Jun 272020
 


BIS/OWI Battle of Britain. Children in an English bomb shelter 1940/41

 

Texas Hospital CEO: Covid Inpatient Count ‘Misinterpreted’ (JTN)
The Many Health Problems Caused By COVID19 (R.)
Museum of Human Rights CEO Resigns After Allegations Of Systemic Racism (CP)
Amsterdam Ejects Airbnb et al From Three Central Districts (TC)
UK to Scrap Quarantine For Travel to Greece (GR)
The Central Bank “Bailout of Everything” Will Be a Disaster (Lacalle)
Bait and Switch (Jim Kunstler)
Comey Miniseries Gets Pre-Election Airdate (JTN)

 

 

Sorry I’m late, but I walked away from my machine earlier today and went out for an early beer outside in the still wonderfully still city of Athens, because it is all too depressing to see things getting so much worse fast, not better.

I’m starting to feel like one of those reporters, if not lawyers, who listen to police scanners and chase ambulances for a living. There must have been disaster movies made that depict this kind of pandemic, but I can’t imagine any of them portraying the levels of ignorance and incompetence we’re witnessing in real life here.

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 26 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 194.190.

 

 

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 46,409
• Brazil + 46,860
• India + 18,002

 

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve had enough of this “it’s not so bad” stuff. Half a million dead people means you be careful with claims like that.

This particular piece wants to tell you that hospitalized people may have some other ailment too, but then if you read on you see that not even everyone who enters a hospital is tested(!) for COVID19.

Which makes it a non-story right there.

Texas Hospital CEO: COVID Inpatient Count ‘Misinterpreted’ (JTN)

Health officials in Texas are logging every single COVID-19-positive hospital patient in the state as a COVID-19 hospitalization, even if the patients themselves are admitted seeking treatment for something other than the coronavirus. That policy may be serving to artificially inflate what ostensibly seems like a significant COVID-19 surge in the state. Texas has lately been the focal point of national anxiety over concerns that a “second wave” of the coronavirus has begun there after the state began reopening nearly two months ago. COVID-19 hospitalizations there have been on a steady upward track for about the last two weeks, per the state’s coronavirus dashboard, which on Thursday recorded about 4,400 coronavirus hospitalizations in the state.


But at least part of that trend may be due to liberal coding policies by state officials. Lindsey Rosales, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, confirmed to Just the News this week that the state is categorizing every inpatient in the state with a positive COVID-19 test as a COVID-19 hospitalization. “The number of hospitalized patients includes patients with a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19 even if the person is admitted to the hospital for a different reason,” Rosales said. Asked if inpatients in the state are tested for COVID-19 whenever they arrive for treatment, Rosales said, “Hospitals set their own protocols for determining when and if to test patients for COVID-19.”

Read more …

“Scientists just beginning to understand…”

I haven’t said it in a while, but it’s still true: we don’t know anything yet.

A lot of infected people who don’t die from COVID19 are not going to recover, and will be incapacitated for years. Who’s going to pay?

The Many Health Problems Caused By COVID19 (R.)

Scientists are only starting to grasp the vast array of health problems caused by the novel coronavirus, some of which may have lingering effects on patients and health systems for years to come, according to doctors and infectious disease experts. Besides the respiratory issues that leave patients gasping for breath, the virus that causes COVID-19 attacks many organ systems, in some cases causing catastrophic damage. “We thought this was only a respiratory virus. Turns out, it goes after the pancreas. It goes after the heart. It goes after the liver, the brain, the kidney and other organs. We didn’t appreciate that in the beginning,” said Dr. Eric Topol, a cardiologist and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California.

In addition to respiratory distress, patients with COVID-19 can experience blood clotting disorders that can lead to strokes, and extreme inflammation that attacks multiple organ systems. The virus can also cause neurological complications that range from headache, dizziness and loss of taste or smell to seizures and confusion. And recovery can be slow, incomplete and costly, with a huge impact on quality of life. The broad and diverse manifestations of COVID-19 are somewhat unique, said Dr. Sadiya Khan, a cardiologist at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago. With influenza, people with underlying heart conditions are also at higher risk of complications, Khan said. What is surprising about this virus is the extent of the complications occurring outside the lungs. Khan believes there will be a huge healthcare expenditure and burden for individuals who have survived COVID-19.

Patients who were in the intensive care unit or on a ventilator for weeks will need to spend extensive time in rehab to regain mobility and strength. “It can take up to seven days for every one day that you’re hospitalized to recover that type of strength,” Khan said. “It’s harder the older you are, and you may never get back to the same level of function.” While much of the focus has been on the minority of patients who experience severe disease, doctors increasingly are looking to the needs of patients who were not sick enough to require hospitalization, but are still suffering months after first becoming infected.

Read more …

Picked this because of a new term for me: “othering”.

Is that a noun or also a verb?

Please advise me.

Do I “other” you when I say you’re beautiful?

Museum of Human Rights CEO Resigns After Allegations Of Systemic Racism (CP)

The president and CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights has resigned following recent allegations of systemic racism, discrimination and claims of sexual harassment at the Winnipeg facility. The museum’s board of trustees says John Young has agreed that it is in the best interest of the museum that he step down, effective immediately. “We will act quickly to improve museum processes and our policies, and to rebuild relationships and trust with our staff and those we have let down, especially the Black and Indigenous communities, people of colour and LGBTQ2+ communities,” board chairwoman Pauline Rafferty said Thursday in a news release.“We apologize unreservedly for what has happened and we know that the fight against systemic racism, homophobia, inequality and all forms of othering must be ongoing, and must be a priority.”

Read more …

Fine by me, I’m no fan, but pretty ironic they do it at a time when there are no tourists around.

Amsterdam Ejects Airbnb et al From Three Central Districts (TC)

Another brick in the wall for vacation rental platforms: Amsterdam is booting Airbnb and other such platforms from three districts in the city’s old center from July 1, further tightening its rules for such services. In other districts in the famous city of canals, vacation rentals will only be permitted with a permit from next Wednesday, still for a maximum of 30 nights per year. The latest tightening of the city’s rules on Airbnb and similar platforms comes after a period of consultation with residents and organizations which city authorities say drew 780 responses — a full 75% of which supported banning the platforms from operating in the three central districts. “This [consultation] indicates that the subject is very much alive among Amsterdammers.


What is striking is that no less than 75% are in favor of a ban on holiday rentals in the three districts, said deputy mayor Laurens Ivens in a press release.. Furthermore, Ivens said the consultation exercise showed some support for a citywide ban on such platforms. However current pan-EU rules — notably the European Services Directive — limit how cities can respond to public sentiment against such services. Hence Amsterdam applying the ban to specific districts where it has been able to confirm tourism leads to major disruption.

Read more …

Countries that are not welcome in the EU: US, North Macedonia, Sweden, UK, Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates.

UK to Scrap Quarantine For Travel to Greece (GR)

The UK government confirmed on Saturday that will scrap the requirement for holidaymakers to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to the UK for trips Greece, France and Spain. Britons are among the biggest national groups visiting Greece every year but flights from the UK, which has seen a high rate of Covid-19 infections, are currently barred from Greek airports until at least June 30. The requirement for a 14-day quarantine was a major disincentive for British tourists. Instead of the quarantine there will be a traffic light system, with officials placing countries into green, amber and red categories based on the prevalence of coronavirus.

The Telegraph reported that as many as 50 countries could be included in the quarantine-free list when it is published on Wednesday, with restrictions lifted as soon as July 6. The move comes as Greek minister of Tourism told Reuters that the country hopes to be able to set up an “air bridge” with Britain that would allow British tourists to visit from mid-July. “I think that the most realistic prospect is around the middle of July to remove barriers from both sides,” minister Harry Theocharis told Reuters, adding that Greece was also waiting European Union guidelines on the issue. “We will keep looking at the (epidemiological) data and confirm this perhaps a few days before the middle of July,” he added.

Meanwhile, Greece’s hopes to welcome American visitors on July 1 are hanging by a thread as the European Union is considering barring tourists from the hard-hit United States at least until July 15. According to Greece’s state broadcaster ERT, the residents of a total of nine countries may be barred from visiting the nation until further notice due to epidemiological data as well as recent spikes in the number of coronavirus cases in these areas. While the information has yet to be officially confirmed by the European Union, the nine countries are reported to be: the United States, North Macedonia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Read more …

Yes, but… Look, at some point it’s not enough just stating the obvious.

Difficult questions aplenty, but let’s see some answers.

The Central Bank “Bailout of Everything” Will Be a Disaster (Lacalle)

Despite massive government and central bank stimuli, the global economy is seeing a concerning rise in defaults and delinquencies. The main central banks’ balance sheets (those of the Federal Reserve, Bank of Japan, European Central Bank, Bank of England, and People’s Bank Of China) have soared to a combined $20 trillion, while the fiscal easing announcements in the major economies exceed 7 percent of the world’s GDP according to Fitch Ratings. This is the biggest combined stimulus plan in history. However, businesses are closing at a record pace and unemployment has reached extremely elevated levels in many countries.

There is an important risk in what I call the “bailout of everything,” or the conscious decision by governments and central banks to provide any needed support to all sectors and companies with access to debt. Most of these stimulus packages and liquidity measures are aimed at supporting current government spending and providing liquidity to companies with assets, with access to debt, and in traditional sectors. It is not a surprise, then, that at the same time as we see the largest fiscal and monetary support plan since World War II, we are already witnessing two dangerous collateral effects: the rise of zombie companies and the collapse of small businesses and startups.

According to the Institute of International Finance (IIF), the figure of global corporate bond defaults has risen to $50 billion in the second quarter of 2020 despite historic low interest rates and high liquidity. Additionally, according to Deutsche Bank and the Bank of International Settlements, the number of zombie companies in the eurozone and the US, large companies that cannot cover their interest expenses with operating profits, has rocketed to new all-time highs. In 2019 Professors Petroulakis (ECB) and Andrews (OECD) stated, “Europe’s productivity problem is partly due to the rise of zombie firms that crowd out growth opportunities for others”. This problem is only increasing in the current crisis.

Read more …

Kamala Harris is roadkill. All the rest are non-entities.

Bait and Switch (Jim Kunstler)

Suspicious minds may be prompted to wonder whether years of fake news from Wokesterdom’s media allies have finally produced the ultimate hoax: a completely fake candidate for president. Mr. Biden has gone-to-ground for three months since sweeping the Super Tuesday primaries by some strange coup of polling station magic. No campaign glad-handing, baby-kissing, and maiden-sniffing among those virus-saturated crowds for Uncle Joe this time around! And Gawd forbid any press conferences or spontaneous remarks — poor Mr. Biden tends to flub even his scripted statements. It’s a bit hard to imagine how his acceptance speech will go… and… Lordy… the debates! In the immortal words of rap impresario Jay-Z, “Nigga, Please!” (available on Amazon Music, by the way— thank you, Jeff Bezos, humanitarian).


This Joe Biden thang is being set up as some kind of bait-and-switch, but the scheme is a little too obvious, dontcha think? Mr. Biden has obliged himself to choose a “woman-of-color” as his running mate, of course, and so it is assumed that about twenty minutes after the swearing-in on January 20, 2021, Stacey Abrams (or Val Demings, or Kamala Harris, or Tawana Brawley) will become de facto president, and we’ll be off to the races, so to speak. It’s a cute gambit, but I don’t see it playing out. You may be unaware of this but the Democratic Party is actually owned, lock-stock-and-barrel, by the Clinton Foundation. It has something else in mind. Due to the unfortunate last minute discovery of Joe Biden’s incapacity to serve, She Whose Turn Was Thwarted in 2016 will perforce be the party’s nominee for an epic rematch with the Golden Golem of Greatness. Let’s face it: everybody wants to see that contest. And an election with mail-in ballots will cinch her victory.

Read more …

Comey gets to watch it in jail.

Believe me on this one: you have no idea how ugly this election will be. None.

Comey Miniseries Gets Pre-Election Airdate (JTN)

A Showtime miniseries based on former FBI Director James Comey’s memoir has been rescheduled to debut before Election Day, after its creator made an emotional plea for a chance to sway presidential voters. Billy Ray, who wrote and directed “The Comey Rule,” recoiled after learning Showtime originally planned to debut it in late November. Ray wrote an angry letter to his cast and crew about the post-election date obtained by Deadline.com. The note suggests a collective agenda behind the project:

“I know what a disappointment this is to you. It is for me too — because while I’ve made movies about my country before, this was the first time I ever made a movie for my country. We all were hoping to get this story in front of the American people months before the coming election. And that was a reasonable expectation considering that we’d been given a mandate by the network to do whatever was necessary to deliver by May 15. But at some point in March or April, that mandate changed. Word started drifting back to me that a decision about our airdate had been made at the very highest levels of Viacom: all talk of our airing before the election was suddenly a “non-starter.” I and my fellow producers asked for a chance to plead our case on the matter, but we were told that even the discussion itself was a “non-starter.”

Further down in the letter, Ray envisioned billboards screaming, “Comey Vs. Trump” in the heat of the election battle. “The Comey Rule” is based on former FBI director James Comey’s recent memoir, “A Higher Loyalty” and “more than a year of additional interviews with a number of key principals,” according to Showtime PR.

Read more …

 

 

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Jun 122020
 


Gustave Dore Dante looks upon the negligent rulers 1868

 

Here’s What Caused The Worst Stock Market Sell-Off Since March (F.)
Trump Admin. Won’t Disclose Corporate Recipients of $500 Billion Bailout (CD)
The Real Economic Catastrophe Hasn’t Hit Yet. Just Wait For August (BF)
UK Economy Suffers Record Slump With GDP Plunging By 20.4% (Sky)
BA, easyJet and Ryanair Begin Court Action Over UK Quarantine Rules (G.)
US Virus Hotspots Reopen Despite Second Wave Specter (R.)
Trump Campaign Rally Signup Form Includes COVID19 Warning/Disclaimer (JTN)
Retired Generals Who Denounced Trump Could Be Recalled, Prosecuted (JTN)
Twitter Deletes Over 170,000 Accounts Tied To Chinese Propaganda (Hill)
US Intel Bulletin Says ‘Malign Actors’ Target US Over Protest Fallout (ABC)
Obama Retread Sees Moscow’s Hand in Protests (Giraldi)
Flynn’s Lawyers Say Judge ‘Exceeded His Power’ In Not Dismissing Case (JTN)
Flynn Case: 85 Lies, Contradictions, Oddities, and Unusual Occurrences (ET)

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 9 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 136,757. Another new record.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is + 139,460 cases.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 23,300
• Brazil + 39,928
• Russia + 8,987
• India + 11,128
• Pakistan + 6.397
• Mexico + 4,.790

 

 

Cases 7,622,021 (+ 139,460 from yesterday’s 7,482,561)

Deaths 424,325 (+ 4,837 from yesterday’s 419,488)

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

“Fed chair Powell yesterday really reminded investors that there’s a huge, huge gap between the economic reality and the market reality..”

He should know, because he’s created that gap. It’s dead simple: there is no stock market left, only something that looks like it.

To have a market, you need price discovery. Jay Powell makes sure there isn’t any, because everyone’s afraid of what price discovery would do.

The entire financial world fears honesty and truth, and the Fed makes sure these are gone.

Here’s What Caused The Worst Stock Market Sell-Off Since March (F.)

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 6.9%, nearly 1,900 points, in its worst single-day drop since the coronavirus sell-off in March. The S&P 500, which fell 5.9%, also had its worst day since March. Stocks plunged on rising concerns about a second wave of coronavirus infections: Many states that loosened lockdown restrictions saw a spike in new cases. Texas and Florida, for example, were among some of the first states to reopen, and they are now reporting record numbers of hospitalizations. A total of 21 states reported an increase in new cases last week, according to a Reuters analysis. Thursday’s sell-off follows the Federal Reserve’s grim update on the economy:


A day earlier, the Central Bank forecasted a long recovery, with unemployment set to remain high for years and interest rates staying near zero until at least 2022. “Fed chair Powell yesterday really reminded investors that there’s a huge, huge gap between the economic reality and the market reality,” Tom Essaye, founder of the Sevens Report, told CNBC. “Just that reminder combined with a lot of the second wave headlines prompted an opportunity to take profits… stocks can’t go up forever.” Expectations for a quick economic recovery are dwindling: Investors are now dumping stocks that would benefit from a reopening—including airlines, retailers and cruise operators—after they led the market rally over the past month.

Wall Street traders are instead rotating back into stay-at-home stocks, such as Netflix and Zoom, as well as big tech companies like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Google-parent Alphabet. The stock market’s fear gauge, the CBOE Volatility Index, skyrocketed over 47% on Thursday, breaking above the 40 threshold for the first time in over a month. “The REAL reasons stocks are down doesn’t have much to do with fundamentals – the tape had become GROSSLY overbought (with valuations hitting multi-decade, unsustainable highs),” according to Adam Crisafulli, founder of Vital Knowledge. “A lot of reluctant buyers were sucked in off the sidelines these last few weeks, creating a giant downside air pocket that’s now being filled.”

BIG NUMBER: MORE THAN 44 MILLION. That’s how many people have filed for unemployment over the last three months, as the coronavirus pandemic forced businesses to shut down on an unprecedented scale. Jobless claims fell for the tenth week in a row on Thursday, with 1.5 million more Americans filing for unemployment during the week ending June 6. While that number continues to decline, millions are still unemployed and the job market’s recovery is expected to take years. TANGENT “We can’t shut down the economy again,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Thursday morning. “I think we’ve learned that if you shut down the economy, you’re going to create more damage,” he warned.

Both the S&P 500 and Dow are still up more than 40% from their coronavirus low point on March 23. Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell reiterated at his press conference on Wednesday that while “there is great uncertainty about the future,” the Central Bank is strongly committed to doing “whatever we can, for as long as it takes” to help support the economy.

Read more …

Fits perfectly in the climate the Fed has created.

Trump Admin. Won’t Disclose Corporate Recipients of $500 Billion Bailout (CD)

Progressive critics and advocacy groups are responding with alarm and anger to the Trump administration’s refusal to disclose the names of more than 4.5 million companies that have collectively received over $500 billion in corporate bailout money through a federal program created to provide businesses with relief from the coronavirus pandemic. The over $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed by President Donald Trump in March established the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) with $349 billion in funding for forgivable loans. After the initial capital ran out in just 13 days, lawmakers approved $310 billion more—though over $130 billion of that amount was still left as of Tuesday.


Although, as the Washington Post reported, the Small Business Administration (SBA) “typically discloses names of borrowers from the loan program” on which the PPP is based, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin testified to the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship that he won’t be following that model for the Covid-19 program, despite concerns about which companies are benefiting from it. As Mnuchin told the Senate committee Wednesday: “We believe that that’s proprietary information, and in many cases for sole proprietors and small businesses, it is confidential information.” The secretary’s comments provoked a barrage of condemnation, particularly among individuals and groups that had previously expressed concern about the PPP.

Read more …

Getting poorer as your income rises.

The Real Economic Catastrophe Hasn’t Hit Yet. Just Wait For August (BF)

More than 40 million people lost their jobs in the last few months, in the fastest and deepest economic slowdown ever recorded. More than half of all households with low incomes in the United States have experienced a loss of earnings, as have a quarter of all adults. The numbers are grim — but as bad as things look today, they’re on track to get much, much worse. The US economy right now is like a jumbo jet that’s in a steady glide after both its engines flamed out. In about six weeks, it will likely crash into the side of a mountain. What’s kept us in the air so far is an extraordinary government relief effort. In most states, evictions have been temporarily banned, preventing a mass homelessness crisis.


Most federal student loan payments have been put on hold, removing one of the largest recurring monthly expenses that millions of people face. Banks were ordered to give their customers a six-month break on mortgage payments if requested. Most importantly, and counterintuitively, household income sharply increased in April as hundreds of billions of dollars in lost wages were replaced by trillions in government spending. The government sent out more than 159 million stimulus payments of up to $1,200 per adult (more if you have kids), and more than 20 million unemployed people became eligible for an extra $600 a week in federal unemployment benefits. The result, according to Bloomberg, was the largest monthly increase in household income ever recorded.

This happened in April, when there were far fewer things to spend your money on; shops and restaurants were closed, nobody went to the ball game or took the kids to a theme park, and a shaggy nation longed for a haircut. Meanwhile, the prospect of a massive economic crash meant that Americans who were still on the job were more likely to tuck money away that they might otherwise have spent. So the national savings rate — the share of people’s income that is saved rather than spent — hit 33%, according to the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, also the highest level ever recorded. In the same month that we reached the worst mass unemployment in living memory, Americans saved a total of $6.15 trillion — up by $4 trillion from the month prior.

Read more …

What’s worse for the UK is this is not the worst. They have allowed the virus to be everywhere.

UK Economy Suffers Record Slump With GDP Plunging By 20.4% (Sky)

Britain’s economy suffered a record collapse during April’s coronavirus lockdown with GDP plunging by 20.4%, the Office for National Statistics said. The fall is the biggest the UK has ever seen – worse than anything during the financial crash – and underlines the damage inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw many businesses shut down in a bid to curb the spread of infection. The economy was around 25% smaller in April than it was in February, bringing the threat of mass job losses. Reacting to the figures, health minister Edward Argar told Sky News the drop was “clearly a significant contraction” but was “not unexpected” given the coronavirus crisis.


Widespread contractions across the economy contributed to the fall in GDP. In the three months to April, the ONS data shows that accommodation and food services plummeted by 40.1%, with the closure of hotels, bars and restaurants throughout March and April. Manufacturing and construction also saw significant falls of 10.5% and 18.2% respectively. The ONS will not reveal what happened to the economy in May until next month, but it is likely to show another dramatic drop, as it covers the a period before restrictions started to ease in some parts of the economy. Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “In line with many other economies around the world, coronavirus is having a severe impact on our economy.

Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics, said: “April’s fall in GDP is the biggest the UK has ever seen, more than three times larger than last month and almost 10 times larger than the steepest pre-COVID-19 fall. “In April, the economy was around 25% smaller than in February. “Virtually all areas of the economy were hit, with pubs, education, health and car sales all giving the biggest contributions to this historic fall. “Manufacturing and construction also saw significant falls, with manufacture of cars and housebuilding particularly badly affected. “The UK’s trade with the rest of the world was also badly affected by the pandemic, with large falls in both the import and export of cars, fuels, works of art and clothing.”

Read more …

It’s too late anyway. But is going back to “normal” a good idea?

BA, easyJet and Ryanair Begin Court Action Over UK Quarantine Rules (G.)

Britain’s three biggest airlines have filed papers in the high court to seek an urgent judicial review of the government’s quarantine laws, which they say are having a devastating effect on tourism and the wider economy. British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair say the rules, which came into effect on Monday and require passengers arriving from abroad to self-isolate at a single address for 14 days, are flawed and will cost thousands of jobs. The airlines sent a letter to the government last week to start their legal challenge, and court proceedings are now in train. The airlines have requested a hearing as soon as possible.

Despite reports of private briefings that “air bridges” allowing travel between the UK and some other European countries could be established by the end of the month, the three airlines say they have not yet seen any evidence of how and when they would be implemented. Instead, they are urging the government to revisit a policy briefly introduced in March that targeted passengers entering from “high-risk” countries for quarantine. They said: “This would be the most practical and effective solution and enables civil servants to focus on other, more significant issues arising from the pandemic while bringing the UK in line with much of Europe which is opening its borders mid-June.”

The airlines’ chief executives have been outspoken in their criticism of the rules. Willie Walsh, the boss of BA’s parent company IAG, has described them as “irrational and disproportionate”, while Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary has said they are “nonsense”. In the legal filing, the airlines argue that the rules are more stringent than those applied to people who have Covid-19 and leave their home, that there was no consultation on the policy and no scientific evidence provided to support it, that exemptions for commuters undermine the policy, and that the government is seeking to ban travel to and from countries with lower infection rates than the UK.

Read more …

Some of the numbers get scary.

US Virus Hotspots Reopen Despite Second Wave Specter (R.)

The moves by governors of states such as Florida and Arizona came as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the United States could not afford to let the novel coronavirus shut its economy again and global stocks tanked on worries of a pandemic resurgence. As Florida reported its highest daily tally of new coronavirus cases on Thursday, Governor Ron DeSantis unveiled a plan to restart public schools at “full capacity” in the autumn, arguing the state’s economy depended on it. North Carolina reported record COVID-19 hospitalizations for a fifth straight day on Thursday, a day after legislators passed a bill to reopen gyms, fitness centers and bars in a state where more than one in ten workers are unemployed.

Governors of hotspot states face pressure to fire up economies facing fiscal year 2021 budget shortfalls of up to 30% below pre-pandemic projections in the case of New Mexico, according to data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities think tank. Nevada, which has seen cases increase by nearly a third in the past two weeks, is suffering 28% unemployment, based on U.S Bureau of Labor statistics. “This is about saving lives, this is also about livelihoods in the state of Arizona,” Governor Doug Ducey told a news briefing, adding that a second shutdown of the economy was “not under discussion” despite official figures showing a 211% rise in virus cases over the past 14 days. About half a dozen states including Texas and Arizona are grappling with rising numbers of coronavirus patients filling hospital beds.

[..] A second wave of coronavirus deaths is expected to begin in the United States in September, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said on Thursday, citing a surge in mobility since April. Its latest model projects 170,000 deaths by Oct. 1, with a possible range between 133,000 and 290,000. A note of caution came from Utah, where Governor Gary Herbert said most of the state would pause its reopening after a 126% rise in cases over the past two weeks. Austin, Texas on Thursday also said it would likely extend stay-at-home and mask orders past June 15 after the state reported its highest new case count the previous day. Austin health officials blamed a record week of infections on easing business restrictions and Memorial Day gatherings.

Read more …

Coming to a theater, sports arena etc, near you.

Trump Campaign Rally Signup Form Includes COVID19 Warning/Disclaimer (JTN)

President Trump is slated to hold a campaign rally in Tulsa, Okla., on June 19, but people who sign up for tickets will encounter a warning about possible exposure to coronavirus. “By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present,” the warning says. “By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; BOK Center; ASM Global; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury,” the note declares.


The event will be the the president’s first campaign rally in some time. Areas around the nation are emerging from coronavirus-related lockdowns and restrictions, and large protests have sprung up around the country in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minnesota. The Associated Press reports that many states have seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Read more …

They appear convinced Trump will lose, and want to get out of the way.

Retired Generals Who Denounced Trump Could Be Recalled, Prosecuted (JTN)

Retired four-star military officers who lambasted President Trump could be recalled to active duty and prosecuted for violating the U.S. Code, military law experts told Just the News. “Retired officers can’t make contemptuous remarks of the commander-in-chief,” said John Dowd, a former Marine Corps Judge Advocate and former Trump legal advisor. “They’re all subject to recall. They’re subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice until they die.” The pertinent law is Title 10 of the U.S. Code, Section 888, the experts said. “As part of the UCMJ, governing military law, you cannot use contemptuous words against certain officials, including the president,” one active duty Army Judge Advocate General Corps officer said. “That is a court-martial offense, and yes, you can be recalled to active duty to be court-martialed.”

The outspoken retired officers know they could be held to account, the JAG officer said. “I don’t know who the hell they think they are,” Dowd said. “It’s stunning to me. I guess the law doesn’t apply to them.” The retired officers comprise some of the biggest marquee military names in recent times. They include former Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis and former Special Operations Command chief Adm. William McRaven. With increasing frequency over the past couple years, and in quick succession over the past week, they have leveled serious accusations against Trump, and have called for him to be removed from office. In late 2019, McRaven published a New York Times op-ed titled “Our Republic Is Under Attack From the President,” and later told CNN interviewer Jake Tapper that Trump is working to destroy the country.

On June 7, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Colin Powell — also speaking to CNN’s Tapper — said that Trump has “drifted away” from the U.S. Constitution. Elsewhere, Powell said Trump “lies all the time,” and called him a “menace.” Retired Lt. Gen. John Allen, who commanded U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said in an interview that the Constitution is under threat — not from violent anarchists, but from the president of the United States. Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who led U.S. Southern Command and served in Bill Clinton’s cabinet, denounced Trump as a threat to national security. Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen — who in 2012 surrendered his computers to the FBI in the course of a cybersecurity investigation — accused Trump of giving succor to foreign detractors.

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I guess it gets ever easier to confuse me. The 170,000 accounts “had tweeted almost 350,000 times before being shut down.” That’s barely 2 tweets per account. How does one influence anything that way?

If the “[25,000 accounts that formed what Twitter described as the “core network]” tweeted more often than 2x, scores of the accounts must have never tweeted. Hardly effective.

At the same time, the 1,000 “Russian” accounts and 7,000 Turkish ones tweeted 40 million times. How then is this a story about China? Remind me what rats smell like.

