Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) German artist, philosopher, composer, mystic Cosmic Tree
UK has already said: forget about summer travel abroad.
Europe’s airlines and travel sector are bracing for a second lost summer, with rebound hopes increasingly challenged by a hobbled Covid-19 vaccine rollout, resurgent infections and new lockdowns. Airline and travel stocks fell on Friday after Paris and much of northern France shut down for a month, days after Italy introduced stiff business and movement curbs for most of the country including Rome and Milan. The setbacks hit recovery prospects for the crucial peak season, whose profits typically tide airlines through winter, when most carriers lose money even in good times. “If there’s no confidence there, demand just doesn’t come back,” said Dublin-based Alton Aviation consultant Leah Ryan, who expects the bad news on vaccines and lockdowns to hurt already weak bookings.
The summer outlook also has been dented by rising infections in Greece and elsewhere, and a suspension of AstraZeneca’s vaccine by a number of European countries over health fears. Several countries announced resumption of use of the AstraZeneca shot this week after the European Medicines Agency said the benefits clearly outweigh its risks. Airlines that have already racked up billions in debt face further strain that some may not survive without fresh funds. British Airways owner IAG raised 1.2 billion euros ($1.43 billion) in a bond issue on Thursday, saying the cushion would protect it from a drawn-out slump. A patchy stop-start summer may pose fewer difficulties for low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and Wizz Air, which can redeploy planes quickly between routes.
But Ryanair’s home market expects to keep strict travel curbs in place at least throughout June, Irish health official Ronan Glynn said on Thursday, citing the “deteriorating situation internationally” and emerging more contagious virus variants. Ryanair shares traded 4.2% lower on Friday, with IAG down 4% and easyJet and Wizz both down 3.5%. Rebound hopes had driven travel stocks higher over the past month, led by IAG’s 25% gain. While ultra-low cost carriers can take the pain of another summer washout, analysts say, rivals such as easyJet and Virgin Atlantic could face renewed balance-sheet pressures. Air France-KLM is also seeking to raise capital and reduce debt from last year’s 10.4 billion-euro bailout. The Franco-Dutch airline group aims to fly more than 50% of pre-crisis capacity this year, compared with 40%-50% for Lufthansa – targets that could still prove ambitious.
Much of this stuff is brutal. Police state material.
Thousands, and possibly tens-of-thousands of protesters across Europe marched on Saturday against continued government lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions based on questionable science – which have resulted in mass unemployment, destroyed small businesses, stoked widespread depression and mental illness, and cost taxpayers trillions to keep the whole ship from sinking. Protesters in London, Germany, France, Sweden, The Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Japan, Vienna and elsewhere came out for the Worldwide Rally for Freedom. In central London, thousands of anti-lockdown activists were seen walking through Hyde Park, chanting “stand up, take our freedom back!”
In Germany, police used pepper spray on protesters in the city of Kassel, where 15,000 – 20,000 demonstrators showed up, according to the Daily Mail. Some 1,800 officers were placed on standby in Berlin. “Several thousand people gathered at the main protest site on a square in Kessel’s city centre, packed closely together without wearing face masks, an AFP reporter saw. Scuffles erupted when a group of demonstrators tried to break through a police cordon to join up with other protesters, resulting in shoving and prompting officers to use pepper spray.” -Daily Mail.
Fascinating. Orla Hegarty in Ireland focuses on cleaning the air inside buildings to prevent transmission. Chicago, after a massive campaign, in 1918 re-opened in 6 weeks, no vaccine. Lots of pics from that time here.
Where is the focus on clean air these days?
