Jun 112020
 


Banksy Bataclan emergency door 2018 (was stolen in 2019, recovered yesterday)

 

Pelosi Urges Confederate Statues Be Removed From Capitol (AP)
Statues of Christopher Columbus Toppled Across The US (CNN)
Walmart To Stop Keeping ‘Multicutural’ Beauty Products In Locked Displays (R.)
Latin America Hits 70,000 Pandemic Deaths, Daily Record In Mexico (R.)
BHP To Destroy At Least 40 Aboriginal Sites, Up To 15,000 Years Old (G.)
Rio Tinto Destroys 46,000-Year-Old Aboriginal Site: ‘Misunderstanding’ (G.)
Arrival Of Million By Sea Adds To UK Quarantine Doubts (Times)
UK Economy Likely To Suffer Worst COVID19 Damage – OECD (G.)
Fed Vows To Support US Economy’s ‘Long Road’ To Recovery After Dire 2020 (R.)
US Housing ‘Apocalypse’ Coming As Coronavirus Protections Expire (CNBC)
Amazon Bans Police Use Of Facial Recognition Tech – For A Year (BBC)
The Elevator Arises As The Latest Logjam In Getting Back To Work (KHN)
Lilly COVID19 Treatment Could Be Authorized For Use As Soon As September (R.)
Germany Takes In Another 249 Refugee Children From Greece (K.)
FBI Knew Steele Dossier Linked To Clinton, Dems From The Start (JTN)

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 9 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 134,705. A new record.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is about + 138,341 cases.

New deaths also rose from + 5,032 to + 5,165 (my count + 5,348)

US passed 2,000,000 cases.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 20,852
• Brazil + 33,100
• Russia + 8,779
• India + 12,375
• Pakistan + 5,834
• Chile + 5,737

 

 

Cases 7,482,561 (+ 138,341 from yesterday’s 7,344,220)

Deaths 419,488 (+ 5,348 from yesterday’s 414,140)

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Pelosi’s Box. She has no idea. She’s only focused on beating Trump.

Pelosi Urges Confederate Statues Be Removed From Capitol (AP)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is demanding that [11] statues of Confederate figures such as Jefferson Davis be removed from the U.S. Capitol. In a letter, Pelosi told a House-Senate committee with jurisdiction over the controversial topic that Confederate statues “pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed.” The California Democrat made the announcement on the very day President Donald Trump vowed on Twitter that he would not rename military bases honoring Confederate generals. Only a short time before Pelosi’s statement, NASCAR announced it would ban displays of the Confederate flag at its races. Confederate monuments have reemerged as a national flash point since the death of George Floyd [..]

Protesters decrying racism have targeted Confederate monuments in multiple cities, and some state officials are considering taking them down. Pelosi lacks the authority to order the removal of the 11 Capitol statues honoring Confederates but is urging the little-noticed Joint Committee on the Library to vote to remove them. Senate Republicans share jurisdiction. “The statues in the Capitol should embody our highest ideals as Americans, expressing who we are and who we aspire to be as a nation,” Pelosi wrote. “Monuments to men who advocated cruelty and barbarism to achieve such a plainly racist end are a grotesque affront to these ideals.” The presence of statues of generals and other figures of the Confederacy in Capitol locations such as Statuary Hall — the original House chamber — has been offensive to African American lawmakers for many years.

Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., was known to give tours pointing out the numerous statues. But it’s up to the states to determine which of their historical figures to display. Jefferson Davis, a former U.S. senator from Mississippi who was president of the Confederate States of America, is represented by one of two statues from that state. Pelosi noted that Davis and Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens, whose statue comes from Georgia, “were charged with treason against the United States.” “Several states have moved toward replacing statues and others appear headed in the same direction. This process is ongoing and encouraging,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., chairman of the Library Committee. “As Speaker Pelosi is undoubtedly aware, the law does not permit the Architect of the Capitol or the Joint Committee of Congress on the Library to remove a statue from the Capitol once it has been received.”

Read more …

Well, let’s see…who’s uncomfortably like Columbus?

Statues of Christopher Columbus Toppled Across The US (CNN)

As racial reckoning occurs across the country following the death of George Floyd, many Confederate statues — which some consider racist symbols of America’s dark legacy of slavery — have been removed. Now, statues of Christopher Columbus, another controversial figure in US history, are also being taken down. There have been three reports of Christopher Columbus statues being tampered with — one thrown into a lake, one beheaded, and another pulled to the ground. Columbus has long been a contentious figure in history for his treatment of the Indigenous communities he encountered and for his role in the violent colonization at their expense. In recent years, many cities and states have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, in recognition of the pain and terror caused by Columbus and other European explorers.

[..] Elsewhere in the US, about 1,000 people gathered at Byrd Park in Richmond, Virginia on Tuesday, according to CNN affiliate WTVR. The Richmond Indigenous Society said in a tweet ahead of the rally that “we are gathering at Byrd Park to protest yet another racist monument. Christopher Columbus was a murderer of Indigenous people, mainstreaming the genocidal culture against Indigenous people that we still see today. Bring your sage, drum, jingle dress, and mask!”

[..] in Boston, officials removed the Columbus statue located in the city’s North End after it was beheaded Tuesday evening. The statue, which was erected in 1979, had been previously vandalized in 2015, when it was doused in red paint and the words “Black Lives Matter” were spray-painted on the back, CNN affiliate WBZ reported “This particular statue has been subject to repeated vandalism here in Boston, and given the conversations that we’re certainly having right now in our city of Boston and throughout the country, we’re also going to take time to assess the historic meaning of this action,” Mayor Marty Walsh said, according to WBZ.

Read more …

Oh, the webs we weave: “Many companies have issued statements in support of the black community..”

Walmart To Stop Keeping ‘Multicutural’ Beauty Products In Locked Displays (R.)

Walmart Inc will stop keeping personal care products designed for people of color in locked display cases, the retailer said, after the practice drew flak online with many saying it suggested customers for these products cannot be trusted. “We have made the decision to discontinue placing multicultural hair care and beauty products in locked cases,” the company said in an email statement on Wednesday. Walmart said the practice was in place in about a dozen of its 4,700 stores in the United States and the cases were in place to deter shoplifters from products such as electronics, automotive, cosmetics and other personal care products.


[..] The change in Walmart’s policy was prompted by a June 8 CBS News report cbsloc.al/37iJZxv that a Walmart customer had complained of the practice being discriminatory against people of color, while visiting a store in the city of Denver. “The multi-cultural hair care is all locked behind the glass. That’s so ridiculous,” Lauren Epps, a black woman was quoted as saying in the report. Many companies have issued statements in support of the black community, in addition to setting up funds to fight systematic racism. Walmart Chief Executive Doug McMillon has said the company, along with Walmart Foundation, will commit $100 million to create a new center on racial equity.

Read more …

Columbus opened the doors for the conquistadores. 500+ years later, the population still lives that.

Latin America Hits 70,000 Pandemic Deaths, Daily Record In Mexico (R.)

Latin America’s coronavirus crisis reached a grim new milestone on Wednesday with total deaths exceeding 70,000, according to a Reuters count, as Mexico hit a daily record for confirmed infections. Brazil, with the largest economy in the region, remains Latin America’s most affected country as total fatalities are just shy of 40,000, the world’s third highest death toll after the United States and Britain. In the region’s second biggest country Mexico, a new daily record of 4,883 confirmed cases was reported by the health ministry, along with 708 additional fatalities.


The daily totals bring Mexico’s overall official count to 129,184 infections and 15,357 deaths. The World Health Organization has determined that Latin America is the new hotspot for the pandemic, which began around the beginning of the year in China and quickly spread to Europe and beyond. Governments across the globe acknowledge that the real number of infected people is significantly higher than the official counts. Latin American fatalities attributed to the highly-contagious Covid-19 respiratory illness caused by the virus stand at 70,972, while total infections are at 1.45 million.

Read more …

And talking about slavery and the mistreatment of indigenous people…

BHP To Destroy At Least 40 Aboriginal Sites, Up To 15,000 Years Old (G.)

Mining giant BHP Billiton is poised to destroy at least 40 – and possibly as many as 86 – significant Aboriginal sites in the central Pilbara to expand its $4.5bn South Flank iron ore mining operation, even though its own reports show it is aware that the traditional owners are deeply opposed to the move. In documents seen by Guardian Australia, a BHP archaeological survey identified rock shelters that were occupied between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago and noted that evidence in the broader area showed “occupation of the surrounding landscape has been ongoing for approximately 40,000 years”. BHP’s report in September 2019 identified 22 sites of artefacts scatters, culturally modified trees, rock shelters with painted rock art, stone arrangements, and 40 “built structures … believed to be potential archaeological sites”.


Under section 18 of the Western Australian Aboriginal Heritage Act, the traditional owners – in this case the Banjima people – are unable to lodge objections or to prevent their sacred sites from being damaged. They are also unable to raise concerns publicly about the expansion, having signed comprehensive agreements with BHP as part of a native title settlement. BHP agreed to financial and other benefits for the Banjima people, while the Banjima made commitments to support the South Flank project. But the Banjima native title holders told the WA government in April they did not want any of the 86 archaeological sites within the project area to be damaged, saying the “impending harm” to the area “is a further significant cumulative loss to the cultural values of the Banjima people”.

Read more …

Autralia is built on its own unique legacy of destruction.

Rio Tinto Destroys 46,000-Year-Old Aboriginal Site: ‘Misunderstanding’ (G.)

The head of Rio Tinto’s iron ore division said he has “taken accountability” for the destruction of a 46,000-year-old Aboriginal heritage site but refused to give a direct answer when asked if the company knew traditional owners did not want the rock shelter destroyed, saying: “clearly, there was a misunderstanding”. In an interview on Radio National on Friday, the chief executive of Rio Tinto iron ore, Chris Salisbury, said it it had “taken accountability” for the destruction of the site, which was one of two destroyed in a blast to expand the Brockman 4 iron ore mine last month. The two sites were located in Juukan Gorge in the Hamersley Ranges, about 300km inland from Karratha in Western Australia’s iron ore rich Pilbara region.


Traditional owners the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people only learned of the planned detonation on 15 May, nine days before it took place. They said the loss was “soul destroying”. Salisbury said the company “regrettably … thought we had a shared understanding with the PKKP about the future of the sites” and would conduct a review to learn “how did this go wrong from our point of view”. He also refused to provide a direct answer when asked if a statement released by the company last week, which suggested the PKKP had only “recently expressed concerns” about the site, was incorrect. It released another statement apologising “for the distress we caused” but not the destruction, on Sunday.

Read more …

No testing, no quarantines. More people than this arrived by air. No testing. Now that they’ve all landed and had the chance to infect Britons, there’s a quarentine.

Arrival Of Million By Sea Adds To UK Quarantine Doubts (Times)

More than 1.1 million people have arrived in the UK by sea since the start of the year without being forced to self-isolate as concerns mount over the government’s quarantine policy. Official figures show that there were 346,000 arrivals in the UK in March and April alone despite concerns over the transmission of coronavirus, casting further doubt over the government’s quarantine policy which was introduced for arrivals this week. The figures include HGV drivers, who are exempt from the quarantine measures, although it is not known how many fell into the category. Since Monday, anyone arriving in the UK by air, sea and through the Channel Tunnel rail link has been forced to spend two weeks in isolation. This includes Britons returning from abroad. The scheme does not apply to people from Ireland.


The quarantine is part of measures aimed at avoiding a second outbreak of Covid-19 but critics have questioned its value months after such curbs were introduced elsewhere. Giving evidence to MPs yesterday, Sir David Skeggs, 72, emeritus professor of epidemiology at the University of Otago in New Zealand, told the home affairs committee: “These border measures would be most effective if they were done very early.” Scientists also told MPs that summer holidays abroad risked a fresh wave of coronavirus infections across Europe. Gabriel Leung, 47, a dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, said it would be safest if mass-market tourism was discouraged. “I can’t imagine anybody going on holiday in any kind of destination where you go to enjoy the sun and actually doing very good hand hygiene and putting on a mask,” he said.

Read more …

Forget these predictions. Nobody has a single clue.

UK Economy Likely To Suffer Worst COVID19 Damage – OECD (G.)

Britain’s economy is likely to suffer the worst damage from the Covid-19 crisis of any country in the developed world, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. A slump in the UK’s national income of 11.5% during 2020 will outstrip the falls in France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the US, the Paris-based thinktank said. Germany’s decline in GDP is forecast to be 6.6% this year while Spain’s GDP will fall by 11.1%, Italy’s by 11.3 and France’s by 11.4%. The US, the world’s largest economy, is expected to take a hit of 7.3%. Highlighting the task awaiting the UK government as it seeks to ease the lockdown, the OECD warned that countries forced to impose the most draconian restrictions faced a long haul back to previous levels of activity.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s shadow chancellor, blamed the “deeply worrying” OECD forecast on the government’s “failure to get on top of the health crisis, delay going into lockdown and chaotic mismanagement of the exit from lockdown”, which she argued made the economic impact of the crisis worse. Responding to the report, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said the UK was suffering “in common with many other economies around the world” and the priority was to “support people, jobs and businesses through this crisis – and this is what we’ve done”.


Britain, which is forecast to post an increase in unemployment to around 9%, could make its situation more difficult if it failed to secure a lasting agreement with the EU on trade and access to the single market, the OECD said. “The failure to conclude a trade deal with the European Union by the end of 2020 or put in place alternative arrangements would have a strongly negative effect on trade and jobs,” it said. Adding to pressure on No 10 to agree concessions with Brussels to secure a Brexit deal amid the economic damage caused by the pandemic, the credit ratings agency Moody’s warned that a no-deal Brexit would “significantly damage the UK’s potentially fragile recovery from its deepest recession in almost a century”.

Read more …

The Fed supports only banks. But Powell can still spout this insulting nonsense. No journalist ever openly disagrees.

Fed Vows To Support US Economy’s ‘Long Road’ To Recovery After Dire 2020 (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday signaled it plans years of extraordinary support for an economy facing a torturous slog back from the coronavirus pandemic, with policymakers projecting the economy to shrink 6.5% in 2020 and the unemployment rate to be 9.3% at year’s end. In the first economic projections of the pandemic era, U.S. central bank policymakers put into numbers what has been an emerging narrative: that the shutdowns, restrictions and other measures used to battle a health crisis will echo through the economy for years to come rather than be quickly reversed as commerce reopens.

Some 20 million or more people have been thrown out of work since February, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged it could take years for them to all reacquire jobs – an economic blow that is falling heaviest on minority communities at a time when mass protests over police brutality have thrown a new spotlight on racial inequality in the United States. Powell, acknowledging the nationwide demonstrations in his opening remarks at a news briefing, said it was now the Fed’s single-minded mission to bring the job market back to where it was at the end of last year, with the unemployment rate at a record low 3.5% and wage gains accumulating for some of the very same lower-paid workers in the service sector that have suffered most during the recent collapse.


[..] At the median, officials see the unemployment rate falling to 6.5% at the end of 2021 and 5.5% at the end of 2022 – still a full 2 percentage points above where it was at the end of last year, representing millions of lost years of work and wages. “The ongoing public health crisis will weigh heavily on economic activity, employment and inflation in the near term and poses considerable risks to the economic outlook over the medium term,” the Fed said in its policy statement. The response has been an unparalleled level of unanimity in the outlook for monetary policy. All 17 current Fed policymakers see the key overnight interest rate, or federal funds rate, remaining near zero through next year, and 15 of 17 see no change through 2022.

Read more …

2 million evictions in the pipeline even before COVID19.

US Housing ‘Apocalypse’ Coming As Coronavirus Protections Expire (CNBC)

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. was experiencing what housing experts and advocates deemed an eviction crisis. More than 2 million people face eviction each year, far more than the number of people who faced foreclosure at the height of the 2008 mortgage crisis. Experts expect the eviction crisis to get far worse in the coming months. The Covid-19 economic recession has hit renters especially hard. They make up a disproportionate share of service sector jobs, an industry that has been decimated as a result of the coronavirus shutdowns. In fact, between March 25 and April 10 of this year, nearly half of renters aged 18 to 64 reported that they were having trouble paying their rent or utilities, were food insecure or couldn’t afford needed medical care, according to the Urban Institute.

Thousands of tenants have been missing rent payments over the past few months. People of color have fared worse than white renters due to the disproportionate job loss in their communities, the Urban Institute reports. About 25% of black and Latino renters reported not paying or deferring rent in May, compared to 14% of white renters. To keep people in their homes, the federal government banned evictions in federally assisted properties through July 25, and some cities and states, including Massachusetts, New York and Michigan, put their own temporary eviction moratoriums in place. But many of those bans begin expiring this month depending on the state, according to Princeton University’s Eviction Lab, which tracks evictions across the country.

Plus, the extra $600 per week in federal unemployment benefits is set to expire at the end of July. That extra money is “what has been allowing many people who have lost their jobs to continue paying rent,” Solomon Greene, a senior fellow in housing policy at the Urban Institute, tells CNBC Make It. Coupled with the end of eviction moratoriums, the U.S. is likely to experience an uptick in evictions nationwide in the coming weeks. Evicting people in the middle of a global health crisis puts them at greater risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19, turning “a catastrophe into an apocalypse,” Aaron Carr, founder and executive director of the Housing Rights Initiative, tells CNBC Make It. “A lot of people could be on the streets,” says Carr. “Especially in places like New York City that already have a homeless problem, it could turn into a homeless nightmare.”

Read more …

For a year. That’s all you need to know. About a company that has rich contracts with US intelligence,

Amazon Bans Police Use Of Facial Recognition Tech – For A Year (BBC)

Technology giant Amazon has banned the police from using its controversial facial recognition software for a year. It comes after civil rights advocates raised concerns about potential racial bias in surveillance technology. This week IBM also said it would stop offering its facial recognition software for “mass surveillance or racial profiling”. The decisions follow growing pressure on firms to respond to the death in police custody of George Floyd. Amazon said the suspension of law enforcement use of its Rekognition software was to give US lawmakers the opportunity to enact legislation to regulate how the technology is employed.


“We’ve advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology, and in recent days, Congress appears ready to take on this challenge,” Amazon said in a statement. “We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested.” However, the company said that it would still allow organisations that deal with human trafficking to use the technology. Like other facial recognition products, Amazon’s Rekognition can use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to very quickly compare a picture from, for example, an officer’s phone camera and try to match it with mugshots held on police databases that can hold hundreds of thousands of photos.

Read more …

You mean, that wasn’t obvious yet? Sometimes you guys surprise me.

The Elevator Arises As The Latest Logjam In Getting Back To Work (KHN)

When the American Medical Association moved its headquarters to a famous Chicago skyscraper in 2013, the floor-to-ceiling views from the 47th-floor conference space were a spectacular selling point. But now, those glimpses of the Chicago River at the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed landmark, now known as AMA Plaza, come with a trade-off: navigating the elevator in the time of COVID-19. Once the epitome of efficiency for moving masses of people quickly to where they needed to go, the elevator is the antithesis of social distancing and a risk-multiplying bottleneck. As America begins to open up, the newest conundrum for employers in cities is how to safely transport people in elevators and manage the crowd of people waiting for them.

If office tower workers want to stay safe, elevator experts think they have advice, some practical, some not: Stay in your corner, face the walls and carry toothpicks (for pushing the buttons). Not only have those experts gone back to studying mathematical models for moving people, but they are also creating technology like ultraviolet-light disinfection tools and voice-activated panels. “When there is risk of disease spreading from human to human, continuing to maintain a clean and safe vertical transportation system is critical to help people return to work and safe living,” said Jon Clarine, head of digital services at Thyssenkrupp Elevator, in an email.

After all, most elevators are inherently cramped, enclosed spaces that can barely fit two people safely spaced 6 feet apart, much less the dozen or more that elevators in commercial and residential buildings were designed to hold. They’re a minefield of buttons and surfaces tempting to touch. Air circulation is limited to what a few vents and the opening doors can manage. Plus, they’re usually mobbed during the morning, lunchtime and evening rushes.

Read more …

If news agencies write this sort of thing, while there are hundreds such products being touted, how is that not stealth advertizing and promotion?

Lilly COVID19 Treatment Could Be Authorized For Use As Soon As September (R.)

Eli Lilly and Co could have a drug specifically designed to treat COVID-19 authorized for use as early as September if all goes well with either of two antibody therapies it is testing, its chief scientist told Reuters on Wednesday. Lilly is also doing preclinical studies of a third antibody treatment for the illness caused by the new coronavirus that could enter human clinical trials in the coming weeks, Chief Scientific Officer Daniel Skovronsky said in an interview. Lilly has already launched human trials with two of the experimental therapies. The drugs belong to a class of biotech medicines called monoclonal antibodies widely used to treat cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and many other conditions. A monoclonal antibody drug developed against COVID-19 is likely to be more effective than repurposed medicines currently being tested against the virus.


Skovronsky said the therapies – which may also be used to prevent the disease – could beat a vaccine to widespread use as a COVID-19 treatment, if they prove effective. “For the treatment indication, particularly, this could go pretty fast,” he said in an interview. “If in August or September we’re seeing the people who got treated are not progressing to hospitalization, that would be powerful data and could lead to emergency use authorization.” “So that puts you in the fall time: September, October, November is not unreasonable,” he said. Coronavirus vaccines being developed and tested at unprecedented speed are not likely to be ready before the end of the year at the earliest.

Read more …

Out of over 5,000, most of whom have been in Greece for much of their entire lives.

Germany Takes In Another 249 Refugee Children From Greece (K.)

Germany has taken in an additional 249 refugee children from Greece, the country’s interior minister Horst Seehofer said Wednesday, noting that most of the minors are sick or the siblings of migrants that are already in Germany. “As the rates of coronavirus are currently at this low level, we decided as the Interior Ministry… to take in more children from Greece,” Seehofer said, noting that Germany had already received 47 refugee children in April. Seehofer said that some of his associates visited Greece last week to arrange the transfer of the children.


Six of the youngsters who were too sick to travel last week will be transferred on a subsequent trip, he said. “I always said that my migration policy includes order but also humanity,” the German minister said. Luxembourg, Switzerland, Portugal and France are among the countries that have also taken in child refugees from Greece. Many of the children being relocated belong to the ranks of unaccompanied refugee minors in Greece, who number over 5,000.

Read more …

Tomorrow’s the DC Appeals Court Michael Flynn hearing. Fireworks.

FBI Knew Steele Dossier Linked To Clinton, Dems From The Start (JTN)

Notes and emails that have been kept so far from Senate investigators show the FBI knew from its earliest interactions with Christopher Steele in July 2016 that his Russia research project on Donald Trump was connected to Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party. The information, so far mentioned only glancingly and in footnotes of a Justice Department report, could provide the Senate Judiciary Committee with the most powerful evidence yet to confront witnesses about why the bureau concealed the political origins of Steele’s work from the FISA court. “So far the bureau is slow-walking this stuff,” a source familiar with senators’ frustrations told Just the News. “We need to see these sort of documents before we question key witnesses.”

Chairman Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) is seeking a vote later this week to authorize subpoenas that would compel the Christopher Wray-led FBI to produce witnesses and outstanding documents for the committee’s investigation of the Russia investigators. The effort to acquire the original source materials began last December after DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz released his explosive report blaming the FBI for 17 mistakes, omissions and acts of misconduct in seeking a FISA warrant against Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. While the headlines since that report have mostly focused on FISA abuses, Senate investigators have also zeroed in on a handful of little-noticed passages in Horowitz’s narrative that reference original FBI source documents showing what agents and supervisors knew about Steele, the former MI6 agent, and the firm that hired him, Fusion GPS.

It wasn’t until late October 2017 that the public and Congress first learned that the law firm Perkins Coie, on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign, hired Glenn Simpson’s Fusion GPS research firm to have Steele delve into Trump’s Russia connections. And FBI officials have been vague in their explanations about when they knew Steele’s research was tied to Clinton and the DNC and why they did not explicitly inform the FISA court that the Steele dossier used to secure the warrant was funded by Trump’s election opponent. But one passage and two footnotes in Horowitz’s report that have largely escaped public attention suggest the FBI agent who first interviewed Steele about his anti-Trump research in London on July 5, 2016 was aware immediately of a connection to Clinton and that a separate office of the FBI passed along information from an informant by Aug. 2, 2016 that Simpson’s Fusion GPS was connected to the DNC.

[..] The FBI notes and emails from summer 2016 are consistent with recent testimony that Steele gave in a civil case in London, where he testified he told the bureau his research and the Fusion GPS project was connected to Clinton. “I presumed it was the Clinton campaign, and Glenn Simpson had indicated that. But I was not aware of the technicality of it being the DNC that was actually the client of Perkins Coie,” Steele testified in March under questioning from lawyers for Russian bankers suing over his research. Steele confirmed during that testimony that his notes of a 2016 FBI meeting showed he told agents about the Clinton connection.

