Jun 062020
 


F.A. Loumis Independence Day 1906

 

Just 20% Of Coronavirus Cases Responsible For 80% Of Transmissions (RT)
Hydroxychloroquine Does Not Cure COVID19, Say Drug Trial Chiefs (G.)
A Second Major COVID Study Is Retracted (Newser)
UK Care Home Residents Face Steep Hike In Fees (BBC)
Bill Gates Dismisses ‘Bizarre’ COVID19 Conspiracy Theories (RT)
Tidal Wave Of Defaults And Evictions Looms (NPR)
Surprise: The BLS Admits Another Phony Jobs Report (Mish)
Biden Clinches Nomination, Readies For Fall Showdown With Trump (JTN)
Biden: 10-15% of Americans Are ‘Not Very Good People’ (JTN)
Lisa Page Is The New National Security And Legal Analyst At NBC News
Senate Approves 35 Subpoenas for Obama Administration Officials (NBC)
Letter From Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, ‘I Am Not Done’ (SAC)

 

 

Worldometer puts global new cases for June 5 at + 130,529. Another record.

 

Note: I count not from midnight GMT to midnight GMT, as they do, but from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT.

My count over the past 24 hours is over + 147,000 cases.

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 25,393
• Brazil + 30,136
• Russia + 8,855
• India + 9,944
• Pakistan + 8,719
• Mexico + 4,346

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 6,871,728 (+ 147,632 from yesterday’s 6,724,096)

Deaths 398,663 (+ 5,110 from yesterday’s 393,553)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t suffer from insanity, I enjoy every minute

 

 

Superspreaders are simply people stupid enough to socialize a lot in long lasting events in closed spaces. That’s why “..roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes.”

Just 20% Of Coronavirus Cases Responsible For 80% Of Transmissions (RT)

The latest research into so-called “superspreader events” could inform public policy across the world, to help fight the widely feared “second wave” of coronavirus infections, but without the need for strict lockdowns. A “superspreader” is an infected person who transmits a virus to a large number of people. A growing body of evidence has found that superspreaders account for the vast majority of coronavirus transmissions. In the latest study on superspreaders, epidemiologists in Hong Kong analyzed over 1,000 coronavirus cases between January 23 and April 28, and found that just 20 percent of cases were responsible for 80 percent of total transmissions, data which could impact policy around the world. About 350 of the cases were community transmissions, while the rest were imported cases.

More than 50 percent of the community transmission cases were traced back to just six superspreader events, all of which involved indoor social gatherings that lasted several hours. “Superspreading events are happening more than we expected, more than what could be explained by chance. The frequency of superspreading is beyond what we could have imagined,” Ben Cowling, one of the study’s co-authors said. The study also found that 70 percent of infected people did not pass the virus to anyone else, further highlighting the need for a highly targeted response to defeating the pandemic. The work has yet to undergo peer review, but joins a growing body of work indicating the particular method of transmission which has spread the coronavirus to every corner of the globe, with disastrous consequences. If corroborated, however, this research could inform future public policy across the world.

Among the Hong Kong superspreading events studied, each ‘superspreader’ coronavirus carrier infected three times the average infection rate. The majority of the superspreader cases were traced back to a wedding, an event at a temple, and several bars in Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong district. “You might be wondering if our study, or the experience of Hong Kong, with its small number of total infections, is more broadly representative. We think so,” Cowling wrote, referring to a widely studied phenomenon known as the “80-20 rule” or the “Pareto principle,” in which, for many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes.

[..] One model from researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine took it one step further and suggested just 10 percent of coronavirus cases may have accounted for at least 80 percent of transmissions worldwide. Similar results were found in coronavirus research conducted in Israel and China.

Read more …

Two “studies” embarrassingly flattened but they just keep on coming.

Again, nobody of any importance to the discussion has ever claimed HCQ cures COVID19. Why keep referring to that? It is not a vaccine, there is no claim to that. Remember, meanwhile remdesivir is being touted because it MIGHT shorten hospital stays by a few days.

As for this trial: there is no data in this piece on the stage at which patients wre given HCQ. If they were already severely sick, it would have been too late. Also, no mention of zinc.

Why do all these medical professionals volunteer to look ridiculous?

Hydroxychloroquine Does Not Cure COVID19, Say Drug Trial Chiefs (G.)

Hydroxychloroquine does not work against Covid-19 and should not be given to any more hospital patients around the world, say the leaders of the biggest and best-designed trial of the drug, which experts will hope finally settle the question. “If you are admitted to hospital, don’t take hydroxychloroquine,” said Martin Landray, deputy chief investigator of the Recovery trial and professor of medicine and epidemiology at Oxford University. “It doesn’t work.” Many countries have permitted emergency use of the drug for Covid-19 patients in hospitals, following claims from a few doctors, including Didier Raoult in France, that it was a cure, and the ensuing clamour from the public. President Donald Trump backed the drug, saying it should be given to patients, and later said he was personally taking it to protect himself from the virus.

Landray said the hype should now stop. “It is being touted as a game-changer, a wonderful drug, a breakthrough. This is an incredibly important result, because worldwide we can stop using a drug that is useless.” The first results from the Recovery trial, which has been testing seven therapies for Covid-19, swiftly followed the retraction of a paper in the Lancet medical journal on Thursday night claiming that hydroxychloroquine was linked to an increased risk of death in Covid-19 patients. The authors of the paper withdrew it after the US company Surgisphere refused to cooperate with an independent audit of the data it had supplied for the study.

Supporters of the drug hailed the paper’s retraction, but the World Health Organization and countries that have authorised use of the drug are now likely to change their position. The Recovery trial is a “gold standard” randomised controlled trial, designed to find an answer to a question by recruiting patients in similar circumstances either to take the drug or to take a placebo. Their doctors and the researchers do not know which ones are taking the genuine trial drug.

[..] Since March, when the trial began, a total of 1,542 patients had been randomised to receive hydroxychloroquine, while 3,132 patients were randomised to receive only normal care. Over 28 days, 25.7% of patients on hydroxychloroquine died, compared with 23.5% of the others. The difference is not statistically significant – it could have arisen by chance. But the clear conclusion was that hydroxychloroquine did not work, said the researchers.

Read more …

“.. I did not do enough to ensure that the data source was appropriate for this use..”

Fire the man, defund him. He never saw the data or the sources, he simply believed what he was fed because it served his purposes and those of his funders.

A Second Major COVID Study Is Retracted (Newser)

First, the esteemed Lancet medical journal retracted a major study on Thursday about hydroxychloroquine. Then, the New England Journal of Medicine did the same with another big study related to COVID-19 and blood pressure drugs. Both retractions have a common denominator: They relied on data supplied by a US analytics company called Surgisphere, which is coming under increasing scrutiny over the credibility of its international database. The Lancet study had cast doubt on the effectiveness of the anti-malarial drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, reports the Wall Street Journal. The retraction is now renewing the hope that the drugs (highly touted by President Trump) can work safely after all, and the World Health Organization already has said it would resume trials, notes the New York Times.


“It is now clear to me that in my hope to contribute to this research during a time of great need, I did not do enough to ensure that the data source was appropriate for this use,” says Harvard’s Mandeep Mehra, who was the lead author of both studies. “For that, and for all the disruptions—both directly and indirectly—I am truly sorry.” Both studies listed as a co-author Surgisphere founder/CEO Sapan Desai, whose name appears only on the NEMJ retraction. His company claims to have collected patient data from hospitals all over the world, but now red flags are going up. The Journal, for instance, got in touch with a dozen big US hospitals, and none shared patient data with the company. Surgisphere previously said it couldn’t name the 671 hospitals in the Lancet study out of privacy concerns. The controversy illustrates the rushed state of research amid the pandemic, notes the Times.

Read more …

It’s cheaper to die, gramps.

UK Care Home Residents Face Steep Hike In Fees (BBC)

Some older people in care homes are being asked to pay more than £100 a week extra in fees to cover the costs of coronavirus. Age UK said residents who pay their own fees are facing the bills to pay for protective gear and rising staff costs. It adds “insult to injury” for people who have “been through the mill” during the pandemic, the charity said. The government said it provided £600m for infection control in care homes and £3.2bn for wider council services. Care home residents who fund themselves have effectively subsidised the care system for many years, paying far more for their support than those funded by their local authority.


Age UK says on average these residents are charged just over £850 pounds a week, and some are now seeing their fees rise by 15%. It is not clear how many care homes have asked self-funding residents to pay more. There are 400,000 people estimated to be living in care homes in England, with 167,000 believed to be self-funders and 45,000 part self-funders. Caroline Abrahams, director of Age UK, said older people and their families have “been through the mill” in recent months as outbreaks occurred in one in three care homes. “It is adding insult to injury that after going through so much, some residents who pay for their own care are now facing a big extra bill – on top of already expensive fees.”

Read more …

The bogeyman speaketh. Extreme fear ensues.

Bill Gates Dismisses ‘Bizarre’ COVID19 Conspiracy Theories (RT)

“It’s almost hard to deny this stuff because it’s so stupid or strange that even to repeat it gives it credibility,” Gates said on numerous conspiracy theories swirling around him since the coronavirus crisis began and he became an outspoken champion for a vaccine. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has just recently pledged $1.6 billion to vaccine alliance group Gavi, which will use the money to immunize children in poorer nations. Conspiracy theories linking Gates to the origins of Covid-19 or arguing he wants to track citizens through microchips under the guise of ensuring they are vaccinated against the virus were mentioned over a million times before May, according to Zignal Labs, a media analytics company.

The theories continue to swirl around social media and a poll from Yahoo News/YouGov from late last month even found 28 percent of respondents believed Gates wanted to use the coronavirus as an excuse to track and store their information. Among Republican respondents, that percentage was even higher. “I’ve never been involved in any microchip type thing,” Gates said, calling the poll results “concerning.” He did admit “data systems” would be a good idea to track a Covid-19 vaccine, but “there’s no chips or anything like that.” Gates has thrown his support behind a “national tracking system.” Concerns and theories about Gates’ influence have only intensified as his standing in the world has increased.

Already the second richest man on the planet with a net worth of about $100 billion, he is about to become the largest donor to the WHO, a position previously held by the US before President Donald Trump cut ties with the international group over their handling of the pandemic. In the last two years, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has accounted for over 12 percent of the WHO’s budget, which equates to approximately $530 million, according to Devex. It is followed by Gavi alliance (8.18 percent) that the foundation also sponsors. The US gave slightly more in that time frame with payments equalling around $890 million. Lawrence Gostin the director of WHO’s Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law, told Devex the potential of a private foundation becoming the largest donor to the organization could be “transformational.” “It would enable a single rich philanthropist to set the global health agenda,” he said.

Read more …

Storm warning.

Tidal Wave Of Defaults And Evictions Looms (NPR)

Americans are skipping payments on mortgages, auto loans and other bills. Normally, that could mean massive foreclosures, evictions, cars repossessions and people’s credit getting destroyed. But much of that has been put on pause. Help from Congress and leniency from lenders have kept impending financial disaster at bay for millions of people. But that may not last for long. The problem is that these efforts aim to create a financial bridge to the future for people who’ve lost their income in the pandemic — but the bridge is only half-built.

[..] millions of people are getting help from all kinds of lenders. According to the latest available numbers from the credit bureau TransUnion, about 3 million auto loans and 15 million credit card accounts are in some kind of program to let people skip or make partial payments. Those are probably low estimates. According to the analytics company Black Knight, 4.75 million homeowners — or 9% of all mortgages — have entered into forbearance plans. Lawmakers don’t want these delayed payments to hurt credit scores. Congress mandated that people who were current on their payments before the outbreak should still be reported as current on their payments while in a hardship program. And that appears to working for now.

“What we’re seeing consistently across the board is actually credit scores are moving upward,” says Matthew Komos, a vice president at TransUnion. He says that’s both on a month-to-month and year-over-year basis. But looking ahead, advocates say people could run into big trouble because the terms of these hardship programs can be all over the map. “Credit cards, auto loans, installment loans, there are no federal guidelines,” says Aracely Panameño, a director at the nonprofit Center for Responsible Lending. She says when it comes time to make up for all those skipped payments, there are federal rules for repayment plans for home mortgages but not for many other types of loans. So she says lawmakers need to protect people. Otherwise, she says, lenders could make demands beyond what people can afford. “You must have a capacity to catch up with your payments in an affordable way,” Panameño says.

Read more …

Hard to believe the BLS is still paid for their reports.

Surprise: The BLS Admits Another Phony Jobs Report (Mish)

BLS Admits Another Error “In the household survey, individuals are classified as employed, unemployed, or not in the labor force based on their answers to a series of questions about their activities during the survey reference week (May 10th through May 16th). Workers who indicate they were not working during the entire survey reference week and expect to be recalled to their jobs should be classified as unemployed on temporary layoff. In May, a large number of persons were classified as unemployed on temporary layoff. However, there was also a large number of workers who were classified as employed but absent from work. As was the case in March and April, household survey interviewers were instructed to classify employed persons absent from work due to coronavirus-related business closures as unemployed on temporary layoff.”

“However, it is apparent that not all such workers were so classified. BLS and the Census Bureau are investigating why this misclassification error continues to occur and are taking additional steps to address the issue. If the workers who were recorded as employed but absent from work due to “other reasons” (over and above the number absent for other reasons in a typical May) had been classified as unemployed on temporary layoff, the overall unemployment rate would have been about 3 percentage points higher than reported (on a not seasonally adjusted basis). However, according to usual practice, the data from the household survey are accepted as recorded. To maintain data integrity, no ad hoc actions are taken to reclassify survey responses.”


Job Revisions The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for March was revised down by 492,000, from -881,000 to -1.4 million, and the change for April was revised down by 150,000, from -20.5 million to -20.7 million. With these revisions, employment in March and April combined was 642,000 lower than previously reported. [..] Total nonfarm payroll employment fell by 20.5 million in April, and the unemployment rate rose to 14.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

The official unemployment rate is 13.3%. However, if you start counting all the people who want a job but gave up, all the people with part-time jobs that want a full-time job, all the people who dropped off the unemployment rolls because their unemployment benefits ran out, etc., you get a closer picture of what the unemployment rate is. That number is in the last row labeled U-6. U-6 is much higher at 21.2%. Both numbers would be way higher still, were it not for millions dropping out of the labor force over the past few years.

It’s important to put the jobs numbers into proper perspective. In the household survey, if you work as little as 1 hour a week, even selling trinkets on eBay, you are considered employed. In the household survey, if you work three part-time jobs, 12 hours each, the BLS considers you a full-time employee. In the payroll survey, three part-time jobs count as three jobs. The BLS attempts to factor this in, but they do not weed out duplicate Social Security numbers. The potential for double-counting jobs in the payroll survey is large.


The payroll survey (sometimes called the establishment survey) is the headline jobs number, generally released the first Friday of every month. It is based on employer reporting. The household survey is a phone survey conducted by the BLS. It measures unemployment and many other factors. If you work one hour, you are employed. If you don’t have a job and fail to look for one, you are not considered unemployed, rather, you drop out of the labor force. Looking for jobs on Monster does not count as “looking for a job”. You need an actual interview or send out a resume. These distortions artificially lower the unemployment rate, artificially boost full-time employment, and artificially increase the payroll jobs report every month.

Read more …

The article says “Biden said”. But we have seen 1000 times now that Biden is incapable of stringing more than 3 words together (one more time below).

So it’s not “Biden said”, but “Biden’s handlers said”.

Biden Clinches Nomination, Readies For Fall Showdown With Trump (JTN)

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday night officially clinched the Democratic nomination for president, setting up a fall showdown with President Trump. Biden secured enough delegates in Tuesday’s round of primaries to finish with 1,993, two more than needed to secure the nomination at the party’s convention in Milwaukee in August, The Associated Press announced. The former vice president and senator immediately issued a statement laying out his vision for the fall campaign.


“It was an honor to compete alongside one of the most talented groups of candidates the Democratic party has ever fielded — and I am proud to say that we are going into this general election a united party,” Biden said. “I am going to spend every day between now and November 3rd fighting to earn the votes of Americans all across this great country so that, together, we can win the battle for the soul of this nation, and make sure that as we rebuild our economy, everyone comes along.”

Read more …

A comment made after calling Trump a “divisive leader”. Biden trying for Hillary 2.0.

Biden: 10-15% of Americans Are ‘Not Very Good People’ (JTN)

Presumed Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden says that 10-15% of Americans are “not very good people.”Biden made the comment late Thursday during an online campaign event that he was having with black supporters, moderated by actor Don Cheadle. The conversation centered on race relations in America in the wake of the death of George Floyd in police custody on Memorial Day.


The former vice president was explaining his belief that President Trump has been a divisive leader and that while “the vast majority” of Americans are honorable people, “there are probably anywhere from 10 to 15% of the people out there that are just not very good people.” Biden has been criticized for his tendency to make gaffes during public appearances. This comment, in particular, is reminiscent of Hillary Clinton’s widely panned statement on half of Trump supporters being a “basket of deplorables,” whose ideas and actions were “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic”.

Read more …

Life imitates Bizarro World.

Robert Mueller’s office deleted 19,000 text messages between Lisa Page and her lover Peter Strzok. Why?

Lisa Page Is The New National Security And Legal Analyst At NBC News (DC)

Former FBI lawyer Lisa Page is the new national security and legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, the network announced Friday. “We’re very happy to welcome to our network Lisa Page, former FBI lawyer who worked as special counsel for Robert Mueller’s legal team,” Nicolle Wallace said. “She worked on the Russian government disinformation probe and on the Hillary Clinton email investigation.” Page was discovered in 2017 to be having an affair with former FBI agent Peter Strzok, who worked on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation before he was removed for showing bias against President Donald Trump in text messages exchanged with Page.


Thousands of the lovers’ text messages, which were sent on agency-issued phones, were released by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and FBI in 2017. Page sued the DOJ and FBI for releasing her text messages, alleging that it was “illegal.” Page testified in July 2018 that the FBI did not see strong evidence of Russian collusion with President Donald Trump 10 months after beginning its investigation. She worked on the Mueller probe before evidence of her affair led to her dismissal from the team. Page spoke in an interview with The Daily Beast in December 2019, asserting that “there’s no fathomable way” she “committed any crime at all.”

Read more …

It’ll be a fun summer, but more bizarre than you’ve ever imagined.

Senate Approves 35 Subpoenas for Obama Administration Officials (NBC)

The Senate Homeland Security Committee on Thursday authorized the issuing of nearly three dozen subpoenas of Obama administration officials as part of Senate Republicans’ investigation into the origins of the FBI and special counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign. The Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, met to consider more than 50 additional subpoenas, but postponed action until next week. Republicans on the panels are looking into flaws in FISA application process, the “unmasking” of Trump campaign and transition officials, including ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn, and the FBI’s investigation of the Trump campaign more broadly — actions that President Donald Trump has collectively dubbed “Obamagate” and dismissed as a “hoax” and a “witch hunt.”


[..] The Homeland Security and Judiciary committees are considering issuing subpoenas for former CIA Director John Brennan, ex-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former FBI Director James Comey, former Obama chief of staff Dennis McDonough, former national security adviser Susan Rice and ex-FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. The Judiciary panel is also considering subpoenas for current FBI Director Christopher Wray and former Justice Department officials, including former Attorney General Loretta Lynch and ex-FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. Judiciary member Ted Cruz, R-Texas, asked Democrats on the panel to consider how they would feel if the situation were reversed and the Trump administration were looking into the former Vice President Joe Biden’s presidential campaign.

Read more …

“..if the United States wants to survive the onslaught of socialism..

