May 192020
 


Jack Delano Engineer at AT&SF railroad yard, Clovis, NM 1943

 

US States’ Reopening Plans Are All Over The Map (R.)
Moderna: Early Coronavirus Vaccine Results Are Encouraging (AP)
Trump Says He Is Taking Hydroxychloroquine Despite FDA Warning (R.)
Trump Threatens To Permanently Cut Off WHO Funding (CNBC)
CDC Plans Sweeping COVID19 Antibody Study In 25 Metropolitan Areas (R.)
Coronavirus Deadliest In New York City’s Black And Latino Neighborhoods (R.)
Brazil Sees 674 New Coronavirus Deaths, World’s Third Highest Number Of Infections (R.)
India Coronavirus Infections Surge Past 100,000 (R.)
Agency Staff Were Spreading COVID19 Between Care Homes (G.)
France Sees 70 Cases Linked To Schools Days After Reopening (AP)
COVID19 Rental Hardship Kicked Down The Road To Spring Of ‘Carnage’ (ABC.au)
Don’t Piss Down My Back And Tell Me It’s Raining (Sirota)
The Uncle Joe-Can’t-Internet Criticism Is Mostly Malarkey (VF)
Obama, Biden Not Targeted In US Review Of Russia Probe – Barr (R.)

 

 

• US new cases on May 17 had a “good day” with 18,939, but on May 18 was up to 22,423 again

• US virus deaths fall for second day, with 759 in 24 hours, pass 90,000

• Russia 9,263 new cases from yesterday’s 9709

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 4,911,720 (+ 91,373 from yesterday’s 4,820,347)

Deaths 320,454 (+ 3,487 from yesterday’s 316,967)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

“There has not been the slightest hint of interest on the part of Congress in creating a national uniform set of rules..”

“None of the guidelines from the White House are legally binding”

US States’ Reopening Plans Are All Over The Map (R.)

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has set some distinct goals the federal district needs to meet in order for her to feel comfortable ending a stay-at-home order, she told reporters last week. If the U.S. capital, which reported more than 7,200 cases and around 400 deaths by Monday, hits certain metrics, including a declining number of cases over 14 days and sustained low transmission rate, she could lift the order before it expires on June 8. Neighboring Maryland, home to tens of thousands who commute to D.C. for work, is looking at a different set of data to determine whether it is ready to open up. It includes a plateau in the rate of hospitalizations and the number of cases in hospitals’ intensive-care units.

Virginia, home to tens of thousands more who commute to D.C., has another metric altogether. Governor Ralph Northam said in April the state needed to see a decrease in the percentage of positive tests over 14 days, a decrease in hospitalizations, have enough hospital beds and intensive care capacity and a sustainable supply of personal protective equipment. This situation, with three different leaders using different criteria to decide how to reopen – has been replicated throughout the country, according to data here compiled by the National Governors’ Association. Luisa Franzini, chair of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health, said every state seems to be using its own criteria to determine whether to reopen. None is really meeting all the metrics set out by the federal government, Franzini said. Instead local governments appear to be picking “what seems to be working for them.”

New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, said it would need 30 contact tracers for every 100,000 people, and 90 days of PPE stockpiles before it can “re-open.” Next-door New Jersey is looking for a “14-day trend line” of dropping cases and hospitalizations, and has already allowed some beaches to reopen. Kansas said it needed to see stable or declining case rates over 14 days, but has opened most businesses. Neighboring Missouri, which Kansas City straddles, reopened all business on May 4. South Dakota, site of one of the largest hot spots, said it could not have clusters that posed a risk to the public, and neighboring Minnesota has reopened retail shops.

[..] as with many aspects of handling the pandemic, the final say on how to reopen lies with state and local officials, who under the U.S. Constitution hold the authority here to make laws related to residents’ health and welfare. Federal lawmakers, meanwhile, have not set any new standards for workplace safety, although they could. “There has not been the slightest hint of interest on the part of Congress in creating a national uniform set of rules on business closures and re-openings,” said Robert Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas. None of the guidelines from the White House are legally binding, he noted. [..] “I hate to say it in these terms,” said Raymond Scheppach, a professor of public policy at the University of Virginia, “but I think we’re in a period of experimentation.”

Read more …

How crazy are we? Try this: Moderna’s “encouraging” results are based on tests of 8(!) people. Not an error, just 8 people. Tons of media coverage, and its stock goes to the moon. 8 people. The CEO is selling selling selling stock. And there was an IPO yesterday?!

In other news today: 8 people have now amassed 50% of all wealth of earth. Presumably they are not the same 8 people.

Moderna: Early Coronavirus Vaccine Results Are Encouraging (AP)

An experimental vaccine against the coronavirus showed encouraging results in very early testing, triggering hoped-for immune responses in eight healthy, middle-aged volunteers, its maker announced Monday. Study volunteers given either a low or medium dose of the vaccine by Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Moderna Inc. had antibodies similar to those seen in people who have recovered from COVID-19. In the next phase of the study, led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, researchers will try to determine which dose is best for a definitive experiment that they aim to start in July.


In all, 45 people have received one or two shots of the vaccine, which was being tested at three different doses. The kind of detailed antibody results needed to assess responses are only available on eight volunteers so far. The vaccine seems safe, the company said, but much more extensive testing is needed to see if it remains so. A high dose version is being dropped after spurring some short-term side effects. The results have not been published and are only from the first of three stages of testing that vaccines and drugs normally undergo. U.S. government officials have launched a project called “Operation Warp Speed” to develop a vaccine and hopefully have 300 million doses by January.

Read more …

Obesity means having a body mass index (BMI) of greater than 30. Morbid obesity means having a BMI of 40 or higher.

Trump Says He Is Taking Hydroxychloroquine Despite FDA Warning (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump, in a surprise announcement, said on Monday he is taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive medicine against the coronavirus despite medical warnings about the use of the malaria drug. Trump volunteered the disclosure during a question-and-answer session with reporters at the White House as he met restaurant executives whose businesses are reeling from the impact of the virus. “I’m taking hydroxychloroquine,” Trump said. “I’ve been taking it for the last week and a half. A pill every day.” Weeks ago, Trump had promoted the drug as a potential treatment based on a positive report about its use against the virus, but subsequent studies found that it was not helpful. The Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning about its use.

In an April 24 statement, the FDA said it was “aware of reports of serious heart rhythm problems” in patients with COVID-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine or an older drug, chloroquine. Trump, 73, who is tested daily for the virus, said he had asked the White House physician if it was OK to take the drug, and the doctor told him: “Well, if you’d like it.” The president, a well-known germaphobe, has nonetheless refused to wear a protective mask in the West Wing. White House physician Sean Conley said in a memo that Trump was in “very good health” and had been receiving regular COVID-19 testing, which has all been negative since one of his support staff tested positive for the disease two weeks ago.

Democratic House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asked on CNN about Trump’s taking the drug, said: “He’s our president. I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists, especially in his age group and his, shall we say weight group what is morbidly obese, they say.” According to the results of an annual presidential physical examination conducted in February 2019, Trump had gained weight over the past year and was now in the obese range, although remaining in “very good health overall.” Morbid obesity is generally defined as a body mass index (BMI) – a measure of weight relative to height – of 40 or higher. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is overweight and 30 or above is obese. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in an MSNBC interview that what Trump did with hydroxychloroquine was “reckless” and was giving people “false hope.”

Trump’s disclosure came as Moderna reported progress in a potential vaccine for the virus. The only drug that has emerged so far as a potential treatment is Gilead Sciences Inc’s remdesivir.

Read more …

Tedros should simply explain the delays.

Trump Threatens To Permanently Cut Off WHO Funding (CNBC)

President Donald Trump threatened to permanently cut off U.S. funding of the World Health Organization, in a letter dated Monday that he shared on Twitter. Trump said that if the WHO “does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the World Health Organization permanent and reconsider our membership in the organization.” Last month, Trump halted U.S. funding for the WHO as his administration conducted a review of the agency’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time, the agency said “We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding.”

It’s not immediately clear how Trump would withhold those funds, much of which are appropriated by Congress. The president typically does not have the authority to unilaterally redirect congressional funding. The renewed threat comes as the Trump administration faces criticism for how it has handled the crisis. The United States is the worst hit country with more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases reported and at least 90,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

In the Monday letter, Trump said the review “confirmed many of the serious concerns I raised last month.” It also outlines what the White House perceived as “repeated missteps” by the organization and its director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The letter echoes Trump’s previous complaint that the WHO resisted issuing a travel advisory in the early days of the outbreak. When the agency declared the situation a global health emergency in late January, Tedros advised countries against imposing “measures that unnecessarily interfere with international trade or travel.”

Trump said that if the WHO “does not commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days, I will make my temporary freeze of United States funding to the World Health Organization permanent and reconsider our membership in the organization.” Last month, Trump halted U.S. funding for the WHO as his administration conducted a review of the agency’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. At the time, the agency said “We are still in the acute phase of a pandemic so now is not the time to cut back on funding.” It’s not immediately clear how Trump would withhold those funds, much of which are appropriated by Congress. The president typically does not have the authority to unilaterally redirect congressional funding.

The renewed threat comes as the Trump administration faces criticism for how it has handled the crisis. The United States is the worst hit country with more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases reported and at least 90,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. In the Monday letter, Trump said the review “confirmed many of the serious concerns I raised last month.” It also outlines what the White House perceived as “repeated missteps” by the organization and its director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.


click to read in new tab

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In July, when the pandemic has been going for 6 months. Sweeping.

CDC Plans Sweeping COVID19 Antibody Study In 25 Metropolitan Areas (R.)

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plans a nationwide study of up to 325,000 people to track how the new coronavirus is spreading across the country into next year and beyond, a CDC spokeswoman and researchers conducting the effort told Reuters. The CDC study, expected to launch in June or July, will test samples from blood donors in 25 metropolitan areas for antibodies created when the immune system fights the coronavirus, said Dr. Michael Busch, director of the nonprofit Vitalant Research Institute. Busch is leading a preliminary version of the study – funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – that is testing the first 36,000 samples.


The CDC-funded portion, to be formally announced this week, will expand the scope and time frame, taking samples over 18 months to see how antibodies evolve over time, said CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund. Vitalant, a nonprofit that runs blood donation centers and tests samples, will lead the broader effort as well. Researchers aim to publish results on a rolling basis, Nordlund said. Antibody studies, also known as seroprevalence research, are considered critical to understanding where an outbreak is spreading and can help guide decisions on restrictions needed to contain it. The CDC study should also help scientists better understand whether the immune response to COVID wanes over time.

Read more …

15 times more deadly is a lot.

Coronavirus Deadliest In New York City’s Black And Latino Neighborhoods (R.)

Some New York City neighborhoods have seen death rates from the novel coronavirus nearly 15 times higher than others, according to data released by New York City’s health department on Monday, showing the disproportionate toll taken on poor communities. The data shows for the first time a breakdown on the number of deaths in each of the city’s more than 60 ZIP codes. The highest death rate was seen on the edge of Brooklyn in a neighborhood dominated by a large subsidized-housing development called Starrett City. Civic leaders had been pushing for the more granular data, which they said would show stark racial and economic disparities after New York City became the heart of one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the world in March and April.


In the wealthy, mostly white enclave of Gramercy Park in Manhattan, the rate is 31 deaths per 100,000 residents, the data shows. A long subway ride away in Far Rockaway in the borough of Queens, which is more than 40% black and 25% Latino or Hispanic, the death rate is nearly 15 times higher: 444 deaths per 100,000 residents. “It’s really heartbreaking and it should tug at the moral conscience of the city,” Mark Levine, chairman of the City Council’s health committee, said in an interview. “We knew we had dramatic inequality. This, in graphic form, shows it’s even greater than maybe many of us feared.”

Read more …

Large countries such as Brazil, India, Mexico, Pakisten, Indonesia are a main concern.

Brazil Sees 674 New Coronavirus Deaths, World’s Third Highest Number Of Infections (R.)

Brazil recorded 674 new coronavirus deaths on Monday, the Health Ministry said, and announced a total of 254,220 confirmed cases, overtaking Britain to become the country with the third-highest number of infections behind the United States and Russia. There are now 16,792 people in Brazil who have died from the outbreak, the ministry said. Its daily tally does not indicate that infections and deaths necessarily occurred in the past 24 hours, but rather that the records were entered into the system during that time period.


Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has lost popularity over his handling of the pandemic, but he retains a resilient core of support. Last week, Health Minister Nelson Teich resigned, becoming the second top health official to leave the post since the pandemic began. General Eduardo Pazuello is the interim health chief and Bolsonaro is in no hurry to choose his replacement, sources say. According to data from the Health Ministry, São Paulo remains the worst hit by the outbreak, with 63,066 cases and 4,823 deaths. Rio de Janeiro is in second place, with 26,665 infections and 2,852 deaths.

Read more …

1.3 billion people. 100,000 ICU beds.

India Coronavirus Infections Surge Past 100,000 (R.)

India reported 4,970 new cases over the previous 24 hours, taking its total to 101,139. Deaths rose by 134 to 3,163. India’s number of cases has easily outstripped that of China, where the virus emerged late last year and which has been one of Asia’s infection hot spots. China has reported nearly 83,000 cases but has kept its daily rise in new infections to single digits for the past week. In contrast, new cases in India have risen by an average of more than 4,000 a day over the past week, according to a Reuters tally based on official data, despite a severe weeks-long lockdown. India officially extended the lockdown on Sunday to May 31, although several states indicated they would allow businesses to reopen.


Health experts and officials are worried about the strain the epidemic is placing on India’s over-stretched and under-funded hospital system. Dhruva Chaudhry, president of the Indian Society of Critical Care Medicine, told Reuters last month that India probably had only about 100,000 intensive care unit (ICU) beds and 40,000 ventilators. Chaudhry warned there was not sufficient infrastructure or staff in the country of 1.35 billion people to handle a sharp spike in the number of critical patients. [..] India’s death rate is less than that of some other big countries, at 3%, compared with about 6% for the United States, where some 89,000 people have died, and 14% for Britain.

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A global problem.

Agency Staff Were Spreading COVID19 Between Care Homes (G.)

Temporary care workers transmitted Covid-19 between care homes as cases surged, according to an unpublished government study which used genome tracking to investigate outbreaks. In evidence that raises further questions about ministers’ claims to have “thrown a protective ring around care homes”, it emerged that agency workers – often employed on zero-hours contracts – unwittingly spread the infection as the pandemic grew, according to the study by Public Health England (PHE). The genome tracking research into the behaviour of the virus in six care homes in London found that, in some cases, workers who transmitted coronavirus had been drafted in to cover for care home staff who were self-isolating expressly to prevent the vulnerable people they look after from becoming infected.

At least 22,000 people are estimated to have died in care homes in England and Wales directly or indirectly from Covid-19. While the peak appears to have passed, the crisis is far from over for the country’s 400,000 care home residents, with some providers reporting fresh outbreaks and hospitalisations at the weekend. [..] Results from the PHE study, conducted over Easter weekend from 11 to 13 April, have been known about inside the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) since at least the end of last month, but were only circulated last week to care home providers, councils and local directors of public health.

It was referenced as part of a £600m infection control plan, which adult social care directors said came “tragically late in the day” given the peak of deaths in care homes appeared to have already passed. The study warned: “Infection is spreading from care home to care home, linked to changed patterns of staffing, working across and moving between homes.” The infection could be introduced by “bank staff” – floating workers used to fill temporary vacancies in different homes – it said, adding that workers were often asymptomatic so “by the time local health protection teams are informed of an outbreak substantial transmission may already have occurred”.

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70 isn’t much out of millions of schoolchildren. Plus, they’s have been infected beforehand, incubation time is 4-5 days minimum. Oh wait, that means at least 70 kids have been free to spread the virus for days on end.

France Sees 70 Cases Linked To Schools Days After Reopening (AP)

Just a week after one-third of French schoolchildren went back to school in an easing of the coronavirus lockdown, there has been a flurry of about 70 Covid-19 cases linked to schools. Some schools were opened last week and a further 150,000 secondary school students went back to the classroom on Monday as further restrictions were loosened by the government. The move initially spelled relief: the end of homeschooling for many hundreds of thousands of exhausted French parents, many of whom were also working from home.


But French education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer sounded the alarm on Monday, telling French radio RTL that the return has put some children in new danger of contamination. He said the affected schools are being closed immediately. French media reported that seven schools in northern France were closed. The situation highlights the precarious situation the French government is finding itself in as it seeks both to reassure the public that the country is moving forward past coronavirus and to react prudently to safeguard public health. Mr Blanquer did not specify if the 70 cases of Covid-19 were among students or teachers.

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In September all relief has to be paid back. By people who still won’t have jobs then.

COVID19 Rental Hardship Kicked Down The Road To Spring Of ‘Carnage’ (ABC.au)

An eviction “ban”; a mortgage pause for landlords; income support for renters: extraordinary measures by governments and banks have stopped an eviction surge, kept Australia’s 8 million renters in their homes and helped landlords struggling with loans. But the temporary measures mask a growing problem: many renters are receiving “reductions” that are really deferrals, accruing thousands of dollars in debts they will never be able to repay. [..] Half of the nation’s workforce are on income support through an increased JobSeeker payment or the JobKeeper wage subsidy. Both expire after six months. In addition, the eviction ban and the big four banks’ offer to pause mortgage repayments for landlords expire around the end of September too. Shelter WA chief executive Michelle Mackenzie dreads to think about what will happen when all those supports end within days of each other.


“The world’s going to collapse.” JobSeeker, previously named Newstart or known colloquially as “the dole”, was effectively doubled through the addition of a coronavirus supplement. The extra payment boosted the amount unemployed people receive from $550 per fortnight — below the poverty line — to $1,100 a fortnight. Ms Mackenzie wants it made permanent, along with increases to Commonwealth rental assistance and investment in social housing. “It would stop the shock at the moment,” she said. Ms Mackenzie said some of her colleagues in community housing associations, who support tenants in government-supplied housing, have almost 40 per cent of their clients in arrears. The growing debt balloon in the private market could lead to increased homelessness, she added. “It’s really just deferring what’s a huge problem down the track,” she said.

Read more …

Bernie staffer Sirota is on to something, but is there anyone left who thinks US healthcare can be salvaged?

Don’t Piss Down My Back And Tell Me It’s Raining (Sirota)

Customers pay big money to purchase health insurance policies, but when they go to actually use the insurance product they bought, almost 1 in 5 in-network claims are denied — and we accept this as just a normal part of life in the world’s richest nation. This is quite a feat — the insurance industry has created for itself a unique carveout from human civilization’s most elemental economic laws about services being delivered in exchange for payment. And now as insurers rake in huge profits during a lethal pandemic, the industry’s propagandists are going a step further, insinuating that while insurance companies may begrudgingly pay some policyholders’ claims out of a sense of altruism, they don’t necessarily have a legal obligation to do so.

“It’s Actually A Selfless Act” This was the sentiment expressed by an insurance industry front group, defending a new initiative that eschews an expansion of Medicare and instead purports to address the COVID crisis by funneling money to insurance corporations through the COBRA program. That program allows laid off workers to keep their existing health care coverage, but only if they somehow find the cash to pay both the employee and employer side of health care premiums. The COBRA provision was written by Democratic lawmakers at the request of industry trade associations — and just after insurers’ lobbyists raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for House Democrats’ campaign committee.

In response to COBRA critics like Medicare for All proponent Bernie Sanders, here’s what Heather Meade, a spokesperson for the insurance industry-backed Alliance to Fight for Health Care, told Politico: “It would be helpful for them to remember that it’s actually a selfless act of employers to do this,” Meade said. “This bill pays just for the premiums, and either the insurance companies or the employers would pay the claims for people who are no longer employees. So it’s a lack of understanding of how COBRA actually works. There’s no bailout here.”

There’s that scene in The Outlaw Josey Wales when Captain Fletcher tells a senator: ”Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining.” Well, that’s exactly what’s happening here: the insurance industry is urinating on us and telling us to thank them for the precipitation. Think about it: A health insurance company’s product — the very widget that it exists to sell — is security. The entire reason you pay a health insurance premium through your job is so that you receive a health insurance policy — one that presumably grants you the security of knowing that your medical claims will be paid out if you get sick. That assurance is literally the thing you are purchasing. And yet, we are now being told to believe that “it’s actually a selfless act” when insurance corporations and employers decide to “pay the claims” that are supposed to be covered by the policy you bought.

Read more …

Stay in the basement.

The Uncle Joe-Can’t-Internet Criticism Is Mostly Malarkey (VF)

To state the obvious: Of course Biden is losing the internet. Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Andrew Yang, and Kamala Harris would all be losing the internet to Trump too, especially in the fog of a global crisis. Trump is an incumbent president who has been building a reelection campaign for almost four years. His strengths, online and off, flow from the political asymmetry he’s created for himself. Trump has little interest in the facts or decorum to which most Democrats and members of the press are still bound. His deliberate provocations lend themselves perfectly to the clickbait of the platforms and the outrage porn of cable news.

Trump is such brain poison for the media that CNN prime-time hosts now devote their entire A-blocks to breathless anti-Trump harangues, which are gleefully spun by the Trump campaign into base-rallying cries of “Fake News,” email blasts, and Facebook fundraising ads that can be tested and reoptimized thousands of times over. The Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee have combined to raise over $700 million so far this cycle, more than Obama did at this point in his 2012 reelection campaign. In 2016, the Trump campaign was held together by duct tape, Facebook ads, and a megaphone handed to them by TV news executives. But to their credit, Trump aides took a groundbreaking risk by devoting nearly half of their advertising budget to digital rather than TV ads, which proved themselves rather useless in a campaign defined by earned media controversies.

In 2020, with a huge staff at his disposal, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale can afford to do much more, experimenting and expanding his online reach far beyond the field of view of most Beltway-dwellers. Trump has more than 1.5 million followers on Snapchat, where his campaign test-drives messaging and regularly bumps his Snapchat followers across platforms into near-daily YouTube livestreams. His supporters are so loyal that they create low-grade content on their own and share it with their own networks, through podcasts, memes, or just old-fashioned handmade signs. Trump’s knack for weaponizing culture and turning politics into a contact sport means that everyone on his team wants a red jersey.

The Trump campaign sold $4 million worth of MAGA merchandise in March and April alone, according to CBS News. Parscale even previewed a new Trump–Pence 2020 COVID-19 face mask on Twitter, which was promptly mocked by the blue-checkmark crowd, ensuring that Parscale will sell thousands of them. Biden’s armchair quarterbacks point worriedly to the Trump campaign’s bombastic fundraising texts and his app, which can feel like being inside a Las Vegas casino, with its point-collecting contests and huge fonts. But Trump’s digital program—indeed his entire campaign—works because it mirrors who Trump is.

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It depends on John Durham, or so it seems. Problem is so many roads appear to lead to the White House.

Obama, Biden Not Targeted In US Review Of Russia Probe – Barr (R.)

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said on Monday he does not expect a Justice Department review of the FBI’s handling of 2016 election interference to lead to criminal investigation of former President Barack Obama or former Vice President Joe Biden. “As to President Obama and Vice President Biden, whatever their level of involvement, based on the information I have today, I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man,” Barr said. Federal prosecutor John Durham is reviewing the origins of the investigation of Russia’s 2016 election interference. President Donald Trump in recent weeks has repeatedly referred to a scandal he calls “Obamagate,” saying without evidence that Obama was tied to “the biggest political crime in American history.”


Trump stepped up those claims as he faced criticism for the administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 88,000 Americans, and prepares to face Biden in the November election. Barr added that the election should be decided strictly on policy debates, and that any investigation of a political candidate would need to be approved by him personally. “We cannot allow this process to be hijacked by efforts to drum up criminal investigations of either candidate,” Barr said. Barr did not rule out the possibility of others being criminally investigated, without offering specifics.

Read more …

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May 152020
 


Georgia O’Keeffe Sunflower, New Mexico I 1935

 

A Truth That’s Told With Bad Intent (Ben Hunt)
America’s Chilling Experiment in Human Sacrifice (Parramore)
Want A Fast Recovery? Invest In Tests, Fed’s Kaplan Says (R.)
Novartis CEO Says Any New Coronavirus Vaccine Will Take At Least 2 Years (R.)
United States Might Not Open Up To International Travelers Any Time Soon
One In Four US Workers Claiming Jobless Benefits (BBC)
148,000 In England Infected With Coronavirus In Last Two Weeks (G.)
ECB To Scale Up Bond Buying Next Month (R.)
Critics Turn Up Heat On Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel Investigation (Fox)
Docs From Sham Flynn Prosecution Also Show Broad Russiagate Corruption (IC)
Judge Sullivan Invites Flynn’s Former Lawyers To Enter Case (SAC)
Open Memorandum to Barack Obama (Sidney Powell)
The Sickness in Our Food Supply (Pollan)
Court Files Expose Sheldon Adelson’s Role in US Spying On Julian Assange (GZ)

 

 

• New US cases 26,740

• New US deaths 1,704 (previous days 1,896, 1,894, 830, 776). Total deaths surpass 85,000.

• Russia reports 10,598 new cases, returning to its chain of 10 consecutive days of more than 10,000 new cases with it broke yesterday with 9,974. Russia will in the next few days pass Spain as the no. 2 in total cases behind the US. But it reports “just” 2,418 deaths to date, vs Spain’s 27,321.

 

 

Endcoronavirus.org numbers presented by Hayes. Not sure that’s something to cheer about. But while he’s waxing ominously that the US has 1/3 of all deaths, these countries all still have a worse case fatality rate: Spain, UK, Italy, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Ireland

 

 


Ranking of countries by total number of reported deaths from #COVID19, and growth of that in the 24 hours before midnight GMT. Brazil fastest grower in this list. Over half of new deaths reported globally now in US, Brazil, and UK.

 

 

 

Cases 4,546,070 (+ 94,844 from yesterday’s 4,451,226)

Deaths 303,863 (+ 5,343 from yesterday’s 298,520)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

“..if these idiots and fools want to take stupid risks alongside other idiots and fools, if their vision of liberty and the pursuit of happiness is to revel in some death cult, but in a way that largely allows us non-death cultists to opt out … well, I believe it is wrong for a government to stop them.”

“I believe with all my heart that if we are to take individual rights seriously, then we must take individual responsibility and agency just as seriously.”

