Jun 122022
 June 12, 2022  Posted by at 1:21 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , ,  2 Responses »

Evelyn De Morgan Night and Sleep 1878



Yes, yes, I know, high time for another update on the Monastiraki kitchen you have been so wonderfully, gracefully supporting for 7 years now (I first got here in June 2015). First of all, we are doing great, the level of commitment of the crew is unprecedented, very happy with that, it’s rare. I remember in 2015 there were 51 NGOs “helping” the refugees on Lesbos, for millions of EU funded euros, but the Monastiraki kitchen is something entirely different. Give your time, your money, your love. We want no official status, no subsidies, no CEO who makes a ton of money, we just do it.

BUT: see, if you have “just” your family to feed, you’ll be scared seeing prices for food and energy rise. When you feed 500 people, it’s a whole different story. And a much scarier one. Because I realize that there is no way prices will not rise much more. Rising energy prices -which have yet to be reflected in store prices- guarantee that, and so does the slim edge on which many people here already live. We will go from feeding 500 people to 600-700?!, and the food for every one of them will cost 40-50% more than it did before. That is our future.


I saw this report a few days ago on RT (so no link, RT’s only on my phone in Greece), and scary as it looks, it still downplays matters a lot -because it’s based on “official” numbers”. Inflation at 11%? Well, not in my supermarket, it’s more like prices have almost doubled. But look at the energy costs that even official numbers cite:

Inflation in Greece surged to 11.3% year-on-year in May from 10.2% recorded in the previous month, according to the latest data from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAT). According to ELSTAT, natural gas prices saw an annual surge of 172.7%, while electricity bills increased 80.2% and expenses for heating oil grew by 65.1%. The cost of housing reportedly soared 35% year-on-year, transportation prices were up 18.8%, while prices for food and non-alcoholic beverages jumped by 12.1%.

Foods included in the ‘household basket’ saw the biggest price increases with oil and fat rising by 23.2% and dairy by 14.1%. Prices for meat, bread and cereal, and vegetables increased by 13.8%, 13.4%, and 13%, respectively. Meanwhile, prices for fresh fruit grew by 10.8%. Coffee and tea, juice and other beverages, and sweets saw price hikes of 6.3%, 5.6%, and 4.7%, respectively. The price of fish rose 4.1%, while that of alcohol saw an increase of 2.1%.

Greece’s annual EU-harmonized inflation also saw a sharp rise to 10.5% in May from 9.1% in April, further squeezing disposable incomes. EU-harmonized inflation is an index of components used across the EU to measure inflation in a consistent way.

The reality of food prices is a much more grim. In my last article on the kitchen, Dec ’21, I said prices were up 35% from a year ago. Since then, beautiful Filothei -who does the shopping- says this is what happened to prices for our staples:

• Mince meat + 37%
• Pasta + 38%
• Cheese +50%
• Tomato paste +27%
• Vegetables + 50%
• Plates: the aluminum ones we used are up over 100%, we -hope we- found a cheaper plastic solution, but still +40%



On top of that, there are the energy prices. If and when electricity is up 80%, and heating oil 65%, it doesn’t take much brain capacity to figure out that an already battered population is in for a world of trouble. So for us, not only are prices rising, so will -and is- our client base. Double whammy. Already 500 meals instead of 250. Already our new reality, and there is no end in sight. The influence of rising energy costs on food prices will take another 6 months or so to seep through. That is not included in today’s prices! But it will be. And there is no guarantee any government can control any of it, let alone the Greek one. I must admit it scares me at times. At this point we even must worry also about the Monastiraki kitchen crew members; are they alright? Do they have a place to live, food to eat?


Here’s the money we have spent from your donations since my last Monastiraki kitchen article on December 12:

• Dec 21 €400 plates, €50 spices
• Dec 28 €1,500 checks supermarket
• Mar 2 2022 €109.20 table (old one was broken, must be foldable, easy to transport)
• Mar 22 2022 €400 plates
• April 12 €320 olive oil, 3×19 liters tins, 1 free , excellent quality organic oil – From the nuns in the convent that also owns our home base, which we can use for free. We have an agreement that we will fix it up, but that would cost €5000 or so, and with prices rising as they do, even if we had the money, we couldn’t spend it on that. Which means we still have no fridge, no safe storage for food (mice, insects). Double edged sword.-
• Water : We made a deal with a store to buy 100 bottles of cold water for €30 every week (18 weeks=€540). Summers here are hot, it’s simply needed. No running water on the square, no fridge, got to be practical.
• June 7 €1500 checks supermarket



I asked Filothei why €1,000 in supermarket checks we bought in September lasted 3 months, and €1,500 from December lasted 5 months. As prices rose 30% or more. Her reply, basically, is that we went though much of our storage supply. That doesn’t appear to me to be the way to go if you already know things will only get more expensive. Storage should be full, even if we have to store the pasta under our beds. Filothei thinks it will take €450-€550 to replenish the storage, we’ll do that ASAP. So the €1,500 we spent on checks last week is really only €1,000. Important details.



Also, I should never forget the local people who support the kitchen. There is a baker who sends over enough bread for everyone. Another baker sends over tons of fantastic sweets, luxurious pies etc., every week (€100 each time?). They wish to remain anonymous. And there are many like them. The store where we get the water sends over food for vegetarians, to name one example. Plus, of course, most vegetables come from Filothei’s organic garden (how big does a garden have to be before you call it a farm?!). It’s a brilliant operation, and I’m proud to be part of it.

We are a lucky kitchen. Because of all these people, and because of you. Thank you. I’ll end with the usual play:




Most of you will know the drill of this by now: any Paypal donations ending in $0.99 or $0.37 go straight to the Monastiraki kitchen, while other donations go to the Automatic Earth -which also badly needs them. (Note: a lot of Automatic Earth donations also end up at the kitchen).

I dislike few things more than asking people for money, even though the Automatic Earth now runs primarily on donations, and there’s some sweet justice in that as well, in depending on people’s appreciation of what we do, instead of ad revenues.

But I cannot do this on my own right now. The Monastiraki kitchen will realistically need about €1,500 per month (not all from my readers). I don’t have that to spare. So I’m calling on you. Unashamedly, because I know there is no reason to be ashamed of the cause.

I love all you people, and I’m sorry I can’t thank you all individually who have supported -and still do- the Monastiraki kitchen and the Automatic Earth all this time, and I ask you to keep on doing just that. The details for donations on Paypal and Patreon, for both causes, are in the top of the two sidebars of this site. Could not be much easier. If you’d rather send a check, go to our Store and Donations page. Bitcoin: 1HYLLUR2JFs24X1zTS4XbNJidGo2XNHiTT.

Love you. Thank you. This kitchen would not exist without you, these people would not get fed.






We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support.



Support the Automatic Earth in virustime with Paypal, Bitcoin and Patreon.


Aug 082021
 August 8, 2021  Posted by at 5:51 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , ,  42 Responses »

Caspar David Friedrich Woman before the Rising Sun 1818



No, I wasn’t going to talk about the wildfires raging outside my hometown of Athens, Greece, though they are bad enough. The skies are anything but blue, and the sun is deep red. Thousands have been evacuated, and hundreds lost their homes. Just so far. As I said earlier, the Monasteraki kitchen, which the Automatic Earth actively supports, is feeding about 2,500 people daily, including firemen, but I have little additional info. They work almost 24 hours a day in the heat and the smoke to do it, and we’ll talk about organizational and financial details later.

But yeah, it’s a cruel reality that the government doesn’t take care of its own firefighters. Until earlier today, the evacuees from the island of Evia apparently were made to buy a ferry ticket as their homes were burning down. You can’t make it up. A good time to count one’s blessings. The biggest support efforts so far, in manpower and equipment, come from Romania and Poland. Not western Europe. Oh, and: “For the $3 billion #Greece will pay for 18 French jet fighters, 12 of which are used, #Athens could have bought 100+ state-of-the-art fire fighting aircraft”. Too late now. The politicians call “force majeure”.


The fires I am thinking of are of a more “symbolic” art: the propaganda and censorship that on the one hand keep us from asking the questions that need to be asked, and on the other hand from hearing from those who can help us formulate those questions. It has gone to such an extreme now that most people are not even aware that there are such questions, including many politicians and health “experts”. It is indeed the biggest global propaganda operation ever, and it’s costing, and destroying, scores of lives.

We are stuck between a fake one-dimensional reality of lockdowns, masks and vaccines that are supposed to keep us safe but don’t, and a different reality of masks and lockdowns that don’t stop much of anything but instead cause many problems of their own, and vaccines that have already killed 1000s and hurt millions of people, and that may well lead to much bigger problems, like for instance “the birth of an entirely new world of autoimmune disease” through antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE).

We are not allowed to read about that, or watch a video, or talk about it, even if the people who involved are distinguished health professionals, in the same way that we are not allowed to talk about early treatment of Covid through for instance anti-virals; we are supposed to shut up and get jabbed. But we are not all completely stupid.

We do not believe unquestioningly that Anthony Fauci and his ilk have a monopoly on truth and science, even (or especially) if they are the only ones allowed to talk. Instead, we think that if he were right, there would be no need for all the banning and censoring and deleting of doctors who don’t always agree with him. We cannot afford to stifle dissent, we never could. We need conversation and discussion, and we’re not getting any.

Whether it’s McCullough, Mercola, Robert Malone, Pierre Kory or anyone else, it’s insane to silence them for spreading misinformation. For all we -that means you- know it’s Fauci et al who spread misinformation. How would you know though? His is the only information that is spread at all. He effectively has a monopoly.

The point is not whether you agree with Fauci or the CDC or anyone else, the point is that this doesn’t give you the right to silence those who don’t agree. You don’t have that right if only because it keeps us from finding out what is real or not, and eventually from saving people’s lives. Which is what everyone’s main concern should be, but apparently is not, or there would be no silencing. Part of me might want Fauci silenced, but no, let him speak; just not when pretending he embodies “the Science”.

We don’t just have the right to know, we need to know. Because our lives and health and freedoms and human rights are at stake. Censoring info that doesn’t agree with you should result in an immediate dismissal. But who even knows that alternative views exist anymore? The propaganda and censorship campaign has been highly successful. So much so that many people now turn against the unvaccinated and blame them for new cases and deaths.

However, most people think that what they read and view is the truth, that the media have checked this for them and this is what came out. But the media hasn’t checked a thing, other perhaps than why some people still are not vaccinated, and even then they will not tell you the reasons, they will only try to shame these people into complying with the Big Model.

As for the vaccines, I only need to repeat these lines:

“The document – a slide presentation – outlines unpublished data that shows fully vaccinated people might spread the Delta variant at the same rate as unvaccinated people..”

“The Delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox and may be spread by vaccinated people as easily as the unvaccinated, an internal C.D.C. report said.”

And yet, the military patrols the streets in Australia, thereby ending either the democracy or the government, France tomorrow introduces a whole new set of measures to get people to comply with vaccination with a substance that even the CDC says doesn’t work. What’s the point of a vaccine passport if those who carry one can infect you just as easily as those who don’t?

A lot of people by now have lost their marbles, and we need to hope that those who haven’t, can make themselves heard. Or the immediate future looks awfully bleak.




We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support.



Support the Automatic Earth in virustime. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.


Mar 262021

Filothei Skitzi Strapping girl 2021



Yesterday was Greece’s version of Independence Day, in their case the day the War of Independence from the Ottoman empire started in 1821. Unfortunately, it was so brutally cold -for Greece, that is, at 0ºC- that festivities were “dampened”. Moreover, due to Covid restrictions, people were barred from attending the traditional military parade (due to 1821, and having Turkey as a neighbor, many Greeks still love having an army) in the streets of Athens.

The only ones “allowed” to watch the parade were now the likes of Prince Charles and his horse wife, plus some ambassadors etc. While after almost 5 months of severe lockdown, and spring on the horizon, people really needed some relief in the form of a party. And a national party works best for that. Oh well, spring will come soon, and then soon after that, 39.9ºC. That’s where the weather service always seems to stop counting. It’s like the Y2K bug. A running gag.

I was re-reading the last things I wrote about the Monastiraki kitchen, November and December 2020, just to get back in the spirit, and to find things that I have already talked about, so as not to repeat myself. Cooking food is not the most exciting activity in the world by itself, to write about, or to film, as I always notice when I happenstance upon some TV cooking show.


What’s interesting about the social kitchen we run here is all the stories around it, not the cooking itself. I -and you, my readers- have been supporting this initiative for almost 6 years already, imagine that!. Many things have happened, many things have changed along the way, and wouldn’t you know, in the hardest time of all, the lockdowns that take everyone’s breath and life away, being involved in “the kitchen” -as we call it- feels better than ever.

It’s not just that the homeless need us more than ever before, though that is undoubtedly true, it’s also that the volunteers who work in the kitchen get even more of a sense of pride and self-worth from doing something that really changes human lives. Don’t underestimate the loss of pride, of having a goal in life, there are so many facets to this, of not being able to do your job for 5 months. And then to be able to contribute to helping the neediest people in your society, it gains a whole new meaning.

