May 272020
 


G. G. Bain Metropolitan Opera baritone Giuseppe De Luca, New York 1920

 

Despite The Hype, Gilead’s Remdesivir Will Do Nothing To End The Coronavirus Pandemic (Lerner)
WHO Expects Hydroxychloroquine Safety Findings By Mid-June (R.)
Antibody Tests For COVID19 Wrong Up To Half The Time – CDC (CNN)
Coronavirus Cases Are On The Rise In 20 US States (R.) .
Coronavirus Uses Same Strategy As HIV To Dodge Immune Response (SCMP)
China’s Top Virus Warrior ‘Shocked’ By US Coronavirus Death Toll (SCMP)
Neglected Residents, Rotten Food, Cockroaches Found At Canada Care Homes (G.)
Cuomo Gave Immunity to Nursing-Home Execs After Big Campaign Donations (Sirota)
How Hong Kong Avoided A Single Coronavirus Death In Care Homes (Ind.)
Coronavirus Lockdowns Prompt Raft Of Lawsuits Against States (USAT)
Twitter Is Completely Stifling Free Speech – Trump (JTN)
Japan Eyes Fresh $1.1 Trillion Stimulus To Combat Pandemic Pain (R.)
Macron Wants France To Be Europe’s Top Clean Car Producer (R.)
The FBI Documents That Put Barack Obama In The Obamagate Narrative (Solomon)

 

 

• 100,000 deaths broached in the US.

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 19,582
• Brazil + 17,838
• Russia + 8,915
• UK 4,938
• India + 6,604
• Peru + 5,772

 

 

 

 

 

We’re back to “normal” numbers: about 100,000 new cases and 4,500 new deaths.

Cases 5,709,518 (+ 99,864 from yesterday’s 5,609,654)

Deaths 352,750 (+ 4,428 from yesterday’s 348,322)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close- Note: see bottom 2: Pakistan passed Belgium in cases, but has 5 deaths per million pop. vs Belgium’s 806.

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Capitalism at its peak.

Despite The Hype, Gilead’s Remdesivir Will Do Nothing To End The Coronavirus Pandemic (Lerner)

Desperation for the limited supply of remdesivir is so great that Virginia will hold a lottery to determine which of the almost 1,500 severely ill patients in the state will be able to get its several hundred donated doses of the drug. In Minnesota, state officials have come up with an action plan to allocate their supply of the Covid-19 treatment, which calls for designating “triage officers” who will randomly choose among equally eligible patients. And in Alabama, physicians on a coronavirus task force set up by the governor will determine which patients get remdesivir. Some hospitals there will receive just a single course of treatment. Still, Alabama’s state health officer, Dr. Scott Harris, recently offered his thanks to Gilead, the drug’s manufacturer, which donated some 940,000 vials of the drug to the federal government that are being distributed by state health departments.

“Although the total supply of remdesivir is limited, we are grateful that hospitalized COVID-19 patients with severe disease in Alabama can receive this potentially lifesaving medication,” said Harris. It is amid these feelings of scarcity and indebtedness that Gilead is setting the price for its antiviral medicine. The company, which has already arranged for distribution of remdesivir in 127 countries, is expected to begin selling it commercially as soon as June. And while a 10-day course of the drug, which was developed as a potential Ebola treatment with at least $79 million in U.S. government funding, costs only about $10 to produce, according to an estimate by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, its market price is expected to be several hundred times that amount.

Still, price gouging isn’t what has many scientists upset about remdesivir. It’s the fact that the coronavirus drug that has boosted hopes and sent Gilead’s stock price (and according to some analysts, the entire stock market) soaring doesn’t seem to do much for coronavirus patients. said William Haseltine, a scientist who has spent decades studying viruses and helped lead the U.S. government response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. “It is comparable to Tamiflu and maybe not even as good,” Haseltine added, referring to another antiviral drug that has been available by prescription for 20 years and is expected to be sold over the counter in the coming months.

Haseltine, who founded the divisions of biochemical pharmacology and human retrovirology at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, pointed out that Gilead hasn’t released data showing remdesivir’s effect on viral load in people with Covid-19. Meanwhile, the only available information on how the drug affects the amount of the coronavirus in patients, a Chinese study of the drug published in The Lancet, showed that the drug did not lower the viral load. “That’s why I call it the fuzzy-wuzzy drug,” said Haseltine. “When the Chinese tried to find the antiviral effect, it wasn’t there.” Instead, the excitement about remdesivir is based largely on a study sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that showed people taking the drug had a faster recovery than those who didn’t take it: 11 days on average compared to 15 for those taking a placebo.

An article published on May 22 in the New England Journal of Medicine showed mild improvement in hospitalized patients that took remdesivir, though the drug didn’t appear to be of any help to the sickest patients, who needed to receive high-flow oxygen through ventilators or other means. Nor did the drug significantly improve a patient’s chance of surviving Covid-19. Nevertheless, at an April 29 Oval Office press conference with President Donald Trump, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci declared that preliminary results from that trial proved that “a drug can block this virus.” Since then, remdesivir has been positioned as our savior and Gilead as its benevolent dispenser.

While some patients and their families have spent the past few weeks frantically trying to procure remdesivir, another Covid-19 treatment has been quietly been shown to be more effective. Although neither option appears to be the much-needed cure for Covid-19, a three-drug regimen offered a greater reduction in the time it took patients to recover than remdesivir did. People who took the combination of interferon beta-1b, lopinavir-ritonavir, and ribavirin got better in seven days as opposed to 12 days for those who didn’t take it. Critically, the treatment has another leg up on Gilead’s: It clearly reduced the amount of the coronavirus in patients who took it, according to a study published in The Lancet on May 8.

Yet so far there has been no stampede of patients demanding the new regimen or lotteries to mete out the doses, which may be due at least in part to the fact that the treatment hasn’t been the subject of a major marketing campaign. It’s worth noting that each of the three drugs in the new combination is generic, or no longer under patent, which means that no company stands to profit significantly from its use.

Read more …

We’d want to see all the other research from the past 65 years as well, please.

WHO Expects Hydroxychloroquine Safety Findings By Mid-June (R.)

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday promised a swift review of data on hydroxychloroquine, probably by mid-June, after safety concerns prompted the group to suspend the malaria drug’s use in a large trial on COVID-19 patients. U.S. President Donald Trump and others have pushed hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, but the WHO on Monday called time after the British journal The Lancet reported patients getting hydroxychloroquine had increased death rates and irregular heartbeats. “A final decision on the harm, benefit or lack of benefit of hydroxychloroquine will be made once the evidence has been reviewed,” the body said. “It is expected by mid-June.”


Those already in a 17-country study, called Solidarity, of thousands of patients who have started hydroxychloroquine can finish their treatment, the WHO said. Newly enrolled patients will get other treatments being evaluated, including Gilead Science’s remdesivir and AbbVie’s Kaletra/Aluvia. Separate hydroxychloroquine trials, including a 440-patient U.S. study by Swiss drugmaker Novartis, are continuing enrollment. Novartis and rival Sanofi have pledged donations of tens of millions of doses of the drug, also used in rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, for COVID-19. Novartis said The Lancet study, while covering 100,000 people, was “observational” and could not demonstrate a causal link between hydroxychloroquine and side effects. “We need randomised, controlled clinical trials to clearly understand efficacy and safety,” a Novartis spokesman said.

Read more …

You can’t do accurate testing for antibodies if too small a segment of a population is infected.

Antibody Tests For COVID19 Wrong Up To Half The Time – CDC (CNN)

Antibody tests used to determine if people have been infected in the past with Covid-19 might be wrong up to half the time, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in new guidance posted on its website. Antibody tests, often called serologic tests, look for evidence of an immune response to infection. “Antibodies in some persons can be detected within the first week of illness onset,” the CDC says. They are not accurate enough to use to make important policy decisions, the CDC said. “Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about grouping persons residing in or being admitted to congregate settings, such as schools, dormitories, or correctional facilities,” the CDC says.

“Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace.” Health officials or health care providers who are using antibody tests need to use the most accurate test they can find and might need to test people twice, the CDC said in the new guidance. “In most of the country, including areas that have been heavily impacted, the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibody is expected to be low, ranging from less than 5% to 25%, so that testing at this point might result in relatively more false positive results and fewer false-negative results,” the CDC said.

[..] The CDC explains why testing can be wrong so often. A lot has to do with how common the virus is in the population being tested. “For example, in a population where the prevalence is 5%, a test with 90% sensitivity and 95% specificity will yield a positive predictive value of 49%. In other words, less than half of those testing positive will truly have antibodies,” the CDC said. “Alternatively, the same test in a population with an antibody prevalence exceeding 52% will yield a positive predictive greater than 95%, meaning that less than one in 20 people testing positive will have a false positive test result.”

Read more …

While just 15 have seen cases fall for 14 days.

Coronavirus Cases Are On The Rise In 20 US States (R.) .

Twenty U.S. states reported an increase in new cases of COVID-19 for the week ended May 24, up from 13 states in the prior week, as the death toll from the novel coronavirus approaches 100,000, according to a Reuters analysis. Alabama had the biggest weekly increase at 28%, Missouri’s new cases rose 27% and North Carolina’s rose 26%, according to the analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak. New cases in Georgia, one of the first states to reopen, rose 21% after two weeks of declines. The state attributed the increase to a backlog of test results and more testing. Nationally, new cases of COVID-19 fell 0.8% for the week ended May 24, compared with a decline of 8% in the prior week.


All 50 states have now at least partially reopened, raising fears among some health officials of a second wave of outbreaks. The increase in cases could also be due to more testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended states wait for their daily number of new COVID-19 cases to fall for 14 days before easing social distancing restrictions. As of May 24, 15 states had met that criteria, up from 13 in the prior week, according to the Reuters analysis. Washington state, where the U.S. outbreak started, has the longest streak with cases falling for eight weeks in a row, followed by Hawaii at seven weeks and Pennsylvania and New York at six weeks.

Read more …

Viruses don’t use strategies. That’s just another absurdity provoked by all the war comparisons. How can you be at war with something that’s not even considered alive? You might as well declare war on a rock or a mountain, or the sky, the ocean.

The vast majority of people alive in the west today have no first hand experience of war, and neither do the politicians who speak to them in terms of war. What makes them feel comfortable with the language, then? Is it Hollywood?

Coronavirus Uses Same Strategy As HIV To Dodge Immune Response (SCMP)

The novel coronavirus uses the same strategy to evade attack from the human immune system as HIV, according to a new study by Chinese scientists. Both viruses remove marker molecules on the surface of an infected cell that are used by the immune system to identify invaders, the researchers said in a non-peer reviewed paper posted on preprint website bioRxiv.org on Sunday. They warned that this commonality could mean Sars-CoV-2, the clinical name for the virus, could be around for some time, like HIV. Virologist Zhang Hui and a team from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou also said their discovery added weight to clinical observations that the coronavirus was showing “some characteristics of viruses causing chronic infection”.


Their research involved collecting killer T cells from five patients who had recently recovered from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Those immune cells are generated by people after they are infected with Sars-CoV-2 – their job is to find and destroy the virus. But the killer T cells used in the study were not effective at eliminating the virus in infected cells. When the scientists took a closer look they found that a molecule known as major histocompatibility complex, or MHC, was missing. The molecule is an identification tag usually present in the membrane of a healthy cell, or in sick cells infected by other coronaviruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or Sars. It changes with infections, alerting the immune system whether a cell is healthy or infected by a virus.

Coronavirus spread would dramatically drop if 80% of a population wore masks – AI researcher

Read more …

Zhong Nanshan again, who said in late January that the epidemic in Wuhan would be over in 10 days. That was spoken as a Beijing mouthpiece, and that’s what he still is.

China’s Top Virus Warrior ‘Shocked’ By US Coronavirus Death Toll (SCMP)

The US death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has shocked the scientist leading the fight against the disease in China, with the respiratory disease expert attributing the magnitude of American fatalities to a failure by policymakers to heed scientists’ advice. More than 1.66 million Covid-19 infections have been reported in the US, with 98,226 people dying from the disease – the highest number of deaths for any country. In all, 5.49 million people have been infected globally and more than 340,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. “Seventeen years ago, the Sars epidemic was handled so well in the US, completely differently from the situation now,” said Zhong Nanshan, director of the National Clinical Research Centre for Respiratory Disease and the leader of a team of scientists advising the government.

“You can say that [the US] carried out very extensive screening or more screening than other countries … But the heavy casualties still shocked me,” he said in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post. Zhong said his counterparts in the US told him that the American system was ill-prepared for the epidemic, despite the country’s high level of medical care, equipment and facilities. He said this was similar to the early response in Wuhan – the central Chinese city where the outbreak was first identified – when many medical personnel were infected and died. But the main problem in the US was the failure to listen to medical experts, he said. As a result, US President Donald Trump “underestimated the disease’s infectious power as well as its harmful nature. He thought it was a big flu.

US officials also did not listen to medical experts’ views concerning the reopening of the economy, he said. “Opening the economy quickly can be risky. I think they should follow the rules of science and reopen the economy step by step,” Zhong said. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has cautioned against businesses reopening too soon because of the threat of a second wave of infections. Fauci, who is the government’s top medical specialist, has said repeatedly that “the virus will decide when the country is to open back up”.

Read more …

Do explain, Justin. Tell us how you do not see elderly people as disposable. See, there’s no way you never saw a single complaint before the virus came.

Neglected Residents, Rotten Food, Cockroaches Found At Canada Care Homes (G.)

Canadian troops deployed to long-term care homes overwhelmed by coronavirus outbreaks found neglected and malnourished residents, rotten food and insect infestations, and a blatant disregard for critical safety protocol, according to a bombshell report from the country’s armed forces. Military medics were dispatched to long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario in late April, with aim of blunting Covid-19 outbreaks among vulnerable populations. Soldiers deployed to five of Ontario’s worst-hit care homes encountered rotten food, cockroaches and residents in soiled diapers, according to the report published on Tuesday. At one facility, residents had not been bathed in weeks. At another, staff made “derogatory or inappropriate comments directed at residents’”.

Neglect of resident hygiene and health, often leading to infection, was documented at all facilities. At one point, “patients [were] observed crying for help with staff not responding for 30 mins to over two hours,” the report said. [..] Long-term care homes in Canada, many of which are privately run, have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, with residents making up nearly eight out of 10 Covid-19-related deaths across the country. The damage has been felt most acutely in Ontario and Quebec, which have the vast majority of the country’s coronavirus cases and fatalities. An estimated 225 people died at the five homes where the military was assisting in Ontario.

The report chronicled widespread “burnout” among staff, a number of whom hadn’t seen family in weeks. The military also found numerous examples of staff showing little knowledge of how to properly wear personal protective equipment when dealing with coronavirus cases. [..] Meanwhile, the Canadian military said today that some 36 members working in long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec have become sick with Covid-19.

Read more …

Peak America.

Cuomo Gave Immunity to Nursing-Home Execs After Big Campaign Donations (Sirota)

In 2018, hospitals, nursing homes, and their lobbyists gave $2.3 million to New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s political apparatus. Now health care executives are getting immunity for their deadly negligence during the coronavirus pandemic. Critics say New York’s liability shield is linked to higher nursing-home death rates during the pandemic.

As Governor Andrew Cuomo faced a spirited challenge in his bid to win New York’s 2018 Democratic primary, his political apparatus got a last-minute boost: a powerful health care industry group suddenly poured more than $1 million into a Democratic committee backing his campaign. Less than two years after that flood of cash from the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), Cuomo signed legislation last month quietly shielding hospital and nursing-home executives from the threat of lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. The provision, inserted into an annual budget bill by Cuomo’s aides, created one of the nation’s most explicit immunity protections for health care industry officials, according to legal experts.

Critics say Cuomo removed a key deterrent against nursing home and hospital corporations cutting corners in ways that jeopardize lives. As those critics now try to repeal the provision during this final week of Albany’s legislative session, they assert that data prove such immunity is correlating to higher nursing-home death rates during the pandemic — both in New York and in other states enacting similar immunity policies. New York has become one of the globe’s major pandemic hot spots — and the epicenter of the state’s outbreak has been nursing homes, where more than five thousand New Yorkers have died, according to Associated Press data.

Those deaths have occurred as Cuomo’s critics say he has taken a hands-off approach to regulating the health care industry interests that helped bankroll his election campaign. In March, Cuomo’s administration issued an order that allowed nursing homes to readmit sick patients without testing them for COVID-19. Amid allegations of undercounted casualties, the governor also pushed back against pressure to have state regulators more stringently record and report death rates in nursing homes. And then came Cuomo’s annual budget — which included a little-noticed passage shielding corporate officials who run New York hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities from liability for COVID-related deaths and injuries.

Read more …

You think we’ll listen now, listen more, listen better? I predict yes, we will. For two whole weeks.

How Hong Kong Avoided A Single Coronavirus Death In Care Homes (Ind.)

Coronavirus has ravaged care homes across Europe and America, killing tens of thousands, but in Hong Kong, not a single resident in care has even contracted Covid-19. Its apparent success offers vital lessons – ones that the city learned the hard way almost two decades ago. In Sweden and Belgium, care home residents make up roughly half of each country’s Covid-19 deaths. In Spain alone, almost 18,000 nursing home residents have died from the virus, El País estimates. And in England and Wales, more than 90 per cent of those who have died from the coronavirus have been people over the age of 65, including 12,500 care home residents, according to the Office for National Statistics.

No one would have been surprised if Hong Kong suffered from a major Covid-19 epidemic. It shares a border with mainland China, which is crossed by hundreds of thousands of people every day. Most of the city’s tourists come from the mainland, accounting for tens of millions of visitors every year. In early February, Hong Kong had its first death from coronavirus – only the second death outside of mainland China. But to this day, there have been only four Covid-19 deaths in Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million. This is not the first time Hong Kong has faced a novel coronavirus. In 2003, six years after the former British colony was handed back to China, it became the epicentre of the SARS outbreak: 299 people died, accounting for almost 40 per cent of the global death toll. The disease had first appeared the year before in Guangdong, the Chinese province that borders Hong Kong.

As is the case with Covid-19, the elderly were the most susceptible to SARS, and similar to the UK, about a fifth of Hong Kong’s population is over the age of 65. By the epidemic’s end, 54 nursing homes had had cases of SARS. Two nursing home workers died. It was not a trauma the industry would quickly forget. “The nightmare of SARS is still on everyone’s minds, so [care homes] were really afraid,” Prof Terry Lum, the head of the department of social work and social administration at the University of Hong Kong, told The Independent. “We had learned a very painful lesson,” he continued, “and since then the nursing homes had been preparing for another outbreak.” Seventeen years after SARS, Hong Kong’s nursing homes were taking no chances.

On 21 January, an infected tourist from Wuhan crossed the border into Hong Kong, becoming the city’s first case. Four days later, the government announced that it would be enacting the emergency phase of its infectious disease protocol. Because of Hong Kong’s collective memory of SARS, individuals, organisations and businesses did not need to wait for instructions from the government. Nursing homes enacted their own measures, Prof Lum recounted. They began limiting the length of workers’ leaves, in order to prevent them from taking weekend trips to mainland China and possibly bringing the virus back. When nursing homes were instructed to take the temperature of all visitors, they took it one step further: they banned visitors altogether, effectively closing off their residents from the outside world by the end of January. There were still only 13 confirmed cases in Hong Kong at the time.

Read more …

Send your kid to law school. That’s where the money is.

Coronavirus Lockdowns Prompt Raft Of Lawsuits Against States (USAT)

Camping in Scarborough, Maine. Gathering for church in Chincoteague, Virginia. Or just grabbing a burger at Poopy’s Pub and Grub in Savanna, Illinois. Each of these activities became the subject of a federal lawsuit, as residents, businesses and even lawmakers challenged state shutdown orders designed to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. The cases test where the lines are safely drawn, as governors balance protecting public health against individual liberties. Governors say strict rules save lives, but critics who are forced to stay home or shutter their businesses called the steps “draconian” or compared them to “house arrest.” The lawsuits come as President Donald Trump has become increasingly vocal in criticism of state restrictions, encouraged protests at state capitols and urged churches to reopen despite restrictions.

More than 1,300 state and federal lawsuits have been filed over COVID-19, including 240 dealing with civil rights, as of Friday, according to Hunton Andrews Kurth, a law firm tracking the cases. USA TODAY reviewed more than 80 lawsuits that often dealt with conditions at prisons and nursing homes, voting rights, and university tuition. USA TODAY focused on legal challenges to restrictions such as stay-at-home orders and business closures, and also whether abortion or church services can be limited during the pandemic, to gauge which orders were being challenged and how states were responding. The eventual rulings could redefine the balance between state police powers and constitutional rights that advocates contend are too important to sacrifice even temporarily.

Abortions are time sensitive. Buyers want guns during times of crisis. And parishioners seek solace at church. Other lawsuits test whether rules go beyond legislative authorities by requiring people to isolate themselves, stay apart in public and wear masks. “I tend to think there will be some new law made only because there are new scenarios that courts haven’t encountered before,” said Polly Price, a law professor at Emory University. “What they’re balancing is the scientific basis for a particular measure and the state’s need for it, in the face of uncertainty, to protect the public health.”

Read more …

CNN and the WaPo as fact-checkers. Oh boy.

No matter what else happens, Twitter just volunteered to go from being a platform to being a publisher. That has consequences.

Twitter Is Completely Stifling Free Speech – Trump (JTN)

President Trump on Tuesday night lambasted Twitter because the company slapped a message on two of his tweets that linked to a page disputing the accuracy of his posts. “@Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post,” the president tweeted. “Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he added in another tweet. Twitter labeled two of Trump’s tweets in which he warned that mail-in voting is ripe for fraud—he specifically warned that absue would be committed in California. Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this month signed an executive order for every registered voter to receive mail-in ballots for the November 2020 general election.

“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one,” President Trump tweeted in a two-tweet series. “That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!” Twitter plastered a message on both of Trump’s tweets that says “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” That message links to a page that pushes back against the president’s assertions.

“On Tuesday, President Trump made a series of claims about potential voter fraud after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an effort to expand mail-in voting in California during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the page says. “These claims are unsubstantiated, according to CNN, Washington Post and others. Experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud.”

Read more …

Something tells me it will never be enough.

Japan Eyes Fresh $1.1 Trillion Stimulus To Combat Pandemic Pain (R.)

Japan will compile a fresh stimulus package worth $1.1 trillion that will include a sizable amount of direct spending to cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic, a draft of the budget obtained by Reuters showed on Wednesday. The stimulus, which will be funded partly by a second extra budget, will be on top of a $1.1 trillion package already rolled out last month, putting the total amount Japan spends to combat the virus fallout at 234 trillion yen – roughly 40% of Japan’s GDP. The government’s 117 trillion yen ($1.1 trillion) in fresh stimulus, to be compiled on Wednesday, will include 33 trillion yen in direct spending, the draft showed.


To fund the costs, Japan will issue an additional 31.9 trillion yen in government bonds under the second supplementary budget for the current fiscal year ending in March 2021, according to the draft. “We must protect business and employment by any means in the face of the tough road ahead. We must also take all necessary measures to prepare for another wave of epidemic,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a meeting with ruling party lawmakers on Wednesday. Government officials have said the new package will include steps such as an increased medical spending, aid to firms struggling to pay rent, support for students who lost part-time jobs, and more subsidies to companies hit by slumping sales. In the second extra budget, the government will also set aside 10 trillion yen in reserves that can be tapped for emergency spending, the draft showed.

Read more …

Macron comes close to giving away cars for free to save the planet.

Macron Wants France To Be Europe’s Top Clean Car Producer (R.)

President Emmanuel Macron announced an 8 billion euro ($8.8 billion) plan on Tuesday to make France the top producer of clean vehicles in Europe and urged French carmakers to make vehicles in their own country. French car plants are only just starting to rev up production after the coronavirus lockdown, which hit the auto sector badly, and Macron wants to accelerate the transition to electric cars to help revive the industry. “We need a motivational goal: make France Europe’s top producer of clean vehicles by bringing output (up) to more than one million electric and hybrid cars per year over the next five years,” Macron told a news conference. To achieve that goal, he said France would increase the state bonus for consumers buying electric cars to €7,000 euros ($7,690) from €6,000.


But to help dealerships sell the 400,000 vehicles left unsold because of the lockdown, Macron said people buying a traditional car would also receive a €3,000 bonus under a scheme that would apply to three-quarters of households. “Our fellow citizens need to buy more vehicles, and in particular clean ones. Not in two, five or 10 years – now,” Macron said following a visit to a Valeo car parts factory in northern France. No car model currently produced in France should be manufactured abroad, he said. Renault, which produces its Zoe electric model in France, had pledged to make a future Renault-Nissan electric engine in France and not in Asia, as initially envisaged, he said.

Read more …

It’ll be an extreme election season. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.

The FBI Documents That Put Barack Obama In The Obamagate Narrative (Solomon)

Just 17 days before President Trump took office in January 2017, then-FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok texted bureau lawyer Lisa Page, his mistress, to express concern about sharing sensitive Russia probe evidence with the departing Obama White House. Strzok had just engaged in a conversation with his boss, then-FBI Assistant Director William Priestap, about evidence from the investigation of incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, codenamed Crossfire Razor, or “CR” for short. The evidence in question were so-called “tech cuts” from intercepted conversations between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, according to the texts and interviews with officials familiar with the conversations.

[..] The text messages, which were never released to the public by the FBI but were provided to this reporter in September 2018, have taken on much more significance to both federal and congressional investigators in recent weeks as the Justice Department has requested that Flynn’s conviction be thrown out and his charges of lying to the FBI about Kislyak dismissed. U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen of Missouri (special prosecutor for DOJ), the FBI inspection division, three Senate committees and House Republicans are all investigating the handling of Flynn’s case and whether any crimes were committed or political influence exerted.

The investigators are trying to determine whether Obama’s well-known disdain for Flynn, a career military intelligence officer, influenced the decision by the FBI leadership to reject its own agent’s recommendation to shut down a probe of Flynn in January 2017 and instead pursue an interview where agents might catch him in a lie. They also want to know whether the conversation about the Presidential Daily Briefings involved Flynn and “reporting” the FBI had gathered by early January 2017 showing the incoming national security adviser was neither a counterintelligence nor a criminal threat. “The evidence connecting President Obama to the Flynn operation is getting stronger,” one investigator with direct knowledge told me.

“The bureau knew it did not have evidence to justify that Flynn was either a criminal or counterintelligence threat and should have shut the case down. But the perception that Obama and his team would not be happy with that outcome may have driven the FBI to keep the probe open without justification and to pivot to an interview that left some agents worried involved entrapment or a perjury trap.” The investigator said more interviews will need to be done to determine exactly what role Obama’s perception of Flynn played in the FBI’s decision making. Recently declassified evidence show a total of 39 outgoing Obama administration officials sought to unmask Flynn’s name in intelligence interviews between Election Day 2016 and Inauguration Day 2017, signaling a keen interest in Flynn’s overseas calls.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1265258033392820228

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And a bit of Dominic Cummings at the end.

If Boris loses the Daily Mail in this fashion, what can he do?

