Sep 262020
 
 September 26, 2020  Posted by at 5:42 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  20 Responses »


Dora Maar Model in swimsuit 1936

 

 

I’ll try one more time, if only to show you that me heart’s in the right place. Yes, lockdowns work, and so do facemasks. But that doesn’t mean all lockdowns or facemasks or requirements for either work all the time. The UK was very late with its first lockdown, and let in a million people through their airports without testing them. After they did lock down, another 100,000 came in, no testing.

And now people there say lockdowns don’t work. Have you seen this report, or that report? Sorry, but I don’t have to. A virus spreads by jumping from host to potential host. Keep them apart and it can’t spread. I don’t need a “scientific” probe to figure that one out. The principle of a lockdown works, but that’s still only half the story.

The facemask thing is a little more complex perhaps. But it’s complicated only because various governments have neglected to do the one thing they should have: make sure they have the best facemask ready for everyone, the one mask that is proven to be effective, preferably mass-produced in their country/state/territory. But have you seen N95 facilities being erected where you are?

Now the entire world is walking around with masks that they all can see offer little protection, and mostly where they have little effect. Moreover, I see lots of people here in Athens who washed them with their underwear and wear them again the next day, because they’ve been told they have to cover their face with something anything. But that’s not how this works. What little protection those blueish masks that are everywhere offer, is gone once you wash them. What’s left is merely symbolic.

And as for the well-meaning crowd that make their own masks, stop trying, those things don’t do a thing and they make you look stupid. There are actually norms and data and whatnot for this, and putting your panties on your face does not comply with any science whatsoever. It’s just scaring people, and we have enough of that, thank you. Non-woven masks work best, that mean anything to you?

The droplets that the virus hitchhikes on to get from one host to another are way too small to be stopped by granny getting creative with her bathroom curtains. But it’s not you, it’s your government which should have had an N95 mask production facility in place months ago.

They should also have mass-produced vitamin D, and zinc, because these cheap elements would have decreased the new cases, and the severity of them, by probably half. But no western government that I know of has even mentioned the role of these cheap supplements in the COVID story.

How odd is that? It appears to be in line with the hydroxychloroquine story, which went from “It will kill you!” when Trump first mentioned it in public, to “It’s not effective” in Fauci’s terminology. But medical doctors I’m talking to still maintain it works, and perhaps more importantly, continue to treat their infected patients with it.

Sort of the same thing goes for the western Big Pharma attempts to get a vaccine, there were 239 of those trials last time I counted. But there’s never been a vaccine for any of the many coronaviruses, and not for lack of trying. Unless you count the Russian Sputnik V, developed in a fundamentally different way from the western ones, but that wouldn’t make Big Pharma any profits, so we all choose to just ignore and discard it.

 

It’s “funny” to see how all those politicians like the power to tell people what to do, lock them down etc., but when their measures don’t work, and that’s the case all over Europe, they blame their people and never themselves. I haven’t seen even one say, I’m sorry, I failed, I step down. Instead they all talk about doing more of what didn’t work. More lockdowns. Hey, you failed, move over!

In countries like Britain and Holland, they’re so busy trying not to explain how and why they still didn’t have enough PCR testing capacity 9 months into the pandemic, that they completely fail to see that PCR is the wrong testing method to use on a grand scale. Holland has “identified” 5 rapid testing options and needs until November for their “experts” to find the best one.

Meanwhile they have a “rapid test test” facility where doctors and nurses apply the tests, which should cost perhaps €1 a piece max, but which set you back a very reasonable €225. Good lord. The incompetence is not going to stop here and now, it’s engrained in the political and societal brains and structures.

And it’s not just the politicians, the “experts” also refuse to see and acknowledge that they are utter failures. They, too, blame the people. But just like they should have all secured access to 100 N95 masks for every individual, and Vit. D and zinc, and HCQ if people still get sick, they should have made rapid tests available for everyone to use at home, twice a week or so, if only just to ease the pressure. But health care has been institutionalized, so that will only happen when things get terribly out of hand.

All these failures have cost a lot of lives, and will continue to do so, and do a huge amount of damage economically and mentally. The idea of second lockdowns is insane, given that no N95 masks, no Vit. D, no zinc, no HCQ were ever made available. But the lockdowns will come regardless. Because the politicians and experts can and will blame it all on you.

In an event like this, people’s worlds get much smaller, and they only know what their “local” media tell them, and those media are in line with the respective political systems. In crisis times, you as a journalist don’t attack the leading party, no matter how badly they fail, because they will deflect any criticism right back onto you, and say it’s your critical reports that made people behave badly.

It’s circular logic at its finest. And since all these fine people in all these fine countries got it all wrong in the same way, they can use each other for cover. France can point their finger at Spain, and they at Italy, and all hail the King of Sweden. BTW, has anyone ever seen an explanation for why so many countries and states sent infected elderly people back into care homes? That one puzzles me.

