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Is this a veiled attack on WikiLeaks?

CIA Has Been Attacking Multiple Chinese Bodies For 11 Years (PDaily)

A hacking group affiliated with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been attacking multiple Chinese bodies for 11 years, a new report found. According to the report by Chinese tech giant 360 Security Technology released on Tuesday, the attack by the group, coded by 360 Security as APT-C-39, has conducted a series of attacks against China’s aviation industry, scientific research institutions, petroleum industry, large-scale internet companies, and government bodies for more than a decade. The report analyzed “Vault7,” a trove of documents on cyber weapons disclosed by WikiLeaks in 2017. The report said that the group started launching advanced persistent threat (APT) attacks against China as early as September 2008 and they mainly targeted provincial regions like Beijing, Guangdong, and Zhejiang.


The Chinese tech giant was able to make the link thanks to Joshua Adam Schulte, a former CIA employee who played a core role in developing many of the CIA’s hacking tools and cyberspace weapons and participated in the development of Vault 7. Schulte provided evidence to 360 Security Technology and the trove of documents, the authenticity of which was confirmed by US prosecutors, became key to confirming that APT-C-39 was affiliated with the CIA, the Global Times reported, It has been proven repeatedly that the United States has been conducting large-scale, organized, and indiscriminate cyber theft and surveillance activities against foreign governments, businesses, and individuals, China’s defense ministry spokesperson said at a press conference on Friday.

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“..she will not be able claim the privilege against self-incrimination on the original alleged offenses since the statute of limitations has passed.”

Court: Clinton Must Testify On Email Scandal (Turley)

In a remarkable turnaround, Hillary Clinton will have to testify after all on the email scandal. Clinton has never been subject to true examination on the issue under oath. Instead, she was allowed to meet with investigators shortly before being cleared during the Obama Administration. D.C. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth ruled that her prior answers were insufficient and cursory. One interesting twist is that she will not be able claim the privilege against self-incrimination on the original alleged offenses since the statute of limitations has passed. While she would have been unlikely to do so, she would have evoked on a crime that could be prosecuted.

Ironically, it will be the Trump Administration that will have to defend her in opposing such demands since they are handling the litigation as it relates to her prior public service as Secretary of State. This surprising order follows the disclosure by watchdog group Judicial Watch last December that the FBI released “approximately thirty previously undisclosed Clinton emails.” Judicial Watch has argued that the State Department “failed to fully explain” where they came from. Lamberth decided that Clinton has not answered the troubling questions related to her email system:

“As extensive as the existing record is, it does not sufficiently explain Secretary Clinton’s state of mind when she decided it would be an acceptable practice to set up and use a private server to conduct State Department business. The court believes those responses were either incomplete, unhelpful, or cursory at best. Simply put, her responses left many more questions than answers.” While I expect that Clinton will have a lot of “I do not recall” answers given the passage of time, such examinations come at a risk of false statements under oath. Moreover, Judicial Watch can refresh her money with documents.

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“..Hillary Clinton could potentially fight a ruling that she must sit for a sworn deposition before a federal judge, but she would have to ask Attorney General William Barr for help..”

Napolitano: Hillary Clinton Faces A Catch-22 Over Private Email Server (Fox)

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could potentially fight a ruling that she must sit for a sworn deposition before a federal judge, but she would have to ask Attorney General William Barr for help, Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano explained Tuesday. In an interview on “Fox & Friends,” Napolitano said that the former presidential candidate would have to ask Barr to file an appeal on her behalf because the Department of Justice (DOJ) lawyers would be representing her in the matter. [..] “Judicial Watch has been trying to get copies of these documents [under The Freedom of Information Act]. When they looked at the documents, some of which have been prepared by Mrs. Clinton, you heard what the judge said: the answers were deceptive, misleading, and generated more questions than they answered.


Therefore, he ordered her to be deposed.” “She has never been deposed under oath on this,” he continued. “She was interrogated, but not under oath, in a secret interrogation by the FBI three days before they exonerated her.” Additionally, he noted, this deposition will also be videotaped. “She can’t plead the fifth, right?” asked host Ainsley Earhardt. “She can’t plead the fifth because the statute of limitations to prosecute her for failure to safeguard state secrets has come and gone. She can’t be prosecuted for that,” he replied. “She could be prosecuted if she lies under oath in this deposition. She is represented in the deposition by lawyers form the Justice Department.” “The same Justice Department that would prosecute her if she lies under oath,” he added.

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Very true. No authenticity left in the DNC.

The Establishment Struggles With The “Nightmare” Of Authenticity (Turley)

Heading into Super Tuesday, the media appears at its collective wit’s end. After the victory of Joe Biden in South Carolina, many attempted to portray a new day until the they faced polls in the morning showing Bernie Sanders again surging in states from California to Texas to even Massachusetts (where Elizabeth Warren is struggling to win her own state). Described as the “nightmare scenario,” the media and political establishment in Washington is back to clutching its pearls and speaking of a convention strategy to block Sanders, including Warren whose campaign calls such a move the “final play.”

The continuing support win for Bernie Sanders has sent the D.C. political and media establishment into vapors. On the eve of Super Tuesday, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke all lined up to endorse Joe Biden to try to stop the momentum for Sanders. Others are growing more and more shrill. Democratic strategist James Carville proclaimed the winner to be Valdimir Putin. His point was that both Sanders and Trump continue surging despite unrelenting attacks in the media. The fact is that many in Washington still cannot compute why so many voters will not listen to them about Sanders and Trump. The reason is that they are valued for the one thing that the establishment cannot offer: authenticity.

[..] Authenticity is a word rarely applied to Trump, but it remains his greatest selling point outside Washington. While rarely acknowledged, Trump has fulfilled many of his campaign promises with his push on immigration, the wall, taxes, Jerusalem, renegotiating NAFTA, dropping the Iran deal, rolling back regulations, opening areas like the artic to drilling, finishing the Keystone pipeline, gutting Obamacare and other promises. More importantly, he does not try to pretend what he is not: honest or moral. He openly talks about delivering wealth and having people vote their pocketbooks. He is the ultimate car salesman who you don’t trust but still want to get a good deal from.

Bernie Sanders is genuinely authentic. Indeed, Sanders seems immune from changes from clothing or political styles. There was never a popular time to be socialist but Sanders never budged. To the contrary, he praised Castro and spent his birthday in the Soviet Union during the cold war. He changes his positions at the speed of tectonic plate shifts. That is why you can hate socialism but love Sanders because you know (like Trump) exactly what you are getting. Elizabeth Warren in comparison was known as a pro-corporate, anti-consumer academic for much of her career before being a champion of the downtrodden.

Read more …

Russia comments from the sidelines for now. Why would it help Europe when the MH17 “trial” is to start next week?

Russia Says Turkey Does Not Meet Terms Of Pact In Syria’s Idlib (R.)

Russia accused Turkey on Wednesday of failing to meet its obligations under a pact to create a demilitarised zone in Syria’s Idlib province and of helping militants instead. The RIA news agency quoted a Russian defense ministry spokesman as saying “terrorist” fortifications had merged with Turkish outposts in Idlib, resulting in daily attacks on Russia’s Hmeimim air base in Syria. Turkey had amassed troop numbers in Idlib equal to a mechanised division, violating international law, the Russian spokesman said. The Russian accusation came on the eve of a Thursday meeting in Moscow between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. They are expected to try to de-escalate tensions that have brought Turkey and Russia dangerously close to direct military confrontation.

Read more …

No link to Idlib. Just human pawns.

Russia Says Turkey Trying To Push 130,000 Refugees From Syria Into Greece (R.)

Russia on Tuesday said that Turkey was trying to push 130,000 refugees from Syria into Greece, the Interfax news agency cited the Defense Ministry as saying. The two thirds of these refugees – that Turkey is pushing from temporary camps in Syria – are Afghans, Iraqis and Africans, not Syrians, it added.

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In case you didn’t get yet that in Brussels it’s all exclusively about money.

EU Pledges €700 Million To Help Greece Fight Migrant Influx From Turkey (F24)

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU would provide Greece with “all the support needed” as it struggles with an influx of migrants allowed to cross from neighbouring Turkey after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that “millions” of migrants would soon head for Europe. EU chiefs on Tuesday pledged millions of euros of financial assistance to Greece to help tackle the migration surge from neighbouring Turkey, warning against those wishing to “test Europe’s unity”. Flying by helicopter over the Greek-Turkish border, where thousands of desperate asylum-seekers have tried to break through for days, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc would provide Greece “all the support needed”.

“Those who seek to test Europe’s unity will be disappointed,” von der Leyen said, standing alongside Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the chiefs of the European Council and European Parliament. “We will hold the line and our unity will prevail.” The European Commission president said the bloc would provide 700 million euros ($777 million), half of it immediately, to help manage the migrant situation. In addition, the EU border agency Frontex will deploy a rapid intervention team including an additional 100 guards backed by coastal patrol vessels, helicopters and vehicles, she said. “Our first priority is making sure that order is maintained at the Greek external border, which is also the European border,” von der Leyen told journalists.

“I am fully committed to mobilising all the necessary operational support to the Greek authorities,” she said, adding that Greece was acting as a “shield” for Europe.

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Hopeless?!

Planet Plastic (Rolling Stone)

More than half the plastic now on Earth has been created since 2002, and plastic pollution is on pace to double by 2030. At its root, the global plastics crisis is a product of our addiction to fossil fuels. The private profit and public harm of the oil industry is well understood: Oil is refined and distributed to consumers, who benefit from gasoline’s short, useful lifespan in a combustion engine, leaving behind atmospheric pollution for generations. But this same pattern — and this same tragedy of the commons — is playing out with another gift of the oil-and-gas giants, whose drilling draws up the petroleum precursors for plastics. These are refined in industrial complexes and manufactured into bottles, bags, containers, textiles, and toys for consumers who benefit from their transient use — before throwing them away.

“Plastics are just a way of making things out of fossil fuels,” says Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basel Action Network. BAN is devoted to enforcement of the Basel Convention, an international treaty that blocks the developed world from dumping hazardous wastes on the developing world, and was recently expanded, effective next year, to include plastics. For Americans who religiously sort their recycling, it’s upsetting to hear about plastic being lumped in with toxic waste. But the poisonous parallel is apt. When it comes to plastic, recycling is a misnomer. “They really sold people on the idea that plastics can be recycled because there’s a fraction of them that are,” says Puckett. “It’s fraudulent. When you drill down into plastics recycling, you realize it’s a myth.”

Since 1950, the world has created 6.3 trillion kilograms of plastic waste — and 91 percent has never been recycled even once, according to a landmark 2017 study published in the journal Science Advances. Unlike aluminum, which can be recycled again and again, plastic degrades in reprocessing, and is almost never recycled more than once. A plastic soda bottle, for example, might get downcycled into a carpet. Modern technology has hardly improved things: Of the 78 billion kilograms of plastic packaging materials produced in 2013, only 14 percent were even collected for recycling, and just two percent were effectively recycled to compete with virgin plastic. “Recycling delays, rather than avoids, final disposal,” the Science authors write. And most plastics persist for centuries.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Feb 072020
 


Takeuchi Seiho Bear in snow 1940

 

 

As I said earlier today, I picked up a whole slew of articles on the “coronavirus” through the day yesterday, collected some more today, and then decided not to put them in my daily Debt Rattle news aggregator today because it would have been too much.

I wasn’t trying to focus on number of deaths or cases, interest in that is overblown by now. What I look for is news about the consequences of the “coronavirus” epidemic. See, most people look at the numbers, think that they are lower than they could be, and lower than in armageddon predictions, so we’ll all be alright.

And I’m not saying that we won’t be, never have, I’m saying the numbers are no longer the main story. The story has changed into the effects of the virus on domestic and international policies, and ultimately -especially- on global trade and travel. And those effects have only just started. Just like I said 2 days ago in The Big Lockdown.

Initially, the effects, the fallout, from the epidemic, will appear minor, companies will be able to switch things a little and do their thing. But at some point that changes. As I saw somebody say earlier, if even just 1% of your car parts are from China, and you can’t get them anymore, you’re not going to be building a car. The vast majority of carmakers use 30% Chinese parts or more.