Letter From Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, ‘I Am Not Done’ (SAC)

Former National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who has been fighting the courts to have his case thrown out, said “I am not done’ in an email to a journalist that was posted Friday on Twitter that “I am not done.” Flynn’s inference is important, as evidence discovered this year by the Justice Department has revealed that the three star general was allegedly set up by bureau agents investigating President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign and their debunked theory that the campaign conspired with Russia. The Justice Department asked the court last month to drop the charges against Flynn and people from all across the country are fighting on his behalf. Flynn hasn’t spoken publicly in years. In fact, the first time people heard from the three star general was when he withdrew his guilty plea months ago, through his lawyer, Sidney Powell.


“This letter means that Lt. Gen. Flynn has not given up on the country and neither should you,” a very close friend of Flynn’s told me on Friday. The friend said it was in response to the growing unrest in the country and a warning that Americans need to be involved in the political process. He wrote the email to Scott Kesterson, a documentary filmmaker and journalist that spent 3 and half years in Afghanistan. Flynn warned ‘if the United States wants to survive the onslaught of socialism, if we are to continue to enjoy self-government, to secure the God-given individual blessings of liberty for ourselves, for our families, then good Americans must accept that each has a moral obligation to participate in the political life of our country.”

Read more …

 

 

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May 262020
 


G. G. Bain Temporary footpath, Manhattan Bridge 1908

 

8,000 Additional Deaths In Mexican Capital As Coronavirus Rages – Study (R.)
Brazil Surpasses US In Daily Coronavirus Death Toll (R.)
WHO Halts Hydroxychloroquine Trial For Coronavirus Amid Safety Fears (G.)
Tail Risk Of Contagious Diseases – Cirillo/Taleb (Nature)
44% of Republicans Think Bill Gates Will Use Vaccine To Implant Microchip (BI)
China’s Coronavirus Campaign Offers Glimpse Into Surveillance System (R.)
Chinese City To Score And Rank Its Residents Based On Health, Lifestyle (CNN)
PBOC Lowers RRR For China Financial Institutions To 9.4% (Xinhua)
Hong Kong Homebuyers Walk Away, Forfeit $1.5 Million In Deposits (SCMP)
Why Joe Biden Can Do No Wrong (Turley)
The Unspooling (Kunstler)
Bill Barr Calls Action of Mueller and Rosenstein “Abhorrent” (CTH)
Michael Moore Film Planet of the Humans Removed From YouTube (G.)
Time for a Selective Debt Jubilee (Willem Buiter)
Debt, Liberty and “Acts of God” (Michael Hudson)

 

New cases in:

• US + 19,790
• Brazil + 11,456
• Russia + 8,946
• India + 6,589
• Chile + 4,895

 

 

 

 

Note: only 1,300 deaths worldwide in 24 hours?!

Cases 5,609,654 (+ 88,909 from yesterday’s 5,520,745)

Deaths 348,322 (+ 1,300 from yesterday’s 347,022)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Few certainties, but important research, that every country and city should do.

8,000 Additional Deaths In Mexican Capital As Coronavirus Rages – Study (R.)

Mexico’s capital registered 8,072 more deaths in the first five months this year than the average from the same period over the past four years, an analysis by independent researchers showed on Monday, suggesting a possible surge due to the coronavirus. Health officials have reported 1,655 deaths from the virus in Mexico City, out of 7,394 deaths nationwide. They have also acknowledged that the true death toll is higher, but difficult to estimate due to a low testing rate. Software developer Mario Romero Zavala and economic consultant Laurianne Despeghel, whose analysis was published in Mexican magazine Nexos, tallied 39,173 fatalities this year through May 20 by extracting data from Mexico City’s online database of death certificates.


Over the prior four years, they calculated just 31,101 deaths on average during the same period, using the same database. Mexico City’s official count of deaths from the coronavirus represents just over 20% of the study’s “excess mortality” – a term used by epidemiologists to estimate the increase in deaths, versus normal conditions, attributable to a public health crisis. Excess mortality is difficult to calculate in Mexico because the most recent data on fatalities from the national statistics institute is from 2018. Despeghel said the analysis was only a first step to measuring the virus’ impact. “While studying excess deaths allows us to identify a higher mortality rate during the COVID-19 crisis, it is not sufficient to attribute it directly or solely to the virus,” she said.

Read more …

But the US will come roaring back. Note that Sweden is in second place after the UK over the past week.

Brazil Surpasses US In Daily Coronavirus Death Toll (R.)

Brazil daily coronavirus deaths were higher than fatalities in the United States for the first time over the last 24 hours, according to the country’s Health Ministry. Brazil registered 807 deaths over the last 24 hours, whereas 620 died in the United States. Brazil has the second worst outbreak in the world, with 374,898 cases, behind the U.S. with 1.637 million cases. Total deaths in the U.S. has reached 97,971, according to Reuters tally compared with Brazil at 23,473.

Read more …

I kid you not, they call it a “solidarity trial”. Do keep providing it for malaria and lupus, but, because of ONE article in the Lancet, not for COVID19.

WHO Halts Hydroxychloroquine Trial For Coronavirus Amid Safety Fears (G.)

The World Health Organization has said it will temporarily drop hydroxychloroquine — the malaria drug Donald Trump said he is taking as a precaution — from its global study into experimental coronavirus treatments after safety concerns. The WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in light of a paper published last week in the Lancet that showed people taking hydroxychloroquine were at higher risk of death and heart problems than those who were not, it would pause the hydroxychloroquine arm of its solidarity global clinical trial. “The executive group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the solidarity trial while the safety data is reviewed by the data safety monitoring board,” Tedros said on Monday. “The other arms of the trial are continuing,”

He said the concern related only to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for Covid-19, adding that the drugs were accepted treatments for people with malaria and auto-immune diseases. Other treatments in the WHO’s solidarity trial, including the experimental drug remdesivir and an HIV combination therapy, are still being pursued. Hydroxychloroquine has been licensed for use in the US since the mid-1950s and is listed by the WHO as an essential medicine. There are numerous trials under way of the two drugs against coronavirus but neither is a proven treatment. The US National Institutes of Health is also running a clinical trial to establish whether the drug, administered with the antibiotic azithromycin, can prevent hospital admissions and death from Covid-19.

A controversial French doctor who has promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for coronavirus said on Monday he stood by his belief the drugs could help patients recover. He also rejected the Lancet study of the records of 96,000 patients across hundreds of hospitals. “How can a messy study done with ‘big data’ change what we see?”, Prof Didier Raoult asked in a video posted on the website of his infectious diseases hospital in Marseille. “Here we have had 4,000 people go through our hospital, you don’t think I’m going to change because there are people who do ‘big data’, which is a kind of completely delusional fantasy,” he said.

Read more …

Every decision maker should take an in-depth crash course in risk.

Tail Risk Of Contagious Diseases – Cirillo/Taleb (Nature)

The central point we wish to convey is the following: the more fat-tailed a statistical distribution, the more the ‘tail wags the dog’. That is to say, more statistical information resides in the extremes and less in the ‘bulk’—the events of high frequency—where it becomes almost noise. Under fat tails, the law of large numbers works slowly, and moments—even when they exist—may become uninformative and unreliable5. All this makes EVT the most effective and robust approach for risk management purposes, even with relatively small datasets like ours. The presence of a fat right tail in the distribution of pandemic fatalities has the following policy implications, useful in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.


First, it should be evident that it is not appropriate to compare fatalities from multiplicative infectious diseases (fat-tailed, like a Pareto distribution) to those from car accidents, heart attacks or falls from ladders (thin-tailed, like a Gaussian). This remains a common (and costly) error in policy making, and in both the decision sciences and the journalistic literature. Some research papers even criticise the wider public’s ‘paranoia’ with respect to pandemics, not appreciating that such a paranoia is merely responsible (and realistic) risk management in front of potentially destructive events. The main problem is that those articles—often relied upon for policy making—consistently use the wrong thin-tailed distributions, underestimating tail risk, so that every conservative or preventative reaction is bound to be considered an overreaction.

Read more …

Have you seen Bill Gates lately? That’s the guy that all these tough -formerly- Americans are so afraid of.

Are these people still using Microsoft software, further enriching Gates?

44% of Republicans Think Bill Gates Will Use Vaccine To Implant Microchip (BI)

A new survey by Yahoo News and YouGov has found that 44% of Republicans believe that Bill Gates will use the COVID-19 vaccination to implant a location-tracking microchip into the vaccine recipient, a conspiracy theory that has gained traction among fringe groups and conservative pundits. The survey also found that 26% of Republicans do not believe the false microchip vaccine narrative, while 31% remained undecided on the topic. Half of the people surveyed who use Fox News as their main source of TV news also believe the debunked theory. However, the poll also noted that 19% of Democrats, 24% of Independents, and 15% of people who use MSNBC as their source of TV news also believe the microchipping myth.


For the survey, YouGov conducted an online interview of a “nationally representative” group of 1,640 US adults who were a part of YouGov’s opt-in panel between May 20 and 21. There is about a 3% margin of error. An earlier Yahoo News and YouGov poll also found that only 55% of Americans surveyed would want the coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available. The rest were either unsure (26%) or did not plan on receiving the vaccine (19%). President Donald Trump has said that he is “very confident” that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready by the end of the year, while experts have predicted that the vaccine development could take up to 12 to 18 months to prepare.

Read more …

You’re right, maybe this is all Bill Gates too. Maybe he bought the Forbidden City.

China’s Coronavirus Campaign Offers Glimpse Into Surveillance System (R.)

The coronavirus outbreak in China has given unprecedented glimpses into how an extensive system of surveillance cameras works, as monitoring stations are rebranded epidemic “war rooms” helping to check people’s movements and stifle the disease. China is trying to build one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance technology networks, with hundreds of millions of cameras in public places and increasing use of techniques such as smartphone monitoring and facial recognition. This year, cities and villages across the country have used the system for what the government has labelled “an all-out people’s war on coronavirus”.

While authorities have primarily used mobile location data and ID-linked tracing apps to flag people coming back from abroad for quarantine, the camera surveillance system has played a crucial role, according to officials, state media and residents. The network has been used to trace the contacts of people confirmed as infected with the virus, and to punish businesses and individuals flouting restrictions. “This is a war situation,” said a civil servant surnamed Wang in Tianjin city, who was involved in tracing thousands of people linked to a coronavirus cluster at a department store. “We must adopt war-time thinking.” Despite the hi-tech ambitions of the system, it is heavily dependent on a lot of people watching footage on screens. Known as “grid members”, they sit in monitoring rooms or squint over smart-phone feeds from the networks of cameras.

“This type of surveillance is far more human driven than it is tech driven, said James Leibold, associate Professor at Australia’s La Trobe University, who researched similar systems in China’s far-west Xinjiang. State media, officials and local governments have given accounts of the system in action in the campaign against the coronavirus. In Donghan village in Hubei, the province where the coronavirus emerged late last year, grid member Liu Ganhe saw six villagers gathering without masks, so he called the authorities. “Village cadres rushed to the scene to disperse the crowd and educate the people,” media said, praising the “wartime restrictions” the system was able to enforce.

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There are really people who could see this happening in the west?!

Chinese City To Score And Rank Its Residents Based On Health, Lifestyle (CNN)

Imagine a smartphone app that has access to your medical records and assigns you a daily score based on your preconditions, recent checkups and lifestyle habits — how much you’ve drunk, smoked, exercised and slept on any given day can all affect your points total, boosting or lowering your ranking. That “health score” will be embedded in a digital QR code accessible on your phone, ready to be scanned whenever needed. This is what the city government of Hangzhou in eastern China has envisioned for its more than 10 million residents, inspired by a “health code” system it adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic to profile people based on their risk of infection.

Across the globe, governments have stepped up the collection of personal data in their fight against the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 345,000 people and infected close to 5.5 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. But there are also fears that some of these extraordinary measures could be here to stay even after the public health crisis is over, posing a long-term threat to privacy. That concern was amplified among Hangzhou residents when their municipal government announced Friday that it was planning to make permanent a version of the “health code” app used during the pandemic.

Since February, the Chinese government has used a color-based “health code” system to control people’s movements and curb the spread of the coronavirus. The automatically generated quick response codes, commonly abbreviated to QR codes, are assigned to citizens on their smartphones as an indicator of their health status. The color of these codes — in red, amber or green — decides whether users can leave home, use public transport and enter public places. The health codes can also serve as a tracker for people’s movements, as residents have their QR codes scanned as they enter public places. Once a confirmed case is diagnosed, authorities are able to quickly trace where the patient has been and identify people who have been in contact with that individual.

Hangzhou, a coastal city about a hundred miles southwest of Shanghai, was among the first cities to use the health code system to decide which citizens should go into quarantine. But now, the city government says it wants the “health code” to be “normalized” — meaning it could be here to stay well beyond the pandemic.

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Two years ago, the reserve requirement ratio was 14.2%, now it’s 9.4%. But Chinese banks haven’t shed risk. So this is dangerous. The RRR, simplified, is a gauge of the bad debt they hold, and I bet you it’s way more than 9.4%.

PBOC Lowers RRR For China Financial Institutions To 9.4% (Xinhua)

The average reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for financial institutions stood at 9.4 percent on May 15, down 5.2 percentage points from the beginning of 2018, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said. The PBOC has lowered the RRR 12 times since 2018, releasing about 8 trillion yuan (about 1.12 trillion U.S. dollars) in long-term funds to bolster the real economy. Of the total, four RRR cuts in 2018 released 3.65 trillion yuan, five RRR cuts in 2019 released 2.7 trillion yuan and three RRR cuts in the first five months this year released 1.75 trillion yuan. The RRR cuts have led to the contraction of the balance sheet of the PBOC, but this will not cause the tightening of money supply and is contrary to the balance sheet reduction of the central banks of the developed economies such as the U.S. Federal Reserve to reduce the bond holdings, the PBOC said.


The contraction has a strong expansion effect and the main reason is that lowering the RRR means commercial banks will have less money locked up by the central bank and more money for free use, the PBOC said. The RRR cuts have helped meet the liquidity demand of the banking system, boost support for small businesses, cut the social financing cost, promote the market-oriented and law-based debt-to-equity swaps, the central bank said. The cuts have encouraged the rural financial institutions to serve local entities, supported the epidemic prevention and control as well as enterprise work resumption, and played a positive role in bolstering the real economy, the PBOC said.

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The protests will pick up again.

Hong Kong Homebuyers Walk Away, Forfeit $1.5 Million In Deposits (SCMP)

Nineteen Hong Kong homebuyers who put down deposits for flats at the height of a market rally around June 2018 have walked away from their purchases, forfeiting as much as HK$11.83 million (US$1.53 million) and HK$12.4 million in two instances over the past month. Nine buyers walked away from Hong Kong developer K Wah International’s Solaria project in Tai Po district, forfeiting the HK$11.83 million on Friday, according to the project’s Register of Transactions. The second instance, of 10 forfeitures, was reported from Solaria on April 29. Altogether, more than 100 homebuyers have walked away from their purchases so far this year, according to reports.


Hong Kong’s economy has taken a battering since the heydays of June 2018. The year-long US-China trade war, the city’s anti-government protests and the novel coronavirus outbreak have all taken their toll, pushing the city’s economy into recession over two quarters of economic contraction. The proposed introduction of a new national security law by Beijing, announced at “Two Sessions” last week, has added to the turmoil by sparking fears about market stability.
Centa-City Leading Index, Centaline’s timelier price index for used homes, has declined about 5 per cent between June 2018 and now. It has dropped about 6.8 per cent since June 2019.

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What exactly is the game? Is CNN supporting Trump?

Why Joe Biden Can Do No Wrong (Turley)

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on special dispensation given Joe Biden by members of Congress, commentators, and the media. We previously discussed the muted media response to false legal comments from President Barack Obama and other Obama officials on the Flynn case. The pattern of media avoidance is more glaring with recent Biden controversies. Notably, the column ran when Biden gave his interview on the radio show “The Breakfast Club” that “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” This weekend, I was critical of segments on CNN and NBC’s Meet the Press which quoted Biden but cut off the line where he falsely claimed to have received multiple endorsements from the NAACP.


CNN’s John King derisively referred to controversy as something people are “trying to make hay” out of and then played the interview. However, CNN clipped the tape to leave out the next line where Biden declared “The NAACP has endorsed me every time I’ve run. Come on, take a look at my record.” Despite that invitation to look at his record, CNN and other media routinely cut out the false statement and also omitted any discussion of the false claim linked to the NAACP. On a story about Biden’s claim that all black voters must vote for him (or not be truly black), it would seem material that he also falsely claimed endorsements from the leading organization in the African American community. However, it was routinely omitted from the tape and Biden has not been asked to respond to the rebuttal from the NAACP. It is precisely the type of crafting of the coverage to confine damage for Biden that is discussed in the column.

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Once Emmet Sullivan gives in, Michael Flynn will be free to speak.

The Unspooling (Kunstler)

What “the Resistance” really fears more than anything is General Michael Flynn’s mouth. He’s been under a judicial gag order since his case went before Judge Emmet Sullivan’s federal district court. Understandably, Gen. Flynn wasn’t eager to complicate his unjust plight with a contempt citation. Judge Sullivan’s recent shenanigans have one object: to keep that gag order in force as long as possible. The moment Judge Sullivan confirms the DOJ’s move to dismiss the charges, as he is duty-bound to do, General Flynn will be free to offer his views to the public. That might be inconvenient in an election season.

I’m sure he has a lot to say. Gen. Flynn was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency for two years (2012 – 2014) under Barack Obama, and he knows a ton about every crooked operation Mr. Obama presided over, including the Benghazi fiasco, the Ukraine regime change op, and especially Mr. Obama’s hijacking of the NSA supercomputer surveillance database known as “the Hammer,” which was set up originally to track terrorists and then used by DNI James Clapper and CIA chief John Brennan to spy on Americans, most particularly Mr. Obama’s political adversaries. It’s rumored that Mr. Obama took the database with him when he left the White House, and it is said to contain great gouts of usefully damning information about just about everyone in government, including senators, congressmen, and Supreme Court justices.

Gen. Flynn became an antagonist to Obama & Co. when he objected to the nuclear deal they were cooking up with Iran and when he spoke out against the CIA’s 2013 Timber Sycamore op to arm and give money to Isis terrorists opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Mr. Obama canned Gen. Flynn in 2014. What really sealed Gen. Flynn’s fate was when he started publicly complaining about the politicization of John Brennan’s CIA. The New York Times quoted him saying, “They’ve lost sight of who they actually work for. They work for the American people. They don’t work for the president of the United States. Frankly, it’s become a very political organization.”

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There’s a major battle coming, but I don’t see Bill Barr playing a major role in it.

Bill Barr Calls Action of Mueller and Rosenstein “Abhorrent” (CTH)

For well over a year we’ve been saying AG Bill Barr’s biggest challenge is not investigating the soft-coup but rather managing through what We The People are already aware of. With that in mind; and with congress moving to put former DAG Rod Rosenstein and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller under a microscope; it is interesting to note AG Bill Barr recently conceding his two friends were corrupt.

[Transcript] …”Now what happened to the president – and I’ve said this many times – what happened to the president in the 2016 election; and throughout the first two years of his administration was abhorrent. It was a grave injustice and it was unprecedented in American history.” “The law enforcement and intelligence apparatus of this country were involved in advancing a false and utterly baseless Russian-collusion narrative against the president.” The proper investigative and prosecutive standards of the Dept of Justice were abused, in my view, in order to reach a particular result.” ~ (AG Barr, May 18, 2020)

How can AG Barr say the DOJ/FBI conduct during the first two years of the administration “was abhorrent” without specifically implying his two friends, Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein were complicit in the “grave injustice” he outlines? It is interesting that no media (of any disposition) has ever questioned AG Barr about Rosenstein and Mueller considering his words that outline their behavior as abhorrent.