A Truth That’s Told With Bad Intent (Ben Hunt)

[..] I am a full-hearted believer in acting from the bottom-up, in bypassing and ignoring the high-functioning sociopaths who dominate our top-down hierarchies of markets and politics. I still believe that. But it doesn’t work with COVID-19. The core problem with any rights-based approach to public policy is dealing with questions of competing rights. Under what circumstances could your right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness come into conflict with my right to life? Under most circumstances, neither of us is forced to compromise our rights, because we have the choice to NOT interact with each other. If my laundromat requires you to wear a mask to enter, but you think wearing a mask is an affront to your liberty, then the solution is easy: go wash your clothes somewhere else. And vice versa if I think your restaurant does a poor job of enforcing social distancing and food safety: I’ll take my business elsewhere.

Let me put this a bit more bluntly. I think that COVID-19 deniers and truthers are idiots. I think that people who minimize or otherwise ignore the clear and present danger that the biology of this virus presents to themselves and their families are fools. And there’s no perfect way to insulate their idiocy and foolishness from the rest of us. But if these idiots and fools want to take stupid risks alongside other idiots and fools, if their vision of liberty and the pursuit of happiness is to revel in some death cult, but in a way that largely allows us non-death cultists to opt out … well, I believe it is wrong for a government to stop them. Yes, there are exceptions. No, this isn’t applicable on all issues, all the time. But I believe with all my heart that if we are to take individual rights seriously, then we must take individual responsibility and agency just as seriously. Even self-destructive agency. Even in the age of COVID-19. Especially in the age of COVID-19.

There are three common and important circumstances, however, where this choice to NOT interact doesn’t exist, where the rights of yes, even idiots, to liberty and the pursuit of happiness as they understand it will inexorably come into conflict with the right to life of those who understand all too well the highly contagious and dangerous biology of this virus. Only government can provide the necessary resources and the necessary coordination to resolve these conflicts of rights peacefully and without trampling the rights of one set of citizens or another. You have no idea how much it pains me to say that.

Here’s how a legitimate government would deal with the three inevitable and irreconcilable conflicts of rights in the age of COVID-19:

1) Healthcare workers and first responders have no choice but to risk their right to life in caring for all citizens who are sick, regardless of the agency or lack thereof behind that sickness. How does a legitimate government resolve this conflict? By mobilizing on a war-time basis to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to ALL healthcare workers and social workers and first responders and public safety officers and anyone else who must serve the sick.

2) Workers who believe that their employer does not provide sufficient protection against this virus have no choice but to risk their right to life in their return to work, as unemployment insurance typically is unavailable for people who “voluntarily” quit their job. How does a legitimate government resolve this conflict? By providing a Federal safe harbor to unemployment claims based on COVID-19 safety concerns, AND by maintaining unemployment benefits at the current (higher) CARES Act level throughout the crisis.

3) All citizens who use public transit or use public facilities have no choice but to trust that their fellow citizens share a common respect for the rights of others, even if they may differ in their risk tolerance and private beliefs regarding the biology of the virus. How does a legitimate government resolve this conflict? By mobilizing on a war-time basis to provide ubiquitous rapid testing in and around all public spaces, starting today with symptom testing (temperature checks) and required masking to limit asymptomatic spread, and implementing over time near-instant antigen tests as they are developed.

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Lynn Parramore toches on very valid points here, looking at life vs the economy, and what is valued (more). But the Chilling Experiment in Human Sacrifice is an American tradition, there’s nothing new, other than this time it takes place on American soil. And even then, look at all the people without health insurance all over the US, look at young blacks getting killed by police, or drug epidemics. But mostly, the experiment takes place in far-away lands, and its victims count in the very many millions.

America’s Chilling Experiment in Human Sacrifice (Parramore)

“There is no wealth but life.” — John Ruskin, Unto This Last (1860)

A chilling experiment is underway in America, with plenty of unwilling human guinea pigs. Many parts of the country are reopening for business against the warnings of medical experts, flying in the face of grim predictions of sharply rising body counts. Two-thirds of Americans fear that the restart is happening too quickly, and the President himself acknowledges that by easing restrictions, “there’ll be more death.” Yet he presses on, even as his own White House suffers a viral outbreak. News screens flash with tallies of death and tallies of wealth: New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared that lives must be saved “whatever it costs,” insisting that for Americans the choice “between public health and the economy” is “no contest.”

But he did not ask celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz, who some weeks ago expressed his view that reopening schools could give the country its “mojo back,” and perhaps “only cost us 2-3% in terms of total mortality. (2% sounds conveniently small compared to its equivalent in human lives, 6,560,000. Oz later apologized after public outrage). Meanwhile Dan Patrick, lieutenant governor of Texas, offered his own assessment of the trade-off between capitalism and the lives of America’s senior citizens, explaining, “there are more important things than living.” Since the days of Adam Smith, free market capitalists have held that human beings are rational actors who pursue economic gain for self-interested motives. But here is Patrick, a free marketer if there ever was one, talking about a gift-sacrifice economy model in which people – some people, at least – lay down their lives to keep the economic engines revved.

Patrick’s words reveal an unspoken truth about capitalism. For the system to work smoothly, there have always been requirements of human sacrifice — a certain portion of the population was expected to act not as self-serving homo economicus, but self-sacrificing homo communis, focused upon what benefits the collective at their own expense. If these people can’t social distance at the workplace, they are expected to show up anyway. If there isn’t enough safety equipment, they are declared essential workers who must put their lives and that of their families at risk for the greater good. But for whom and for what is this sacrifice intended? How much dying will be figured into state budgets and GDP? When ranked by GDP, the U.S. is the wealthiest economy in the world, but is a country’s wealth something totally separate from, or even contrary to, the health and life the majority of its citizens?

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“Why not spend hundreds of billions of dollars, or tens of billions of dollars, to avoid spending trillions more? It is clearly the highest priority..”

Want A Fast Recovery? Invest In Tests, Fed’s Kaplan Says (R.)

Even with tens of millions of jobs lost and a historic decline in output projected this quarter, the U.S. economy could still pull off a relatively quick recovery, Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan said on Thursday. “If we made a dramatic national initiative for testing – and I mean dramatic …that could help create the V,” he said in an online interview with local public TV station KERA, referring to a recession characterized by a sharp decline in output followed quickly by a steep ramp back up. “The highest return on equity investment we can make in this country is testing.” The U.S. Congress has committed nearly $3 trillion to shoring up an economy gutted by extended shutdowns aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus and buying time for the healthcare systems to build capacity to care for the sick.

“Why not spend hundreds of billions of dollars, or tens of billions of dollars, to avoid spending trillions more? It is clearly the highest priority,” Kaplan said in the interview, conducted jointly with Dallas Mayor Eric Kaplan. The United States has conducted more than 10 million tests for the coronavirus since the beginning of the crisis, according to the Covid Tracking Project. But in many parts of the country people can only get tested if they have symptoms, and there is no capacity for the kind of mass testing that China is using to screen Wuhan’s 11 million citizens this week to stamp out a recurrence of infections there. After weeks of shutdowns to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. economy does need to reopen, Kaplan said.

“We cannot remain shut down indefinitely,” Kaplan said. At the same time, he said, without ubiquitous testing, “people are going to be more hesitant, they are going to be slower to reengage,” and the recovery will be slow and, perhaps, a second wave of infections more likely. [..] “Let’s invest a fraction of what we would have to spend on the second wave in testing, a national approach to it, particularly in dense areas, to prevent that second wave from happening – it will be a fraction of the cost.”

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There is no vaccine. There may never be one. Take that as the starting point for what comes next, for your acts. A vaccine would be an extra, but it cannot be taken as a given.

Novartis CEO Says Any New Coronavirus Vaccine Will Take At Least 2 Years (R.)

Any vaccine to fight the new coronavirus will not be ready for use for at least two years, the chief executive of Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis, which no longer makes vaccines itself, told a German newspaper. Novartis sold its vaccine business in 2015 to GlaxoSmithKline, one of many companies around the world now racing to make a drug. Some companies are already testing vaccine candidates on humans. “The results of the first clinical studies on the vaccine candidates should be available in autumn,” Novartis CEO Vas Narasimhan told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). “If everything goes as we hope, it will take 24 months before we have a vaccine.”


For instance, Moderna Inc has sped up plans for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine and said it expected to start a late-stage trial in early summer. But experts have said no vaccine is expected to be ready for use until at least 2021, as they must be widely tested in humans before being administered to hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people to prevent infection. Narasimhan, who headed development at Novartis’s vaccine business before the Basel-based company concluded it was too small to keep and should be unloaded, said producing enough vaccine for the world would also be a challenge. He said building a new factory usually took three or four years. “That’s way too long,” he told FAZ. “We have to use the existing production network to produce large quantities quickly.”

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“..people from other countries should not be allowed into the United States if Americans still are not allowed to travel to those nations, the senior U.S. official said.

Who’s going to accept American visitors unless they’ve been tested negative?

United States Might Not Open Up To International Travelers Any Time Soon

The U.S. government largely shut down international travel to the United States in March with a series of rapid-fire moves, but restarting it will likely be a longer, more piecemeal process that could be complicated by rising tensions with China. Even as President Donald Trump pushes for U.S states to begin reopening their economies, U.S. borders remain shut to travelers from China and Europe.Any decision on easing travel restrictions will depend in large part on what safety protocols all countries put in place to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus and whether those countries in turn grant entry to Americans, U.S. officials told Reuters. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said last week that Trump and U.S. health officials were examining the issue of international travel but did not provide further details.

Trump implemented a temporary ban on most travelers coming from China, the source of the novel coronavirus outbreak, in January and put similar restrictions on travelers from Europe in March. The United States also halted nonessential travel across its shared borders with Canada and Mexico in March and suspended routine visa services in most U.S. consulates abroad. Some U.S. airlines would like to resume limited service to China – a major market for them – in June, but the possibility of the Trump administration lifting travel restrictions will be complicated by China’s own restrictions on foreign carriers, according to a senior U.S. official who requested anonymity to discuss the matter. China limits foreign airlines to one flight into the country per week, and planes are only allowed to fly with 75% of passenger capacity.

The discussions within the Trump administration on how and when to reopen the United States to international travel have not yet crystallized into a plan, U.S. officials said, as the situation is still fluid and there are still fears of a resurgence of the virus in countries now reporting lower caseloads. But Washington is clear on one thing – people from other countries should not be allowed into the United States if Americans still are not allowed to travel to those nations, the senior U.S. official said. However, with the virus still rampant in the United States, which has the highest number of cases in the world, some countries may be hesitant to accept U.S. travelers any time soon. The European Union on Wednesday pushed to reopen internal borders and restart travel, but recommended Europe’s external borders remain closed for most travel at least until mid-June.

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Time for an honest worst-case scenario.

One In Four US Workers Claiming Jobless Benefits (BBC)

The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits jumped by almost 3 million last week as virus shutdowns continue to weigh on the US economy. The filings brought the total number of new jobless claims since the middle of March to more than 36 million. That amounts to nearly a quarter of the American workforce. The weekly figures have been falling since the end of March but remain massive by historic standards, eclipsing the prior record of 700,000.


“Today’s unemployment claims continue their epic ascent on a cumulative weekly basis; not since the Great Depression has the US job market been in such a sorry state,” said Richard Flynn, UK managing director at Charles Schwab. The head of America’s central bank warned this week that the economic recovery is likely to be slower than initially hoped. In April, employers cut more than 20 million jobs, sending the unemployment rate to 14.7% and erasing nearly a decade of job gains. While the losses have fallen hardest on minority and low-income households, they have touched every part of the economy.

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They have 10,000 new infections per day and can’t even get down to 5,000. Like that is some noble goal.

148,000 In England Infected With Coronavirus In Last Two Weeks (G.)

The first national snapshot of Covid-19 rates has revealed that 148,000 people in England were infected with the virus over the past two weeks. The study, by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), tested 10,705 people in more than 5,000 households and estimated 0.27% of the population in England were currently positive for Covid-19. The analysis suggests about 148,000 people across the entire population would have tested positive on any day between 27 April and 10 May 2020. The findings will inform the government’s next steps as it considers whether it is safe enough to further ease restrictions on socialising, businesses and schools in the coming weeks. Experts suggest the current rates of infection remain “some way off” what would be needed to lift the lockdown.

The results are likely to fuel concerns about the potential of opening primary schools on 1 June to fuel transmission in the community, as no evidence was found of differences in the proportions testing positive between the age categories 2 to 19, 20 to 49, 50 to 69 and 70 years and over. The numbers testing positive in this first release were small – 33 in total – and so this picture could change and the figures are expected to be tracked closely over the next two weeks. The study also reveals far higher infection rates among those working with patients in healthcare and those in social care roles, with 1.33% of these participants testing positive. The figures do not include people in hospital or care homes where rates of Covid-19 infection – and possibly transmission – are likely to be higher.

Sources close to Downing Street say the target for new daily infections is 5,000 before the lockdown can ease, but other more cautious voices in government are understood to be pushing for fewer than 4,000 new cases a day. There is scepticism within the government that the UK will have reached that figure before 1 June, the first possible date for easing the lockdown. The latest figures would suggest a “crude estimate” of 10,000 new cases each day, according to Hunter. However, a more accurate calculation would take into account the average number of days over which a person would test positive and other factors. And unlike the target of 5,000 cases each day, the latest ONS figures exclude hospital patients, meaning the ONS infection rate is a slight underestimate. So it is difficult to assess from the ONS data how far we are from the 5,000 target.

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Granted, it would be a unique event, but just this once, the Reuters poll of 80 economists may get it right.

ECB To Scale Up Bond Buying Next Month (R.)

The euro zone economy’s worst recession on record will be even deeper than predicted less than a month ago, according to a Reuters poll of economists. They also said the European Central Bank will ramp up bond buying next month. An economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed nearly 300,000 lives globally, will largely depend on the effectiveness of individual governments in preventing a second wave of infections despite easings of lockdown restrictions. “The biggest uncertainty now is around the pace of the reopening of the economy. There is a series of risks that are still to the downside…we may have a more prolonged period of confinement measures imposed by law or just behaviourally,” Giada Giani, European economist at Citi, said.


The May 11-14 Reuters poll of nearly 80 economists marks the third downgrade to the economic outlook in a little over a month and is despite the ECB’s adding hundreds of billions of euros to its balance sheet and governments announcing stimulus worth trillions of euros. The euro zone economy is expected to contract 7.5% in 2020, more than the 5.4% predicted three weeks ago, with the worst of the blow expected this quarter. After contracting 3.8% in January-March, its sharpest quarter-on-quarter decline since 1995, the latest poll showed the economy shrinking by nearly three times that pace in April-June, by 11.3%, more than the 9.6% predicted last month.

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Mueller is linked to Flynn is linked to Assange is linked to etc. Pandora’s box has opened.

Critics Turn Up Heat On Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel Investigation (Fox)

Critics of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation are turning up the heat amid new revelations in the Justice Department’s handling of the Russian collusion investigation and related cases, like the troubled prosecution of former Trump National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn. “The Mueller probe was launched not to find wrongdoing from the Trump administration, but to cover up wrongdoing by Mueller’s colleagues, by his protege James Comey, by the corrupt Obama administration Department of Justice,” said The Federalist’s Sean Davis on a new episode of Fox Nation’s “Witch Hunt.” Skeptics of Mueller’s investigation have long alleged that the former FBI director knew almost immediately after his appointment in May 2017 that there was no credible evidence of collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and the Russian government.

“Bob Mueller knew the day that he walked in the door there was no evidence of the Trump campaign colluding with Russians,” said Rep. Devin Nunes R-Calif., the ranking Republican member of the House Intelligence Committee, in a Fox News interview in May 2019. “We looked at all the intelligence,” continued Nunes in reference to the House Intelligence Committee’s own investigation. “There’s zero evidence of the Trump campaign colluding with Russians — period,” According to Davis, the Mueller probe was never intended to find collusion but had another purpose. “From the beginning, the Mueller investigation existed to not protect the rule of law, but to protect the FBI and DOJ from scrutiny for their crimes,” he argued. Davis said the conduct of the Mueller team suggested that they were hiding something.

“You can actually see it in how it responded to requests for documentation from congressional investigations, both from the Senate Senator Chuck Grassley and from the House from Devin Nunes,” said Davis. In fact, Nunes vowed to send the DOJ a criminal referral on potential obstruction of a congressional investigation. “The House of Representatives… had multiple requests, multiple subpoenas that were out there that effectively were never answered,” said Nunes on Fox Nation, “even though they claim they answered them. Well, now what we learned is that they lied and misled Congress by omission.”

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Glenn Greenwald.

Docs From Sham Flynn Prosecution Also Show Broad Russiagate Corruption (IC)

[..] the prosecution of Flynn — for allegedly lying to the FBI when he denied in a January 24 interrogation that he had discussed with Kislyak on December 29 the new sanctions and expulsions imposed on Russia by the Obama administration — was always odd for a number of reasons. To begin with, the FBI agents who questioned Flynn said afterward that they did not believe he was lying (as CNN reported in February, 2017: “the FBI interviewers believed Flynn was cooperative and provided truthful answers. Although Flynn didn’t remember all of what he talked about, they don’t believe he was intentionally misleading them, the officials say”). For that reason, CNN said, “the FBI is not expected to pursue any charges against” him.

More importantly, there was no valid reason for the FBI to have interrogated Flynn about his conversations with Kislyak in the first place. There is nothing remotely untoward or unusual — let alone criminal — about an incoming senior national security official, three weeks away from taking over, reaching out to a counterpart in a foreign government to try to tamp down tensions. As the Washington Post put it, “it would not be uncommon for incoming administrations to interface with foreign governments with whom they will soon have to work.”

What newly released documents over the last month reveal is what has been generally evident for the last three years: the powers of the security state agencies — particularly the FBI, the CIA, the NSA and the DOJ — were systematically abused as part of the 2016 election and then afterward for political rather than legal ends. While there was obviously deceit and corruption on the part of some Trump officials in lying to Russiagate investigators and otherwise engaging in depressingly common DC lobbyist corruption, there was also massive corruption on the part of the investigators themselves, exploiting and abusing their vast and invasive investigative and prosecutorial powers for ideological goals, political subterfuge, election manipulation and personal vendettas.

[..] the most critical reason to delve deeply into this case is that it reveals one the most dangerous abuses of power a democracy can suffer: the powers of the CIA, FBI and NSA were blatantly and repeatedly abused to manipulate election outcomes and achieve political advantage. In other words, we know now that these agencies did exactly what Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer warned they would do to Trump when he appeared on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC program shortly before Trump’s inauguration:

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Election time already?

Judge Sullivan Invites Flynn’s Former Lawyers To Enter Case (SAC)

In another strange turn of events, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan has invited Michael Flynn’s former defense counsel to appear as interested parties in their former clients ongoing case. Sullivan, who did not agree to drop the charges against Flynn as requested by the Department of Justice, did not specify the purpose for inviting the former lawyers to appear in court. John Hall electronically filed the notice on Thursday, as the legal representative for Covington and Burling, Flynn’s former defense counsel. Sidney Powell, Flynn’s defense counsel, didn’t comment on Sullivan’s invitation to Covington and Burling but she noted in previous filings reported on this news site that the previous counsel provided her client ineffectual representation and unrepresented him in his guilty plea, which was in violation of his 6th Amendment rights.


This turn of events has been just one in a series of bizarre decisions unleashed on Flynn and his defense team by Sullivan. Critics of Sullivan’s strange behavior have accused the judge of acting as a prosecutor and crossing the line of his judicial mandate. “Since Sullivan appears to be so invested in trying to force the government to prosecute Flynn, he should step off the bench and apply for a job as an AUSA,” said Jenna Ellis, a constitutional lawyer and Senior legal advisor to the Trump 2020 campaign. “He clearly wants to be a prosecutor, not a judge, so he’s in the wrong branch of government.”

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On May 12, I wrote: “I don’t think the DOJ will go after Obama, only Sidney Powell would.”

On May 13, Powell published this letter.

Open Memorandum to Barack Obama (Sidney Powell)

Re: Your Failure to Find Precedent for Flynn Dismissal

Regarding the decision of the Department of Justice to dismiss charges against General Flynn, in your recent call with your alumni, you expressed great concern: “there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free. That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk.” Here is some help—if truth and precedent represent your true concern. Your statement is entirely false. However, it does explain the damage to the Rule of Law throughout your administration.

First, General Flynn was not charged with perjury—which requires a material false statement made under oath with intent to deceive.1 A perjury prosecution would have been appropriate and the Rule of Law applied if the Justice Department prosecuted your former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for his multiple lies under oath in an investigation of a leak only he knew he caused. McCabe lied under oath in fully recorded and transcribed interviews with the Inspector General for the DOJ. He was informed of the purpose of the interview, and he had had the benefit of counsel. He knew he was the leaker. McCabe even lied about lying.

He lied to his own agents—which sent them on a “wild-goose-chase”—thereby making his lies “material” and an obstruction of justice. Yet, remarkably, Attorney General Barr declined to prosecute McCabe for these offenses. Applying the Rule of Law, after declining McCabe’s perjury prosecution, required the Justice Department to dismiss the prosecution of General Flynn who was not warned, not under oath, had no counsel, and whose statements were not only not recorded, but were created as false by FBI agents who falsified the 302.

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America has two food chains, and they’re not talking.

The Sickness in Our Food Supply (Pollan)

A series of shocks has exposed weak links in our food chain that threaten to leave grocery shelves as patchy and unpredictable as those in the former Soviet bloc. The very system that made possible the bounty of the American supermarket—its vaunted efficiency and ability to “pile it high and sell it cheap”—suddenly seems questionable, if not misguided. But the problems the novel coronavirus has revealed are not limited to the way we produce and distribute food. They also show up on our plates, since the diet on offer at the end of the industrial food chain is linked to precisely the types of chronic disease that render us more vulnerable to Covid-19. The juxtaposition of images in the news of farmers destroying crops and dumping milk with empty supermarket shelves or hungry Americans lining up for hours at food banks tells a story of economic efficiency gone mad.

Today the US actually has two separate food chains, each supplying roughly half of the market. The retail food chain links one set of farmers to grocery stores, and a second chain links a different set of farmers to institutional purchasers of food, such as restaurants, schools, and corporate offices. With the shutting down of much of the economy, as Americans stay home, this second food chain has essentially collapsed. But because of the way the industry has developed over the past several decades, it’s virtually impossible to reroute food normally sold in bulk to institutions to the retail outlets now clamoring for it. There’s still plenty of food coming from American farms, but no easy way to get it where it’s needed.

[..] When the number of Covid-19 cases in America’s slaughterhouses exploded in late April—12,608 confirmed, with forty-nine deaths as of May 11—public health officials and governors began ordering plants to close. It was this threat to the industry’s profitability that led to Tyson’s declaration, which President Trump would have been right to see as a shakedown: the president’s political difficulties could only be compounded by a shortage of meat. In order to reopen their production lines, Tyson and his fellow packers wanted the federal government to step in and preempt local public health authorities; they also needed liability protection, in case workers or their unions sued them for failing to observe health and safety regulations.

Within days of Tyson’s ad, President Trump obliged the meatpackers by invoking the Defense Production Act. After having declined to use it to boost the production of badly needed coronavirus test kits, he now declared meat a “scarce and critical material essential to the national defense.” The executive order took the decision to reopen or close meat plants out of local hands, forced employees back to work without any mandatory safety precautions, and offered their employers some protection from liability for their negligence. On May 8, Tyson reopened a meatpacking plant in Waterloo, Iowa, where more than a thousand workers had tested positive.

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Sidney Powell should take Assange’s case.

Court Files Expose Sheldon Adelson’s Role in US Spying On Julian Assange (GZ)

As the co-founder of a small security consulting firm called UC Global, David Morales spent years slogging through the minor leagues of the private mercenary world. A former Spanish special forces officer, Morales yearned to be the next Erik Prince, the Blackwater founder who leveraged his army-for-hire into high-level political connections across the globe. But by 2016, he had secured just one significant contract, to guard the children of Ecuador’s then-President Rafael Correa and his country’s embassy in the UK. The London embassy contract proved especially valuable to Morales, however. Inside the diplomatic compound, his men guarded Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, a top target of the US government who had been living in the building since Correa granted him asylum in 2012.

It was not long before Morales realized he had a big league opportunity on his hands. In 2016, Morales rushed off alone to a security fair in Las Vegas, hoping to rustle up lucrative new gigs by touting his role as the guardian of Assange. Days later, he returned to his company’s headquarters in Jerez de Frontera, Spain with exciting news. “From now on, we’re going to be playing in the first division,” Morales announced to his employees. When a co-owner of UC Global asked what Morales meant, he responded that he had turned to the “dark side” – an apparent reference to US intelligence services. “The Americans will find us contracts around the world,” Morales assured his business partner.

Morales had just signed on to guard Queen Miri, the $70 million yacht belonging to one of the most high profile casino tycoons in Vegas: ultra-Zionist billionaire and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. Given that Adelson already had a substantial security team assigned to guard him and his family at all times, the contract between UC Global and Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands was clearly the cover for a devious espionage campaign apparently overseen by the CIA. Unfortunately for Morales, the Spanish security consultant charged with leading the spying operation, what happened in Vegas did not stay there. Following Assange’s imprisonment, several disgruntled former employees eventually approached Assange’s legal team to inform them about the misconduct and arguably illegal activity they participated in at UC Global.

One former business partner said they came forward after realizing that “David Morales decided to sell all the information to the enemy, the US.” A criminal complaint was submitted in a Spanish court and a secret operation that resulted in the arrest of Morales was set into motion by the judge. Morales was charged by a Spanish High Court in October 2019 with violating the privacy of Assange, abusing the publisher’s attorney-client privileges, as well as money laundering and bribery. The documents revealed in court, which were primarily backups from company computers, exposed the disturbing reality of his activities on “the dark side.”