After a year of lockdowns, off and on, societies that have lived through them will irreparably change, even if the people that live in them, will not recognize that now. Most people still think of a return to “normal”. There will be no such thing. Once governments stop propping up businesses and workers financially, which they will have to, there will be a flood of unemployment and business closures. We will need a new “paradigm”, but that will take time.

Greece depends on tourism and hospitality to a much larger extent than most economies. And tourism won’t come back to former heights, this year or next. The virus is not gone, and vaccinating everyone will not solve the issue. Not that politicians and “experts” won’t pretend it will. Greece will win back some part of its tourism industry, but that risks bringing more virus into the country. And tourists, like the British, will be told not to come, by their own governments. Some “repair”, but far short of full.

So once the bars and restaurants open here, they are going to start firing people. The government is well aware of this, and talks about 100s of 1000s of job losses. This will happen everywhere, but in an economy so dependent on hospitality, much more. Summer will feel sort of okay, but after that, we will have many more clients in the Monastiraki kitchen. It’s as clear as day.




Filothei and I went to purchase €1,000 more in supermarket checks, from your donations, on Tuesday. She managed to spread the first €1,000 worth out over 3 months. Me, I like that she is aware of value, respect etc., but I also say sometimes that it’s alright to spend some money. For her, it‘s about every penny, every comma. But that has disadvantages as well: she spends so much time trying to get the best deal on everything that at some point I am sure that her time could be spent in a better way. And that people will understand that.

Example: the kitchen needs plates. We had a donation, 2 years ago, from a company that makes them, of 21,000 plates (they were misprints). We want, in industry terms, “bio-boxes”. As in, not plastic, but paper/cardboard. Those plates are now gone, and we need more. But these things are expensive, and Filothei thinks all donations should go to buying food. I agree, but at the same time, a social kitchen must do what it should do. I personally think some company should donate them to us, and they can put their logo on it, and feel good about supporting us, but in lockdown, no companies make any money. And we still need the plates.

We will buy maybe 6,000 of them soon, and pay maybe €600 for that, and yes, it’s not food, but it’s necessary. In these times, you can look at these companies’ websites, and their products, but most “bio-boxes” are for sandwiches, not hot meals. Yeah, entirely new issues for me too 😉 And all the companies are closed too, so it’s very hard to go check them out. That’s when you realize how crazy these times really are.


Other things we did this winter: we bought an umbrella. I told you the place where the cooking takes place is a little stone yard, with no roof. I also said we would pay the €200 for the umbrella with €100 from donations and I would pay the rest. And then it took 40 days, 30 phone calls, and people from the kitchen going there themselves, to finally get it. Welcome to the lockdown economy .



But isn’t it beautiful? It covers almost the entire yard. Yeah, again, it’s money not spent on food, but it’s needed nonetheless. It has been on several occasions already, and it will be there for years to come. Money well spent.



Another thing I bought is more facemasks, I paid for those myself, not from your donations. I don’t like the mandates for them much, with people wearing masks outside in the street, that doesn’t make much sense. But for the kitchen, with people working close together, and later handing out the food to the homeless, it does. Risk assessment. Only, wear the best ones then, why wouldn’t you? Why wear a sock on your face when you can get actual protection? These are FFP3 masks, in US terms that would be N95+, they have extra strips inside to connect them to your face, and their active ingredient is activated carbon, not salt. Why not do it well if you do it anyway?



Oh wait, that’s true, Filothei last week made 60 kilos (!) of lemon marmalade (which probably took 70 kilos of sugar) to hand out, because “the homeless need sugar and salt when it’s cold outside”.



We are up to 2 cookings a week at Monastiraki now, plus another one at Piraeus that depends on our staples to a large extent. And we’re not going to stop, or halt, or pause. Yes, the summer weather will relieve the pressure somewhat on the “immediate front”, but we need to look ahead too. The economic troubles won’t go away, and neither will the virus. And the people to be first hurt by that are always the same, the poorest, and their legions are growing. And that’s why we do what we do. This team is unbeatable. Despite all the police threats of fines and prison and what not, people always show up for “work”, and the food always gets delivered.

And we do it with love. Lots of it.


I’ll leave you with the same last paragraphs I’ve used the past few times when I wrote about the Monastiraki kitchen. You know how this works.



Most of you will know the drill of this by now: any Paypal donations ending in $0.99 or $0.37 go straight to the Monastiraki kitchen, while other donations go to the Automatic Earth -which also badly needs them. (Note: a lot of Automatic Earth donations also went to the kitchen this winter).

I dislike few things more than asking people for money, even though the Automatic Earth now runs primarily on donations, and there’s some sweet justice in that as well, in depending on people’s appreciation of what we do, instead of ad revenues.

But I cannot do this on my own right now. The Monastiraki kitchen will realistically need about €1,500 per month. I don’t have that to spare. So I’m calling on you. Unashamedly, because I know there is no reason to be ashamed of the cause.

I love all you people, and I’m sorry I can’t thank you all individually who have supported -and still do- the Monastiraki kitchen and the Automatic Earth all this time, and I ask you to keep on doing just that. The details for donations on Paypal and Patreon, for both causes, are in the top of the two sidebars of this site. Could not be much easier. If you’d rather send a check, go to our Store and Donations page. Bitcoin: 1HYLLUR2JFs24X1zTS4XbNJidGo2XNHiTT.

Love you. Thank you. This kitchen would not exist without you, these people would not get fed.




We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site. Thank you for your support.



Support the Automatic Earth in virustime. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.


Dec 282020

Eugene Delacroix Greece expiring on the Ruins of Missolonghi 1826



A little personal thank you note from the Automatic Earth is in order. 2020 has been an annus horribilis across the world, but we have been blessed with lots of attention and comments, as well as great support from our readers throughout the year, both for the Automatic Earth itself and for the Monastiraki social kitchen in Athens. Problem is, I have so many people to say thank you to.

We started covering the coronavirus early on, in January, and never looked back. Many people got their first exposure to the virus through us (pun very much intended). What developed throughout 2020 was not just a solid reader-base, but also a maturing comments section, that taught me as much as it did readers.

Thank you for that. The comments from medical professionals and others became a strong part of the entire story. And it was by no means a one-sided thing; opinions were always all over the place, as they should be.

That’s the big problem in my view that we face these days: our media have become one-dimensional, the exact opposite of what they should be. This became clear through the Trump era, and the incessant hammering of one actor vs the deafening silence about all others in the same theater and on the same stage.


And we see that again today: try, if you can, to find in the MSM a critical opinion about lockdowns, or facemasks, or about the newly-fangled vaccines. It’s very hard if not impossible. This one-dimensionality hides behind “the science”. Which is something that doesn’t really exist, as we know because scientists in different countries contradict each other, as do those in the same country, and scientists even often contradict themselves.

If you want people to “follow the science”, you need to convince them that this is the right thing to do. You can’t just force them to do it. Or, rather, you can try that for a short period of time, and then they will come after you. People don’t live their lives in one dimension; they can’t.

Are facemasks useful? Sure, in crowded indoor spaces. But outdoors? I have yet to see the first evidence of that, and I do read an awful lot. Let’s inject some nuance here: if there is a risk of 1 in 100,000 that someone gets infected outdoors, it that worth forcing 99,999 people to put facemasks on? Or would you rather ask them to wear those where it demonstrably matters?

Are lockdowns useful? Sure, but they can only ever be emergency measures, short and “sweet”. Because they risk destroying entire economies and societies. Lockdowns should only be used when there are no other measures available anymore.

But we haven’t exhausted the scope of all other measures, not at all. There are no governments promoting the large scale use of vitamin D, or the proper use of hydroxychloroquine, and Chris Martenson even sees his videos about ivermectin banned from YouTube. As all three substances show great promise in preventing infections, and/or limiting the consequences of being infected.

We’ve been reduced to one-dimensional lives. By now, politicians and “scientists” would rather see everyone be infected, and then “cured” by a vaccine, then not get infected in the first place. In one dimension, the world easily gets turned upside down. You just wouldn’t be able to see it, because you need three dimensions to recognize what “upside down” looks like.


The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines may work very well, but we don’t know, because we haven’t researched that. Which, if you want to “follow the science”, is a very strange thing to do. Of course we would all like the virus to be gone, but ignoring the science doesn’t look like the way to achieve that. And that’s what we’re doing: we’re not following the science, we’re ignoring it where that fits our purposes.

We don’t know if the Pfizer vaccine protects you from being infected, we don’t know if it keeps you from infecting others, but we do know governments and airlines are talking about requiring evidence that you’ve received a dose. But for what purpose, then, exactly? Just to let all the MPs and CEOs people claim they did what they could?

-Too- many people have lost their jobs and their businesses without any country seriously having tried to stop people from becoming infected through the use of vit. D, HCQ, ivermectin. Many of these jobs and businesses will never come back. Is this worth it? Maybe if we could say we tried everything we could, but we obviously haven’t.

We sold our souls to the “science” and then to the vaccine. Which are two very very different things.

If there’s ever been a time to ask questions, it must be now. About lockdowns, facemasks and viruses, about people, communities, societies, economies. That we are being pressured into not asking those questions, makes them even more necessary.


Anyway, those are all issues and questions that will need to be addressed in 2021, we’ve run out of 2020 time. It’s just that it wouldn’t have been necessary; we could easily have done much if not most of it this year. But we have become information-poor, and by design to boot. Which is the opposite of what the Automatic Earth wants to be and do. We want to present all the information, and that without paywalls or things like that.

There are too many of those already, and their main effect is to restrict information at a time when people arguably need more of it. Our model of increasingly relying on donations has worked out alright in 2020, and we hope the same will be true in the new year. Thank you again so kindly for making that possible.


A last word, again, about the Monastiraki kitchen: when you see things get harder for yourself, as so many have, it should be a natural reflex to wonder how they are for those less fortunate, because it’s a safe bet they will be hit even harder. It took me way too long to learn that. The team at the kitchen have that down: give, give, and never take. Enormous thanks to all of them.

That you allow me to support them is an honor, and a great responsibility which I take very seriously, both to those who donate and those who receive. Thank you, all of you.

One day when you’re old, and you ask yourself what has been the most important thing you did in your life, the answer will have to be what you did for other people. That is both the only possible outcome, and it’s also at the same time the very thing that is threatened most by the incessant lockdowns and facemask mandates. People need people.

Have a great 2021, stick with the Automatic Earth, and stick with each other.




We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site.

Click at the top of the sidebars for Paypal and Patreon donations. Thank you for your support.



Support the Automatic Earth in virustime, election time, all the time. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.


Dec 172020
 December 17, 2020  Posted by at 6:56 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »

Filothei Skitzi Human puzzle on COVID19 days 2020



I know, I know, I’ve been largely silent about most “usual suspect topics” lately, other than in the Debt Rattles, but I must admit, those topics have been draining me, along with the full lockdown here in Greece. I understand why politicians want to do lockdowns, but I also understand why they shouldn’t.

Lockdowns drain life out of societies and communities, and there’s no guarantee that this life will ever come back. As I wrote earlier today, when we wake back up, the world will have changed beyond recognition. And we cannot NOT ask if that is worth the price we pay.

A vaccine is hurriedly being promoted and rolled out that is drowning in question marks, while skipping much of what is considered normal in vaccine development. As things like vitamin D, HCQ and ivermectin are cast in a media cloud of doubt, though there are no such questions about them. Vaccine: no time for research. Everything else: years more research needed.

As for the other main topic in recent months, the US elections, all I see is people calling each other traitors and seditionists planning coups, and that has gone too far now. Let the legal process play out and the dice roll, and stop the clickbaiting propaganda. People are getting hurt.

In that light, I’d much prefer to write about better and happier things, and the Monastiraki kitchen in Athens is certainly one of those. It’s Christmas time, a time you’re supposed to care about, and for, people. I told you I’d have an update, and here it is. I think I’ll let the photos do most of the talking this time.


First of all, things haven’t gotten any easier out there. The lockdown, the police and the homeless are a strange combination. 100 people gathering to wait for a meal is no longer acceptable. So now the team have to go look for many of them. That takes time, because some are quite far away, but at least they know where to find most. These are crazy days, and everyone’s just simply trying their best.

I told you about the Greek athletes’ Love Van initiative last time, and they delivered: tons of winter coats and blankets and sleeping bags and shoes. It was plain to see that the police were standing by wondering what their orders were, but decided that denying people a warm coat was not in their job prescription. It was a wonderful little mess and anarchy for the hour it lasted, though.

But there is always the lingering fear that we, or everyone, might get arrested, or fined €300 each. There are still plenty regular kitchen volunteers who don’t come in because of that fear. They simply don’t have that kind of money.




In reaction to my November 20 article Automatic Earth in Athens November 2020, our very very generous readers donated some €3,000. That is inevitably an estimate because of the way Paypal donations work. I used to take the approximate amount in US dollars, and presume those were euros. But that was when the exchange rate was $1.10 or lower. Today, it’s $1.22.

And that’s not all. Paypal takes a percentage of every donation (2-4%?!), and then more when the dollars are converted to euros (their rate is over $1.26 right now). We could apply for charity status, but then we would have to 1) set up a separate account for the kitchen and 2) be registered as a charity in either the US or EU, which requires a ton of paperwork, rules, regulations, obligations.