 

 

 

 

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May 222020
 


Cave of swimmers, Gilf Kebir plateau, Sahara c6000 BCE

 

Just 7.3% Of Stockholm Had COVID19 Antibodies By End Of April (G.)
Brazil Suffers Record Daily Coronavirus Death Toll, Soon To Be World No. 2 (R.)
Which US States Meet WHO Recommended Testing Criteria? (Johns Hopkins)
US Layoffs Spread Despite Businesses Reopening (R.)
New Zealand Discussing ‘Helicopter Money’ Handouts To Stimulate Economy (R.)
Washington State Loses 100s Of Millions Of Dollars In Unemployment Fraud (ST)
America’s 600+ Billionaires So Far Made $434 Billion During The Pandemic (F.)
US Prepared To Spend Russia, China Into Oblivion To Win Nuclear Arms Race (R.)
Biden Asks Amy Klobuchar To Undergo Vetting As Possible Running Mate (CBS)
Warren Pivots On ‘Medicare For All’ In Bid To Become Biden’s VP (Pol.)
Appeals Court Orders Judge In Flynn Case To Explain Actions (JTN)
The Railroading of Michael Flynn (Lake)
Russiagate Began With Obama’s Iran Deal Domestic Spying Campaign (Tablet)

 

 

Another record in global new cases over past 24 hrs at 109,627:

• US + 28,215
• Brazil + 17,564
• Russia + 8,894
• India + 7,784
• Peru + 4,749
• Chile + 3,964
• Mexico + 2,973
• Pakistan + 2,603
• Saudi Arabia + 2,532

New deaths
• US + 1,503
• Brazil + 1,188
• Mexico +357
• UK +338

 

 

 

Cases 5,218,496 (+ 109,627 from yesterday’s 5,108,869)

Deaths 335,069 (+ 4,987 from yesterday’s 330,082)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Herd immunity is a failed figment of the imagination, and not one to experiment on the entire population of a country with.

Just 7.3% Of Stockholm Had COVID19 Antibodies By End Of April (G.)

Just 7.3% of Stockholm’s inhabitants had developed Covid-19 antibodies by the end of April, according to a study, raising concerns that the country’s light-touch approach to the coronavirus may not be building up broad immunity. The research by Sweden’s public health agency comes as neighbouring Finland warned that it would be risky to welcome tourists from Sweden after figures suggested the country’s death rate per capita was the highest in Europe over the seven days to 19 May. Sweden’s state epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, said the Stockholm antibodies figure was “a bit lower than we’d thought”, but added that it reflected the situation some weeks ago and he believed that by now “a little more than 20%” of the capital’s population had probably contracted the virus.


However, the public health agency had previously said it expected about 25% to have been infected by 1 May and Tom Britton, a maths professor who helped develop its forecasting model, said the figure from the study was surprising. “It means either the calculations made by the agency and myself are quite wrong, which is possible, but if that’s the case it’s surprising they are so wrong,” he told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter. “Or more people have been infected than developed antibodies.” Björn Olsen, a professor of infectious medicine at Uppsala University, said herd immunity was a “dangerous and unrealistic” approach. “I think herd immunity is a long way off, if we ever reach it,” he said after the release of the antibody findings.

Read more …

They’re only just starting.

Brazil Suffers Record Daily Coronavirus Death Toll, Soon To Be World No. 2 (R.)

Brazil suffered a record of 1,188 daily coronavirus deaths on Thursday and is fast approaching Russia to become the world’s No. 2 COVID-19 hot spot behind the United States. Brazil also passed 20,000 deaths on Thursday and has 310,087 confirmed cases, up over 18,500 in a single day, according to Health Ministry data. The true numbers are likely higher but Brazil has not carried out widespread testing, the ministry said. President Jair Bolsonaro is under growing pressure for his handling of the outbreak, which looks set to destroy the Brazilian economy and threatens his re-election hopes.


He strongly opposes social distancing measures and has repeatedly pushed for greater usage of chloroquine as a remedy for the virus, despite health experts’ warnings about risks. Bolsonaro’s relationship with governors and mayors has also grown increasingly bitter. The president is angry over local shutdowns to slow the spread of the virus and argues that keeping the economy running is more important. Bolsonaro said he will approve on Thursday or Friday a 60 billion-real ($10.72 billion) federal aid program for states and cities hit by coronavirus but asked governors for support freezing public sector pay increases.

Read more …

An unfortunate format for the graph. Click the link to the original for a somewhat better version.

Which US States Meet WHO Recommended Testing Criteria? (Johns Hopkins)

On May 12, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) advised governments that before reopening, rates of positivity in testing (ie, out of all tests conducted, how many came back positive for COVID-19) of should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14 days. If a positivity rate is too high, that may indicate that the state is only testing the sickest patients who seek medical attention, and is not casting a wide enough net to know how much of the virus is spreading within its communities. A low rate of positivity in testing data can be seen as a sign that a state has sufficient testing capacity for the size of their outbreak and is testing enough of its population to make informed decisions about reopening.

Which U.S. states are testing enough to meet the WHO’s goal? The graph below compares states’ rate of positivity to the recommended positivity rate of 5% or below. States that meet the WHO’s recommended criteria appear in green, while the states that are not testing enough to meet the positivity benchmark are in orange.

Read more …

Time to assess what jobs will never return. There will be millions.

US Layoffs Spread Despite Businesses Reopening (R.)

Millions more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, more than two months after a shutdown of the country to deal with the coronavirus crisis, pointing to a second wave of layoffs in industries not initially impacted by closures caused by the pandemic. The Labor Department’s weekly jobless claims report on Thursday, the most timely data on the economy’s health, also showed the number of people on unemployment rolls surging to a record high in early May, suggesting that businesses were probably not rushing to rehire workers as they reopen.

This also raises questions about the efficacy of the government’s Paycheck Protection Program. A broad lockdown of the country in mid-March to contain the spread of COVID-19 initially led to layoffs in mostly low-wage consumer-facing businesses such as restaurants and retailers. But economists say weak demand was causing layoffs in other industries like utilities, information, finance and insurance, and education. “This raises the possibility that new private and public sector cutbacks may be creating a major barrier to stopping the labor market bleeding,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economics in Holland, Pennsylvania.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted 2.438 million in the week ended May 16, down from 2.687 million in the prior week, the government said. Last week’s claims reading [..] marked the seventh straight weekly decline. First-time claims have been gradually decreasing since hitting a record 6.867 million in the week ended March 28. Still they remained more than triple their peak during the 2007/09 Great Recession. The elevated claims have also been blamed on backlogs after the unprecedented amount of applications overwhelmed state unemployment offices.

[..] Attention is shifting from new claimants for jobless benefits to the number of people still on aid. These so-called continuing claims numbers are reported with a one-week lag, but are considered a better gauge of the labor market. They offer a glimpse into how soon the economy ramps up and companies’ ability to get people off unemployment or keep workers on payrolls as they access their share of a historic fiscal package worth nearly $3 trillion, which offered loans that could be partially forgiven if they were used for employee salaries. Continuing claims surged 2.525 million to a record 25.073 million in the week ending May 9.

Read more …

Nice size economy to try something like it. But they dare not call it UBI.

New Zealand Discussing ‘Helicopter Money’ Handouts To Stimulate Economy (R.)

New Zealand is considering distributing free cash directly to individuals as a way of policy stimulus to help boost the economy reeling from a COVID-19 pandemic driven contraction, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said on Friday. At a regular news conference Robertson was asked to share details about the government’s plans for launching ‘helicopter money’ – whether it would be the central bank printing money and distributing it or the government increasing its borrowing and then handing it out. Robertson said the concept was being discussed but “it’s not something that has got to that level of discussion at all.” “I am pretty keen on making sure that fiscal policy remains the role of the government,” he added.


The idea of helicopter money, or dumping cash unexpectedly onto a struggling economy, is slowly gaining currency among economists and policymakers as the pandemic looks to inflict the worst blow to global growth since the Great Depression in the 1930s. None of the wealthy countries have embarked on it, though, citing risks such as central bank independence and the risk of flaring long-term inflation. In a helicopter money drop, a central bank would directly increase the money supply and, via the government, distribute the new cash to the population with the aim of boosting demand and inflation.

Read more …

An entire state run by gullible grandmas.

Washington State Loses 100s Of Millions Of Dollars In Unemployment Fraud (ST)

Washington state officials have acknowledged the loss of “hundreds of millions of dollars” to an international fraud scheme that hammered the state’s unemployment insurance system and could mean even longer delays for thousands of jobless workers still waiting for legitimate benefits. Suzi LeVine, commissioner of the state Employment Security Department (ESD), disclosed the staggering losses during a news conference Thursday afternoon. LeVine declined to specify how much money was stolen during the scam, which is believed to be orchestrated from Nigeria. But she conceded that the amount was “orders of magnitude above” the $1.6 million that the ESD reported losing to fraudsters in April.

LeVine said state and law enforcement officials were working to recover as much of the money as possible, though she declined to say how much had been returned so far. She also said the ESD had taken “a number of steps” to prevent new fraudulent claims from being filed or paid but would not specify the steps, to avoid alerting criminals. “We do have definitive proof that the countermeasures we have put in place are working,” LeVine said. “We have successfully prevented hundreds of millions of additional dollars from going out to these criminals and prevented thousands of fraudulent claims from being filed.”

Thursday’s disclosure, which came after state officials had largely refused to discuss the scale of the fraud, helped explain the unusual surge in the number of new jobless claims filed last week in Washington. For the week ending May 16, the ESD received 138,733 initial claims for unemployment insurance, a 26.8% increase over the prior week and one of the biggest weekly surges since the coronavirus crisis began. That sharp increase came as the number of initial jobless claims nationwide fell 9.2%, to 2.4 million, according to data released earlier in the day by the Labor Department.

Read more …

Since they won’t stop it, and it can’t last either, it’s up to you.

America’s 600+ Billionaires So Far Made $434 Billion During The Pandemic (F.)

America’s billionaires saw their wealth increase by $434 billion during the course of the global pandemic, according to a new report, a staggering figure that coincided with upheaval to the global economy and more than 38 million Americans filing for unemployment. Per the report by Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies’ Program for Inequality, between March 18 and May 19, the total net worth of the 600-plus U.S. billionaires jumped by $434 billion or 15%, based on the group’s analysis of Forbes data. The top five U.S. billionaires (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison) saw their wealth grow by a total of $75.5 billion.


Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has seen his net worth grow 30.6% in the past two months, boosting it to $147.6 billion; the fortunes of Bezos and Zuckerberg combined grew by nearly $60 billion, or 14% of the $434 billion total. Tech stocks have continued to rise, with both Facebook and Amazon hitting new all-time highs on Wednesday. While the technology sector has remained strong, many Americans in other markets haven’t been nearly as fortunate, as evidenced by an additional 2.4 million workers filing for temporary unemployment benefits last week, and with 47% of adults reporting that they or another person in their household has lost income since mid-March. Low-income earners have been hit hardest over the last two months, as almost 40% of people working in February and earning less than $40,000 annually have lost their jobs over the last month.

Read more …

They know the US has already lost the arms race, but A) you can’t explain that to the people, and B) the industry must be kept well-fed.

US Prepared To Spend Russia, China Into Oblivion To Win Nuclear Arms Race (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump’s arms control negotiator on Thursday said the United States is prepared to spend Russia and China “into oblivion” in order to win a new nuclear arms race. “The president has made clear that we have a tried and true practice here. We know how to win these races and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion. If we have to, we will, but we sure would like to avoid it,” Special Presidential Envoy Marshall Billingslea said in an online presentation to a Washington think tank.

Read more …

Just in case he still doubted he does NOT intend to win.

Biden Asks Amy Klobuchar To Undergo Vetting As Possible Running Mate (CBS)

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, has been asked by Joe Biden to undergo a formal vetting to be considered as his vice presidential running mate, one of several potential contenders now being scrutinized by his aides ahead of a final decision, according to people familiar with the moves. In an interview with Stephen Colbert on Thursday night, Biden said “no one’s been vetted yet by the team” but confirmed the initial preliminary outreach to gauge interest is “coming to an end now.” Biden said the “invasive” vetting process will soon begin. When pressed on Klobuchar’s chances of making his running mate “short list,” Biden responded positively: “Amy’s first rate, don’t get me wrong.”


The request for information from potential running mates like Klobuchar “is underway,” a senior Biden campaign aide tells CBS News. If a potential contender consents, she should be poised to undergo a rigorous multi-week review of her public and private life and work by a hand-picked group of Biden confidantes, who will review tax returns, public speeches, voting records, past personal relationships and potentially scandalous details from her past. While several are expected to consent to a vetting, at least one potential contender has bowed out. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, who is running for reelection this year, declined Biden’s invitation to be considered, according to a person familiar with her decision. But Senator Maggie Hassan, the other New Hampshire senator, has agreed to be vetted, according to local news reports.

Read more …

https://twitter.com/megslay27/status/1263591562476285954

Warren Pivots On ‘Medicare For All’ In Bid To Become Biden’s VP (Pol.)

In the thick of primary season, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden brawled over “Medicare for All”: He called her approach “angry,” “elitist,” “condescending”; she shot back, anyone who defends the health care status quo with industry talking points is “running in the wrong presidential primary.” Six months later, with Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee and Warren in the running for VP, she is striking a more harmonious chord. “I think right now people want to see improvements in our health care system, and that means strengthening the Affordable Care Act,” she told students at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics this week, while adding that she still wants to get to single payer eventually.


The shift is the latest public signal Warren has sent Biden’s way in recent weeks that she wants the job of vice president — and wants Biden to see her as a loyal governing partner despite their past clashes, which go back decades. Warren’s policy-centered, team-player pitch is counting on Biden caring more about Jan. 20 than Nov. 3, when he makes his vice presidential pick. In other words, that the current crisis has elevated governing concerns above political ones — and that the times call for someone with her policy chops and, yes, plans.

Read more …

The power of Sidney Powell.

Appeals Court Orders Judge In Flynn Case To Explain Actions (JTN)

A federal appeals court Thursday has agreed to hear a request from Michael Flynn’s legal team to remove the district judge overseeing his case, and has also ordered the judge to explain his controversial and unorthodox conduct in handling it. Judge Emmett Sullivan has been given a June 1 deadline to respond. The government has also been invited to “respond in its discretion” during that window. Flynn’s legal team had filed a request on Tuesday asking the appeals court to remove Judge Emmett Sullivan from the case, claiming the judge was biased against the defendant. Following the Justice Department’s request earlier this month to dismiss the case against Flynn, Sullivan had appointed retired federal Judge John Gleeson to file an amicus curiae brief arguing in favor of not dropping the case against the general.


Flynn’s lawyers sharply criticized Sullivan’s handling of the case. “The district judge’s latest actions – failing to grant the Government’s Motion to Dismiss, appointing a biased and highly-political amicus who has expressed hostility and disdain towards the Justice Department’s decision to dismiss the prosecution, and the promise to set a briefing schedule for widespread amicus participation in further proceedings – bespeaks a judge who is not only biased against Petitioner, but also revels in the notoriety he has created by failing to take the simple step of granting a motion he has no authority to deny,” the Tuesday petition read.

Read more …

Good long overview.

The Railroading of Michael Flynn (Lake)

As it happens, the FBI case manager for the Flynn investigation, Joe Pientka, had indeed drafted a memo closing the Flynn investigation—but he hadn’t filed it formally. Because of Pientka’s “incompetence” (the word was Peter Strzok’s, in a delighted text exchange on January 4, 2017, with his paramour Page), the probe was not shut down and a new predicate wasn’t required. In his motion to dismiss the prosecution of Flynn, U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea said this “sidestepped a modest but critical protection that constrains the investigative reach of law enforcement: the predication threshold for investigating American citizens.”

Until the end of April 2020, Pientka’s memo was kept from Flynn’s counsel and the public. It has been released only now because career U.S. attorney Jeffrey Jensen completed his review of Flynn’s case and declassified documents relevant to it. The Pientka memo provides far more detail on the status of the Flynn investigation than was previously known—and what it shows isn’t pretty. We learn from the memo that after the FBI ran down a lead provided by a confidential human source about Flynn’s contact with a person with links to the Russian state, the bureau could not confirm that any such relationship ever existed. That source was likely Stefan Halper, a fellow at Cambridge University and an intelligence community insider. Halper was being paid by the U.S. government to inform on Flynn as well as another Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos.

Flynn’s suspected contact, whose name is redacted in the memo, is likely Svetlana Lokhova. She is a Russian-born academic who, the Guardian and other news outlets reported in 2017, had traveled in the same car with Flynn as they left a Cambridge University seminar in 2016. These stories made it seem as if Lokhova was luring Flynn into a honey trap, during which sex is offered for blackmail leverage later on. “The CIA and FBI were discussing this episode, along with many others, as they assessed Flynn’s suitability to serve as national security adviser,” the Guardian reported.

The Lokhova story was a smear. Two months after it was published, the Guardian was forced to append an embarrassing correction. The correction read in part, “Her lawyers have also subsequently informed us that she does not have privileged access to any Russian intelligence archive. We also wish to make clear, for the avoidance of doubt, that there is no suggestion that Lokhova has ever worked with or for any of the Russian intelligence agencies.” Last year, Lokhova sued Halper and several news organizations for the smear against her.

Read more …

Flynn was opposed to it. He had to go.

Russiagate Began With Obama’s Iran Deal Domestic Spying Campaign (Tablet)

Obama and his foreign policy team were hardly the only people in Washington who had their knives out for Michael Flynn. Nearly everyone did, especially the FBI. As former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s spy service, and a career intelligence officer, Flynn knew how and where to find the documentary evidence of the FBI’s illegal spying operation buried in the agency’s classified files—and the FBI had reason to be terrified of the new president’s anger. The United States Intelligence Community (USIC) as a whole was against the former spy chief, who was promising to conduct a Beltway-wide audit that would force each of the agencies to justify their missions.

Flynn told friends and colleagues he was going to make the entire senior intelligence service hand in their resignations and then detail why their work was vital to national security. Flynn knew the USIC well enough to know that thousands of higher-level bureaucrats wouldn’t make the cut. Flynn had enemies at the very top of the intelligence bureaucracy. In 2014, he’d been fired as DIA head. Under oath in February of that year, he told the truth to a Senate committee—ISIS was not, as the president had said, a “JV team.” They were a serious threat to American citizens and interests and were getting stronger. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers then summoned Flynn to the Pentagon and told him he was done.

“Flynn’s warnings that extremists were regrouping and on the rise were inconvenient to an administration that didn’t want to hear any bad news,” says former DIA analyst Oubai Shahbandar. “Flynn’s prophetic warnings would play out exactly as he’d warned shortly after he was fired.” Flynn’s firing appeared to be an end to one of the most remarkable careers in recent American intelligence history. He made his name during the Bush administration’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where soldiers in the field desperately needed intelligence, often collected by other combat units. But there was a clog in the pipeline—the Beltway’s intelligence bureaucracy, which had a stranglehold over the distribution of intelligence.

Flynn described the problem in a 2010 article titled “Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan,” co-written with current Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger. “Moving up through levels of hierarchy,” they wrote, “is normally a journey into greater degrees of cluelessness.” Their solution was to cut Washington out of the process: Americans in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan needed that information to accomplish their mission.

Read more …

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May 172020
 


Dorothea Lange Plantation overseer and his field hands, Mississippi Delta 1936

 

A Third Of COVID19 Hospital Patients Develop Dangerous Blood Clots (BBC)
China Adds Long-Term Organ Damage To List Of Effects Of COVID19 (SCMP)
May 16 Update: US COVID-19 Test Results (CR)
Llamas Could Be Our Secret Weapon Against Coronavirus (G.)
Lack Of Immunity Makes China Vulnerable To Another Wave Of Coronavirus (CNN)
Battle Looms At WHO Amid Pressure On China Over Coronavirus Inquiry (SCMP)
Trump Hints He May Reverse Course And Restore WHO Funding (F.)
Q2 US GDP Forecasts: Probably Around 30% Annual Rate Decline (CR)
Difficulties Abound On NYC’s Road To Reopen (Xinhua)
Brennan Claims Release Of Names Is ‘Abominable Abuse Of Authority’ (Fox)
Had Enough? (Jim Kunstler)
Economic Growth: Who Needs It? (Ms.)

 

 

• Over the past 24 hours US had +23,117 new cases (total 88,851) and +1,277 new deaths.
Note: both numbers are still well below White House predictions for the summer of 30,000 and 3,000, respectively

• Reported global new cases yesterday reached 100,184, new high.

• Russia reports 9,709 new coronavirus infections (yesterday: 9,200)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: new global cases yesterday 100,184

Cases 4,743,181 (+ 97,795 from yesterday’s 4,645,386)

Deaths 313,703 (+ 4,723 from yesterday’s 308,980)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

This by now is obvious. But I have my doubts over the following: “..This change in the blood is the result of severe inflammation in the lungs..”, because I haven’t seen any proof that it’s the immune system which makes the blood clot. Far as I can see, the stickiness could occur (e.g if virus impacts hemoglobin) before the blood reaches the lungs, and maybe even worsen the inflammation.

A Third Of COVID19 Hospital Patients Develop Dangerous Blood Clots (BBC)

Up to 30% of patients who are seriously ill with coronavirus are developing dangerous blood clots, according to medical experts. They say the clots, also known as thrombosis, could be contributing to the number of people dying. Severe inflammation in the lungs – a natural response of the body to the virus – is behind their formation. Patients worldwide are being affected by many medical complications of the virus, some of which can be fatal. Back in March, as coronavirus was spreading across the globe, doctors started seeing far higher rates of clots in patients admitted to hospital than they would normally expect. And there have been other surprises, including the discovery of hundreds of micro-clots in the lungs of some patients.

The virus has also increased cases of deep vein thrombosis – blood clots usually found in the leg – which can be life-threatening when fragments break off and move up the body into the lungs, blocking blood vessels. [..] “With a huge outpouring of data over the past few weeks I think it has become apparent that thrombosis is a major problem,” says Roopen Arya, professor of thrombosis and haemostasis at King’s College Hospital, London. “Particularly in severely affected Covid patients in critical care, where some of the more recent studies show that nearly half the patients have pulmonary embolism or blood clot on the lungs.” He believes the number of critically ill coronavirus patients developing blood clots could be significantly higher than the published data in Europe of up to 30%.

The professor’s blood sciences team in the hospital has been analysing samples from patients showing how coronavirus is changing their blood making it much more sticky. And sticky blood can lead to blood clots. This change in the blood is the result of severe inflammation in the lungs, a natural response of the body to the virus. “In severely affected patients we are seeing an outpouring of chemicals in the blood and this has a knock-on effect of activating the blood clotting,” says Prof Arya. And all this ultimately causes a patient’s condition to deteriorate. According to thrombosis expert Prof Beverley Hunt, sticky blood is having wider repercussions than just blood clots – it’s also leading to higher rates of strokes and heart attacks. “And yes sticky blood is contributing to high mortality rates,” she says.

Read more …

Which may all occur because of the impact on hemoglobin.

China Adds Long-Term Organ Damage To List Of Effects Of COVID19 (SCMP)

Understanding is growing of the effects of Sars-CoV-2, the official name of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, on the organs of patients – even after they apparently recover. While most patients, especially those with mild and moderate symptoms, can recover without long-term consequences to their health, studies indicate that those with severe symptoms can have organ damage and require a much longer time for rehabilitation. The commission said some Covid-19 patients might also develop heart problems such as angina and arrhythmia – conditions that could result directly from the virus or arise after a patient has been bedridden for a long time. The guidelines also list potential mental health problems resulting from Covid-19, including depression, insomnia, eating disorders and various changes in cognitive functions.


Other problems identified in the guidelines include muscle and limb-function loss. But kidney damage was not among the conditions named, despite a number of studies citing it as a potential long-term consequence. According to a study published in the journal Kidney International on Wednesday, one-third of 5,449 Covid-19 patients surveyed by researchers at Northwell Health, the biggest health provider in New York state, developed acute kidney failure. Lead researcher Kenar Jhaveri, associate chief of nephrology at Hofstra/Northwell in Great Neck, New York, told Reuters that 14.3 per cent of those with kidney failure required dialysis. There have also been reports of the coronavirus attacking the skin, the central nervous system and blood vessels, resulting in clogging and strokes.

Read more …

The myth that 1 million tests per day would be enough is persistent. A myth because it would take a full year to test everyone.

May 16 Update: US COVID-19 Test Results (CR)

The US might be able to test 400,000 to 600,000 people per day sometime in May according to Dr. Fauci – and that might be enough for test and trace. However, the US might need more than 900,000 tests per day according to Dr. Jha of Harvard’s Global Health Institute. There were 356,994 test results reported over the last 24 hours. This data is from the COVID Tracking Project. The percent positive over the last 24 hours was 7.0% (red line). The US probably needs enough tests to keep the percentage positive well below 5%. (probably much lower based on testing in New Zealand). NOTE: A few states are apparently including antibody tests with virus tests. The Covid tracking project is working to straighten that out.

Read more …

Just let them spit in your face and you’re fine.“In addition to larger antibodies like ours, llamas have small ones that can sneak into spaces on viral proteins that are too tiny for human antibodies..”

Llamas Could Be Our Secret Weapon Against Coronavirus (G.)

The solution to the coronavirus may have been staring us in the face this whole time, lazily chewing on a carrot. All we need, it seems, is llamas. A study published last week in the journal Cell found that antibodies in llamas’ blood could offer a defense against the coronavirus. In addition to larger antibodies like ours, llamas have small ones that can sneak into spaces on viral proteins that are too tiny for human antibodies, helping them to fend off the threat. The hope is that the llama antibodies could help protect humans who have not been infected. International researchers owe their findings to a llama named Winter, a four-year-old resident of Belgium.

Her antibodies had already proven themselves able to fight Sars and Mers, leading researchers to speculate that they could work against the virus behind Covid-19 – and indeed, in cell cultures at least, they were effective against it. Researchers are now working towards clinical trials. “If it works, llama Winter deserves a statue,” Dr Xavier Saelens, a Ghent University virologist and study author, told the New York Times. To any llama aficionado, this news should come as no surprise. The animals have developed a reputation for healing. Llama antibodies have been a fixture in the fight against disease for years, with researchers investigating their potency against HIV and other viruses.

And their soothing powers go beyond the microscopic. Llamas have become exam-season fixtures at a number of top US colleges. George Caldwell, who raises llamas in Sonora, California, brings his trusted associates to the University of California, Berkeley, UC Davis, Stanford, and other northern California universities and high schools, where their tranquility is contagious, helping students overcome end-of-term anxiety. “When you’re around a llama, you become very calm and at peace,” one Berkeley senior said at a campus event last year.

Read more …

CNN has an article on Dr. Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese government’s senior medical adviser, who, as featured prominently at the Automatic Earth at the time, infamously claimed in late January that the epidemic would be over in 10 days, so early February.

Lack Of Immunity Makes China Vulnerable To Another Wave Of Coronavirus (CNN)

China still faces the “big challenge” of a potential second wave of Covid-19 infections, the country’s top respiratory authority has warned, with the lack of immunity among the community a serious concern as the race to develop a vaccine continues. Dr. Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese government’s senior medical adviser and the public face of the country’s fight against Covid-19, also confirmed in an exclusive interview with CNN on Saturday that local authorities in Wuhan, the city where the novel coronavirus was first reported in December, had suppressed key details about the magnitude of the initial outbreak.

China has reported more than 82,000 coronavirus cases, with at least 4,633 deaths, according to data from the country’s National Health Commission (NHC). The number of new infections surged quickly in late January, prompting city lockdowns and nationwide travel bans. By early February, China was reporting as many as 3,887 fresh cases a day. A month later, however, daily cases had dropped into the double digits — while in the US, the number of daily infections skyrocketed, from 47 new cases on March 6 to 22,562 by the end of the month. Having now largely contained the virus, life in China is slowly returning to normal. Lockdowns have eased and some schools and factories have reopened across the country.

But Zhong said Chinese authorities should not be complacent, with the danger of a second wave of infections looming large. Fresh clusters of coronavirus cases have emerged across China in recent weeks, in Wuhan as well as the northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin. “The majority of … Chinese at the moment are still susceptible of the Covid-19 infection, because (of) a lack of immunity,” Zhong said. “We are facing (a) big challenge, it’s not better than the foreign countries I think at the moment.”

[..] Three US companies are already testing their vaccines on humans, according to the World Health Organization. They’re still in phase 1 or phase 2 trials, which typically involve giving the vaccine to dozens or hundreds of study subjects. Zhong said three Chinese vaccines are under clinical trials in the country — however a “perfect” solution was likely to be “years” away. “We have to test again and again and again … by using different kinds of vaccines. It’s too early to draw any conclusion which kind of vaccine is available for this kind of coronavirus … that’s why I suggest that the final approval of vaccine (will) take much longer,” he said.

Read more …

China’s going to stall.