And then you also have many thousands of cancelled flights, and cruises, and what has a much bigger impact: shipping of goods to, but of course mostly from, China. Chinese ports are already filing up with items like fruits, but that’s nothing yet. If you put half your country on lockdown, who’s going to service incoming and outgoing ships?

The Lunar New Year is done this Monday, but we know Chinese trains are down 75% of their passengers, and plane travel is off by over 50%. Xi Jinping allegedly told Trump yesterday that “We are fully confident and capable of fighting the epidemic. The long-term trend of China’s economic development will not change”, but how much of that is wishful thinking?

How do you restart an economy that has 400 million people under lockdown, and that sees all westerners leave? Xi must be getting anxious and nervous by now. And renditioning people is not going to do the trick. Ideally, he would convince the rest of the world that the virus is contained and no longer dangerous. No doubt the lowering rates of change in new cases is step one in trying to do that.

Xi would have had it easier if China hadn’t first attempted to wipe the disease under the carpet for 1-2 months. But that would be against longstanding Party lines, as I wrote in The Party and the Virus. Step one is always: “complete denial, not a word”.

And now he doesn’t just have western governments to deal with anymore, there’s also the people (both at home and abroad). Just wait until the first death is recorded in the US, Britain, France or somewhere near. The west will tend strongly towards a lockdown too. Politicians will cry: “it’s too expensive”, but that won’t be people’s priority. Fear will be.

So, three essays so far on the topic, 2019-nCoV, The Party and the Virus and The Big Lockdown, and here goes with lockdown fallout.

 

 

This is like a quarter of the population. 80 million in US terms. Do the math for your own country. 20 million French, 25 million Germans? Wow. Let’s see that one.

400 Million People Are On Lockdown In China As Guangzhou Joins Quarantine

Guangzhou, the capital of China’s southwestern Guangdong Province and the country’s fifth largest city with nearly 15 million residents, has just joined the ranks of cities imposing a mandatory lockdown on all citizens, effectively trapping residents inside their homes, with only limited permission to venture into the outside world to buy essential supplies.

The decision means 3 provinces, 60 cities and 400 million people are now facing China’s most-strict level of lockdown as Beijing struggles to contain the coronavirus outbreak as the virus has already spread to more than 2 dozen countries. That’s more than 400 million people forcibly locked inside their homes for 638 deaths? Just think about that: If there was ever a reason to believe that Beijing is lying about the numbers (and not just because Tencent accidentally leaked the real data), this is it.

Read more …

Saw this yesterday and thought: that’s very extreme. Again, imagine this in your own country or city. What would that take? 100 infections and 2 deaths?

Wuhan Ordered To Round Up All Infected Residents For Mass Quarantine

A senior Chinese official has ordered Wuhan authorities to immediately round up all residents infected with the novel coronavirus and place them in isolation, quarantine camps, or designated hospitals, according to the New York Times. City investigators have also been ordered to go to each home and check the temperature of every resident, as well as conduct interviews with infected patients’ close contacts.


“Set up a 24-hour duty system. During these wartime conditions, there must be no deserters, or they will be nailed to the pillar of historical shame forever,” said Sun Chunlan, a vice premier in charge of leading the CCP’s response to the outbreak. “The city’s authorities have raced to meet these instructions by setting up makeshift mass quarantine shelters this week. But concerns are growing about whether the centers, which will house thousands of people in large spaces, will be able to provide even basic care to patients and protect against the risk of further infection.” -NYT

Read more …

No wedding parties, locked in your home just like those cruise passengers are in their cabins. The idea of switching off elevators so people don’t go out is “brilliant”.

China Imposes Tougher Lockdown Measures

Beijing has banned group dining for events such as birthdays and weddings while cities such as Hangzhou and Nanchang are limiting how many family members can leave home each day. Hubei province, the worst hit by the virus, has switched off lifts in high-rise buildings to discourage residents from going outside. Its capital, Wuhan, has a lack of beds and equipment, one senior city official said. Despite the rapid construction of two hospitals, the volume of patients is causing severe strain. Reports on social media say the Wuhan government is to carry out door-to-door temperature checks on residents.


Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth said China had suppressed reports in the early days of the outbreak and clamped down on criticism of its handling of the crisis. “There’s no place for secrecy in fighting an epidemic,” he said. Although he praised Beijing for quickly sharing the DNA sequence of the virus, he attacked the lockdowns policy. “Quarantines of this sort typically don’t work. Quarantines, the kind that public health officials advocate, are much more targeted. They’re aimed at people who have been identified as having the virus,” he said. Mr Roth said there were “huge gaps” in getting people fed, housed and treated. Chinese officials have strongly defended their approach.

Read more …

This morning’s numbers. “We have declared a people’s war against the epidemic through prevention and control..”

And Trump told Xi he would win that war. But only after he closed the borders with a 14-day quarantine even for Americans,

China Reports 73 New Deaths From Coronavirus, 3,143 New Cases

Chinese President Xi Jinping told his US counterpart Donald Trump on Friday that China’s economic development would not be affected by the outbreak, according to CCTV, China’s state broadcaster. CCTV reported that, in a phone conversation with Trump, Xi said the Chinese government and people had put their fullest efforts into containing the outbreak since it had started. “We have adopted the most comprehensive and strictest prevention and control measures through mobilising and rapid responses. We have declared a people’s war against the epidemic through prevention and control,” Xi was quoted as saying. “We are fully confident and capable of fighting the epidemic. The long-term trend of China’s economic development will not change.”

Read more …

It’s either one giant dilemma or very many smaller ones. But I don’t see him solving it before the peak of the epidemic in 2-3 months. What are Chinese workers do in the meantime?

China Faces Dilemma As It Tries To Get Back To Work

China is facing a dilemma as it tries to get back to business after the extended Lunar New Year holiday amid fears that a mass movement of workers across the country will worsen the spread of the deadly coronavirus that has struck nearly 30,000 people. Allowing the workforce to return to their jobs was crucial both for sustaining economic growth and providing support to fight the outbreak, according to Lu Zhengwei, chief economist at the Industrial Bank in Shanghai. “It’s obviously desirable for employers who are now paying rent, salaries and social welfare for their employees, for nothing in return,” he said, adding that most small and medium enterprises in China could only last about a month in the current situation.

After the State Council, China’s cabinet, issued a directive to extend the holiday until last weekend as part of measures to contain the virus outbreak, a number of provinces and municipalities – including Beijing, Shanghai, Zhejiang and Guangdong – pushed back the return to work to this Monday. That extended hiatus of business operations will have an impact on the country’s economy, which has already been battered by the protracted trade war with the United States. Advisory firm Oxford Economics has lowered its growth outlook for China to 5.4 per cent in 2020, compared with 6 per cent previously, according to its chief Asia economist Louis Kuijs. Meanwhile, Tao Wang, China economist at UBS, forecast the country’s first-quarter growth at 3.8 per cent, and 5.4 per cent for the whole year.

[..] Huang Xin, an official with the China Railway Corporation, said about 2 million to 3 million passengers were expected to travel each day from Saturday to Tuesday – only about one-quarter of the normal peak number following the Lunar New Year break. “We will be paying extra attention to return trips of college students and migrant workers,” he said at a press briefing in Beijing. “We will also use big data to adjust our railway capabilities.” [..] Similar arrangements had been made for air passengers, said Yu Biao, an official with the Civil Aviation Administration of China. Yu said the number of flights in China had been halved in the past week, and only 45 per cent of seats had been filled.

Read more …

Mandatory 14-day quarantines for US citizens. What will people do, use their remaining vacation days? Or not go?! I think I know.

China Grows Isolated As Airlines Cancel More Than 50,000 Flights

One by one, air carriers have cut service after demand fell sharply and governments took more drastic measures that they say aim to curb the spread of the disease [..] These steps have left China, the world’s second-largest air travel market after the U.S., more isolated. Airlines in dozens of countries have scaled back service or in the case of U.S. airlines canceled flights altogether to the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong as the coronavirus spreads.

This will drive down airlines’ 2020 revenue and deprive other segments of the travel industry, including hotels and retailers, of high-spending tourists. The outbreak has some travelers exercising more caution with their travel, even for destinations other than China. Many travelers would be inquiring about spring travel during this time of year, said Cindy Guo, who runs Top Travel International in Flushing. “Some people prefer to stay home” because of the virus, she said. The U.S. instituted travel restrictions on Sunday that include requiring returning U.S. citizens who have been in Hubei province — where Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, is located — to face mandatory, 14-day quarantines.

The Trump administration has ordered self-quarantines for U.S. citizens who have been in other parts of mainland China. Additionally, foreigners who have been in China in the last two weeks, except for immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents and a few others, won’t be allowed in at all. [..]

At stake are more than 165,000 scheduled flights in and out of China between Jan. 29 and March 28 that would affect 27 million travelers, according to data from aviation consulting firm Cirium. More than 54,011 flights, or 28% of the scheduled flights to, from and within China between Jan. 23 and Feb. 4 were canceled, 14% of them the international scheduled flights. Getting around within China is also becoming more complicated, and close to 32% of domestic flights were called off in that period.

Read more …

And of course it’s not just airlines. Shipping is a much bigger driver of the economy. It’s been less than 3 weeks, and goods are getting stranded, Try 2-3 more months and tell me what you find.

Global Shipping Being Hit By The Coronavirus. Now Goods Are Getting Stranded

The arteries of global trade are clogging up. Shipping companies that carry goods from China to the rest of the world say they are reducing the number of seaborne vessels, as measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus crimp demand for their services and threaten to disrupt global supply chains. About 80% of world goods trade by volume is carried by sea and China is home to seven of the world’s 10 busiest container ports, according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Nearby Singapore and South Korea each have a mega port too.

[..] “This will affect many industries and limit demand for containerized goods transport,” Sand told CNN Business. Everything from cars and machinery to apparel and other consumer staples are shipped in containers, and disruption to the industry could reverberate far beyond China as the country seeks to contain the coronavirus outbreak by keeping factories shut and workers at home. The longer the health crisis lasts, the harder it will be to move goods around the world.

Already, carmaker Hyundai has suspended production at its plants in South Korea because of a disruption to the supply of parts caused by the coronavirus outbreak in China, the company said in a statement. The shutdowns mean that some ships can’t get into Chinese ports, as the loading and discharging of goods slows, said Guy Platten, secretary general of the International Chamber of Shipping, a trade body.

Others are stuck in dock, waiting for workers to return to ports so that construction and repairs can be completed, Platten added. Still more vessels are idling in “floating quarantined zones,” as countries such as Australia and Singapore refuse to allow ships that have called at Chinese ports to enter their own until the crew has been declared virus-free, added Sand. Platten said he knew of at least one crew that is running low on food because their ship has been idled for so long.

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I so feel for these people. Claustrophobic as hell I am.

Coronavirus Infections Triple On Cruise Liner Quarantined In Japan

Dozens of additional passengers aboard a cruise liner in Japan have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of infections on the ship to 61 as 3,700 people remain trapped on the quarantined vessel.
Stuck at the port of Yokohama since earlier this week, the ship’s 3,700 passengers and crew face weeks of quarantine as medical workers test for signs of the deadly contagion. The ship is now like a “floating prison,” one passenger said on social media, where haunting images have emerged showing its abandoned halls, once bustling with activity. Of the thousands of passengers on board, 273 have shown symptoms of illness, such as cough and fever, or came in contact with those who have.


All of those passengers have now been tested, Japan’s Health Ministry said, noting the 41 new patients will be transferred to medical facilities in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba and Shizuoka prefectures, as well as Kanagawa. It remains unclear whether additional cases could arise on the ship, as the novel coronavirus has been found to spread person-to-person, even among those not yet showing symptoms, with a long incubation period. Some passengers already expressed fear that they could eventually end up stuck on the vessel for much longer than 14 days if new infections occur. With the number of infections on the ship tripling on Thursday as health screenings continue, Japan now counts at least 86 cases of the lethal coronavirus nationwide.

Read more …

Welcome! Bring ’em on!

Now the CDC has to figure out who all these people have been in contact with the past 2 weeks and more.

How do they test for asymptomatic carriers? Does the US have enough testing kits? Even if they do, does Britain, does Belgium, France?

And would the US give them away? In China, cities steal each other’s supplies of face masks etc.