We’re not going to do that, for much of the same reasons we won’t register the kitchen as an NGO. We want to be independent. Even if that costs some money. I’ll continue to round off everything in favor of the kitchen, and pay the difference myself, as long as it is somewhat reasonable.




On to happier tidings. The private space I told you about where the cooking takes place now is a small stone yard without a roof.



And since it rains in winter sometimes, we decided to buy one of those big umbrellas you see outside bars and restaurants, it seems the only way to get some shelter while cooking. They’re €200. I said we’ll use €100 from the donations, and I’ll pay the other half. That way we involve all of you to an extent, in day-to-day operations. Maybe we’ll even need two, but we’ll tackle that as the time comes.



Also, I purchased our first new €1,000 batch of supermarket checks (50x€20) on Tuesday, paid for with your fresh donations (Filothei and I are both painfully camera-shy, but the Acropolis in the background more than makes up for that ;-):



And Filothei did a big shopping trip with the checks yesterday:





What I didn’t know last time is that the kitchen still has a pretty solid amount of staples in storage, oil, pasta, tomato paste etc. That takes away some of the pressure, and it will be needed.




And then of course, wouldn’t you know, the crew decided they’re going to add a second day every week to cook. Purely led by increased demand and need. Not a huge surprise, that need is everywhere, just look at US and UK foodbanks. But we will still need to find a way to fund it. Nudge nudge wink wink. Someone like Filothei just says: we will do what must be done, whereas I then say: and how are we going to do that? You know, at €240 per meal? You just doubled the costs…

And still I’m pretty sure we indeed will make it happen, just because we have to. We must find a way, and therefore we will, with your help. And a bit of good cheer goes a long way:



Those Santa hats are brilliant, they change the entire mood and picture. As do these facemasks for the homeless, made by girls who themselves are too “vulnerable” healthwise to come in, but still want to contribute. I love those things:



Same goes for the winterhats (can you say “tuque”?)



As the cherry on the pie, and because everyone deserves a real Christmas, especially if they live on the streets, and very especially in a lockdown, we’re going to hand all our clients a big package of sweets for the festive season.



And then if you’ll allow me, I’ll repeat my last paragraph of the November 20 article, With one main difference: twice the meals will mean twice the costs, by and large. But hey, it’s Christmas. The time when miracles come true!

Sure, I’m a little apprehensive about January and February, with the Christmas hope and spirit gone, and temperatures dipping, but I also know that 4 days from now, the days will start getting longer again in our hemisphere.



Most of you will know the drill of this by now: any Paypal donations ending in $0.99 or $0.37 go straight to the Monastiraki kitchen, while other donations go to the Automatic Earth -which also badly needs them, especially for Christmas-. (Note: a lot of Automatic Earth donations also went to the kitchen the past month).

I dislike few things more than asking people for money, even though the Automatic Earth now runs primarily on donations, and there’s some sweet justice in that as well, in depending on people’s appreciation of what we do, instead of ad revenues.

But I cannot do this on my own right now. To get through the winter in one piece, the Monastiraki kitchen will realistically need about €1,500-2,000 per month. I don’t have that to spare. So I’m calling on you. Unashamedly, because I know there is no reason to be ashamed of the cause.

I love all you people, and I’m sorry I can’t thank you all individually who have supported -and still do- the Monastiraki kitchen and the Automatic Earth all this time, and I ask you to keep on doing just that. The details for donations on Paypal and Patreon, for both causes, are in the top of the two sidebars of this site. Could not be much easier.

Love you. Thank you. This kitchen would not exist without you, these people would not get fed.




We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, you are now not just a reader, but an integral part of the process that builds this site.

Click at the top of the sidebars for Paypal and Patreon donations. Thank you for your support.



Support the Automatic Earth in virustime, election time, all the time. Click at the top of the sidebars to donate with Paypal and Patreon.


Aug 242020

Henri Cartier Bresson Salamanca, Spain 1963


Trump Announces Emergency Authorization For Convalescent Plasma (JTN)
97,000 People Got Convalescent Plasma. Who Knows if It Works? (Wired)
China Has Given Potential Coronavirus Vaccine To Key Workers Since July (G.)
Graham: FBI Docs Show ‘Double Standard’ For Clinton And Trump Campaigns (Fox)
This Will Be The Year Of The Biden Republican – Rahm Emanuel (CNBC)
Corporate Dems Want You To Shut Up While They Get Loud (Sirota)
The Silence Of Joe Biden And The Dems On The Violence In The Cities (Kass)
Don’t Discount the Dollar Yet (FP)
China’s Mysterious Dollar Dealings (OMFIF)
Las Vegas Housing Market ‘On Fire’ As Economy Limps Along (LVRJ)
Summer In The Ailing City: The Purpose Is Life (Maglinis)



Kellyanne Conway leaves 2 months before the election, US cities are still on fire, using convalescent plasma becomes legal, Rahm Emanuel is dug up from whatever hole he was in, and the FBI failed to inform the Trump team about foreign interference in their campaign. In other words, normal weekend. Maybe it was the last one for a while.



Weekend numbers don’t mean much.














Why make this such a big deal? Can’t the doctors just do it?

Trump Announces Emergency Authorization For Convalescent Plasma (JTN)

President Trump at a Sunday evening press conference announced an emergency authorization of convalescent plasma amid the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. “The FDA has issued an emergency use authorization … for a treatment known as convalescent plasma. This is a powerful therapy that transfuses very, very strong antibodies from the blood of recovered patients to help treat patients battling a current infection,” Trump said. “It’s had an incredible rate of success. Today’s action will dramatically expand access to this treatment,” the president said. White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Saturday night had tweeted the the president would hold a Sunday event “concerning a major therapeutic breakthrough on the China Virus.”

Read more …

From well before Trump’s announcement.

“The distribution system got approved and built; the trial protocols did not. They never began.”

97,000 People Got Convalescent Plasma. Who Knows if It Works? (Wired)

As of Monday, August 17, a nationwide program to treat Covid-19 patients with a fluid made from the blood of people who’d recovered from the disease—so-called convalescent plasma—had reached 97,319 patients. That’s a huge number of people, considering that nobody really knows whether convalescent plasma actually works against Covid-19. A spontaneously generated, self-assembling group of clinicians and cross-disciplinary researchers that built the nationwide program to ensure “expanded access” to convalescent plasma also created protocols for randomized, controlled trials, the gold standard for evidence in science.

They hoped to test plasma’s ability to prevent disease after exposure, its capacity to treat Covid-19—and what Michael Joyner, an exercise physiologist at the Mayo Clinic who was instrumental in setting up the expanded-access network, called a “Hail Mary” protocol to try to help people who are severely ill, on ventilators. The distribution system got approved and built; the trial protocols did not. They never began. There are plenty of reasons to think plasma might help fight Covid-19. Physicians have used it for more than a century; it’s made by taking blood from people who’ve recovered from a disease and spinning it in a centrifuge down to a frothy, yellow liquid that contains the sum total of the donor’s immune response—molecules that attack all invading germs, and some that specifically target all the individual pathogens the donor has ever encountered.

But actual rigorous trials of the stuff are rare. Dozens of randomized, controlled clinical trials are underway—tests that systematically compare the same kinds of people at similar stages of the disease who get convalescent plasma to those who don’t. Even without that rigor, this year tens of thousands of people received plasma for Covid-19. It played out as a one-on-one decision between physicians and patients, not a population-scale experiment designed to elicit knowledge about its efficacy. A preprint from the expanded-access group, not yet peer-reviewed, recounts the outcomes of more than 35,000 of these recipients at hundreds of hospitals. It retroactively splits that population into groups based on when in their illness they got plasma, or how laden the plasma was with the antibodies that actually do the disease-fighting.

Read more …

Let Big Pharma chime in.

China Has Given Potential Coronavirus Vaccine To Key Workers Since July (G.)

The Chinese government has been administering a coronavirus vaccine candidate to selected groups of key workers since July, a senior health official has said. Zheng Zhongei, the head of the National Health Commission’s science and technology centre, told state media organisation CCTV on Sunday the government had authorised “emergency use” of a Sars-Cov-2 vaccine for workers including health workers and border officials. The country has gone seven days without reporting a locally transmitted case, and border workers are considered to be in a high-risk category, said Zheng, who leads the vaccination development taskforce.

It appears to be the first confirmation of vaccine use by China outside clinical trials. There were no details on which particular vaccine candidate was used or how many people received it, but Zheng said it had been administered in line with the law, under powers that allow limited use of the unapproved vaccines during serious public health events. “We’ve drawn up a series of plan packages, including medical consent forms, side-effect monitoring plans, rescuing plans, compensation plans, to make sure the emergency use is well regulated and monitored,” Zheng said, adding that they planned to “scale up” the testing to other groups before autumn and winter.

[..] In June the Chinese government called for volunteers among employees of state-owned companies who travel overseas frequently, to test two vaccines. State-owned China National Biotec Group (CNBG) has since been approved to start human testing of its vaccine in the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Peru, Morocco and Argentina, and the company said about 20,000 people were taking part in the overseas trials. SinoVac and CanSino Biologics are also conducting overseas trials in Russia, Indonesia, and Brazil. Last week a planeload of Chinese mine workers was refused entry to Papua New Guinea, over government concerns about an apparent vaccination trial.

Read more …

We know where the FBI stands.

Graham: FBI Docs Show ‘Double Standard’ For Clinton And Trump Campaigns (Fox)

Following the release of recently declassified documents, Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., says he believes the FBI showed a double standard in its investigations into reports of foreign interference at the campaigns of Hillary Clinton and now-President Trump in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. Calling it “the ultimate double standard,” Graham said that the documents reveal that leaders at the FBI sought to give the Clinton campaign a defensive briefing before it could pursue a FISA warrant related reports that a Clinton operative was connected to foreign government. “The FBI finds out about a plot by a foreign government to lobby her campaign and funnel millions of dollars into the Clinton campaign illegally,” Graham said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” “

They want a FISA warrant against a Clinton operative who is connected to the foreign government. What happens? The FBI seventh floor says we’re not going to let you get a warrant. And to you defensively, brief the Clinton campaign.” But instead of doing the same for the Trump campaign, the FBI opened the Crossfire Hurricane operation and pursued a number of FISA warrants against people working with Trump’s campaign. While Graham would not reveal which foreign government wanted to assist Clinton in getting elected, he said that FBI leadership shot down a request for a FISA warrant until Clinton was briefed on the matter. “They never did to Trump,” Graham said. “As a matter of fact, not only did they not tell Trump, they used a generic briefing to spy on Trump.”

“The FBI did the right thing by briefing Clinton and failed to do the right thing by never specifically briefing President Trump about their concerns,” Graham said in a statement released earlier on Sunday. Earlier this month, Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., issued a subpoenaed to the FBI and Director Christopher Wray as part of its broad review into the origins of the Russia investigation. The subpoena, obtained by Fox News, demands that he produce “all records related to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.”

Read more …

If Rahm Emanuel speaks for you, you know you’re in trouble.

This Will Be The Year Of The Biden Republican – Rahm Emanuel (CNBC)

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has a chance to replicate an election strategy that helped elect Republican icon Ronald Reagan to the White House almost four decades ago, longtime Democratic politician Rahm Emanuel told CNBC on Friday. Emanuel, appearing on “Closing Bell,” said he believes that the former vice president can win over disaffected Republicans with a platform that has moderate language to get behind. “This will be the year of the Biden Republican,” said Emanuel, citing the appearances of John Kasich, former governor of Ohio, Colin Powell, secretary of State under President George W. Bush, and Cindy McCain, widow of Sen. John McCain, among other GOP members at the Democratic National Convention this week.

“Joe Biden will be a president we will all be proud to salute,” Powell said in his message. “With Joe Biden in the White House, you will never doubt that he will stand with our friends and stand up to our adversaries — never the other way around.” Emanuel likened Republican voters mobilized against President Donald Trump to “Reagan Democrats,” the White, traditional blue-collar voters who crossed party lines to help elect Reagan to two terms as president. Reagan defeated then-Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter in a landslide. The California Republican carried 44 out of 50 states in the 1980 contest and 49 states in the 1984 race.

Democrats must not only attract Republican voters who want to put Trump out of office at the end of his first term, but retain those voters under the party’s big tent, said Emanuel, who served as White House chief of staff under former President Barack Obama. He made the same case in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece Saturday, saying that suburban voters in areas of Arizona, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, battleground states that Trump won in 2016, can be flipped. The lack of support for a “Green New Deal” and “Medicare for All” in the Democratic platform helps the party balance between the desires of the moderate and more progressive members, Emanuel said on CNBC.

With a broad coalition of support that stretches from four-star generals to Black Lives Matter supporters, Biden can leverage his decades of governing experience in Washington to “culturally move them into a comfort zone,” he said. “My view is you don’t want this to be a transactional election,” the former Chicago mayor said. “You want this to be the opportunity of a transformational election.”

Read more …

Maybe Sirota can get a speaking slot at the RNC.