Read more …

 

 

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May 042020
 


Underwood&Underwood Chicago framed by Gothic stonework high in the Tribune Tower 1952

 

‘Biggest Failure In A Generation’: Where Did Britain Go Wrong? (SMH)
UK Chafes At COVID19 Death Toll Comparison With Italy (R.)
UK Health Passports ‘Possible In Months’ (G.)
Boris Johnson: COVID19 Vaccine Hunt ‘Most Urgent Endeavour Of Our Lives’ (PA)
As Lockdowns Ease, Some Countries Report New Infection Peaks (SCMP)
DOJ Intervenes For Church In Virginia Restrictions Challenge (Solomon)
Pompeo: ‘Significant’ Evidence New Coronavirus Emerged From Chinese Lab (R.)
Trump Administration Pushing To Rip Global Supply Chains From China (R.,)
Post-Coronavirus, Expect Manufacturing To Make A Mass Exodus From China (SCMP)
Leaving Amazon (Tim Bray)
Australia, New Zealand Mull Creating ‘Travel Bubble’ (SCMP)
Greece Sees Economy Tanking This Year On Coronavirus Impact (R.)
My Dad Is An ICU Doctor Treating COVID-19 Patients (Bess Kalb)
How Bad is Belgium Doing? (Roosens)
Scrutiny Of FBI Behavior In Russia Case Increases Pressure On Wray (Solomon)

 

 

• U.S. CDC reports 1,122,486 coronavirus cases, 65,735 deaths

• Johns Hopkins University records over 1.15 million cases in the country as of 8:30 pm Sunday (0030 GMT Monday), with 67,674 deaths, with Sunday’s 24-hour toll, which was similar to Saturday’s, showing a decline after hitting 2,502 Wednesday

• Novel coronavirus deaths in the US climb by 1,450 in the past 24 hours, a tally by Johns Hopkins University shows

 

 

Deaths are lower at “only” 3,519, cases not so much.

 

Cases 3,582,889 (+ 82,237 from yesterday’s 3,500,652)

Deaths 248,567 (+ 3,519 from yesterday’s 245,048)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

View from Australia.

‘Biggest Failure In A Generation’: Where Did Britain Go Wrong? (SMH)

Says Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and an adviser to the World Health Organisation: “The countries that moved fast have curtailed the epidemic. The countries that delayed have not. It’s as simple as that.” Dr Richard Horton, editor in chief of The Lancet medical journal, is even more damning: “The handling of the COVID-19 crisis in the UK is the most serious science policy failure in a generation.” Hancock and Johnson had their first discussion together about the virus on January 7. The government’s crisis committee, COBRA, would meet several times over the following weeks and the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies started crunching the numbers.

The government knew a threat existed but did it fully understand just how bad it could get? By March 12 a full-scale outbreak had taken hold in Italy and the illness was spreading across Europe. More than 1000 Italians had already died and thousands more were gravely ill in packed hospitals in the country’s hard-hit north. The deadly potential of an invisible killer was becoming more obvious by the hour. That day, Johnson announced Britain would move from the “contain” phase of the emergency to the “delay” phase. This decision would prove a pivotal moment. The shift meant contact tracing would be abandoned, and testing would be restricted to those only in hospital with symptoms. The move was at odds with the WHO, which urged countries to “test, test, test”, as well as Germany’s much-lauded program of mass testing.

The Prime Minister warned at the March 12 press conference that the “worst public health crisis for a generation” was about to hit the country and that “many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time”. What he did not announce was a lockdown. Or anything close to it. Tougher measures would come but not yet, Johnson said, citing the need to introduce measures when they would have the most impact. But his chief scientific adviser also cast serious doubt on whether closing schools, banning mass gatherings or stopping international flights would ever be effective levers to pull.

Instead, Brits were encouraged to wash their hands and stay home for seven days if they had symptoms. Schools remained open, restaurants and bars traded as usual, and visitors were still allowed into care homes. Flights were arriving from mainland China, even though Australia had banned them six weeks earlier. Heaving public events were still allowed. A Champions League match in Liverpool drew a crowd of 52,000, about 3000 of whom came from Madrid, where a partial lockdown was already in force. More than 250,000 tickets were sold for the Cheltenham horse racing festival. Both events are now being investigated by health officials who suspect they may have contributed to the rapid spread of the disease in the areas surrounding the venues.

Read more …

Yeah, it’s not fair! Lombardy has a much better health care system!

UK Chafes At COVID19 Death Toll Comparison With Italy (R.)

The British government sought on Sunday to deflect questions over a coronavirus death toll that is Europe’s second worst after Italy, with officials saying it would take a long time before the full picture became clear. Deaths rose to 28,446 as of May 2 – just short of Italy – increasing pressure on the government which has been accused of acting too slowly in the early stages of the outbreak. Cabinet minister Michael Gove, leading a daily coronavirus briefing, sidestepped a question on whether many lives could have been saved if mass testing had been rolled out earlier. “This government, like all governments, will have made mistakes, but it will be impossible to determine exactly which were the areas of greatest concern until some time in the future, when we have all the information that we need,” he said.

Only the United States has suffered more deaths than Italy and Britain. Ministers dislike comparisons of the headline death toll, saying that excess mortality – the number of deaths from all causes that exceed the average for the time of year – is a more meaningful metric. The most recent available data showed there were almost 12,000 excess deaths in England and Wales in the week to April 17. Of these, just under 9,000 were linked on death certificates to the COVID-19 respiratory disease. [..] the medical director of England’s health service, Stephen Powis, said during the briefing it would be some time before international comparisons of excess deaths could be made.

Earlier, the UK National Statistician Ian Diamond also cautioned against relying on rankings. “I’m not saying that we’re at the bottom of any potential league table – it’s almost impossible to calculate a league table – but I’m not prepared to say that we’re heading for the top,” he told BBC News.

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The UK wants to force people to use these things. What a great idea.

UK Health Passports ‘Possible In Months’ (G.)

Tech firms are in talks with ministers about creating health passports to help Britons return safely to work using coronavirus testing and facial recognition. Facial biometrics could be used to help provide a digital certificate – sometimes known as an immunity passport – proving which workers have had Covid-19, as a possible way of easing the impact on the economy and businesses from ongoing physical distancing even after current lockdown measures are eased. The UK-based firm Onfido, which specialises in verifying people’s identities using facial biometrics, has delivered detailed plans to the government and is involved in a number of conversations about what could be rolled out across the country, it is understood.


Its proposals, which have reached pilot stages in other countries, could be executed within months, it says. The firm could use antibody tests – proving whether someone has had the virus – or antigen tests, which show current infections. Digital identity experts say they are in the “discovery stage” of what could be tailored for the UK government, but developing a type of health certificate through app technology is gaining traction. The government is understood to be moving away from the phrase “immunity passport” as evidence continues to emerge on exactly how immunity develops after someone has had Covid-19. The World Health Organization has also issued a stark warning over attempts to give people false assurance through a passport scheme.

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It better not be. The track record on corona vaccines is dismal.

Boris Johnson: COVID19 Vaccine Hunt ‘Most Urgent Endeavour Of Our Lives’ (PA)

The race for a coronavirus vaccine is “the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes”, Boris Johnson will tell an international conference as he urges countries to “pull together” and share their expertise in a bid to halt the global pandemic. The UK prime minister is co-hosting the virtual coronavirus global response international pledging conference on Monday. As well as the UK, eight other countries and organisations are also co-hosting the forum which aims to bring in more than $8bn (£6.4bn) in funding to support the global response. The UK has pledged to give £388m in aid funding for research into tests, treatments and vaccines – part of a £744m commitment to help end the pandemic and support the global economy.


Johnson is expected to say: “To win this battle, we must work together to build an impregnable shield around all our people and that can only be achieved by developing and mass producing a vaccine. “The more we pull together and share our expertise, the faster our scientists will succeed. The race to discover the vaccine to defeat this virus is not a competition between countries but the most urgent shared endeavour of our lifetimes. “It’s humanity against the virus – we are in this together and together we will prevail.” The government believes tackling the virus globally is crucial to preventing a second wave reemerging in the UK and it will speed up the creation of vaccines, tests and treatment.

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A growing consensus appears to see 20,000 new US cases and 1,000-2,000 new deaths everyday through the summer.

As Lockdowns Ease, Some Countries Report New Infection Peaks (SCMP)

US President Donald Trump has revised upwards the number of Americans he expects to die from the coronavirus to as many as 100,000, as global cases surpassed 3.5 million on Monday, with deaths nearing a quarter of a million. North America and European countries accounted for most of the new cases reported in recent days, but numbers were rising from smaller bases in Latin America, Africa and Russia. India, second in population only to China, reported its biggest single-day jump yet with more than 2,600 new infections. And in Russia, new coronavirus cases exceeded 10,000 for the first time. The confirmed death toll in Britain climbed near that of Italy, the epicentre of Europe’s outbreak, even though the UK population is younger than Italy’s and Britain had more time to prepare before the pandemic hit.


The United States continues to see tens of thousands of new infections each day, with more than 1,400 new deaths reported Saturday. Health experts warn that a second wave of infections could hit unless testing is expanded dramatically after lockdowns are eased. But pressure to reopen economies keeps building after the weeks-long shutdown of businesses worldwide plunged the global economy into its deepest slump since the 1930s and wiped out millions of jobs. China, which reported only three new cases on Monday, has seen a surge in visitors to newly reopened tourist spots after domestic travel restrictions were relaxed ahead of a five-day holiday that runs through Tuesday. Nearly 1.7 million people visited Beijing parks on the first two days of the holiday, and Shanghai’s main tourist spots welcomed more than 1 million visitors, according to Chinese media. Many spots limited daily visitors to 30 per cent of capacity.

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Just a terribly sad story. Junks and hookers.

DOJ Intervenes For Church In Virginia Restrictions Challenge (Solomon)

The Justice Department on Sunday intervened on behalf of a church fighting Virginia Gov. Ralph Northman’s virus restrictions in a federal court case that may determine whether religion is an essential service. The department filed a Statement of Interest in federal court in support of Lighthouse Fellowship Church, a congregation in Chincoteague Island, Virginia, that serves, among others, recovering drug addicts and former prostitutes. The church says it held a 16-person worship service in its 225-seat sanctuary on Palm Sunday while maintaining rigorous social distancing. At the end of the service, Chincoteague police issued Lighthouse’s pastor a criminal citation and summons, based on the Northam’s executive order.


Lighthouse sued on Friday, but a judge denied the church’s request for preliminary relief, ruling that “[a]lthough [professional-services] businesses may not be essential, the exception crafted on their behalf is essential to prevent joblessness.” DOJ’s filing argues the church can’t be treated differently than other businesses and that faith is essential during a pandemic. “For many people of faith, exercising religion is essential, especially during a crisis,” Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband said. “The Commonwealth of Virginia has offered no good reason for refusing to trust congregants who promise to use care in worship in the same way it trusts accountants, lawyers, and other workers to do the same.”

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Pompeo has played good cop bad cop all his life. But it only works for a while. Then people stop taking you serious.

Pompeo: ‘Significant’ Evidence New Coronavirus Emerged From Chinese Lab (R.)

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday there was “a significant amount of evidence” that the new coronavirus emerged from a Chinese laboratory, but did not dispute U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusion that it was not man-made. “There is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan,” Pompeo told ABC’s “This Week,” referring to the virus that emerged late last year in China and has killed about 240,000 people around the world, including more than 67,000 in the United States. Pompeo then briefly contradicted a statement issued last Thursday by the top U.S. spy agency that said the virus did not appear to be man-made or genetically modified.


That statement undercut conspiracy theories promoted by anti-China activists and some supporters of President Donald Trump who suggest it was developed in a Chinese government biological weapons laboratory. “The best experts so far seem to think it was man-made. I have no reason to disbelieve that at this point,” Pompeo said. When the interviewer pointed out that was not the conclusion of U.S. intelligence agencies, Pompeo backtracked, saying: “I’ve seen what the intelligence community has said. I have no reasonto believe that they’ve got it wrong.” China’s Global Times, run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, said in an editorial responding to Pompeo’s Sunday interview that he did not have any evidence the virus came from the lab in Wuhan and that he was “bluffing,” calling on the United States to present the evidence.

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Leaving globalization and just-in-time behind will take a lot of effort.

Trump Administration Pushing To Rip Global Supply Chains From China (R.,)

The Trump administration is “turbocharging” an initiative to remove global industrial supply chains from China as it weighs new tariffs to punish Beijing for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, according to officials familiar with U.S. planning. President Donald Trump, who has stepped up recent attacks on China ahead of the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, has long pledged to bring manufacturing back from overseas. Now, economic destruction and the massive U.S. coronavirus death toll are driving a government-wide push to move U.S. production and supply chain dependency away from China, even if it goes to other more friendly nations instead, current and former senior U.S. administration officials said.

“We’ve been working on [reducing the reliance of our supply chains in China] over the last few years but we are now turbo-charging that initiative,” Keith Krach, undersecretary for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment at the U.S. State Department told Reuters. “I think it is essential to understand where the critical areas are and where critical bottlenecks exist,” Krach said, adding that the matter was key to U.S. security and one the government could announce new action on soon. The U.S. Commerce Department, State and other agencies are looking for ways to push companies to move both sourcing and manufacturing out of China. Tax incentives and potential re-shoring subsidies are among measures being considered to spur changes, the current and former officials told Reuters.

“There is a whole of government push on this,” said one. Agencies are probing which manufacturing should be deemed “essential” and how to produce these goods outside of China. [..] “This moment is a perfect storm; the pandemic has crystallized all the worries that people have had about doing business with China,” said another senior U.S. official. “All the money that people think they made by making deals with China before, now they’ve been eclipsed many fold by the economic damage” from the coronavirus, the official said.

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Not a great take. Japan is furthest ahead in this.

Post-Coronavirus, Expect Manufacturing To Make A Mass Exodus From China (SCMP)

Already a few years ago, rising manufacturing costs in China along with weakening domestic economies in Japan and Taiwan had prompted some repatriation of manufacturing and decentralisation of supply chains. In 2016 the Japan External Trade Organisation estimated, based on its annual surveys of everything made and sold by Japanese companies, that goods “made and sold” overseas peaked at 58.3 per cent. That year foreign direct investment into China from Japan fell by 14.3 per cent. This year, we may see a mass exodus from China as the Japanese government tries to encourage Japanese firms to hasten the move of their factories back home, something the Europeans and Americans are also keen to do.

With unemployment surging and companies furloughing a significant percentage of staff, less money and more debt will linger after the coronavirus crisis. Like many governments, the UK is pumping enormous amounts of money into businesses to support cashflows and salaries, and Downing Street expects that the funds will put firms in a stronger position to tackle future crises. In my opinion, there are three strategic changes that investors will need to see take place to feel comfortable with business continuity risk.

1. Managers of small and medium-sized businesses as well as the planning departments of large firms will have realised the need to pay greater attention to supply-chain risk. The evidence of this would be some kind of “supply chain continuity planning”, much the same as Business Continuity Planning which has been a fixture of the finance industry for the last 30 years. I expect this to be particularly prevalent in pharmaceutical and medical industries, but it will affect all companies sourcing small and cheap, but critical, components overseas.

2. The dependence on logistics will have been reduced, resulting in greater sourcing of local components and suppliers integrating vertically with manufacturing. Additionally, production of goods will need to move closer to target markets. This year we have seen shipping severely hampered, and airfreight unable to pick up the slack, despite higher costs, due to border restrictions. This especially impacts perishable goods, as highlighted by the problems facing farmers in Europe.

3. Companies will have stocked up on more emergency cash. Due to the coronavirus crisis, the bankruptcy rate of well-known and smaller firms alike is set to rise, and this is likely to continue long after we return to some kind of “normal”.
Activist investors who have long criticised cash hoarding and have pushed for distributions to shareholders will face stronger headwinds. Company management will have good reason to simply say they are saving for a rainy day and point to the cash crisis of 2020. Inefficient use of capital – by activist investor standards – may just become the normal again.

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Nice letter from an Amazon VP.

Leaving Amazon (Tim Bray)

May 1st was my last day as a VP and Distinguished Engineer at Amazon Web Services, after five years and five months of rewarding fun. I quit in dismay at Amazon firing whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19. What with big-tech salaries and share vestings, this will probably cost me over a million (pre-tax) dollars, not to mention the best job I’ve ever had, working with awfully good people. So I’m pretty blue. What happened · Last year, Amazonians on the tech side banded together as Amazon Employees for Climate Justice (AECJ), first coming to the world’s notice with an open letter promoting a shareholders’ resolution calling for dramatic action and leadership from Amazon on the global climate emergency. I was one of its 8,702 signatories.

While the resolution got a lot of votes, it didn’t pass. Four months later, 3,000 Amazon tech workers from around the world joined in the Global Climate Strike walkout. The day before the walkout, Amazon announced a large-scale plan aimed at making the company part of the climate-crisis solution. It’s not as though the activists were acknowledged by their employer for being forward-thinking; in fact, leaders were threatened with dismissal. Fast-forward to the Covid-19 era. Stories surfaced of unrest in Amazon warehouses, workers raising alarms about being uninformed, unprotected, and frightened. Official statements claimed every possible safety precaution was being taken. Then a worker organizing for better safety conditions was fired, and brutally insensitive remarks appeared in leaked executive meeting notes where the focus was on defending Amazon “talking points”.

Warehouse workers reached out to AECJ for support. They responded by internally promoting a petition and organizing a video call for Thursday April 16 featuring warehouse workers from around the world, with guest activist Naomi Klein. An announcement sent to internal mailing lists on Friday April 10th was apparently the flashpoint. Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa, two visible AECJ leaders, were fired on the spot that day. The justifications were laughable; it was clear to any reasonable observer that they were turfed for whistleblowing.

Management could have objected to the event, or demanded that outsiders be excluded, or that leadership be represented, or any number of other things; there was plenty of time. Instead, they just fired the activists. At that point I snapped. VPs shouldn’t go publicly rogue, so I escalated through the proper channels and by the book. I’m not at liberty to disclose those discussions, but I made many of the arguments appearing in this essay. I think I made them to the appropriate people. That done, remaining an Amazon VP would have meant, in effect, signing off on actions I despised. So I resigned.

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Will we have such bubbles everywhere? Frannce has said its new quarantine rules don’t count for EU, UK.

Australia, New Zealand Mull Creating ‘Travel Bubble’ (SCMP)

New Zealand and Australia are discussing the potential creation of a “travel bubble” between the two countries, sources said on Monday, even as Australia reported its highest number of coronavirus cases in two weeks. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will take part in a meeting of Australia’s emergency coronavirus cabinet on Tuesday, the Australian government said, stoking speculation that two-way travel could be permitted in the near future. “The idea of a bubble with Australia was floated two weeks ago, and this is an example of the sort of action that could happen within it, while always ensuring the protection of public health,” New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters said in a statement. “Officials in both countries are considering all aspects of the trans-Tasman concept, and planning how this could happen more broadly.”


The prospect of two-way travel was first proposed by Peters, though Ardern in April insisted it was a “long-term goal” and would need to include other Pacific countries. Australia and New Zealand have both slowed the spread of coronavirus in recent weeks to levels significantly below the those reported in the United States, Britain and Europe. Both governments attribute their success to social distancing restrictions and widespread testing. However, Australia on Monday reported 26 new cases, including a seven-year-old boy, its biggest daily jump in two weeks. That could rise as more states report throughout the day. Overall, Australia has recorded around 6,800 infections and 95 deaths, and New Zealand 1,137 cases and 20 fatalities.

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Going down due to the success of the lockdown.

Greece Sees Economy Tanking This Year On Coronavirus Impact (R.)

Greece expects its economy to contract by 4.7% to 8.9% this year under baseline and adverse scenarios taking into account the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, the government’s 2020-21 stability programme submitted to the EU Commission projects. “The coronavirus outbreak has imposed a burden on the Greek economy as on the rest of the world economy, reversing the initial favourable short-term forecast,” the finance ministry said. The pandemic clouds the outlook for the global economy with a high degree of uncertainty. Demand, supply and liquidity shocks to the world economy set the stage for a deep global recession, worse than that of the 2008 financial crisis, the report said.


The Greek economy is exposed to external shocks due to a considerable dependency on tourism and transportation receipts,” it said, noting that the government’s main goals now were to bridge the growth gap caused by the health crisis and attract investment. The baseline projection for a 4.7% contraction takes into account the impact of policy response measures and assumes that the public health crisis fades in the second half of 2020. But under an alternative set of more adverse assumptions, the programme projects a significantly deeper contraction of up to 8.9% due to a steeper drop of exports and broader negative spillover effects. Either way, the primary budget balance, which excludes debt servicing outlays, will be in the red, according to the ministry projections – with a deficit of 1.9% under the baseline assumptions and a 2.8% hole under the adverse scenario.

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A Twitter thread. “You die alone from COVID. And you will be buried alone. Stay home.”

My Dad Is An ICU Doctor Treating COVID-19 Patients (Bess Kalb)

My dad is an ICU doctor treating COVID-19 patients. In the past WEEK he has set more “I’ve never seen a heart rate/RBC count/etc. like this” records than in his decades-long career. What this virus does to the body is like “sticking your finger in an electric socket.” Stay home. He had a patient who needed 8 blood transfusions in a morning even though he wasn’t bleeding. The coronavirus was just eating his red blood cells faster than his bone marrow could make them. It’s fucking mystifying and brutal. EIGHT. Eight blood transfusions. If you are lucky enough to make it off a ventilator (the equivalent exertion required for that is running a marathon without training), you will likely get put on dialysis and a feeding tube next.

It’s a nightmare. It’s hell. It’s what you’re risking on your beach day. Young, healthy people are dying from a COVID-19 effect called a “cytokine storm.” Basically, you make it off a ventilator (maybe!), you get your appetite back a little, you think you’re turning a corner, and then your immune system rips through your lung tissue and you drown. The other common way young people are falling off the face of the earth from this are the random strokes it causes. Talking one minute, stroking out the next, and then the nurses have to go through the cell phone to find “Dad” because “Mom” usually insists on coming.

There have been a few “Papa Bear”s or “Daddy-O”s in the cell phones who have tried to come in to hold the bodies. They can’t, of course. You die alone from COVID. And you will be buried alone. Stay home. Send this thread to any idiot fucker who posts an Instagram at the beach or a crowded park. Tell them my dad says see you later.

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Not as bad as we think. But still bad. Another Twitter thread.

How Bad is Belgium Doing? (Roosens)

For all those at home and abroad who think that small and densely populated Belgium has been worst hit by COVID19 on a per capita basis, and at the same time wonder why you haven’t seen pictures of flooded hospitals and/or field hospitals being set up in our country. A thread. 1/ As a densely populated country at the crossroads of all big transport axes in Europe, Belgium has indeed been hit severely by COVID19. We had our share of COVID19-outbreaks in care homes, but COVID19-hospital capacity was never filled more than 2/3rds. 2/


How come then we get the highest per capita numbers of officially registered COVID19-patients? Well, that’s because we count the COVID19-victims in an extremely correct and exhaustive way. Including in care homes and including the non-confirmed (but suspected COVID) cases. 3/ As a result, at the moment we are one of the rare countries where COVID19-death count is roughly a match with the excess deaths reported through mortality statistics. Indeed, between mid March and mid-April our official COVID19 death count, accounted for 93% of excess deaths. 4/

This of course makes us jump up in international ‘worst hit’-rankings of ‘officially recorded’ COVID19-deaths on a per capita basis. But that’s because we’re about the only country with correct figures… The only good comparison that can be done, is on excess death-figures…5/ So that’s what we’ve done for the mid March-mid April periode, based on The Economist-Euro MoMo figures on excess deaths. We just added population statistics to get to a per capita result. And this is what we then get as a reasonable comparison of the worst hit countries/regions.

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They’re all up against Sidney Powell. Flynn will be exonarated just to get rid of her role in digging up the dirt.

Scrutiny Of FBI Behavior In Russia Case Increases Pressure On Wray (Solomon)

The IG report in December and subsequent declassified information showed the FBI engaged in 17 major mistakes and acts of misconduct in seeking a FISA warrant to spy on the Trump campaign starting in October 2016, including the falsification of a document, the submission of false information to a court, and the submission of unsubstantiated evidence in a warrant application marked as “verified.” In addition, newly declassified footnotes from the report showed the FBI had strong reasons to distrust the information in Christopher Steele’s dossier — including denials from his main source and warnings he was being fed Russian disinformation — but nonetheless proceeded to use the dossier as the key evidence in seeking a year’s worth of surveillance warrants.

The problems exposed during the Russia case started with the Comey regime, but have stretched into Wray’s watch. An IG report last fall flagged widespread failures in the FBI’s handling of confidential human sources like Steele. And a new IG report a few weeks ago found that 29 of 29 FISA applications — many filed during Wray’s tenure — contained significant flaws that violated the bureau’s own rules designed to ensure the accuracy of evidence submitted to the courts. The concerns about Wray were exacerbated by the revelations last week — from documents long withheld from a federal court — that FBI agents had recommended in January 2017 closing down a Russia-related probe of Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lack of evidence, only to be overruled by the bureau’s leadership.

The extraordinary intervention of FBI leaders — then under the command of Comey and his deputy Andrew McCabe — led one official to write handwritten notes questioning whether the bureau was “playing games” and trying to get Flynn to lie “so we could prosecute him, or get him fired.” The double-barreled revelations about FISA and Flynn have left Republican lawmakers with grave concerns about Wray’s leadership and his willingness to recognize the magnitude of problems inside the bureau exposed by the Russia case fallout. “Director Wray owes the American people an explanation about the FBI’s misconduct with General Flynn,” said Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee. “It’s becoming more and more apparent that the FBI ruined the life of a respected general in its goal to take down President Trump.”

Jordan added: “The FBI’s actions were part of a larger pattern of wrongdoing, which were all directed against the president and his advisers. If they can do it to a president, they can do it to any of us.” Flynn’s lawyer, Sidney Powell, was even more harsh in her assessment, accusing Wray’s FBI of hiding the truth. “Wray knew about the evidence we were requesting for General Flynn,” Powell told Just the News. “My request was even discussed in the Director’s meeting. Most of what has been produced so far and what will be produced has been in FBI files all along–now more than three years. If the Prosecutors refused to produce it, he should have taken it to the AG or filed a whistle blower complaint himself. Instead, it would appear he was part of a conspiracy to obstruct justice and Congress, and we don’t know what else.”

Read more …

 

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So you claim to honor people for saving lives, with machines designed to kill.