[Thread] Chicago didn’t have a second wave of Spanish Flu.. so what did they do, & how did the city re-open when there was no vaccine? #Ventilation #COVID19 1/ ..here are the public health measures that Chicago took on the autumn of 1918 ‘open window ventilation in all school rooms.. pupils warmly dressed.. daily check on pupils & absentees in schools.. use of masks.. landlords required to heat homes.. ’ 2/ documentcloud.adobe.com/link/track?uri… ..’isolation & quarantine.. home nursing provided (see my thread on home nursing).. churches required to improve ventilation.. 150 city health officers on full time service’ 3/ ..’closure of dance halls, theatres, restaurants in order to keep schools open .. ventilation of public transport.. public health doctors & nurses’ 4/
& then by late October/early November (just 6 weeks into the outbreak) theatres were allowed to reopen, social functions & public meetings resumed 5/ So what was happening to make this re-opening possible? The Chicago Bureau of Sanitation (1911-18 report) 6/ ..who understood airborne disease & spread in buildings ‘the most important factor in prevention is the air that we breath’ ‘buildings merit earnest study & attention in a program of real & effective work in preventing the spread of disease’ 7/ they had boots on the ground, ‘one man for every 100,000 of population’ & a regime of regulating, inspecting, investigating & enforcing ventilation standards in buildings for public health 8/ ..they had very detailed ventilation standards & buildings were inspected.. including measuring air temperature, humidity, velocity, dust particles &.. CO2 (carbon dioxide) monitoring was used to catch inadequate ventilation 9/
& Chicago had a head start on other cities, having been the first to regulate in 1911, & then having targeted improvements every year in picture-houses, street-cars, restaurants, garages etc .. then in September 1918 the Spanish Flu epidemic arrived /10 Chicago had 1,700 street-cars, so ventilation on public transport received a lot of attention.. there were concerns about the cost of improving poor ventilation /11 but The Chicago Bureau of Sanitation prevailed.. 12/ so the Spanish Flu epidemic in Chicago pandemic was fought on the ground with building inspectors.. who measured, targeted & eliminated actual public health risks in actual buildings ‘while the work involved was enormous, the results obtained outweighed the difficulties’ /13
“Just as there are epidemiological factors to consider in this crisis, there are also economic, social, cultural, political and other health factors at play.”
The coronavirus has dominated all of our lives in recent months. Radical paths were taken by politicians in the form of lockdowns to contain the pandemic. But we should recognize that even if the coronavirus is a (major) challenge for us, we always have to keep a holistic view of world events. Just as there are epidemiological factors to consider in this crisis, there are also economic, social, cultural, political and other health factors at play. It is precisely these other factors that are so often forgotten in the panicky reporting, in the constant, manic tracking of the current infection numbers, that we want to take a look at in our series “The Costs of Coronavirus Lockdowns” in the coming weeks.
Monetary policy is the second primary tool, alongside fiscal policy, used by governments to influence economic activity. When a crisis hits, an economy is stimulated either by the state budget – which arises from the taxpayers – or silently through monetary expansion. By either lowering interest rates, issuing government-backed securities, or even purchasing corporate bonds the central banks increase the money supply in the economy. Ever since the beginning of the crisis, the U.S. Federal Reserve has done all of the above. One of the most popular measures of the money supply used by economists is M1. It consists of the most highly liquid assets. In other words, the most easily exchangeable assets are used as payment for goods and services.
As Trading Economics data shows, the Fed has created 39% of all the “dollars” in the economy in 2020. To put it on its head, in 2020 the Fed has created more money than in almost a hundred years of its existence. Monetary policy effectiveness has its boundaries. As good as it might seem at first glance, creating money “out of thin air” doesn’t bring prosperity. It is true, inflation still hasn’t start banging on our doors. But looking no further than the asset prices, we can see that the low inflation rate is masked by the asset price inflation. Even with the sharp drop of the GDP and an unemployment rate that stands more than double the rate before the crisis started, the S&P 500 is more than 10% higher than on the day the pandemic rolled around. This also shows who profits from the economic response to the COVID-19 crisis: those with assets, i.e. those already wealthy anyway.
We know they did. His aid literally said so.
The FBI is investigating whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his aides gave false numbers to the DOJ on nursing home deaths in New York state. Lawyers for the aides have been contacted by the FBI and his office has been subpoenaed, as first reported in the New York Times. According to the Times, interviews with aides have included questions on the reporting of COVID deaths in the state. The FBI traveled to some aides’ homes and interviewed others over the phone. A lawyer for Cuomo’s office said the original numbers submitted to the FBI months ago are factual.
“The submission in response to D.O.J.’s August request was truthful and accurate and any suggestion otherwise is demonstrably false,” lawyer Elkan Abramowitz said. The news comes as Cuomo’s first accuser, Lindsey Boylan, told the New Yorker former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is no longer her “hero” because of her reaction to the Cuomo accusations. “These stories are difficult to read,” the former secretary of state said in a March 1 statement, “and the allegations brought forth raise serious questions that the women who have come forward and all New Yorkers deserve answers to.”
Lots of lawsuits, but…
Earlier this week, Rep. Ken Buck, the top Republican on the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, said during an antitrust hearing that “Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon have reached monopoly status, and their behavior won’t change until Congress acts, the enforcement agencies do their job, and the courts move quickly to rein in their predatory conduct.” On Friday, sources told FT that the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is preparing an antitrust investigation into Facebook within the coming months, which is the latest crackdown on Silicon Valley’s big tech dominance. Similar probes were launched into Apple and Google earlier this year. Sources said CMA “would take a sweeping look at the way Facebook allegedly uses customer data to squash rivals in social media and online advertising.”