Corporate Dems Want You To Shut Up While They Get Loud (Sirota)

No doubt, you have been told to keep quiet. Just put on your big boy pants, they say, and find the impulse control to at least muzzle yourself for the next 72 days until the election happens. After that, fine — then and only then will you maybe be permitted to speak your mind and politely ask the Democratic Party to match its rhetoric with its policy agenda. But until then, you are told to ‘“shut the hell up and grow up,” as former Obama and Mike Bloomberg pollster Cornell Belcher put it during an emblematic MSNBC segment berating progressives. This kind of hectoring has become a defining part of the Democratic Party’s culture. As the late great journalist Bill Greider lamented:

“The way the Democratic Party is run for quite a number of presidential cycles is they pick a nominee in a kind of half-assed process that doesn’t really represent much of anybody and then they tell everybody to just shut up — don’t bring up anything that will complicate life for your nominee… shut up, turn off your brains.” There’s a superficial logic to this call for omerta — after all, Donald Trump is destroying everything and he must be defeated. But here’s the problem: The demand to shut up is only being aimed at the progressive base of the party, while the corporate wing floods the zone with rhetoric that could demobilize voters.

Indeed, at the very moment many good progressives are blunting their criticism and making clear that defeating Trump is of utmost importance, Corporate Democrats aren’t being asked to wait or hold their tongues. In fact, they are doing the opposite: Rahm Emanuel — who has been advising Biden — just went on television to show that the corporate wing of the party is intent on using the stretch run of the Most Important Election Of Our Lifetime™ not to doggedly focus on actually winning the election, but to instead try to predetermine post-election policy outcomes. Emanuel and his ilk depict themselves as evincing a non-ideological “just win, baby” attitude. But they are most decidedly pushing a very clear corporate ideology — and they are doing so in dangerously divisive ways that could depress the big turnout that’s desperately needed to defeat Trump.

Read more …

It was another violent weekend in the cities. How much longer? And how did this ever become normal?

The Silence Of Joe Biden And The Dems On The Violence In The Cities (Kass)

Joe Biden, the smiling figurehead who Democrats have nominated for president, closed his party’s virtual convention with a speech that proved two things about him. The man can still ably deliver a well-written speech. And he still has great message discipline. Because he did what the other Democrats did over their four-day infomercial, make constant references to their own virtue and empathy, while portraying President Donald Trump as evil incarnate, a dark lord without virtue and without an empathetic bone in his body. But through all that talk, Biden and the Democrats avoided saying anything about what many Americans are talking about now: The violence, political and otherwise, plaguing American big cities run by liberal Democratic mayors.

The entire country sees the spiking street crime, the 50% increase in murders in some cities, looting in the downtowns, those news videos of people being pulled out of their cars and beaten, knocked out on the sidewalk, and cops pummeled in violent political confrontations. Biden was silent about all that. I wish he hadn’t been. But he was. In his speech, Biden offered a thorough condemnation of Trump, and this memorable line. “My father taught us that silence was complicity,” Biden said. You’ve probably also heard the slogan “silence equals violence.” But my barber, Raffaele Raia, born in Naples, puts it this way: “Chi tace acconsente. He who is silent says ‘yes’. The silence is the consent.”

Many protests have been peaceful. But many have not been. A cop getting his head thumped by a protester using a skateboard as a club isn’t a victim of a peaceful protest. The protests are no longer about the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd. They’re also not about virtue or empathy. Yet in the midst of this, Americans are encouraged to apply virtue to politics. But searching for virtue in politicians is childlike, like believing in fairy tales, pixies, or like hoping to find a purple unicorn who’ll be your friend forever. Yet rather than search for virtuous purple unicorns, you might consider the words of Bostonian Henry Adams in “The Education of Henry Adams”: “Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man. Practical politics consists of ignoring facts. Politics, as a practice, whatever its professions, had always been the systematic organization of hatreds.”

[..] Biden and national Democrats can’t acknowledge any of it. They’re desperate to avoid it. They have nothing to say to it. And the conflict inside their party rages on, out on the streets, where America can see it. Trump will roll down that law-and-order road at the Republican virtual convention. He’s a politician, now, too. That’s what politicians do. Like wolves, they take advantage of weakness. But Trump didn’t pave that road he’s on. Biden and the national Democratic Party paved it for him, with silence that is consent.

Read more …

“..any market for Chinese yuan consistent with a role as a global reserve currency would need to exist outside of mainland China.”

Don’t Discount the Dollar Yet (FP)

If some stories are easier to tell than others, the decline of the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency is one of them. It’s not hard to see why. The cast of characters that avail themselves for the script includes international trade, financial architecture, great-power competition, cycles of history, and even parables from ancient Greece.And on cue, the headlines are again churning out new versions of the familiar fable. New plot lines include the economic fallout of a global pandemic as well as a “capital war” between the United States and China, in which Washington usurps Beijing’s traditionally lonely role as the imposer of the restrictions on how capital can move between their two countries, frightening global investors, who then forsake the fallen dollar. Taken at face value, the headlines suggest that the dollar’s long-awaited dethroning may be here at last.

But the economic forces that thwarted any demise of the dollar in the past persist. They continue to render any end to the dollar’s reserve status today unlikely. In fact, there is a new player keeping it on its throne: the Chinese Communist Party. It’s the latest arrival to the motley crew of conspirators serving, unwittingly, to prevent the currency from leaving its seat. The dollar can’t be displaced with nothing, and mainland China’s currency, the yuan, was once the most-viable something. Global banks planned for it to “inevitably” replace the dollar. Economists speculated about the timing. The country’s growing economy, after all, is the world’s second largest. And Beijing is keen to take steps intended to promote its currency’s use in international trade. Officials in the world’s third-largest economy, the European Union, may voice similar intentions.

But Beijing is not dealing in the currency of a monetary union that, according to research at its own central bank, maybe shouldn’t even exist. “Overall economic structures in euro area countries,” economists at the European Central Bank concluded in 2019, “are still not fully commensurate with the requirements of a monetary union.” Nonetheless, Beijing’s recent actions have eviscerated the yuan’s prospects as a real reserve currency. For a currency to function as an international reserve, global businesses need safe places to put it when it’s not in use. After all, no one wants to sell stuff in exchange for money they’d struggle to safely store. Without safe storage options, like easy-to-access banks or at least low-risk bonds, a currency can become a costly thing with which to do business.

The most natural home for these safe assets denominated in mainland China’s currency would be mainland China. But Beijing imposes capital controls on flows of money in and out of the mainland. These capital controls stymie the development of liquid, globally accessible capital markets that can offer safe assets. Hence any market for Chinese yuan consistent with a role as a global reserve currency would need to exist outside of mainland China.

Read more …

Not sure what the mystery is. The bottom line, no matter where it turns, is China is stuck until it liberates its currency.

China’s Mysterious Dollar Dealings (OMFIF)

Considering China’s tensions with the US, Chinese authorities’ and banks’ dollar business is somewhat puzzling. China’s US Treasury holdings decreased to $1.07tn at end-2019, from $1.112tn in mid-2019. Chinese-owned banks globally reduced their reliance on dollar funding by $42.5bn. Since then, China’s holdings of US treasuries have risen to $1.084tn as of May, and banks’ dollar funding climbed $40.7bn in this year’s first quarter. This represents a swing of $80bn, around 8% of Chinese banks’ total cross-border funding. This is particularly surprising as global liquidity, and especially dollar liquidity, started drying up in March in view of the virus-induced global downturn. By the end of Q1, Chinese banks had extended $1.4tn in cross-border loans, two-thirds of total their overseas assets.

Dollar funding amounted to $1tn, half of total liabilities. This represents a funding gap of $400bn. While this might lead to a liquidity crunch, similar to European and Japanese banks, it was deemed manageable thanks to ample official dollar reserves. These could be made available to Chinese banks. Chinese banks’ cross-border dollar business is minor compared to their $40tn in total assets. Hence, the impact on the Chinese economy would be smaller than in the home countries of other global banks, according to the IMF. Deposits are the steadiest source of dollar funding, but are not readily available to Chinese banks. The central banks of China, Russia and Turkey are not covered by the Federal Reserve’s swap facilities. Foreign banks’ US subsidiaries can access the Fed Funds market, but Chinese banks do not appear to have tapped into it.

Their main source of dollar funding is offshore financing, as confirmed by the Bank for International Settlements. Financing is available through a number of channels, mostly interbank borrowing, as well as securitised debt. There are two enigmas regarding China’s dollar business. The first is Chinese banks’ continued purchases of US treasuries and dollar lending and funding. The second is why these banks are seeking to become a major intermediary for dollar financing to emerging market economies through the Belt and Road initiative, to the tune of $600bn by end-2019. At the same time, they have funded themselves in dollars, mostly in offshore centres. The BRI was expected to facilitate renminbi financing, boosting renminbi internationalisation.

Financing for the BRI is granted mainly through domestic lending to Chinese companies involved in BRI projects. Major Chinese banks’ head offices, as well as their Hong Kong branches, offer direct cross-border financing to recipient countries. According to their annual reports, the four main banks (including two policy banks) have extended $150bn each in loans. This lending has not been securitised and stays on the bank’s balance sheet, contrary to the global trend. This prevents foreign investors from buying into BRI projects, even though they were expected to contribute more funding in the initiative’s second phase. What remains are emerging economy dollar-denominated liabilities to Chinese lenders, which will come under scrutiny if countries seek IMF support. Chinese bankers say their emerging economy clients prefer dollar loans. If they provided loans in renminbi, recipients would change them into dollars to enhance fungibility.

Read more …

Reads like an advertorial.

Las Vegas Housing Market ‘On Fire’ As Economy Limps Along (LVRJ)

With a baby on the way, a strong credit score and money saved up, Veronica Markowsky figured it was time to buy a house. So the 35-year-old renter recently joined a herd of homebuyers in Southern Nevada and signed papers for a soon-to-be-built house — all while the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the economy and her Las Vegas bridal shop business. It’s probably not the best time to buy a place, Markowsky said, but she had her reasons. “What’s the worst that can happen?” she said. Las Vegas’ tourism-dependent economy has been devastated by the coronavirus outbreak. But the valley’s housing market, which initially was hit hard by the fallout from the crisis, has been accelerating lately with fast-rising sales and record prices.

The fervor has provided a surprising jolt of commerce in a bleak time. “I didn’t expect any of this kind of activity,” said Tom Blanchard, president of trade association Las Vegas Realtors. By all accounts, record-low mortgage rates — cheap money, essentially — are providing much of the fuel, as they let buyers lock in lower monthly payments. Amid the surge of demand, prices have climbed as the market’s low inventory of available homes further tightens. Southern Nevada has seen record job losses during the pandemic, with much of the pain falling on the service sector, where wages tend to be lower. Who is buying homes amid the turmoil? People who still have jobs, savings and other factors that let them qualify for a mortgage or buy with cash.

All told, the market has gained speed as buyers snap up homes from builders and on the resale market, with sellers fetching multiple bids. “It’s craziness,” Blanchard said. Las Vegas attorney Adam Breeden, who closed his purchase of a newly built house near the M Resort last month, listed his old house in May. He received three offers within three days, he recalled, including one at the full asking price. “I was shocked the market was the exact opposite I thought it would be,” he said.

Read more …

Lovely dispatch from Athens.

Summer In The Ailing City: The Purpose Is Life (Maglinis)

The feeling when you look out of the hospital window is that life is out there and it is passing you by indifferently, cold toward your small, insignificant drama. It is as if you have been immobilized in a static parallel universe. At the same time, this gradation of life (people out there, sunbathing on beaches and diving in cool seas and, on the other hand, those of us faced with the unpleasant condition of serious hospitalization – much more so when the person being treated is your child) in turn has its own, internal gradations: We do not all have the same fate, the same experience in the hospital. Some children will never be out of the hospital again.

Normally we should be thankful that, even though they are suffering, our child’s treatments are going well. And indeed you thank God and are thankful for your fate, but the cursed time in the hospital runs torturously slowly. So you look out there, you count the hours spent in the hospital, you count them like drops falling from the intravenous drip, you look at the sun-soaked courtyard of the clinic, the few people walking around, and you realize that even the lucky ones “out there” feel more vulnerable than ever.

But this may be the constant of the summer of 2020: In mid-August, the holiday season in Athens does not have the unguarded carelessness of other summers. Even in times of deep economic crisis, summer, August, was a refuge. Temporary maybe, but it still had something healing about it. This year, the pandemic – with the invisible, tiny enemy that knows no frontline or rear guard, that knows how to bypass obstacles and find forgotten half-open “back doors,” in the summer on the islands, on the crowded shores, even in the deserted city – looks like a well-orchestrated ambush.

But even in the age of imposed social abstinence and distance, “no man is an island,” as the English poet John Donne once wrote. “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Maybe because it binds us all to the simple truth that no one wants to be sick, no one wants to feel sick, no one wants to accept that they are powerless before nature, which is blind when it comes to your decay, entropy, extinction. No one wants to feel that, deep down, it is another insignificant part of the “whole process” of death and rebirth in nature. Who wants to feel like they are just a cog in a process of wear and tear and not a player in a longevity process?

Normally, every summer, we should all have the right to feel a little like kids again. This year we have no right to such a blessed parenthesis. Some for special reasons and all for the known ones. Another summer will come that will be healing and when we can feel like children again. Our only mission is to endure until another such summer, that will have a few moments of heavenly simplicity. The mask – or even the hospitalization – is just the pretext. The purpose is life .

