Jun 182020
 


NPC Grand Palace shoe shining parlor, Washington DC 1921

 

Vitamin D New Hope In The War On Corona (DM)
Doctors Can Still Prescribe HCQ to Patients – US Health Secretary (N18)
New Zealand Reports Fresh Corona Case, More Quarantine Breaches Emerge (G.)
Beijing COVID19 Cluster May Have Begun A Month Earlier – Health Official (G.)
China Reports 28 New Coronavirus Cases In Mainland (R.)
Sweden Says Herd Immunity “Surprisingly Slow” To Develop (ZH)
Dr. Fauci, Health Officials Flag Coronavirus Risk Of Trump’s Tulsa Rally (CNBC)
Coronavirus Is Killing Our Economy Because It Was Already Sick (Levitz)
Massive Spying On Users Of Google’s Chrome Shows New Security Weakness (R.)
Arrest Of Former Japanese Minister Could Hasten PM Abe’s Departure (R.)
Sidney Powell Files Motion Against Gleeson: A ‘Wrap-Up Smear’ of Flynn (SAC)
Bolton Says Trump Asked China To Help Him Get Reelected (AP)

 

 

It was a long travel day yesterday, with an empty train and two almost deserted airports. Amsterdam Airport was running at maybe 20% of capacity, if that. Athens was empty in the evening.

But in between there was a full plane, with both the Dutch government and the airline bragging about the pathogen-killing capacities of the (Boeing 737, not MAX) plane’s air-circulation systems.

Once arrived in Athens, demands were much less stringent than announced in advance. There was no one night mandatory quarantine demand, it appeared to be a voluntary one. Write down your address (hotel) in Athens, and your phone #, get tested, we may or may not call you the next day, and off I was in a cab to the apartment I always stay in here.

It all seems a little risky, but the people at the airport also seemed a little overwhelmed, and they will soon have to deal with much larger crowds. We can only hope that it will work out alright.

I’m not sure I’m quite back yet (late in getting up, and lost an hour due to the timezone), but I did pick up a few stories.

Hoping the change of scenery, and meeting with my friends here, will do me good. 3 months of near total isolation is a lot.

 

 

I’m sure you didn’t miss that while I was missing, global daily new cases set a whole new whopper of a record. And it came as we were all hoping the trend was turning downward.

After all, June 15 was 124,600. But then June 16 was 142.557.

 

 

As global daily new deaths almost doubled from one day to the next (they came back down to 5,264 yesterday):

 

 

But that was largely due to a “correction” in India:

 

 

Forward to today, June 18. Worldometer reports new cases for June 17 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 141,872.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 26,073
• Brazil + 31,475
• Russia + 7,790
• India + 13,802

 

 

Cases 8,425,191 (+ 283,802 from June 16’s 8,141,389)

Deaths 451,808 (+ 12,103 from June 16’s 439,705)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nothing new here for Automatic Earth readers. Try get vit. D while you can, if you haven’t stored up yet. Get the tablets, not just the sun and fish. Especially if you’re not pale white.

Vitamin D New Hope In The War On Corona (DM)

Nearly 99 per cent of Covid-19 patients who are vitamin D deficient die, according to a terrifying study that adds to mounting evidence that the ‘sunshine’ nutrient could be a coronavirus life-saver. Scientists in Indonesia analysed hospital records of 780 people who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. Results revealed 98.9 per cent of infected patients defined as vitamin D deficient — below 20ng/ml — died. Yet this fell to just 4.1 per cent for patients who had enough of the nuResearchers warned the study was not definitive, however, because the patients with high vitamin D levels were healthier and younger. It comes as health chiefs are urgently reviewing the use of vitamin D as a coronavirus lifesaver, with several studies suggesting that Covid-19 patients are far more likely to die if they have a deficiency.

One investigation – carried out by Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge – found European countries with lower vitamin D levels have had significantly more pandemic casualties. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence is conducting a ‘rapid evidence review’ of the issue – and publication is expected as early as next week. One in five British adults and one in six children is lacking in vitamin D, thanks to poor diets, indoor lifestyles and lack of sunshine. Experts fear that the lockdown and months of indoor living have cut levels even further. Some ethnic groups tend to be at higher risk because their skin is less able to make the vitamin in response to sunlight. And older people are also in danger because the body gets less efficient at producing the vitamin with age.

[..] Data in a Public Health England report showed that the mortality rate – the number of people dying with the coronavirus out of each 100,000 people – was considerably higher for black men than other group. The risk for black women, people of Asian ethnicity, and mixed race people was also higher than for white people of either sex. People with non-white skin are also at a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency because it takes them longer to make it from sunlight [..]

Read more …

And this story keeps just going on. But Automatic Earth resident GP John Day can at least continue to do what he thinks is best.

Doctors Can Still Prescribe HCQ to Patients – US Health Secretary (N18)

Doctors can still prescribe anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to patients, US Health Secretary Alex Azar said, hours after the FDA withdrew the emergency use authorisation of chloroquine and HCQ in the treatment of COVID 19 patients. The US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) decision came on Monday after it concluded that the anti-malarial drugs may not be effective to cure the virus infections and lead to greater risks than any potential benefits. “At this point, hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) and chloroquine are just like any other approved drug in the United States. They may be used in hospital, they may be used in out-patient, they may be used at home, all subject to a doctor’s prescription,” Azar said.


“In fact, the FDA’s removal of the Emergency Use Authorization takes away what had been a significant misunderstanding by many that had made people think that somehow it could only be used in a hospital setting, and we’ve tried to make that clear throughout,” he said in response to a question. During a White House media appearance with President Donald Trump, Azar asserted that HCQ was approved in the United States. “If a doctor wishes to prescribe it, working with a patient, they may prescribe it for any purpose that they wish to do so. And, this (FDA’s decision) actually removes a potential barrier to them,” the health secretary said.

Read more …

It’s not easy being green.

New Zealand Reports Fresh Corona Case, More Quarantine Breaches Emerge (G.)

A fresh coronavirus case has been reported in New Zealand as officials scramble to contain the fallout from Tuesday’s embarrassing quarantine breach and reports emerge of people disappearing after leaving isolation early. Thursday’s case – the third to emerge this week after a 24-day streak of no cases – was a man in his 60s who arrived in Auckland from Pakistan on 13 June on Flight NZ124, transiting through Doha and Melbourne. Officials were contacting all passengers on the flight and have alerted overseas counterparts for the other flights, said Dr Ashley Bloomfield, the director general of health. The man was wearing a mask on all flights and was now in a quarantine facility in Auckland, Bloomfield said.

It came as police said six people absconded from managed isolation after being granted compassionate leave from Covid-19 quarantine to attend a funeral in Hamilton. And TVNZ reported that a birthday party for a girl in isolation brought people together who should not have been mingling. Bloomfield was forced to apologise on Thursday after initially claiming the sisters behind Tuesday’s new cases had not contacted anyone during their road trip from Wellington to Auckland. It was revealed late on Wednesday that they came into contact with at least two friends who helped them after they got lost on a motorway.

[..] On Tuesday, New Zealand recorded its first new cases of the virus for 24 days after the two New Zealanders, sisters returning after travelling to the UK, were found to be infected. The pair, who were permitted to leave their managed isolation early to visit a dying parent, had not been tested. Since then more reports have emerged. A Christchurch funeral director told Stuff that about 10 people had been let out of quarantine early to attend one of the funerals it had arranged on Tuesday. Steve Parkyn, chief executive of funeral directors Lamb and Hayward, said he refused to let them attend the service after being contacted by health authorities, but they joined mourners at the burial, accompanied by a health official. Around 200 people attended the funeral.

Read more …

I said on Tuesday that: “Given how fast it spread in the past 2-3 days, it’s obvious the disease had been present for a 1 or 2 weeks.”

Beijing COVID19 Cluster May Have Begun A Month Earlier – Health Official (G.)

Beijing’s cluster of new cases may have begun a month earlier than first thought, partly due to asymptomatic infections, according to the director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Amid tight restrictions to stop the spread of the capital’s cluster, which now numbers more than 150 cases, Gao Fu said the outbreak probably did not occur in early June or late May, but probably a month earlier, according to state media. Gao said the volume of asymptomatic cases detected in the outbreak may be partially responsible, but that further investigation was needed. “A lot of asymptomatic or mild cases were detected in this outbreak and that is why the environment has such amount of virus,” said Gao at a seminar in Shanghai on Tuesday.

On Thursday, Beijing reported 21 new cases of Covid-19, down slightly from the 31 reported on Wednesday. There were two additional cases in Hebei province that were also linked to the Beijing cluster. The city on Thursday ordered all hotels be shut down, as well as restaurants in high-risk areas. Officials said Beijing was not under lockdown but urged all residents not to travel or gather unnecessarily, and pledged to ensure continued food supply. “We are now at a critical time for the prevention and control of the epidemic,” an official said of the outbreak, which centred on a Xinfadi wholesale food market A further five residential compounds were designated at higher risk on Thursday, bringing the total number to 32, including one high risk and 31 medium risk.

More than 356,000 people have been tested in a five-day period, with entire neighbourhoods walled in or under entry monitoring. Schools have been closed flights cancelled, and travel in and out of the city restricted. On Wednesday the emergency response level was raised from level three to level two.

Read more …

They’ve allowed it to spread for a few weeks. I love the assertion that salmon imported from Europe was the culprit. I tried my smell test on that, and it failed spectacularly.

China Reports 28 New Coronavirus Cases In Mainland (R.)

China reported 28 new coronavirus cases in the mainland as of end-June 17, 21 of which were in the capital of Beijing, the country’s health commission said on Thursday. The National Health Commission said four of the 28 cases were so-called imported ones involving travellers from overseas, and that there were 8 new asymptomatic coronavirus cases. A day earlier, the commission reported 44 confirmed cases, 11 of which were imported, and 11 asymptomatic cases. The total number of confirmed cases stands at 83,293. The death toll remains unchanged at 4,634. China does not count asymptomatic patients – those who are infected with the coronavirus but have no symptoms – as confirmed coronavirus cases.

Read more …

1,200 new cases yesterday in Sweden, 100 new deaths. And the guy responsible remains popular. Propaganda works.

Sweden Says Herd Immunity “Surprisingly Slow” To Develop (ZH)

Despite allowing its economy and schools to remain open during the coronavirus outbreak, Sweden is finding that the incidence of COVID-19 antibodies among its population is still surprisingly uncommon, suggesting that the country hasn’t yet reached the point of “herd immunity”, unlike other European countries which embraced much more drastic measures to stop the spread and the deaths. Speaking to the nation during an interview on a Swedish radio station, Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s government epidemiologist and architect of its coronavirus containment strategy (a model that Goldman analysts claim wouldn’t work elsewhere in Europe or in the US), noted that the development of herd immunity is taking much longer than expected. Per Tegnell: “the trends in immunity have been surprisingly slow.” He also says “it’s difficult to explain why this is so.”

To be sure, Tegnell noted, there is “always a lag in all such measurements,” and the percentage of the population with detectable COVID antibodies is likely higher today than it was a few weeks ago, when a surveillance test carried out by a private Swedish company found that only 14% of Swedes have antibodies, compared to more than 50% of Italians in some of the hardest-hit parts of Northern Italy. Critics of Sweden’s strategy have been more vocal lately now that the country’s death toll has surpassed the 5,000 mark, leaving Sweden with a mortality rate well above its Nordic neighbors. As the country’s mortality rate has climbed in recent weeks, polls have reflected a growing dissatisfaction among Swedes with the government’s handling of the virus, though Tegnell’s approach remains broadly popular.

To be sure, Tegnell has acknowledged that some mistakes were made, and has said if he could do it over, he would have done some things differently, including directing more resources toward protecting the most vulnerable. But he never disavowed his approach, as some English-language media outlets have twisted his words. For those who don’t understand the concept of ‘herd immunity’, Bloomberg created a helpful illustration. Even readers who think they understand how it works should probably take a look.

Read more …

After the mass protests, this has zero value. I can only guess at the reason to do it indoors, but better control might be it, in view of the protests.

Dr. Fauci, Health Officials Flag Coronavirus Risk Of Trump’s Tulsa Rally (CNBC)

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci as well as other health officials are raising concerns that President Donald Trump’s upcoming campaign rally in Tulsa will become a hotbed for coronavirus infections. The rally, Trump’s first since the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S. over three months ago, is slated to take place Saturday in a 20,000-person indoor arena. Asked whether he would attend the rally, Fauci said in an interview published late Tuesday by the Daily Beast, “of course not,” adding that when it comes to mass gatherings, “outside is better than inside, no crowd is better than crowd” and “crowd is better than big crowd.”


Studies have shown that the virus spreads more easily in crowded, poorly ventilated, indoor spaces than it does outside. Former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb echoed Fauci’s concerns Wednesday in an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “Personally, I wouldn’t attend a large gathering right now, especially one indoors. Certainly things held indoors are less safe than things held outdoors,” Gottlieb said. “But all these large gatherings are going to lead to spread. There’s just no question about it.”

Read more …

I guess it’s an OK piece.

Coronavirus Is Killing Our Economy Because It Was Already Sick (Levitz)

Channeling investment into genuinely productive projects gets harder once you’ve picked the low-hanging industrial fruit. And this challenge is all the greater in a context where the purchasing power of ordinary people has been systematically depressed: Simply put, when the vast majority of workers have little discretionary income, profitable business ideas are harder to find (businesses need paying customers, after all). Thus, at a certain point, wage suppression stops aiding growth and starts inhibiting it. In their (excellent) new book, Peking University economist Michael Pettis and Barron’s columnist Matthew Klein argue that China’s iteration of the invest-led development model has been obsolete for more than a decade.

Unwilling or incapable of enacting reforms that would increase wages — and thus, consumption — Beijing has sustained employment and GDP growth by financing useless capital investments. Instead of giving ordinary Chinese people the financial means to assert their material wants and needs — and then enabling investment to flow into enterprises that fulfill those mass desires — China is building housing developments in cities without people. In the U.S., the supply-side model has produced similar (if less egregious) imbalances. Before the coronavirus pandemic, record-high corporate profits coincided with aberrantly low business investment. As Republican Senator Marco Rubio lamented last year, America’s “nonfinancial corporate business sector routinely spends more on buying financial assets than on capital development.”

Many factors have contributed to this outcome. But the fact that America’s ultrarich have commandeered the bulk of the past four decades of income growth is surely one. [This] was a choice. With strong labor rights, high minimum wages, and more post-tax redistribution, the bottom 90 percent of U.S. households could have seen their incomes rise steadily over the past half-century. In that world, the typical American family would have less debt and more disposable income. And that mass purchasing power would allow the economy to support a wider array of businesses and services.= We opted for a different path. The U.S. slashed taxes on the wealthy, undermined unions, and left its social safety net remaining exceptionally threadbare.

As a result, America’s economic elites ended up with more income than they could spend or profitably invest in productive enterprises. So, they bid up the price of urban real estate, and bankrolled the development of socially useless financial innovation. Instead of directing the gains of growth toward better meeting the wants and needs of ordinary Americans, we built 1,000-foot towers full of perpetually empty luxury apartments that Russian criminals could use for money laundering.

Read more …

There should be huge penalties for things like this, but there never will be, because the CIA and its ilk find it far too valuable.

Massive Spying On Users Of Google’s Chrome Shows New Security Weakness (R.)

A newly discovered spyware effort attacked users through 32 million downloads of extensions to Google’s market-leading Chrome web browser, researchers at Awake Security told Reuters, highlighting the tech industry’s failure to protect browsers as they are used more for email, payroll and other sensitive functions. Alphabet Inc’s Google said it removed more than 70 of the malicious add-ons from its official Chrome Web Store after being alerted by the researchers last month. “When we are alerted of extensions in the Web Store that violate our policies, we take action and use those incidents as training material to improve our automated and manual analyses,” Google spokesman Scott Westover told Reuters.


Most of the free extensions purported to warn users about questionable websites or convert files from one format to another. Instead, they siphoned off browsing history and data that provided credentials for access to internal business tools. Based on the number of downloads, it was the most far-reaching malicious Chrome store campaign to date, according to Awake co-founder and chief scientist Gary Golomb. Google declined to discuss how the latest spyware compared with prior campaigns, the breadth of the damage, or why it did not detect and remove the bad extensions on its own despite past promises to supervise offerings more closely.

Read more …

“Abe cannot last,” said an LDP lawmaker who, like other politicians interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity. “He probably cannot last until the year-end.”

Arrest Of Former Japanese Minister Could Hasten PM Abe’s Departure (R.)

The arrest of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s former justice minister could be a devastating blow for the Japanese leader whose support is near record lows, raising the possibility of his departure before the end of his term next year. Some in Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) are speaking of an early exit and rivals have stepped up manoeuvring to succeed him, party sources said. While Abe has rebounded from low ratings before, Japan’s longest-ruling prime minister now appears to be losing more internal support. Prosecutors on Thursday arrested former justice minister Katsuyuki Kawai, a one-time foreign policy adviser close to Abe, and Kawai’s wife, Anri, on suspicion of vote-buying in a 2019 upper-house election.