Twitter Deletes Over 170,000 Accounts Tied To Chinese Propaganda (Hill)

Twitter announced Thursday that it had deleted more than 170,000 accounts tied to a Chinese state-linked operation that were spreading deceptive information around the COVID-19 virus, political dynamics in Hong Kong, and other issues. Almost 25,000 of the accounts that were deleted formed what Twitter described as the “core network,” while around 150,000 accounts were amplifying messages from the core groups. “In general, this entire network was involved in a range of manipulative and coordinated activities,” the company wrote in a blog post. “They were Tweeting predominantly in Chinese languages and spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China (CCP), while continuing to push deceptive narratives about the political dynamics in Hong Kong.”

Twitter noted that the accounts taken down this week were tied to a Chinese state-backed operation last year that attempted to sow political discord in Hong Kong. Those accounts were also taken down. According to an analysis of the accounts by the Stanford Internet Observatory (SIO), many of the accounts shut down were tweeting about the COVID-19 pandemic, with activity around this issue beginning in late January and reaching its peak in late March. The accounts primarily praised China’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. While most of the accounts had less than 10 followers and no bios, the SIO found that they had tweeted almost 350,000 times before being shut down.

“Narratives around COVID-19 primarily praise China’s response to the virus, and occasionally contrast China’s response against that of the U.S. government or Taiwan’s response, or use the presence of the virus as a means to attack Hong Kong activists,” the SIO wrote in its analysis. “The English-language content included pointed reiterations of the claim that China – not Taiwan – had a superior response to containing coronavirus.”

Twitter on Thursday also shut down thousands of accounts tied to Russian and Turkish state-linked misinformation efforts. The over 1,000 Russian accounts removed were tied to state-backed political propaganda within Russia, while the over 7,300 Turkish accounts removed were primarily spreading information favorable to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his political party. While the amount of Russian and Turkish-linked accounts was less than those tied to China, the Russian and Turkish accounts were found by the SIO to have tweeted a combined almost 40 million times before Twitter took action.

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What can they do without RussiaRussia? It’s their lifeblood.

US Intel Bulletin Says ‘Malign Actors’ Target US Over Protest Fallout (ABC)

As protesters hit the streets in cities across the country, America’s foreign adversaries have flooded social media with content meant to sow division and discord in the wake of George Floyd’s death, according to a U.S. government intelligence bulletin obtained by ABC News. The bulletin, distributed Tuesday to law enforcement by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), accuses Russia, China and Iran of “employing state media, proxy outlets, and social media accounts to amplify criticism of the United States related to the death of George Floyd and subsequent events.” These “malign actors” also appear intent on drawing attention to alleged hypocrisy in the Trump administration’s handling of protesters, the report found.

The death of 46-year-old George Floyd last month, at the hands of a former Minneapolis police officer, has sparked outrage and protest from coast to coast, prompting calls for an overhaul of police practices. In the intervening weeks, foreign adversaries have sought to leverage the residual domestic strife resulting from Floyd’s death to pursue geopolitical goals, the bulletin claimed, including an ongoing effort to weaken Washington’s image on the international stage. “These actors criticize the United States as hypocritical, corrupt, undemocratic, racist, guilty of human rights abuses and on the verge of collapsing,” the report found. For Russia, this finding represents the latest chapter in Moscow’s age-old information warfare playbook, according to John Cohen, a former senior DHS official and current ABC News contributor.

“This is yet another indicator that Russia is using the combination of overt propaganda and covertly disseminated disinformation to sow discord across our populace, expand the cracks in our society, and undermine the credibility of the U.S. government,” Cohen said.

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“..go out and face your people, look them in the eye and try telling them that they are being controlled by the Russians through YouTube and Facebook. And I will sit back and watch ‘American exceptionalism’ in action.”

Obama Retread Sees Moscow’s Hand in Protests (Giraldi)

How convenient is it to fall back on Russia which, together with the Chinese, is reputedly already reported to be working hard to subvert the November U.S. election. And what better way to do just that than to call on one of the empty-heads of the Barack Obama administration, whose foreign policy achievements included the destruction of a prosperous Libya and the killing of four American diplomats in Benghazi, the initiation of kinetic hostilities with Syria, the failure to achieve a reset with Russia and the assassinations of American citizens overseas without any due process. But Obama sure did talk nice and seem pleasant unlike the current occupant of the White House.

The predictable Wolf Blitzer had a recent interview with perhaps the emptiest head of all the empowered women who virtually ran the Obama White House. Susan Rice was U.N. Ambassador and later National Security Advisor under Barack Obama. Before that she was a Clinton appointee who served as Undersecretary of State for African Affairs. She is reportedly currently being considered as a possible running mate for Joe Biden as she has all the necessary qualifications being a woman and black. While Ambassador and National Security Advisor, Rice had the reputation of being extremely abrasive. She ran into trouble when she failed to be convincing in support of the Obama administration exculpatory narrative regarding what went wrong in Benghazi when the four Americans, to include the U.S. Ambassador, were killed.

In her interview with Blitzer, Rice said: “We have peaceful protesters focused on the very real pain and disparities that we’re all wrestling with that have to be addressed, and then we have extremists who’ve come to try to hijack those protests and turn them into something very different. And they’re probably also, I would bet based on my experience, I’m not reading the intelligence these days, but based on my experience this is right out of the Russian playbook as well. I would not be surprised to learn that they have fomented some of these extremists on both sides using social media. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that they are funding it in some way, shape, or form.”

It should be noted that Rice, a devout Democrat apparatchik, produced no evidence whatsoever that the Russians were or have been involved in “fomenting” the reactions to the George Floyd demonstrations and riots beyond the fact that Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden all believe that Moscow is responsible for everything. Clinton in particular hopes that some day someone will actually believe her when she claims that she lost to Trump in 2016 due to Russia. Even Robert Mueller, he of the Russiagate Inquiry, could not come up with any real evidence suggesting that the relatively low intensity meddling in the election by the Kremlin had any real impact. Nor was there any suggestion that Moscow was actually colluding with the Trump campaign, nor with its appointees, to include National Security Advisor designate Michael Flynn.

[..] Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova accurately described the Rice performance as a “perfect example of barefaced propaganda.” She wrote on her Facebook page “Are you trying to play the Russia card again? You’ve been playing too long – come back to reality” instead of using “dirty methods of information manipulation” despite “having absolutely no facts to prove [the] allegations… go out and face your people, look them in the eye and try telling them that they are being controlled by the Russians through YouTube and Facebook. And I will sit back and watch ‘American exceptionalism’ in action.”

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Today at 9.30 am EDT. Court of Appeals hearing.

Flynn’s Lawyers Say Judge ‘Exceeded His Power’ In Not Dismissing Case (JTN)

Lawyers for Michael Flynn argued in a brief filed Thursday that Judge Emmet Sullivan “exceeded his power” when he refused to dismiss a case per a Justice Department request, arguing that the judge is legally compelled to follow federal prosecutors’ desire to end prosecution against the former Trump national security adviser. The Justice Department in a surprise move last month announced it would be dismissing its case against Flynn, who had plead guilty to lying to FBI agents but later withdrew the plea. Federal officials in May claimed the FBI interview with Flynn had been immaterial to its investigation of him, as part of the federal Russia collusion probe, and that his statements in the 2017 meeting were thus legally irrelevant.


But Sullivan, who is overseeing Flynn’s case, refused to accept the Justice Department request, instead calling in ex-Judge John Gleeson to file an an opinion arguing in favor of keeping the case against Flynn. In their Thursday filing, Flynn’s lawyers slammed Sullivan, arguing that he is “not in the Executive branch and, being an Article III judge, has no authority to gin up his own case or controversy where none exists.” “The game is over and this Court should order the umpire to leave the field,” they wrote of the case, arguing that the ultimate authority for dismissing charges lies with prosecutors. Gleeson in his filing earlier this week argued that the court should consider Flynn’s withdrawal of his guilty plea to itself be perjury, and that Sullivan “should take Flynn’s perjury into account in sentencing him on the offense to which he has already admitted guilt.”

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I have no space for 85.

Flynn Case: 85 Lies, Contradictions, Oddities, and Unusual Occurrences (ET)

The case of Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn is inevitably heading toward its conclusion. While the presiding district judge, Emmet Sullivan, is trying to keep it going, there’s only so much he can do, chiefly because there’s nobody left to prosecute the case after the Department of Justice (DOJ) dropped it last month. In the latest developments, the District of Columbia appeals court set a hearing in the case for tomorrow (June 12), while the DOJ’s solicitor general himself, as well as five of his deputies, urged the court to order the lower-court judge to accept the case dismissal. “I cannot overstate how big of a deal this is,” commented appellate attorney John Reeves, former assistant Missouri attorney general, in a series of tweets on June 1. Personal involvement of the solicitor general “is highly unusual and rare,” he said.

“Unusual” seems a fitting euphemism for the Flynn case, which has been filled with contradictions, falsehoods, apparent blunders, extraordinary moves, and strange coincidences. The Epoch Times has so far counted 85 such instances. Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency during the Obama administration and former national security adviser to President Donald Trump, pleaded guilty on Dec. 1, 2017, to one count of lying to FBI agents during a Jan. 24, 2017, interview. The FBI officially opened an investigation on Flynn on Aug. 16, 2016, based on a suspicion that he “may wittingly or unwittingly be involved in activity on behalf of the Russian Federation which may constitute a federal crime or threat to the national security.”

What activity? The case was opened under a broader investigation into whether the Trump 2016 presidential campaign conspired with Russia to steal emails from the Democratic National Committee and release them through Wikileaks. Flynn was an adviser to the campaign at the time. By its own admission, the FBI had little reason to suspect the campaign. The bureau learned from the Australian government that its then-ambassador to the UK, Alexander Downer, spoke with Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos, who “suggested” that the campaign received “some kind of suggestion” that Russia could help it by anonymously releasing some information damaging to Trump’s opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The FBI didn’t know what Papadopoulos actually said or what he was talking about. Officially, this information was used by the FBI to comb through its databases for information on people associated with the Trump campaign and open investigations on four individuals supposedly linked to Russia. Because Flynn’s paid speaking engagements in years past included some for Russian companies—one for Kaspersky Lab and one for RT television in Moscow—the FBI decided to open a counterintelligence investigation on the retired three-star general. But the FBI seemed to have trouble getting its story straight.

Read more …

 

 

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 132020
 


Harris&Ewing Treasury Building, Fifteenth Street, Washington, DC 1918

 

Don’t Let Governors Fool You About Reopening (Yaneer Bar-yam)
GOP Rejects Pelosi’s $3 Trillion HEROES Act Package (WE)
House Bill Would Provide Some As Young As 16 With $2,000 Monthly Payments (JTN)
HEROES Act Delivers A Win To The Health Insurance Industry (IC)
US Fossil Fuel Giants Set For A Coronavirus Bailout Bonanza (G.)
US COVID19 Death Forecast Revised Upward Again (R.)
Gilead Ties Up With Generic Drugmakers For COVID19 Drug Supply (R.)
Mexico Sees 353 Deaths In Most Lethal Coronavirus Day (R.)
Cuba Begins Mass Testing For COVID19 With Fewer Than 20 New Cases Per Day (G.)
How Hong Kong Did It (Atl.)
EU Faces ‘Existential Threat’ If Coronavirus Recovery Is Uneven (G.)
China’s April Air Passenger Numbers Down 68.5% Year-on-Year (R.)
US Airlines Tell Crews Not To Force Passengers To Wear Masks (R.)
Contacts Exposed Between US Kyiv Embassy, Yovanovitch, Burisma (Solomon)
Judge Delays Flynn Dismissal Decision, Invites Outside Opinions (JTN)

 

 

• US adds 1,894 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours. Monday: 830, Sunday: 776.

 

 

Russia had its 10th consecutive day of more than 10,000 cases

 

 


 

 

 

Cases 4,358,220 (+ 85,116 from yesterday’s 4,273,104)

Deaths 293,236 (+ 5,615 from yesterday’s 287,621)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do the states that are doing well risk seeing their progress wiped out?

Don’t Let Governors Fool You About Reopening (Yaneer Bar-yam)

In March, I called on the US to impose a strict five-week national lockdown with internal and external travel restrictions to bring us to near zero infections. While measures were taken in many parts of the country, it was too little, too late. Now, I and many others are issuing another warning: the decisions of some US governors to prematurely ease social distancing is a disastrous mistake and citizens need to ignore them. Our research — and common sense — show that lifting social restrictions will lead to an explosion of Covid-19 cases and cause countless more deaths. The correct way to relax restrictions is to start with parts of a state that are Covid-free for 14 days and allow only essential travel to those parts of the state with 14-day quarantines for inbound travelers. Why will going along with reopening lead to catastrophe?

First, we must understand that coronavirus is very deadly. Those who claim the death rate is exaggerated are plain wrong and downplaying the emergency. While death rate estimates have varied, recent data from China, the United Kingdom and France, reflecting deaths outside hospitals, including in nursing homes, puts the Covid-19 global fatality rate at around 6.8%, based upon analysis we did at endcoronavirus.org, using data from Johns Hopkins University. Second, almost all reopening states, from California to Pennsylvania, currently have a critical mass of new cases of existing infections that could see new outbreaks in the coming days and weeks. Third, without extreme preventive measures, we’ve seen how coronavirus infections doubled every two to three days at one point in different areas — which equated to about a tenfold increase per week.

That means that a state with 1,000 new cases could have well over 100,000 more in two weeks, if social distancing is loosened. States like Texas have announced precautions to mitigate harm from reopening with measures like limiting restaurants and shopping malls to operating at a 25% or 50% capacity depending on the amount of cases in their areas. But we know from months of studying this disease that communities need more aggressive measures to stop the exponential spread of Covid-19. We prevented the contagion from being much worse by putting in place protective measures throughout the US. We expanded testing capacity. We ramped up our hospitals’ capacity to care for critically ill patients. But this “flattening the curve” isn’t enough. If we lighten up on our protective measures now, all the progress we’ve made will vanish, and we’ll suffer an enormous setback. We need to push even harder to win.

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View from the right wing.

GOP Rejects Pelosi’s $3 Trillion HEROES Act Package (WE)

Senate Republicans flatly rejected a $3 trillion coronavirus aid package House Democrats introduced Tuesday and said they’ll wait to decide whether more legislation is necessary. “If we reach a decision, along with the administration to move to another phase, that’ll be the time to interact with the Democrats,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “But what you’ve seen in the House is not something designed to deal with reality but designed to deal with aspirations. This is not a time for aspirational legislation. This is a time for practical response to the coronavirus pandemic.” Democrats blasted McConnell’s reaction to the massive bill.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, accused McConnell of ignoring the desperate needs of people out of work and left without paychecks. “We need big, bold action, and yet, Leader McConnell seems totally divorced from that reality,” Schumer said. “We need to act in a big and bold way. The House has started the ball rolling. Republicans and the president ought to understand that and help us move in a big, bold way, not stand in the way.” The House measures are massive in both cost and scope. It provides new $1,200 cash payments to individuals and more than $1 trillion to state, local, and municipal governments. It includes a bailout for troubled state pensions and the U.S. Postal Service and “hazard pay” for healthcare workers and other workers who are unable to stay at home during the coronavirus.

Republicans have no appetite for the wide-ranging measure, they said. Congress has already enacted $2.8 trillion in federal coronavirus relief aid, and both the GOP and President Trump say they plan to wait for that funding to roll out and for economies to begin reopening before assessing the need for new federal spending legislation. Sen. John Thune, the majority whip, said the House bill “is nothing more than a messaging exercise by the House Democrats.” The South Dakota Republican said the bill “is not going anywhere” and said the Senate “will be working in a bipartisan way with the White House” when considering new coronavirus funding.

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I think we can safely label this UBI. If people making up to $250,000 are eligible, the few percent that remain are negligible.

House Bill Would Provide Some As Young As 16 With $2,000 Monthly Payments (JTN)

House Democrats are proposing a $2,000-a-month stimulus payment for individuals 16 and older to help them during the coronavirus. Reps. Ro Khanna of California and Tim Ryan of Ohio have introduced the proposal as stand-alone legislation titled the Emergency Money for the People Act. A spokesperson for Ryan’s office told Just The News on Tuesday that he is working with House leadership to include his bill in future coronavirus stimulus legislation. The Khanna-Ryan proposal would provide the monthly payments to qualified recipients for one year. To qualify, individual recipients must make less than $130,000 annually and couples filing joint tax returns would have to make less than $260,000.


The proposal has 37 co-sponsors including Reps. Rashida Tlaib, of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, and Ted Lieu, of California. Khanna’s office said 16-year-olds would not have to file tax returns to qualify for the $2,000 per month. “They would have to fill out an online form that must be accessible via mobile phone to fill out” with their Venmo, Paypal, “other mobile money or direct deposit” information, a Khanna spokesperson said. Khanna’s office also told Just The News that illegal immigrants and non-citizens who file tax returns with tax ID numbers would qualify for the monthly direct payments in the bill.

Read more …

Here’s what you get for rejecting Medicare For All.

HEROES Act Delivers A Win To The Health Insurance Industry (IC)

The Heroes Act, the new coronavirus relief bill introduced by House Democrats on Tuesday, includes protections for employer-sponsored insurance plans, which the health care industry has been lobbying Congress on for weeks. The proposed legislation includes subsidies for continued coverage for furloughed workers and people using COBRA, a continuing health coverage plan for those who have lost work, even if they don’t pay their premiums. The bill also creates avenues for premium assistance for certain categories of people who want to pay those premiums anyway and would open a special insurance enrollment period a week from the date it’s enacted into law. It also provides nine months of premium payments to health insurance plan administrators who don’t receive them during the ongoing pandemic.

The push to protect insurance premiums comes as some health care companies, like UnitedHealth, Humana, and Cigna, have reported profits during the pandemic amid record-high unemployment levels and have boasted that they don’t expect to take a financial hit. In late April, dozens of industry groups — including the influential, conservative Chamber of Commerce — sent a letter to congressional leadership asking for direct subsidies for COBRA, expanding uses for health savings accounts, and increasing eligibility to access health insurance marketplaces.

A couple of weeks earlier, the nations’ second-largest health insurance lobby, America’s Health Insurance Plans, joined a congressional call with members of the conservative Democratic Blue Dog Caucus to ask for protections for employer coverage. According to two sources familiar with the April 13 call, AHIP’s CEO discussed the importance of protecting employer-sponsored plans. One person on the call, who works for an insurer and was not authorized to speak publicly about the conversation, said AHIP’s push for targeted relief to employers who pay premiums to insurance companies was puzzling, given that insurance companies have seen recent profits.

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The US is no longer capable of passing any law without both parties appropriating huge sums of money to their corporate sponsors. Every single bill that is passed increases inequality.

US Fossil Fuel Giants Set For A Coronavirus Bailout Bonanza (G.)

Fossil fuel companies and coal-powered utilities in the US are set for a potential bonanza under federal government plans for a bond bailout, part of the rescue package for the coronavirus crisis. At least 90 fossil fuel companies, many of them established giants such as ExxonMobil, Chevron and Koch Industries, stand to gain from the Federal Reserve’s coronavirus bond buyback programme, alongside more than 150 utilities including coal-heavy firms such as American Electric Power and Duke Energy, according to a new analysis. The bond buyback scheme is expected to be worth at least $750bn altogether and to benefit thousands of companies by the end of September, and the size of the payout that could go to fossil fuels and utilities is as yet unknown.


The scheme is to be discussed in the US Senate on Tuesday. Jason Disterhoft, a senior campaigner at Rainforest Action Network, which conducted the study, said public money should be used to bail out companies only with strict conditions attached. “Our concern is that these recovery funds should be prioritising people and communities and they are going instead to big companies to pay down their debts,” he said. Ten out of the top 40 fracking companies would be eligible to apply, according to the analysis, which examined all US fossil fuel companies and energy utilities to check whether they would qualify under the published scheme rules. It is not known whether any of these companies will apply for the support, though many are expected to do so.

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The modeling gets more useless with each update. Just say you don’t know.

US COVID19 Death Forecast Revised Upward Again (R.)

The latest forecast here from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) reflects “key drivers of viral transmission like changes in testing and mobility, as well as easing of distancing policies,” the report said. The revision reinforced public health warnings, including U.S. Senate testimony on Tuesday from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, that prematurely lifting lockdowns could lead to more outbreaks of the respiratory virus. Fauci and other medical experts have urged caution in relaxing restraints on commerce before diagnostic testing and the ability to trace close contacts of infected individuals can be vastly expanded, along with other safeguards.

IHME researchers acknowledged that precise consequences of moves to reopen shuttered businesses and loosen stay-at-home orders are difficult to gauge. “The full potential effects of recent actions to ease social distancing policies, especially if robust containment measures have yet to be fully scaled up, may not be fully known for a few weeks due to the time periods between viral exposure, possible infection and full disease progression,” the report said. COVID-19 has already claimed nearly 81,000 lives in the United States, out of more than 1.36 million known infections, according to a Reuters tally.

[..] The projections are presented as a range, with the latest forecast – 147,00-plus deaths – representing the average between a best-case scenario of 102,783 lives lost and a worst-case scenario of 223,489 fatalities. The forecasts have fluctuated over the past couple of months, with a projected death toll as low as 60,000 on April 18.

Read more …

It’s become normal to label remdesivir an “experimental COVID-19 treatment”.

Gilead Ties Up With Generic Drugmakers For COVID19 Drug Supply (R.)

Gilead Sciences Inc said on Tuesday it has signed non-exclusive licensing pacts with five generic drugmakers based in India and Pakistan to expand the supply of its experimental COVID-19 treatment remdesivir. The pacts allow the companies – Jubilant Life Sciences Ltd, Cipla Ltd , Hetero Labs Ltd, Mylan NV and Ferozsons Laboratories Ltd – to make and sell the drug in 127 countries. The countries consist of nearly all low-income and lower-middle income ones, as well as several that are upper-middle- and high-income, the drugmaker said. Afghanistan, India, North Korea, Pakistan and South Africa are among the countries.


The licensees will also set their own prices for the generic product they produce, Gilead said. The licenses are royalty-free until the World Health Organization declares the end of the public health emergency regarding COVID-19, or until a product other than remdesivir or a vaccine is approved to treat or prevent COVID-19, the company said. Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir earlier this month received the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency use authorization to treat COVID-19 patients.

Read more …

Rising in the charts. Close the borders.

Mexico Sees 353 Deaths In Most Lethal Coronavirus Day (R.)

Mexico’s health ministry confirmed 1,997 new cases of coronavirus infections on Tuesday, along with 353 additional deaths, the most deadly day since the pandemic began. The new infections brought confirmed coronavirus cases to 38,324 and 3,926 deaths in total, according to the official tally. Mexico’s previous highest daily death toll was on Thursday, when Mexico reported 257 fatalities.

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It’s easier for islands. And Cuba has a much better health care system than just about any country, that helps too.

Cuba Begins Mass Testing For COVID19 With Fewer Than 20 New Cases Per Day (G.)

Cuba has begun mass testing for coronavirus as it appeared to have contained infections, amid a partial shutdown that has exacerbated a shortage of basic goods. New cases have fallen to fewer than 20 per day from a peak of around 50 in April. Since the first Covid-19 illness was reported two months ago, there have been 1,804 confirmed cases, of which 70.7% have recovered and 78 people have died. Cuba has closed its borders and the tourism industry, schools and public transportation. Masks are mandatory and eating at restaurants, bars and social gatherings prohibited. Cubans have been urged to stay at home and practice social distancing.

But the public has not been confined to quarters and has taken to trudging about in search of basic supplies, waiting in long lines and even dusting off bicycles from the dark days following the fall of the Soviet Union. [..] While Communist-run Cuba’s universal and free healthcare system has proved key in containing Covid-19, the pandemic has exacerbated shortages of basic goods and a chaotic retail system caused largely by US sanctions and the centralized, state-dominated economy. Cuba’s top epidemiologist, Francisco Durán, said on Monday that mass testing would help better define the prevalence of the coronavirus as many people found to be infected showed no symptoms.

“The objective is to find new cases and then intervene, isolate, seek contacts, and take all possible measures to ensure that Cuba continues as it is now,” he said during his daily virus update broadcast to the nation. Many experts believe Cuba has managed to control the outbreak better than many countries in the region due to its well-staffed preventive healthcare system, mobilization of activists to track cases, a centralized system that allows a better focus, and willingness to quarantine large numbers of people. Cuban scientists announced last week they had adapted a computerized system developed locally to quickly detect antibodies of the new virus, allowing for mass testing in hospitals and clinics at little cost. Until now, the Caribbean island nation has used expensive tests – often donated – that take days to process, old-fashioned door knocking by health personnel and medical students to trace contacts, and isolation.

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Organizing at a small-scale level works.

How Hong Kong Did It (Atl.)

[..] there is no unchecked, devastating COVID-19 epidemic in Hong Kong. The city beat back the original wave, and also beat back a second resurgence due to imported cases. But unlike in Taiwan or South Korea, this success can’t be attributed to an executive that acted early and with good governance backed by the people. The secret sauce of Hong Kong’s response was its people and, crucially, the movement that engulfed the city in 2019. Seared with the memory of SARS, and already mobilized for the past year against their unpopular government, the city’s citizens acted swiftly, collectively, and efficiently, in effect saving themselves. [..]

On the very day the first known coronavirus case in Hong Kong was announced, the same protest team behind the candidate information sites immediately created a new website—this time to track cases of COVID-19, monitor hot spots, warn people of places selling fake PPE, and report hospital wait times and other relevant information. Many of the key information sources for Hong Kong protesters had been anonymous channels in the popular app Telegram and their own online forums. These anonymous formats protected the protesters from government repression but created a constant threat of misinformation, as someone could always pretend to be a protester or just be wrong or trolling.

Consequently, the protesters learned to become incessant fact-checkers, used to looking up multiple sources and critically analyzing information. Now they turned their powers to critical analysis to the coronavirus: criticizing their own officials, as well as the World Health Organization, which did not advise wearing masks or travel restrictions, and China, which they saw as covering up the initial epidemic (they were right on all counts). In response to the crisis, Hong Kongers spontaneously adopted near-universal masking on their own, defying the government’s ban on masks. When Lam oscillated between not wearing a mask in public and wearing one but incorrectly, they blasted her online and mocked her incorrect mask wearing.

In response to the mask shortage, the foot soldiers of the protest movement set up mask brigades—acquiring and distributing masks, especially to the poor and elderly, who may not be able to spend hours in lines. An “army of volunteers” also spread among the intensely crowded and often decrepit tenement buildings to install and keep filled hand-sanitizer dispensers. When the government refused at first to close the border with mainland China, more than 7,000 medical workers went on an unprecedented strike, demanding border closures and PPE for hospital workers. This strike was only possible because labor unions were formed during the protests. Now they came in handy for collective action.

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Since the recovery is 100% sure to be uneven, the ‘Existential Threat’ is inevitable.

EU Faces ‘Existential Threat’ If Coronavirus Recovery Is Uneven (G.)

The risk of an uneven economic recovery from the coronavirus crisis poses an “existential threat” to the European Union, one of its most senior economic policymakers has said. Paolo Gentiloni, a former Italian prime minister and now the EU’s economy commissioner, said the bloc also had a “historic opportunity” as it charts a plan to rescue Europe’s economy. In an interview a few days after the commission said Europe had entered “the deepest economic recession in its history”, Gentiloni said the EU needed a “sound recovery plan” to avoid the risks of economic division. Shuttered shops and factories, grounded planes and stay-at-home consumers as a result of lockdown restrictions mean the EU economy is expected to shrink by 7.5% in 2020, a deeper fall than the 2009 financial crisis.

Gentiloni is concerned that countries do not have the same resources to recover from this economic shock. The hardest hit countries – Greece, Italy, Spain and Croatia – face falls in economic output (GDP) in excess of 9% in 2020, while Germany’s economy is set to contract by 6.5% and Austria’s by 5.5%. Meanwhile countries have varying levels of state resources to rescue ailing companies and pay workers’ wages – emergency measures that have become easier since Brussels relaxed state aid rules to deal with the crisis. Gentiloni said state aid requests from EU member states were very imbalanced.

“What is clear is the uneven level of the recovery and the risks this creates to our single market and the necessary convergence, especially within the euro area. This is something that I could even define as an existential threat to the building of the Union,” he told a group of European newspapers, including the Guardian. “If we want to look from a more optimistic way it is not only an existential threat but also in some sense a historic opportunity to fill the void we have in common tools of economic and fiscal policies.”

Read more …

Good.

China’s April Air Passenger Numbers Down 68.5% Year-on-Year (R.)