Read more …



We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you for your ongoing support.



I’m not entirely sure what this means, but it looks nice.



Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.


Jun 212020

Lewis Wickes Hine 12-year-old newsie, Hyman Alpert, been selling 3 years, New Haven CT 1909


Trump Makes Triumphant Return To Campaign Rallies (JTN)
Trump’s Tulsa Rally Was Just Another Sad Farce (G.)
Over A Third Of Americans Think Civil War Is Likely (ZH)
Judge Says Bolton ‘Gambling With National Security’ But Won’t Block Book (JTN)
Lawyer Says Bolton ‘Utterly Powerless’ To Stop Book’s Circulation (JTN)
Manhattan Prosecutor Steps Down, Ending Stand-Off With AG Barr (R.)
US Travel Industry Revenues To Plummet By Half a Trillion In 2020 (F.)
Nearly Half Of Americans Consider Selling Home As COVID Crushes Finances (ZH)
Greece Urges UK To Return Parthenon Marbles (G.)



I’m a bit later than usual today, I couldn’t resist taking a walk in the almost deserted city of Athina. It’s terrible for a lot of people I know who work in hospitality, but the quiet is appealing at the same time. Here’s a photo I took just around the corner:



I brought up a possible civil war in the US yesterday, and just about everything I read appears to rhyme with that idea. Trump held his first meeting last night in Tulsa, and all too predictably the MSM says it was awful and nobody showed up, while the right wing press calls it a “triumphant return”. Nobody cares about news anymore, everything has turned into opinion.

It’s been well over 4 years since I started noticing -and writing about- that the NYT, WaPo et al began to publish 10+ anti-Trump stories every single day, and that got me labeled as a Trump supporter. No use saying that I’m not, and never have been, even Nicole, bless her heart, said: yes you are!

Like I am too stupid to know what I support, or maybe I’m a closet Trumpian. It’s that whole idea of if you don’t comply with the narrative and parrot CNN etc., you must be against them. And it’s true that I dislike CNN very much, for adopting a 24/7 anti-Trump business model, but that is not the same as supporting Trump. A news channel should provide us with news, not a political opinion.

I would almost hope Joe Biden wins (not going to happen) because that would mean the end of CNN. I often think Trump and Jerry Zucker have a secret deal that requires Trump to say 100 crazy things per day and CNN to “report” on all of them and invent 100 more as they go along.

But, you know, only half the country now reads the NYT and WaPo, the so-called liberal half. There once was a time when both halves did, but that is no longer an option. There is more money in one-sided and overblown opinion. The country’s best newspapers have sold their souls to Dr. Faust.

The headlines at Britain’s Guardian this morning pretty much sum up the entire story:

• Donald Trump: President sows division and promises ‘greatness’ at Tulsa rally flop

• US president’s much hyped return turned to humiliation when he failed to fill arena in Republican stronghold of Oklahoma

• Don’t call it a comeback: rally was just another sad farce

• ‘Kung flu’ President uses racist term to describe Covid-19

• ‘Saving our country’: An event for Trump’s true believers

And people who read things like the Guardian, NYT, WaPo, keep on eating it up. They buy these papers, they take out subscriptions, just to get their daily fill of anti-Trump “news”. I personally think that is extremely sad, and dangerous to boot. But if and when I say that, I will be labeled a Trump supporter again.

Because that is the easy way out for the Orange Man Bad crowd. Just as it will be, mind you, for all those out there who are going to take a bite out of Joe Biden’s dementia. We should all be able to do better. We should all be able to see that this is not about two old white guys, and that they have much more in common with each other than they have with you or me.

But in the present environment, try saying you’re not partisan and you’ll be labeled “partisan” for saying it. That’s why I brought up the civil war thing yesterday. The liberal press absolutely loves the fact that some grandma on TikTok made kids in Korea order 1000s of tickets for Tulsa and then not show up. The same press that wouldn’t know TikTok from a hole in the ground.

Meanwhile, has anyone at all pondered what the outcome will be for a Joe Biden rally? Oh my Lord, the excitement! Be still my heart. Bring an extra set of underwear.

If the TikTok fake tickets thing happened to a Joe Biden “event”, you know who would be blamed? Russia.



Worldometer reports new cases for June 20 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 181,005 .

My count 6AM EDT to 6AM EDT (a bit more today) based on Worldometer numbers is 159,182.





New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 33,388
• Brazil + 31,571
• Russia + 7,889
• India + 15,545



Cases 8,945,774 (+ 159,182 from yesterday’s 8,786,592)

Deaths 467,306 (+ 4,150 from yesterday’s 463,156)




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



From Worldometer:



From COVID19Info.live:








Just the News is John Solomon’s new outlet.

Trump Makes Triumphant Return To Campaign Rallies (JTN)

After months of coronavirus, racial strife and economic calamity, President Trump returned Saturday night to the campaign trail with a extravagant stadium event in Tulsa, Okla., vowing to win re-election on behalf of a “silent majority” of Americans drowned out by polls, media pundits and protesters. n”You are warriors,” a smiling Trump declared as he waved and gave fist pumps to an audience of thousands who braved fears about contagion, a lawsuit that failed to stop the events and protests outside the arena.

“I stand before you today to declare the silent majority is stronger than ever before,” Trump said to cheers. “Five months from now we’re going to defeat sleepy Joe Biden. … We are going to stop the radical left, and we’re going to build a future of safety and opportunity for Americans of every race color, religion and creed.” Seeking to address the recent rioting and protests caused by police killings, Trump portrayed himself and the GOP as best suited to bring racial healing and quell the violence. “Republicans are the party of liberty, equality and justice for all. We are the party of Abraham Lincoln, and we are the party of law and order,” he told the crowd.

Read more …

“You got punked by several hundred thousand TikTok users, organized by a grandmother in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Mary Jo Laupp was apparently so upset by the original date and place of Trump’s rally – the city where one of America’s worst racist massacres took place, in 1921 – that she asked people to sign up for the rally and not show up. Laupp only joined TikTok earlier this year, but her call connected with thousands of K-Pop fans who are what Trump might call a silent majority.”

Trump’s Tulsa Rally Was Just Another Sad Farce (G.)

There have been so many reasons to feel embarrassed about Donald Trump. There was the time he paid off a porn star. There was the time he lied about the size of his inauguration crowd. The time he talked about the big water around Puerto Rico. The time he thought you could kill the coronavirus by injecting yourself with bleach. But nothing truly comes close to the embarrassment of his so-called comeback rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday. It was so toe-curlingly cringeworthy, such a crushing humiliation. There are 80s pop bands who have enjoyed greater comebacks than Donald Trump. To understand how much of his insides will always melt at the thought of that Tulsa rally, it’s worth quoting Trump’s fine words just before he boarded Marine One at the White House.

“The event in Oklahoma is unbelievable,” he boasted. “The crowds are unbelievable. They haven’t seen anything like it. And we will go there now. We’ll give a, hopefully, good speech. We’re going to see a lot of great people, a lot of great friends. And pretty much, that’s it. OK?” We really haven’t seen anything like that. For a man who loves peddling superlatives, this was the worst measure of his oh-so-sad popularity. The lowest point in electoral incompetence. The saddest campaign fiasco. The event in Oklahoma was literally unbelievable if you believe that the Trump campaign is competent, and that Trump himself is actually popular. That’s the weird thing about our populist president: his approval ratings have never cracked 50% and are now stuck firmly in the low 40s. Perhaps that’s why he’s trailing Joe Biden by double-digits in recent polls.

Read more …

Think perhaps I shouldn’t have raised the spectre of civil war yesterday?

Over A Third Of Americans Think Civil War Is Likely (ZH)

No one would have ever fathomed, that America – the greatest country in the world – with “the greatest economy ever” – could even be on the cusp of a civil war. Except for Peter Turchin, who predicted a decade ago in the scholarly journal Nature that America would “suffer a period of major social upheaval” starting around the year 2020. As race-driven/anti-police protests flourish nationwide – one-in-three Americans are warming up to the idea the country is on the brink of another civil war, according to Rasmussen Reports. The latest findings found 34% of respondents said the country would experience a second civil war within five years, and that includes 9% of those who said it’s very likely. Rasmussen noted, “This compares to 31 percent and 11 percent respectively two years ago.”

When examining between party lines, 40% of Republicans said civil war was “on the horizon,” while 28% of Democrats concurred. Around 38% of Independent voters said a civil war is possible in the next five years. The survey of 1,000 likely U.S. voters was conducted on June 11 and 14 by Rasmussen Reports, also asked respondents about local governments and protesters removing Confederate monuments. Rasmussen said: “39 percent) of all voters believe the removal of Confederate symbols, names, and monuments throughout the country honoring those who fought in the first civil war will help race relations. Twenty-seven percent (27 percent) disagree and think it will hurt race relations instead.”

“These numbers are reversed from August 2017 when 28% said the removal of the symbols would help race relations, while 39% thought it would hurt instead. Little changed is the 28% who think the removal of public traces of the Confederacy will have no impact,” it noted. Rasmussen continued, “Women and those under 40 are more supportive of the current anti-police protests and the anti-Confederacy drive than men and older voters.” “Younger voters worry most about another civil war… Just 29 percent of blacks believe the current protests will lead to long-term, meaningful racial change in America, compared to 35 percent of whites and 48 percent of other minority voters,” it said.

Chaos in America’s inner cities have been brewing for some time – and was due to erupt, according to Turchin. He looked at “declining wages, wealth inequality and exploding national debt” as social pressures that affected national stability. His model showed that the U.S. would reach a “boiling point” in 2020 — none of this should come as a surprise to Zero Hedge readers. So does civil war become a self-fulfilling prophecy with a third of Americans believing severe domestic turmoil is ahead?

Read more …

How about a $1 billion fine for Simon and Schuster? For sending out 10,000 copies while the case was pending?

Judge Says Bolton ‘Gambling With National Security’ But Won’t Block Book (JTN)

A federal judge on Saturday declined to block the publication of former national security adviser John Bolton’s tell-all book about the Trump White House, dealing a blow to the Trump administration’s efforts to halt what they claimed was a book full of classified information. U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth in a decision issued Saturday declared that the government “failed to establish that an injunction will prevent irreparable harm,” noting that the book was already in widespread circulation even prior to formal publication. But Lamberth also slammed Bolton for “gambl[ing] with the national security of the United States” and “expos[ing] his country to harm” by ordering the publication of the book “without written authorization and without notice to the government.”

Bolton’s lawyers had argued yesterday that their client was “powerless” to stop the book’s dissemination throughout media and society. Copies of the manuscript have already been delivered to journalists, book reviewers and other media outlets around the country. Lamberth in his ruling agreed, writing that “by the looks of it, the horse is not just out of the barn—it is out of the country.”

Read more …

He couldn’t even stop himself from writing, it, I tells ya. It was divine intervention.

Lawyer Says Bolton ‘Utterly Powerless’ To Stop Book’s Circulation (JTN)

A lawyer for former national security adviser John Bolton on Friday argued before a district judge that his client is “utterly powerless” to stop the widespread circulation of his tell-all book, urging the court to dismiss the Trump administration’s attempt to halt publication of the book. The administration has sued to block the release of the book, arguing it contains classified information that necessitates the use of prior restraint, a high bar for governments to clear under First Amendment jurisprudence. In addition to arguing that the book’s material is suitable for publication, attorney Charles Cooper told Judge Royce Lamberth of the D.C. District Court that “the horse is out of the barn” on the matter of the book’s becoming part of the public record. Numerous journalists and media outlets around the country have already received advance copies of the account.

“This isn’t really a judicial proceeding,” Cooper told Lamberth. “It doesn’t actually have as its purpose convincing you to order John Bolton to do something that he is utterly powerless to do, and that you are utterly powerless to force him to do,” namely pull the book from general circulation. Justice Department lawyer David Morrell urged Lamberth to direct Bolton to halt publication “and further dissemination” of the book prior to further review. Morrell said Bolton committed a “flagrant breach” of proper protocol in seeking to publish the alleged classified material. Bolton’s attorneys in an earlier filing had urged Lamberth to toss the suit, claiming that the memoir – which reveals alleged incidents witnessed by Bolton during his tenure at the White House from April 2018 to September 2019 – is protected speech under the First Amendment.

Read more …

Again: the left’s new hero is a Trump campaign contributor.

Manhattan Prosecutor Steps Down, Ending Stand-Off With AG Barr (R.)

A stand-off over the independence of one of the country’s most important prosecutor’s offices ended on Saturday when Geoffrey Berman agreed to step down as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the office that had been investigating President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani. Berman’s confirmation of his departure came after Attorney General William Barr told him he had been fired by Trump at Barr’s request, and that Berman’s hand-picked No. 2, Deputy U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss, would become Acting U.S. Attorney until a permanent replacement is installed. Under Strauss’ leadership, Berman said the office could continue its “tradition of integrity and independence.”