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May 112020
 


Andre Derain Boats at Collioure 1905

 

Wuhan Reports 5 New Coronavirus Cases, Its Highest Surge In 2 Months (RT)
New Zealand To Reopen Malls, Cafes From Thursday As Virus Curbs Eased (R.)
How New Zealand Put Coronavirus On The Brink Of Elimination (Wired)
Men Have High Levels Of ACE2 Enzyme Key To COVID-19 Infection (R.)
Inside House Democrats’ $1.2 Trillion+ Coronavirus Relief Proposal (Axios)
43 Million Americans Could Lose Health Insurance Amid Pandemic (G.)
Unemployment Numbers ‘Will Get Worse Before They Get Better’ – Mnuchin (NPR)
A 6.4 Million Discrepancy In The Employment Report (Mish)
Schumer Calls On VA Dep. To Explain Use Of HCQ (AP)
Number Of Hydroxychloroquine Prescriptions Explodes In France (F.)
Zinc Hope In Coronavirus Fight (Telegraph India)
Guaidó’s Mercenary Hit Contract On Maduro Mirrors Official US Bounty (MacLeod)
AG Barr’s Office Shreds Chuck Todd For ‘Deceptive Editing’ (DW)
DNI Has Communications Between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks For 4 Years (GP)

 

 

• For the first time since March 10 (!!!), Italy reported less than 1,000 new cases of coronavirus.

• The US had +20,329 new confirmed coronavirus cases today, the lowest number since late March, bringing the total to 1,367,638, of which 1,030,515 are still active.
 


Click to enlarge in new tab

 

 

 

Cases 4,200,957 (+ 79,179 from yesterday’s 4,121,778)

Deaths 284,150 (+ 3,282 from yesterday’s 280,868)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Open up!

Wuhan Reports 5 New Coronavirus Cases, Its Highest Surge In 2 Months (RT)

Original hotspot of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chinese city of Wuhan, has reported five new indigenous cases as the number of infections across mainland China has slightly grown as well. China reported seventeen new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday – three more than the day before. Of the newly-detected cases, seven are linked to overseas travel, and 10 are believed to be the result of local transmission. In addition to five indigenous cases in Wuhan, three other came from Jilin province, one from Liaoning, northeastern Chinese province bordering North Korea, and another one from Heilongjiang province, bordering Russia.

While the figure might not sound that alarming, considering that China was adding thousands of cases mid-February, when it was going through the peak of the pandemic, it still marks the nation’s biggest jump in confirmed infections since April, 28. The latest data from Wuhan, which just late last month celebrated the recovery of the last patient with severe Covid-19, can be seen as a worrying sign as well since it the most significant increase in cases for the pandemic ground zero in two months. Last time Wuhan reported more than five new cases in a single day (8) was on March 11. However, it was not before the beginning of April when the last remaining travel restrictions imposed on the city, as it was fighting the outbreak, were lifted after 76 days of lockdown.


Around the same time, Wuhan for the first time reported zero daily deaths from the disease. Considering the steady drop in the number of new coronavirus patients, Beijing has gradually relaxed coronavirus measures across the country, on Thursday declaring the whole territory of China as ‘low risk” in terms of coronavirus. Apart from Hubei, there has been a surge in infections in Shulan, in the northeastern Jilin province, where all of the new cases are believed to be traced to a single woman. Concerned about the possible second wave of the desease, local authorities raised the risk level from low to medium last week.

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Lockdowns work. In principle. That says little about their execution, but I already covered that. If people want to be skeptical of something, at least make sure you know what you’re skeptical about.

New Zealand To Reopen Malls, Cafes From Thursday As Virus Curbs Eased (R.)

New Zealand businesses including malls, cinemas, cafes and gyms will reopen on Thursday after some of the tightest restrictions in the world to stop the spread of the coronavirus were further loosened on Monday. The Pacific nation was locked down for more than month under “level 4” restrictions that were eased by a notch in late April. It has continued to enforce strict social measures on many of its citizens and businesses, helping prevent widespread community spread of the virus. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the staggered move to “level 2” restrictions will mean retail, restaurants and other public spaces including playgrounds can reopen from Thursday.

Schools can open from next Monday while bars can only reopen from May 21, Ardern said. Gatherings would be limited to 10 people. “The upshot is that in 10 days’ time we will have reopened most businesses in New Zealand, and sooner than many other countries around the world,” Ardern told a news conference. “But that fits with our plan – go hard, go early – so we can get our economy moving again sooner, and so we get the economic benefit of getting our health response right.” Businesses will be required to have physical distancing and strict hygiene measures in place. Air New Zealand announced it would resume seven more domestic routes when the country enters alert level 2.


International travel, however, would not be possible as borders will remain closed except for returning New Zealanders. The measures would be reviewed again in two weeks, Ardern said. The government plans to introduce a new law that would allow authorities to enforce physical distancing and control gatherings of people after questions were raised about the legality of lockdown rules. Three new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on Monday, the health ministry said in a statement. The cases – two hospital nurses and one related to overseas travel – bring New Zealand’s total confirmed COVID-19 infections to 1,147, the ministry said, adding that 93% of all confirmed and probable cases have recovered.

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New Zealand is 2,500 miles, 4,000 km, from Australia, its nearest neighbor. Amid all the hosanna, that must not be forgotten. European countries, for instance, have no such advantages.

New Zealand can simply close its doors. But yeah, they did it along with a strict lockdown.

How New Zealand Put Coronavirus On The Brink Of Elimination (Wired)

On February 28, the news emerged of New Zealand’s first case of Covid-19. For Michael Baker, a government advisor and epidemiologist at the University of Otago in Wellington, the following weeks would be a time of extreme anxiety. While New Zealand is now regarded as a global success story in containing the coronavirus – as of May 7 it has reported just 1,489 cases and 21 deaths amongst a population of five million – this did not always appear such a likely outcome. Indeed, scientists believe that without the right strategies being swiftly implemented at crucial times, the country could have experienced more than 1,000 cases a day, overwhelming its fragile healthcare network.

When the news arrived that Covid-19 had reached New Zealand’s shores, Baker had already been monitoring the seemingly inexorable global progression of the pandemic since early January. He was well aware of the devastation wreaked by the virus in Wuhan, and grim reports were already filtering through of the worsening outbreak in Italy. While New Zealand’s relative geographical isolation had provided some protection thus far, he knew how swiftly the tide could turn. “It was the most intense period of my working life,” he says. “The distant drumbeat was getting louder and I felt we were on a knife edge in terms of what would happen.”

A member of the Ministry of Health’s technical advisory group, Baker had read the report of the World Health Organisation’s joint mission to China at the end of February. “It showed that the Chinese had done the almost impossible, they’d stopped a pandemic in full flight which was remarkable,” he says. “This showed that it was containable.” Inspired by this, and reports from fellow island nations such as Taiwan who had also managed to contain the outbreak, he realised that if New Zealand acted swiftly and strongly, it could prevent a disaster before it had even begun. He started calling for an approach to eliminate, rather than merely suppress the virus.

At that point – like most other countries – New Zealand was applying the same action plans for Covid-19 as with a bout of pandemic influenza, steadily ramping up their response as the pandemic progressed to try and mitigate it and flatten the curve. But while the rate at which influenza is transmitted means it is nigh impossible to stop, the data showed that Covid-19 was different. “The fundamental difference is that the virus incubation period is longer for Covid-19,” said Baker. “For influenza, it’s one to three days depending on what strain, and with Covid-19 it’s about five days on average. This means that contact tracing and quarantining contacts really does work if you do it quickly enough.”

Epidemiologists began advising the government to change strategy and implement a preventative full lockdown. This involved completely shutting the borders, and enforcing a maximum containment policy where the entire population bar essential workers were required to stay at home unless for medical reasons or food supplies. “We recommended going early and hard,” Baker says. “There are two advantages to that. First you prevent a lot of cases and deaths, and also if you control it early, there’s fewer chains of transmission that have to be stamped out and so your lockdown is likely to be for a shorter period of time.”

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Not new, and this take reads a bit too much like a Big Pharma ad. And what does this mean: Inhibitors don’t lead to higher concentrations? Would be bad if they did, no?

“..widely-prescribed drugs called ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) did not lead to higher ACE2 concentrations ..”

Men Have High Levels Of ACE2 Enzyme Key To COVID-19 Infection (R.)

Men’s blood has higher levels than women’s of a key enzyme used by the new coronavirus to infect cells, the results of a big European study showed on Monday — a finding which may help explain why men are more vulnerable to infection with COVID-19. Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is found in the heart, kidneys and other organs. In COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, it is thought to play a role in how the infection progresses into the lungs. The study, published in the European Heart Journal, also found that widely-prescribed drugs called ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) did not lead to higher ACE2 concentrations and should therefore not increase the COVID-19 risk for people taking them.

ACE inhibitors and ARBs are widely prescribed to patients with congestive heart failure, diabetes or kidney disease. The drugs account for billions of dollars in prescription sales worldwide. “Our findings do not support the discontinuation of these drugs in COVID-19 patients,” said Adriaan Voors, a professor of cardiology at the University Medical Center (UMC) Groningen in The Netherlands, who co-led the study. [..] Death and infection tolls point to men being more likely than women to contract the disease and to suffer severe or critical complications if they do. Analysing thousands of men and women, Voors’ team measured ACE2 concentrations in blood samples taken from more than 3,500 heart failure patients from 11 European countries.


The study had started before the coronavirus pandemic, the researchers said, and so did not include patients with COVID-19. But when other research began to point to ACE2 as key to the way the new coronavirus gets into cells, Voors and his team saw important overlaps with their study. “When we found that one of the strongest biomarkers, ACE2, was much higher in men than in women, I realised that this had the potential to explain why men were more likely to die from COVID-19 than women,” said Iziah Sama, a doctor at UMC Groningen who co-led the study.

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Inside House Democrats’ $1.2 Trillion+ Coronavirus Relief Proposal (Axios)

House Democrats could bring their phase 4 coronavirus relief package (CARES 2) to the floor for a vote as early as this week — but, for now at least, it’s going nowhere. The state of play: Democrats have crafted a $1.2 trillion+ package without input from the White House or Hill Republicans, congressional aides familiar with their plans tell Axios. • GOP leadership says it’s still waiting for billions of aid allocated in the first $2.2 trillion CARES Act to go out the door. • The White House says it wants to evaluate the economic impact of reopening before passing another large stimulus package. But House Democrats see the proposal as a way to lay down a marker of their priorities and prod congressional Republicans and the White House toward more economic relief for individuals, state and local governments, and the U.S. Postal Service.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her caucus also want to show voters that they’re still working, despite members remaining in their districts. Those optics could be important politically given the Senate’s decision to return to Washington last week. (House Republicans have been chiding Democrats for staying home in their districts when, they say, they should be at work.)

Details: The legislation, which is still being drafted and is subject to change, is expected to include:
• Roughly $1 trillion for state and local governments. They want to split this money into separate revenue streams to ensure each community can access it.
• More money for hospitals and COVID-19 testing.
• Roughly $25 billion to keep the U.S. Postal Service afloat.
• Expanded nutritional benefits, Medicaid funding and unemployment insurance (which they call “paycheck guarantee”).
• Another round of direct payments to Americans.

House leadership is also working on narrowing down the guidelines for how these funds are allocated to ensure that people aren’t “double dipping” into the different pots of money, a senior Democratic aide told Axios. For example, they do not want someone who is receiving more unemployment money to also receive money through the Paycheck Protection Program. However, it’s still unclear whether the PPP fund will be replenished. “We’re trying to limit the amount of overlap so people aren’t abusing the system,” the aide said. The package will not include liability protection for businesses, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said is a top priority for Republicans.

It also will not include a payroll tax cut, something President Trump has insisted on. House Democrats have said both of these proposals are nonstarters. The backdrop: This comes as the pandemic continues to choke the U.S. economy — which shed 20.5 million jobs in April as unemployment hit 14.7%.

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Want to keep a pandemic going? Make sure people fear seeking treatment.

43 Million Americans Could Lose Health Insurance Amid Pandemic (G.)

As many as 43 million Americans could lose their health insurance in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute. Prior to the pandemic, 160 million Americans, or roughly half the population, received their medical insurance through their job. The tidal wave of layoffs triggered by quarantine measures now threatens that coverage for millions. Up to 7 million of those people are unlikely to find new insurance as poor economic conditions drag on, researchers at the Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation thinktanks predict. Such enormous insurance losses could dramatically alter America’s healthcare landscape, and will probably result in more deaths as people avoid unaffordable healthcare.

“The status quo is incredibly inefficient, it’s incredibly unfair, it’s tied to employment for no real reason,” said Katherine Hempstead, a senior policy adviser for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “This problem exposes a lot of the inadequacies in our system.” If the pandemic results in a 20% unemployment rate, as some analysts expect, researchers at the Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) predict anywhere from 25 to 43 million people could lose health insurance. Many will use social safety nets to obtain insurance, including Medicaid, the public health insurance program for low-income people. However, eligibility criteria varies from state to state, with more restrictions in Republican-led states.“It’s incredibly segmented and every state has a different story,” said Hempstead. “There’s 50 different experiences.”


[..] Of those who lose employer-based insurance, an estimated 7 million Americans will remain uninsured, and will lack access to healthcare during the worst pandemic in a century, RWJF predicted. Another 30 million people lacked insurance even before the pandemic, according to the Urban Institute. “You have people who think they have an infectious disease, but they don’t want to come forward to get tested or get treatment because they’re so worried about what kind of financial liabilities they will have,” said Hempstead. “This problem exposes, really, a lot of the inadequacies in our system.”

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Steven has no idea how much worse.

Unemployment Numbers ‘Will Get Worse Before They Get Better’ – Mnuchin (NPR)

The worst of the nation’s historic job losses are yet to come, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who told Fox News Sunday that “the reported numbers are probably going to get worse before they get better.” Mnuchin’s comments followed Friday’s report from the Labor Department showing the U.S. lost a staggering 20.5 million jobs in April, bringing the jobless rate to its highest level since the Great Depression — 14.7%. But even that figure fails to account for the millions of workers who have stopped searching for jobs or those considered “underemployed.” Asked by host Chris Wallace whether the nation’s true unemployment rate was close to 25%, Mnuchin responded, “we could be.”


“This is no fault of American business, this is no fault of American workers, this is a result of a virus,” he said before warning, “You’re going to have a very, very bad second quarter.” Two weeks ago, Mnuchin’s outlook was more optimistic — he told Wallace that the economy would reopen through June and “bounce back” over the summer. On Sunday, he said the economy would “have a better third quarter,” followed by “a better fourth quarter, and next year is going to be a great year.” The Trump Administration is considering additional stimulus measures, including a payroll tax cut, according to Mnuchin, who also said on Sunday, “We’re not gonna do things just to bail out states that were poorly managed.” But he said the White House would wait a “few weeks” before considering another relief bill.

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The BLS doesn’t have the data, so they release a report they know is false.

A 6.4 Million Discrepancy In The Employment Report (Mish)

There is a 6.4 million discrepancy between the change in employment level and the change in unemployment level. Such is a new all time record discrepancy between employment and unemployment in the Household Survey that measures the unemployment rate. I created the lead chart as follows: Discrepancy = Change in Employment Level – (-1 * Change in Unemployment Level)

Confirmation
• The number of employed fell by 22.369 million.
• Those unemployed only rose by 15.938 million.
• Employment discrepancy is 22.369 – 15.938 = 6.431 million

Negligible Labor Force Discrepancy
• Change in Labor Force: -6.431 Million
• Change in Not in Labor Force: +6.570 Million
• The labor force discrepancy is 6.570 – 6.431 = 0.139 million

Discrepancy Comparison
• Employment Discrepancy Percentage: 28.8%
• Labor Force Discrepancy Percentage: 2.1%

Unemployment Rate Formula
• Unemployment Rate = (Unemployed / Labor Force) * 100 Therefore, the unemployment Rate = (23.078 / 156.481) * 100 = 14.7% That is how the BLS calculated the unemployment rate.

Factoring in the Employment Discrepancy
• Unemployment Rate = ((23.078 + 6.431) / 156.481) * 100 = 18.6%

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They’re not going to rest until there’s an anti-hydroxychloroquine law.

Schumer Calls On VA Dep. To Explain Use Of HCQ (AP)

The Senate’s top Democrat on Sunday called on the Department of Veterans Affairs to explain why it allowed the use of an unproven drug on veterans for the coronavirus, saying patients may have been put at unnecessary risk. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said the VA needs to provide Congress more information about a recent bulk order for $208,000 worth of hydroxychloroquine. President Donald Trump has heavily promoted the malaria drug, without evidence, as a treatment for COVID-19. Schumer’s request comes after a whistleblower complaint filed this past week by former Health and Human Services official Rick Bright alleged that the Trump administration, eager for a quick fix to the onslaught of the coronavirus, wanted to “flood” hot spots in New York and New Jersey with the drug.

Major veterans organizations have urged VA to explain under what circumstances VA doctors initiate discussion of hydroxychloroquine with veterans as a treatment option. “There are concerns that they are using this drug when the medical evidence says it doesn’t help and could hurt,” Schumer said in an interview with The Associated Press. He said given the fact the malaria drug, despite being untested, had been repeatedly pushed publicly by Trump, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie must address whether anyone at the department was pressured by the White House or the administration to use hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.

Schumer said Wilkie also should answer questions about a recent analysis of VA hospital data that showed there were more deaths among patients given hydroxychloroquine versus standard care, including how much patients knew about the drug’s risks before taking it. Wilkie in recent weeks has denied that veterans were used as test subjects for the drug and that it was instead administered at government-run VA hospitals only when medically appropriate, with mutual consent between doctor and patient. Still, Wilkie has repeatedly declined to say how widely the drug was being used for COVID-19 and whether the department had issued broad guidance to doctors and patients on the use of the drug.

In a weekly call with veterans’ groups this past week, Wilkie continued to defend VA’s use of hydroxychloroquine. He dismissed the recent analysis of VA hospital data showing no benefits to patients, suggesting the poor outcomes were because the cases involved older, very sick veterans. He has not said whether the department will continue to use the drug. “Use of this medication for treatment of COVID-19 is considered ‘off label’ — perfectly legal and not rare,” he wrote in an April 29 letter to veterans’ groups.

Read more …

Meanwhile in the real world…

Maybe this should read “French Doctors Attempt Mass Cull Of Their Patients”.

Number Of Hydroxychloroquine Prescriptions Explodes In France (F.)

Despite the warnings around taking hydroxychloroquine to combat the symptoms of COVID-19, prescriptions in France have increased by as much as 7,000% in certain parts of the country since the pandemic began. As reported by La Provence, a study looking at the 466 million French prescriptions written since the pandemic began in France, show a huge spike in doctors prescribing the drug. In the last week of March, for instance, over 10,000 people were prescribed hydroxychloroquine in Marseille alone. In France and the U.S., the use of hydroxychloroquine has been fraught between those who think the risks are small enough to warrant widespread use and those who think that more research is required before widespread prescription.

Following research conducted in China, a French doctor, Didier Raoult–head of the IHU, the Institute of Infectious Diseases in Marseille–claimed at the beginning of March that he had successfully treated patients suffering from coronavirus with the drug. Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malarial drug also used to treat people suffering from lupus. It is sold under its trader name of Plaquénil in France. Shortly afterwards, President Trump, tweeted the same news, that a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin could work with patients. The latter is an anti-bacterial drug, given in tandem, to eliminate the risks of bacterial infection.

Health professionals were quick to point out that no one should be using the drug without further research showing clear evidence that the drugs do work under a peer-reviewed clinical trial. Dr Anthony Fauci, Trump’s advisor downplayed the drug’s impacts as purely “anecdotal” and others issued warnings that the drug can cause severe health impacts if taken in an unsupervised capacity, such as heart problems. Before the pandemic, an average of 50 prescriptions were written each day in Marseille for hydroxychloroquine. The day after Didier Raoult announced his findings in Marseille, this had jumped to 450 per day. On March 18th, that figure had spiked again and there were 5,000 prescriptions in just one day across the whole of France.

The research authors believe that 41,000 people were given the drug between March 16 and April 19. Prescriptions have been higher in Paris and Marseille (where Didier Raoult heads the IHU, the Institute of Infectious Diseases). The study also noted that most people who were granted access to the drug across France were from higher socio-economic groups.

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Indian doctors in New York. “In the absence of options such as remdesivir being available..” Well, we’ll take care of that..

Zinc Hope In Coronavirus Fight (Telegraph India)

Doctors have reported that adding zinc sulfate, a dietary supplement, to hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin may benefit patients with coronavirus disease, adding a twist to the controversy over the rationale for prescribing hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19. Doctors at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine have found that adding zinc sulfate to hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin already given to Covid-19 patients decreased the need for ventilation or admission to intensive care units, and lowered mortality. Their study provides the first evidence through patients that zinc sulfate in combination with the other two drugs may have a role in the treatment of Covid-19, the doctors said.

Their study was posted on Friday in a database for medical research but has not been peer-reviewed yet. “The latest evidence suggests against much benefit from hydroxychloroquine, but this study raises the question of possible benefit of zinc and hydroxychloroquine together,” Joseph Rahimian, the doctor who led the research, told The Telegraph via email. The findings could be relevant to India where experts with the Indian Council of Medical Research and other institutions have introduced the hydroxychloroquine-azithromycin combination for the treatment of Covid-19 patients. Rahimian and his colleagues introduced zinc sulfate to Covid-19 patients as New York entered the ranks of cities hit the hardest by the pandemic.


They tracked the outcomes of the infections in 521 patients who received hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin and 411 who received zinc sulfate in addition to the two drugs. They observed that adding zinc sulfate was associated with a “most striking” decrease in mortality among patients who did not require intensive care. The association was not significant among patients who were treated in intensive care, implying that the addition of zinc should be considered early during treatment. “The benefit is likely to be more pronounced with its earlier use,” Rahimian said. “In the absence of options such as remdesivir being available, zinc with hydroxychloroquine may be a consideration. A randomised trial of the two versus placebo would help clarify whether there is a clear benefit and (the) extent of any potential benefit,” he added.

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Guaidó’s Mercenary Hit Contract On Maduro Mirrors Official US Bounty (MacLeod)

Juan Guaidó was expecting to be in Venezuela’s Presidential Palace by now. But the comically bungling May 3 invasion attempt by US mercenaries and opposition members was the latest indication of the desperate measures he and his cronies have resorted to. The fighters hired under his name were immediately overpowered in the sleepy coastal village of Chuao by disgruntled members of the House of Socialist Fishermen, and some of the highly trained mercenaries appeared to literally wet themselves in terror when apprehended. Now, a 41-page contract outlining the details and conditions of the coup attempt has been leaked. It sheds new light on the arrangement between Guaidó and Silvercorp, the American private security firm he hired,.

The self-declared President of Venezuela promised to pay Jordan Goudreau, founder of the Florida-based firm, $212.9 million to capture, detain or “remove” President Nicolas Maduro and install him in his place. The contract goes into detail about who the mercenaries were allowed to engage in “kinetic strikes” (i.e. assassinate and kill). It first names a number of paramilitary organizations like the Colombian FARC, and bizarrely, Hezbollah, but also on the list are a number of “illegitimate Venezuelan forces,” that include any armed supporters of Maduro and Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello. Maduro and Cabello happen to be the same figures placed at the top of a US Drug Enforcement Agency hit list.

The US offered $15 million and $10 million respectively for their capture, effectively putting a bounty on the heads of the elected president and the head of his country’s main legislative body. The contract signed by Guaidó and Silvercorp also enables the killing of anyone they deem to be “armed and violent colectivos.” For a sector of Venezuela’s upper-class opposition, the term “colectivo” is a dehumanizing, oft-used catch-all term applied to any working-class person. Trade unionists, pro-government protestors, even anyone riding a motorcycle is presumed to be part of an armed and dangerous gang in the lurid fantasies of the light-skinned elitists of Eastern Caracas. Therefore, the contract essentially permits Silvercorp to kill any member of the government’s popular support base with impunity.

Perhaps more worrying, however, is what Silvercorp envisaged its role to be after a successful coup. The contract stipulates that the mercenary organization would “convert to a National Asset Unit that will act under the direction of the Administration [Guaidó] to counter threats to government stability, terror threats and work closely” with other security forces. Their missions would include, but not be limited to, surveillance, covert operations and target programming. In other words, Silvercorp would transform into a private paramilitary squad answerable only to Guaidó, crushing any opposition to his dictatorship, in much the same way death squads in Colombia and other Latin American countries have operated for decades.

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Chuck Todd is a far-left TV host? Boy, you Americans really have no idea what left and right is anymore.

This is insane al the same. He should be fired.

AG Barr’s Office Shreds Chuck Todd For ‘Deceptive Editing’ (DW)

Attorney General William Barr’s office slammed far-left NBC News host Chuck Todd on Sunday for “deceptive editing” after Todd took remarks that Barr made out of context and used the distorted remarks to smear the Department of Justice (DOJ). On “Meet The Press,” Todd used a deceptively edited portion of Barr’s interview last week with CBS News investigative reporter Catherine Herridge. Todd focused in on the following exchange between Barr and Herridge:

HERRIDGE: In closing, this was a big decision in the Flynn case, to say the least. When history looks back on this decision, how do you think it will be written? What will it say about your decision making?
BARR: Well, history is written by the winner. So it largely depends on who’s writing the history. But I think a fair history would say that it was a good decision because it upheld the rule of law. It helped, it upheld the standards of the Department of Justice, and it undid what was an injustice.

Todd only played the first two sentences of Barr’s comments where Barr said, “Well, history is written by the winner. So it largely depends on who’s writing the history.” Todd then launched into an attack on Barr, saying, “I was struck … by the cynicism of the answer. It’s a correct answer. But he’s the attorney general. He didn’t make the case that he was upholding the rule of law. He was almost admitting that, yeah, this is a political job.” Todd’s comments were false because the very next thing that Barr said, which Todd did not show his viewers, was: “But I think a fair history would say that it was a good decision because it upheld the rule of law. It helped, it upheld the standards of the Department of Justice, and it undid what was an injustice.”

Barr spokeswoman Kerri Kupec responded to the segment by posting screenshots on Twitter of the transcript from what Todd said and what Barr said in his CBS News interview last week, writing: “Very disappointed by the deceptive editing/commentary by @ChuckTodd on @MeetThePress on AG Barr’s CBS interview. Compare the two transcripts below. Not only did the AG make the case in the VERY answer Chuck says he didn’t, he also did so multiple times throughout the interview.”

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NSA, FBI, DNI have all been lying about Seth Rich for 4 years; hard to believe Mueller wasn’t in on it.

Why? They all knew the correspondence would kill off the Russian hacking story, and exonerate Assange. Couldn’t let that happen.