Battle Looms At WHO Amid Pressure On China Over Coronavirus Inquiry (SCMP)

The World Health Organisation has been on the front line coordinating the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. When its decision-making body gathers, virtually, for its annual meeting on Monday, it will have another battle on its hands, as tensions escalate between China, the United States and other countries over Beijing’s response to the outbreak. The coronavirus will be the focus for the World Health Assembly meeting, to be attended by all 194 WHO member states plus observers, and where policies and budgets are reviewed and approved. But all eyes will be on how countries – including the US, Australia, Canada, France and Germany – pursue an investigation into China’s handling of the pandemic within the framework of the global health body.

That could include taking the Chinese government to the international court. Leaders of these countries have already made clear that they want an inquiry, including investigating the origin of the virus, whether it was initially covered up by China, and if Beijing was slow to tell the world that the virus was being transmitted between humans. The WHO has itself been under fire, attacked for praising China’s pandemic response as “transparent” despite Beijing’s suppression of whistle-blowers and information at the start of the outbreak. Under the WHO constitution, the global health agency can refer unresolved disputes to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the main legal organ of the United Nations. But health and legal experts said that was unlikely – and even if it did happen, the ICJ would not be able to enforce a decision.

“The WHO has never taken another state to the ICJ, and I do not anticipate that,” said Steven Hoffman, professor of global health, law and political science at York University’s Global Strategy Lab in Toronto. “If it happens it will be unprecedented.” Atul Alexander, assistant professor of law at West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, said it would be impossible to enforce a decision by the ICJ as it would need to be enacted by the UN Security Council, where China has veto power as one of five permanent members. “China would have to consent to the jurisdiction of the ICJ, which is never going to happen,” Alexander said.

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Only, that’s not what he said: “Have not made [a] final decision. All funds are frozen.”

Trump Hints He May Reverse Course And Restore WHO Funding (F.)

President Donald Trump said his administration was considering restoring partial funding to the World Health Organization Saturday morning after suspending U.S. support a month ago in a row over how the group has handled the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday evening, reports began to surface that Trump was prepared to restore about 10% of previous U.S. payments to WHO, reported to roughly match China’s share. Trump hit back at those reports Saturday morning, saying in a tweet that “this is just one of numerous concepts being considered… Have not made [a] final decision. All funds are frozen.”


He announced he would withhold U.S. funding from the WHO on April 14, and accused the group of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the coronavirus pandemic, and said he wouldn’t consider funding until a “60-to-90-day” investigation was completed. WHO officials and China have denied Trump’s claims. The U.S. was the group’s biggest financial supporter, and reportedly provided about $400 million to $500 million of the WHO’s $4.8 billion budget, or about 15%. According to NPR, the U.S. was already nearly $200 million behind on payments to the WHO when Trump announced he would halt future contributions.

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We’re going to have to look at how sick the economy was beforehand, or we’ll never get any wiser.

Q2 US GDP Forecasts: Probably Around 30% Annual Rate Decline (CR)

Important: GDP is reported at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR). So a 30% Q2 decline is around 7% decline from Q1 (SA).
• From Merrill Lynch: “We are tracking -5.2% qoq saar for 1Q GDP and expect a -30% qoq saar plunge in 2Q. [SAAR May 15 estimate]”.

• From the NY Fed Nowcasting Report “The New York Fed Staff Nowcast stands at -31.1% for 2020:Q2. [May 15 estimate]”.

• And from the Altanta Fed: GDPNow “The GDPNow model estimate for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the second quarter of 2020 is -42.8 percent on May 15, down from -34.9 percent on May 8. [May 15 estimate]”

Read more …

Chinese trolling. Still, reopening New York is a major gamble.

Difficulties Abound On NYC’s Road To Reopen (Xinhua)

Life came to a grinding halt for about 8.3 million residents in New York City when a statewide “PAUSE” order went into effect to curb the spread of COVID-19 nearly two months ago. So far, schools, businesses, and Broadway theaters have been shuttered, with health care workers fighting tirelessly to save lives in overwhelmed hospitals. On Friday, five regions in the central and northern parts of New York state reopened following a phased strategy. Those regions, largely remote and account for less than one-fifth of the state’s population, have not been hit hard by the pandemic. New York City still has to wait, as it has not met the requirements for reopening in new hospitalization, share of total hospital beds and ICU beds available — three of the seven benchmarks set by the state government.


Mayor Bill de Blasio said this month that the city would not see eased restrictions before June, and a true reopening will be “a few months away at minimum.” Despite a flattened curve, the data in New York City remain staggering. By Saturday afternoon, the city’s health department has reported 189,031 cases, more than those of countries including France and Germany. A death toll of 20,576 accounts for nearly a quarter of the national total. “While the (daily new) case count appears to be decreasing, there is still a need for it to go lower, and to have the ability to detect and trace the contacts of cases to prevent a major resurgence in the virus,” Jeff Schlegelmilch, deputy director for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, told Xinhua.

“In a densely populated place like New York City, none of these things are simple, and all of this needs to be done at a large scale with quick reaction to changes in conditions,” he noted. Experts and officials underlined the significance of testing at the beginning of the crisis in early March. Both the mayor and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have repeatedly vowed to expand testing capacity, especially in lower-income and minority communities. After more than two months’ efforts, however, the supply still falls short of the demand. “Lack of widespread testing was our Achilles’ heel from day one,” said de Blasio on Thursday. “We’re still playing catch-up.”


Also on Thursday, the mayor announced that any person with COVID-19 symptoms as well as anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed case is now eligible to receive a test in New York City, which means these basic containment measures have never been fully conducted in the epicenter of the pandemic. Notably, the importance of contact tracing was largely ignored or deemed a mission impossible by local officials. During a press briefing on April 3, New York City’s Health Department Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said contact tracing was “not a good use of our resources” and the city has gone “past the point of contact tracing.” It was not until late April that both Cuomo and de Blasio announced their plans to hire thousands of people to get trained to be contact tracers. The tardy response at the local level reflects the whole picture of the nation. “The United States in general is behind the curve, literally and figuratively, in terms of testing and contact tracing,” said Schlegelmilch.

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Is this just desperation? He’s one of the names, after all. He wanted to unmask Flynn, but doesn’t want to be unmasked himself.

Also, I’m so tired of hearing how the Russians are going to try again. It shows you how an absolutely dead meme can live on as a zombie in partisan media.

Brennan Claims Release Of Names Is ‘Abominable Abuse Of Authority’ (Fox)

Former CIA director John Brennan, one of the officials who sought to “unmask” Michael Flynn during the presidential transition period, claimed Thursday the release of Obama-era names was an “abominable abuse of authority.” He called the recent actions by the Department of Justice to drop the case against Flynn combined with the release of names “blatant political corruption at the highest levels of U.S. government.” “When you have the administration– the White House, the attorney general, the acting head of the intelligence community all acting in concert to try to advance the personal interests of Mr. Trump… I think this is very, very serious,” Brennan told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace.

“I’m just hoping that individuals like Chris Wray who is a remarkable public servant, will continue to stay strong in the face of this type of abominable abuse of authority,” he said. Brennan, however, was not pressed by MSNBC’s Wallace and Brian Williams on why he sought the name of Flynn in the intercepted phone conversations of Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Rather, he lashed out over the disclosure of the names of the Obama administration officials who purportedly requested to “unmask” Flynn’s identity. Brennan also said he feared Trump officials were not going to stop Russian interference in the presidential election.

“As we have talked about the upcoming November election, how the Russians and others are going to seek to try to once again interfere and influence the outcome, I just am very concerned that some of those at the very top are not going to fulfill the duties that are entrusted to them by the American people,” Brennan remarked.

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How desperate is Obama’s renewed attack on Trump? What’s with the timing?

Had Enough? (Jim Kunstler)

Last weekend, in a well-leaked conference call, it appears, Judge Sullivan took marching orders from former President Obama who suggested snaring General Flynn on a perjury rap for withdrawing his guilty plea, and whaddaya know, the stratagem laid itself out this past week like a fully-crafted macramé, all the little tufts and knots neatly in place – thanks to the busy little fingers of Lawfare attorneys burning the midnight oil all week to get the thing hoisted up on the wall. The tortured logic of the scheme was really something to behold: by withdrawing a guilty plea Flynn had entered under oath, he would be guilty of lying to the court about being guilty in the first place, and therefore had perjured himself. Imagine the interior of the legal minds responsible for that: dank chambers of rot crawling with centipedes and mealybugs of subterfuge.


The judge’s transparently perfidious moves revealed the desperation of Mr. Obama and scores of former and current officials allied with him, who are themselves liable for prosecution in the unraveling tapestry of RussiaGate. There is a sentiment welling up in this land that enough is enough with these devious pranks of crooked lawyers, and today, being Friday, would be an excellent moment for the DC District US Court of Appeals to issue a writ of mandamus for Judge Sullivan to cut the shit and get on with his bound duty to put the Flynn case to rest. A nice added touch, if necessary, would be to kick Judge Sullivan’s seditious ass off the case and replace him with a judge who understands established law and precedent.

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Always a relevant question, but perhaps not most appropriate when the walls are caving in.

Economic Growth: Who Needs It? (Ms.)

Ardern hasn’t claimed to be post-growth, but her government’s aim of well-being provided a simpler, faster response to the pandemic than U.S. officials worried by GDP. In early March, with only eight reported cases of COVID-19 in a population of 4.8 million people, New Zealand anticipated the impact on an economy dominated by tourism. They quickly created a twelve billion Kiwi (NZ$) stimulus package (about $7.3 billion in US$), equal to about four percent of their nation’s GDP. Ninety percent of those Kiwi’s went directly to people for income support, wage subsidies, and tax relief for small businesses. Only a fraction went to their airline industry.

By comparison, in late March, the US reported 136,880 cases of COVID-19 in a population of 327 million. Our $2 trillion CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security) stimulus equaled 9.8 percent of GDP, yet only thirty percent, or about $604 billion, was slotted for direct payments and expanded unemployment benefits. Some mortgage and student loan payments were suspended, but not forgiven. Fully a quarter of CARES money went to big corporate loans, mostly for airlines to the tune of about $58 billion. A set aside for “national security” is widely believed to be for Boeing—remember them?

The Small Business Administration (SBA) got $350 billion, nearly 20 percent, but almost entirely for loans, and to businesses not as small as most women-owned micro-businesses. Another quarter of the CARES Act increases health and education funding through state block grants, municipal funding and increases for SNAP and WIC food programs. All bring with them a world of bureaucratic complications for the majority women in this crisis.

Read more …

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Apr 262020
 


Unknown Spanish Influenza 1918

 

 

Australia’s Coronavirus Tracing App Set To Launch Today (G.)
Germany Flips On Smartphone Contact Tracing, Backs Apple And Google (R.)
WHO: No Evidence COVID-19 Antibodies Protect From Potential Re-Infection (BBG)
WHO Warns Against Coronavirus “Immunity Passports” (Vox)
Mumbai Is Trying To Stop COVID19 With Hydroxychloroquine (IT)
Trump, Putin Issue Joint Statement Promoting Unity (JTN)
UK Scientists Warn Over Grim Virus Data (G.)
US Airlines Receive Extra $9.5 Billion In Payroll Support (R.)
French PM To Present Plan To Unwind Coronavirus Lockdown On Tuesday (R.)
The Mule Business! (Kunstler)
Organizers Plan the Largest US Rent Strike in Nearly a Century (IC)
DOJ Will Appeal Ruling Over Sealed Mueller Materials To Supreme Court (Hill)
Michael Flynn Deliberately Set Up, Framed By Corrupt FBI Agents – Lawyer (JTN)

 

 

• Walking back earlier predictions of 200,000 US deaths, two weeks ago, on April 9, Dr. Fauci said overall deaths from COVID19 might be as high as 60,000. It’s at 54,000 now.

• US records 2,494 more #coronavirus deaths in 24 hours: Johns Hopkins

• The US overall death toll 53,511, with 936,293 confirmed cases – Johns Hopkins Saturday 8:30 pm

• New York reports 10,553 new cases of coronavirus and 437 new deaths. Total of 282,143 cases and 16,599 deaths.

• Italy reports 2,357 new cases of coronavirus and 415 new deaths.

• Middle East:
– Turkey: 2,861 new cases
– Saudi: 1,197 new cases
– Iran: 1,134 new cases
– Qatar: 833 new cases
– UAE: 532 new cases
– Kuwait: 278 new cases
– Egypt: 227 new cases
– Oman: 115 new cases
– Israel: 90 new cases
– Bahrain: 70 new cases

• @yaneerbaryam
US tests dramatically up again to 300K yesterday from 150K for much of April. NY, MA particularly.

4/25/20 – Top 12 State Cases
New York: 282,143
New Jersey: 105,523
Mass : 53,348
Illinois: 41,777
California: 41,137
Pennsylvania: 40,049
Michigan: 37,023
Florida: 30,839
Louisiana: 26,512
Connecticut: 24,582
Texas: 23,773
Georgia: 22,695

 

 

Cases 2,934,639 (+ 88,781 from yesterday’s 2,845,858)

Deaths 203,683 (+ 5,837 from yesterday’s 197,846 )

 

 

 

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:

 

 

 

 

After having failed miserably -and very deathly- to act when the virus was first detected, our “leaders” went into “Little Managers” mode, something – the only thing- they’re actually somewhat capable of. But now a new phase looms, and the abject failures start again. They all have different approaches to tracing apps, they all have their highly paid experts venting opinions on things they don’t know about (yes, it’s the same issues again) and the mess will be sensational again.

Politicians MUST admit they don’t know enough to make decisions and conveniently hide behind their experts, but who’s checking the experts?

Australia’s Coronavirus Tracing App Set To Launch Today (G.)

The controversial coronavirus tracing app will be released by the government on Sunday, despite lingering privacy concerns. The home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, likened the app to a “bluetooth handshake” and said it was an important piece of the aggressive identify, trace and isolate strategy the Commonwealth is attempting, as it looks at life beyond physical distance restrictions. But Dutton’s Labor counterpart, Kristina Keneally, said she would be waiting to see how the government has addressed privacy concerns before deciding whether or not she would download it, while acknowledging the app had the potential to be a “great tool” for public health protection.


“Like many Australians, I’m waiting to see what the federal government has to say in terms of the privacy protections that are built into the app, and the legislated privacy protections they’re going to put in place,” she told the ABC on Sunday. The app, based on source code from Singapore’s Tracetogether software, maintains a log of bluetooth connections a person’s phone makes with the phones of those they have come into contact with, making it easier for health authorities to trace potential Covid-19 carriers in the case of a positive diagnosis. For the app to be successful, just under half the population would need to carry it on their phones.

Read more …

Germany failed in its first app attempt. And sure, DP-3T sounds attractive, but who knows enough about it to provide useful advice? What if it’s only the techies at Apple and Google?

Germany Flips On Smartphone Contact Tracing, Backs Apple And Google (R.)

Germany changed course on Sunday over which type of smartphone technology it wanted to use to trace coronavirus infections, backing an approach supported by Apple and Google along with a growing number of other European countries. Chancellery Minister Helge Braun and Health Minister Jens Spahn told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper that Berlin would adopt a ‘decentralized’ approach to digital contact tracing, in so doing abandoning a home-grown alternative. Nations are rushing to develop apps to assess at scale the risk of catching COVID-19, where the chain of infection is proving hard to break because the flu-like disease can be spread by those showing no symptoms.

In Europe, most countries have chosen short-range Bluetooth ‘handshakes’ between devices as the best approach, but have differed over whether to log such contacts on a central server or on individual devices. Germany as recently as Friday backed an initiative called Pan-European Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing (PEPP-PT), whose centralized approach was criticized by hundreds of scientists in an open letter last Monday as opening the way to state surveillance. “We will back a decentralized architecture that will only store contacts on devices. That is good for trust,” Braun told ARD public television in an interview.

Although Bluetooth-based smartphone contact tracing is an untested technology and early results in countries like Singapore are modest, its development is already redefining the relationship between the state and individual. It would work by assessing the closeness and length of contact between people and, should a person test positive for COVID-19, tell recent contacts to call a doctor, get tested or self-isolate. One of the members of PEPP-PT, Germany’s Fraunhofer HHI research institute, was told on Saturday that it was being taken off the project, correspondence seen by Reuters showed. “The project will be handed over and others will be able to make use of the results we have achieved so far to build a decentralized solution,” Fraunhofer HHI head Thomas Wiegand said in a message to colleagues.

Germany’s change of tack would bring its approach into line with that taken by Apple and Alphabet’s Google, which said this month they would develop new tools to support decentralized contact tracing. Importantly, Apple’s iPhone would under the proposed setup only work properly with decentralized protocols such as DP-3T, which has been developed by a Swiss-led team and has been backed by Switzerland, Austria and Estonia. [..] Backers of DP-3T, short for Decentralised Privacy-Preserving Proximity Tracing, say it is still possible for users to opt in to sharing their phone number to aid contact tracing – but this would be part of an app, not of the system architecture.

Read more …

Ergo: you need a vaccine. Which may take many years to develop. There has never been a sucessful vaccine for any coronavirus developed.

WHO: No Evidence COVID-19 Antibodies Protect From Potential Re-Infection (BBG)

Catching COVID-19 once may not protect you from getting it again, according to the World Health Organization, a finding that could jeopardize efforts to allow people to return to work after recovering from the virus. “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the United Nations agency said in an April 24 statement. The WHO guidance came after some governments suggested that people who have antibodies to the coronavirus could be issued an “immunity passport” or “risk-free certificate” that would allow them to travel or return to work, based on the assumption that they were safe from re-infection, according to the statement. People issued such a certificate could ignore public-health guidance, increasing the risk of the disease spreading further.


[..] While there’s a consensus that the key to ending the coronavirus pandemic is establishing co-called herd immunity, there are many unknowns. One is whether researchers can develop a safe and effective vaccine. Another is how long people who’ve recovered have immunity; reinfection after months or years is common with other human coronaviruses. Finally, it’s not clear what percentage of people must be immune to protect the “herd.” That depends on the contagiousness of the virus. The WHO said it’s reviewing the scientific evidence on antibody responses to coronavirus, but as yet no study has evaluated whether the presence of antibodies “confers immunity to subsequent infection by this virus in humans.” And while many countries are currently testing for antibodies, these studies aren’t designed to determine whether people recovered from the disease acquire immunity, the agency said.

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Because they’re meaningless if immunity doesn’t exist.

WHO Warns Against Coronavirus “Immunity Passports” (Vox)

The World Health Organization (WHO) released a scientific brief on Saturday recommending countries refrain from issuing certificates of immunity to people who have been infected with the novel coronavirus, warning there is “currently no evidence” that someone cannot be reinfected. Countries like Germany and Chile are looking into giving residents “immunity passports” that would allow people who have recovered from Covid-19 to be excluded from restrictive protection measures and to work outside the house. Public health officials would use tests that detect antibodies to the virus to determine if someone has previously had the virus.

But the WHO cautioned against this practice due to concerns that reinfection cannot be ruled out based on antibodies alone. “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from Covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the WHO says in the brief. The report went even further, suggesting immunity passports could backfire and unwittingly accelerate the spread of the virus. “People who assume that they are immune to a second infection because they have received a positive test result may ignore public health advice. The use of such certificates may therefore increase the risks of continued transmission,” the report says.

Part of the reason the WHO is counseling caution is because scientists don’t yet understand what ensures immunity to the virus. “Most of these [antibody response] studies show that people who have recovered from infection have antibodies to the virus. However, some of these people have very low levels of neutralizing antibodies in their blood, suggesting that cellular immunity may also be critical for recovery,” the brief says.

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Modi needs to watch more CNN. Protects against any and all HCQ addictions.

Mumbai Is Trying To Stop COVID19 With Hydroxychloroquine (IT)

In the past fortnight, Mumbai’s Dharavi area has emerged as a major hotspot of novel coronavirus cases. To prevent further spread of Covid-19 cases in one of the largest slums in the world, the state government has chalked out a three-fold strategy. Speaking on this at a special session at e-Agenda Aaj Tak on Saturday, Maharashtra Health Minister Tajesh tope said the biggest challenge for the state government is to implement the lockdown strictly and contain the spread of novel coronavirus in densely populated areas like Dharavi. Health Minister Rajesh Tope said the government has decided to administer hydroxychloroquine to people who are quarantined in areas with a high number of Covid-19 cases.


Rajesh Tope said instead of putting people in home quarantine, the government has decided to out high-risk people in institutional quarantine. “For this, we would use schools, colleges, hotels or any institute as required and arrange facilities,” Tope said. “We are also working on early detection because many times reports of infection come after the patient reaches a critical stage,” he said. Speaking about the Covid-19 cases in Maharashtra, Rajesh Tope said the number of cases are increasing in the state and the state government’s objective is to reduce the doubling rate and death rate. “The death rate has come down from seven to four,” he said.

Read more …

But there are plenty Americans willing to piss on the graves of the WWII fallen.

Trump, Putin Issue Joint Statement Promoting Unity (JTN)

President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday issued a rare joint statement promoting unity and cooperation between their respective countries, calling for trust and cooperation “in pursuit of a greater cause.” The statement was meant to mark the 75th anniversary of the “Meeting on the Elbe,” the historic confluence of American and Russian troops in Germany very near the end of World War II in what was seen as one of the final blows against Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler would commit suicide five days after the two sets of troops met at the Elbe River, with Germany surrendering a week later.

In the joint statement, the two leaders said the meeting “represented a culmination of tremendous efforts by the many countries and peoples” that “required enormous sacrifice by millions of soldiers, sailors, and citizens in multiple theaters of war.” “The ‘Spirit of the Elbe’ is an example of how our countries can put aside differences, build trust, and cooperate in pursuit of a greater cause. As we work today to confront the most important challenges of the 21st century, we pay tribute to the valor and courage of all those who fought together to defeat fascism,” the statement continues, also paying tribute to the domestic industries that supplied the efforts on the warfront.

The statement’s message of fraternal international cooperation did not impress everyone, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that “some officials within the administration” have been “concerned about the decision to issue the statement, fearing that it may undercut the stern U.S. messages toward Moscow.”

Read more …

The UK outbreak has a much longer time to go than Germany or Italy.

UK Scientists Warn Over Grim Virus Data (G.)

The number of new cases of Covid-19 being diagnosed is still much too high to allow any easing of the lockdown soon, leading scientists have warned, as the virus death toll in UK hospitals passed 20,000 on Saturday. The home secretary, Priti Patel, described the figure as a “terrible milestone” and a “deeply tragic and moving moment”. She said it showed the need for the British public to “stay strong” and remain at home for the foreseeable future. A further 813 deaths were reported in hospitals, taking the UK total to 20,319. This figure does not include deaths from Covid-19 in care homes, hospices and in the community.

As ministers came under increasing pressure to ease the lockdown from the business community and Tory MPs concerned at the plight of small firms in their own constituencies, scientists said the drop in new coronavirus cases being reported daily was disappointingly slow. Professor John Edmunds, a member of the government’s Sage group of Covid-19 experts, said if the lockdown was eased now, the newly enhanced testing and contact tracing system being put in place would be swamped. “The strategy behind plans to lift the lockdown is based on the idea [that] you could then control the epidemic by testing people for infections before tracing their contacts,” Edmunds said.

[..] “However, if we lifted the lockdown now, the testing and tracing system would be overwhelmed. We will have to get case numbers down a lot lower than they are now before we can think of lifting current regulations.” Professor Keith Neal of Nottingham University agreed that the number of patients being taken to hospital with Covid-19 remained far too high. “This daily figure peaked on 5 April with 5,903 cases. This Saturday it stood at 3,583,” he added. This latter figure was boosted by an extra 1,330 new cases of infected care and health workers, which brought Saturday’s overall total to 4,913.

“It has therefore taken three weeks for numbers of hospitalised Covid-19 patients to decline from a daily total of 5,903 to 3,641.” Professor Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia, added: “There is no doubt this rate of decline is disappointing. Certainly it is far too high to consider lifting lockdown restrictions at present. We need to get numbers down to a few hundred new cases a day before we can do that. Such a decline could take months.”

Read more …

And AirFrance/KLM get €10 billion too. Why? It will take years to achieve the traffic they aim for.

US Airlines Receive Extra $9.5 Billion In Payroll Support (R.)

The U.S. Treasury Department said on Saturday it has released $9.5 billion in additional funds from the Payroll Support Program to U.S. air carriers, bringing to $12.4 billion the total provided to the airline sector hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. In total, the government has disbursed grant funds to 10 major airlines and 83 smaller carriers. Congress approved $25 billion in grants for payroll assistance for passenger airlines. Treasury required major airlines receiving more than $100 million in assistance to repay 30% in low-interest loans over 10 years and issue warrants equal to 10% of the loan amount.

Airlines must not cut pay or jobs through Sept. 30 as a condition of the grants and are barred from buying back stock or paying dividends and face restrictions on executive compensation. SkyWest CEO Chip Childs told employees on Friday the airline expects to receive $438 million from Treasury in payroll assistance. “There is still much about the future and recovery that remains uncertain, and there is a very real possibility that we could be a smaller airline by the end of the year,” he wrote in a email seen by Reuters. The four largest U.S. carriers are receiving $19.2 billion in total out of the $25 billion – American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines.

Treasury is awarding major carriers 50% of the grant funds initially and then releasing the remainder through July. Treasury said additional money will continue to be provided to approved applicants “on a rolling basis.” The department is still reviewing how to award $4 billion in grants to cargo carriers and $3 billion to airport contractors such as caterers. Cargo carriers that receive $50 million or less of payroll support and contractors that receive $37.5 million or less “will not be required to provide financial instruments as appropriate compensation” for support, the department said.

Read more …

Far too soon, but Macron listens to the press.

French PM To Present Plan To Unwind Coronavirus Lockdown On Tuesday (R.)

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will present the government’s plan to unwind the country’s coronavirus lockdown to parliament on Tuesday, followed by a debate and vote, his office said in a statement. The lockdown ordered by President Emmanuel Macron to slow the spread of the virus has been in place since March 17 and is due to be lifted on May 11. Macron is aiming to ease some of the lockdown measures then with schools reopening first, although the government has yet to finalise how it might work in practice. France has also offered retailers some relief by saying it wants them to reopen on May 11, though some curbs could remain in certain areas to delay a new wave of the coronavirus. The death toll in France from the coronavirus now stands at 22,614, the health ministry said on Saturday.

Read more …

“Times have changed and we’re going to have to get some new good ideas that fit the new times.”

The Mule Business! (Kunstler)

The plague didn’t cause the economic crash. But the lockdown response certainly accelerated, amplified, and ramified it. The crash happened because we built up a hyper-complex, over-scaled, just-in-time economic system with all its ecological redundancy edited out for the sake of efficiency, making it hyper-fragile. The system’s basic power module (fossil fuel) was failing on a cost-basis and we tried to compensate for that with debt. The debt got out of hand in both sheer quantity and from the dishonest games that bankers and politicians were playing with it. All of this happened for the reason that most things happen in history: it seemed like a good idea at the time.

The old system is permanently broken now. We’re having a hard time recognizing that, plague or no plague. Many activities have flunked the scale challenge and will not come back to running the way they used to, generally anything organized at the giant scale: global supply chains, global corporations that depend on them, fracking for shale oil, big institutions like colleges and even public school systems, commercial aviation and tourism, the auto industry, show business (including the Disney empire and things like it), suburbia as a general proposition, skyscrapers and megastructures, shopping malls, pension funds, insurance companies, mega-banks, and, of course, medical conglomerates. We’re deceived by Amazon.com, which appears to be successful at the moment because it is filling a vacuum that Amazon will also eventually fall into. Amazon’s business model is a joke.The model is: every item purchased makes a separate journey by truck to the customer. That’s a “sell” signal to me.