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth for your own good.

 

May 022020
 


Yevgeny Khaldei – 75 years ago the Soviet banner was raised over the Reichstag. 11 million Soviet soldiers died in WW2 and three-quarters of German losses were suffered at the hands of the Red Army – May 2 1945

 

 

Opening Up (Yaneer Bar-Yam et al, New England Complex Systems Institute)
New Yorkers Face Back-to-Work Commuting Nightmare (R.)
US Approves Remdesivir for Coronavirus Treatment (GR)
80 Patients, Staff Infected at Texas Nursing Home, HCQ Saves All But 1 (GP)
Manhattan Nursing Home Reports 98 Coronavirus Deaths (G.)
New Research Suggests Significant Undercount Of Children With Coronavirus (IC)
White House Blocks Dr. Fauci From Testifying To Congress (R.)
No. 2 CDC Official Says US Missed Some Chances To Slow Virus (AP)
Cardiologists Forced To Adapt To COVID-Linked Surge In Heart Symptoms (TPM)
Over 70% Of UK COVID19 Patients In Critical Care Are Men (PA)
Hong Kong Airport Is Rolling Out Full-Body 40-Second Disinfectant Booths (BI)
Sen. Hawley Calls Out United Airlines For Cutting Wages, Benefits (DC)
Amazon Tells Investors They ‘May Want To Take A Seat’ (CNBC)
Bone-Chilling WTF Charts of the Collapse in US Fuel Demand (WS)
Slouching Toward Resolution (Jim Kunstler)
Why Julian Assange Must Urgently Be Freed (Stella Moris)

 

 

• At this point in time, the US has 5% of the world’s population, 33% of its COVID19 infections and 26% of deaths.

• The coronavirus death toll in the US climbs by 1,883 in the past 24 hours

• Death rates are slowing in most of Europe, but its virus death toll is over 140,000 out of 235,000 globally

 

 

 

Cases 3,417,482 (+ 93,547 from yesterday’s 3,323,935)

Deaths 239,895 (+ 5,424 from yesterday’s 234,471)

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

They thought it through.

Opening Up (Yaneer Bar-Yam et al, New England Complex Systems Institute)

Before you begin to restart the economy make sure you are not starting another economic collapse. Premature relaxation of restrictions will guarantee loss of all that was gained. A premature relaxation, even briefly, would seed new transmissions that cannot be undone within weeks. Conditions and process to follow:

1) Relax restrictions locally by geographically isolated regions (not by industry group, trade or occupation). 2) Assure that travel restrictions prevent new cases from entering. Fines or repatriation may help reduce the motivation to sneak in. 3) Stop community transmission (travelers or prior case contacts that are in quarantine when they become ill do not prevent opening up). 4) Make sure sufficient testing gives ability to identify regions free of the virus. Even after cases drop sharply, widespread testing should be continued for at least another 2 weeks to prevent clustered transmission caused by individuals with a long incubation period or false negative tests.

5) There should be no new locally transmitted cases within last incubation period of 14 days. 6) Assure facilities for isolation and medical care of positively identified cases. 7) Set up contact tracing. 8) Multiple steps should be taken to stage the relaxation of restrictions and monitor for new cases. 9) Ensure masks are worn for several weeks after opening up. 10) The last steps to take in opening up are to allow public transportation and large meetings to avoid superspreader events, and to relax restrictions on high risk institutions and vulnerable populations.

Still, while restrictions are present, some things are still possible: 1) Going outdoors in an area where other people are very rare. 2) Meeting one or two people outdoors but staying 18-27 ft (6-9 m) apart (6 ft is not enough). Closer distances are possible when wind is blowing. 3) Driving and staying in your car in low density areas.

Opening schools: 1) Start with meetings outdoors with no contact between teacher and student one on one. 2) Arrange small group meetings outdoors with no contact in areas with excellent ventilation. 3) Arrange play dates with two students, preferably outdoors. If indoors, then restrict only to connection between two families that have been safely isolating for 14 days.

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Subways and elevators are Russian roulette systems.

New Yorkers Face Back-to-Work Commuting Nightmare (R.)

Staying compliant with public safety norms in particular will push the city’s subway system, which is normally used by 1.3 million commuters every day, beyond capacity, said Kevin Kelly, a senior managing director who wrote the report for Savills, a leading broker in global commercial property sales and leasing. The report was written specifically about New York but is relevant for other large cities hobbled by the pandemic and where mass transit accounts for a majority of commuter travel. Kelly called mass transit an enormous barrier to getting people back to work in Manhattan, where the car is only used by 12% of workers commuting to jobs in the U.S. financial capital.

“The biggest bottleneck is mass transit because there’s simply no good way to get people into an office in Manhattan avoiding public transit,” said Kelly, who in a prior job helped with the spatial analysis of how disease spreads geographically at the Public Health Department of Epidemiology in Los Angeles county. Understanding where people are and how they are likely to travel is critical when studying commuting, Kelly said. The mass transit constraints will force more employees to continue working from home as companies decide how best to return to offices that until a coronavirus vaccine is found need to be less dense with new rules for everyday office etiquette.

[..] Temperature screenings in lobbies, abundant hand sanitation dispensers and one- or two-person limits in elevators are some of the changes awaiting employees on their return to the office. “The subway and mass transit are a huge variable as we start to think about coming back to work, and there really isn’t any simple answer that any one business can fix,” Kelly said in an interview. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates the subway, city buses and two commuter rail lines, is hiring 100 monitors to check for overcrowding on trains and to ensure stations are functioning properly, an MTA spokesman said. The MTA also is waiting for guidance from public health authorities and has reached out to other mass transit systems around the world to glean best practices to ensure public safety, the spokesman said.

Public transportation is limited in New York during the pandemic for essential business or urgent medical appointments. On May 6, subway service will be halted daily for five hours starting at 1 a.m. so trains and stations can be disinfected. While a common subway train with 10 units typically moves up to 2,000 people at once, under social distancing that number shrinks to 200, or about what one car carries during rush hour, Kelly calculated in the report Savills published on Wednesday. The number of people who will be needed to regulate how many commuters travel in each subway car is another concern, he said. “Just the mechanics of that alone is pretty wild,” Kelly said.

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The only thing remdesivir is claimed to do is shorten hospital stays (and you would still need to ask how that is measured).

It does nothing to enhance chances of survival.

US Approves Remdesivir for Coronavirus Treatment (GR)

The experimental anti-viral drug remdesivir has been granted emergency authorization by the US’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday to be used to treat coronavirus.The decision comes after a recent clinical trial showed the drug improved the outcomes for patients with severe Covid-19. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US released data showing the remdesivir reduced hospitalization stays by 31% compared to a placebo treatment. However, the drug did not significantly improve chances of survival. Remdesivir was created by biopharmaceutical company Gilead Science, which said it will donate 1.5 million vials of the drug to help patients in hospitals in US cities hardest hit by the coronavirus.


The donation is expected to be enough for at least 140,000 patients, depending on the number of days they need to be treated. The company said due to a limited supply, hospitals with intensive care units and other hospitals the government deems most in need will receive priority. Speaking in the Oval Office on Friday, Donald Trump praised the drug and called it a “very promising situation.” Remdesivir was also touted earlier in the week by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease specialist, who said that clinical trials in the United States and a number of other countries, including Greece, “shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery.”

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So you have remdesivir which does nothing really, and you have HQC which saves lives but about which all of a sudden after 70 years warnings are issued.

80 Patients, Staff Infected at Texas Nursing Home, HCQ Saves All But 1 (GP)

A nursing home in Texas has a hopeful story for those suffering with coronavirus. The Resort at Texas nursing home had an outbreak of coronavirus that infected 56 residents and 33 staff members. Dr. Robin Armstrong immediately administered hydroxychloroquine to the residents and staff members along with Zpac and Zinc. Only one nursing home patient died since the doctor prescribed the hydroxychloroquine. 55 made it. FOX7 Austin reported:

“Dr. Armstrong and others at the Resort at Texas City Nursing home knew time wasn’t on their side. “Two of our residents had symptoms and that’s when we tested everybody,” said nursing home Executive Director Jan Piveral. 56 residents and 33 staff members were COVID-19 positive. “Our Goal was to make sure we could shelter them in place so we don’t spread it to other people,” Armstrong said. “Then also at the same time treat them so they would get better.” Armstrong says he knew residents who ended up in the hospital had a higher mortality rate. “Our goal was to keep them here and treat them with the medications we had available,” he said.

When Armstrong began administering Hydroxychloroquine to it was controversial but appeared promising. “If we didn’t make the decision quickly then we could potentially lose 15 to 20% of the residents which was not an option,” said the Doctor. Armstrong’s approach was to begin administering Hydroxychloroquine a Zpac and Zinc just as soon as a resident first started showing symptoms. The patients were being monitored daily. “We did EKGs on each of these patients to make sure they didn’t have the cardiac side effects that everyone talks about,” Armstrong said. “None of our patients did.”

Armstrong doesn’t call the Hydroxychloroquine a cure and is aware of all the recent reports that say the drug shouldn’t be used to treat COVID-19. But he points out only one of the nursing homes COVID-19 patients has died. “Everyone who got on treatment who started on treatment is actually doing really well,” he said.

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One nursing home compared to another.

Manhattan Nursing Home Reports 98 Coronavirus Deaths (G.)

A nursing home in New York has reported a “horrifying” death toll of 98 people from the coronavirus as residential facilities continued to emerge as a deadly source of outbreaks across the world. The death toll at the Isabella Geriatric Center in Manhattan is one of the worst such outbreaks in the United States and caused a shock even in hard-hit New York after an official state tally of nursing home deaths listed only 13 at the home as of Friday. But officials at the 705-bed centre later confirmed that up to 46 residents who tested positive for Covid-19 had died, as well as an additional 52 people suspected to have the virus, Associated Press reported. Some died at the nursing home and some died after being treated at hospitals.

“It’s absolutely horrifying,” mayor Bill de Blasio said. “It’s just impossible to imagine so many people lost in one place.” The number of bodies became so overwhelming the home ordered a refrigerator truck to store them because funeral homes have been taking days to pick up the deceased. “Isabella, like all other nursing homes in New York City, initially had limited access to widespread and consistent in-house testing to quickly diagnose our residents and staff,” Audrey Waters, a spokeswoman for the nursing home, wrote in an email. “This hampered our ability to identify those who were infected and asymptomatic, despite our efforts to swiftly separate anyone who presented symptoms.”

Isabella also encountered staffing shortages, prompting it to hire from outside agencies and early challenges securing personal protective equipment for employees. Waters said the home finally is getting more access to testing now. A survey last month of nursing homes in New York state found that 19 had reported 20 or more deaths linked to the pandemic, raising the prospect of hundreds of unattributed Covid-19 deaths in a state where almost 24,000 people have died from the disease. The state’s health department said it has received outbreak reports from 239 nursing homes, including at least six facilities with death tolls of 40 patients or more. “The one thing we now know about the nursing homes is the status quo cannot continue to say the least,” de Blasio said. “Something very different has to happen.”

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Little killers. “..the number of kids testing positive for the virus in the U.S. is greater than the total number of confirmed cases in many countries, including Singapore, Ireland, and Mexico ..”

New Research Suggests Significant Undercount Of Children With Coronavirus (IC)

In the US, the vast majority of serious Covid-19 cases — and eight out of 10 deaths — occur in people who are at least 65. Yet newly tabulated data show that the virus is also affecting young people across the country — and in very rare cases, killing them. At least 201 infected children under age 18 have been admitted into pediatric intensive care units in the U.S., according to data from a national registry called Virtual Pediatric Systems. And at least 20 people under the age of 20 have died from the coronavirus. In New York state, which has the largest number of children severely affected by the virus, 10 children who tested positive had died as of April 30, and at least 56 children had been admitted into pediatric intensive care units.


Across the U.S., more than 24,000 children have tested positive for the new coronavirus, according to state health department data compiled by a new project, CovKid, which tracks the effects of Covid-19 on children. That total represents everyone under age 20 and includes data from New York City but not New York state and Nebraska, which have not yet reported the age breakdown of coronavirus cases. While most states are not reporting the race and ethnicity of children with the coronavirus, data from California and Illinois show that more than one third of 3,049 children who tested positive were Latino.

While the number of kids testing positive for the virus in the U.S. is greater than the total number of confirmed cases in many countries, including Singapore, Ireland, and Mexico, it is probably only a small fraction of all who have the disease, because of a shortage of tests and very limited testing of children. “The big question is how many kids are being tested?” said Elizabeth Pathak, an epidemiologist and director of the CovKid project. Without that information, it’s impossible to know how many are infected. So Pathak and several colleagues used clinical data from China to gauge infection rates in the U.S. and estimate that the total number of children infected in the U.S. is now at least 478,000.

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After all the recent hearings, why should they comply?

White House Blocks Dr. Fauci From Testifying To Congress (R.)

Top US health official Anthony Fauci will not testify next week to a congressional committee examining the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, the White House said on Friday, calling it “counterproductive” to have individuals involved in the response testify. The White House issued an emailed statement after a spokesman for the House of Representatives committee holding the hearing said the panel had been informed by Trump administration officials that Fauci had been blocked from testifying.


“While the Trump administration continues its whole-of-government response to Covid-19, including safely opening up America again and expediting vaccine development, it is counterproductive to have the very individuals involved in those efforts appearing at congressional hearings,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement. “We are committed to working with Congress to offer testimony at the appropriate time.” Fauci’s testimony was being sought for a May 6 hearing by a House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees health programmes, said spokesman Evan Hollander.

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Good cop bad cop.

No. 2 CDC Official Says US Missed Some Chances To Slow Virus (AP)

The U.S. government was slow to understand how much coronavirus was spreading from Europe, which helped drive the acceleration of outbreaks across the nation, a top health official said Friday. Limited testing and delayed travel alerts for areas outside China contributed to the jump in U.S. cases starting in late February, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the No. 2 official at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We clearly didn’t recognize the full importations that were happening,” Schuchat told The Associated Press. [..] The CDC on Friday published an article, authored by Schuchat, that looked back on the U.S. response, recapping some of the major decisions and events of the last few months. It suggests the nation’s top public health agency missed opportunities to slow the spread.

Some public health experts saw it as important assessment by one of the nation’s most respected public health doctors. The CDC is responsible for the recognition, tracking and prevention of just such a disease. But the agency has had a low profile during this pandemic, with White House officials controlling communications and leading most press briefings. “The degree to which CDC’s public presence has been so diminished … is one of the most striking and frankly puzzling aspects of the federal government’s response,” said Jason Schwartz, assistant professor of health policy at the Yale School of Public Health.

[..] in her article, Schuchat noted that nearly 2 million travelers arrived in the U.S. from Italy and other European countries during February. The U.S. government didn’t block travel from there until March 11. “The extensive travel from Europe, once Europe was having outbreaks, really accelerated our importations and the rapid spread,” she told the AP. ”I think the timing of our travel alerts should have been earlier.”

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Crazy choices to make.

Cardiologists Forced To Adapt To COVID-Linked Surge In Heart Symptoms (TPM)

Apart from the disease’s more well-known ravaging of the respiratory system, significant numbers of COVID-19 patients arrive at hospitals with serious heart problems, many of which first appear to be those of a heart attack but turn out to be symptoms of the coronavirus or the body’s response to it. So doctors on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic have adapted, relying on new medical research from foreign hotspots like Wuhan and Lombardy to contend with how little we still know about the virus itself. Many hospital cardiology departments, for example, have begun to take potential heart attack patients with suspected COVID-19 into their ERs to first determine whether they have contracted the virus before moving “them back into the cardiac care path,” Thomas Maddox, chair of the American College of Cardiology’s Science and Quality Committee, told TPM.

He added that in hotspots like New York City, hospitals had “moved to a lower threshold: to test, and wait until it comes back, before doing anything with the patient.” Maddox described the dilemma to TPM as a decision between bad variables. On the one hand, treating a COVID patient presenting heart symptoms as if he had a heart attack could expose the doctor. On the other, treating all patients as if they were infected with COVID could deprive those suffering from heart attacks of precious minutes. “It’s been so hard to solve,” Maddox added. “Because, at the same time, you don’t want to take somebody who is short of breath because they’re having a heart attack and delay their treatment because you send them to a COVID unit, and miss the opportunity to help out their heart.”

The symptoms appear in different ways, experts told TPM. Some patients struggle with blood clots that course throughout their body, while others have severely inflamed hearts. Others still face organ failure amid spiraling blood oxygen levels. “There’s not an easy way to tell, though, if they’re presenting so much like a heart attack,” Gulati told TPM. “We’re seeing reports of myocardial infarction when they have COVID-19, but often they aren’t always having blockages of the coronary arteries that we traditionally expect.” She added that, in COVID-19 patients, lack of blood oxygen can creep up fast, overtaxing the heart. “They are sitting there talking to you, and suddenly they go incredibly bad,” Gulati said, speaking of patients with dangerously low blood oxygen levels.

“That is a big demand on the heart, if the heart is not getting enough oxygen, and the organs aren’t getting enough oxygen. As a result, everything is compromised.” Preliminary mortality data released by the Centers for Disease Control suggests that, as the pandemic peaked in New York City, the number of people dying due to what the CDC classifies as “diseases of the heart” also peaked.

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Critical care is not a happy place.

Over 70% Of UK COVID19 Patients In Critical Care Are Men (PA)

More than 70% of patients with coronavirus admitted to critical care are men, according to new data. The figures come from the UK’s Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre (ICNARC) and were based on a sample of 7,542 critically-ill patients confirmed as having Covid-19. Researchers found that 5,389 of these patients were men and 2,149 were women. The report, published on Friday, also found that men were more likely to die in intensive care, with 51% dying compared to about 43% of the women who were admitted. The report analysed data on patients with confirmed Covid-19 from 286 NHS critical care units in England, Wales and Northern Ireland taking part in the ICNARC programme up to 4pm on Thursday.

The new data echoes comments of a leading expert who said that Covid-19 was just as deadly as Ebola for people admitted to hospital in the UK. Prof Calum Semple from the University of Liverpool, a consultant respiratory paediatrician at Alder Hey children’s hospital and chief investigator on a study published on Wednesday, said the data highlighted the danger of coronavirus. Research by Semple and his team found that of the total number of coronavirus patients admitted to hospital, 17% required admission to high dependency or intensive care units and of these, 31% were discharged alive, 45% died and 24% continued to be treated in hospital.

Semple explained: “Some people persist in believing that Covid-19 is no worse than a bad dose of flu. “They are gravely mistaken. Despite the best supportive care that we can provide, the crude case fatality rate for people who are admitted to hospital – that is, the proportion of people ill enough to need hospital treatment who then die – with severe Covid-19 is 35 to 40%, which is similar to that for people admitted to hospital with Ebola. It’s a really nasty disease.” The new ICNARC data also showed that around 56% of 60 to 69-year-olds, 67% of 70 to 79-year-olds, and 65% of people aged 80 and over admitted to critical care died there, compared to about 24% of people aged under 50.

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The article talks about bacteria, microbes, but not viruses. Do the people at Business Insider know the difference?

Hong Kong Airport Is Rolling Out Full-Body 40-Second Disinfectant Booths (BI)

In an effort to prevent further spread of coronavirus, Hong Kong International Airport is testing a new machine that would effectively sanitize passengers head to toe. The CLeanTech machine acts as a full-body disinfectant, killing bacteria on people’s bodies and clothing. The cleaning, which takes 40 seconds, uses an antimicrobial coating on the interior surface of the machine as well as sanitizing spray for “instant disinfection,” according to a press release shared by the airport. The machine is kept at “negative pressure to prevent cross-contamination between the outside and inside environment.” Anyone who steps inside first goes through a temperature check.


The machine is currently being used by airport staff who specifically handle public health issues for arriving passengers there. [..] In addition to the full-body machine, the Hong Kong airport has introduced other cleaning measures to assure passengers. The AA said it was piloting an invisible antimicrobial coating sprayed in all passenger facilities, including high-touch surfaces like check-in kiosks and baggage carts. And cleaning robots equipped with ultraviolet light and air sterilizers are being deployed to public areas. According to the AA, the robots can sterilize up to 99.99% of bacteria in the air and on surfaces in 10 minutes.

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It doesn’t get more American than this. Cash in the billions and fire them anyway.

Sen. Hawley Calls Out United Airlines For Cutting Wages, Benefits (DC)

Sen. Josh Hawley railed against United Airlines on Friday after employees supposedly told him the company is cutting back their wages and benefits after receiving stimulus money amid economic lockdowns. “Employees have told me the company is cutting their hours, pay & benefits immediately,” he wrote on Twitter after recalling an interaction with United Airlines employees at an airport on his way to Washington, D.C. UA, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and Delta Airlines were among a handful of airline companies that accepted stimulus money, reports show. Hawley added: “This is AFTER United took billions in bailout money that was earmarked for workers. This has better not be true.”


[..] President Donald Trump signed the $2 trillion stimulus bill in March, which, among other things, includes more than $58 billion to bolster the aviation industry, with a sizable portion of it sectioned off to fund employee payroll costs through September, CNN reported April 14. The airline industry saw enormous losses after governors and mayors instituted lockdowns to slow the pandemic spread. Passenger counts have dropped nearly 100%, forcing airlines to cancel more than 70% of their flights as the international airline association estimates worldwide industry losses of $314 billion. Hawley, for his part, has been on a tear against corporate entities recently.

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Ok, maybe this is even more American. It is May, and Amazon is finally going to protect the workers it has exposed to the virus in slavery-like conditions.

But the company is not going to pay for that. The shareholders are.

If Bezos were a normal person, he would have paid for it all from his own pocket months ago, but you don’t get to be the richest man in the world if there’s a conscience in the way.

Amazon Tells Investors They ‘May Want To Take A Seat’ (CNBC)

Long-time Amazon investors shouldn’t have been surprised by a jarring quote in the company’s first-quarter earnings report Thursday: “If you’re a shareowner in Amazon, you may want to take a seat.” That’s because Amazon has been giving investors some version of that warning since it went public in 1997, letting them know it would prioritize long-term business advantages over short-term gains. Amazon said Thursday it would invest its expected $4 billion second-quarter profit in coronavirus-related efforts, including buying personal protective equipment for workers, stepping up cleaning in its facilities and building its own testing capability.

The company said that due to the investment, it expects operating income for the quarter to be as high as $1.5 billion or as low as a loss of $1.5 billion. The bold step is reflective of CEO Jeff Bezos’ approach since starting the business. “We believe that a fundamental measure of our success will be the shareholder value we create over the long term,” Bezos told shareholders in a letter shortly after its IPO. “This value will be a direct result of our ability to extend and solidify our current market leadership position.” Even back then, with the stock trading in the low double digits, Bezos warned shareholders its decisions would not look like those of other companies.

“We will make bold rather than timid investment decisions where we see a sufficient probability of gaining market leadership advantages,” Bezos wrote in the 1997 letter. “Some of these investments will pay off, others will not, and we will have learned another valuable lesson in either case.” Thursday’s earnings report acknowledged “these aren’t normal circumstances” and Amazon is “not thinking small.” “There is a lot of uncertainty in the world right now, and the best investment we can make is in the safety and well-being of our hundreds of thousands of employees,” Bezos said in a statement in the earnings release.

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There are other things in the news today that I would reserve the term bone-chilling for.

Bone-Chilling WTF Charts of the Collapse in US Fuel Demand (WS)

For gasoline, it started in mid-March when the measures to tamp down on the spread of the coronavirus took effect. For jet fuel, it started in mid-February as flight cancellation from the US to China, and then to other countries took effect. We can see this in the weekly data provided by the EIA. The EIA measures weekly consumption in terms of product supplied, such as by refineries and blenders, not by retail sales. Consumption of motor gasoline was still up 3.1% in the week ended March 13, compared to the same week last year, according to EIA data. But then demand just collapsed. In the week ended April 3, gasoline demand was down 48% compared to the same week a year earlier:

In terms of barrels per day (b/d), demand for motor gasoline was well above 9 million b/d in the four weeks up to mid-March, but then demand collapsed, down to 5.07 million b/d in the week ended April 3. Then demand ticked up. By the week ended April 24, demand was 5.86 million b/d. Those last four weeks were by far the lowest on record in the EIA’s data going back to 1991:

Consumption of jet fuel (kerosene type) collapsed even more, peaking, if you will, in the week ended April 10 with a 72% year-over-year plunge. The decline in jet fuel demand started earlier than with gasoline, as flight cancellations were starting in the second half of February:

In terms of barrels per day, demand for jet fuel collapsed to just 463,000 b/d in the week ended April 10. The last four weeks – ranging from 463,000 b/d to 800,000 b/d – were by far the lowest in the data going back to 1991:

[..] Combined, gasoline, jet fuel, and distillate consumption, plunged by 22% to 43% over the last four weeks. In terms of barrel per day, the combined consumption collapsed to a low of 8.3 million b/d in the week ended April 10 and has ticked up since then. The last four weeks, ranging from 8.3 million b/d to 9.8 million b/d, were by far the lowest in the data going back to 1991:

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There was never anything wrong with Flynn’s conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Strzok, Page, Comey, McCabe, Brennan should be forced to compensate Flynn out of their own savings. But he’s going to ask for $1 billion, so the state will have to pay instead.

Slouching Toward Resolution (Jim Kunstler)

General Flynn had been an irritant to the Obama administration in his role as chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency. He disagreed with a lot going on around him and he said so, especially the nuclear deal that was percolating with Iran. Mr. Obama canned General Flynn in 2014. Afterward, CIA chief John Brennan and DNI James Clapper put him under surveillance and played entrapment games with him, using some of the same shady characters (Stefan Halper, Richard Dearlove) who later showed up as RussiaGate players. In early 2016, Gen. Flynn joined the Trump campaign as a foreign affairs advisor and that summer made the mistake of leading the “Lock her up,” chant to a delirious crowd at the Republican Convention.