China’s passenger numbers fell 68.5% in April from a year ago, for a drop smaller than in March, the aviation regulator said on Wednesday, pointing to a fragile industry recovery from the coronavirus pandemic as other nations reopen economies. The global tourism industry is closely watching trends in China for clues to travel patterns in other major markets as countries race to lift travel curbs. Air passengers numbered 16.72 million in April, Xiong Jie, a spokesman of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, told an online news conference. That compared with a decline of 71.7% on the year in March, when passengers numbered 15.13 million.


China’s tourism sector showed encouraging signs of recovery over the May Day holiday with 115 million trips made, many by car and by younger people emerging from weeks of virus lockdown measures. More than 30% of capacity has returned in the Chinese domestic market in the last two months, aviation data provider Cirium said on Tuesday. But the number of passenger flights in China has not yet recovered to 60% of the levels seen in past years, Jin Junhao, another CAAC official, sadi during Wednesday’s conference.

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There are few places where you’re more likely to get infected than inside a plane (or a train, subway).

US Airlines Tell Crews Not To Force Passengers To Wear Masks (R.)

The top three U.S. airlines have told their flight attendants not to force passengers to comply with their new policy requiring face coverings, just encourage them to do so, according to employee policies reviewed by Reuters. American Airlines , Delta Air Lines and United Airlines have told employees that they may deny boarding at the gate to anyone not wearing a face covering, and are providing masks to passengers who do not have them, the three carriers told Reuters. Inside the plane, enforcement becomes more difficult.

“Once on board and off the gate, the face covering policy becomes more lenient. The flight attendant’s role is informational, not enforcement, with respect to the face covering policy,” American told its pilots in a message seen by Reuters explaining its policy, which went into effect on Monday. “Bottom line to the pilots: a passenger on board your aircraft who is being compliant with the exception of wearing a face covering is NOT considered disruptive enough to trigger a Threat Level 1 response,” referring to some kind of intentional disruption by a passenger that could cause the captain to divert the flight. American spokesman Joshua Freed said: “American, like other U.S. airlines, requires customers to wear a face covering while on board, and this requirement is enforced at the gate while boarding. We also remind customers with announcements both during boarding and at departure.”

[..] U.S. travel demand has fallen by about 94% in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, prompting carriers to slash their flying schedules to roughly 30% of normal this month. With fewer planes in the skies, some are flying near capacity. Global airlines body IATA came out last week in favor of passengers wearing masks onboard, as debate intensifies in the United States on the role that government agencies should play in mandating new safety measures for flying before a vaccine is developed.

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Certainly in 2016, there was no way to become US ambassador to Ukraine without the approval of Victoria Nuland et al. So another “hero” falls.

Contacts Exposed Between US Kyiv Embassy, Yovanovitch, Burisma (Solomon)

During President Trump’s impeachment, former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch testified to Congress that she knew little beyond an initial briefing and “press reports” about Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian natural gas firm that had hired Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter and was dogged by a corruption investigation. “It just wasn’t a big deal,” she declared under oath on Oct. 11, 2019. But newly unearthed State Department memos obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show Yovanovitch’s embassy in Kiev, including the ambassador herself, was engaged in several discussions and meetings about Burisma as the gas firm scrambled during the 2016 election and transition to settle a long-running corruption investigation and polish its image before President Trump took office.

Yovanovitch, for instance, was specifically warned in an email by her top deputy in September 2016 — three years before her testimony — that Burisma had hired an American firm with deep Democratic connections called Blue Star Strategies to “rehabilitate the reputation” of the Ukrainian gas firm and that it had placed “Hunter Biden on its board,” the memos show. She also met directly with a representative for Burisma in her embassy office, less than 45 days before Trump took office, a contact she did not mention during her impeachment deposition. The discussions about Burisma inside Yovanovitch’s embassy were so extensive, in fact, that they filled more than 160 pages of emails, memos and correspondence in fall 2016 alone, according to the State Department records obtained under FOIA by the conservative group Citizens United.

[..] The impeachment hearings last fall, which focused on efforts by Trump and his lawyer Rudy Guiliani to find evidence inside Ukraine on the Bidens and Burisma and to remove Yovanovitch from her job as U.S. ambassador, included testimony from Yovanovitch herself. During that deposition in October 2016, she made no mention of direct contact with Burisma representatives and instead suggested her knowledge about the company and its legal travails was limited mostly to a briefing she received in preparation for Senate confirmation as ambassador in summer 2016 and subsequent news media reports.

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Curious decision.

Judge Delays Flynn Dismissal Decision, Invites Outside Opinions (JTN)

US District Judge Emmet Sullivan on Tuesday delayed a decision on whether to dismiss Michael Flynn’s conviction for lying, indicating he plans to allow for the submission of outside opinions in the form of amicus curiae briefs. Last week, the Justice Department moved to drop the charges against Trump’s former national security advisor, but the judge’s plan to allow for the submission of friend of the court briefs means that the case will not be closed immediately. Sullivan has not issued a decision on the DOJ’s request to drop the charges. Flynn’s legal team blasted the idea of allowing for the submission of amicus briefs, which allow for parties interested in but not involved in a case to present their views.


“It is no accident that amicus briefs are excluded in criminal cases,” Flynn’s lawyers wrote in a filing according to The Hill. “A criminal case is a dispute between the United States and a criminal defendant. There is no place for third parties to meddle in the dispute, and certainly not to usurp the role of the government’s counsel. For the Court to allow another to stand in the place of the government would be a violation of the separation of powers.” Flynn in 2017 pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, but later sought to withdraw his guilty plea. Evidence that has since emerged suggested the FBI had no case against Flynn but set up an interview in hopes it would catch him lying, his lawyers and Justice officials have said.

Read more …

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 process.

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 092020
 


Tomb of the diver, Paestum c480 BCE

 

Ugly US Jobs Data Hides As Much As It Reveals (R.)
How Australia Got On Top Of COVID19 (SMH)
South Korea’s COVID19 Exceptionalism (Atl.)
South Korea Backtracks On Reopening After COVID19 Cases Jump (NW)
Enough With the Phoney ‘Lockdown’ Debate (Kay)
UK To Place All Incoming Travellers Under 14-Day Quarantine (R.)
COVID19 Death Rate Sinking? Data Reveals A Complex Reality (DW)
Want To Be More Like Sweden? What If We Already Are? (Mish)
Velociraptors Still On The Loose? No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park (McS)
The Bailout Miscalculation That Could Crash the Economy (Taibbi)
Wall Street-Friendly Lawmakers Sought Bailout For Shady Lenders (HuffPo)
Auto Production Collapses By 99% In Mexico and Brazil (R.)
Our Utter Incompetence Actually Helps Us (Kunstler)
What Did Joe Biden Know About Michael Flynn? (York)
Andrew McCabe’s Bizarre CNN Interview (Turley)

 

 

•The US recorded 1,635 #coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 77,178, with a confirmed total of 1,283,829 cases

 

 

• Brazil today now 10,199, total near 150k
• Mexico 23% jump to 1,982, new high
• India today 3,362, small decrease after large increase
• Pakistan 1,791 new high
• Iran recent increasing trend continues 1,556
• Kuwait 641, Qatar 1,311 both new highs

 

 

 

Cases 4,032,763 (+ 98,052 from yesterday’s 3,934,711)

Deaths 276,677 (+ 5,582 from yesterday’s 271,095)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer Deaths among Closed cases is down to 17%. That still needs to come down much more.

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Total nonfarm payroll employment fell by 20.5 million in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bringing the unemployment rate to 14.7%.

That is the highest rate and largest month-over-month increase since the report began in its current form in 1948.

Ugly US Jobs Data Hides As Much As It Reveals (R.)

April really was the cruelest month. Over 20 million Americans lost their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bringing the unemployment rate to an eye-popping 14.7% – the highest since at least the 1940s. But the headline number leaves out much of the Covid-19 economic story. The report makes for grisly – if unsurprising – reading. The economy shed roughly a decade of job gains. The figure dwarfs the 8.7 million jobs lost in the Great Recession that lasted from December 2007 to June 2009 and suggests an annualized second-quarter GDP contraction north of 30% is possible. It represents the highest recorded losses in the report’s seven-decade history, and includes the wipeout of almost half of the country’s leisure and hospitality jobs.

Comparing this to previous crises and slumps is of limited use, because the United States has never intentionally shut off almost 30% of its economy before. But other things are different too. For one, Friday’s figure doesn’t necessarily paint an accurate income picture. Federal stimulus has added $600 a week to jobless benefits, making them, on average, actually higher than normal salaries in a majority of states, according to the New York Times. This is only temporary and the levels vary by state, but it’s still a huge difference from previous crises. The $1,200 one-off payments made to many Americans also mean households, overall, might not see income decline as much as the depressing statistics would suggest.

Just as the record lows in unemployment before Covid-19 didn’t give a full picture, the highs present a similar problem. The headline unemployment figure leaves out workers who aren’t looking for jobs. And it classifies over 18 million workers as being on temporary layoff – but it’s impossible to know whether they will be rehired. After the lockdown, demand may remain depressed because people are scared to, say, go to restaurants or spend much at all. Jobless figures during the decade-plus expansion didn’t account for the low quality of jobs, limited benefits, and low labor-force participation rate. Unfortunately, Friday’s statistics mostly make clear what was already known – that the U.S. economy is in an induced coma – without giving clues on how or when it will wake up.

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In a nutshell: by ignoring the WHO.

How Australia Got On Top Of COVID19 (SMH)

It got really serious for Greg Hunt while he was at the cricket. It was a Saturday morning, February 1, while Australia’s Health Minister was watching his 10-year-old son play that he got the message. In between phone calls and text messages, Hunt was cheering his boy on as he walked laps around the Balnarring cricket oval on his home turf of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. “We now have sustained human-to-human transmission outside Wuhan,” read the message from Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, as Hunt recalls it. “I think we are going to have to close the border to China.” It’s a morning that Hunt says he remembers clearly. The government was already on high alert.

It had been 12 days since Murphy had informed Hunt he was invoking the Biosecurity Act to list the novel coronavirus as a disease of pandemic potential. Behind closed doors, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had already told the national security committee of the cabinet that he’d resolved to “respect the medical advice” as the guiding principle in any response to the epidemic that was spreading in China. Now it was time to act. Hunt immediately connected with Morrison and Murphy on a three-way phone call. Murphy set out the facts and advised: “There’s a very strong risk of this spreading to Australia.” “Are you recommending that we close the border to China?” the Prime Minister asked. Yes, came Murphy’s answer. It was announced at 5pm that same day. It was to be, in Hunt’s words, “almost the biggest, one-day decision a government had made in 50 years”.

Beijing, predictably, put on a show of anger. The Chinese embassy gave Canberra a stern lecture, called Australia “xenophobic” and demanded compensation for Chinese students who were inconvenienced. The Australian government realised that something was badly wrong with the World Health Organisation, or WHO, around this time. The Geneva-based UN organisation kept insisting that there was no cause for countries to ban travel from China. Many nations, Britain and Canada among them, were trusting enough to take its advice. Australia wasn’t the first to shut down arrivals from China. The US and Singapore had done it a day earlier. Taiwan had barred tourists from China’s mainland earlier still, on January 26.

Australian officials since have reflected privately that, if Canberra had been watching China as closely as Taiwan does – and with as much scepticism of its official announcements – Australia would have acted at the same time. Taiwan is the standout global success story in managing COVID-19 to date. It’s an island with roughly the same population as Australia but only six deaths. Australia’s death toll is approaching 100. Taiwan’s restrictions on movement weren’t much more drastic than Australia’s but it moved sooner. Taiwan also was smart enough to put no faith in the WHO. Indeed, Beijing has barred Taiwan from membership of the WHO. Which, in this case, hasn’t done Taiwan any harm whatsoever.

Canberra announced other border closures in short order – Iran, Italy, South Korea. But then it paused before finally banning all foreign arrivals after March 19. Was it a mistake to wait so long? Should Australia have followed its China ban with a global ban sooner?

Read more …

What comes before the fall?

South Korea’s COVID19 Exceptionalism (Atl.)

By the end of February, South Korea had the most COVID-19 patients of any country outside China. New confirmed cases were doubling every few days, and pharmacies were running out of face masks. More than a dozen countries imposed travel restrictions to protect their citizens from the Korean outbreak, including the U.S., which had, at the time, recorded an official COVID-19 death toll low enough to count on one hand. But just as South Korea appeared to be descending into catastrophe, the country stopped the virus in its tracks. The government demanded that the Shincheonji Church turn over its full membership list, through which the Ministry of Health identified thousands of worshippers. All were ordered to self-isolate.

Within days, thousands of people in Daegu were tested for the virus. Individuals with the most serious cases were sent to hospitals, while those with milder cases checked into isolation units at converted corporate training facilities. The government used a combination of interviews and cellphone surveillance to track down the recent contacts of new patients and ordered those contacts to self-isolate as well. Within a month, the Korean outbreak was effectively contained. In the first two weeks of March, new daily cases fell from 800 to fewer than 100. (This morning, the nation of 51 million reported zero new domestic infections for the third straight day.) On April 15, the country successfully held a national parliamentary election with the highest turnout in three decades, without triggering another wave.

South Korea is not unique in its ability to bend the curve of daily cases; New Zealand, Australia, and Norway have done so, as well. But it is perhaps the largest democracy to reduce new daily cases by more than 90 percent from peak, and its density and proximity to China make the achievement particularly noteworthy. [..] In mid-March, the U.S. and South Korea had the same number of coronavirus-caused fatalities—approximately 90. In April, South Korea lost a total of 85 souls to COVID-19, while the U.S. lost 62,000—an average of 85 deaths every hour. That the U.S. population is approximately six times larger than South Korea’s does little to soften the horror of the comparison.

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Uh-oh….

South Korea Backtracks On Reopening After COVID19 Cases Jump (NW)

Despite recently reopening businesses amid an impressive decline in new coronavirus case, the South Korean government has issued a nationwide health advisory for bars and nightclubs to close down for 30 more days after health officials tracked 13 new cases to a single person who attended five nightclubs and bars in the country’s capital city of Seoul. “We believe we will have another community infection,” said Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip at a Friday press briefing. “The spread took place in enclosed and crowded spaces. Transmission with no known source of infection can lead to a widespread cluster infection and that is why the government is not letting its guard down.”

The man in question had no symptoms when he visited the nightspots. He eventually tested positive on Wednesday and gained admittance to a hospital in Suwon, a city south of Seoul, according to the UPI wire service. Officials think he may have come in contact with over 1,500 people during his night out. City officials are now using CCTV and credit card records to help identify visitors and are encouraging them to self-isolate and immediately report any coronavirus symptoms to local hospitals. With a decline in new cases, South Korea has allowed places of worship, museums venues, recreational facilities and nightclubs to recently resume business. The country’s high schools begin reopening next week and its lower schools will gradually reopen throughout May.

However, similar to the reopening plans of many U.S. states, South Korea has said it will pull back on and reverse reopenings if new cases emerge. While the number of coronavirus cases in South Korea originally exploded in late February and early March, the country’s Ministry of Health worked hard to conduct rigorous contact tracing, contacting anyone who had attended venues where patients with confirmed cases of coronavirus had gone. Using a combination of interviews and cellphone surveillance, anyone in proximity to these patients and their neighbors were widely tested and all encouraged to self-quarantine.

Read more …

People lock themselves down.

Enough With the Phoney ‘Lockdown’ Debate (Kay)

The skeptics who argue that lockdowns “don’t work” usually will support this claim by ticking off nations that have succeeded in fighting COVID-19 without imposing harsh government restrictions. But when you parse the actual data, what you find is that these tend to be high-trust, high-education, high-information societies—such as in Scandinavia and East Asia—where official lockdowns haven’t been necessary precisely because a critical mass of people have effectively locked themselves down on their own. If, say, spring-breakers in Miami were as conscientious and disciplined as, say, most office workers in Stockholm or Tokyo, the state’s governor wouldn’t have had to clear the beaches. But they’re not, so he did. Such spectacles tell us a lot about college students, but not much about lockdowns.


The crowdsourced aspect of lockdowns is bad news and good news. It’s bad news because getting all of society’s actors on the same page will take many months. And so we won’t be able to get our economies up and running on anything like the speedy timeline that most self-styled lockdown opponents are seeking. But it’s good news because a slower, crowdsourced form of lockdown lifting will be subject to a whole slew of negative feedback mechanisms whereby outbreaks naturally lead to corrections. And so we can avoid the problem, depicted in Ferguson’s graphs, by which sudden quantum shifts in centralized policy yield behavioural spikes whose catastrophic effects set off an endless wave of epidemiological boom and bust.

Read more …

This should have been a January headline. Now all the clusters are in place.

UK To Place All Incoming Travellers Under 14-Day Quarantine (R.)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce on Sunday that all travellers coming to the United Kingdom will be quarantined for a fortnight, The Times reported. “Passengers arriving at airports and ports including Britons returning from abroad, will have to self-isolate for 14 days,” the newspaper said, adding that travellers will have to provide the address sat which they will self-isolate on arrival. Travellers from Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man will be exempt, as will lorry drivers bringing crucial supplies, the report added.


The authorities will carry out spot checks and those found to be breaking the rules are to face fines of up to 1,000 pounds or even deportation, the report added. According to The Times, travellers will have to fill in a digital form with details of where they plan to self-isolate themselves for the duration of the quarantine. The measures will help reduce the “transmission of the virus as we move into the next phase of our response,” the report said, citing a government source. The measures are expected to come into force in early June.

Read more …

The all-cause death number. Hot potato.

COVID19 Death Rate Sinking? Data Reveals A Complex Reality (DW)

When is a COVID-19 death counted as a COVID-19 death? The answer is not as straightforward as one might think, because different countries have different methods for determining a COVID-19 case or declaring COVID-19 as a deceased person’s cause of death. Some countries, like Spain, carry out post-mortem COVID-19 tests, while in others like Germany, the UK, or Turkey it not a common practice. Belgium, for example, counts all coronavirus deaths outside hospitals in its daily statistics: This means the country includes people suspected of having died of coronavirus, without a confirmed positive test result, whereas countries like Italy only count deaths in hospitals. Spain only recently started to count non-hospitalized, coronavirus-related deaths from some regions.

Why is the all-cause death number relevant? There are a few essential lessons we can learn from all-cause death data. According to many scientific experts, it is the only unbiased information we can trust to measure the real impact of the pandemic, and create policies to minimize its effects. The number of people dying of COVID-19 is huge, but it still is not the leading cause of death in many countries. People are more reluctant to go to hospitals because they fear contagion, or simply do not want to burden the health system further. However, a scenario in which the leading causes of death, such as heart disease or cancer, increase by even 5% could translate into hundreds of thousands of people.


David Spiegelhalter, Professor of Public Understanding of Risk from the University of Cambridge, notes the differences in each country: “I would say the all-cause death number is the really unbiased measure of the impact of this epidemic. And it’s the one I look up far more closely,” he told DW. Data collected by DW both on all-cause deaths and COVID-19 deaths shows: Thousands more people are dying directly or indirectly due to COVID-19 than the official numbers suggest. DW’s data analysis focused on Spain, England and Wales, but indicates a pattern present in other countries too.

Read more …

Success breeds success.

Want To Be More Like Sweden? What If We Already Are? (Mish)

Unlike most of the rest of the world, Sweden did not mandate coronavirus lockdowns. Instead, most measures were voluntary, but it did cutoff access to nursing homes after a surge in deaths. It has been an experiment worth monitoring. And for weeks, many in the US have been clamoring for the US to be “more like Sweden”. But what do the results really show and what is Sweden saying now? Please note the head of Sweden’s no-lockdown coronavirus plan said the country’s Heavy Death Toll ‘Came as a Surprise’ “We never really calculated with a high death toll initially, I must say,” said epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. “We calculated on more people being sick, but the death toll really came as a surprise to us.”

The deniers will point out that about half of Sweden’s deaths came from nursing homes as if those deaths don’t matter. When it comes to per-capita counts, the US is remarkably like Sweden. This can be portrayed two ways. • See, the lockdowns didn’t help. • Based on population density, Sweden is a total disaster. You should not compare a tiny Nordic country to the US but there it is anyway, for those clamoring to be more like Sweden. On a fatality rate basis, we better hope the US does not become more like Sweden. Clearly Sweden is not the success story widely claimed. Unfortunately, people will look at these charts, continue to make inane flu comparisons and continue to tout Sweden’s success. The one area of attack left open is whether or not the US approach was economically justified. I will not address that question because I will not change anyone’s mind.

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“And will some of the employees returning to work have their limbs torn off and tossed into the air like a juggler tossing bowling pins? Undoubtedly.”

Velociraptors Still On The Loose? No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park (McS)

Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!

Now, I understand why some people might be skeptical about reopening an amusement park when there are still blindingly fast, 180-pound predators roaming around. But the fact of the matter is, velociraptors are intelligent, shifty creatures that are not going to be contained any time soon, so we might as well just start getting used to them killing a few people every now and then. Some might argue that we should follow the example of other parks that have successfully dealt with velociraptor escapes. But here at Jurassic Park, we’ve never been ones to listen to the recommendations of scientists, or safety experts, or bioethicists, so why would we start now?

As some of you know, Dr. Ian Malcolm, our lead safety consultant, had recommended that we wait until the velociraptors have been located and contained before reopening the park, so he wasn’t thrilled when we told him the news. I believe his exact words were “you were so preoccupied with whether you could reopen the park, you didn’t stop to think whether you should.” Talk about a guy on a high horse.

That said, you’ll be pleased to know that, rather than double down on our containment efforts, we’ve decided to dissolve the velociraptor containment task force altogether, and focus instead on how we can get people back into the park as quickly as possible. So rather than concentrating on so-called life-saving measures like “staying in designated safe areas” or “masking your scent,” we’ll be focusing on the details that will get our customers really excited, like a wider selection of fun hats, a pterodactyl-shaped gondola ride to the top of the island, and a brand new Gordon Ramsay designed menu at the Cretaceous Cafe.

In addition to satisfying our customers, the decision to reopen the park is also about allowing the furloughed employees of Jurassic Park to get back to the work they love. Could we have continued to pay their salaries for several months until we got the velociraptor situation under control? Definitely. We’re the wealthiest nature preserve on the planet after all. And will some of the employees returning to work have their limbs torn off and tossed into the air like a juggler tossing bowling pins? Undoubtedly. But we’re confident that with a few safety precautions put in place, we’ll be able to keep the level of workplace injuries and deaths just below levels that would elicit widespread public outrage.

Read more …

Do these people really not understand securitization? To skip a few steps, US housing would collapse without these “miscalculations”. There’s now talk of a federal agency to take over for the “servicers”. Another bottomless pit.

The Bailout Miscalculation That Could Crash the Economy (Taibbi)

When Donald Trump signed the $2 trillion CARES Act rescue on March 27, there was immediate praise across the political spectrum for section 4022, concerning homeowners in distress. Under the rule, anyone with a federally-backed mortgage could now receive instant relief. Forbearance, the law said: “…shall be granted for up to 180 days, and shall be extended for an additional period of up to 180 days at the request of the borrower.” Essentially, anyone with a federally-backed mortgage was now eligible for a six-month break from home payments. Really it was a year, given that a 180-day extension could be granted “at the request of the borrower.” It made sense. The burden of having to continue to make home payments during the coronavirus crisis would be crushing for the millions of people put out of work.

If anything, the measure didn’t go far enough, only covering homeowners with federally-backed (a.k.a. “agency”) mortgages. Still, six months or a year of relief from mortgage payments was arguably the most valuable up-front benefit of the entire bailout for ordinary people. Unfortunately, this portion of the CARES Act was conceived so badly that it birthed a potentially disastrous new issue that could have severe systemic ramifications. “Whoever wrote this bill didn’t have the faintest fucking clue how mortgages work,” is how one financial analyst put it to me. When homeowners take out mortgages, loans are bundled into pools and turned into securities, which are then sold off to investors, often big institutional players like pension funds.

Once loans are pooled and sold off as securities, the job of collecting home payments from actual people and delivering them to investors in mortgage bonds goes to companies called mortgage servicers. Many of these firms are not banks, and have familiar names like Quicken Loans or Freedom Mortgage. The mortgage servicing business is relatively uncomplicated – companies are collecting money from one group of people and handing it to another, for a fee – but these quasi-infamous firms still regularly manage to screw it up. “An industry that is just… not very good,” is the generous description of Richard Cordray, former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Because margins in the mortgage service business are relatively small, these firms try to automate as much as possible. Many use outdated computers and have threadbare staffing policies.

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Fully bipartisan.

Wall Street-Friendly Lawmakers Sought Bailout For Shady Lenders (HuffPo)

A bipartisan group of House Financial Services Committee members asked the Federal Reserve in an April letter to extend an emergency loan program to a host of controversial financial firms that offer high-interest loans to low-income Americans. In other words, firms that offer Americans high-interest loans want a low-cost loan from the government. All 14 signatories of the April letter are recipients of campaign contributions this election cycle from the political action committee of the American Financial Services Association, or AFSA, which represents subprime lenders’ interests in Washington.

“It’s bad on the substance to have the Federal Reserve be lending to subprime consumer and small business lenders,” Graham Steele, a former Democratic counsel on the Senate Banking Committee, who now runs Stanford School of Business’ Corporations and Society Initiative. “It doesn’t look good when the members asking for that kind of bailout for these companies are also funded by those predatory lenders.” Writing to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, the lawmakers encouraged the Fed to expand eligibility for loans from its Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF, for “non-bank lenders and fintech platforms.” “Non-bank lenders” issue loans that are less regulated than loans made by traditional banks, but they are also willing to take greater risks. And “fintech platforms” are a kind of non-bank lender that operate online and through mobile apps.

The House members – seven Democrats and seven Republicans – were responding to a letter that the AFSA sent to Congress appealing for its members to become eligible for the program. In late March, the Fed reinitiated TALF, a program it created to shore up consumer lenders after the 2008 financial crisis, to address the economic fallout from the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fed has said that every financial institution is eligible for the emergency loans, but it will not bail out some riskier forms of credit. In the letter, the House members make clear that they specifically want TALF to include loans issued by “installment” lending firms that the program currently excludes. Those firms offer high-interest loans for low-income borrowers to pay off in installments.

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My first reaction is: that’s great, half a million fewer cars! Than I realize of course I’m not supposed to think that. “Bad, bad” for the economy!

Auto Production Collapses By 99% In Mexico and Brazil (R.)

Auto production in Mexico and Brazil, Latin America’s top producers, plunged by an unprecedented 99% in April as a result of the coronavirus crisis, with the two countries building a total of just 5,569 vehicles. In normal times, Mexico and Brazil produce over half a million cars a month combined. The industry accounts for hundreds of thousands of jobs and several percentage points of their respective countries’ gross domestic products. “The situation is difficult and dramatic,” Luiz Carlos Moraes, president of Brazil’s automakers association, told reporters.


The statements on production, made on Friday by Mexico’s Inegi statistics association and Brazil’s Anfavea automakers association, are the first available window into the sheer extent of the crisis for automakers in Latin America. The coronavirus pandemic is putting jobs in peril and raising questions about the sustainability of the industry’s international supply chains, much of which go back to China. The poor results may also be used by auto executives to obtain government aid. Both countries have so far avoided layoffs but much hinges on when production can restart and whether there will be any demand for cars once that happens. Mexico could tentatively restart production on May 18, while Brazil’s top automakers are eyeing a June restart.

Read more …

Jim quoted Comey in his headline -“I sent them”-, I changed that to a Strzok quote.

Our Utter Incompetence Actually Helps Us (Kunstler)

“Our utter incompetence actually helps us,” declared Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI Peter Strzok to his confidante (10,000 text messages) and paramour, FBI attorney Lisa Page, when he discovered on January 4, 2017, that the agency had omitted to close the barren Crossfire Razor case against General Michael Flynn. There you have a perfect summary of the fantastic hubris at work in the agency-gone-rogue under then-FBI Director Jim “I sent them” Comey days before the swearing-in of a president somehow mistakenly elected by bamboozled voters — or so the thinking apparently went at the highest level there. Or what passed for thinking.

General Flynn, you see, having been anathematized by Barack Obama, and black-spotted by the so-called Interagency (i.e. the giant hairball of competing spy shops set up after the 9/11 fiasco), was about to assume the pivotal job of White House National Security Advisor, and it was known that he was fixing to change things up with all that. He had been director of one such shop, the Defense Intelligence Agency, for a few years and he had a fair idea just how lawlessly debauched the Intel Community had grown under CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, not to mention Mr. Comey, and they all knew that.

So, General Flynn had to go, and then get squeezed hard to somehow rat-out his boss, the incoming President Trump, against whom the Interagency had nothing but a dossier of already discredited oppo research baloney courtesy of the Clinton campaign. The pretext was some conversations General Flynn had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak a few weeks before the inauguration. The FBI cooked up a “narrative” that it was criminal misbehavior for a duly appointed incoming NSA to confab with foreign diplomats – a completely specious notion, of course. The Interagency’s errand boys in the press ran with that preposterous story, and the inconsolable cohort of Hillary voters herding up to form “the Resistance” went along with the gag out of sheer, crazed bitterness.