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4 seconds.

Note: it’s not a Michael Moore film, his name was used only for publicity. And now the detractors use it too. Is that wise?

Michael Moore Film Planet of the Humans Removed From YouTube (G.)

YouTube has taken down the controversial Michael Moore-produced documentary Planet of the Humans in response to a copyright infringement claim by a British environmental photographer. The movie, which has been condemned as inaccurate and misleading by climate scientists and activists, allegedly includes a clip used without the permission of the owner Toby Smith, who does not approve of the context in which his material is being used. In response, the filmmakers denied violating fair usage rules and accused their critics of politically motivated censorship. Smith filed the complaint to YouTube on 23 May after discovering Planet of the Humans used several seconds of footage from his Rare Earthenware project detailing the journey of rare earth minerals from Inner Mongolia.

Smith, who has previously worked on energy and environmental issues, said he did not want his work associated with something he disagreed with. “I went directly to YouTube rather than approaching the filmmakers because I wasn’t interested in negotiation. I don’t support the documentary, I don’t agree with its message and I don’t like the misleading use of facts in its narrative.” Planet of the Humans director Jeff Gibbs said he was working with YouTube to resolve the issue and have the film back up as soon as possible. He said in a statement: “This attempt to take down our film and prevent the public from seeing it is a blatant act of censorship by political critics of Planet of the Humans. It is a misuse of copyright law to shut down a film that has opened a serious conversation about how parts of the environmental movement have gotten into bed with Wall Street and so-called “green capitalists.” There is absolutely no copyright violation in my film. This is just another attempt by the film’s opponents to subvert the right to free speech.”

Planet of the Humans, which has been seen by more than 8 million people since it was launched online last month, describes itself as a “full-frontal assault” on the sacred cows of the environmental movement. Veteran climate campaigners and thinkers, such as Bill McKibben and George Monbiot, have pointed out factual errors, outdated footage and promotion of myths about renewable energy propagated by the fossil fuel industry. Many are dismayed that Moore – who built his reputation as a left-wing filmmaker and supporter of civil rights – should produce a work endorsed by climate sceptics and right-wing thinktanks. Several have signed a letter urging the removal of what they called a “shockingly misleading and absurd” documentary. Climate scientist Michael Mann said the filmmakers “have done a grave disservice to us and the planet” with distortions, half-truths and lies.

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Buiter is your typical career insider. His opinions are pretty useless.

Time for a Selective Debt Jubilee (Willem Buiter)

Across most advanced economies, much of the additional private debt accumulated during the crisis will likely end up being owned by public entities, including central banks, and most of it will never be repaid. To protect their independence and political legitimacy, central banks should not act as fiscal principals. And yet, in the case of small and medium-size enterprises, it is simply obvious that COVID-19-related debt will have to be forgiven. The national Treasury will need to compensate the central bank for any losses it incurs.For publicly traded companies the debt held by public creditors should be turned into equity, in the form of non-voting preference shares, which would minimize the impression that the pandemic had inaugurated a new era of central planning.

Again, the national Treasury will have to indemnify the central bank for any losses it incurs. An equitization option should be attached to all newly issued public debt. The resulting equity instruments could represent claims on part of the government’s primary budget surplus, or their interest rates could be linked to GDP growth. But poorer countries will not have this option. According to the Brookings Institution, emerging markets and developing countries already owe about $11 trillion in external debt and face $3.9 trillion in debt-service costs this year. In April, the World Bank and the IMF offered a modicum of debt relief to many of these countries, and the G20 agreed to a temporary payment standstill for official debt, which paved the way for hundreds of private creditors to do the same.

Yet these forms of assistance offer too little, too late. The fact is that most of these debts never should have been issued in the first place. Grants are the proper way to transfer resources to low-income countries. After World War II, the Marshall Plan involved only grants; today, the case for “corona grants” to low-income countries could hardly be stronger. Under the IMF and the World Bank’s 1996 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, some 36 countries received full or partial debt relief. It is time to return to that idea, starting with a comprehensive round of debt forgiveness for the world’s poorest countries. This selective jubilee should include debts owed to the IMF, the World Bank, other multilateral lenders, national sovereigns, official bodies like state-owned enterprises, and private creditors.

Debt is a dangerous instrument. For far too long, the world has used it to avoid awkward but unavoidable decisions. In the midst of an unprecedented global crisis, something will have to give.

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I don’t think many people understand how bad the situation will be during and after the virus. Recovery and return to normal are pretty much empty terms now.

Debt, Liberty and “Acts of God” (Michael Hudson)

Western civilization distinguishes itself from its predecessors in the way it has responded to “acts of God” disrupting the means of support and leaving debts in their wake. The great question always has been who will lose under such conditions. Will it be debtors and renters at the bottom of the economic scale, or creditors and landlords at the top? This age-old confrontation between creditors and debtors, landlords and tenants over how to deal with the unpaid debts and back rents is at the economic heart of today’s 2020 coronavirus pandemic that has left large and small businesses, farms, restaurants and neighborhood stores – along with their employees who have been laid off – unable to pay the rents, mortgages, other debt service and taxes that have accrued.

For thousands of years ancient economies operated on credit during the crop year, with payment falling due when the harvest was in – typically on the threshing floor. Normally this cycle provided a flow of crops and corvée labor to the palace and covered the cultivator’s spending during the crop year, with interest owed only when payment was late. But bad harvests, military conflict or simply the normal hardships of life occasionally prevented this buildup of debt from being paid, threatening citizens with bondage to their creditors or loss of their land rights. Mesopotamian palaces had to decide who would bear the loss when drought, flooding, infestation, disease or military attack disrupted economic activity and prevented the settlement of debts, rents and taxes.

Recognizing that this was an unavoidable fact of life, rulers proclaimed amnesties for taxes and the various debts that were incurred during the crop year. These acts saved smallholders from having to work off their debts by personal bondage and ultimately to lose their land. Classical antiquity, and indeed subsequent Western civilization, rejected such Clean Slates to restore social balance. Since Roman times it has become normal for creditors to use social misfortune as an opportunity to gain property and income at the expense of families falling into debt. In the absence of kings or democratic civic regimes protecting debtor rights and liberty, pro-creditor laws obliged debtors to lose their land or other means of livelihood to foreclosing creditors, sell it under distress conditions and fall into bondage to work off their debts, becoming clients or quasi-serfs to their creditors without hope of recovering their former free status.

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

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 252020
 


Unknown Mark Twain (center, white suit) and a kitten (brown fur, left of center) at Tuxedo Park 1907

 

More Patients Than Beds In Mumbai As India Faces Surge In Virus Cases (R.)
How Russia’s Coronavirus Crisis Got So Bad (Pol.eu)
Coronavirus Forces 100,000 NY Small Businesses To Close Permanently (Patch)
Big Pharma Rejected EU Plan To Fast-Track Vaccines In 2017 (G.)
Why Isn’t the Dollar Collapsing Given Trillions in Printing? (Mish)
Japan Eyes Stimulus Plan Worth Over $929 Billion To Battle Pandemic (TRT)
China Unveils $500 Billion Fiscal Stimulus, Refrains From Going All-in (SCMP)
China Racing To Impose New Law Criminalizing Hong Kong Protests (G&M)
China’s New National Security Law Should Be On G7 Agenda – Patten (R.)
Boris Johnson Bets Big On Dominic Cummings (Pol.eu)
Biden Should Be Named in Criminal Probe in Ukraine, Judge Rules (Lauria)
Tuxedo Park (Guinn)

 

 

Global new cases in past 24 hours: 101,325

New cases in:

• US + 21,475
• Russia + 8,946
• Brazil + 17,815
• India + 8,488
• Peru + 4,205

 

• US #coronavirus death toll rises by 638: Johns Hopkins

• https://covid19info.live/ says 2,008 new deaths in past 24 hours. It also says 52,987(!) new cases. That’s not true

But many places still seem to report quite differently over weekends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 5,520,745 (+ 93,190 from yesterday’s 5,427,555)

Deaths 347,022 (+ 2,605 from yesterday’s 344,417)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

India scares me, despite their HCQ campaign. If you look at the slums in Mumbai or Delhi, how can you ever know what goes on? And India follows the global thread of relaxing lockdowns. While their numbers started rising under the lockdown.

More Patients Than Beds In Mumbai As India Faces Surge In Virus Cases (R.)

India on Sunday reported 6,767 new coronavirus infections, the country’s biggest one-day increase. Government data shows the number of coronavirus cases in the world’s second-most populous country are doubling every 13 days or so, even as the government begins easing lockdown restrictions. India has reported more than 131,000 infections, including 3,867 deaths. “The increasing trend has not gone down,” said Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan, referring to India’s cases. “We’ve not seen a flattening of the curve.” Mukherjee’s team estimates that between 630,000 and 2.1 million people in India – out of a population of 1.3 billion – will become infected by early July.

More than a fifth of the country’s coronavirus cases are in Mumbai, India’s financial hub and its most populous city, where the Parikhs struggled to find hospital beds for their infected family members. India’s health ministry [..] has said in media briefings that not all patients need hospitalization and it is making rapid efforts to increase the number of hospital beds and procure health gear. The federal government’s data from last year showed there were about 714,000 hospital beds in India, up from about 540,000 in 2009. However, given India’s rising population, the number of beds per 1,000 people has grown only slightly in that time.

India has 0.5 beds per 1,000 people, according to the latest data from the OECD, up from 0.4 beds in 2009, but among lowest of countries surveyed by the OECD. In contrast, China has 4.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people and the United States has 2.8, according to the latest OECD figures. While millions of India’s poor rely on the public health system, especially in rural areas, private facilities account for 55% of hospital admissions, according to government data. The private health sector has been growing over the past two decades, especially in India’s big cities, where an expanding class of affluent Indians can afford private care.

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Did Putin get lost in the message?

How Russia’s Coronavirus Crisis Got So Bad (Pol.eu)

Now, instead of consolidating public support, Putin appears to be losing it. In early May, the Levada Center, Russia’s sole independent polling agency, found that Putin’s approval rating was down to 59 percent. That might sound enviable to Western politicians, but it’s the lowest rating he has had in 20 years. Thirty-three percent of those polled said they did not approve of his performance. Putin’s hold on power doesn’t look as strong as it did a few months ago. His hands-off response to coronavirus might have something to do with it. On a morning talk show in early March, I watched the deputy director of the research institute under Russia’s consumer watchdog agency say the situation in the country was “terrific — we’ve been living for almost three months along a huge border with China and have only five cases, so all the measures we’re taking are clearly effective.”

On other talk shows, where conspiracy theories reign, hosts and guests floated the notion that the virus didn’t exist. It was a hoax invented by the United States to destroy the Chinese economy, or it was made in an American laboratory and planted in China, or Bill Gates invented it so he could then make money on the vaccine. It was just a version of SARS, which in the end turned out to be less dangerous than everyone feared. Besides, 60,000 people die every year from the flu, and no one cares. What’s the big deal? So many people seemed to believe this, or wanted to believe this, that they ignored the increasingly stringent lockdown measures instituted in Moscow beginning March 25.

They didn’t practice social distancing, traveled all over the city, used services that were supposed to be closed, got together with friends, sniffed, sneezed, coughed and even spit in public. In stores, unmasked and barehanded, they squeezed every tomato in a bin before moving on to examine broccoli, then pushed and hovered at the cash register despite social distancing marks on the floor. On television and social media, we all watched Italians singing on balconies and saw Parisians printing out forms every time they left their apartments. COVID was clearly bad outside Russia. But inside Russia? It was hard to figure out.

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Stop focusing on businesses, start focusing on people. Millions of businesses will close in the US alone, it’s no use trying to save them if you haven’t taken care of the people, their customers, first.

Coronavirus Forces 100,000 NY Small Businesses To Close Permanently (Patch)

The coronavirus crisis has forced more than 100,000 small businesses in New York to close permanently, the governor said Friday. The huge swath of closures means main streets will look at lot different when the state is allowed to reopen. At most risk have been businesses that are owned by minorities, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “Small businesses are taking a real beating,” he said. “They are 90 percent of New York’s businesses and they’re facing the toughest challengers. “The economic projections, vis-a-vis small business, are actually frightening. More than 100,000 have shut permanently since the pandemic hit. Many small businesses just don’t have the staying power to continue to pay all the fixed costs, the lease, etcetera, when they have no income whatsoever.”


All but essential businesses have now been closed since New York’s shutdown started on March 22. Millions of former employees are now registered as unemployed. Cuomo said New York State was launching its own small business relief program, with more than $100 million that it will make available as loans. “We’re going to focus on true small businesses,” he said. “Twenty or fewer employees, less than $3 million in gross revenues.”

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So on the one hand you want a capitalist, neo-liberal system, but on the other you want companies to work for the public good. Make up your mind already.

Big Pharma Rejected EU Plan To Fast-Track Vaccines In 2017 (G.)

The world’s largest pharmaceutical companies rejected an EU proposal three years ago to work on fast-tracking vaccines for pathogens like coronavirus to allow them to be developed before an outbreak, the Guardian can reveal. The plan to speed up the development and approval of vaccines was put forward by European commission representatives sitting on the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) – a public-private partnership whose function is to back cutting-edge research in Europe – but it was rejected by industry partners on the body. The commission’s argument had been that the research could “facilitate the development and regulatory approval of vaccines against priority pathogens, to the extent possible before an actual outbreak occurs”.

The pharmaceutical companies on the IMI, however, did not take up the idea. The revelation is contained in a report published by the Corporate Observatory Europe (COE), a Brussels-based research centre, examining decisions made by the IMI, which has a budget of €5bn, made up of EU funding and in-kind contributions from private and other bodies. The IMI’s governing board is made up of commission officials and representatives of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries (EFPIA), whose members include some of the biggest names in the sector, among them GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Pfizer, Lilly and Johnson & Johnson.

A global lack of preparedness for the coronavirus pandemic has already led to accusations in recent weeks that the pharmaceutical industry has failed to prioritise treatments for infectious diseases because they are less profitable than chronic medical conditions. [..] The COE report says that rather than “compensating for market failures” by speeding up the development of innovative medicines, as per its remit, the IMI has been “more about business-as-usual market priorities”. The report’s authors cite a comment posted on the IMI’s website, since removed, selling the advantages of the initiative to big pharma as offering “tremendous cost savings, as the IMI projects replicate work that individual companies would have had to do anyway”.

The European commission’s “biopreparedness” funding proposal in 2017 would have involved refining computer simulations, known as in silico modelling, and improved analysis of animal testing models to give regulators greater confidence in approving vaccines. Minutes of a meeting of the IMI’s governing board from December 2018 reveal that the proposal was not accepted. The IMI also decided against funding projects with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a foundation seeking to tackle so-called blueprint priority diseases such as Mers and Sars, both of them coronaviruses.

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“Stop being so US-centric.”

Why Isn’t the Dollar Collapsing Given Trillions in Printing? (Mish)

I remain amused by all the calls of hyperinflation and high inflation given the Fed has turned on the printing presses. However, currencies cannot be viewed in isolation. To those expecting a total US dollar collapse, here’s my word of advice. Stop being so US-centric. Please note Japan authorizes another $929 Billion to Battle Pandemic. Japan is considering a fresh stimulus package worth over $929 billion that will consist mostly of financial aid programmes for companies hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the Nikkei newspaper said on Monday. | The package, to be funded by a second extra budget for the current fiscal year beginning in April, would follow a record $1.1 trillion spending plan deployed last month to cushion the economic blow from the pandemic. That is a total of 2 trillion dollars for Japan. Adjusted for the relative size of the economies, that is an amazing amount.

Also note that China unveils US$500 billion fiscal stimulus, but refrains from going all-in. Key Points • China will increase its budget fiscal deficit to a record 3.6 per cent of gross domestic product this year, up from 2.8 per cent in 2019 • This is the first time the ratio has exceeded 3 per cent – a red line for decades. • Beijing will also issue special treasury bonds for the first time since 2007 and increase the local government bond quota as it fights the pandemic Supposedly that is not “All In.” And given what is going on elsewhere it isn’t. But the Yuan is not a component of the US dollar index. And it is important that China is crossing red lines.


On May 10, I noted a Major Court Fight Between Germany and EU Looms Briefly, the German constitutional court ruled that the ECB abused its powers ruling on the ECB asset purchases as implausible, and objectively arbitrary. What Germany fears now and has from the outset is “debt mutualization” in which Germany would bailout Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. And despite the German court ruling, Pablo Iglesias, Spain’s Deputy PM. says a “certain [level of] debt mutualisation is a [necessary] condition of the [continued] existence of the EU”. The EU once again faces a breakup crisis. With negative interest rates in the Eurozone and a breakup risk high and rising, it’s no wonder the Euro is not strengthening.

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Kuroda’s still fighting deflation.

Japan Eyes Stimulus Plan Worth Over $929 Billion To Battle Pandemic (TRT)

Japan is considering a fresh stimulus package worth over $929 billion that will consist mostly of financial aid programmes for companies hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the Nikkei newspaper said on Monday. The package, to be funded by a second extra budget for the current fiscal year beginning in April, would follow a record $1.1 trillion spending plan deployed last month to cushion the economic blow from the pandemic. The second extra budget, worth $929.45 billion (100 trillion yen), will include 60 trillion yen for expanding loan programmes that state-affiliated and private financial institutions offer to firms hit by virus, the paper said.


Another 27 trillion yen will be set aside for other financial aid programmes, including 15 trillion yen for a new programme to inject capital into ailing firms, it said. The government is expected to approve the budget, which will also include subsidies to help companies pay rent and wages as they close businesses, at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

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Time for an update on the shadow banks.

China Unveils $500 Billion Fiscal Stimulus, Refrains From Going All-in (SCMP)

The Chinese government has unveiled a fiscal stimulus package of nearly 3.6 trillion yuan (US$506 billion), as Beijing tries to offset the economic shock caused by the coronavirus pandemic and prepare for an “unpredictable” path ahead. Premier Li Keqiang announced details of the plan in his work report at the National People’s Congress on Friday, including an increase of the budget fiscal deficit to a record high of 3.6 per cent of GDP, up from 2.8 per cent last year. It is the first time the ratio has exceeded 3 per cent – a red line for decades – and will add an extra 1 trillion yuan to the budget to bolster the economy after it was lashed by the pandemic.

Beijing will also issue 1 trillion yuan of special treasury bonds for the first time since 2007, though these will not be included in the central government budget and therefore the deficit ratio. The local government special bond quota, another source of infrastructure funding, has been boosted by 1.6 trillion yuan to 3.75 trillion yuan for 2020. While the sum total of new spending and tax cuts is large, it fell short of expectations, reflecting Beijing’s concerns about overspending and worries about debt, analysts said. “The incremental amount [of fiscal stimulus] is small,” said Larry Hu, chief China economist of Macquarie Capital. “Traditionally, China’s stimulus is not released at one go, but step by step … A bigger stimulus will only be seen when numbers are bad enough.”

The aggregate size of China’s total budget fiscal deficit, which includes the government budget deficit and off-budget debts, was about 8.3 per cent of GDP, above last year’s figure of 5.6 per cent, said Hu, adding market expectations were for a “more proactive fiscal policy”.

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Excellent from the Globe and Mail.