Berman’s office, which is known for prosecuting the most high profile terrorism cases, Wall Street financial crimes and government corruption, has not shied from taking on figures in Trump’s orbit. It oversaw the prosecution of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer, indicted two Giuliani associates and launched a probe into Giuliani in connection with his efforts to dig up dirt on Trump’s political adversaries in Ukraine. Giuliani has not formally been accused of any wrongdoing. The standoff with Berman follows the latest in a series of moves by Barr that critics say are meant to benefit Trump politically and undermine the independence of the Justice Department. It also comes as Trump has sought to purge officials perceived as not fully supporting him. In recent weeks he has fired a series of agency watchdogs, including one who played a key role in Trump’s impeachment earlier this year.

Read more …

Stay at Herm.

US Travel Industry Revenues To Plummet By Half a Trillion In 2020 (F.)

Travel spending in the United States will fall by more than a half-trillion dollars this year and likely won’t recover to 2019 levels until 2024. That’s according to a new economic analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and government steps to constrict personal and business interactions in an effort to fight the disease’s spread. The dire forecast was prepared for the U.S. Travel Association, a Washington lobby group, by Tourism Economics. Both the USTA and the Air Line Pilots Association on Thursday went public with new requests for federal assistance. The analysis projects that companies providing travel related services – airlines, hotels, restaurants, attractions and more – will take in $505 billion less in revenue by the end of this year than they did in 2019.

Last year U.S. travel spending topped $1.1 trillion, an all-time high. This year the same group is forecast to take in 45 percent less revenue, or around $622 billion. Furthermore, the forecast for 2020 shows that while travel spending in the U.S. on travel in 2021 should rise 37.5 percent over this year’s total spending to around $855 billion, that still would leave the U.S. travel industry 24 percent smaller in terms of revenues in 2021 than it was in 2019. The recovery in travel spending is then forecast to continue in 2022 and 2023, but at a slower pace. The forecast 14.2 percent growth in travel spending in 2022 would take total spending to just shy of a trillion dollars: 976 billion.

Read more …

Would it be really stupid if I ask who’s going to buy them?

Nearly Half Of Americans Consider Selling Home As COVID Crushes Finances (ZH)

As the virus pandemic has metastasized into an economic downturn, tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs and are struggling to service mortgage payments. New research offers a glimpse into struggling households, discovers out of the 2,000 American homeowners polled, over half (52%) of respondents say they’re routinely worried about making future mortgage payments and nearly half (47%) considered selling their home because of the inability to service mortgage payments. The study, conducted by OnePoll and the National Association of Realtors, determined 81% of respondents had experienced unexpected financial stress due to the virus-induced recession. Over half (56%) reduced spending so they could service mortgage payments.

Since mid-March, or about the time when the lockdowns began, nearly half (47%) of homeowners have explored alternative ways of making money. About two-thirds of respondents (64%) started side projects, while 53% sold valuables to supplement income. “The swift and unprecedented impact of COVID-19 left many people in a financial emergency, and we want to make sure struggling homeowners know they have relief options, especially during Homeownership Month,” said the National Association of Realtors President Vince Malta. “Realtors and lenders can identify programs and aid designed to help meet loan obligations. Acting quickly may help homeowners stay in their homes and keep the money they have already invested into it,” Malta said.

From clothing (71%) and take-out (66%) to streaming TV services (46%) and groceries (45%), respondents said their spending habits had been significantly reduced so they could service mortgage payments. In a separate report, more than 4 million homeowners are in mortgage forbearance plan – representing 7.54% of all mortgages, delinquencies are set to surpass the great recession, which peaked at 10%.

Read more …

Broken record. Give them back, you twits.

Greece Urges UK To Return Parthenon Marbles (G.)

The New Acropolis Museum was purpose-built to host the one thing every Greek government will always agree on: the Parthenon marbles being returned from London. On Saturday, as the four-storey edifice marked its 11th anniversary, Athens reinvigorated the cultural row calling the British Museum’s retention of the antiquities illegal and “contrary to any moral principle”. “Since September 2003 when construction work for the Acropolis Museum began, Greece has systematically demanded the return of the sculptures on display in the British Museum because they are the product of theft,” the country’s culture minister Lina Mendoni told the Greek newspaper Ta Nea.

“The current Greek government – like any Greek government – is not going to stop claiming the stolen sculptures which the British Museum, contrary to any moral principle, continues to hold illegally.” For years, she said, the museum had argued that Athens had nowhere decent enough to display Phidias’ masterpieces, insisting that its stance was “in stark contrast” to the view of the UK public. In repeated polls, Britons have voiced support for the repatriation of the carvings, controversially removed from the Parthenon in 1802 at the behest of Lord Elgin, London’s ambassador to the Sublime Porte. “It is sad that one of the world’s largest and most important museums is still governed by outdated, colonialist views.” Greece’s centre-right administration has vowed to step up the campaign to win back artworks that adorned the frieze of the Periclean showpiece ahead of the country’s bicentennial independence celebrations next year.

Within weeks of his election, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece’s prime minister, told the Observer Athens was prepared to allow treasures that had never travelled abroad to be exhibited in London in exchange for the marbles being reunited with “a monument of global cultural heritage”. Well-placed government officials have not excluded the EU pressing for the return of the antiquities as part of an overarching Brexit deal. The row was injected with renewed rancour when the British Museum’s director, Hartwig Fischer, described their removal from Greece as “a creative act”. Half of the 160-metre frieze is in London, with 50 metres in Athens and other pieces displayed in a total of eight other museums across Europe.

Read more …



We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the interaction.

Thank you.











My man. My Main man.

Robert Allen Zimmerman is 79 years old.

But his brain has just been born.


Three miles north of purgatory –
one step from the great beyond
I prayed to the cross, and I kissed the girls,
and I crossed the Rubicon.

Bob Dylan



Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.


May 312020

Monastiraki Square deserted due to lockdown, Athens, Greece 2020


Well, actually, there is no Automatic Earth in Athens right now. But we’re working on it. And I have had a hard time finishing articles recently for some reason. It may be because it’s virustime, and it’s certainly because of the lockdown. People are social animals, and I am no exception. Living alone and working alone makes it more extreme.

Not that I have changed my mind on lockdowns; they are the only option to tame the virus under the circumstances. Still, a lockdown must be executed properly, to make it “as close to impossible as possible” for the virus to jump to new hosts, and that has only been done in very few places, either because politicians and “experts” don’t understand how and why, or they find it too inconvenient. But enough about that for the moment, even as today’s new global cases top 130,000 in yet another new record.


In mid-December I went from Athens to Holland, where I still rent a small apartment though I’ve been spending most of my time in Athens. I thought I’d stay a few months in the Lowlands, do some of the everyday -or every year- stuff that needs doing, taxes, medical things etc., and return to Athens in spring.

I had a ticket back to Athens from Holland on April 1, which I had bought early February, when things still seemed somewhat normal. But as the date approached, of course, we moved ever further away from normal. If I had booked a few weeks earlier, things might have worked out, but Greece implemented a very strict lockdown, so it wouldn’t have been much fun.

I could change the ticket for free until two weeks before departure, after which the cost for changing it would be close to the original ticket price. So I changed it. By then, there was a two-week mandatory full quarantine in place for new arrivals in Greece. Not very tempting, but more importantly I was thinking I didn’t want to become a burden on the Greek healthcare system.

Which according to some has shrunk by 75% (imagine that) due to EU-mandated austerity. I was thinking the odds of Greece and the Greek system being overwhelmed were much higher than that it would happen in Holland. Boy, was I wrong. The irony is that it is exactly this that made Greece adopt the strict lockdown measures it did, as early as it did, and faring so much better because of it.

For 2 months, until 2 weeks ago, everyone who was out in the street had to carry a piece of paper detailing why they were out (try that in the US!). The only valid reasons to be out were shopping for food or medicine. All stores other than supermarkets and pharmacies were closed anyway. Greece was early and strict. They didn’t feel they had a choice.

And even if so much of the healthcare system has been bulldozed, the core is still very strong, that is a major factor. The professionals (experts) running the system and advising the government are of a very high caliber, which is more than one can say of many other countries.





In Holland, it’s been a very different story. It was late to the game, and when it did decide on a lockdown, it called it an “intelligent” lockdown. Like Dutch people are smarter than others. Which, of course, people like to hear. Most stores have remained open (though not public transport), there was no mass testing, only people with obvious symptoms were tested, and the Dutch version of the CDC still maintains today that face masks don’t actually work (i.e. we are more intelligent than 4.5 billion Asians).

Like in many other countries, the lack of testing and masks really only had one reason behind it, and it wasn’t that they would not work, or that anyone believed they didn’t, it was that they didn’t have any. And then when a government says they’re not needed, the pace at which they are purchased abroad or can be produced domestically slows down too, even with all the high tech industries in the country. That way you sort of boil in your own fat.

We’re 5 months into the pandemic, and only now can one get tested without already being on the verge of death [Update May 31: still no test available without symptoms, asymptomatic carriers be damned. Should I fake symptoms?]. And only now are masks obligatory in public transport. This means the virus has become pretty much embedded, though perhaps not yet endemic, in the population.

It’s a giant gamble with the lives of your citizens when you try to hide your failure to acquire the necessary tools and implement the needed procedures, behind stories about how well “we” are really doing. The kind of gamble that politicians should at the very least by forced to quit for, but that is not going to happen.

But, more irony, they’re real popular. People buy the narrative that “this is the best we could have done”, and hang on to their lips every day for a shred of good news. That happens in many countries, of course, and, yes, it has a function: if you want to do a lockdown, above all you need a sense of unity. That it is used to hide lies and failures is almost an afterthought.

I don’t try to point out to people here -the few I see- anymore that their government has done a terrible job; they all watch the same news, and they’ve all bought the same “we’re in this together” kool-aid. Which, again, does serve a purpose, but it’s also very false. Here are the latest numbers from Worldometer:

17.3 million people,
46,257 cases of COVID19, and
5,951 deaths.

10.7 million people,
2,915 cases and
175 deaths.

I don’t even have to do the percentages, do I? The “successful” and “intelligent” Holland not only, 5 months in, still has an “official” worse “deaths per million population” rate than the US(!), the Dutch numbers also invariably come with the official addition that “real” numbers of both cases and deaths are much higher due to the lack of testing.

Almost as if they’re proud of it. As if it’s a waste of time to try and keep track of how and where the virus is spreading in your society, something you won’t ever know if you only test and count people who are already in hospital or dead.


High time for a more uplifting story. In early March, as Greece lockdown measures took hold one by one, almost all of the social kitchens were quickly shut down. But not the people the Automatic Earth has been supporting for 5 years running with your kind help. “Our” crew changed strategy as cooking in the street was no longer an option, and started preparing meals in a central place, only to drive down and hand them out fully ready in the familiar places near Monastiraki square and the Piraeus port.

And because so many other social kitchens had closed and the homeless still needed to eat (always the first to bear the brunt, no exception this time), they made -and make- a lot more meals as well than they were used to doing, and worked 4 days instead of 2, preparing some 700 meals every week.

It’s not just many more meals, but every meal takes much more time and energy to prepare than usual; each has to be packaged separately, because of course fears were that the homeless would be most susceptible to the virus. In short, they’ve all been working their behinds off. Everyone talks about heroes, and these people are mine. Let me show you with a few pictures:

Here’s Monastiraki square, deserted (with the Acropolis on top of the mountain):



Some of the crew preparing meals in the central place:



And posing (that’s Tassos doing his finest Greek Zorro):



Then there’s of course -some of- Da Boyz:



The usual hot meal in the big pot:



But lots of other things too, all individually wrapped:



Which then end up in these crates before they’re loaded into cars to be distributed.



I love this picture, these are some of the things served on Greek Easter, April 19, because the homeless, too, should celebrate:



And then the packages are handed to the people in central Athens:



And at the port of Piraeus:



Greece, like other countries, is slowly easing its lockdown, first the stores opened, last week it was terraces at bars and restaurants, and next week it will be the inside of these places too.

“The Crew” is not yet back to cooking in the streets, that will take a bit more time. I’ve been keeping in close touch with them, and it’s high time to replenish the supermarket “checks” I last arranged for in December. First thing I’ll do when I get there. Been offering it all the time, a bank transfer might have worked, but so far they manage.

Air traffic is resuming as well, bit by bit. When I changed my ticket in mid-March, I had no idea what would be realistic, and picked June 16 “out of a hat”. Not a bad guess, it turns out. June 16 became 17, and 2 days ago the Greeks said Holland is a risk country, so no flights before July, but this morning they changed that again, to mandatory testing at the airport followed by a night in a designated hotel; it now looks as if this might actually happen. Then again, 17 days is an eternity in virustime of course.

And in the process I’ll get tested, something I can’t get done in Holland. I’ve been holed up in an area of Holland with very few infections, but I’ll still have to do the train-airport-plane routine to get to Athens, all places where the danger of being infected is -relatively- high. Holland is a country the size of a postage stamp, and it still today averages more new cases than Greece has had total deaths.


As always when I write about the Automatic Earth in Athens project, I ask you to support it. There are still a few hundred dollars left, but I want to buy at least €1000 worth of supermarket checks, so the crew can fill their by now empty pantries and cupboards and do something extra for the clients, who haven’t had an easy time.

The way it goes is simple and identical to how we’ve always done this: you can donate through our Paypal widget at the top left corner of the site. Any donations that end in $0.99 or $0.37 go straight to the crew, other amounts go to the Automatic Earth, which also badly needs support, and which you can of course also support via Patreon, see top right corner of the site.