 

The next threat is hidden right in that finger-pointing. Because they all want to keep their borders open, and that has consequences. Should have gotten it right the first time, guys, because Lockdown 2.0 was always going to be much harder. What you will see now is groups of people in various countries saying they will not do 2.0. While borders are open.

And what then? You’re going to lock them all up (instead of down), in virus-infected prison cells? You guys have no idea what’s coming at you. There is even talk in several places of engaging the army to make people obey. But it’s the politicians and experts who have failed, not the people who have lost faith in them. And those people have had 6 months now to educate themselves on COVID19, so they’re not so easily fooled anymore.

I still don’t believe in the big conspiracy themes. I see a sea of incompetence, of people not up to their jobs who insist on hanging on to those jobs anyway. That’s true, too, for the blunt refusal to even consider N95, Vit.D, zinc and HCQ. They’re just not smart enough. They were not selected for being smart, but for fitting into, and being servants to, the existing system. And then something unexpected happens. And they have no idea what to do.

Many people will not accept Lockdown 2.0. Not because they’re stupid, or suicidal, or they want to kill their neighbors and friends, but because they understand that what they’ve given up over the past 9 months has been of no benefit to them, or their neighbors and friends. And then on top of that they themselves get blamed for things getting worse. That’s the breaking point, right there.

Our “leaders” simply have no clothes on.

 

 

 

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Sep 142020
 


Edvard Munch Love and pain 1895

 

“A Harris Administration Together With Joe Biden” (AZC)
America’s Color Revolution (Paul Craig Roberts)
Biden Says Stay in Mideast, Increase Military Spending (Antiwar)
Wiped Phones Obstruction Of Justice, Worst Sort Destruction Of Evidence (RCP)
Trump Signs New, Expanded Executive Order To Lower US Drug Prices (R.)
State Dept Reported Burisma Paid Bribe While Hunter Biden Served On Board (JTN)
The Fed’s New Framework: This Time Is Different (Zentner)
Oracle Emerges As Likely US Partner For TikTok (JTN)
Beijing’s Mass Surveillance Of Australia And The World (ABC.au)
The Rise of Ultra-Processed Foods (Conv.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taleb: Retrospective bigotteering

 

 

What a most curious thing to say. Where does that come from? Is it equal to “A Pence Administration Together With Donald Trump”?

“A Harris Administration Together With Joe Biden” (AZC)

Pointing to Arizona’s high coronavirus losses, Kamala Harris urged the state’s residents to register and vote for an administration committed to its health and business needs. In a five-minute virtual speech Saturday cast as a conversation with Latina small business owners, the senator from California said she and her running mate, Joe Biden, will create manufacturing incentives, roll back tax cuts that went to the wealthy and preserve health care coverage under the Affordable Care Act. “For everyone on this call, Joe and I understand that your business is the heartbeat of your community,” Harris said. “As part of our Build Back Better agenda, we will need to make sure you have a president in the White House who actually sees you, who understands your needs, who understands the dignity of your work and who has your back.”


Harris’ speech is a reminder of the key role Hispanic voters are expected to play in helping win Arizona, a battleground for the White House. The Biden-Harris ticket is expected to win most Hispanic votes, but polling suggests they are doing so in numbers smaller than Democrat Hillary Clinton did in her losing 2016 campaign. Harris said a Democratic administration, which she called “a Harris administration together with Joe Biden,” would provide $100 billion in low-interest loans and investments for minority-owned businesses, a $15,000 tax credit for first-time home-buyers and allow government-run health insurance to compete with private insurers.

Read more …

“Trump, isolated in his own government, will be cut off from Twitter, Facebook and from the print and TV media.”

America’s Color Revolution (Paul Craig Roberts)

Russiagate was a coup that failed, followed by the failed Impeachgate coup. Faced with Trump’s reelection and the realization that upon reelection Trump will be able to deal with the treason against him, the Deep State has decided to take him out with a color revolution. The evidence of a color revolution in the works is abundantly supplied by CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, NPR, Washington Post and numerous Internet sites funded by the CIA and the foundations and corporations through which it operates, all of which are committed to Trump’s ejection from the Oval Office. The American public does not realize the extent to which the institutions of a free society have been penetrated and turned against freedom. All of these media organizations are establishing the story in the mind of Americans that Trump will not leave office when he loses or steals the election and must be driven out.

Emails are arriving from readers in the UK and Europe reporting that the British and European media are at work preparing the acceptability of the CIA’s color revolution against President Trump. It is taken for granted by both media and politicians in Europe and the UK that Trump cannot win reelection because he (1) is a Putin agent, (2) abuses the power of his office, (3) represents racist “Trump Deplorables,” (4) is a womanizer—“grab them by the pussy,” (5) is responsible for America leading the world in Covid-19 cases and deaths, (6) doesn’t support NATO (a sinecure for many Europeans), (7) is an outsider and not a member of The Establishment and “is not like us,” (8) “has orange hair” (orange is considered a low class color). You can add your own to the list.