Tokyo prosecutors said in a statement that the couple paid 1.7 million yen ($15,904) to five people to get her elected. Separately, Katsuyuki Kawai gave a total of about 24 million yen to about 90 people. At the time, Anri Kawai’s campaign received 150 million yen ($1.4 million) in funds from LDP headquarters. The size of the contribution, although not illegal, raised questions about whether Abe approved it. Abe has declined to comment on the Kawais, but has said lawmakers had the responsibility to explain their actions. “Abe cannot last,” said an LDP lawmaker who, like other politicians interviewed, spoke on condition of anonymity. “He probably cannot last until the year-end.”

Read more …

Almost entirely out of view of the mainstream media, the Flynn story churns on. I predict it will explode in their faces.

Sidney Powell Files Motion Against Gleeson: A ‘Wrap-Up Smear’ of Flynn (SAC)

Sidney Powell, the defense attorney for Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, filed a scathing response in the court Wednesday against federal Judge John Gleeson’s amicus brief, which asked the court to reject the Justice Department’s request to drop all charges against Flynn. Powell’s motion is powerful and contains a lengthy time-line revealing the stunning evidence discovered by DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, as well as, the litany of new evidence uncovered by U.S. Attorney Jeffery Jensen, who was appointed by the Justice Department to conduct an independent review of Flynn’s case. Powell argues in her brief that the “irony and sheer duplicity” of Gleeson’s accusations “against the Justice Department now—which is finally exposing the truth—is stunning.”

Gleeson submitted his lengthy brief on July 10, on behalf of D.C. Federal Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who appointed him as the amicus and is refusing to drop the case against Flynn. He is doing all this despite the fact that both the Justice Department and defense agree the charges should be dropped against President Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor. Powell also pointed out in her motion of opposition Wednesday that Gleeson’s amicus filing on behalf of Sullivan is a “wrap-up smear” against Flynn.

“It demonstrates the difference between a Department of Prosecutions and a Department of Justice,” Powell argues in her conclusion regarding Gleeson’s amicus. “It shows how the Department of Justice, as the government’s representative in every federal criminal case, has the power to walk into courtrooms and ask judges to remedy injustices. For these reasons and those stated in our other briefs, the only lawful action this court can take is to dismiss the case with prejudice on the Government’s motion and vacate the plea.”

Further Powell states in her motion, that Gleeson’s “Amicus elides the reality of the egregious government misconduct of the FBI Agents—particularly that of [former FBI Director James] Comey, {Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew] McCabe, [former Special Agent Peter] Strzok, [Former FBI Attorney Lisa] Page, [FBI Special Agent] Joe Pientka, [former FBI Assistant of Counterintelligence Bill] Priestap and others who met repeatedly to pursue the targeted “take-out” of General Flynn for their political reasons and those of the “entirety lame duck usic.” Much of this has been revealed in the December 19, 2019, IG Report, the 86 pages of newly produced exonerating material produced by U.S. Attorney Jensen, filed in the Government’s Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 198), and hundreds of the texts between Strzok and Page demonstrating abject bias.”

“Amicus is lost down the rabbit hole on the other side of the looking glass— where “nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would,” argues Powell. Last week, Powell argued before the U.S. District Court of Appeals D.C. Circuit against Sullivan’s decision to appoint Gleeson. She noted that the government submitted an extensive and thoroughly documented motion to dismiss this prosecution based on the discovery of “extraordinary exculpatory evidence that came to light from an independent review… It can not go on any longer.”

Read more …

Look, we know in advance how the MSM will spiel this. And those are all the same people who for years, as it fit their goals, presented Bolton to you as the most dangerous man in America. Now Bolton is your friend. Because he says something negative about Trump, and that’s something half the nation can’t get enough of. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it dumps Trump.

Still, to rehash the failed impeachment probe and state that Trump was impeached, well, maybe that’s another level.

As for the claim that Trump asked Xi to help him in elections, that doesn’t pass my personal smell test. It makes no sense at all. It likely only does for those who still believe Trump asked Putin the same, and choose to fully disregard Mueller’s report to get there. But sure, I know I will be accused-again- of being biased for saying this.

A “journalist” named Eli Lake tweeted: “According to Bolton, Trump privately told China’s tyrant that he should keep building concentration camps for Uighurs. That is an obscenity. He deserves to lose every state in November.” I’m sorry, but if you believe that, you need to get professional help as much as Bolton and Eli Lake do.

Bolton Says Trump Asked China To Help Him Get Reelected (AP)

President Donald Trump “pleaded” with China’s Xi Jinping during a 2019 summit to help his reelection prospects, according to a scathing new book by former Trump adviser John Bolton that accuses the president of being driven by political calculations when making national security decisions. The White House worked furiously to block the book, asking a federal court for an emergency temporary restraining order Wednesday against its release. Bolton’s allegations that Trump solicited Chinese help for his reelection effort carried echoes of Trump’s attempt to get political help from Ukraine, which led to his impeachment.

“I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by re-election calculations,” Bolton wrote. The 577-page book paints an unvarnished portrait of Trump and his administration, amounting to the most vivid, first-person account yet of how Trump conducts himself in office. Several other former officials have written books, but most have been flattering about the president. Other former officials have indicated they were saving their accounts of their time working for Trump until after he left office in order to speak more candidly. The Associated Press obtained a copy of Bolton’s book in advance of its release next week.

Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser for a 17-month period, called Trump’s attempt to shift the June 2019 conversation with Xi to the U.S. election a stunning move, and wrote that it was among innumerable conversations that he found concerning. He added that Congress should have expanded the scope of its impeachment inquiry to these other incidents. [..] Trump was asked about the book Wednesday on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity.” He turned to personal insults, calling Bolton a “washed-up guy. I gave him a chance.” He also took issue with copies of the book being released. “He broke the law. Very simple. I mean, as much as it’s going to be broken.” Trump said. “It’s highly classified information and he did not have approval.”

Read more …

 

 

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Jun 162020
 


Gustave Dore Dante and the Angel of the Church before the Door of Purgatory 1868

 

Biden Appears Likely To Pick Kamala Harris As VP (Mcleod)
Gaslighted by the Ruling Class (Chris Hedges)
New Zealand Ends Covid-Free Run With Two Cases From UK (G.)
China Reports 40 New Coronavirus Cases In Mainland, 27 In Beijing (R.)
Virus-Hit Beijing Tightens Outbound Travel; Shanghai Demands Quarantine (R.)
FDA Warns Against Combination Of HCQ And Remdesivir (R.)
FDA Revokes Emergency Use Status For HCQ To Treat COVID19 (R.)
Fed Says It Is Going To Start Buying Individual Corporate Bonds (CNBC)
Fed Launches Long-Awaited Main Street Lending Program (R.)
Hong Kong Chief Says Opponents Of Security Law Are “Enemy Of The People” (R.)
Disorders Now and To Come (Kunstler)
Even At 50% Attendance, It’s An Economic Disaster (Y!)

 

 

First: there will be no Debt Rattle tomorrow, Wednesday June 17, or any other articles, because I’m going to try to fly to Athens. The entire game plan, the conditions etc., has kept on changing all the time, but it looks like it might happen.

What I understand at this point is that I will be tested at the airport upon arrival and then sent to a hotel for the night awaiting test results. Then if I test negative I’m free to go, the 1 week mandatory quarantine was scrapped two days ago. If I test positive there’s a 2 week quarantine. That would probably also apply if anyone else on the plane tests positive.

With all the extra safety measures and stuff at airports and planes, something tells me it’ll be a long day tomorrow.

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 124,600.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is + 124,778 cases.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 20,722
• Brazil + 23,674
• Russia + 8,248
• India + 10,243
• Pakistan + 5,248
• Chile + 5,143

 

 

Cases 8,141,389 (+ 124,778 from yesterday’s 8,017,241)

Deaths 439,705 (+ 3,581 from yesterday’s 436,124)

 

 

 

 

I ike the slogan for Yaneer Bar-Yam’s EndCoronavirus.org:

THERE’S NO SENSE IN BEING PRECISE WHEN YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.
John von Neumann (1903 – 1957)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

The game plan would be clear enough: Kamala Harris is black and aggressive, tough on crime, and her role will be to stir unrest among African-Americans, get them out on the streets, seen as THE new issue with which to defeat Trump, now that RussiaRussia and impeachment were such abject failures.

But but: Kamala Harris was about the most unpopular candidate running in the Dem prelimiaries, and because of that, one of the first to bow out. How does that not matter?

It sounds convincing though, almost like a done deal: Bookmakers agree, putting Harris’ chances at around 50%. No other candidate [..] has a better than one in ten chance.

Still, reading things like this can’t help to make me think: they don’t really want to win.

Biden Appears Likely To Pick Kamala Harris As VP (Mcleod)

Amid an anti-police movement that has swept the country, the Democratic Party is choosing to run on a “tough on crime” ticket for November. A new Reuters exclusive reports that California senator and former prosecutor Kamala Harris is the clear favorite for the job of vice-president in a Biden White House. Bookmakers agree, putting Harris’ chances at around 50 percent. No other candidate, according to betting analyst Oddsmaker, has a better than one in ten chance. The nationwide protests, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd on May 25, have been increasingly led by Black Lives Matter, and the calls to defund or dismantle the entire policing system are growing louder. In response, more than 30 states mobilized the National Guard to quash the unrest.

A recent poll found that 74 percent of the country, including 87 percent of Democrats, support the protests, with two-thirds backing Black Lives Matter. Despite this, Biden is moving towards choosing a running mate that is most famous in activist circles for her conservative, “lock them up” stance when it comes to crime. As District Attorney of San Francisco, Harris strongly opposed marijuana legalization. Under her jurisdiction, arrests and convictions for the drug increased, as did the percentage of black people arrested for its possession. Yet during her unsuccessful run for the Democratic nomination last year, she laughed and joked about illegally using marijuana herself.

During the Democratic debates, she was also accused by Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of blocking evidence that would have freed an innocent man from a death sentence. Harris was also a vocal supporter of the controversial three strikes law that sent repeat offenders to prison for life. When running for Attorney General, her position was to the right of her Republican opponent. Nevertheless, many in the business world appear very excited about the potential pick. “She understands the moment,” claimed Marc Lasry, Chairman of the Avenue Capital Group and a member of Biden’s national finance committee, “They want someone who will galvanize people. She seems to be that person.”

It seems unlikely, however, that either Biden or Harris will galvanize protestors demanding racial justice. Biden’s 1994 Crime Bill imposed the three strikes rule, leading to a great increase in the number of people in prison. Between 1994 and 1998, the total number of people in U.S. prisons rose by 19 percent and continued climbing for a decade longer. Biden himself began his political career by opposing racial desegregation and bussing, something that Harris grilled him on in the Democratic debates. “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day. That little girl was me,” she said directly to him.

Read more …

The rulinng class in this case is Joe Biden.

Gaslighted by the Ruling Class (Chris Hedges)

In 1994, then Senator Biden pushed through the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act. It was supported by the Congressional Black Caucus, evidence of the growing disconnect between black political elites and those they should protect. The caucus has, in the face of the current crisis, once again called for the tired and toothless reforms that got us into this mess. “Black elected officials have become adept at mobilizing the tropes of Black identity without any of its political content,” notes Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor in the New York Times.

The bill authorized $30.2 billion over six years for police and prisons. Biden boasted that he “added back into the Federal statutes over 50 death penalties — 50 circumstances in which, if a person is convicted of a crime at a Federal level, they are eligible for the death penalty.” The bill, he bragged, authorized “over 70 increased — 70, seven zero — 70 increased penalties in new offenses covering violent crimes, drug trafficking, and gun crimes.” It also established the Community Oriented Policing Services or COPS Program that has handed more than $14 billion to state and local governments, most of the money used to hire more police. COPS also provided $1 billion to place police in schools, accelerating the criminalization of children.

The 1994 bill more than doubled the prison population. The United States now has 25 percent of the world’s prison population, although we are 4 percent of the world’s population. Half of the 2.3 million people in our prisons have never been charged with physically harming another person and 94 percent never had a jury trial, coerced to plea out in our dysfunctional judicial system. Biden proudly said in 1994 he represented a new Democratic Party that was tough on law and order.

“Let me define the liberal wing of the Democratic Party,” he said at the time. “The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is now for 60 new death penalties. That is what is in this bill. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party has 70 enhanced penalties, and my friend from California, Senator Diane Feinstein, outlined every one of them. I gave her a list today. She asked what is in there to every one of them. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is for 100,000 cops. The liberal wing of the democratic Party is for 125,000 new State prison cells.” There is only one way to defeat these forces of occupation and the ruling elites they protect. It is not through voting. It will come from the streets, where tens of thousands of courageous men and women, facing arrest, indiscriminate police violence, economic despair and the threat of Covid-19, are fighting for not only an end to racism, but freedom.

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No cases for 24 days. Then they allow two UK women in for compassionate reasons. These women then go into a 2-week Isolation but remain untested for 9 days, until one of them gets sick.

Gov’t comment: “The women had “done everything right”. I’m starting to think New Zealand’s success story was based on pure luck.

New Zealand Ends Covid-Free Run With Two Cases From UK (G.)

New Zealand has recorded its first new cases of coronavirus for 24 days after two women who arrived in the country from Britain were found to be infected. The pair were released early from government quarantine and permitted to drive from the city of Auckland to Wellington, the capital – nearly 650km away – before being diagnosed, health officials said. Their trip was an approved exemption from the mandatory isolation period for new arrivals to the country in order to visit a dying parent. The women had “done everything right” and had not put other members of the public at risk, said Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s director-general of health, on Tuesday.

After both women tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday, one reported that in hindsight she had been experiencing symptoms, but had attributed them to a pre-existing medical condition. The pair marked New Zealand’s first new cases of Covid-19 for more than three weeks, and were diagnosed one week after the last known case in the country had recovered. The discovery of the new cases came one week after all domestic restrictions on the country were lifted, with Bloomfield warning at the time that more cases of the virus would inevitably arise as people infected with it crossed the border. The women – one aged in her 30s and the other in her 40s – had arrived in Auckland on a flight from the UK via Brisbane, Australia, on 7 June, Bloomfield said.

All new arrivals to the country – only New Zealanders, their families, and essential workers are currently permitted to cross the border – are required to spend two weeks in managed isolation at a hotel. But six days after the women arrived, Bloomfield said they travelled from Auckland to Wellington “in a private vehicle” after they were granted a compassionate exemption to do so and made a safety plan with officials. They had not been tested for Covid-19 at the time. The pair had made the drive of approximately eight hours without refuelling their vehicle or disembarking for any reason, including to use public toilets, he said. “They had no contact with anybody else during that trip,” added Bloomfield. He was “not nervous” that the women had infected anyone else, adding that they would now remain in self-isolation with a relative in Wellington.

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Given how fast it spread in the past 2-3 days, it’s obvious the disease had been present for a 1 or 2 weeks.

China Reports 40 New Coronavirus Cases In Mainland, 27 In Beijing (R.)

Mainland China reported 40 new confirmed coronavirus cases for June 15, down from 49 a day earlier, the National Health Authority said on Monday. Twenty seven of the new cases were in Beijing, down from 36 a day earlier. The city is facing a new outbreak of the virus that is believed to have originated in a local grocery market. The NHC reported 8 new imported coronavirus cases in mainland China as of the end of June 15, down from 10 a day earlier. The commission also reported 6 new asymptomatic cases, down from 18 a day earlier. The total number of coronavirus cases in mainland China now stands at 83,221, and the death toll remains unchanged at 4,634. China does not count asymptomatic patients, who are infected with the virus but do not display symptoms, as confirmed cases.

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1 outbreak, 106 cases and counting.

Virus-Hit Beijing Tightens Outbound Travel; Shanghai Demands Quarantine (R.)

Beijing banned high-risk people from leaving the Chinese capital and halted some transportation services on Tuesday to stop the spread of a fresh coronavirus outbreak to other cities and provinces. China’s financial hub of Shanghai demanded some travellers from Beijing be quarantined for two weeks, as 27 new COVID-19 cases took the capital’s current outbreak to 106 since Thursday. That makes it the most serious flare-up in China since February, stoking fears of a second wave of the respiratory disease which emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year and has now infected more than 8 million people worldwide. “Beijing will take the most resolute, decisive, and strict measures to contain the outbreak,” Xu Hejian, spokesman at the Beijing city government, said at a press conference on Tuesday.


The outbreak has been traced to the sprawling Xinfadi wholesale food centre in the southwest of Beijing where thousands of tonnes of vegetables, fruits and meat change hands each day. Beijing had designated 22 neighbourhoods as medium-risk areas as of Monday. Medium-risk areas are required to take stringent measures to block the potential entry of infection. All high-risk groups in Beijing, such as people who are close contacts of confirmed cases, are not allowed to leave the city, state media reported on Tuesday, citing municipal officials. All outbound taxi and car-hailing services have also been suspended. Some long-distance bus routes between Beijing and nearby Hebei and Shandong provinces were suspended.

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A non-clinical study that showed no evidence. It’s becoming a familiar theme.

FDA Warns Against Combination Of HCQ And Remdesivir (R.)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday issued a warning to healthcare providers against administering malaria drug hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine in combination with Gilead Sciences’ experimental COVID-19 drug, remdesivir. The agency, based on data from a recent non-clinical study, said the co-administration may result in reduced antiviral activity of remdesivir. It also added it had no such evidence from a clinical setting and that it continues to evaluate all data related to remdesivir.