Royal Caribbean Ship With 12 Quarantined Passengers Docks In NJ

A Royal Caribbean cruise ship that has 12 passengers quarantined over fears of coronavirus has docked in Bayonne, New Jersey, this morning with ambulances on the scene. The “Anthem of the Seas” arrived in New Jersey just hours ago, at about 6AM, in thick dense fog, according to ABC 6. Several ambulances were on standby at the scene. The passengers in quarantine will all be tested by the CDC, who was also awaiting the arrival of the ship on the scene. The passengers of the ship are all Chinese nationals – many of whom started exhibiting symptoms while aboard the ship, which was coming back from the Bahamas.

Read more …

From planes to ships to automobiles. It’s a small step for man, big step for us all.

The Global Car Industry Is Bracing For A Huge Shock From China /span>

China makes more cars than any other country, and is also the world’s biggest market. When car plants across China shut last month for the Lunar New Year holiday, the industry was already under huge pressure: sales had been falling for two years due to the loss of tax incentives for electric cars and the slowing economy, and officials were expecting an unprecedented third year of stagnation.

Many of those plants have since been ordered to remain shut at least until next week as the Chinese government scrambles to contain the virus that first appeared in Wuhan, a major autos hub [..] Automakers are bracing for even longer shutdowns and a deeper recession in global sales.

[..] The extended factory closures are expected to make it much more difficult for the industry to emerge from its recession. According to S&P Global Ratings, the outbreak will force carmakers in China to slash production by about 15% in the first quarter. The auto industry is particularly exposed because the virus originated in one of China’s “motor cities.” General Motors, Nissan, Renault, Honda and Peugeot owner PSA all have large factories in Wuhan, which has been on lockdown since late January. Wuhan and the rest of Hubei province account for 9% of total Chinese auto production, according to S&P Global Ratings. PSA Group told CNN Business this week that its Wuhan plant would remain closed until at least February 14.

Volkswagen is most exposed to potential damage. The world’s largest automaker has 24 plants making cars or parts in China, accounting for 40% of its production. [..] The situation could get worse before it gets better. S&P Global Ratings researchers said the Chinese government could extend factory shutdowns in order to limit contagion risk, affecting as much as half of China’s car and auto parts production.

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9-10 days? You really think that’ll do it?

Toyota Keeps China Plant Output Stopped Till Feb. 16 As Virus Hits Supply

Toyota Motor Corp on Friday said production at all of its plants in China would remain suspended through Feb. 16, joining a growing number of automakers facing output stoppages due to supply chain issues as the coronavirus outbreak spreads. The Japanese automaker, which operates 12 vehicle and vehicle components factories in China, said it would extend its production stoppage “after considering various factors, including guidelines from local and region governments, parts supply, and logistics.” The decision extends Toyota’s initial plans to suspend operations through Sunday, and comes as the threat from the coronavirus crisis closes in on the global auto industry.

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Big one. What’s in the fine print of the contract? What’s the use of going to court if the buyer can’t take delivery? How long would a court case take? How much do you value your buyer?

France’s Total Rejects Force Majeure Notice From Chinese LNG Buyer

French oil major Total has rejected a force majeure notice from a liquefied natural gas (LNG) buyer in China, the first global energy supplier to publicly push back against firms backing out of deals amid the coronavirus outbreak. Concerns that Chinese companies could back out of contracts because of the coronavirus epidemic have slowed down spot crude oil and LNG sales into China, the world’s top energy consumer, increasing global supplies and depressing prices of energy products. “Some Chinese customers, at least one, are trying to use the coronavirus to say I have force majeure,” Philippe Sauquet, head of Total’s gas, renewables and power segment, said during the company’s full-year results presentation on Thursday.

“We have received one force majeure that we have rejected.” Companies invoke force majeure when they cannot meet their contractual obligations because of circumstances beyond their control. Sauquet did not disclose the name of the buyer Total rejected a force majeure notice from. Reuters reported on Thursday that China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), the country’s biggest importer of liquefied natural gas (LNG), has declared force majeure on some prompt deliveries with at least three suppliers because of the rapid spread of the coronavirus, two sources said on Thursday. Total is one of the biggest suppliers of LNG to CNOOC, industry sources said.

Last week, a Chinese international trade promotion agency said it would offer force majeure certificates to companies struggling with the fallout from the coronavirus epidemic to give to their overseas partners. Lawyers told Reuters that LNG contracts are typically governed by English law which spell out events that constitute a force majeure and some may include the epidemic clause. Serving the force majeure notice is the first step in a long-drawn out process, they said. The onus is also on buyers to prove that they are not physically able to receive the cargo to demonstrate a force majeure. For instance, if there are port closures or if workers are unable to get to the ports due to the virus.

Read more …

I love lines like: ““There is absolutely no need to panic buy..”, because what’s the other side of that? You can trust us to tell you when there’s a need to panic?

But a government could never tell you to panic.

Best version is “This is not the time to panic”. And then you go: Okay, I’ll watch some TV then, and I’ll make sure I get my ten hours of sleep. But first thing in the morning….

Panic Buying As Hong Kong Government Silent On Coming Quarantine Move

Anxious Hongkongers scrambled on Thursday to stock up on essentials over fears that border restrictions to contain the coronavirus would choke off shipments, while the government provided scant details on the mandatory quarantine taking effect in less than 36 hours on arrivals from mainland China. As long queues formed at shops all over the city for the second straight day and people jostled to grab toilet and tissue paper, as well as rice and perishables, food suppliers sought to assure the public there was no need for hoarding. “There is absolutely no need to panic buy. We have always worked to ensure a stable supply of food and all these years, throughout all sorts of big events, we have never had a shortage,” Thomas Ng Wing-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Food Council, told a press conference.


The fears, fed by online rumours, mounted when the government announced on Wednesday it would impose a 14-day quarantine on anyone entering from mainland China, sparking concerns that supplies would also be held up. But while the government said it would reveal more on the quarantine measures on Thursday, the day ended with no information forthcoming, as sources told the Post that Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor was still locked in meetings over facilities and details on implementation. Even as they gave assurances, representatives of rice, pork, egg, seafood, poultry and fruit-and-vegetable merchants urged the government to exempt cross-border truck drivers from the 14-day quarantine set to kick in on Saturday, to avert any delays in supplies reaching the city.

Read more …

Li Wenliang appears to have been off by a week or so. Bless his soul, he got caught in Phase 1, in which the Party’s knee-jerk reaction is “complete denial, not a word” (they can’t help themselves). One week later he would have come in in Phase 2, “damage control, massaging the numbers downward”. He would have gotten much less Party flack… See again The Party and the Virus.

Coronavirus Kills ‘Hero’ Chinese Doctor Who Sounded Alarm

A Chinese doctor who tried to warn the world about a new coronavirus died of the disease on Friday, prompting an outpouring of sorrow as the death toll passed 630 and Beijing declared a “people’s war” on the rapidly spreading pathogen. Li Wenliang, 34, died in the early hours of the morning at the hospital where he worked and first raised the alarm about the new coronavirus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, hospital officials said. An ophthalmologist, Li was one of eight people reprimanded by Wuhan police last month for spreading “illegal and false” information about the coronavirus, a flu-like pathogen that since triggered a global health emergency.


His messages to a group of doctors on Chinese social media warning of a new “SARS-like” coronavirus – a reference to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which killed almost 800 people around the world in 2002-2003 – triggered the wrath of Wuhan police. China was accused of trying to cover up SARS. He was forced to sign a letter on Jan. 3 saying he had “severely disrupted social order” and was threatened with criminal charges.

Read more …

… but Phase 2 already gave way to Phase 3: “close all the doors, not to worry, nothing to see here, we got this, no you can’t come in, too risky!”

That’s what these guys get.

Citizen Journalists Who Exposed Beijing’s Lies In Wuhan Have Vanished

Bloomberg reports that Beijing has silenced two of the citizen journalists responsible for much of the horrifying footage seeping onto western social media. As BBG’s reporter explains, Chinese citizen journalists Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin have effectively been “the world’s eyes and ears” inside Wuhan (much of the film produced by American news organizations has consisted of drone footage). In recent days, SCMP and other news organizations reporting on the ground and publishing in English have warned that Beijing has stepped up efforts to censor Chinese social media after allowing citizens to vent their frustrations and share news without the usual scrutiny.

On Wednesday, China said its censors would conduct “targeted supervision” on the largest social media platforms including Weibo, Tencent’s WeChat and ByteDance’s Douyin. All in an effort to mask the dystopian nightmare that life in cities like Wuhan has become. But that brief period of informational amnesty is now over, apparently. Fang posted a dramatic video on Friday showing him being forcibly detained and dragged off to a ‘quarantine’. He was detained over a video showing corpses piled up in a Wuhan hospital. However, he has already been released.

Chen, meanwhile, seems to have vanished without a trace, and is believed to still be in government detention. Last week, we shared one of Chen’s more alarming videos documenting the severe medical supply shortages and outnumbered medical personnel fighting a ‘losing battle’ against the outbreak.

Read more …

 

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Feb 062020
 


Seattle, WA during Spanish Influenza. No ride on street cars without wearing a mask 1918/19

 

China May Delay Annual Meeting Of Parliament Due To Virus Outbreak (R.)
“Leaked” Infection Numbers Over 154,000; Deaths Approach 25,000 (NN)
Major Mainland Chinese Airlines Place All Foreign Pilots On Unpaid Leave (SCMP)
With Virus Deaths At 565 China Considers Trade Deal Disaster Clause (SCMP)
Chinese Scholar Blames Xi Jinping, CCP For Not Controlling Outbreak (SCMP)
Who Owns The Coronavirus Cure? (SCMP)
Pelosi Shreds Decades Of Tradition In Demonstrating Against Trump (Turley)
Buttigieg and Sanders Separated By Razor-Thin Margin In Iowa (Pol.)
Biden Vows To Press On Despite Iowa ‘Gut Punch’ (BBC)
In This Impeachment, People Only Heard What They Wanted To (Turley)
Nancy Pelosi Should Resign (Turley)
Bloomberg Surrogates Have Seats on DNC Rules Committees (Sludge)

 

 

There we go again:

• 565 deaths (up 72 from yesterday, biggest increase in official numbers to date)

• 28,339 cases (up 3,797 from yesterday’s 24,542, and yeserday’s rise of 3872)

• There are suggestions from China that the increase in cases is slowing, but that’s after yesterday’s record increase. We’ll see.

• At the same time, the increase in severe cases appears to be accelerating.

• 10 more infections on cruise ship off Yokohama

• One thing that’s certainly increasing is the skepticism about the official numbers.

 

 

 

Some interesting things in this article:

1) Officials returning to Beijing from other provinces after Lunar New Year are in 14-day quarantine. First time I see mandatory quarantines for Beijing.

2) There’s talk of delaying the (10+ days) National People’s Congress, which only starts on March 5.

Events have been cancelled as far out as April 15. That syncs quite well with what I said in my article The Big Lockdown.

China May Delay Annual Meeting Of Parliament Due To Virus Outbreak (R.)

China is considering delaying the annual meeting of its top legislative body, five people familiar with the matter said, as it grapples with a coronavirus epidemic that has forced drastic curtailment of travel and other activity to curb its spread. The National People’s Congress (NPC), made up of about 3,000 delegates, typically gathers for a session lasting at least 10 days in Beijing, beginning on March 5, to pass legislation and unveil key economic targets for the year. A postponement would be the first since China adopted the current March schedule in 1995 for the meeting of parliament. “The focus remains on taking steps forward towards meeting on schedule, but we are discussing a range of options as the (virus) situation doesn’t look likely to be contained by March,” a senior government official told Reuters, declining to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter.

“A delay is one of those options,” the official said. “It should come as no surprise given that we are in a very difficult time.” Many officials who would ordinarily be involved in preparation for the NPC are staying at home under 14-day mandatory quarantines after returning to Beijing from their home provinces following the Lunar New Year holidays. Central government officials in Beijing were told to resume work on Feb. 3. China has already postponed a high-level business event, the China Development Forum, which is usually held in late March, and the venue for the Canton Fair, a trade fair in the southern city of Guangzhou, has been suspended until further notice. The spring session of the trade fair was due to begin on April 15.