China Racing To Impose New Law Criminalizing Hong Kong Protests (G&M)

Police in Hong Kong cracked down on protesters Sunday, arresting at least 180, in the wake of Beijing’s pledge to move quickly on a new law that will extend China’s concept of justice to those who challenge Communist Party leadership in the territory. They were the first protests since Chinese authorities announced their plans to impose the new law, which will criminalize conduct according to Beijing’s definitions of what constitutes separatism, terrorism, subversion and illegal foreign meddling. The draft decision on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for Hong Kong on national security also gives mainland China the right to place its own enforcers on Hong Kong soil.

The law is expected to be finalized this week by the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp parliament, and enacted soon after. It “has become a pressing priority. We must get it done without the slightest delay,” China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said. For nearly a year, the Asian financial centre has been a city of both peaceful demonstration and violent protest. With the law looming on the horizon, protests erupted as the city streets were drenched in tear gas and blocked by makeshift barricades.

On Sunday, police descended swiftly on protesters with a show of force that bloodied the streets. At least four officers were injured in clashes, according to a spokesperson for the Hong Kong government, who issued a lengthy statement late Sunday calling the protesters’ conduct an “outrageous” and ”serious threat to public safety.” Those who waved “Hong Kong Independence” flags on Sunday undermined “the overall and long-term interests of Hong Kong society,” the spokesperson said, adding: “rioters remain rampant, reinforcing the need and urgency of the legislation on national security.” But in a city where most people self-identify as “Hongkonger” rather than Chinese, the space to oppose the move is already diminishing.

Local police have refused to authorize peaceful protest, making street assemblies illegal. Epidemic health rules bar gatherings of more than eight people. And Beijing’s enthusiastic backing has further empowered Hong Kong’s police, already accused by human-rights groups of brutality in their handling of violent protests, to clear the streets. ”Protesters now face graver potential danger and legal consequences,” said Bonnie Leung, a pro-democracy campaigner in the city. “Given the severity and urgency of the national-security law, people will certainly want to return to the street,” said Avery Ng, a pro-democracy activist who is among a group of 15 recently arrested people that Chinese state media call “riot leaders.” But, he said, “I worry that many people cannot return to the street to protest without risking their personal safety.”

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Chris Patten negotiated the 1997 transition. Is Europe going to join the US on China?

China’s New National Security Law Should Be On G7 Agenda – Patten (R.)

The United Kingdom should ensure that China’s efforts to impose a new national security law on Hong Kong are on the agenda for the G7 meeting in June, Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong wrote in the Financial Times newspaper on Sunday. The last governor of the former British colony said that Britain and its G7 allies should take a stance against Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ‘regime’, which he labeled as “an enemy of open societies”.


“While the rest of the world is preoccupied with fighting COVID-19, he (Xi) has in effect ripped up the Joint Declaration, a treaty lodged at the UN to guarantee Hong Kong’s way of life till 2047”, Patten wrote in the newspaper. China has proposed imposing national security laws on Hong Kong as Communist Party rulers in Beijing on Friday unveiled details of the legislation that critics see as a turning point for the former British colony, which enjoys many freedoms, including an independent legal system and right to protest, not allowed on the mainland.

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The attack goes full frontal, from Guardian to Daily Mail.

Boris Johnson Bets Big On Dominic Cummings (Pol.eu)

Boris Johnson is standing by his man — but it’s a political gamble that might yet cost him. After lengthy face-to-face discussions with Dominic Cummings on Sunday afternoon, the British prime minister told the country he was confident that his chief adviser “acted responsibly and legally, and with integrity” despite alleged breaches of the U.K.’s coronavirus lockdown rules. The revelation that Cummings traveled 260 miles from London to Durham to stay at a property close to family, after his wife developed coronavirus symptoms in late March, has led to calls for his resignation from opposition parties and a handful of Conservative MPs.

But Johnson, speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus press conference on Sunday evening, stood four-square behind Cummings — the strategic guru who masterminded the Brexit campaign and Johnson’s path to a thumping election victory. The prime minister said he fully accepted the adviser’s explanation that he had “no alternative” but to travel to guarantee childcare for his four-year-old son should he and his wife become too ill. “I think he followed the instincts of every father and every parent,” Johnson said. The U.K.’s guidance is that those who develop symptoms, as Cummings’ wife did, “must stay at home for at least seven days.” Other members of the household must stay put for 14 days.

But Johnson said the advice was also “absolutely clear that if you have childcare issues, that is a factor that has to be taken into account.” The official guidance advises parents who develop symptoms to “keep following” general advice “the best of your ability,” but acknowledges “not all these measures will be possible.” In short, discretion is limited.

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The left wing joins in with the right. Not sure that bodes well for Joe.

Biden Should Be Named in Criminal Probe in Ukraine, Judge Rules (Lauria)

Last month District Court Judge S. V. Vovk in Kiev ruled that police must list Biden as an alleged perpetrator of a crime against Shokin, according to a report on the website Just the News. The possible crime cited is “unlawful interference in Shokin’s work as Ukraine’s chief prosecutor,” the website said, according to an English translation of the investigative judge’s order obtained by the site. The district court had earlier ruled that there was sufficient evidence in Shokin’s criminal complaint to investigate Biden, but the police had withheld Biden’s name, listing him only as an unnamed American.

Shokin first alleged last year in a deposition that Biden had pressured then Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire Shokin because he was conducting an investigation into Burisma Holdings, the gas company on whose board Biden’s son Hunter was installed shortly after the fall of President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014. Biden had been appointed the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine, according to a recorded conversation between then Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffry Pyatt. Nuland and Pyatt discussed how to “midwife” a new Ukrainian government before the democratically-elected Yanukovych was overthrown. Nuland said Biden would help “glue” it all together.

As booty from the U.S.-backed coup, the sitting vice president’s son, Hunter, within weeks got his seat on Burisma, in what can be seen as a transparently neocolonial maneuver to take over a country and install one’s own people. But Biden’s son wasn’t the only one. A family friend of then Secretary of State John Kerry also joined Burisma’s board. U.S. agricultural giant Monsanto got a Ukrainian contract soon after the overthrow. And the first, post-coup Ukrainian finance minister was an American citizen, a former State Department official, who was given Ukrainian citizenship the day before she took up the post. Shokin has alleged, in the same vein, that the U.S. was running the country’s prosecutors’ office.

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Long and great, reading under lockdown.

Tuxedo Park (Guinn)

In a Gilded Age, abstractions are the things we are told represent prosperity. Back then, well, Americans were told that a lot of things represented prosperity. In Twain’s kind of bad story, prosperity was the ability to speculate on land, the freedom to take your shot on building the same kind of fortune as Vanderbilt and Carnegie. Prosperity was walking into the marble and gold edifice of J.P. Morgan’s bank and thinking, in awe, that we Americans could do something like this. Prosperity was the lives that social elites were capable of living, and if you weren’t, then, well, it looks like you might need to brush up on your Social Darwinism to figure out why not.

The excesses empowered by centers of political and social power were not just excesses. They were attempts to apply a layer of gilding to the baser materials underneath – the still vast and unresolved social and economic problems faced by an emerging United States with devastating inequality of both opportunity and circumstance. If it looked and felt like a Golden Age, wasn’t that all that really mattered? Perhaps this all sounds familiar. Perhaps this sounds like the Long Now. That’s because it is.

The Long Now IS a New Gilded Age, a top-down imposition of the idea that it is more important for a people to look and feel prosperous than to prosper. Only instead of land speculation and the pretenses of an aristocratic minority, our gilding largely boils down to the current level of the S&P 500 Index. If we wish to understand the arc that these top-down political narratives follow, especially how they die and how they do not die, we will find no better example than in the least golden yet most gilded retreat of late 19th and early 20th century oligarchs. A place that even Twain himself ended up calling home late in life.

Tuxedo Park.

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May 222020
 


Cave of swimmers, Gilf Kebir plateau, Sahara c6000 BCE

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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


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

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They’re only just starting.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

US Layoffs Spread Despite Businesses Reopening (R.)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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An entire state run by gullible grandmas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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The power of Sidney Powell.

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

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


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

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Good long overview.

The Railroading of Michael Flynn (Lake)

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

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

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

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

https://twitter.com/SidneyPowell1/status/1263557289950228481

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Flynn was opposed to it. He had to go.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 202020
 


Russell Lee South Side market, Chicago 1941

 

Study Finds Recovered COVID Patients Who Test Positive Not Infectious (ZH)
Australian Study: COVID19 Spreads In Schools ‘Considerably Less’ Than Flu (JTN)
Why Australia Must SPEND Its Way Out Of The COVID19 Crisis (DM)
EU Exec To Propose €1 Trillion Euro Recovery Plan With Grants And Loans (R.)
The Great Opening-up (Jim Kunstler)
China Backs Investigation Of WHO And Coronavirus Pandemic (SCMP)
8 Countries to Import Iran-Made Coronavirus Test Kits (FARS)
Global Carbon Emissions Down Nearly 20% Since Lockdowns Began (JTN)
The Mystery Behind Worldometer (CNN)
Venezuela Files Claim To Force Bank Of England To Hand Over Gold (R.)
Senate GOP Compile Massive Subpoena List For FBI Abuse Probe (ZH)
Flynn Lawyers Appeal Requests Case Dismissal, Removal Of Judge Sullivan (JTN)
Phone Calls Between Biden And Ukraine’s Poroshenko Leaked (ZH)
Ukraine Judge Orders Joe Biden Listed As Alleged Perpetrator Of Crime (Solomon)

 

 

• Global cases top 5,000,000

• Russia +8,764 (down from 9,263 May 19 and 9709 May 18)

• US records over 21,000 new cases in past 24 hours

• US records 1,536 new deaths (vs 759 day before),

• Total US deaths 93,533, projected to be 113,000 by mid-June

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Well, “according to the results of his medical exam released last year, Trump, 73, had a listed height of 6 feet, 3 inches and a weight of 243 pounds. That would put his body mass index at 30.4, which narrowly qualifies him in the “obese” category of 30 or greater.”

And very far removed from morbidly obese. But Pelosi said it anyway, and then “quipped” that she didn’t know he’d be offended by it. Fine, if that’s the level of conversation you want….. But what do you think will happen if he pays her back in kind? Don’t you dare complain, Nancy.

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 5,006,675 (+ 94,955 from yesterday’s 4,911,720)

Deaths 325,320 (+ 4,866 from yesterday’s 320,454)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Tyler claims this is ground for reopening economies, but fear of reinfection has not been a major factor so far, it’s fear of first-time infection.

Study Finds Recovered COVID Patients Who Test Positive Not Infectious (ZH)

[..] a study from the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that patients who test positive for COVID-19 after recovering from the illness appear to be shedding dead copies of the virus. That would suggest that these patients are not infectious, the scientists said, which helped dispel fears that some patients can remain infectious for months after being infected. While the study doesn’t answer every question about the virus’s longevity – such as patients who almost appear to have developed a “chronic” form of the illness because their symptoms have persisted for so long. But still, the finding was greeted as a major relief, and, if anything, should encourage economies to reopen more quickly, as a potential trigger for reinfection that had panicked some experts appears to be a non-issue.

The research also undermines the reliability of ‘antibody’ tests like the ones NY Gov Andrew Cuomo insisted would be ‘critical’ for NY’s reopening. The results mean health authorities in South Korea will no longer consider people infectious after recovering from the illness. Research last month showed that so-called PCR tests for the coronavirus’s nucleic acid can’t distinguish between dead and viable virus particles, potentially giving the wrong impression that someone who tests positive for the virus remains infectious. The research may also aid in the debate over antibody tests, which look for markers in the blood that indicate exposure to the novel coronavirus. Experts believe antibodies probably convey some level of protection against the virus, but they don’t have any solid proof yet. Nor do they know how long any immunity may last.


[..] As a result of the findings in the South Korea study, authorities said that under revised protocols, people should no longer be required to test negative for the virus before returning to work or school after they have recovered from their illness and completed their period of isolation. “Under the new protocols, no additional tests are required for cases that have been discharged from isolation,” the Korean CDC said in a report. The agency said it will now refer to “re-positive” cases as “PCR re-detected after discharge from isolation.” Some coronavirus patients have tested positive again for the virus up to 82 days after becoming infected. Almost all of the cases for which blood tests were taken had antibodies against the virus. If nothing else, this study is just the latest reminder of how much we don’t know about the virus.

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One study says nothing. Are you going to send your kids to school BECAUSE one Australian study says this?

Australian Study: COVID19 Spreads In Schools ‘Considerably Less’ Than Flu (JTN)

A study out of Australia shows the spread of COVID-19 is not driven by children in educational environments, a finding expected to influence the ongoing debate about when to reopen schools in many Western countries. Authorities in the United States, the European countries and other nations around the world began shutting down schools in February and March under the assumption that schoolhouses – packed full of children and usually hotspots of community virus transmission – would contribute to major coronavirus outbreaks. Many public officials, particularly in the U.S., have vowed to keep schools closed until the fall and possibly beyond. Yet health authorities are beginning to question that approach to pandemic mitigation.

Soumya Swaminathan, the chief scientist at the World Health Organization, said last week that “children don’t seem to be getting severely ill from this infection,” that there “have not been big outbreaks in schools” where they have remained open, and that it sees “children are less capable of spreading” the virus. The study out of Australia, released last month by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, found that “SARS-CoV-2 transmission in children in schools appears considerably less than seen for other respiratory viruses, such as influenza.” The study determined that, out of hundreds of “close contacts” that were in proximity to numerous positive COVID-19 patients in a school environment, only a scant number contracted the disease there.


“In contrast to influenza, data from both virus and antibody testing to date suggest that children are not the primary drivers of COVID-19 spread in schools or in the community,” the researchers said. “This is consistent with data from international studies showing low rates of disease in children and suggesting limited spread among children and from children to adults,” they also said. The researchers do note that, in mid-March, the government advised parents to keep their children at home for online learning even as schools remained open. Following that advice, “face-to-face attendance in schools decreased significantly and this may have impacted the results of this investigation.” School holidays in early April may have also affected the results.

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Steve Keen: ‘Give $100,000 per person as a flat rate to everyone to eliminate the private debt..’

Why Australia Must SPEND Its Way Out Of The COVID19 Crisis (DM)

[Economist Martin North] said Australia just has to accept it’s been hit by a one-in-a-hundred-year storm and that the Budget will not be balanced for a long time. Australia’s government debt level is hovering around 30 per cent of GDP which is low compared to Japans which hit 238 per cent of GDP in 2018. ‘Interest rates have never been as low as now and from a debt servicing perspective we have the capacity to get more funds,’ he said. Mr North said now was the time to invest in solid nation-building infrastructure that would set the groundwork for the next 30 years of Australia’s future. However, Mr North said he feared the Government would be pressured to prop up old economic distortions such as the over-reliance on housing construction which fueled a house price bubble and unsustainable mass migration. ‘We can’t just go back to pre-covid days, it would be a major mistake,’ he said.

[..] Economist Leith Van Onselen, who worked for Treasury, Goldman Sachs and now writes for website Macrobusiness, said governments should take advantage of the low borrowing rates to build infrastructure now. ‘Not only would this help overcome Australia’s massive infrastructure deficit brought about by 15 years of mass immigration, but would also help stimulate the economy during a period of weak private demand and high unemployment,’ he told Daily Mail Australia. Mr Van Onselen said the nation-building benefits would be undone if the government reverted back to mass migration. ‘This would overload the new infrastructure and lift labour supply, thus being self defeating,’ he said. Wages had already stagnated due to an oversupply of labour before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

[..] Australia’s economy has also been distorted by runaway house prices in recent years. Professor Steve Keen of the University College of London said this had resulted in Australia’s private debt levels becoming the ‘biggest bubble in human history’ at 190 per cent of GDP, far greater than the government’s relatively modest debt to GDP ratio of 30 per cent. Professor Keen has advocated massive cash handouts to every Australian to get rid of the enormous levels of private debt so the economy can have a chance to recover. ‘Give $100,000 per person as a flat rate to everyone to eliminate the private debt,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.


The money would need to be distributed in such a way that it would go directly to paying down debt, Professor Keen said. But those without debt should still receive the payment so they are not penalised. The Australian economy may be unable to recover from the coronavirus shock unless the private debt burden is reduced, Professor Keen said. He said the solution was a debt jubilee, reducing private debt from 190 per cent of GDP to just 90 per cent of GDP.

Read more …

Guaranteed to fail spectacularly. The EU should stay out of this.

EU Exec To Propose €1 Trillion Euro Recovery Plan With Grants And Loans (R.)

The European Commission will present a pandemic recovery plan next week that will exceed 1 trillion euros in a mix of grants and loans, Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said on Tuesday. Dombrovskis, speaking after a meeting of EU finance ministers, welcomed a proposal by France and Germany for a 500 billion euro fund to disburse grants to worst-hit regions and sectors. But he said the Commission would be bolder. “Our ambition is not to increase the financing capacity in the range of hundreds of billions, but rather by a figure exceeding a trillion euros,” he said. “Of course in this case we are talking about both in loans and grants.”

Dombrovskis said the Commission, like France and Germany, would link access to the recovery money to sound economic policies and structural reforms. This could become a friction point with Italy and Spain, worst affected by the epidemic, who are wary of northern fiscal hawks dictating policies in exchange for grants. “We not only need additional money for the recovery, but we also need reforms, we need to ensure a business environment that is conducive to investment,” Dombrovskis said. “So, as part of our recovery instrument, we intend to propose… a Recovery and Resilience Facility, which will be concentrating on investments and structural reforms,” he said.


Dombrovskis also said the recovery money would have to follow the EU’s long-term priorities of making the bloc climate-neutral by 2050, digitalising the economy and investing in research and innovation. mEU governments are divided if the recovery money should be loans or transfers, with the highly indebted southerners like Italy, Greece or Spain calling for grants and less indebted and fiscally frugal countries in favour of loans. The commission’s proposal on May 27, linking the Recovery Fund with the EU’s next long-term budget for 2021-2027, will be the basis for discussions of all EU governments in June. Dombrovskis said the Commission was examining if some of the cash could be available in 2020, but said most was likely to be available in 2021.

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“Spooky as it’s been, the Covid-19 virus has also been a great cover-story for the natural collapse of a severely unbalanced, ecologically unsound, and dishonestly represented set of arrangements..”

The Great Opening-up (Jim Kunstler)

The current nostalgia for pre-Covid-19 business-as-usual is understandably intense. Gone especially from daily life are all the ceremonies of human togetherness, from gatherings of friends to the casual shoulder-rubbings of urban life to the crowded venues of the lively arts to the great moiling orgies of pro sports. The life of the perpetual jigsaw puzzle, YouTube, and Netflix has proved inadequate to human aspiration. Gone, too, are livelihoods, revenue streams, and rewarding roles in everyday existence. The itch to get out and do, get out and make, get out and be, is overwhelming. Behind those plain yearnings, though, looms the specter of a system that appeared to be already foundering before Covid-19 entered the scene.

There is, at least, considerable agreement that the disease catalyzed the disorders of finance and economy and accelerated the damage – just not among the people most responsible for engineering the fragilities that actually crashed things Jerome Powell, Pope of the Church of the Federal Reserve, went on the 60-Minutes show last night to reassure the nation that things will eventually get back to normal. “I think you’ll see the economy recover steadily through the second half of this year.” Yessir, if you say so. Were his fingers crossed? You couldn’t tell because the camera had him framed in a head-shot. Personally, I think the Fed Chairman was blowing smoke up the nation’s wazoo. Spooky as it’s been, the Covid-19 virus has also been a great cover-story for the natural collapse of a severely unbalanced, ecologically unsound, and dishonestly represented set of arrangements that are now unspooling at horrifying speed.