The warning comes hours after the agency revoked the emergency use authorization of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, which has been touted by the U.S. President Donald Trump. FDA said it was no longer reasonable to believe that oral formulations of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine may be effective in treating the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Gilead’s drug had received emergency use authorization earlier in May as a potential treatment for COVID-19, clearing the way for broader use of the drug in more hospitals around the United States.

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We get not a word about zinc.

But we do get a rehash of France, Italy and Belgium halting HCQ use, without mentioning that they did so based on a fully discredited piece in the Lancet, which itself has issued apologies for it.

FDA Revokes Emergency Use Status For HCQ To Treat COVID19 (R.)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday revoked its emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, but quickly came under fire from President Donald Trump, who said only U.S. agencies have failed to grasp its benefit in fighting the coronavirus. Based on new evidence, the FDA said it was no longer reasonable to believe that hydroxychloroquine and the related drug chloroquine may be effective in treating the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The FDA also warned that the drugs have been shown in lab studies to interfere with Gilead Sciences Inc’s antiviral drug remdesivir – the only medicine so far to show a benefit against COVID-19 in formal clinical trials.


The move comes after several studies of the decades-old malaria pills suggested they were not effective either as a treatment for or to prevent COVID-19. [..] Current U.S. government treatment guidelines do not recommend its use for COVID-19 patients outside of a clinical trial. France, Italy and Belgium late last month halted use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients. But the United States last month sent 2 million doses to Brazil, which has emerged as the pandemic’s latest epicenter. Hundreds of trials testing hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine as interventions for COVID-19 are still underway, including a U.S. study designed to show whether hydroxychloroquine in combination with azithromycin can prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

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Call it what you want: nationalization, socialism, communism.

Or simply: the strongest attempt to kill off price discovery so far.

Fed Says It Is Going To Start Buying Individual Corporate Bonds (CNBC)

The Federal Reserve is expanding its foray into corporate credit to now buy individual corporate bonds, on top of the exchange-traded funds it already is purchasing, the central bank announced Monday. As part of a continuing effort to support market functioning and ease credit conditions, the Fed added functions to its Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility. The program has the ability to buy up to $750 billion worth of corporate credit. Its March 23 initial announcement is largely considered a watershed moment for the financial markets, reeling from the coronavirus threat spread. “The decision to buy a broad portfolio of corporate bonds represents a shift to a more active strategy for the secondary market corporate credit facility, rather than the passive approach originally envisioned,” said Steven Friedman, senior macroeconomist at MacKay Shields.

The move comes less than a week after a downbeat Federal Open Market Committee view of the U.S. economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Moving to a more aggressive bond-buying strategy “may also reflect the Committee’s view that the economic recovery from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis will be an extended and challenging one, with credit markets requiring extensive support,” Friedman added. Under the latest guidelines, the Fed said it will buy, on the secondary market, individual bonds that have remaining maturities of five years or less. Those purchases will go along with the ETFs the Fed already has been buying, which are balanced toward investment-grade indexes but also include some junk bond funds that track debt which had been investment grade before the crisis but had been downgraded after.

The intent of the individual debt purchases will be “to create a corporate bond portfolio that is based on a broad, diversified market index of U.S. corporate bonds,” the Fed said in a news release. “This index is made up of all the bonds in the secondary market that have been issued by U.S. companies that satisfy the facility’s minimum rating, maximum maturity, and other criteria. This indexing approach will complement the facility’s current purchases of exchange-traded funds,” the statement said.

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The Fed doesn’t help Main Street. It simply sees an opportunity to help banks make more money at the expense of Main Street under the guise of a beneficial narrative.

Fed Launches Long-Awaited Main Street Lending Program (R.)

The Federal Reserve on Monday launched its Main Street Lending Program, the most complex program undertaken yet by the U.S. central bank to help keep the backbone of the economy from buckling under the strains of the coronavirus pandemic. The program, targeted at companies that were in good shape before the pandemic but may now need financing to retain workers and fund operations, will offer up to $600 billion in loans through participating financial institutions to U.S. businesses with up to 15,000 employees or with revenues up to $5 billion. Lenders must register using the lender portal here and are encouraged by the Fed to begin making program loans to for-profit firms “immediately.”

The central bank also sought feedback on Monday on a proposal to expand the program to allow nonprofit organizations to borrow under the program as well. Administered by the Boston Fed, the Main Street program for businesses aims to offer credit for those that may be too large to qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program, which targets businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Unlike the PPP, which was established by Congress in late March and offers loans that can be converted to grants if businesses meet certain requirements, the loans offered under the Fed program must be repaid.

It has taken nearly three months for the Fed to design, build and launch a program to extend credit to companies in all walks of the economy, a huge departure from its role as a lender to the banking sector. Fed officials adjusted the Main Street program twice by expanding the range of loan sizes to make it available to more companies that need help keeping workers on staff. It also extended the loans to five years, with payments deferred for the first two years, to better help businesses struggling because of the crisis. “Supporting small and mid-sized businesses so they are ready to reopen and rehire workers will help foster a broad-based economic recovery,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in a statement last week after the most recent adjustment.

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A.k.a. deplorables.

Hong Kong Chief Says Opponents Of Security Law Are “Enemy Of The People” (R.)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Tuesday urged opponents of Beijing’s plan to impose national security legislation in the financial hub to stop “smearing” the effort, saying those who did were “the enemy of the people”. Beijing last month announced a plan to introduce legislation in Hong Kong to tackle secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference and which could see Chinese security agencies set up bases in the city. Critics see the law as the most serious threat to a “one country, two systems” formula, agreed when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, aimed at ensuring its freedoms and role as a global financial centre.

The Chinese government and Lam’ s Beijing-backed city administration say the law will not curtail freedoms but will target a small number of “troublemakers” and help bring stability after a year of anti-government protests. “I urge opponents who still use the usual tactics to demonize and smear the work to stop because by doing this they become the enemy of the Hong Kong people,” Lam said before a cabinet meeting, referring to the legislation. “The vast majority want to restore stability, and have safety, satisfaction and employment.” The government has mounted a campaign to rally public support for the legislation, with billboards, a booklet with questions and answers and a video of Lam defending the law “in the public interest”.

In the video, posted on the city government’s website, Lam decried a “terrorist threat” against a “traumatized” city, saying advocates of independence were “colluding with foreign forces” and undermining security. “Hong Kong has become a gaping hole in national security, and our city’s prosperity and stability are at risk,” said Lam as she stood flanked by the Chinese and Hong Kong flags, the first bigger than the second.

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“Have Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi appealed to their followers to end their violence? Maybe I missed that.”

Disorders Now and To Come (Kunstler)

Never in US history has there been a faction as dishonest as today’s Democratic Party or as habituated to the application of bad faith in political conflict. Their addiction to malicious hoaxes and engineered untruths knows no limits — and naturally so, since they are motivated primarily by dissolving all boundaries in policy, law, sexual relations, and personal conduct. They’ve been busy proving the past few weeks that they’re against the social contract as a basic proposition, exhorting for an end to law enforcement while inciting street violence, crimes against property, and murder.

Many voters are onto them, of course, so the Resistance is also determined to derail the 2020 elections by any means necessary, only starting with ballot fraud but surely escalating to new, innovative chicanes and disruptions. Their chosen candidate for president — that is, their putative “leader” — is an obvious empty vessel fronting for sinister forces in the background. They stuffed Joe Biden in a basement twelve weeks ago and have no intention of setting him loose on the landscape where he would reveal his unfitness with every breath he takes and every move he makes. The news media especially, in its bad faith role, pretends not to notice, but its minions are too self-important to realize that there are other ways for citizens to learn what is happening out there.

Events are rushing ahead at a pace you can barely follow. Summer begins in another week and why, now, would you expect any lessening in civil disorders? A heat wave is upon us here in the crowded eastern US at the end of this week and that’s always an invitation to raucous behavior on the steamy streets. Have Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi appealed to their followers to end their violence? Maybe I missed that. They are hinting at a return to Covid-19 lockdown conditions — but you can forget about anyone following that when the temperature tops ninety degrees (and certainly the Dem leadership knows that).

The devastation of small business, careers, livelihoods, households, and futures continues. Take measures to protect your own future, as far as possible. Put your energy into imagining how you can be helpful to other people, and perhaps incidentally earn their trust and their assistance in mutually beneficial ways. Think about finding a plausible place to live where the rule of law perseveres. Think about how you might fit into an economy run at a smaller scale. Start taking action on that thinking. There’s potential for a lot of people to get hurt in the disorders-to-come. There’s plenty you can do to not be one of them.

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The problem with all mass events.

Even At 50% Attendance, It’s An Economic Disaster (Y!)

College football is twelve Saturdays away. It may be hard to believe amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but Division I colleges and universities across the country began to bring their football players back to campus for workouts this month. Now a number of schools have reported that some of their players tested positive for COVID-19: Auburn had three players test positive; University of Central Florida had three; Oklahoma State had five; Arkansas State had seven. That won’t stop the season from happening. The general attitude from schools is that the players who tested positive will self-isolate for two weeks, and the show will go on. The show must go on, because the money demands it.


“We are going to play football in the fall,” said the 76-year-old West Virginia University president Gordon Gee, “even if I have to suit up.” Gee said that a month ago, when the return of college football was still in question, since some universities were hesitant to commit to having classes in the fall. The California State University system, which includes football schools like San Diego State and Fresno State, announced it would start the fall with mostly online-only classes. The thinking at that time was that schools couldn’t have college football players come back if they didn’t have the rest of their students back on campus. There were also fears that the college football season might get pushed to spring 2021, which would mean NFL-bound stars like Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields would almost surely opt not to play.

Read more …

 

 

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jun 152020
 


Gustave Dore Dante before the wall of flames which burn the lustful 1868

 

The Masks Masquerade (Nassim Taleb)
Millions of US Job Losses Are at Risk of Becoming Permanent (BBG)
Powell Is Now Helpless (Eric Peters)
US Labor Department Throws 401k Investors To The Wolves (F.)
UK Lawmakers Urge FM Sunak To Add 1 Million Workers To Income Schemes (R.)
Beijing Lockdown Spreads In Race To Control Outbreak (SCMP)
Sudden Jump In China Virus Cases Causes Futures To Tumble (ZH)
Second Wave Has Begun in US, Medical System May Be Stressed – Doctor (CNBC)
Greeks Against Second Lockdown – Survey (K.)
Macron Says France Must Seek Greater Economic Independence After Virus (R.)
Putin: Russia Soon Able To Counter “Indefensible” Hypersonic Weapons (ZH)
To Celebrate Obama Day, Here Are Barack’s Greatest Hits (Ben Norton)
Julian Assange Indictment Fails To Mention ‘Collateral Murder’ Video (G.)

 

 

Good thing I’m not into astrology:

• Trump’s birthday: June 14 (a.k.a Obama Day)

• Xi Jinping’s birthday: June 15

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 123,645.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is + 121,464 cases.

But the graph says cases always come down in the weekend, and I’m early today.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 20,004
• Brazil + 17,086
• Russia + 8,246
• India + 13,722
• Pakistan + 5,248
• Chile + 6,938

 

 

Cases 8,017,241 (+ 121,464 from yesterday’s 7,895,777)

Deaths 436,124(+ 3,242 from yesterday’s 432,882)

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 


 

 

Taleb goes into much more detail in the article, please read. The inane “doubts” about mask efficacy cost lives. Wear a Mask in Public!

The Masks Masquerade (Nassim Taleb)

Incompetence and Errors in Reasoning Around Face Covering

SIX ERRORS:

1) missing the compounding effects of masks,

2) missing the nonlinearity of the probability of infection to viral exposures,

3) missing absence of evidence (of benefits of mask wearing) for evidence of absence (of benefits of mask wearing),

4) missing the point that people do not need governments to produce facial covering: they can make their own,

5) missing the compounding effects of statistical signals,

6) ignoring the Non-Aggression Principle by pseudolibertarians (masks are also to protect others from you; it’s a multiplicative process: every person you infect will infect others).

In fact masks (and faceshields) supplemented with constraints of superspreader events can save us trillions of dollars in future lockdowns (and lawsuits) and be potentially sufficient (under adequate compliance) to stem the pandemic. Bureaucrats do not like simple solutions. [..] Note that by infecting another person you are not infecting just another person. You are infecting many many more and causing systemic risk.
Wear a mask. For the Sake of Others.

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This won’t sink in for a long time yet.

Millions of US Job Losses Are at Risk of Becoming Permanent (BBG)

Twenty-year-old William Lovely used to work at Jason’s Deli in Virginia Beach, delivering catering orders to surrounding businesses. Now, thanks to the coronavirus, he’s struggling to pay his bills. Laid off in March, he’s gone from regular hours and pay to gigging for UberEats or Instacart, earning up to $100 on some days but often coming home with almost nothing. While the restaurant is trying to slowly reopen, Lovely reckons the best he can hope for is a part-time position, requiring him to keep his second job if he’s going to meet his expenses. “My job stopped, but the bills don’t,” he said. Lovely’s experience goes to the heart of the dilemma facing the world economy as it gradually emerges from the virus-enforced lockdown and unprecedented recession: How many of the millions of lost jobs are gone for good?

The hope is the waves of stimulus doled out by governments and central banks should eventually buoy economies and spark a revival in hiring. Furloughed or redundant workers would then return to their employers. The risk though is that the pandemic is inflicting a “reallocation shock” in which firms and even entire sectors suffer lasting damage. Lost jobs don’t come back and unemployment stays elevated. That would force workers to retrain or relocate, both of which are hard, and governments to do more than just try to spend their way out of trouble. It was a theme hit upon last week by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell as U.S. central bankers forecast leaving interest rates near zero until 2022 in part because of a surge in unemployment to the highest level since the Great Depression.


There will be “well into the millions of people who don’t get to go back to their old job,” said Powell, who will testify to Congress on the economic outlook this week. “In fact, there may not be a job in that industry for them for some time.” Unfortunately, new research by Bloomberg Economics reckons 30% of U.S. job losses from February to May are the result of a reallocation shock. The analysis — based on the relationship between hiring, firing, openings and unemployment — suggests the labor market will initially recover swiftly, but then level off with millions still unemployed.

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The louder you say that the bigger the next bank bailout is going to be.

Powell Is Now Helpless (Eric Peters)

“We’re not even thinking about thinking of raising rates,” declared America’s Fed Chairman, all but eliminating uncertainty about the Fed policy path through 2022. The S&P 500 had completed a historic recovery from the pandemic lows to trade higher on the year, its price utterly disconnected from today’s economic devastation. But markets never discount today, they discount tomorrow. And no sooner had they taken a little peek at what prices looked like back on January 1st then they began to plunge. Some blamed signs of a viral resurgence, though that had swirled for days. Others blamed Millennials whose day-trading resembles the dot.com mania. And a few blamed General Milley, America’s top-ranking general, who apologized for joining the President on his ill-fated march to St. John’s Church.

You see, the generals have turned their backs on Trump over his response to demonstrators. The NFL has too; its commissioner apologized for having opposed taking a knee. Even NASCAR banned the Confederate Flag. And as Trump’s re-election prospects tanked, expectations for a dramatic restructuring of America’s economy soared. Efforts to rebalance the division of profits between capital and labor is demanded by a riotous Main Street. But this terrifies Wall Street, which has worked for years with Republicans, Democrats, CEOs and the Fed to extract an ever-increasing share of national prosperity for those who control capital.

This imbalance is central to today’s tumult. “If we held back because we think asset prices are too high – what would happen to those people who we are legally supposed to be serving?” asked Powell rhetorically, unsuccessfully defending himself from a rising chorus of critics who see the Federal Reserve as amplifying inequality. For decades, the central bank accommodated the financialization of the world’s largest economy. Now that the process is largely complete, even a modest market wobble threatens to devastate the real economy. And Powell is now helpless, caught in a trap of the Fed’s making.

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The Forbes headline says: “Trump DOL Throws…”, but the watering down of asset quality started a long time ago (Greenspan?!). We can pretend that stocks represent real value, but if that were true the Fed would get out of the way in a split second. As I always say: Remember AAA?

US Labor Department Throws 401k Investors To The Wolves (F.)

Trump U. S. Department of Labor watchdogs just opened the door for private equity wolves to sell the highest cost, highest risk, most secretive investments ever devised by Wall Street to 401k plan sponsors. 401k investors will be devoured like lambs to the slaughter. Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor opened the door for plan sponsors to add private equity funds to their 401(k) plans. That’s a huge win for the private equity industry since 401ks hold nearly $9 trillion in assets and a monstrous setback to American workers who invest in 401ks for retirement security.

After over three decades of egregious retail price gouging by mutual fund companies—as to which the DOL turned a blind eye—401k costs have in recent years been trending downward thanks primarily to widespread excessive-fee private class action litigation. Now, if private equity is embraced, 401k costs will skyrocket, risk will dramatically increase and transparency will plummet. Bad enough that DOL—the federal agency which is supposed to protect employer-sponsored retirement benefit plans—welcomed the wolves of Wall Street to feast on workers’ hard-earned savings, but the explanation the agency provided for its reckless action is perverse.