The lockdown is making people crazy. It’s one thing to be stuck in the house with spouses and relatives you can barely stand under normal circumstances. But to see all your financial support systems melt down at the same time, along with the implications for your hopes-and-dreams, is a pretty big shock. Naturally so many want to bust out of the waking nightmare and get going, to return to action, to at least see whether what they were doing before all this happened might restart. I dunno about that. They might flock back to restaurants to spend some of that fresh-minted $1200, and then what? Where will the next $1200 come from? Modern Monetary Theory? A new Guaranteed Basic Income? From what? From taxes paid by which businesses generating what profits from people too broke to buy goods and services?

I don’t think so. Times have changed and we’re going to have to get some new good ideas that fit the new times. But, the craziness out there is very likely to start expressing itself differently as we discover the urge to action does not produce the desired result of returning-to-normal. Instead, it produces more disorder in the foundering system, and then the question is: how much disorder do we have to slog through to get to those new ideas suited to the new times? I’ve got one of my own. The mule business! Seriously.

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400 families, 5,000 commitments. So far it doesn’t sound like a very big movement.

Organizers Plan the Largest US Rent Strike in Nearly a Century (IC)

At least 400 hundred families who live in buildings each containing over 1,500 rent units are coordinating building-wide rent strikes, according to Cea Weaver, campaign coordinator for Housing Justice For All, a New York-based coalition of tenants and housing activists. Additionally, over 5,000 people have committed, through an online pledge, to refuse to pay rent in May. Precise strike numbers will be impossible to track, but the number of commitments alone points to a historic revival of this tenant resistance tactic. Coordinated rent strikes of this size in New York City haven’t been seen since the 1930s, when thousands of renters in Harlem and the Bronx successfully fought price gouging and landlord neglect by refusing to pay rent en masse.


The numbers committing to a rent strike might seem insignificant compared to the millions who don’t frame nonpayment as a strike, but simply will not be able to pay rent in the coming month. By the first week of April, one-third of renters nationwide — approximately 13.4 million people — had not paid rent; since then, 26 million workers have joined the ranks of the unemployed. Meanwhile, government stimulus checks of $1,200 are disorganized, overdue, and woefully inadequate. The median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in New York City, for example, was $2,980 last year. The federal government’s pitiful offering is also, of course, unavailable to many immigrants. Since we can therefore expect nonpayment of May’s rent to reach an unprecedented scale anyway, the idea of advocating for a rent strike might at first seem moot.

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Schiff kicking Mueller in the balls.

DOJ Will Appeal Ruling Over Sealed Mueller Materials To Supreme Court (Hill)

The Department of Justice will appeal to the Supreme Court after it was ordered to hand over sealed documents from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation to Congress. The department on Friday asked the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to stay its ruling while it petitions the high court. “Whether and under what circumstances Congress may resort to the courts to seek grand jury materials generated in a criminal investigation in aid of an impeachment inquiry is plainly a question of great significance to all three branches of government, as well as to the functioning of the grand jury system in high-profile, politically-charged matters,” the Justice Department wrote.


The move comes after a three-judge D.C. Circuit panel ruled 2-1 that the Trump administration would have to hand over to Congress grand jury materials from Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. “The Department has objected to disclosure of the redacted grand jury materials, but the Department has no interest in objecting to the release of these materials outside of the general purposes and policies of grand jury secrecy, which as discussed, do not outweigh the Committee’s compelling need for disclosure,” Judge Judith Rogers wrote in a majority opinion.

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People must be prosecuted for this.

Michael Flynn Deliberately Set Up, Framed By Corrupt FBI Agents – Lawyer (JTN)

Attorneys for retired Gen. Michael Flynn asked a judge Friday to dismiss his criminal conviction immediately, saying new evidence belatedly turned over by federal prosecutors proves the former national security adviser to President Trump was framed in the Russia investigation. “This afternoon, the government produced to Mr. Flynn stunning Brady evidence that proves Mr. Flynn’s allegations of having been deliberately set up and framed by corrupt agents at the top of the FBI,” Flynn’s attorneys said in an eight page filing Brady evidence is pretrial information that could exonerate a defendant. The attorneys also argued in the filings that the long-awaited evidence defeats any argument that a key interview with Flynn on January 24, 2017, was material to any “investigation.”


The redacted documents were filed in a District of Columbia federal court as a supplement to Flynn’s court motion in January to dismiss charges against him. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, pleaded guilty in 2017 to making false statements to the FBI in connection with the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into whether members of the 2016 Trump presidential campaign colluded with Russia to influence the outcome of the election. “The government has deliberately suppressed this evidence from the inception of this prosecution – knowing there was no crime by Mr. Flynn,” the attorneys also wrote in Friday’s filings. “All this new evidence, and the government has advised there is more to come, proves that the crimes were committed by the FBI officials and then the prosecutors. The government’s misconduct in this case is beyond shocking and reprehensible. It mandates dismissal.”

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4 stages of quarantine

 

 

 

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Apr 212020
 


Ben Shahn “Scene in Jackson Square, New Orleans” 1935

 

Coronavirus’s Ability To Mutate Has Been Vastly Underestimated (SCMP)
WHO Warns That Few Have Developed Antibodies To COVID19 (G.)
LA Infections 40 Times Greater Than Known Cases In Antibody Tests (R.)
Getting A Handle On Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infection (Scripps)
Coronavirus Attacks Blood Vessel Linings All Over The Body (SCMP)
Through No Fault of Their Own (Ben Hunt)
US Economic Shutdown Too Tight For ‘Optimal’ Outcome: Minneapolis Fed (R.)
Oil’s Big Crash Is More Rational Than It Looks (R.)
US Energy Industry Steps Up Lobbying For Fed’s Emergency Aid (R.)
Mortgage Payments Paused Or Reduced For 3 Million US Households (R.)
US Treasury Releases $2.9 Billion In Airline Support (R.)
Banks Warn New Small-Business Funding Could Evaporate In 2 Days (Pol.)
NHS Staff Not Allowed To Tweet About ‘Political Issues’ – Like PPE (Ind.)
New Zealanders Donate $230,000 To Help Zoo Feed Animals (G.)
The Placeholder (Kunstler)

 

 

With test results all over the place, we need to recognize that having all the world’s top minds on viruses focused on the same issue, does not guarantee a thing. Other than confusion.

• US records 1,433 #coronavirus deaths in past 24 hours:.

 

Cases 2,498,480 (+ 79,296 from yesterday’s 2,419,184)

Deaths 171,333 (+ 5,559 from yesterday’s 165,774)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: among Active Cases, Serious or Critical fell to 3%

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: Note: Turkey is coming on very strong.

 

 

 

 

Virustime and human time are different things.

Coronavirus’s Ability To Mutate Has Been Vastly Underestimated (SCMP)

A new study by one of China’s top scientists has found the ability of the new coronavirus to mutate has been vastly underestimated and different strains may account for different impacts of the disease in various parts of the world. Professor Li Lanjuan and her colleagues from Zhejiang University found within a small pool of patients many mutations not previously reported. These mutations included changes so rare that scientists had never considered they might occur. They also confirmed for the first time with laboratory evidence that certain mutations could create strains deadlier than others. “Sars-CoV-2 has acquired mutations capable of substantially changing its pathogenicity,” Li and her collaborators wrote in a non-peer reviewed paper released on preprint service medRxiv.org on Sunday.

Li’s study provided the first hard evidence that mutation could affect how severely the virus caused disease or damage in its host. Li took an unusual approach to investigate the virus mutation. She analysed the viral strains isolated from 11 randomly chosen Covid-19 patients from Hangzhou in the eastern province of Zhejiang, and then tested how efficiently they could infect and kill cells. The deadliest mutations in the Zhejiang patients had also been found in most patients across Europe, while the milder strains were the predominant varieties found in parts of the United States, such as Washington state, according to their paper. A separate study had found that New York strains had been imported from Europe. The death rate in New York was similar to that in many European countries, if not worse.

But the weaker mutation did not mean a lower risk for everybody, according to Li’s study. In Zhejiang, two patients in their 30s and 50s who contracted the weaker strain became severely ill. Although both survived in the end, the elder patient needed treatment in an intensive care unit. This finding could shed light on differences in regional mortality. The pandemic’s infection and death rates vary from one country to another, and many explanations have been proposed. Genetic scientists had noticed that the dominant strains in different geographic regions were inherently different. Some researchers suspected the varying mortality rates could, in part, be caused by mutations but they had no direct proof.

The issue was further complicated because survival rates depended on many factors, such as age, underlying health conditions or even blood type. In hospitals, Covid-19 has been treated as one disease and patients have received the same treatment regardless of the strain they have. Li and her colleagues suggested that defining mutations in a region might determine actions to fight the virus. “Drug and vaccine development, while urgent, need to take the impact of these accumulating mutations … into account to avoid potential pitfalls,” they said.

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Confusion reigns supreme.

WHO Warns That Few Have Developed Antibodies To COVID19 (G.)

Only a tiny proportion of the global population – maybe as few as 2% or 3% – appear to have antibodies in the blood showing they have been infected with Covid-19, according to the World Health Organization, a finding that bodes ill for hopes that herd immunity will ease the exit from lockdown. “Easing restrictions is not the end of the epidemic in any country,” said WHO director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a media briefing in Geneva on Monday. “So-called lockdowns can help to take the heat out of a country’s epidemic.” But serological testing to find out how large a proportion of the population have had the infection and developed antibodies to it – which it is hoped will mean they have some level of immunity – suggests that the numbers are low.

“Early data suggests that a relatively small percentage of the populations may have been infected,” Tedros said. “Not more than 2%-3%.” Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, an American infectious diseases expert who is the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, said they had thought the number of people infected would be higher, but she stressed it was still too early to be sure. “Initially, we see a lower proportion of people with antibodies than we were expecting,” she said. “A lower number of people are infected.” On Friday, a study carried out in Santa Clara, California by Stanford University and released as a “pre-print” without peer review, found that 50 to 85 times more people had been infected with the virus than official figures showed.

Santa Clara county had 1,094 confirmed cases of Covid-19 at the time the study was carried out, but antibody tests suggest that between 48,000 and 81,000 people had been infected by early April, most of whom did not develop symptoms. But even those high figures mean that within the whole population of the county, only 3% have been infected and have antibodies to the virus. A study in the Netherlands of 7,000 blood donors also found that just 3% had antibodies. Van Kerkhove said they needed to look carefully at the way the studies were being carried out. “A number of studies we are aware of in pre-print have suggested that small proportions of the population [have antibodies],” she said. These were “in single digits, up to 14% in Germany and France”. “It is really important to understand how the studies were done.”

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Are the antibody tests valuable?

LA Infections 40 Times Greater Than Known Cases In Antibody Tests (R.)

Some 4.1% of adults tested positive for coronavirus antibodies in a study of Los Angeles County residents, health officials said on Monday, suggesting the rate of infection may be 40 times higher than the number of confirmed cases. The serology tests, conducted by University of Southern California researchers on 863 people indicate the death rate from the pandemic could be lower than previously thought but also that the respiratory illness may be being spread more widely by people who show no symptoms. “We haven’t known the true extent of COVID-19 infections in our community because we have only tested people with symptoms and the availability of tests has been limited,” Neeraj Sood, a professor of public policy at USC and lead researcher on the study.

“The estimates also suggest that we might have to recalibrate disease prediction models and rethink public health strategies,” Sood said. At least 17 additional fatalities were recorded in Los Angeles County on Monday, bringing the total to 600, with more than 12,300 positive cases, according to a Reuters tally. The county is home to roughly 8 million people. The Los Angeles County results were announced as antibody tests come under increasing scrutiny over a high number of false positives reported in the kits. A similar study conducted in Santa Clara County last week by a Stanford University researcher has been criticized over its methodology and sample size.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday said health officials there would begin conducting statewide antibody testing of 3,000 people on Monday. The antibody tests, using decades-old ELISA technology, do not always pick up early-stage infections but show whether a person had the virus in the past, even if the person was asymptomatic. In comparison, the so called RT-PCR-technology swab tests used at drive-through stations and clinics across the country determine whether a person has the virus at that moment by looking for it in nose or throat secretions.

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40%? 80%? Anybody’s guess.

Getting A Handle On Asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 Infection (Scripps)

Since human-to-human transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was first confirmed in January 2020, the early identification and testing of individuals with symptoms of COVID-19 has been the primary focus of public health measures in virtually all locales affected by the pandemic. But over the last two months [1], it has become increasingly clear that a sizable proportion of individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 do not, in fact, have any symptoms of COVID-19. This new knowledge has significant implications for the targeting and scale of our testing efforts. For reasons that are not yet known, SARS-CoV-2 infection in certain individuals appears to cause no detectable illness.

Presumably, though, because these individuals shed enough virus particles to trigger positive results in PCR testing, they may be capable of transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to others, an uncertain number of whom will develop COVID-19. Such cryptic transmission might explain the rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 around the globe—and the grave challenge involved in containing the virus. In the studies that we have summarized in the table, the range of infection rates is wide: from 0.76% for residents of Iceland to 36% for residents of a Boston homeless shelter. It is striking, however, that the proportion of individuals who test positive for SARS-CoV-2, but who have no symptoms of COVID-19, remains consistently high: from approximately 31% to 88%, with a mean of 56%.

Because of various limitations in the summarized studies, this likely overstates the overall population mean, which some observers have suggested is around 40%. It should be noted that the summarized studies are essentially convenience samples. They do not purport to depict anything more than the circumscribed populations from which data were collected. Large, well-designed studies with representative samples are desperately needed to accurately assess the prevalence of those who are infected with SARS-CoV-2, yet are asymptomatic for COVID-19—and to determine their impact on the pandemic.

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So, blood vessel linings and testicles.

Coronavirus Attacks Blood Vessel Linings All Over The Body (SCMP)

The coronavirus attacks the lining of blood vessels all over the body, which can ultimately lead to multiple organ failure, according to a new study published in The Lancet. “This virus does not only attack the lungs, it attacks the vessels everywhere,” said Frank Ruschitzka, an author of the paper from University Hospital Zurich. He said the researchers had found that the deadly virus caused more than pneumonia. “It enters the endothelium [layer of cells], which is the defence line of the blood vessels. So it brings your own defence down and causes problems in microcirculation,” said Ruschitzka, referring to circulation in the smallest of blood vessels. It then reduces the blood flow to different parts of the body and eventually stops blood circulation, according to Ruschitzka, chairman of the heart centre and cardiology department at the university hospital in Switzerland.


“From what we do see clinically, patients have problems in all organs – in the heart, kidney, intestine, everywhere,” he said. That also explained why smokers and people with pre-existing conditions who had a weakened endothelial function, or unhealthy blood vessels, were more vulnerable to the novel virus, he said. Those underlying conditions included hypertension, or high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and established cardiovascular disease. The study, published on Friday, found viral elements within endothelial cells, which line the inside of blood vessels, and inflammatory cells in Covid-19 patients. While the results were based on analysis of three cases, Ruschitzka said autopsies on other Covid-19 patients had also found their blood vessel linings were “full of virus” and the function of vessels was impaired in all of their organs.

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Moral hazard squared.

Through No Fault of Their Own (Ben Hunt)

“I think we all agree with you that more money for Main Street is needed. But maybe not in spite of the money to all of these companies and whatever that make up the economy, as well. More money is needed everywhere, perhaps. Why does anybody deserve to get wiped out from a crisis created like this? It’s like a natural disaster! Why does anyone deserve to be wiped out? Wouldn’t that be immoral itself?”


“Mr. Clarida also dismissed a question about whether the central bank had created a “moral hazard” that encouraged risky investor behavior when the Fed moved quickly to backstop swaths of credit markets. “This is entirely an exogenous event,” said Mr. Clarida, noting how the virus—not private-sector behavior—had forced widespread business closures and revenue losses.”

I, for one, am delighted to learn of the “Through No Fault of Their Own” exemption to stock market risk. What a relief to learn that there’s no need for the plebes to hog all of the money, that so long as investment losses are from an “exogenous event” as opposed to “private sector behavior” – whatever the hell that means – the Fed will provide unlimited amounts of money – their words, not mine – to make the rich investors whole. Could this possibly be a bad idea … some form of moral hazard … for the federal government to insure the rich investors against capital market losses by buying TRILLIONS of dollars in financial assets and providing TRILLIONS of dollars in interest-free loans liquidity facilities? You know, provided that these losses weren’t their fault. LOL.

These are exactly the same people who paid off Goldman Sachs 100 cents on the dollar with their AIG losses in 2009. You think they give a flying fuck what you think about moral hazard or precedent or optics or fairness or decency? You think these oligarchs and their CNBC/fintwit Renfields care about ANYTHING other than getting their MONEY back? Why, it would be immoral NOT to pay off the rich investors on their market losses. I mean, sure, let’s hope that Congress gets its act together and throws a bone to the poors, but c’mon, man. First things first. Besides, you wanna know the REAL moral hazard here? Wanna know what sort of immoral behavior your sociopath “leaders” are worried about encouraging?

“Claiming the relief package will encourage people to stay out of the workforce, Graham told reporters that the bill “pays you more not to work than if you were working,” noting that it would provide the equivalent of $24.07 an hour in South Carolina versus the state minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. “If the federal government accidentally incentivizes layoffs, we risk life-threatening shortages in sectors where doctors, nurses, and pharmacists are trying to care for the sick, and where growers and grocers, truckers and cooks are trying to get food to families’ tables.”‘

I am not making this up. It’s the old Welfare Queen argument, all dolled-up for the age of COVID-19. Can’t make unemployment too attractive, you know … all those good-for-nothing poors will laze at home eating bonbons and sucking on the gummint teat instead of getting off their ass and doing an honest day’s work.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Big 4 airlines will be accessing tens of billions of dollars in cash grants and easy 10-year loans, all explicitly designed to support entrenched management and equity shareholders. But hey, fret not, concerned citizen! Management will be prevented from making more stock buybacks until Sept. 30, 2021. That’s a whole eighteen months of no stock buybacks, so don’t tell me that Wall Street doesn’t understand shared sacrifice. And yikes! Management will also have to get by on their current salaries for the next three years, as hard as it may be to imagine the privation and human misery that will entail.

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The middle ground between a job and a life as expressed in “..setting the “value of a statistical life” at $11.5 million..”

US Economic Shutdown Too Tight For ‘Optimal’ Outcome: Minneapolis Fed (R.)

Current U.S. economic restrictions may be twice as tough as needed to balance the risks of the coronavirus pandemic against the economic needs of workers, according to research here released on Monday by the Minneapolis Federal Reserve. Titled “Health versus Wealth,” the paper was explicit in its topic and its methodology, setting the “value of a statistical life” at $11.5 million, in line with other federal agencies like the Department of Transportation. It used that figure to analyze the trade-offs between keeping more workers idled and easing social distancing. The current restrictions, the research concluded, are shifting benefits from younger workers, who would be better off with looser rules, to older individuals for whom protection from the coronavirus is more vital.


A middle ground, with more modest restrictions left in place until the end of July, produces the “optimal” outcome, it said. “The shutdown in place is around twice as extensive as it should be,” wrote the research team, which included Minneapolis Fed monetary adviser Jonathan Heathcote and Kansas City Fed senior economist Andrew Glover. The team noted that ending the shutdown at Easter, as President Donald Trump initially hoped to do, “would have implied an additional 172,000 deaths,” more than four times the 40,000 who have died so far.As it stands, the group estimates that 418,000 people in the United States would die over the next 18 months or so if economic restrictions are largely lifted by July 1. The Trump administration has relied on estimates of around 60,000 deaths through early August.

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Oil’s Big Crash Is More Rational Than It Looks (R.)

Oil prices have gone through the floor, literally. The price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil went negative for the first time in history on Monday as traders panicked that storage for black gold coming from the vast U.S. fields had filled to the brim. Normally, that sort of crash in one-month U.S. crude futures would be indicative of something funny going on in the market rather than something deeply disturbing. In this case, both things can be true. The immediate cause of the mayhem was the normally innocuous news that the so-called “front-month” contract for May is expiring on Tuesday. Usually, investors who want to continue to invest in oil would simply sell their soon-to-expire paper to buyers that want it right now, and then buy the June contract, with a minimal price difference between the two.

Yet with the June contract still trading at $20 a barrel, that spread is now at an unprecedented level. Plummeting demand and a lack of restraint from U.S. drillers mean that at the current rate, storage capacity in Oklahoma will be full in a few weeks, traders told Reuters. Buyers are so wary of taking delivery of crude amid what they see as a global oil glut and a storage crunch that they will only do so at murderously low prices. The optimist’s view, if such a thing is possible, is that other oil benchmarks are less bombed out, and dislocations like this could also suggest short-term investors are struggling with their trades. The similar contract for Brent crude, which reflects oil prices in Europe, fell “only” 9% to $25 a barrel on Monday.

Recent cuts led by Saudi Arabia and Russia in theory offer a coordinated reduction that will remove 10 million barrels of oil from the market daily in May and June. Critically, though, these cuts don’t start until next month. A large chunk of the promised cuts may not even materialise, and pressure on Texas regulators to limit production hasn’t transpired, suggesting there’s no regional relief in sight either. The basic problem remains that the hit to daily global oil demand from Covid-19 could be as high as 30 million barrels. If so, storage will be busted through, and prices will need to fall low enough for the market to balance. While Monday’s epic crash may represent an overshoot, it is based in reality.

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Let’s bailout shale.

US Energy Industry Steps Up Lobbying For Fed’s Emergency Aid (R.)

The U.S. energy industry has asked the Federal Reserve to change the terms of a $600 billion lending facility so that oil and gas companies can use the funds to repay their ballooning debts, according to a letter seen by Reuters. The effort comes at a time of intensifying pain for the sector as U.S. crude oil futures traded in negative territory on Monday for the first time in history on worries of massive oversupply. So far, the energy industry has largely missed out on federal support to businesses hurt by the novel coronavirus economic disruption, but it is hoping it can benefit from the Fed’s Main Street Lending Program due to launch in coming weeks. The Fed has been deluged with roughly 2,000 letters seeking changes to the rules of the program, under which the Fed will purchase 95% of eligible bank loans to small- and medium-sized businesses.


The terms of that and other federal assistance schemes are under growing scrutiny amid worries that insufficient conditions are being placed on borrowers and banks may dish out funds to companies without the greatest need for the cash. The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) asked the Fed to reconsider a provision that bars eligible borrowers from using the cash to repay other loan balances and requires borrowers to promise to repay the Fed before other debt of equal or lower priority, according to an April 15 letter seen by Reuters. “Oil and natural gas producers are not looking for a government handout; they are seeking a bridge to help survive this economic disruption,” the IPAA, which represents thousands of independent oil and natural gas producers, wrote in the letter, which has not been previously reported.

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How about renters though?

Mortgage Payments Paused Or Reduced For 3 Million US Households (R.)

Some 3 million U.S. households have won at least a measure of relief on mortgage payments as efforts to squelch the coronavirus pandemic throw millions out of work and stretch household balance sheets, a survey from the Mortgage Bankers Association showed on Monday. About 5.95% of mortgage loans were in forbearance during the survey week of April 6-12, up from 3.74% a week earlier and from just 0.25% the week of March 2, the industry lobbying group said on Monday. That increase helps builds the case for a rescue for the mortgage services industry, suggested Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s senior vice president and chief economist.


“To ensure market stability during these challenging times for consumers and the entire industry, servicers need access to interim financing so that they can continue to play this critical role,” Fratantoni said. Congress did not include any such relief in its recent $2.3 trillion stimulus package, though some top Democrats have called for it and Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan has said he is open-minded about potentially coming to the sector’s aid. The survey covered 38.3 million loans serviced by independent mortgage companies and banks, representing about 77% of the first mortgage-servicing industry.

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Cheap air travel is a huge bubble, so yeah, bailout.

US Treasury Releases $2.9 Billion In Airline Support (R.)

The U.S. Treasury Department said on Monday it had disbursed $2.9 billion in initial payroll assistance to 54 smaller passenger carrier and two major passenger airlines, while it finalized grant agreements with six major airlines. The Treasury is initially giving major airlines 50% of funds awarded and releasing the rest in a series of payments. In total, Treasury is awarding U.S. passenger airlines $25 billion in funds earmarked for payroll costs. Major airlines must repay 30% of the funds in low-interest loans and grant Treasury warrants equal to 10% of the loan amount, while airlines receiving $100 million or less do not need to repay any funds or issue warrants to the government.


Treasury said on Monday it had finalized grant agreements with Allegiant Air, American Airlines Group Inc, Delta Air Lines Inc, Southwest Airlines Co, Spirit Airlines Inc, and United Airlines Holdings Inc. Air carriers have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic and seen U.S. travel demand fall by 95%. Southwest said it would receive half of the $3.2 billion payroll award immediately and the remainder in installments during May, June and July. Separately, Treasury said Alaska Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways Corp and SkyWest Airlines had also indicated that they planned to participate. The 12 major airlines represent nearly 95% of U.S. airline capacity.

Read more …

The entire US economic system is ideal for smothering small business.

Banks Warn New Small-Business Funding Could Evaporate In 2 Days (Pol.)

Lawmakers are nearing a deal to restart an emergency small-business loan program that exhausted its funding last week — but it may buy only a few days before the program screeches to a halt once again. Lenders are warning their customers they might not be able to secure loans even if Congress provides an additional $300 billion as soon as this week. Banking industry representatives say the program has a burn rate of $50 billion per day and needs closer to $1 trillion to meet demand, with hundreds of thousands of applications pending. “This is going to go within, at most, 72 hours,” said Consumer Bankers Association President Richard Hunt, who represents large banks. “But the odds are more like 48 hours.”

The legislation also likely won’t tackle controversial elements of the program’s structure, chiefly an exemption that allowed large companies such as Shake Shack and Ruth’s Hospitality Group to obtain tens of millions of dollars in loans, as well as rules that encouraged banks to favor their existing customers. The hurried rescue effort had only just begun to operate as intended when funding lapsed Thursday, after banks at first muddled through with a lack of guidance from the Trump administration and an overloaded Small Business Administration system needed to approve loans. Lenders handed out nearly 1.7 million loans from April 3 until the initial allocation of $350 billion for the program was exhausted.

Now, with controversy swirling around big companies taking advantage of the first rounds of loans, small businesses may be in for another shock with funding set to run dry again shortly after it’s made available to the program, which was set up to avert massive layoffs amid the coronavirus pandemic. The loans have proved enticing to businesses because they can be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payroll.

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The level of craziness is not always easy to comprehend.

NHS Staff Not Allowed To Tweet About ‘Political Issues’ – Like PPE (Ind.)

An NHS trust has been accused of “gagging” its staff by asking them not to tweet about “political issues” such as “PPE, testing and exit strategies”. Workers at the Norfolk and Suffolk mental health trust were issued guidance on “Covid-19 suggested subjects for tweets” as part of a staff newsletter. Acceptable tweets included praising staff for their hard work, volunteering to move departments, working over the weekend and keeping people safe. The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust faced backlash over their definition of a “political issue” after an extract from the newsletter was posted to Twitter by the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk. A spokesperson for The Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust told us:


“In response to requests for guidance from our staff who are new to social media we produced guidelines to help support them. Our staff are keen to reassure the public and celebrate the work of their colleagues during the Covid-19 pandemic and these suggestions were intended to support them to do that. We actively encourage our staff to use social media within the remit of our social media policy. It was never the intention to deter staff from giving their own views on these issues.” According to government figures, 27 NHS staff members have died nationwide while fighting Covid-19. Why some NHS workers have not had proper access to personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing have been some of the key questions levelled at the government over its handling of the coronavirus crisis. The least we can expect NHS frontline staff to do is talk about it.

Read more …

This must be a glbal issue. If you live near a zoo, check them out.

New Zealanders Donate $230,000 To Help Zoo Feed Animals (G.)

New Zealanders have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to feed hungry zoo animals in the midst of lockdown as the prime minister announced coronavirus lockdown restrictions would continue for at least three more weeks. Orana Wildlife Park on the outskirts of Christchurch is home to 400 wild and domestic animals, including chimps, meerkats, rhinos and giraffes. The zoo has been shut to the public during the lockdown, with keepers, deemed essential workers, working split shifts to stay safe. Unable to earn any income from visitors, which usually accounts for 95% of its revenue, the zoo is now struggling to pay its weekly NZ$70,000 (US$42,000) food bills, and has appealed to the general public for help. The gorillas alone eat NZ$800 (US$485) worth of vegetables every week.