The car industry is dying. The airline industry is laying out its fleet of big birds in desert graveyards. The college racketeering operation went off a cliff, along with medical profiteering. Agribusiness no longer has a business model. Hundreds of kinds of services no longer have customers who can afford their offerings from acupuncture to zymurgy. None of that will be fixed by injections of miracle money borrowed from ourselves in quantities that would turn every US citizen into a millionaire – if it wasn’t just pounded down the rat-holes of the stock and bond markets. The big question about the Great Opening-up is when the recognition of all that turns to raw emotion. Covid-19 may still be with us then, but it will be the least of our problems. The masks will come off. The dance will commence.

Read more …

But not now. Try again in 5 years.

China Backs Investigation Of WHO And Coronavirus Pandemic (SCMP)

Member states of the World Health Organisation, including China, backed a call on Tuesday for an independent investigation into the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 318,000 people around the world. The resolution, which was drafted and promoted by the European Union but did not identify any country by name, called for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the pandemic, including the actions of the WHO. At a virtual meeting of the WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly, the United States, which has accused the WHO of being a “puppet of China”, did not block the adoption of the resolution.

The US said the resolution was the “first critical step” in ensuring the world health body could play its roles and there was an international system capable of “responding effectively” to the next pandemic. But it also “dissociated” itself from the resolution’s statement on rights for poor countries to waive intellectual property rules in obtaining medicine in emergencies, Reuters reported. Earlier on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump threatened to permanently freeze US funding to the WHO and reconsider his country’s membership if the United Nations agency did not commit to “major substantive improvements” within the next 30 days.[..]

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the resolution was in line with Beijing’s positions that countries should support the WHO and that the evaluation should be carried out at “appropriate time”. “These are all consistent with China’s positions and also reflect the common wishes of the majority of countries in the world,” Zhao said. Zhao also hit out at Australia for pushing for an investigation into China’s handling of the outbreak. The two-day gathering did not include discussions of a proposal for Taiwan to regain its observer status. [..] Liu Weidong, a specialist in international affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that after weeks of posturing by countries such as the US and Australia, Beijing’s cooperative approach at the gathering had softened criticism of China.


“China’s performance at this assembly and its stance, were open and very selfless,” Liu said. “China’s actions do make it seem that it is selflessly contributing to building a global community of health for all.” He said US calls to trace the origins of Sars-CoV-2, the official name for the virus that causes Covid-19, were losing support. “Everybody will realise the [US] criticised China and found fault with China due to internal politics, which is a very calculating behaviour. Not many countries may end up following [the US] because it will affect their own soft power,” he said. “America’s international influence now compared to before Covid-19 definitely has fallen a lot.”

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A country of 83 million people that sees numbers rise again, should perhaps not export its tests.

8 Countries to Import Iran-Made Coronavirus Test Kits (FARS)

Vice President for Science and Technology Sorena Sattari said that Iranian knowledge-based firms have started manufacturing coronavirus test kits and eight countries have agreed to import such items from the country.
“Iran presently has a capacity of producing 1 million serology test kits per day and 1.5 million of C-Creative Protein (CPR) test kits per month,” Sattari said on Tuesday. “Part of the mentioned figure is used inside the country and the rest is exported,” he added. In relevant remarks on May 10, Deputy head of the Iranian presidency’s office for scientific affairs Mehdi Qalenoyee said that Iranian firms are going to export serological test kits to eight more countries after a first successful cargo was sent to Germany earlier in the week.

Qalenoyee said export of two types of coronavirus test kits to the Philippines and Pakistan was waiting for confirmation from the local officials after Iranian companies manufacturing the special tools sent sample kits to labs in those countries. He added that India, Nigeria and Armenia will receive the items once travel restrictions are eased. The official also said that Qatar, Georgia and Syria will soon be included in the list of export destination for the Iranian test kits. The announcement comes a few days after Iran sent a first cargo of serological test kits to Germany, where officials are trying to conduct the tests on a great scale to identify the immunity rate against COVID-19.


Exports of diagnostic devices and equipment from Iran to other countries is a sign of success for home-grown efforts to fight the coronavirus. Iran has been highly praised for its robust response to the disease as many governments and organizations keep castigating the US for its refusal to lift illegal sanctions to let the country access medical supplies and vital equipment needed to confront the virus.

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Half the global economy is on hold, and the reduction is still only 20% of what is called for.

Global Carbon Emissions Down Nearly 20% Since Lockdowns Began (JTN)

Carbon emissions worldwide are reportedly down by nearly 20% since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdowns, another highlighting the impact of ongoing shutdowns on human activity and the worldwide economy. A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, titled “Temporary reduction in daily global CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 forced confinement,” states that the reduction in average global emissions peaked at 26% before settling at 17%, compared mean emission levels in 2019. The authors, who hail from the U.K., the U.S., Norway and other countries, say that the total level of emission reductions for the whole year could range anywhere from 4% to 7%, depending on the disease mitigation procedures that remain in place, and for how long.


“Government actions and economic incentives post-crisis will likely influence the global CO2emissions path for decades,” they write. “At present it is unclear how long and deep the [economic] crisis will be, and how the recovery path will look, and therefore how CO2 emissions will be affected.” Governments worldwide have enacted severe and open-ended lockdowns and shutdowns since the disease began spreading late last year, with presidents, governors and other executives around the world unilaterally closing down huge swaths of their economies in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.

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CNN sets out to discredit Worldometer, mentions that Wikipedia editors find it makes errors. First, that would be a badge of honor for anyone not working at either CNN or Wikipedia, and second, it’s not possible to get every detail right when tracking multiple data from 200+ countries. If only because they themselves track data in different ways from each other.

The story falls apart when CNN finds that Johns Hopkins, which it thinks is much more reliable, cites Worldometer on a very regular basis.

The Mystery Behind Worldometer (CNN)

When Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez boasted of Spain’s high rankings, he didn’t pull his numbers out of thin air. On April 27, the OECD wrongly ranked Spain eighth in testing per capita. Initially, the OECD had used data from OWID to compile its statistics. But it sourced the Spanish numbers independently because OWID’s data was incomplete. [..] In its statement, the OECD said “we regret the confusion created on a sensitive issue by any debate on methodological issues” and stressed that increasing the availability of testing in general is more important than knowing where any particular country ranks. Sánchez’s later reference to a Johns Hopkins study, in which he said Spain ranked fifth for testing worldwide, appears to have been a case of mixed-up attribution by the prime minister.

JHU has not published international testing figures. Jill Rosen, a spokeswoman for the school, told CNN the university couldn’t identify a report that matched Sánchez’s description. At a press conference on May 9, Sánchez evaded a CNN question pressing him on the JHU study’s existence and listed the government’s numbers on testing totals instead. In comments made to a Spanish reporter the next day, health minister Salvador Illa continued to insist the testing data had been released by JHU, though he pointed to Worldometer as the underlying source. Since Johns Hopkins gets its data from Worldometer, he argued, it’s just as good. “It is data given by the John Hopkins University […] taken from as a fundamental source of information, the website Worldometer,” Illa said. “You can check it.”

[..] One Wikipedia editor, James Heilman, a clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of British Columbia, said Wikipedia volunteers have noticed persistent errors with Worldometer, but also with “a more reputable name with a longer history of accuracy,” referring to Johns Hopkins. “We hope they also double check the numbers.” In an article published in February, JHU said it began manually tracking Covid-19 data for its dashboard in January. When that became unsustainable, the university began scraping data from primary sources and aggregation websites. Lauren Gardner, the associate engineering professor who runs the university’s Covid-19 dashboard, told CNN in a statement that the university uses a “two-stage anomaly detection system” to catch potential data problems.


“Moderate” changes are automatically added to the dashboard but flagged so staff can double-check them in real time. Changes beyond a certain threshold require “a human to manually check and approve the values before publication to the dashboard,” Gardner said. The university’s reliance on Worldometer has surprised some academics. Phil Beaver, a data scientist at the University of Denver, seemed at a loss for words when he was asked what he thought of JHU citing Worldometer. “I am not sure, that is a great question, I kind of got the impression that Worldometer was relying on [Johns] Hopkins,” he told CNN after a lengthy pause.

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Reuters labels it “foot-dragging”. Like we are clueless nitwits.

Venezuela Files Claim To Force Bank Of England To Hand Over Gold (R.)

Venezuela’s central bank has made a legal claim to try to force the Bank of England to hand over €930 million ($1.02 billion) of gold so President Nicolas Maduro’s government can fund its coronavirus response, according to the document submitted in a London court. The claim follows a request Venezuela made to the Bank of England in April to sell part of its gold reserves there and send the proceeds to the United Nations to help with the country’s coronavirus-fighting efforts. Since 2018, the Bank of England has delayed the transfer of 31 tonnes of Venezuelan gold stored there to Maduro, who Britain does not recognize as the country’s legitimate leader. The bank offers gold custodian services to many developing nations.


The claim, submitted in a commercial court and dated May 14, says the Venezuelan central bank “seeks an order requiring BoE to comply with the proposed instruction.” The funds, once transferred to the United Nations Development Programme, would be used to buy healthcare equipment, medicine, and food to address Venezuela’s “COVID-19 emergency,” the document seen by Reuters said. Selling off the country’s gold reserves has become one of the Maduro administration’s few options to raise funds due to U.S. sanctions. The collapse in global oil prices and a paralyzing coronavirus quarantine has further crippled Venezuela’s moribund economy. “The foot-dragging by the Bank of England is critically hampering Venezuela and the UN’s efforts to combat COVID-19 in the country,” Sarosh Zaiwalla, a London-based lawyer representing the central bank, said in a statement.

Read more …

Nice list.

Senate GOP Compile Massive Subpoena List For FBI Abuse Probe (ZH)

In the wake of bombshell evidence that shows the Obama DOJ inappropriately targeted the 2016 Trump campaign, Senate Republicans have compiled a list of 53 individuals they want to interview as part of their own comprehensive probe into the matter, separate of the Trump DOJ’s separate criminal investigation headed up by US Attorney John Durham. That said, as Fox News reports, the effort is being led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC), so we expect weekly cable news appearances in which Graham wags his finger and issues the sternest of empty threats to investigate the swamp. Graham has previously come under fire for failing to follow through on promises to seek testimony from current and former DOJ and FBI officials – telling Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo that he doesn’t want to interfere with Durham’s probe.

But – in the unlikely event Graham isn’t going to simply run cover for the swamp in a sham investigation designed to placate those who seek justice, here are the names of those on the subpoena list, via Fox News: The majors: [former FBI Director] James Comey, [former FBI Deputy Director] Andrew McCabe, [former Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper, [former CIA Director] John Brennan, [former Deputy Attorney General] Sally Yates. We note that the names of both President Obama and his VP Joe Biden are conspicuously absent, despite the fact that both of them were in a January 5, 2017 meeting in which Obama gave Comey the nod to conceal information from the incoming Trump administration. Graham, in response, said that asking for testimony from a former president would set a ‘dangerous precedent.’


Everyone else: “Trisha Anderson, Brian Auten, James Baker, William Barr, Dana Boente, Jennifer Boone, Kevin Clinesmith [the FBI lawyer who allegedly falsified a CIA email to secure the Carter Page FISA warrant], Patrick Conlon, Michael Dempsey, Stuart Evans, Tashina Gauhar [a top DOJ deputy when classified details of Flynn’s calls with the Russian ambassador were illegally leaked to The Washington Post], Carl Ghattas, Curtis Heide, Kathleen Kavalec, David Laufman [who arranged a key meeting with a Steele dossier source], Stephen Laycock, Jacob Lew, Loretta Lynch, Mary McCord, Denis McDonough, Arthur McGlynn, Jonathan Moffa, Sally Moyer, Mike Neufield, Sean Newell, Victoria Nuland, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Stephanie L. O’Sullivan, Lisa Page, Joseph Pientka [who interviewed Flynn at the White House while also playing a key role in the Carter Page probe, and whom the FBI has hidden from scrutiny], John Podesta, Samantha Power, E.W. “Bill” Priestap [who authored the memo debating whether the bureau simply wanted Flynn “fired”], Sarah Raskin, Steve Ricchetti, Susan Rice, Rod Rosenstein, Gabriel Sanz-Rexach, Nathan Sheets, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Glenn Simpson, Steve Somma [an FBI case agent who apparently was involved in several key FISA omissions], Peter Strzok, Michael Sussman, Adam Szubin, Jonathan Winer, and Christopher Wray.”

Read more …

The more they resist, the harder Powell will come.

Flynn Lawyers Appeal Requests Case Dismissal, Removal Of Judge Sullivan (JTN)

Attorneys for former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court to force a district court to dismiss the case, as the Justice Department has requested. The petition also asks that the judge, Emmet Sullivan, be removed from Flynn’s case and that his U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacate his order to appoint former federal judge John Gleeson to argue against the dismissal of Flynn’s case and discuss whether the retired lieutenant general deserves to face contempt for perjury. Flynn in 2017 plead guilty to lying to the FBI but later sought to withdraw his plea. Evidence has since emerged suggesting the FBI had no case against Flynn but set up an interview hoping it would catch him lying, his lawyers and Justice officials have said.

Sullivan last week announced his intention to allow the filing of amicus curiae briefs, which meant that Flynn’s case would not immediately conclude. These “friend of the court” briefs allow parties interested in but not involved in a case to present their views. Sullivan also announced last week the appointment of Gleeson. In the petition filed Tuesday, Flynn’s legal team, which includes attorney Sidney Powell, blasted Sullivan and requested that the case be reassigned to a different judge.


“The district judge’s latest actions – failing to grant the Government’s Motion to Dismiss, appointing a biased and highly-political amicus who has expressed hostility and disdain towards the Justice Department’s decision to dismiss the prosecution, and the promise to set a briefing schedule for widespread amicus participation in further proceedings – bespeaks a judge who is not only biased against Petitioner, but also revels in the notoriety he has created by failing to take the simple step of granting a motion he has no authority to deny,” the petition says of Sullivan. “This is an umpire who has decided to steal public attention from the players and focus it on himself. He wants to pitch, bat, run bases, and play shortstop. In truth, he is way out in left field” the petition also states.

Read more …

Haven’t heard from Zelensky for a while.

Phone Calls Between Biden And Ukraine’s Poroshenko Leaked (ZH)

Leaked phone calls between Joe Biden and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko explicitly detail the quid-pro-quo arrangement to fire former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin – who Poroshenko admits did nothing wrong – in exchange for $1 billion in US loan guarantees (which Biden openly bragged about in January, 2018). The calls were leaked by Ukrainian MP Andrii Derkach, who says the recordings of “voices similar to Poroshenko and Biden” were given to him by investigative journalists who claim Poroshenko made them. Shokin was notably investigating Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that hired Biden’s son, Hunter, to sit on its board.

Shokin had opened a case against Burisma’s founder, Mykola Zlochevsky, who granted Burisma permits to drill for oil and gas in Ukraine while he was Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources. In January, 2019, Shokin stated in a deposition that there were five criminal cases against Zlochevesky, including money laundering, corruption, illegal funds transfers, and profiteering through shell corporations while he was a sitting minister. The leaked calls begin on December 3, 2015, when former Secretary of State John Kerry starts laying out the case to fire Shokin – who he says “blocked the cleanup of the Prosecutor Generals’ Office,” and sated that Biden “is very concerned about it,” to which Poroshenko replies that the newly reorganized prosecutor general’s office (NABU) won’t be able to pursue corruption charges, and that it may be difficult to fire Shokin without cause.

Later in the leaked audio on February 18, 2016 – less than three months after the Kerry conversation – Poroshenko delivers some “positive news.” “Yesterday I met with General Prosecutor Shokin,” says Poroshenko. And despite of the fact that we didn’t have any corruption charges, we don’t have any information about him doing something wrong, I specially asked him – no, it was day before yesterday – I specially asked him to resign. In, uh, as his, uh, position as a state person. And despite of the fact that he has a support in the power. And as a finish of my meeting with him, he promised to give me the statement on resignation. And one hour ago he bring me the written statement of his resignation. And this is my second step for keeping my promises.” To which Biden replied: “I agree.”


Four weeks later on March 22, 2016, Biden says “Tell me that there is a new government and a new Prosecutor General. I am prepared to do a public signing of the commitment for the billion dollars.” Poroshenko tells Biden that one of the leading candidates is the man who replaced Shokin, Yuriy Lutsenko who later said in a deposition that Hunter Biden and his business partners were receiving millions of dollars in compensation from Burisma. Then, on May 13, 2016, Biden congratulates Poroshenko on “getting the new Prosecutor General,” saying that it will be “critical for him to work quickly to repair the damage Shokin did.” “And I’m a man of my word,” Biden adds. “And now that the new Prosecutor General is in place, we’re ready to move forward to signing that one billion dollar loan guarantee.”

Read more …

Next nail. Same coffin.

Ukraine Judge Orders Joe Biden Listed As Alleged Perpetrator Of Crime (Solomon)

The infamous story of Joe Biden’s effort to force the firing of Ukraine’s chief prosecutor in 2016 has taken a new legal twist in Kiev, just as the former vice president is sewing up the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination in America. In Kiev late last month, District Court Judge S. V. Vovk ordered the country’s law enforcement services to formally list the fired prosecutor, Victor Shokin, as the victim of an alleged crime by the former U.S. vice president, according to an official English translation of the ruling obtained by Just the News. The court had previously ordered the Prosecutor General’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigations in February to investigate Shokin’s claim that he was fired in spring 2016 under pressure from Biden because he was investigating Burisma Holdings, the natural gas company where Biden’s son Hunter worked.


The court ruled then that there was adequate evidence to investigate Shokin’s claim that Biden’s pressure on then-President Petro Poroshenko, including a threat to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, amounted to unlawful interference in Shokin’s work as Ukraine’s chief prosecutor. But when law enforcement agencies opened the probe they refused to name Biden as the alleged perpetrator of the crime, instead listing the potential defendant as an unnamed American. Vovk ruled that anonymous listing was improper and ordered the law enforcement agencies to formally name Biden as the accused perpetrator.

Read more …

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Taleb likes to say it’s not the state that shuts down an economy, it’s the people:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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May 192020
 


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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

Moderna: Early Coronavirus Vaccine Results Are Encouraging (AP)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Tedros should simply explain the delays.

Trump Threatens To Permanently Cut Off WHO Funding (CNBC)

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

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

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

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

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


click to read in new tab

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

15 times more deadly is a lot.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

1.3 billion people. 100,000 ICU beds.

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

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


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

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A global problem.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Stay in the basement.

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 092020
 


Tomb of the diver, Paestum c480 BCE

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

In a nutshell: by ignoring the WHO.

How Australia Got On Top Of COVID19 (SMH)

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

What comes before the fall?

South Korea’s COVID19 Exceptionalism (Atl.)

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

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

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

Read more …

Uh-oh….

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

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

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

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

Read more …

People lock themselves down.

Enough With the Phoney ‘Lockdown’ Debate (Kay)

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

The all-cause death number. Hot potato.

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

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

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


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

Read more …

Success breeds success.

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

The Bailout Miscalculation That Could Crash the Economy (Taibbi)

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

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

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

Read more …

Fully bipartisan.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

Our Utter Incompetence Actually Helps Us (Kunstler)

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Obama will be implicated.

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

Andrew McCabe’s Bizarre CNN Interview (Turley)

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

Thank you.