Ramping up the fees and risks to 401k savers will “overcome the effects the coronavirus had had on our economy” and “level the playing field for ordinary investors” by allowing workers to gamble their limited retirement savings like millionaires who can afford to lose lots. [..] Warren Buffett, arguably the world’s most respected investor, recently escalated his criticism of private equity firms. At last year’s Berkshire Hathaway BRK.B annual meeting Buffett stated, “We have seen a number of proposals from private equity firms where the returns are not calculated in a manner that I would regard as honest… If I were running a pension fund, I would be very careful about what was being offered to me.”

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Until he has a substantial part of the population on these schemes, and a UBI would likely be both cheaper and more efficient. But UBI is a blasphemy.

UK Lawmakers Urge FM Sunak To Add 1 Million Workers To Income Schemes (R.)

British finance minister Rishi Sunak must extend the government’s already huge coronavirus income support measures to include over 1 million more workers who have missed out, lawmakers said on Monday. People who started jobs after a cut-off date in March for the state’s wage subsidy scheme or who set up a company in the last year should not be excluded, the lawmakers from parliament’s influential Treasury Committee said.Self-employed people who earn more than a threshold set by the government, freelancers in industries such as theatre and television and directors of companies who pay themselves in dividends should also be covered, they said. Mel Stride, who chairs the committee, said Sunak had acted quickly to slow an expected surge in unemployment as the crisis escalated in March.


“If it is to be fair and completely fulfil its promise of doing whatever it takes, the government should urgently enact our recommendations to help those who have fallen through the gaps,” he said. Sunak has recognised that some people are not protected by his support plans but has shown no sign of expanding them again. Nearly 9 million jobs are covered by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which pays temporarily laid-off workers 80% of their salary, capped at 2,500 pounds a month. A separate scheme for self-employed people has received 2.6 million claims. Britain’s budget forecasters have estimated that the two programmes will cost nearly 70 billion pounds ($88 billion) this year, more than the entire government borrowing in the last financial year.

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This has birthday boy Xi really scared. 11 neigborhoods in Beijing have been shut down.

Beijing Lockdown Spreads In Race To Control Outbreak (SCMP)

Chinese vice-premier Sun Chunlan has prescribed “firm and decisive measures” to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Beijing, which reported another 36 new cases in a single day following an outbreak at a food market in the capital. Sun, who has been overseeing China’s Covid-19 control measures since January, told a meeting of the State Council late on Sunday that the risk of the latest outbreak spreading was “very high” because of the market’s large, densely packed and highly mobile population, according to state news agency Xinhua. The new cases bring the number of people affected in the capital by the latest outbreak to 79 – all of them linked to the Xinfadi wholesale market, a food distribution centre in southern Beijing which occupies 107 hectares and supplies food to northern provinces like Shandong, Shanxi, Hebei and Liaoning.


[..] Residential areas near Xinfadi market are once again under strict lockdown, with controlled access pending centralised testing for Covid-19. Beijing Health Commission spokesman Xia Xiaojun said 76,499 samples had been tested on Sunday, with 59 positive. Xia said some of those cases had already been included in the count of confirmed infections, while others were still waiting for diagnosis.

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Close to 100 new cases.

Sudden Jump In China Virus Cases Causes Futures To Tumble (ZH)

On a day when more than 20 US states are seeing a pick-up in cases, Tokyo reported a jump over the weekend and a fresh outbreak in Beijing prompted officials to close a market there, futures are tumbling, with Eminis down more than 40 points to 2,980 the lowest level since the start of June.The drop follows renewed fears of a second coronavirus wave which massacred shares on Thursday before a modest rebound Friday. But the trigger for tonight’s drop appears to have come out of China, which reported 49 new cases of COVID19 in China on June 14, including 10 imported cases and 39 local cases.

36 local cases were diagnosed in Beijing and 3 in Hebei province, according to the National Health Commission, with China’s Vice Premier Sun Chunlan spooking traders saying that the risks are high for Beijing’s coronavirus resurgence to spread as all cases are related to Xinfadi wholesale market where a large population has visited, according to Xinhua. As reported yesterday, Beijing shut a major food market and imposed lockdown restrictions on residential areas nearby after dozens of people associated with the wholesale market were tested positive for coronavirus.

Additionally, the Global Times reported that 17 out of 19 new imported coronavirus cases registered on Saturday came from South Asia, Chinese health authorities said Sunday, a sharp spike which analysts said indicates that loosening restrictions and worsening contagion in the region poses a danger to the country’s domestic situation. The 17 patients were reported in South China’s Guangdong Province, with 14 flying from Bangladesh and three from India. The 14 patients and the three asymptomatic carriers arrived in Guangzhou on China Southern Airlines flight CZ392 from Dhaka to Guangzhou on Thursday, which prompted the Chinese aviation regulator to suspend the route for four weeks from June 22 in accordance with the latest policy.

Read more …

Here’s a doctor who claims a second wave has started in the US. But I don’t see it. What did happen was that peaks were not simultaneous all over the country, and the first ones were in some of the most populous areas (Northeast).

It’s really just been a shift from Northeast to South and West, though, and I see no overall second wave appearing yet. If and when it does, it will likely also be different in different regions of the country. Note: there is kind of a second wave in Houston.

 

 

 

 

Second Wave Has Begun in US, Medical System May Be Stressed – Doctor (CNBC)

A second wave of coronavirus has started in the U.S. — and people need to remain careful or risk stressing out the health-care system again, said William Schaffner, a professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “The second wave has begun,” said the professor of medicine told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Monday. “We’re opening up across the country, but many, many people are not social distancing, many are not wearing their masks.” Even so, he said he “cannot imagine” a second shutdown due to the impact of the first one. Several states in America have reported recent spikes in Covid-19 cases as measures are eased throughout the country. The U.S. has the highest number of cases in the world. Nearly 2.1 million people have been infected by the disease and more than 115,000 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Schaffner added that mass gatherings and religious services are also being held. “Many people are simply not being careful, they’re being carefree,” he said. “That, of course, will lead to more spread of the Covid virus.” Despite signs of a second wave, Schaffner said the option of another lockdown is “off the table.” Instead, governments, businesses and religious leaders have to work together to promote mask wearing and social distancing in order to flatten the curve. He said wearing masks is “very, very important” and authorities should “persuade and educate” their residents to make this a “social norm.” “If we all do that in respect of each other, then I think we can make some progress,” said Schaffner.

“If we do all the opposite — if we open up, do not have social distancing, don’t wear masks and congregate in large numbers again, we are going to be very stressed in the medical care system,” he warned. “The complete shutdown was such a financial disaster, and had so many social and cultural implications that I cannot imagine we’ll have a shutdown again,” he said. Other countries, however, have not shied away from reimposing measures when new clusters are detected in the community. In May, South Korea shut all night clubs and bars in Seoul after a new cluster surfaced there. Last week, Beijing reportedly banned tourism and locked down 11 neighborhoods in response to infections related to a wholesale market.

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If things go well, I should be back in Athens soon. The sentiment here is probably more or less the same as in many other countries.

Greeks Against Second Lockdown – Survey (K.)

Greeks are concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on public health and the economy, while also skeptical about the causes and repercussions of the pandemic, according to a survey conducted by Pulse for Kathimerini. Eighty-four percent say that Covid-19 is “definitely” or “perhaps” a serious risk to public health. The risk appears greater among older age groups and educated individuals. Meanwhile, 76 percent say that the health measures, which damaged the economy, were “definitely” or “maybe” necessary. More specifically, the measures were deemed as necessary by 90 percent of New Democracy voters and 62 percent of SYRIZA voters. Concern is widespread. Thirty-two percent are more worried about their financial situation and 23 percent about their health, while 42 percent said that both issues have them “equally concerned.”

Most people say they are against a fresh lockdown in the case of a second wave in the autumn. The restrictions on public movement appear to have taken an economic and psychological toll. As a result, only 21 percent favor a repeat of the “horizontal restrictions.” Meanwhile, 65 percent favor restrictions only in places where a spike in cases is recorded while 10 percent say that the state “must only give recommendations” to citizens. The survey shows that people with lower education and income levels are more likely to question official theories about the origin of the virus. It appears that lower income individuals (usually people with limited educational opportunities) tend to associate Covid-19 with formal structures which they hold responsible for their condition.


More specifically, 33 percent believe that the virus is being used to “intimidate” the public, an equal share say it is being used to enforce compulsory vaccination, while 35 percent say that the virus is used as an excuse to compromise citizens’ personal data. However, Greeks appear relatively immune to the 5G coronavirus conspiracy, as only 10 percent believe there is any connection between the spread of Covid-19 and mobile phone technology. A key reason perhaps is that 5G technology is still not available in Greece. [..] More than half (52 percent) said Covid-19 was created by humans. Of these, 30 percent claim that the virus was created by humans with a specific purpose in mind (like an experiment on population control), while 22 percent say that the virus was created by mistake (like an accident in a lab). Eleven percent said they did not know where the virus might have come from.

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1) Does Macron -also- mean independence from the EU?
2) The French are not averse to a bit of nationalism, and Macron like many other leaders can and does use the idea that the virus came from abroad to play into it
3) Of course countries should cut their dependence on others when it comes to essential goods, but the EU wants the opposite
4) If there’s one police force that needs reform, it’s the French

Macron Says France Must Seek Greater Economic Independence After Virus (R.)

President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday he was accelerating France’s exit from its coronavirus lockdown and that the crisis had laid bare the country’s need for greater economic independence. In a televised address to the nation, Macron promised that the 500 billion euro cost of keeping companies afloat and people in jobs during the worst downturn since World War Two would not be passed to households through higher taxes. Restaurants and cafes in Paris will be allowed to reopen fully from Monday, he said, the same day France lifts restrictions at its borders for European Union travellers, bringing sorely needed relief for the hospitality industry.

He said the coronavirus pandemic had exposed the “flaws and fragility” of France’s, and more broadly Europe’s, over-reliance on global supply chains, from the car industry to smart phones and pharmaceuticals. “The only answer is to build a new, stronger economic model, to work and produce more, so as not to rely on others,” Macron said. The coronavirus has killed more than 29,300 people in France and forced Macron, a former investment banker, to suspend his economic and social reform drive aimed at spurring growth, creating jobs and deregulating the economy. The government expects the economy to shrink by 11% in 2020. Macron said he would lay out a detailed blueprint for the final two years of his mandate in July.

[..] The global outpouring of anger has forced France to confront allegations from ethnic minorities and rights groups of racism and brutality within France’s own law enforcement agencies. Macron said skin colour too often reduced a person’s opportunities in France, promising to be unflinching against all discrimination. But he expressed support for French police and said fighting racism should not lead to a “hateful” re-writing of the history of France, whose empire once stretched from the Caribbean to the South Pacific and included much of north and west Africa. “I will be very clear tonight, compatriots: the Republic won’t erase any name from its history. It will forget none of its artworks, it won’t take down statues,” Macron said.

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The US can only play catch-up, and even that it’s not good at.

Putin: Russia Soon Able To Counter “Indefensible” Hypersonic Weapons (ZH)

The thing about hypersonic missiles is they are supposed to be impossible to defend against. Since Russia began touting its experimental arsenal two years ago, the prospect of devastating weapons capable of traveling at Mach 5, or at least a mile per second, has kept Pentagon generals up at night. “The hypersonic threat is real, it is not imagination,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves told a D.C. defense conference in 2018. “Greaves comments come amid reports that assess Russia will be capable of fielding a hypersonic glide vehicle, a weapon that no country can defend against, by 2020,” a report at the time underscored alarmingly.

The “indefensible” super weapon… but Russian President Vladimir Putin now says the Kremlin will soon have the technology to defend against it — this as more and more information has been slowly revealed concerning the US Department of Defense’s own multi-billion dollar hypersonics program. Putin made the new comments Sunday: “It’s very likely that we will have means to combat hypersonic weapons by the time the world’s leading countries have such weapons,” he said according to the RIA news agency. Russian state media further said Putin referenced an emerging hypersonins ‘arms race’. The Russian president said that Russia’s rivals will soon be “surprised” when they learn the Russian armed forces will be able to “combat them”.

Putin’s words, as conveyed by RT, were paraphrased as follows: Other nations are hastily designing their own hypersonic weapons – but by the time they are acquired, the Russian military will have learned how to shield the country from them, President Vladimir Putin said. The world’s leading military powers will eventually succeed in developing the ultra-fast weapons, President Vladimir Putin told Russia-1 TV. Russia, meanwhile, which seems to be leading the race for hypersonic dominance, won’t be caught off-guard once that happens, he pledged. I think that we can pleasantly surprise our partners with the fact that when they get these weapons, we will have the means of combating them, with a high degree of probability.

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Balance.

To Celebrate Obama Day, Here Are Barack’s Greatest Hits (Ben Norton)

To celebrate Obama Day, here are Barack’s greatest hits (wars, coups, slavery, sanctions, al-Qaeda, colonialism) In parts of the United States and the bottomless pit of the internet, today, June 14, is considered “Barack Obama Day.” On social media, the hashtag #ObamaDayJune14th is going viral. So I thought I would commemorate this day by listing some of the former Democratic president’s many accomplishments.

As his supporters are so keen to point out, Obama had no major scandals, you see, except for:
• wearing that tan suit one time
• deporting more people than any other president, 2.7 million, earning the ignominious title “deporter in chief”
• dropping 26,171 bombs on seven Muslim-majority countries in his last year in office alone
• overseeing a genocidal war in Yemen that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and unleashed the largest humanitarian catastrophe on Earth
• supporting al-Qaeda in Syria, funneling billions of dollars of weapons to hardened Salafi-jihadist fanatics to try to destroy the country, and fueling the rise of ISIS
• arming al-Qaeda in Yemen as well
• destroying Libya, once the most prosperous country in Africa, leaving behind a failed state with open-air slave markets
• giving the Israeli apartheid regime $38 billion in unconditional military aid and arming it as it bombed civilians in Gaza (in three separate, barbaric wars: 2008-2009, 2012, and 2014)
• creating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a neoliberal “free trade” monstrosity that would have ensured even more dystopian corporate tyranny over the global political and economic system

Oh yeah, and here are some more unforgettable classics from Obama:
• sponsoring the military coup in Honduras, overthrowing its democratically elected left-leaning government and installing a far-right narco-dictatorship led by a neoliberal autocrat whose drug lord brother smuggled thousands of tons of cocaine and machine guns
• managing Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious, in which the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent thousands of guns to murderous drug cartels in Mexico
• backing the parliamentary coup in Brazil, removing the democratically elected Workers’ Party government and paving the way for the fascist Bolsonaro regime
• supporting a soft coup against the democratically elected government in Paraguay
• overseeing a violent coup against Ukraine’s Russia-leaning elected government with the “Euromaidan” movement, in which neo-Nazis and other fascists played a significant role
• subsequently arming the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in Ukraine
• prolonging the military occupation of Afghanistan, after promising dozens of times he would end the war by 2014
• maintaining a daily “kill list” (known euphemistically as the “disposition matrix”) in which the US president personally approved extrajudicial assassinations of thousands of people, via a covert drone warfare program spanning multiple continents, regularly bombing countries including, but not limited to, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq

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The US totally ignores the video that’s central to the entire story, and the Guardian ignores teh fact that it’s published 1,000 Assange smear pieces. What a wonderful world.

Julian Assange Indictment Fails To Mention ‘Collateral Murder’ Video (G.)

US prosecutors have failed to include one of WikiLeaks’ most shocking video revelations in the indictment against Julian Assange, a move that has brought accusations the US doesn’t want its “war crimes” exposed in public. Assange, an Australian citizen, is remanded and in ill health in London’s Belmarsh prison while the US tries to extradite him to face 18 charges – 17 under its Espionage Act – for conspiracy to receive, obtain and disclose classified information. The charges relate largely to the US conduct of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including Assange’s publication of the US rules of engagement in Iraq. The prosecution case alleges Assange risked American lives by releasing hundreds of thousands of US intelligence documents.

One of the most famous of the WikiLeaks releases was a video – filmed from a US Apache helicopter, Crazy Horse 1-8, as it mowed down 11 people on 12 July 2007 in Iraq. The video starkly highlights the lax rules of engagement that allowed the killing of men who were neither engaged with nor threatening US forces. Two of those Crazy Horse 1-8 killed in east Baghdad that day were the Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and a driver/fixer, Saeed Chmagh, 40. Their Baghdad bureau chief at the time, Dean Yates, said the US military had repeatedly lied to him – and the world – about what happened, and it was only when Assange released the video (which WikiLeaks posted with the title Collateral Murder) in April 2010 that the full brutal truth of the killings was exposed.

“What he did was 100% an act of truth-telling, exposing to the world what the war in Iraq looks like and how the US military lied … The US knows how embarrassing Collateral Murder is, how shameful it is to the military – they know that there’s potential war crimes on that tape,” Yates said.