I am honored and proud to be associated with these people, and proud of the bonds we have forged since 2015, and I think you should be too. Together, we support the most vulnerable people, homeless and refugees, in a city still overflowing with vulnerable people (with many more added because of the virus), and we do it through a crew that doesn’t cease to amaze with their selflessness.

I don’t remember if I ever mentioned this, but a few years ago I was talking to a guy who did a project on Lesbos, maybe still does, and we were saying: many years from now, when looking back on your life, what will you be most proud of? We both concluded that this would certainly among the top in the list: supporting the weakest members of society. But I can’t do it without your help, which has been amazing all this time, and which I hope will continue in the same way that I am determined to continue to support this wonderful little shimmer of light.



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

Thank you.



Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.


Nov 032019
 November 3, 2019  Posted by at 6:43 pm Finance, Primers Tagged with: , , , , ,  5 Responses »

Nelly’s Tzistarakis Mosque in Monastiraki Square, Athens c1930


It’s been too long, way too long since I wrote about our Athens fund, I know, and I apologize. It’s just that for the longest time, things were too unclear and changing too fast for me to write an article. I was waiting for things to settle down to a point where I could have faith they weren’t going to turn upside down again within days or weeks. Well, we finally seem to have reached such a point. But again, I know it has taken too long.


In -mostly- chronological order, here’s what happened. In early 2017, I had a meeting with Konstantinos Polychronopoulos, the man I -and the very generous Automatic Earth readers- had been financially supporting since 2015 in his O Allos Anthropos organization to feed homeless and refugees in Greece.

At that meeting, Konstantinos had promised to bring the administration he said he had kept about what the money had been spent on. But instead, he started rattling off what he could remember off the top of his head. Which was impressive, but that was not the issue. He had told me numerous times he had it all on paper, but it was not true. And I knew it was not something lost in translation either.

It wasn’t that he had spent it on himself or kept it in a box, I checked that with as many people as I could, and I could see how he lived. That wasn’t it. He was simply disorganized. And he somehow thought he had the right to be. Because after all, he was the boss. And that’s true enough, it was his idea and organization. But being the boss doesn’t give you the right to say things that are not true, when tens of thousands of euros have been donated to you and your project.

Being the boss comes with obligations attached, and he apparently didn’t like those. A boss needs to look ahead, organize, delegate, make sure there’s continuity, be careful of how he treats employees, who in his case were all volunteers to boot. He did none of that, not structurally. It’s one thing that all that money lands where it is needed, but it’s another where tomorrow’s money will come from. Things a boss must have his eye on.

I had said many times that he could not continue to count on my readers for that money, that I thought at some point it would be enough. I drew up a plan to address the Greek diaspora in New York, Boston, Melbourne, Sidney etc., for financial help, for instance through their Chambers of Commerce. And I said I would always be there to help, but that I was not going to do it alone. Not speaking Greek would have disqualified me anyway.

But nothing came of that. There was never a serious effort. I had not expected that. In hindsight I think maybe it was because he saw it as a challenge to his authority, to have to communicate in a language he didn’t speak. That he couldn’t play the boss over that.

Long story short, as 2017 went on, I didn’t see how I could continue my involvement with the project. I couldn’t ask for donations to someone who rejected all accountability. But then just as I was about to say I quit, two things happened.


Monastiraki Sqaure. The same mosque as in the 1930s picture above. It hasn’t been used as a mosque for a very long time. In the background on the hill, the Akropolis.


The first was that I increasingly heard about dissatisfaction among the people who worked with/for Konstantinos, with the way he ran things. They didn’t want to continue any more than I did. That led the people who run the ‘kitchen’ in Monastiraki Square, which had always been my main meeting point with everyone, to declare themselves independent of O Allos Anthropos (it took quite some time, but they did).

Monastiraki had always been part of the entire set-up, but also separate. It was run by my friend Tassos -longtime translator between Konstantinos and I- and his friend Filothee, partner of famed Greek singer Antonis Vardis, who died of cancer in 2014 but had always supported Konstantinos. By the end of 2017, I decided I would try and continue to support at least them.

They insisted from the start on not ever having to handle money, because they didn’t like the way Konstantinos had. And they came up with a clever plan for it; more on that in a minute.

The second thing that happened in late 2017 was that I received an email from a Greek man -let’s call him ‘Mark’- who said he was living abroad with his wife and young children but planning to move -back- to Greece, and he wanted to help me with a lot of money. We mailed to and fro for a bit, he sounded credible, and in March 2018 I went back to Athens to meet him (a few days before he was bound to leave again for 6 weeks).

The meeting went fine, we kept mailing, and in June 2018 we took the first step in that ‘clever plan’. Tassos and Filothee had set up a deal with a local supermarket chain in which they would receive ‘coupons’, or ‘checks’ for an amount I would pay to the supermarket. No cash. Mark chipped in some money as well. This still works fine to this day, and everyone’s happy with it. When Filothee needs food, she gets it in bulk and pays with coupons. This is what they look like:



But then the strangest thing happened. ‘Mark’ disappeared, I think it was August. I’ve never seen him again. And I’m still thinking today: why would you do such a thing? Why all the time spent on the mails and meetings and promises and then nothing anymore? Why not just say: sorry, I don’t have the money, or I don’t want to any longer, or well, anything? Why just vanish? Just a few words would have been enough.

Other than that, though, things appear to be running well right now. I paid for another €1,000 worth of coupons this July and handed them to Filothee, and she still has quite a few left. Less fun is that Tassos last year moved to Shanghai. His wife is from there and his construction business for large projects went belly up in Athens, where there are no large building projects. He was over in August, but left again. Plenty big projects in China.

Not that we sit still, either. The gang has decided to start a second kitchen in the port of Piraeus, because they saw the need there. Filothee explained that in Monastiraki, most people who come for food have a roof over their head, but it’s often six to a single room without electricity or water. No amenities, they can’t cook their own food. In Piraeus, they feed ‘real’ homeless.

The new rightwing government has approved new asylum laws that make it much easier to evict refugees. They are also evicting squatters from buildings across the city, many of them refugees, who are now taken to camps, that are still beyond squalid. Some people face a six year waiting time for their asylum requests. Not that Greece can be blamed for too much, it’s the EU that is failing terribly. Greece is simply the outer border of the union.

Camps and islands are insanely overcrowded, Turkey sends more people across the Aegean again, and winter is coming. Nor is there much that anyone can do to help in that situation, because after 5 years that help has been fully institutionalized through the hanky-panky between Brussels, Athens and the NGOs, and very little of the money involved gets to where it belongs.

We gave it our shot, Konstantinos despite his shortcomings really tried, and we did manage to achieve lots of stuff, but some problems are just too big. We’re talking thousands, tens of thousands of people even, and more keep on coming all the time, and at some point that requires not a band of good willing folk but a society, a government, or something even bigger than that. And that’s where it all goes wrong. It always does.

But we still try, with all our faults. We don’t have millions or even billions, but we can still help people. And so that’s what we do. Filothee does, I do, and I’m sure Konstantinos does as well, though I haven’t seen him in a long time. It’s just what you do.



And now it’s time to move on to the part that I’m really bad at, and which has kept me for ages from writing this article: asking for donations. Not donations for Greece, I can do that, but those for the Automatic Earth itself, debanked and perhaps going under. I tried to explain that a few days ago already, that the way sites like this are funded has changed irrevocably in my view.

Google and Facebook take all the money and everyone else can take a hike. Unless the Automatic Earth disappears behind a paywall (which I don’t want) OR our readers start chipping in more than they have. Easily more than 5,000 people read the Automatic Earth each day, so at 5 cents a day -and what is 5 cents?- we’d be fine. But it doesn’t work that way. People are used to free.

Still, I don’t want to confuse the two, Greece and the site itself, too much. Then again, I have spent a lot of time here in Athens over the past years, and that isn’t free -I pay double rent for half the year-, and my personal presence here is greatly appreciated by the people who run the Monastiraki kitchen. As they expressed in the note you can see below. They appreciate that it’s not just a check being sent, but I go visit them all the time to see how things are going.

Anyway, I’m obviously still bad at this. So if you’re inclined to donate to either the Automatic Earth or the Monastiraki kitchen, or both, you figure it out. Put us on your Christmas charity list and be generous, be part of helping out those who have least. You may read raving pieces on Greece and Athens and tourism and Airbnb, but this is still a very challenging place for all but the rich.

What I would like to do is to hand Filothee another $1,000 in coupons before I leave for Christmas, that should be sufficient for both kitchens -Monastiraki and Piraeus- until I get back in spring. And I promise it won’t be this long again between articles.

Thank you so much for making this all possible.





For donations to the Monastiraki kitchen and the Automatic Earth, the Automatic Earth has a Paypal widget on our front page, top left hand corner, and a Patreon one top right hand corner. On our Sales and Donations page, there is an address to send money orders and checks if you don’t like Paypal. Our Bitcoin address is 1HYLLUR2JFs24X1zTS4XbNJidGo2XNHiTT. For other forms of payment, drop us a line at Contact • at • TheAutomaticEarth • com.

To tell donations for Monastiraki apart from those for the Automatic Earth (which badly needs them too!), any amounts that come in ending in either $0.99 or $0.37, will go to the social kitchen.


Please give generously.



A list of the articles I wrote before about our support for homeless and refugees in Athens.

June 16 2015

The Automatic Earth Moves To Athens

June 19 2015

Update: Automatic Earth for Athens Fund

June 25 2015

Off to Greece, and an Update on our Athens Fund

July 8 2015

Automatic Earth Fund for Athens Makes First Donation

July 11 2015

AE for Athens Fund 2nd Donation: The Man Who Cooks In The Street

July 22 2015

AE Fund for Athens: Update no. 3: Peristeri

Nov 24 2015

The Automatic Earth -Finally- Returns To Athens

Dec 25 2015

Help the Automatic Earth Help the Poorest Greeks and Refugees

Feb 1 2016

The Automatic Earth is Back in Athens, Again

Mar 2 2016

The Automatic Earth for Athens Fund Feeds Refugees (Too)

Aug 9 2016

Meanwhile in Greece..

Nov 28 2016

The Other Human Needs Your Help This Christmas

Dec 21 2016

The Automatic Earth in Greece: Big Dreams for 2017

Mar 23 2017

The Automatic Earth Still Helps Greeks and Refugees

Dec 24 2017

The Automatic Earth for Athens Fund – Christmas and 2018








Mar 172019

M.C. Escher Gravitation 1952


Steele Admits He Used Unverified Information In Dossier (CNN)
Even A Vacuous Mueller Report Won’t End ‘Russiagate’ (Stephen Cohen)
The Blind Leading the Deaf and Dumb (Kunstler)
EU War-Gaming For Fall Of May’s Government (O.)
Disbelief In Europe At Another Lost Brexit Week (G.)
‘White Men Are Considered Everyone’: Ocasio-Cortez (G.)
Deadly Air In Our Cities: The Invisible Killer (O.)
Good Enough To Eat? The Toxic Truth About Modern Food (G.)



Travel day yesterday, back to Athens. So timing’s a bit skewed. And the content. Just the essentials today. And there was raki last night, and friends. Lots of both. In a city that is fast turning, like Barcelona, Amsterdam et al, into Disneyland. Because of Airbnb. Stories of Greek people getting evicted from their apartments because the Greek owner sold the building to a Chinese who will Airbnb it, not rent out to locals. And then a good friend saying that’s good because renting out his apartment this way is the only way to pay for his aunt’s health care bills. Apartment prices have tripled in 2 years, but you can’t even find one.

A city is nice because of the people who live there. Airbnb chases them out. And then you wind up with an empty shell. Disneyland.


Saw a sign held up in a demo concerning Christchurch that said: “We won’t tolerate hate”. And I thought: maybe you should. Maybe, if you protest intolerance, the response is not more intolerance. Like Martin Luther King could have said: You can hate me, but I refuse to hate you back.



It’s Alice and the looking glass. The entire Mueller probe was based on a dossier based on nothing but a bunch of nutcase comments at a CNN site. And this is CNN commenting on that. The dossier was paid for by the losing Democrat party, and there are close links to FBI and DOJ. And you think Trump’s the bad guy in this story.

On top of that, Steele hadn’t been in Russia in many years, and used equally unverified ‘info’ from Moscow. And the US hunts its own president for 2 years based on it.

“Steele says he used unverified information to support details about web company in dossier..”

Steele Admits He Used Unverified Information In Dossier (CNN)

A newly released snippet of a deposition with the ex-British spy behind the Trump-Russia dossier describes some of the steps he took to verify information he collected for it in 2016, including pulling from a user-generated citizen journalism initiative by CNN, iReport, which no longer operates. Christopher Steele admitted during a lawsuit deposition that he used internet searches and unverified information to support details he had gathered about a web company mentioned in the dossier, according to select pages of his deposition transcript that a federal court unsealed this week.

But Steele limited his answers about how he verified information about the web companies who claimed they were defamed. He would not explain, for instance, what else he did or sources he used to verify information in the dossier about Webzilla, its parent company XBT and their Russian founder Aleksej Gubarev, who were named in the dossier. He did not have to describe during the deposition all the steps he took to collect or check the information because of terms set by the court.