Perhaps he knew a thing or two about the activities of the Clinton Foundation. Perhaps he also knew what Jeffrey Epstein was up to. Then Mr. Trump shocked the world and won the election. Gen. Flynn was soon appointed incoming National Security Advisor. One can imagine the anxiety crackling through a Democrat-controlled Deep State on the verge of surrendering power to its enemies. The alarm bells that went off through the vast US Intel underground must have been deafening. In a panic, the Intel Community set in motion a suite of operations to get rid of both Flynn and Trump. On December 29, late in the transition-of-power, President Obama lit up a diplomatic flare by confiscating country retreat properties in Maryland and Long Island owned by the Russian embassy and expelling 35 embassy employees, supposedly as payback for Russia “interfering in the 2016 election.”

This prompted a conversation between incoming National Security Advisor Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. That cued the FBI to entrap General Flynn. The news media played along with the preposterous falsehood that high American officials should not communicate with diplomats posted to the USA. The shady gotcha interview about that with Flynn, conducted by FBI officers Peter Strzok and Joseph Pientka, has been dissected to death, so I’ll spare you that, except to say that it was carried out in obvious bad faith.

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The mother of Julian’s children.

Why Julian Assange Must Urgently Be Freed (Stella Moris)

Forming a family with Julian under the circumstances was always going to be difficult, but our hopes eclipsed our fears. Initially, Julian and I managed to carve out a space for a private life. Our firstborn visited with the help of a friend. But when Gabriel was six months old, an embassy security contractor confessed to me that he had been told to steal the baby’s DNA through a nappy. Failing that they would take the baby’s pacifier. The whistleblower warned me Gabriel should not come into the embassy anymore. It was not safe. I realised that all the precautions I had taken, from piling layers on to disguise my bump to changing my name, would not protect us. We were totally exposed. These forces operated in a legal and ethical vacuum that engulfed us.

I could write volumes about what happened in the months that followed. By the time I was pregnant with Max the pressure and harassment had become unbearable and I feared that my pregnancy was at risk. When I was six months pregnant Julian and I decided I should stop going into the embassy. The next time I saw him was in Belmarsh prison. The image of Julian being carried out of the embassy shocked many. It struck a blow to my chest, but it did not shock me. What happened that morning was an extension of what had been going on inside the embassy over an eighteen-month period. After Julian was arrested a year ago, Spain’s High Court opened an investigation into the security company that had been operating inside the embassy.

Several whistleblowers came forward and have informed law enforcement of unlawful activities against Julian and his lawyers, both inside and outside the embassy. They are cooperating with law enforcement and have provided investigators with large amounts of data. The investigation has revealed that the company had been moonlighting for a US company closely associated with the current US administration and US intelligence agencies and that the increasingly disturbing instructions, such as following my mother or the baby DNA directive, had come from their US client, not Ecuador. Around the same time that I had been approached about the targeting of our baby, the company was thrashing out even more sinister plans concerning Julian’s life. Their alleged plots to poison or abduct Julian have been raised in UK extradition proceedings.

Read more …

 

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Bench in library of Alexandria, Egypt

 

 

 

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Apr 252020
 


Jack Delano “Untitled” near Durham, North Carolina 1940

 

Wuhan Was The Fentanyl Capital Of The World. Then Coronavirus Hit (LAT)
‘Wuhan Plague’ Plaques Are Popping Up Around Atlanta (Vice)
Trump Owed Tens Of Millions To Bank Of China (Pol.)
Trump Doesn’t Owe Bank of China Money (Christopher Balding)
Small Business Owners Asked To Sign PPP Loans Without Forgiveness Pledge (IC)
Small Business Rescue Earned Banks $10 Billion In Fees (NPR)
People In Their 30s And 40s, Barely Sick With COVID19, Die From Strokes (WP)
South Dakota County Offers Drive-Through Covid-19 Testing Friday (Strong)
Nearly 60 New Coronavirus Cases Confirmed On Cruise Ship In Japan (R.)
China Pressured EU To Drop COVID19 Disinformation Criticism (R.)
US Weighs Taking Equity Stakes In US Energy Companies – Mnuchin (R.)
Economics Professor: Australia Would Be ‘Better Off’ Without Lockdown (DM)
Brazil Justice Minister Resigns Over Bolsonaro’s Investigations Meddling (IC)
Denver Health Execss Get Bonuses 1 Week After Workers Asked To Take Cuts (CBS)
Amazon To Be Fined €100K For Every ‘Non-Essential’ Delivery in France (RT)

 

 

Daily US coronavirus death toll down sharply in past 24 hours to 1,258, the lowest daily toll in the country in nearly three weeks: Johns Hopkins

4/24/20 – Top 12 State Cases
New York: 271,590
New Jersey: 102,196
Mass : 46,023
Illinois: 39,658
California: 39,254
Pennsylvania: 38,652
Michigan: 36,641
Florida: 30,174
Louisiana: 26,140
Connecticut: 23,921
Texas: 22,806
Georgia: 22,147

• “At least 30 New Yorkers ingested household cleaners in the 18 hours since the president suggested using it to fight #coronavirus”

• “The timing on the bleach stuff is interesting, since the DOJ started cracking down on MMS, the diluted form of bleach being sold as a miracle cure for any disease under the sun on social media… six days ago.”

 

 

Cases 2,845,858 (+ 100,389 from yesterday’s 2,745,469)

197,846
Deaths 191,791 (+ 6,055 from yesterday’s 185,156 )

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: among Active Cases, Serious or Critical fell to 3%. Among Closed Cases, Deaths have fallen to 20%

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: Note: Turkey, Russia, UK are the biggest risers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep it locked down.

Wuhan Was The Fentanyl Capital Of The World. Then Coronavirus Hit (LAT)

For drug traffickers interested in getting in on the fentanyl business, all roads once led to Wuhan. The sprawling industrial city built along the Yangtze River in east-central China is known for its production of chemicals, including the ingredients needed to cook fentanyl and other powerful synthetic opioids. Vendors there shipped huge quantities around the world. The biggest customers were Mexican drug cartels, which have embraced fentanyl in recent years because it is cheaper and easier to produce than heroin. But the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan late last year before spreading across the planet has upended the fentanyl supply chain, causing a ripple effect that has cut into the profits of Mexican traffickers and driven up street drug prices across the United States.

Few industries — illicit or not — have been unscathed by the pandemic that has upended the global economy and killed more than 190,000 people worldwide. The narcotics trade, which relies on the constant movement of goods and people, has been stymied by lockdowns, travel bans and other efforts to contain the virus, according to government officials, academic researchers and drug traffickers. Mexican production of fentanyl and methamphetamine appears especially hard hit. Both drugs are made with precursor chemicals that are typically sent on planes or cargo ships from China, where despite U.S. pressure to ban them, they continue to be sold legally. That supply chain was shut down in January when authorities in Wuhan enacted a lockdown that forced residents to stay inside for more than two months.

In February, after a major manufacturer of the chemicals closed, vendors began posting apologies on the online sites where chemicals are typically sold, said Louise Shelley, a professor at George Mason University who tracks global fentanyl production. “They were saying: ‘We’re not producing or selling or shipping,’” she said.

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The headline says: “racist”. I like everything Winnie.

‘Wuhan Plague’ Plaques Are Popping Up Around Atlanta (Vice)

Racist plaques depicting Winnie the Pooh holding a bat with chopsticks have begun to pop up around Atlanta, and police have no leads as to who is responsible. The round, bronze and teal plaques bearing the words “Wuhan Plague,” referencing the Chinese city where the coronavirus originated, first appeared April 13 on an electrical box in Inman Park, according to Atlanta police. Another appeared three days later at a coffee shop in the neighborhood of Reynoldstown. The most recent incident occurred on April 18 at Atlanta’s Candler Park Market. Winnie the Pooh’s association with Chinese culture originated in 2013 when parody comparisons between the cuddly bear and Prime Minister Xi Jinping went viral on social media — and China then banned Pooh images.


The plaques appeared to be glued to the sites where they were posted. Hodgepodge Coffeehouse owner Kristle Rodriguez said her employees alerted her to the plaque at her site. Rodriguez said she immediately called the cops and the building’s landlord, who quickly removed the plaque. “The adhesive was still wet, meaning this happened late morning or early afternoon,” she wrote in a Facebook post Friday. “This isn’t amusing, funny, politically incorrect, edgy, or punk rock. This is super fucking gross and racist. There’s enough xenophobia and ignorance being spouted from this administration, we certainly don’t need street art reinforcing this shit.”

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Curious article, because it’s not true.

Trump Owed Tens Of Millions To Bank Of China (Pol.)

But Trump himself has taken on debt from China. In 2012, his real estate partner refinanced one of Trump’s most prized New York buildings for almost $1 billion. The debt included $211 million from the state-owned Bank of China — its first loan of this kind in the U.S. — which matures in the middle of what could be Trump’s second term. Steps from Trump Tower in Manhattan, the 43-story 1290 Avenue of the Americas skyscraper spans an entire city block. Trump owns a 30 percent stake in the property valued at more than $1 billion, making it one of the priciest addresses in his portfolio, according to his financial disclosures. Trump’s ownership of the building received a smattering of attention before and after his 2016 campaign.

But the arrangement with the Bank of China in 2012 has gone largely unnoticed. The questions surrounding Trump’s ties to the Bank of China come as his campaign is claiming that Biden would be a gift to the Communist country and America’s chief economic rival. After the first version of this article was published, the Bank of China issued a statement Friday evening stating that it sold its debt on the building weeks after the 2012 loan on the property. Vornado Realty Trust owns 70 percent of the building. “On November 7, 2012 several financial institutions including the Bank of China participated in a commercial mortgage loan of $950 million to Vornado Realty Trust,” said Peter Reisman, managing director and chief communications officer of Bank of China U.S.A.

“Within 22 days, the loan was securitized and sold into the [commercial mortgage-backed securities] market, as is a common practice in the industry. Bank of China has not had any ownership interest in that loan since late November 2012.”

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Balding explains.

Trump Doesn’t Owe Bank of China Money (Christopher Balding)

Let me explain the deal structure and why Trump doesn’t owe Bank of China money. First, Trump is a minority passive owner of a real estate trust. 30% so not nothing and he is the president but it isn’t even his company. He doesn’t manage it even before he became president 1/n

Second, the nitty gritty of the financing goes like this (and this is very common in general especially in real estate) assume Citibank agrees to lend the building $1 billion to refinance their loan in 2012. Rather than lend the entire $1 billion themselves, Citibank will 2/n

get on the phone to other banks to take a piece of the $1b they need to raise. Let’s assume in this case it was five banks of $400m, $200m, $200m, $100m, and $100m. In this case Bank of China is one of the $200m slots. They lend that company the $1b to refinance their other 3/n

loan. However, the banks aren’t done. They don’t want to make a 10 year loan on real estate when they make more money from fee and churn of debt securities. So right after they made they $1b loan, Citibank lawyers (I don’t know if it was Citibank just an example) are 4/n

Drafting offering documents to sell off different pieces of the entire $1b loan to investors. The $1b loan is not actually 5 different loans but 5 different injections into a special purpose vehicle that is capitalized with the loan capital from those banks. The SPV 5/n

Which will receive the annual payments then sells off pieces of the loan in say $10m or $25m increments to investors. The banks then receive all of their original loan back as the entire $1b is sold off piece by piece. Typically, banks will have capital out on these projects 6/n

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In the US, small is ugly.

Small Business Owners Asked To Sign PPP Loans Without Forgiveness Pledge (IC)

Randy George had never laid anyone off in his 20 years running his bakery and café in Middlesex, Vermont. But after Vermont Gov. Phil Scott shut down restaurants to slow the spread of the coronavirus, half of his sales disappeared virtually overnight. He’s had to put 28 of the staff of Red Hen Baking Co. on furlough. George decided to sign up for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, created by Congress’s CARES Act relief bill to help small business owners stay afloat. At first, the program was funded with $350 billion, an amount that ran out about two weeks after it began; Congress is now working on a deal to add another $320 billion.

The key feature of these loans, which are being run by the Small Business Administration, is that they are supposed to be entirely forgiven if an owner spends most of the money on payroll and doesn’t lay anyone off. The details of how that forgiveness will work, however, are far from clear, making some small business owners wary to use it at all. In bank loan contracts reviewed by The Intercept, owners have been asked to sign onto terms that said that “forgiveness may apply” or “all or part of the Loan may be forgiven” — releasing the banks from liability but giving business owners no contractual guarantee of loan forgiveness, or even guidance on how to comply with the rules or how to pursue it. One didn’t mention forgiveness at all. The application materials, which are produced on SBA letterhead, have even fewer details.

“Loan forgiveness will be provided for the sum of documented payroll costs, covered mortgage interest payments, covered rent payments, and covered utilities,” most applications read. No other information is offered about what “covered” means. The CARES Act contains some details about how these are defined, but it’s buried in an almost 900-page bill. And no concrete information has been given to small business owners about how they should go about getting their loans forgiven. Some owners were told that to gain forgiveness, they’d have to submit a request to their banks. Others were told that they have to go straight to the SBA. That’s left many people questioning whether the loans will indeed be converted to grants at all. “The keystone, the cornerstone of this program is not assured,” George said.

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Won’t surprise a single soul.

Small Business Rescue Earned Banks $10 Billion In Fees (NPR)

Banks handling the government’s $349 billion loan program for small businesses made more than $10 billion in fees — even as tens of thousands of small businesses were shut out of the program, according to an analysis of financial records by NPR. The banks took in the fees while processing loans that required less vetting than regular bank loans and had little risk for the banks, the records show. Taxpayers provided the money for the loans, which were guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. According to a Department of Treasury fact sheet, all federally insured banks and credit unions could process the loans, which ranged in amount from tens of thousands to $10 million. The banks acted essentially as middlemen, sending clients’ loan applications to the SBA, which approved them.


For every transaction made, banks took in 1% to 5% in fees, depending on the amount of the loan, according to government figures. Loans worth less than $350,000 brought in 5% in fees while loans worth anywhere from $2 million to $10 million brought in 1% in fees. For example, on April 7, RCSH Operations LLC, the parent company of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, received a loan of $10 million. JPMorgan Chase & Co., acting as the lender, took a $100,000 fee on the one-time transaction for which it assumed no risk and could pass through with fewer requirements than for a regular loan. In total, those transaction fees amounted to more than $10 billion for banks, according to transaction data provided by the SBA and the Treasury Department.

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As he used a needlelike device to pull out the clot, he saw new clots forming in real time around it.

People In Their 30s And 40s, Barely Sick With COVID19, Die From Strokes (WP)

Thomas Oxley wasn’t even on call the day he received the page to come into Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan. There weren’t enough doctors to treat all the emergency stroke patients, and he was needed in the operating room. The patient’s chart appeared unremarkable at first glance. He was male, no medications, no history of chronic conditions. He had been feeling fine, hanging out at home during the lockdown like the rest of America, when suddenly, he had trouble talking and moving the right side of his body. Imaging showed a large blockage on the left side of his head. Oxley gasped when he got to the patient’s age and covid-19 status: 44, positive.

The man was among several recent stroke patients in their 30s to 40s who were all infected with the virus. The median age for that type of severe stroke is 74. As Oxley, an interventional neurologist, began the procedure to remove the clot, he observed something he had never seen before. On the monitors, the brain typically shows up as a tangle of black squiggles – “like a can of spaghetti,” he said – that provide a map of blood vessels. A clot shows up as a blank spot. As he used a needlelike device to pull out the clot, he saw new clots forming in real time around it. “This is crazy,” he remembers telling his boss.

Reports of strokes in the young and middle-aged – not just at Mount Sinai but in many other hospitals in hard-hit communities – are the latest twist in our evolving understanding of the mysteries of covid-19. Even as the virus has infected nearly 2.8 million people worldwide and killed 195,000 as of Friday, its origins, biological mechanisms and weaknesses continue to elude top scientific minds. Once thought to be a pathogen that primarily attacks the lungs, it has turned out to be a much more formidable foe – affecting nearly every major organ system in the body.

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Small is beautiful. A lot of the solutions will have to come from communities.

South Dakota County Offers Drive-Through Covid-19 Testing Friday (Strong)

A health center in Stanley offered one of the first COVID-19 test drive through services in the state that did not require symptoms or pre-screening. As southern Mountrail County continues to be a hotspot for COVID-19, one medical center stepped up to offer free drive through testing without an appointment. At least 160 cars came through the testing site in Stanley from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with some holding as many as nine people who wanted to be tested. “We’re preparing probably to do between three and 400 tests,” said Dr. Rich Laksonen. Stanley is not in the southern part of the county, but Laksonen said the center wanted to help the state learn more about where the virus is spiking in the county.


“Being that we are the facility that services the count, we saw that need to determine where in Mountrail County these hotspots are located,” said Laksonen. Laksonen said they were compelled to drop restrictions on the site making it “no appointment, or symptoms necessary.” It’s one of the only in the state. “We also wanted our residents in northern Mountrial County to come in and get a test whether we have symptoms or not,” he said. Laksonen said the community was appreciative of the effort. Medical staff say it is too soon to tell how many will test positive. It will take 24 to 48 hours for the dozens of people that came out Friday to know their results.

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It’s fitting this should be in Japan again.

Nearly 60 New Coronavirus Cases Confirmed On Cruise Ship In Japan (R.)

Nearly 60 new cases of coronavirus infections were confirmed among crew members of an Italian cruise ship docked in Japan, domestic media reported on Saturday. With testing of all crew members now complete, the new number, reported by public broadcaster NHK, brings the total infections onboard the Costa Atlantica to around 150, roughly one quarter of the vessel’s 623 crew members. TV Asahi said 57 crew members tested positive. The infection cluster onboard the vessel docked in Nagasaki comes as hospitals are running out of beds in some parts of Japan, where the national tally of virus cases has risen above 12,800. Some 345 people have died.


Of those infected onboard the Costa Atlantica, only one crew member has been admitted to hospital, NHK said, while others remain on board, having shown slight or no symptoms. The vessel has been docked in Japan since February for repairs and maintenance after the pandemic prevented scheduled repairs in China. Nagasaki authorities had quarantined the vessel on arrival, and ordered its crew not to venture beyond the quay except for hospital visits. But prefecture officials said earlier this week that some of the crew had departed without their knowledge, and sought detailed information on their movements.

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And China refuses an international investigation.

China Pressured EU To Drop COVID19 Disinformation Criticism (R.)

China sought to block a European Union report alleging that Beijing was spreading disinformation about the coronavirus outbreak, according to four sources and diplomatic correspondence reviewed by Reuters. The report was eventually released, albeit just before the start of the weekend Europe time and with some criticism of the Chinese government rearranged or removed, a sign of the balancing act Brussels is trying to pull off as the coronavirus outbreak scrambles international relations. The Chinese Mission to the EU was not immediately available for comment and China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to faxed questions about the exchange. An EU spokeswoman said “we never comment on content or alleged content of internal diplomatic contacts and communication with our partners from another countries.”

Another EU official said that the disinformation report had been published as usual and denied any of it had been watered down. Four diplomatic sources told Reuters that the report had initially been slated for release on April 21 but was delayed after Chinese officials picked up on a Politico news report hat previewed its findings. A senior Chinese official contacted European officials in Beijing the same day to tell them that, “if the report is as described and it is released today it will be very bad for cooperation,” according to EU diplomatic correspondence reviewed by Reuters. The correspondence quoted senior Chinese foreign ministry official Yang Xiaoguang as saying that publishing the report would make Beijing “very angry” and accused European officials of trying to please “someone else” – something the EU diplomats understood to be a reference to Washington.

The four sources said the report had been delayed as a result, and a comparison of the internal version of the report obtained by Reuters and the final version published late Friday showed several differences. For example, on the first page of the internal report shared with EU governments on April 20, the EU’s foreign policy arm said: “China has continued to run a global disinformation campaign to deflect blame for the outbreak of the pandemic and improve its international image. Both overt and covert tactics have been observed.”

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Yeah, let’s buy us some shale.

US Weighs Taking Equity Stakes In US Energy Companies – Mnuchin (R.)

The U.S. government is considering taking equity stakes in U.S. energy companies as it seeks to help the nation’s oil and gas sector amid the coronavirus outbreak, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday. President Donald Trump, speaking at a White House event with Mnuchin, said he wants to help industry and suggested the federal government could buy fuel for the country in advance as well as purchase airline tickets in advance. “We’re looking at a whole bunch of alternatives,” Mnuchin said. “You can assume that’s one of the alternatives, but there’s many of them,” Mnuchin said, referring to possible equity stakes.


The oil sector has been hit hard by a dramatic drop in demand as the coronavirus has effectively shut down economies around the globe. “The energy business is very important to me, and we’re going to build it up. This really hurt the energy business as much as any other business because it totally knocked out – the supply kept coming,” Trump said. Trump helped negotiate a reduction in output from OPEC and other countries including Russia, but the move has not removed the market’s oversupply. The president encouraged Mnuchin to look at buying oil for later use. “The United States is the largest user of oil. We could buy oil at a great price into the future. That gives them the infusion they need, and we have oil at a great price into the future,” Trump said.

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Well, if you wait long enough… Meanwhile, there are no buyers for your products anyway, so why bother?

Economics Professor: Australia Would Be ‘Better Off’ Without Lockdown (DM)

An economics professor has been slammed as ‘cold’ and ‘heartless’ for suggesting Australia prioritised health over the economy by going into coronavirus lockdown. University of New South Wales Professor Gigi Foster sparked outrage from fellow panellists and other economic professors while answering questions about the impacts of shutdown measures on Q&A on Monday. Professor Foster suggested Australia hadn’t properly weighed up the economic consequences of tough restrictions introduced to reduce the death toll, and argued the ‘economy is about lives’ too. ‘What frustrates me is when people talk about the economic costs of the lockdown they often don’t think in detail in terms of counting lives,’ Professor Foster said.

‘Has anyone thought about how would you get a measure of the traded lives when we lock an economy down? What are we sacrificing in terms of lives? ‘Economists have tried to do that and we try to do that in currencies like the value of a statistical life. ‘If you do that kind of calculus you realise very quickly that even with a very, very extreme epidemic, in Australia, we are still potentially better off not having an economic lockdown in the first place because of the incredible effects that you see. ‘Not just in a short-run way but in many years to come.’ Her views prompted a shocked response from fellow panellists on the ABC program.


‘How can you say that?’ ACTU secretary Sally McManus fired back. ‘We’re avoiding what’s happened in the UK, what’s happening in the US, the idea of having our ICUs overrun, our healthcare workers dying as well is just the most horrible thought.’ ‘It’s horrible either way,’ Professor Foster replied. ‘The coronavirus has made the world awful. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. ‘In order to have a proper discussion about trade-offs, you need to think in terms of lives you’re giving up. ‘I know it’s invisible lives and difficult to imagine when we aggregate, for example, all of the health effects and the mental health effects and the effects of people right now who have illnesses other than COVID-19.’

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Moro is no Mother Teresa himself.

Brazil Justice Minister Resigns Over Bolsonaro’s Investigations Meddling (IC)

As the country slept Friday morning, far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro fired the Federal Police Director Maurício Valeixo, bringing to a head a long-simmering battle with Justice Minister Sergio Moro. Moro, in turn, promptly resigned — in a new, major episode of deepening chaos in Brazilian politics. The official notice firing the Federal Police head bears Moro’s digital signature, but in a press conference Friday morning, the outgoing justice minister claimed that he was not informed of the move and did not sign the document. This and other revelations made by Moro could serve as grounds for impeachment, if the Brazilian body politic can muster the political will to support such a drastic measure. Members of Congress are already gathering signatures for a congressional inquiry into Moro’s allegations.

In his press conference, Moro suggested that Bolsonaro removed Valeixo because the president opposed investigations being conducted by the Federal Police. “He was concerned about investigations underway in the Federal Supreme Court and that a change would also be opportune at the Federal Police,” Moro said of Bolsonaro’s thinking. Moro said Bolsonaro’s concerns were not a reasonable justification for firing Valeixo, but added that he nonetheless searched for “an alternative solution, to avoid a political crisis during a pandemic.” In the end, Moro said, “I understood that I could not set aside my commitment to the rule of law.”

Notably, the Federal Police are conducting several investigations that could impact Bolsonaro, his politician sons, and several members of their inner circle. Moro loomed large over Brazilian politics during the past several years, even before he accepted Bolsonaro’s offer to serve as justice minister. He was the judge at the center of the influential Operation Car Wash anti-corruption investigation that put former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in prison, removing the popular politician from the 2018 presidential election and clearing the way for Bolsonaro’s victory. When he entered government, Moro was among the most popular political figures in the country and was seen as an important ally for Bolsonaro, but also as a potential rival in the 2022 elections.

The ex-judge’s standing, however, was seriously weakened after The Intercept began publishing an explosive series, in English and Portuguese, on malfeasance and potential illegal actions by Moro and Car Wash prosecutors. As a result of the series, Lula was eventually released from prison.

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Is there anything more American?

Denver Health Execss Get Bonuses 1 Week After Workers Asked To Take Cuts (CBS)

Top executives at Denver Health Medical Center received significant bonuses this month for their performance in 2019, ranging from $50,000 up to $230,000, one week after frontline hospital workers were asked to voluntarily take leave without pay or reduce their hours as the hospital dealt with the financial downturn resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. On April 3, Denver Health CEO Robin Wittenstein emailed hospital workers noting “the current situation will stress us financially.” She announced a hiring freeze and asked employees to voluntarily take leave without pay, use personal time off or reduce their normal work week.