DNI Has Communications Between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks For 4 Years (GP)

Recently, transcripts of a conversation between George Papadopoulos and a confidential informant believed to be Stefan Halper were released by the DOJ. This transcript confirms that Papadopoulos was spied on and recorded, two things Papadopoulos was not told at the time of the case made against him by the Mueller gang. We know from our previous reporting that a Deep State Anti-Trump former Assistant US Attorney claimed under oath that the FBI did examine Seth Rich’s computer and that she met with an FBI Agent and prosecutor from the Mueller gang. This indicates the meeting should have been recorded in a form 302 but the FBI continues to claim no records related to Seth Rich are available!

We reported in mid-February how Attorney Ty Clevenger, who represents a client who is being sued for his comments about Seth Rich, reported to the courts that despite numerous assurances from the FBI that they had no information related to Seth Rich, emails related to Seth Rich were identified and provided to Judicial Watch. It looked like the FBI was lying to Clevenger all this time. Attorney Clevenger sent a letter to ADNI Rick Grenell that he should receive by this Monday. According to Ty, the NSA, knows exactly who sent the records to Wikileaks. So does the FBI. Seth Rich is the last shoe to drop, and the Trump Admin needs to hurry up and drop it. Clevenger goes on to state the most shocking statement related to the Russia collusion sham to date:


“I am reliably informed that the NSA or its partners intercepted at least some of the communications between Mr. Rich and Wikileaks. Before elaborating on that, however, I should first note the extent to which the “deep state” has already tried to cover up information about Mr. Rich. In an October 9, 2018 affidavit submitted in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, FBI section chief David M. Hardy testified that (1) the FBI did not investigate any matters pertaining to Mr. Rich, and (2) the FBI was unable to locate any records about Mr. Rich. Both claims were unequivocally false.” We now know there is no evidence Russia hacked the DNC and sent the hacked emails to WikiLeaks. Crowdstrike admitted this under oath and the Mueller Report backs this up. Attorney Ty Clevenger asserts the DNI has been covering up for 4 years the fact that they have communications between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks.

Read more …

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May 052020
 


G.G. Bain ‘Casino Theater playing musical ‘The Little Whopper’, NY 1920

 

30,000 New Cases, 3,000 New Deaths Daily Expected in US (CNN)
New Projection Puts US COVID19 Deaths At Nearly 135,000 By August (R.)
New Zealand PM: No Open Borders For ‘A Long Time’ (BBC)
Just 273 Of 18.1 Million People Arriving In UK Prior To Lockdown Quarantined (G.)
France’s First Known COVID19 Case ‘Was In December’ (BBC)
US Treasury Seeks To Borrow A Record $3 Trillion This Quarter (CNBC)
New York AG Asks Major Banks To Clarify Handling Of Small Business Loans (R.)
When the Birdies Sing Like the Fat Lady (Kunstler)
Apple, Google Ban Use Of Location Tracking In Contact Tracing Apps (R.)
Immunity Passports And Vaccination Certificates (Lancet)
‘Time Has Come’ For Universal Basic Income – Scottish PM Sturgeon (Ind.)
US Mortgage Firms Push For Support As Borrowers Halt Payments (R.)
Safe Climate Niche Closing Fast, With Billions At Risk (SMH)
Assange Extradition Hearing Delayed Until September (PR)

 

 

• The tally by Johns Hopkins University recorded 1,015 deaths in the past 24 hours, the lowest one-day figure in a month, with more than 1.17 million cases in the country as of 8:30 pm Monday (0030 GMT Tuesday), and a total 68,689 deaths

• US is improving only in NY,NY,CT and MA. Exclude those states and numbers are rising:

 

 

And while we’re at it, another success story: Sweden.

 

 

 

Cases 3,662,271 (+ 79,382 from yesterday’s 3,582,889)

Deaths 252,747 (+ 4,180 from yesterday’s 248,567)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

I don’t want to quote CNN anymore than NYT or WaPo, but I was looking for these numbers, and CNN has them here. Note: they are from different sources, and the CDC one is only a draft “report”, of which the White House said it’s “not reflective of any of the modeling” done by the White House Coronavirus Task Force or “data that the task force has analyzed.”

Indicative of the level at which CNN “functions” are sentences like these: “Trump, who has consistently appeared to care most about his political prospects during three miserable months..”

30,000 New Cases, 3,000 New Deaths Daily Expected in US (CNN)

President Donald Trump now knows the price of the haunting bargain required to reopen the country — tens of thousands more lives in a pandemic that is getting worse not better. It’s one he now appears ready to pay, if not explain to the American people, at a moment of national trial that his administration has constantly underplayed. Depressing new death toll projections and infection data on Monday dashed the optimism stirred by more than half the country taking various steps to reopen an economy that is vital to Trump’s reelection hopes and has shed more than 30 million jobs. Stay-at-home orders slowed the virus and flattened the curve in hotspots like New York and California, but they have so far failed to halt its broader advance, leaving the nation stuck on a grim plateau of about 30,000 new cases a day for nearly a month.

New evidence of the likely terrible future toll of Covid-19 came on a day when Trump stayed out of sight — his wild briefings that hurt his political prospects now paused — meaning he could not be questioned on his enthusiasm for state openings in the light of new evidence. The White House also took new steps to limit testimony to the House from members of the President’s coronavirus task force, prompting Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi to warn on CNN that it was “afraid of the truth.” Trump, who has consistently appeared to care most about his political prospects during three miserable months, mounted another victory lap on Monday — boasting on Twitter that he was finally getting “great reviews” for his virus management.

A new model from the University of Washington, previously used by the White House suggested that 134,000 Americans could now die by August — in a revised toll prompted by the likely impact of state openings. The total was more than double the same organization’s estimate last month. A draft internal report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention obtained by The New York Times buckled the White House narrative that the worst of the pandemic is passed and it’s time to get going again. It found that the daily death toll will reach about 3,000 by June 1, nearly double the current number.

Read more …

More from the IHME.

New Projection Puts US COVID19 Deaths At Nearly 135,000 By August (R.)

A new forecast projects nearly 135,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the United States through the beginning of August mainly due to reopening measures under way, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington said on Monday. The forecast U.S. death toll through early August totaled 134,475, a midrange between 95,092 and 242,890, the IHME said. The revised projection almost doubles the number of deaths foreseen in the United States since the last estimate in mid-April. The new projections reflect rising mobility and the easing of social distancing measures expected in 31 states by May 11, said the IHME, whose models are used by the White House.


The increasing contacts among people will promote transmission of the coronavirus, it said. “This new model is the basis for the sobering new estimate of U.S. deaths,” said IHME director Christopher Murray, referring to the reopening measures. The IHME said its new model assumes that public health orders that are currently in place will stay in place until infections are minimized. The IHME’s forecast increases the projected number of deaths in the U.S. by more than 62,000, with a rise of more than 8,700 deaths in New Jersey and more than 7,800 in New York state for the same period, up from estimates released last month.

Read more …

Good thing the Lord of the Rings is finished.

New Zealand PM: No Open Borders For ‘A Long Time’ (BBC)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the country will not have open borders with the rest of the world for “a long time to come”. Ms Ardern was speaking after attending part of Australia’s cabinet meeting via video link. The meeting discussed a possible “trans-Tasman bubble”, where people could go between Australia and New Zealand freely, and without quarantine. But she said visitors from further afield were not possible any time soon. Both Australia and New Zealand have closed their borders to almost all foreigners as part of their Covid-19 response. Ms Ardern said New Zealand and Australia were discussing a “bubble of sorts between us, a safe zone of travel”.


She stressed there was “a lot of work to be done before we can progress…but it’s obviously been floated because of the benefits it would bring”. But, in response to a question about the country’s tourism sector, Ms Ardern said: “We will not have open borders for the rest of the world for a long time to come.” Tourism is one of New Zealand’s biggest industries, directly employing almost 10% of the country’s workforce, and contributing almost 6% of GDP. Most visitors are from Australia, followed by China, the US, and the UK. Ms Ardern said any “trans-Tasman bubble” was only possible because of “the world leading actions” of both countries.

Read more …

And few and far between after, from what I’ve seen.

Just 273 Of 18.1 Million People Arriving In UK Prior To Lockdown Quarantined (G.)

Fewer than 300 people out of the 18.1 million who entered the UK in the three months prior to the coronavirus lockdown were formally quarantined, figures reveal. Passengers on three flights from Wuhan, in China, the source of the Covid-19 outbreak, and one flight from Tokyo, Japan, that was carrying passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, were taken to government-supported isolation facilities between 1 January to 22 March. The figures, provided by the government to the Labour MP and member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Stephen Doughty, show this totalled 273 people. Additional data provided to the committee shows that there were 18.1m arrivals at the UK border by air, land and sea in the same period.

Although that includes arrivals from all destinations, it is understood that Home Office estimates would still put the number of potentially infected individuals entering the UK from coronavirus-affected countries in that period in the tens of thousands. Doughty said: “The admission that just four flights from two locations, barely a few hundred individuals – out of literally millions of arrivals – were formally quarantined while the pandemic was already raging in a series of locations beggars belief. “On what scientific basis were a handful of flights from Wuhan and one from a Tokyo singled out for extreme attention? But not a single flight from Northern Italy, Spain or the US?

“The fact that many of these people then likely arrived and travelled onwards across the UK with little or no adherence to social distancing, and with no checks or protections at the border – barely a whiff of hand sanitiser – is deeply disturbing. Let alone the arrival of 3,000 fans from Madrid as the pandemic picked up speed.

Read more …

But I thought the French strand didn’t come from China?!

France’s First Known COVID19 Case ‘Was In December’ (BBC)

A patient diagnosed with pneumonia near Paris on 27 December actually had the coronavirus, his doctor has said. Dr Yves Cohen told French media a swab taken at the time was recently tested, and came back positive for Covid-19. The patient, who has since fully recovered, said he had no idea where he caught the virus as he had not been to any infected areas. This news means the virus may have arrived in France almost a month earlier than previously thought. Dr Cohen, head of emergency medicine at Avicenne and Jean-Verdier hospitals near Paris, said the patient was a 43-year-old man from Bobigny, north-east of Paris. He was exhibiting what later became to be known as the main symptoms of coronavirus, including a dry cough, a fever and trouble breathing.


He was admitted to hospital on 27 December, four days before the World Health Organization’s China country office was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause being detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The French patient told French broadcaster BFMTV that he had not travelled before falling sick. Dr Cohen said two of the patient’s children had fallen ill but that the wife had not shown any symptoms. But Dr Cohen pointed out that the patient’s wife worked at a supermarket near Charles de Gaulle airport and could have come into contact with people who had recently arrived from China. The patient’s wife said that “often customers would come directly from the airport, still carrying their suitcases”.

Read more …

The banks need more help, I’m sure.

US Treasury Seeks To Borrow A Record $3 Trillion This Quarter (CNBC)

Massive stimulus to support the U.S. economy through the coronavirus crisis will cause the Treasury to borrow a record $3 trillion this quarter. The department on Monday announced the total, which is actually $2.999 trillion. “The increase in privately-held net marketable borrowing is primarily driven by the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, including expenditures from new legislation to assist individuals and businesses, changes to tax receipts including the deferral of individual and business taxes from April – June until July, and an increase in the assumed end-of-June Treasury cash balance,” the department said in a statement. On top of that borrowing, the Treasury also said it anticipates another $677 billion in the third quarter. First-quarter borrowing totaled $477 billion.


The red ink comes thanks to multiple stimulus efforts Congress has passed to resuscitate an economy brought to a standstill amid social distancing efforts to halt the virus spread. Allocations thus far have totaled more than $2 trillion, and at last one more package is expected to help the more than 30 million Americans who have hit the unemployment line as well as thousands of other businesses that have seen their revenue streams evaporate. The Treasury Department also is backstopping several lending programs for the Federal Reserve, which is leveraging Treasury guarantees in programs aimed at providing another $2.2 trillion in funding to businesses and households.

Read more …

They’ll laugh in her face.

New York AG Asks Major Banks To Clarify Handling Of Small Business Loans (R.)

New York’s Attorney General said on Monday she has asked 11 major U.S. banks to clarify how they had issued loans tied to the U.S government’s $660 billion program to rescue small businesses from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Known as the Paycheck Protection Program, the plan was intended to help small firms weather the worst global economic crisis in decades but has been hobbled by missing paperwork, technology failure and a misdirection of funds to big corporations. Attorney General Letitia James said she is seeking information on the practices, marketing and procedures that banks undertook when they issued those loans.


Also of interest is whether some companies had used their lobbying power to influence the way banks had dispensed the loans, she said. “We are concerned that women and minority groups did not have equal access to loans,” James said in an interview, adding that she worried a disproportionate amount of money had flowed to big companies. A spokesman for James declined to name the 11 banks that had received a letter from the office, sent on April 29, but said they are “large” U.S. banks. The United States has been hardest hit by the coronavirus, which causes a respiratory disease, having seen 67,821 deaths in the country, higher than any other nation in the world.

Read more …

“The beauty of springtime is sublime and, as Edmund Burke noted, that very beauty provokes our thoughts of pain and terror.”

When the Birdies Sing Like the Fat Lady (Kunstler)

And so here we are at a fraught moment in the convergent crises of corona virus and the foundering economic system that it infected, with all its frightful pre-existing conditions. Of course, it isn’t capitalism, so-called, that is failing, but the perversions of capitalism, starting with the appendage of the troublesome term: ism. It isn’t a religion, or even a pseudo-religion like Zoroastrianism or communism. It’s simply the management system for surplus wealth. In a hyper-complex society, the management of wealth naturally grows hyper-complex, too, with lavish opportunities and temptations for chicanery, cheating, fraud, and swindling (the perversions of capital). It’s in the interest of the managers to cloak all that hyper-complex perversity in opaque language, to make it seem okay.

How many ordinary Americans have a clue what all the Municipal Liquidity Facilities, Primary Dealer Credit Facilities, Primary and Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facilities, Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facilities, Main Street New Loan Facilities and Expanded Loan Facilities, Commercial Paper Funding Facilities, currency swap lines, the TALFs TARPs, PPPs, SPVs represent – besides the movement, by keystrokes, of “money” from one netherworld to another (both conveniently located on Wall Street), usually to the loss of non-elite citizens generally and to their offspring’s offspring’s offspring?

Real capital is grounded in the production of real things of real value, of course, and when it’s detached from all that, it’s no longer real capital. Money represents capital, and when the capital isn’t real, the money represents…nothing! And ceases to be real money. Just now, America is producing almost nothing except money, money in quantities that stupefy the imagination – trillions here, there, and everywhere. The trouble is that money is vanishing as fast as it’s being created. That’s because it’s based on promises to be paid back into existence that will never be kept, on top of prior promises to pay back money that were broken or are in the process of breaking. The net result is that money is actually disappearing faster than it can be created, even in vast quantities.

All this sounds like metaphysical bullshit, I suppose, but we are obviously watching money disappear. Your paycheck is gone. That activity you started – a brew-pub, a gym, an ad agency – no longer produces revenue. The HR department at the giant company you work for told you: don’t bother coming into the office tomorrow, or possibly ever again. Your bills are piling up. The numbers in your bank account run to zero. That sure smells like money disappearing. Wait until the pension checks and the SNAP cards mysteriously stop landing in the mailbox. There’s going to be a lot of trouble. Ordinary Americans are going to get super-pissed if money doesn’t disappear from the stock markets, too.

Read more …

Every country develops its own app. And they’re all the best one, I’m sure.

Apple, Google Ban Use Of Location Tracking In Contact Tracing Apps (R.)

Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday said they would ban the use of location tracking in apps that use a new contact tracing system the two are building to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Apple and Google, whose operating systems power 99% of smart phones, said last month they would work together to create a system for notifying people who have been near others who have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The companies plan to allow only public health authorities to use the technology. Both companies said privacy and preventing governments from using the system to compile data on citizens was a primary goal. The system uses Bluetooth signals from phones to detect encounters and does not use or store GPS location data.

But the developers of official coronavirus-related apps in several U.S. states told Reuters last month it was vital they be allowed to use GPS location data in conjunction with the new contact tracing system to track how outbreaks move and identify hotspots. The Apple-Google decision to not allow GPS data collection with their contact tracing system will require public health authorities that want to access GPS location to rely on what Apple and Google have described as unstable, battery-draining workarounds. Alternatives likely would miss some encounters because iPhones and Android devices turn off Bluetooth connections after some time for battery-saving and other reasons unless users remember to re-activate them. But some apps said they planned to stick to their own approaches.

Software company Twenty, which developed the state of Utah’s Healthy Together contact tracing app with both GPS and Bluetooth, said on Monday the app “operates effectively” without the new Apple-Google tool. “If their approach can be more effective than our current solution, we’ll eagerly incorporate their features into our existing application, provided it meets the specifications of current and prospective public health partners,” Twenty said. Canada’s Alberta province, which does not collect GPS data, said it has no plans to adopt the Apple-Google system for its ABTraceTogether app. Privacy experts have warned that any cache of location data related to health issues could make businesses and individuals vulnerable to being ostracized if the data is exposed. Apple and Google also said Monday they will allow only one app per country to use the contact system, to avoid fragmentation and encourage wider adoption. The companies said they would, however, support countries that opt for a state or regional approach, and that U.S. states will be allowed to use the system.

Read more …

The Lancet should stand for quality. So sure, talk about why immunity passports won’t work. But what’s the use of discussing vaccination certificates when there’s no vaccine?

Immunity Passports And Vaccination Certificates (Lancet)

Many governments are looking for paths out of restrictive physical distancing measures imposed to control the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). With a potential vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) many months away,1 one proposal that some governments have suggested, including Chile, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the USA,2 is the use of immunity passports—ie, digital or physical documents that certify an individual has been infected and is purportedly immune to SARS-CoV-2. Individuals in possession of an immunity passport could be exempt from physical restrictions and could return to work, school, and daily life. However, immunity passports pose considerable scientific, practical, equitable, and legal challenges.

On April 24, 2020, WHO highlighted current knowledge and technical limitations, advising “[t]here is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection…[a]t this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an ‘immunity passport’”.3 In a follow-up tweet, WHO clarified that it is expected that infection with SARS-CoV-2 will result in some form of immunity.4 Caution is warranted about how population level serology studies and individual tests are used. It is not yet established whether the presence of detectable antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 confers immunity to further infection in humans and, if so, what amount of antibody is needed for protection or how long any such immunity lasts.3

Data from sufficiently representative serological studies will be important for understanding the proportion of a population that has been infected with SARS-CoV-2. These data might inform decisions to ease physical distancing restrictions at the community level, provided that they are used in combination with other public health approaches.5 The use of seroprevalence data to inform policy making will depend on the accuracy and reliability of tests, particularly the number of false-positive and false-negative results, and requires further validation.6

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Not her decision, so easy talk. And the Tories will never go there.

‘Time Has Come’ For Universal Basic Income – Scottish PM Sturgeon (Ind.)

The “time has come” for universal basic income (UBI) in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has said. Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, the first minister said there will be “constructive discussions” with the UK government on the matter. Under the scheme, residents would be given a universal payment from the government, with some benefits scrapped. The Scottish government has brought forward four pilots of a similar scheme in different council areas, but it is the UK government that has the ultimate power over creating a national scheme. When asked about the move at the briefing, the first minister said: “The experience of the virus and the economic consequences of that have actually made me much, much more strongly of the view that it is an idea that’s time has come.


The Scottish government would need more control over taxation and social security to make such a scheme a reality but the first minister said she hopes to “get into a constructive discussion” with the UK government about the scheme. She added she would like conversations to take place “hopefully reasonably quickly” after the coronavirus pandemic is over. The first minister added: “Watch this space.” Think tank Reform Scotland devised a detailed proposal for a UBI scheme. It would consist of an annual payment of £5,200 a year for adults and £2,600 for those under 16. Annually, the scheme would cost the Scottish government £20 billion, with measures found to raise £18.34 billion in revenue to support the scheme. When the think tank published its report in April, the first minister described it as “interesting and timely”, adding the coronavirus outbreak strengthened the case “immeasurably”.

Read more …

Support the most bloated zombies! Or: look, if you want to support these guys, forget about supporting anyone else.

US Mortgage Firms Push For Support As Borrowers Halt Payments (R.)

U.S. mortgage firms facing billions of dollars of missed home loan repayments are continuing to push for emergency government support as data published Monday showed a further rise in borrowers asking to halt payments. The number of people seeking to have mortgage payments paused or reduced rose to 7.5% as of April 26 from 7.0% a week earlier as the economic effects of the novel coronavirus outbreak stretched household finances, figures from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) showed. The MBA estimates that 3.8 million homeowners are now in forbearance. The surge in delayed payments could leave mortgage service companies, which pool home loans and sell them to investors, with a liquidity shortfall of as much as $100 billion over the next nine months, according to the MBA.


That is because mortgage servicers still have to advance scheduled payments to investors even if borrowers fail to make their payments. Mortgage servicers want the Federal Reserve and Treasury to introduce an emergency liquidity facility to cover those payments but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week there were no current plans to offer such a lifeline. In an interview, the MBA’s Chief Executive Officer Bob Broeksmit said it was still discussing the issues with the Fed, Treasury and Federal Housing Finance Agency. “We don’t see it as the end of the matter,” he said. “We understand that the Fed and Treasury will continue to monitor the situation. We continue to advocate for the facility so we can prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Read more …

“..3.5 billion people will be exposed to “near-unliveable” temperatures averaging 29 degrees through the year by 2070 [..] That heat compares with the narrow 11- to 15-degree range that has supported civilisation over the past six millennia

Safe Climate Niche Closing Fast, With Billions At Risk (SMH)

As much as one-third of the world’s population will be exposed to Sahara Desert-like heat within half a century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at the pace of recent years. Scientists from China, the US and Europe found that the narrow climate niche that has supported human society would shift more over the next 50 years than it had in the preceding 6000 years. As many as 3.5 billion people will be exposed to “near-unliveable” temperatures averaging 29 degrees through the year by 2070. Less than 1 per cent of the Earth’s surface now endures such heat. That heat compares with the narrow 11- to 15-degree range that has supported civilisation over the past six millennia, according to research published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Absent climate mitigation or migration, a substantial part of humanity will be exposed to mean annual temperatures warmer than nearly anywhere today,” the paper said. Xu Chi, a researcher at China’s Nanjing University and one of the paper’s authors, said: “We were frankly blown away by our own initial results. As our findings were so striking, we took an extra year to carefully check all assumptions and computations.” “Clearly we will need a global approach to safeguard our children against the potentially enormous social tensions the projected change could invoke.” Among the most exposed nations will be India – where many people live in “already-hot places” – with as many as 1.2 billion people likely to be forced to move if population and warming trends continue. For Nigeria, the number exposed could be 485 million, according to a media release distributed along with the paper.

The scenario used projected the total populations in India and Nigeria to reach 2.2 billion and 600 million, respectively, by 2070, Dr Xu told the Herald and The Age. In Australia, areas of Western Australia and the Northern Territory home to about 200,000 people will be at risk. The research extended current population and greenhouse gas emissions trends into the future, and excluded impacts from the coronavirus pandemic on both. The researchers also considered possible rainfall changed. “The global pattern of population distribution seems less constrained by precipitation – while there is also an optimum around 1000 mm [of rainfall a year ] – so we focused on temperature,” Dr Xu said. “Changes of precipitation regime would definitely have impacts, but such impacts together those of temperature change would be more complex to foresee.”

Read more …

“The UK is proud to be part of the Media Freedom Coalition championing press freedom around the world today.”

Assange Extradition Hearing Delayed Until September (PR)

Hearings in the extradition of WikiLeaks founder, publisher, and editor Julian Assange will resume in September after being postponed from May 18 because of the coronavirus outbreak, which would have prevented lawyers from attending the hearing. Judge Vanessa Baraitser said it would not be possible for it to recommence this month because of strict restrictions on gatherings to curb the spread of COVID-19. Assange’s lawyers have said they have been unable to discuss the case with their client since the coronavirus outbreak. “There have always been great difficulties in getting access to Mr. Assange. But with the coronavirus outbreak, the preparation of this case cannot be possible,” his attorney Edward Fitzgerald told the court. Today, Judge Baraitser said the case would be moved to another Crown Court in September, once one with availability is secured.

The parties were unable to schedule the three week hearing for July or August. In addition, time was needed so that US prosecutors could attend the hearing. The Daily Mail reported the government lawyer, James Lewis, saying, ‘We think it is doubtful flights will have resumed earlier than then so we would rather have a September date because it gives more opportunity to have the American prosecutors actually in court.’ The parties agreed September 7 as the earliest date for the hearings to resume, although an exact date and an appropriate venue were yet to be decided. “It’s going to take some negotiation to find a Crown Court that is open in September, in the current climate, and willing and available to take this hearing,” Judge Baraitser said in Westminster Magistrates’ Court today. The judge will announce the new location, which might be outside London, and the start date for the remaining three weeks of the hearing in writing to the lawyers on Friday.

Assange was not able to attend Monday’s hearing via videolink because his lawyers said he was not well enough to appear. Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief, said in a video posted on social media on Monday that it was “completely unacceptable” that Assange has to spend another four months — and potentially longer — in prison. He described the hearing as a disgrace and denounced the tiny courtroom where only a few journalists could attend. He said this was not open justice and it needs to end. [..] Assange’s father John Shipton was delighted about the delay, saying it will allow family and supporters from Australia to attend. He’s also optimistic Assange might not be behind bars for the whole four months. He said, ‘I’m hoping there will be a very strong and firm bail application. It appears his lawyers held the power in today’s hearing and got the hearing dates they wanted, so it’s a good sign.’

Read more …

 

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CNN in Greece

 

 

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May 032020
 


Wyland Stanley Pedestrians ascending steep grade, San Francisco 1940

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Yeah, sure, open it all up.

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

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


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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Also new information.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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This is going to lead to real life battles.

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

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


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

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Saudi Arabia is becoming a hit fast.

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

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


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

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Ease a little and then flare back up.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Incompetence as an official statement.

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

European Leaders Join Forces To Combat COVID19 (PA)

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


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

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

I think it’s one of the few positives.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Coronavirus Is Rewriting Our Imaginations (NYer)

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

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

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

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

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

Warren Buffett Sold All His Airline Stocks (MF)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 022020
 


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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

They thought it through.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Subways and elevators are Russian roulette systems.

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

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

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

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

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

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

It does nothing to enhance chances of survival.

US Approves Remdesivir for Coronavirus Treatment (GR)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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One nursing home compared to another.