CMA’s potential investigation into Facebook comes as the government agency recently announced inquiries into Apple’s App Store fees and Google’s privacy settings. CMA expects to follow European Union’s antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager’s investigation into Facebook, launched in December. She told lawmakers in Brussels how big tech is increasingly facing more stringent scrutiny around the world. “It’s a sign that the debate on tech dominance has been shifting over the last couple of years,” Vestager said of the US antitrust move. A person close to the CMA said the focus of the upcoming investigation would be on the social media platform’s digital advertising.
Andrea Coscelli, the CMA’s chief executive, vowed to take on Facebook and other big tech companies with a series of antitrust cases. He’ll be working with lawmakers in Brussels to combat big tech. Meanwhile, in the US, Facebook requested a federal judge earlier this month to dismiss landmark antitrust suits against it, claiming that its “innovative free products deliver value” is helpful to users, adding there’s no evidence whatsoever of anti-competitively. The Federal Trade Commission and almost every state have filed lawsuits against the social media platform for its market power abuse after acquiring Instagram and WhatsApp.
The Republicans didn’t suffer the landslide defeat they deserved last November; the right is still as potent as ever; therefore Trumpist untruth is responsible for the malfunctioning public mind. Under no circumstances was it the result of the Democrats’ own lackluster performance, their refusal to reach out to the alienated millions with some kind of FDR-style vision of social solidarity. Or perhaps this new taste for censorship is an indication of Democratic healthiness. This is a party that has courted professional-managerial elites for decades, and now they have succeeded in winning them over, along with most of the wealthy areas where such people live. Liberals scold and supervise like an offended ruling class because to a certain extent that’s who they are.
More and more, they represent the well-credentialed people who monitor us in the workplace, and more and more do they act like it. What all this censorship talk really is, though, is a declaration of defeat – defeat before the Biden administration has really begun. To give up on free speech is to despair of reason itself. (Misinformation, we read in the New York Times, is impervious to critical thinking.) The people simply cannot be persuaded; something more forceful is in order; they must be guided by we, the enlightened; and the first step in such a program is to shut off America’s many burbling fountains of bad takes.
Let me confess: every time I read one of these stories calling on us to get over free speech or calling on Mark Zuckerberg to press that big red “mute” button on our political opponents, I feel a wave of incredulity sweep over me. Liberals believe in liberty, I tell myself. This can’t really be happening here in the USA. But, folks, it is happening. And the folly of it all is beyond belief. To say that this will give the right an issue to campaign on is almost too obvious. To point out that it will play straight into the right’s class-based grievance-fantasies requires only a little more sophistication. To say that it is a betrayal of everything we were taught liberalism stood for – a betrayal that we will spend years living down – may be too complex a thought for our punditburo to consider, but it is nevertheless true.
“..journalism which unduly inflames domestic divisions and/or undermines confidence in institutions ipso facto helps Russia..”
[..] The star witness in that 2017 hearing, appearing right alongside former National Security Agency chief Keith Alexander, was Thomas Rid. Impressively presented by C-SPAN as a “War Studies Professor” at King’s College London, Rid made a passionate case that the US body politic had been woefully unprepared to contend with an onslaught of what he called “the dark art of disinformation.” [..] the three entities that Rid singled out for condemnation in the testimony — WikiLeaks, Twitter, and “over-eager journalists” — either capitulated to varying degrees in the ensuing years to his demands, or were otherwise neutralized. The founder of WikiLeaks was prosecuted by the US government and currently languishes in UK prison, which removed one of the central threats that so troubled Rid.
Twitter, whose founder once espoused a relatively maximalist conception of free speech (at least compared to other social media companies) drastically changed its philosophy on such issues — embarking on repeat banning sprees, suppressing newsworthy materials falsely classified as “Russian disinformation” just weeks before the 2020 election, and eventually purging the sitting president from the platform. Even more excitingly for Rid, elite journalists’ attitude toward the alleged menace of “disinformation” became increasingly indistinguishable from his own. In the years since that 2017 testimony, it was more and more the journalists themselves who led the charge in demanding censorship to curtail supposed “disinformation,” especially if they could somehow speciously link such “disinformation” to “harassment” and/or “violence.”