“The goal is to reduce our total salary expense without the need to lay off employees or implement mandatory PTO/furloughs,” wrote Wittenstein. She said the hospital was also considering mandating workers to use their paid time off, mandatory leave without pay and other steps. “The goal is to avoid these extreme measures if at all possible,” she wrote. One week later, on April 10, Wittenstein and her executive staff saw their 2019 Management Incentive Plan bonuses deposited into their bank accounts.

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Macron pleasing the unions AND his small businesses.

Amazon To Be Fined €100K For Every ‘Non-Essential’ Delivery in France (RT)

Amazon will face a fine each time it delivers non-essential goods in France until it improves the safety conditions of its workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The company earlier closed its warehouses in protest. On Friday, an appeals court in Versailles, outside Paris, upheld last week’s ruling, which restricted Amazon’s French warehouses to only shipping IT products, health items, groceries and pet food until it ensures the safety of its workers. Jeff Bezos’ e-commerce giant was given 48 hours to comply with the ruling, and will be fined €100,000 ($108,020) for every delivery that doesn’t meet the court’s requirements.


On April 14, a court ruled that Amazon had failed to guarantee the safety of its workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and said that the company must submit an updated professional risk assessment before it can resume full operations. Amazon argued that it had already updated its work safety protocols and introduced disease-control measures to prevent its workers from being infected with the coronavirus. Following the ruling on April 14, the company completely shut down its French warehouses until Saturday.

Read more …

 

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Trara Reade’s mom called Larry King in 1993.

 

 

 

Merkel is a chemist by trade. She understands a thing or two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Apr 222020
 


Saul Leiter Man in straw hat 1955

 

 

 

The following was written by Bruce Wilds, who runs the Advancing Time blog. Bruce is a small business owner in the Midwest.

I get lots of articles sent to me, but hardly ever publish any (sorry I can’t send everyone a reply) because they’re not what I think this site should be. But with this article it’s different. I think what Bruce describes is interesting, important even. The US has been losing small businesses for a long time, and the virus response is set to greatly accelerate the process. The huge stimulus plans will bypass most small businesses, because they are too small for governments to know what to do with.

The article was written before the latest round of handouts, but there’s very little reason to believe it will change much of anything. It’s not so much a grand plan or conspiracy, it just that the system has come to recognize only that bigger is better. America doesn’t like small. This is as true for banks as it is for various levels of government. But small businnesses have not only built the country, and are crucial for the faces of Main Streets and small towns, they also employ enormous amounts of Americans.

 

 

Bruce Wilds: The Paycheck Protection Program or PPP was funded with $350 billion in the last stimulus bill, this money is now gone. Of the thirty million small businesses in America, only 1.7 million received money from the 2.3 trillion dollar aid package passed to help sustain America during this difficult time. If the government blew through this money and was only was able to help only around 5% of small businesses. it is difficult to think another 250 billion dollars will set things straight. Clearly, because when the government made promises it delayed the wave of firing while companies waited for help.

The government has failed to keep its promise so now we should expect unemployment to soar as reality sets in. One of the largest problems facing small companies is they are often underfunded and have difficulty getting financing at reasonable rates. Banks find larger companies much more profitable. The sector of the economy most damaged by the covid-19 shutdown is small business. When this is over America will find many small businesses have been decimated and are not able to reopen. Others will never recover and be forced to close within months. Since small businesses employ over 54 million people in America and their importance in the economy should not be underestimated.

• Small businesses contribute 44 percent of all sales in the country.
• Small businesses employ 54.4 million people, about 57.3 percent of the private workforce.

Rest assured government employees and bureaucrats will still continue to get paid but small business, the most productive part of the economy has a knife to its throat. As a landlord and small business owner, I can tell you the program was structured in a way that will be of little help to most small businesses. The government slammed expensive legislation through with no idea of the damage they were doing and how it will cause hundreds of thousands of businesses to close their doors forever. Washington has become so attuned to dealing with lobbyists from mega-companies it has lost sight of the fact small is small, and when this comes to business, this means usually under twenty employees, not hundreds.

 

 

The government’s answer to keeping people employed was to promise small businesses an easy to get, rapid maximum loan amount of two and a half times a company’s average monthly payroll expense over the past 12 months. This loan would turn into a grant and be forgiven if a company did not fire its employees. Sadly, legislators failed to take into consideration that not all small businesses are labor or payroll intense. Some businesses with large or expensive showrooms are getting hammered by rent, others by inventory, or things like taxes, utilities, or even by having to toss products due to spoilage.

The PPP also failed to address the issue of what these employees are going to do while the company has no customers and business barely trickling. In the past, these employees were expected to pursue activities that earned revenue and garnered profits for the business but with no costumers, this is difficult to do. The PPP also ignored the fact that by keeping these employees on the payroll a generous employer is left open to the harsh mandates laid out in the government’s previous bill. The hastily drawn up 110-page federal covid-19 economic rescue package, which Trump fully supported dealt a hard blow to small business. For a small business this is a disaster, the bill requires;

• Employers with fewer than 500 employees and government employers offer two weeks of paid sick leave through 2020.
• Those same employers must now provide up to 3 months of paid family and medical leave for people forced to quarantine due to the virus or care for family because of the outbreak

As expected, this measure, named “Families First Coronavirus Response Act.” resulted in millions of workers suddenly losing their jobs. Ironically, it was held before the voters as proof lawmakers could work together during a crisis. By framing the poorly crafted pork-packed bill this way promoters positioned themselves to demonize those unwilling to support it. Remember, this bill is was in addition to the $8.3 billion emergency spending bill first approved to curb the spread of covid-19.

 

 

As government has grown larger it seems to have become totally oblivious to the fragility of many small businesses and how much it can cost a community when they close. By framing these pork-packed bills as bipartisan their promoters imply they are fair and balanced. This is not true, small business is the big loser and hundreds of thousands will soon have to close. With so many tenants looking at foregoing rent small landlords that don’t have deep pockets also face huge problems. We have our heads in the sand if we think companies that exist on events where people gather will overnight regain their luster. It is not like someone can simply flick a switch and things will return to normal.

Reality undercuts the idea of the “V-shaped recovery” theory and the idea after the economy has come to a dead stop it can quickly reboot and be back at full speed in a few months. The government has presented us with an extension of crony capitalism structured to throw just enough to the masses to silence their outrage but in the coming weeks, we will see it failed. Large businesses with access to cheap capital are the winners and the big losers are the middle-class, small businesses, and social mobility. All those people that want a higher minimum wage can forget that ever happening if we don’t have jobs.

As for just how much small business owners make, according to figures from 2015 from the Small Business Administration the median income for self-employed individuals at an incorporated business was $49,804 and $22,424 for unincorporated firms. According to PayScale’s 2017 data, the average small business owner’s income is $73,000 per year. But, total earnings can range from $30,000 – $182,000 per year. This means it varies greatly depending on where and just how big the business is. However, it is important to remember these people have “skin in the game” and most risk losing everything if their business fails.

 

It is important to recognize that starting your own business has always been about the opportunity to design and build your own future. It is a symbol of freedom not a guarantee of wealth. Many people choose this path proudly, not to make more money but as a way to express their individuality. For these competent and talented people, a job in government or at a large company often offers more security and benefits but far less freedom. Do not underestimate the value of small business and what it contributes to our society. Companies such as Amazon are the anti-thesis of small business making their workers a cog in a machine and stealing their soul.

Based on the government’s promise to small businesses a great many held off on letting employees go but with each passing day in order to survive they are now in the process of letting hundreds of thousands of employees go. This is a ticking time-bomb. By telling these businesses to close and then through its failure to carry out its promise of helping them the government has created a situation with massive negative economic ramifications. To make matters worse, people going on unemployment look to get almost as much as those that do work. Why will anyone want to work, especially government workers when they can get paid to stay home? This is not about wanting more money for small business, it is about the reality that the firings are just beginning.

 

 

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Apr 032020
 


Elliott Erwitt National Congress Building by Oscar Niemeyer, Brasilia, Brazil 1961

 

US Paying Russia For Entire Planeload Of Coronavirus Equipment – Official (R.)
Our Finest Hour (Ben Hunt)
New York City Nurses Demand Personal Protection Equipment (WABC)
New Orleans Coronavirus Death Rate Is Twice New York. Obesity Is A Factor (R.)
US Weekly Jobless Claims Blow Past Six Million As Lockdowns Spread (R.)
Israeli Scientists: Coronavirus Vaccine Tested On Humans By June 1 (JPost)
France’s Coronavirus Death Toll Jumps As Nursing Homes Included (R.)
Germany Has A Low Coronavirus Mortality Rate: Here’s Why (CNBC)
Fed’s Dilemma: Picking Winners For $4 Trillion In Credit (R.)
This Hard Truth About The Mortgage Markets Isn’t Being Told (Jurow)
A Corporate Debt Reckoning Is Coming (13D)
US Air Force To Release $882 Million To Boeing (R.)
US Crude Futures Trim Record Gain (R.)
Cuomo’s Bubble is Starting to Burst (Lauria)
Google Releases Location Data On Lockdowns In 131 Countries (R.)
Leaked Amazon Memo Details Plan to Smear Fired Warehouse Organizer (Vice)

 

 

We’ll keep setting records for a while longer yet, driven by the US in particular.

US cases doubled in 8 days. That rate will speed up.

All countries, the US first of all, need to move their focus away from saving companies and onto saving people. Now would be a good time.

 

 

Cases 1,030,181 (+ 79,756 from yesterday’s 950,425)

Deaths 54,194 (+ 5,918 from yesterday’s 48,276)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 20% –

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

 

 

Who said the RussiaRussia obsession couldn’t be fun? Bottom line between the lines: the US pays, but as the Russians say, both cover half the cost. In other words, the US pays half price. Will that satisfy the American propaganda voices? Stay tuned. Putin was criticized at home for selling these things to the US while Russia may not have enough for itself.

Compare that to Tucker’s America First declaration. And Thailand’s response.

US Paying Russia For Entire Planeload Of Coronavirus Equipment – Official (R.)

The United States is paying Russia for a planeload of medical equipment sent by Moscow to help fight the coronavirus outbreak, a senior Trump administration official said on Thursday, clearing up confusion as to who footed the bill. It had been unclear whether Russia had sent the 60 tons of equipment as a gift or whether it had sold the shipment of ventilators, masks, respirators and other items following a phone discussion between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump, asked about the shipment at a White House news briefing, said he was happy to take delivery of it. “I am not concerned about Russian propaganda, not even a little bit. He (Putin) offered a lot of medical, high-quality stuff that I accepted. And that may save a lot of lives. I’ll take it every day,” he said.


The Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow had paid half the cost with the other half picked up by Washington. But the senior administration official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the United States paid. “The United States is purchasing the supplies and equipment outright, as with deliveries from other countries,” the official said. “We appreciate Russia selling these items to us below market value.” The official did not give an exact cost. The State Department did not respond to requests for more information. The plane arrived on Wednesday at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and the gear was to be inspected by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to make sure it met U.S. quality standards.

https://twitter.com/ColumbiaBugle/status/1245881131225890816

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Ben Hunt is setting up a program to purchase and distribute masks and other PPE equipment in the US. It’s a terrible shame that he, like so many Americans, thinks he must, for some reason, put this in terms of warfare. Shouldn’t it be the opposite?

“There is no country in the world that mobilizes for war more effectively than the United States. And I know you won’t believe me, but I tell you it is true: This will be #OurFinestHour.”

Our Finest Hour (Ben Hunt)

Last week we wrote a brief note (Getting PPE to Healthcare Workers and First Responders) to introduce our efforts to get personal protective equipment (PPE) directly into the hands of frontline heroes: healthcare professionals and emergency responders who put their own lives and their families’ lives at risk every freakin’ day to stem the tide against this virus. Today I want to share with you the story of how this effort has come together into something real and tangible. Today I want to invite you to join us. First let me tell you what we’re NOT doing. We are not competing with federal or state emergency management authorities in their big bulk orders of PPE.


We are not going to drive up the price of these supplies any more than they have already been driven up in this global scramble to acquire medical gear. But we are also not waiting on these federal or state emergency management authorities to get these big bulk orders and then trickle the supplies down to the frontlines. What we ARE doing is putting together an end-to-end grassroots PPE distribution effort, where we source the equipment from certified manufacturers who meet accepted international standards, we pay for these purchases out of a 501(c)(3) foundation where 100 cents of every dollar goes to this effort, and we distribute that PPE all the way through the “last-mile”, getting small quantities of PPE directly into the hands of clinicians and first responders who are in urgent need.

Over the past 10 days we’ve purchased and distributed about 15,000 N95 and N95-equivalent masks directly to the doctors and nurses and firemen and EMTs who need the equipment NOW, in deliveries as small as 30 masks and as large as 500, depending on need. More importantly, we’ve set up a pipeline where we think we can get a steady delivery of 2,000 or so masks per day AND the occasional larger order AND the distribution capacity + knowledge to get this equipment directly to our frontline heroes. We’ve raised more than $200,000 to support this effort. We’ve partnered with incredibly generous private companies ranging in size from a Fortune 50 megacorp to the owners of the local UPS franchise. And we’re just getting started.


[..] If you are a healthcare worker or a first responder anywhere in the United States in urgent need of PPE, or you know someone who is, please fill out the online form below to get on our distribution list. Right now we are focused on N95 and N95-equivalent masks (more on the different types of masks in the Sourcing section of this note), although in the future we will try to supply isolation gowns and other PPE items..

https://twitter.com/AvidCommentator/status/1245892087020572672

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Ask Ben Hunt.

New York City Nurses Demand Personal Protection Equipment (WABC)

There’s a growing concern among nurses and doctors in New York City that they’ll run out of personal protection equipment (PPE) and supplies. A dozen health care workers spoke out Thursday near Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx about their concerns. “We’re running out of PPE, we’re running out of pain medication, we’re running out of sedatives,” third-year resident physician Laura Ucik said. State leaders say hundreds of thousands of personal protection masks and supplies have been shipped to New York, but some health care workers say their emergency rooms haven’t benefited yet. “If front line care givers are sick, are dying, there won’t be anyone left to take care of the public,” said Judy Sheridan-Gonzalez, ER nurse and president of the New York State Nurses Association.


Some health care workers are saying they’re being told to reuse not only critical N95 masks but every day supplies. “I was given one disposable gown to use all day to take care of COVID-19 patients,” Ucik said. “And I would hang it up on an IV pole in between patients and put my single N95 mask into a brown paper bag.” It’s a problem at hospitals throughout the area. The New York City Health Department recently sent an alert to hospitals, telling them to “conserve all personal protective equipment now.” It isn’t a request, and the language in the alert states health care facilities must immediately implement these measures. “It puts me at risk, it puts you at risk, everyone in the health care building at risk,” nurse Victoria Lanquah said.

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It’ll prove to be a major factor all over the US.

New Orleans Coronavirus Death Rate Is Twice New York. Obesity Is A Factor (R.)

The coronavirus has been a far deadlier threat in New Orleans than the rest of the United States, with a per-capita death rate twice that of New York City. Doctors, public health officials and available data say the Big Easy’s high levels of obesity and related ailments may be part of the problem. “We’re just sicker,” said Rebekah Gee, who until January was the health secretary for Louisiana and now heads Louisiana State University’s healthcare services division. “We already had tremendous healthcare disparities before this pandemic – one can only imagine they are being amplified now.” Along with New York and Seattle, New Orleans has emerged as one of the early U.S. hot spots for the coronavirus, making it a national test case for how to control and treat the disease it causes.


Chief among the concerns raised by doctors working in the Louisiana city is the death rate, which is twice that of New York and over four times that of Seattle, based on Thursday’s publicly reported data. New Orleans residents suffer from obesity, diabetes and hypertension at rates higher than the national average, conditions that doctors and public health officials say can make patients more vulnerable to COVID-19, the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. Some 97% of those killed by COVID-19 in Louisiana had a pre-existing condition, according to the state health department. Diabetes was seen in 40% of the deaths, obesity in 25%, chronic kidney disease in 23% and cardiac problems in 21%. Orleans Parish, which encompasses the city, reported 125 confirmed coronavirus deaths as of Thursday, the equivalent of 32 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people. That rate for New York City was at 15.9 on Thursday.

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Will Reuters stop polling the team of economists now, after another ridiculously off the mark prediction? No, it will not.

US Weekly Jobless Claims Blow Past Six Million As Lockdowns Spread (R.)

The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits shot to a record high of more than 6 million last week as more jurisdictions enforced stay-at-home measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic, which economists say has pushed the economy into recession. Thursday’s weekly jobless claims report from the Labor Department, the most timely data on the economy’s health, reinforced economists’ views that the longest employment boom in U.S. history probably ended in March. With a majority of Americans now under some form of lockdown, claims are expected to rise further. Economists said worsening job losses underscored the need for additional fiscal and monetary stimulus. President Donald Trump last week signed a historic $2.3 trillion package, with provisions for companies and unemployed workers.

The Federal Reserve has also undertaken extraordinary measures to help companies weather the highly contagious virus, which has brought the country to a halt. “These data underscore the magnitude of the stop-work order that has been imposed on the economy,” said Conrad DeQuadros, senior economic advisor at Brean Capital in New York. “The scale of the increase should also focus policymakers on getting the cash into the economy with possibly a fourth fiscal package and additional Fed lending programs.” [..] Initial claims for state unemployment benefits surged 3.341 million to a seasonally adjusted 6.648 million for the week ended March 28, the government said. That was double the previous all-time high of 3.307 million set in the prior week. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims would jump to 3.50 million in the latest week, though estimates were as high as 5.25 million.

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There are dozens of these things happening. This is the Jerusalem Post on an Israeli company, which makes the “news” suspicious right off the bat.

Israeli Scientists: Coronavirus Vaccine Tested On Humans By June 1 (JPost)

A team of Israeli researchers says that they are days away from completing the production of the active component of a coronavirus vaccine that could be tested on humans as early as June 1. “We are in the final stages and within a few days we will hold the proteins – the active component of the vaccine,” Dr. Chen Katz, group leader of MIGAL’s biotechnology group, told The Jerusalem Post. In late February, MIGAL (The Galilee Research Institute) committed to completing production of its vaccine within three weeks and having it on the market in 90 days. Katz said they were slightly delayed because it took longer than expected to receive the genetic construct that they ordered from China due to the airways being closed and it having to be rerouted.

As a reminder, for the past four years, researchers at MIGAL have been developing a vaccine against infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), which causes a bronchial disease affecting poultry. The effectiveness of the vaccine has been proven in preclinical trials carried out at the Veterinary Institute. “Our basic concept was to develop the technology and not specifically a vaccine for this kind or that kind of virus,” said Katz. “The scientific framework for the vaccine is based on a new protein expression vector, which forms and secretes a chimeric soluble protein that delivers the viral antigen into mucosal tissues by self-activated endocytosis, causing the body to form antibodies against the virus.”

In preclinical trials, the team demonstrated that the oral vaccination induces high levels of specific anti-IBV antibodies, Katz said. “Let’s call it pure luck,” he said. “We decided to choose coronavirus as a model for our system just as a proof of concept for our technology.”

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This can’t be the exception. Such “counting errors” maust be commonplace.

France’s Coronavirus Death Toll Jumps As Nursing Homes Included (R.)

The coronavirus death count in France surged to nearly 5,400 people on Thursday after the health ministry began including nursing home fatalities in its data. The pandemic had claimed the lives of 4,503 patients in hospitals by Thursday, up 12% on the previous day’s 4,032, said Jerome Salomon, head of the health authority. A provisional tally showed the coronavirus had killed a further 884 people in nursing homes and other care facilities, he added. This makes for a total of 5,387 lives lost to coronavirus in France – an increase of 1,355 over Wednesday’s cumulative total – although data has not yet been collected from all of the country’s 7,400 nursing homes. “We are in France confronting an exceptional epidemic with an unprecedented impact on public health,” Salomon told a news conference.


The country’s broad lockdown is likely to be extended beyond April 15, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Thursday, extending a confinement order to try and deal with the crisis that began on March 17. The government was racing to try to ensure it can produce or procure itself certain medications needed to treat coronavirus patients as stocks were running low, Philippe told TF1 TV, echoing concerns across Europe as the pandemic places a huge strain on hospitals in Italy, Spain and elsewhere. More than two-thirds of all the known nursing home deaths have been registered in France’s Grand Est region, which abuts the border with Germany. It was the first region in France to be overwhelmed by a wave of infections that has rapidly moved west to engulf greater Paris, where hospitals are desperately trying to add intensive care beds to cope with the influx of critically ill patients.

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A few remarks: Germany has a huge amount of ICU places. Neighbor the Netherlands has far fewer. But that’s also partly due to a different philosophy: where most countries try to keep people alive as long as possible, the Netherlands has a tradition, way before corona, of focusing more on quality than quantity of life. Old people with multiple ailments are not kept alive at all costs.

And if Andrew Cuomo is correct when he stated that of all people put on a ventilator only 20% survives, a question mark may be suitable. Is Germany’s low death rate a result of them keeping people on ventilators for a long time that will not have a quality life again? Religion is a big issue, but on the other hand there’s a huge increase in Do Not Resuscitate documents.

Note: Germany this morning, like many other countries have, issued a warning that it may run out of ICU places. That may lead to German doctors having to make decisions that they’re not used to making, unlike their Dutch counterparts.

Germany Has A Low Coronavirus Mortality Rate: Here’s Why (CNBC)

Germany seems to be taking the epidemic in its stride with a high number of cases but a low number of deaths, thanks to a number of factors. In Europe, while Italy and Spain are the worst hit countries with over 100,000 cases each, as of Friday, Germany has recorded 84,794 confirmed cases but has witnessed just 1,107 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The low mortality rate in Germany, at just over 1%, is far below its neighboring European countries, and this has been put down to Germany’s decision to implement widespread testing of people suspected of having the virus, as opposed to Italy or the U.K.’s decision to only test symptomatic cases.

Karl Lauterbach, a professor of health economics and epidemiology at the University of Cologne, and a politician in the Social Democratic Party (SPD) of Germany, told CNBC that Germany’s less severe experience of the pandemic so far was down to a handful of factors. “I think so far we’ve been lucky because we were hit by the wave of new infections later than many other European countries, for example Italy, Spain and France,” he told CNBC Thursday. “So we had a minor but important delay in the wave of infections coming to Germany. Secondly, the first people that got infected in Germany tended to be younger than the average of the population … so we were hit later and with younger patients initially.”

Lauterbach noted that a third factor that helped Germany was a slow increase in the number of infections, allowing those patients to be treated at the country’s top medical institutions, including some of the country’s best university hospitals (including those in Bonn, Dusseldorf, Aachen and Cologne) in the Heinsberg region where there was a cluster of infections at the start of the outbreak. “Number four, all things considered, the German health-care system and hospital system has been modernized by the Social Democrats and Christian Democrats over the last 20 years … this meant we had more hospital beds, more ventilators, more ICU (Intensive Care Units) beds and more hospital doctors, roughly speaking, than any other comparable country in Europe … So our system is in a reasonable shape for such an epidemic.”

While almost all European countries have introduced lockdowns to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, fatality rates have differed wildly. The mortality rate in Italy around the end of March stood at 11%, for example. Germany’s rate is comparable with South Korea, a country that has also attracted plaudits for its management of the coronavirus crisis with extensive testing, contact tracing and digital surveillance of its citizens. Germany’s lockdown, alongside a rigorous testing regime, has also helped, Lauterbach said. While countries like the U.K. now have to build a diagnostics industry from scratch, Germany already had one built around the multinational might of Roche.

The country reportedly has the capacity to carry out up to 500,000 tests a week, whereas the U.K. can currently only manage just over 10,000 a day. Asked about the possible trajectory Germany’s coronavirus rate could take, Lauterbach said his worst-case scenario was that 10% of Germany’s 83 million population contract the virus, and with a 1% fatality rate, then 80,000 people would die. “It must be lower than that, it would be a tragedy if 10% of the population get infected, that’s my personal worst-case scenario.”

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We all know who will be the winners.

Fed’s Dilemma: Picking Winners For $4 Trillion In Credit (R.)

When the Federal Reserve polled Wall Street about financial stability risks last fall, “global pandemic” didn’t make the list. But the coronavirus outbreak has triggered virtually every other shock that was mentioned – from a stock market rout to a looming global recession – and is forcing the U.S. central bank and the U.S. Treasury to triage a system springing leaks by the day. Compared with the 2007-2009 meltdown, which was centered in the mortgage and financial markets, the current crisis is a massively more complex problem with the Fed pulled to intervene in virtually every aspect of U.S. household and corporate commerce and finance.

The challenge now facing the central bank, in consultation with the Treasury, is prioritizing which market, set of companies or group of institutions to help next as it plans how to leverage more than $450 billion of seed money from the Treasury into perhaps $4.5 trillion in credit programs. It is an uncomfortable role that could push the Fed beyond its traditional job of keeping financial markets open and running smoothly, to picking winners and losers in whatever economy emerges from a pandemic that has brought business activity to a virtual standstill.

“You’ve entered not just the world of accepting credit risk but of allocating it as well,” said Mark Spindel, a Fed historian who is the chief executive officer of Potomac River Capital. Through the emergency $2.3 trillion legislation passed last week, “Congress and Treasury have decided to cast the Fed as the only balance sheet large enough” for the measures that might be needed. In the extreme, that could include roughly $26 trillion in debt held by non-financial companies and households – $16 trillion if home mortgages are excluded.

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Keith Jurow omits one way the housing zombie has been kept alive: ultra low rates.