Attorney General William Barr neatly disposed of that yarn Thursday in his remarkable chat with Catherine Herridge of CBS News (transcript here), saying: “[H]e [General Flynn] was the designated national security adviser for President-Elect Trump, and was part of the transition, which is recognized by the government and funded by the government as an important function to bring in a new administration. And it is very typical, very common, for the national security team of the incoming president to communicate with foreign leaders.”

Read more …

Obama will be implicated.

What Did Joe Biden Know About Michael Flynn? (York)

It takes a little digging, but there’s a Joe Biden connection deep inside the documents released as part of the Justice Department’s decision to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn. It is this: Sally Yates was Barack Obama’s Deputy Attorney General, and as such she played a key role in the Flynn investigation. She told special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors in September 2017 that she did not know about the transition phone call between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak until she was told about it by…President Barack Obama.

It happened on January 5, 2017. Yates was in a group that went to the Oval Office to brief Obama on the findings of the Intelligence Community investigation into Russian campaign meddling. The meeting had all the administration’s top national security officials: FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, National Intelligence chief James Clapper, national security adviser Susan Rice, and other National Security Council officials. “After the briefing, Obama dismissed the group but asked Yates and Comey to stay behind,” a memo of Yates’ interview read. “Obama started by saying he had ‘learned of the information about Flynn’ and his conversation with Kislyak about sanctions.” Yates was totally blindsided. “At that point, Yates had no idea what the president was talking about,” the interview write-up said.

What does that have to do with Biden? The interview notes made no mention of the vice president. But think back to one of the stranger moments in the Trump-Russia investigation: Rice, on January 20, 2017, at almost the exact minute the Obama administration left office, sent an email to herself documenting the January 5 meeting. This is how it began: “On January 5, following a briefing by IC leadership on Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential election, President Obama had a brief follow-on conversation with FBI Director Jim Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in the Oval Office. Vice President Biden and I were also present.”

Oh — so Biden was there, too. The Rice memo-to-self always appeared to be an oddly-timed effort to cover for Obama. “President Obama began the conversation by stressing his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the intelligence and law enforcement communities ‘by the book,’ Rice wrote. “The president stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective. He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book.” Got that? By the book.

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” In this story, McCabe is not a news analyst. He is news. Instead of pressing him on these conflicts and allegations, he was allowed to rage against Trump, Barr, and Flynn. It is a new twist on echo journalism. McCabe the CNN analyst was echoing his own false account and calling it news analysis.”

Andrew McCabe’s Bizarre CNN Interview (Turley)

CNN host John Berman interviewed McCabe. CNN has long used McCabe to give analysis on a host of Trump-related stories despite being fired by Trump, ridiculed for his prior bias, and referred (by career officials) for possible criminal charges. This interview, however, was even more remarkable. The documents released in the Flynn case referred to McCabe and his alleged misconduct. He was not asked about any of the specific allegations against him. Instead, he gave a revisionist history that quickly crossed into fantasy. McCabe told Berman that, in December 2016, they were considering the closure of the investigation involving Flynn but that it was a “close question.” We have previously discussed this history.

On January 4, 2017, the FBI’s Washington Field Office issued a “Closing Communication” indicating that the bureau was terminating “CROSSFIRE RAZOR” — the newly disclosed codename for the investigation of Flynn. CROSSFIRE RAZOR was formed to determine whether Flynn “was directed and controlled by” or “coordinated activities with the Russian Federation in a manner which is a threat to the national security” of the United States or a violation of federal foreign agent laws. The FBI investigated Flynn and various databases and determined that “no derogatory information was identified in FBI holdings.” Due to this conclusion, the Washington Field Office concluded that Flynn “was no longer a viable candidate as part of the larger CROSSFIRE HURRICANE umbrella case.”

After Strzok intervened to stop the closure of the investigation, he texted FBI lawyer Lisa Page “Razor still open. :@ but serendipitously good, I guess. You want those chips and Oreos?” Page replied “Phew. But yeah that’s amazing that he is still open. Good, I guess.” Strzok replied “Yeah, our utter incompetence actually helps us. 20% of the time, I’m guessing :)” So McCabe was left unchallenged in saying that at that time there was a close question as to whether to close Crossfire Razor when his investigators found nothing. Nothing. That made it a close question for McCabe whether to continue to investigate the incoming Trump National Security Adviser.

What McCabe stated next was truly incredible. He told Berman that he then learned that Flynn has arranged “surreptitious meetings” with the Russians. He explained that this was akin to investigating someone for drug dealing and then learning about his meeting with drug dealers. The problem is that there was no evidence of a crime of any kind against Flynn. Moreover, this was not a “surreptitious” meeting. There was no reason for McCabe to know about the communications of the incoming National Security Adviser with foreign officials. It was not “surreptitious.” Flynn reportedly told the transition team about the call and that the Russians wanted to talk after the newly imposed sanctions against them. It is not “surreptitious” just because McCabe did not know about it and he did not reach out to the Transition Team.

Read more …

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 process.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 


“Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there!
He wasn’t there again today,
Oh how I wish he’d go away

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today
I think he’s from the CIA.

– Hughes Mearns et al

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Apr 192020
 


Unknown A couple wearing smog masks, London 1953

 

Did COVID19 Outbreak Start Months Earlier And Not In Wuhan? (RT)
New Wave Of Infections Threatens To Collapse Japan Hospitals (AP)
Florida Prison System Begins To Reveal Ravages Of Coronavirus (MH)
UK Care Home Deaths ‘Far Higher’ Than Official Figures (BBC)
Anger In Sweden As Elderly Pay Price For Coronavirus Strategy (O.)
A Scam To Enrich Execs: COVID19 Bailouts Fuel More Share Buybacks (Feierstein)
The Trickle-Up Bailout (Matt Taibbi)
Russia Reports Record Daily Rise In Coronavirus Cases (R.)
Spain To Allow Children Outside After Six Weeks (BBC)
CDC Reviewing ‘Stunning’ Testing Results From Boston Homeless Shelter (B25)
38 Days When Britain Sleepwalked Into Disaster (Times)
UK Medical Staff Face Weeks Without Protective Gowns (O.)
Lockdown Puts Increasing Strain On Britain’s Food System (Ind.)
Pandemics Have Reshaped The World In Unpredictable Ways Throughout History (ProsM)

 

 

“The curve is flattening; we can end lockdown now”

=

“This parachute has slowed my rate of descent; I can take it off now”

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 2,345,476 (+ 84,051 from yesterday’s 2,261,425)

Deaths 161,196 (+ 6,462 from yesterday’s 147,378)

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Just as everyone says it was the lab.

Did COVID19 Outbreak Start Months Earlier And Not In Wuhan? (RT)

The novel coronavirus may have first passed to humans somewhere in southern China months before the outbreak in the city of Wuhan, a new study found, cutting against widely held theories about the origins of the pandemic. Mapping a “network” of coronavirus genomes and tracing mutations over time, a team of researchers led by a Cambridge University geneticist determined the first Covid-19 infection may have come as early as September in a region south of Wuhan, noting the pathogen could have been carried by humans well before it mutated into a more lethal form. “The virus may have mutated into its final ‘human-efficient’ form months ago, but stayed inside a bat or other animal or even human for several months without infecting other individuals,” geneticist Peter Forster told the South China Morning Post.


Phylogenetic network of 160 SARS-CoV-2 genomes © PNAS / Peter Forster

He leads the ongoing yet to be peer-reviewed research, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. “Then, it started infecting and spreading among humans between September 13 and December 7, generating the network we present in [the study]”. Though the virus is thought to have transmitted from bats to another host animal – pangolins are a popular candidate – and finally to humans, the new findings could overturn prevailing ideas as to precisely how, when and where it made the interspecies leap. Initial theories posited the jump to humans took place at a wet market in Wuhan, but the new study has called that into question, suggesting Covid-19 might have originated south of the central-Chinese city.


“If I am pressed for an answer, I would say the original spread started more likely in southern China than in Wuhan.” Any solid conclusions, however, could only be made after analyzing more bats and other potential host animals, as well as tissue samples from early patients, Forster cautioned. “But it is the best assumption we can make at the moment, pending analysis of further patient samples stored in hospitals during 2019,” the researcher told Newsweek in a separate interview.

Read more …

For two whole months, Shinzo Abe had just one thing in mind: the Olympics. Everything else had to be pushed aside.

New Wave Of Infections Threatens To Collapse Japan Hospitals (AP)

Hospitals in Japan are increasingly turning away sick people as the country struggles with surging coronavirus infections and its emergency medical system collapses. In one recent case, an ambulance carrying a man with a fever and difficulty breathing was rejected by 80 hospitals and forced to search for hours for a hospital in downtown Tokyo that would treat him. Another feverish man finally reached a hospital after paramedics unsuccessfully contacted 40 clinics. The Japanese Association for Acute Medicine and the Japanese Society for Emergency Medicine say many hospital emergency rooms are refusing to treat people including those suffering strokes, heart attacks and external injuries.

Japan initially seemed to have controlled the outbreak by going after clusters of infections in specific places, usually enclosed spaces such as clubs, gyms and meeting venues. But the spread of virus outpaced this approach and most new cases are untraceable. The outbreak has highlighted underlying weaknesses in medical care in Japan, which has long been praised for its high quality insurance system and reasonable costs. Apart from a general unwillingness to embrace social distancing, experts fault government incompetence and a widespread shortage of the protective gear and equipment medical workers need to do their jobs. Japan lacks enough hospital beds, medical workers or equipment. Forcing hospitalization of anyone with the virus, even those with mild symptoms, has left hospitals overcrowded and understaffed.

[..] Medical workers are now reusing N95 masks and making their own face shields. The major city of Osaka has sought contributions of unused plastic raincoats for use as hazmat gowns. Abe has appealed to manufacturers to step up production of masks and gowns, ventilators and other supplies. A government virus task force has warned that, in a worst-case scenario where no preventive measures were taken, more than 400,000 could die due to shortages of ventilators and other intensive care equipment. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the government has secured 15,000 ventilators and is getting support of Sony and Toyota Motor Corp. to produce more.

Japanese hospitals also lack ICUs, with only five per 100,000 people, compared to about 30 in Germany, 35 in the U.S. and 12 in Italy, said Osamu Nishida, head of the Japanese Society of Intensive Care Medicine. Italy’s 10% mortality rate, compared to Germany’s 1%, is partly due to the shortage of ICU facilities, Nishida said. “Japan, with ICUs not even half of Italy’s, is expected to face a fatality overshoot very quickly,” he said. Japan has been limiting testing for the coronavirus mainly because of rules requiring any patients to be hospitalized. Surging infections have prompted the Health Ministry to loosen those rules and move patients with milder symptoms to hotels to free up beds for those requiring more care.

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Wherever you put large groups of people together, this happens with a highly contagious virus.

Florida Prison System Begins To Reveal Ravages Of Coronavirus (MH)

For weeks the Florida Department of Corrections refused to address rumors that inmates with coronavirus-like symptoms — or those who had come into contact with symptomatic inmates or staff — were being segregated by the hundreds from the general population. That changed on Friday, when the agency acknowledged that more than 4,500 inmates are being isolated in one way or another as COVID-19, the highly infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has spread throughout the third-largest prison system in the country. As of Friday evening, 45 inmates and 71 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the FDC. Four inmates had died, all of whom had been incarcerated at Blackwater River Correctional Facility, a compound near Pensacola run under contract by the Geo Group.


The medical examiner in Santa Rosa County revealed the deaths. The new data was made public amid a growing chorus of criticism by a handful of lawmakers, including an influential Republican, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, who is vice chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. The department found itself on the defensive this week when those four deaths were revealed not by prison administrators — including its communication staff, which has ignored questions from reporters for several weeks — but by journalists who sought out information from the Santa Rosa County medical examiner. After the first two deaths were reported by the News Service of Florida, confirmation was hastily posted on the department’s website.

Read more …

About 20 times higher.

UK Care Home Deaths ‘Far Higher’ Than Official Figures (BBC)

New data has added to growing evidence that the number of deaths linked to coronavirus in UK care homes may be far higher than those recorded so far. The National Care Forum (NCF) estimates that more than 4,000 elderly and disabled people have died across all residential and nursing homes. Its report comes amid calls for accurate data on virus-linked deaths. Only 217 such care home deaths have been officially recorded in England and Wales up to 3 April. The NCF, which represents not-for-profit care providers, said its findings highlight significant flaws in the official reporting of coronavirus-related death statistics.


It collected data from care homes looking after more than 30,000 people in the UK, representing 7.4% of those people living in one of the country’s thousands of care settings. It said that, across those specific homes, in the week between 7 April and 13 April, there had been 299 deaths linked to coronavirus. That was treble the figure for the previous week and double that in the whole of the preceding month. If that number was reflected across all residential and nursing homes, NCF estimated there have been 4,040 coronavirus-related deaths in care homes which are not yet included in official figures.

Read more …

And then the nurses start dying too.

Anger In Sweden As Elderly Pay Price For Coronavirus Strategy (O.)

It was just a few days after the ban on visits to his mother’s nursing home in the Swedish city of Uppsala, on 3 April, that Magnus Bondesson started to get worried. “They [the home] opened up for Skype calls and that’s when I saw two employees. I didn’t see any masks and they didn’t have gloves on,” says Bondesson, a start-up founder and app developer. “When I called again a few days later I questioned the person helping out, asking why they didn’t use face masks, and he said they were just following the guidelines.” That same week there were numerous reports in Sweden’s national news media about just how badly the country’s nursing homes were starting to be hit by the coronavirus, with hundreds of cases confirmed at homes in Stockholm, the worst affected region, and infections in homes across the country.

Since then pressure has mounted on the government to explain how, despite a stated aim of protecting the elderly from the risks of Covid-19, a third of fatalities have been people living in care homes. Last week, as figures released by the Public Health Agency of Sweden indicated that 1,333 people had now died of coronavirus, the country’s normally unflappable state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell admitted that the situation in care homes was worrying. “This is our big problem area,” said Tegnell, the brains behind the government’s relatively light-touch strategy, which has seen it ask, rather than order, people to avoid non-essential travel, work from home and stay indoors if they are over 70 or are feeling ill.

The same day prime minister Stefan Löfven said that the country faced a “serious situation” in its old people’s homes, announced efforts to step up protections, and ordered the country’s health inspectorate to investigate. Lena Einhorn, a virologist who has been one of the leading domestic critics of Sweden’s coronavirus policy, told the Observer that the government and the health agency were still resisting the most obvious explanations. “They have to admit that it’s a huge failure, since they have said the whole time that their main aim has been to protect the elderly,” she said. “But what is really strange is that they still do not acknowledge the likely route. They say it’s very unfortunate, that they are investigating, and that it’s a matter of the training personnel, but they will not acknowledge that presymptomatic or asymptomatic spread is a factor.”

The agency’s advice to those managing and working at nursing homes [..] is that they should not wear protective masks or use other protective equipment unless they are dealing with a resident in the home they have reason to suspect is infected. Otherwise the central protective measure in place is that staff should stay home if they detect any symptoms in themselves. “Where I’m working we don’t have face masks at all, and we are working with the most vulnerable people of all,” said one care home worker, who wanted to remain anonymous. “We don’t have hand sanitiser, just soap. That’s it. Everybody’s concerned about it. We are all worried.” “The worst thing is that it is us, the staff, who are taking the infection in to the elderly,” complained one nurse to Swedish public broadcaster SVT. “It’s unbelievable that more of them haven’t been infected.”

Read more …

No more of this.

A Scam To Enrich Execs: COVID19 Bailouts Fuel More Share Buybacks (Feierstein)

To anyone doubting the Covid-19 bailouts will line executives’ pockets, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker says he’ll “find a way around” the rules against it. This after making $150 million while AAL’s stock plummeted 70%. Stock buybacks are the ultimate vehicle of self-enrichment. Consider the following as a ‘case study’ of Wall Street’s legal fraud. Under CEO Doug Parker’s leadership from 2013-2020, American Airlines has seen its stock plummet 70%. When one looks at Parker’s pay awarded vs the company’s three-year average economic profits, his pay-for-performance metrics are abominable. The media worships Parker for his stewardship of AAL during this crisis and reports that, for the past three years, Parker’s salary and bonus were zero.

However, they fail to mention that AAL’s legal Ponzi stock-buyback scheme saw Parker’s 2016-2018 take-home pay rocket to $70.2 million. (According to the FT, Parker’s total award from selling stock since 2013 is $150 million). It’s not bad for Parker, but it’s horrendous for AAL employees, shareholders and American taxpayers who will be stuffed with a $20 billion bailout. Fair? Not on your life. Debt-fuelled stock buybacks and dividend payments are engineered to artificially increase stock prices so that self-interested CEOs like Parker can “earn” higher compensation. Increasing debt creates an illusion of better earnings. However, buybacks cannibalize corporate balance sheets, leaving taxpayers exposed to unlimited “bailouts” when these leveraged bets go wrong.

What’s the difference between rogue hedge fund managers and airline CEOs? Not much, except some airline CEOs have been given golden parachutes to the tune of nearly $17.5 million. So who is enabling these CEOs to line their pockets with taxpayer money? Last summer, the US Federal Reserve released the results of its annual Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR). The CCAR is a bank stress test, which all the banks passed, and after passing the stress test, the Federal Reserve approved $125 billion in share buybacks! Yet, even though the banks all passed the stress test, the Financial Times recently reported that the president and chief executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (who oversaw TARP during the GFC of 2008) is recommending big US banks raise $200 billion in capital now to act as a buffer against economic shock from the “coronavirus pandemic.” This is a bit like putting on your seatbelt after your airbag has already deployed.

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“..80% of the benefit of the bill went to just 43,000 taxpayers each earning over $1 million a year. The average tax break for those 43,000 individuals was $1.6 million..”

The Trickle-Up Bailout (Matt Taibbi)

Because the CARES Act was rushed to the floor, members didn’t have all of the information they might have wanted before the vote. After the bill passed, Democratic staffers sent these tax provisions in the CARES Act, sections 2303 and 2304, to the Joint Committee on Taxation, to be scored. They were stunned to learn they would cost $195 billion over ten years. In other words, what seemed like a run-of-the-mill offhand legislative pork provision ended up dwarfing the airline bailout and other main parts of the bill. “The cost of caring for this small slice of the wealthiest one percent is greater than the CARES Act funded for all hospitals in America,” says Texas Democrat Lloyd Doggett. “It’s greater than CARES provided for all state and local governments.”

The JCT analysis found that 80% of the benefit of the bill went to just 43,000 taxpayers each earning over $1 million a year. The average tax break for those 43,000 individuals was $1.6 million, an interesting number when one considers the loudness of the controversy over $1,200 relief checks for everyone else. Doggett joined Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in sending a letter to the Trump administration, demanding to know the provenance of these tax breaks. “This irresponsible provision must be repealed,” he says. It’s possible we’ll find out someday whose idea it was to insert those breaks. By then, however, other windfalls from the Covid-19 rescue might have rendered the $195 billion bailout appetizer quaint.

With the Fed’s announcement on April 9th of a $2.3 trillion program that includes purchases of junk bonds, the toolkit for support of the financial economy now encompasses nearly every conceivable official response apart from subsidy of stock markets. The sheer quantity of money raining down on the finance sector appears transformational, a “joyful noise” heard around the world.

Read more …

Russia has done something very wrong.

Russia Reports Record Daily Rise In Coronavirus Cases (R.)

Russia on Sunday reported a record rise of 6,060 new coronavirus cases over the previous 24 hours, bringing its nationwide tally to 42,853, the Russian coronavirus crisis response center said. The number of coronavirus cases in Russia began rising sharply this month, although it had reported far fewer infections than many western European countries in the outbreak’s early stages.

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There should be different ways.

Spain To Allow Children Outside After Six Weeks (BBC)

Spanish children have been kept indoors since 14 March, under strict measures to curb the spread of Covid-19. Now Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez aims to relax the rule on 27 April so they can “get some fresh air”. Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, who has young children herself, this week pleaded with the government to allow children outside. Spain has seen more than 20,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic and almost 200,000 reported cases. In a televised briefing on Saturday evening, Mr Sánchez said Spain had left behind “the most extreme moments and contained the brutal onslaught of the pandemic”.


But he said he would ask parliament to extend Spain’s state of alarm to 9 May as the achievements made were “still insufficient and above all fragile” and could not be jeopardised by “hasty decisions”. Another 565 deaths were reported on Saturday, well down from the peak of the pandemic, and the government allowed some non-essential workers to resume construction and manufacturing last Monday. However, the main lockdown measures remain in place, with adults only allowed out to visit food shops and pharmacies or work considered essential. Children have been barred from leaving their homes completely.

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“The number of positives was shocking, but the fact that 100 percent of the positives had no symptoms was equally shocking..”

CDC Reviewing ‘Stunning’ Testing Results From Boston Homeless Shelter (B25)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now “actively looking into” results from universal COVID-19 testing at Pine Street Inn homeless shelter. The broad-scale testing took place at the shelter in Boston’s South End a week and a half ago because of a small cluster of cases there. “It was like a double knockout punch. The number of positives was shocking, but the fact that 100 percent of the positives had no symptoms was equally shocking,” said Dr. Jim O’Connell, president of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, which provides medical care at the city’s shelters. O’Connell said that the findings have changed the future of COVID-19 screenings at Boston’s homeless shelters.

“All the screening we were doing before this was based on whether you had a fever above 100.4 and whether you had symptoms,” said O’Connell. “How much of the COVID virus is being passed by people who don’t even know they have it?” The 146 people who tested positive were immediately moved to two different temporary isolation facilities in Boston. According to O’Connell, only one of those patients needed hospital care, and many continue to show no symptoms. “If we did universal testing among the general population, would these numbers be similar?” said Lyndia Downie, president and executive director at the Pine Street Inn.

“I think there are no many asymptomatic people right now. We just don’t know. We don’t have enough data on universal testing to understand how many asymptomatic people are contagious.” Hundreds of tests are now set to be conducted at additional Boston homeless shelters in the coming days. “It tells you, you don’t know who’s at risk. You don’t know what you need to do to contain the virus if you don’t actually have the details or facts,” said Marty Martinez, Boston’s chief of Health and Human Services.

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His own party appears to be after his head.

38 Days When Britain Sleepwalked Into Disaster (Times)

On the third Friday of January a silent and stealthy killer was creeping across the world. Passing from person to person and borne on ships and planes, the coronavirus was already leaving a trail of bodies. The virus had spread from China to six countries and was almost certainly in many others. Sensing the coming danger, the British government briefly went into wartime mode that day, holding a meeting of Cobra, its national crisis committee. But it took just an hour that January 24 lunchtime to brush aside the coronavirus threat. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, bounced out of Whitehall after chairing the meeting and breezily told reporters the risk to the UK public was “low”.

This was despite the publication that day of an alarming study by Chinese doctors in the medical journal, The Lancet. It assessed the lethal potential of the virus, for the first time suggesting it was comparable to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed up to 50 million people. Unusually, Boris Johnson had been absent from Cobra. The committee — which includes ministers, intelligence chiefs and military generals — gathers at moments of great peril such as terrorist attacks, natural disasters and other threats to the nation and is normally chaired by the prime minister. Johnson had found time that day, however, to join in a lunar new year dragon eyes ritual as part of Downing Street’s reception for the Chinese community, led by the country’s ambassador.

It was a big day for Johnson and there was a triumphal mood in Downing Street because the withdrawal treaty from the European Union was being signed in the late afternoon. It could have been the defining moment of his premiership — but that was before the world changed. That afternoon his spokesman played down the looming threat from the east and reassured the nation that we were “well prepared for any new diseases”. The confident, almost nonchalant, attitude displayed that day in January would continue for more than a month. Johnson went on to miss four further Cobra meetings on the virus.

As Britain was hit by unprecedented flooding, he completed the EU withdrawal, reshuffled his cabinet and then went away to the grace-and-favour country retreat at Chevening where he spent most of the two weeks over half-term with his pregnant fiancée, Carrie Symonds. It would not be until March 2 — another five weeks — that Johnson would attend a Cobra meeting about the coronavirus. But by then it was almost certainly too late. The virus had sneaked into our airports, our trains, our workplaces and our homes. Britain was on course for one of the worst infections of the most deadly virus to have hit the world in more than a century. Last week, a senior adviser to Downing Street broke ranks and blamed the weeks of complacency on a failure of leadership in cabinet. In particular, the prime minister was singled out. “There’s no way you’re at war if your PM isn’t there,” the adviser said.

Read more …

If Osaka can ask for raincoats to be donated as hazmat suits, so can Britain. No shortage of raincoats.

UK Medical Staff Face Weeks Without Protective Gowns (O.)

Doctors and nurses treating Covid-19 patients face shortages of protective full-length gowns for weeks to come, it has emerged, as anger builds over the failure to stockpile the garments. Critical shortages of the gowns have meant that some trusts have already had to make do with the best available alternatives as a result of the shortages, which forced a sudden change in Public Health England (PHE) guidelines on the use of gowns on Friday. Concerns are being raised within the NHS over why the gowns did not form part of the government’s pandemic stockpile. It is understood shortages are already forcing some NHS workers to use the controversial new guidelines, which tell them to wear a plastic apron with coveralls should the specialist fluid-repellent gowns run out. Workers are also advised to reuse washed aprons.

Meanwhile, surgeons are being told by senior colleagues not to put themselves at risk should they be unable to wear a protective gown. Professor Neil Mortensen, from the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said surgeons should not risk their health if fluid-repellent gowns or coveralls could not be used. “We are deeply disturbed by this latest change to personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance, which was issued without consulting expert medical bodies,” he said. “After weeks of working with PHE and our sister medical royal colleges to get PPE guidance right, this risks confusion and variation in practice across the country.”

Health unions warned that staff could begin to refuse to work if they felt the new guidelines put them at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus. Sara Gorton, Unison’s head of health, said: “Managers must be truly honest with health workers and their union reps over the weekend. If gowns run out, staff in high-risk areas may well decide that it’s no longer safe for them to work.” Last night, the British Medical Association (BMA) also warned that it would support doctors who refused to work with inadequate PPE. “There are limits to the level of risk staff can be expected to expose themselves and their patients to,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair.

Read more …

No kidding, there’s a video somewhere here entitled: “Flocks of chickens to be slaughtered over coronavirus.. “

Lockdown Puts Increasing Strain On Britain’s Food System (Ind.)

From a mosque in Banbury, taxi drivers left out of work during the lockdown are picking up an unusual fare: hundreds of doughballs and garlic dip that had been destined for local pizza restaurants and are now being diverted to people’s homes. Yasmin Kaduji, who runs Banbury Community Fridge is one of thousands of people working overtime across the UK to get meals to three million people thought to be going hungry due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, at the same time British farmers are warning they have been forced to throw millions of gallons of milk down the drain because it no longer has a buyer, cheesemakers are binning artisan cheese and meat processors have an overabundance of sirloin, rib-eye steaks and prime roasting joints. Supply and demand are severely misaligned.

While supermarket stocks have returned closer to normal after being plundered last month, more deep-rooted problems lay ahead for Britain’s food supplies which are set to come under increasing strain as lockdown is extended for at least another three weeks and could go on for much longer. The problem is not that there is not enough food but that the well-established routes that supply it have been upended so abruptly. When we saw empty shelves last month, the primary cause was not inconsiderate stockpilers, as some government ministers claimed, but the fact that a massive part of the food industry had been shut down overnight without a plan in place for how hundreds of millions of meals would be redirected.

Tim Lang, professor of food policy, at London’s City University, argues that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the fragility of our food system; a system which stretches out over thousands of miles, dozens of countries, and is reliant on migrant labour and air freight. That system has been reshaped, according to Professor Lang’s analysis, largely to suit the interests of nine companies which sell 90 per cent of the food we buy. Supermarkets have been happy to rely on sprawling supply chains that are left exposed during a crisis, as long as the price is right and the product sells. This, along with a “dangerously complacent” government, has left the UK vulnerable in the current situation, Professor Lang argues.

Read more …

But the incumbent order always protests violently first.

Pandemics Have Reshaped The World In Unpredictable Ways Throughout History (ProsM)

In just four years—from 1347 to 1351—between a third and a half of the population of Europe died. That would be world-shaking enough in itself, but it also completely rewrote the social order. Before the Black Death, European society had for centuries been structured around what we’d later call feudalism: to over-simplify massively, the system by which poorer people would work for richer ones in exchange for access to their land, and put up with having no freedom of movement because otherwise they didn’t eat. But when plague caused the population to collapse, food and land prices plummeted, too. Land without workers turned out to be worthless, so the lords found themselves competing for labourers. Despite assorted ruling class efforts to overcome the laws of supply and demand, wages rose, and keeping peasants tied to particular scraps of land proved impossible.