Manhattan Nursing Home Reports 98 Coronavirus Deaths (G.)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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After all the recent hearings, why should they comply?

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

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


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

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Good cop bad cop.

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

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

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

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

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Crazy choices to make.

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

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

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

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

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

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Critical care is not a happy place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slouching Toward Resolution (Jim Kunstler)

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

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

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

Read more …

The mother of Julian’s children.

Why Julian Assange Must Urgently Be Freed (Stella Moris)

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

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

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

Read more …

 

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Bench in library of Alexandria, Egypt

 

 

 

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Apr 282020
 


Jack Delano Bridge with 5-ton coal bucket, Milwaukee Western Fuel Co 1942

 

World Should Have ‘Listened Carefully’ To WHO Advice In January – Tedros (RT)
Germany ‘Rejected China’s Bid For Positive Spin’ On Pandemic Response (SCMP)
COVID19 Mortality In French ICUs 3 To 4 Times Higher Than Reported (RT)
Pelosi Changes Position On Trump Travel Ban Once Called Racist (Turley)
Judge Blocks 30-Day Extension Of Illinois Stay-at-Home Order (CBS)
Alaska Girl Scouts Received PPP Loan For Lost Cookie Sales (AP)
US Doctors Have Started Giving Men With Coronavirus Estrogen (DM)
Italy, UK Explore Possible COVID19 Link To Child Inflammatory Disease (R.)
PETA Presses Pentagon To Stop Troops From Drinking Cobra Blood (Hill)
The Great Conundrum (Kunstler)
Gundlach Is Shorting The Market: Retest Of The Low ‘Very Plausible’ (CNBC)
‘Ducati’ Banknotes Issued To Italian Town Residents (VD)
Amartya Sen: Economics Needs A Moral Awakening (K.)
Brazil Court OKs Investigating Allegations Against Bolsonaro (R.)
Biden’s Conspiracy Theory Given Credence By Media, Democratic Leaders (Turley)
Former Neighbor Of Joe Biden’s Accuser Tara Reade Has Come Forward (BI)
Julian Assange Extradition Hearing Postponed For Up To Six Months (CW)

 

 

• Reported US coronavirus deaths on date:
Feb. 27: 0 deaths
Mar. 27: 1,588 deaths
Apr. 27: 56,255 deaths

 

 

Cases 3,080,101 (+ 71,905 from yesterday’s 3,008,196)

Deaths 212,265 (+ 4,904 from yesterday’s 207,361)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – Among Closed Cases, Deaths have fallen to 19%

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

• On December 31 China and Taiwan tell WHO of “new pneumonia of unknown origin”.
• On January 30 “we declared the highest level of global emergency on Covid-19” (“Public Health Emergency of International Concern”)
• Why did WHO wait 6 more weeks, until March 11, to declare a pandemic? And isn’t that actually “the highest level of global emergency”?

World Should Have ‘Listened Carefully’ To WHO Advice In January – Tedros (RT)

Countries that ignored the WHO’s advice at the end of January have been less successful in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, its director warned, as both the organization and world leaders face criticism for mishandling the crisis. “On January 30 we declared the highest level of global emergency on Covid-19 […] During that time, as you may remember, there were only 82 cases outside China. No cases in Latin America or Africa, only 10 cases in Europe. No cases in the rest of the world. So the world should have listened to the WHO then carefully,” World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a virtual press briefing on Monday.


He added that the countries which followed the WHO’s advice – by extensively testing their populations and implementing contact-tracing technologies – are “in a better position than others,” but that the WHO only operates in an advisory capacity and cannot mandate governments to follow its recommendations. However, even as the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” on January 30, critics were already arguing that the declaration was too late and didn’t convey the seriousness of the looming pandemic. Moreover, Tedros’ organization assured the public less than two weeks earlier that the virus couldn’t pass from person to person, and even as infections soared in late January and early February, the WHO insisted that travel bans – particularly those affecting China – were “ineffective” and promoted “stigma.”

Read more …

EU tones down report on China, Germany does not.

Germany ‘Rejected China’s Bid For Positive Spin’ On Pandemic Response (SCMP)

China asked Germany to put Chinese efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic in a positive light but Berlin rejected the request, German officials have said, countering statements by Chinese diplomats. The comments came to light on the weekend, just days after diplomatic sources in Europe said the European Union toned down a report detailing Chinese disinformation campaigns amid threats from Beijing. They also come as some Conservative Party parliamentarians in Britain have formed a new group to reassess relations with China. According to the German interior ministry, Chinese diplomats approached German government officials to encourage them to speak out in favour of Beijing’s response to the pandemic.

“The German government is aware of individual contacts made by Chinese diplomats with the aim of effecting positive public statements on the coronavirus management by the People’s Republic of China,” the ministry said in a letter to the Bundestag. “The federal government has not complied with these requests.” The letter, dated April 22, was sent to Green Party legislator Margarete Bause, one of the fiercest critics in Germany of the Chinese Communist Party, in response to her question on whether Chinese diplomats had contacted German officials with the goal of encouraging them to make positive remarks. The ministry said the government had acknowledged China’s efforts to contain the pandemic, particularly since January 23, even without being asked to do so by Beijing.

It also said that Berlin had told Beijing that it believed that transparency was important for combating the pandemic, without saying whether it believed the Chinese government had been transparent. News of the letter emerged on Sunday, the same day that the Chinese embassy in Berlin dismissed an earlier media report saying Chinese diplomats asked their German counterparts to send positive messages to recognise Beijing’s efforts. The Chinese diplomatic moves were first reported on April 12 by German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. The Chinese embassy accused the newspaper of “inaccurate and irresponsible reporting” that was filled with “arrogance and a feel-good attitude”.

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Same story all over. But YouTube banning that video is not a good sign.

COVID19 Mortality In French ICUs 3 To 4 Times Higher Than Reported (RT)

The number of people dying of the novel coronavirus in French intensive care units could be between three and four times higher than the figure provided by the French government, Le Monde newspaper reports, citing a new study. Between 30 and 40 percent of all Covid-19 patients, who are transferred to intensive care units and are put on ventilators in France, are dying, a new study by the European Research Network on Artificial Ventilation (REVA) suggests. This figure is several times higher than the data revealed by Jerome Salomon, the director general for health, a high-ranking official within the French interior ministry. Back in mid-April, Salomon said that the mortality rate in French intensive care units is only 10%.

Now, these estimates are disputed by a collaborative clinical research network uniting up to 200 intensive care centers across France and financed under the health ministry’s own hospital clinical research program (PHRC). As of Sunday, 4,682 Covid-19 patients were treated in intensive care units across France. The study conducted by REVA involved an analysis of 1,000 similar cases of patients who were treated between March 28 and April 25. Matthieu Schmidt, an intensivist at one of Europe’s largest hospitals – Pitie-Salpetriere University Hospital in Paris – and a REVA coordinator, described the mortality rate as “a huge figure.” The medics are still evaluating some data provided by several centers and the eventual figures could be slightly adjusted.

The general trend is unlikely to change and Schmidt described it as “indicative” of the situation in French intensive care. “We have never seen such death rates,” he told Le Monde, adding that the mortality rate during the 2009 swine flu outbreak stood at 25 percent even “with the most serious cases.” He added, however, that Covid-19-linked figures might not be a result of the French health system’s shortcomings but rather an indication that the novel coronavirus causes a severe complex pathology, which is not limited to pneumonia alone. Apart from causing pulmonary organs failure, the disease also causes severe inflammation and affects the vascular system and kidneys, the doctor said.

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‘‘The Trump Administration’s expansion of its outrageous, un-American travel ban threatens our security, our values and the rule of law.”

[..] “Tens of thousands of people were still allowed in from China”.

Yes, but those were Americans

Pelosi Changes Position On Trump Travel Ban Once Called Racist (Turley)

This weekend, CNN’s Jake Tapper did an excellent interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi where he drilled down on one of the most glaring contradictions in the Democratic narrative against President Donald Trump. Pelosi and other Democrats excoriated Trump for his order to block travel from China on January 30th. Pelosi was also in late February calling for people to mass in Chinatown in San Francisco to protest Trump’s comments and actions on China. Now, however, Pelosi is saying the problem was that the travel ban did not go far enough?

The Democrats have been struggling to negate the fact that Trump’s action in January counteracts the criticism that he did nothing, particularly when even that action was opposed by Democrats. Interviews on Sunday were damaging in a number of ways for that effort. In a different interview on Face the Nation, Mayor London Breed also tried to downplay the value of the travel ban by suggesting that she and other were already acting in December and declared an emergency in February. She then added that it is good that Chinatown “basically was a ghost town” in January.” While she referenced the “zenophobia” cited by Pelosi, she appeared to say that it was fortunate that no one was gathering in Chinatown. However in late February, Pelosi was encouraging people to mass in Chinatown.

Tapper’s interview pressed the point. When the order was imposed, Pelosi was publicly and vehemently opposed to even the notion of a ban: ‘‘The Trump Administration’s expansion of its outrageous, un-American travel ban threatens our security, our values and the rule of law.” Now however the order was not racist, but too little too late: “Tens of thousands of people were still allowed in from China. It wasn’t as it is described as this great moment. … If you’re going to shut the door because you have an evaluation of an epidemic, then shut the door”

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Times like these can unite people, or divide them even further.

Judge Blocks 30-Day Extension Of Illinois Stay-at-Home Order (CBS)

A southern Illinois judge on Monday blocked Governor J.B. Pritzker’s 30-day extension of the state’s stay-at-home order, granting a temporary restraining order sought by a Republican state lawmaker who argued the governor overstepped his authority, CBS Chicago reports. Pritzker, however, has vowed to appeal the ruling. CBS affiliate WCIA-TV reports Clay County Circuit Court Judge Michael McHaney granted a restraining order to temporarily block the governor’s latest executive order Monday afternoon. While the judge’s ruling only spares Bailey from the extended stay-at-home order, it does open the door for others in Illinois to join the lawsuit, or file their own. Pritzker said the state Attorney General’s Office will appeal the ruling.

“My team and I will fight this legal battle to the furthest extent possible, to ensure the public health and commonsense, and that those prevail,” he said. “This ruling has put the people of Illinois at risk. I sincerely hope that this matter will be brought to a swift resolution so that we can go back to placing our undivided attention on the work of keeping people safe.” A visibly angry Pritzker lashed out at Bailey, accusing him of putting the public in danger. “Rep. Darren Bailey’s decision to take to the courts to try and dismantle public health directives designed to keep people safe is an insult to all Illinoisans who have been lost during this COVID-19 crisis, and it’s a danger to millions of people who may get ill because of his recklessness,” Pritzker said shortly after the ruling.

“It’s insulting, it’s dangerous, and people’s safety and health has now been put at risk; there may be people who contract coronavirus as a result of what Darren Bailey has done.” The governor said his stay-at-home order has prevented tens of thousands of COVID-19 illnesses and thousands of deaths.

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To pay for magic trick lessons? Really?

Alaska Girl Scouts Received PPP Loan For Lost Cookie Sales (AP)

Selling Girl Scout cookies is normally a foolproof business model, but the coronavirus outbreak cooled sales of for Alaska scourts. The Girl Scouts of Alaska looked for help and the group is expected to receive a federal recovery loan to help compensate for lost cookie sales. First National Bank Alaska facilitated the federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, The Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday. Leslie Ridle, head of one of Alaska’s two Girl Scouts councils, said fears of girls becoming infected with COVID-19 forced the organization to cut its six-week sales season in half. Cookie sales fund nearly everything the council does, including camps and scholarships for 3,500 girls and wages for 20 full-time employees.


“It was frenzied shopping, and people were hoarding cookies like they were toilet paper,” Ridle said of sales before the state ordered business closures last month. Now her Anchorage-based council is sitting on about 144,000 unsold boxes filling the homes of scouting families in southern Alaska, Ridle said. “I’m hearing from lots of families: ‘When am I getting these out of my living rooms?’ ” Ridle said. A First National Bank Alaska loan officer called at night and on weekends, including Easter Sunday, to gather information to obtain the loan, which arrived in the council’s bank account last week, Ridle said. The funding allowed employees to continue working and provide online programs for Girl Scouts stuck at home, like magic trick lessons and flamenco dancing.

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And teach them how to smoke too. WIld assumptions galore.

US Doctors Have Started Giving Men With Coronavirus Estrogen (DM)

Doctors are wondering if giving men two female sex hormones could make them more likely to survive the novel coronavirus. Across the globe, women from most countries have been less likely to become abruptly ill with the virus, and less likely to die from it. This has led many researchers to wonder if the hormones mainly produced in women could be protective, reported The New York Times. Two hospitals in the US are now putting that theory to the test, giving men estrogen or progesterone for a limited amount of time to see if it boosts their immune systems, decreases inflammation and reduces the severity of the illness. The differences in death rates among men and women have been apparent from early on in the pandemic. Last month, Italy’s public health research agency said that more than 70 percent of the country’s deaths have been in men.


And, in February, China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the fatality rate among men with coronavirus was 65 percent higher than among women. Scientists say they don’t know why women seem less likely to die, but have suggested that women naturally tend to have stronger immune systems and are less likely to have long-term health conditions which make patients more vulnerable. In China, researchers pointed the finger at men being more likely to smoke and drink, but this was a cultural factor which may be different in other countries. This soon became apparent in the US. In New York, more than 60 percent of the state’s deaths have been among men. Early research has suggested the hormones may reduce the number of ACE2 receptors on the surfaces of cells that the virus uses to enter the body.

Read more …

Poor kids.

Italy, UK Explore Possible COVID19 Link To Child Inflammatory Disease (R.)

Italian and British medical experts are investigating a possible link between the coronavirus pandemic and clusters of severe inflammatory disease among infants who are arriving in hospital with high fevers and swollen arteries. Doctors in northern Italy, one of the world’s hardest-hit areas during the pandemic, have reported extraordinarily large numbers of children aged under nine with severe cases of what appears to be Kawasaki disease, more common in parts of Asia. In Britain, doctors have made similar observations, prompting Health Secretary Matt Hancock to tell a coronavirus news briefing on Monday that he was “very worried” and that medical authorities were looking at the issue closely.

Kawasaki disease, whose cause is unknown, often afflicts children aged under 5 and is associated with fever, skin rashes, swelling of glands and, in severe cases, inflammation of arteries of the heart. England’s national medical director, Stephen Powis, told the British briefing he had become aware of reports of severely ill children with Kawasaki-like symptoms in the past few days but stressed it was too early to determine a link with coronavirus. “I’ve asked the national clinical director for children and young people to look into this as a matter of urgency … We’re not sure at the moment.”

In Italy, pediatricians are also alarmed. A hospital in the northern town of Bergamo has seen more than 20 cases of severe vascular inflammation in the past month, six times as many as it would expect to see in a year, said paediatric heart specialist Matteo Ciuffreda. Ciuffreda, of the Giovanni XXIII hospital, said only a few of the infants with vascular inflammation had tested positive for the new coronavirus, but pediatric cardiologists in Madrid and Lisbon had told him they had seen similar cases. He has called on his colleagues to document every such case to determine if there is a correlation between Kawasaki disease and COVID-19.

Read more …

Say what?

PETA Presses Pentagon To Stop Troops From Drinking Cobra Blood (Hill)

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is pushing the Pentagon to end the use of live animals during an annual survival training in Thailand that has involved U.S. troops drinking cobra blood. In a letter Monday to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the animal rights group argued that the use of live animals at what’s known as the Cobra Gold exercise puts troops at risk of contracting zoonotic diseases like the coronavirus. “Considering the danger zoonotic diseases pose to the troops — and indeed to all humanity — it is imperative that you end the use of live animals in Cobra Gold and instead use more effective and ethical non-animal training methods,” wrote Shalin Gala, PETA’s vice president of international laboratory methods.


Cobra Gold is a multinational military exercise and the largest in the Indo-Pacific region. It has several stages, including live fire training, landmine destruction and an amphibious assault demonstration. The event includes jungle survival training led by Thai instructors, and photos released by the U.S. military of this year’s exercises in late February and early March show Marines drinking cobra blood and eating live scorpions. PETA, which cited a video from the South China Morning Post that also showed Marines killing chickens with their bare hands and skinning and eating live geckos, previously took issue with the survival training in a March letter to Marines Commandant Gen. David Berger.

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Globalization doesn’t provide the right scale.

The Great Conundrum (Kunstler)

Reality is telling us that things organized on the gigantic scale are entering failure mode; but so many Americans are employed by exactly those activities organized on the gigantic scale. Or were, I should say. The humungous joint effort by the federal government and its caporegime, the federal reserve, to flood the system with dollars is precisely a desperate effort to prop up the giant-scale activities that defined the prior state-of-things. Those giant enterprises even did an end-run around the truly small businesses that were supposed to get scores of billions in grants, loans, and bailouts so congress is attempting a do-over of that play.

The question, then, is how do you go through a swift and dramatic re-scaling of a hypertrophic, excessively complex, ecologically fragile economic system in a way that doesn’t produce a whole lot of damage? I can’t answer that satisfactorily except to say this: at least recognize what the macro trend is (downscaling and re-localization), and support that as much as possible. Don’t knock yourself out trying to save giant, foundering enterprises that need to go out of business. Don’t bankrupt the society or destroy the meaning of its money to prevent the necessary bankruptcy of things that must go bankrupt. Remove as many obstacles as you possibly can to allow smaller-scaled enterprises to thrive and especially to support the rebuilding of local networks that smaller-scaled businesses play their roles in.

Apart from the insane spending orgy of the fed-gov and the fed, a lot of this is already underway organically and emergently. Few have failed to notice the death throes of national chain retail, for instance. Macys, JC Penny, Neiman Marcus and many other outfits like them are whirling around the drain. By the way, even the holy sainted Walmart will not be immune to this trend. Its supply lines have been cut. And, as I averred on Friday, Amazon’s dumb-ass business model will sink with the oil and trucking industries. Realize, too, commerce will persist in human life. It just won’t be the Blue-Light-Special, credit-fueled phantasmagoria we got used to for a few decades. Commerce, i.e. the trade in goods, will have to be reorganized differently. There are huge opportunities for young people who recognize this.

Read more …

The bottom’s falling out.

Gundlach Is Shorting The Market: Retest Of The Low ‘Very Plausible’ (CNBC)

Jeffrey Gundlach, CEO of DoubleLine, said Monday that the stock market could sell off again to retest the low in March as he believes investors are too optimistic about the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m certainly in the camp that we are not out of the woods. I think a retest of the low is very plausible,” Gundlach said on CNBC’s “Halftime Report.” “I think we’d take out the low.” “People don’t understand the magnitude of … the social unease at least that’s going to happen when … 26 million-plus people have lost their job,” Gundlach said. “We’ve lost every single job that we created since the bottom in 2009.” The so-called bond king revealed he just initiated a short position against the stock market.


“Actually I did just put a short on the S&P at 2,863. At this level, I think the upside and downside is very poor. I don’t think it could make it to 3,000, but it could. I think downside easily to the lows or beyond … I’m not nearly where I was in February when I was very, very short,” Gundlach said. The S&P 500 has bounced 30% off its March 23 low of 2,191.86 as investors cheered the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented stimulus measures as well as signs that the pandemic could be easing. In March, the S&P 500 tumbled into a bear market at the fastest pace ever as the outbreak caused unprecedented economic uncertainty. At its worst level of the sell-off, the S&P 500 was down about 34% from its all-time high on Feb. 19. The equity benchmark is now about 16% below that record.

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Some people know their history.

‘Ducati’ Banknotes Issued To Italian Town Residents (VD)

THE small Italian town of Castellino del Biferno has begun minting its own banknotes in a bid to help residents struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 lockdown. The town, which has just 550 residents, is handing the ‘Ducati’ notes out to residents based upon their economic needs. The notes can be spent at local shops for food and necessities, with the shops returning the notes to the town council upon which they are reimbursed for their sales. The denominations of the notes is exactly the same as a Euro, five Ducati is five Euro and 20 Ducati is 20 Euro and so on. The move was agreed to help the elderly, who need the help the most, understand the new currency.


The mayor of Castellino del Biferno received a grant of €5,500 from the government to issue food vouchers to vulnerable families during the pandemic. The town council added its savings and distributed “Ducati” banknotes to over 200 families in town. The mayor of the town hopes the notes will do more than just help people buy everyday items. It’s reported that he sees the crisis money as an opportunity to increase the town’s sense of belonging. To try and do that, the banknotes depict local symbols like the church, the public swimming pool, and also the statue of the Virgin Mary. Castellino del Biferno sits in a mountainous region of southern Italy called Molise. The areas rugged geography and sparse population have so far meant the number of COVID-19 cases is low, although the citizens are still clearly feeling the effects of the Italy-wide lockdown.

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Freedom “is a “balanced approach” between positive and negative freedom”..

Amartya Sen: Economics Needs A Moral Awakening (K.)

Still teaching at Harvard (online these days), Sen is the author of the capability approach to political philosophy, according to which a person is free only to the extent that they are capable to pursue the ends that give value to life. Thus, a lack of access to healthcare is an element of unfreedom, even for someone living in a politically and economically liberal polity. Does the pandemic highlight the importance of capabilities as a constitutive element of freedom? “The European welfare state, including the national health service, is an excellent example of the conception of freedom as capability, including but going well beyond the ‘negative’ conception of liberty as the absence of coercion,” he says, alluding to Isaiah Berlin’s classic taxonomy.

He characterizes the 2008 global crisis as stemming from “an overreliance on ‘negative liberty,’ as the banks were allowed to engage in practices with no social benefit but great potential for destruction, like the insuring of bonds they didn’t own against default.” The ideal, he says, is a “balanced approach” between positive and negative freedom – something understood by the great theoreticians of political economy, from Adam Smith and Condorcet to J.S. Mill, Karl Marx and A.C. Pigou. This approach “was the foundation of the post-war welfare state in Europe.” Sen brings up the example of World War II Britain, where “there was a fear that there would not be enough food and that people would starve.

So the policy of rationing and of controlled prices was implemented. As a result, not only was starvation averted, but undernourishment declined greatly, and severe undernourishment disappeared altogether.” It took the war, he explains, “to make the British government take on the responsibility of feeding the entire British population – though this did not extend to its colonial subjects in India, where there was a major famine during the war years.” He observes that “unfortunately” in the current crisis the “culture of sharing does not seem, so far at least, to be gaining much ground – though the problem is less acute in Europe than it is in the US or India.”

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One corrupt faction trying to oust the other.

Brazil Court OKs Investigating Allegations Against Bolsonaro (R.)

A Supreme Court judge on Monday authorized an investigation of allegations that Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro tried to interfere in the work of the country’s federal police force for political motives, the top court said on its website. Justice Celso de Mello gave the federal police 60 days to carry out the investigation requested by Brazil’s chief public prosecutor Augusto Aras following the accusations made by former justice minister Sergio Moro, who resigned on Friday. Moro said Bolsonaro had pressed him to change the chief of the federal police and accused the president of seeking to interfere in investigations that involved family members, to the point of requesting intelligence files.


Bolsonaro called the accusations unfounded, but they have set off the worst political crisis since he took office in January last year and lost the far-right leader valuable allies. The investigation comes at a bad moment for Bolsonaro who is facing criticism for downplaying the gravity of the coronavirus epidemic that has killed over 4,500 people in the country and virtually paralyzed Latin America’s largest economy. Based on the results of the police investigation, the public prosecutor will have to decide whether to press charges against the president or his former minister.

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“Mark my words, I think he is going to try to kick back the election somehow, and come up with some rationale why it cannot be held.” It is just the type of thing that a crazed guy in a tightly buttoned raincoat whispers to you on the subway…

Biden’s Conspiracy Theory Given Credence By Media, Democratic Leaders (Turley)

If there are two words that have become a virtual mantra in the media during the last three years under President Trump, they would be “conspiracy theory.” The conspiracy theory label is a wonderful device to attack political opponents. It not only suggests something is objectively untrue but that the person responsible for it is unhinged and unreliable. When Republican members of Congress suggested two months ago that the coronavirus might have come from a research lab in Wuhan, for instance, it was widely denounced as a conspiracy theory, even though some intelligence officials believe the theory is credible.

Unsurprisingly, it is a term almost exclusively reserved in the media for Trump and his supporters. That was evident this week when the ultimate conspiracy theory was voiced by presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who warned that he was certain Trump plans to delay the election this fall. It is a conspiracy theory that is utterly without factual or constitutional support, yet his warning was deemed a “prediction” in a recent article by Politico. It has been peddled by various Democratic figures and commentators for months and is all the rage on the internet, even though it should be sold as a set that includes a tin foil hat and an electromagnetic ghost detector.

Biden left little doubt of such a plan by Trump. He said, “Mark my words, I think he is going to try to kick back the election somehow, and come up with some rationale why it cannot be held.” It is just the type of thing that a crazed guy in a tightly buttoned raincoat whispers to you on the subway. But Biden was not finished. If you attended a recent online fundraiser, it probably felt like you could not change your seat as Biden grew uncomfortably close and went on to explain that it was the Postal Service which revealed the conspiracy theory to him.

Biden alleged that the administration is pressuring the Postal Service to make changes in its operations as a condition for coronavirus relief. As Biden explained, “Imagine threatening not to fund the post office. Other than trying to let the word out that he is going to do all he can to make it very hard for people to vote, that is the only way he thinks he can possibly win.” The other way would be that his opponent flees to the desert to live in a bunker and protect his mail and “precious bodily fluids.”

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Pretty explicit. You can’t hide him forever, guys.

Former Neighbor Of Joe Biden’s Accuser Tara Reade Has Come Forward (BI)

In March, when a former aide to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden accused the candidate of sexually assaulting her in 1993, two people came forward to say that the woman, Tara Reade, had told them of the incident shortly after it allegedly occurred – her brother, Collin Moulton, and a friend who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. Now two more sources have come forward to corroborate certain details about Reade’s claims. One of them – a former neighbor of Reade’s – has told Insider for the first time, on the record, that Reade disclosed details about the alleged assault to her in the mid-1990s. “This happened, and I know it did because I remember talking about it,” Lynda LaCasse, who lived next door to Reade in the mid-’90s, told Insider.