The NPC gathering is crucial this year, as it is set to ratify China’s first-ever civil code, a key milestone in President Xi Jinping’s legal reform effort. The NPC is also widely expected to discuss the months-long protests in Hong Kong, and to announce the annual economic growth target along with China’s defence budget. Under China’s constitution, a full plenary session of the NPC must be held every year. Chucheng Feng, a partner at Plenum, an independent research firm in Hong Kong, put the chance of a delay at just 10% because of the meeting’s political importance. “However, as the epidemic extends into February, the gathering of China’s entire political elite in a confined Great Hall of the People for over a week looks quite dangerous,” he said.

Read more …

Tyler broke the story. This is a handy write-up. It’s the smaller numbers above the big ones that all but prove we’re looking at an automatically updating database.

“Leaked” Infection Numbers Over 154,000; Deaths Approach 25,000 (NN)

Zero Hedge reported this morning, “As Taiwan [News] reports in a report first spotted by user @TheHKGroup, over the weekend, Tencent “seems to have inadvertently released what is potentially the actual number of infections and deaths, which were astronomically higher than official figures”, and were far closer to the catastrophic epidemic projections made by Jonathan Read.” According to official numbers from mainland China, which are updated daily, the current number of coronavirus infections is still under 25,000. Even then, it currently appears to be expanding at roughly 20% per 24-hour period, which represents a doubling of infections every 3.5 days (because the growth is compounded). (The left column is infections, and the right column is deaths.)

However, observers have noted that the official numbers reported by the communist Chinese government recently slipped into the “real numbers,” suddenly showing far higher confirmed infections and deaths: 154,024 infections and 24,589 deaths. Here’s a screen shot that was captured before the numbers reverted back to the lower, “official” numbers:The initial reaction from observers might be something along the lines of, “That was just a typo. So they corrected it.” However, there’s more to this story:

The higher numbers didn’t merely appear by themselves, out of context. Above each number is an “increase” factor that calculates how much larger today’s numbers are compared to yesterday’s numbers. For the 24,589 deaths, located at the lower right of this graphic, you’ll notice a number above it that states, “+1546.” The Chinese characters next to the numbers explain, “Compared to yesterday.” This means there is an underlying database that’s tracking daily numbers and being used to calculate the day-to-day differences. Similarly, there’s a number above the infection count of 154,023 that explains, “+20979.” This indicates the day-over-day increase from the previous day.


These numbers are clearly being automatically calculated, because if human error were to blame for typing the wrong numbers representing infections and deaths, it would be extremely unlikely that two more typos would coincidentally appear above those numbers, accidentally showing day-to-day increases that are consistent with a second set of numbers that are obviously being stored in parallel.

Read more …

The highest paid.

Major Mainland Chinese Airlines Place All Foreign Pilots On Unpaid Leave (SCMP)

All foreign pilots working for China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, and a host of smaller mainland Chinese carriers have been placed on indefinite unpaid leave, according to multiple sources and a memo seen by the Post. With the coronavirus crisis forcing airlines to slash flights, several hundred foreign pilots have seemingly become surplus overnight, with some telling the Post they were considering their options amid the uncertainty now facing the world’s fastest-growing air market. “All foreign pilots, including those who have applied for leave exemption and those who have not, shall start a non-fixed term leave without pay as soon as possible,” a Tuesday memo to a batch of foreign pilots for China Southern, the country’s largest carrier, said.


Their grounding was effective that day, with the pilots told they would “return to work when [the] situation gets better.” Xiamen Airlines along with Hainan Airlines, Tianjin Airlines and Beijing Capital Airlines (BCA) – a trio of carriers owned by debt-laden HNA Group – have also placed foreign aircrew on unpaid leave, according to multiple sources. A source at BCA said their pilots had been offered the option of taking a significant pay cut that would bring them in line with their Chinese counterparts. China Eastern Airlines, meanwhile, was understood to have offered unpaid leave to its foreign pilots but had not made it mandatory at this point.

Read more …

The trade deal should be the least of Beijing’s worries by now.

Also, there are suggestions here that new cases rise less fast than before. But severe cases seem to rise.

With Virus Deaths At 565 China Considers Trade Deal Disaster Clause (SCMP)

Daily deaths caused by the new coronavirus have reached another record in China, with 73 fatalities confirmed in figures released by health authorities on Thursday morning, taking the death toll in mainland China to 563. The number of new infections in mainland China and Hubei province both fell on Wednesday compared to the day before, with 3,694 additional cases in the country and 2,987 in Hubei, national and provincial health authorities announced Thursday morning. The last time new infection figures dropped was January 28, with the daily increase in confirmed cases in China and Hubei steadily rising to a record high on Tuesday – 3,887 and 3,156, respectively. The deadly new coronavirus, which first emerged at the end of December, has killed at least 565 people worldwide, and sickened more than 28,000.

Mainland media on Tuesday reported that China may consider using a disaster-related clause in the phase one trade deal with the US because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Global Times, a nationalist newspaper affiliated to People’s Daily, cited an unnamed Chinese trade expert close to the government as saying a decision on launching a consultation with the US on the disaster clause was unlikely until the end of the first quarter. In a commentary published on Wednesday, the newspaper said that even if China was unable to reach the goal of increasing purchases from the US, there was still a sensible path forward without jeopardising the agreement and the negotiation process.

“The phase one agreement clearly stated that the two parties would consult with each other, ‘in the event that a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event outside the control of the parties delays a party from timely complying with its obligations under this agreement’. Without doubt the epidemic fits this scenario,” it said.

Read more …

Very popular man, I’m sure.

Chinese Scholar Blames Xi Jinping, CCP For Not Controlling Outbreak (SCMP)

A prominent Chinese scholar has published an article criticising the country’s leadership for failing to control the coronavirus outbreak that has infected almost 25,000 people around the world. Xu Zhangrun, a law professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing, who has been under close surveillance by the authorities, blamed Communist Party leaders for putting politics ahead of the people in his strongly worded piece, which was published on several overseas Chinese-language websites this week. “The political system has collapsed under the tyranny, and a governance system [made up] of bureaucrats, which has taken [the party] more than 30 years to build has floundered,” he said in a reference to how reform-minded leaders sought to rebuild the country and modernise the government after the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 and moved away from one-man rule to collective leadership.

Xu was suspended from teaching at Tsinghua University in 2018, after the publication of an article in which he criticised the decision by party leaders to lift the two-term limit for presidents, allowing Xi Jinping to remain in office beyond his second term, which ends in 2023. His latest criticism came as China’s leaders and law enforcement officials warned that internet controls must be tightened to prevent the spread of rumours and misinformation. On Monday, Xi chaired a meeting of the Politburo Standing Committee at which it was agreed that officials must maintain a tight grip on online media and direct public opinion about “winning the war over the virus”.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Public Security held a meeting to remind all police officers that political security was of utmost importance in handling the outbreak. The police would “strike harshly” on any and all disruption by “hostile forces”, according to a report by Xinhua. One of Xu’s close friends confirmed on Wednesday that the professor had written the article. “He has already been stripped of his teaching position but he is likely to face more punishment this time,” said the person, who asked not to be named. “We are concerned they [the police] will take him away now that he has published this article.”

Read more …

There’s no such thing. Ridiculous headline.

Who Owns The Coronavirus Cure? (SCMP)

China has applied to patent a drug candidate being developed by Gilead Sciences as the government rushes to find the cure for the deadly coronavirus, a move that could raise questions on intellectual property and marketing rights. The state-backed Institute of Virology in Wuhan filed the patent for using remdesivir to fight the novel coronavirus on January 21, according to a statement posted on its website two weeks later on February 4. If approved, the drug will be used to facilitate its potential global market entry, it added. Studies have been conducted outside the human bodies and found that Gilead’s remdesivir compound and the off-patent chloroquine malaria drug are both “highly effective” in the control of coronavirus infection, the Wuhan institute and the Beijing Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology said in a research published in Cell Research Journal.


“Since these compounds have [separately] been used in human patients with a safety track record and shown to be effective against various ailments, we suggest that they should be assessed in human patients suffering from the novel coronavirus disease,” the researchers wrote. Remdesivir has not been approved anywhere globally and has not been showed to be safe or effective for any use, Gilead’s chief medical officer Merdad Parsey said in a statement on Friday. The firm is working with Chinese health authorities to conduct a clinical trial on patients with pneumonia symptoms to test its safety and efficacy, it said. Past clinical data on other coronaviruses give it “hope,” it added.

Read more …

3 Turley articles today. One at the Hill, one at the BBC, one on his own site.

When The Dems lost to Trump in 2016, I said his role was to show how rotten the entire system is. And that they should take a good look at themselves, and try to figure out how that loss could ever come about. They never did, they only ever and exclusively looked at Trump, not themselves. This will not change as long as Hillary, Biden, Schiff et al lead the party.

Pelosi Shreds Decades Of Tradition In Demonstrating Against Trump (Turley)

Forty-four years ago, I walked on to the floor of the House of Representatives as a new Democratic 15-year-old page from Chicago. I stood and marveled at the beehive of activity on the floor in the People’s House. I can still remember that moment because it forged a bond and reverence that has never weakened for me. As a Democratic leadership page during the speakership of Tip O’Neill, I watched some of the most passionate and important debates of the generation from the Neutron Bomb to civil rights legislation to sweeping national park bills. The country was deeply divided, but both parties maintained the tradition of civility and decorum. I was struck how members, even in the heat of furious debates, would not attack each other by name and followed rigid principles of decorum.

They understood that they were the custodians of this institution and bore a duty to strengthen and pass along those traditions to the next generation. That is why I was (and remain) so offended by this display. I believe that President Trump himself is worthy of criticism for not shaking the hand of Pelosi. I also did not approve of aspects of his speech, including bestowing the Medal of Freedom on Rush Limbaugh in the gallery like a reality show surprise scene. There was much to object to in the address, but presidents often make comments that enrage or irritate speakers. However, none of that excuses Pelosi. At that moment, she represents the House as an institution — both Republicans and Democrats. Instead, she decided to become little more than a partisan troll from an elevated position.

The protests of the Democratic members also reached a new low for the House. Pelosi did not gavel out the protest. She seemed to join it. It was the tradition of the House that a speaker must remain in stone-faced neutrality no matter what comes off that podium. The tradition ended last night with one of the more shameful and inglorious moments of the House in its history. Rather than wait until she left the floor, she decided to demonstrate against the President as part of the State of the Union and from the Speaker’s chair. That made it a statement not of Pelosi but of the House. For those of us who truly love the House as an institution, it was one of the lowest moments to unfold on the floor. That is why I argue in the Hill that, if Pelosi does not apologize and agree to honor the principle of neutrality and civility at the State of the Union, she should resign as speaker.

Read more …

Tweet: “Buttigieg campaign manager’s wife owns the app company that ruined the Iowa caucuses, and his campaign DONATED $42,500.00 to that same company, Shadow Inc.”

The video is educative.

Buttigieg and Sanders Separated By Razor-Thin Margin In Iowa (Pol.)

Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders are running neck and neck in the Iowa caucuses with almost all of the votes counted. Buttigieg has 26.23 percent of the state delegate count to 26.06 percent for Sanders with 97 percent of precincts reporting, making the race too close to call, according to The Associated Press. Elizabeth Warren is in third at 18 percent of the state delegate count, followed by Joe Biden at nearly 16 percent and Amy Klobuchar at 12 percent. After a technical meltdown created significant delays in the reporting of results in Monday’s caucuses, the Iowa Democratic Party released almost all of the remaining data Wednesday night. The latest results came as CNN wrapped up a series of town halls with candidates in New Hampshire.

Earlier results came Wednesday afternoon as Sanders, Warren and Klobuchar were in the Senate voting in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. The Republican-led chamber ultimately voted to acquit Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress as the numbers from Iowa were released. The latest results don’t change the order of the top five candidates, but they do show a razor-thin race at the top, where both the Buttigieg and Sanders campaigns have already declared themselves winners. Buttigieg insisted as early as Monday night that he was the clear victor, and he reportedly reassured supporters of that in a phone call on Wednesday. Sanders, meanwhile, told supporters in New Hampshire that he was leading in popular-vote totals and would come out of Iowa with the same number of national convention delegates as Buttigieg.