This Hard Truth About The Mortgage Markets Isn’t Being Told (Jurow)

Everyone wants to know what impact the coronavirus and the government response to it will have on housing markets. While it is too early to hazard a guess, some things are becoming increasingly clear. Already, it looks as if the U.S. is moving towards a temporary moratorium on mortgage payments. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac unveiled an emergency program which provides a two-month deferral of mortgage payments for any homeowner who claims to be facing a hardship because of the virus. The payments will be tacked on at the end of the mortgage term. The coronavirus rescue law just enacted by Congress includes a provision which requires all firms that service federally-backed mortgages to grant a forbearance of up to 360 days for any borrowers who say they have been harmed by the coronavirus outbreak.

It is not much of a stretch to say that this virus has changed everything. Many of you may sense that the virus has undermined what you thought was still a fairly strong housing market around the country. In truth, the so-called housing recovery since 2010 has been little more than a carefully constructed illusion. The belief in a strong housing recovery was carefully devised using a strategy of misleading information, withheld data and false impressions. As I have explained in recent columns, the strategy to turn around collapsing housing markets unfolded in three parts: (1) restrict the number of foreclosed properties placed on the market; (2) radically reduce the number of seriously delinquent homes actually foreclosed and repossessed, and (3) provide millions of delinquent homeowners a mortgage modification as an alternative to foreclosure.

This strategy fooled nearly everyone into believing that the disaster has been overcome. The best example is Los Angeles County — ground zero for the collapse. In 2008, more than 37,000 properties were foreclosed. The plunge in foreclosures didn’t really kick in until 2012 when the number dropped to slightly over 10,000. The next year, foreclosures plunged to 3,340. Don’t think for a minute that this was due to an improving economy. Not at all. It was simply the strategy of desperate servicers. With so few properties foreclosed and even fewer placed on the market, home prices had no where to go but up.

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The Fed will be dragged to the ground by the zombies it’s carrying.

A Corporate Debt Reckoning Is Coming (13D)

Corporate debt is the timebomb everyone saw ticking, but no one was able to defuse. Ratings agencies warned about it: Moody’s, S&P. Central banks and international financial institutions did too: the Fed, the Bank of England, the Bank for International Settlements, the IMF. Financial luminaries expressed concern: Jamie Dimon, Seth Klarman, Jes Staley, Jeffrey Gundlach, Henry McVey. Even a presidential candidate brought the issue on the campaign trail: Elizabeth Warren. Yet, as we’ve documented in these pages for more than two years, corporations have only piled on more debt as their balance sheet health has deteriorated.


Total U.S. non-financial corporate debt sits at just under $10 trillion, a record 47% of GDP. One in six U.S. companies is now a zombie, meaning their interest expenses exceed their earnings before interest and taxes. As of year-end 2019, the percentage of listed companies in the U.S. losing money over 12 months sat close to 40%. In the 12 months to November, non-financial S&P 500 cash balances had declined by 11%, the largest percentage decline since at least 1980.
For too long, record-low interest rates inspired complacency, from companies to lenders to regulators and investors. As we warned in WILTW August 8, 2019, corporate fundamentals will eventually matter. Now, with COVID-19 grinding the global economy to a halt, that time has come.

Systemic threats are littered throughout the corporate debt ecosystem. Greater than 50% of outstanding debt is rated BBB, one rung above junk. As downgrades come, asset managers will be forced to flood the market with supply at a time demand has dried up. Meanwhile, leveraged loans — which have swelled by 50% since 2015 to over $1.2 trillion — threaten unprecedented losses given covenant deterioration. And bond ETFs could face a liquidity crisis as a flood of redemptions force offloading of all-too-illiquid bonds. Red lights are now flashing. Distressed debt in the U.S. has quadrupled in less than a week to nearly $1 trillion. Last week, bond fund outflows quadrupled the previous record, which was set the previous week. Moody’s and S&P have already declared a significant portion of outstanding debt under review for potential downgrade.


Source: FInancial Times

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Boeing’s miliary division is as fault-prone as its 737MAX part. And that’s what the country’s security depends on.

US Air Force To Release $882 Million To Boeing (R.)

The U.S. Air Force will release $882 million in payments to Boeing that were held back due to flaws in the KC-46 air refueling tanker, a Pentagon official said on Thursday. The release of the payment to Boeing is part of a broader recommendation sent to Air Force contracting officials, according to a memo seen by Reuters, aimed at maintaining the financial health of suppliers to the Department of Defense. Will Roper, the Air Force’s chief buyer, told reporters the initiative will free up billions of dollars in funding for numerous contractors, not just Boeing. “If we want to have a defense industrial base coming out of COVID-19, that’s able to continue building,” Roper said, “every day is a new challenge.”


Boeing’s financial situation has become increasingly precarious as economic fallout from the coronavirus has frozen key lending markets and cut off demand for Boeing’s commercial aircraft. The Air Force had the right to hold back about $28 million of the cost of each of the first 52 KC-46 Pegasus jets on order to ensure Boeing delivers fully functional tankers. With 33 jets delivered thus far, the Air Force could have withheld up to $924 million. The Air Force plans to buy 179 of the aircraft, which refuel other aircraft mid-air, but the program has been plagued with problems, including foreign object debris found onboard the planes and issues with a camera system used during the refueling process.

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A lot of money changed hands yesterday. But who won?

US Crude Futures Trim Record Gain (R.)

Benchmark U.S. crude fell more than 1% in early trade on Friday, coming off its biggest one-day gain in the previous session after U.S. President Donald Trump said he expected Saudi Arabia and Russia to announce a major oil production cut. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were down 1.4%, or 36 cents, at $24.96 a barrel at 2223 GMT, after having surged 24.7% on Thursday. Even with the huge gains, prices have still slumped nearly 60% this year as oil demand has plummeted due to the coronavirus pandemic while Saudi Arabia and Russia have flooded the market with crude in a price war.


Trump said he had spoken to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and expects Saudi Arabia and Russia to cut oil output by as much as 10 million to 15 million barrels, as the two countries signaled willingness to make a deal. Analysts said even if Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed to cut production by as much as 15 million barrels per day (bpd) that would not be enough to balance the market in face of a deep economic recession. “The 10-15 million bpd oil production cut reportedly being brokered by President Trump is a great start, but deeper cuts will likely be needed to get through a difficult Q2,” said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at AxiCorp. A deal between Russia and Saudi Arabia could effectively establish a floor for WTI in the $30s, he said.

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At times it feels like he closely follows a Rudy Giuliani scenario. Rule of thumb: if someone has never been really popular and all of a sudden is, do ask why.

Cuomo’s Bubble is Starting to Burst (Lauria)

Cuomo’s present regard for the well-being of every New Yorker, rich or poor, and his lyrical demands to ramp up the number of hospital beds and ventilators is undermined by an ongoing record of drastically cutting back on the state’s assistance to public medical facilities that serve the poor. While he is now frantically trying to add hospital beds in the state (which has lost 20,000 in the past 20 years), Cuomo, over the past decade, agreed to close and consolidate numerous public hospitals, mostly serving the poor, to save money. For instance, in 2013 he approved the closure of the 500-bed Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn, despite objections from the community.

Even in these extraordinary circumstances his budget proposal to shave $400 million off the state’s $35 billion Medicaid bill—which provides care to the poorest New Yorkers—was accepted by the state Senate on Thursday when it passed Cuomo’s 2020 budget. It comes precisely as Medicaid recipients need it most. The state Assembly is to vote on the budget Friday. “So determined is Cuomo to slash Medicaid spending that he’s prepared to reject more than $6 billion in matching federal aid approved earlier this month because it would force him to alter his austerity strategy,” The Nation reported on Monday. It said:

“If Cuomo gets his way with the state budget [which the Senate has now given him], many of the city’s most besieged hospitals will lose money at a time when Covid-19 is threatening to crash New York’s health care system. Central Brooklyn hospitals, serving many of the borough’s working class and poor, could lose $38 million a year. Manhattan hospitals could lose up to $58 million a year.” Naomi Zewde, an assistant professor in the Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy at CUNY, told the magazine: “’The proposal to cut funding to public hospitals during a pandemic reflects really poor decision-making.’” Making it worse, is that Cuomo’s budget did not include rises in property or wealth taxes, despite a $10-15 billion shortfall. “There were no new taxes on the ultrarich, a measure many liberals had clamored for,” The New York Times reported.

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Yes, surveillance state. But no, it’s nothing new.

Google Releases Location Data On Lockdowns In 131 Countries (R.)

Google’s analysis of location data from billions of users’ phones is the largest public dataset available to help health authorities assess if people are abiding with shelter-in-place and similar orders issued across the world. Its reports show charts that compare traffic from Feb. 16 to March 29 at subway, train and bus stations, grocery stores and other broad categories of places with a five-week period earlier this year. In Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, visits to retail and recreation locations, including restaurants and movie theaters, plunged 94% while visits to workplaces slid 63%. Reflecting the severity of the crisis there, grocery and pharmacy visits in Italy dropped 85% and park visits were down by 90%.

In the United States, California, which was the first in the with a statewide lockdown, cut visits to retail and recreation locations by half. By contrast, Arkansas, one of the few states without a sweeping lockdown, has seen such visits fall 29%, the lowest for a U.S. state. The data also underscore some challenges authorities have faced in keeping people apart. Grocery store visits surged in Singapore, the United Kingdom and elsewhere as travel restrictions were set to go into place. Visits to parks spiked in March in some San Francisco Bay Area counties, forcing them to later put the sites off limits. By contrast, in Japan where authorities have been relatively relaxed in urging social distancing measures but where calls have been growing daily for a state of emergency, visits to retail and recreational places fell 26%. Visits to workplace dropped a mere 9%.

[..] Facebook Inc, which like Google has billions of users, has shared location data with non-governmental researchers that are producing similar reports for authorities in several countries. But the social media giant has not published any findings. Infectious disease specialists have said analyzing travel across groups by age, income and other demographics could help shape public service announcements. Google, which infers demographics from users’ internet use as well as some data given when signing up to Google services, said it was not reporting demographic information. The company said, though, it was open to including additional information and countries in follow-up reports.

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The biggest winner in the lockdown economy still finds time to abuse its workers.

Leaked Amazon Memo Details Plan to Smear Fired Warehouse Organizer (Vice)

Leaked notes from an internal meeting of Amazon leadership obtained by VICE News reveal company executives discussed a plan to smear fired warehouse employee Christian Smalls, calling him “not smart or articulate” as part of a PR strategy to make him “the face of the entire union/organizing movement.” “He’s not smart, or articulate, and to the extent the press wants to focus on us versus him, we will be in a much stronger PR position than simply explaining for the umpteenth time how we’re trying to protect workers,” wrote Amazon General Counsel David Zapolsky in notes from the meeting forwarded widely in the company. The discussion took place at a daily meeting, which included CEO Jeff Bezos, to update each other on the coronavirus situation.

Amazon SVP of Global Corporate Affairs Jay Carney described the purpose to CNN on Sunday: “We go over the update on what’s happening around the world with our employees and with our customers and our businesses. We also spend a significant amount of time just brainstorming about what else we can do” about COVID-19. Zapolsky’s notes also detailed Amazon’s efforts to buy millions of protective masks to protect its workers from the coronavirus, as well as an effort to begin producing and selling its own masks. So far, the company has secured at least 10 million masks for “our operations guys,” with 25 million more coming from a supplier in the next two weeks, Zapolsky wrote. Amazon fired the warehouse worker Smalls on Monday, after he led a walkout of a number of employees at a Staten Island distribution warehouse.

Amazon says he was fired for violating a company-imposed 14-day quarantine after he came into contact with an employee who tested positive for the coronavirus. Smalls says the employee who tested positive came into contact with many other workers for longer periods of time before her test came back. He claims he was singled out after pleading with management to sanitize the warehouse and be more transparent about the number of workers who were sick. [..] “We should spend the first part of our response strongly laying out the case for why the organizer’s conduct was immoral, unacceptable, and arguably illegal, in detail, and only then follow with our usual talking points about worker safety,” Zapolsky wrote. “Make him the most interesting part of the story, and if possible make him the face of the entire union/organizing movement.”

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Mar 052020
 


DPC Mott Street, Chinatown, New York c1900

 

Wuhan Coronavirus Infections Spike (R.)
Chinese Scientists Identify Two Strains Of The Coronavirus (CNBC)
On The Origin And Continuing Evolution Of SARS-CoV-2 (NSR)
Official US Coronavirus Numbers Are Wrong, and Everyone Knows It (Atl.)
Flybe, Europe’s Largest Regional Airline, Collapses (G.)
California-Based Cruise Ship Quarantined Off Pacific Coast (Pol.)
Purell For $400? US Lawmaker Urges Amazon To Tamp Down Price Gouging (R.)
The Greatest Victory Of The Establishment Since The Defeat Of The Huns (Turley)
Moscow’s Difficult Decision on Idlib (Lawrence)
Russia Reinforces Syria Before Putin-Erdogan Talks (R.)
Tens Of Thousands Blocked At Greek-Turkey Border (K.)
Greece’s Economic ‘Recovery’ Good News For No One But The Rich (Varoufakis)
Half Of Greek Families Still Cite Pensions As Their Main Source Of Income (K.)

 

 

 

Cases 95,880 (+ 4.563 from Tuesday’s 91,317)

Deaths 3,288 (+ 168 from Tuesday’s 3,120)

 

• Fittingly, No Time To Die was postponed

• Biggest news: Scientists find two different corona strains. So what is everyone exactly testing for, at least those that do testing?

• Italy to close all schools and universities, cinemas and theaters, all sports games behind closed doors.
– 587 new cases, 3,089 cases in total, 1,346 hospitalized, 107 deaths, 295 in intensive care

• South Korea 435 new cases, 4 more deaths, 60% linked to Shincheonji church; 136,000 tests

• CDC’s Dr. Fauci said 15-20% of infected people need hospitalization. Britain has 15 beds for worst cases. How many does US have?

• California declares state of emergency, follows WA, FL
– cruise ship stuck off coast

• France 28 new cases, total to 285. 8 deaths.

• UK cases up 34 to 85 – 66% surge.

• Netherlands 40 cases

• Greece 10 cases

• First airline collapses, Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline

290 million children worldwide locked out of school.
– 13 countries closed all schools, among them Italy, China, Japan, Iran. 9 others have reginal closures, US, Germany, France and more

• “On Tuesday, Ford Motor Company, which employs nearly 200,000 people, told workers to stop all international and U.S. domestic air travel..”

 

From SCMP:

 

 

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

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

All is good.

Wuhan Coronavirus Infections Spike (R.)

Mainland China reported a rise in new confirmed cases of coronavirus on Thursday, reversing three straight days of declines, because of a spike in new infections in Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak. Mainland China had 139 new confirmed cases as of Wednesday, the National Health Commission (NHC) said, bringing the total accumulated number of cases to 80,409. Authorities reported 119 new cases the previous day and 125 the day before that. The increase was driven by more cases in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei, where the virus is believed to have emerged in a market late last year.

Wuhan’s new infections climbed to 131 from 114 a day earlier. There was no immediate elaboration and health officials were due to hold a briefing later in the day. After what some critics said was an initially hesitant response to the new virus, China imposed sweeping restrictions to try to stop it, including transport suspensions, lockdowns of cities and extending a Lunar New Year holiday across the country. WHO officials have said other countries have much to learn from the way China has handled the outbreak and Vice Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu said many countries had asked for help and China was responding.

The number of new confirmed cases in Hubei, excluding Wuhan, has remained in single digits for seven consecutive days, with three new infections recorded on Wednesday. In the rest of mainland China, outside Hubei, there were only five new confirmed cases, the health commission said. The death toll from the outbreak in mainland China had reached 3,012 as of the end of Wednesday, up by 31 from the previous day. Hubei accounted for all of the new deaths. In Wuhan, 23 people died. With the downward trend in new cases, Chinese authorities have turned their attention to stopping the virus being brought in from new coronavirus hot spots abroad.

Read more …

A remarkably bland version of the story.

Chinese Scientists Identify Two Strains Of The Coronavirus (CNBC)

Researchers in China have found that two different types of the new coronavirus could be causing infections worldwide. In a preliminary study published Tuesday, scientists at Peking University’s School of Life Sciences and the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai found that a more aggressive type of the new coronavirus had accounted for roughly 70% of analyzed strains, while 30% had been linked to a less aggressive type. The more aggressive type of virus was found to be prevalent in the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan — the Chinese city where COVID-19 was first detected late last year. But the frequency of this type of virus has since decreased from early January.


The researchers said their results indicate the development of new variations of the spike in COVID-19 cases was “likely caused by mutations and natural selection besides recombination.” “These findings strongly support an urgent need for further immediate, comprehensive studies that combine genomic data, epidemiological data, and chart records of the clinical symptoms of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” they said. Researchers cautioned that data examined in the study was still “very limited,” emphasizing that follow-up studies of a larger set of data would be needed to gain a “better understanding” of the evolution and epidemiology of COVID-19.

Read more …

This is more like it. But again, what are we testing for, if we are testing at all? Are all tests exactly the same? And then: do they cover both strains?

On The Origin And Continuing Evolution Of SARS-CoV-2 (NSR)

The SARS-CoV-2 epidemic started in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and has since impacted a large portion of China and raised major global concern. Herein, we investigated the extent of molecular divergence between SARS-CoV-2 and other related coronaviruses. Although we found only 4% variability in genomic nucleotides between SARS-CoV-2 and a bat SARS-related coronavirus (SARSr-CoV; RaTG13), the difference at neutral sites was 17%, suggesting the divergence between the two viruses is much larger than previously estimated.


Our results suggest that the development of new variations in functional sites in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike seen in SARS-CoV-2 and viruses from pangolin SARSr-CoVs are likely caused by mutations and natural selection besides recombination. Population genetic analyses of 103 SARS-CoV-2 genomes indicated that these viruses evolved into two major types (designated L and S), that are well defined by two different SNPs that show nearly complete linkage across the viral strains sequenced to date. Although the L type (<±70%) is more prevalent than the S type (<±30%), the S type was found to be the ancestral version.

Whereas the L type was more prevalent in the early stages of the outbreak in Wuhan, the frequency of the L type decreased after early January 2020. Human intervention may have placed more severe selective pressure on the L type, which might be more aggressive and spread more quickly. On the other hand, the S type, which is evolutionarily older and less aggressive, might have increased in relative frequency due to relatively weaker selective pressure. These findings strongly support an urgent need for further immediate, comprehensive studies that combine genomic data, epidemiological data, and chart records of the clinical symptoms of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Read more …

Because no testing.

Official US Coronavirus Numbers Are Wrong, and Everyone Knows It (Atl.)

We know, irrefutably, one thing about the coronavirus in the United States: The number of cases reported in every chart and table is far too low. The data are untrustworthy because the processes we used to get them were flawed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s testing procedures missed the bulk of the cases. They focused exclusively on travelers, rather than testing more broadly, because that seemed like the best way to catch cases entering the country. Just days ago, it was not clear that the virus had spread solely from domestic contact at all. But then cases began popping up with no known international connection. What public-health experts call “community spread” had arrived in the United States. The virus would not be stopped by tight borders, because it was already propagating domestically.

Trevor Bedford’s lab at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, which studies viral evolution, concluded there is “firm evidence” that, at least in Washington State, the coronavirus had been spreading undetected for weeks. Now different projections estimate that 20 to 1,500 people have already been infected in the greater Seattle area. In California, too, the disease appears to be spreading, although the limited testing means that no one is quite sure how far. In total, fewer than 500 people have been tested across the country (although the CDC has stopped reporting that number in its summary of the outbreak). As a result, the current “official” case count inside the United States stood at 43 as of [Tuesday] morning (excluding cruise-ship cases). This number is wrong, yet it’s still constantly printed and quoted. In other contexts, we’d call this what it is: a subtle form of misinformation.

This artificially low number means that for the past few weeks, we’ve seen massive state action abroad and only simmering unease domestically. While Chinese officials were enacting a world-historic containment effort—putting more than 700 million people under some kind of movement restriction, quarantining tens of millions of people, and placing others under new kinds of surveillance—and American public-health officials were staring at the writing on the wall that the disease was extremely likely to spread in the U.S., the public-health response was stuck in neutral. The case count in the U.S. was not increasing at all. Preparing for a sizable outbreak seemed absurd when there were fewer than 20 cases on American soil. Now we know that the disease was already spreading and that it was the U.S. response that was stalled.

Read more …

There’s more where that came from.

Flybe, Europe’s Largest Regional Airline, Collapses (G.)

Flybe, Europe’s largest regional airline, has collapsed into administration less than two months after the government announced a rescue deal. The impact of the coronavirus on flight bookings proved the last straw for the Exeter-based airline, which operates almost 40% of UK domestic flights, as the government stalled on a controversial £100m loan. The UK Civil Aviation Authority announced early on Thursday morning that the airline had entered administration. It said all flights were cancelled and urged passengers not to go to airports. Flybe’s bankruptcy has come just a week before a budget that it hoped would help bolster its precarious finances, after the previous chancellor said he would look again at levels of air passenger duty (APD) .


However, the airline’s owners Connect Airways – a consortium of Virgin Atlantic, Stobart Air and hedge fund Cyrus Capital – have pulled the plug, a little over a year after buying it. The airline employed more than 2,000 people and was one of the leading carriers at airports including Belfast, Southampton, Manchester and Birmingham. Around 8 million people a year used its services. Unions have warned that other jobs would be put at risk by Flybe’s collapse, and transport links lost on dozens of domestic routes where it is the sole operator. Flybe has long struggled to balance the books, despite cost-cutting plans and redundancies, and was reporting losses of around £20m a year before the Connect takeover. [..] It is the second major British airline to go bankrupt in six months, following the collapse of Thomas Cook last September.

Read more …

Can we close the entire industry yet?

California-Based Cruise Ship Quarantined Off Pacific Coast (Pol.)

Another Princess Cruises ship has set off coronavirus alarms after a California passenger who traveled to Mexico died this week, more than 10 days after returning home without knowledge of his exposure. Two shiploads of passengers may have been exposed. State and federal officials are scurrying to contact 2,500-plus passengers who disembarked Feb. 21 from the San Francisco-Mexico cruise at the same time as the man who died, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday. California is also keeping Grand Princess passengers on the current San Francisco-Hawaii trip in the Pacific Ocean indefinitely until state and federal officials can assess how many passengers and crew have coronavirus or have been exposed.


“We have a number of passengers and crew members who have developed symptoms on this ship,” Newsom told reporters at a briefing this afternoon to announce a state of emergency. He later specified that 11 passengers and 10 crew members had symptoms, though he described the situation as fluid. Sixty-two passengers remain on the ship from the preceding San Francisco-Mexico journey, and they have been quarantined in their rooms, according to Princess Cruises. The Grand Princess was due back tonight in San Francisco until California requested that it remain at sea as the state sends test kits, Newsom said.

Read more …

A US Senator who doesn’t like capitalism at its finest. Commie!

Purell For $400? US Lawmaker Urges Amazon To Tamp Down Price Gouging (R.)

Amazon.com should stop third-party sellers from price gouging for items like Purell hand sanitizer as people seek to protect themselves from the coronavirus, U.S. Senator Edward Markey said in a letter to the online retailer on Wednesday. A box of small Purell bottles that usually sells for $10 was listed online for $400, he said. One third-party seller listed a bottle for $600 on Wednesday afternoon. However, the Amazon brand of hand sanitizer was listed for $8.25 for a large bottle. [..] “As the world confronts the prospect of a serious and far-reaching pandemic, corporate America has a responsibility to prevent profiteering on the sales of items such as hand-sanitizer and surgical masks,” Markey wrote in his letter.


Amazon called the price-gougers “bad actors.” “There is no place for price gouging on Amazon,” a spokesman said in a statement. “We continue to actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies.” Amazon said it was monitoring prices to ensure sellers complied with fair pricing policies and said that it could remove sellers who violate them. Amazon last week barred more than 1 million products that inaccurately claimed to cure or defend against the coronavirus. Amazon also removed tens of thousands of deals from merchants that it said attempted to price gouge customers.

Read more …

Even Jonathan Turley doesn’t approve of this.

I like Biden claiming, in response to Bernie saying the establishment is circling the wagons for Biden, that literally everybody’s definition of the establishment is wrong: African Americans and single women in suburbia are the establishment. If you don’t boo that out of the room, who are you?

‘The establishment are all those hard-working, middle-class people, those African Americans, those single women in suburbia. They are the establishment,’ said Joe Biden.

Not as bad, though, as abusing his dead son Beau’s memory by saying Mayor Pete reminds him of Beau. Using your dead son for political games is real low.

But the real establishment are now stuck with Sleepy Joe, even though many will realize he’s roadkill.

The Greatest Victory Of The Establishment Since The Defeat Of The Huns (Turley)

The media and political establishment in Washington was openly celebrating what was portrayed as a near complete victory of Joe Biden over the hoards of Sanders supporters marching toward gates of the Beltway. The establishment united this week behind Biden with candidates like Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and others rallying forces to defeat Bernie Sanders at all costs. Not since the victory over Attila the Hun at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains has the ancien regime experienced such a thrilling moment. However, the history is not good for those celebrating behind the walls of Rome.


I recently wrote how there remains a visceral distaste for the media and political establishment for many voters as they watched the concerted effort to defeat outsider candidates. That was also the case in 2016 with the effort to elect Hillary Clinton. The utter joy expressed this morning will only fuel that feeling of disenfranchisement. What we can expect is the continued strategic endorsements of establishment figures in the coming weeks and exhaustive coverage on the weakening Sanders and the surging Biden. MSNBC was particularly aggressive in framing the election night and attacking the very premise of the Sanders’ movement. MSNBC anchor Nicolle Wallace bizarrely claimed that there was no effort by the establishment to prop up Biden.