In just four days more than 4,000 Kiwis have donated more than NZ$230,000. The wildlife park is the country’s only open-range zoo and is home to over 70 species of endangered animals from New Zealand and around the world. According to the givealittle appeal, the government’s wage subsidy only covers 40% of the park’s operating costs. “These costs are impossible to put on hold and include enormous food bills, huge electricity bills to keep our animals warm in the cooler weather and essential veterinary costs,” the appeal reads. “Our important New Zealand native conservation work continues, such as Kiwi chicks have recently hatched and must have access to heated brooder units in these crucial early stages.”

Read more …

“..those capers were just old-fashioned scams. Joe Biden for President is Emperor’s-New-Clothes caliber deceit..”

Check out the Trump campaign video. At least make him work for it please.

The Placeholder (Kunstler)

Everybody knows he’s dimmer than a night-lite, and everybody’s pretending it’s okay. There’s no analog in history for any faction putting up such an empty vessel for high office. Granted, the Democratic Party has trafficked in unreality for years, from Crossfire Hurricane through UkraineGate – with side-trips like trannies in women’s sports – but those capers were just old-fashioned scams. Joe Biden for President is Emperor’s-New-Clothes caliber deceit, requiring a rank-and-file so marinated in falsehood they couldn’t tell you the difference between a red light and a green light. So, you have to ask: what is their game? In the weeks that led up to the blossoming of Covid 19, the game was apparently to bump off Bernie Sanders to satisfy the party’s corporate sponsors, who were not so eager to back someone that promised to confiscate their wealth.


Ironically, Covid 19 only fortified Bernie’s case that the nation’s obscenely crooked health care system demands drastic reform. Now, you could easily construct a scenario in which ol’ Bernie would have glided to victory in November on the basis of that, combined with unemployment figures that make the Great Depression look like a job fair. Picking Joe Biden as the instrument to block Bernie seemed especially dumb just weeks after the Democrats’ impeachment gambit blew up in their faces by shining a fiercely revealing light on Joe and Hunter’s adventures in international grift. One can easily discern Mr. Biden’s motive for remaining in the race after that because sheltering in candidacy seemed to inoculate him from any criminal investigation. But, did the whole party want to go all-in on that?

Read more …

 

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Apr 182020
 


Edward Hopper Cat boat 1922

 

Antibody Study Suggests Coronavirus Far More Widespread Than Thought (G.)
No Evidence COVID-19 Survivors Have Immunity – WHO (Sky)
Double Warning Over Antibody Tests (BBC)
Existing Drugs ‘May Prove Effective On Coronavirus Before Vaccine Comes’ (SCMP)
Emirates First Airline To Conduct On-Site Rapid COVID-19 Tests (Em.)
US Seeks Access To Wuhan Virology Lab, Trump Questions China Death Toll (SCMP)
US, China and WHO Are All Keen To Pass The Buck (SCMP)
U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Outbreak Much Larger, But Mostly Asymptomatic (JTN)
San Francisco Orders Residents To Wear Face Masks (F.)
UK Moves To Drop Huawei As 5G Vendor On China Coronavirus Transparency (NYP)
Where’s the $2.2 Trillion Bailout Money Going? (WS)
Flight Path (Kunstler)
The Transformation of Emmanuel Macron (CN)
Labour Party’s Own Senior Staff Acted To Keep Corbyn Out Of Power (ML)

 

 

• One week ago, the US #COVID19 #coronavirus death toll was 15,000. In the last 7 days, more than 20,000 Americans have died. The death toll is now 36,000+, Cases top 700,000

• Reported US coronavirus deaths:
– Feb. 17: 0 deaths
– Mar. 17: 111 deaths
– Apr. 17: 36,997 deaths

 

 

• Top 10 States – Positive Tests 4/17/20
1) NY/ 222,284 (TH data);
2) NJ/ 78467;
3/ MA/ 32,181;
4) PA/ 29,441;
5) MI/ 29,263;
6 CA/ 28,263;
7) IL/ 27,575;
8) FL/ 24,119;
9) LA/ 23,118;
10)TX 17,371.

• New York reports 7,753 new coronavirus cases & 1,025 new deaths, a total of 233,951 cases & 17,131 deaths..

• 1,081 sailors from French aircraft carrier test positive for coronavirus. 2,010 sailors have been tested so far.

• Coronavirus global update:
– 85k+ cases in last 24 hours
– 2.2 million cases in total
– 1.5 million active
– 575k recovered
– 155k deaths
– 31% of cases in the U.S.

 

 

 

Cases 2,261,425 (+ 67,867 from yesterday’s 2,193,558)

Deaths 154,734 (+ 7,356 from yesterday’s 147,378)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close- (Note: Brazil and Russia keep climbing fast)

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases remains at 21% –

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: (Belgium in first place worldwide of deaths per million at 445, 14.3% CFR, before Spain, Italy, France and UK.)

 

 

 

 

We know nothing.

Antibody Study Suggests Coronavirus Far More Widespread Than Thought (G.)

A new study in California has found the number of people infected with coronavirus may be tens of times higher than previously thought. The study from Stanford University, which was released Friday and has yet to be peer reviewed, tested samples from 3,330 people in Santa Clara county and found the virus was 50 to 85 times more common than official figures indicated. To ease the sprawling lockdowns currently in place to stop the spread of Covid-19, health officials must first determine how many people have been infected. Large studies of the prevalence of the virus within a region could play a key role, researchers say.

“This has implications for learning how far we are in the course of the epidemic,” said Eran Bendavid, the associate professor of medicine at Stanford University who led the study. “It has implications for epidemic models that are being used to design policies and estimate what it means for our healthcare system.” The study marks the first large-scale study of its kind, researchers said. The study was conducted by identifying antibodies in healthy individuals through a finger prick test, which indicated whether they had already contracted and recovered from the virus. At the time of the study, Santa Clara county had 1,094 confirmed cases of Covid-19, resulting in 50 deaths.

But based on the rate of people who have antibodies, it is likely that between 48,000 and 81,000 people had been infected in Santa Clara county by early April – a number approximately 50 to 80 times higher. That also means coronavirus is potentially much less deadly to the overall population than initially thought. As of Tuesday, the US’s coronavirus death rate was 4.1% and Stanford researchers said their findings show a death rate of just 0.12% to 0.2%.

Read more …

Absolutely nothing.

No Evidence COVID-19 Survivors Have Immunity – WHO (Sky)

There is no evidence that people who have recovered from coronavirus have immunity to the disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. The UK government has bought 3.5 million serology tests – which measure levels of antibodies in blood plasma. But senior WHO epidemiologists have warned that there is no proof that such antibody tests can show if someone who has been infected with COVID-19 cannot be infected again. Many of the tests being developed are pinprick blood tests similar to instant HIV tests and measure for raised levels of the antibodies that the body uses to fight the virus.


Speaking at a news conference in Geneva, Dr Maria van Kerkhove said: “There are a lot of countries that are suggesting using rapid diagnostic serological tests to be able to capture what they think will be a measure of immunity. “Right now, we have no evidence that the use of a serological test can show that an individual has immunity or is protected from reinfection.” She added: “These antibody tests will be able to measure that level of seroprevalence – that level of antibodies – but that does not mean that somebody with antibodies means that they are immune.” Dr van Kerkhove said it was “a good thing” that so many tests are being developed, but said they will need to be validated “so that we know what they say they attempt to measure they are actually measuring”.

Read more …

Huh? “..The government has already paid for three-and-a-half million antibody tests, but has not yet found one that is reliable enough to use..

Double Warning Over Antibody Tests (BBC)

Hopes that coronavirus antibody tests could help the UK end its lockdown have been dealt a blow – after the World Health Organization questioned whether they offer any guarantee of immunity. The UK has placed antibody tests – which check if someone has had Covid-19 – at the centre of an eventual “back-to-work” plan to restart normal life. But experts said they may not prove if someone is protected from reinfection. The UK’s testing co-ordinator has also warned people not to buy private tests. The government has already paid for three-and-a-half million antibody tests, but has not yet found one that is reliable enough to use – and stresses that it will not approve the use of any test until it can be sure its findings can be fully depended on.


Professor John Newton said the public should not purchase unapproved antibody tests until a working test is approved. “We are breaking new ground with this work every day and I am confident this major research effort will make a breakthrough,” he said of efforts to develop a valid serology test, which measures levels of antibodies in blood plasma. “Until then, please don’t buy or take any unproven tests. They may not be reliable for your intended use; they may give a false reading and put you, your family or others at risk.” He added: “As soon as we have found a test that works for this purpose, we will be in a position to roll them out across the country as a back-to-work test.”

Read more …

Make Gilead shareholders rich.

Existing Drugs ‘May Prove Effective On Coronavirus Before Vaccine Comes’ (SCMP)

Dr Kim Woo Joo, who led South Korea’s response to Covid-19 and the outbreak of Mers in 2015, said he was “not very optimistic” about the availability of a Covid-19 vaccine in the next 18 months, but said evidence about the effectiveness of remdesivir, an experimental antiviral developed to treat Ebola; AbbVie’s Kaletra, an anti-HIV drug; or other medicines might be possible sooner. “If everything goes well, I am hoping that the effectiveness of these drugs will be scientifically proven within three to four months,” Kim, a professor of infectious diseases at Korea University Guro Hospital, said in an interview on Wednesday with the president of the Korea Society, Thomas Byrne.


Kim added that Seoul National University Hospital and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, headed by Dr Anthony Fauci – a key player in the US government’s effort to control the coronavirus spread – were collaborating to test remdesivir, which emerged this week as possible treatment option. The health and medical news website Stat reported on Thursday that a Chicago hospital using remdesivir to treat severe Covid-19 patients saw rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms, with most patients discharged within a week. The University of Chicago Medicine recruited 125 people with Covid-19 into Gilead’s two phase-3 clinical trials and gave them daily remdesivir infusions, according to Stat. Of those patients, 113 had severe symptoms, the report said. Gilead’s share price shot up by nearly 15 per cent in after-hours trading after the Stat report and closed 9.7 per cent higher on Friday.

Read more …

Want to get tested? Book a flight.

Emirates First Airline To Conduct On-Site Rapid COVID-19 Tests (Em.)

Emirates in coordination with Dubai Health Authority (DHA) will be introducing additional precautions. Passengers on today’s flight to Tunisia were all tested for COVID-19 before departing from Dubai. Emirates is the first airline to conduct on-site rapid COVID-19 tests for passengers. The quick blood test was conducted by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and results were available within 10 minutes. This test was conveniently done at the Group Check-in area of Dubai International Airport Terminal 3. Adel Al Redha, Emirates Chief Operating Officer said: “The testing process has gone smoothly and we would like to take this opportunity to thank the Dubai Health Authority for their initiatives and innovative solutions.


“This would have not been possible without the support of Dubai Airport and other government authorities. We are working on plans to scale up testing capabilities in the future and extend it to other flights, this will enable us to conduct on-site tests and provide immediate confirmation for Emirates passengers travelling to countries that require COVID-19 test certificates. The health and safety of staff and passengers at the airport remain of paramount importance.” [..] Gloves, masks and hand sanitisers have been made mandatory for all employees at the airport. Passengers are also required to wear their own masks when at the airport and on board the aircraft, and follow social distancing guidelines.Emirates has modified its inflight services for health and safety reasons. Magazines and other print reading material will not be available

Read more …

Early on in the pandemic, it took many weeks for a WHO team to get access to China.

US Seeks Access To Wuhan Virology Lab, Trump Questions China Death Toll (SCMP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday called on China to grant the United States access to the Wuhan laboratory that has emerged as a flashpoint between the two nations in a clash over the origin and handling of the coronavirus. “We are still asking the Chinese Communist Party to allow experts to get into that virology lab so that we can determine precisely where this virus began,” said Pompeo on Fox News. Pompeo’s comment escalated conjecture surrounding the lab as US President Donald Trump amplified doubts around the extent of the Covid-19 spread in China by announcing in a Twitter post that the country “has just announced a doubling in the number of their deaths from the Invisible Enemy. It is far higher than that and far higher than the US, not even close!”


The tweet was not accurate as China only announced a revised increase in deaths out of Wuhan by 50 per cent. The number of cases in China – more than 83,700 – still trails that of the US, which has more than 679,000. Addressing reporters later on Friday, Trump doubled down on his assertion, stating that China had the most deaths in the world. “We don’t have the most in the world – deaths,” Trump said of the US tally, which stands at more than 34,000. “The most in the world has to be China. It’s a massive country. It’s gone through a tremendous problem with this.”

Read more …

There you go. The WHO was only granted access in the third week of February, 7-8 weeks after Beijing reported the first cases.

And then it took another 3 weeks before the WHO declared a pandemic on March 11. That’s not just a technicality.

US, China and WHO Are All Keen To Pass The Buck (SCMP)

The first public report of the coronavirus came on December 31, when the health commission in Hubei province – of which Wuhan is the capital – reported 27 cases of pneumonia. The WHO set up an incident management support team the next day and published its first notice about the outbreak on January 5, in which it said there was “no evidence of significant human-to-human transmission”, and advised against travel or trade restrictions on China. Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman for the WHO, told US broadcaster CNN on Monday that at the time, “alarm bells were already ringing through the halls of the WHO”, and that it was “aware it was a very serious matter”. As the number of cases rose, the WHO began issuing technical guidance, with its technical lead on Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, saying on January 14 that it was “certainly possible that there is limited human-to-human transmission” of the virus.

But on Twitter, the WHO’s official account on January 13 and 14 continued to suggest there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission”. A critical turning point in the epidemic came on January 20, when Zhong Nanshan, a high-profile Chinese epidemiologist who managed the nation’s response to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak of 2002-03, said that there was human-to-human transmission of the virus and that medical workers had been infected. The WHO then said it was “very clear from the latest information that there is at least some human-to-human transmission”. Trump this week slammed the WHO for having “parroted and publicly endorsed the idea that there was not human-to-human transmission” in mid-January.

The WHO issued multiple notices on the virus that month and maintained its assessments were based on available evidence at the time. On January 22 and 23, the agency convened an emergency committee to determine whether the coronavirus constituted a global public health emergency, but delayed making a declaration. A week later, on January 30, when Tedros did declare a global health emergency, he stressed that it was “not a vote of no confidence” in China, and continued to oppose restrictions on travel and trade with the world’s most populous nation. The WHO said its guidance on travel bans stemmed from its experience with other outbreaks, and that such restrictions might not be effective in curbing the virus’ spread. Despite those recommendations, Trump on January 31 announced a ban on most travellers from China entering the US.

China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying responded by saying the US had “inappropriately overreacted” and gone against WHO guidance. Tedros said later that there was no need for actions that “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade”. “One of the most dangerous and costly decisions from the WHO was its disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other nations,” Trump said this week. “Fortunately, I was not convinced and suspended travel from China, saving untold numbers of lives.” Tedros met Chinese President Xi Jinping at the end of January, after which it was announced that the WHO would send a team of experts to China to get a better understanding of the outbreak. But it was not until nearly three weeks later that the WHO-China joint mission of experts began their trip, with Wuhan originally left off the agenda, only to be tacked on days later. At the end of the visit, the joint mission produced a gushing report that described China’s response to the outbreak as “perhaps the most ambitious, agile, and aggressive disease containment effort in history”.

Read more …

Walking infection bombs.

U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Outbreak Much Larger, But Mostly Asymptomatic (JTN)

The Navy’s coronavirus testing of the entire crew of the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt is now nearly complete. Of the ship’s 4,800-member crew, more than 600 sailors have tested positive for the virus. However, of those 600, 60% have not shown any symptoms associated with the illness. The virus’s numbers aboard the Roosevelt continue to raise questions about the true spread rate of the illness, as opposed to the numbers that testing in the United States, and around the world, are capturing. The proportion of people who are asymptomatic carriers of the virus remains unknown, but the Theodore Roosevelt’s figure is higher than the 25%-50% range that Dr. Fauci put forward in early April. The numbers from the Naval ship provide data on the epidemiologically underrepresented group that is the younger, largely healthy population. This week, one sailor infected while aboard the ship died, and five remain hospitalized.

Read more …

With New York, Maryland and Los Angeles.

San Francisco Orders Residents To Wear Face Masks (F.)

San Francisco residents will be required to wear face masks outside their homes, the city announced Friday, joining New York, Maryland and Los Angeles County, as areas of the U.S. begin to think about what life will look like when social distancing measures are relaxed. The order goes into effect 11:59 p.m. Friday. • Individuals must wear masks on public transit as well as inside public buildings, health facilities and essential businesses such as the grocery store or pharmacy. • Businesses should refuse service to anyone who isn’t wearing a face covering and ensure their workers are wearing masks, the order says. • Residents don’t have to wear face coverings while at home, in the car or outdoors walking or running, though the city recommends bringing along a face covering anyway, even if residents aren’t wearing it at that moment. • Children under 12 are also not required to wear face masks.


City leaders urged residents to continue staying at home, saying that wearing a mask in public “is not a substitute for staying home, staying 6 feet apart and frequent handwashing.” “By covering your face when you go pick up food or ride Muni, you are helping reduce the risk of infecting those around you. As we look to a time where we can begin to ease the Stay Home Order, we know that face coverings will be part of that future – and we want San Franciscans to become more comfortable with this new normal,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said.

Read more …

Without Boris the UK gets even more rudderless.

UK Moves To Drop Huawei As 5G Vendor On China Coronavirus Transparency (NYP)

The UK is moving to drop Huawei as a vendor for the country’s 5G cellphone network in a major blow to Communist China over poor coronavirus transparency. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, now recovering from COVID-19, gave the Chinese company a role in 5G infrastructure this year, squashing opposition last month by 24 votes in the 650-seat House of Commons. But now, concern about the Chinese Communist Party’s inaccurate reporting on the coronavirus has lawmakers crafting plans for a retreat. “We need to devise a proper, realistic exit strategy from relying on Huawei,” Conservative Member of Parliament Damian Green told Bloomberg News.


“Our telecom providers … need to know the government is determined to drive down Huawei’s involvement to zero percent over a realistic timescale.” “The mood in the parliamentary party has hardened,” said Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative Party’s chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. “It’s a shared realization of what it means for dependence on a business that is part of a state that does not share our values,” Tugendhat said.

Read more …

I’m afraid to ask.

Where’s the $2.2 Trillion Bailout Money Going? (WS)

When the $2.2 trillion bailout package was being put together in Congress in all haste in March, a mad scramble broke out over who would get what. Part of this deal was the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program for “small businesses” – which can be, as we now know, a publicly traded company with over 5,700 employees, or a KKR-backed power company that, upon getting the loan, files for prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And so, the program already ran out of money as of Thursday, according to the SBA. “Notice: Lapse in Appropriations. The SBA is currently unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding,” it said on its website. The program dispersed 1.66 million loans, according to the SBA’s tally. There were 30.2 million small businesses in the US in 2019, so about 5.5% got loans.

What’s going to happen to the remaining 94.5% of the small businesses? Congress is contemplating a $250-billion expansion of the program that would cover maybe another 4% of small businesses. In other words, most small businesses aren’t going to get any of it. A small business under the plan is a business with 500 employees or fewer. Loans were capped at $10 million. But wait… 4,412 loans were issued in amounts larger than $5 million each. And we already know which company with 5,700 employees got $20 million. Yup, a restaurant chain, because they and hotel chains were exempted from the employee limit. Restaurants and hotels got their own limit: 500 employees per location. They accomplished this through magnificent lobbying efforts.

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse [RUTH] – with about 5,700 employees at the end of last year and 159 restaurants across the US – disclosed in an SEC filing on April 13 that on April 7, four days after the SBA opened the filing process and as the system was bogged down, it obtained a PPP loan of $20 million, spread over two loans of $10 million each for two of its entities. JPMorgan Chase was the lender. If the company follows the rules, this $20 million will be forgiven. And then there is the curious case of Longview Power LLC, in which KKR, one of the big private equity firms, has a 40% stake as a result of Longview’s bankruptcy in 2015. Longview owns a 700-megawatt coal-fired power plant in West Virginia and has about 140 employees. It was approved for a PPP loan last Friday, and on Tuesday it announced that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Read more …

“Money is not an economy. Money is a medium of exchange within an economy ..”

Flight Path (Kunstler)

The Covid-19 corona virus didn’t initiate the financial disorders of the moment in the US and Europe, but it ensured that there would not be another appearance of any “recovery” a la the central bank interventions of 2008-09. What it portends is a fast-track journey to a whole new disposition of things: first, for a while, a harsher, hungrier, angrier society of broken promises and dashed expectations; and then adaptation when a consensus emerges that the set of facts at hand amount to a new reality. In the meantime, we’re living in the meantime, which is not a comfortable place.

Money is not an economy. Money is a medium of exchange within an economy where people grow things, make things, move things, and serve each other in countless ways. We’re not going to replace all those growings, makings, movings, and services by just giving people money. Money may produce more money by the magic of compound interest, but money is not necessarily wealth, it just represents our ideas about wealth, and interest stops compounding anyway when the trend is clearly for reduced growings, makings, movings, and servicings. That’s exactly how and why capital vanishes. The hocus-pocus of Modern Monetary Theory can only pretend to work around that reality.

The world never reached such a pitch of activity up to the blow-ups of 2008, and it went through the motions for a decade after that. Now that it’s stopped, all that’s left is the law of gravity, and it doesn’t get more basic. The “wealth” acquired in the decade since by the so-called “one-percent” was loaded onto a defective aircraft, like a Boeing 737-MAX, and an awful lot of it will fall to earth now on broken wings. Their agents and praetorians on Wall Street are working feverishly to stave off that crash-landing, like a band of magicians casting spells on the ground while that big hunk of juddering metal augers earthward. Wait for it as spring brings new life across the land and things unseen before steal onto the scene.

Read more …

He can transform right back.

The Transformation of Emmanuel Macron (CN)

[..] something strange has happened since the Coronavirus hit France. An apparent humanity buried deep inside the French president has suddenly emerged—and let the bankers be damned. In an interview on Thursday with the Financial Times, Macron talked about economics as a “moral science” and said European debt should be mutualized, meaning northern Europeans should be on the hook for southern debt—or face the wrath of right-wing populists. He said the European Union was not just a market but was really about human beings. In other words, he was calling for state intervention in the economy, going against everything he has heretofore believed. “We are all embarking on the unthinkable,” he said.

“We are at a moment of truth, which is to decide whether the European Union is a political project or just a market project,” he said. “I think it’s a political project . . . We need financial transfers and solidarity, if only so that Europe holds on.” The French president said he sees the crisis as “an existential event for humanity that will change the nature of globalization and the structure of international capitalism,” the newspaper reported. “In recent years [globalization] increased inequalities in developed countries,” he admitted. “And it was clear that this kind of globalisation was reaching the end of its cycle, it was undermining democracy.”

Macron told the FT: “We are going to nationalise the wages and the P&L [the financial accounts] of almost all our businesses. That’s what we’re doing. All our economies, including the most [economically] liberal are doing that. It’s against all the dogmas, but that’s the way it is. “I believe [the EU] is a political project. If it’s a political project, the human factor is the priority and there are notions of solidarity that come into play . . . the economy follows on from that, and let’s not forget that economics is a moral science.”

Read more …

If you ever vote for these ghouls again, you deserve what you get.

Labour Party’s Own Senior Staff Acted To Keep Corbyn Out Of Power (ML)

In the June 2017 UK general election, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn came within a whisker of power. If just 2,227 votes had gone the other way, seven Tory knife-edge constituencies would have been won by Labour, putting Corbyn in a strong position to lead a coalition government. Labour achieved 40 per cent in the election, increasing its share of the vote by more than any other of the party’s election leaders since 1945. As we noted at the time, it was one of the most astonishing results in UK political history. A leaked internal Labour report now reveals that senior Labour figures were actively trying to stop Labour winning the general election in order to oust Corbyn as party leader.

The 860-page document, ‘The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014 – 2019’, first leaked to Sky News, was the product of an extensive internal investigation into the way Labour handled antisemitism complaints. The report includes copious damning examples of email and WhatsApp exchanges among Labour officials expressing contempt for Jeremy Corbyn and anyone who supported him, including other Labour staff, Labour MPs and even the public. The document includes:

• Conversations on election night about the need to hide internal Labour disappointment that Corbyn had done better than expected and would be unlikely to resign
• Regular sneering references to Corbyn-supporting party staff as ‘trots’
• Conversations between senior staff in Labour general secretary Iain McNicol’s office in which they refer to former director of communications Seamus Milne as ‘dracula’, and saying he was ‘spiteful and evil and we should make sure he is never allowed in our Party if it’s last thing we do’
• Conversations in which the same group refers to Corbyn’s former chief of staff Karie Murphy as ‘medusa’, a ‘crazy woman’ and a ‘bitch face cow’ that would ‘make a good dartboard’
• A discussion in which one of the group members expresses their ‘hope’ that a young pro-Corbyn Labour activist, whom they acknowledge had mental health problems, ‘dies in a fire’.

Read more …

 

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

Thanks everyone for your wonderful donations to date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth. It’s good for your mental health.

 

Apr 162020
 


Dorothea Lange Richmond, California 1942

 

Coronavirus Testing Hits Dramatic Slowdown In US (Pol.)
Antibody Tests For Coronavirus Can Miss The Mark (NPR)
The Coronavirus Is Particularly Unkind To Those Who Are Obese (LAT)
New York Taps Mckinsey To Develop ‘Trump-Proof’ Economic Reopening Plan (R.)
New Zealand PM: Many Restrictions To Be Kept In Place When Lockdown Ends (R.)
Investors Are Underestimating The Economic Shock The World Is Facing (AEP)
Trump Threatens To Adjourn Congress Over ‘Scam’ Preventing Appointments (R.)
US Coronavirus Small-Business Program Funding Nearly Spent (LAT)
Real Time US Labor Market Estimates During 2020 Coronavirus Outbreak (Bick)
Overcapacity/Oversupply Everywhere: Massive Deflation Ahead (CHS)
US Opposition Seen Stalling Major IMF Liquidity Boost (R.)
We Scientists Said Lock Down. But UK Politicians Refused To Listen (G.)
Inception (Ben Hunt)
The Golden Rule (Ben Hunt)
Major Blow To Keystone XL Pipeline As Judge Revokes Key Permit (G.)
FBI Repeatedly Warned Steele Dossier Fed By Russian Misinformation (Solomon)

 

 

We are facing prolonged discussions and chaos about testing. Everyone wants to reopen their economies, but that is not feasible if there is no testing. Nobody wants to go to a bar or an office or factory floor if they can catch a deadly virus there. Very few people will volunteer to sit on, or work on, a plane or train under such conditions, and few countries would welcome travelers anyway.

But from what I gather, testing facilities and capacities are few and far between, other than perhaps in Wuhan or maybe maybe Seoul. Testing 1% of people doesn’t get you anywhere, not with 15-50% of people being asymptomatic carriers infecting others around them.

Many countries claim they don’t need to do more testing, and most do that only because they can’t. And then you get into antibodies testing, and you find the mess and uncertainties are even bigger there. The entire situation screams for one thing: lockdown, minimize contact, but that’s what they all want to get away from.

 

• US records nearly 2,600 #coronavirus deaths in 24 hours – a new record and the heaviest daily toll of any country, Johns Hopkins University reports.

• The total number of US deaths is now 28,326 — higher than any other nation

 

 

Cases 2,094,884 (+ 80,884 from yesterday’s 2,014,000)

Deaths 135,569 (+ 7,977 from yesterday’s 127,592)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close- (Note: Brazil and Russia are climbing fast)

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases remains at 21% –

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

How accurate is it anyway?

Coronavirus Testing Hits Dramatic Slowdown In US (Pol.)