Read more …

 

 

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Jun 142020
 


Gustave Dore Dante and Virgil among the gluttons 1868

 

China Reports 57 New Confirmed, 9 Asymptomatic COVID-19 Cases For June 13 (R.)
Clusters of Coronavirus Disease in Communities, Japan, January–April 2020 (CDC)
The Greatest Science Policy Failure For A Generation – Lancer Editor (G.)
Nadler: ‘Eliminating’ Private Insurance Could Pay For ‘Medicare For All’ (JTN)
Congress Spent $3.06 Million On Failed Impeachment Probe (JTN)
How Beijing Cultivated Wall Street’s Giants (SMH)
The Truth About The May Jobs Report (Axios)
Twitter Reinstates Zerohedge After Admitting It Made An “Error” (ZH)
Finishing Touches Being Put On 10 New Criminal Referrals in Russia Probe (JTN)
Julian Assange Just Called (Varoufakis)

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 9 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 132,786 (yesterday was updated to 141,973).

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is + 131,902 cases. Remember: it’s weekend.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 28,487
• Brazil + 23,468
• Russia + 8,835
• India + 12,360
• Pakistan + 6,825
• Chile + 6,509

 

 

Cases 7,895,777 (+ 131,902 from yesterday’s 7,763,875)

Deaths 432,882 (+ 4,148 from yesterday’s 428,734)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

..a new outbreak has been linked to a meat and vegetable market in south Beijing..

China Reports 57 New Confirmed, 9 Asymptomatic COVID-19 Cases For June 13 (R.)

China reported 57 new confirmed COVID-19 cases for June 13, the highest since April 13, according to data released by the national health authority on Sunday. The National Health Commission said in a statement that 38 of the new confirmed cases were locally transmitted, with 36 of them in Beijing. This is the highest daily infection count for China’s capital since authorities started releasing data. Beijing recorded a jump in new confirmed cases, up from six a day earlier, after it started doing mass-testing at the Xinfadi market in the city’s southwestern Fengtai district.


The district has put itself on a “wartime” footing and the capital banned tourism and sports events on Saturday, sparking fears of a new wave of COVID-19. Nineteen of the new confirmed cases were so-called imported cases involving travellers from overseas, with 17 of them arriving in Guangdong. China also reported nine asymptomatic cases, one new suspected case and no new deaths from COVID-19 for June 13. The total number of COVID-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 83,132, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634. China does not count asymptomatic patients, who are infected with the virus but do not display symptoms, as confirmed cases.

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https://twitter.com/DrEricDing/status/1271988040169328641

Clusters of Coronavirus Disease in Communities, Japan, January–April 2020 (CDC)

We investigated clusters of COVID-19 cases and probable primary cases in Japan during January 15–April 4, 2020. We found that healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, and care facilities, such as nursing homes, were the primary sources of clusters, some of which had >100 cases. Japan experienced 2 waves of imported COVID-19 cases, after which local transmission occurred and the epidemic grew (8). Of note, clusters of COVID-19 cases at healthcare and care facilities predominated at epidemiologic weeks 11 (March 9–15) and 14 (March 30–April 4), which corresponds to ≈3 weeks after the 2 waves of imported cases (Figure 1, panel C). Healthcare and care facilities might be located at the end of the local transmission chain because clusters in those facilities only became evident several weeks after community transmission persisted.

We noted many COVID-19 clusters were associated with heavy breathing in close proximity, such as singing at karaoke parties, cheering at clubs, having conversations in bars, and exercising in gymnasiums. Other studies have noted such activities can facilitate clusters of infection (9,10). Japan’s Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced 3 situations that could increase the risk for COVID-19 cases and advised the population to avoid the “Three Cs”: closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded places, and close-contact settings (11).

Among the probable primary COVID-19 cases we identified from non-nosocomial clusters, half (11/22) were 20–39 years of age, which is younger than the age distribution of all COVID-19 cases in Japan (Figure 2, panel A). We do not know whether social, biological, or both factors play a role in the difference in transmission patterns between the younger and older persons. We also noted probable primary COVID-19 case-patients appear to transmit the virus and generate clusters even in the absence of apparent respiratory symptoms, such as cough.


Figure 2. Analysis of probable primary cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) among 22 clusters in communities, Japan. A) Age ranges of probable primary COVID-19 cases in clusters. Age distribution among all COVID-19 cases in Japan is provided as reference. B) Proportions of symptoms among probable primary cases of COVID-19 clusters at transmission (n = 16) and among at laboratory confirmed diagnosis (n = 22). 1, Asymptomatic; 2, fever; 3, fatigue; 4, cough; 5, sore throat; 6, headache; 7, arthralgia or myalgia; 8, runny nose; 9, diarrhea; 10, difficulty breathing. C) Distribution of probable primary cases of COVID-19 clusters by time of transmission compared with illness onset by age groups (n = 16). Six cases were excluded because the time of transmission was undetermined.

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Richard Horton’s problem today is of course, apart from his bout with cancer, that he was responsible for the entirely fake report on HCQ the Lancet published.

The Greatest Science Policy Failure For A Generation – Lancer Editor (G.)

There is a school of thought that says now is not the time to criticise the government and its scientific advisers about the way they have handled the Covid-19 pandemic. Wait until all the facts are known and the crisis has subsided, goes this thinking, and then we can analyse the performance of those involved. It’s safe to say that Richard Horton, the editor of the influential medical journal the Lancet, is not part of this school. An outspoken critic of what he sees as the medical science establishment’s acquiescence to government, he has written a book that he calls a “reckoning” for the “missed opportunities and appalling misjudgments” here and abroad that have led to “the avoidable deaths of tens of thousands of citizens”.

The Covid-19 Catastrophe: What’s Gone Wrong and How to Stop It Happening Again is a short polemical book, building on a series of excoriating columns Horton has written in the Lancet over the past few months. He lambasts the management of the virus as “the greatest science policy failure for a generation”, attacks the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) for becoming “the public relations wing of a government that had failed its people”, calls out the medical Royal Colleges, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Medical Association (BMA) and Public Health England (PHE) for not reinforcing the WHO’s public health emergency warning back in February, and damns the UK’s response as “slow, complacent and flat-footed”, revealing a “glaringly unprepared” government and a “broken system of obsequious politico-scientific complicity”.

On the page, Horton can sound strident, even arrogant, but that’s not his manner in person at all, at least not in our long Zoom conversation. He’s charming, open, self-critical and full of easy laughter. I suggest that, as bad as things look at the moment, surely people like the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and the chief scientific officer, Patrick Vallance, have been doing their best. “Individually, they’re great people,” he says. “I’m not criticising individuals, but the system was a catastrophic failure.” As editor of the Lancet, he’s particularly aggrieved that the series of five academic papers the journal published in late January first describing the novel coronavirus in disturbing detail went unheeded. “In several of the papers they talked about the importance of personal protective equipment,” he reminds me.

“And the importance of testing, the importance of avoiding mass gatherings, the importance of considering school closure, the importance of lockdowns. All of the things that have happened in the last three months here, they’re all in those five papers.” He still can’t understand why the government’s scientific advisers didn’t consult their counterparts in China. The world of medicine is a small one, he says, and everyone knows the people responsible for coordinating the Chinese government’s response. “These are people they could have literally sent an email to, or picked the phone up to, and said, ‘Hey, we read your paper in the Lancet, can it really be as bad as that? What is going on in Wuhan?’ And if they’d done that they would have found out that this was indeed as bad as described.”

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Whereas Jerry Nadler’s problem is that his candidate, Joe Biden, has spoken out against Medicare For All. Wait, Nadler knows that; is he trying to embarrass Biden?

Nadler: ‘Eliminating’ Private Insurance Could Pay For ‘Medicare For All’ (JTN)

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, suggested Friday that Congress could pay for a “Medicare for all” health care system without raising taxes by eliminating private insurance entirely. During a discussion with the Medicare for All Caucus, Nadler repeated some of the objections that critics of single-payer health care have raised including, “How are we going to pay for it?” and “We’re gonna have to raise taxes and all.” Nadler recommended that Democrats stop engaging in the tax increase debate.

“The entire mechanism, half a trillion dollars a year of private insurance, and not only the money for the profits, but the money for the markets segmenting; the money for the entire administration that all the insurance companies do; the money that all the hospitals and the doctors have to spend to deal with the bureaucracy of insurance companies – that’s half a trillion dollars a year, all of which could be spent on medical care, instead of being spent on either profits or just administrative costs,” Nader said during the discussion.

“It’s a huge amount of money and we could institute a Medicare for all system without increasing taxes. I mean, that’s not a discussion we have to get into because the cost savings from just eliminating the private insurance leech on the system would pay for all of Medicare for all, all the services, everything we’re talking about and when we get to debating this on a political level, again, we ought to be emphasizing that,” he added. Nadler urged Democrats to begin making his argument in favor of Medicare for all on the campaign trail in this election cycle. “I don’t understand why we didn’t point this out enough and we must in the future,” he said. Such an argument will continue to face strong opposition from the country’s estimated $900 billion private insurance industry and those opposed to a completely government-run health care system.

Read more …

More Nadler. He and Schiff will simply say they had every right to do the probe, and lost only because the Senate is partisan. Just like Congress is, but for the other party.

Congress Spent $3.06 Million On Failed Impeachment Probe (JTN)

The Golden Horseshoe is a weekly designation from Just the News intended to highlight egregious examples of wasteful taxpayer spending by the government. The award is named for the horseshoe-shaped toilet seats for military airplanes that cost the Pentagon a whopping $640 each back in the 1980s. This week, our award is going to the the United States Congress for spending $3.06 million in taxpayer dollars between September and December 2019 on the failed impeachment of President Trump. The recently released openthebooks.com report entitled “Congressional Membership Has Its Privileges: Salaries, Pensions, Travel & Other Taxpayer-Funded Perks” breaks down some of the exorbitant annual costs of the nation’s legislative branch.

The oversight report, which is published annually under the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, was initially sponsored by the late Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and then-Senator Barack Obama. According to this year’s analysis, during the period between Sept. 24 2019, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared an impeachment inquiry, and Dec. 13, 2019, when the House Judiciary Committee sent two articles of impeachment to the Senate, the lower chamber ran up a bill to taxpayers of over $3 million. That price tag included the salaries of more than 100 congressional staffers and employees who, for those four months, essentially worked full-time on the impeachment proceedings.

It also factors in the hourly fees of the six attorneys who were hired as lawyers of record for witnesses who made appearances during hearings, and acted as impeachment counsel for the House Democratic impeachment managers throughout the trial. The high cost of the impeachment effort is primarily due to the House’s decision to use congressional staffers to investigate the president for potentially impeachable crimes. For reference, during the impeachment of President Clinton 1998, the majority of the fact-finding was done by Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s staff. For President Nixon’s impeachment inquiry, the bulk of the investigating was handled by special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski, in addition to a Senate select committee.

Read more …

Nutshell: the Fed hands Goldman Sachs buckets full of billions to aid it in selling off the US to China for profit.

How Beijing Cultivated Wall Street’s Giants (SMH)

In November 2018 Peter Navarro, the White House trade adviser who at the time was intimately involved in President Trump’s trade war with Beijing, launched a scathing attack on what he called the “globalist billionaires” of Wall Street. He accused the “self-appointed group of Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers” of engaging in their own “shuttle diplomacy” with the Chinese side and attempting to sabotage US trade negotiations by putting enormous pressure on the White House to give way to Beijing. Navarro further accused the financial elite of being “unregistered foreign agents” acting as part of Beijing’s influence operations in Washington. It was strong stuff, but was there any foundation to it?

Beijing has been working on Wall Street for a long time. When Prime Minister Zhu Rongji visited the United States in 1999, he holed up in New York’s Astoria Hotel and spent days in back-to-back meetings with business leaders. “Zhu seems never to tire of courting Corporate America,” reported The New York Times. The titans of US finance have for decades been guiding the nation’s China policy. Whenever presidents Clinton, Bush or Obama threatened to take a tougher stance on China’s trade protectionism, currency manipulation or technology theft, Wall Street chiefs used their influence to persuade them to back off. And it was pressure from Wall Street that proved decisive in the Clinton White House’s decision to support China’s admission to the World Trade Organisation, despite China’s serial violation of trade rules.

Twenty years later, The New York Times was writing: “In Washington, on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms, Beijing has used the country’s size and promise for decades to quell opposition and reward those who helped its rise.” Financial institutions have been Beijing’s most powerful advocates in Washington. The finance sector – the big banks, hedge funds and investment vehicles – is thus in the centre of the map of power in the US, and occupying pride of place is Goldman Sachs. No organisation has been more important to the CCP’s campaign to penetrate US elites, or more willing. For the CCP, titans of finance are easy targets, as there’s a concordance of interests.

Wall Street executives, anticipating an Eldorado when Beijing opens up its vast finance markets to foreigners, have been advising Chinese companies about which American companies to buy and lending them the money to do it, taking a cut from the sales. In the words of a senior White House official, “people who like making deals really like the Chinese Communist Party”. The CCP is pushing on an open door. But the alignment of interests may not be long term, as it’s Beijing’s intention to eventually make Shanghai the financial capital of the world, displacing New York and the City of London. As Lenin reputedly said: “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”

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The markets gain a trillion on the responses to a few questions of 41,000 Americans. You get what you deserve.

The Truth About The May Jobs Report (Axios)

The responses of fewer than 41,000 people were used to determine a major part of last month’s U.S. unemployment rate, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells Axios. That’s the lowest number in modern history and is one of many unusual developments in government data collection that have affected important readings for months. The surprises in May’s nonfarm payrolls report, which found there were only 21 million unemployed while 30 million Americans were collecting unemployment insurance benefits, were largely the result of oddities in data collection. A portion of the jobs report is determined by a household survey in which government workers interview people at their homes and determine whether any person over the age of 16 is “employed, unemployed, or not in the labor force” — the only three possible designations.

The coronavirus pandemic has “depressed” survey responses since March, as BLS stopped conducting in-person meetings, restricting its ability to reach new households, Julie Hatch Maxfield, BLS associate commissioner for employment and unemployment statistics, tells Axios. “The first month of the sample we get a lot of information and that sets up the whole thing going forward,” she says. This has taken the response rate from 82% in January to 73% in March to 67% in May. “Response rates probably will be depressed even when interviewers go back into the field,” Maxfield notes. In May, BLS identified 9 million people who had lost their jobs but were counted as “not in the labor force” rather than unemployed because they hadn’t been searching for a job in the last four weeks due to the pandemic.

If those people were considered unemployed it would have taken the unemployment rate to 17.9%. A similar calculation would have put the unemployment rate at 19.8% in April and 7.5% in March, BLS says in a report about the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on its data. A separate “misclassification error” categorized millions of workers who had been absent and likely lost their jobs as employed. Additionally, workers who were paid by their employer for any part of the pay period including the 12th of the month were counted as employed, even if they weren’t actually at their jobs.

Read more …

Too much power. Take it away.

Twitter Reinstates Zerohedge After Admitting It Made An “Error” (ZH)

133 days after Twitter “permanently” banned Zero Hedge on January 31, the social network has reinstated us after admitting it made an error. As a reminder, what happened in late January was confusing. Shortly after we asked if “This [Is] The Man Behind The Global Coronavirus Pandemic”, referring to Wuhan Institute Of Virology scientist Peng Zhou (who three months later was being investigated by western spy agencies for his role in creating Covid) and some low-grade “reporter” from Buzzfeed decided to report us to Twitter for “doxxing” Zhou using publicly available information, Twitter told us that the account had been suspended for “violating Twitter rules against abuse and harassment”, which was false as we neither incited abuse nor harrassment, but merely asked questions.

But the confusing part is that at the same time, Twitter fabricated an entirely different explanation for its decision when speaking to outside media, telling them the suspension was due to “platform manipulation” – whatever that means. An odd mix of conflicting explanations but in any case, neither was true as we said at the time, and as we further told Bloomberg, the suspension was “unjustified, and likely motivated by reasons other than the stated ones” adding that “we are confident that we did not violate any of the stated Twitter terms: we neither incited harassment, nor did we ‘dox’ the public official, whose contact information is as of this moment listed on the Wuhan institute’s website.”

Fast forward to late Friday night, when unexpectedly we received a brief email from Twitter Support informing us that “we made an error in our enforcement action” as a result of which “we have unsuspended your account.” Speaking to Bloomberg, a Twitter spokesperson said that “we made an error in our enforcement action in this case. Based on additional context from the account holder in appeal, we have reinstated the account. We have a dedicated appeals process for all account holders.” Funny how mistakes happen when you ban first and ask questions later (and only when prompted to do so). In any case, no bad blood right – honest mistake? Well, not really: before all this happened, none other than Twitter’s CEO was following us.

Not anymore. The @zerohedge account also remains highly shadow banned (try searching for the actual zerohedge account on twitter, good luck), perhaps as an innocuous consequence of the “error.” That’s OK though, we never expected an apology. We are just glad that we will be able to share facts and perspectives with our now 700K Twitter followers, a number which has spiked by more than 30K in just the past few hours since the suspension was overturned.

Read more …

The Flynn hearing ended in a delay, but these wheels will churn on.

Finishing Touches Being Put On 10 New Criminal Referrals in Russia Probe (JTN)

Congressional Republicans are putting the finishing touches on as many as 10 new criminal referrals asking the Justice Department to investigate key figures in the Russia probe for misconduct ranging from perjury to illegal leaking of classified information, officials told Just the News. The referrals have been spurred by recently declassified evidence that provided explosive new revelations about the conduct of investigators in the now-disproven Russia collusion case, including documents showing FBI agents planned to shut down their investigation of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lack of evidence in January 2017 before they were overruled by superiors.