The other source, Lorraine Sanchez, who worked with Reade in the office of a California state senator in the mid-’90s, told Insider that she recalls Reade complaining at the time that her former boss in Washington, DC, had sexually harassed her, and that she had been fired after raising concerns. In interviews with Insider, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the politics podcaster Katie Halper – who broke the story of the assault allegations – Reade has said that in the spring or summer of 1993, she was told to meet Biden in a semiprivate corridor to deliver a duffel bag. There, she said, Biden pushed her up against a wall, reached under her skirt, and penetrated her with his fingers. When she resisted his advances, Reade said, Biden expressed annoyance and said, “Aw man, I heard you liked me.” Then, she said, he pointed a finger at her and said, “You’re nothing to me.” After that, she said, he shook her by the shoulders and said, “You’re OK, you’re fine,” before walking away.

Read more …

Julian Assange Extradition Hearing Postponed For Up To Six Months (CW)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s US extradition hearing has been postponed for up to six months after defence and prosecution lawyers agreed it would no longer be in the interests of justice to try the case in May. Assange’s lawyers told the court that, in the midst of the UK’s Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown, they had not been able to meet with their client either in person or over video link to prepare the case. The decision came after Edward Fitzgerald, representing Assange, told the court it had not been possible for Assange’s legal team to take instructions in response to new documents served by US prosecutor Gordon Kromberg.

[..] Observers and journalists dialled in to an hour-long court hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, but frequently had difficulty hearing what the lawyers were saying, even when a court clerk repeated the words of Assange’s defence barrister for those on the conference call. Fitzgerald said the defence team had not been able to gain access to their client, who is being held in Belmarsh Prison, to discuss the case. “Mr Assange is going into battle with his hands tied behind his back,” he said. [..] The government extended coronavirus restrictions on 16 April 2020 for at least another three weeks until 8 May, and even if they were lifted, there would not be enough time to prepare for the hearing, which was scheduled for 18 May.

“It would be impossible to ensure open justice during the lockdown by making provisions for the press and the public to attend, said Fitzgerald. “There would not be time for lawyers to take full and proper instructions from Mr Assange,” he said. Assange’s defence team said in written submissions that solicitors or counsel could not reasonably be expected to sit in close proximity in breach of government guidelines. An attempt by the judge to allow Assange’s lawyers to meet with their client in the cells of Woolwich Crown Court by scheduling an “administrative hearing” on 20 April failed after prison authorities said it would breach the two-metre social distancing rules.

After an intervention by the court, Belmarsh Prison extraordinarily said it was prepared to lift its two-metre distancing rules to allow lawyers to meet Assange on 22 April. But it was not foreseeable that prison cell visits, where multiple people were ordered to travel to prison to congregate in interview rooms in violation of coronavirus distancing requirements, would be lawful, Fitzgerald said in a written submission. [..] The judge said there was space in the court calendar to hear two weeks of the three-week extradition hearing from 20 July. That could be followed by a further week in August. The earliest available date for a full three-week hearing is 2 November. The court adjourned until 4 May to allow Assange’s legal team to take instructions from their client over a preferred date.

Read more …

 

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Apr 272020
 


Dorothea Lange On the road to Los Angeles, California 1937

 

Sweden’s Stay-Open Approach Is Creating Herd Immunity Quickly – Ambassador (JTN)
European Shares Rise On Airline Surge, Upbeat Earnings (R.)
Billionaire Bonanza 2020: Windfalls, Tumbling Taxes, Pandemic Profiteers (IPS)
Over 100,000 Virus Deaths in 2020 If UK Lockdown Ends Early – Ferguson (St.)
UK Economy Will Take Three Years To Recover From Coronavirus – EY (G.)
One In Three UK Doctors Left Without Protective Gear (Ind.)
Italy To Reopen Factories In Staged End To Coronavirus Lockdown (R.)
Fauci Says US Coronavirus Testing Likely Will Double In The Coming Weeks (JTN)
US To Cap How Much Each Bank Can Lend Under Emergency Coronavirus Program (R.)
Not The End Of The Road For US Health Secretary Azar, Trump Says (JTN)
How the Unicorn Blowup & Oil Bust Bleed into CMBS (WS)
When Oil Became Waste (R.)
EU’s COVID Recovery Spending Should Be Guided By Green Finance Plan (R.)
Minks Test Positive For COVID19 At Two Dutch Farms (EN)
Israel’s Top Court Says Government Must Legislate COVID-19 Phone-Tracking (R.)
Assange: Espionage is the Charge, But He’s Really Accused of Sedition (Lauria)

 

 

We passed 3 million global cases.

 

• US records 1,330 #coronavirus deaths in 24 hours: Johns Hopkins

• The US now has an overall death toll of 54,841, with 964,937 confirmed infections, according to a tally by the Johns Hopkins University at 8:30 pm (0030 GMT Monday)

 

• Sweden is the favorite of the anti-lockdown crowd, but contrary to what they claim, Sweden isn’t doing very well at all, so it’s a bit of a mystery why.

• Sweden is no. 8 (out of 200+) in the world in deaths per million people, in which it is 3 times worse than neighbors Denmark and 6 times worse than Norway and Finland. It’s even worse than the US.

• Deaths per million population (Worldometer):
Belgium 612
Spain 496
Italy 441
France 350
UK 305
Netherlands 261
Ireland 220
Sweden 217
Switzerland 186
US 167

 

 

NOTE: lowest number of global deaths for a long time.

Cases 3,008,196 (+ 73,557 from yesterday’s 2,934,639)

Deaths 207,361 (+ 3,678 from yesterday’s 203,683)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – Among Closed Cases, Deaths have fallen to 19%

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

As an aside: the ambassador claims that “About 30% of people in Stockholm have reached a level of immunity..” The only numbers of any antibodies I’ve seen on this globally were in the region of 5% or less. How then do the Swedes measure it?

Sweden’s Stay-Open Approach Is Creating Herd Immunity Quickly – Ambassador (JTN)

Sweden’s decision to keep schools, malls and restaurants open with limited restrictions during the pandemic is yielding success, with its capital city about to reach herd immunity in the next few weeks, according to the country’s ambassador to the United States. “About 30% of people in Stockholm have reached a level of immunity,” Ambassador Karin Ulrika Olofsdotter told NPR in an interview published Sunday. “We could reach herd immunity in the capital as early as next month.” Herd immunity means between 60% and 80% percent of a country’s population has become immune to a virus, either recovering from it or through immunization. Sweden banned gatherings of over 50 people but otherwise left schools, restaurants and malls open, provided citizens observe social distancing.


Facilities that don’t comply have been aggressively closed down. Sweden has reported more than 18,500 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2,194 deaths as of Sunday. The country’s approach to the pandemic has bucked much of the Western world, and generated controversy. “We share the same goal as all other countries, and that is of course to save as many lives as possible and protect public health,” Olofsdotter explained to NPR. “So we face the same reality as everyone else. But what’s different, and I think it’s important to underline that all countries are different, is that politicians take the measures that they think works best for their country and their general public.”

Read more …

Airlines receive hand-outs, their shares surge. Why oh why should this proft go to shareholders, when it’s made possible only through taxpayer dollars?? The Airfrance/KLM CEO was set to get a huge bonus because he managed to get the state bailouts; only at the very last minute did a few parliamentarians prevent that from happening? Doesn’t anybody care anymore that we don’t have financial markets but pretend we do?

European Shares Rise On Airline Surge, Upbeat Earnings (R.)

European shares rose on Monday, as airline stocks soared on hopes of state support, while a slew of upbeat earnings added to optimism over signs many countries would soon ease tough lockdown measures. Shares of Lufthansa jumped 7.2%, with Berlin expected to decide on state support, while Air France KLM rose 5.2% after the government said it would give a 7-billion-euros ($7.6 billion) aid package. Positive quarterly reports also helped. German drugs and pesticides company Bayer gained 2.8% and Deutsche Bank jumped 7.7% after their first-quarter earnings topped market expectations.


The pan-European STOXX 600 rose 1.7% by 0720 GMT, following gains in Asian markets after the Bank of Japan pledged to buy unlimited amount of bonds to keep borrowing costs low. The European benchmark ended with weekly losses on Friday, hit by the lack of details in a trillion-euro emergency fund agreed by the euro zone leaders. However, investors are pinning hopes on further stimulus expansion by the European Central Bank, which is scheduled to meet on Thursday. Shares in Adidas, however, fell 1.6% as it reported a 93% plunge in first-quarter profit, and warned of a deeper hit to second-quarter revenue as lockdowns forced it to close stores.

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From March 18 to April 10, over 22 million people lost their jobs as the unemployment rate surged toward 15%.

Over the same three weeks, U.S. billionaire wealth increased by $282 billion, an almost 10% gain.

Billionaire Bonanza 2020: Windfalls, Tumbling Taxes, Pandemic Profiteers (IPS)

Billionaires dominate our politics, culture, and economy. Their wealth, as this report shows, has concentrated mightily over the last four decades — even as the number of U.S. households with zero or negative net worth is increasing and most of us are living paycheck to paycheck. The current pandemic is exposing our central economic and social reality: Extreme wealth inequality has become America’s “pre-existing condition.” In this report, we show how billionaire wealth has grown astoundingly over the last few decades — and, for some “pandemic profiteers,” even more dramatically since the COVID-19 crisis — even as billionaire tax obligations have plummeted. If this inequality isn’t treated with both short and long-term tax reforms and oversight, America’s “pre-existing condition” of extreme inequality could overwhelm not only our economy, but our democracy itself.

• Between January 1, 2020 and April 10, 2020, 34 of the nation’s wealthiest 170 billionaires saw their wealth increase by tens of millions of dollars. Eight have seen their net worth surge by over $1 billion.

• As of April 15, Jeff Bezos’s fortune had increased by an estimated $25 billion since January 1, 2020. This unprecedented wealth surge is larger than the Gross Domestic Product of Honduras, $23.9 billion in 2018.

• Between March 18 and April 10, 2020, over 22 million people lost their jobs as the unemployment rate surged toward 15 percent. Over the same three weeks, U.S. billionaire wealth increased by $282 billion, an almost 10 percent gain.

• Billionaire wealth rebounded quickly after the 2008 financial crisis. Between 2010 and 2020, U.S. billionaire wealth increased 80.6 percent, more than five times the median wealth increase for U.S. households.

• Between 1990 and 2020, U.S. billionaire wealth soared 1,130 percent — an increase more than 200 times greater than the 5.37 percent growth of U.S. median wealth.

• Measured as a percentage of their wealth, the tax obligations of America’s billionaires decreased 79 percent between 1980 and 2018.

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The UK is in no position to relax.

Over 100,000 Virus Deaths in 2020 If UK Lockdown Ends Early – Ferguson (St.)

The UK death toll could jump past 100,000 by the end of the year if lockdown is lifted too early, a top professor has warned. Imperial College epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson said if the healthy go back to work while the vulnerable remain in lockdown there will be a huge increase in virus fatalities. The expert said social isolation will need to be kept in place until a pharmaceutical intervention is found, whether that is a vaccine or treatment drugs, and one is unlikely within the next year. His warning comes as the British Government faces intense pressure to reveal its Covid-19 lockdown exit strategy .


Speaking to UnHerd, Prof Ferguson said he is sceptical that the UK can achieve a level of shielding that will be effective. “If you just achieve 80 per cent shielding – and 80 per cent reduction in infection risk in those groups – we still project that you would well over 100,000 deaths this year from that kind of strategy,” he said. The Government is under pressure from senior Tories to relax the strict social-distancing measures amid concern at the damage they are doing to the economy. Sir Keir Starmer has also called on the Prime Minister to produce a clear lockdown exit strategy.

https://twitter.com/ThePalpitations/status/1254529121134264322

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Modeling in finance is as bad as in epidemiology.

UK Economy Will Take Three Years To Recover From Coronavirus – EY (G.)

It will take the UK economy three years to fully recover from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a leading forecasting group. As the damage for jobs and growth unfolds, the EY Item Club said it would take until 2023 for the the economy to return to the level reached at the end of last year due to the depth of the crisis. One month on from the imposition of lockdown measures across Britain, effectively bringing large swathes of the economy to a halt, the group warned that almost half of all consumer spending in 2020 – the major engine of UK growth over recent decades – is at risk of either being delayed or lost completely.


The group of economists said GDP was set to collapse by 6.8% in 2020, before returning to positive growth of 4.5% in 2021 as businesses try to make up for lost time and consumers ramp up their spending again. The forecast is based on the assumption that some lockdown restrictions will start to be eased in May, with controls relaxed further in June. As such, the Item Club believes the economy should benefit later in the year from a degree of pent-up demand as people are allowed to travel again and return to the shops. Howard Archer, the chief economic adviser to the Item Club, said the report assumes that the government’s measures aimed at supporting businesses and saving jobs would have a significant positive impact. “[The support] is absolutely crucial to limiting the potential longer-term damage to the economy,” he said.

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After all the lockdown- and economic recovery talk, there’s still the real world.

One In Three UK Doctors Left Without Protective Gear (Ind.)

More doctors are being forced to treat coronavirus patients without protective equipment, it has been revealed, as Dominic Raab refused to say when shortages would finally end. A third of physicians working in high-risk settings have reported running short of long-sleeved gowns or full-face visors – a situation that has “worsened over the past three weeks”, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said. Of those working in other hospital areas, 40 per cent are not always equipped with eye protection, while 15.5 per cent are sometimes left without fluid-repellent face masks. They are faced with the “awful” choice “between protecting our own lives or protecting those of the patients we treat”, one physician said.


The grim survey results were disclosed as Mr Raab admitted the government has fallen short on protecting frontline NHS and care staff, more than a month after Boris Johnson insisted PPE would be provided. Asked when there would be “enough”, the stand-in prime minister said: “It’s very difficult to say that with precision and the kind of reliability that you want as a guarantee.” And asked to acknowledge that some medical and care staff had been let down, Mr Raab replied: “I think we’re not in the place on PPE that we’d want to be.”

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Can’t do anything that involves crowds. Not for a very long time. Forget about soccer games.

Italy To Reopen Factories In Staged End To Coronavirus Lockdown (R.)

Italy will allow factories and building sites to reopen from May 4 and permit limited family visits as it prepares a staged end to Europe’s longest coronavirus lockdown, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Sunday. More than two months after the first case of COVID-19 appeared in a small town outside Milan and following weeks of lockdown, Italy is looking ahead to a second phase of the crisis in which it will attempt to restart the economy without triggering a new wave of infections. “We expect a very complex challenge,” Conte said as he outlined the road map to restarting activities put into hibernation since early March. “We will live with the virus and we will have to adopt every precaution possible.”

Manufacturers, construction companies and some wholesalers will be allowed to reopen from May 4, followed by retailers two weeks later. Restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen fully from the beginning of June, although takeaway business will be possible earlier. “The reopening is allowed on condition that all companies involved strictly respect security protocols in the workplace,” Conte said, adding that the reopening would lay the ground for deeper reforms of the economy in the months ahead. In addition, parks will be allowed to reopen and limited family visits and funerals with no more than 15 people present will be permitted. But movement between regions remains suspended and people moving about will still have to carry a declaration explaining the reasons for their journeys.

Museums and libraries can reopen from May 18, when sports teams will also be able to resume group training, although Conte said conditions would have to be assessed before any decision on resuming the top-flight Serie A soccer championship. Schools will remain shut, however, until the start of the new academic year in September, leaving families facing childcare problems for months to come.

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Let’s make a deal: stop talking about relaxing lockdowns until you can test 1 million people per day. That would still mean it takes a year to test every American just once. Which is nowhere near enough.

Fauci Says US Coronavirus Testing Likely Will Double In The Coming Weeks (JTN)

The current amount of COVID-19 testing likely will double in the coming weeks, Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a National Academy of Sciences panel about the virus. “We’re doing about 1.5, 2 million per week,” said Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We probably should get up to twice that as we get into the next several weeks, and I think we will. “Testing is an important part of what we’re doing, but is not the only part,” Fauci noted. “But no doubt it is important to be able to do the identification, isolation and contact tracing.”


Fauci, who has factored prominently in the daily coronavirus task force briefings at the White House, said it is important to have “enough tests to respond to the outbreaks that will inevitably occur as you try and ease your way back into the different phases.” As the nation moves toward reopening in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump has issued Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, which include three phases.

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aka lend to the big boys until there’s nothing left.

US To Cap How Much Each Bank Can Lend Under Emergency Coronavirus Program (R.)

The U.S. government notified lenders on Sunday that it will cap how much each bank can lend under the emergency loan program designed to keep workers on payrolls amid the coronavirus pandemic, hours ahead of the reopening of the lending program. The Small Business Administration (SBA) will impose a maximum dollar amount for individual lenders at 10% of Paycheck Protection Program funding, or $60 billion per lender, and pace the applications filed, according to SBA guidance on Sunday to lenders that have received a significant number of applications. The steps are “prudent and reasonable” due to the unprecedented demand for the loans, the memo said. U.S. banks were girding over the weekend for another frantic race to grab $310 billion in fresh small-business aid due to be released by the government.


The SBA was due to reopen PPP funding at 10:30 a.m. ET (1430 GMT) on Monday, allowing lenders to resume processing piles of backlogged applications from businesses hurt by the coronavirus shutdown. The SBA will also take applications in one bulk submission with a minimum of 15,000 loans, the SBA said in the memo. The PPP came under criticism after a number of publicly traded companies with thousands of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales got loans, while smaller businesses did not. Nearly 5,000 lenders, including big banks such as JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup as well as community banks, participated in the prior, $349-billion round of funding. No lender accounted for more than 5% of that total, the SBA said previously.

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US media need this kind of topic; they’d be completely lost without Trump.

Not The End Of The Road For US Health Secretary Azar, Trump Says (JTN)

President Trump emphatically denied Sunday that he is planning to fire Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar, calling reports of an impending dismissal “fake news.” Trump made the comments on Twitter, after multiple reports surfaced over the weekend that Azar’s job is in jeopardy, including in The Wall Street Journal. “Reports that H.H.S. Secretary @AlexAzar is going to be “fired” by me are Fake News,” Trump tweeted. “The Lamestream Media knows this, but they are desperate to create the perception of chaos & havoc in the minds of the public. They never even called to ask.


He added for emphasis: “Alex is doing an excellent job!” White House spokesman Judd Deere also called the reports inaccurate. “The Department of Health and Human Services, under the leadership of Secretary Azar, continues to lead on a number of the President’s priorities,” Deere said. “Any speculation about personnel is irresponsible and a distraction from our whole-of-government response to COVID-19.”

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CMBS = Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities. The Fed will bail them out.

How the Unicorn Blowup & Oil Bust Bleed into CMBS (WS)

The office segment of the commercial real estate market – and the debt and the commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) that are backed by it – are going through serious gyrations on a combination of factors. Companies have figured out how to make work-from-home manageable. Other companies are moving out, leaving buildings vacant, or are deferring rent payments. Landlords whose cashflow from rents has suddenly crashed are failing to make their mortgage payments or are asking for forbearance. And CMBS are at the receiving end of the process.


That any return to the old normal for landlords, banks, and holders of CMBS is just a dream is now being increasingly accepted, including by Larry Fink, CEO of mega asset-manager BlackRock: “I don’t think any company’s going to go back to 100% of the workforce in the office,” he said at an online event. “That means less congestion in cities. It means, more importantly, less need for commercial real estate.” This new era of office real estate comes on top of the problems currently erupting: Tenants moving out for nicer digs, now that there are plenty available, or tenants laying off people and possibly shutting down. So here are two specific examples of how this is bleeding into CMBS.

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Given the efficiency of the internal combustion engine, plus the ubiquity of plastics made from oil, its overall effect has always been at least 90% waste.

When Oil Became Waste (R.)

The magnitude of how damaged the energy industry is came into full view on April 20 when the benchmark price of U.S. oil futures, which had never dropped below $10 a barrel in its nearly 40-year history, plunged to a previously unthinkable minus $38 a barrel. In just a few months, the coronavirus pandemic has destroyed so much fuel demand as billions of people curtail travel that it has done what financial crashes, recessions and wars had failed to ever do – leave the United States with so much oil there was nowhere to put it. While the unusual circumstance of negative oil prices may not be repeated, many in the industry say it is a harbinger for more bleak days ahead, and that years of overinvestment will not correct in a period of weeks or even months.


“What happened in the futures contract the other day indicated things are starting to get bad earlier than expected,” said Frederick Lawrence, vice president of economics and international affairs at the Independent Petroleum Association of America. “People are getting notices from pipeline companies that say they can’t take their crude anymore. That means you’re shutting down the well yesterday.” Evidence of the erosion of value for a product that has been a mainstay of global society since the late 19th century abounded across the world last week. In Russia, one of the world’s top producers, the industry is considering resorting to burning its oil to take it off the market, sources told Reuters.

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And who are the experts? Investors. Who only want “to go green” because it promises a big profit.

Green is turning into a swearword, but so many people are invested in it they fail to notice.

The Green New Deals will destroy our ability to save anything, not help it. They will be a huge pool of malinvestment and gobble up what we have left.

EU’s COVID Recovery Spending Should Be Guided By Green Finance Plan (R.)

Planned European Union rules requiring investments to be in line with climate policy should be used to guide economic recovery measures after the coronavirus pandemic, despite not yet being law, the bloc’s expert advisers said on Monday. With the bloc headed for a steep recession and its executive, the European Commission, drawing up a trillion-euro recovery plan, calls are growing from politicians, companies and campaigners to make sure the money does not prop up environmentally damaging industries. The Commission had planned to introduce rules on which investments can be called “green” from 2021, forcing providers of financial products to disclose which investments meet the criteria – known as the EU “sustainable finance taxonomy”.


However, the Commission’s Technical Expert Group (TEG), a 35-member panel of investors, business leaders and climate policy experts, said the rules – designed by the TEG, at the Commission’s request – should inform stimulus plans now. “The opportunity for a resilient, sustainable and fair economic recovery is right before us. We encourage all governments, public institutions and the private sector to use the right tools for the job,” it said in a statement. The TEG has also drawn up a green bond standard for the EU and a framework to assess whether financial instruments, contracts or investment funds conform with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. “There’s going to be, potentially, a surge of public and private spending to reboot the economy,” said Nathan Fabian, chief responsible investment officer at the U.N.-backed Principles for Responsible Investment investor group and member of the TEG.

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“Authorities “assume that people infected animals”…

Minks Test Positive For COVID19 At Two Dutch Farms (EN)

Two Dutch mink farms have reported cases of COVID-19 among their animals, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture confirmed on Sunday. Minks at the two farms located within 15km of each other in southern Netherlands “showed various symptoms including respiratory problems,” the ministry said in a statement. Mink are dark-colored, semiaquatic, carnivorous mammals bred for their furs. An investigation has been launched to determine the source of the infections. Authorities “assume that people infected animals” as the two farms had employees with symptoms for COVID-19 and stressed that although “human to animal contamination is possible, the impact of this mink contamination on human health is currently negligible”.


To prevent the spread of the disease to other farms, both animals and manure are banned from leaving the infected farms. Samples are being collected from healthy and infected animals with authorities also collecting air and dust samples in the vicinity “as a precaution”. The ministry said public roads around the two frame have been closed and advised people not to walk or cycle within a 400-metre radius until the samples have been analysed.

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They didn’t even bother about legislation. Betcha that’s true for most countries.

Israel’s Top Court Says Government Must Legislate COVID-19 Phone-Tracking (R.)

Citing grave dangers to privacy, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled on Sunday that the government must bring its use of mobile phone tracking deployed in the battle against the new coronavirus under legislation. Circumventing parliament in March, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet approved emergency regulations that enabled the Shin Bet internal security service to tap into cellular data to retrace the movements of people infected by the virus. The technology, customarily used for anti-terrorism, has since yielded data used by the Health Ministry to locate and alert those who have been in their vicinity. The practice has been subjected to some parliamentary oversight following a subsequent court ruling.


Accepting petitions from Israeli rights groups, the Supreme Court said the government must begin legislation by April 30 and complete it within a few weeks if it wanted to continue tracking people’s phones in its bid to stop the virus spreading. “The state’s choice to use its preventative security service for monitoring those who wish it no harm, without their consent, raises great difficulties and a suitable alternative, compatible with the principles of privacy, must be found,” the court said. Citing freedom of the press, the court also ruled that monitoring of journalists confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus can only be done with their consent. If they refuse, members of the media could seek an injunction against the practice, in order to protect their sources.

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After this morning, proceedings have been adjourned until 4 May. Defense and prosecutors both want the May 18 hearing pushed forward to September at the earliest. Even highly partial judge Vanessa Baraitser says question of 18 May start date now “at best uncertain”.

The next period the court would be available for 3 weeks is from 2 November. She should order him freed on bail until then. No threat to his environment, no flight risk.

Assange: Espionage is the Charge, But He’s Really Accused of Sedition (Lauria)

The United States has had two sedition laws in its history. Both were repealed within three years. Britain repealed its 17th Century sedition law in 2009. Though this crime is no longer on the books, the crime of sedition is really what both governments are accusing Julian Assange of. The campaign of smears, the weakness of the case and the language of his indictment proves it. The imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher has been indicted on 17 counts of espionage under the 1917 U.S. Espionage Act on a technicality: the unauthorized possession and dissemination of classified material—something that has been performed by countless journalists and publishers over the decades. It conflicts head on with the First Amendment. But espionage isn’t really what the government is after. Assange did not pass state secrets to an enemy of the United States, as in a classic espionage case, but rather to the public, which the government might well consider the enemy. Assange revealed crimes and corruption by the state.

Punishing such legitimate criticism of government as sedition has deep roots in British and American history. Sedition was seen in the Elizabethan era as the “notion of inciting by words or writings disaffection towards the state or constituted authority.” Punishment included beheading and dismemberment. “In their efforts to suppress political discussion or criticism of the government or the governors of Tudor England, the Privy Council and royal judges needed a new formulation of a criminal offence … This new crime they found in the offence of sedition, which was defined and punished by the Court of Star Chamber.… If the facts alleged were true, that only made the offence worse,” wrote historian Roger B. Manning. Sedition fell short of treason and did not need to provoke violence.

Though the Star Chamber was abolished in 1641, the British Sedition Act of 1661, a year after the Restoration, said, “…a seditious intention is an intention to bring into hatred or contempt, or to exite disaffection against the person of His Majesty, his heirs or successors, or the government and constitution of the United Kingdom.” Under President John Adams, the first U.S. Sedition Act in 1798 put it this way: “To write, print, utter or publish, or cause it to be done, or assist in it, any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government of the United States, or either House of Congress, or the President, with intent to defame, or bring either into contempt or disrepute, or to excite against either the hatred of the people of the United States, or to stir up sedition, or to excite unlawful combinations against the government, or to resist it, or to aid or encourage hostile designs of foreign nations.”