The number of coronavirus tests analyzed each day by commercial labs in the U.S. plummeted by more than 30 percent over the past week, even though new infections are still surging in many states and officials are desperately trying to ramp up testing so the country can reopen. One reason for the drop-off may be the narrow testing criteria that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last revised in March. The agency’s guidelines prioritize hospitalized patients, health care workers and those thought to be especially vulnerable to the disease, such as the elderly. Health providers have been turning away others in part due to shortages of the swabs used to collect samples.

It’s not clear whether demand has peaked among the groups on the CDC’s priority list. But after being overwhelmed for weeks, commercial labs say they are now sitting with unused testing capacity waiting for samples to arrive. The continued glitches in the U.S. testing system are threatening to impede attempts to reopen the economy and return to normal life. Expanding testing as much as possible is essential so officials have enough data to determine when it’s safe to lift social distancing measures and allow people to go back to work. Continued testing beyond that point will help officials detect — and stamp out — sparks that could set off new outbreaks. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn told POLITICO on Tuesday the White House Coronavirus Task Force is continuing to discuss whether changes to the testing criteria are warranted.

“This is part of an ongoing discussion that we’re having,” he said. “People are working overtime on that one.” Hahn’s comments came as the American Clinical Laboratory Association reported that the number of samples commercial labs handle each day fell from 108,000 on April 5 to 75,000 by April 12. The group’s members, including commercial giants Quest and LabCorp, analyze about two-thirds of all coronavirus tests in the U.S. “ACLA members have now eliminated testing backlogs, and have considerable capacity that is not being used,” ACLA President Julie Khani told POLITICO. “We stand ready to perform more testing and are in close communication with public health partners about ways we can support additional needs.”

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You couldn’t create a bigger mess if you tried with all your might.

Antibody Tests For Coronavirus Can Miss The Mark (NPR)

Dozens of blood tests are rapidly coming on the market to identify people who have been exposed to the coronavirus by checking for antibodies against it. The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t set standards for these kinds of tests, but even those that meet the government’s informal standard may produce many false answers and provide false assurances. The imperfect results could be a big disappointment to people who are looking toward these tests to help them return to something resembling a normal life. First of all, it’s not clear whether someone who has antibodies to the coronavirus in their blood is actually immune. Your body produces these antibodies within about a week of infection.

In many other diseases, people do have a period of immunity after they have been exposed to a microbe and recover from illness. But that has not been demonstrated yet with the coronavirus. Another problem is that test results are wrong much more frequently than you might expect. While tests may truthfully say they are more than 90% accurate, in practical use they can often perform far below that level. [..] Dr. Jeremy Gabrysch runs a mobile medical service in Austin, Texas. He got a supply of antibody tests made by a major Chinese manufacturer and says he has tested several hundred people in the last few days. “We offer the test for people who may have suspected they might have had coronavirus back in February or March when testing with the nasal swab [and PCR diagnostic test] was very limited,” he says. The charge: $49 a test.

Gabrysch says he only tests people when he has other evidence they might have been exposed. “If they had an illness that sounds like it could have been coronavirus and they had a positive antibody test, then it’s very likely that this is a true positive, that they indeed had COVID-19,” he says. The test he’s using, produced by Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech in China, boasts a specificity of 99%, which means it only falsely says a blood sample contains antibodies against the coronavirus 1% of the time. But despite that impressive statistic, a test like that is not 99% correct, and in fact in some circumstances could be much worse.

That’s because of this counterintuitive fact: The validity of a test depends not only on the technology, but how common the disease is in the population you’re sampling. “It is kind of a strange thing,” admits Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who studies issues surrounding tests and screening. “An antibody test is much more likely to be wrong in a population with very little COVID exposure.” This is a result of statistics, rather than the technology of any given test.

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But not those above 65. A very curious finding.

The Coronavirus Is Particularly Unkind To Those Who Are Obese (LAT)

America’s obesity epidemic appears to be making the coronavirus outbreak more dangerous — and potentially more deadly — in the United States, new research suggests. For younger and middle-aged adults in particular, carrying excess weight may significantly boost the likelihood of becoming severely ill with COVID-19. The evidence for this comes from thousands of COVID-19 patients who sought treatment in emergency departments in New York, and it’s prompting alarm among doctors and other health experts. In the U.S., 42.4% of adults have obesity, which means their body-mass index, or BMI, is 30 or more.

In one of two new studies released this week, COVID-19 patients who were younger than 60 and had a BMI between 30 and 34 were twice as likely as their non-obese peers to be admitted to the hospital for acute care instead of being sent home from the ER. They were also 1.8 times more likely to require critical care in a hospital’s intensive care unit. More severe obesity posed an even greater risk to COVID-19 patients in this under-60 age group. When these patients had a BMI of 35 or higher, they were 2.2 times more likely than their non-obese peers to need standard hospital care and 3.6 times more likely to end up in the ICU. “Obesity appears to be a previously unrecognized risk factor for hospital admission and need for critical care,” wrote the authors of the study published this month in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

But that only applies to relatively younger patients; among those ages 65 and older, there was no link between obesity status and hospital care. The authors, from New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, suggested that the country’s high prevalence of obesity might be nudging rates of severe illness and death higher in the U.S. than in South Korea, China and Italy, where obesity rates are lower. The results also give doctors a new way to predict which COVID-19 patients who are not yet senior citizens run a higher risk of hospitalization and critical illness. “Unfortunately, obesity in people <60 years is a newly identified epidemiologic risk factor,” wrote the researchers, who included 3,615 patients in their study.

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We need more Wall Street.

New York Taps Mckinsey To Develop ‘Trump-Proof’ Economic Reopening Plan (R.)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has hired high-powered consultants to develop a science-based plan for the safe economic reopening of the region that can thwart expected pressure from President Donald Trump to move more rapidly, state government sources told Reuters on Wednesday. Cuomo, along with many other U.S. governors, shut his state economy to limit the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus and has warned that he is are prepared to keep businesses shut – perhaps for several months more – unless he can assure public safety. Governors from seven East Coast states formed a coalition on Monday, led by New York, to develop a joint reopening plan. Three governors from the West Coast formed a similar plan. The 10 states, mostly led by Democrats, together make up 38% of the U.S. economy.


As part of Cuomo’s effort, McKinsey & Company is producing models on testing, infections and other key data points that will underpin decisions on how and when to reopen the region’s economy, the sources said. Cuomo has also recalled three former top aides: Bill Mulrow, a senior adviser at Blackstone Group; Steven Cohen, an executive vice president and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes Inc; and Larry Schwartz, a deputy Westchester County executive. Deloitte is also involved in developing the regional plan, a source said. The goal is to “Trump-proof” the plan, said an adviser to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. “We think Trump ultimately will blink on this, but if not, we need to push back, and we are reaching out to top experts and other professionals to come up with a bullet-proof plan,” to open on the state’s terms, said a Cuomo adviser.

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Please don’t claim you’re about to eliminate the virus. Ramp up testing as of your life depended on it.

New Zealand PM: Many Restrictions To Be Kept In Place When Lockdown Ends (R.)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday that significant restrictions would be kept in place even if the country eases the nationwide one-month lockdown enforced to beat the spread of the coronavirus. New Zealand introduced its highest, level 4 lockdown measures in March, under which offices, schools and all non-essential services like bars, restaurants, cafes and playgrounds were shut down. A decision on whether to lift the lockdown would be made on April 20. The measures were tougher than most other countries, including neighbouring Australia, where some businesses were allowed to operate.


Ardern said if New Zealand moves to the lower level 3 of restriction, it would permit aspects of the economy to reopen in a safe way but there will be no “rush to normality”. “We have an opportunity to do something no other country has achieved, eliminating the virus,” Ardern said at a news conference. New Zealand reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, taking the total to 1,401 in a nation of about 5 million people. There have been nine deaths. Ardern said under level 3, some people could return to work and businesses reopen if they are able to provide contactless engagement with customers. Shops, malls, hardware stores and restaurants will remain shut but can permit online or phone purchases.

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It’s been a while since I saw a piece by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. Very much stuck in business-only mode.

Investors Are Underestimating The Economic Shock The World Is Facing (AEP)

Investors are repeating the mistake they made all through February and early March. They are again underestimating the immense economic shock of COVID-19. Can there be any parallel in market history to the surreal clash of narratives we saw this week? Global bourses soared even as the International Monetary Fund painted a series of scenarios ranging from dire – the most violent slump since the Great Depression – to catastrophic, with all the potential chain-reactions spelt out in its Global Financial Stability Report. Yet Goldman Sachs tells us that COVID-19 is under control and the worst is over. “The number of new active cases looks to be peaking globally, projections of cumulative fatalities and peak healthcare usage are coming down,” it says.

From this breathtaking premise, Wall Street’s fashion leader argues that we should “look through” the Great Lockdown to sunlit uplands ahead, anticipating a further 8% rise in the S&P 500 index by the end of the year. We can disregard normal bear market rules. This time we will avoid the textbook sequence of events in recessions: a swift crash followed by a torrid buy-the-dip rebound, and then a slow downward grind over months as reality hits home, ending only in capitulation at far lower levels. Authorities have spared us such a fate by rescuing everything immediately. “The Fed and Congress have precluded the prospect of a complete economic collapse,” it says.

I agree that $5 trillion of central bank QE, vast fiscal packages (10% of GDP in the US), and blanket guarantees, have averted disaster. They have – in a disjointed way – bought time and given us a chance of emerging from this global sudden stop without irreparable damage to the productive system. What is surely wrong is to imagine that this pandemic is a one-off shock lasting three months or so, followed by an early release from lockdowns and a swift return to near normality. The first glimpses of antibody data – such as Denmark’s test on blood donors – show that we are nowhere near the safe threshold of herd immunity.

They confirm fears that the mortality rate is at least 1% of infections and that therefore no democracies can let the virus run its course without overwhelming their health services and destroying their political legitimacy. The supposed trade-off between lives and the economy is an illusion. The most certain way to turn this crisis into a depression is to give up too soon, as Spain is already doing, and Donald Trump is itching to do. We would end up in the worst of all worlds, with multiple waves, and another forced closure of the economy to avert a winter tsunami, requiring trillions more in fiscal relief. [..] “We need a vaccine. Until we get one, the stock markets are in cloud-cuckoo land,” says professor Anthony Costello from University College London.

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That wouldn’t be wise.

Trump Threatens To Adjourn Congress Over ‘Scam’ Preventing Appointments (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened on Wednesday to shut down Congress so he could fill vacancies in his administration without Senate confirmation, saying he was frustrated lawmakers were not in Washington to vote on his nominees for federal judgeships and other government positions. “The current practice of leaving town, while conducting phony pro forma sessions, is a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during this crisis,” an angry Trump told reporters at his daily White House briefing on the coronavirus crisis. “It is a scam that they do. It’s a scam and everyone knows it, and it’s been that way for a long time,” Trump said. No U.S. president has ever used the authority, included in the Constitution, to adjourn both chambers of Congress if they cannot agree on a date to adjourn.


It was not immediately clear if Congress’ current absence from Washington because of the global pandemic could be classified as being due to a failure to agree on an adjournment date. The Senate and House of Representatives have both announced plans to return to Washington on May 4, and had been scheduled to be out of Washington for two weeks in April for their annual Easter break even before the coronavirus crisis. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell discussed nominations with Trump on Wednesday and promised to find ways to confirm those “considered mission-critical” to the pandemic, a McConnell spokesman said. “However, under Senate rules, that would take consent from Democratic leader Chuck Schumer,” the spokesman said.

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It was obvious before it started that it would be a mess.

US Coronavirus Small-Business Program Funding Nearly Spent (LAT)

Democrats and the Trump administration were at a stalemate Wednesday over how to resupply the popular Paycheck Protection Program, which helps small businesses cope during the coronavirus pandemic and is due to run out of money as soon as Wednesday night. The standoff came as Senate Democrats pushed the administration to lay the groundwork for how the nation may reemerge from social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Republicans and Democrats agree they need to provide more funding to the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers forgivable loans to help small businesses maintain their payrolls amid the deep economic fallout from the coronavirus. But the GOP balked at additional Democratic demands, such as tagging some of the funding for businesses that don’t have an existing relationship with a bank that supply the loans.

Participating banks have largely given preference to their current customers. As of 9 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday, the Small Business Administration had approved 1.5 million applications totaling more than $324 billion of the $349 billion that Congress authorized in last month’s $2.2-trillion coronavirus relief package, according to the agency. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), chairman of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over small business, said that the program is expected to “grind to a halt” Wednesday evening as it hits its spending limit. “Now 700,000 small business applications are in limbo & no new loans will be made until the game of chicken in Congress ends,” Rubio said on Twitter. “Inexcusable.”

[..] The standoff over the funding program comes as Democrats on Wednesday released a national coronavirus testing strategy, arguing that they’re filling a void left by the Trump administration, which hasn’t released a plan to scale up COVID-19 testing to allow Americans to return to work and school. “The U.S. lags the world in testing and we lead the world in COVID-19 cases,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). “We are raising the alarm bells.” [..] Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairmen of two Senate committees responsible for health policy and spending, have said they want to make COVID-19 antibody testing free to all Americans. They acknowledged the need for widespread testing before people will feel comfortable resuming normal activities outside their homes. But Alexander said the money Congress has already authorized should be used to ramp up testing — not new funding.

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It takes weeks for jobs numbers to come out. That is too long in virustime. These guys try to fill the gap.

Real Time US Labor Market Estimates During 2020 Coronavirus Outbreak (Bick)

Labor market statistics for the United States are collected once a month and published with a three week delay. In normal times, this procedure results in timely and useful statistics. But these are not normal times. Currently, the most recent statistics refer to the week of March 8- 14; new statistics will not be available until May 8. In the meantime, the Coronavirus outbreak has shut down a substantial portion of the U.S. economy. More timely and frequent data on the impact on the labor force would surely be useful for both policy makers and the broader public. Our core survey closely follows the CPS, which allows us to construct estimates consistent with theirs. The first wave of our survey covers the week of March 29-April 4. Our findings reveal unprecedented changes in the US labor market since the most recent CPS data were collected:

1. The employment rate decreased from 72.7% to 60.7%, implying 24 million jobs lost.
2. The unemployment rate increased from 4.5% to 20.2%.
3. Hours worked per working age adult declined 25% from the second week of March. Half of this decline is due to lower hours per employed as opposed to lower employment.
4. Over 60% of work hours were from home, compared with roughly 10% in 2017-2018.
5. Those who still have their jobs are working fewer hours; 21% report a decline in earnings.
6. Declines were most pronounced for workers who were female, older, and less educated.

Effective policies require timely and accurate data on the scale of the downturn, yet traditional data sources are only made available at a significant lag. For example, the March 2020 Employment Situation report by the the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) only reflected labor market outcomes from the week ending Friday March 13, which precedes most major developments related to the outbreak. The April 2020 Employment Situation report will reflect labor market outcomes from the third week of April, but is not scheduled for release until May 8. The gap between the data needs of policymakers and the time lag of traditional data sources has left policymakers “flying blind” to a significant degree. The goal of this project is to help fill that void. [..]

Our major findings for the last week of March are as follows.
1. Dramatic reductions in employment. (a) We find an employment rate of 60.7% during the first week of April, compared with 72.7% in the second week of March, implying 24 million fewer workers. (b) We find an unemployment rate of 20.2% during the first week of April, compared with 4.5% in the second week of March. One positive note is that over half of the unemployed reported being temporarily laid off, suggesting that many could return to work quickly if conditions improve.

2. Even larger declines in aggregate labor supply than implied by employment alone. (a) Hours worked per working age adult declined 25% from March. In the first week of April, individuals worked 20.4 hours on average, compared with 27.5 weekly hours in the second week of March. (b) Hours worked per employed declined 12% from March. Even those who are still employed are working 4.5 fewer hours per week, a reduction of over half a day of work. This implies that just under half of the decline in hours per working age adult were due to reductions in hours worked per employed, and are therefore not reflected in changes to the employment rate.

3. Unprecedented increase of the share of hours worked from home. (a) We find that 63.8% of work hours were from home during the first week of April, compared with roughly 10% in the Spring of 2017 and 2018.

4. Lower earnings even for individuals still working the same job as in February. (a) We find that 21.9% of workers still working the same job as in February experienced a reduction in their earnings last week compared to February. About half of these reported that their reduction in earnings was 50% or larger. (b) At the same time, 11% of workers with the same job as in February report higher weekly earnings last week compared with February. 5. Disparities in labor market outcomes by sex, age, education, race, and hourly status. (a) Although negative effects are widespread, they are more pronounced among workers who are female, older, and less educated.

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Charles is right. Restart the whole circus now and there will be no buyers.

Overcapacity/Oversupply Everywhere: Massive Deflation Ahead (CHS)

Oil is the poster child of the forces driving massive deflation: overcapacity / oversupply and a collapse in demand. Overcapacity / oversupply and a collapse in demand are not limited to the crude oil market; rather, they are the dominant realities in the global economy. Yes, there are shortages in a few high-demand areas such as PPE (personal protective equipment), but across the entire spectrum of global supply and demand, there is nothing but a vast sea of overcapacity / oversupply and a systemic decline in demand as far as the eye can see. Here’s a partial list of commodities that are in Overcapacity / oversupply:

1. Overvalued assets 2. Overpriced income streams (as income craters, so will the asset generating the income) 3. Labor: low-skill everywhere, high-skill in sectors experiencing systemic collapse in demand 4. AirBnB and other vacation rental properties 5. Overpriced flats, condos and houses 6. Overpriced rental apartments 7. Overpriced commercial office space 8. Overpriced retail space 9. Overpriced used vehicles 10. Overpriced collectibles

I think you get the idea. Should China restart its export factories, then almost everything being manufactured will immediately be in oversupply, as the global export sector was plagued with mass overcapacity long before the Covid-19 pandemic crushed demand. Incomes will crater as revenues and profits crash, small businesses close their doors, never to re-open, local governments tighten spending, and whatever competition still exists will relentlessly push the price of labor, goods and services lower. Globalization has generated hyper-specialization in local and regional economies, stripping them of resilience. Fully exposed to the demand flows of a globalized class of consumers with surplus discretionary income, regions specialized in tourism, manufacturing, commodity mining, etc.

All these regions are now facing a structural collapse of global demand, and they have no diversified local economy to cushion the blow to jobs, incomes, profits and tax revenues. Thousands of small business that could barely squeak through a 20% decline in revenues are facing a 50% or more decline as far as the eye can see. With costs such as rent, labor, fees, taxes and healthcare at nosebleed levels, an enormously consequential number of small businesses globally cannot survive more than a modest, brief drop in revenues, as their costs remain high even as their sales plummet: costs are sticky, profits slide quickly to zero and beyond.

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No, I don’t like Soros being involved, and no, I don’t like the US squeezing Iran in virustime.

But most of all, all countries should think twice before letting the IMF have anything to do with their money supply. It doesn’t come free.

US Opposition Seen Stalling Major IMF Liquidity Boost (R.)

U.S. opposition is expected to prevent the International Monetary Fund this week from deploying one of its most powerful tools to help countries fight the coronavirus: creating a new allocation of Special Drawing Rights. The move, akin to a central bank “printing” new money, has been advocated by economists, finance ministers and non-profit groups to provide as much as $500 billion in urgently-needed liquidity for the IMF’s 189 member countries. SDRs, based on dollars, euro, yen, sterling and yuan, are the IMF’s official unit of exchange. Member countries hold them at the Fund in proportion to their shareholdings. The IMF last approved a $250-billion new allocation of SDRs in 2009, during the last financial crisis, boosting liquidity for cash-strapped countries. Doing so again now could provide more flexibility to the 100 countries that have already sought IMF emergency loans and grants, and allow new lending to countries with “unsustainable” debt burdens, such as Argentina.


An SDR expansion has attracted some celebrity advocates, such as investor George Soros and U2 lead singer Bono’s ONE anti-poverty organization, along with trade unions and faith-based groups. Finance officials will debate the issue during this week’s virtual IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings, but multiple sources familiar with the Fund’s deliberations say the United States, the IMF’s dominant shareholder, actively opposes such a move. The Trump administration opposes providing countries such as Iran and China with billions of dollars in new resources with no conditions, two of the sources said. [..] The U.S. Treasury Department would prefer to see the IMF focus on using its $1 trillion in existing resources, including $100 billion in emergency loans and grants, to aid countries’ health responses to the crisis, the sources said.

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You would think this should wake up Britain. But what are the odds?

We Scientists Said Lock Down. But UK Politicians Refused To Listen (G.)

In mid-February a colleague mentioned that for the first time in his life he was more concerned than his mother, who had been relatively blase about the risks of Covid-19. It felt odd for him to be telling her to take care. We are both professors in a department of infectious disease epidemiology, and we were worried. Two months on, that anxiety has not gone, although it’s also been joined by a sense of sadness. It’s now clear that so many people have died, and so many more are desperately ill, simply because our politicians refused to listen to and act on advice. Scientists like us said lock down earlier; we said test, trace, isolate. But they decided they knew better.

Am I being unfair? The government assures us that its decisions and timing are based on science, as if it is a neutral, value-free process resulting in a specific set of instructions. In reality, the science around coronavirus is in its infancy and developing daily, with researchers across the world trying to understand how the virus spreads, how the body responds – and how to treat it and control it. The speed at which our knowledge has increased is impressive, from the sequencing of the virus in January through to having candidate vaccines in early February.

Mathematical models are being refined to predict the extent and speed of spread and estimate the impact of control methods. My own group is studying the response of communities, showing how the epidemic is amplifying existing social inequalities. People with the lowest household income are far less likely, but no less willing, to be able to work from home or to self-isolate. But while scientists carry out observations and experiments, testing, iterating and discovering new knowledge, it is the role of policymakers to act on the best available evidence. In the context of a rapidly growing threat, that means listening to experts with experience of responding to previous epidemics.

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Ben Hunt is angry enough to start a revolution. While he’s also running a program delivering masks and other PPE to medical workers.

Inception (Ben Hunt)

The past few months are not a litany of errors and honest mistakes by the institutions we have charged with protecting us from disease and ruin. They are a litany of betrayals, and their Answers – their False Stories – have been revealed as lies. First we’re going to vaccinate ourselves to their Answers, to their False Stories, so that we think for ourselves again. Without this, we will inevitably fall back into the patterns of crony capitalism and obscene financialization that got us here in the first place. It’s a vaccine that we don’t administer anymore … an intentional decision by the high-functioning sociopaths and political entrepreneurs who rule us, of course.

Like all effective vaccines, it mimics the virus itself in its ability to trigger a physiological response in us. They want to nudge you into allegiance to a policy or a vote or a party. We want to un-nudge you into independence of spirit and thought. They want to infect you with an Answer. We want to innoculate you with a Process. The Process is one of the Old Stories. It is, in fact, the Oldest Story of what makes for a good and just human society. It is a narrative that has directly motivated hundreds of millions of people to organize themselves in hundreds of thousands of beneficial social forms, large and small, for thousands of years. We’re going to use that incepted Process to burn down these systems of iniquity from within and below.

We’re going use that incepted Process to build something better together, as brothers and sisters exercising our birthright – our autonomy of mind. I’m going to tell you exactly how we’re going to develop millions and millions of doses of the Old Story vaccine, and I’m going to tell you exactly how we’re going to administer them and exactly how we are going to change the world from below and from within. And you won’t believe me.

I mean, this happens all the time. I will sit down with someone and walk them through the entire plan … how we’re developing the science of what Isaac Asimov called “psychohistory”, how that gives us the ability to not only measure the narratives of social control that oligarchic institutions broadcast but also to design effective jamming narratives of our own, how we create a decentralized epistemic community of distributed trust and mutual support that we call the Pack, how we burn down these oligarchic institutions from below by jamming their Answers and from within by replacing the current sociopathic leadership with members of the Pack … and it is literally as if a switch goes off in their head and their eyes go dim. But then I’ll say “yada-yada-Trump” or “yada-yada-Biden” or “yada-yada-the-Fed” or “yada-yada-Bitcoin” and they’ll perk right up again!

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I’m cheating a bit. This is part of the article above, Inception. But the article is long and this is a very good bit.

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Now go and learn it.”

The Golden Rule (Ben Hunt)

It’s the Golden Rule. It’s the Oldest Story of fundamental human ethics. You can find it in ancient Egyptian stories, preserved in papyri from the Middle Kingdom. You can find it in the ancient Sanskrit epic “Mahabarata”, as the way in which dharma manifests itself in human affairs. You can find it in the ancient Greek writings of Thales and Pythagoras. You can find it in the ancient Persian texts of Zoroaster. But here’s my favorite: A gentile came before two teachers, Shammai the strict and Hillel the tolerant, and to each in turn said, “I will convert to Judaism if you can teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” Shammai chased him away. But Hillel said to the gentile, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Now go and learn it.” The rest is commentary.


The Golden Rule is all you need to know to organize a good and just society. Everything else, all of the rules and principles and books and words and laws that engulf us … ALL of it … is just commentary. The Golden Rule is the vaccine. The Golden Rule is the simplest and most powerful form of the idea of reciprocity, ready and primed for inception in every human dreamer. The Golden Rule is the formal description of empathy. The Golden Rule is the only law of the Pack. The Golden Rule IS the full hearts of Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose. The Golden Rule is the meme that we’re going to inject in a mass-customized way straight into everyone’s veins with the Narrative Machine. And then YOU are going to burn down the current system of oligarchic iniquity from below and within. And then YOU are going to change the world. All on your own. With no centralized organization and no Answer imposed from above.

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Note that this takes place as the world is fast running out of space to store oil reserves in. I’m waiting for numbers of fully loaded tankers floating off ports for weeks or months.

Major Blow To Keystone XL Pipeline As Judge Revokes Key Permit (G.)

The controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has been dealt a major setback, after a judge revoked a key permit issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers without properly assessing the impact on endangered species. In a legal challenge brought by a coalition of environmental groups, a federal judge in Montana ordered the Army Corps to suspend all filling and dredging activities until it conducts formal consultations compliant with the Endangered Species Act. The ruling revokes the water-crossing permit needed to complete construction of the pipeline, and is expected to cause major delays to the divisive project. Keystone XL is a 1,179-mile pipeline which would transport around 830,000 barrels of oil a day from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada to Nebraska, eventually heading to refineries on the Gulf Coast.


Campaigners welcomed Wednesday’s ruling as a victory for tribal rights and environmental protection. “The court has rightfully ruled against the Trump administration’s efforts to fast track this nasty pipeline at any cost. We won’t allow fossil fuel corporations and backdoor politicians to violate the laws that protect people and the planet,” said Tamara Toles O’Laughlin of environmental group 350.org Judith LeBlanc, director of the Native Organizer Alliance, said: “The revoking of the permit is a victory for treaty rights and democracy. Tribal nations have a renewed opportunity to exercise our legal and inherent rights to protect the water of the Missouri river bioregion for all who live, farm and work on the land.”

Read more …

Prepare to hear much more about this from Horowitz. Someone will do a major write-up.

FBI Repeatedly Warned Steele Dossier Fed By Russian Misinformation (Solomon)

The FBI received repeated warnings dating to 2015 that Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy it used to build a case against President Trump, had concerning contacts with Russian oligarchs and intelligence figures that might call into question the credibility of his intelligence reporting, newly declassified documents showed Monday. The suspect sources included a person described as a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and a Russian intelligence figure under separate counterintelligence investigation by the FBI, the memos show. And the red flags included a warning that Russian intelligence appeared to be aware as early as July 2016 that Steele was working on a U.S. election-related investigation, making him susceptible to misinformation.

The revelations are found in newly declassified footnotes from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s December, 2019 report about failures in the Russia probe that included using false evidence to secure a FISA warrant against Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in October 2016. Some of those red flags were raised prior to the bureau’s decision to rely on Steele’s dossier as key evidence in seeking the FISA warrant targeting the Trump campaign in the final days of the 2016 election, and nearly all were raised before Special Counsel Robert Mueller opened his probe in spring 2017.