The Black Death didn’t just kill people. It probably killed feudalism, too. It’s too early to know how coronavirus might reshape 21st-century society. But we can certainly speculate. Perhaps, as large chunks of the workforce simultaneously shift to working from home for the first time, it’ll kill the idea that you need to be in the office to get stuff done. If it turns out that employees will do their work even if they’re not literally in their managers’ line of sight, bosses could finally shake their addiction to presenteeism. That could have all sorts of unpredictable knock-on effects: less pressure on transport networks, lower emissions, even relief for overheated housing markets as people discover they can live further from work. Or perhaps it could drive an increase in mothers’ participation in the workforce: more flexible office culture, after all, would make it easier to combine work with caring responsibilities.

[..] Now that a fear of financial ruin might drive sick, contagious people to work when they should be in isolation, perhaps we can go back to talking about the state as the enabler of our freedoms rather than the barrier to them. Or perhaps it won’t: where this will take us, we just don’t know, and your guess is as good as mine. But pandemics have been reshaping the world in unpredictable ways throughout history. If this crisis is even a fraction as serious as it seems, don’t be surprised if the world afterwards looks very unlike the world before.

Read more …

 

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Pirro is certified nuts:

 

 

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And then there are the good people…

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Apr 102020
 


Edward Hopper Burly Cobb’s House, South Truro 1930-33

 

Doctors Alarmed After Some COVID19 Patients Test Positive After Recovering (RT)
Doctors Say Ventilators Are Overused For COVID19 (Stat)
Pay Cuts, Furloughs, Layoffs For Doctors, Nurses, Healthcare Workers (BI)
New York Has More Cases Than Any Country (BBC)
Trump: Widespread Testing ‘Would Never Happen’, Not Needed To Reopen US (NW)
UK Gov’t: Keep Economy Running, We Will All Get COVID-19 Anyway (Nafeez Ahmed)
Ex-IMF Head Economist: Western Economies Slow To React (BBC)
Americans In Lebanon Decline Repatriation Offer: ‘It’s Safer In Beirut’ (CNN)
US Shouldn’t Bail Out Hedge Funds, Billionaires – Chamath Palihapitiya (CNBC)
WHO Chief And Taiwan In Row Over ‘Racist’ Comments (BBC)
Japan Will Pay Its Firms to Leave China, Relocate Production (N18)
China Factory Gate Deflation Deepens (R.)
How Greece Flattened The Coronavirus Curve (AlJ)
Saudi Energy Minister Says OPEC+ Oil Pact Hinges On Mexico Joining (R.)
US Banks Prepare To Seize Energy Assets As Shale Boom Goes Bust (R.)
Chicago Jail Reports 450 Coronavirus Cases Among Staff, Inmates (R.)
Assange Not Infected But Says Many in Belmarsh Are (CN)

 

 

US records 1,783 virus deaths in past 24 hours: Johns Hopkins
April 7: 1,939, April 8: 1.973

 

 

Cases 1,615,049 (+ 85,971 from yesterday’s 1,529,078)

Deaths 96,791 (+ 7,380 from yesterday’s 89,411)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 21% ! NOTE 2: the number of active cases that are critical or severe is going down. 4% now.

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Info.live:

 

 

 

 

We keep seeing articles that depict how poor our understanding of the virus is. Sometimes I even wonder how many people died from that, instead of the virus itself.

Doctors Alarmed After Some COVID19 Patients Test Positive After Recovering (RT)

Troublesome results from South Korea and China, showing some of the patients who recovered from the coronavirus test positive again, could throw off widely accepted strategies for battling the virus, from shutdowns to vaccines. After about 50 recovered patients in the city of Daegu tested positive for Covid-19 again, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) launched an investigation into whether they were somehow reinfected, or if the virus had made a comeback. “While we are putting more weight on reactivation as the possible cause, we are conducting a comprehensive study on this,” said KCDC Director-General Jeong Eun-kyeong, as quoted by Bloomberg.

While reinfection would be problematic, reactivation is a more troubling prospect. In addition to raising questions about post-recovery immunity to the virus, it would pose a major challenge to mitigation strategies adopted around the world. If there is a high risk of Covid-19 reactivating among the people considered cured, that would mean longer quarantines and delays in reopening businesses and public spaces. Other possibilities include false positives, if the tests pick up residue from the initial infection, or prolonged “shedding” of the virus load missed by the tests at discharge because the levels were just under the limit.

South Korea has often been cited as one of the success stories of the pandemic, keeping the total number of infections to 10,400 and the death toll to 204, through strict quarantine, widespread testing and contact tracing measures. Further troubling news comes from China, where the novel coronavirus was first detected in December last year. A team of scientists at Fudan University analyzed blood samples from 175 patients discharged from a hospital in Shanghai and found that almost a third had “unexpectedly low” levels of antibodies, and in at least ten cases, no antibodies at all.

“Whether these patients were at high risk of rebound or reinfection should be explored in further studies,” the team said in a preliminary research paper released on Monday. While it has not been peer-reviewed or evaluated, the authors say they did the world’s first systematic examination of antibody levels in recovered Covid-19 patients. All of the people examined had recovered from mild symptoms, and most of those with low antibody levels were young, in the 15-39 age group. By contrast, the 60-85 age group had three times the amount of antibodies, the scientists said. If some patients do not develop antibodies, this could have serious implications for both vaccinations and “herd immunity.”

Read more …

More poor understanding.

Doctors Say Ventilators Are Overused For COVID19 (Stat)

Even as hospitals and governors raise the alarm about a shortage of ventilators, some critical care physicians are questioning the widespread use of the breathing machines for Covid-19 patients, saying that large numbers of patients could instead be treated with less intensive respiratory support. If the iconoclasts are right, putting coronavirus patients on ventilators could be of little benefit to many and even harmful to some. What’s driving this reassessment is a baffling observation about Covid-19: Many patients have blood oxygen levels so low they should be dead. But they’re not gasping for air, their hearts aren’t racing, and their brains show no signs of blinking off from lack of oxygen.

That is making critical care physicians suspect that blood levels of oxygen, which for decades have driven decisions about breathing support for patients with pneumonia and acute respiratory distress, might be misleading them about how to care for those with Covid-19. In particular, more and more are concerned about the use of intubation and mechanical ventilators. They argue that more patients could receive simpler, noninvasive respiratory support, such as the breathing masks used in sleep apnea, at least to start with and maybe for the duration of the illness. “I think we may indeed be able to support a subset of these patients” with less invasive breathing support, said Sohan Japa, an internal medicine physician at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “I think we have to be more nuanced about who we intubate.”

That would help relieve a shortage of ventilators so critical that states are scrambling to procure them and some hospitals are taking the unprecedented (and largely untested) step of using a single ventilator for more than one patient. And it would mean fewer Covid-19 patients, particularly elderly ones, would be at risk of suffering the long-term cognitive and physical effects of sedation and intubation while being on a ventilator. None of this means that ventilators are not necessary in the Covid-19 crisis, or that hospitals are wrong to fear running out. But as doctors learn more about treating Covid-19, and question old dogma about blood oxygen and the need for ventilators, they might be able to substitute simpler and more widely available devices.

An oxygen saturation rate below 93% (normal is 95% to 100%) has long been taken as a sign of potential hypoxia and impending organ damage. Before Covid-19, when the oxygen level dropped below this threshold, physicians supported their patients’ breathing with noninvasive devices such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP, the sleep apnea device) and bilevel positive airway pressure ventilators (BiPAP). Both work via a tube into a face mask. [..] because in some patients with Covid-19, blood-oxygen levels fall to hardly-ever-seen levels, into the 70s and even lower, physicians are intubating them sooner. “Data from China suggested that early intubation would keep Covid-19 patients’ heart, liver, and kidneys from failing due to hypoxia,” said a veteran emergency medicine physician. “This has been the whole thing driving decisions about breathing support: Knock them out and put them on a ventilator.”

Read more …

Obvious no. 1 for the government to prevent.

Pay Cuts, Furloughs, Layoffs For Doctors, Nurses, Healthcare Workers (BI)

Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston started temporarily laying off 900 workers this week, a move it expects will last through June. Salaried employees are facing a 15% cut, and hourly workers who don’t care for patients will be working fewer hours. The hospital confirmed that workers won’t face cuts if they are treating patients with COVID-19,. Though some hourly workers already had reduced hours due to lower volume, they won’t see more cuts if they’re moved onto the COVID-19 response team, said hospital spokeswoman Heather Woolwine. The cuts at MUSC came as the hospital saw a 75% drop in surgeries, 30% fewer patients arriving at the hospital, and 70% fewer patients arriving there by ambulance. Without staffing changes, it projected a $100 million loss through June 30.

In Oklahoma, Hillcrest HealthCare System announced it is putting about 600 employees on an estimated 90-day furlough, which is a temporary layoff without pay, though some might be called back sooner if they’re needed. The furloughs affect workers in administration, surgery, and outpatient care, where patient visits have gone down, said Rachel Weaver Smith, spokeswoman for Hillcrest. About 20% of staff are facing furloughs, reassignments, or reduced hours or pay, but the changes don’t extend to staff treating people with COVID-19, Weaver Smith said.

[..] There’s no central place where hospitals are reporting all of their layoffs or how much money they’re losing. The American Hospital Association, which represents more than 5,000 hospitals, has sounded the alarm about the industry’s financial difficulties and said that quickly distributing funding from the CARES Act would help facilities keep their doors open. About $30 billion will go out in the coming days, according to Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but it’s not clear when or how the rest will be distributed.

Read more …

There are some 20 million people in NY State. Much less than in Spain, Italy etc.

New York Has More Cases Than Any Country (BBC)

New York state now has more coronavirus cases than any other country outside the US, according to latest figures. The state’s confirmed caseload of Covid-19 jumped by 10,000 on Thursday to 159,937, placing it ahead of Spain (153,000 cases) and Italy (143,000). China, where the virus emerged last year, has reported 82,000 cases. The US as a whole has recorded 462,000 cases and nearly 16,500 deaths. Globally there are 1.6 million cases and 95,000 deaths. While New York state leads the world in coronavirus cases, its death toll (7,000) lags behind Spain (15,500) and Italy (18,000), though it is more than double the official figure from China (3,300).


Photo: Reuters- Lucas Jackson

Photos have emerged of workers in hazmat outfits burying coffins in a mass grave in New York City. Drone footage showed workers using a ladder to descend into the huge pit where the caskets were stacked. The images were taken at Hart Island, off the Bronx, which has been used for more than 150 years by city officials as a mass burial site for those with no next-of-kin, or families who cannot afford funerals. Burial operations at the site have ramped up amid the pandemic from one day a week to five days a week, according to the Department of Corrections. Prisoners from Rikers Island usually do the job, but the rising workload has recently been taken over by contractors.

Read more …

Imagine you’re a country that has imposed a 2-3 month lockdown on its people, and you’re slowly getting out. Would you then invite mass numbers of untested Americans?

Trump: Widespread Testing ‘Would Never Happen’, Not Needed To Reopen US (NW)

President Donald Trump on Thursday said a widespread COVID-19 testing program to assess whether workers can safely return to their workplaces is “never going to happen” in the United States. As he addressed reporters during the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing, Trump touted the fact that 2 million Americans had been tested for the virus as a “milestone” in the U.S. fight against the global pandemic caused by SARS-Cov-2. The 2 million tests that have been administered so far represents a high water mark after weeks of problems in obtaining and administering tests caused by the Trump administration’s rejection of a test developed by the World Health Organization. However, that number means only .61 percent of the 330 million U.S. population has been tested for COVID-19.

That’s a paltry number compared to many other countries which have implemented testing programs. Italy, for example, has administered tests to approximately 1.4 percent of its population, and South Korea, which flattened its infection curve with widespread testing, has reached .9 percent of its population. Most public health experts have stressed the need for the U.S. to significantly expand its testing program, both with currently available tests to determine whether a given person is infected with SARS-Cov-2, and with so-called “antibody tests” to determine whether a person has successfully fought off the virus and is therefore immune to it.

Both varieties of test, experts say, must be administered in far greater quantities than currently being done in order to allow Americans to return to work without fear of infection, though Trump has repeatedly suggested that the U.S. could begin to emerge from social distancing measures within a few weeks. But when asked how his administration could discuss “reopening” the U.S. economy without an adequate testing program in place, Trump claimed that such a program was not just unnecessary, but was something that was simply not in the cards. “Do you need it? No. Is it a nice thing to do? Yes,” Trump said.

Read more …

Long piece by Nafeez. I don’t know, when people spell Government with a capital G, I scratch my head.

UK Gov’t: Keep Economy Running, We Will All Get COVID-19 Anyway (Nafeez Ahmed)

Leaked recordings of a Home Office conference call on Tuesday, exclusively obtained by Byline Times, reveal that the Government has all but given up in its fight against the Coronavirus and is intent on simply finding “a method of managing it within the population”. The recordings show Home Office Deputy Science Advisor Rupert Shute stating repeatedly that the Government believes “we will all get” COVID-19 eventually. The call further implied that the Government now considers hundreds of thousands of deaths unavoidable over a long-term period consisting of multiple peaks of the disease. While urging the importance of reducing the burden on the NHS by staying at home, Shute downplayed the risk of people contracting the virus at work.

He said: “It’s perfectly okay to carry on around your business. And it’s vitally important that you do as there’s a whole bunch of supply chains and the economy that needs to continue running… So carrying on with your normal work is not putting you in harms way anymore so than staying at home or going out shopping. So I keep coming back to this point that we are all going to get this at some point. And it’s about making sure that we have a really strong NHS there to support us when we do get sick.” The policy being communicated by the Home Office privately among Government staffers is at odds with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement at a press conference three weeks ago that the next 12 weeks could “turn the tide of this disease”.


[..] A fuller analysis of leaked recordings obtained by Byline Times reveals that the Government remains committed to the idea that the vast majority of the UK population will contract COVID-19, making a minimum number of deaths inevitable, albeit over a longer period of time. Using the Government’s own lowest estimate of a fatality rate at around 0.5%, this confirms that it has resigned itself to the expectation that some 264,000 Britons will inevitably die in ensuing months and years from the disease. The recordings provide a sobering insight into how the scientific advice feeding into Government policy is evolving – without, however, being meaningfully communicated to the British public or being subjected to external scientific scrutiny.

Read more …

Western politicians focus on the economy, and only miles after that see anything else.

Ex-IMF Head Economist: Western Economies Slow To React (BBC)

The coronavirus was “taken a little more lightly” by western economies compared to those in Asia, says a former IMF chief economist. Raghuram Rajan said western economies are facing a drop in economic growth by as much as 6% this year. The widespread closure of businesses is having a huge financial impact as governments prevent the virus spread. His comments come as the IMF warns the global economy faces its worst crisis since the 1930s depression. “I think in the west, partly because there hadn’t been a direct experience of a serious epidemic, it was taken a little more lightly,” Mr Rajan told the BBC’s Asia Business Report on Friday. “This is something happening in faraway lands, it’s not going to be serious here.

“It’s all too easy to point fingers after the fact but what I’m saying is that the countries in East Asia that had the experience of previous pandemics, which didn’t quite rise to the level of pandemics I should say… but previous epidemics, they took this seriously right from the get-go.” Mr Rajan, a former governor of India’s central bank, praised South Korea and Singapore as two Asian economies that have handled the virus outbreak well. For his native India, he warned that it had “limited tools” given how densely populated the country is. “It’s hard to do social distancing anywhere in the normal course. Your markets are chock-full of people. Your dwellings are chock-full of people. And so I think the government is trying to attempt to reduce the pace of increase with this lockdown.”

His said it was necessary to send the message to people to take this pandemic seriously. “This is not fun and games, this is really about life and death, and if it really explodes in India, we really don’t have the resources to deal with that.” The economist, who is a finance professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, gave a bleak forecast for western economies as he expects them to shift from expansion to contraction. “At this point, we’re probably thinking of western countries seeing a shift in GDP growth from about 2 percentage to 3 percentage points, to negative 4 or 5 percentage points. “Each country is going to lose 5 to 6 percentage points of GDP at the very least over this year. So cumulate that, that’s significantly more than $2 trillion”.

Read more …

When Iran became a major case, there were fears for Lebanon as well. But so far it’s done well.

Americans In Lebanon Decline Repatriation Offer: ‘It’s Safer In Beirut’ (CNN)

Carly Fuglei was with a group of Danish friends in Beirut last month when she first considered moving back to the United States. They were preparing to leave Lebanon amid fears of a major coronavirus outbreak there, and tried to convince her to do the same. But the 28-year-old humanitarian consultant from Montana decided to stay. After Lebanon closed its borders on March 19 to stem the spread of the global pandemic, she began furnishing her rooftop terrace. Her time in Beirut, she realized, would be indefinite. “I made that decision for a combination of personal reasons and calculations about the virus that we’re all making,” says Fuglei. “I think that I am probably safer here.”

It’s a decision that several US citizens in Beirut who CNN spoke to have echoed, citing skyrocketing cases in the US. When the US government last week said it would fly its citizens and permanent residents to the US on a chartered flight for $2,500 per person, some Americans took to Twitter to publicly decline the offer. “And no, Mom, I’m not going,” Beirut-based freelance journalist Abby Sewell wrote in a tweet about the US embassy announcement. Responding to her tweet, a Lebanese journalist said: “For once I’m like no America is not safer than here.” Sewell’s mother, Meg Sewell, replied: “Actually, for the moment I might have to agree.” Sewell tells CNN she never considered taking the US embassy’s offer.

“From everything I’m reading, the situation is worse in the US, in terms of the number of cases, prevention measures or lack thereof, and how overburdened the health system is,” she says. “Also, since I’ve been living overseas for years, I don’t have health insurance in the US now, so if I did go back and then got sick, I would be looking at paying thousands of dollars out of pocket.” [..] Just under 12,000 tests for coronavirus have been carried out so far in Lebanon. That equates to around 0.1% of the population (by contrast, roughly 0.3% of the population in Britain, and 1.1% of the population of Germany have been tested). As a result, the ministry of public health believes it is underestimating the scale of its outbreak. It has urged more people to get tested. Lebanon’s ministry of public health has vowed to boost the number of screenings to as many as 2,000 a day. It says anyone with mild to severe symptoms is entitled to be tested.

Read more …

It will take pitchforks to change this.

US Shouldn’t Bail Out Hedge Funds, Billionaires – Chamath Palihapitiya (CNBC)

Chamath Palihapitiya, founder and CEO of investment firm Social Capital, told CNBC on Thursday that the U.S. shouldn’t be bailing out billionaires and hedge funds during the coronavirus pandemic. “On Main Street today, people are getting wiped out. Right now, rich CEOs are not, boards that have horrible governance are not. People are,” Palihapitiya, an early Facebook executive, said on CNBC’s “Fast Money Halftime Report.” “What we’ve done is disproportionately prop up poor-performing CEOs and boards, and you have to wash these people out.” “Just to be clear on who we are talking about. We’re talking about a hedge fund that serves a bunch of billionaire family offices, who cares? They don’t get the summer in the Hamptons?” he said.

“These are the people that purport to be the most sophisticated investors in the world.” Palihapitiya also said he was concerned that the Federal Reserve’s plans to support to economy during the COVID-19 crisis are going to have consequences. The Fed earlier in the day announced a slew of new moves aimed at getting another $2.3 trillion of financing into businesses and governments, including its Main Street business lending program and market interventions. The central bank said its loans will be geared toward businesses with up to 10,000 employees and less than $2.5 billion in revenues for 2019. Programs would total up to $2.3 trillion and include the Payroll Protection Program and other measures aimed at getting money to small businesses and bolstering municipal finances with a $500 billion lending program, it added.

But Palihapitiya said it would have been better to just give more money to Americans. “I’m not disagreeing with what the Fed has to do. What I’m saying is it’s creating a land mine, and it’s creating a bill that will have to come due,” he said. “It would be better for the Fed to have given half a million to every man, woman and child in the United States,” he added.

Read more …

“For years, we have been excluded from international organisations, and we know better than anyone else what it feels like to be discriminated against and isolated..”

WHO Chief And Taiwan In Row Over ‘Racist’ Comments (BBC)

A row has erupted after the chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) accused Taiwan’s leaders of spearheading personal attacks on him. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he had been subjected to racist comments and death threats for months. But President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan opposed any form of discrimination, and invited Dr Tedros to visit the island. Taiwan said it had been denied access to vital information as the coronavirus spread. The WHO rejects this. Taiwan is excluded from the WHO, the United Nations health agency, because of China’s objections to its membership. The Chinese Communist Party regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and claims the right to take it by force if necessary. The WHO has also been criticised by US President Donald Trump, who has threatened to withdraw US funding to the agency.


Dr Tedros said he had been at the receiving end of racist comments for the past two to three months. “Giving me names, black or negro,” he said. “I’m proud of being black, or proud of being negro.” He then said he had received death threats, adding: “I don’t give a damn.” The WHO chief said the abuse had originated from Taiwan, “and the foreign ministry didn’t disassociate” itself from it. But Ms Tsai said Taiwan was opposed to discrimination. “For years, we have been excluded from international organisations, and we know better than anyone else what it feels like to be discriminated against and isolated,” Reuters news agency quoted her as saying. “If Director-General Tedros could withstand pressure from China and come to Taiwan to see Taiwan’s efforts to fight Covid-19 for himself, he would be able to see that the Taiwanese people are the true victims of unfair treatment.”

Read more …

Many countries will follow. Big shift.

Japan Will Pay Its Firms to Leave China, Relocate Production (N18)

Japan is willing to fund its companies to shift manufacturing operations out of China, Bloomberg has reported as the disruptions caused to production by the coronavirus pandemic has forced a rethink of supply chains between the major trading partners. As part of its economic stimulus package, Japan has earmarked $2.2 billion to help its manufacturers shift production out of China. Of this amount, 220 billion yen ($2 billion)is for companies shifting production back to Japan and 23.5 billion yen for those seeking to move production to other countries. China is Japan’s biggest trading partner under normal circumstances, but imports from China have slumped by almost half in February due to lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus hitting manufacturing and the supply chain.


Shinichi Seki, an economist at the Japan Research Institute, predicted that there would be a shift in the coming days as there already was renewed talk of Japanese firms reducing their reliance on China as a manufacturing base. “Having this in the budget will definitely provide an impetus,” he told Bloomberg. Companies, such as car makers, which are manufacturing for the Chinese domestic market, will likely stay put, he said. The Japanese government’s panel on future investment had last month discussed the need for manufacturing of high-added value products to be shifted back to Japan, and for production of other goods to be diversified across Southeast Asia. More than 37 per cent of the 2,600 companies surveyed by Tokyo Shoko Research Ltd. in February had also said they were diversifying procurement to places other than China amid the coronavirus crisis.

Read more …

Someone mentions the D word!.

China Factory Gate Deflation Deepens (R.)

China’s factory gate prices fell the most in five months in March, with deflation deepening and set to worsen in coming months as the economic damage wrought by the coroanvirus outbreak at home and worldwide shuts down many countries. The world’s second-largest economy is trying to restart its engines after weeks of near paralysis to contain the pandemic that had severely restricted business activity, flow of goods and the daily life of people. Friday’s data from the National Bureau of Statistics suggested a durable recovery was some way off, with China’s producer price index (PPI) falling 1.5% from a year earlier, the biggest decline since October last year. It compared with a median forecast of a 1.1% fall tipped by a Reuters poll of analysts and a 0.4% drop in February.


Headline consumer inflation also eased somewhat last month, partly led by government control measures, while core prices remained benign, leaving more room for monetary easing, some analysts said. The overall decline in the factory gate gauge was exacerbated by a slump in global oil and commodities prices, which filtered through to crude oil, steel and non-ferrous metal industries, the statistics bureau said in a statement accompanying the data. “The issue of having more supply than demand, and persistently low oil prices, will intensify deflationary pressures,” said Yang Yewei, a Beijing-based analyst with Southwest Securities.

Read more …

3 different articles on “How Greece Did It” today, This one from Al Jazeera, others are the Independent and an op-ed at Bloomberg.

How Greece Flattened The Coronavirus Curve (AlJ)

When Greece cancelled carnival celebrations in late February, many people thought the measure excessive. In the western city of Patra, which hosts Greece’s most flamboyant carnival parade, thousands defied the ban and took to the streets. “The government has ordered an end to all municipal activities … but this is a private enterprise. No one can shut it down,” said a jubilant reporter for the local Ionian TV in front of a crew dressed up as 17th-century French courtiers. “They’re gathering here on St George’s Square, where the [Greek] revolution began in 1821, and that’s symbolic,” he said. Greeks quickly put their revolutionary spirit aside, however, and largely heeded government advice to remain indoors. The result has been a remarkably low number of deaths – 81 by Tuesday, compared to more than 17,000 in neighbouring Italy.

Even adjusted for population sizes, Italy’s fatality rate is almost 40 times greater. Compared with other European Union members, too, Greece has fared better. Its fatalities are far lower than in Belgium (2,035) or the Netherlands (1,867), which have similar populations, but a much higher GDP. “State sensitivity, co-ordination, resolve, swiftness, seem not to be matters of economic magnitude,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis recently told a pared-down session of parliament. “Our schools closed before we had the first fatality. Most countries followed a week or two later, after they had mourned the loss of dozens,” he said.

George Pagoulatos, a political economist who heads the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), a think-tank, agrees that the government displayed “a very professional, managerial approach early on”, albeit largely dictated by inherent national weaknesses. Greece had very shallow resources with which to tackle a large outbreak. A decade of austerity saw its national healthcare expenses cut by three-quarters. Its intensive care beds numbered just 560 last month, though the government has now raised that to 910, and hired more than 4,000 extra doctors and nurses. Another weakness is that at least a quarter of Greece’s population is over 60, and elderly patients have been deemed particularly at risk from coronavirus.

All this has meant that a forward line of defence was Greece’s only real defence – but it has paid off. Greece is using only a tenth of its ICU beds, and has plenty of capacity left over.

Read more …

Put pressure on Mexico but not the US. BAU.

Saudi Energy Minister Says OPEC+ Oil Pact Hinges On Mexico Joining (R.)

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said on Friday that a final OPEC+ oil supply pact to reduce 10 million barrels per day (bpd), which was agreed on Thursday, hinges on Mexico joining in the cuts. OPEC, Russia and other allies, a group known as OPEC+, outlined plans on Thursday to cut their oil output by more than a fifth, but said a final agreement was dependent on Mexico signing up to the pact after it balked at the production cuts it was asked to make. Discussions among top global energy ministers will resume on Friday. “I hope (Mexico) comes to see the benefit of this agreement not only for Mexico but for the whole world. This whole agreement is hinging on Mexico agreeing to it,” Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman told Reuters by telephone.


Global fuel demand has plunged by around 30 million bpd, or 30% of global supplies, as steps to fight the coronavirus have grounded planes, cut vehicle usage and curbed economic activity. The kingdom will host an extraordinary meeting by video conference at 12.00 GMT on Friday for energy ministers from the Group of 20 major economies. Asked about other countries such as the United States, Canada and Brazil joining the OPEC+ cut pact, Prince Abdulaziz said: “They will do it in their own way, using their own approaches, and it is not our job to dictate to others what they could do based on their national circumstances.” [..] The planned output curbs by OPEC+ amount to 10 million bpd, or 10% of global supplies, with another 5 million bpd expected to come from other nations, according to sources, to help deal with the deepest oil crisis in decades.

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Shale outdid subprime in sheer craziness.

US Banks Prepare To Seize Energy Assets As Shale Boom Goes Bust (R.)

Major U.S. lenders are preparing to become operators of oil and gas fields across the country for the first time in a generation to avoid losses on loans to energy companies that may go bankrupt, sources aware of the plans told Reuters. JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Citigroup are each in the process of setting up independent companies to own oil and gas assets, said three people who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The banks are also looking to hire executives with relevant expertise to manage them, the sources said. The banks did not provide comment in time for publication. Energy companies are suffering through a plunge in oil prices caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a supply glut, with crude prices down more than 60% this year.

Although oil prices may gain support from a potential agreement Thursday between Saudi Arabia and Russia to cut production, few believe the curtailment can offset a 30% drop in global fuel demand, as the coronavirus has grounded aircraft, reduced vehicle use and curbed economic activity more broadly. Oil and gas companies working in shale basins from Texas to Wyoming are saddled with debt. The industry is estimated to owe more than $200 billion to lenders through loans backed by oil and gas reserves. As revenue has plummeted and assets have declined in value, some companies are saying they may be unable to repay.