 

 

 

 


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

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

– Hughes Mearns et al

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Apr 302020
 


Wyland Stanley Golden Gate Bridge under construction 1935

 

FBI Notes Detail Effort To Frame Michael Flynn (Solomon)
Handwritten Notes, Emails Reveal FBI Agents Set Perjury Trap For Flynn (SAC)
Steele Testifies Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice Knew About His Anti-Trump Research
The NY Times Used to Correct Its Whoppers. But Not These (Kuntz)
WHO Declines Comment On Remdesivir In COVID-19, Hopes For Best (R.)
Fauci Says Leak Concerns Fueled His White House Revelation Of Remdesivir Tests (R.)
Britain Has Europe’s Second Highest COVID-19 Death Toll (R.)
UK To Miss 100,000 Coronavirus Tests Target, Minister Admits (G.)
Seoul Tests Find False Positives, Not Reinfections In Recovered Patients (KH)
After Aggressive Mass Testing, Vietnam Says It Contains COVID19 Outbreak (R.)
Los Angeles To Offer Free Coronavirus Tests To All Residents (NBC)
Small Farms, Stressed And Underfunded, Struggle For Coronavirus Relief (IC)
COVID19 Crisis Will Wipe Out Demand For Fossil Fuels – IEA (G.)
Swedish City To Dump Ton Of Chicken Manure In Park To Deter Visitors (G.)
Stock Surge Is A Bear Market Rally That Will Collapse – Bianco (CNBC)

 

 

• US records 2,502 #coronavirus deaths in past 24 hours:

• Ben Hunt @EpsilonTheory
– 2,390 Americans died today of CV-19, the sixth worst day of this nat’l disaster. 2,470 Americans died yesterday, the fifth worst day of this nat’l disaster. I bet you didn’t know that. I bet you thought the death toll was improving. Now ask yourself, WHY wasn’t I told this?

• The coronavirus may have killed more people in the U.S. than is officially known: Total deaths in 7 hard-hit states are nearly 50% above normal, CDC data shows. That’s 9,000 more deaths than were reported as of April 11 in official counts.

 

 

 

Yesterday we had 6,120 new deaths. Today it’s 10,135. Not sure what caused that surge. I did the screenshots at roughly the same time.

Cases 3,232,992 (+ 83,759 from yesterday’s 3,149,233)

Deaths 228,520 (+ 10,135 from yesterday’s 218,385)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – Among Closed Cases, Deaths have fallen to 18%

 

 

From SCMP: Note: SCMP has a new layout for its tracker.

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: Note: watch Peru, it’s rising fast. As are Russia and Brazil, Mexico.

 

 

 

 

Found something not corona to start off with today. What an insane tale this has already become. Sidney Powell has promised more soon.

Think back before she became Flynn’s lawyer, and now look at this. The man had been bankrupted by these shenanigans; I still wonder who pays her.

So we have Comey, McCabe, Priestap. And then what about Obama, Hillary, Biden?

FBI Notes Detail Effort To Frame Michael Flynn (Solomon)

A senior FBI official’s handwritten notes from the earliest days of the Trump administration expressed concern that the bureau might be “playing games” with a counterintelligence interview of then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to get him to lie so “we could prosecute him or get him fired.” The notes and other emails were provided to Flynn’s lawyers under seal last week and released Wednesday night by court order, providing the most damning evidence to date of potential politicalization and misconduct inside the FBI during the Russia probe. The notes show FBI officials discussed not providing Flynn a Miranda-like warning before his January 2017 interview — a practice normally followed in such interviews — so that he could be charged with a crime if he misled the agents, the officials said.

“What is our goal? Truth/Admission or to get him to lie, so we can prosecute him or get him fired?,” the handwritten notes of the senior official say. The notes express further concern the FBI might be “playing games.” Multiple officials confirmed to Just the News that the author of the notes is William Priestap, the now-retired FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence and the ultimate supervisor for fired agent Peter Strzok, who led the Russia probe. Justice Department officials are investigating whether Priestap’s notes were written in conjunction with meetings he had with top leaders like then-Director James Comey and then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, officials said.

A special prosecutor is reviewing DOJ’s and the FBI’s handling of the Flynn prosecution, which led to the former Trump adviser and retired general pleading guilty to lying to the FBI under a plea deal with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia case. Flynn’s lawyer Sidney Powell filed a court motion last week saying new evidence has emerged showing Flynn was “framed” and his conviction should be dismissed. The officials said the notes are part of that new evidence and had been withheld from Flynn’s defense team for years even though they were potential evidence of innocence.

Read more …

There’s plenty to be said against Flynn, that’s not it. I think of his lobbying for Turkey in 2016.

The Sparrow Project @sparrowmedia on Twitter:

PRO TIP: “The FBI are not your friends, don’t lionize the FBI. Also, Michael Flynn is an Islamophobic, criminal, neo-crusader who should be sent to the gallows for the brutality he oversaw in JSOC, and at Camp Bucca in Iraq, brutality that ultimately gave birth to ISIS.”

Handwritten Notes, Emails Reveal FBI Agents Set Perjury Trap For Flynn (SAC)

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan unsealed four pages of stunning FBI emails and handwritten notes Wednesday, regarding former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, which allegedly reveal the retired three star general was targeted by senior FBI officials for prosecution, stated Flynn’s defense attorney Sidney Powell. Those notes and emails revealed that the retired three-star general appeared to be set up for a perjury trap by the senior members of the bureau and agents charged with investigating the now-debunked allegations that President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia, said Sidney Powell, the defense lawyer representing Flynn. Moreover, the Department of Justice release 11 more pages of documents Wednesday afternoon, according to Powell.

What is especially terrifying is that without the integrity of Attorney General Bill Barr and U.S. Attorney Jensen, we still would not have this clear exculpatory information as Mr. Van Grack and the prosecutors have opposed every request we have made,” said Powell. It appears, based on the notes and emails that the Department of Justice was determined at the time to prosecute Flynn, regardless of what they found, Powell said. “The FBI pre-planned a deliberate attack on Gen. Flynn and willfully chose to ignore mention of Section 1001 in the interview despite full knowledge of that practice,” Powell said in a statement. “The FBI planned it as a perjury trap at best and in so doing put it in writing stating ‘what is our goal? Truth/ Admission or to get him to lie so we can prosecute him or get him fired.”

The documents, reviewed and obtained by SaraACarter.com, reveal that senior FBI officials discussed strategies for targeting and setting up Flynn, prior to interviewing him at the White House on Jan. 24, 2017. It was that interview at the White House with former FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok and FBI Special Agent Joe Pientka that led Flynn, now 61, to plead guilty after months of pressure by prosecutors, financial strain and threats to prosecute his son. Powell filed a motion earlier this year to withdraw Flynn’s guilty plea and to dismiss his case for egregious government misconduct. Flynn pleaded guilty in December 2017, under duress by government prosecutors, to lying to investigators about his conversations with Russian diplomat Sergey Kislyak about sanctions on Russia. This January, however, he withdrew his guilty plea in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

He stated that he was “innocent of this crime” and was coerced by the FBI and prosecutors under threats that would charge his son with a crime. He filed to withdraw his guilty plea after DOJ prosecutors went back on their word and asked the judge to sentence Flynn to up to six months in prison, accusing him of not cooperating in another case against his former partner. Then prosecutors backtracked and said probation would be fine but by then Powell, his attorney, had already filed to withdraw his guilty plea.

The documents reveal that prior to the interview with Flynn in January, 2017 the FBI had already come to the conclusion that Flynn was guilty and beyond that the officials were working together to see how best to corner the 33-year military veteran and former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. The bureau deliberately chose not to show him the evidence of his phone conversation to help him in his recollection of events, which is standard procedure. Even stranger, the agents that interviewed Flynn later admitted that they didn’t believe he lied during the interview with them.

Read more …

As if we couldn’t have guessed. Note the role played by Victoria Nuland.

Steele Testifies Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice Knew About His Anti-Trump Research

Steele recently testified in a British court that he believed both then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and then-Obama National Security Adviser Susan Rice were aware of his dossier research as it was going on in summer 2016. The testimony makes his most direct link yet between his Russia collusion research and the top of the Clinton campaign and Obama White House. Steele told a British court he believed he had been hired by the Fusion GPS firm owned by Glenn Simpson through the Democratic National Committee-linked law firm Perkins Coie to assist the Clinton campaign during the election, according to a transcript of the testimony.

“I presumed it was the Clinton campaign, and Glenn Simpson had indicated that. But I was not aware of the technicality of it being the DNC that was actually the client of Perkins Coie,” Steele testified in March under questioning from lawyers for Russian bankers suing over his research. “You knew it was the leadership of the Clinton presidential campaign didn’t you?” a lawyer for the businessmen asked. “I believed it was the campaign. Yes,” he answered. “The leadership of the Clinton campaign?” he was asked. “Fine, the leadership of the campaign,” Steele conceded. The lawyer persisted. “You also understood that Hillary Clinton herself was aware of what you were doing?” the lawyer asked. “I think Glenn had mentioned it, but I wasn’t clear,” Steele answered.

Then Steele was confronted with what lawyers said were notes he took at a meeting with the FBI in 2016 in which he purported to tell agents that Clinton was aware of his research. The lawyers read from those notes during the court proceedings. The notes, according to the transcript, read: “We explained that Glenn Simpson/GPS Fusion was our commissioner but the ultimate client were the leadership of the Clinton presidential campaign and that we understood the candidate herself was aware of the reporting at least, if not us.” The lawyers prodded: “It’s your note, so we assume it’s accurate?” “Yes,” Steele answered during the March 17 testimony. You can read that testimony here.

[..] A day later in additional testimony, Steele was asked how he came to present some of his dossier findings to the U.S. State Department during an October 2016 meeting with then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kathleen Kavalec. The former British MI6 agent turned private intelligence investigator said his meeting was set up by State officials Jonathan Winer and Victoria Nuland after longtime Clinton adviser and friend Strobe Talbott had reached out to him. “The meeting was set up by a State Department official called John Winer,” Steele explained. “At your request?” the lawyers asked. “No, at his request, his suggestion. He invited us into meet, as I understood it, at her request, Assistant Secretary of State Nuland,” Steele answered.

Read more …

Not much use waxing nostalgic about a washed out rag.

The NY Times Used to Correct Its Whoppers. But Not These (Kuntz)

The New York Times is widely admired for owning up to its errors. In addition to the corrections it runs each day, it has a tradition of publishing extensive Editor’s Notes and even full-length investigations when it has determined that flawed reporting misled readers and botched the rough first draft of history.[..] During the last few years the Times has published two other sets of deeply flawed articles that also demand such extended corrections: “The 1619 Project” and its Trump-Russia coverage. It is a sign of how much the Times, and mainstream journalism in general, have changed that it appears highly unlikely the “paper of record” will correct the record.

[..] The Trump-Russia coverage, even with caveats pinning assertions to sources rather than solid evidence, clearly created a false impression that Donald Trump and his team were in cahoots with the Russians. It’s hard to believe that former Times Executive Editor Max Frankel would have written an op-ed for the paper declaring that an “obvious bargain [was] reached during the campaign of 2016” between the Trump campaign and Russia if he hadn’t read those unmistakable insinuations in the Times. The Trump campaign is suing the Times for libel over Frankel’s claims. (Full disclosure: I was hired as an editor at the Times in 1988 under Frankel.)

A fuller accounting by the Times is especially necessary because the media’s pushing of Trump-Russia conspiracy theories was central to an unprecedented and possibly criminal effort to subvert or remove a president under false pretenses. Unless the Times and other sources come clean about who was feeding them misleading and partisan information, we may never understand this momentous chapter of history. Protecting confidential sources is, of course, one of the bedrocks of journalism. The free flow of information depends on people being able to share hard truths without jeopardizing their careers or lives.

But not when sources lie or mislead. When that happens, the confidentiality deal is off and “your responsibility would be to set the record straight,” Lynn Walsh, ethics chair of the Society of Professional Journalists, confirmed to me recently in a general conversation about SPJ’s standards for anonymous sourcing. When sources engage in gross deception on a matter of such import, even committing national security crimes in the process, the news media involved should honor their higher duty – to their readers or viewers – to expose the malfeasance and correct the record.

Read more …

Even the WHO won’t commit. A handful scary reports of people dying from 70-year old, tried and tested and never lethal, chloroquines, followed by upbeat though opaque stories on remdesivir.

Note the tweet below about 65,000(!) Italian RA, lupus patiens on long term hydroxychloroquine. Deadly, right? With a 90% reduction in COVID19 infection rate…

One difference: chloroquine patents have run out, so no big profits for “investors”. Which they will get from remdesivir if it “works”.

WHO Declines Comment On Remdesivir In COVID-19, Hopes For Best (R.)

A top World Health Organization official declined comment on Wednesday on reports that Gilead Science’s remdesivir could help treat COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but said that further data was needed. “I wouldn’t like to make any specific comment on that, because I haven’t read those publications in detail,” Dr Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s emergencies programme, told an online briefing in response to a question, adding it can sometimes take a number of publications to determine a drug’s efficacy. “Clearly we have the randomised control trials that are underway both in the UK and US, the ‘Solidarity trials’ with WHO. Remdesivir is one of the drugs under observation in many of those trials. So I think a lot more data will come out,” he said. Ryan added: “But we are hopeful this drug and others may prove to be helpful in treating COVID-19.”

Read more …

Reauters headline spells it out: “US Stocks Surged As Hopes For An Effective COVID-19 Treatment Prompted A Broad Rally”.

Fauci Says Leak Concerns Fueled His White House Revelation Of Remdesivir Tests (R.)

Concerns over leaks compelled the top U.S. infectious disease official to reveal data on Gilead Sciences Inc’s experimental drug remdesivir, the first in a scientifically rigorous clincial trial to show benefit in treating COVID-19. The dramatic announcement by Dr Anthony Fauci in the Oval Office on Wednesday prompted concerns among scientists that the Trump administration was raising hopes about a coronavirus treatment before sharing the full data with researchers. As a cautionary example of inflating the potential value of a therapy, some pointed to President Donald Trump’s repeated endorsements of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment, with no evidence that it works. Newer data suggests the malaria treatments may carry significant risks for some sufferers of the respiratory disease caused by the virus.


Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is running the trial, said he took the first opportunity to get the word out that patients taking a dummy treatment or placebo should be switched to remdesivir in hopes of benefiting from it. He expressed concern that leaks of partial information would lead to confusion. Since the White House was not planning a daily virus briefing, Fauci said he was invited to release the news at a news conference with Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards(D). “It was purely driven by ethical concerns,” Fauci told Reuters in a telephone interview. “I would love to wait to present it at a scientific meeting, but it’s just not in the cards when you have a situation where the ethical concern about getting the drug to people on placebo dominates the conversation.”

Read more …

The numbers tell us it’s a matter of days before Britain overtakes Italy in having most deaths in Europe.

Britain Has Europe’s Second Highest COVID-19 Death Toll (R.)

Britain now has Europe’s second highest official COVID-19 death toll with more than 26,000, according to figures published on Wednesday that raised questions about Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s response to the outbreak. Some 26,097 people died across the United Kingdom after testing positive for COVID-19 as of April 28 at 1600 GMT, Public Health England (PHE) said, citing daily figures that included deaths outside of hospital settings for the first time. That means the United Kingdom has suffered more COVID-19 deaths than France or Spain have reported, though less than Italy, which has Europe’s highest death toll and the second worst in the world after the United States.

“We must never lose sight of the fact that behind every statistic there are many human lives that have tragically been lost before their time,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told reporters. “We are still coming through the peak and…this is a delicate and dangerous moment in the crisis.” Such a high UK death toll increases the pressure on Johnson just as opposition parties accused his government of being too slow to impose a lockdown to limit contagion from the new coronavirus, too slow to introduce mass testing and too slow to get enough protective equipment to hospitals. Johnson returned to work on Monday after recuperating from COVID-19, which had left him gravely ill in intensive care at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak. He celebrated the birth of a baby son on Wednesday.

Opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer criticised Johnson’s response to the world’s worst public health crisis since the 1918 influenza outbreak. Johnson had spoken of Britain’s “apparent success” in tackling COVID-19 in a speech to the nation on Monday. “We are possibly on track to have one of the worst death rates in Europe,” Starmer told parliament. “Far from success, these latest figures are truly dreadful,” he added, referring to previously published data. Starmer said his calculations showed 27,241 had died in the UK from COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the coronavirus. In mid-March the government’s chief scientific adviser said keeping Britain’s death toll below 20,000 would be a “good outcome”.

Read more …

Government reveal their failures piecemeal, after shouting out loud about BIG targets. This model does require cooperation of the media at all times.

UK To Miss 100,000 Coronavirus Tests Target, Minister Admits (G.)

The UK government is likely to miss its target of carrying out 100,000 coronavirus tests by the end of April, a cabinet minister has admitted. After weeks of ministers insisting the deadline would be met, Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, said it was “probable that we won’t” reach it on Thursday but said it was likely in the next few days. “Even if we don’t hit it, we will in the next few days hit that target. We are up to 52,000 being tested, capacity is rising and I think it was right to set an ambitious target. Sometimes if you don’t hit a target on the due date, the direction of travel is the most important thing. And I believe we are going to get there and move beyond it because we need more,” he told Sky News.

The target was set by Matt Hancock, the health secretary, on 2 April as the government came under pressure over low testing levels. At that point, there was capacity for 12,799 daily tests in England, with just over 10,650 tests carried out. The total as of 9am on Wednesday was 52,429 tests with capacity to do 73,000, but only 33,000 individuals were tested because of multiple retests. [..] .. hospital leaders launched a strident attack on the government’s testing strategy, regardless of the target. Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents foundation trusts in England, dismissed the 100,000 target as a “red herring” that distracted from the lack of a coherent overall strategy.

NHS Providers said in a report on Wednesday: “NHS trust leaders believe they have done all they can to support the national testing effort so far but are increasingly frustrated with the lack of clarity on how the testing regime will be developed for this next phase. “At the moment they feel they are on the end of a series of frequent tactical announcements extending the testing criteria to new groups with no visibility on any longer term strategy, and are being expected at the drop of a hat to accommodate these changes with no advance notice or planning.”

Read more …

Might be good news. Might even be very good. But it’s also yet another condemnationn of testing as a whole.

Seoul Tests Find False Positives, Not Reinfections In Recovered Patients (KH)

South Korea’s infectious disease experts said Thursday that dead virus fragments were the likely cause of over 260 people here testing positive again for the novel coronavirus days and even weeks after marking full recoveries. Oh Myoung-don, who leads the central clinical committee for emerging disease control, said the committee members found little reason to believe that those cases could be COVID-19 reinfections or reactivations, which would have made global efforts to contain the virus much more daunting. “The tests detected the ribonucleic acid of the dead virus,” said Oh, a Seoul National University hospital doctor, at a press conference Thursday held at the National Medical Center.


He went on to explain that in PCR tests, or polymerase chain reaction tests, used for COVID-19 diagnosis, genetic materials of the virus amplify during testing, whether it is from a live virus or just from fragments of dead virus cells that can take months to clear from recovered patients. The PCR tests cannot distinguish whether the virus is alive or dead, he added, and this can lead to false positives. “PCR testing that amplifies genetics of the virus is used in Korea to test COVID-19, and relapse cases are due to technical limits of the PCR testing.” As of Sunday, 263 people in Korea tested positive for the disease again after being declared virus-free, of which 17 were minors or teens, the National Medical Center said. “The respiratory epithelial cell has a half-life of up to three months, and RNA virus in the cell can be detected with PCR testing one to two months after the elimination of the cell,” Oh said.

Read more …

I saw the first graph here and thought something doesn’t add up. Vietnam didn’t do mass testing, 213,000 in a country of 96 million people is nothing compared to the 6.1 million in the 320 million US.

What the second graph shows is the clue: Vietnam tests a lot compared to confirmed cases.