While WikiLeaks publications have never been proven false, the U.S. government is certainly portraying its work as “scandalous and malicious writing against the United States” and has accused him of encouraging “hostile designs” against the country. Congress did not renew the Act in 1801 and President Thomas Jefferson pardoned those serving sentences for sedition and refunded their fines.


1918 protest in front of the White House against the Sedition Act.

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Apr 122020
 


Helen Levitt New York 1939

 

DOJ Threatens Action Against Pandemic Crackdowns On Religious Ceremonies (JTN)
Can Trump Reopen The Economy On May 1? Not Really (LATimes)
California Gov. Newsom Praises Trump Admin’s COVID19 Relief Efforts (JTN)
Hundreds Of US Meat Workers Have Tested Positive For Coronavirus (LATimes)
New York Hospital Approved To Use COVID-19 Experimental Treatment (JTN)
EU Borders May Close Till September Due To US COVID-19 Threat (F.)
China Chasing Coronavirus Praise From Germany (UrduP)
USA Keen to Learn from Greece’s World-Leading Response to COVID-19 (GR)
UN Seeks To Lease Hotels, Ships To House Refugees On Greek Islands (Amna)
Coronavirus Isn’t Really Dangerously Lingering On Surfaces For Weeks (F.)
Is The Next Great Depression Here? (VT)
Economist Destroys China – Calls Coronavirus An Act of War (VT)
Turkish Court Accepts Indictment For Khashoggi Murder Suspects (DS)
Use and Abuse of MMT (Michael Hudson, Dirk Bezemer, Steve Keen, T.Sabri Öncü)
East Africa Locust Plague Up To 20 Times Larger Than Last Wave (Ind.)
Julian Assange Fathered Two Sons While Inside Ecuadorian Embassy In London (DM)

 

 

US records 1,920 deaths related to the #coronavirus over the past 24 hours, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University as of 8:30 pm Saturday (0030 GMT Sunday)

 

 

Cases (+ 1,790,573 from yesterday’s 1,710,152)

Deaths 109,654 (+ 6,148 from yesterday’s 103,506)

 

 

 

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:

 

 

 

 

A number of graphs from FT for your viewing ‘pleasure’:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And one extra, which focuses on Belgium.

 

 

 

 

The Pope may close the Vatican, but not my little church. Two week quarantines for all.

DOJ Threatens Action Against Pandemic Crackdowns On Religious Ceremonies (JTN)

The Justice Department signaled Saturday night it may intervene against local governments that are cracking down on religious ceremonies during the pandemic, warning that action could come as early as next week. Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec used her Twitter account on the eve of Easter to announce that Attorney General William Barr was monitoring efforts to stop Easter religious ceremonies. “During this sacred week for many Americans, AG Barr is monitoring govt regulation of religious services,” Kupec tweeted. “While social distancing policies are appropriate during this emergency, they must be applied evenhandedly & not single out religious orgs. Expect action from DOJ next week!”


The statement comes as numerous municipalities across the country have been reportedly taking actions to stop churchgoers from celebrating Easter together, including in Louisville where the mayor threatened to track license plates and fine anyone who attends a public ceremony. A federal judge Saturday actually blocked Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer from enforcing his ban on drive-in church services on Easter, calling it unconstitutional. “An American mayor criminalized the communal celebration of Easter,” U.S. District Judge Justin Walker wrote while issuing a temporary restraining order. “That sentence is one that this Court never expected to see outside the pages of a dystopian novel, or perhaps the pages of The Onion. ”The Mayor’s decision is stunning. And it is, ‘beyond all reason,’ unconstitutional,” the judge added.

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Odd friends: Trump and Gavin Newsom.

Can Trump Reopen The Economy On May 1? Not Really (LATimes)

President Trump says he hopes to be able to begin reopening the nation’s shuttered economy on May 1. But ultimately, nervous governors, mayors, school boards and families across the country will determine when to resume normal life. With more Americans out of work than at any time since the Depression in the 1930s, Trump is eager to ease the stay-at-home guidance he issued on March 16 and later extended through April 30 in an effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The president and his top economic advisors have floated plans to restart economic activity in phases, with some regions given greater leeway than others. Privately, White House officials concede the approach will have little effect on the larger economy, but hope to at least let some small businesses begin bringing back employees.

Speaking at the White House, Trump said he would consider the advice of his public health advisors, who have urged caution in lifting restrictions too quickly. Outside public health experts say another month or more may be necessary to keep the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus under 100,000. “I’m going to have to make a decision, and I hope to God it’s the right decision,” Trump said Friday. “I would say without question it’s the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make.” Asked what metrics he would use in deciding, Trump pointed to his head. Trump also said he would probably include governors from both parties in a council to advise him on the issue and hinted that California Gov. Gavin Newsom may be among them.

The president wields tremendous influence over the national response to the pandemic, and many local and state leaders, especially fellow Republicans, would weigh his advisories heavily in deciding their own policy. Although Trump asserted Friday that he has “absolute authority” to order the country open, the guidelines are not mandatory but recommendations. Governors, mayors and business owners have the ultimate power. Many issued their own guidance before Trump did, and some already have announced plans to restrict commerce and public gatherings beyond May 1 no matter what Trump recommends.

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Newsom is starting to shine a bit in his own right. Not exactly Trump’s best friend before this started.

California Gov. Newsom Praises Trump Admin’s COVID19 Relief Efforts (JTN)

California Governor Gavin Newsom is offering strong words of praise for President Trump, stating that the president, through his administration’s effort to help fight the coronavirus in that state, has met “every single direct request that he was capable of meeting.” Newsom made the laudatory remarks in an interview Friday with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “I have to be complimentary, otherwise I would be simply lying to you,” he said of the Trump administration’s relief measures. California has had one of the more significant coronavirus outbreaks in the United States, logging over 22,000 infections and 630 deaths as of Saturday night. Newsom put his state under an extended, near-total lockdown last month.


The Trump administration dispatched the Naval hospital ship USNS Mercy to Los Angeles last month in order to provide overflow hospital beds to assist with the state’s expected surge of coronavirus patients. Newsom said the ship was sent to the city “because of [the president’s] direct intervention.” The governor also noted the administration’s deployment of 2,000 federal medical stations to the state. Remarking on his praise of Trump, Newsom told Cooper that it is “a wonderful thing to be able to say, and I hope that continues.”

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Including 300 at just one plant.

Hundreds Of US Meat Workers Have Tested Positive For Coronavirus (LATimes)

There’s been a spike in coronavirus cases at meat plants in the U.S., with hundreds of reported infections in just the last week. That’s adding to questions over the fragility of the food-supply chain and raising concerns about worker safety. As many as 50 people at a JBS SA beef facility in Colorado’s Weld County tested positive, adding to more than 160 cases at a Cargill Inc. meat-packaging plant in Pennsylvania, union officials said Friday. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Friday reported 190 cases at a Smithfield Foods Inc. pork facility, the Associated Press said. The Cargill and Smithfield plants are being closed, while JBS said it will continue operations. Workers are also starting to die. Two more deaths were reported by union officials on Friday, one at the Greeley, Colo., meat plant and one in Pennsylvania.

Both those facilities are owned by JBS SA, the world’s top meat producer, which didn’t confirm the deaths. “As our communities and our country collectively face the coronavirus challenge, JBS USA has had team members impacted by COVID-19,” the American unit of the Brazilian meatpacker said in an emailed statement. “We are offering support to those team members and their families. Out of respect for the families, we are not releasing further information.” WH Group Ltd. acquired Virginia-based Smithfield, the world’s largest pork producer, in 2013 for $6.95 billion. As Smithfield can’t export sausage, ham and bacon from its U.S. factories because China prohibits imports of processed meat, WH Group opened a $116-million factory in Zhengzhou that will produce 30,000 metric tons of those meats when it reaches full capacity next year.

While it’s unclear whether the deaths and other cases have anything to do with the workplaces, the news exposes the vulnerability of global supply chains that are needed to keep grocery stores stocked after panic buying left shelves empty. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence both addressed the sudden jump in cases at meat plants when speaking to reporters on Friday. Pence said as many as 300 people have been “impacted” by the coronavirus at the Colorado meat plant. It’s unclear what that figure was referring to, whether it was people who have been quarantined, or possible cases. Trump also referred to the outbreak at Colorado meat plants on Friday. Neither Pence nor Trump specified which plant they were talking about. Greeley is about 65 miles northeast of Denver.

“We’re looking at this graph where everything’s looking beautiful and is coming down and then you’ve got this one spike. I said, ‘What happened to Denver?’” Trump said. “And many people, very quickly.” [..] The deaths reported Friday bring the total reported for JBS employees to three. On Tuesday, the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, which represents thousands of poultry workers, said two of its members working at a Tyson Foods Inc. plant in Camilla, Ga., died from the virus.

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So in your headline you say “Experimental Treatment”, and then in your article you say it was already used when George Washington’s troops were fighting small pox. That’s one way of doing it, I guess.

New York Hospital Approved To Use COVID-19 Experimental Treatment (JTN)

The Albany Medical Center in New York has become one of the first hospitals in America to gain Federal Drug Administration approval to conduct a new method of treating COVID-19, using antibodies from surviving patients. If a recovered patient has been diagnosed with the coronavirus then the hope is that that patient may be able to donate their blood plasma to help create immunity for others who are more critically ill, officials said. “As the region’s only academic medical center, Albany Med participates in many cutting-edge clinical research trials.

We are honored to have the ability to administer this experimental therapy as we fight this global pandemic and hope that it can provide the life-saving treatment these patients inflicted with COVID-19 so desperately need,” Dennis P. McKenna, the hospital’s president and CEO, said. The so-called convalescent blood plasma therapy is not a novel idea. It was not only used during the 1918 flu pandemic but as far back as when George Washington’s troops were fighting small pox during the Revolutionary War. It also was used as recently as 2014’s ebola outbreak.

Convalescent plasma therapy is simple. Patients become inflicted with COVID-19 and then recover completely and that immunity enables them to donate their plasma to another critically infected patient. Albany Medical Center is serving as a center for other COVID-19 patients who will donate their plasmas. A donor must be fully recovered and have no symptoms for at least 14 days. Convalescent plasma has been used effectively during earlier recent virus outbreaks: the 2002 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) under George W. Bush’s administration and during the H1N1 and Middle East respiratory syndrome under the Obama administration.

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Irony: US cases primarily came from Europe.

EU Borders May Close Till September Due To US COVID-19 Threat (F.)

Europe’s Schengen zone may keep its borders shut until September, to defend itself against the threat of COVID-19 from U.S. and other travelers. French President Emmanuel Macron has reportedly raised the possibility of the usually border-free countries staying shut to most foreigners for six more months. During a videoconference last Friday with trade unions, Macron said the idea is being considered by Schengen members, according to French media reports. The reason he gave was the fact that the pandemic is evolving at a different pace around the world, and “did not affect all countries at the same time” BFMTV reported. So the implication is that Europe needs to protect itself from the threat posed by travelers coming from high-risk countries.


According to the TV station, “Emmanuel Macron notably cited the example of the United States, where the coronavirus crisis is delayed by several weeks and which will therefore reach its peak later. But also that of Africa, where the situation is developing differently. In Asia, a second peak may occur.” Macron’s comments came two days after the Élysée Palace confirmed the French lockdown, in place since March 17, will continue beyond April 15. They also came on the heels of a call by European Union officials for member states to extend the border closure for another month at least, until mid-May. The EU says it needs more time to battle the health crisis, of which Europe is the global epicentre. Despite seeing “encouraging first results”, it wants to extend the closure of its external borders until May 15.

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Merkel won’t like the press getting involved in this.

China Chasing Coronavirus Praise From Germany (UrduP)

Chinese representatives tried to influence German government officials to give positive comments about Beijing’s management of the coronavirus outbreak, Germany’s Die Welt newspaper reported Sunday. The virus first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December and Beijing has been criticised by some — most notably US President Donald Trump — over its initial handling of the crisis. Senior officials and staff at German government ministries were invited “to speak in positive terms about China’s management of the coronavirus,” Die Welt said, citing a confidential foreign ministry document.


The foreign ministry recommended that all German governmental departments reject such approaches, the newspaper added. The ministry has declined to confirm or deny the report. However a German intelligence source told Die Welt that “Chinese officials are pursuing an intensified information and propaganda policy with regard to the coronavirus”. Beijing has sought to counter the narrative that the outbreak began in China and highlighted its assistance to Western countries “in order to present the People’s Republic as a trustworthy partner,” Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution said.

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From Greece with love.

USA Keen to Learn from Greece’s World-Leading Response to COVID-19 (GR)

Over 200 policymakers in the US Congress, the White House, State Department and other thought leaders and officials in Washington, DC were briefed about Greece’s impressive, world-leading response to the COVID-19 pandemic., announced Manatos & Manatos, a lobbying firm in DC. “Once again, in times of tremendous difficulty and challenge, little Greece has become a role model for the rest of the world. This speaks to the legacy Greece has shaped over centuries – a legacy of courage, creativity and perseverance,” said Andy Manatos and Mike Manatos, the two Greek American executives of the lobbying firm who spoke to the officials.

Furthermore, US Ambassador to Greece Geoffey Pyatt in a message to the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce also praised the Greek Government and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis for realising the gravity of the situation and his realistic approach in containing the virus. He also highlighted the compliance of the Greek people to the strict measures imposed. Indeed, major newspapers and news websites have praised Greece for the way it is dealing with the deadly virus and the low figures of cases and deaths recorded. Much more so because the country is now only shyly emerging from a crippling 10-year-long economic crisis that caused cutting of healthcare resources by 75 percent.

Characteristically, on April 10 Bloomberg ran an op-ed with the title “Greece Shows How to Handle the Crisis”. The article notes the immediate and bold response of the Greek government to the coronavirus threat: “Athens closed down all non-essential shops only four days after reporting its first Covid-19 death. In contrast, Italy and Spain did so after 18 and 30 days, respectively. A ban on non-essential movement in Greece came only a week afterwards — faster than in either of the other two countries.” Compared to the two Mediterranean countries, Greece’s difference in the horrifying figures is staggering: Greece currently counts 2,011 cases and 91 deaths, while Italy reports 147,577 cases and 18,849 deaths and Spain counts 158,273 cases and 16,081 deaths.

One would argue that Greece’s population is 10.74 million while Spain’s is 46.75 million and Italy’s population is 60.3 million, but proportionately Greece’s figures are hugely lower. Compared to countries with populations similar to Greece, still, the difference remains large. Netherlands with 17.1 million population reports 23,249 cases and 2,511 deaths; Belgium with 11.4 million population counts 26,667 cases and 3,019 deaths; Portugal with 10.2 population reports 15,472 cases and 435 deaths; Switzerland with 8.57 million population counts 24,551 cases and 1,002 deaths. On April 5, a New York Times story titled “The Rising Heroes of the Coronavirus Era – Nations’ Top Scientists” also praised Greece’s Chief Scientific Coordinator of Medical Response, Professor Sotirios Tsiodras:

“In Greece, which has so far been spared a major outbreak, everyone tunes in when Prof. Sotirios Tsiodras, a slender-framed, gray-haired man, addresses the nation every day at 6 p.m. His delivery is flat, and he relies heavily on his notes as he updates the country on the latest figures of those confirmed sick, hospitalized or deceased….The head of the Greek government’s medical response to the coronavirus and a churchgoing father of seven with a long career studying infectious diseases at Harvard, M.I.T. and elsewhere, Professor Tsiodras is not one for embellishment.”

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Note: the UN, not the EU.

UN Seeks To Lease Hotels, Ships To House Refugees On Greek Islands (Amna)

The UN High Commission for Refugees has issued a call for hotels and ships that can be leased to house vulnerable groups of asylum-seekers on the Greek islands, who might be affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The move was approved by the Migration & Asylum Ministry, it said, and would be funded by the European Union. Hotels are being sought for asylum applicants and refugees on the islands of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Kos, Leros and those of Rhodes and Crete. Availability must be immediate and the lease a three-month one. Ships must be able to accomodate 300 passengers and tie at the docks of Lesvos, Chios and Samos or 100 people and tie at Kos and Leros. They must include cleaning services, supply cabins with electricity and provide a meal three times a day. Leases must go into effect on Monday, April 13 and cover 15 days, with the option of extending it to two months.

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Primarily about different testing methods, thereby explaining their deficiencies.

Coronavirus Isn’t Really Dangerously Lingering On Surfaces For Weeks (F.)

RNA viruses, like the one that causes COVID-19, make a lot of mistakes when replicating their genomes, and sometimes these mistakes result in viral genomes containing fatal mistakes, or mutations, that render a critical viral gene non-functional – meaning they won’t infect people who come into contact with them. (In fact, these kinds of mistakes are why plants, animals, bugs, people – basically anything more complicated than these viruses – store genetic information in DNA instead, because far fewer mistakes are made when DNA replicates.) But when you run a qRT-PCR test, those viral genes with mistakes are indistinguishable from the ones that aren’t. And either way, the cellular machinery that makes more viruses will package up both functional and non-functional RNA. The RNA inside these packages, called virions, is what the qRT-PCR test is looking for.

For reasons that are not fully understood, patients that have recovered from a viral infection have cells that can continue to produce viral RNA without actually making infectious virus particles. That means it is not only possible but common to detect viral RNA without there being any infectious virus present. Virologists use other tests to detect infectious viruses – the ones we need to worry about actually making people sick. The most classical of these, plaque assays and 50% tissue culture infectious dose (TCID50) assays, are based on the ability of viruses to kill infected cells in culture. These methods are much better for assessing how much potentially transmissible virus would be “shed” from recovered patients or in the environment. (“Shed” is a bit of a jargon term virologists use – but it’s a good metaphor for thinking of viruses moving out of you and into the environment when you cough or sneeze.)

So why don’t we use these tests all the time? The problem with them is that they are also more time-consuming to perform and require specialized biocontainment. So they’re not practical for performing clinical diagnostic testing or broad surveillance. qRT-PCR can be performed in hours in standard laboratory conditions (biosafety level 2, or BSL-2), while plaque and TCID50 assays for SARS-CoV-2 take several days and must be performed in BSL-3 containment. Working in BSL-3 containment labs requires specialized training, and many clinical sites are not near a BSL-3 lab. So, most of the studies you read in the news about viral shedding and environmental contamination is just measuring the amount of viral RNA – but they’re not necessarily saying much about whether the virus is still contagious.

Fortunately, two studies have investigated the ability of virus to remain infectious on different materials in the environment. Although the length of time that virus on a surface remains infectious is dependent on environmental conditions such as temperature and humidity, no virus remained infectious on surfaces for anywhere near 17 days. Furthermore, in both studies, the amount of infectious virus was greatly reduced after several days. This suggests that risk of infection from virus on objects or surfaces in the environment can be minimized by diligent cleaning and disinfection practices.

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Two versions, short and long.

Is The Next Great Depression Here? (VT)

Economist Danielle DiMartino Booth talks about the correlation to the great depression and today in a sit-down with Patrick Bet-David.

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The full version of the interview above.

Economist Destroys China – Calls Coronavirus An Act of War (VT)

Economist Danielle DiMartino Booth Destroys China – Calls Coronavirus An Act of War in a sit-down with Patrick Bet-David.

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But not MbS.

Turkish Court Accepts Indictment For Khashoggi Murder Suspects (DS)


A Turkish court on Saturday accepted an indictment on the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The 117-page indictment prepared by Istanbul prosecutors accusing 20 Saudi nationals of involvement in the gruesome premeditated murder was accepted by Istanbul’s Heavy Penal Court No. 11. Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives shortly after he entered the country’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. His body was never recovered. Khashoggi, according to reports by the U.N. and other independent organizations, was very likely killed on orders of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman (MBS).

The indictment states that suspect Mansour Othman M. Abbahussain, working as a major general and intelligence officer in Saudi Arabia, was tasked in the office of MBS and was instructed by Ahmed Bin Mohammed al-Asiri to bring Khashoggi back to the country and to kill him if he resisted. It added that Abbahussain assembled a 15-man hit squad, including himself, for the murder.

He also distributed tasks among the squad, separating them into three groups: intelligence, logistics, and negotiation. Abbahussain also determined the place to meet Khashoggi as the working office at the Istanbul consulate and made plans for all contingencies before, during, and after the deed. The indictment accuses al-Asiri and Saud al-Qahtani of incitement to deliberate killing through torture and seeks aggravated life sentences for both. It also accuses 18 other Saudi nationals and recommends aggravated life sentences for each. These accused individuals were in consensus over killing Khashoggi if he refused to return to Saudi Arabia and acted mutually to commit the crime, according to the indictment.

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Too long for me to properly summarize here. But it should be obvious that MMT and UBI get attention in today’s world, if only because the Fed’s rapacious “stimulus” policies.

America is fast on its way to new breadlines, and there is no excuse for that.

Use and Abuse of MMT (Michael Hudson, Dirk Bezemer, Steve Keen, T.Sabri Öncü)

Money is debt. Government money creation for public purposes – to pay for employment and output – spurs prosperity. But in its present form, private-sector debt creation has become largely extractive, and thus leads to the opposite effect: debt deflation. Governments can pay public debt without defaulting, as long as this debt is denominated in their own domestic currency, because the governments can always print the money to pay. To the extent that public debt results from spending that supports output, employment and growth, this process is not inflationary. The government gives value to money by accepting it in payment of taxes. So the monetary system is inherently bound up with fiscal policy. The classical premise of such policy has been to minimize the economy’s cost structure by taxing mainly unearned income (economic rents), not wages and profits in the production-and-consumption sector.


The problem nowadays is private debt. Most such debt is created by banks. This bank credit – debts owed by bank customers – tends to increase faster than the ability of debtors to earn enough income to pay it. The reason is that most of private debt is not used for productive, income-generating purposes, but to finance the transfer property ownership (affecting asset prices in proportion to the rate of credit growth for such purposes). That use of credit – not associated with the production-and-consumption economy – leads to debt deflation. Instead of providing the economy with purchasing power (as in running government budget deficits), private debt works over time to extract interest and amortization from the economy, along with servicing fees.

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The bigger threat.

East Africa Locust Plague Up To 20 Times Larger Than Last Wave (Ind.)

A locust plague up to 20 times larger than a wave two months earlier is threatening to devastate parts of East Africa. January and February saw the worst locust outbreak some countries had seen in 70 years, with crops and farmland ravaged across much of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. But now, amid a global coronavirus pandemic, a second, much bigger round of the voracious insects is arriving. Billions of the young desert locusts are winging in from breeding grounds in Somalia in search of fresh vegetation springing up with seasonal rains. Millions of already vulnerable people are at risk. And as they gather to try to combat the locusts, often in vain, they risk spreading Covid-19 – a topic that comes a distant second for many in rural areas.

It is the locusts that “everyone is talking about”, said Yoweri Aboket, a farmer in Uganda. “Once they land in your garden they do total destruction. Some people will even tell you that the locusts are more destructive than the coronavirus. There are even some who don’t believe that the virus will reach here.” Some farmers in Mr Abokat’s village near the Kenyan border bang metal pans, whistle or throw stones to try to drive the locusts away. But mostly they watch in frustration, largely barred by a coronavirus lockdown from gathering outside their homes.

A failed garden of cassava, a local staple, means hunger. Such worries in the village of some 600 people are reflected across a large part of East Africa, including Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan. The locust swarms also have been sighted in Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania and Congo. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has called the locust outbreak, caused in part by climate change, “an unprecedented threat” to food security and livelihoods. Its officials have called this new wave some 20 times the size of the first.

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How does she explain to her kids later why their father was murdered by the government?

Julian Assange Fathered Two Sons While Inside Ecuadorian Embassy In London (DM)

Julian Assange secretly fathered two sons while holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, The Mail on Sunday can reveal. Gabriel, aged two, and his one-year-old brother Max were conceived while their father was hiding out to avoid extradition to America, where he faces espionage charges over the leaking of thousands of classified US intelligence documents. At the time, Assange, 48, was also wanted in Sweden where he was accused of rape. He has always denied the sex allegations, which have now been dropped. The boys’ mother is 37-year-old South African-born lawyer Stella Morris, who fell in love with the controversial WikiLeaks founder five years ago while visiting him to work on a legal bid to halt the extraditions. The couple have been engaged since 2017. [..] It is understood the couple also managed to keep their relationship and the birth of their children secret from Ecuadorian diplomats and officials who had given Assange refuge.

[..] At the time that Gabriel was conceived in 2016, Assange had been inside the embassy, close to Harrods, for four years and was believed to be under constant surveillance by American security services. [..] It is understood the couple also managed to keep their relationship and the birth of their children secret from Ecuadorian diplomats and officials who had given Assange refuge. [..] She is pleading for her fiance to be released under Government plans to free thousands of prisoners to quell the spread of the deadly virus between bars. Miss Morris says Assange is doubly vulnerable because he suffers from a chronic lung condition exacerbated by his years inside the embassy and has mental health issues which become more severe as a result of isolation. She said last night: ‘I love Julian deeply and I am looking forward to marrying him.


‘Over the past five years I have discovered that love makes the most intolerable circumstances seem bearable but this is different – I am now terrified I will not see him alive again. ‘Julian has been fiercely protective of me and has done his best to shield me from the nightmares of his life. ‘I have lived quietly and privately, raising Gabriel and Max on my own and longing for the day we could be together as a family. ‘Now I have to speak out because I can see that his life is on the brink. ‘Julian’s poor physical health puts him at serious risk, like many other vulnerable people, and I don’t believe he will survive infection with coronavirus. ‘Mentally, I do not think he will survive further enforced isolation either. ‘He is effectively in solitary confinement, in a cell for up for 23 and a half hours a day with no access to us, his family, or the psychiatric help he needs.’

[..] Miss Morris had an international upbringing with her theatre director mother and urban planner father. The family spent time in Sweden meaning she was a fluent Swedish speaker, able to help defend Assange against the allegations, which were rescinded last year. She is also a fluent Spanish speaker, a skill which would become equally critical when Assange sought asylum in a South American embassy the following year. She has a degree in law and politics from London’s prestigious School of Oriental and African Studies and took her MSc at Oxford where she was a noted scholar. She became a member of Assange’s inner circle in the embassy, officially changing her name from Sara Gonzalez Devant to Stella Morris so she could maintain a lower profile while researching and drafting legal documents for WikiLeaks.