Whiting Petroleum Corp became the first producer to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 1. Others, including Chesapeake Energy Corp, Denbury Resources Inc and Callon Petroleum Co, have also hired debt advisers. If banks do not retain bankrupt assets, they might be forced to sell them for pennies on the dollar at current prices. The companies they are setting up could manage oil and gas assets until conditions improve enough to sell at a meaningful value.

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A whole bunch of scared people together in not very much space.

Chicago Jail Reports 450 Coronavirus Cases Among Staff, Inmates (R.)

Some 450 inmates and staff have tested positive for coronavirus at Chicago’s largest jail, county corrections officials said on Thursday, representing one of the nation’s largest outbreaks of the respiratory illness at a single site so far in the pandemic. The surge of cases at Cook County Jail marks the latest flare-up of COVID-19 at jails and prisons in major cities across the United States, where detainees often live in close quarters. The situation gained national attention earlier this week when inmates posted handmade signs pleading for help in the windows of their cells overlooking a public street. “Sheriff’s officers and county medical professionals are aggressively working round-the-clock to combat the unprecedented global coronavirus pandemic,” the Cook County Sheriff’s Office said in a written statement on Thursday.


Those measures include opening an off-site 500-bed “quarantine and care facility” for prisoners, an effort to move as many inmates as possible from double to single cells, and the opening of a testing site at the jail. “Front line” staff members were being checked for fever at the start of each shift and issued protective equipment if they interact with inmates, according to the sheriff’s department.[..] In Monroe, Washington, inmates at a minimum-security prison vandalized the facility in a protest on Wednesday evening after officials announced that six prisoners had tested positive for COVID-19, according to Washington state’s Department of Corrections. State and local police and corrections officers quelled the disturbance at the prison 24 miles northeast of Seattle using pepper spray, sting balls and rubber pellets, the corrections department said.


Signs made by prisoners pleading for help in a window of Cook County Jail in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., April 9, 2020 REUTERS/Jim Vondruska

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“More than 150 Belmarsh guards are in self-isolation and the prison is barely functioning..”

Assange Not Infected But Says Many in Belmarsh Are (CN)

Julian Assange has told a friend in a telephone conversation on Wednesday that he is living in a prison in which the coronavirus is “ripping through” the population. He told photojournalist Vaughan Smith, founder of London’s Frontline Club, that he is isolated 23 1/2 hours a day and spends 30 minutes in a prison yard packed with other inmates. More than 150 Belmarsh guards are in self-isolation and the prison is barely functioning, Smith said. Assange did not show up for a video link to his case management hearing at Westminster Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday. A court official was overheard by three people present in the courtroom saying that Assange was “unwell.” He is not infected with Covid-19, but Vaughan says his life is threatened by it in prison.

Read more …

 

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

Thanks everyone for your generous donations.

 

 

Sound on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Apr 062020
 


John M. Fox WCBS studios, 49 East 52nd Street, NYC 1948

 

Coronavirus Has Lit The Fuse On A Time Bomb In China’s Economy (SCMP)
Consider the Possibility That Trump Is Right About China (Schadlow)
Head Of WHO Accused Of Putting Lives At Risk By Parroting China’s Lies (DM)
China Owes US £351 Billion (DM)
It Started In China, But Europe Is The Hub For Global Coronavirus Spread (IC)
Japan To Declare State Of Emergency On April 7 (ZH)
Tracking Site Suggests White House Model Overestimates Hospitalizations (JTN)
Illinois Adjusts On The Fly To Meet Medical Supply Needs In ‘Wild West’ (CST)
Mexico’s President Has ‘Unorthodox’ Coronavirus Plan To Help Economy, Poor (R.)
Bailing Out the Bailout (Matt Taibbi)
Boris Johnson Received Oxygen Treatment After Being Admitted To Hospital (BI)
Dr.Zelenko Has Now Treated 699 Coronavirus Patients With 100% Success (TSU)
COVID-19 Attacks The 1-Beta Chain of Hemoglobin (Chemrxiv)

 

 

Are things actually calming down a little? Seems much too early to say. Some countries may apprear to be slowing down, but others have just started.

And perhaps some numbers have been exaggerated, but we all know many numbers have been lowballed for a long time too.

If the US has less than 3,000 deaths in 10 days, then maybe.

 

 

Cases 1,282,383 (+ 67,896 from yesterday’s 1214487)

Deaths 70,183 (+ 4,578 from yesterday’s 65605)

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Someone called it the end of the Asian century.

Coronavirus Has Lit The Fuse On A Time Bomb In China’s Economy (SCMP)

The coronavirus outbreak has already taken a great toll on the Chinese economy, with all headline readings pointing towards a record slowdown in growth during the first two months of the year. But there is an even greater danger for what was once the world’s fastest-growing major economy: that Covid-19 will become the catalyst that will bring its many long-simmering problems to the boil. At the centre of these problems is a rising systemic risk in its banking and financial systems caused by a high level of debt accrued over the past decade. The outbreak could not have occurred at a worse time. The past 10 years have not only seen the economy saddled with this debt, but it has also involved a steady structural slowdown that last year saw the growth rate fall to 6.1 per cent, the lowest in decades.


Now, just at the very time the country might consider spending more to prop up that growth rate, a raging pandemic means it will be making much less money than usual. The latest data from the Chinese Ministry of Finance shows fiscal revenue plunged by 9.9 per cent in the January-February period, the steepest drop since 2009. Overall tax revenue fell 11.2 per cent, driven by a 19 per cent slump in value-added tax (VAT) revenue, the main source of fiscal income. These drops come just as the government has offered a handsome tax cut in response to the pandemic. Meanwhile, the escalation of the pandemic in the rest of the world will only further weigh on China’s economic growth, corporate profits and personal income. In turn, this will inevitably drag down government revenue in months to come.

Beijing’s proposed stimulus spending will only exacerbate China’s already-massive debt pile, which had reached 310 per cent of gross domestic product by the end of last year, according to the Institute of International Finance. Many economies that have experienced such levels of debt have gone on to suffer a financial crash or economic crisis. China now accounts for about 60 per cent of the US$72.5 trillion emerging market debt. A deleveraging campaign had reduced Beijing’s debt mountain in 2018. But it has since returned to credit-driven stimulus to support growth and combat the effects of its trade war with the United States. About 80 per cent of China’s debt stock was accumulated over the past decade as the country strived to achieve the politically significant milestone of doubling its economic sizefrom 2010 to 2020. The milestone was a key goal in President Xi Jinping’s Chinese dream of “national rejuvenation”.


While the coronavirus threat has receded in China itself, any hope of an early recovery is forlorn as Covid-19 is still ripping through the major developed economies – essentially, China’s customers and trade partners. Plunging demand from abroad will create a second shock wave that will hit China’s export-oriented economy just as it is recovering from the first shock of having to lock down its cities. China’s balance sheet will be hit by both dwindling revenue and a spiralling demand for spending. Rising corporate debt, surging local government borrowings, and soaring non-performing loans for commercial banks are three areas that could wreck its fragile financial and banking systems. The non-financial corporate debt-to-GDP ratio jumped from 93 per cent in 2009 to 153 per cent last year [..]

Read more …

Nadia Schadlow is a former deputy national-security adviser for strategy.

Consider the Possibility That Trump Is Right About China (Schadlow)

China, America’s most powerful rival, has played a particularly harmful role in the current crisis, which began on its soil. Initially, that country’s lack of transparency prevented prompt action that might have contained the virus. In Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, Chinese officials initially punished citizens for “spreading rumors” about the disease. The lab in Shanghai that first published the genome of the virus on open platforms was shut down the next day for “rectification,” as the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported in February. Apparently at the behest of officials at the Wuhan health commission, news reports indicate, visiting teams of experts from elsewhere in China were prevented from speaking freely to doctors in the infectious-disease wards.

Some experts had suspected human-to-human transmission, but their inquiries were rebuffed. “They didn’t tell us the truth,” one team member said of the local authorities, “and from what we now know of the real situation then, they were lying” to us. Now China’s propagandists are competing to create a narrative that obscures the origins of the crisis and that blames the United States for the virus.

This irresponsible behavior and lack of transparency revealed what Trump’s National Security Strategy had identified early on: that “contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of others.” Instead of becoming a “responsible stakeholder”—a term George W. Bush’s administration used to describe the role it hoped Beijing would play following China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001—the Chinese Communist Party used the advantages of WTO membership to advance a political and economic system at odds with America’s free and open society. Previous National Security Strategy documents had tiptoed around China’s adversarial conduct, as if calling out that country as a competitor—as the 2017 document unequivocally did—was somehow impolite.


[..] Dependence on China for crucial medical equipment throughout the pandemic has illuminated the dangers of a hyper-globalized economy. Experts had warned of American dependence on key drug ingredients from China. The Wall Street Journal has reported that China is the only maker of key ingredients for certain classes of drugs, including established antibiotics that treat a range of bacterial infections such as pneumonia. American reliance on Chinese suppliers for other pharmaceuticals and medical supplies is also worrisome. Americans should not depend on an authoritarian rival state for its citizens’ health—any more than the United States and other free and open societies should give Chinese companies, and by extension the Chinese Communist Party, control over communications infrastructure and sensitive personal data.

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The Daily Mail does not take prisoners.

“The British and US governments fund about a quarter of WHO’s $2.2 billion annual budget, while China gave $44.3 million last year.”

Head Of WHO Accused Of Putting Lives At Risk By Parroting China’s Lies (DM)

It seems the new virus first began appearing in Wuhan last November to the bafflement of local doctors. On December 31, China reported a cluster of pneumonia-like cases to the WHO. On the same day, Taiwan tipped off the Geneva-based body that it had learned of medical staff in China falling ill – a clear sign of human-to-human transmission. Yet it said the information was not shared since the nation is excluded from a key WHO platform. Chen Chien-jen, Taiwan’s vice-president and an epidemiologist, said the WHO’s failure to obtain first-hand information on human transmission led to crucial delay. ‘An opportunity to raise the alert level both in China and the wider world was lost.’

The WHO confirms receiving an email mentioning ‘news reports of atypical pneumonia reported in Wuhan, and that Wuhan authorities said they believed it was not SARS’ but denies there was any mention of medical staff falling ill. There are suggestions Chinese authorities knew of human-to-human transmissions early in January, even as they detained doctors desperately trying to warn about a potential epidemic and accused them of spreading false ‘rumours’. Taiwan sent its own team to Wuhan in mid-January after failing to obtain clarification through official channels, which confirmed human transmission. There have also been credible claims on Chinese social media, repeated by online news reports, that an infected disease specialist in Wuhan alerted a senior WHO official in Asia because they had trained together and remained friends.

On January 11, a Chinese government respiratory expert who initially said the virus was ‘under control’ admitted he might have been infected in Wuhan. Media reports show medical staff were being treated in hospital for symptoms by January 15. Yet on January 14, the WHO confidently told the world that ‘the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus identified in Wuhan’. It seems the new virus first began appearing in Wuhan last November to the bafflement of local doctors. On December 31, China reported a cluster of pneumonia-like cases to the WHO. On the same day, Taiwan tipped off the Geneva-based body that it had learned of medical staff in China falling ill – a clear sign of human-to-human transmission.

Yet it said the information was not shared since the nation is excluded from a key WHO platform. Chen Chien-jen, Taiwan’s vice-president and an epidemiologist, said the WHO’s failure to obtain first-hand information on human transmission led to crucial delay. ‘An opportunity to raise the alert level both in China and the wider world was lost.’ The WHO confirms receiving an email mentioning ‘news reports of atypical pneumonia reported in Wuhan, and that Wuhan authorities said they believed it was not SARS’ but denies there was any mention of medical staff falling ill. There are suggestions Chinese authorities knew of human-to-human transmissions early in January, even as they detained doctors desperately trying to warn about a potential epidemic and accused them of spreading false ‘rumours’.

Taiwan sent its own team to Wuhan in mid-January after failing to obtain clarification through official channels, which confirmed human transmission. There have also been credible claims on Chinese social media, repeated by online news reports, that an infected disease specialist in Wuhan alerted a senior WHO official in Asia because they had trained together and remained friends. On January 11, a Chinese government respiratory expert who initially said the virus was ‘under control’ admitted he might have been infected in Wuhan. Media reports show medical staff were being treated in hospital for symptoms by January 15. Yet on January 14, the WHO confidently told the world that ‘the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus identified in Wuhan’.

Read more …

More Daily Mail. Because it’s a quiet Monday morning.

China Owes US £351 Billion (DM)

Britain should pursue the Chinese government through international courts for £351 billion in coronavirus compensation, a major study into the crisis has concluded. It comes as 15 senior Tories led by former Deputy Prime Minister Damian Green write to Boris Johnson to demand a ‘rethink and a reset’ in relations with Beijing. The first comprehensive investigation into the global economic impact of the outbreak concludes that the G7 group of the world’s leading economies have been hit by a £3.2 trillion bill that could have been avoided if the Chinese Communist Party had been open and honest about the outbreak late last year.

Britain’s slice of the compensation sum includes the full cost of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s economic bailout and hike in NHS spending in response to the crisis. The landmark study also directly highlights crunch British policy decisions made earlier this year – such as not cancelling flights from London to Wuhan in January – that were hampered or directly affected by misinformation from China and the acquiescent World Health Organisation. The report, to be published tomorrow by the Henry Jackson Society, a British foreign policy think-tank, says there is evidence that China directly breached international healthcare treaty responsibilities, and outlines ten legal avenues major nations could take to pursue damages from them.


It is titled ‘Coronavirus Compensation: Assessing China’s potential culpability and avenues of legal response’ and concludes: ‘The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) sought to conceal bad news at the top, and to conceal bad news from the outside world. Now China has responded by deploying an advanced and sophisticated disinformation campaign to convince the world that it is not to blame for the crisis, and that instead the world should be grateful for all that China is doing. ‘The truth is that China is responsible for Covid-19 – and if legal claims were brought against Beijing they could amount to trillions of pounds.’ Legal avenues include bringing a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague against China for breaking sanitary commitments, going to the UN and International Court of Justice, or the WTO.

Read more …

Europe was very late. Maybe Americans should take note.

It Started In China, But Europe Is The Hub For Global Coronavirus Spread (IC)

When the coronavirus began to spread, Mongolia took sensible precautions. It halted border crossings from China, with which it shares a 2,877-mile border. Mongolia also imposed travel bans on people from South Korea and Japan, the other epicenters of the pandemic at the time. Yet the virus nonetheless found its way to Mongolia, where the first infected person — known as the “index case” — was a Frenchman who had come to the country from France via Moscow. The story is the same for many other countries that became part of the pandemic due to infected people carrying it from Europe. South Africa’s first coronavirus cases had gone to northern Italy for a skiing trip. South America’s first case was a Brazilian who had traveled to Italy’s Lombardy region, and Bangladesh’s first cases were Bangladeshis who had also come from Italy.


Panama’s index case was imported from Spain, and Nigeria’s first experience with coronavirus was an Italian business traveler. Jordan’s was imported from Italy. As Covid-19 cripples the U.S. and ravages many countries in the world, politicians are battling to craft a narrative of who is to blame for its damage. The virus started in China, of course, but narratives of how it went from epidemic to global pandemic often leave out a crucial element: the role of Europe. European countries have been hit much harder than Asian nations and have spread the virus significantly more than other regions. The Intercept went through news reports of Covid-19 index cases across the world, and the results were startling. Travel from and within Europe preceded the first coronavirus cases in at least 93 countries across all five continents, accounting for more than half of the world’s index cases.

Travel from Italy alone preceded index cases in at least 46 countries, compared to 27 countries associated with travel from China. One of the reasons European travel facilitated the spread of the coronavirus was because those countries were late to close air links. Italy closed one terminal of Milan’s main airport on March 16, when the northern region of Lombardy already had 3,760 cases in a population of 10 million people. By contrast, China had shut down flights out of Hubei province on January 23, when there were 500 reported cases worldwide and 17 deaths in Hubei among a population of 58 million. London’s Heathrow and Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airports are still open as cases soar in both of those cities, while Spain’s air operators only closed major terminals in Madrid and Barcelona when air traffic had ground to a halt anyway.

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Any state of emergency that doesn’t start the moment it’s announced is suspicious. Why not next week, month?

Japan To Declare State Of Emergency On April 7 (ZH)

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to declare a coronavirus emergency, according to the Nikkei, as new cases in the capital surged at a record pace. And while the Japanese publication notes that the government will hold an unofficial meeting of a panel of experts and start preparing for the declaration, Kyodo reported moments ago that Japan will declare a state of emergency on April 7, which would take effect on April 8. An emergency declaration gives governors in the areas covered formal powers, such as issuing requests that people stay home; Tokyo and surrounding areas, as well as Osaka, are expected to be affected by the declaration.

Abe has been criticized for not having already declared an emergency – a hesitance thought by many to stem from a strong desire to hold the Olympics this summer in Tokyo as originally planned. The International Olympic Committee decided in late March to postpone the games to 2021 after consulting with the prime minister and others. And yet, a conflict is set to emerge almost instantly because Japan’s constitution does not permit the government to demand that individuals stay home, owing to civil liberties concerns. Is Japan – which already buys billions in stocks just to avoid a market crash and preserve social order – about to also have a constituational crisis?


In any case, we find it strange that there were almost “no cases” in the weeks leading up to Japan’s reluctant decision to postpone this year’s Olympics, only to see a sudden record surge afterwards as Japan’s cases “mysteriously” soared, demonstrating once again that the coronavirus – or rather the tracking of its case and death toll – is first and foremost a political priority. Abe met with parties including Health Minister Katsunobu Kato and Yasutoshi Nishimura, the economic and fiscal policy minister, on Sunday to discuss the spread of infections. “If necessary, we will decide [to declare an emergency] without hesitation,” said Nishimura, who heads the government’s coronavirus response, on a show of public broadcaster NHK on Sunday. “We are looking for signs of an overshoot,” he said, referring to an explosion in cases, and noted that the atmosphere has grown extremely tense.

Read more …

After going through model after model to make accouncements and set policy, Fauci says: “disease models “don’t tell you anything. You can’t really rely upon models..”

Tracking Site Suggests White House Model Overestimates Hospitalizations (JTN)

A web site that tracks actual hospital beds in use suggests the model used by top White House health officials to project the trajectory of the coronavirus has so far overestimated the number of Americans hospitalized by the disease by tens of thousands. Those projections, popularly known as the “Murray” model after the model’s lead author, University of Washington professor Christopher Murray, were explicitly cited by Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, at a press conference in the last week. Birx told reporters that Murray’s model, which predicts a shortage of tens of thousands of hospital beds throughout the country by the middle of April, underscored the task force’s “concern that we had with the growing number of potential fatalities” based on the model’s projections.

Yet a comparison of actual hospitalized patients by state and nationally suggests the model has so far overestimated the number of beds needed to treat pandemic patients. The forecast predicted, for example, that the United States would need around 164,750 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients on Saturday. Yet the COVID Tracking Project, a team of journalists and data analysts who collect and tabulate coronavirus data from state tallies around the country, reported only around 22,158 currently hospitalized coronavirus patients nationwide on Saturday. The discrepancies are also stark when looked at on a state-by-state basis. The model estimated that 65,434 patients would need hospital beds in New York State on Friday. In reality, there were 15,905 hospitalizations in that state by Sunday morning, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Notably, the model touts its predictions as occurring under “full social distancing” through May of this year, meaning the projected hospitalizations are meant to occur even with significant quarantine measures. It is unclear why the model’s numbers are so significantly higher than the actual numbers observed in hospitals across the country. Officials have offered explanations for various model fluctuations ranging from data assumptions to the impact of stay-at-home orders. [..] at a White House press conference on Saturday, Birx said that coronavirus modelers are “re-evaluating all of their models in light of the level of the impact of the mitigation.” “Just to be clear, we won’t know how valid the models are until we move all the way through the epidemic,” she said.


Dr. Anthony Fauci, meanwhile, reportedly said during a recent meeting that disease models “don’t tell you anything. You can’t really rely upon models.” Fauci has elsewhere indicated a preference for overestimating the possible effect of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, telling reporters in March: “I think we should be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting.”

https://twitter.com/AndyGrewal/status/1247010974974054406

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The entire west is wild. Most organizational models are horror material. No money in them, no political gain.

Illinois Adjusts On The Fly To Meet Medical Supply Needs In ‘Wild West’ (CST)

In a state where the government usually operates on the basis of buy now, pay later (often much, much later), the emergency of the coronavirus pandemic has required a decidedly different approach. About two weeks ago, Illinois officials tracked down a supply of 1.5 million potentially life-saving N95 respirator masks in China through a middleman in the Chicago area and negotiated a deal to buy them. One day before they were expecting to complete the purchase, they got a call in the morning from the supplier informing them he had to get a check to the bank by 2 p.m. that day, or the deal was off. Other bidders had surfaced.

Realizing there was no way the supplier could get to Springfield and back by the deadline, Illinois assistant comptroller Ellen Andres jumped in her car and raced north on I-55 with a check for $3,469,600. From the other end, Jeffrey Polen, president of The Moving Concierge in Lemont, drove south. Polen isn’t in the medical supply business, but he “knows a guy,” an old friend who specializes in working with China’s factories. As they drove, Andres and Polen arranged to meet in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant just off the interstate in Dwight. They made the handoff there. Polen made it back to his bank with 20 minutes to spare. Illinois already has received part of the mask shipment. There’s more on the way.

That’s just a taste of the “Wild West” world of emergency procurement taking place over the past several weeks as the state fights for equipment and supplies to protect frontline workers and patients in the battle against COVID-19. Most of that work is being performed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration through a rapid-procurement strike team, pulling together procurement specialists from around state government under the auspices of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. [..] They’re all looking for what we have come to know as PPE or personal protective equipment — masks, gloves, gowns and face shields — plus coronavirus testing kits and swabs and, most prized of all, ventilators to help those most seriously ill keep breathing.


There’s a separate team working just on ventilators, said Deputy Governor Christian Mitchell, who is overseeing the procurement efforts for Pritzker. When they find what they need, they have to move immediately to complete the purchase before losing out to another bidder — even as the competition causes prices to jump to levels that would have been ridiculous just a month ago.

Read more …

Not everybody had endless pockets. PEMEX must be hurting something bad.

Mexico’s President Has ‘Unorthodox’ Coronavirus Plan To Help Economy, Poor (R.)

Mexico’s president unveiled a plan on Sunday to lift the economy out of the coronavirus crisis, vowing to help the poor and create jobs, but his promise of fiscal discipline sparked criticism that the measures fell far short of what was needed. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador pledged Mexico would create 2 million new jobs in the next nine months and boost small business and housing loans. He also vowed to tighten public sector austerity to avoid debt. Governments worldwide have unleashed unprecedented spending pledges to minimise damage to their economies from the coronavirus, including a $2-trillion package by Mexico’s top trading partner, the United States.

But Mexico’s leftist leader, targeting measures for the “most vulnerable”, said he would use a budget stabilization fund and cash from public trusts to fund plans to shield the poor from a slump economists expect to be severe. “This crisis is temporary, transitory,” Lopez Obrador said in a televised speech. “Normality will return soon. We will defeat the coronavirus, we will reactivate the economy.” Last week, Lopez Obrador said about $10 billion was available from various rainy day funds, while the finance ministry said “buffers” for the economy included a stabilization fund of about $6.6 billion available from the end of 2019.


Known by his initials “AMLO”, the president said Mexico would announced next week investments in the energy sector worth 339 billion pesos ($13.5 billion) to boost the economy, which some private analysts forecast to contract by up to 10% in 2020. That sum is far less than $92 billion in energy investments the private sector has proposed to the president.

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“The coronavirus emergency is probably temporary. The bailout looks like forever.”

Bailing Out the Bailout (Matt Taibbi)

Congress needed a year of intense infighting to approve a $4.7 trillion budget, but just a single week to draft this $2 trillion deal. Although members quibbled over numbers before the vote — Bernie Sanders insisted on more unemployment insurance, while others worried about creating a “slush fund” for airlines and other industries — the bill ultimately cruised through, passing in a voice vote in the House and 96-0 in the Senate. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, the only comparable “We need a gazillion dollars in 10 minutes” legislation in recent history, passed after a bitter battle, with 63 House Democrats and 91 House Republicans opposing. Analysts and politicians insisted the new bailout, in the broad strokes, was uncontroversial, a fire hose of money for virus-ravaged hospitals, workers, and small businesses.

Even critics of Wall Street agreed that this one isn’t a complete washout compared with the last disaster, when the taxpayer was asked to bail out the very people who’d caused the crisis. “At least this bailout has a Main Street component,” says Dennis Kelleher of Better Markets, a financial watchdog group. There are serious logistical questions about how money is supposed to get to Main Street — like, for instance, the use of the tiny Small Business Administration to push $377 billion in emergency loans out the door — but the larger problem has to do with the meat of the bill: the backstopping of the financial sector. As happened in the run-up to September 2008, Wall Street in recent weeks warned of Armageddon if the Fed did not immediately start spending billions per minute to buy every conceivable kind of financial product.

The Fed responded by dusting off emergency lending facilities like the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, the Commercial Paper Funding Facility, the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility, the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility, and the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility, all of which saw action after the crash of 2008. Each would be used to step in and buy financial products in the various markets frozen due to virus panic.The Fed furthermore announced that on March 23rd it would begin buying $50 billion in government-backed mortgage securities, in addition to $75 billion in Treasury bills, every day.

They’ve since lowered those numbers, but the scale of these interventions dwarfs any of the Fed’s actions post-2008. A $50 billion buying spree roughly represents as much Fed support of mortgage markets in one day as was done across a month at the peak of the last round of Quantitative Easing. Taken in conjunction with the CARES Act, the Fed and the Treasury were now positioned to become a major ongoing buyer of everything from mortgages to U.S. government debt to exchange-traded funds to corporate bonds to money-market funds.

[..] The Fed “balance sheet” as of Friday was already at $5.3 trillion, nearly $800 billion higher than its previous peak in May 2016. Wall Street analysts are predicting this number will eventually reach $10 trillion, and why not? Fed chief Jerome Powell signaled that assistance would be unlimited when he said the central bank “would not run out of ammunition.” As with 2008, the emergency support is supposed to be temporary, but there’s less belief that this is even ostensibly true this time around. There will be a lot of howling over the irony: Trump when he ran for president in 2016 said then-Fed chief Janet Yellen should be “ashamed” of creating a “false stock market” for Barack Obama. Our future will be a parody of the Yellen economy. Short-term loans to make payroll and keep tenants in storefronts are only a part of the rescue. The coronavirus emergency is probably temporary. The bailout looks like forever.

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Bad sign. Who’s going to run the country appears up for grabs.

Boris Johnson Received Oxygen Treatment After Being Admitted To Hospital (BI)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will remain in hospital on Monday after being admitted for “persistent symptoms of coronavirus,” ten days after first testing positive for it. The prime minister was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital in Westminster at 8pm on Sunday on the advice of his doctor after continuing to exhibit a high temperature. A spokesperson insisted on Sunday that Johnson’s hospital admission was not an “emergency” measure but had merely been for precautionary reasons in order to carry out tests. However the Times of London newspaper reported that the prime minister was treated with oxygen on arrival. Downing Street has repeatedly insisted that Johnson was only experiencing “mild symptoms” of the virus.


However, aides have reportedly become “increasingly worried” about the prime minister’s health in recent days, according to multiple reports, with Johnson heard “coughing and spluttering” his way through conference calls. Johnson was “more seriously ill than either he or his officials were prepared to admit,” according to the Guardian, which reported a source suggesting that Johnson “was being seen by doctors who were concerned about his breathing.” The Sun newspaper reported a Downing Street source suggesting that Johnson would remain in hospital “as long as necessary.” Asked about the prime minister’s condition on Monday the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told the BBC that Johnson was “still very much in charge of the government.”

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He’s down to 99.9% now. One person died who wouldn’t stick to the regimen.

Dr.Zelenko Has Now Treated 699 Coronavirus Patients With 100% Success (TSU)

Last Wednesday, we published the success story from Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, a board-certified family practitioner in New York, after he successfully treated 350 coronavirus patients with 100 percent success using a cocktail of drugs: hydroxychloroquine, in combination with azithromycin (Z-Pak), an antibiotic to treat secondary infections, and zinc sulfate. Dr. Zelenko said he saw the symptom of shortness of breath resolved within four to six hours after treatment. Hydroxychloroquine is now being used worldwide, according to a map from French Dr. Didier Raoult. In the meantime, scientists at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine believe they’ve found potential vaccine for coronavirus.