Other newly released evidence showed numerous Obama administration officials engaged in unmasking Flynn’s name in secret intelligence intercepts during the transition period after the 2016 election and uncovered conflicts in testimonies previously given by former top FBI and intelligence community officials. “Congress is days away from making multiple criminal referrals to DOJ related to conspiracies against Michael Flynn, crimes committed during the conduct of Crossfire Hurricane, false testimony to Congress by top Obama officials, and criminal leaks of classified information from the top rung of the IC,” said a source with direct knowledge of the referrals. The planned referrals come as the Justice Department has expanded its own criminal investigation into the conduct of current and former employees during the Russia probe.

Attorney General William Barr said this week the investigation is looking at why the FBI tried so aggressively to open and sustain an investigation into Trump’s campaign before the 2016 election when it lacked the sort of evidence to justify it, and whether those efforts amounted to conspiracy to defraud the courts or violate the rights of some of the Americans that were targeted. “I think before the election I think we were concerned about the motive, the force behind the very aggressive investigation that was launched into the Trump Campaign without — you know, with a very thin, slender reed as a basis for it,” Barr told Fox News. “It seemed that the Bureau was sort of spring-loaded at the end of July to drive in there and investigate a campaign. And they — there really wasn’t much there to do that on.”

Read more …

Julian is not completely shut off from the world. Good.

Julian Assange Just Called (Varoufakis)

Julian called me a little earlier on, at 14.22 London time to be precise. From Belmarsh High Security Prison of course. This is not the first time but, as you can imagine, every time I hear his voice I feel honoured and moved that he should dial my number when he has such few and far between opportunities to place calls. “I want a perspective on world developments out there – I have none in here”, he said. Which, of course, placed a considerable burden on me to articulate thoughts on capitalism’s fate during this pandemic and the repercussions of it all on politics, geopolitics etc. The knowledge that Her Majesty’s Prison authorities would discontinue our discussion at any moment made the task harder.

In a feeble attempt to paint a picture for him on as broad a canvass as possible, I shared with Julian my main thought of the last weeks: Never before has the world of money (i.e. the money markets, that include the share markets) been so decoupled from the world of real people, real stuff – from the real economy. We watch in awe as GDP, personal incomes, wages, company revenues, businesses small and large, collapse while the stock market is staying relatively unscathed. The other day, Hertz declared bankruptcy. When a company does this, its share price goes to zero. Not now. In fact, Hertz is about to issue $1 billion worth of new shares. Why would anyone buy shares of an officially bankrupt company?

The answer is: Because central banks print mountain ranges of money and give it for almost free to financiers to buy any piece of junk floating around the stock exchange. “Complete zombification of the corporations”, is how I put it to Julian. Julian commented that this proves that governments and central banks can keep corporations afloat even when they sell next to nothing at the marketplace. I agreed. But, I also pointed out a major conundrum that capitalism faces for the first time. It is this: Central bank money printing keeps asset prices very high while the price of ‘stuff’ and wages fall. This disconnect can go on growing.

But, when Hertz, British Airways etc. can survive in this manner, they have no reason not to fire half the workforce and to cut the wages of the other half. This creates more deflation/depression in the real economy. Which means that the Central Banks must print more and more to keep asset and share prices high. At some point, the masses out there will rebel and governments will be under pressure to divert some income to them. But this will deflate asset prices. At that point, because these assets are used by corporations as collateral for all the loans they take out to stay afloat, they will lose access to liquidity. A sequence of corporate failures will commence under circumstances of stagnation. “I don’t think capitalism can easily survive, at least not without huge social and geopolitical conflicts, this conundrum”, was my conclusion.

Julian thought about this for a moment and asked me: “How important is consumption to capitalism? What percentage of GDP is at stake if consumption does not recover? Do the corporations need workers or customers?” I answered that it was high enough to make this conundrum real. Yes, Central Banks and robots can keep the corporations going without customers or workers. But, robots cannot buy the stuff they produce. So, this is not a stable equilibrium. The losses in people’s incomes will accelerate, thus generating pivotal discontent.

Read more …

 

 

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Feb 102020
 


Arnold Genthe 17th century Iglesia el Carmen, Antigua, Guatemala 1915

 

Japan: 60 More Coronavirus Infections On Diamond Princess Cruise Ship (SCMP)
iPhones Will Display China’s Back-to-Work Power (R.)
Beijing Officially Declares Lockdown (GNews)
Taiwan’s Foxconn Gets OK To Restart Plant In Zhengzhou, China (R.)
Nikkei Denies Reuters Story That Foxconn Will Restart Production (ZH)
Shenzhen Denies Blocking Apple Supplier Foxconn From Resuming Production (R.)
Amazon Latest To Pull Out Of Major Barcelona Tech Show (BBC)
Millions Left Wuhan Before Quarantine. Where Did They Go? (AP)
The Mysterious Origin of the Wuhan Coronavirus (ET)
Rick Gates Told Mueller The Black Ledger Was Fabricated (Solomon)

 

 

Lots of ‘China back to work’ articles today, because I was curious how that would go. Well, it’s not clear -what a surprise. Beijing put itself on lockdown today, maybe that’s a clear sign. They, too, must have seen that the cruise ship floating off Yokohama found an additional 60 infections. And factories, like trains etc., can be almost as bad as cruise ships in spreading viruses.

The best line on the topic is perhaps that Citi estimates that by Tuesday, only 30% of China’s total workforce will be able to return to work. Much less today. Reuters claims that Foxconn can open its Zhengzhou factories, only to have Nikkei deny it. Nikkei in turn says Shenzhen ordered Foxconn’s plants there shut, but Shenzhen denies that.

That Amazon, LG, Ericsson and NVIDIA have all withdrawn from a conference as far away as Barcelona should also tell you something about the overall mood. People say: how iPhones fare will tell you a lot. I say: look at the less iconic stuff.

 

• Deaths 910, up 97 from yesterday’s 813 – people say: Daily Record! I say: every day has been a record so far, or the same as the day before.

• New cases 2,973 from 2,652 yesterday – no more levelling off

• Global confirmed cases 40,614

Hubei

• 29,631 confirmed cases
• 871 deaths
• 1,795 discharged from hospitals
• 73,127 under medical observation

 

Note: the SCMP app where the numbers below come from appears to have some troubles. The detailed numbers are not there. At first, no numbers at all. Then they re-appeared, and then started counting backward. But they’re about right as official numbers go.

 

 

 

 

Petri dish. Newer studies suggest the virus can survive 9 days on surfaces. Good luck.

Japan: 60 More Coronavirus Infections On Diamond Princess Cruise Ship (SCMP)

Testing aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan has found 60 more confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, national broadcaster NHK said on Monday. That brings total cases on the ship docked in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, to 130. Japanese authorities have so far tested about 280 people on board the Diamond Princess, which was placed on a two-week quarantine after a former passenger, who disembarked in Hong Kong last month, was diagnosed with the coronavirus. About 3,700 people are on board the vessel, which usually has a crew of 1,100 and a passenger capacity of 2,670.


The Princess Cruise website describes the ship as “your home away from home” and it will remain so for most passengers at least until February 19. The quarantine period could be extended if necessary, a Japanese government official said. One of those found infected is in serious condition. Many on board are elderly and at greater risk of developing complications from the virus. Mike Ryan, the World Health Organisation’s top emergency expert, said new cases would push back the quarantine. “We need to find a way to break that vicious cycle and find a way of organising the patients on board in a way that we can get people off the ship in due course, Ryan said.

Read more …

Sure sounds strict.

Beijing Officially Declares Lockdown (GNews)

As the novel coronavirus spreads from Wuhan, China has been implementing “closed management” by putting 80 cities under lockdown. Today, Beijing authorities also issued a “Strict Closed Management of Residential Communities” in an epidemic prevention and control announcement. It is an official declaration that Beijing, the country’s capital city of China, is now under lockdown. According to the notice, Beijing will further enforce “community closed management” in a strict manner. Outside vehicles and personnel are not allowed to enter the city. People arriving in Beijing must also report their health status and complete the registration of personal information. Those who have left the epidemic area or have physical contact with persons in the epidemic area within 14 days of their arrival at Beijing, shall be inspected or quarantined at home in accordance with the regulations.


They should take the initiative to report their health conditions, and cooperate with relevant management services. They shall not go out. Anyone who refuses to accept epidemic prevention measures such as medical observation and home quarantine constitutes a violation of public security management and shall be severely punished by the public security bureau according to the law. In addition, all public places in the Beijing community that are not essential for people’s living are closed. All agencies and enterprises must strictly strengthen body temperature monitoring. Housing agencies and landlords in Beijing must provide local government with information on rental houses and tenants. This is a measure for epidemic prevention.

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I’m still not convinced. But I realize that Xi really really wants it.

China Slowly Gets Back To Work (R.)

Authorities told businesses to add up to 10 extra days onto Lunar New Year holidays that had been due to finish at the end of January. Even on Monday, a large number of workplaces remained closed and many people worked from home. Few commuters seen during the morning rush-hour on one of Beijing’s busiest subway lines. All were wearing masks. Jin Yang, who works in a department of China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange, rode a bicycle to work instead of public transport. Staff were told to wear masks, avoid face-to-face meetings and the canteen was closed. Another employee surnamed Chen said the insurance company he worked for had barred people from taking public transport. “I usually take subways but this morning it cost me 200 yuan one way by cab,” he said.

Hubei, the province of 60 million people that is the hardest hit by the outbreak, remains in virtual lockdown, with its train stations and airports shut and its roads sealed off. The extended closure of factories in the world’s second-largest economy has raised concerns about disruptions cascading through global supply chains. China’s central bank has taken a raft of steps to support the economy, including reducing interest rates and flushing the market with liquidity. From Monday, it will provide special funds for banks to re-lend to businesses combating the virus. Taiwan’s Foxconn has received Chinese government approval to resume production at a key plant in the north China city of Zhengzhou, a source with direct knowledge of the situation told Reuters on Monday.

But the southern city of Shenzhen rejected a company request to resume work at a plant there. Tesla, Daimler and Ford Motor are among carmakers that have said that they will restart production at their factories on Monday. Gaming giant Tencent Holdings said it had asked staff to continue working from home until Feb. 21. Samsung Electronics resumed production at its home appliance factory in China on Monday, while it continues to run its chip factory there, a spokeswoman said. It extended the suspension of work at a television factory to Feb. 17. Hyundai said its suppliers in China resumed production but volume was negligible. Kia Motors is suspending production at all three Korean plants due to a shortage of parts, although one of them will resume production on Tuesday.

Read more …

Beijinng can make iPhones a priority, knowing the west will watch them more than other products. So, bad barometer.

iPhones Will Display China’s Back-to-Work Power (R.)

The next iPhones will test China’s ability to restart its economy. Apple supplier Foxconn, formally known as Hon Hai Precision Industry, is re-opening a key Chinese plant as authorities ease curbs. But the handset-maker and other companies face labour shortages as workers struggle to travel with ongoing contagion fears around a coronavirus outbreak. It’s a reminder of the complexity of restarting supply chains. Foxconn has won permission to resume operations at its mega Zhengzhou facility in northern China. Production at the plant, which some analysts reckon account for the bulk of the iPhone’s assemblies, has been halted for over two weeks.

The company is still in talks with officials to restart two other major plants, according to Reuters. One, in the southern city of Shenzhen, is focused on new iPhone models slated for this year, local media reports. There are practical limitations, though. Barely 16,000 workers, less than 10% of the workforce, returned to the Zhengzhou factory, Reuters reported on Monday [..] Many employees of Chinese companies crisscrossed the country to go back to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year holiday, that was then extended. Citywide lockdowns make it hard for people to move around. Analysts at Citi estimate that by Tuesday, only 30% of China’s total workforce will be able to return to work.

And that doesn’t factor in the immense challenge of preventing fresh cases of infection on factory floors. Most companies may have to enforce additional quarantines for people returning from virus-hit areas, as well as implement daily temperature checks. Foxconn has even resorted to manufacturing its own surgical face masks – up to two million a day – for its hundreds of thousands of employees. Following China-U.S. trade tension, the current disruption will fuel debate about the merits of companies allowing supply chains to consolidate too much in a single country. China’s looming labour shortage, though, is even more pronounced because the virus outbreak coincided with the holidays.

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Or do they?

Taiwan’s Foxconn Gets OK To Restart Plant In Zhengzhou, China (R.)

Taiwan’s Foxconn has received approval to resume production at a plant in the northern Chinese city of Zhengzhou that had been shuttered due to a coronavirus outbreak, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Monday. About 16,000 people, or under 10% of Foxconn’s workforce in Zhengzhou, have returned to the plant, the person said, adding that company executives were “trying very hard” to negotiate with authorities to resume production in other parts of China. The development comes as the coronavirus outbreak – declared a global health emergency by the WHO – threatens to disrupt Chinese manufacturing and force policymakers to ready measures to stabilize the economy.


At Foxconn, the delayed resumption of operations could impact the global technology supply chain and shipments to customers including Apple Inc, a source with direct knowledge of the matter previously told Reuters. The contract manufacturer is in talks to resume production at key plants including in Shenzhen and Kunshan, said the person on Monday [..] Tens of thousands of Foxconn employees have returned to work following an extended Lunar New Year holiday. They have been told to wear masks, undergo temperature checks and adhere to a specified dining system, showed internal memos reviewed by Reuters. Most senior Taiwanese officials have been told to refrain from returning to China and those who needed to do so required approval from Chairman Liu Young-Way, the person said.

Read more …

Are these contradictory stories spread on purpose?

Nikkei Denies Reuters Story That Foxconn Will Restart Production (ZH)

[..] after futures sprinted into the green following a Reuters report that Foxconn had received Chinese government approval to resume production at a key plant in the northern China city of Zhengzhou, Nikkei now denies this, reporting that “Foxconn’s plan to resume production on Monday has been called off by the Chinese authorities due to worries surrounding the coronavirus outbreak” The Japanese publication adds that “the action further worsens the supply chain disruption for global electronics companies, including Apple, Amazon, Google and Huawei. Foxconn is the world’s biggest iPhone assembler, and it makes Huawei smartphones and Amazon Kindle tablets as well as echo speakers, while it also supplies HP, Dell and most the major electronics brands.”


Public health experts in Shenzhen informed Foxconn, which trades as Hon Hai Precision Industry, that its factories there face “high risks of coronavirus infection” after conducting on-site inspections and therefore are not suitable to restart work, four people familiar with the matter told Nikkei. “Violation of epidemic prevention and control could potentially face the death penalty,” the internal meeting memo seen by the Nikkei Asian Review said. More importantly, Foxconn’s Zhengzhou complex, which according to Reuters would reopen on Monday, also canceled plans to resume work on Monday, they said.

Read more …

Where politics meets business. Local officials feel the heat from all sides.

Shenzhen Denies Blocking Apple Supplier Foxconn From Resuming Production (R.)

Local Chinese authorities have not blocked Apple supplier Foxconn from resuming production amid a coronavirus outbreak, they said in a statement on Sunday, denying an earlier report in the Nikkei Business Daily. The Nikkei, citing four people familiar with the matter, said on Saturday that public health experts had carried out inspections at Foxconn’s factories and told the company that there was a “high risk of coronavirus infection” at the facilities, making them unsuitable for a production restart. Shenzhen’s Longhua district, where Foxconn’s largest factory is located, said in a statement on its official WeChat account on Sunday that those reports were untrue and that it was still conducting checks, adding that the company would restart production once inspections were completed.


It said it had received proposals from three Foxconn subsidiaries on Feb. 6 detailing how the Taipei-headquartered firm, which makes smartphones for Apple and other brands, planned to put in place epidemic prevention and control measures. The thousands of workers that work in Foxconn’s factories will need to wear masks, undergo temperature checks, and adhere to a dining system considered safe, it said in the statement.

Read more …

How far is that from Wuhan?

Amazon Latest To Pull Out Of Major Barcelona Tech Show (BBC)

Amazon is the latest major company to pull out of one of the world’s largest tech shows because of risks posed by coronavirus. Amazon said “due to the outbreak and continued concerns about novel coronavirus” it would no longer take part in Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. The organiser said the event, which attracts 100,000 people, will go ahead. But it admitted other companies are considering whether to attend. South Korea’s LG Electronics, Ericsson, the Swedish telecoms equipment-maker, and US chip company NVIDIA have already withdrawn from the conference which runs between 24-27 February.


The GSMA, which organises the show in the Spanish city, said that while it could “confirm some large exhibitors have decided not to come to the show this year with others still contemplating next steps, we remain more than 2,800 exhibitors strong”. However, it revealed that it had put in place additional measures to “reassure attendees and exhibitors that their health and safety are our paramount concern”. These include a ban on all travellers from China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, while people who have been in China must provide proof they have been outside the country for 14 days.

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Most stayed in China. That’s at least something.