Wallace declared “Bernie Sanders… he has turned this idea of the establishment – he’s weaponized it against Biden,” she said. “The Democratic establishment did nothing for Joe Biden.” Really? Various establishment figures lined up behind Biden in the last week while CNN and MSNBC continued a relentless series of attacks on Sanders and his supporters. Nevertheless, host Rachel Maddow agreed that sought to downplay the concerted effort in DC to push Biden: “every headline in all political coverage all around the country is like, ‘The establishment is coalescing the establishment.” She then suggested that this is all a lie that was used against that other seemingly wrongly candidate, Hillary Clinton: “It’s what he did against Hillary Clinton in 2016 as well.”


Maddow simply dismisses the admissions of how the DNC rigged elements of the 2016 primary for Clinton or how Clinton took over the debt of the DNC to exercise such control. She also dismisses how polls showed that Clinton was widely viewed as unauthentic and the ultimate establishment figure when the public clearly wanted a change in Washington. Instead, Maddow and Wallace portray the entire movement by Sanders to be a lie. Not to be subtle, Wallace not only calls this all a lie but portrays Biden’s victory (with a long line of establishment endorsement) as a victory over the establishment: “But it’s a lie, I mean, it’s a lie. Listen, and I say this as a dispassionate former Republican who watched my party sort of implode around fake truths and false grievances, the establishment had nothing to do with Joe Biden’s victory. He’s flat broke, he has not a single ad on the air. He’s not advertising in any Super Tuesday states!”

Read more …

Not a great piece, but few people understand what’s going on.

Moscow’s Difficult Decision on Idlib (Lawrence)

The Syrian Arab Army, a force for good, must not stop short of decisive victory in Idlib, the governorate in northwest Syria sheltering the last jihadist militias operating on Syrian soil. Russia, which is correctly (and legally) supporting the S.A.A.’s campaign, should try to avoid a direct conflict with a NATO member but should engage Turkish forces if there is no alternative. NATO, breaking its own Article 5 covenant, will not come to the aid of a member nation engaged in so despicable an assault on another sovereign nation. I am not alone in holding this opinion. Don’t forget: Most NATO members are squeamish, mealy-mouthed Europeans who have given up the ghost in Syria. It will do the entire world much good if the egregious Erdogan sustains the bloodiest nose of his six years as Turkey’s dictatorial president in consequence of this drive into Syria.

Let us say precisely the same of what remains of the U.S. presence in Syria. Excellent it will be if Washington must at last acknowledge that it has lost every chip it has put down in Syria since it began arming, training and financing a variety of vicious Islamist factions, including the Islamic State, in early 2012 at the very latest. At this point it claims to be protecting Syrian oilfields from… Syria. This is not Turkey’s first foray into Syrian territory, let us remember. It launched a similar campaign in 2016; it began another incursion last autumn. Turkey has from the start of the Syrian conflict been a conduit for arms supplies to the Islamic State and other jihadists, while transshipping Syrian oil from ISIS–controlled refineries into international markets.

[..] Erdogan has betrayed the Russians so often it is a wonder Moscow has any patience left for him. A Turkish F–16 shot down a Russian jet two months after Russian aircraft deployed in Syria five years ago. Ankara and Moscow agreed two years ago to establish a ceasefire zone in northwest Syria, with Turkey also committing to remove jihadists led by Hayat Tahrir al–Sham, formerly al–Nusra, which was formerly al–Qaeda in Syria in the name-changing shell game these cutthroats play. That accord went the way of the West (so to say) long ago.

Read more …

How to make normal procedures sound scary. Yes, Russia may have send a few ships through the Bosporus, in case Erdogan would have closed it.

Wonder what will be made public about the talks today. Erdogan will declare victory no doubt. How far will Lavrov go to deny that?

Russia Reinforces Syria Before Putin-Erdogan Talks (R.)

Russia is racing to reinforce its troops in Syria by sea and air before talks between the Russian and Turkish leaders in Moscow on Thursday, flight data and shipping movements show. The two presidents, Vladimir Putin and Tayyip Erdogan, agreed to meet after a surge in tensions between their countries over fighting in Syria’s Idlib province between Russian-backed Syrian government forces and rebels allied to Turkey. The fighting has raised the prospect of a direct clash between their armies, which operate in close proximity on opposing sides, and Erdogan hopes the talks will yield a ceasefire in Idlib.


A Reuters analysis of flight data and correspondents’ monitoring of shipping in the Bosphorus Strait in northwestern Turkey show Russia began to step up naval and airborne deliveries to Syria on Feb. 28, the day after 34 Turkish soldiers were killed in an air strike in Syria. That incident prompted concern in Moscow that Turkey might close the Bosphorus to Russian warships and bar Russian military transport planes from using Turkish air space. The Russian Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Turkish official, who asked not to be identified, said there was no plan to close the strait, which would force Russia to take longer routes to Syria. But Russia appears to be reinforcing Syria at its fastest rate since October, when U.S. forces withdrew from some parts of Syria and Moscow scrambled to fill the vacuum.

Read more …

Stalemate.

Tens Of Thousands Blocked At Greek-Turkey Border (K.)

A total of 32,423 individuals were prevented from entering Greece as of Saturday morning and 231 have been arrested, Greek authorities said on Wednesday on the latest count of irregular migrants attempting to enter Greece at the Evros border region with Turkey. According to the data, from 6 a.m. on Wednesday to 6 p.m. the same day, 11 individuals were arrested in Evros, most of which have been identified as Afghani nationals. A total of 4,600 people were prevented from entering illegally in Greece during the same 12-hour period. On Wednesday, Greek authorities fired tear gas and stun grenades to thwart a crowd of migrants making a push to cross the border from Turkey, as tensions increased after Turkey declared it was allowing migrants and refugees to reach Europe.

Read more …

Hedge funds buying family homes for cheap. That is Europe.

Greece’s Economic ‘Recovery’ Good News For No One But The Rich (Varoufakis)

Costas runs a small bookshop in my central Athens neighbourhood. Although jovial by constitution, he finds it difficult to hide the worry lines multiplying on his face. Fifteen years ago he put his flat up as collateral for a business loan to spruce up the bookshop. When the Greek debt crisis wreaked its havoc, it was impossible to service that loan. Today, Costas is one of hundreds of thousands facing foreclosures by funds that have purchased debt like his from the banks at bargain basement prices. The bailiff and the auctioneer are circling above distressed homeowners and small business people such as Costas.

Paradox is a Greek word for good reason: today’s Greece proves that it is perfectly possible for the state and for the majority of citizens to be sinking deeper into insolvency while the oligarchy makes a mint from trading in their assets. But why would investors lend to the Greek government cheaply if it remains bankrupt?

The reason is that the troika of Greece’s creditors – the EU, European Central Bank and the IMF – have taken 85% of government debt out of the money markets and placed it squarely on the shoulders of Europe’s taxpayers. They also deferred all repayments until after 2032 and extended another €30bn of official loans to the Greek government to cover its repayments to privateers. So why not lend to the Greek government at a small, yet positive, interest rate when the alternative is to lend to the German or the Dutch governments at the current negative interest rates? As long as the Greek government remains the troika’s model prisoner, lending to Greece’s insolvent state at minuscule rates is lucrative. Paradox solved!

Turning to Greece’s private sector, how can investors profit from it if it too is bankrupt? With great ease is the answer, as Costas’s case illustrates. His loan of €100,000 was sold on by his bank to a hedge fund for €8,000. If the fund auctions off his flat for €20,000, its profit rate will hit an astonishing 250%. The fact that Costas will lose both his home and his bookshop, with detrimental effects on the state’s taxes and outlays (as he begins to draw unemployment benefit), does not even appear on the radar of the hedge fund or the international media.

Read more …

Maybe down a few percentage points from 2015, but not much. Entire families living on $400-$800 a month. And no, Greece is not cheap.

Half Of Greek Families Still Cite Pensions As Their Main Source Of Income (K.)

Pensions remain the main source of income for half of Greece’s households, a survey by the Small Enterprises Institute of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen & Merchants (IME GSEVEE) has shown. The phenomenon is linked to the particularly large number of pensioners – 2.55 million, according to official figures – and the fact that unemployment remains at high levels while salaries remain low. The survey shows that although the country has successfully concluded its third bailout, the decade-long financial crisis is still having a strong impact on Greek society. This is even more obvious in lower income brackets that continue to be at risk of serious social and economic uncertainties.


The survey was held from late December to early January, that is before the coronavirus outbreak and whatever economic impact it has had so far. The IME GSEVEE survey, conducted in association with Marc researchers, showed that 49.4 percent of households declared pensions as their main source of income, up from 49.1 percent a year earlier.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Feb 252020
 


Venice carnival or Black Death? Mary Poppins?

 

 

Many of the things we see happening now with the coronavirus, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, take your pick, I “predicted” a while ago. But I’m not in the predicting business, and anyone who would have said even just a week ago that Italy would have 11 deaths today and/or Iran would have 50, or the US 53+ cases of infection, would have been labeled a raving lunatic.

Wuhan apparently relaxed some of their lockdown measures yesterday (and walked that back hours later), as did other places in China when they hadn’t had any new cases for 24 hours or so, and we know why they do it -it’s the economy, stupid!- but that is really the worst possible thing to do. China’s even trying to telegraph that they are in control again, as per Zero Hedge:

“As the WHO team wrapped up its Monday press conference with what was essentially tantamount to a global confidence-building exercise in China’s response, a senior official from China’s National Health Commission said the coronavirus risk from Wuhan had gone ‘way down.’ Of course, if that’s true, then why did officials cancel a planned easing of the lockdown? The official added that China has “..managed to stop the ‘rapid rise’ of infections in Wuhan, though they haven’t stopped the epidemic yet..”

Of course it’s lovely that at the very moment China – falsely- claims to be regaining control, markets worldwide sink into a deep well and gold climbs the Kilimanjaro. Surprising it is not. It simply shows that “investors” are mostly completely clueless about the virus, and the media they follow mostly don’t know dick all either or prefer not to rock the cradle.

The so-called investors follow the same behavioral pattern that civil servants, politicians, “management” at companies, and journalists do. They check first and last what others are doing, so they won’t look out of tune and they can’t be accused of crying wolf. They tend to only act when the rest do, and by then it will inevitably be too late. Man as a social animal, covering their asses by hiding behind others.

For those so-called investors, who cares what they do or why? But for politicians and civil servants, this mindset means they will NOT be ordering test-kits, medicine and the like, when they should. And not warning the public about various upcoming threats and shortages.

For journalists it means their readers and viewers are only clued in when the wolf’s right on their doorstep. I’ve used the Chinese politburo as an example in The Party and the Virus (Feb 2), but I don’t think western countries are much, if any, faster or wiser or more aware. These are all jobs replete with born followers who have only ever learned how to hide behind mom’s skirts and aprons.

And for the rare few who don’t think in herd terms, they will be ridiculed by the sheep in that herd, who will again seek strength in numbers and behind aprons when they are found wanting. Which is fine for investors, they are only playing with money. The others, though, are playing with human lives.

 

A comment on my article last week, Go Forth and Multiply (Feb 20), suggested that I merely collected the most alarmist articles and turned them into an article. Nope.

The article deals with the failures of all the groups of people mentioned above, in various countries, which have led to where we are today. There are plenty other reports which are far more “alarmist”. I am not personally talking about worst-case scenarios, but in other instances I have quoted a few scientists who would fit that description. Take for instance Gabriel Leung at Hong Kong University, whom I’ve quoted more than once. Leung and his team contend:

• Most experts thought that each person infected would go on to transmit the virus to around 2.5 other people. That gave an “attack rate” of 60-80%.
• Even if the general fatality rate is as low as 1%, which Leung thinks is possible once milder cases are taken into account, the death toll would be massive.
• “Is 60 to 80% of the world’s population going to get infected? Maybe not. Maybe this will come in waves. Maybe the virus is going to attenuate its lethality because it certainly doesn’t help it if it kills everybody in its path, because it will get killed as well..”

There’s Harvard epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, who predicts that “within the coming year, some 40 to 70 percent of people around the world will be infected..” And Lancaster University epidemiologist/biostatistician Jonathan Read isn’t all that much cheerier.

Compared to those guys, I am not an alarmist, nor do I go out to look for articles in that vein. I did see quite a while ago that this virus had “potential”, though. And I did see The Big Lockdown (Feb 5) coming before it did. Actually, I see a lot more of that. My intent is to go back to Athens in April, but I seriously have no idea if that will be on offer 5-6 weeks from now, as Italy already today has 11 deaths, 322 cases, and over 100,000 people under lockdown, and deployed the military. Italy had nothing a week ago. And Italy is not that far from Greece.

Come to think of it, nor is it from Holland, where I am right now. That is a situation that people should have woken up to a long time ago. Holland has a number of its citizens locked up in a hotel on Tenerife, Canary Islands, a Spanish province off the northwest coast of Africa. There are 1000 guests in the hotel, all confined to their rooms, because one guest was an Italian who tested positive for COVID19.

There’s also a hotel in Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria on lockdown. It has an Italian receptionist who is infected. Check the quarantine time for theose people. If it’s less than two weeks, you know nobody’s learned a thing.

This is the shape of things to come. As is Italy admitting a hospital actually spread the virus. And Japan saying it will now attempt to limit virus deaths, instead of preventing them. That may sound like mere semantics, but it’s not. It sounds like Japan giving up on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics without pronouncing it.

Also in Holland, yesterday a high end webshop, which sells electronics, including iPhones, etc., said they want to sell less!! and will raise prices because they foresee they can’t get sufficient supplies from China anymore soon. The obvious media reaction is they must be crazy, because competitors haven’t done the same. But that’s too easy. Maybe they just broke free of the mold of waiting for others to act.

What I find interesting in that light is that Holland’s dependence on the global China trade is much less than for other rich nations, and for south east Asia as a whole. Whither Amazon, Walmart, whither the Silk Road? Quo Vadis?

 

 

On February 6, the day after I published The Big Lockdown , a friend at the Global Change Research Institute, reacting to my question “Will [the Chinese] have an economy left by then?” (I don’t remember the exact time I referred to), said “Isn’t that TOO pessimistic?”

My reply was: “There’ll always be something left. There was an economy 100 years ago, and 500, and 1,000. It started when Eve made a deal with a snake. My point was more: what KIND of economy will there be? Nobody seriously considers a collapse such as this, and I think they should.”

He retorted: “I am not really convinced this will be a trigger of (chinese) economic collapse, but well, I am open-minded about such possibility… For now, I am corona-triggered-collapse-skeptic. ;-)”

I wonder how he feels about it today.

Me, I don’t think the biggest issue with the virus is the number of deaths and cases, at least not in the short term. The biggest issue is that there is a virus on the loose than has proven it CAN be lethal, and for which there is no vaccine.

The biggest issue is that we are stumbling woefully unprepared into the future, and therefore our only defense is to lock each other, and ourselves, up in our homes, (and our communities and cities if we’re lucky) until we can’t, social animals that we are.

The biggest issue will not be the cases or even deaths, it will be that ever more of the things we have come to rely on far away lands for, will slowly cease to arrive on our shores. Some of it will be trinkets we never needed, but some of it will also be things without which our lives and communities can no longer function the way we’re used to.

It will be a slow process. Or will it, nothing really moves slow with this virus; it appears to move in virus time, not human time.

You should probably get some immune system boosters while they are available, like Vit.D(3) and echinacea. Facial masks perhaps, while there are any. There are professionals who are regular commenters on the Automatic Earth and who can answer questions on that.

We should also likely prepare for a large-scale reduction in large-scale activities, events that require crowds. Olympics, sports games, concerts, arenas, but also supermarkets and department stores. And then after that come public transport and factories. Alarmist again? Just wait till the first case or death comes to a town near you. Observe how people react. You can see it today in Wuhan, Beijing, Milan, Qom.

By the way, how do you know there are no cases near you? Is anyone testing? Do they have test kits? They will test soon, and they will have kits if they can find any. Note: Japan said today their supply of test kits will be used only for the most serious cases. Everyone else is on their own.

New reports of infections are coming in today from Canada, Bahrain, Croatia, Austria, Switzerland, Romania, Barcelona and more. Ask yourself: what are the odds this will stop tomorrow morning? Or that the US won’t get worse? Face masks, Vit. C, Vit.D(3), echinacea and other things won’t bankrupt most of you, and they’re good for you anyway, so maybe get them while you can.

Oh, and prepare for an enormous amount of misinformation emanating from the politicians and media who are always way behind the curve, and who right now are all actively pondering how to protect the economy. They can’t conceive of a world where a virus can trump the economy. Pun intended. Neither can those who call themselves “investors”. It’s the virus, stupid. HedgeEye got that one particulary well:

 

 

Me, I’m sitting here wondering what the link is between the masks for the -now cancelled- Venice carnival, and the Black Death. But that sounds at least a little alarmist, too, doesn’t it?

Please remind me to pick up a copy of Boccaccio’s Decameron(e), in which ten people tell ten stories each while in quarantine outside of Florence during the Plague, around 1350 AD. Should be popular soon.

 

 

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Oct 242019
 
 October 24, 2019  Posted by at 8:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Rembrandt van Rijn Self portrait with Saskia 1636

 

UK Blocks Spanish Judge From Questioning Julian Assange (El Pais)
Former House Lawyer Says Pelosi’s Impeachment Inquiry ‘Is Illegal’ (WT)
Democrats Set December Impeachment Target, But Obstacles Abound (R.)
Republicans Storm Closed-Door Hearing To Protest Impeachment Inquiry (Hill)
Benghazi Coverup Discussed on Emails to Clinton’s Unsecured Server (ET)
Steele, State and the Alfa Bank Conspiracy Theory Exposed (Solomon)
Oprah Has ‘Begged’ Disney CEO Bob Iger To Run For President (Week)
Biden Allies Push For Super PAC After Lackluster Fundraising Quarter (CNN)
Burn, Neoliberalism, Burn (Escobar)
Kremlin Says US Betrayed Kurds In Syria (R.)
Amazon Rainforest ‘Close To Irreversible Tipping Point’ (G.)

 

 

“It is an automatic procedure, and requests can only be rejected in exceptional cases.”

The lawless are trying to run out the clock on the Spanish probe, because it’s bound to find the CIA’s involvement, and because if Julian, his lawyers and doctors were spied upon, the entire extradition thing may be null and void.

UK Blocks Spanish Judge From Questioning Julian Assange (El Pais)

The British justice system is blocking a Spanish judge’s request to question Julian Assange in London as a witness in a case exploring allegations that the Spanish security firm Undercover Global S.L. spied on the WikiLeaks founder while he was living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. The British position, unprecedented in these types of requests for judicial collaboration, is being viewed by Spanish judicial bodies as a show of resistance against the consequences that the case could have on the process to extradite the Australian cyberactivist to the United States.

On September 25, Judge José de la Mata sent British authorities an European Investigation Order (EIO) requesting permission to question Assange by videoconference as a witness in the case opened by Spain’s High Court, the Audiencia Nacional, against the owner of UC Global S. L., David Morales, for alleged offenses involving violations of privacy and client-attorney privileges, as well as misappropriation, bribery, money laundering and criminal possession of weapons. Morales was arrested in September and released on bail. Documents and video footage revealed by EL PAÍS show that UC Global S. L. spied on Assange’s meetings with his lawyers, where his legal defense strategy was discussed. Morales allegedly offered recordings of these and other conversations to US intelligence services.

The EIO is a new tool that speeds up cooperation between judges in the EU and circumvents laborious rogatory letters based on instruments of international law. The mechanism came into effect in Spain in 2018. With an EIO, a legal authority from an EU member state can ask a legal authority from another EU country for assistance in obtaining evidence or means of evidence (witness statements, telephone taps, DNA tests and so on). It is an automatic procedure, and requests can only be rejected in exceptional cases.

[..] On October 14, De la Mata sent the British agency a written reply that EL PAÍS has had access to. In the document, the judge expressed his surprise and referred to the “previous cases” in which the UKCA accepted requests for interviews via videoconference. De la Mata also quoted international cooperation treaties that say that the only obstacle in these cases would be if the person being questioned was the accused. “In this case, Julian Assange is a witness, not an accused party,” wrote De la Mata.

In the document, De la Mata also denied that his initial request was unclear: “We have provided a clear context for our case, describing all the events and crimes under investigation.” On the issue of jurisdiction, he replied: “The Spanish judicial system has jurisdiction and is able to hear cases of crimes committed by Spanish citizens outside of the country as long as the event is a crime in the place where it was committed, the victim or the public prosecutor present a criminal complaint, and the suspect has not been sentenced or acquitted in another country.” De la Mata added that the suspect (David Morales) is Spanish, the victim (Assange) has filed a complaint, and the crimes (unlawful disclosure of secrets and bribery) are crimes in the UK.

Read more …

“Nancy Pelosi Democrats Produce More Subpoenas Than Laws…”

Former House Lawyer Says Pelosi’s Impeachment Inquiry ‘Is Illegal’ (WT)

Thanks to a flurry of Ukraine activity, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democratic majority have approved more subpoenas to investigate President Trump than they have written laws. The subpoena issued Tuesday morning to former Ambassador William Taylor marked the 56th that has been publicly acknowledged and aimed at Mr. Trump and his team. That is 10 more than the 46 House bills that have become law this year. It’s far from a subpoena record, but it is complicating Mrs. Pelosi’s attempt to portray her troops as focused on their agenda. Perhaps more worrying to Mrs. Pelosi’s cause is the conclusion of a former senior oversight attorney for the House, who said the spate of subpoenas issued this month as part of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry is illegal.

Samuel Dewey, a lawyer at McDermott Will & Emery who used to lead investigations for the House Financial Services Committee, said the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, led by Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, is not authorized under the rules to lead an impeachment probe. “Unless there’s a bunch of stuff that’s not public, which would in itself be extraordinary, there is no way he has jurisdiction to conduct an impeachment inquiry. I think his proceeding is illegal,” Mr. Dewey said. Mr. Schiff’s impeachment inquiry subpoenas have all centered around Mr. Trump’s attempts to rope Ukraine into investigating a potential political opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden. The Washington Times counts 15 publicly acknowledged subpoenas issued on the Ukraine matter so far, including the one Tuesday to Mr. Taylor.

The House also has approved 22 subpoenas related to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling and Trump campaign behavior in 2016, seven subpoenas dealing with the president’s finances, three concerning White House matters such as security clearances or the activities of Trump aide Kellyanne Conway, five subpoenas over immigration policy, three over Mr. Trump’s now-abandoned attempt to ask about citizenship on the 2020 census, and one subpoena to the State Department over U.S. policy in Afghanistan.

[..] Mr. Dewey said Democrats could face a legal challenge over any impeachment-related subpoenas because the House has yet to vote to authorize an inquiry. Mrs. Pelosi created an inquiry by proclamation, turning the reins over to Mr. Schiff. Mr. Nadler, meanwhile, has argued to the courts that he has been in the midst of an inquiry for months. Mr. Dewey said those arguments aren’t frivolous, but “I think they’re wrong.” “I do not think as a matter of law that the Judiciary Committee can exercise the impeachment power without a vote of the full House,” he said. “And I think independently of that, I do not think any other committee can exercise the impeachment power.”

Read more …

Two big problems:

1) Pelosi needs to solve the legitimacy issue.
2) Democrats are selectively leaking to the press they like, creating a picture that may not be realistic at all

Democrats Set December Impeachment Target, But Obstacles Abound (R.)

Democratic lawmakers hope to complete their impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump by year’s end and are coalescing around two articles of impeachment – abuse of power and obstruction, lawmakers and aides told Reuters. But some Democrats fear that a costly distraction may be the looming battle between the Republican Trump and Congress over funding the government when money runs out for many federal operations on Nov. 21, Democratic aides said. Some Democratic lawmakers said they believed they already had gathered enough evidence from the testimony of current and former U.S. officials to impeach Trump for asking Ukraine to investigate a political rival, Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.


Other Democrats were more cautious and said more information was needed to solidify the case for impeachment and make it an easier sell to a deeply polarized American public. Only two U.S. presidents have been formally impeached by the House of Representatives, and both were later acquitted by the Senate. Val Demings, a Democratic lawmaker who sits on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees, said congressional investigators should be able to wrap up their inquiry by December. “We need to be thorough, we need to be methodical, but we need to be timely,” she told Reuters. Three Democratic congressional sources said there had been talk among some Democrats about trying to wrap up hearings and hold an impeachment vote by the Nov. 28 Thanksgiving holiday, but this appeared highly unlikely as of Wednesday.

Read more …

Why turn the House into a circus?

Republicans Storm Closed-Door Hearing To Protest Impeachment Inquiry (Hill)

House Republicans stormed a closed-door hearing Wednesday to protest Democrats’ impeachment inquiry process, breaking up the deposition of a top Defense Department official who was testifying about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. “They crashed the party,” said Rep. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.), a member of the Oversight and Reform Committee, one of three House panels leading the impeachment probe. Dozens of Republicans, including some members of leadership like House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), barged into the secure hearing room in the Capitol basement where Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, was set to provide private testimony.

The deposition got underway after a five-hour delay. Several lawmakers said that, in response to the Republican protest on Wednesday morning, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) left the room with Cooper and postponed her interview. “The fact that Adam Schiff won’t even let the press in — you can’t even go in and see what’s going on in that room,” Scalise told reporters outside the hearing room. “Voting members of Congress are being denied access from being able to see what’s happening behind these closed doors, where they’re trying to impeach the president of the United States with a one-sided set of rules, they call the witnesses.”