And the “over-eagerness” of journalists to report newsworthy information that Rid had condemned was replaced by journalists instead harboring extreme paranoia about being accused of aiding scary foreign influence campaigns — and thereby turning into “unwitting agents” of those scary foreigners. That created a new industry-wide taboo against doing anything which may be perceived as assisting in the dissemination of unjustly “hacked” materials, even if those materials are authentic and expose the malfeasant conduct of powerful officials.
[..] The most telling part of the “Intelligence Community Assessment” was its contention that a key tactic of Russia is “exacerbating sociopolitical divisions in the US.” Variations on this Rid-adjacent theme have frequently percolated in elite discussions of the horrors of “Russian interference” since 2016: the idea that Russia seeks to gain world domination by inflaming domestic divisions in the US and undermining confidence in US institutions, and so journalism which unduly inflames domestic divisions and/or undermines confidence in institutions ipso facto helps Russia.
“Nearly all television—network and cable—is a Democratic Party trumpet..”
A federal judge this week said that the Democrat Party is close to controlling the press as he detailed what he described as shocking bias against Republicans. D.C. Circuit Court Judge Laurence Silberman outlined his opposition to the Supreme Court’s key decision in 1964 in New York Times v. Sullivan, which has since protected many media outlets from lawsuits. Silberman, a Reagan appointee, wrote that the ruling is “a threat to American Democracy” and must be overturned. “The increased power of the press is so dangerous today because we are very close to one-party control of these institutions. Our court was once concerned about the institutional consolidation of the press leading to a ‘bland and homogenous’ marketplace of ideas. It turns out that ideological consolidation of the press (helped along by economic consolidation) is the far greater threat,” he continued.
“Although the bias against the Republican Party—not just controversial individuals—is rather shocking today, this is not new; it is a long-term, secular trend going back at least to the ’70s. (I do not mean to defend or criticize the behavior of any particular politician). Two of the three most influential papers (at least historically), The New York Times and The Washington Post, are virtually Democratic Party broadsheets. And the news section of The Wall Street Journal leans in the same direction. The orientation of these three papers is followed by The Associated Press and most large papers across the country (such as the Los Angeles Times, Miami Herald, and Boston Globe). Nearly all television—network and cable—is a Democratic Party trumpet. Even the government-supported National Public Radio follows along,” he added.
Project Veritas hardly ever loses a suit.
A defamation suit from Project Veritas against the New York Times is moving forward, as a judge has ruled the newspaper posed opinion as fact in their coverage of the conservative news outlet. A New York Supreme Court judge handed Veritas, known for its undercover and whistleblowing videos, a big “win” this week, allowing a defamation suit against the paper and two reporters to proceed forward. In the ruling denying a motion to dismiss the suit, the Times was accused of acting with “actual malice” and “reckless disregard” in multiple articles covering a 2020 video report from Veritas on alleged illegal voting practices taking place in Minnesota. It was not the only voter fraud allegation Veritas covered in 2020, with one video expose actually leading to the arrest of a Texas political consultant on charges of election fraud and illegal voting.
In the Minnesota video, multiple people are seen taking part in or discussing ballot harvesting and linking the act to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota). The report alleged ballots were being paid for and even filled out for voters to favor certain candidates. One ballot harvester featured in the video, Liban Osman, has since claimed footage of him was heavily edited and that he was offered money to connect the alleged fraud to Omar – an allegation Project Veritas denied. The five Times articles in question called Veritas’ Minnesota videos deceptive, but Justice Charles Wood determined this was not fact, but rather opinion from reporters Maggie Astor and Tiffany Hsu. “The Articles that are the subject of this action called the Video ‘deceptive,’ but the dictionary definitions of ‘disinformation’ and ‘deceptive’ provided by defendants’ counsel certainly apply to Astor’s and Hsu’s failure to note that they injected their opinions in news articles, as they now claim,” he wrote in his decision.
“..a 72-percent drop in the number of audits of those making more than $1 million. In all, 98 percent of those making more than $1 million did not face an audit last year.”
By some estimates, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans manage to avoid paying about a quarter trillion dollars of owed taxes every single year. Now, new government data show that audits of the super-rich and large corporations have hit a new low, leaving billions of dollars of uncollected taxes at precisely a moment when lawmakers say new revenue is needed to fund infrastructure and climate investments. In response, two progressive Democratic lawmakers have authored legislation cracking down on tax evasion. The new Internal Revenue Service figures compiled by Syracuse University researchers show that in the last eight years, there has been a 72-percent drop in the number of audits of those making more than $1 million. In all, 98 percent of those making more than $1 million did not face an audit last year.