But he could talk about web searches — and how he didn’t realize one article he found in his research was a submission from a “random person,” as an attorney pointed out, rather than a news report. Steele testified that he used a 2009 article from the crowdsourced news site CNN iReport, for instance, to check information he learned about Webzilla, one of the three related entities that had sued BuzzFeed for defamation. BuzzFeed published the dossier in full — explaining they hadn’t verified it — on January 10, 2017, after CNN reported that President Barack Obama and President-elect Donald Trump had been briefed about it.

Read more …

Yes, that Stephen Cohen. Who is still America’s no. 1 expert on Russia, professor emeritus of Russian studies, history, and politics at New York University and Princeton University. That Stephen Cohen

Even A Vacuous Mueller Report Won’t End ‘Russiagate’ (Stephen Cohen)

Too many reputations and other interests are vested in the legend for it to vanish from American politics anytime soon. Russiagate allegations that the Kremlin has a subversive hold over President Trump, and even put him in the White House, have poisoned American political life for almost three years. Among other afflictions, it has inspired an array of media malpractices, virtually criminalized anti–Cold War thinking about Russia, and distorted the priorities of the Democratic Party. And this leaves aside the woeful impact Russiagate has had in Moscow—on its policymakers’ perception of the US as a reliable partner on mutually vital strategic issues and on Russian democrats who once looked to the American political system as one to be emulated, a loss of “illusions” I previously reported.

• The story of a “Kremlin puppet” in the White House is so fabulous and unprecedented it is certain to become a tenacious political legend, as have others in American history despite the absence of any supporting evidence.

• The careers of many previously semi-obscure Democratic members of Congress have been greatly enhanced—if that is the right word—by their aggressive promotion of Russiagate. (Think, for example, of the ubiquitous media coverage and cable-television appearances awarded to Representatives Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, and Maxine Walters, and to Senators Mark Warner and Richard Blumenthal.) If Mueller fails to report “collusion” of real political substance, these and other Russiagate zealots, as well as their supporters in the media, will need to reinterpret run-of-the-mill (and bipartisan) financial corruption and mundane “contacts with Russia” as somehow treasonous. (The financial-corruption convictions of Paul Manafort, Mueller’s single “big win” to date, did not charge “collusion” and had to do mainly with Ukraine, not Russia.) Having done so already, there is every reason to think Democrats will politicize these charges again, if only for the sake of their own careers. Witness, for example, the scores of summonses promised by Jerrold Nadler, the new Democratic chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

• Still worse, the top Democratic congressional leadership evidently has concluded that promoting the new Cold War, of which Russiagate has become an integral part, is a winning issue in 2020. How else to explain Nancy Pelosi’s proposal—subsequently endorsed by the equally unstatesmanlike Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, and adopted—to invite the secretary general of NATO, a not-very-distinguished Norwegian politician named Jens Stoltenberg, to address a joint session of Congress? The honor was once bestowed on figures such as Winston Churchill and at the very least leaders of actual countries.

Trump has reasonably questioned NATO’s mission and costs nearly 30 years after the Soviet Union disappeared, as did many Washington think tanks and pundits back in the 1990s. But for Pelosi and other Democratic leaders, there can be no such discussion, only valorization of NATO, even though the military alliance’s eastward expansion has brought the West to the brink of war with nuclear Russia. Anything Trump suggests must be opposed, regardless of the cost to US national security. Will the Democrats go to the country in 2020 as the party of investigations, subpoenas, Russophobia, and escalating cold war – and win?

Read more …

“..a Democratic Party Bereavement Ritual..”

The Blind Leading the Deaf and Dumb (Kunstler)

In his new book, Peak Trump, David Stockman called the RussiaGate affair “a Democratic Party Bereavement Ritual,” an excellent diagnosis. The breast-beating and garment-rending has gone on for more than two years, inducing a generalized hysteria that has made it impossible for this country to govern itself, and opening the door to some really serious mischief as the party’s new Jacobin wing sets up for the advent of an American failed state.

All of this is a prelude to equally serious tribulation roaring down the two-lane pike of finance and economy that will combine with the engineered destruction of institutional authority from RussiaGate to bring on the greatest crisis since the Civil War. The money is not there to perform any of the miracles of redistribution promised by AOC and Bernie Sanders — unless the Federal Reserve is coerced into printing a whole lot more money out of thin air, in which case the consequence will be that everybody gets to have a lot of worthless money that has lost its value.

If congress wants to play committee games, it might want to investigate how the USA is going to rack up another $2 trillion in debt to finance its operations before the 2020 election. They’re the ones who will have to vote to allow that to happen. The disorders of money coming down in the months ahead, RussiaGate aside, are sure to discredit both political parties. I doubt that Mr. Trump will survive it politically and the revenant Republican Party behind him is so devoid of credible leadership that it could dissolve altogether like an evening mist preceding the cold darkness of night. By then, the whole American political establishment will be, as Mencken quipped, like a blind man stumbling around a dark cellar looking for a black cat that isn’t there.

Read more …

If war-gaming is the same as preparing, sure. Maybe May should war-game a bit more.

EU War-Gaming For Fall Of May’s Government (O.)

The EU is war-gaming for the fall of Theresa May amid a complete collapse in confidence in the prime minister after a week of chaos over Brexit, a leaked document seen by the Observer reveals. In the run-up to a crucial summit of EU leaders where May will ask for a delay to Brexit, Brussels fears there is little hope that she will succeed in passing her deal this week and is preparing itself for a change of the guard in Downing Street. A diplomatic note of a meeting of EU ambassadors and senior officials reveals an attempt to ensure that any new prime minister cannot immediately unpick the withdrawal agreement should May be replaced in the months ahead. Some hardline Brexiters want to replace her with a leader who will back a harder split with Brussels.

According to the minutes, the European commission’s secretary general, Martin Selmayr, who is known as a master of strategy, asked: “Imagine that they have a new Brexit secretary or prime minister – what then? Article 50 has been agreed and the process has ended. It must be clear that the starting point is not a renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement.” The moves in Brussels come before another critical and highly unpredictable week in the Brexit process in which May is expected to launch her third attempt to secure support for her beleaguered deal. The Observer understands that Labour will use the opportunity to offer its most strident support yet for a second referendum, by voting for a plan drawn up by two Labour backbenchers to put May’s deal to a public vote.

Cabinet ministers remained locked in talks this weekend with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist party, who are seen as vital in building a narrow majority for May’s deal and who said on Saturday that there were “still issues to be addressed”. And more Tory MPs currently opposing May’s Brexit deal have told party whips they would back it if the prime minister announced she would quit this summer.

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They are way past disbelief.

Disbelief In Europe At Another Lost Brexit Week (G.)

It was the week in which the EU’s governments had hoped that British common sense might seal the deal, putting a painful first chapter of the Brexit psychodrama to bed. By Wednesday the French daily Le Monde had concluded that the hoarseness of the prime minister’s throat “symbolised the state of a supposedly pragmatic country left voiceless by its incapacity to accept compromise with its neighbours”. For all the forlorn hopes that things might be different this time, leaders across Europe and senior EU officials in their offices in Brussels, watched on with a sinking heart as Theresa May’s deal was rejected again on Tuesday evening, this time by 149 votes, the fourth largest defeat for a sitting government.

The Commons subsequently voted to delay Brexit by at least three months. Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, who has described himself as Britain’s best friend among the 27 EU heads of state and government, was left asking reporters: “What’s the point of whining on for months on end while we have been going around in circles for two years?” There had never been great optimism among the British officials close to the negotiations that things would slot into place, given the EU’s refusal to make changes to the withdrawal agreement, and the over-optimistic goals set by the prime minister in the Commons for the latest talks. But there had been a plan.

Read more …

Convince me she’s wrong on this. And I’m a white man. You’ll have a hard time getting rid of her, America. Thing is, you don’t need to agree with Trump, or AOC, to recognize their value and their role in the grander scheme of things.

‘White Men Are Considered Everyone’: Ocasio-Cortez (G.)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized media coverage of her latest polling results on Saturday, noting her net favorability among all women and all non-white Americans, even as some commenters suggested that “Americans” now viewed her negatively. “So older, conservative white men are considered ‘everyone’ and everyone else is discounted as an exception,” the progressive New York congresswoman tweeted. “Cool.” The freshman Democrat blamed Fox News’ round-the-clock negative coverage for increasing the number of Republicans and white Americans who know who she is –and who view her unfavorably.

“The reason people know more is bc Fox News has turned into ‘AOC TMZ’ (no offense to TMZ),” she wrote, referencing the celebrity tabloid site. She also called Fox News a “propaganda machine” that “will be aimed at any Dem[ocrat] they want”. Since September, two months before the 29-year-old was elected, the number of Americans who say they have never heard of her or that they have no opinion has dropped by 21%, according to the Gallup poll results from February. Now, more than two-thirds of respondents have an opinion.But such visibility appears to have brought more negative reactions than positive ones. Overall, Gallup found, 31% of respondents now view Ocasio-Cortez favorably and 41% unfavorably. Her net favorability ratings are down 8%.

There were sharp partisan and racial divides in this response. Since September, Ocasio-Cortez’s net favorability dropped most sharply among Republicans (-21), white Americans (-15), men (-11) and Americans over 55 (-10). At the same time, net favorability increased among nonwhite Americans (+9) and Democrats (+8). A majority of women and Americans ages 18 to 34 still have a favorable opinion of the congresswoman, Gallup found. Her favorability has dropped slightly among such voters groups since September, but remains net positive. In presenting the poll results, Gallup noted that Republicans were more likely to have an opinion about Ocasio-Cortez than members of her own party, which “helps explain her overall net-negative rating”.

Some headlines announcing the Gallup results did not emphasize the racial and party-line divides reflected in the statistics. “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez polls like Donald Trump: Poorly,” CNN reported, while US News and World Report summarized the news as: “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Unfavorable Rating Climbs.” Fox News covered the poll results with the headline: “Ocasio-Cortez’s ‘unfavorable’ rating skyrockets, with most people viewing her negatively.”


Read more …

Europe is one of the worst places in air quality. Happy driving.

Deadly Air In Our Cities: The Invisible Killer (O.)

In 2014, like Kylie and Shazia, I didn’t know much about air pollution. I had just become a father when, living in London at the time, an Evening Standard headline caught my eye: Oxford Street had the worst diesel pollution in the world. This came as a surprise: the shopping street where I took my daughter to pick out her first pram had some of the most polluted air on Earth. Where were the health warnings, the public information signs, the protesters marching? All I could see were happy, oblivious shoppers. Weeks later came another headline: “Oxford Street pollution levels breached EU annual limit just four days into 2015.”

We had sleepwalked into a public health crisis. And not just in the UK, but across the world. The 2015 smog in Beijing was so bad that it was dubbed the “Airpocalypse”. Pictures circulated on social media of Beijing students sitting their exams so couched in smog that they could barely see the neighbouring table. The toxic smog that covers Delhi every Diwali now lasts for months at a time. Eventually, in the summer of 2016, my young family and I left London and moved to semi-rural Oxfordshire. I felt the relief of escape. I could breathe easy. The first time my daughter went out into our new garden at night, she asked what all the lights in the sky were. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was no longer an abstract concept. But I also felt a sense of defeat. Had I taken the easy way out? Shouldn’t I have stayed and fought for change?

Read more …

The more food we produce, the worse it gets. Supreme irony. Because with all that food, we could grow our numbers with no limits. So we build in a limit.

Good Enough To Eat? The Toxic Truth About Modern Food (G.)

For most people across the world, life is getting better but diets are getting worse. This is the bittersweet dilemma of eating in our times. Unhealthy food, eaten in a hurry, seems to be the price we pay for living in liberated modern societies. Even grapes are symptoms of a food supply that is out of control. Millions of us enjoy a freer and more comfortable existence than that of our grandparents, a freedom underpinned by an amazing decline in global hunger. You can measure this life improvement in many ways, whether by the growth of literacy and smartphone ownership, or the rising number of countries where gay couples have the right to marry. Yet our free and comfortable lifestyles are undermined by the fact that our food is killing us, not through lack of it but through its abundance – a hollow kind of abundance.

[..] What we eat now is a greater cause of disease and death in the world than either tobacco or alcohol. In 2015 around 7 million people died from tobacco smoke, and 2.75 million from causes related to alcohol, but 12m deaths could be attributed to “dietary risks” such as diets low in vegetables, nuts and seafood or diets high in processed meats and sugary drinks. This is paradoxical and sad, because good food – good in every sense, from flavour to nutrition – used to be the test by which we judged the quality of life. A good life without good food should be a logical impossibility.

Where humans used to live in fear of plague or tuberculosis, now the leading cause of mortality worldwide is diet. Most of our problems with eating come down to the fact that we have not yet adapted to the new realities of plenty, either biologically or psychologically. Many of the old ways of thinking about diet no longer apply, but it isn’t clear yet what it would mean to adapt our appetites and routines to the new rhythms of life. We take our cues about what to eat from the world around us, which becomes a problem when our food supply starts to send us crazy signals about what is normal. “Everything in moderation” doesn’t quite cut it in a world where the “everything” for sale in the average supermarket has become so sugary and so immoderate.

Read more …