Now, Dr. Zelenko provides updates on the treatment after he successfully treated 699 COVID-19 patients in New York. In an exclusive interview with former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, Dr. Vladmir Zelenko shares the results of his latest study, which showed that out of his 699 patients treated, zero patients died, zero patients intubated, and four hospitalizations. Dr. Zelenko said the whole treatment costs only $20 over a period of 5 days with 100% success. He defines success as “Not to die.” Dr. Zelenko first posted his Facebook video message last week calling on President Trump to “advise the country that they should be taking this medication.”

There are many other success stories about hydroxychloroquine across the country. Last week, Dr. William Grace, an oncologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said they’ve not had a single death in their hospital because of hydroxychloroquine. “Thanks to hydroxychloroquine, we have not had a death in our hospital,’ Dr. Grace said.


Also, in a study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) also confirmed some of Dr. Dr. Zelenko’s findings. The study by NIH showed that Zinc supplementation decreases the morbidity of lower respiratory tract infection in pediatric patients in the developing world. A second study also conducted by NIH titled: “In Vitro Antiviral Activity and Projection of Optimized Dosing Design of Hydroxychloroquine for the Treatment of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2),” also showed hydroxychloroquine to be more potent in killing the virus off in vitro (in the test tube and not in the body).

Read more …

One for our medical commenters. A Chinese study that suggests the virus in first instance attacks blood cells, not lungs. This could also explain why chloroquine is effective. By the way, word has it that doctors are taking hydroxychloroquine on a regular basis to protect themselves. Note: It is no use when taken either too early or too late.

@yishan on Twitter: “Virus is disrupting the hemoglobin’s oxygen capacity. It is attacking our BLOOD first, not the lungs. It is NOT a respiratory ailment (primarily), lung breakdown symptoms are a consequence of the attack on blood hemoglobins. Hypoxia is happening BEFORE lungs are affected.”

COVID-19 Attacks The 1-Beta Chain of Hemoglobin (Chemrxiv)

The novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) is an infectious acute respiratory infection caused by the novel coronavirus. The virus is a positive-strand RNA virus with high homology to bat coronavirus. In this study, conserved domain analysis, homology modeling, and molecular docking were used to compare the biological roles of certain proteins of the novel coronavirus. The results showed the ORF8 and surface glycoprotein could bind to the porphyrin, respectively. At the same time, orf1ab, ORF10, and ORF3a proteins could coordinate attack the heme on the 1-beta chain of hemoglobin to dissociate the iron to form the porphyrin. The attack will cause less and less hemoglobin that can carry oxygen and carbon dioxide.


The lung cells have extremely intense poisoning and inflammatory due to the inability to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen frequently, which eventually results in ground-glass-like lung images. The mechanism also interfered with the normal heme anabolic pathway of the human body, is expected to result in human disease. According to the validation analysis of these finds, chloroquine could prevent orf1ab, ORF3a, and ORF10 to attack the heme to form the porphyrin, and inhibit the binding of ORF8 and surface glycoproteins to porphyrins to a certain extent, effectively relieve the symptoms of respiratory distress. Favipiravir could inhibit the envelope protein and ORF7a protein bind to porphyrin, prevent the virus from entering host cells, and catching free porphyrins. Because the novel coronavirus is dependent on porphyrins, it may originate from an ancient virus.

Read more …

 

It must be possible to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

Thanks everyone for your wonderfully generous donations over the past days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Apr 022020
 


William Henry Jackson Camp wagon on a Texas roundup 1901

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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


AP Photo/Olivia Zhang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Where was the CDC?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Color me amazed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Privatization, National Security State Left Americans Defenseless (GZ)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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The headline feels designed to cast doubt on the man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

 

It must be possible to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

Thanks everyone for your wonderful and generous donations over the past days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make your own mask in 2 minutes. Instructions here.

 

 

Support us in virustime. Help the Automatic Earth survive. It’s good for you.

 

Mar 252020
 


Harris&Ewing Washington DC in April April 1924

 

Coronavirus Stimulus Package To Exceed $6 Trillion – Kudlow (NYP)
US Senate Leaders Reach Deal With White House On $2tn Coronavirus Package (G.)
Share Buybacks, $4.6 Trillion Driver of Stock Market Bubble, Are Toast (WS)
White House Tells New Yorkers Who Leave State To Self Quarantine (USAT)
LA To Shut Off Water, Power For Non-Essential Businesses That Stay Open (GP)
United States Could Become Coronavirus Epicenter – WHO (R.)
South Korea Says Trump Asked For Equipment To Fight Coronavirus (R.)
EU Left Italy Alone To Fight Coronavirus, Russia, China Didn’t – Ex-FM (RT)
EU Shrugs Off US Sanctions, Gives Millions In Coronavirus Aid To Iran (ZH)
EU Urged To Evacuate Asylum Seekers From Cramped Greek Camps (G.)
Czech Borders May Remain Closed For Two Years, Says Top Official (ExpCZ)
Turkey’s Coronavirus Situation Is Out Of Control – Health Experts (Ahval)
Bolsonaro Says He ‘Wouldn’t Feel Anything’ If Infected With COVID-19 (G.)
Australian Doctors Warned Off After Prescribing Hydroxychloroquine (G.)
Assange Lawyer Baltasar Garzon Hospitalized With Coronavirus (RT)
Pablo Escobar’s ‘Cocaine Hippos’: Invasive Species Restore A Lost World (G.)

 

 

Only yesterday, I quoted a tweet and said: “As for these numbers: It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just four days for the third 100,000 cases. 300,000 cases were reached sometime early March 22″.

It took two days to reach 400,000. Not even.

And Prince Charles has it.

 

 

Cases 434,568 (+ 42,621 from yesterday’s 391,947)

Deaths 19,062 (+ 2,464 from yesterday’s 17,138)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 15% !! up 1% every day-

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

“We’re heading for a rough period but it’s only going to weeks, we think. Weeks and months. It’s not going to be years, that’s for sure..”

Coronavirus Stimulus Package To Exceed $6 Trillion – Kudlow (NYP)

An emergency stimulus package to bailout the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus pandemic will total $6 trillion — a quarter of the entire country’s GDP, the White House said Tuesday. Trump administration economist Larry Kudlow said the package would include $4 trillion in lending power for the Federal Reserve as well as a $2 trillion aid package currently being hammered out by Congress. “This package will be the single largest main street assistance program in the history of the United States,” Kudlow said at the White House coronavirus task force briefing on Tuesday evening.

Included in the package is Congress’ almost $2 trillion emergency bill which, when passed, will issue direct checks for American families, bailouts for the airline industry and a $350 billion loan program for struggling small businesses. The other $4 trillion will allow the Federal Reserve to make huge emergency bailouts to whatever entity it chooses — a measure that was used to prop-up Wall Street firms from collapse during the 2008 financial crisis. “This legislation is urgently needed to bolster the economy,” Kudlow added, warning the economy had tough times ahead. “We’re heading for a rough period but it’s only going to weeks, we think. Weeks and months. It’s not going to be years, that’s for sure,” he said, echoing comments from President Trump that the economy will bounce back to its pre-pandemic high.

Kudlow, a former Reagan administration adviser and media personality, said the huge bailout would “position us for what I think can be an economic rebound later this year.” A tidal wave of U.S. workers are facing unemployment in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak — with White House officials warning of a 20 percent unemployment rate.

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Forget about re-arranging deckchairs, these people are fighting while the Titanic sinks.

US Senate Leaders Reach Deal With White House On $2tn Coronavirus Package (G.)

US Senate leaders have reached a deal with the Trump administration on a nearly $2tn stimulus package to help rescue the American economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic as Donald Trump considers easing restrictions aimed at combating the contagion. After days of around-the-clock negotiations amongst senators and administration officials, a bipartisan compromise was struck over what is expected to be the largest US economic stimulus measure ever passed. “We have a deal,” said Eric Ueland, the White House legislative affairs director, just before 1am, adding that the text of the bill still needed to be completed.

“We have either, clear, explicit legislative text reflecting all parties or we know exactly where we’re going to land on legislative text as we continue to finish.” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell confirmed a deal had been reached. The bill will then go to the House, and then to Donald Trump, who is expected to ratify it. Tempers flared on Monday on Capitol Hill as senators grappled with the need to pass the critical aid. Democrats twice blocked efforts to move forward with a vote on the legislation, arguing the proposal did not provide strong enough protections for workers, families and healthcare providers nor did it impose strict enough restrictions on businesses that receive federal bailout money.

Republicans, in turn, fumed that Democrats were playing politics in a time of crisis. Late into the night, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and Ueland ironed out details with the Republican and Democratic Senate leaders. “This is not a juicy political opportunity,” McConnell, said in a remarks from the floor on Monday. “This is a national emergency.” The deal would provide direct payments of up to $1,200 to most adults and expand unemployment insurance. It also includes a $367bn program for small businesses, to allow them to pay employees who have to stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Waffle House Index is an informal measure of disaster severity, because all its restaurants stay open every hour of every day. After floods, tornados and hurricanes, Waffle Houses are quick to reopen, even with a limited menu.

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Why those bailouts must fail.

Share Buybacks, $4.6 Trillion Driver of Stock Market Bubble, Are Toast (WS)

Share buybacks by companies in the S&P 500 Index in the fourth quarter 2019, before the Coronavirus was even a factor, fell 18% from a year earlier, to $181.6 billion, after falling 13% and 14% year-over-year in the prior two quarters, from the blistering tax-cut records set in 2018, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices today. For the full year, buybacks fell 9.6% from the tax-cut record in 2018, to $729 billion in 2019, the second highest annual total ever. Since the beginning of 2012, these companies have bought back $4.6 trillion with a T of their own shares. To provide a comparison of how big this T-number really is: It blows past the magnitude of Germany’s annual GDP.

Share buybacks were considered illegal market manipulation until 1982, when the SEC issued Rule 10b-18 which provided corporations a “safe harbor” to buy back their own shares. The only thing that share buybacks are supposed to accomplish is to manipulate up share prices. The four biggest US banks were among the 10 biggest share buyback queens in terms of the amount of capital they wasted on share buybacks in Q4 2019. Combined they incinerated $95 billion in capital last year, and $275 billion over the past five years (if your smartphone clips the 6-column table, slide the table to the left):

But now, Financial Crisis 2 has kicked in, and the share buybacks of these four banks along with the share buybacks of other banks have dropped to zero, along with many other companies that are now facing a liquidity crisis. The banks could have used those funds to shore up their capital, which would have been useful now as the bubbles in corporate debt and commercial real estate, that the Fed was so worried about, are coming unglued. But aside from generating fees for Wall Street, share buybacks do zero for the economy. What would have happened in the US economy if that $4.6 trillion in capital that companies incinerated by buying back their own shares since 2012 would have been invested in equipment, structures, expansion projects, and people, or would have been used to reduce debt so that companies, such as Boeing and the airlines, wouldn’t be in such a precarious situation today?

That capital that was incinerated by companies buying back their own shares would come in handy for companies that are now begging for and getting mega-bailouts from taxpayers and to an even larger extent from the Federal Reserve. “COVID-19 has significantly changed the 2020 landscape, as dividends are under pressure and buybacks appear to be gasping for air,” said the report by S&P Dow Jones Indices, adding that “buybacks must now compete with other corporate priorities as uncertainty over liquidity is at its highest since the 2008 financial crisis.” For Q2 2020, buybacks are “expected to be dismal,” and for the rest of the year, “buybacks may see a complete reversal of the 2018 buyback bonanza.” And the report by S&P Dow Jones Indices adds, even after the bottom is perceived to be in, “buybacks may be slow to come back” as companies, struggling for cash, limit spending amid potential government restrictions on buybacks and their dismal public image.

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New York City: “..56% of all the coronavirus cases in the United States, as well as 60% of all new cases..”

White House Tells New Yorkers Who Leave State To Self Quarantine (USAT)

Travelers leaving the New York metro area should self-quarantine for 14 days to make sure they aren’t passing on the coronavirus, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force said Tuesday. In making the recommendation, task force coordinator Deborah Birx said that the quarantine should apply even to those who aren’t showing symptoms. She said many travelers are headed to locations outside New York City, from Long Island to North Carolina or other states. Brix said 56% of all the coronavirus cases in the United States, as well as 60% of all new cases, are coming from the New York metro area. Greater New York City also accounts for 31% of deaths in the country.


The recommendation follows an order that took effect Tuesday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requiring anyone flying to Florida from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Alaska and Hawaii are also requiring anyone arriving from other states to self-quarantine. Already, New Yorkers have been ordered to stay in their homes and the city has virtually shut down in an effort to quell spread of the virus.

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“..Our city will rise again..”

LA To Shut Off Water, Power For Non-Essential Businesses That Stay Open (GP)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced that the city will be shutting off water and power to any non-essential businesses that defied orders and stayed open during the coronavirus crisis. During his Tuesday press briefing Garcetti announced that the Department of Water and Power will be shutting off services for the businesses that don’t comply with the “safer at home” ordinance. “This behavior is irresponsible and selfish,” Garcetti said of businesses that remained open. KTLA reports that neighborhood prosecutors will implement safety measures and will contact the businesses before issuing further action, according to Garcetti.


“The easiest way to avoid a visit is to follow the rules,” he said. The mayor also noted that Los Angeles is “six to 12 days behind New York” for being hit with a wave of coronavirus cases. He said that he does not believe his city will be running as normal by Easter. “The peak is not here yet,” he said. “It will be bad.” The grimness of his press conference did not end there. He also warned residents to be “prepared for some of the darkness that is ahead.” “Each one of us can be a light. We can light a match of hope. We can navigate that tunnel with each other and not alone. And more importantly, what we do can ensure that more people exit that tunnel together… and that our city will rise again,” he added.

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Could become? It already is.

United States Could Become Coronavirus Epicenter – WHO (R.)

The United States has the potential to become the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic due to a “very large acceleration” in infections there, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday. The highly contagious respiratory virus has infected more than 42,000 people in the United States, prompting more governors to join states ordering Americans to stay at home. Over the past 24 hours, 85 percent of new cases worldwide were from Europe and the United States, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters. Of those, 40 percent were from the United States. Asked whether the United States could become the new epicenter, she said: “We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the U.S. So it does have that potential. We cannot say that is the case yet but it does have that potential.”


“…They (the United States) have a very large outbreak and an outbreak that is increasing in intensity,” Harris added. However, she identified some positive signs such as more comprehensive testing, and further efforts to isolate the sick and trace their immediate contacts exposed to the virus. She also referred to “extremely heartwarming” stories of how Americans were helping each other during the crisis. [..] Harris said that new records were to be expected each day until new confinement measures begin to take effect. Up until now, Europe has been the center of transmission with Italy the most badly-hit country with the world’s highest number of deaths, although fatalities have begun slowing there. Asked about a potential tipping point in Italy, she said: “There is a glimmer of hope there. We’ve seen in the last two days fewer new cases and deaths in Italy but it’s very, very early days yet.”

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Every government asks every other government for help.

South Korea Says Trump Asked For Equipment To Fight Coronavirus (R.)

President Donald Trump asked South Korea to send medical equipment to the United States to fight the coronavirus, promising to help Korean companies gain U.S. government approval, South Korea’s presidential office said. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in offered to send the equipment if his country has any spare, his Blue House office said in a statement late on Tuesday, after the 23 minute phone call, which it said was arranged at Trump’s urgent request. The request for help highlights the diverging paths the two countries took since both discovered their first coronavirus cases on the same day.


South Korea rolled out widespread testing within days, swiftly launching an aggressive program to isolate confirmed cases and trace their contacts. After a big early outbreak, it won praise for slowing the spread of the disease with comparatively little disruption and just 125 deaths, and has brought the number of new infections per day to below 100 for the past 13 straight days. The United States did little testing initially, and has now been shutting parts of the country en masse, with fast-growing outbreaks in a number of states and thousands of new cases per day. Moon told Trump that South Korea “will provide as much support as possible, if there is spare medical equipment in Korea”.

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The EU fails even where you think it wouldn’t be possible.

EU Left Italy Alone To Fight Coronavirus, Russia, China Didn’t – Ex-FM (RT)

The EU’s initial response to the massive outbreak of coronavirus in Italy was largely “inadequate,” and a lack of European solidarity opened the doors for Russia and China, former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told RT. The new epicenter of the dreaded pandemic, Italy, has been struggling to stop the spread of Covid-19 for weeks now. The disease has already killed more than six thousand people in the country, with over 60 thousand people infected. The EU clearly underestimated the virus, blaming the outbreak in Italy on its national healthcare system flaws, according to the two-time foreign minister and OSCE representative. As a result, Brussels, which preaches pan-European solidarity, failed to act when this solidarity was needed in the face of a crisis that eventually affected the entire bloc.

Frankly speaking, Brussels is not doing enough. At the very first moment, Italy was practically alone against the virus. Many said it was all because of the Italian habits, because Italians do not respect the rules. Suddenly, they realized all the other countries were equally affected. The situation in other major EU states like Germany and France deteriorated rapidly, forcing them to deal with thousands of infected on their own soil. “Everyone just focused on the situation at home before even thinking about helping others,” Andrea Giannotti, the executive director of the Italian Institute of Eurasian Studies, told RT. The lack of solidarity was recently noted from outside of the bloc – Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic decried European solidarity as a myth, while praising Beijing for its assistance. His remarks came after Serbia received five million masks from China, which it could not get in Europe.

The EU is now trying “to do more” and somehow “make up” for its initial poor execution of a coordinated response, former Italian MP Dario Rivolta said.

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Proper thing to do, but what about the refugees in Greece?

EU Shrugs Off US Sanctions, Gives Millions In Coronavirus Aid To Iran (ZH)

The White House has not backed off it’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign on Iran even as the Islamic Republic’s Covid-19 cases and deaths continue to soar, approaching 25,000 confirmed cases Tuesday. Despite even close US ally Britain quietly signalling it’s had enough of Washington’s ill-timed pressures, Secretary of State Pompeo has upped the ante further, on Monday accusing the Iranian regime of everything from hoarding masks and equipment to intentionally spreading the deadly disease to at least five countries. But it appears Europe has finally begun to shirk US demands. On Monday EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell announced 20 million euros in new aid to Iran, and more crucially said the body will support Tehran’s request for IMF assistance.

“We’ve not been able to provide a lot of humanitarian help but there is some 20 million euros in the pipeline … that we expect to be delivered over the next weeks,” Borrell said in a video news conference Monday. “We also agree in supporting the request by Iran and also by Venezuela to the International Monetary Fund to have financial support,” he said further but without disclosing details. European officials consider the situation as urgent and see the US pressure campaign as greatly exacerbating the death toll given Iran lacks much of the basic medicines and equipment to treat at-risk patients and mitigate the outbreak. Recently Iranian health officials said shockingly that one person is dying from the virus every 10 minutes.

The pressure for some kind of dramatic blanket easing of US sanctions is only set to grow, given that last week Iran’s leaders for the first time in a half-century turned to the IMF. Bloomberg reported of the urgent IMF appeal: “Iranians say that their economy is weak and unable to cope with the humanitarian toll because of the U.S. sanctions. Last week, Iran turned to the International Monetary Fund for the first time since the 1960s for aid, though Ali Vaez, the Crisis Group’s Iran project director, said the U.S. may try to block the IMF loan in order to keep up the pressure on the regime.”

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They don’t care. They haven’t in 5 years.

EU Urged To Evacuate Asylum Seekers From Cramped Greek Camps (G.)

The European Union has been urged to evacuate asylum seekers from overcrowded camps on the Greek islands in order to save lives. The European parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee has called for the evacuation of 42,000 people on the Greek islands as “an urgent preventive” measure to avoid “many deaths” from coronavirus. Holding facilities on all five Aegean isles opposite the Turkish coast are currently six times over capacity. The first case of Covid-19 on the islands was confirmed earlier this month when a Greek woman on Lesbos, the island long on the frontline of the refugee crisis, tested positive. A Greek man, recently returned from Thailand, was diagnosed with the virus on Monday, reinforcing fears of an outbreak in camps seen as especially high-risk environments .

MEPs fear that if the virus spreads it could become a public health emergency in the squalid camps, where thousands live in unsanitary conditions, often without electricity, heating or running water. “Many of those in the camps are already in precarious health situations due to the bad conditions in which they have lived for a long time,” states the letter from Juan Fernando López Aguilar, a Spanish socialist MEP, who chairs the committee. “There is no chance of isolation or social distancing, nor is it possible to ensure appropriate hygienic conditions,” he wrote. The letter adds that only six intensive care beds are available on Lesbos for residents and asylum seekers. The notorious Moria camp on Lesbos houses nearly 20,000 people in a space designed for 2,200.

[..] The MEPs want people over 60 with existing health conditions evacuated first, but do not spell out whether they should go to other EU member states or the Greek mainland. The European commission said it was working with Greece on an emergency response plan to deal with a potential outbreak of coronavirus on the islands. A commission spokesperson said Greek authorities were taking action to prevent the spread of the disease, with compulsory temperature testing of new arrivals to the camps, suspension of visits, regular cleaning of communal areas, and the setting up of quarantine and recovery areas. The spokesperson also referred to an ongoing push to encourage EU member states to give a home to unaccompanied children on the Greek islands. Seven countries pledged earlier this month to take in 1,600 children from the islands.

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“There is no time for pessimistic scenarios now..”?! Pray tell, when is that time?

Czech Borders May Remain Closed For Two Years, Says Top Official (ExpCZ)

Czech Crisis Staff head Roman Prymula told Czech Television today that border restrictions in the Czech Republic over the coronavirus situation may last up to two years, and largely depend on the management of the epidemic in other countries in Europe and across the globe, reports the Czech News Agency and Novinky.cz. While the situation in the Czech Republic is thought to improve from mid-April, estimates aren’t as optimistic for other countries in Europe. “The situation in other European countries will not be good,” Prymula told Czech Television. “There it will take months and long months.” According to Prymula, international travel will most likely be limited for the next year or two, and Czech residents should count on taking their summer holidays within the Czech Republic this year.

Prymula’s statements were supported by Czech Minister of Health Adam Vojtech. “The point is to avoid having a second or third wave of the epidemic, so that people from other countries such as Italy, France, Spain, Germany, do not begin to flow [into the Czech Republic],” he told Czech Television. “I do not want to provide false optimism, but I hope that it will be possible to keep the number to 10,000 [infected with coronavirus],” Prymula added. “We are able to operate effectively with up to 15,000 [cases].” [..] He further stated that if the number of infections does not exceed 8,500 by the end of March, it would be possible to ease the current restrictions on movement within the country during the following 10 days. This could theoretically take place place by the Easter holiday (April 12-13).

Prymula’s statement was “shocking”, said TOP 09 chairman Miroslav Kalousek. The statement has presented the urgent question of whether it was right that the emergency staff is headed by a person without political responsibility, Kalousek said. What was said is quite quite unfortunate, TOP 09 leader Marketa Adamova Pekarova said. There is no time for pessimistic scenarios now, she added.

Read more …

Turkey reported its first case only on March 11. It kept its soccer league going for much longer than others.

Turkey’s Coronavirus Situation Is Out Of Control – Health Experts (Ahval)

Health experts have warned that Turkey’s coronavirus situation is out of control and that deaths from the disease could soon be on a par with Italy or Spain, reported the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network on Tuesday. “The recent data on cases and death tolls shows that the situation is out of control in Turkey. If the necessary measures are not taken, Turkey will be like Italy or Spain, where the daily death toll is in the hundreds,” Emrah Altındis, a Turkish professor from Harvard University’s Medical Faculty, told BIRN. Turkey only reported its first coronavirus patient on March 11, but cases and deaths have rapidly risen since then.


The Turkish health minister confirmed on Tuesday seven more deaths due to the coronavirus and announced 343 new cases, raising the total number of cases in the country to 1,872. Turkey has halted incoming flights from dozens of countries and closed a wide range of non-essential businesses and venues, and announced a curfew on elderly and vulnerable citizens over the weekend, though it has refrained from enforcing a full lockdown. However, some medical experts have said that the measures are insufficient.

Read more …

“The first political suicide broadcast live on national radio and television..”

Bolsonaro Says He ‘Wouldn’t Feel Anything’ If Infected With COVID-19 (G.)

Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has claimed he “wouldn’t feel anything” if infected with coronavirus and rubbished efforts to contain the illness with large-scale quarantines as his country’s two biggest cities went into shutdown in a desperate bid to save lives. In a televised address to the nation on Tuesday night, Bolsonaro slammed what he branded the economically damaging “scorched earth” tactics being used to slow the advance of an illness that has now claimed about 15,000 lives around the world. “The virus has arrived and we are fighting it and soon it will pass,” claimed Bolsonaro, who is facing a growing backlash in Brazil for repeatedly dismissing coronavirus as a media “fantasy” and “trick”.

Bolsonaro’s incendiary remarks came as both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo were placed under partial lockdown by municipal and state authorities who fear an explosion of cases in the coming days. João Doria, the governor of São Paulo, Brazil’s most economically important and populous state, has declared a 15-day quarantine period affecting about 46 million of Brazil’s 210 million citizens. Meanwhile Rio’s mayor, Marcello Crivella, has ordered an indefinite shutdown of that city’s commerce and schools with Rio’s state governor, Wilson Witzel, also introducing drastic measures to counter coronavirus.

But in his five-minute address – which sparked loud protests in both Rio and São Paulo – Bolsonaro railed against such steps and attacked the media for spreading a “feeling of dread” among the population by reporting on the death toll in Italy. “Our lives have to go on. Jobs must be kept … we must, yes, get back to normal,” Bolsonaro said as his government’s health officials announced that the number of deaths in Brazil had risen to 46 with more than 2,200 cases. “A small number of state and municipal authorities must abandon their scorched-earth ideas: the banning of public transport, the closing of commerce and mass confinement,” Bolsonaro said. “What is happening around the world has shown that the at-risk group are those over 60 years old. So why close schools? … Ninety per cent of us will show no sign [of infection] if we are infected.”

[..] “The first political suicide broadcast live on national radio and television,” tweeted Ricardo Noblat, a prominent Brazilian journalist. Brian Winter, the editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, tweeted: “Pray for Brazil.”

Read more …

But there are a lot of positive reports too.

Australian Doctors Warned Off After Prescribing Hydroxychloroquine (G.)

Australia’s drugs regulator has been forced to restrict powers to prescribe a drug undergoing clinical trials to treat Covid-19, because doctors have been inappropriately prescribing it to themselves and their family members despite its potentially deadly side-effects. The anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and the similar compound chloroquine are currently used mostly for patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, but stocks in Australia have been diminished thanks to global publicity – including from Donald Trump – about the potential of the drug to treat Covid-19.


Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have potentially severe and even deadly side effects if used inappropriately, including heart failure and toxicity. Some Australian media outlets have wrongly reported the drug as a “cure” for the virus even though trials have been either inconclusive or too small to be useful, have only been conducted in test tubes, are not yet complete, or have not even received ethics approval. Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration said it was concerned about shortages of the drug for people who need it following increased off-label prescribing as a result of the Covid-19 reports. As well as heart attacks the drug can lead to irreversible eye damage and severe depletion of blood sugar potentially leading to coma, the TGA warned.

Read more …

I think today’s the day for the request to free Assange.

Assange Lawyer Baltasar Garzon Hospitalized With Coronavirus (RT)

Famous Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzon has been admitted to a hospital in Madrid after testing positive for Covid-19. He has provided legal counsel to WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, among other things. Garzon, 64, was admitted to the Ruber clinic in Madrid on Tuesday, after five days of high fever at home. He tested positive for the coronavirus and was given the prognosis of respiratory failure, Spanish media reported. The former judge of the National Court had self-isolated at his home after complaining about a fever and chest pains, before the symptoms worsened.


Garzon became famous as a judge who cracked down on the Basque separatist organization ETA, and pursued human rights abuse charges against Spain’s Franco government, the Pinochet junta in Chile, and the Argentine military dictatorship. He has provided legal counsel to Assange since 2012, finding himself under considerable pressure at times – such as when masked raiders broke into his office in 2017. The second hardest-hit country in Europe by the Covid-19 outbreak, Spain is struggling with almost 40,000 reported cases, of which 2,700 have been fatal so far.

Read more …

Your good news for today.

Pablo Escobar’s ‘Cocaine Hippos’: Invasive Species Restore A Lost World (G.)

When the drug lord Pablo Escobar was shot dead in 1993, he left behind a zoo stocked with wild animals alongside his multibillion dollar cocaine empire. The lions, giraffes and other exotic species were moved from the luxurious Hacienda Nápoles estate east of Medellín to new homes, but nearly three decades later, dozens of hippos, descendants of animals left behind, are thriving in small lakes in northern Colombia, making them the world’s largest invasive animal. Now scientists say that contrary to the conventional wisdom that large invasive herbivore mammals have strictly negative effects on their new environments, Escobar’s “cocaine” hippos show how introduced species can restore a lost world.