[..] Some Democrats were outraged by GOP lawmakers bringing cellphones and cameras into a secure room. “In short, they have compromised the security of the room. And they not only brought in their unauthorized devices, they may have brought in the Russian and Chinese with electronics in a secure space,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) told reporters. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a member of the Oversight Committee and a key Trump supporter, suggested the concerns over the cellphones were overblown. “There’s no cameras or phones in the SCIF, so I think that those phones actually went in, just because everybody went in,” Meadows told reporters. “I can tell you I actually collected phones and brought them back out. You certainly want a secure environment but at the same time I think everybody wants to hear exactly what’s going on.”

Read more …

“one of the gravest modern offenses against government transparency.”

Benghazi Coverup Discussed on Emails to Clinton’s Unsecured Server (ET)

Judicial Watch made public on Oct. 21 a 2012 email chain showing multiple senior U.S. State Department executives used then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s unsecured private email to discuss the most sensitive details of the Sept. 11, 2012, terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, died in the assault, which within hours was attributed by the Obama White House to an internet video that critically portrayed Islam and its founder, Mohammed. While Judicial Watch first sought the emails released on Oct. 21 in a 2014 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, they weren’t released to the nonprofit government watchdog until earlier in October by a federal court and only after the group threatened to expand its litigation in the case against the State Department.


It was this FOIA litigation that led to the public disclosure of Clinton’s use of the private email system, according to Judicial Watch. Hundreds of other State Department and White House documents sought in the 2014 suit were previously released, but only after years of litigation and discovery, which continues and may soon include deposing Clinton and Cheryl Mills, her former chief of staff. U.S. District Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth, who has heard much of the Judicial Watch litigation seeking the documents, has called Clinton’s private email system “one of the gravest modern offenses against government transparency.”

Read more …

Another ghost story.

Steele, State and the Alfa Bank Conspiracy Theory Exposed (Solomon)

When Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller finally testified this summer, one of the few substantive revelations he made about something not specifically addressed in his final report involved a long-pedaled allegation that Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin had a secret communications network through a computer server at Russia’s Alfa Bank. “I believe it’s not true,” Mueller testified when questioned by Republican Rep. Will Hurd of Texas, confirming in public what FBI officials had privately told me and other reporters going back to late 2016.


We now have strong evidence that one of the events that gave life to that conspiracy theory was an Oct. 11, 2016 visit by the British intelligence operative Christopher Steele to the State Department, where the author of the now infamous anti-Trump dossier met with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec. Just a few days after the visit, Kavalec forwarded a document to FBI official Stephen Laycock on Oct. 13, 2016 as a followup to her contact with Steele that offered significant detail about the Alfa Bank theory based on unexplained pings between a server at the bank and one used by the Trump organization on the East Coast.

Read more …

Would she settle for Hillary? Why doesn’t Oprah herself run?

Oprah Has ‘Begged’ Disney CEO Bob Iger To Run For President (Week)

The Democratic field isn’t sitting well with Oprah. Despite being enthralled with former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg early in the 2020 race, Oprah Winfrey is now reportedly dissatisfied with who’s running. And she’s not the only one — Hillary Clinton is still thinking about jumping into the race, The Washington Post reports. Oprah has made her presidential ambitions for Disney CEO Bob Iger well known, and has reportedly “repeatedly begged” him to run. She said in September she hoped to be “knocking on doors in Des Moines, wearing an ‘Iger 2020’ T-shirt.”


“Bob Iger’s guidance and decency is exactly what the country needs right now,” she continued. Clinton similarly “has not ruled out jumping in herself,” suggesting she’s also seeing “dissatisfaction” with the race’s current frontrunners, two people tell the Post. Party leaders have said they’re worried about former Vice President Joe Biden’s involvement in President Trump’s impeachment, and that the other top-tier candidates, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), are “too liberal” to beat Trump.

Read more …

They might as well heat their villas with the money.

Biden Allies Push For Super PAC After Lackluster Fundraising Quarter (CNN)

A coalition of top Democratic strategists and donors are intensifying conversations about setting up an outside group to bolster Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy, people familiar with the matter tell CNN, aiming to create a super PAC designed to fight back against a barrage of well-funded attacks from President Donald Trump’s campaign. The idea of building an outside organization has been the subject of discussion for weeks by Biden allies, but the conversations intensified in the wake of a cash crunch for the former vice president’s campaign. He reported last week having less than $9 million in the bank, significantly less than his leading rivals.

Although he sits atop or near the top of recent polls, Biden’s lackluster financial performance has set off rounds of public hand-wringing among Democratic establishment figures about his ability to competitively fund his campaign through the battery of state primaries early next year. While Biden has previously spoken out against the creation of a super PAC, which would operate entirely separately from his campaign, several longtime allies say it’s clear that his presidential bid needs help. No final decision has been made about launching the outside group, but allies have started contacting potential vendors and lining up possible donors to fuel a super PAC, sources familiar with the efforts tell CNN. “They know they can use all the help they can get,” one Biden ally told CNN, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the group. “Trump is crushing him with spending.”

[..] Biden’s fundraising haul last quarter totaled nearly $15.7 million, but the candidate spent more than he raised, ending the quarter with $8.98 million cash on hand. Biden is outmatched in cash reserves by South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who has amassed a stockpile of $33.7 million. Biden’s allies are most concerned about combating the attacks coming from Trump. His reelection campaign, joint fundraising committees and the Republican National Committee ended the quarter with a combined $158 million cash on hand.

Read more …

Keyword: IMF.

Burn, Neoliberalism, Burn (Escobar)

Neoliberalism is – literally – burning. And from Ecuador to Chile, South America, once again, is showing the way. Against the vicious, one-size-fits-all IMF austerity prescription, which deploys weapons of mass economic destruction to smash national sovereignty and foster social inequality, South America finally seems poised to reclaim the power to forge its own history. Three presidential elections are in play. Bolivia’s seem to have been settled this past Sunday – even as the usual suspects are yelling “Fraud!” Argentina and Uruguay are on next Sunday. Blowback against what David Harvey has splendidly conceptualized as accumulation by dispossession is, and will continue to be, a bitch. It will eventually reach Brazil – which as it stands continues to be torn to pieces by Pinochetist ghosts.

Brazil, eventually, after immense pain, will rise up again. After all, the excluded and humiliated all across South America are finally discovering they carry a Joker inside themselves. The question posed by the Chilean street is stark: “What’s worse, to evade taxes or to invade the subway?” It’s all a matter of doing the class struggle math. Chile’s GDP grew 1,1% last year while the profits of the largest corporations grew ten times more. It’s not hard to find from where the huge gap was extracted. The Chilean street stresses how water, electricity, gas, health, medicine, transportation, education, the salar (salt flats) in Atacama, even the glaciers were privatized. That’s classic accumulation by dispossession, as the cost of living has become unbearable for the overwhelming majority of 19 million Chileans, whose average monthly income does not exceed $500.

[..] Evo Morales represents a project of sustainable, inclusive development, and crucially, autonomous from international finance. No wonder the whole Washington Consensus apparatus hates his guts. Economy Minister Luis Arce Catacora cut to the chase: “When Evo Morales won his first election in 2005, 65% of the population was low income, now 62% of the population has access to a medium income.” The opposition, without any project except wild privatizations, and no concern whatsoever for social policies, is left to yell “Fraud!”, but this could take a very nasty turn in the next few days. In the tony suburbs of southern La Paz, class hate against Evo Morales is the favorite sport: the President is referred to as “indio”, a “tyrant” and “ignorant”. Cholos of the Altiplano are routinely defined by white landowning elites in the plains as an “evil race”.

Read more …

Russia in control.

Kremlin Says US Betrayed Kurds In Syria (R.)

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that the United States had betrayed and abandoned the Syrian Kurds and advised the Kurds to withdraw from the Syrian border as per a deal between Moscow and Ankara or be mauled by the Turkish army. The comments by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov to Russian news agencies followed a deal agreed on Tuesday between Russia and Turkey that will see Syrian and Russian forces deploy to northeast Syria to remove Kurdish YPG fighters and their weapons from the border with Turkey.


Peskov, who was reported to be reacting to comments by U.S. President Donald Trump’s special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey, complained that it appeared that the United States was encouraging the Kurds to stay close to the Syrian border and fight the Turkish army. “The United States has been the Kurds’ closest ally in recent years. (But) in the end, it abandoned the Kurds and, in essence, betrayed them,” Peskov was cited as saying. “Now they (the Americans) prefer to leave the Kurds at the border (with Turkey) and almost force them to fight the Turks.” If the Kurds did not withdraw as per the deal between Moscow and Ankara, Peskov said that Syrian borders guards and Russian military police would have to withdraw, leaving the Kurds to be dealt with by the Turkish army.

Read more …

WHen you read the article, it appears perhaps not the best way to report this.

Amazon Rainforest ‘Close To Irreversible Tipping Point’ (G.)

Soaring deforestation coupled with the destructive policies of Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, could push the Amazon rainforest dangerously to an irreversible “tipping point” within two years, a prominent economist has said. After this point the rainforest would stop producing enough rain to sustain itself and start slowly degrading into a drier savannah, releasing billions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, which would exacerbate global heating and disrupt weather across South America. The warning came in a policy brief published this week by Monica de Bolle, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington DC.

The report sparked controversy among climate scientists. Some believe the tipping point is still 15 to 20 years away, while others say the warning accurately reflects the danger that Bolsonaro and global heating pose to the Amazon’s survival. “It’s a stock, so like any stock you run it down, run it down – then suddenly you don’t have any more of it,” said de Bolle, whose brief also recommended solutions to the current crisis. Bolsonaro has vowed to develop the Amazon, and his government plans to allow mining on protected indigenous reserves. Amazon farmers support his attacks on environmental protection agencies. His business-friendly environment minister, Ricardo Salles, has met loggers and wildcat miners, while deforestation and Amazon fires have soared since he assumed office in January.

The policy brief noted that Brazil’s space research institute, INPE, reported that deforestation in August was 222% higher than in August 2018. Maintaining the current rate of increase INPE reported between January and August this year would bring the Amazon “dangerously close to the estimated tipping point as soon as 2021 … beyond which the rainforest can no longer generate enough rain to sustain itself”, de Bolle wrote.

Read more …

 

 

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.”


William Shakespeare

 

 

 

 

Jul 252019
 
 July 25, 2019  Posted by at 9:32 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Piet Mondriaan Trafalgar Square 1939-43

 

Trump Cheers As Michael Moore Blasts ‘Frail’ Mueller (AFP)
Donald Trump Vetoes Bills Prohibiting Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia (AP)
Nothing Matters: It’s Like the Whole Market Has Gone Nuts (WS)
Mnuchin Says Amazon ‘Destroyed’ US Retail Sector (R.)
Boeing Says It Could Halt Production Of 737 Max After Grounding (G.)
Jeffrey Epstein Found Injured In Jail Cell (R.)
Embattled Governor Of Puerto Rico Resigns After Protests (AFP)
With Finger On Trigger, ECB Aims At More Stimulus (R.)
Deutsche Bank Faces A -Much- Smaller, Poorer Future (Coppola)
California Condor Comes Back From The Dead (NPR)

 

 

There are still people calling for impeachment after Mueller’s horror show yesterday. Saw both AOC and Rob Reiner do just that. The somewhat more awake amongst us merely feel sorry for the old man, but that goes too far. He put himself in that position. He’s never delivered any proof of Russian meddling, but that doesn’t appear to bother many. He refused to talk to Assange just so that meddling narrative could be kept alive.

But the biggest takeaway from the hearing must be that Mueller didn’t write his own report, something that became glaringly obvious when he didn’t know what Fusion GPS was. Mueller has just been the face of an investigation that was conducted by others. He is the supposed hero who’s ideal as the front for such a thing. But the thing is hollow and empty.

There were far too many things Mueller said were not in his purview (he said that 16 times) of which at least some certainly were. Moreover, as several members of Congress pointed out, Mueller got far too close to ignoring the presumption of innocence. Trump does not have to prove he’s innocent, Mueller had to prove he’s guilty – and failed.

Trump Cheers As Michael Moore Blasts ‘Frail’ Mueller (AFP)

In a rare meeting of minds Wednesday between two opposing American political voices, Michael Moore earned plaudits from President Donald Trump when the liberal filmmaker blasted former special counsel Robert Mueller’s “stumbling” congressional testimony. Moore, a frequent Trump critic who has also warned of the Democratic Party’s failure to resonate with working-class America, let loose on Mueller as he testified in often halting fashion before Congress about Russian election interference and possible connections to Trump and his 2016 campaign. “A frail old man, unable to remember things, stumbling, refusing to answer basic questions,” Moore said in a scathing tweet after Mueller appeared uncertain and asked for several questions to be repeated during some of the most closely watched congressional hearings of the year.

“I said it in 2017 and Mueller confirmed it today — All you pundits and moderates and lame Dems who told the public to put their faith in the esteemed Robert Mueller — just STFU from now on,” he added, using a crass acronym that includes an expletive. Trump seized on the famed documentarian and Academy Award winner’s fury, retweeting the post and adding his observation that “Even Michael Moore agrees that the Dems and Mueller blew it!” Mueller, 74, appeared reluctant to take the gloves off as he sat for hours in hearings before two House panels, often sounding dispassionate and unsteady.

At times lawyerly and assured, he was also dull and sluggish, declining to stray beyond the confines of his report or to push back aggressively on his Republican questioners and light the fireworks that several Democrats no doubt had been looking for. “Trump must be gloating in ecstasy,” tweeted Moore, director of films like “Bowling for Columbine” and “Roger & Me.” “Not because of the failure that is Robert Mueller — his Report is still a damning document of crimes by Trump — but because Trump understands the power of the visual, and he understands that the Dems aren’t street fighters and that’s why he’ll win.”

Read more …

If the Dems wouldn’t waste so much time and credility with Russiagate, they could protest this. And sure, Pelosi tries, but they are not a believable anti-war party.

Donald Trump Vetoes Bills Prohibiting Arms Sales To Saudi Arabia (AP)

Donald Trump has vetoed a trio of congressional resolutions aimed at blocking his administration from selling billions of dollars of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, last month cited threats from Iran as a reason to approve the $8.1bn arms sale to the two US allies in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia is an enemy of Iran and tension has mounted between the UAE and Tehran over several issues, including the UAE’s coordination with US efforts to curb what it calls Iran’s malign activities in the region. But Trump’s decision in May to sell the weapons in a way that would have bypassed congressional review infuriated lawmakers. In a pushback to Trump’s foreign policy, Democrats and Republicans banded together to pass resolutions to block the weapons sale.


The White House had argued that stopping the sale would send a signal that the US did not stand by its partners and allies, particularly at a time when threats against them were increasing. The arms package included thousands of precision-guided munitions, other bombs and ammunition and aircraft maintenance support. Anger has been mounting in Congress over the Trump administration’s close ties to the Saudis, fuelled by the high civilian casualties in the Saudi-led war in Yemen – a military campaign the US is assisting – and the killing of the US-based columnist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents. Trump’s decision in May to sell the weapons further inflamed the tensions. “The president’s shameful veto tramples over the will of the bipartisan, bicameral Congress and perpetuates his administration’s involvement in the horrific conflict in Yemen, which is a stain on the conscience of the world,” the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement.

Read more …

Let’s start a casino and call it a market.

Nothing Matters: It’s Like the Whole Market Has Gone Nuts (WS)

You see, Tesla is different. It just reported another doozie, a loss of $408 million in the second quarter, after its $702 million loss in the first quarter, for a total loss in the first half of $1.1 billion. In its 14-year history, it has never generated an annual profit. It has real and popular products and surging sales, but it subsidizes each of those sales with investor money. And here’s where it’s different this time: investors don’t care. They dig how the company has been consistently overpromising and underdelivering. They dig the chaos at the top. They dig everything that should scare them off.

Yeah, its shares plunged 11% afterhours today, but that takes those shares only down to where they’d been on May 1. Big deal. Shares are down 32% from the peak. But their peak should have been a small fraction of that. Even today, the company is still valued at over $40 billion. Tesla lacks a viable business model in the classic sense. Its business model is a new business model of just burning investor cash that it raises via debt and equity offerings on a near-annual basis because investors encourage it to do that, and love it for it, and eagerly hand it more money to burn, and they’re rewarding each other by keeping the share price high. It’s just a game, you see. And nothing else matters.

Then there is Boeing. It just reported the largest quarterly loss in its history of $2.9 billion due to a nearly $5-billion charge related to its newest bestselling all-important 737 Max, two of which crashed, killing 346 people, due to the way the plane is designed. The flight-control software that is supposed to mitigate this design issue is not working properly. And a software fix that is acceptable to regulators remains elusive. The plane has been grounded globally since March. No one, especially not the regulators, can afford a third crash. So today, Boeing announced that it may further cut production of the plane or suspend it altogether if the delays continue to drag out. This is big enough to start impacting US GDP.

[..] But here we go: From 2013 through Q1 2019, Boeing has blown a mind-boggling $43 billion on share buybacks (buyback data via YCharts): Blowing these $43 billion on share buybacks has caused Boeing to have a “total equity” of a negative $5 billion. In other words, it has $5 billion more in liabilities than in assets. This company is out of wriggle room. If it can’t borrow enough money to make payroll, it’s over.

Read more …

Shouldn’t he wait for the DOJ investigation?

Mnuchin Says Amazon ‘Destroyed’ US Retail Sector (R.)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Wednesday that online giant Amazon.com Inc “destroyed the retail industry across the United States.” Mnuchin said he looked forward to hearing the results of a Justice Department probe, announced on Tuesday, into whether big U.S. technology firms engage in anticompetitive practices, the strongest sign yet that the Trump administration is stepping up its scrutiny of Big Tech. “If you look at Amazon, although they’re certain benefits to it, they’ve destroyed the retail industry across the United States,” Mnuchin told CNBC. “I don’t have an opinion other than I think it’s absolutely right the attorney general is looking into these issues and I look forward to listening to his recommendations to the president.”


Amazon defended itself, saying that 90% of all sales occur in brick-and-mortar stores. “Today, independent sellers make up more than 58% of physical gross merchandise sales on Amazon, and their sales have grown twice as fast as our own, totaling $160 billion in 2018,” a spokesman for Amazon said. A Justice Department spokesman declined to say on Tuesday which companies it would scrutinize under the antitrust probe, but said the review would consider concerns raised about “search, social media, and some retail services online” – an apparent reference to Google, Amazon, Facebook, and potentially Apple.

Read more …

No more parking spaces left.

Boeing Says It Could Halt Production Of 737 Max After Grounding (G.)

Boeing said it could halt production of the 737 Max jet on Wednesday as it reported the company’s largest ever quarterly loss following two fatal accidents involving the plane. The company lost $2.9bn in the three months to the end of June, compared to a profit of $2.2bn for the same period last year. Sales fell 35% to $15.8bn. Chief executive Dennis Muilenburg said production of the plane could be slowed or halted if regulators do not move to lift the ban on the plane. The 737 Max was Boeing’s best selling aircraft until the fleet was grounded worldwide in March following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. In January Boeing’s executives said the Max was the fastest selling plane in its history and the company expected to deliver between 895 and 905 airplanes this year.


Now it has become the most costly plane in Boeing’s history. Boeing has predicted that the Max will be flying again by the end of the year, but this month the Wall Street Journal reported that government and industry officials believe a return date of January 2020 is more likely. On a call with analysts Muilenburg said the company may have to consider slowing or halting production if there are further delays in getting the plane back into the skies. Boeing is still producing 42 of its 737 jets a month and plans to boost that rate to 57 next year. But if there are further setbacks, Muilenberg said: “We might need to consider possible further rate reductions or other options including a temporary shutdown of the Max production.”

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It got him out of jail…

Jeffrey Epstein Found Injured In Jail Cell (R.)

Jeffrey Epstein, the financier facing charges of sex trafficking involving dozens of underage girls, was found unconscious in a Manhattan jail cell with injuries to his neck, media reported late on Wednesday, citing unidentified sources. Epstein was found by guards sprawled on the floor of cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center on Wednesday, media reported. Some media reported that his face appeared blue. The billionaire financier was taken to hospital, the New York Post reported, but it was unclear where he was taken or what his condition was. It was not clear how he suffered his injuries. Epstein was recently denied bail, a move his lawyers plan to appeal according to a court notice made public on Tuesday.


Epstein was expected to ask the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the judge’s July 18 rejection of his request to remain under house arrest in his $77 million mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the charges and the appeal for bail was expected. His lawyer Reid Weingarten did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan declined to comment. The charges, concerning alleged misconduct from at least 2002 to 2005, were announced more than a decade after Epstein pleaded guilty to state prostitution charges in Florida. In denying him bail, U.S. District Judge Richard Berman in Manhattan said the government had shown by clear and convincing evidence that Epstein would pose a danger to the community if released pending trial.

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Impressive.

Embattled Governor Of Puerto Rico Resigns After Protests (AFP)

Puerto Rico’s embattled governor Ricardo Rossello announced his resignation late Wednesday following two weeks of massive protests triggered by the release of a chat exchange in which he and others mocked gays, women and hurricane victims. “I announce that I will be resigning from the governor’s post effective Friday, August 2 at 5 pm,” Rossello said, in a video statement posted on the government’s Facebook page. As soon as the video ended, a joyous commotion and cries of “ole ole ole” were heard from protesters who had rallied since the afternoon at the gates of the governor’s mansion.


“I trust that Puerto Rico will continue united and move forward as it always has,” Rossello said. “And I hope that this decision will serve as a call for citizen reconciliation.” Rossello said that Justice Secretary Wanda Vazquez would temporarily succeed him. Puerto Ricans had waited expectantly for the announcement throughout the day, as rumors of the governor’s forthcoming resignation swirled.

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Christine Lagarde is stuck even before she takes the job. There is no way out of ultra-low rates.

With Finger On Trigger, ECB Aims At More Stimulus (R.)

The European Central Bank is all but certain to ease policy further on Thursday, with the biggest question whether it staggers its moves over several months or opts for a big bang. With inflation stuck well below its target and the U.S. Federal Reserve already in easing mode, the ECB has flagged more stimulus, hoping to prop up confidence amid a steady flow of bad news that threatens to unravel years of unprecedented support. It could cut interest rates, perhaps while also helping banks offset the costs to them, restart a recently shuttered bond-buying program or raise the bar for any future tightening of monetary policy.


But with economic data relatively stable there is little urgency to deliver a comprehensive package this week, suggesting the ECB could take its time to prepare the measures and wait for the Fed to set its own course. This will be crucial for determining the euro’s exchange rate against the dollar, presently the single most-watched variable for ECB policymakers. Having stoked easing expectations already, ECB President Mario Draghi will have to deliver at least something on Thursday. If nothing else, he is likely to unveil revamped interest rate guidance that makes it clear a rate cut is coming and that rates will stay at record lows for much longer than the ECB had previously expected.

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As I said: all they can do is to prolong the agony.

Deutsche Bank Faces A -Much- Smaller, Poorer Future (Coppola)

Deutsche Bank has issued its results for the second quarter of 2019. They make grim reading. The bank reported a headline loss of €3.1bn ($3.44bn), which it said was due to “charges relating to strategic transformation” of €3.4bn ($3.78bn). But both net income of £231m ($256.67m) and underlying profits of €441m ($490m) were significantly down on the same quarter in 2018. The restructuring announced earlier this month has yet to impact fully. The “capital release unit” into which the bank plans to put €74bn ($82.22bn) of poorly-performing and non-strategic assets and business lines, including its entire equities trading division, is not yet up and running, and although headcount is about 4,500 lower than it was a year ago, the latest round of sackings doesn’t yet show up in the redundancy costs.


Restructuring costs themselves therefore only contribute €50m ($55.56m) to the headline loss. A further €350m ($388.89m) comes from junking software and service contracts that will no longer be needed because of the restructuring. But by far the largest part of the headline loss arises from impairment of goodwill to the tune of €1bn ($1.11bn) and a €2bn ($2.22bn) reduction in the value of the bank’s deferred tax asset. This may sound like accounting gobbledegook, but it sends a very important message. Deutsche Bank’s management has admitted the bank will never return to the profitability of the past. When the restructuring is complete, it will be a much smaller, poorer bank.

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Let’s end with something positive.

California Condor Comes Back From The Dead (NPR)

The California condor, North America’s largest bird, once ruled the American Southwest and California’s coastal mountains. The vulture-like bird was revered by Native Americans and was believed to contain spiritual powers. Hundreds of years later, its future seemed all but certain. Defying odds, conservation efforts brought the species back and prevented it from joining the dodo in extinction. Now, condor reintroduction celebrates a milestone: Chick No. 1,000 has hatched. In the 1980s, fewer than two dozen condors were left in the world. Conservationists rounded up the remaining condors and began breeding them in captivity.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the condor became critically endangered in the 20th century — one classification behind extinct in the wild. The decline came from poaching, habitat destruction and lead poisoning as condors scavenged for carrion containing lead shots. Today, more than 300 California condors exist in the wild. Including captivity breeding programs, there are more than 500 in the world, says Tim Hauck, the condor program manager at the Peregrine Fund.

The 1,000th successful birth signifies an optimistic future for the condor recovery mission. “We’re seeing more chicks born in the wild than we ever have before,” Hauck told NPR’s Scott Simon. “And that’s just a step towards success for the condor and achieving a sustainable population.” The hatchling is currently in Zion National Park — it emerged from its shell in May, but its survival was just confirmed in July. The chick, whose sex cannot be identified without a blood test, will be ready to fledge — or take flight — for the first time in November. If the chick successfully leaves the nest, it can expect to grow up to have a 10-foot wingspan. The bird’s average lifespan is 60 years, one of the world’s longest-living bird species.


Photo by National Park Service – AP

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