For instance, FBI officials urged in 2015 that Steele undergo a re-evaluation as an informant (a “validation review,” in spy parlance) after the bureau’s transnational organized crime office learned that he had received contact from five Russian oligarchs, all of whom wanted to have contact with the bureau. “The report noted that Steele’s contact with 5 Russian oligarchs in a short period of time was unusual and recommended that a validation review be completed on Steele because of this activity,” one footnote stated.

Read more …

 

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Apr 082020
 


Elliott Erwitt California, USA 1956

 

To End the Pandemic, Give Universal Testing the Green Light (Patel/Patel)
UK To Have More Corona Deaths Than Italy, Spain, France, Germany Combined (G.)
Boris Johnson’s Scientists Were Slow To Sound The Alarm (R.)
Low Antibody Levels Raise Questions About Coronavirus Reinfection Risk (SCMP)
Staggering Surge Of NYers Dying In Their Homes (Gothamist)
Cuomo, De Blasio Urged To Act On ‘Uneven’ Covid-19 Death Toll (TheCity)
South Korea Virus Death Toll Hits 200 (Yonhap)
CDC Removes Unusual Guidance To Doctors About Chloroquines (R.)
EU Ministers Fail To Agree Virus Economic Rescue In All-Night Talks (R.)
US Economy Will Eventually Reopen But With Big Changes: Kudlow (R.)
Worldwide Debt Reached 322% of GDP Before COVID19 Pandemic (Sky)
Former Ecuador President Correa Sentenced To 8 Years For Corruption (R.)
Assange’s Life In Grave Danger After 1st COVID19 Death In Belmarsh Prison (RT)
Judge Refuses To Grant Julian Assange’s Partner Anonymity (Ind.)

 

 

• US records highest Covid-19 deaths in single day: More than 1,970 deaths were recorded on Tuesday with some states yet to share their totals.

• U.S. reports 30,706 new cases of coronavirus and 1,970 new deaths. Total of 398,785 cases and 12,893 deaths.

• Reported US coronavirus deaths @ryanstruyk @CNN:
– 4 weeks ago: 31 deaths
– 3 weeks ago: 111 deaths
– 2 weeks ago: 704 deaths
– 1 week ago: 3,834 deaths
Right now: 12,893 deaths

• In New York City, 149,558 people have been tested for coronavirus so far.
– 50% of them tested positive.

• @Amy_Siskind: 2,000 American died today alone. 400,000 reported cases in the US. The US mortality rate is now 3.2%. At 1,000 deaths it was at 1.5% and has been steadily rising. The mortality rate of the 1918 flu was 2.5%. For the flu is it <0.1%

Trend 1: the US accounts for a higher proportion of worldwide cases and deaths each day.
* US now accounts for 15.7% of all deaths, up from 9% one week ago.
* US accounts for 28% of all worldwide cases, up from 25% 2 days ago.
We make up 4.2% of the world population.

 

 

Cases 1,446,981 (+ 87,971 from yesterday’s 1,359,010)

Deaths 83,090 (+ 7,190 from yesterday’s 75,900)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 21% !

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one hammering away at this, so this is good to see, coming from two doctors.

You can forget about re-opening your economy without all-out testing. You can forget about travel if you haven’t been tested. At least twice.

But universal testing is still very far away. All we see is countries inventing excuses to not test. I haven’t seen one that has tested even 1% of its population.

To End the Pandemic, Give Universal Testing the Green Light (Patel/Patel)

We have no idea what the spread of this virus truly is thanks to costly under-testing at the start of this pandemic, but all of the evidence points to mass testing as the only way out of a perpetual cycle of social distancing and caseload spikes. Social distancing is buying us time, but without universal testing, this period of pause delays the inevitable. That’s why we’re calling for a national mobilization to create a universal testing program for every American. Such a program should categorize people in three ways: they had Covid-19, they have Covid-19, or they are still at risk for getting Covid-19. Green, Red, Yellow—that simple, no more uncertainty. It would use two types of tests to accomplish this categorization.


The Two Types of Tests for Covid-19. When testing for Covid-19, we can look at the presence of either (1) the actual viral antigen during infection or the (2) antibodies during the middle stage of infection and after. (For the sake of simplicity we are only going to talk broadly about the antibody test as one type of antibody.) Covid-19 testing in the US currently is focused on antigen testing; a nasal swab is used to test for the presence of Covid-19 proteins in your mucus. Such tests need to be made widely available in ways that do not clog our emergency rooms. Mobile testing for at risk seniors as well as rapid expansion of drive through testing facilities, or even self-administered home swab kits that can be securely sent to labs can help rapidly identify those who need to be on the strictest quarantine (Red).


Data Visualization: Suraj Patel And Viral Patel

We also need to increase the capacity to read these tests. South Korea reported its first Covid-19 case the same day as the USA, but had six times the testing capacity per capita. Fortunately, the science behind analyzing Covid-19 antigen tests is widely available—university labs, commercial labs, and the government all have the equipment needed to read them. They just need to be set up for testing and approved to analyze samples. That requires no medical breakthrough, just political leadership, which may be the taller order right now. These antigen tests, however, can only tell providers if a person has an active Covid-19 infection or are asymptomatic carriers.


We also need to approve serological blood and/or ELISA antibody tests that can be rapidly deployed to detect disease immunity. In some cases these tests can be self-administered at home to test for immunity from Covid-19. This isn’t a fairy tale idea. Public Health England is attempting to make millions of 15-minute at-home testing kits available to the general public at pharmacies and via mail the moment one of the tests proves efficacious. The UK’s first options just recently failed, but the science behind antibody tests tell us it is a matter of when, not if one of these tests are successful.

Read more …

This is devastating. Italy, France, Spain have terrible numbers of their own, overwhelmed health care, you name it.

On the bright side, Boris kept the pubs open for two more weeks.

UK To Have More Corona Deaths Than Italy, Spain, France, Germany Combined (G.)

World-leading disease data analysts have projected that the UK will become the country worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, accounting for more than 40% of total deaths across the continent. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle predicts 66,000 UK deaths from Covid-19 by August, with a peak of nearly 3,000 a day, based on a steep climb in daily deaths early in the outbreak. The analysts also claim discussions over “herd immunity” led to a delay in the UK introducing physical distancing measures, which were brought in from 23 March in England when the coronavirus daily death toll was 54. Portugal, by comparison, had just one confirmed death when distancing measures were imposed.


The IHME modelling forecasts that by 4 August the UK will see a total of 66,314 deaths – an average taken from a large estimate range of between 14,572 and 219,211 deaths, indicating the uncertainties around it. The newly released data is disputed by scientists whose modelling of the likely shape of the UK epidemic is relied on by the government. Prof Neil Ferguson, of Imperial College London, said the IHME figures on “healthcare demand” – including hospital bed use and deaths – were twice as high as they should be. The IHME, which is responsible for the ongoing Global Burden of Disease study, calculated the likely need for hospital admissions and intensive care beds and projected deaths in European countries hit by Covid-19.

Looking at the measures taken by the UK to curb the spread of the disease, the institute says the peak is expected in 10 days’ time, on 17 April. At that point the country will need more than 102,000 hospital beds, the IHME says. There are nearly 18,000 available, meaning a shortfall of 85,000. The same grim picture applies to intensive care beds. At the peak, 24,500 intensive care beds will be needed and 799 are available, the analysts predict. There will be a need for nearly 21,000 ventilators, they say. At the peak the UK will see 2,932 deaths a day, the IHME forecasts. The death toll in other European countries that are now struggling with Covid-19 will be lower, they say. Spain is projected to have 19,209 deaths by the same date, Italy 20,300 and France 15,058. All three countries have imposed tougher lockdown measures than the UK.

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Not an excuse for Boris anymore than it is for Trump, but it does tell us somethinng about what passes for science.

Boris Johnson’s Scientists Were Slow To Sound The Alarm (R.)

It was early spring when British scientists laid out the bald truth to their government. It was “highly likely,” they said, that there was now “sustained transmission” of COVID-19 in the United Kingdom. If unconstrained and if the virus behaved as in China, up to four-fifths of Britons could be infected and one in a hundred might die, wrote the scientists, members of an official committee set up to model the spread of pandemic flu, on March 2. Their assessment didn’t spell it out, but that was a prediction of over 500,000 deaths in this nation of nearly 70 million. Yet the next day, March 3, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was his cheery self. He joked that he was still shaking hands with everyone, including at a hospital treating coronavirus patients.

“Our country remains extremely well prepared,” Johnson said as Italy reached 79 deaths. “We already have a fantastic NHS,” the national public health service, “fantastic testing systems and fantastic surveillance of the spread of disease.” Alongside him at the Downing Street press conference was Chris Whitty, the government’s chief medical adviser and himself an epidemiologist. Whitty passed on the modelling committee’s broad conclusions, including the prediction of a possible 80% infection rate and the consequent deaths. But he played them down, saying the number of people who would be infected was probably “a lot lower” and coming up with a total was “largely speculative.”

The upbeat tone of that briefing stood in sharp contrast with the growing unease of many of the government’s scientific advisers behind the scenes. They were already convinced that Britain was on the brink of a disastrous outbreak, a Reuters investigation has found. [..] interviews and documents also reveal that for more than two months, the scientists whose advice guided Downing Street did not clearly signal their worsening fears to the public or the government. Until March 12, the risk level, set by the government’s top medical advisers on the recommendation of the scientists, remained at “moderate,” suggesting only the possibility of a wider outbreak.

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That throws another 1000 theories out the window.

Low Antibody Levels Raise Questions About Coronavirus Reinfection Risk (SCMP)

Researchers in Shanghai hope to determine whether some recovered coronavirus patients have a higher risk of reinfection after finding surprisingly low levels of Covid-19 antibodies in a number of people discharged from hospital. A team from Fudan University analysed blood samples from 175 patients discharged from the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre and found that nearly a third had unexpectedly low levels of antibodies. In some cases, antibodies could not be detected at all. “Whether these patients were at high risk of rebound or reinfection should be explored in further studies,” the team wrote in preliminary research released on Monday on Medrxiv.org, an online platform for preprint papers.

Although the study was preliminary and not peer-reviewed, it was the world’s first systematic examination of antibody levels in patients who had recovered from Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the researchers said. All of the patients had recently recovered from mild symptoms of the disease and most of those with low antibody levels were young. The researchers excluded patients who had been admitted to intensive care units because many of them already had antibodies from donated blood plasma. Antibodies are generated by the immune system and have unique chemical structures to inhibit specific pathogens. The coronavirus antibody intercepts the spike protein on the viral envelope to prevent it from binding with human cells.

The researchers said they were surprised to find that the antibody “titer” value in about a third of the patients was less than 500, a level that might be too low to provide protection. “About 30 per cent of patients failed to develop high titers of neutralising antibodies after Covid-19 infection. However, the disease duration of these patients compared to others was similar,” they said. The team also found that antibody levels rose with age, with people in the 60-85 age group displaying more than three times the amount of antibodies as people in the 15-39 age group. The low amounts of antibodies could affect herd immunity, resistance to the disease among the general population to stop its spread.

“This is a clinical observation we made at the front line. What this will mean to herd immunity will require more data from other parts of the world,” Professor Huang Jinghe, the leader of the team, said on Tuesday. Huang said 10 of the patients in the study had an antibody presence so low it could not even be detected in the laboratory. These patients experienced typical Covid-19 symptoms including fever, chill and a cough, but might have beaten back the virus with other parts of the immune system such as T-cells or cytokines. How they did this was still unclear. “Vaccine developers may need to pay particular attention to these patients,” Huang said. If the real virus could not induce antibody response, the weakened version in the vaccine might not work in these patients either.

Read more …

Two trends appear: people dying at home, and blacks dying in far larger -relative- numbers.

Staggering Surge Of NYers Dying In Their Homes (Gothamist)

If you die at home from the coronavirus, there’s a good chance you won’t be included in the official death toll, because of a discrepancy in New York City’s reporting process. The problem means the city’s official death count is likely far lower than the real toll taken by the virus, according to public health officials. It also means that victims without access to testing are not being counted, and even epidemiologists are left without a full understanding of the pandemic. As of Monday afternoon, 2,738 New York City residents have died from ‘confirmed’ cases of COVID-19, according to the city Department of Health. That’s an average of 245 a day since the previous Monday.

But another 200 city residents are now dying at home each day, compared to 20 to 25 such deaths before the pandemic, said Aja Worthy-Davis, a spokeswoman for the medical examiner’s office. And an untold number of them are unconfirmed. That’s because the ME’s office is not testing dead bodies for COVID-19. Instead, they’re referring suspected cases to the city’s health department as “probable.” “If someone dies at home, and we go to the home and there [are] signs of influenza, our medical examiner may determine the cause of death was clearly an influenza-like illness, potentially COVID or an influenza-like illness believed to be COVID,” said Worthy-Davis. “We report all our deaths citywide to the health department, who releases that data to the public.”

But the health department does not include that number in the official count unless it is confirmed, a spokesman said. “Every person with a lab confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis is counted in the number of fatalities,” the spokesman, Michael Lanza, said in an email. He said the city’s coronavirus death tally does not break down who died at home versus who died in a hospital from the virus. [..] Statistics from the Fire Department, which runs EMS, confirm a staggering rise in deaths occurring at the scene before first responders can transport a person to a hospital for care.

The FDNY says it responded to 2,192 cases of deaths at home between March 20th and April 5th, or about 130 a day, an almost 400 percent increase from the same time period last year. (In 2019, there were just 453 cardiac arrest calls where a patient died, according to the FDNY.) That number has been steadily increasing since March 30th, with 241 New Yorkers dying at home Sunday — more than the number of confirmed COVID-19 deaths that occurred citywide that day. On Monday night, the city reported 266 new deaths, suggesting the possibility of a 40% undercount of coronavirus-related deaths.

Read more …

I haven’t seen any genetic explanations for this.

Cuomo, De Blasio Urged To Act On ‘Uneven’ COVID19 Death Toll (TheCity)

Responding to signs that coronavirus is exacting an outsize toll on black and Latino New Yorkers, elected officials are stepping up pressure on Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to disclose details — and act. On Monday, 10 South Bronx elected officials asked Cuomo to immediately open a multipurpose medical facility at the Harlem River Yards, a waterfront site owned by the state. Their letter cites THE CITY’s report on an outsize death toll from the Bronx, using city Health Department statistics. As of last Friday, Bronx residents were twice as likely to die of coronavirus as New York City residents as a whole.


The officials, among them veteran Rep. José Serrano, asked Cuomo to establish a rapid testing facility, field hospital, and temporary barracks for medical personnel on the property, currently leased to the Schenectady-based Galesi Group. “If New York State can not accommodate this request, we ask that you convey the rationale as to why and that you request assistance from the federal government to activate this proposal,” they wrote. “We fear that a lack of adequate response to COVID-19 in our community will lead to a record number of deaths associated with New York City’s most vulnerable and even further health disparities.”

And it appears the outbreak may be growing increasingly deadly. Not only does The Bronx have the highest number of fatalities as a share of its population of any borough — its death rate is also growing the fastest, THE CITY’s analysis of city Health Department data suggests. In the Bronx, about 84% of residents are black, Latino or mixed race, Census data show, compared with 39% in Manhattan, the borough with the lowest death rate.


[..] In other large locales, demographic data has shown that low-income and black and Latino communities are being disproportionately affected: In Chicago, for example, 61 of the 86 deceased — 70% — were black, NPR affiliate WBEZ reported Sunday. Black residents make up less than one-third of Chicago’s population. In Louisiana, around 70% of the dead are black, the state’s department of health reports, while roughly 33% of the state is black. About 4-in-10 of those dead in Michigan are black, Michigan Radio reports, though 12% of the state is black.

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US death total is 12,901. Both countries reported their first case on the same day in January.

South Korea Virus Death Toll Hits 200 (Yonhap)

South Korea’s death toll from the new coronavirus has reached 200, and most virus victims are elderly patients with underlying diseases, health authorities here said Wednesday. An additional eight patients died of COVID-19 on Tuesday, bringing the country’s fatality number to 200, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). The country added 53 new cases, bring total virus cases to 10,384 as of Wednesday. The country reported its first death from the novel coronavirus on Feb. 20 and breached the 100 mark on March 22. Most of the victims have been elderly patients with underlying illnesses, such as cancer and pneumonia.


KCDC data showed the mortality rate of COVID-19 patients aged 80 or older stood at 20.43 percent as of Tuesday, compared with an average mortality rate of 1.93 percent. The mortality rate of COVID-19 patients aged 80 or older was a mere 3.7 percent on March 2 when health authorities began conducting such a tally but increased to 10 percent on March 20 and breached the 20 percent level as of Tuesday, the KCDC said. Health authorities said the fatality rate among elders is relatively high due to massive cluster cases at nursing hospitals where patients with underlying diseases, such as dementia, have been treated. “Diagnosis is relatively slower at nursing hospitals, which could lead to a higher mortality rate,” said Kim Woo-ju, an infectious disease specialist at Seoul’s Korea University Hospital.

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Big Pharma looking out for no. 1.

CDC Removes Unusual Guidance To Doctors About Chloroquines (R.)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has removed from its website highly unusual guidance informing doctors on how to prescribe hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, drugs recommended by President Donald Trump to treat the coronavirus. The move comes three days after Reuters reported that the CDC published key dosing information involving the two antimalarial drugs based on unattributed anecdotes rather than peer-reviewed science. Reuters also reported that the original guidance was crafted by the CDC after President Trump personally pressed federal regulatory and health officials to make the malaria drugs more widely available to treat the novel coronavirus, though the drugs in question had been untested for COVID-19.

Initially, the CDC webpage, titled Information for Clinicians on Therapeutic Options for Patients with COVID-19, had said: “Although optimal dosing and duration of hydroxychloroquine for treatment of COVID-19 are unknown, some U.S. clinicians have reported anecdotally” on several ways to prescribe the medication of COVID-19. Medical specialists had told Reuters they were surprised by that language. “Why would CDC be publishing anecdotes?” asked Dr. Lynn Goldman, dean of the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. “That doesn’t make sense. This is very unusual.”

Doctors and other health experts had further criticized the guidance as suggesting that doctors might prescribe the medications when it isn’t established whether or not they are effective or harmful. Now the CDC website no longer includes that information. Instead, its first sentence says: “There are no drugs or other therapeutics approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to prevent or treat COVID-19.” The updated, and shortened, guidance adds that “Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are under investigation in clinical trials” for use on coronavirus patients.

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What does it take to break it?

EU Ministers Fail To Agree Virus Economic Rescue In All-Night Talks (R.)

European Union finance ministers failed to agree in all-night talks on more support for their coronavirus-hit economies and their chairman said on Wednesday morning he was suspending the discussions until Thursday. Diplomatic sources and officials said a feud between Italy and the Netherlands over what conditions should be attached to euro zone credit for governments fighting the pandemic was blocking progress on half a trillion euros worth of aid. “After 16 hours of discussions we came close to a deal but we are not there yet,” Eurogroup chairman Mario Centeno said. “I suspended the Eurogroup and (we will)continue tomorrow.”

The finance ministers, who started talks at 1430 GMT on Tuesday that lasted all night with numerous breaks to allow for bilateral negotiations, are trying to agree a package of measures to help governments, companies and individuals. They had hoped to agree on a half-trillion-euro programme to cushion the economic slump and finance recovery from the pandemic, and turn a page on divisions that have marred relations as the bloc struggles with the outbreak. But feuds emerged prominently again, one diplomatic source said: “The Italians want a reference to debt mutualisation as a possible recovery instrument to be analysed more in the future. The Dutch say ‘no’.” An official who participated in the talks said at around 0400 GMT on Wednesday The Hague was the only one refusing to endorse a text that the ministers were expected to agree on to get endorsement for a new set of economic measures from the bloc’s 27 national leaders.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said on Twitter: “In this difficult hour Europe must stand together closely. Together with (French finance minister) Bruno Le Maire, I therefore call on all euro countries not to refuse to resolve these difficult financial issues and to facilitate a good compromise – for all citizens.” Issuing joint debt has been a battle line between economically ailing southern countries like Spain and Italy and the fiscally frugal north, led by Germany and the Netherlands, since the financial and euro zone crises began over a decade ago.

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Here’s thinking there will be huge changes that Kudlow has no idea about.

US Economy Will Eventually Reopen But With Big Changes: Kudlow (R.)

The Trump administration is aiming to reopen the U.S. economy when the nation’s top health experts give the go-ahead, but Americans’ lives will be drastically different, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Tuesday. Even when people in the United States return to work and school, they will likely have to stay home when they have signs of sickness, face more widespread and ongoing testing and submit to routine temperature taking, he told Politico in an interview. “We are aware that things are going to be different,” he said. “That’s going to be a new feature of American life. And I don’t know how quickly that gets up and going, but it’s going to be very, very important because we obviously want to prevent any recurrences.”


It remains unclear when the country, which remains largely shuttered amid the ongoing outbreak that has crushed the economy, will resume more normal operations as a number of states approach their potential peak number of cases amid federal guidelines to isolate until the end of April. [..] “It is the health people that are going to drive the medical decisions, here, the medical-related decisions,” Kudlow told Politico, adding that he still believes “that in the next four to eight weeks we will be able to reopen the economy and that the power of the virus will be substantially reduced and we will be able to flatten the curve.”

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I gave up counting.

Worldwide Debt Reached 322% of GDP Before COVID19 Pandemic (Sky)

Worldwide debt reached 322% of GDP last year, according to new figures which will worry governments planning post-coronavirus economic recoveries. Worldwide debt across all sectors rose by $10trn (£8trn) in 2019 to more than $255trn (£206trn), and that was before COVID-19, which forced many of the world’s governments to bail out businesses and to pay workers in an effort to help them survive the pandemic. By the end of last year, global debt stood at 322% of GDP – 40 percentage points higher than at the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis, according to the Institute of International Finance’s Global Debt Monitor.


The IIF forecast that the global debt burden would rise “dramatically” in 2020, with gross government debt issuance soaring to a record high of more than $2.1trn last month – more than double the average of $0.9trn in 2017-19. A global recession is looming, the monitor said, adding that this would begin with $87trn more of global debt than there was at the onset of the 2008 financial crisis. The news will worry world leaders as they continue to commit unprecedented financial stimulus to support their economies. Debt levels could climb to 342% of GDP by the end of this year, assuming a doubling of net government borrowing and a 3% contraction in global GDP, the monitor said.

Read more …

A good man. He’s free, he lives in Belgium. I guess maybe Ecuador literally is a banana republic?

Former Ecuador President Correa Sentenced To 8 Years For Corruption (R.)

An Ecuadorian court sentenced former president Rafael Correa on Tuesday to eight years in prison after finding him guilty of corruption charges. Correa, who was in office from 2007 to 2017, left Ecuador three years ago and now lives in Belgium. He and 19 others, including his vice president who is in prison for another corruption case, were accused of accepting $7.5 million in bribes in exchange for public contracts to finance his party’s electoral campaigns between 2012 and 2016. The court also banned Correa from participating in politics for 25 years.


The prosecution accused Correa of heading a “criminal structure” and asked for the maximum sentence. The former leader has denied the prosecution’s accusations, saying they are a political attack by current President Lenin Moreno, who Correa initially backed in 2017. “Well, this is what they were looking for: using justice to achieve what they never could at the ballot box. I am fine. I am concerned about my colleagues,” Correa said on his Twitter account.

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State sanctioned murder. Because of COVID19, Assange can’t talk to his lawyers, he can’t participate in his own trial. We can wish for Boris to die a painful COVID death, but there are a hundred just like him waiting in the wings, so it wouldn’t make any difference.

Assange’s Life In Grave Danger After 1st COVID19 Death In Belmarsh Prison (RT)

Conditions in Belmarsh prison, where Julian Assange is held, might be worse than London is willing to admit, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Kristinn Hrafnsson told RT, adding that Covid-19 could swiftly tear through the facility. A prison environment is “like a Petri dish” for a virus, Hrafnsson explained, particularly such a highly infectious one as the novel coronavirus, which has already struck more than 1 million people around the world. The max security Belmarsh prison, where the WikiLeaks founder is being kept pending extradition to the US, has just reported its first death from the disease. According to Hrafnsson, there are other worrying signs too. “We have prison guards going in and out. A third of them at least are not showing up to work either because they have the virus or because they are in isolation.”

He also said he was sure the number of inmates who contracted Covid-19 in Belmarsh is “undoubtedly higher than reported,” since prison authorities have simply not conducted enough tests on the population to “know what is going on exactly.” The situation is particularly alarming for Assange, who was in a rather poor state of health even before the outbreak of the deadly disease, Hrafnsson added. “Assange is in very bad shape. He is a very vulnerable individual, especially to a virus like Covid-19. He has an underlying lung condition and would be considered at great risk even if living normally in society. He is in a situation when his life is in danger every day and every hour.”

The Wikileaks editor-in-chief said that British authorities are outright neglecting their duties by leaving Assange — as well as other prisoners — behind bars, given the current circumstances. Hrafnsson also slammed a British judge’s decision to carry on with Assange’s extradition hearing amid the ongoing pandemic, as though nothing has been happening. The Wikileaks founder is unable to take part in any court sessions now as he has to be moved through the infected prison each time he is about to do that, even via a video link. Assange’s lawyers also have lost all contact with their client for about three weeks at this point, since they cannot visit him prison and cannot talk to him by video chat either, the Wikileaks editor-in-chief said.

Read more …

The UK manages to sink deeper on all fronts.

Judge Refuses To Grant Julian Assange’s Partner Anonymity (Ind.)

A judge has refused to grant legal anonymity to Julian Assange’s partner after hearing claims the US had tried to obtain their children’s DNA. Representatives of the Wikileaks founder submitted evidence to Westminster Magistrates’ Court claiming that American agencies had expressed interest in testing nappies discarded when Mr Assange’s partner and children visited him at the Ecuadorian embassy. District Judge Vanessa Baraitser found that, even if the allegation were true, there was no reason to believe US agencies meant to harm his young family. She referred to the claim while rejecting the bid to anonymise Mr Assange’s partner, who the court heard wishes to live “quietly” with her young children away from publicity.

Following a submission by the Press Association news agency to the court, Judge Baraitser ruled that the woman’s right to a private family life was outweighed by the need for open justice. But the judge delayed making the woman’s identity public until 4pm on 14 April, pending a possible judicial review at the High Court. Mr Assange was previously denied bail amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus in British jails, and the application had been supported by the unnamed woman. The 48-year-old is being held on remand at HMP Belmarsh, in south-east London, ahead of an extradition hearing on 18 May. During the virtual hearing, the judge also rejected a bid to delay the hearing because of the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Assange’s barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said there were “insuperable” difficulties preparing his case because of the pandemic, and requested an adjournment until September. He told the court that he had not been able to see Mr Assange in jail and could see “no viable” way his client could be present in court to hear witnesses. On Mr Assange’s mental state, he told the judge: “There are difficulties of the pandemic with the defendant himself. You are aware … he has well documented problems of clinical depression.” Mr Assange’s treatment was on hold during the lockdown and he had been unable to see his family. Mr Fitzgerald said: “In those circumstances, in his vulnerable condition, to force him to enter a full evidential hearing in May, we respectfully submit it would be unjust. We respectfully submit it would be oppressive.”

Read more …

 

It must be possible to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of the process.

Thanks everyone for your generous donations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One for the stay home fitness crowd:

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime. It’s good for your health.