A team of conservation biologists has compared the traits and impacts on the ecosystems from large invasive herbivore species like the Colombian hippo with their extinct counterparts from the Late Pleistocene (around 116,000-12,000 years ago) period like mammoths, giants sloths and giant wombats. They found some modern day invasive species restore parts of ecosystems not seen since before humans began driving the widespread extinctions of megafauna. Their new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that some introduced herbivore species are an almost perfect ecological match for extinct species from the Late Pleistocene, such as modern day wild horses known as mustangs and the extinct pre-domestic horses in North America, while others bring back a mixture of traits.

“The feral hippos in South America are similar in diet and body size to extinct giant llamas, while a bizarre type of extinct mammal – a notoungulata – shares with hippos large size and semiaquatic habitats,” explained study co-author John Rowan, Darwin fellow in organismic and evolutionary biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “So, while hippos don’t perfectly replace any one extinct species, they restore parts of important ecologies across several species.”


Toxodon-Notoungulata

By comparing ecological traits of herbivore species from before the Late Pleistocene extinctions to the present day, such as body size, diet and habitat, researchers were able to quantify the extent to which introduced species were more or less similar to extinct predecessors. The analysis found that by introducing large herbivore species across the world, humans had restored lost ecological traits to many ecosystems, thereby counteracting a legacy of extinctions and making the world more like the pre-extinction late Pleistocene.

Read more …

 

Someone asked if this was performance art, fair enough. I was wondering what would happen if Trump did this.

 

 

 

 

Support us in virustime. Help the Automatic Earth survive. It’s good for you.

 

Mar 192020
 


DPC Cab stand at Madison Square, NY c1900

 

‘A Generation Has Died’ (G.)
Scientists Say Mass Tests In Italian Town Have Halted COVID-19 (G.)
Japanese Flu Drug ‘Clearly Effective’ Against Coronavirus, But.. (G.)
UK Failures Over COVID-19 Will Increase Death Toll, Says Leading Doctor (G.)
Asian Nations Face Second Wave Of Imported Cases (BBC)
Dollar Resumes Ascent As Investors Panic, Scramble For Cash (R.)
Cash Is King As Emergency Stimulus Fails To Stop Market Panic (R.)
Misunderestimate: Banks Are Going To Drown In An Ocean Of Defaults (Black)
Airline Industry Turmoil Deepens As Coronavirus Pain Spreads (R.)
The COVID-19 Crisis Is A Chance To Do Capitalism Differently (Mazzucato)
Russia Coronavirus Disinformation Designed To Sow Panic In West – EU (R.)
‘Putin’s Chef’ Threatens To Sue US Over Charges Of 2016 Election Meddling (G.)
Ghislaine Maxwell Sues Jeffrey Epstein’s Estate Over Legal Fees (BBC)

 

 

 

Cases 221,934 (+ 19,664 from yesterday’s 202,270)

Deaths 8,999 (+ 987 from yesterday’s 8,012)

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate briefly touched 10% –

 

 

From SCMP: (Note: the SCMP graph was useful when China was the focal point; they are falling behind now)

 

 

From COVID2019.app: (New format lacks new cases and deaths)

 

 

I wanted to show you how widespread the virus has become. Worldometer keeps a constantly updated record of new cases and deaths every day. Here is the harvest of just the past 10 hours; I left out the sources, go to their site for those.

• 1 new case in Sweden
• 5 new cases in Sri Lanka
309 new cases and 7 new deaths in Belgium
• 12 new cases in Bahrain
• 35 new cases in Norway
756 new cases and 3 new deaths in Germany
• 10 new cases in Tunisia
• 245 new cases and 2 new deaths in Spain
• 10 new cases in Peru
• 22 new cases in Pakistan
• 12 new cases in Armenia
• 104 new cases and 2 new deaths in Switzerland
• 2 new cases in Lithuania:
• 28 new cases in Finland
• 3 new cases in Tanzania
• 3 new cases in the State of Palestine
• 4 new cases in Bangladesh
• 4 new cases in Guam
• 5 new cases in Brunei Darussalam
• 1 new death in Greece
• 13 new cases and 1 new death in Croatia
• 4 new cases in Morocco
• 6 new cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina
• 15 new cases in the Philippines
• 7 new cases and 1 new death in Algeria
75 new cases and 2 new deaths in Denmark
• 2 new cases in Ghana
113 new cases in Australia (NSW), including a 6-year-old child
• 6 new cases in Slovakia
• 7 new cases in the DR Congo
• 6 new cases in Lebanon
96 new cases in Israel
• 132 new cases and 2 new deaths in Luxembourg

• 15 new cases in Latvia
• 50 new cases in Czechia
1st death in Russia
• 110 new cases in Malaysia

• 14 new cases in Faeroe Islands
• 6 new cases in Kuwait
• 1 new case in Cuba: a Canadian citizen
60 new cases in Thailand
• 82 new cases and 6 new deaths in Indonesia

• 18 new cases in Poland
• 8 new cases in Kazakhstan
1st death in Mexico
• 197 new cases and 1 new death in Austria

• 3 new cases in Bangladesh
• 8 new cases in Serbia
• 2 new cases in Sri Lanka
• 5 new cases in India
• 15 new cases in Hungary
• 2 new cases in Georgia
• 8 new cases in Taiwan
• 2 new cases and 1 new death in Bulgaria
• 5 new cases in Uzbekistan
• 5 new cases in Armenia
205 new cases and 5 new deaths in the United States
• 9 new cases and 3 new deaths in Japan
• 3 new cases in Honduras
• 2 new cases in Trinidad and Tobago
• 1 new case in French Polynesia
• 1 new death in Argentina
1st case in Nicaragua
• 1st case in El Salvador
• 1st case in Fiji

• 1 new death in Curaçao.
• 9 new cases in Colombia
152 new cases and 7 new deaths in South Korea
• 8 new cases in New Zealand
• 34 new cases, 8 new deaths (all in Hubei) in China

 

 

Time to wonder about mental health as well.

‘A Generation Has Died’ (G.)

Coffins awaiting burial are lining up in churches and the corpses of those who died at home are being kept in sealed-off rooms for days as funeral services struggle to cope in Bergamo, the Italian province hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. As of Wednesday, Covid-19 had killed 2,978 across Italy, all buried or cremated without ceremony. Those who die in hospital do so alone, with their belongings left in bags beside coffins before being collected by funeral workers. In Bergamo, a province of 1.2 million people in the Lombardy region, where 1,640 of the total deaths in the country have taken place, 3,993 people had contracted the virus by Tuesday. The death toll across the province is unclear, but CFB, the area’s largest funeral director, has carried out almost 600 burials or cremations since 1 March.

“In a normal month we would do about 120,” said Antonio Ricciardi, the president of CFB. “A generation has died in just over two weeks. We’ve never seen anything like this and it just makes you cry.” There are about 80 funeral companies across Bergamo, each receiving dozens of calls an hour. A shortage of coffins as providers struggle to keep up with demand and funeral workers becoming infected with the virus are also hampering preparations. Hospitals have adopted more stringent rules regarding the handling of the dead, who need to be placed in a coffin straight away without being clothed due to the risk of infection posed by their bodies. “Families can’t see their loved ones or give them a proper funeral, this is a big problem on a psychological level,” said Ricciardi. “But also because many of our staff are ill, we don’t have as many people to transport and prepare the bodies.”

For those who die at home, the bureaucratic process is lengthier as deaths need to be certified by two doctors. The second is a specialist who would ordinarily have to certify the death no later than 30 hours after a person has passed away. “So you have to wait for both doctors to come and at this time, many of them are also ill,” added Ricciardi. Stella, a teacher in Bergamo, shared the story of one of the deceased with the Guardian. “Yesterday, an 88-year-old man died,” she said. “He’d had a fever for a few days. There was no way to call an ambulance because the line was always busy. He died alone in his room. The ambulance arrived an hour later. Obviously, nothing could be done. And since no coffins were available in Bergamo, they left him on the bed and sealed his room to keep his relatives from entering until a coffin could be found.”

Adding to the torment is the fact that relatives cannot visit their loved ones in hospital, or give them proper funerals. “Usually you would be able to dress them and they would stay one night in the family home. None of this is happening,” said Alessandro, whose 74-year-old uncle died in Codogno, the Lombardy town where the outbreak began. “You can’t even see them to say goodbye, this is the most devastating part.” The harrowing impact of the virus on Bergamo can be gleaned from the obituary section of the local newspaper L’Eco di Bergamo. On Friday, reader Giovanni Locatelli shared online footage comparing the newspaper’s obituary section on 9 February, when listings took up just one page, to a copy dated 13 March, when 10 pages were needed to commemorate the dead.

Read more …

Test? Where do I get one?

Scientists Say Mass Tests In Italian Town Have Halted COVID-19 (G.)

The small town of Vò, in northern Italy, where the first coronavirus death occurred in the country, has become a case study that demonstrates how scientists might neutralise the spread of Covid-19. A scientific study, rolled out by the University of Padua, with the help of the Veneto Region and the Red Cross, consisted of testing all 3,300 inhabitants of the town, including asymptomatic people. The goal was to study the natural history of the virus, the transmission dynamics and the categories at risk. The researchers explained they had tested the inhabitants twice and that the study led to the discovery of the decisive role in the spread of the coronavirus epidemic of asymptomatic people.

When the study began, on 6 March, there were at least 90 infected in Vò. For days now, there have been no new cases. “We were able to contain the outbreak here, because we identified and eliminated the ‘submerged’ infections and isolated them,” Andrea Crisanti, an infections expert at Imperial College London, who took part in the Vò project, told the Financial Times. “That is what makes the difference.” The research allowed for the identification of at least six asymptomatic people who tested positive for Covid-19. ‘‘If these people had not been discovered,” said the researchers, they would probably have unknowingly infected other inhabitants.

“The percentage of infected people, even if asymptomatic, in the population is very high,” wrote Sergio Romagnani, professor of clinical immunology at the University of Florence, in a letter to the authorities. “The isolation of asymptomatics is essential to be able to control the spread of the virus and the severity of the disease.” [..] the problems of mass tests are not only of an economic nature (each swab costs about 15 euros) but also at a organisational level. [..] Massimo Galli, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Milan and director of infectious diseases at the Luigi Sacco hospital in Milan, warned carrying out mass tests on the asymptomatic population could however prove to be useless. “The contagions are unfortunately constantly evolving,” Galli told the Guardian. “A man who tests negative today could contract the disease tomorrow.”

Read more …

Every day brings new stories of miracles. And then you read them.

Japanese Flu Drug ‘Clearly Effective’ Against Coronavirus, But.. (G.)

Medical authorities in China have said a drug used in Japan to treat new strains of influenza appeared to be effective in coronavirus patients, Japanese media said on Wednesday. Zhang Xinmin, an official at China’s science and technology ministry, said favipiravir, developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm, had produced encouraging outcomes in clinical trials in Wuhan and Shenzhen involving 340 patients. “It has a high degree of safety and is clearly effective in treatment,” Zhang told reporters on Tuesday. Patients who were given the medicine in Shenzhen turned negative for the virus after a median of four days after becoming positive, compared with a median of 11 days for those who were not treated with the drug, public broadcaster NHK said.


In addition, X-rays confirmed improvements in lung condition in about 91% of the patients who were treated with favipiravir, compared to 62% or those without the drug. Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, which developed the drug – also known as Avigan – in 2014, has declined to comment on the claims. Shares in the firm surged on Wednesday following Zhang’s comments, closing the morning up 14.7% at 5,207 yen, having briefly hit their daily limit high of 5,238 yen. Doctors in Japan are using the same drug in clinical studies on coronavirus patients with mild to moderate symptoms, hoping it will prevent the virus from multiplying in patients. But a Japanese health ministry source suggested the drug was not as effective in people with more severe symptoms. “We’ve given Avigan to 70 to 80 people, but it doesn’t seem to work that well when the virus has already multiplied,” the source told the Mainichi Shimbun.

Read more …

Not the first time we mention Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the Lancet.

UK Failures Over COVID-19 Will Increase Death Toll, Says Leading Doctor (G.)

A “collective failure” to appreciate the enormity of the coronavirus pandemic and enact swift measures to protect the public will lead to unnecessary deaths, according to a leading doctor, who said the UK ignored clear warning signs from China. Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of the Lancet, rounded on politicians and their expert advisers for failing to act when Chinese researchers first warned about a devastating new virus that was killing people in Hubei eight weeks ago. The team from Wuhan and Beijing reported in January that “the number of deaths was rising quickly” as the virus spread in China. They urged the global community to launch “careful surveillance” in view of the pathogen’s “pandemic potential”.


But writing in the Guardian, Horton said the warning was met with complacency in Britain, where for unknown reasons, medical and scientific advisers watched and waited. At the time, scientists advising ministers appeared to believe it could be treated like influenza, and that a “controlled epidemic” would generate “herd immunity” that would help protect the most vulnerable against the infection. The scenario called for upwards of 60% of the population to contract the virus. The government’s strategy changed dramatically on Monday when the prime minister announced that new modelling from Imperial College London demonstrated that more draconian measures were needed to slash the estimated death toll from 260,000 to about 20,000. Without those measures, which have transformed society, the NHS would be overwhelmed, leading to a situation that has driven a brutal death toll in Italy.

Read more …

Excuse me, but why do they let it happen? Once you’ve been through Wave 1, shouldn’t you know better than to let people travel abroad and come back?

Asian Nations Face Second Wave Of Imported Cases (BBC)

South Korea, China and Singapore are among the Asian countries facing a second coronavirus wave, spurred by people importing it from outside. China, where the virus first emerged, reported no new domestic cases on Thursday for the first time since it started recording numbers in January. But it reported 34 new cases among people recently returned to China. South Korea saw a jump in new cases on Thursday with 152, though it is not clear how many were imported. A new cluster there is centred on a nursing home in Daegu, where 74 patients have tested positive. On Wednesday, Singapore reported 47 new infections – of which 33 were imported, including 30 residents who had been infected abroad and brought the infection back.


In China, there were eight more deaths, all in the central province of Hubei and most of them in Wuhan. All three countries had been showing success in controlling domestic cases, but there is concern that increases elsewhere could unravel their progress. Much of the focus has now shifted to Europe and the US, but the new numbers signal that the outbreak is far from over in Asia. Malaysia’s senior health office on Wednesday begged people to “stay at home and protect yourself and your family. Please”. The country has tallied 710 people with the virus, many of them linked to one religious event in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, in February. “We have a slim chance to break the chain of COVID-19 infections,” Noor Hisham Abdullah, director general of Health Malaysia, said on Facebook. “Failure is not an option here. If not, we may face a third wave of this virus, which would be greater than a tsunami, if we maintain a ‘so what’ attitude.”

Read more …

Far as I can see, the dollar sold of a lot recently. But now people need dollars to pay off their losses.

Dollar Resumes Ascent As Investors Panic, Scramble For Cash (R.)

The dollar resumed its relentless climb against major currencies on Thursday as wild financial market volatility and worries over tightening liquidity triggered by the coronavirus pandemic sparked an investor flight into cash. Sterling teetered near the lowest since at least 1985 against the greenback. The Australian dollar skidded to a 17-year low, while the New Zealand dollar crashed to an 11-year low as investors dumped riskier assets. The euro briefly rose against the dollar and the pound after the European Central Bank announced a €750 billion asset-purchase programme in response to the coronavirus outbreak, but even this effort was overwhelmed by a stampede into the dollar.


Investors are selling what they can to keep their money in dollars due to the unprecedented amount of uncertainty caused by the virus epidemic, which threatens to paralyse large swaths of the global economy. “This is similar to what happened during the global financial crisis in that investors are even selling what are normally considered safe-haven assets,” said Junichi Ishikawa, senior foreign exchange strategist at IG Securities in Tokyo. “The logic is the biggest hedge against risk is holding your money in cash, so the dollar is being bought. Investor uncertainty is about as high as it can get.” [..] In some cases investors are unloading Treasuries and gold in order to keep their money in dollars. This has confounded many analysts because investors normally buy government debt and precious metals during times of uncertainty.

Read more …

Same as above. “We’re in this phase where investors are just looking to liquidate their positions..” We’re in the phase where they have to pay their gambling debts. “Investor” just sounds better than “gamblig addict”.

Cash Is King As Emergency Stimulus Fails To Stop Market Panic (R.)

The dollar surged and everything else was blown away on Thursday as emergency central bank measures in Europe, the United States and Australia failed to halt a fresh wave of panic selling. “There’s no buyers, there’s not much liquidity and everyone is just getting out,” said Chris Weston, head of research at Melbourne brokerage Pepperstone. Stocks, bonds, gold and commodities fell as the world struggles to contain coronavirus and investors and businesses scramble for hard cash. U.S. stock futures were a hair’s breadth from hitting session down limits. The growth-sensitive Australian dollar was crushed 4% to a more than 17-year low. Nearly every stock market in Asia was down and circuit breakers were hit in Seoul, Jakarta and Manila.

Traders reported huge strains in bond markets as distressed funds sold any liquid asset to cover losses in stocks and redemptions from investors. Benchmark 10-year sovereign bond yields in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Korea and Singapore and Thailand surged as prices tumbled. Gold fell 1% and copper hit its downlimit in Shanghai. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 5% to a four-year low, with Korea and Hong Kong leading losses. The Nikkei fell nearly 1%, the ASX 200 nearly 3%, while the Kospi lost 8% and the Hang Seng 5%. “We’re in this phase where investors are just looking to liquidate their positions,” said Prashant Newnaha, senior interest rate strategist at TD Securities in Singapore.

[..] J.P. Morgan economists forecast the U.S. economy to shrink 14% in the next quarter, and the Chinese economy to drop more than 40% in the current one, one of the most dire calls yet as to the scale of the fallout. “There is no longer doubt that the longest global expansion on record will end this quarter,” they said in a note. “The key outlook issue now is gauging the depth and the duration of the 2020 recession.”

Read more …

We could all write this by now.

Misunderestimate: Banks Are Going To Drown In An Ocean Of Defaults (Black)

On November 6, 2000, then US presidential candidate George W. Bush told a crowd of cheering supporters, “they misunderestimated me.” [..] ‘Misunderestimate’ seems to be a conflation of the words ‘misunderstand’ and ‘underestimate’. And while that was utterly hysterical 20 years ago when Bush first said it, ‘misunderestimate’ may be the most appropriate word of today. The entire world has completely ‘misunderestimated’ the Corona Virus. Banks are about to drown in an ocean of defaults. I’ll talk about this a lot more in the coming days, but briefly:

• There’s $250 TRILLION in global debt right now– mortgages, credit card debt, business loans, government debt, etc.
• And banks own a large portion of that debt.
• This virus crisis is going to trigger a wave of defaults from consumers, businesses, and even governments.
• Think about it: tourism alone makes up 10% of global GDP. Revenue in that entire sector– hotels, airlines, cruise ships, etc. has collapsed, and many of those companies aren’t going to survive.
• The crash in oil prices is going to wipe out countless oil companies.
• Many large retail chains, which were already struggling in the age of e-commerce, will likely declare bankruptcy.
• Countless businesses around the world have ‘temporarily’ closed due to public health policies, and many of them will go out of business entirely.
• MOST of these businesses owe lots of money to the banks, whether it’s a small business working line, or the $34 billion in debt that American Airlines owes. So the defaults are going to be massive.
• On top of that, millions of people are going to lose their jobs and be unable to make payments on their credit card debt, auto loans, and even mortgages.
• Again, there’s $250 trillion in global debt right now. Total bank capital worldwide is less than $10 trillion.
• So if the coming defaults trigger a mere 4% loss in total debt, it will exceed the entirety of global bank capital.
• And this doesn’t even take into consideration the impact of the $1 QUADRILLION derivatives exposure.

Misunderestimate? Absolutely.

Read more …

Why save something so bloated?

Airline Industry Turmoil Deepens As Coronavirus Pain Spreads (R.)

Airline industry turmoil deepened on Thursday as Qantas told most of its 30,000 employees to take leave and India prepared a rescue package of up to $1.6 billion to aid carriers battered by coronavirus, government sources said. The U.N.’s International Civil Aviation Organization called on governments to ensure cargo operations were not disrupted to maintain the availability of critical medicine and equipment such as ventilators, masks, and other health and hygiene items that will help reduce the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Passenger operations have collapsed at an unprecedented rate as the virus spreads around the world, with Delta Air parking more than 600 jets, cutting corporate pay by as much as 50%, and scaling back its flying by more than 70% until demand begins to recover.

Shares in U.S. airlines fell sharply on Wednesday after Washington proposed a rescue package of $50 billion in loans, but no grants as the industry had requested, to help address the financial impact from the deepening coronavirus crisis. The Trump administration’s lending proposal would require airlines to maintain a certain amount of service and limit increases in executive compensation until the loans are repaid. American Airlines in a memo to staff rebuffed criticism that it had rewarded its shareholders with too many dividends and stock buybacks in better times, leaving it with less cash to manage the crisis. “Unfortunately, this is no ordinary rainy day,” said Nate Gatten, American’s senior vice president global government affairs. “These are extraordinary circumstances, and additional support is necessary to protect jobs and ensure that the flying public can continue to rely on our industry after the crisis ends.”

[..] Air Canada said it was gradually suspending the majority of its international and U.S. transborder flights by March 31. India is poised to join a growing list of countries offering aid to its aviation industry. The Finance Ministry is considering a proposal worth up to $1.6 billion that includes temporary suspension of most taxes levied on the sector, according to two government sources who have direct knowledge of the matter. New Zealand on Thursday outlined the first tranche of a NZ$600 million ($344 million) aviation relief package, including financial support for airlines to pay government passenger charges and cover air traffic control fees.

Read more …

Mariana Mazzucato is professor of economics at University College London.

I understand the temptation to theorize and wax enthusiastically about underlying systems, but isn’t it more useful to talk about how we can have 1 million tests per day by tomorrow morning?

The COVID-19 Crisis Is A Chance To Do Capitalism Differently (Mazzucato)

Since the 1980s, governments have been told to take a back seat and let business steer and create wealth, intervening only for the purpose of fixing problems when they arise. The result is that governments are not always properly prepared and equipped to deal with crises such as Covid-19 or the climate emergency. By assuming that governments have to wait until the occurrence of a huge systemic shock before they resolve to take action, insufficient preparations are made along the way. In the process, critical institutions providing public services and public goods more widely – such as the NHS in the UK, where there have been cuts to public health totalling £1bn since 2015 – are left weakened.

The prominent role of business in public life has also led to a loss of confidence in what the government can achieve alone – leading in turn to the many problematic public-private partnerships, which prioritise the interests of business over the public good. For example, it has been well documented that public-private partnerships in research and development often favour “blockbusters” at the expense of less commercially appealing medicines that are hugely important to public health, including antibiotics and vaccines for a number of diseases with outbreak potential. On top of this, there is a lack of a safety net and protection for working people in societies with rising inequality, especially for those working in the gig economy with no social protection.

But we now have an opportunity to use this crisis as a way to understand how to do capitalism differently. This requires a rethink of what governments are for: rather than simply fixing market failures when they arise, they should move towards actively shaping and creating markets that deliver sustainable and inclusive growth. They should also ensure that partnerships with business involving government funds are driven by public interest, not profit. First of all, governments must invest in, and in some cases create, institutions that help to prevent crises, and make us more capable to handle them when they arise. The UK government’s emergency budget of £12bn for the NHS is a welcome move. But equally important is a focus on long-term investment to strengthen health systems, reversing the trends of recent years.

Second, governments need to better coordinate research and development activities, steering them towards public health goals. Discovery of vaccines will necessitate international coordination on a herculean scale, exemplified by the extraordinary work of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI).

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Unbelievable. More harmful than the virus. Or rather a virus in itself, one that kills slowly.

Russia Coronavirus Disinformation Designed To Sow Panic In West – EU (R.)

Russian media have deployed a “significant disinformation campaign” against the West to worsen the impact of the coronavirus, generate panic and sow distrust, according to a European Union document seen by Reuters. The Kremlin denied the allegations on Wednesday, saying they were unfounded and lacked common sense. The EU document said the Russian campaign, pushing fake news online in English, Spanish, Italian, German and French, uses contradictory, confusing and malicious reports to make it harder for the EU to communicate its response to the pandemic. “A significant disinformation campaign by Russian state media and pro-Kremlin outlets regarding COVID-19 is ongoing,” said the nine-page internal document, dated March 16…

“The overarching aim of Kremlin disinformation is to aggravate the public health crisis in Western countries…in line with the Kremlin’s broader strategy of attempting to subvert European societies,” the document produced by the EU’s foreign policy arm, the European External Action Service, said. An EU database has recorded almost 80 cases of disinformation about coronavirus since Jan. 22, it said, noting Russian efforts to amplify Iranian accusations online, cited without evidence, that coronavirus was a U.S. biological weapon. Most scientists believe the disease originated in bats in China before passing to humans. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov pointed to what he said was the lack in the EU document of a specific example or link to a specific media outlet.

“We’re talking again about some unfounded allegations which in the current situation are probably the result of an anti-Russian obsession,” said Peskov. The EU document cited examples from Lithuania to Ukraine, including false claims that a U.S. soldier deployed to Lithuania was infected and hospitalized. It said that on social media, Russian state-funded, Spanish-language RT Spanish was the 12th most popular news source on coronavirus between January and mid-March, based on the amount of news shared on social media. The European Commission said it was in contact with Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft. An EU spokesman accused Moscow of “playing with people’s lives” and appealed to EU citizens to “be very careful” and only use news sources they trust.

[..] Russian media in Europe have not been successful in reaching the broader public, but provide a platform for anti-EU populists and polarize debate, analysis by EU and non-governmental groups has shown. The EEAS report cited riots at the end of February in Ukraine, a former Soviet republic now seeking to join the EU and NATO, as an example of the consequences of such disinformation. It said a fake letter purporting to be from the Ukrainian health ministry falsely stated here were five coronavirus cases in the country. Ukrainian authorities say the letter was created outside Ukraine, the EU report said. “Pro-Kremlin disinformation messages advance a narrative that coronavirus is a human creation, weaponized by the West,” said the report, first cited by the Financial Times.

It quoted fake news created by Russia in Italy – which is suffering the world’s second most deadly outbreak of coronavirus – alleging that the 27-nation EU was unable to effectively deal with the pandemic, despite a series of collective measures taken by governments in recent days.

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$50 billion.

‘Putin’s Chef’ Threatens To Sue US Over Charges Of 2016 Election Meddling (G.)

A businessmen allied with Vladimir Putin has said he will sue the US for $50bn (£41bn) in damages after prosecutors dropped charges of meddling in the 2016 elections. Yevgeny Prigozhin, often dubbed “Putin’s chef,” claimed in a statement on Tuesday that he had been “wrongfully persecuted” by US prosecutors who said his company Concord had funded an internet troll factory that had promoted Donald Trump’s candidacy during the US elections. The charges, which were filed by special counsel Robert Mueller following his nearly two-year investigation into Russian meddling, were abruptly dropped on Monday, a month before trial. Prosecutors said the Russian company had “no exposure to meaningful punishment” and that the prosecution risked exposing investigative sources and methods.


A day later, Prigozhin went on the attack, saying the dropped charges showed that the US government “feared publicity and just court proceedings”. “This means that the allegations that ‘Prigozhin interfered in the US presidential election,’ ‘Concord interfered in the US presidential election,’ or ‘Russia interfered in the US presidential election’ are mendacious and false,” said Prigozhin, according to the statement released by his company. Prosecutors had previously complained that documents they had provided to the defence had ended up online, and had been hesitant to deliver more sensitive information to Concord’s defence team. It is not clear whether the plans to file a lawsuit are serious, where the lawsuit will be filed, and why Prigozhin values the damages against him at $50bn. The company’s press office declined to give any more information about Prigozhin’s plans on Tuesday.

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Threats on her life. But not from the FBI.

Ghislaine Maxwell Sues Jeffrey Epstein’s Estate Over Legal Fees (BBC)

Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend of Jeffrey Epstein, is suing the late US financier’s estate seeking reimbursement for legal fees and security costs, court documents say. Ms Maxwell’s complaint states that she “had no involvement in or knowledge of Epstein’s alleged misconduct” and that he had promised to cover her costs. She also “receives regular threats to her life and safety”, it adds. [..] Ms Maxwell, a long-time friend of Epstein, has not been accused by the authorities of wrongdoing. Ms Maxwell’s lawsuit, which is dated 12 March but was made public on Wednesday, claims that “extensive global coverage” of the investigation resulted in her having to “hire personal security and find safe accommodation”. It adds that she “formed a legal and special relationship” with Epstein that obligated the estate to compensate her, and that “assurances” were made but later ignored after she filed a reimbursement claim in November.

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