Millions Left Wuhan Before Quarantine. Where Did They Go? (AP)

For weeks after the first reports of a mysterious new virus in Wuhan, millions of people poured out of the central Chinese city, cramming onto buses, trains and planes as the first wave of China’s great Lunar New Year migration broke across the nation. Some carried with them the new virus that has since claimed over 8 00 lives and sickened more than 37,000 people. Officials finally began to seal the borders on Jan. 23. But it was too late. Speaking to reporters a few days after the the city was put under quarantine, the mayor estimated that 5 million people had already left. Where did they go?

An Associated Press analysis of domestic travel patterns using map location data from Chinese tech giant Baidu shows that in the two weeks before Wuhan’s lockdown, nearly 70% of trips out of the central Chinese city were within Hubei province. Baidu has a map app that is similar to Google Maps, which is blocked in China. Another 14% of the trips went to the neighboring provinces of Henan, Hunan, Anhui and Jiangxi. Nearly 2% slipped down to Guangdong province, the coastal manufacturing powerhouse across from Hong Kong, and the rest fanned out across China. The cities outside Hubei province that were top destinations for trips from Wuhan between Jan. 10 and Jan. 24 were Chongqing, a municipality next to Hubei province, Beijing and Shanghai.

The travel patterns broadly track with the early spread of the virus. The majority of confirmed cases and deaths have occurred in China, within Hubei province, followed by high numbers of cases in central China, with pockets of infections in Chongqing, Shanghai and Beijing as well. “It’s definitely too late,” said Jin Dong-Yan, a molecular virologist at Hong Kong University’s School of Biomedical Sciences. “Five million out. That’s a big challenge. Many of them may not come back to Wuhan but hang around somewhere else. To control this outbreak, we have to deal with this. On one hand, we need to identify them. On the other hand, we need to address the issue of stigma and discrimination.”

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Too many theories to keep up.

The Mysterious Origin of the Wuhan Coronavirus (ET)

Scientific studies based on phylogenetic analysis have researched the sequence of the novel coronavirus, compared it to other coronavirus sequences, and found it likely originated in bats. Researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology found the genome in the virus found in patients was 96 percent identical to that of an existing bat coronavirus, according to a study published in the journal Nature. But there have been other theories as well. One Chinese study suggested, for example, that snakes were the source of transmission to humans. However, many scientists believe that reptiles are a less likely source and that mammals like rats and pigs, and some birds, have been the primary reservoir for coronaviruses.

With this in mind, phylogenetic studies of viral genome sequences need to be supported by animal studies to confirm the origin of the infection, as well as to determine whether there is an intermediate host. It is not an easy task for a virus to establish zoonotic transmission, and coronaviruses rarely leap from animal to human infection with high transmissibility. There is even less chance to see a coronavirus leap directly from bats to humans. To infect new hosts, mutations need to occur with the viral surface proteins and/or envelope and structural genes, so that the mutated viruses can bind and enter the cells of new species, and efficiently complete the replication cycles in the new hosts. Some scientists have argued that coronaviruses can jump directly to humans, without mutating or passing through an intermediate species.

However, an intermediate host was clearly needed to establish zoonotic transmission to humans in the previous outbreaks of coronaviruses. Many studies suggested that the bat coronavirus jumped from its natural host bats to civets and then to humans during the 2003 SARS outbreak, and it jumped from bats to camels and then to humans for the MERS outbreak. So, civets and camels would serve as intermediate hosts for zoonotic transmission. Because bats were not sold at the Huanan market in Wuhan—the epicenter of the infection—at the time of the outbreak, this suggests the existence of another intermediate animal host that may have transferred the virus to humans. What is the most puzzling is that there have been no reports on the testing of animal samples collected in any epicenters in Wuhan, especially at the Huanan seafood market, to identify what animals might be the host or intermediate hosts of this novel Wuhan coronavirus.

Read more …

Both the Steele dossier and the black ledger are fabricated files.

Rick Gates Told Mueller The Black Ledger Was Fabricated (Solomon)

One of Robert Mueller’s pivotal trial witnesses told the special prosecutor’s team in spring 2018 that a key piece of Russia collusion evidence found in Ukraine known as the “black ledger” was fabricated, according to interviews and testimony. The ledger document, which suddenly appeared in Kiev during the 2016 U.S. election, showed alleged cash payments from Russian-backed politicians in Ukraine to ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. “The ledger was completely made up,” cooperating witness and Manafort business partner Rick Gates told prosecutors and FBI agents, according to a written summary of an April 2018 special counsel’s interview. In a brief interview with Just the News, Gates confirmed the information in the summary. “The black ledger was a fabrication,” Gates said.

“It was never real, and this fact has since been proven true.” Gates’ account is backed by several Ukrainian officials who stated in interviews dating to 2018 that the ledger was of suspicious origins and could not be corroborated. If true, Gates’ account means the two key pieces of documentary evidence used by the media and FBI to drive the now-debunked Russia collusion narrative — the Steele dossier and the black ledger — were at best uncorroborated and at worst disinformation. His account also raises the possibility that someone fabricated the document in Ukraine in an effort to restart investigative efforts on Manafort’s consulting work or to meddle in the U.S. presidential election.

Much mystery has surrounded the black ledger, which was publicized by the New York Times and other U.S. news outlets in the summer of 2016 and forced Manafort out as one of Trump’s top campaign officials. After gaining wide attention as purported evidence of Russian ties to the Trump campaign, the ledger was never introduced as evidence at Manafort’s 2018 trial or significantly analyzed in Mueller’s final 2019 report, which concluded that Trump did not collude with Russia to influence the 2016 election. No FBI 302 interview reports have been released either showing what the FBI concluded about the ledger. Gates’ interview with the Mueller team now provides a potential clue as to why.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Aug 302019
 

 

Of course the notion of addressing Hong Kong has been in my mind for a while, but it’s a bit of a moving target: things change all the time, and seemingly on the fly. However, with today’s fresh developments, it seems silly to wait any longer. Hong Kong Civic party lawmaker Dennis Kwok yesterday expressed the reason way better than I could:

As I said time and again, the use of troops in Hong Kong will be the end of Hong Kong, and I would warn against any such move on the part of the central people’s government.”

He said that before today’s arrests -and subsequent release on bail- of a handful of alleged protest leaders Joshua Wong, Andy Chan, and Agnes Chow. Who, if you read between the lines, didn’t lead much of anything; they may be figure-heads, but that’s not the same thing. The protests are either lacking leaders or everyone’s a leader, depending on who you ask. So why arrest them to begin with? You tell me.

What I did find enlightening was Reuters’ report yesterday on Beijing having rejected Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s (how is CEO a political function?) proposal to communicate with the protesters and perhaps allow some concessions to their demands. I know it’s only one source, but it appears quite feasible.

Carrie Lam is between a rock and a hard place, and she admits it -at least according to the Reuters piece-, though not to the protesters. Beijing is in exactly such a spot, but won’t admit it, ever. And that right there is Hong Kong’s main issue.

 

China Rejected Hong Kong Plan To Appease Protesters

Earlier this summer, Carrie Lam, the chief executive of Hong Kong, submitted a report to Beijing that assessed protesters’ five key demands and found that withdrawing a contentious extradition bill could help defuse the mounting political crisis in the territory.

The Chinese central government rejected Lam’s proposal to withdraw the extradition bill and ordered her not to yield to any of the protesters’ other demands at that time, three individuals with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters. China’s role in directing how Hong Kong handles the protests has been widely assumed, supported by stern statements in state media about the country’s sovereignty and protesters’ “radical” goals.

Beijing’s rebuff of Lam’s proposal for how to resolve the crisis, detailed for the first time by Reuters, represents concrete evidence of the extent to which China is controlling the Hong Kong government’s response to the unrest. The Chinese central government has condemned the protests and accused foreign powers of fuelling unrest. The Foreign Ministry has repeatedly warned other nations against interfering in Hong Kong, reiterating that the situation there is an “internal affair.”

Why the extradition bill, which would have allowed for people to be extradited from Hong Kong to the mainland was ever proposed, g-d only knows. Remember, the transfer of control over the city to China is still 28 years away. Why do it now? It was obvious all along it would meet with fierce resistance.

Blindness or blinders in the Politburo? Quite possible, it’s not as if those guys typically get out much. It’s just that they’re taking a giant risk, because as Dennis Kwok says, “the use of troops in Hong Kong will be the end of Hong Kong”. What he means, and Beijing surely understands, is the end of Hong Kong’s status as a trade and finance center.

Not a trifle matter for sure. Hong Kong has built that status over a long period -that happens in fields where trust is so crucial-, much like the City of London and Wall Street. You can break that down in no time, but you can’t rebuild the trust elsewhere in anywhere near that timeframe, it takes many years.

China has major plans to ‘move’ and/or ‘share’ Hong Kong’s financial and trade ‘qualities’ to/with neighboring Macau and Shenzhen, but it’s nowhere near ready to make that transition. Remember, Hong Kong has its own dollar, the HKD. That’s not going to move to the mainland, not even in 2047. China only have the yuan, which is quite useless for international trade and FX.

 

 

Alors, what are we going to do about it, guys? On the one side, you have Beijing, which tried to push through the extradition bill and got it thrown back in its face with interest. But Beijing is allergic to losing face. On the other side you have the protesters, who realize this is now or never, that if they give in now, their freedom(s) will never come back.

Two immovable entities, but Beijing seems to think they can move this, that they have the upper hand. Do they, though? 7.5 million people live in Hong Kong, a fair amount of whom are below the age of 10 or above the age of 75. So the 1.5 million that were already out on the streets in some of this year’s protests added up to a quarter of the population. That’s a lot of people.

Sending in troops would hurt China’s economy something real bad, because it would mean the end of the Hong Kong trade hub (corporations, banks, rich people would leave). And most of the population understand the now-or-never notion. I read somewhere that though 92% of the people are ‘Chinese’, only 11% call themselves that.

The vast majority ‘identifies’ as Hong Kongers. And (perceived) freedom is a big part of that. Many of those Hong Kongers are young and highly educated, salaries are high (finance sector), they can travel freely, study abroad. Those who are older are often the parents of these young people, who’ve worked very hard to give their kids these options.

There have been -and will be again- protests from groups of doctors, lawyers, finance professionals, you name it. They don’t want to run the risk of being picked off the streets by mainland Chinese soldiers OR by Hong Kong police forces instructed by Beijing.

When/If things get down to the wire, Hong Kongers will prove very much to be an immovable force. They have too much to lose not to be. They have, in their own view, everything to lose (which some people would translate as nothing to lose, but meaning the same). And they’re up against a Politburo that reacts to them like it’s never left the early 1900s.

This does not bode well for anyone, and if g-d forbid it comes down to serious fighting in the streets, it will bode ill for the entire world. Not only China depends on Hong Kong for much of its trade, the US and EU do, too, for their trade with China, from which they procure much of what is sold in their stores.

 

High time for everyone to sit down and talk. If there’s still time. The mass protest scheduled for tomorrow, August 31, may have been ‘officially’ called off, but there’s no proof Hong Kongers will stay home because of that. There IS proof of more military movements just across the Hong Kong border in Shenzhen, however.

Pre-emptively arresting and releasing a pair of 22-year-old kids may not do the job anymore for Beijing. But the Communist Party CCP thinks they cannot possibly lose. They may be wrong. 1.3 billion people is a mighty potential force, but it’s not always only about numbers. Sometimes it’s about now or never.

To me, personally, it feels like what is needed is for the CCP to modernize. But its very structure is set against that. It appears to be this inertia-laden colossus attempting to rule the 21st century with 100-year-old ideas. And yes, they’re talking about shutting down the internet in Hong Kong.

But that would mean shutting down the banks and trading houses too. As would sending in the tanks. According to the 1990s transition treaty signed with the UK, Beijing has until 2047 to fully incorporate Hong Kong. It may not go down smoothly then either, granted, but why push it today?

The West, the EU, UK, US -Putin even?!- can easily come up with a proposal for meetings on Hong Kong to be held over the next 28 years until 2047 that would allow Beijing to save face today. Let’s get it done, soon, win everyone involved some time, they all need it. We need it. And 28 years is plenty time. Before we inadvertently land in another Boxer War or Opium War or WWIII.

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 042019
 


Robert Frank London 1951-52

 

US, China Said To Appear Close To Deal To Roll Back Tariffs (R.)
Beijing To Encourage ‘Shadow’ Lending To Boost Growth – China Economist (CNBC)
Beijing Locked Down For China’s Greatest Political Spectacle (G.)
Huawei: Meng Wanzhou Sues Canadian Government Over Arrest (AP)
May Accused Of £1.6bn Brexit ‘Bribe’ Over New Fund For Deprived Towns (Ind.)
Russia Tells US It Is Ready For Bilateral Talks On Venezuela (R.)
Roger Stone Suggests In Instagram Post Robert Mueller ‘Framed’ Him (CNBC)
Donald Trump Facing Major New Investigation Into ‘Abuse Of Power’ (Ind.)
America’s Trust In Mainstream Media Hits Rock Bottom (SCF)
Trump Blames Timing Of Cohen Testimony For Collapse Of Kim Jong-Un Summit (G.)
US Voters Overwhelmingly Reject “Socialists” And Candidates “Over 75” (ZH)
Carpocalypse Now: We’re In The Endgame For Cars (BI)
Toxic Agrochemicals And Regulators’ Collusion With Industry (OffG)
Endangered Fruit Bats ‘Being Driven To Extinction’ In Mauritius (Ind.)

 

 

Can’t wait to see the details

US, China Said To Appear Close To Deal To Roll Back Tariffs (R.)

The United States and China appear close to a deal that would roll back U.S. tariffs on at least $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, as Beijing makes pledges on structural economic changes and eliminates retaliatory tariffs on U.S. goods, a source briefed on negotiations said on Sunday. U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could seal a formal trade deal at a summit around March 27 given progress in talks between the two countries, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday. In an eight-month trade war, the United States has imposed punitive tariffs on $250 billion worth of imports from China, while Beijing has hit back with tariffs on $110 billion worth of U.S. goods, including soybeans and other commodities.

The actions have roiled financial markets, disrupted manufacturing supply chains and reduced U.S. farm exports. Trump administration officials have said they expect the two presidents to “close” a deal at a summit in coming weeks at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. The source briefed on the talks said that no dates for a summit had been determined, but that Beijing had reserved a 10-day window from around March 20 for a possible summit. Many details still needed to be worked out, including the terms of an enforcement mechanism to ensure that Beijing follows through on pledges to make changes to policies to better protect U.S. intellectual property, end forced technology transfers and curb industrial subsidies.

Another source familiar with the talks said that Washington and Beijing were close to agreement on non-enforcement issues, including China’s pledges to increase purchases of farm, energy and manufactured products, as well as six agreements on structural policy changes.

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Xiang Songzuo is the same economist who is December said Chinese GDP growth was just 1.67%. But openly saying that Xi is selling his soul to the shadows is quite the statement again. How’s that linked to the tariffs deal?

Beijing To Encourage ‘Shadow’ Lending To Boost Growth – China Economist (CNBC)

After tamping down on shadow banking in the last few years, China will now likely encourage such lending to boost economic growth, a Chinese economist told CNBC on Monday ahead of the country’s annual parliamentary session. “The top agenda of (the) NPC this year is to design policies to prevent further decline (of growth rate),” said Xiang Songzuo, professor at Renmin University in Beijing, referring to the National People’s Congress, which kicks off on Tuesday. “I think this year, regulators will encourage more shadow banking financing, particularly to the private sector,” said Xiang, who was previously a deputy director at the People’s Bank of China and chief economist at the Agricultural Bank of China.

Shadow banking refers to activities performed by financial firms outside the formal banking sector, and therefore subject to lower levels of regulatory oversight and higher risks. According to Xiang, Chinese officials have moved from talking about cutting debt to stabilizing the economy. China’s GDP target last year was around 6.5%. Sources have told Reuters that Beijing will likely set a growth target of between 6.0 to 6.5% in 2019. Shadow banking is “coming back,” Xiang said. In addition to spending more on infrastructure, Beijing will also need to stimulate the economy through lending, particularly to the private sector, he added. [..] Beijing will need to tread a tightrope as it faces the dilemma of what increased shadow lending could bring, said Xiang. “On the one hand, they need shadow banking to finance investment; but on the other hand, they (need to) try to control the potential risks,” he added.

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Orwell lives!

Beijing Locked Down For China’s Greatest Political Spectacle (G.)

China’s largest political event of the year, a meeting of legislative delegates and political advisers known as the “two sessions”, gets under way this week and comes at a time when Chinese leader Xi Jinping faces one of the most challenging periods since coming to power. Thousands of delegates will descend on the Great Hall of the People in Beijing while authorities go into overdrive to prevent any semblance of dissent during the two weeks of meetings of the 3,000-strong National People’s Congress (NPC) , and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), an advisory body. Xi faces public scrutiny against the backdrop of a slowing Chinese economy, a bruising trade war with the US, heightened international concern over Chinese tech firm Huawei, and growing global criticism over Chinese policies in Xinjiang.

[..] Debate among delegates, scholars, and political observers will be even more constrained this year. Notices ahead of the meeting instruct party members on the “right way to build the party” banning over-the-top praise of the party as well as criticism. “People can’t talk normally, and now even this kind of expression is forbidden. It shows this is a very sensitive period,” said Zhang Lifan, a historian based in Beijing who follows elite Chinese politics. “I’m afraid party committees have taken many preventive measures, to prevent any sensitive speech that can lead to a chaos during the meeting.” He believes discussion of economic issues and the trade war are inevitable. “I think there will still be some ways of talking about the political system, not in direct ways, but using the economy,” he said.