In terms of raw votes, Sanders leads in by more than 2,500 votes in the final alignment of Iowa caucus-goers, after supporters of non-viable candidates had the chance to realign at their precincts on Monday night.

Read more …

The entire impeachment trial was based on Trump wanting dirt on his “main political rival”. But Biden was never that. At the time of the Trump/Zelensky call, enough was known about Hunter/Burisma to realize Joe had no chance. And there was very little to suggest that Hunter/Burisma did not warrant an investigation. But Dems keep on saying it was “debunked”, without being able to suggest who did the debunking.

Biden Vows To Press On Despite Iowa ‘Gut Punch’ (BBC)

White House hopeful Joe Biden has called his poor performance in the Democrats’ first 2020 leadership vote, in Iowa’s caucuses, a “gut punch”. Mr Biden has come fourth, according to incomplete results from the election to pick a Democratic presidential nominee. “I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” Mr Biden said. “This isn’t the first time in my life I’ve been knocked down.” With most results declared in Monday’s glitch-plagued caucuses, Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders are neck and neck. But Mr Biden told an audience in New Hampshire: “I’m not going anywhere.”

According to partial results from Iowa, the former US vice-president under Barack Obama has failed to pick up a single one of the delegates needed to clinch the Democratic White House nomination under America’s quirky political system. New Hampshire will be the next state to vote on 11 February in a string of nationwide votes culminating with the crowning of the party’s presidential candidate in July. Eleven contenders remain in the race to challenge President Donald Trump, a Republican, in November’s election.

[..] On Wednesday, Mr Biden sharpened his attacks, targeting the two Democratic front-runners by name. “We need a nominee who can help Democrats up and down the ticket,” Mr Biden said. He suggested that self-described democratic socialist Mr Sanders would be unelectable in a general election. Mr Biden also said it would be a “risk” to nominate 38-year-old Mr Buttigieg, “someone who’s never held an office higher than mayor of a town of 100,000 people”. Mr Buttigieg responded by saying “the bulk of the credit for the achievements of the Obama administration belong with President Obama”.

Read more …

As go strictly partisan battles.

In This Impeachment, People Only Heard What They Wanted To (Turley)

Recently, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell declared that his show will not allow Trump supporters on as guests because all Trump supporters are “liars”. Likewise, Trump recently denounced Fox for even interviewing Democratic senators. When that is the state of our news, why should trials be any different? In our hardened political silos, even Framers are bit players in a crushingly formulaic play. Witnesses are as immaterial as facts when the public demands the same predictability from politicians that they do from cable hosts. We are all to blame. Politicians achieve their offices by saying what voters want to hear and today voters have little tolerance for hearing anything that contradicts their preset views of Trump.

As a result, the trial was pre-packed by popular demand. Speaker Nancy Pelosi even declared that Trump would “not be acquitted” even if he was acquitted. When the actual vote doesn’t matter, why should the actual testimony? Just as voters get the government that they deserve, they also get the impeachment trials that they demand. Watching on their favourite biased cable networks, voters raged at the bias of the opposing side in the impeachment as refusing to see the truth. Viewers thrilled as their side denounced their opponents and hissed when those opponents returned the criticism. The question and answer period even took on a crossfire format as senators followed up one side’s answer with a request for the other side to respond.

It was precisely the “fight, fight” tempo that has made cable news a goldmine. As the trial ends, perhaps justice has been done. The largely partisan vote showed that the trial could have had the sound turned off for the purposes of most viewers. We are left with our rage undiluted by reason. It really did not matter what anyone had to say because we were only hearing half of the trial anyway. It provided the perfect verdict on our times.

Read more …

Nancy should go home and be a grandma. She acted like a 5-year old during and after the SOTU. You don’t express your “hatred” of someone by imitating their behavior. Grace.

Nancy Pelosi Should Resign (Turley)

The House has its share of infamies, great and small, real and symbolic, and has been the scene of personal infamies from brawls to canings. But the conduct of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) at the State of the Union address this week will go down as a day of infamy for the chamber as an institution. It has long been a tradition for House Speakers to remain stoic and neutral in listening to the address. However, Pelosi seemed to be intent on mocking President Trump from behind his back with sophomoric facial grimaces and head shaking, culminating in her ripping up a copy of his address.

Her drop the mic moment will have a lasting impact on the House. While many will celebrate her trolling of the president, she tore up something far more important than a speech. Pelosi has shredded decades of tradition, decorum and civility that the nation could use now more than ever. The House Speaker is more than a political partisan, particularly when carrying out functions such as the State of the Union address. A president appears in the House as a guest of both chambers of Congress. The House Speaker represents not her party or herself but the entirety of the chamber. At that moment, she must transcend her own political ambitions and loyalties.

Tensions for this address were high. The House impeachment managers sat as a group in front of the president as a reminder of the ongoing trial. That can be excused as a silent but pointed message from the Democrats. Trump hardly covered himself with glory by not shaking hands with Pelosi. I also strongly disliked elements of his address which bordered on “check under your seat” moments, and the awarding of conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom inside the House gallery like a Mardi Gras bead toss. However, if Trump made the State of the Union look like Oprah, then Pelosi made it look like Jerry Springer.

Read more …

Yeah. Buttigieg’s campaign manager is married to a woman who owns Shadow Inc. , which produced an app developed by among others Hillary’s campaign manager Robby Mook. And Bloomberg has his people inside the DNC. As does Biden, obviously. It smells like incest.

Bloomberg Surrogates Have Seats on DNC Rules Committees (Sludge)

As the Democratic National Committee establishes procedures for the Democratic presidential nominating process, two members of DNC rules committees simultaneously work on the campaign of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Having surrogates on the Democratic National Convention’s Rules Committee and the Standing Rules and Bylaws Committee could be a boon for Bloomberg if nominating rules are re-opened for amendment ahead of the July convention. Some DNC members who are concerned about the polling support of Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) have discussed reversing rule changes limiting the power of superdelegates that were put in place after the 2016 election, according to a report from Politico. Those discussions have been sharply rebuked by DNC leadership.

The DNC passed intensely-negotiated rule changes in August 2018 that sought to reduce the influence of superdelegates—appointed at-large delegates whose ranks include influential party consultants—primarily by preventing them from casting votes on the first nomination ballot, as they did in 2016. If no candidate receives a majority on the first ballot at the upcoming convention, which will be voted on by 3,979 pledged delegates, then the 771 superdelegates—including some lobbyists for corporate clients—can vote on the second ballot, under the new rules. If the superdelegates were to vote as a block, they could add over 16% to a candidate, potentially pushing their favorite over the top.

Michael Nutter, the former Mayor of Philadelphia who is a member of the Standing Rules and Bylaws Committee, was selected by Bloomberg in December 2019 to serve as his campaign’s national political chair. “Nutter will advise the campaign on policy development and strategy, and serve as a national surrogate on behalf of the campaign, recruiting key voices to join the campaign and traveling to field offices and events, speaking to constituents and press about why Mike Bloomberg is uniquely qualified to unite and rebuild the country at a time when it is more divided than ever,” the Bloomberg campaign said in a December statement.

Nutter was nominated by former DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) in 2013 and he has served on the rules committee since 2017. Nutter co-hosted a kick-off fundraiser for former vice president Joe Biden in April 2019 after Bloomberg announced a month earlier that he would not run for president, but he quickly switched to Bloomberg’s camp after the former New York mayor reversed course and entered the race.

Read more …

 

Who needs drug labs?

 

 

 

Please donate what you can.

 

Jan 292020
 


M.C. Escher Fluorescent sea 1933

 

It’s a little amusing, though that word may not fit the topic, to see how people react to the 2019-nCoV (Wuhan coronavirus) “epidemic” that appears to have started in the city of that name. It’s understandable that people compare the warnings about it to those about for instance SARS (also a coronavirus, so either call this one 2019-nCoV or “Wuhan coronavirus”), and conclude that since that episode was not so bad, neither will this one be, but that’s certainly not the definitive story.

If only because stating that the world is due for a large-scale epidemic, a pandemic, is not some scare-mongering exercise, it’s basic statistics and broadly recognized. The last really big one is over 100 years ago. The Spanish flu of 1917-1918 killed an estimated 50 million people, more than WWI which took place from 1914-1918, and saw an estimated 40 million fatalities.

(Un)predictability is key: Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, director of Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City says: “There is no good way to predict [when a flu pandemic will occur], but “this is something that happens every 10 to 40 years”. In essence, since a real flu pandemic hasn’t happened in 100 years, we’re overdue.

There are of course vast differences between today and 1918. But then again, these differences may balance each other out to an extent: on the one hand: 1) medical science has made enormous progress in the past 100 years. But on the other: 2) there are many more people, and they move around and come in contact with each other a lot more too.

 


Cross-sectional model of a coronavirus. Source:
Scientific Animations (CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

World population in 1918 was 1.8 billion; today it’s over 4 times that at 7.7 billion. Add increased mobility through planes, trains and automobiles -in the west and now China- and you will find the number of miles traveled and the number of people “met” per capita has probably gone up by a factor of 10 or more. Just what a virus wants: 10+ times more potential hosts.

The 2009 swine flu killed “only” 200,000 people. Not the “real thing”. SARS affected about 8,000 people and killed 774 in the early 2000s. Hardly even an epidemic, let alone a pandemic. MERS, another coronavirus, infected 186 people and with a death toll of 36. Small change in comparison.

But of course scientists are looking into the matter all the time. And, certainly compared to 1918, they have developed much more sophisticated models to do that, aided greatly by computing power. A simulation of a global pandemic that involves a coronavirus, developed late last year by scientist Eric Toner at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, showed that 65 million people might die within 18 months in such an event.

A more recent model was developed by a team led by Hong Kong University’s medicine dean Gabriel Leung:

The Coronavirus outbreak doubles every 6.2 days [..] That figure validates the forecast of top virologists who claim that Coronavirus is ten times worse than SARS. Hong Kong University is ranked a top 25 college globally and houses the world’s top 1% scientists according to Thomson Reuters. Based on the model used by HKU, up to 150,000 individuals could be affected by Coronavirus in the next three to four months on a daily basis.

Leung’s team said that it confirmed transmission from humans to humans is already occurring in virtually every major city in China. By April to May, Leung said Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing are likely to see widespread infections of Coronavirus, [before the number of infections could begin to gradually decline in June or July, Leung said.


As many as 44,000 people could be infected in Wuhan alone, with only 25,000 likely to be showing symptoms at this time..] Specifically, Leung noted that due to the close ties between Chongqing and Wuhan, Chongqing could see nearly 150,000 people affected per day at its peak.

Chongqing is sometimes presumed to be the world’s most populous city, with 30 million inhabitants, though data are somewhat opaque.

SCMP adds:

Leung, who sits on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s advisory committee on the coronavirus, called for drastic measures to curb the spread of the virus. “Substantial, draconian measures limiting population mobility should be taken immediately,” he said, calling for the cancellation of mass gatherings, along with school closures and work-from-home arrangements.

He would undoubtedly also cancel all flights to and from Wuhan, and perhaps even all of China, as British Airways has already done, and as other airlines will be forced to follow suit.

Yesterday was the first day that the 2019-nCoV virus had infected over 1,000 new patients. And that’s in official numbers, those are the confirmed ones for a disease with a 2-week incubation period and an R0 rate (how many people are infected by each positive person) of 2.5 to 4. It was also the first day that more new cases were reported outside of Hubei province than inside it.

Scores of new countries were added to the list of those with confirmed cases. There are now 19: China, United States, France, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Nepal, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Canada, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Germany and UAE (Finland was just added; now there’s 20). Moreover, several of these countries have confirmed human-to-human transmission.

Still, while Hong Kong University’s Gabriel Leung estimates the 2019-nCoV peak at late April-early May 2020, Chinese respiratory diseases expert Zhong Nanshan, echoed by Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said the peak would be reached in 10 days.

 


Infection cycle of a coronavirus

 

The WHO is, as I speak, burying China in compliments for its efforts to control the disease. Which is fine, and likely more constructive than criticism, but we’ve all been able to see the footage of dead and dying people in the corridors of Wuhan hospitals. And we know China’s history on SARS reporting. Beijing is worried sick by now, but the CCP’s biggest worry will always remain power and control. The Hong Kong protests have only enforced that attitude.