 

Apr 022020
 


William Henry Jackson Camp wagon on a Texas roundup 1901

 

More Than 1,000 New York City Police Officers Have The Coronavirus (CNBC)
Of 125,000 NHS Staff Self-Isolating, Still Just 2,000 Were Tested (Ind.)
Chinese Smartphone Health Code Rules Post-Virus Life (AP)
More Than 1.7 Million Britons May Have Contracted COVID19 – NHS |(Ind.)
Pelosi Wants ‘Vote By Mail’ Provisions In Next US Coronavirus Bill (R.)
Key Medical Supplies Were Shipped From US Manufacturers To Foreign Buyers (IC)
$2 Trillion CARES Act A Lifeline For Gig Workers And Freelancers (CNBC)
US Banks To Make Billions On Small Business Bailout (ZH)
Top US Banks May Shun Small-Business Rescue Plan On Liability Worries (R.)
US Military Knew Years Ago That a Coronavirus Was Coming (Nation)
Privatization, National Security State Left Americans Defenseless (GZ)
Biden’s False Claim on Trump’s Response to Coronavirus (FactCheck)
Chinese Scientists Seeking COVID19 Treatment Find ‘Effective’ Antibodies (R.)
Texas Pastors Demand “Religious Liberty” Exemption To Stay-at-home Orders (Vox)
Chomsky: Ventilator Shortage Exposes the Cruelty of Neoliberal Capitalism (TO)
Israeli Doctors Demand Health Minister Be Replaced By Professional (YNet)
All Roads Lead To Dark Winter (Whitney Webb & Raul Diego)

 

 

It’s blame game time. We have plenty theories to keep you occupied with while sitting at home. I’m surprised at how many people can’t seem to face the day without such a theory. Which is fine, but at least come with evidence.

In other news: We’ll pass 1 million cases today.

 

 

Cases 950,425 (+ 77,548 from yesterday’s 872,777)

Deaths 48,276 (+ 5,005 from yesterday’s 43,271)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 19% –

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

 

 

I guess NYC thinks their heroes are all Marvel characters who A) don’t die and B) come in droves

More Than 1,000 New York City Police Officers Have The Coronavirus (CNBC)

More than 1,000 New York City police officers have contracted COVID-19 as emergency calls in the city hit record highs. Of the New York Police Department’s more than 36,000 employees 1,048 officers and 145 civilian employees have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Tuesday, NYPD said in a statement. The department added that 5,657 uniformed officers, or more than 15% of the force, called out sick on Tuesday. “I am worried about essential workers getting scared and not wanting to show up,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. “That I am worried about. You know the number of police officers who are getting sick is going up.”

Officials from the Fire Department of New York told NBC News on Tuesday that 282 members, including firefighters, EMTs and civilians, have tested positive for COVID-19. At the same time, 911 call volume is hitting record daily highs, the Fire Department said. There were 6,527 medical calls to 911 placed on Monday, and over the past few days the FDNY has had to “hold” hundreds of calls, according to NBC News. This means that lower priority sick calls have to wait for ambulances. COVID-19 has infected 43,119 people in New York City and killed at least 1,096 people, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Last month, the New York City Police Benevolent Association, or PBA, filed a complaint with the New York State Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau demanding NYPD provide adequate protective equipment, including masks and gloves, to all police officers. “No matter how this pandemic progresses, New York City police officers will remain on the front lines and will continue to carry out our duties protecting New Yorkers,” PBA President Patrick Lynch said in a statement. “The NYPD has not done enough to ensure that all of our members have protective equipment such as masks and gloves, nor does it have adequate supplies of that equipment to weather a prolonged outbreak.”

Read more …

Britain has the same issue: They’re our heroes, so we don’t test them.

Of 125,000 NHS Staff Self-Isolating, Still Just 2,000 Were Tested (Ind.)

Just 2,000 NHS frontline staff forced to stay home due to coronavirus have been tested to see if they can return to work, Downing Street has admitted. The figure – a tiny fraction of the 125,000 staff believed to be self isolating – emerged as the government faced mounting criticism for its failure to move to mass testing for Covid-19. Public Health England medical director Yvonne Doyle told a Downing Street press conference that officials hoped hundreds of thousands of staff would be tested “within the coming weeks”. But ministers were unable to give clear answers on how quickly they can ramp up antigen tests, which show whether someone has the disease. They were also unclear over the question of when the UK will see the introduction of antibody tests, which indicate if an individual has been infected and recovered.


Industry figures and scientists questioned ministers’ claims that a lack of chemicals and swabs is to blame for the UK lagging behind Germany, where as many as 70,000 are being tested every day. Unions issued a joint demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) for all frontline health and social care staff, warning that the lack of kit was “a crisis within a crisis”. And there were demands for testing to be extended to all care home staff, with one MP claiming there has been rationing of antigen tests. The UK’s death toll from the pandemic has now reached 2,352 after 563 patients who had tested positive died in hospital in one day. Among them weas 13-year-old Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab, who reportedly died alone and without his family as he became the youngest victim in England.

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Told you the virus is a timemachine. Here’s another look at your future.

Chinese Smartphone Health Code Rules Post-Virus Life (AP)

Since the coronavirus outbreak, life in China is ruled by a green symbol on a smartphone screen. Green is the “health code” that says a user is symptom-free and it’s required to board a subway, check into a hotel or just enter Wuhan, the central city of 11 million people where the pandemic began in December. The system is made possible by the Chinese public’s almost universal adoption of smartphones and the ruling Communist Party’s embrace of “Big Data” to extend its surveillance and control over society. Walking into a Wuhan subway station Wednesday, Wu Shenghong, a manager for a clothing manufacturer, used her smartphone to scan a barcode on a poster that triggered her health code app.


A green code and part of her identity card number appeared on the screen. A guard wearing a mask and goggles waved her through. If the code had been red, that would tell the guard that Wu was confirmed to be infected or had a fever or other symptoms and was awaiting a diagnosis. A yellow code would mean she had contact with an infected person but hadn’t finished a two-week quarantine, meaning she should be in a hospital or quarantined at home. Wu, who was on her way to see retailers after returning to work this week, said the system has helped reassure her after a two-month shutdown left the streets of Wuhan empty. People with red or yellow codes “are definitely not running around outside,” said Wu, 51. “I feel safe.”


AP Photo/Olivia Zhang

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Well, could be ten times that, but we’ll levae that for next week.

More Than 1.7 Million Britons May Have Contracted COVID19 – NHS |(Ind.)

More than 1.7 million people may have contracted Covid-19 so far, according to the NHS. New figures from NHS 111 online show there were 1,496,651 web-based assessments which flagged potential coronavirus cases based on people’s symptoms between 18 March and 31 March. A further 243,543 assessments via the NHS 111 and 999 phone lines also concluded people had possibly contracted the disease. But the assessment numbers do not necessarily relate to individual people, the NHS said, as it is possible people have sought help more than once or through various channels. The data, published by NHS Digital, comes after GP practices in England were told to open over the Easter Bank Holiday to help the NHS cope with coronavirus.

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1) how do you make it safe health-wise?
2) how do you make it hack-wise?
3) why on earth does it have to cost $4 billion?

Pelosi Wants ‘Vote By Mail’ Provisions In Next US Coronavirus Bill (R.)

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Wednesday she wants to virus-proof the November election by including funding to boost voting by mail in the next pandemic response plan being put together by Democrats in the House of Representatives. Pelosi said at least $2 billion, and ideally $4 billion, was needed to enable voting by mail, to give citizens a safe way to vote during the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 4,300 people across the United States. She noted Democrats got just $400 million for that purpose in the $2.3 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill President Donald Trump signed into law on Friday.

“Vote by mail is so important to … our democracy so that people have access to voting and not be deterred, especially at this time, by the admonition to stay home,” Pelosi told reporters. Trump told Fox News on Monday that voting by mail would hurt the Republican Party. Pelosi rejected that argument. “When I was chair of the California Democratic party many years ago, the Republicans always prevailed in the absentee ballots,” she said. “They know how to do this.” Indeed, some Democrats fear voting by mail could disenfranchise minorities and low-income voters who tend to move more frequently. The $400 million in the recent coronavirus bill is intended to help state and local officials bolster vote by mail and early voting, expand facilities and hire more poll workers.

[..] Three states – Wyoming, Hawaii and Alaska – have scrapped in-person voting for Democratic primaries on April 4, and will only permit voting by mail. Ohio pushed back its March 17 voting, setting a new date of April 28 for a primary conducted almost completely by mail, and at least eight other states pushed their primaries back to May or June.

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Where was the CDC?

Key Medical Supplies Were Shipped From US Manufacturers To Foreign Buyers (IC)

While much of the world moved swiftly to lock down crucial medical supplies used to treat the coronavirus, the U.S. dithered, maintaining business as normal and allowing large shipments of American-made respirators and ventilators to be sold to foreign buyers. The foreign shipments, detailed in dozens of government records, show exports to other hot spots where the pandemic has spread, including East Asia and Europe. American hospitals around the country are now running low on all forms of personal protective gear, such as N95 masks or purified air personal respirators, for medical staff, as well as life-saving ventilators, which pump oxygenated air into the lungs, for patients.

[..] Drive DeVilbiss Healthcare, a Pennsylvania-based health product firm that produces supplemental oxygen machines, sent at least three different shipments of respiratory equipment to Belgium in mid-February and early March. The total cargo included 14 containers weighing more than 55 tons. DeVilbiss and its owner, Clayton Dubilier & Rice, a New York-based private equity firm, did not respond to a request for comment. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf reportedly reached out to DeVilbiss later in March to support the company’s increased production of respiratory medical devices. “Our demand is unprecedented,” Tim Walsh, the company’s vice president, told WJAC, a local news station.

Vapotherm, a New Hampshire firm that produces respiratory equipment, has faced surging demand from international customers. The company has added 50 employees and a second shift to meet growing demand for its products. WMUR, a local news station, profiled Vapotherm’s role in producing lifesaving respiratory equipment used to treat the coronavirus. During the segment, Joseph Army, the chief executive of Vapotherm, told the station that he first heard from customers in Europe and Asia in response to the coronavirus. A camera shot of Vapotherm’s factory showed a box labeled “Japan.” The demand, he added, has shifted in recent weeks to domestic contracts for clients in Seattle, New York City, Georgia, and Florida.

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You mean something went right? I’d still like to see proof.

$2 Trillion CARES Act A Lifeline For Gig Workers And Freelancers (CNBC)

The $2 trillion federal stimulus package signed into law by President Donald Trump on Friday, March 27, will be a lifeline to many gig workers and freelancers. Known as the CARES Act, the law takes unprecedented steps in including the self-employed in the social safety net. It offers freelancers unemployment insurance, for which they generally don’t qualify, on a large scale for the first time. As stipulated in the House bill, it offers freelancers an additional $600 a week in unemployment insurance, bringing weekly payouts to the $800- to $900-a-week range when state benefits are added, to workers including the self-employed, for up to four months.

“It’s an amazing win, given that there is no unemployment insurance for freelancers,” says Rafael Espinal, who recently took the helm of the Freelancers Union as executive director. “This will help inject cash flow into their homes.” The stimulus package also offers the self-employed and small business owners a $10,000 advance on an Emergency Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) that does not have to be paid back, even if the borrower does not qualify for an SBA loan. The program provides loans up to $200,000.

Sole proprietors, ESOPs, cooperatives, businesses with no more than 500 employees and tribal small business concerns can apply. Under the EIDL program, administered by the U.S. Small Business Administration, applicants will not have to submit a tax return and will be evaluated based on their credit score. The SBA will provide the funding within three days of a successfully completed application as an advance payment. There is no personal guarantee required for the loans. The SBA is waiving the requirement that businesses have one year of operations prior to the disaster, but businesses are not eligible if they were not in operation on January 1, 2020. The bill authorizes $10 billion in appropriations for these loans.

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Color me amazed.

US Banks To Make Billions On Small Business Bailout (ZH)

As part of the $2 trillion fiscal stimulus package that was signed into law by Donald Trump on Friday, the Small Business Administration will offer $350 billion in loans to US small businesses meant to preserve business solvency as part of the emergency federal response to the coronavirus pandemic; the loans, part of the so-called “Paycheck Protection Program” will be offered through banks and credit unions to cash-strapped businesses employing under 500 people (it’s not clear how a company employing 500 people is a “small business” but we can assume that this is just a stealthy bailout of some not so small businesses).

To be sure, the terms of the loans are generous: the full amount of the loan will be forgiven if it is used for payroll, mortgage interest, rent or utilities in the two months after the money is received. Less will be forgiven if the employees are sacked or salaries cut. Any amount that is not forgiven will accrue interest at just 0.5% rate and the principal will come due in two years. Borrowers will need to fill out a two-page form and document that they were in business as of mid-February. Lenders will not need to wait for SBA confirmation before providing cash in hand, as soon as Friday. Businesses will be eligible to borrow the equivalent of 2.5 times their average monthly payroll with a cap of $10mm.

According to the SBA, there are 30m businesses with fewer than 500 employees in the US, employing 60m people, almost half of the private workforce. The National Federation of Independent Business, an advocacy group, says about three-quarters of its members have been affected by the crisis. Yet some may be “shocked” to learn that like in any government bailout package, the biggest winners here will not be America’s vibrant small and medium business sector, which at best will get the bare minimum cash to fund 2.5 months of payroll (this assume the pandemic will be resolved by mid-June) but – drumroll – America’s banks.

As the FT reports overnight, banks stand to make billions by overseeing the distribution of these loans as they receive processing fees, paid by the federal government, for making the loans. The fees will vary with loan size: 5% for loans under $350,000, 3% for loans under $2MM, and 1% for loans greater than $2MM. The loans will not incur a capital charge. This means that banks stand to earn as much as $17.5 billion – and $10 billion if one assumes an average rate of 3% – for doing something the government is incapable of doing: handing out hundreds of billions in loans/grants to America’s businesses in the shortest possible time.

Read more …

Oh wait, the banks don’t need those billions.

Top US Banks May Shun Small-Business Rescue Plan On Liability Worries (R.)

Top U.S. banks have threatened to give the federal government’s small-business rescue program a miss on concerns about taking on too much financial and legal risk, five people with direct knowledge of industry discussions told Reuters. Seeking to help millions of small businesses whose operations have either shut down or have been dramatically curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic, Congress last week passed a $2 trillion stimulus package that includes $349 billion aimed at small firms. Borrowers can apply for the loans through participating banks starting from Friday and until June 30. Trump administration officials have said they want the loans disbursed within days. But representatives of some big lenders, in an industry conference call on Wednesday, expressed serious reservations about participating in the scheme in its current form.


Their main concern is that the Treasury Department has said it expects lenders to verify borrower eligibility, and take steps to prevent fraud, money laundering and protect customer information under the Bank Secrecy Act, sources said. Banks are worried they could face regulatory penalties or legal costs down the line if things go awry in the haste to get money out the door, or get blamed for not moving funds fast enough if they perform due diligence the way they would in ordinary times, the sources said. After hearing the concerns, Treasury officials are considering withdrawing guidance that instructed lenders to verify borrowers had the specified number of employees on their books, and that their other costs are legitimate, according to two sources.

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So where were they? Note: eevrybody knnew it was coming. Just not the timing.

US Military Knew Years Ago That a Coronavirus Was Coming (Nation)

Despite President Trump’s repeated assertions that the Covid-19 epidemic was “unforeseen” and “came out of nowhere,” the Pentagon was well aware of not just the threat of a novel influenza, but even anticipated the consequent scarcity of ventilators, face masks, and hospital beds, according to a 2017 Pentagon plan obtained by The Nation. “The most likely and significant threat is a novel respiratory disease, particularly a novel influenza disease,” the military plan states. Covid-19 is a respiratory disease caused by the novel (meaning new to humans) coronavirus. The document specifically references coronavirus on several occasions, in one instant saying, “Coronavirus infections [are] common around the world.”

The plan represents an update to an earlier Department of Defense pandemic influenza response plan, noting that it “incorporates insights from several recent outbreaks including…2012 Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus.” Titled “USNORTHCOM Branch Plan 3560: Pandemic Influenza and Infectious Disease Response,” the draft plan is marked for official use only and dated January 6, 2017. The plan was provided to The Nation by a Pentagon official who requested anonymity to avoid professional reprisal. Denis Kaufman, who served as head of the Infectious Diseases and Countermeasures Division at the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2014 to 2017, stressed that US intelligence had been well-aware of the dangers of coronaviruses for years. (Kaufman retired from his decades-long career in the military in December of 2017.)

“The Intelligence Community has warned about the threat from highly pathogenic influenza viruses for two decades at least. They have warned about coronaviruses for at least five years,” Kaufman explained in an interview. “There have been recent pronouncements that the coronavirus pandemic represents an intelligence failure…. it’s letting people who ignored intelligence warnings off the hook.” In addition to anticipating the coronavirus pandemic, the military plan predicted with uncanny accuracy many of the medical supply shortages that it now appears will soon cause untold deaths. The plan states: “Competition for, and scarcity of resources will include…non-pharmaceutical MCM [Medical Countermeasures] (e.g., ventilators, devices, personal protective equipment such as face masks and gloves), medical equipment, and logistical support. This will have a significant impact on the availability of the global workforce.”

Read more …

First we dump on Trump, and only then do we say what is really goinng wrog.

Privatization, National Security State Left Americans Defenseless (GZ)

Donald Trump’s failure to act decisively to control the coronavirus pandemic has likely made the Covid-19 pandemic far more lethal than it should have been. But the reasons behind failure to get protective and life-saving equipment like masks and ventilators into the hands of health workers and hospitals run deeper than Trump’s self-centered recklessness. Both the Obama and Trump administrations quietly delegated state and local authorities with the essential national security responsibility for obtaining and distributing these vital items. The failure of leadership was compounded the lack of any federal power center that embraced the idea that guarding for a pandemic was at least as important to national security as preparing for war.

For decades, the military-industrial-congressional complex has force-fed the American public a warped conception of US national security focused entirely around perpetuating warfare. The cynical conflation of national security with waging war on designated enemies around the globe effectively stifled public awareness of the clear and present danger posed to its survival by global pandemic. As a result, Congress was simply not called upon to fund the vitally important equipment that doctors and nurses needed for the Covid-19 crisis. At the heart of the growing coronavirus crisis in the US is a severe shortage of N95 respirators and ventilators. Those items should have been available in sufficient numbers through the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), which holds the nation’s largest supplies necessary for national emergencies.

But the stocks of crucial medical have not been maintained for years, largely because Congress has not provided the necessary funding. Congress has been willing to dole out load of cash after pandemics hit the US. When the H1N1 flu crisis hit the United States in 2009, and close to 300,000 Americans were hospitalized, Congress appropriated $7.7 billion in special funding, including support for building up the SNS. That allowed the stockpile to provide 85 million respirators and millions of ventilators to hospitals around the country, especially during the second half of the yearlong crisis. But since that 2009-10 crisis ended, the stockpile of such vital equipment has never been replenished.

In 2020 the stockpile holds only 12 million N95 respirators – as little as 1 percent of what is now needed by health workers – and just 16,000 ventilators, compared with the estimated 750,000 people at minimum who will need a ventilator because of the Covid-19 pandemic. These numbers are so scandalously low in relation to what is needed that senior officials Department of Health and Human Services have refused to reveal publicly how many they have in stock.

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Especially in times of stress, the world is an easier place if it is in black and white.

Biden’s False Claim on Trump’s Response to Coronavirus (FactCheck)

Former Vice President Joe Biden was wrong when he said that the Trump administration made no effort to get U.S. medical experts into China as the novel coronavirus epidemic spread there early this year. “[W]hen we were talking … early on in this crisis, we said — I said, among others, that, you know, you should get into China, get our experts there, we have the best in the world, get them in so we know what’s actually happening,” Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, said at a CNN virtual town hall on March 27. “There was no effort to do that.” Except that isn’t the case. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tried to get into China just one week after China reported the outbreak to the World Health Organization on Dec. 31, 2019.

“On January 6, we offered to send a CDC team to China that could assist with these public health efforts,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at a Jan. 28 press conference. “I reiterated that offer when I spoke to China’s Minister of Health on Monday, and it was reiterated again via the World Health Organization today. We are urging China: More cooperation and transparency are the most important steps you can take toward a more effective response.” More than a week later, Azar said again at a Feb. 7 press conference that “our longstanding offer to send world-class experts to China to assist remains on the table.” At the time, the New York Times reported, “Normally, teams from the agency’s Epidemic Intelligence Service can be in the air within 24 hours.”

A team of public health experts from the WHO was allowed by Chinese authorities to visit Wuhan, where the outbreak began, later in February, according to the South China Morning Post. The team included specialists from the United States as well as Germany, Russia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Nigeria. Biden was correct at the town hall when he said the Trump administration had eliminated a position set up by the Obama administration, in which Biden served, to coordinate the response to pandemics like the coronavirus crisis. But he got the timing wrong, and Trump administration officials say it was a reorganization, with the responsibilities of that office falling to other individuals.

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I was wondering yesterday what happened to all of the earlier stories about cures and vaccines. None seem to have aged well..

Chinese Scientists Seeking COVID19 Treatment Find ‘Effective’ Antibodies (R.)

A team of Chinese scientists has isolated several antibodies that it says are “extremely effective” at blocking the ability of the new coronavirus to enter cells, which eventually could be helpful in treating or preventing COVID-19. There is currently no proven effective treatment for the disease, which originated in China and is spreading across the world in a pandemic that has infected more than 850,000 and killed 42,000. Zhang Linqi at Tsinghua University in Beijing said a drug made with antibodies like the ones his team have found could be used more effectively than the current approaches, including what he called “borderline” treatment such as plasma. Plasma contains antibodies but is restricted by blood type.


In early January, Zhang’s team and a group at the 3rd People’s Hospital in Shenzhen began analysing antibodies from blood taken from recovered COVID-19 patients, isolating 206 monoclonal antibodies which showed what he described as a “strong” ability to bind with the virus’ proteins. Among the first 20 or so antibodies tested, four were able to block viral entry and of those, two were “exceedingly good” at doing so, Zhang said. They then conducted another test to see if they could actually prevent the virus from entering cells [..] The team is now focused on identifying the most powerful antibodies and possibly combining them to mitigate the risk of the new coronavirus mutating. If all goes well, interested developers could mass produce them for testing, first on animals and eventually on humans.

Read more …

This is where you say: no, it isn’t Iran…

Texas Pastors Demand “Religious Liberty” Exemption To Stay-at-home Orders (Vox)

Last week, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, who oversees the area of Texas that includes Houston, issued an order requiring “all individuals currently living within Harris County … to stay at their place of residence except for Essential Activities” (in Texas, the title “county judge” refers to the chief executive of a county government). Like many similar orders handed down by state and local officials throughout the United States, which are intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, Hidalgo’s order closes most businesses within the county and shuts down most places where people gather in large groups. Although it allows faith leaders to “minister and counsel in individual settings, so long as social distance protocols are followed,” it requires worship services to “be provided by video and teleconference.”

That restriction on in-person worship services has sparked a lawsuit, filed by three Texas pastors and Steven Hotze, a medical doctor and anti-LGBT Republican activist whose political action committee was labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. These four men ask the Texas Supreme Court to strike down Hidalgo’s order, claiming, among other things, that it violates the “religious liberty” of pastors who wish to gather their parishioners together during a pandemic. Under existing precedents, the petitioner’s arguments in Hotze are not strong. They rely heavily on older US Supreme Court decisions that were effectively overruled by the Supreme Court’s later decision in Employment Division v. Smith (1990) (although it’s worth noting that Smith is very much out of favor with judicial conservatives and could, itself, be overruled by the Court’s current majority).

The Hotze petitions also essentially ask the Texas Supreme Court to place the temporary interests of a few pastors before the county’s interest in combating a deadly disease. The US Supreme Court has long held that the government may take targeted action to protect especially compelling interests — even when doing so implicates constitutional rights.

Read more …

The headline feels designed to cast doubt on the man.

Chomsky: Ventilator Shortage Exposes the Cruelty of Neoliberal Capitalism (TO)

The scale of the plague is surprising, indeed shocking, but not its appearance. Nor the fact that the U.S. has the worst record in responding to the crisis. Scientists have been warning of a pandemic for years, insistently so since the SARS epidemic of 2003, also caused by a coronavirus, for which vaccines were developed but did not proceed beyond the pre-clinical level. That was the time to begin to put in place rapid-response systems in preparation for an outbreak and to set aside spare capacity that would be needed. Initiatives could also have been undertaken to develop defenses and modes of treatment for a likely recurrence with a related virus.

But scientific understanding is not enough. There has to be someone to pick up the ball and run with it. That option was barred by the pathology of the contemporary socioeconomic order. Market signals were clear: There’s no profit in preventing a future catastrophe. The government could have stepped in, but that’s barred by reigning doctrine: “Government is the problem,” Reagan told us with his sunny smile, meaning that decision-making has to be handed over even more fully to the business world, which is devoted to private profit and is free from influence by those who might be concerned with the common good. The years that followed injected a dose of neoliberal brutality to the unconstrained capitalist order and the twisted form of markets it constructs.

The depth of the pathology is revealed clearly by one of the most dramatic — and murderous — failures: the lack of ventilators that is one the major bottlenecks in confronting the pandemic. The Department of Health and Human Services foresaw the problem, and contracted with a small firm to produce inexpensive, easy-to-use ventilators. But then capitalist logic intervened. The firm was bought by a major corporation, Covidien, which sidelined the project, and, “In 2014, with no ventilators having been delivered to the government, Covidien executives told officials at the [federal] biomedical research agency that they wanted to get out of the contract, according to three former federal officials. The executives complained that it was not sufficiently profitable for the company.”

Doubtless true. Neoliberal logic then intervened, dictating that the government could not act to overcome the gross market failure, which is now causing havoc. As The New York Times gently put the matter, “The stalled efforts to create a new class of cheap, easy-to-use ventilators highlight the perils of outsourcing projects with critical public-health implications to private companies; their focus on maximizing profits is not always consistent with the government’s goal of preparing for a future crisis.”

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“The lunatic minister of health in Apartheid #Israel, the one who said #Covid_19 was a sign of #Armageddon and the #Messiah arriving in April; just confirmed positive for the virus along with his wife.”

Israeli Doctors Demand Health Minister Be Replaced By Professional (YNet)

Israeli doctors on Sunday called on the government to replace Health Minister Yaakov Litzman with a medical professional in the wake of coronavirus crisis in the country. In an open letter some to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his future coalition partner Benny Gantz, the heads of hospital departments and senior medical officials expressed their dissatisfaction with Litzman’s conduct during the COVID-19 epidemic and urged to replace him with someone who has the necessary experience. Netanyahu and Gantz are in the midst of unity talks in an effort to agree on a coalition government to address the coronavirus pandemic emergency.


Sources familiar with the negotiations told Ynet the replacement of Litzman is not currently on the table. “We have nothing against outgoing Health Minister Litzman and have great respect for him,” said Professor Yoram Kluger, Rambam Hospital’s chief of surgery who was behind the initiative. “But, in light of the dire state Israel’s healthcare system and an emergency on the scope of a pandemic, health workers can no longer agree to be cast aside by other considerations.”

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Extremely long by Whitney Webb. And then there are at least 3 parts. Maybe somebody actually has the time to read it.

All Roads Lead To Dark Winter (Whitney Webb & Raul Diego)

In late June 2001, the U.S. military was preparing for a “Dark Winter.” At Andrews Air Force Base in Camp Springs, Maryland, several Congressmen, a former CIA director, a former FBI director, government insiders and privileged members of the press met to conduct a biowarfare simulation that would precede both the September 11 attacks and the 2001 Anthrax attacks by a matter of months. It specifically simulated the deliberate introduction of smallpox to the American public by a hostile actor.

The simulation was a collaborative effort led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies (part of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security) in collaboration with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Analytic Services (ANSER) Institute for Homeland Security and the Oklahoma National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism. The concept, design and script of the simulation were created by Tara O’Toole and Thomas Inglesby of the Johns Hopkins Center along with Randy Larsen and Mark DeMier of ANSER.

The name for the exercise derives from a statement made by Robert Kadlec, who participated in the script created for the exercise, when he states that the lack of smallpox vaccines for the U.S. populace means that “it could be a very dark winter for America.” Kadlec, a veteran of the George W. Bush administration and a former lobbyist for military intelligence/intelligence contractors, is now leading HHS’ Covid-19 response and led the Trump administration’s 2019 “Crimson Contagion” exercises, which simulated a crippling pandemic influenza outbreak in the U.S. that had first originated in China. Kadlec’s professional history, his decades-old obsession with apocalyptic bioweapon attack scenarios and the Crimson Contagion exercises themselves are the subject of Part III of this series.

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