After Aggressive Mass Testing, Vietnam Says It Contains COVID19 Outbreak (R.)

Vietnam, a country of 96 million people which shares a border with China, is signalling that it has succeeded where many wealthier and more developed countries have not by containing the new coronavirus. The government is officially reporting a relatively small 270 cases and zero deaths. That puts the country on course to revive its economy much sooner than most others, according to several public health experts interviewed by Reuters. Its slightly more populous regional neighbour the Philippines, in comparison, has reported almost 30 times as many cases and more than 500 deaths. These public health experts say Vietnam was successful because it made early, decisive moves to restrict travel into the country, put tens of thousands of people into quarantine and quickly scaled up the use of tests and a system to track down people who might have been exposed to the virus.

“The steps are easy to describe but difficult to implement, yet they’ve been very successful at implementing them over and over again,” said Matthew Moore, a Hanoi-based official from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who has been liaising with Vietnam’s government on the outbreak since early January. He added that the CDC has “great confidence” in the Vietnamese government’s response to the crisis. Vietnam increased the number of laboratories that can test for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, from three at the beginning of the outbreak in January, to 112 by April. As of Wednesday, 213,743 tests had been conducted in Vietnam, of which 270 were positive, according to health ministry data. That ratio of 791 tests to every confirmed case is by far the highest in the world, according to data from health ministries compiled by Reuters. The next highest, Taiwan, has conducted 140 tests for every case.

[..] “It is organised, it can make country-wide policy decisions that get enacted quickly and efficiently and without too much controversy,” said Guy Thwaites, director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Ho Chi Minh City. Thwaites said the number of positive tests processed by his organisation’s lab was in line with government data. He said the hospital where he works on the wards – Ho Chi Minh City’s 550-bed Hospital for Tropical Diseases, serving a population of 45 million people in southern Vietnam – had not admitted any additional cases not reflected in the government’s numbers. “If there was ongoing and unreported or unappreciated community transmission, we would have seen the patients in our hospital. We have not,” he said. Thwaites said his organisation’s lab increased capacity from being able to do around 100 tests a day to around 1,000 a day.

Read more …

Get yourself tested. Don’t wait.

Los Angeles To Offer Free Coronavirus Tests To All Residents (NBC)

Los Angeles will begin offering free coronavirus tests to all residents no matter if they have symptoms or not, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday. Garcetti said that all residents of Los Angeles County can get the tests. The website to schedule tests says it is open to any county resident regardless of symptoms. Those with symptoms will be given priority. The mayor said he believes Los Angeles is the first major city to offer tests to all residents. He said they now have enough testing capacity to handle the increased tests. Testing rules had previously been relaxed to allow grocery store workers, first responders and other essential workers with exposure to the virus to get tests regardless of whether they have symptoms. Health officials say that even those without symptoms can spread the virus.

Read more …

All you need to know is America doesn’t like small. But people can still buy from small farms. All it may take is some effort.

Small Farms, Stressed And Underfunded, Struggle For Coronavirus Relief (IC)

Before coronavirus hit, farmers in the U.S. were already hurting from years of falling food prices, severe weather, and, more recently, President Donald Trump’s trade war. “We’ve had a record number of farm bankruptcies [in the U.S.], total farm debt is at $425 billion, [and farmer] incomes have fallen by about half since 2013,” said Eric Deeble, policy director at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, which supports small and mid-sized family farms. Now, with the global pandemic closing factories and restaurants and disrupting supply chains, already stressed farms are grappling with lower demand and fewer markets to sell in, as well as a presidential administration that favors relief for big businesses over small.

Small farmers in particular — those who sell directly to farmers markets, schools, and other local food hubs — are facing an existential crisis, as they face slim odds of accessing competitive federal stimulus money. They have reason to be pessimistic. In recent years, federal subsidies to help struggling farmers have flowed almost exclusively to large corporate farms. Of the roughly $28 billion the Trump administration has distributed to food producers to offset losses from his trade wars, almost all went to big farms. Advocates for small farmers say this is driven in part by the preference of Trump’s agriculture secretary, Sonny Purdue, who has encouraged farmers to get bigger farms if they wanted to stay in business. “Big get bigger and small go out … and that’s what we’ve seen,” he told a group of Wisconsin dairy farmers in 2018, echoing Richard Nixon’s agriculture secretary, who infamously told farmers in the 1970s to “get big or get out.”

While 91 percent of U.S. farms are small — defined by the federal government as an operation with gross cash income under $250,000 — large farms account for 85 percent of the country’s farm production. The public health crisis has already had a devastating impact on agriculture across the country. A report released in mid-March by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition estimated that small farms would see a $689 million decline in sales from March to May this year due to Covid-19, leading to a payroll decline of $103 million and a total loss to the economy of $1.3 billion. Now, as the pandemic shows no sign of slowing, the coalition worries that the impact for small farmers will be even more substantial — which could lead many small farms to permanently close.

Read more …

When are they planning to tell us that renewable energy is not renewable?

COVID19 Crisis Will Wipe Out Demand For Fossil Fuels – IEA (G.)

Renewable electricity will be the only source resilient to the biggest global energy shock in 70 years triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the world’s energy watchdog. The International Energy Agency said the outbreak of Covid-19 would wipe out demand for fossil fuels by prompting a collapse in energy demand seven times greater than the slump caused by the global financial crisis. In a report, the IEA said the most severe plunge in energy demand since the second world war would trigger multi-decade lows for the world’s consumption of oil, gas and coal while renewable energy continued to grow. The steady rise of renewable energy combined with the collapse in demand for fossil fuels means clean electricity will play its largest ever role in the global energy system this year, and help erase a decade’s growth of global carbon emissions.


Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, said: “The plunge in demand for nearly all major fuels is staggering, especially for coal, oil and gas. Only renewables are holding up during the previously unheard of slump in electricity use.” Renewable energy is expected to grow by 5% this year, to make up almost 30% of the world’s shrinking demand for electricity. The growth of renewables despite a global crisis could spur fossil fuel companies towards their goals to generate more clean energy, according to Birol, but governments should also include clean energy at the heart of economic stimulus packages to ensure a green recovery. “It is still too early to determine the longer-term impacts,” said Birol. “But the energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before.”

Read more …

What makes Sweden so successful.

Swedish City To Dump Ton Of Chicken Manure In Park To Deter Visitors (G.)

The university town of Lund in Sweden is to dump a tonne of chicken manure in its central park in a bid to deter up to 30,000 residents from gathering there for traditional celebrations to mark Walpurgis Night on Thursday. “Lund could very well become an epicentre for the spread of the coronavirus on the last night in April, [so] I think it was a good initiative,” the chairman of the local council’s environment committee, Gustav Lundblad, told the Sydsvenskan newspaper. “We get the opportunity to fertilise the lawns, and at the same time it will stink and so it may not be so nice to sit and drink beer in the park,” Lundblad said, adding that the only potential drawback was that the smell may not be confined to the park.


“I am not a fertiliser expert, but as I understand it, it is clear that it might smell a bit outside the park as well,” Lundblad admitted. “These are chicken droppings, after all. I cannot guarantee that the rest of the city will be odourless. But the point is to keep people out of the city park.” Sweden has opted for a light touch approach to containing Covid-19, eschewing the strict lockdowns imposed by its Nordic neighbours and much of the rest of Europe and favouring personal responsibility over draconian enforcement. Walpurgis Night, celebrated on 30 April, is widely marked across central and northern Europe with parties and bonfires. The festivities are classed as “spontaneous” so cannot be banned by authorities, but to avoid the risk of spreading the coronavirus many towns and cities in Sweden have asked citizens to give the tradition a miss this year.

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Just in case you still thought there are financial markets.

Stock Surge Is A Bear Market Rally That Will Collapse – Bianco (CNBC)

Market researcher James Bianco warns April’s big run will collapse. His reason: Investors are too bullish. “I understand the market has been up a lot since the March low. But what I see in the market is a retracement rally that looks very similar to the first type of rallies that you get in protracted bear markets,” the Bianco Research president told CNBC’s “Trading Nation” on Wednesday. Bianco warned last month the coronavirus turmoil would be worse than the financial crisis. In early March, he put all his money in cash and never looked back — despite the bounce. So far this month, the S&P 500 is up almost 14%. If the trend holds, it’ll be the index’s best showing since 1974.


Meanwhile, the Dow is up more than 12% in the same period and is on track for its best monthly performance since January 1987. “We’ll revisit the 2,200 S&P low, if not make a lower low — probably by late summer,” he said. “That’s going to come because we’re going to find out now is a critical time for the market.” Bianco predicts there will be an overwhelming realization that life isn’t getting back to normal when then economy starts to reopen. “What the market seems to be thinking is we’re going to restart, and we’re all going to pretend that it’s 2019,” said Bianco. “And, we’re all going to stand on the subway platform with 500 other people waiting for the next train.”

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Before the lockdowns:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Apr 282020
 


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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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


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

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EU tones down report on China, Germany does not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, but those were Americans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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To pay for magic trick lessons? Really?

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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Poor kids.

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

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

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

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

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Say what?

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

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


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

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Globalization doesn’t provide the right scale.

The Great Conundrum (Kunstler)

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

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

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

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The bottom’s falling out.

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

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


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

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Some people know their history.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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One corrupt faction trying to oust the other.

Brazil Court OKs Investigating Allegations Against Bolsonaro (R.)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

 

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Apr 172020
 


Dorothea Lange American River camp, Sacramento, CA. Destitute family. 5 children, aged 2 to 17 years 1936

 

China Didn’t Warn Public Of Likely Pandemic For 6 Key Days (AP)
US Alerted Israel, NATO To Disease Outbreak In China In November (ToI )
Wuhan Death Toll Up By 50% As 1,290 ‘Delayed & Omitted’ Fatalities Added (RT)
Men Are Much More Likely To Die From Coronavirus. Why? (G.)
France Summons Chinese Envoy Over Criticism Of COVID19 response (RT)
Chinese Economy Shrank For The First Time Since 1976 In Q1 (SCMP)
Biophysical Economics and the Coronavirus Pandemic (Fix)
22 Million New Jobless Claims, 9.2 Million Lost Health Care In Past Month (NBC)
43,000 US Millionaires Will Get ‘Stimulus’ Averaging $1.6 Million Each (NYP)
Fed Just Jawboning, Massively Tapered QE-4, Hasn’t Bought Any Junk Bonds (WS)
Cut Military Spending To Fund Human Security – Gorbachev (RT)
Chinese Airlines Poised For Post-Coronavirus ‘Revenge Travelling’ (SCMP)
Greece to Celebrate Easter Under Coronavirus Lockdown (GR)
Russiagate Godfather Obama Promotes NYTimes’ “Putin + Covid-19” (RT)
Roger Stone Denied Bid For New Trial (G.)
Surviving Plague in an Early Modern City (Henderson)

 

 

Well, I now know Taleb read my essay. And he likes it. Shame he linked to Yves’ repost, not the original at the Automatic Earth.

 

 

• US new cases 29,567

• US new deaths 2,174

 

• Revised COVID-19 death toll for New York City: 10,367

• Total US military death toll for Iraq War: 4,424.

 

 

Note: both cases and deaths jump by a lot today. It’s not just the Wuhan deaths number revised up by 1,290.

 

Cases 2,193,558 (+ 98,674 from yesterday’s 2,094,884)

Deaths 147,378 (+ 11,809 from yesterday’s 135,569)

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Jan. 14 to Jan. 20 was already late in the game.

China Didn’t Warn Public Of Likely Pandemic For 6 Key Days (AP)

In the six days after top Chinese officials secretly determined they likely were facing a pandemic from a new coronavirus, the city of Wuhan at the epicenter of the disease hosted a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people; millions began traveling through for Lunar New Year celebrations. President Xi Jinping warned the public on the seventh day, Jan. 20. But by that time, more than 3,000 people had been infected during almost a week of public silence, according to internal documents obtained by AP and expert estimates based on retrospective infection data. Six days. That delay from Jan. 14 to Jan. 20 was neither the first mistake made by Chinese officials at all levels in confronting the outbreak, nor the longest lag, as governments around the world have dragged their feet for weeks and even months in addressing the virus.

But the delay by the first country to face the new coronavirus came at a critical time — the beginning of the outbreak. China’s attempt to walk a line between alerting the public and avoiding panic set the stage for a pandemic that has infected more than 2 million people and taken more than 133,000 lives. “This is tremendous,” said Zuo-Feng Zhang, an epidemiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “If they took action six days earlier, there would have been much fewer patients and medical facilities would have been sufficient. We might have avoided the collapse of Wuhan’s medical system.” Other experts noted that the Chinese government may have waited on warning the public to stave off hysteria, and that it did act quickly in private during that time.

But the six-day delay by China’s leaders in Beijing came on top of almost two weeks during which the national Center for Disease Control did not register any cases from local officials, internal bulletins obtained by the AP confirm. Yet during that time, from Jan. 5 to Jan. 17, hundreds of patients were appearing in hospitals not just in Wuhan but across the country. [..] The punishment of eight doctors for “rumor-mongering,” broadcast on national television on Jan. 2, sent a chill through the city’s hospitals. “Doctors in Wuhan were afraid,” said Dali Yang, a professor of Chinese politics at the University of Chicago. “It was truly intimidation of an entire profession.”

Read more …

May not be coronavirus, though. In November, Beijing hospitals reported three instances of pneumonic plague (transmitted by fleas, not a virus) in people coming from Inner Mongolia:

US Alerted Israel, NATO To Disease Outbreak In China In November (ToI )

US intelligence agencies alerted Israel to the coronavirus outbreak in China already in November, Israeli television reported Thursday. According to Channel 12 news, the US intelligence community became aware of the emerging disease in Wuhan in the second week of that month and drew up a classified document. Information on the disease outbreak was not in the public domain at that stage — and was known only apparently to the Chinese government. US intelligence informed the Trump administration, “which did not deem it of interest,” but the report said the Americans also decided to update two allies with the classified document: NATO and Israel, specifically the IDF.

The network said Israeli military officials later in November discussed the possibility of the spread of the virus to the region and how it would affect Israel and neighboring countries. The intelligence also reached Israel’s decision makers and the Health Ministry, where “nothing was done,” according to the report. Last week, ABC News reported that US intelligence officials were warning about the coronavirus in a report prepared in December by the American military’s National Center for Medical Intelligence. It was unclear if that was the same report that was said to have been shared with Israel. In its first major step to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Israel announced on January 30 it was barring all flights from China, ten days after Chinese leader Xi Jinping issued his first public comments on the virus and the Asian country’s top epidemiologist said for the first time it could be spread from person to person.

An Associated Press report on Wednesday said Xi’s warning came seven days after Chinese officials secretly determined that they were likely facing a pandemic, potentially costing China and other countries valuable time to prepare for the outbreak. Doctors in Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak in China, are reported to have first tried to have warn about the virus in December, but were censored.

Read more …

Many countries should follow suit. Hidden deaths are everywhere, and the incentive to report them is mostly lacking.

Holland just reported the 2nd week in a row with 2,000 more deaths than usual, but their testing is still terribly deficient.

Wuhan Death Toll Up By 50% As 1,290 ‘Delayed & Omitted’ Fatalities Added (RT)

The Chinese city of Wuhan – ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic – has revised its fatality count, increasing the total by just shy of 1,300 deaths, which officials say went unreported due to “delays” and “omissions.” Authorities in Wuhan added another 1,290 deaths to the city’s death toll on Friday, putting the overall figures at 50,333 infections and 3,869 fatalities in the virus’ first epicenter. The revision was necessary to “address incorrect reporting, delays and omissions of cases,” city officials said, with the new numbers increasing Wuhan’s death tally by some 50%. “In the early stage of the epidemic, due to insufficient capacity for admission and treatment, a small number of medical institutions failed to connect with the disease prevention and control information system in a timely manner,” Wuhan health officials said, adding that a “statistical investigation” had been conducted to correct the figures.

Read more …

More things we don’t know.

Men Are Much More Likely To Die From Coronavirus. Why? (G.)

Early on, smoking was suggested as a likely explanation. In China, nearly 50% of men but only about 2% of women smoke, and so underlying differences in lung health were assumed to contribute to men suffering worse symptoms and outcomes. The smoking hypothesis was backed by a paper, published last month, that found smokers made up about 12% of those with less severe symptoms, but 26% of those who ended up in intensive care or died. Smoking might also act as an avenue for getting infected in the first place: smokers touch their lips more and may share contaminated cigarettes. Behavioural factors that differ across genders may also have a role. Some studies have shown that men are less likely to wash their hands, less likely to use soap, less likely to seek medical care and more likely to ignore public health advice.

These are sweeping generalisations, but across a population could place men at greater risk. However, there is a growing belief among experts that more fundamental biological factors are also at play. While there are higher proportions of male smokers in many countries – in the UK, 16.5% of men smoke compared with 13% of women – the differences are nowhere near as extreme as in China. But men continue to be overrepresented in Covid-19 statistics. “The growing observation of increased mortality in men is holding true across China, Italy, Spain. We’re seeing this across very diverse countries and cultures,” said Sabra Klein, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “When I see that, it makes me think that there must be something universal that’s contributing to this. I don’t think smoking is the leading factor.”

Previous research, including by Klein, has revealed that men have lower innate antiviral immune responses to a range of infections including hepatitis C and HIV. Studies in mice suggest this may also be true for coronaviruses, though Covid-19 specifically has not been studied. “Their immune system may not initiate an appropriate response when it initially sees the virus,” Klein said. Hormones can also play a role – oestrogen has been shown to increase antiviral responses of immune cells. And many genes that regulate the immune system are encoded on the X chromosome (of which men have one, and women have two) and so it is possible that some genes involved in the immune response are more active in women than in men.

Read more …

The embassy talked about France leaving elderly patients “to die of hunger and disease.”

France Summons Chinese Envoy Over Criticism Of COVID19 response (RT)

Paris has summoned its Chinese envoy after the embassy published a blistering critique of the West’s response to the Covid-19 crisis, accusing leaders of failing to act and abandoning vulnerable citizens to death and starvation. “Certain publicly voiced opinions by representatives of the Chinese Embassy in France are not in line with the quality of the bilateral relations between our two countries,” Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said in a statement late on Tuesday, calling on Ambassador Lu Shaye to answer for an article published on the Chinese Embassy website over the weekend.

Entitled ‘Restoring distorted facts,’ the lengthy post – which listed no author – tore into the US and European governments for their handling of the pandemic, while defending Beijing from accusations of concealing information and of a sluggish response. “In the West, we have seen politicians tearing themselves apart to recover votes; advocate herd immunity, thus abandoning their citizens alone in the face of the viral massacre.” The article claimed that some nursing homes had been “deserted,” leaving elderly patients “to die of hunger and disease.”

The post also took aim at Western news outlets, “which take themselves for paragons of impartiality and objectivity,” yet appear to care more about “slandering, stigmatizing and attacking China” than covering the raging health crises in their own countries. “Do these media and these experts, so fond of objectivity and impartiality, have a conscience? Do they have ethics?” Responding to the blustery article, the French FM insisted “there is no room for polemics” amid the Covid-19 pandemic, stating he made his “disapproval” clear to Lu and that France and other nations must pursue “unity, solidarity and the greatest international cooperation.”

Read more …

What a surprise.