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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.

 

 

 

 

https://twitter.com/DrEricDing/status/1248738266851016704

 

 

 

 

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

 

Apr 112020
 


Dorothea Lange Six tenant farmers without farms, Hardeman County, Texas 1937

 

115-Year-Old Supreme Court Opinion Could Determine Rights In A Pandemic (CNN)
Fauci: Immunity Cards Option For US, Antibody Tests To Come Next Week (Hill)
Fauci: World Health Organization Boss ‘Really An Outstanding Person’ (JTN)
New York Gov. Cuomo Tells Giuliani Coronavirus Modeling ‘100% Wrong’ (JTN)
Democrats Want To Drop Joe Biden For Andrew Cuomo – Poll (NYP)
New York Gov. Cuomo Joins International Criticism Of WHO (JTN)
Progressive Caucus Demands Pelosi Unveil Bold Coronavirus Package (CD)
68% Of COVID-19 Patients Improve After Gilead Drug Remdesivir: NEJM (R.)
New Jersey Loosens Restrictions On Hydroxychloroquine In Nursing Homes (NJ.com)
Less Than 1% Of Austrians ‘Acutely’ Infected With Coronavirus (G.)
French Coronavirus Toll Over 13,000 As Nursing Home Deaths Jump (R.)
Deaths Soar At Britain’s Care Homes As COVID-19 Stalks Elderly (R.)
2,000 Extra Deaths: Dutch Coronavirus Toll May Be Far Higher Than Known (RT)
Refusing To Share Debt Across The Eurozone Threatens EU’s Future (Varoufakis)
Risings and Fallings (Kunstler)
What if Ignored COVID19 Warnings Had Been Leaked to WikiLeaks? (Ray McGovern)

 

 

• The US becomes the first country to record more than 2,000 #coronavirus deaths in one day, with 2,108 fatalities in the past 24 hours, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally

• The US has now recorded 18,586 deaths, closing in on the toll of 18,849 dead in Italy which has seen the most fatalities so far,

• US records more than 500,000 coronavirus cases: Johns Hopkins as of 0030 GMT Saturday, up 35,098 in the past 24 hours

• U.S. Bureau of Prisons reports that 318 federal inmates and 163 employees have tested positive for coronavirus.

• Top 10 States – Positive Tests 4/10/20
1) NY/ 170,512;
2) NJ/ 54,588;
3/ MI/ 22,783;
4) MA/ 20,974;
5) CA/ 20,917;
6) PA/ 20,251;
7) LA/ 19,253;
8) FL/ 17,968;
9) IL/ 17,887;
10)TX 11,671.

 

 

Cases 1,710,152 (+ 95,103 from yesterday’s 1,615,049)

Deaths 103,506 (+ 6,715 from yesterday’s 96,791) (of 6,715 new deaths, over 2,000 were in the US)

 

 

 

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:

 

 

 

 

The legal game is definitely on.

115-Year-Old Supreme Court Opinion Could Determine Rights In A Pandemic (CNN)

When a US appeals court ruled this week that Texas could prevent physicians from performing abortions because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the judges leaned heavily on a 1905 Supreme Court decision against a Massachusetts man who had refused vaccination during a smallpox outbreak. That case could be invoked more in the months ahead. It is the high court’s touchstone for state power during public health crises. But it is a decision with limits. The 1905 court warned against “arbitrary” or “oppressive” regulation and expressly connected mandatory vaccination to ending the spread of smallpox. Today, the question is how bluntly the case, known as Jacobson v. Massachusetts, might be wielded to justify curbing individual liberties without caveat.

In the first decision of its kind during the coronavirus crisis, the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals relied wholly on the 1905 case to permit Texas to include abortion clinics in its ban on non-essential medical services and surgeries. The panel, ruling by a 2-1 vote, rejected arguments regarding the right to abortion ingrained by the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade and subsequent rulings. “Jacobson instructs that all constitutional rights may be reasonably restricted to combat a public health emergency,” wrote Judge Stuart Kyle Duncan for the majority. The 5th Circuit has a record of decisions against abortion access, including in a Louisiana dispute over physician regulations, begun long before the current pandemic and now pending at the US Supreme Court.

Dissenting in the new case, Judge James Dennis argued that the majority had taken the Jacobson precedent too far. Unlike in the early 1900s, Dennis wrote, when vaccination would stop the smallpox outbreak, “the thread connecting (the Texas measure) to combatting COVID-19 is more attenuated—premised not on the idea that abortion providers are spreading the virus, but that their continuing operation requires the use of resources that should be conserved and made available to healthcare workers fighting the outbreak.”

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Something tells me a few gun-toting Americans will not like those cards.

Fauci: Immunity Cards Option For US, Antibody Tests To Come Next Week (Hill)

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said it’s possible that in the future Americans may carry documents to prove they are immune or not infected with the coronavirus. Fauci, who is one of the public health officials on the administration’s coronavirus task force, said such a system is one of several options they are discussing. “That’s possible,” he said on CNN’s “New Day.” “It’s one of those things that we talk about when we want to make sure who the vulnerable people are and not,” Fauci added. “This is something that’s being discussed, I think it might actually have some merit.”


The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases also said that within a period of “a week or so” there will be a large number of new antibody tests, which allow users to discover whether they possess a unique immune response to the virus. “As soon as they get validated, they’ll be out there for people to use,” Fauci said. “It’s very likely that there are a large number of people out there that have been infected, have been asymptomatic and did not know.”


Coney Island 1940

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This is just nonsense. Ask Fauci why the WHO declared a pandemic only on March 11.

Fauci: World Health Organization Boss ‘Really An Outstanding Person’ (JTN)

The World Health Organization has landed in President Trump’s crosshairs for its handling of the coronavirus, yet Dr. Tony Fauci, a senior adviser on the White House’s coronavirus task force, has recently praised the group’s top leader. WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has come under fire for allegedly failing to warn the world about the speedy, lethal nature of the coronavirus originating in China. Multiple U.S. lawmakers, as well as Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, have called for Ghebreyesus’s removal. A Change.org petition has garnered nearly 780K petition signers urging Tedros’ ouster. “Tedros is really an outstanding person,” Fauci said during the March 25 coronavirus task force briefing. “I’ve known him from the time that he was the minister of Health of Ethiopia.


“I mean, obviously, over the years, anyone who says that the WHO has not had problems has not been watching the WHO. But I think, under his leadership, they’ve done very well.” Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), praised Ghebreyesus’ handling of the coronavirus epidemic. “He has been all over this,” Fauci said. “I was on the phone with him a few hours ago leading a WHO call.” “The W.H.O. really blew it,” Trump recently tweeted. “For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?”

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Cuomo called for a lot of ventilators that turn out to be not needed.

New York Gov. Cuomo Tells Giuliani Coronavirus Modeling ‘100% Wrong’ (JTN)

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been the stoic face of the state’s battle against the deadly coronavirus, but he recently acknowledged that his efforts to save residents’ lives and keep the regional economy afloat have been hampered by “100 percent wrong” projections. “All of the projections, by the way, and the statisticians have been 100 percent wrong at this point,” Cuomo on Thursday told former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani on his radio show.


The roughly 9-minute interview on WABC-AM was all pleasantries between the longtime New York pols, as the state, now the epicenter of the virus, appears to be near the height of infection cases and related deaths. “Thank you for asking about Chris, Mr. Mayor,” said Cuomo, who now gives daily TV briefings, when Giuliani inquired about his brother, Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor recovering from the virus. Giuliani started the interview by telling his audience that his guest is Gov. Cuomo “who, I think, is known to every American as a person who has supplied great, great leadership for his state and for his country.” Giuliani also added: “You’re doing a great job.”

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I have a question. Cuomo is governor of a state where the virus has run way out of hand. But nobody even tries to hold him accountable, it’s as if everything happened beyond his view, or power. It’s everybody’s fault but his. Why is that?

Democrats Want To Drop Joe Biden For Andrew Cuomo – Poll (NYP)

A majority of Democrats want to nominate New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for president instead of Joe Biden, according to poll results shared exclusively with The Post. The national poll found 56 percent of Democrats prefer Cuomo, with 44 percent wanting to stick with presumptive nominee Biden — a 12-point margin well outside the 4.8 percent margin of error for the Democratic sample. Hispanic voters, young people, women and self-identified liberals are most likely to favor dumping the former vice president for Cuomo. The poll, conducted April 3-6, was commissioned by the conservative pro-market Club for Growth, which generally supports Republican candidates.


Cuomo denied last month that he wanted to run for president, but some Democrats still are clamoring for an alternative to Biden, who faded from public view during the coronavirus outbreak, which elevated Cuomo in daily press conferences. Club for Growth vice president of communications Joe Kildea told The Post that the results highlight Biden’s weakness as a candidate. “With every major news event, Democrats realize more and more how bad of a candidate Joe Biden is, and Democrats now preferring Cuomo is just another example,” Kildea said.

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Here Cuomo is blaming yet another party. Not himself.

New York Gov. Cuomo Joins International Criticism Of WHO (JTN)

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday joined the bipartisan – and international – criticism of the World Health Organization’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. “Where were the warning signs?” Cuomo asked at his daily briefing. “Who should have blown the whistle?” President Trump has been among the most vocal of world leaders on the issue of the WHO’s response, which they argue was slow and less than exact in its reporting and guidance. But the backlash against China appears global. Taiwan officials have suggested the WHO excluding it from membership has hurt the country’s response to the pandemic. Trump has vowed to withhold U.S. support for the group and said Friday that he’ll make a decision on the matter next week.


Cuomo pointed out Friday that headlines appeared in December and January about a new virus emerging in China, while the WHO failed to issue formal warnings. “Did we really need to be in this situation where the United States winds up having a higher number of cases than the places that came before?” he asked. Also in the U.S., congressional bills are being proposed by a number of GOP legislators, including Sens. Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and Marsha Blackburn (Tennessee), and Rep. Mike Gallagher (Wisconsin), to encourage U.S. companies to source ingredients and goods outside of Chinese markets.

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This is as close as you can get to UBI without naming it that.

Progressive Caucus Demands Pelosi Unveil Bold Coronavirus Package (CD)

The Congressional Progressive Caucus is calling on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to meet the coronavirus crisis with the urgency it deserves by advancing another sweeping stimulus package that—unlike the previous business-friendly legislation—guarantees economic security for all, protects public health, and ensures election safety. “Our actions now can lay the foundation for a just and resilient recovery, but only if we recognize the scale of this unprecedented crisis and fashion a response that meets that scale,” the two dozen members of the CPC Executive Board wrote in a letter sent to Pelosi on Thursday. With the U.S. economy rapidly deteriorating as the coronavirus continues to spread—nearly 17 million Americans filed jobless claims between March 15 and April 4—the CPC urged Pelosi to quickly assemble a relief package that provides robust assistance to workers and the unemployed until the coronavirus pandemic completely subsides.


To ensure that Americans will not have to wait for further congressional action if the economic and public health crisis deepens, the CPC called for a legislative package that contains automatic triggers so that “assistance continues based on economic conditions throughout the duration of the pandemic.” CPC’s list of specific demands includes: • Monthly direct cash payments of at least $2,000 to every adult in the U.S., and an additional $1,000 for every child for up to a year; • A nationwide moratorium on all evictions and foreclosures; • At least $30,000 in student debt relief; • Suspending collection of all consumer debt, including medical debt; • Opening Medicare to all people who are unemployed and uninsured; • Ensuring that no one in the U.S. faces out-of-pocket costs for COVID-19 treatment; • Increasing federal nutrition assistance benefits; • Creating a “federal Paycheck Guarantee program” to stop mass layoffs; and • Guaranteeing nationwide vote-by-mail to make sure elections don’t contribute to the spread of COVID-19.


Top right: the Rest Of Us

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I’d go for hydroxychloroquine. 68% is hardly spectacular.

68% Of COVID-19 Patients Improve After Gilead Drug Remdesivir: NEJM (R.)

More than two-thirds of severely ill COVID-19 patients saw their condition improve after treatment with remdesivir, an experimental drug being developed by Gilead Sciences, according to new data based on patient observation. The analysis, published on Friday by the New England Journal of Medicine, does not detail what other treatments the 61 hospitalized patients were given and data on eight of them were not included — in one case because of a dosing error. The paper’s author called the findings “hopeful,” but cautioned that it is difficult to interpret the results since they do not include comparison to a control group, as would be the case in a randomized clinical trial.

In addition, the patient numbers were small, the details being disclosed are limited, and the follow-up time was relatively short. There are currently no approved treatments or preventive vaccines for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 100,000 people worldwide. Gilead last month sharply limited its compassionate use program for remdesivir and is conducting its own clinical trials of the antiviral drug, with results expected in coming weeks. Researchers in China as well as the U.S. National Institutes of Health are also testing the drug in COVID-19 patients. The new analysis includes patients in the United States, Europe, Canada and Japan who received a 10-day course of intravenous remdesivir.

Before the treatment, 30 patients were on mechanical ventilators, and four were on a machine that pumps blood from the patient’s body through an artificial oxygenator. After a median follow-up of 18 days, 36 patients, or 68%, had an improvement in oxygen-support class, including more than half of the 30 patients receiving mechanical ventilation who had their breathing tubes removed. A total of 25 patients, or 47%, were discharged from the hospital. Seven patients, 13% of the total, died. Twelve patients, 23%, had serious side effects including multiple-organ-dysfunction syndrome, septic shock and acute kidney injury.

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If people use it anyway, might as well.

New Jersey Loosens Restrictions On Hydroxychloroquine In Nursing Homes (NJ.com)

The state on Friday loosened restrictions on using a controversial malaria drug for COVID-19 patients, making it more readily available for people in nursing homes and other facilities. The decision comes amid reports of nursing home residents dying from complications of the disease and after some doctors, politicians and pharmacists had called for a change in the state’s rules. Until Friday’s order, doctors had been barred from prescribing hydroxychloroquine and some other drugs to treat COVID-19 outside of hospitals unless patients tested positive for the virus. Officials have reported that 262 of 375 of the state’s long-term care facilities have had at least one case of coronavirus, with reports of multiple deaths at some homes.


On Thursday, the National Guard arrived at the New Jersey Veterans Home in Paramus to help its staff cope with an outbreak of the virus that has infected 40 veterans and killed 10. The same home has had nearly 30 other deaths over the last two weeks, but a lack of testing for Covid-19 means they might not be attributed to the disease. The new regulations list a number of settings outside of hospitals “where the prescribing limitations” of the old order “do not apply,” according to a statement released Friday evening by the Division of Consumer Affairs. Doctors already had been prescribing hydroxychloroquine to patients in hospitals, where a positive test was not required by the state. The new regulations add post-acute care facilities, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, field hospitals and “other locations designated as emergency health care centers by the Commissioner of Health.”

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The Guardian left the word ‘Acutely’ out of the headline, That makes all the difference. The article also mentions a “World Health Organization report in February suggesting truly asymptomatic cases were relatively rare”. We now know they could be 50%.

Less Than 1% Of Austrians ‘Acutely’ Infected With Coronavirus (G.)

Less than 1% of the Austrian population is “acutely infected” with coronavirus, new research based on testing a representative sample of more than 1,500 people suggests. The government-commissioned study, reportedly the first of its kind in continental Europe, was led by the polling company Sora, which is known for projecting election results, in cooperation with the Red Cross, the Medical University of Vienna, and other institutions. The study made it possible to estimate the prevalence of acute coronavirus infections in Austria among those not in hospital at the beginning of April, and was designed to provide a clearer picture of the total number of infections, given gaps in testing.

The research, if replicated and confirmed elsewhere, would appear to scotch hopes of countries being remotely close to relying on “herd immunity” – where enough of the population is exposed to the virus to build up a combined immunity – as a viable policy option. The study stands in contrast to controversial modelling by researchers at Oxford University who, in one scenario they examined, suggested most people in the UK might already have been infected with Covid-19. The co-founder of Sora, Christoph Hofinger, told a news conference: “Based on this study, we believe that 0.33% of the population in Austria was acutely infected in early April.” Given the margin of error, the figure was 95% likely to be between 0.12% and 0.76%. The Austrian chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, who saw initial findings a few days ago, said on Monday that the rate of infection was around 1%.

This disproved the idea of herd immunity, which requires widespread infection, as a viable policy option, he said. However, researchers, speaking at a press conference to release the results, said the study provided only a “snapshot” and did not account for asymptomatic infections, or people who were immune. “We did not find out how many people are immune, but only how many people in Austria are currently acutely infected,” said Günther Ogris, from Sora. The issue of the proportion of asymptomatic infections in the population remains highly contested, with a World Health Organization report in February suggesting truly asymptomatic cases were relatively rare. However, another small Chinese study, reported in the British Medical Journal earlier this month, posited that up to four-fifths of all infections could be without symptoms

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Nursing homes, care homes, whatever you call them, they’re petri dishes.

French Coronavirus Toll Over 13,000 As Nursing Home Deaths Jump (R.)

The number of people who have died from coronavirus infection in France jumped by nearly 987 or 8% to 13,197 as nursing home deaths swelled but fewer people were in intensive care as the effect of nationwide confinement started to show. The total number of confirmed and probable coronavirus infections in the country rose by 7,120 to 124,869, although the ministry does not provide a total, splitting the number instead between cases in hospitals and cases in nursing homes. That total number is set to increase as just under 5,000 out of 7,400 homes so far have reported coronavirus cases to the government, a ministry official told Reuters.


The health ministry said on Friday that 7,004 people were in intensive care, a fall of 62 or 0.9% following a 1% fall on Thursday. “We seem to be reaching a plateau, albeit a high level,” health ministry director Jerome Salomon told a daily press briefing by video. But the death toll picked up again, with the number of people dying in hospitals up by 554 or 7% to 8,598 on Friday, after increasing 5% on Thursday. The number of people who died in nursing homes – according to incomplete data that cover several days and do not include all nursing homes – went up by 433 or 10% to 4,599 and now make up more than a third of the total toll.

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They should really publish case numbers among their staff as well.

Deaths Soar At Britain’s Care Homes As COVID-19 Stalks Elderly (R.)

Thousands of care homes across Britain were locked down last month to stop COVID-19 from spreading among their frail and elderly residents. For Jamshad Ali, 87, it came anyway. Ali and six other residents at Hawthorn Green Care Home in east London died with “symptoms consistent with COVID-19,” with 21 others also possibly infected, said a spokesman for the home. With growing reports of COVID-19 deaths and cases at other homes, experts fear the disease, caused by the new coronavirus, which has already ripped through the care sector in the United States and the rest of Europe is now doing the same in Britain. Care workers and advocacy groups are calling for more equipment to keep themselves and their residents safe, and for testing to get self-isolating staff back to workplaces already understaffed when the pandemic struck.

They’re also calling for more support for a sector whose workers are, like Britain’s National Health Service, fighting the coronavirus up close, but with less pay, training and recognition. Jamshad Ali’s daughter, Luthfa Hood, is heartbroken but also angry that care homes are considered such a low priority. “Young people, if they get the virus, they can fight it,” she said. “But (with) older people, it just seems like we’re saying, ‘We don’t care about you – you’re too old.’” Reporting delays and lack of testing make the death toll in care homes hard to pinpoint. Over 9% of them had reported cases and the number would continue to rise, said England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty on Tuesday.

“If you have a virus this infectious in a setting with lots of vulnerable older people, then it’s very bad news,” said Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK, which supports older people. “The mortality rate is likely to be very high.” On Monday, France announced there had been more than 2,400 deaths in its care homes. About 433,000 people live in Britain’s 11,000 care homes, which have over 450,000 beds – three times more than the National Health Service.

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2,000 extra people died last week. 881 were COVID19. That leaves 1,119 “undeclared” deaths. Every country should look at these numbers in their own jurisdiction.

2,000 Extra Deaths: Dutch Coronavirus Toll May Be Far Higher Than Known (RT)

The Netherlands suffered 2,000 more deaths than usual during the first week of April, the country’s statistics office has said. The spike suggests the Covid-19 toll might be significantly higher than officially registered. Figures released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS) on Friday show that around 5,100 deaths were registered across the country in the week ending April 5. The number is abnormally large and exceeded expectations, which were based on an average taken of the past several years, by some 2,000 people. Over the same period, the country’s National Institute for Public Health (RIVM) registered 881 coronavirus deaths – and the extra deaths overall in early April may also be due to the dreaded disease.


“The rising mortality rate coincides with the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis in the Netherlands,” the organization said. A more complete picture emerges by looking at the total weekly number of deaths as based on the data received by CBS, regardless of the cause of death. In some municipalities, the weekly death toll exceeded the average twofold and even fourfold, the CBS said. The abnormally large figures alone, however, cannot conclusively show that Covid-19 is to blame, and the spike may be “coincidental and not necessarily related to the coronavirus crisis,” the statistics body noted.

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The complaints about the EU become a broken record. What are the odds it will ever change?

Refusing To Share Debt Across The Eurozone Threatens EU’s Future (Varoufakis)

Most of continental Europe using the euro is in lockdown. The economic shockwaves caused by a lockdown do not care what currency we use. Just as in the United Kingdom, the United States or Japan, the precipitous falls in private incomes must be counterbalanced by substantial increases in public expenditure. If governments fail in this, the sum of private and public expenditure (which equals aggregate income) will crash even faster, bankruptcies will burgeon and government tax revenues will collapse further in the medium turn. The challenge facing the 19 countries of the eurozone is unique. The massive boost in public debt that is now so necessary is hampered by the quaint arrangement of sharing a central bank that, on the one hand, has no common treasury to lean against and, on the other, is banned from backing directly the 19 treasuries that must borrow in euros to fight the crisis.

The euro crisis that began in 2010 stretched this monetary architecture to its limits. The coronavirus recession is now pushing it beyond them. With the countries worst hit by Covid-19, such as Italy, being the most indebted and thus the least able to shoulder the necessary new debt, an impossible conundrum emerges: the new debt needed to revive the private sector will push the state into default, so destroying the banks whose capital is mostly government debt and, in short order, the rest of the private sector. The only way out of this trap is for the new debt not to fall on the weak shoulders of the most indebted eurozone countries but to be shared across the eurozone. Except that this debt-sharing is banned by the treaties that created the eurozone, at the insistence of the northern european countries running a trade surplus with the rest.

[..] The message today to Italians, Spaniards and Greeks is: your government can borrow large amounts from Europe’s bailout fund. No conditions. You will also receive help to pay for unemployment benefits from countries where employment holds up better. But, within a year or two, as your economies are recovering, huge new austerity measures will be demanded to bring your government’s finances back into line, including the repayment of the monies spent on your unemployment benefits.

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“..readers are twanging on me to declare the whole Covid-19 story “a hoax,” which I’m not ready to do.”

Risings and Fallings (Kunstler)

In the corkscrewing anguish of the social sequester, with careers, savings, futures, and dreams whirling down the drain, voices rise above the din of conflicting statistics to ask: what is going on here? To some, it looks like a deliberate attempt to demolish what’s left of the economy for political advantage. Clouds of suspicion gather over the two medical superstars of the Daily Briefing show, Doctors Fauci and Birx, as they somewhat sheepishly revise their numbers for contagion and death downward and attempt to “balance” the formula of modeled projections versus mitigation efforts. Was the stay-at-home panic necessary, after all? Will it save the day or kill off modern life as we knew it? Well, everyplace else in the world was shutting down, weren’t they? Did they all go off their rockers, too?

At least a hundred doctors died in Italy heroically tending the stricken, so they say. South Korea, Taiwan, and Singapore opted for flat-out medical Gestapo action. Britain, Spain, France, and Germany about the same, but minus testing at the grand scale and tracing of contacts. Honestly, how is it possible the whole planet punked itself? I certainly don’t know the answer to all this, though readers are twanging on me to declare the whole Covid-19 story “a hoax,” which I’m not ready to do. I do know this: America has become utterly intolerant of uncertainty. And in the absence of certainty, that age-old human cognitive skill called pattern recognition, which has made us such a successful species, kicks into high gear scanning the field-of-view for answers. Any string-of-dots that affords even the slimmest plausibility goes on the table for review, including a lot of stories tagged as “conspiracy theories.”

[..] And meanwhile, the American public sequesters and festers, waiting for those $1,200 checks that will fix… everything! Let’s face it: this is a twilight zone between stupor and fury. Nobody is paying anything to anyone. All obligations are suspended: salaries, rents, mortgages, bills, loans, bets, and vigs, all up in the air somewhere, but definitely not moving to their assigned destinations. The velocity of money is zero and all the various new term facilities and structured vehicles conjured by the Federal Reserve and Congress amount to a mere shadow of money moving – even though they are represented by trillions of brand-new alleged dollars.

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It’s Free Assange Day today.

What if Ignored COVID19 Warnings Had Been Leaked to WikiLeaks? (Ray McGovern)

As I think of my good friend Julian, what comes to mind are the desperate words of Willy Loman’s wife Linda in “Death of a Salesman”: “He’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.” (On the chance you are wondering, The New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal — as well as National Public Radio — have paid zero attention to the extradition hearing in recent weeks — much less to Judge Baraitser’s Queen of Hearts-style, “off-with-his-head” behavior.)

The pitiable Baraitser, of course, is simply a cog in the imperial machinery, a self-impressed, self-interested, rigid functionary aping the role of Caiaphas, the high priest beholden to an earlier Empire. “It’s better that one man die,” he is said to have explained, when another nonviolent truth-teller dared to expose the cruelties of Empire to the downtrodden of his day — including the despicable accessory role played by the high priests. Here is how theologian Eugene Peterson’s renders Caiaphas’s words in John 11: “Can’t you see that it’s to our advantage that one man die … rather than the whole nation be destroyed.” (“Nation” in that context meant the system of privilege enjoyed by collaborators with Rome — like the high priests and the lawyers of the time.)

The lesson meant to be taken away from Assange’s punishment are as clear — if less bloody — as the crucifixion that followed quickly after Caiaphas explained the rationale. The behavior of today’s empire pretends to be more “civilized” as it manufactures stories of rape, leans on ratty satraps in Sweden, England, and Ecuador, and ostentatiously thumbs its nose at official UN condemnations of “arbitrary detention.” And, if that were not enough, it also practices leave-no-marks torture.

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