But who are we to criticize China anyway? In our own countries, the main concern in the media is still about the economic effects of what may or may not become a pandemic. “It’s going to hurt global trade, it’s going to hurt our economy, woe, woe..” As if it’s such a disaster that for a few months fewer non-essential goods are schlepped halfway across the globe. That period is likely too short for us to realize than we would do good to produce at least essential goods closer to home. The main concern is money, not that 132 people have died and many more will soon. Those are our priorities.

For a bright light to hit home upside our heads that we would actually notice, that would make us take a look at ourselves, we would need a real bad pandemic. Or we will not learn that we should not need a pandemic to realize we should take care of ourselves, our own basic needs, and not let someone 10,000 miles away do that.

As for fewer airline bookings or Louis Vuitton or Apple sales, if that’s your priority, maybe you’re overdue a lesson no matter what. A lesson about what your society needs to survive, vs what are extras, luxuries, added benefits. We seem to have lost comprehension of that difference entirely.

Summary: no panic, but vigilance. Same as every other day. And not too much focus on money and profits. 2019-nCoV doesn’t care about those either. In 2020, with all the resources at our disposal, and with 1918 to guide us, we should be able to see these things coming from miles away, and not need any time to respond. It should be no more than flicking a switch.

Now it’s like: but where will our food come from, and our iPhones? We should have the answers to such questions ready at all times, or we have failed as societies. Maybe someone’s holding up a mirror to us.

A question I can’t resist is: Are we better prepared today than people were in 1918? And I can’t give you the answer. I know we should be with all the wealth and resources and available energy we’ve added, but I can’t.

 

 

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Dec 232014
 
 December 23, 2014  Posted by at 12:47 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


DPC “Broad Street and curb market, New York” 1906

OPEC Will Not Cut Output However Far Oil Falls: Saudi Oil Minister (Reuters)
On Fuel, Airlines Gambled And You Lost (Reuters)
Billionaire Shale Pioneer Cuts Spending 41% on Oil Crash (Bloomberg)
Morgan Stanley, Rosneft Oil-Unit Deal Fails On Sanctions (Bloomberg)
If Shell Backs Out, Arctic Oil Off the Table for Years (Oilprice.com)
Biggest Arctic Gas Project Seeking Route Around U.S. Sanctions
Outlook Sours for Europe’s Oil Titans on Crude Slump (Bloomberg)
Arab OPEC Sources See Oil Back Above $70 By End-2015 (Reuters)
Cheap Oil Is Dragging Down the Price of Gold (Bloomberg)
Ruble Swap Shows China Challenging IMF as Emergency Lender (Bloomberg)
China’s Shadow Banking Thrives Even As Rules Tighten (Reuters)
Russia Faces Full-Blown Crisis Says Former Finance Minister (FT)
IMF Raises Fears Of Global Crisis As Russian Bank Forced Into Bailout (Guardian)
Belarus Blocks Online Sites, Closes Stores To Stem Currency Panic (AFP)
Market-Rigging Laws Will Also Cover Currency, Gold, Oil And Silver (Guardian)
Ukraine Cuts Gold Reserve to Nine-Year Low as Russia Buys (Bloomberg)
Ukraine Central Bank Sees $300,000 in Gold Swapped For Lead Bricks (RT)
Fresh Doubt Over the Bailout of AIG (Gretchen Morgenson)
If Wishes Were Loaves and Fishes (James Howard Kunstler)

The Saudis are the guys who know what demand is like out there.

OPEC Will Not Cut Output However Far Oil Falls: Saudi Oil Minister (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia convinced its fellow OPEC members that it is not in the group’s interest to cut oil output however far prices may fall, the kingdom’s oil minister Ali al-Naimi said in an interview with the Middle East Economic Survey (MEES). OPEC met on Nov. 27 and declined to cut production despite a slide in prices, marking a shift in strategy toward defending market share rather than supporting prices. “As a policy for OPEC, and I convinced OPEC of this, even Mr al-Badri (the OPEC Secretary General) is now convinced, it is not in the interest of OPEC producers to cut their production, whatever the price is,” Naimi was quoted by MEES as saying.

“Whether it goes down to $20, $40, $50, $60, it is irrelevant,” he said. He said that we “may not” see oil back at $100 a barrel, formerly Saudi Arabia’s preferred level for prices, again. He said Saudi Arabia is prepared to increase output and gain market share by meeting the demands of any new customers, adding that lower crude prices would help demand by stimulating the economy. Brent was last down about 80 cents to $61 a barrel. It’s declined more than 46% from the year’s peak in June above $115 per barrel. U.S. crude was down more than $1 to $56 a barrel. “We are going down because you have some OPEC ministers who come every day making statements trying to drive the market down, said Olivier Jakob, an oil analyst at Petromatrix Oil in Zug, Switzerland.

“They come every day to convey the message that they are not doing anything to restrict supplies and that they basically want oil prices to move lower to reduce production in the U.S.” OPEC’s decision not to reduce production at a meeting in November sped up the decline in already falling oil prices. Prospects for a cut in the near future look remote. While analysts said Brent would likely remain above $60 a barrel this year, they said further large jumps in price were unlikely. Analysts said the price drop would have only a gradual impact on the outlook for production. “Given the lead time in permit approval and rig construction ahead of oil production, a sizeable negative U.S. supply response given the price drop is unlikely to take place until late 2015, which places further downward pressure on oil prices in the first six months of next year,” National Australia Bank said in a note.

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Isn’t that just lovely?

On Fuel, Airlines Gambled And You Lost (Reuters)

With Christmas a few days away, we are in the heart of the holiday traveling season, and most people have already decided their mode of transportation after weighing expense versus convenience. On the topic of expense, earlier this month, Senator Charles Schumer called for a federal investigation into airfare prices, asking why tickets remain so expensive when gas has become so (relatively) cheap. Since fuel prices account for half of airlines’ costs and gas prices have been steadily falling, travelers should be seeing trickle-down savings, he reasoned. But fueling-up an airplane isn’t just a matter of pulling up to the nearest ExxonMobil station and filling up on unleaded.

For starters, it’s an entirely different kind of fuel, although some people seem intently obtuse on the subject. More importantly, because they purchase jet fuel in such huge quantities, many airlines take a different approach to their purchasing strategy than the average driver. They use financial derivatives to hedge their bets against rising fuel prices. In July, American Airlines stopped hedging, deciding that hedging risk was more risky than the gamble on fuel prices itself. As The Motley Fool explains, ”Most airlines hedge with call options, which allow them to cap their fuel costs without locking them in if oil prices happen to fall. The downside of this strategy is that the airline has to pay a premium for each call option.

Unless oil prices rise by a significant amount before the option expires, the airline will lose money on the hedge.” As this Reuters graphic shows, that’s what is happening to many carriers now. Oil prices have been falling since June, causing many to absorb the cost of premiums without enjoying the benefit of hedges against higher prices, so for these airlines lower prices aren’t actually great news. In the case of American Airlines, Schumer is correct, as control over ticket prices serves as a natural hedge to the ebb and flow of fuel prices. But since airlines generally mimic one another when pricing tickets, American has been happy to pocket the money it’s saving rather than reducing prices.

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The future of the ‘industry’.

Billionaire Shale Pioneer Cuts Spending 41% on Oil Crash (Bloomberg)

Billionaire Harold Hamm, whose early adoption of shale drilling in North Dakota helped usher in a U.S. energy renaissance, plans to cut spending by 41% at his company after the plunge in oil prices. Continental Resources and other U.S. producers can adjust quickly to the crude collapse and will be able to withstand the downturn better than many producing countries, which face economic “ruin,” Hamm said in an interview. “The oil and gas industry has lowered the cost of gasoline to consumers in this country,” Hamm, chairman and chief executive officer of Continental, said yesterday. “It’s been good for America, this increase in supplies that we have here. We don’t want to see it all go for naught.”

Continental and rivals including ConocoPhillips and Apache plan to trim spending and move rigs to more profitable areas while prices remain under pressure. Crude has fallen by almost 50% since June to a five-year low as demand forecasts fell amid a glut in supply fed in part by the shale revolution. Saudi Arabia and OPEC allies have declined to cut output to stave off price declines. U.S. prices are expected to average $63 a barrel in 2015, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. U.S. producers have trimmed billions from 2015 spending plans as the price decline eroded potential profits from drilling in shale rock, a technological breakthrough that helped boost production to the highest level in almost 30 years. Spending at Oklahoma City-based Continental will fall to $2.7 billion and the company will increase production by as much as 20% next year.

That’s a decline from a previous growth forecast of as much as 29%, the company yesterday said in a statement. “We’re a company that’s not out over its skis with people or commitments,” said Hamm, the chairman and chief executive officer of Continental. “We’ve been through about half a dozen of these in my lifetime. We can do it.” The cut comes six weeks after Hamm said he liquidated the company’s oil hedges because the price slump was going to be a temporary. Continental will average about 31 rigs in 2015, down from 50, and will drill an estimated 188 wells in the Bakken formation and about 81 wells in the south central Oklahoma formation. In the Bakken, about 70% of rigs aren’t profitable with oil prices at $60 a barrel, according to a note to investors today from ITG Investment Research. In the past two years, producers have needed an average of $57 a barrel while drilling in south central Oklahoma to make a 10% profit, according to ITG.

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“The point of sanctions is to inflict consequences on the entities designated, not for companies to find loopholes to get deals done.”

Morgan Stanley, Rosneft Oil-Unit Deal Fails On Sanctions (Bloomberg)

Morgan Stanley’s failure to complete the sale of its oil storage, trading and transport unit shows the chilling effect U.S. sanctions are having on Russian companies including Rosneft. The U.S. bank and Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil giant, said Monday that their deal, for an undisclosed amount, had expired after the companies failed to win regulatory approval. Morgan Stanley had warned in October that the agreement might not be completed. U.S. sanctions against Rosneft explicitly prohibit selling certain oil-exploration equipment to the company or giving it long-term debt financing. The sale of Morgan Stanley’s oil-trading unit didn’t appear to trigger those prohibitions. Even so, such a sale would have undercut the broader U.S. goal of isolating the energy company. “It’s appropriate to stop deals with companies that have been targeted in one form or another,” said David Kramer, a former U.S. assistant secretary of state and now senior director for human rights and democracy at the McCain Institute for International Leadership in Washington.

“The point of sanctions is to inflict consequences on the entities designated, not for companies to find loopholes to get deals done.” The failure strikes a blow to Rosneft’s aspirations to become a more global oil company. When the deal was announced a year ago, Igor Sechin, Rosneft’s chief executive officer, said it would “spearhead the company’s growth in the international oil and products markets.” The sale didn’t gain permission from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, an inter-agency panel known as CFIUS that examines acquisitions of companies by foreign investors for national security concerns, according to a person briefed on the matter who asked not to be identified because the review is confidential. The pact also needed other regulatory approvals that never came, the person said.

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Simple: too expensive at present rate of return.

If Shell Backs Out, Arctic Oil Off the Table for Years (Oilprice.com)

The next several months may be pivotal for the future of oil development in the Arctic. While Russia has proceeded with oil drilling in its Arctic territory, the U.S. has been much slower to do so. The push in the U.S. Arctic has been led by Royal Dutch Shell, a campaign that has been riddled with mistakes, mishaps, and wasted money. Nearly $6 billion has been spent thus far on Shell’s Arctic program, with little success to date. Now, 2015 could prove to be a make or break year for the Arctic. Shell may make a decision on drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas by March 2015. If it declines to continue to pour money into the far north, it may indefinitely put Arctic oil development on ice (pun intended).

The crossroads comes at an awful time for Shell. Oil prices, hovering around $60 per barrel, are far too low to justify Arctic investments. To be sure, offshore drilling depends on long-term fundamentals – any oil from the Arctic wouldn’t begin flowing from wells until several years from now. That means that weak prices in the short-term shouldn’t affect major investment decisions. Unfortunately, they often do. Just this week Chevron put its Arctic plans on hold “indefinitely,” citing “the level of economic uncertainty in the industry.” Chevron had spent $103 million on a tract in the Beaufort Sea in Canadian waters, but weak oil prices have Chevron narrowing its aspirations. This development is illustrative of the predicament facing major oil companies. They need to spend billions of dollars now to realize oil output sometime next decade.