Chinese Economy Shrank For The First Time Since 1976 In Q1 (SCMP)

China’s economy shrank by 6.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, the first contraction since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, confirming the economic damage done by the coronavirus pandemic. Over the first three months of the year, the world’s second largest economy faced an extensive shutdown as it battled to contain the spread of the coronavirus, and has subsequently struggled to fully reopen. New data released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on Friday confirmed the slump, which was worse than predictions of minus 6.0 per cent from a survey of analysts’ forecasts by Bloomberg. NBS data also showed that over the single month of March the economy remained under huge pressure, with the industrial sectors, retail and fixed asset investment all shrinking again, following a dramatic collapse over the first two months of the year.


Industrial production, a gauge of manufacturing, mining and utilities, fell by 1.1 per cent last month, after a 13.5 per cent decline over January and February, when the data was combined. This was much better than expectations of a 6.2 per cent decline, according to the Bloomberg survey. Within that, however, manufacturing contracted by 10.2 per cent, suggesting that even as factories reopen, headwinds remain. Retail sales, a key measurement of consumption in the world s most populous nation, fell by 15.8 per cent, following a record 20.5 per cent collapse in the first two months, much worse than forecasts of a 10.0 per cent slump. Fixed asset investment, a gauge of expenditure over the year to date on items including infrastructure, property, machinery and equipment, fell by 16.1 per cent over the first three months, from an all-time low of minus 20.5 per cent in January-February. Analysts had forecast a 15.1 per cent slump.

Read more …

Terrible headline, but interesting concept: ..how many jobs can society do without? The answer, it would appear, is an awful lot. David Graeber, pay attention.

Biophysical Economics and the Coronavirus Pandemic (Fix)

[..] there are two constraints on our ability to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. The first constraint is money. This gets all the press right now — and rightly so. To slow the spread of the coronavirus, millions of people are staying home from work. Since we don’t want these people to starve, we need to somehow give them money. But where should this money come from? While this appears like a monetary constraint, it’s actually a social constraint. Money is a social fiction that we can create and destroy at will. So at the societal level, ‘not having enough money’ isn’t a real constraint. No, the real constraint is about who has the power to create and distribute money. We usually give most of this power to the private sector. (Banks create the majority of money when they issue credit.) We forget that the government can also create money. Fortunately, many governments of the world are rediscovering this power, and are paying their citizens to stay at home.

While this (apparent) monetary constraint is on the top of our minds, there are also biophysical constraints on how we can deal with the coronavirus pandemic. These biophysical constraints are little discussed, but they’re more fundamental than the lack of money. [..] Two hundred years ago, most people lived in rural areas. This made it easy to keep your distance from other people (if you had to). Now the vast majority of us live in cities, making it hard to stay away from other people. So urbanization has made it more difficult to fight pandemics.

Fortunately, another demographic change offsets the affects of urbanization. To slow the spread of the virus, many of us are being paid to sit at home and do nothing. Two hundred years ago this would have been impossible. Why? Because at the time, most people were farmers. If they didn’t go to work, the population would starve. So a sweeping ‘stay-at-home’ order would have been impossible. Now things are different. As Figure 1 shows, the US has undergone an astonishing
demographic inversion. The vast majority of people now work in the service sector. This means that many of us can simply not work. Sure, without a large service sector we can’t get our lattes or our manicures. But we won’t starve. So the coronavirus pandemic is forcing us to run a vast social experiment. The research question is this: in the short run, how many jobs can society do without? The answer, it would appear, is an awful lot.


Figure 1: The demographic inversion in the US. The sector composition of the US in 1800 (left) and in 2010 (right). [Source: Rethinking Economic Growth Theory from a Biophysical Perspective]

Read more …

Millions losing health care in a pandemic….

22 Million New Jobless Claims, 9.2 Million Lost Health Care In Past Month (NBC)

The number of unemployed Americans continues to climb with another 5 million people filing jobless claims last week, bringing the total number of people applying for unemployment to 22 million in the last month. But an unsettling undercurrent of that number is the amount of people who are also losing access to health insurance because they lost their job. Approximately 9.2 million workers have likely lost their employer-provided health care coverage in the past four weeks, an analysis from the Economic Policy Institute concluded.


Two weeks ago, the nonprofit think tank concluded that nearly 3.5 million among the 8.7 million claims likely lost their employer coverage. An additional 11.4 million people have since applied for unemployment, with the biggest losses of insurance coming from the health care/social assistance, manufacturing and retail sectors. NBC News previously reported that states are bracing for an increase in the number of people who have applied for Medicaid, the public health care coverage option, since the coronavirus pandemic caused states to shutter businesses and caused workers to lose access to their insurance.

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…vs the other side of America…

43,000 US Millionaires Will Get ‘Stimulus’ Averaging $1.6 Million Each (NYP)

At least 43,000 American millionaires who are too rich to get coronavirus stimulus checks are getting a far bigger boost — averaging $1.6 million each, according to a congressional committee. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act trumpeted its assistance for working families and small businesses, but it apparently contains an even bigger benefit for wealthy business owners, the committee found. The act allows pass-through businesses — ones taxed under individual income, rather than corporate — an unlimited amount of deductions against their non-business income, such as capital gains, the Washington Post said. They can also use losses to avoid paying taxes in other years.


That gives the roughly 43,000 individual tax filers who make at least $1 million a year a savings of $70.3 billion — or about $1.6 million apiece, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. Hedge-fund investors and real estate business owners are “far and away” the ones who will benefit the most, tax expert Steve Rosenthal told the Washington Post. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) called it a “scandal” to “loot American taxpayers in the midst of an economic and human tragedy.” Sen. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) claimed that “someone wrongly seized on this health emergency to reward ultrarich beneficiaries.” “For those earning $1 million annually, a tax break buried in the recent coronavirus relief legislation is so generous that its total cost is more than total new funding for all hospitals in America and more than the total provided to all state and local governments,” he stressed in a statement.

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And there are the dollar-denominated debts again…

Fed Just Jawboning, Massively Tapered QE-4, Hasn’t Bought Any Junk Bonds (WS)

Since the Fed announced its market bailouts and interventions on March 15, it has printed and handed to Wall Street $2.06 trillion. But here is the thing: This was front-loaded, and over the past two weeks, it has cut its bailouts in half, and it has stopped lending new funds to its SPVs that were expected to buy all manner of securities, including equities, junk bonds, and old bicycles. But those loan amounts haven’t moved in four weeks. What it has bought were Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities – and it’s cutting back on those too. Total assets on the Fed’s balance sheet rose by $285 billion during the week through April 15, reported Thursday afternoon, to $6.37 trillion.


Over the past five weeks, including the partial bailout-week which started March 16 and ended March 18, total assets increased by these amounts. Note the big taper from $586 billion and $557 billion early on to $287 billion in the latest week: • $356 billion (Mar 18, partial bailout week started Mar 16) • $586 billion (Mar 25) • $557 billion (Apr 1) • $272 billion (Apr 8) • $285 billion (Apr 15).

The $6.37 trillion of assets on the Fed’s balance sheet are mostly composed of Treasury securities, mortgage-backed securities (MBS), repurchase agreements (repos), “foreign central bank liquidity swaps,” and “loans” to its Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs). We’ll go through them one at a time. The Fed added $154 billion in Treasury securities during the week, down 47% from the $293 billion it had added the week before, and down 57% from the $362 billion it had added two week ago. This is a major factor in the Big Taper of QE-4.

The sharp reduction in purchases of Treasuries confirms for now that the Fed is sticking to its announcement that it would drastically cut QE after the initial blast. Fed Chair Jerome Powell in a webcast on April 10 said that the Fed would pack away its emergency tools once “private markets and institutions are once again able to perform their vital functions of channeling credit and supporting economic growth.” Whatever that means. [..] The Fed has “dollar liquidity swap lines” with [many central banks]. The total on its balance sheet increased by $20 billion from the prior week to $378 billion but has been in the same range all April. Of note: • 83% of outstanding liquidity swaps are with the ECB ($138 billion) and the BOJ ($176 billion). • The Bank of England is far behind ($22 billion). And there no swaps with the central banks of Canada, Brazil, New Zealand, and Sweden.

[..] neither the ECB nor the BOJ need the dollars for trade. They need them to support their banks and companies have large dollar-denominated debts and speculative bets that they need to refinanced with cheap dollars. And those swaps make that possible.

Read more …

Wisdom.

Cut Military Spending To Fund Human Security – Gorbachev (RT)

The Covid-19 pandemic shows that governments that think of security in mostly military terms are simply wasting money, Mikhail Gorbachev has said. Defence spending must be cut globally to fund things that humanity actually needs. The former Soviet leader called on the world to move away from hard power in international affairs. He remains especially worried about the kind of military brinkmanship that lately has almost led to a shooting war in the Middle East. “What we urgently need now is a rethinking of the entire concept of security,” he wrote, in an op-ed published by TIME magazine. “Even after the end of the Cold War, it has been envisioned mostly in military terms. Over the past few years, all we’ve been hearing is talk about weapons, missiles and airstrikes.”

The Covid-19 outbreak has highlighted once again that the threats humanity faces today are global in nature and can only be addressed by nations collectively. The resources currently spent on arms need to go into preparation for such crises, Gorbachev said. “The overriding goal must be human security: providing food, water and a clean environment, and caring for people’s health,” he said. The first thing that nations should do after the coronavirus is dealt-with is to make a commitment to a massive demilitarization. “I call upon [world leaders] to cut military spending by 10 percent to 15 percent. This is the least they should do now, as a first step toward a new consciousness, a new civilization.”

Gorbachev, the former leader of the USSR who is credited with de-escalating the Cold War against the US and with negotiating a dramatic reduction in the nuclear arsenals of the two powers, shared his opinions and aspirations as the global number of Covid-19 cases surpassed the two-million benchmark. The pandemic has led to over 130,000 deaths and is projected to plunge the world economy into a recession of a magnitude unseen since the 1920s.

Read more …

It should be easy for Xi to prevent this.

Chinese Airlines Poised For Post-Coronavirus ‘Revenge Travelling’ (SCMP)

China’s airlines are poised for a bout of “revenge travelling” in the coming weeks, as soaring reservations ahead of the annual Labour Day holiday and demand by residents returning home from quarantines helped them recover 40 per cent of their traffic. Regional carriers like Guizhou Airlines, Fuzhou Airlines, and China Eastern Airlines’ low-cost unit China United Airlines have added new routes around the country, according to CAAC News, a newspaper run by the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC). United has added 25 routes, eight of which depart from the new Daxing airport in the Chinese capital.

“Chinese carriers are hoping that they could make a breakthrough on the Labour Day holiday,” said the Institute for Aviation Research’s founder and president Lei Zheng, adding that airlines do tend to make seasonal scheduling adjustments. “If they have decent recovery during May, then they can be well-prepared for summer, one of the two most profitable seasons other than the Lunar New Year.” The recovery in air travel, underpinned by an easing coronavirus outbreak in mainland China, is welcomed news for an industry that has suffered 39.82 billion yuan (US$5.6 billion) in first-quarter losses as air passenger traffic shrank 53.9 per cent.

[..] At the height of the outbreak in China a month ago, the aviation regulator grounded most aircraft, limiting each airline to one weekly international route at 75 per cent capacity. As the daily caseload of coronavirus infections fell to single digits, carriers resumed their services, increasing the average aircraft utilisation to 2.8 hours a day, compared with 9 hours per day before the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Flight Master, a Chinese travel intelligence and data company.
China’s Labour Day holiday begins on May 1 and lasts until May 5, an annual weeklong break that usually marks the first peak for travelling and shopping in calendar following the Lunar New Year. Flights are resuming to destinations with lighter caseloads of the coronavirus infections, and where local authorities have either lifted, or are implementing less draconian isolation and quarantine measures than some of the most severely afflicted cities.

Read more …

I see people say that Greece was very early in its response. It wasn’t, the second half of March was not ‘very early’. What they did right was to be rigorous when they finally got going.

Greece to Celebrate Easter Under Coronavirus Lockdown (GR)

Greece will celebrate Easter on Sunday, the most important religious holiday of the Orthodox Church, behind closed doors this year after the authorities strictly forbade the traditional spirited celebrations of mass church attendance, firecrackers and large family gatherings. Authorities are desperate to avoid the traditional mass exodus of city dwellers, when hundreds of thousands of Greeks traditionally flock to churches and to their ancestral homes to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus. As of Friday, officials reported 2,207 cased and the death toll at 105, one of the lowest rates in Europe. But compliance will be tested over the long Easter weekend.


The government has doubled fines and included removal or car plates for anyone who travels without reason for Greek Orthodox Easter, Civil Protection Deputy Minister for Crisis Management Nikos Hardalias said on Thursday. Extra controls will be in place at toll posts and ports, and only those with a permanent residency in the area will be allowed to travel to prevent trips to visit relatives or second homes in the countryside. “This virus doesn’t distinguish days, whether it’s a celebration or not,” said Hardalias, who spoke extensively of the great majority of Greek citizens who have observed faithfully the lockdown restrictions, and explained the introduction of additional ones, particularly for Easter. As he said, “One in ten Greeks has said directly or explicitly that they will not follow directions. They do not want to change their habits for one day, as if nothing is going on.”

Read more …

If anything, RT has been surprisingly calm in its responses. But sometimes there’s a column that is a bit less that. And c’mon, Biden…

Russiagate Godfather Obama Promotes NYTimes’ “Putin + Covid-19” (RT)

What does Joe Biden have in common with a New York Times article even critics of Russian President Vladimir Putin have described as “incompetent”? Both have received ringing endorsements from former US President Barack Obama. “Democracy depends on an informed citizenry and social cohesion. Here’s a look at how misinformation can spread through social media, and why it can hurt our ability to respond to crises,” Obama tweeted on Wednesday – linking to an article published three days prior. Written by William S. Broad, the top science journalist at the New York Times, the piece contains no actual science – merely a laundry list of conspiracy theories blaming Russia and Putin personally for wanting to “discredit the West and destroy his enemies from within.” “Analysts say” that Putin personally “played a principal role in the spread of false information” about vaccines, the coronavirus, and just about anything really, Broad argues.

Which analysts? Well, Broad cites only three professional Russia-baiters by name, uses two entirely unrelated stories from years ago that were in the general “blame Russia for disinformation” ballpark, and cites “sources” such as the infamous “Intelligence Community Assessment” blaming Russia for the 2016 presidential election. Remember that one? The “Trump-Russia collusion” claim that Russia “hacked our democracy” (whatever that means) that the Democrats flogged for four years to explain losing to Donald Trump and attempt to oust him from office – until it imploded last May and they had to scramble to invent a bogus “Ukrainegate” conspiracy to actually impeach him – and the outlets like the Times and the Washington Post leveraged to get Pulitzers?

Or has all this vanished in the mists of time, due to the month-long brain scrambling induced by the coronavirus lockdowns? May 2019, incidentally, is when Broad wrote another hit piece along the exact same lines, only narrower in scope: he accused RT America of doing Putin’s bidding by reporting on theories that 5G wireless networks could be dangerous. No matter that mainstream US news outlets have reported on the issue in the exact same way – Broad saw “RUSSIA” and had to jump in. Then, too, he chose not to interview actual scientists but Russiagate-pushers such as Ryan Fox, CEO of New Knowledge – the notorious outfit that blamed Russia for its own bot campaign in the 2017 Senate election in Alabama. In other words, a literal false-flag perpetrator.

By way of illustration, one of the “experts” Broad quotes has a line about “a cloud of Russian influencers,” which the NY Times journalist then describes thusly: The players, he said, probably include state actors, intelligence operatives, former RT staff members and the digital teams of Yevgeny Prigozhin, a secretive oligarch and confident [sic] of Mr. Putin’s who financed the St. Petersburg troll farm. “Probably!” Also, you left out the kitchen sink.

And Cooper and Gupta sit there listening, serious faces and all, because this is supposed to be their man.

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A very biased hudge decides that a jury frontperson is not biased.

Roger Stone Denied Bid For New Trial (G.)

A federal judge on Thursday denied a bid for a new trial by Donald Trump’s longtime friend and adviser Roger Stone after the veteran Republican operative accused the jury forewoman of being tainted by anti-Trump political bias. Amy Berman Jackson, a US district court judge, rejected Stone’s claim that the forewoman was biased against Trump and therefore could not be impartial in deciding Stone’s guilt or innocence during the trial. “There is zero evidence of ‘explicit bias’ against Stone, and defendant’s attempts to gain a new trial based on implied or inferred bias fail,” Berman Jackson said in an 81-page decision. Stone, a longtime confidant and former aide to Trump, was convicted in November of seven felonies in an attempt to interfere with a congressional inquiry. He was sentenced to 40 months in prison.


In her memorandum, Berman Jackson said the lawyers had not proved the forewoman was biased or that any jurors acted inappropriately. She included details of their juror questionnaires in her explanation. “The assumption underlying the motion – that one can infer from the juror’s opinions about the president that she could not fairly consider the evidence against the defendant – is not supported by any facts or data and it is contrary to controlling legal precedent,” she wrote in denying the new trial. “The motion is a tower of indignation, but at the end of the day, there is little of substance holding it up.” Stone must appear in person “at the institution designated by the Bureau of Prisons” within 14 days to serve out his sentence, Jackson ruled. She also released Stone and his lawyers from a gag order.

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“In the cold autumn of 1629, the plague came to Florence, Italy..”.

Notable for the ‘lavish’ provision of food for the poor, backed by the thought that underfed people are more likely to spread a disease.

Surviving Plague in an Early Modern City (Henderson)

The officials of the Sanità, the city’s health board, wrote anxiously to their colleagues in Milan, Verona, Venice, in the hope that studying the patterns of contagion would help them protect their city. Reports came from Parma that its ‘inhabitants are reduced to such a state that they are jealous of those who are dead’. The Sanità learned that, in Bologna, officials had forbidden people to discuss the peste, as if they feared you could summon death with a word. Plague was thought to spread through corrupt air, on the breath of the sick or trapped in soft materials like cloth or wood, so in June 1630 the Sanità stopped the flow of commerce and implemented a cordon sanitaire across the mountain passes of the Apennines.

But they soon discovered that the boundary was distressingly permeable. Peasants slipped past bored guards as they played cards. In the dog days of the summer, a chicken-seller fell ill and died in Trespiano, a village in the hills above Florence. The city teetered on the brink of calamity. By August, Florentines were dying. The archbishop ordered the bells of all the churches in the city to be rung while men and women fell to their knees and prayed for divine intercession. In September, six hundred people were buried in pits outside the city walls.

[..] The Sanità arranged the delivery of food, wine and firewood to the homes of the quarantined (30,452 of them). Each quarantined person received a daily allowance of two loaves of bread and half a boccale (around a pint) of wine. On Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays, they were given meat. On Tuesdays, they got a sausage seasoned with pepper, fennel and rosemary. On Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, rice and cheese were delivered; on Friday, a salad of sweet and bitter herbs. The Sanità spent an enormous amount of money on food because they thought that the diet of the poor made them especially vulnerable to infection, but not everyone thought it was a good idea. Rondinelli recorded that some elite Florentines worried that quarantine ‘would give [the poor] the opportunity to be lazy and lose the desire to work, having for forty days been provided abundantly for all their needs’.

The provision of medicine was also expensive. Every morning, hundreds of people in the lazaretti were prescribed theriac concoctions, liquors mixed with ground pearls or crushed scorpions, and bitter lemon cordials. The Sanità did devolve some tasks to the city’s confraternities. The brothers of San Michele Arcangelo conducted a housing survey to identify possible sources of contagion; the members of the Archconfraternity of the Misericordia transported the sick in perfumed willow biers from their homes to the lazaretti. But mostly, the city government footed the bill. Historians now interpret this extensive spending on public health as evidence of the state’s benevolence: if tracts like Righi’s brim over with intolerance towards the poor, the account books of the Sanità tell an unflashy story of good intentions.

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