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This will hurt Canada much more than the US.

Huawei: Meng Wanzhou Sues Canadian Government Over Arrest (AP)

Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Chinese technology company Huawei, is suing the Canadian government, its border agency and the national police force over her high-profile detention. Meng claims they detained, searched and interrogated her before telling her she was under arrest. Lawyers for Meng said on Sunday they had filed a notice of civil claim in the British Columbia supreme court. Canada arrested Meng, the daughter of Huawei’s founder, at the request of the US on 1 December at Vancouver airport. US prosecutors will accuse her of misleading banks about the company’s business dealings in Iran. Meng’s lawsuit alleges that instead of immediately arresting her, authorities interrogated her “under the guise of a routine customs” examination and used the opportunity to “compel her to provide evidence and information”.

The suit also claims Canada Border Service Agency agents seized her electronic devices, obtained passwords and unlawfully viewed the contents and intentionally failed to adviser her of the true reasons for her detention. The suit said only after three hours was she told she was under arrest and had right to counsel. “This case concerns a deliberate and pre-meditated effort on the part of the defendant officers to obtain evidence and information from the plaintiff in a manner which they knew constituted serious violations of the plaintiff’s rights,” the claim says. Meng has been released on bail and is living in Vancouver awaiting extradition proceedings.

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25 days. Desperation creeps in. May is bribing Labour MPs.

May Accused Of £1.6bn Brexit ‘Bribe’ Over New Fund For Deprived Towns (Ind.)

The government has been accused of “bribing” MPs to back Theresa May‘s Brexit deal after announcing a new £1.6bn fund to help deprived towns. The “Stronger Towns Fund“ will offer investment to places that have not benefited from economic growth as much as other parts of the country, ministers said. The government said the money would be used to create jobs, train local people and boost investment, but critics said it was an attempt to convince Labour MPs in Leave-voting areas to back Ms May’s withdrawal agreement, and was not enough to offset the impact of Brexit. £1bn of the funding will be allocated to areas across the country, with more than half going to towns in the north of England. The other £600m will be available for local authorities to bid for.

Of the money being directly allocated by the government, the north west will receive the most, with £281m, followed by the west Midlands (£212m) and Yorkshire and the Humber (£197m). Announcing the fund, Ms May said: ”For too long in our country prosperity has been unfairly spread. Our economy has worked well for some places but we want it to work for all communities. “Communities across the country voted for Brexit as an expression of their desire to see change – that must be a change for the better, with more opportunity and greater control. “These towns have a glorious heritage, huge potential and, with the right help, a bright future ahead of them.”

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Doubt that Bolton is interested.

Russia Tells US It Is Ready For Bilateral Talks On Venezuela (R.)

Russia is ready to take part in bilateral talks with the United States over the issue of Venezuela, Russia’s foreign minister told his U.S. counterpart late on Saturday. The situation in Venezuela was the main topic in a phone call between Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that took place on March 2, Russia’s foreign ministry said on its website. “In connection with Washington’s proposal to hold bilateral consultations on the Venezuelan topic, it was stated that Russia is ready to participate in this,” the ministry said in a statement.

It was “vital to be strictly guided by the principles of the UN Charter since only the Venezuelan people have the right to determine their future,” the statement said. Russia and the United States have been at loggerheads over a U.S.-led campaign for international recognition of Juan Guaido, the Venezuelan opposition leader who declared himself the interim head of state, over President Nicholas Maduro. In the phone call, initiated by the United States, Lavrov condemned the threats that Washington made towards “the country’s lawful leadership,” the ministry said, referring to Maduro.

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You can’t put Stone under quasi house arrest and expect him to be quiet. He’ll end up doing crazy stuff.

Roger Stone Suggests In Instagram Post Robert Mueller ‘Framed’ Him (CNBC)

Roger Stone on Sunday suggested he has been “framed” by special counsel Robert Mueller in an Instagram post that appeared to run afoul of a judge’s barely week-old gag order barring President Donald Trump’s longtime friend from criticizing the prosecutors in the criminal case against him. Stone deleted the only image in that multi-image post that included “Who framed Roger Stone” language shortly after CNBC emailed his lawyer to ask about it. Stone’s post was put online less than 48 hours after the judge, Amy Berman Jackson, ordered lawyers for the admitted Republican “dirty trickster” to explain why they did not tell her earlier about the planned publication of a book by Stone that could violate her gag order on him.

Stone announced on Instagram in January that he was coming out with the book, “The Myth of Russian Collusion: The Inside Story of How Trump Really Won.” In her gag order in U.S District Court in Washington, D.C., Jackson barred Stone from “making statements to the media or in public settings about the Special Counsel’s investigation or this case or any of the participants in the investigation or the case.” The gag extends to “posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any other form of social media.” If Stone violates the order, Jackson could order him jailed without bail until his trial.

Stone’s new post is comprised of a rotating series of images that ask for money to support Stone’s defense to charges that he lied to Congress and tampered with a witness. One says, “I am committed to proving my innocence. But I need your help.” Another photo, which shows a young Stone standing behind Trump years ago, says, “I’ve always had Trump’s back. Will you have mine?” Two other images tout a “Roger Stone Did Nothing Wrong” t-shirt and “Stone Cold Truth” sweatshirt.

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Nadler, Schiff, Mark Warner, they’re on a publicity tour to keep collusion alive just as it’s dying.

Donald Trump Facing Major New Investigation Into ‘Abuse Of Power’ (Ind.)

The US House Judiciary Committee will launch a probe into possible obstruction of justice and abuse of power by Donald Trump. Jerry Nadler, who chairs the committee, told ABC that the panel wanted to obtain documents from more than 60 people and entities as part of the investigation. Documents from Donald Trump Jr, the president’s son and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer, are among those wanted by the panel. “We are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption … and into obstruction of justice,” Mr Nadler said. “It’s our job to protect the rule of law.” “It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice,” he said. But the congressman added that it was too soon to consider the possibility of impeachment.

“Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen,” he said. The politician said the committee would release the full list of people and organisations it would be seeking information from on Monday. He said that the president’s firing of James Comey, who at the time was leading an investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US election, was evidence of Mr Trump’s obstruction. The congressman also cited what he described as Mr Trump’s attempts to intimidate witnesses involved in the probe. “I am an innocent man being persecuted by some very bad, conflicted & corrupt people in a Witch Hunt that is illegal & should never have been allowed to start,” Donald Trump said on Twitter, in response to the announcement. “Despite this, great success!”

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Gee, how can it be?

America’s Trust In Mainstream Media Hits Rock Bottom (SCF)

Things are going from bad to worse for the US legacy media as its trust credentials have reached an all-time new low, as if that were possible. It has even achieved a lower trust rating than lawyers and members of Congress. The introduction to the CJR poll provided the following ominous opening: “For decades, we’ve known that Americans don’t trust the press. What we haven’t known is how people view the makings of journalism, from the use of fact checkers and anonymous sources to the question of whether money skews journalistic decision-making. This new national poll for CJR answers those questions, and points to how big the trust gap remains.” Indeed, the cynicism on the street should have every mainstream media purveyor in a state of absolute panic.

In one particular finding, it was revealed that many news consumers believe that reporters, seemingly in an effort to push forward with a political agenda, are too quick to run with a story before knowing all of the facts. This has never been more true before than in the Trump era where anything goes, so long as it trashes conservatives. We have just witnessed ample proof of that media tendency in several high-profile cases. This week, attorneys for Nick Sandmann, a student from Covington Catholic High School, filed a lawsuit against the Washington Post, seeking $250 million in damages for negligence. Sandmann and his fellow students became the target of false accusations of racism during a trip to Washington, D.C.

The mainstream media, as well as many politicians and celebrities, pushed the story that the young student, a Trump supporter, had taunted an elderly Native American Indian near the Lincoln Memorial. The story quickly fell apart, however, after video of the encounter and eyewitness accounts destroyed the media version of events. Attorneys for the boy claim that the Bezos-owned newspaper “wrongfully targeted and bullied Nicholas because he was the white, Catholic student wearing a red ‘Make America Great Again’ souvenir cap on a school field trip to the January 18 March for Life in Washington, D.C.” Todd McMurtry, one of the attorneys for the Catholic student, called the Washington Post “a weaponized news outlet that used its power and strength to destroy Nick Sandmann’s reputation.”

[..] When asked how much confidence they had in the media, almost 70 percent of Republican respondents answered “hardly any confidence at all,” while just 25 percent of Democrats held a similar opinion.

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Well, not entirely; he merely named it as a factor.

Trump Blames Timing Of Cohen Testimony For Collapse Of Kim Jong-Un Summit (G.)

US president Donald Trump has blamed that the Democrats’ decision to interview his longtime fixer, lawyer Michael Cohen, on the same day as a meeting with Kim Jong-un for the fact that the North Korea summit ended with no deal. “For the Democrats to interview in open hearings a convicted liar & fraudster, at the same time as the very important Nuclear Summit with North Korea, is perhaps a new low in American politics and may have contributed to the ‘walk.’” Trump said on Twitter, referring to his decision to walk away from what he previously said was a bad deal with Kim. “Never done when a president is overseas. Shame!” Last week in Hanoi, Trump and Kim met for the second time to try to negotiate a deal that would surrender some of North Korea’s nuclear weapons arsenal in return for sanctions relief. After talks fell apart over the issue of sanctions, Trump told a media conference “sometimes you have to walk”.

At the same time in Washington, Trump’s former aide Cohen was testifying before the US House of Representatives’ oversight committee, accusing Trump of ordering his personal attorney to make threats for him about 500 times over the past 10 years. He also called the president a liar, racist and conman. When asked about Cohen’s testimony at a press conference on Thursday in Hanoi after Trump had abruptly decided to end the summit with Kim early, the president called the allegations “incorrect” and criticised the decision to have the hearing while he was away. “I tried to watch as much as I could,” Trump said. “I wasn’t able to watch too much because I’ve been a little bit busy, but I think having a fake hearing like that and having it in the middle of this very important summit is really a terrible thing.”

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It doesn’t get more obvious.

US Voters Overwhelmingly Reject “Socialists” And Candidates “Over 75” (ZH)

[..] in the latest indication that the odds in the general election would be heavily stacked against Bernie, an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll revealed that only 25% of respondents ranked “socialist” as a desirable trait for a candidate. And only 37% said “someone over 75” would be a desirable candidate, according to Bloomberg. Meanwhile, more voters said they would accept a candidate who was gay or a lesbian, or an Independent under the age of 40. Critically, the survey showed that 41% of voters would definitely or likely vote for Trump in 2020, while 48% said they would probably vote for the Democratic candidate. But, in a possible silver lining for Sanders and his “political revolution”, 55% of voters said they would support a candidate who would implement major changes (as Trump did), vs. 42% who said they wouldn’t.

“We’re getting early signals from Democratic primary voters that they are looking for bigger change and someone who agrees with them on policy,” said Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who worked on the survey. Republicans in the White House, Congress and in the media have made “socialism” a significant point of attack as the election draws closer, ripping proposals for expanded access to Medicare, the so-called Green New Deal, and other Democratic priorities. And though only 41% of respondents said they would support Trump in 2020, a majority said they had a favorable view of the Trump economy, and few expect a recession in the coming year. “As long as these economic numbers look like this, that always keeps an incumbent president in the race,” McInturff said.

[..] only 38% of respondents said they would support a third-party candidate in 2020. Meanwhile, Trump’s approval rating ticked higher in January from 43% to 46%. [..] Trump’s approval rating ticked up to 46 percent from 43 percent in January. He had the support of 88 percent of Republicans. Thirty-seven percent of GOP primary voters said they’d like to see another Republican challenge Trump in 2020, while 59 percent said they were opposed to that.

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I’m all for ending teh scourge that cars have become. But why do we need a bunch of US investors for that? And do these people realize that we won’t pay for the upkeep of the roads once we ditch our cars? It’s going to be public transport, not Lyft cars.

Carpocalypse Now: We’re In The Endgame For Cars (BI)

The founders of the ride-sharing app Lyft filed their IPO papers last week, and their vision for the company is dramatic. Lyft (which works a bit like Uber) is not just about getting you from A to B, they say. Rather, founders Logan Green and John Zimmer believe that car ownership is in permanent decline and they want to help it die, they write in their S-1 filing. “We believe that the world is at the beginning of a shift away from car ownership to Transportation-as-a-Service, or TaaS. Lyft is at the forefront of this massive societal change,” they told investors.

“Car ownership has … economically burdened consumers. US households spend more on transportation than on any expenditure other than housing. … On a per household basis, the average annual spend on transportation is over $9,500, with the substantial majority spent on car ownership and operation.” Cars create “inequality,” they argue. “The average cost of a new vehicle in the United States has increased to over $33,000, which most American households cannot afford,” the IPO says. “We estimate over 300,000 Lyft riders have given up their personal cars because of Lyft.”

• Car sales in Britain declined 18.2% in January. It was the eighth successive month of decline. • Sales in Turkey declined 60%. •Europe-wide, sales are down around 6%. • In the US, total car registrations have declined by about 10% • Tire sales – a proxy for vehicle production – are down in China, too.

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The power of Bayer and Monsanto will make us commit collective suicide.

Toxic Agrochemicals And Regulators’ Collusion With Industry (OffG)

Dr Mason had been writing to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the EU Commission for an 18-month period, challenging them about ECHA’s positive assessment of glyphosate. Many people around the world had struggled to understand how and why the US EPA and the EFSA concluded that glyphosate is not genotoxic (damaging to DNA) or carcinogenic, whereas the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency, the IARC, came to the opposite conclusion. The IARC stated that the evidence for glyphosate’s genotoxic potential is “strong” and that glyphosate is a probable human carcinogen. While IARC referenced only peer-reviewed studies and reports available in the public literature, the EPA relied heavily on unpublished regulatory studies commissioned by pesticide manufacturers.

In fact, 95 of the 151 genotoxicity assays cited in the EPA’s evaluation were from industry studies (63%), while IARC cited 100% public literature sources. Another important difference is that the EPA focused its analysis on glyphosate in its pure chemical form, or ‘glyphosate technical’. The problem with that is that almost no one is exposed to glyphosate alone. Applicators and the public are exposed to complete herbicide formulations consisting of glyphosate plus added ingredients (adjuvants). The formulations have repeatedly been shown to be more toxic than glyphosate in isolation. The European Ombudsman has now rejected Rosemary Mason’s complaint who has in turn written a 25-page response documenting the wide-ranging impacts of glyphosate-based Roundup and other agrochemicals on human health and the environment.

She also outlines the various levels of duplicity that have allowed many of these chemicals to remain on the commercial market. Mason is led to conclude that, due to the rejection of her complaint (as with others lodged by her to the Ombudsman), the European Ombudsman Office is also part of the problem and is essentially colluding with European pesticide regulatory authorities. Mason has addressed this concern directly to Emily O’Reilly, who currently holds the post of European Ombudsman: “In your rejection of all my complaints over the last few years, it is clear that The Ombudsman’s Office is protecting the European pesticides regulatory authorities, who are in turn being controlled by the European Glyphosate Task Force…. You have turned a blind eye to the authorisation of many of the toxic pesticides that are on the market today because industry is being allowed to self-regulate.”

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The things that must be turned around. We’ve gone much too far.

“The bats – also known as flying foxes – are resorting to eating in orchards to survive because only 5 per cent of Mauritius’s native forests remain..”

Endangered Fruit Bats ‘Being Driven To Extinction’ In Mauritius (Ind.)

Scientists are suing the Mauritian government for “driving endangered fruit bats towards extinction”, after mass culls killed at least half their population. More than 50,000 of the animals are thought to have been killed in three culls since 2015, in an attempt to protect fruit in orchards. The bats – also known as flying foxes – are resorting to eating in orchards to survive because only 5 per cent of Mauritius’s native forests remain, animal experts warned. Fruit bats are vital for biodiversity as they pollinate flowers and scatter seeds, enabling trees and plants to grow and spread, according to conservationists. But populations of the flying foxes have fallen by more than 50 per cent in four years, said Vincent Florens, an ecologist at the University of Mauritius. Some believe fewer than 30,000 now remain.

Tigga Kingston, a biologist and bat specialist for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said the fewer animals remain, the more vulnerable they will be to natural disasters, disease and habitat loss, leading to extinction. Britain’s Bat Conservation Trust has pleaded for the culls to end, citing research that found they accounted for only 10 per cent of fruit plant damage. The first cull, in 2015, killed 30,000, and in a second cull, the following year, 7,380 were targeted. The IUCN then raised the bats’ status from vulnerable to endangered. But the latest cull involved 13,000. Prof Florens said he believed the number killed is much higher than the 50,300 government figure. “The culls took place late in the year, when many mothers were pregnant or had babies,” he told National Geographic. “You shoot one bat and basically kill two.” Others were likely to have been injured and died later, he said.


At least 50,000 fruit bats have been culled in Mauritius since they have been forced to survive on orchard fruits because of deforestation (iStock )

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