However, they also must conserve cash in the interim. Oil companies across the world are slashing spending in order to shore up profitability. And Arctic oil is expensive oil, some of the most expensive in the world. It is on the upper end of where prices need to be in order to be profitable. By some estimates, oil prices would need to be in the range of $80 to $90 per barrel for Arctic oil to breakeven; other estimates say as high as $110 per barrel. That means that even before the oil price drop, Arctic oil development looked tenuous. Statoil and ConocoPhillips had already scrapped their plans to drill in the Arctic, even when oil prices were nearly double where they are now, because of high costs. And when oil prices drop, these marginal projects get the ax.

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Pressure on Paris.

Biggest Arctic Gas Project Seeking Route Around U.S. Sanctions

Total and its partners will use a record 16 ice-breaking tankers to smash through floes en route to and from the Arctic’s biggest liquefied natural-gas development. They’re still looking for a way around a freeze in U.S. financing. With 22 wells drilled, and a runway and harbor built for the $27 billion project in Russia’s Yamal Peninsula, where temperatures can reach 50 degrees below zero Celsius, Total, Novatek and China National Petroleum Corp. have little choice but to push ahead. The U.S. Export-Import Bank this year halted a study into funding the plans to ship gas from Yamal, or End of Earth in the native Nenets tongue, to buyers around the world as President Barack Obama’s administration imposed sanctions on Russia. The action by the bank, which offers credit assistance to companies buying the nation’s goods and services, effectively blocked the project from borrowing in the U.S. currency.

“The issue is in the financing because this can’t be done in dollars,” Arnaud Breuillac, Total’s president of exploration and production, said in an interview. “It’s more complex. We are working on it.” European governments, reliant on gas from Russia, have had to tread a fine line in their relations with the country since its annexation of Ukrainian Crimea led to sanctions. The U.S. and Europe have mostly targeted the Russian oil industry and individuals with ties to President Vladimir Putin rather than impose measures that could strangle the nation’s gas exports. That means one option for Paris-based Total is to look for help from home. Coface is France’s answer to the U.S. Exim bank. “We’ll get it in other currencies such as euros through credit agencies like Coface,” Breuillac said. In the meantime, the project’s timetable has slipped. Total has said it’s no longer counting on output starting in 2017. Commissioning of the first LNG unit, or train, was to begin in 2016 and commercial production the following year.

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This is where a lot of the losses will be felt down the line.

Outlook Sours for Europe’s Oil Titans on Crude Slump (Bloomberg)

The U.S. shale-oil industry has made another enemy: Europe’s largest crude explorers. Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services revised its outlook to negative for Shell, Total and BP as the oil-market rout driven by weakening demand and a flood of supply from American shale fields threatens cash flow into 2016. The credit-rating company also cast a dim eye on Houston-based ConocoPhillips, saying it’s facing similar cash flow pressure, and said it may cut the ratings on Eni SpA and BG’s BG Energy Holdings. S&P cited “the dramatic deterioration in the oil price outlook” and the 50% increase in debt loads and dividend commitments for the biggest European oil producers since the end of 2008. Oil has slumped about 21% since OPEC decided against cutting its production target last month.

United Arab Emirates Energy Minister Suhail Al Mazrouei said non-OPEC suppliers should cut “irresponsible” output. Prices of Brent, the European benchmark crude, have fallen about 45% this year, setting the stage for the largest annual drop since 2008. The major European oil explorers are hamstrung by heftier investor payouts than their U.S. rivals that leave them less room to maneuver during cash crunches. BP has an indicated dividend yield of 6.85%, followed by 5.7% for Total and 5.25% for Shell. By comparison, Exxon Mobil and Chevron dividend yields are 2.95% and 3.83%, respectively. The European companies also are burdened with relatively inflexible capital spending budgets because most contracts require cash infusions into oil and gas projects, S&P said.

ConocoPhillips was among the first oil producers to slash its 2015 spending plan two weeks ago when it announced a 20% budget cut and plans to defer some projects. Even with those cuts, ConocoPhillips’s net debt may balloon during the next two years as it funnels some cash into “its sizable common dividend,” S&P said in a separate note to clients.

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Who said Arabs have no sense of humor?

Arab OPEC Sources See Oil Back Above $70 By End-2015 (Reuters)

Arab OPEC producers expect global oil prices to rebound to between $70 and $80 a barrel by the end of next year as a global economic recovery revives demand, OPEC delegates said this week in the first indication of where the group expects oil markets to stabilize in the medium term. The delegates, some of which are from core Gulf OPEC producing countries, said they may not see – and some may not even welcome now – a return to $100 any time soon. Once deemed a fair price by many major producers, $100 a barrel crude is encouraging too much new production from high cost producers outside the exporting group, some sources say.

But they believe that once the breakneck growth of high cost producers such as U.S. shale patch slows and lower prices begin to stimulate demand, oil prices could begin finding a new equilibrium by the end of 2015 even in the absence of any production cuts by OPEC, something that has been repeatedly ruled out. “The general thinking is that prices can t collapse, prices can touch $60 or a bit lower for some months then come back to an acceptable level which is $80 a barrel, but probably after eight months to a year,” one Gulf oil source told Reuters. A separate Gulf OPEC source said: “We have to wait and see. We don’t see 100 dollars for next year, unless there is a sudden supply disruption. But average of 70-80 dollars for next year yes.

The comments are among the first to indicate how big producers see oil markets playing out next year, after the current slump that has almost halved prices since June. Global benchmark Brent closed at around $60 a barrel on Monday. Their internal view on the market outlook will provide welcome insight to oil company executives, analysts and traders, who were caught out by what was seen by some as a shift in Saudi policy two months ago and have struggled since then to understand how and when the market will find its feet. For the past several months, Saudi officials have been making clear that the Kingdom s oft-repeated mantra that $100 a barrel crude is a fair price for crude had been set aside, at least for the foreseeable future. At the weekend, Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi was blunt when asked if the world would ever again see triple-digit oil prices: We may not.

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Or is it the other way around?

Cheap Oil Is Dragging Down the Price of Gold (Bloomberg)

Gold, the ultimate inflation hedge, isn’t much use to investors these days. Oil is in a bear-market freefall that began in June, spearheading the longest commodity slump in at least a generation. The collapse means that instead of the surge in consumer prices that gold buyers have been expecting for much of the past decade, the U.S. is “disinflating,” according to Bill Gross, who used to run the world’s biggest bond fund. A gauge of inflation expectations that closely tracks gold is headed for the biggest annual drop since the recession in 2008. While bullion rebounded from a four-year low last month, Goldman Sachs and Societe Generale reiterated their bearish outlooks for prices. The metal’s appeal as an alternative asset is fading as the dollar and U.S. equities rally, and as the Federal Reserve moves closer to raising interest rates to keep the economy from overheating.

“Forget inflation – all of the talk now is about deflation,” Peter Jankovskis at OakBrook Investments said Dec. 16. “Obviously, oil prices dropping are adding to deflationary pressures. We may see a rate rise next year, and we could see gold come under pressure as the dollar continues to move higher.” Even though there’s been little to no inflation over the past six years, investors have been expecting an acceleration after the Fed cut interest rates to zero% in 2008 to revive growth. Those expectations, tracked by the five-year Treasury break-even rate, helped fuel gold demand and prices, which surged to a record $1,923.70 an ounce in 2011. Now, inflation prospects are crumbling, undermining a key reason for owning the precious metal.

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And with printed money to boot.

Ruble Swap Shows China Challenging IMF as Emergency Lender (Bloomberg)

China is stepping up its role as the lender of last resort to some of the world’s most financially strapped countries. Chinese officials signaled on the weekend they are willing to expand a $24 billion currency swap program to help Russia weather the worst economic crisis since the 1998 default. China has provided $2.3 billion in funds to Argentina since October as part of a currency swap, and last month it lent $4 billion to Venezuela, whose reserves cover just two years of debt payments. By lending to nations shut out of overseas capital markets, Chinese President Xi Jinping is bolstering the country’s influence in the global economy and cutting into the International Monetary Fund’s status as the go-to financier for governments in financial distress.

While the IMF tends to demand reforms aimed at stabilizing a country’s economy in exchange for loans, analysts speculate that China’s terms are more focused on securing its interests in the resource-rich countries. “It’s always good to have IOUs in the back of your pocket,” Morten Bugge, the chief investment officer at Kolding, Denmark-based Global Evolution A/S who helps manage about $2 billion of emerging-market debt, said by phone. “These are China’s fellow friends and comrades, and to secure long-term energy could be one of the motivations.” [..] China and Russia signed a three-year currency-swap line of 150 billion yuan ($24 billion) in October, a contract that allows Russia to borrow the yuan and lend the ruble. While the offer won’t relieve the main sources of pressure on the ruble – which has lost 41% this year amid plunging oil prices and sanctions linked to Russia’s annexation of Crimea — it could bolster investors’ confidence in the country and help stem capital outflows.

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It’s still at least a full third of the credit system.

China’s Shadow Banking Thrives Even As Rules Tighten (Reuters)

New players in China’s shadow banking sector are growing rapidly despite attempts to clamp down on opaque lending, taking advantage of a regulatory anomaly to prosper but also raising the risks of a build-up of debt in the slowing economy. Authorities have sought to rein in the riskiest elements of less-regulated lending after a series of defaults, including a 4 billion yuan ($640 million) credit product backed by Evergrowing Bank in September, because of the danger such debts could pose to the health of the world’s second-largest economy. And a government measure created in 2011 to capture shadow banking, total social financing (TSF), shows some success, with shadow banking contracting in the second half of 2014 to roughly 21.9 trillion yuan ($3.5 trillion), according to a Reuters’ analysis of central bank data.

But that fails to capture as much as 16 trillion yuan ($2.6 trillion) of financing mostly created in the past two years by firms overseen by the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) rather than the banking regulator, according to a Reuters calculation based on third-party statistics. When including that financing, shadow banking is roughly equivalent to more than 45% of loans in the conventional banking system. “We can observe this, but we don’t have concrete statistics, so we’re unclear on the scope,” said Zeng Gang, director of the banking department at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, a think tank that advises the central government. Shadow banking is therefore harder to regulate, he said. Indeed, the State Council called on the central bank last December to develop new statistics to measure shadow banking.

In shadow banking’s new incarnation, brokerages and fund management companies can pool retail investor funds or invest funds already gathered by a bank, acting as an intermediary rather than the actual investor. “China’s credit landscape is just simply evolving too quickly, so TSF doesn’t provide as comprehensive a picture as it used to do,” said Donna Kwok, an economist at UBS. Shadow banking, defined as non-bank credit and off-balance sheet bank lending, is an important part of banking systems around the world. In China, it has helped smaller, private companies access credit and offered investors better returns than bank deposits. The central bank has said the benefits of the sector are undeniable. But it can also fund risky or unproductive investments, building up risks in the banking system.

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Kudrin is in line to be Russia’s next PM.

Russia Faces Full-Blown Crisis Says Former Finance Minister (FT)

Russia faces a “full-blown economic crisis” next year that will trigger a series of defaults and the loss of its investment-grade credit rating, a respected former finance minister has warned. Real incomes will fall by 2-5% next year, the first decrease in real terms since 2000, said Alexei Kudrin, a longtime ally of President Vladimir Putin and widely tipped to succeed Dmitry Medvedev as prime minister. His warning came as Russia’s central bank was forced to prop up a mid-sized lender in a sign of the strains on the banking system. “Today I can say that we have entered or are currently entering a full-blown economic crisis; next year we will feel it in full force,” Mr Kudrin said in Moscow on Monday. In unusually blunt comments for an establishment figure, he also called on Mr Putin to do what was necessary to improve relations with the west:

“As for what the president and government must do now: the most important factor is the normalization of Russia’s relations with its business partners, above all in Europe, the US and other countries.” His bleak forecasts for the Russian economy come after a week of high drama in which the ruble fell by as much as 36% in one day, rattling popular confidence in the government. On Monday, the ruble rose 5.1% to 56.5 to the dollar following a series of measures announced in the second half of last week to shore up confidence in the banking system The central bank said it would inject 30 billion rubles ($530 million) into Trust bank, the country’s 28th-largest lender by assets, “to prevent bankruptcy”.