Source: Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse
Similarly, there has also been a 55-percent drop in the number of audits of America’s largest corporations. In 2012, almost all corporate giants were audited. In 2020, however, almost two thirds of those corporations were not subjected to audits. Amid this decline in scrutiny of the rich, a letter to the Biden administration from 88 progressive groups pointed out: “Since 2011, audit rates for millionaires, who are disproportionately white, have dropped more than twice as much as for taxpayers claiming the (Earned Income Tax Credit), who are disproportionately people of color. Audit coverage is now the heaviest in many low-income majority-Black counties.” The sharp reduction in audits of the rich contributes to the tax gap between the amount of taxes owed and paid.
In 2012, audits of wealthy individuals and large corporations recovered roughly $29 billion of revenue. Eight years later, the far fewer audits recovered less than $7 billion. IRS referrals for criminal prosecution and Justice Department tax convictions have both hit an all-time low. “At a time when Americans face growing economic inequality and financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS is letting billions of dollars in tax revenue slip through its fingers,” wrote Syracuse researchers. “As public attention focuses on how the country can restore faith in our democratic institutions, one area that should not be overlooked is how the nation can better ensure that our income tax laws are fairly and effectively administered.”
“The requirements of international law and treaties, as well as decisions of international bodies, can act on the territory of Russia only to the extent that they do not entail restrictions on the rights and liberties of man and citizen, and do not contradict our constitution../”
What matters more: Rulings from overseas courts, or laws made by politicians back home? That’s the question Russian officials are weighing up, after a string of court orders they say are at odds with the country’s own principles. An international legal battle over the collapsed Yukos oil empire has been raging for more than a decade in courts across the world, most notably in the Netherlands and the US. A record-breaking $57 billion legal bill now hangs in the balance. Former shareholders in the now-defunct company accuse the Russian government, which regards them as oligarchs acting in bad faith, of “appropriating” its assets and causing it to go bankrupt. Appealing initial decisions by a Dutch tribunal in favor of the claimants, the country’s lawyers have said that judges had failed to take into account Russian laws against corruption and fraud.
According to Russian Justice Minister Konstantin Chuychenko, the case is part of a “legal war” being waged against the country in international courts. “The situation is very difficult and serious,” he said. “Russia must adequately defend itself, and sometimes even attack back.” Quite how the state might strike back became clear in December, when the Constitutional Court, one of its highest judicial bodies, ruled that Moscow should refuse to pay the colossal sum if it loses the latest ongoing appeal over Yukos. The case is being litigated under the terms of the Energy Charter Treaty, which Russia signed up to but never ratified, with foreign courts insisting they still have jurisdiction. The Russian judges claim that entering into the pact and supposedly agreeing to foreign mediation broke a fundamental provision of the country’s constitution.
Specifically, judges said, subjugating national laws to international rulings is against those principles, and therefore, when Boris Yeltsin’s government entered into the treaty in 1994, it did so on an invalid basis. No leader, the court claimed, has the right to trade away the sovereign right of self-determination, or to “challenge the competence” of Russian courts. If the judges in The Hague eventually uphold the decision to hand the multibillion-dollar sum to those who lost cash after the collapse of Yukos, stumping up the funds would therefore be optional, the ruling insists. This decision would effectively cut Moscow free from any obligations to foreign courts under the terms of treaties it might have signed, and acting on it would put the country on a collision course with the West, which could look to take unilateral action to enforce any settlement.
[..] Speaking ahead of a national vote on the constitution last year, President Vladimir Putin set out in no uncertain terms that he views domestic laws as more important than overseas rulings, a position that he shares at times with leaders in the US and China. “I believe that the time has come to make some changes,” he said, “which directly guarantees the priority of the Russian constitution in our legal environment.” “The requirements of international law and treaties, as well as decisions of international bodies, can act on the territory of Russia only to the extent that they do not entail restrictions on the rights and liberties of man and citizen, and do not contradict our constitution,” Putin added.
[..] Earlier this year, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered the country to release jailed opposition figure Alexey Navalny. The anti-corruption activist is serving time in prison after being found guilty of breaching the terms of a three-and-a-half-year suspended sentence for fraud. In a statement, the Strasbourg-based court said “a Chamber of Seven judges of the Court decided… to indicate to the Government of Russia… to release the applicant. This measure shall apply with immediate effect.” However, the country’s Justice Ministry rejected the calls outright, saying that they were “unenforceable” and unprecedented for a number of reasons. “Firstly, this is a clear and gross interference in the activities of the judiciary of a sovereign state. Secondly, this demand is unreasonable and unlawful, since… it does not include a single rule of law that would allow the court to make such a decision.”
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