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““One of the lessons from the Great Financial Crisis is that large changes in prices and exchange rates, and the implied increased uncertainty about the position of some firms and some countries, can lead to increases in global risk aversion, with major implications for repricing of risk and for shifts in capital flows.”

IMF Raises Fears Of Global Crisis As Russian Bank Forced Into Bailout (Guardian)

The International Monetary Fund warned on Monday of the risk of Russia triggering a fresh phase of the global financial crisis as the plunge in the value of the rouble claimed its first banking victim. On the day that Russia’s central bank threw a $530m (£340m) lifeline to Moscow’s Trust Bank, the IMF said its generally upbeat assessment of the impact of falling oil prices on the global economy could be upset by investors taking fright at what is happening to Vladimir Putin’s energy-rich country. Alexei Kudrin, Russia’s former finance minister, said 2015 would be a tough year for the economy as he blamed the Kremlin for failing to act quickly enough and said the country’s debt would be downgraded to “junk” status. “Today, I can say that we have entered or are entering a real, full-fledged economic crisis. Next year, we will feel it clearly,” Kudrin said. Predicting a wave of corporate failures and state bailouts of the banks, he added: “The government has not been quick enough to address the situation … I am yet to hear … its clear assessment of the current situation.”

Olivier Blanchard, the fund’s chief economist, and Rabah Arezki, head of its commodities research team, said: “Oil prices have plunged recently, affecting everyone: producers, exporters, governments, and consumers. Overall, we see this as a shot in the arm for the global economy. Bearing in mind that our simulations do not represent a forecast of the state of the global economy, we find a gain for world GDP between 0.3% and 0.7% in 2015, compared to a scenario without the drop in oil prices.” But they said their optimistic analysis came with a warning. “One of the lessons from the Great Financial Crisis is that large changes in prices and exchange rates, and the implied increased uncertainty about the position of some firms and some countries, can lead to increases in global risk aversion, with major implications for repricing of risk and for shifts in capital flows. This is all the more true when combined with other developments such as what is happening in Russia. One cannot completely dismiss this tail risk.”

Trust, which uses the Hollywood star Bruce Willis to advertise its credit cards, ran into trouble after its policy of offering attractive savings rates and consumer loans fell foul of Russia’s economic slowdown. The country’s central bank said it was providing up to 30bn roubles to help the medium-sized bank in what is thought likely to be the first of a series of bailouts made necessary by the near-halving of the global price of oil and the sharp fall in the value of the rouble. Russian MPs rushed through a bill last Friday authorising a 1tn-rouble recapitalisation of the country’s banks, which have suffered big losses as a result of the currency crisis.

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Collapse before the new year? Or shall we wait for January? See if we can find a way to blame Putin.

Belarus Blocks Online Sites, Closes Stores To Stem Currency Panic (AFP)

Belarus blocked online stores and news websites Sunday, in an apparent attempt to stop a run on banks and shops as people rushed to secure their savings. In a statement Sunday, BelaPAN news company, which runs popular independent news websites Belapan.by and Naviny.by, said that the sites were blocked Saturday without any warning. “Clearly the decision to block the IP addresses could only be taken by the authorities because in Belarus the government has monopoly on providing IPs,” it said. Other websites blocked Sunday were Charter97.by, BelarusPartisan.org, Udf.by and others with an independent news outlook. The blockage started on December 19, when the government announced that purchases of foreign currency will be taxed 30% and told all exporters to convert half of their foreign revenues into the local currency. “Looks like the authorities want to turn light panic over the fall of the Belarussian ruble into a real one,” Belarus Partisan website wrote, calling the blockages “December insanity.”

Internet shopping websites were also blocked en masse. Thirteen online stores were blocked Saturday for raising their prices or showing them in US dollars, deputy trade minister Irina Narkevich said, Interfax reported. The government announced a moratorium on price increases for consumer goods and ordered domestic producers of appliances to “increase deliveries” and keep prices the same at the risk of their management being sacked. Belarussians lined up for hours to clear out their bank accounts and swept store shelves to secure their savings, stocking up on foreign-made appliances and housewares. The Belarussian ruble has lost about half of its value since the beginning of the year, having been hit hard by the depreciation of the Russian ruble since its economy is heavily dependent on its giant neighbour. With foreign currency swiftly depleted in exchange offices, Belarussians even launched a black market website dollarnash.com where individuals could buy and sell dollars and euros.

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Yeah, sure.

Market-Rigging Laws Will Also Cover Currency, Gold, Oil And Silver (Guardian)

Laws to make the manipulation of market benchmarks a criminal offence – sparked by the Libor rigging scandal – will also cover currency, gold, oil and silver markets by 1 April, the government has said. The move announced on Monday is the latest by the coalition government to clamp down on malpractice in the City of London, whose reputation has been further tarnished this year by the exposure of traders colluding to manipulate currency rates. “Ensuring that the key rates that underpin financial markets here and around the world are robust, and that anyone who seeks to manipulate them is subject to the full force of the law, is an important part of our long-term economic plan,” George Osborne said. Under the law, people found guilty of manipulation can be jailed for up to seven years.

It was originally introduced to cover the London interbank offered rate (Libor) market after a global manipulation scandal which resulted in banks being fined billions in 2012. The Treasury said seven benchmarks including the dominant global benchmark in the $5.3tn-a-day currency market – the WM/Reuters 4pm London fix – would be subject to the law, pending a consultation by Britain’s financial watchdog. The EU has criminalised the rigging of financial market benchmarks after the Libor scandal, but those laws will not take effect until 2016. A former City trader was arrested last week in connection with a criminal investigation into allegations that bank traders tried to manipulate currency markets. According to the Financial Times the trader had worked for Royal Bank of Scotland.

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Ukriane is being robbed blind by its own people.

Ukraine Cuts Gold Reserve to Nine-Year Low as Russia Buys (Bloomberg)

Ukraine reduced gold reserves for a second month to the lowest since August 2005 as Russia bought bullion for an eighth month to take its holdings to the highest in at least two decades, according to the International Monetary Fund. Ukraine’s holdings fell to 23.6 metric tons in November from 26.1 tons in October, data on the IMF’s website showed. Reserves in Russia climbed to about 1,187.5 tons in November from 1,168.7 tons a month earlier, according to the data. Holdings by Ukraine are shrinking as fighting with separatists in the east of the country slows the economy and weakens the hryvnia. The country is relying on a $17 billion loan from the IMF to stay afloat and stave off a default.

Foreign reserves are at the lowest in more than a decade amid the deepest recession since 2009. Bullion holdings have dropped 45% from a record 42.9 tons in April, IMF data show. The country’s “financial situation has been under pressure,” Steven Dooley, a currency strategist for the Asia Pacific region at Western Union Business Solutions, said by phone from Melbourne. “Its currency has been under pressure as well. Ukraine is definitely a small player. We really haven’t seen any large impact” on the gold market, he said. Bullion for immediate delivery has declined 1.8% this year to $1,179.47 an ounce after slumping 28% in 2013 as investors reduced holdings in exchange-traded products, the dollar strengthened and the U.S. economy recovered.

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It’s by now impossible to say how much gold one of the world’s most corrupt nations has left.

Ukraine Central Bank Sees $300,000 in Gold Swapped For Lead Bricks (RT)

Cunning fraudsters have conned the Ukraine Central Bank branch in Odessa into buying $300,000 worth of gold which turned out to be lead daubed with gold paint. “A criminal case has been opened and we are now carrying out an investigation to identify those involved in the crime,” a spokesman for the Odessa police force is quoted by Vesti. The news was first reported by Odessa’s State Ministry of Internal Affairs. A preliminary investigation suggests the gang had someone working for them inside the bank that forged the necessary paperwork to allow the sale of the fake gold bullion. It’s also been discovered that bank staff were not regularly checked when entering or exiting the premises.

Since the discovery, the National Bank no longer buys precious metal over the counter, as it cannot be sure of its authenticity, says the First Deputy Head of the National Bank of Ukraine, Aleksandr Pisaruk. The National Bank of Ukraine (NBU) has confirmed the theft of several kilograms of gold in the Odessa region. The cashier involved has apparently fled to Crimea, Vesti Ukraine reports. Criminal proceedings began on November 18, even though the scam apparently took place between August and October. In November, the Central Bank reportedly lost $12.6 billion in gold reserves, putting the total stockpile at just over $120 million. However, the Central Bank reports that foreign currency and gold reserves stood at $9.97 billion at the end of November.

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“.. the case’s significance lies in the information it unearthed about what the government did in the bailout — details it worked hard to keep secret.”

Fresh Doubt Over the Bailout of AIG (Gretchen Morgenson)

“The government is on thin ice and they know it,” a lawyer representing the Federal Reserve Bank of New York wrote in a private email on Sept. 17, 2008, as the federal bailout of the American International Group was being negotiated. “But who’s going to challenge them on this ground?” Well, as it turned out, Maurice R. Greenberg would. Mr. Greenberg, the former chief executive of AIG – the insurance company whose failure threatened to bring down much of the global financial system with it — is not the most sympathetic figure. But the lawsuit he has brought on behalf of Starr International, a large stockholder in AIG, seeking compensation for shareholder losses during those crucial days of the financial crisis, raises troubling issues.

In a 37-day trial that ended in late November, Starr contended that the government’s actions in the bailout, including its refusal to put some terms of the rescue to a shareholder vote, were an improper taking of private property under the Fifth Amendment. It is seeking at least $25 billion in damages on behalf of AIG shareholders. The judge is expected to rule on the case next year. The government rejected Starr’s accusations, contending that its rescue of AIG kept the company from disaster and that AIG’s board agreed to the bailout terms. Those backing the government are indignant over the case. AIG shareholders did well in the bailout and should be grateful for it, they say. And all’s well that ends well, right? AIG repaid its $182 billion rescue loan in 2012; the government generated a profit of $22.7 billion on the deal.

To me, however, the case’s significance lies in the information it unearthed about what the government did in the bailout — details it worked hard to keep secret. And new documents produced after the trial seem to bolster Starr’s case, casting doubt on central testimony by some of the government’s witnesses. The new elements include emails written by the New York Fed’s lawyers during 2008 and 2009 that had been subject to attorney-client privilege and were not produced during the trial. Starr’s lawyers argued that the government’s legal team had knowingly waived that privilege when they put the Fed’s lawyers on the stand at trial; the judge agreed and ordered the government to produce 30,000 new documents.

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“They have succeeded via their dial-tweaking interventions in destroying the agency of markets so that nobody can tell the difference anymore between prices and wishes.”

If Wishes Were Loaves and Fishes (James Howard Kunstler)

Janet Yellen and her Federal Reserve board of augurers might as well have spilled a bucket of goat entrails down the steps of the mysterious Eccles Building as they parsed, sliced, and diced the ramifications in altering their prior declaration of “a considerable period” (that is, before raising interest rates), vis-à-vis the simpler new imperative, “patience,” with its moral overburden of public censure aimed at those too eager for clarity — that is to say, the assurance that the Fed will not pull the plug on their life-support drip of funny money for the racketeering operation that banking has become. The vapid pronouncement of “patience” provoked delirium in the markets, with record advances to new oxygen-thin heights.

Behind all this ceremonial hugger-mugger lurks the dark suspicion that the Federal Reserve has no idea what’s actually going on, and no idea what it’s doing. And in the absence of any such ideas, Ms. Yellen and her collegial eminences have engineered a very elaborate rationale for doing nothing. The truth is, they have already done enough. They have succeeded via their dial-tweaking interventions in destroying the agency of markets so that nobody can tell the difference anymore between prices and wishes. Coincidentally, it is that most wishful time of the year, especially among the professional money managers polishing their clients’ portfolios as the carols are sung and the champagne corks pop. Ms. Yellen should have put on a Santa Claus suit when she ventured out to meet the media last week.

Not even very far in the background, there is wreckage everywhere as events spin out of the pretense of control. Surely something is up in the Mordor of derivatives, that unregulated shadowland of counterparty subterfuge where promises are made with no possibility or intention of ever being kept. You can’t have currencies crashing in more than a handful of significant countries, and interest rates ululating, without a lot of slippage among the swaps. My guess is that a lot of things have busted wide open there, and we just don’t know about it yet, like fissures working deep below the surface around a caldera. This Federal Reserve is running on the final fumes of its credibility.

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