The scenarios for what the American, British, and European media assume to be a necessary color revolution to drive Trump from office are: • Trump loses the election, refuses to leave office and must be dislodged or democracy is lost. • Trump wins the election by fraud and must be dislodged or democracy is lost. The scenarios do not accommodate Trump actually winning the election by the vote of the people. That outcome is outside the possibilities. According to the media, Trump can only lose or steal the election. With Antifa and Black Lives Matter now experienced in violent protests, they will be unleashed anew on American cities when there is news of a Trump election victory. The media will explain the violence as necessary to free us from a tyrant and egg on the violence, as will the Democrat Party. The CIA will be certain that the violence is well funded.

Trump, isolated in his own government, which has failed to bring charges against the Obama regime officials who tried to frame the President of the United States and drive him from office—Barr and Durham represent The Establishment, not the President or law—will be cut off from Twitter, Facebook and from the print and TV media. All Americans and the world will hear is that Trump lost and must go or Trump won by vote fraud and must go. It will be impossible for Trump or anyone to refute the charges.

Read more …

“The priorities, as are so often the case for the US, are fighting Russia, who Biden identified as a “near-peer” power. The US spends more than ten times the amount on its military annually that Russia does, and it is unclear in what way they are a “near-peer.”

Biden Says Stay in Mideast, Increase Military Spending (Antiwar)

Former Vice President Joe Biden gave some of his first foreign policy-related positions in an interview with Stars and Stripes on Thursday, saying the “forever wars have to end” while seemingly ruling out any full-fledged withdrawals, arguing the US still has to worry about terrorism and ISIS. Biden said the ongoing US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria are so complicated he can’t promise a withdrawal. He also suggested he may increase military spending even beyond its current record levels as he shifts focus to what he believes should be the military’s priorities. The priorities, as are so often the case for the US, are fighting Russia, who Biden identified as a “near-peer” power.


The US spends more than ten times the amount on its military annually that Russia does, and it is unclear in what way they are a “near-peer.” Either way, Biden intends to shift the focus toward unmanned drones and cyber-warfare, and suggests that is likely to boil down to not just a shift in where money is spent, but likely an increase in spending as well. “First thing I’m going to have to do, and I’m not joking: if elected I’m going to have to get on the phone with the heads of state and say America’s back,” Biden said, saying NATO has been “worried as hell about our failure to confront Russia.”

Read more …

Sidney Powell.

Wiped Phones Obstruction Of Justice, Worst Sort Destruction Of Evidence (RCP)

Sidney Powell, the attorney for Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, appeared on FOX Business and denounced the Mueller team for having their phones wiped before the DOJ inspector general could view their contents. “I wrote about it in an article in 2018 complaining that Rosenstein and Mueller allowed the Strzok/Page cell phones from the special counsel operation to be destroyed, and I demanded that the IG seize the other phones then and collect all the evidence off of them,” Powell said Thursday. “And then the IG lets this happen. All of those phones should have been seized while at the end of the special counsel operation while they were still doing it, and they should have nailed every one of them.”


Powell on Strzok: “Peter Strzok is a liar. Peter Strzok is the one who altered the 302 multiple times in conjunction with Lisa Page until he added statements that were not reflected in the notes of the two agents that interviewed General Flynn.” “And both agent Strzok and agent Pientka who interviewed him knew at the time he was telling them the truth. That’s why Flynn was never re-interviewed. They didn’t even warn him about a 1001 statement, and they didn’t let him look at the transcript like they do with every other witness.” “They treated him differently than anyone else they ever interviewed for anything. They schemed and planned to interview him in such a way he did not even know he was the subject of the interview or investigation and they did that deliberately, violating all the rules in the process.”

Read more …

Got to love this from Big Pharma:

“a reckless attack on the very companies working around the clock to beat COVID19.”

Trump Signs New, Expanded Executive Order To Lower US Drug Prices (R.)

President Donald Trump signed a new executive order on Sunday aimed at lowering drug prices in the United States by linking them to those of other nations and expanding the scope of a July action. “My Most Favored Nation order will ensure that our Country gets the same low price Big Pharma gives to other countries. The days of global freeriding at America’s expense are over,” Trump said in a Twitter post. The latest step, coming less than two months before the Nov. 3 presidential election, would replace a July 24 Trump executive order. It extends the mandate to prescription drugs available at a pharmacy, which are covered under Medicare Part D. The July version focused on drugs typically administered in doctors’ offices and health clinics, covered by Medicare Part B.


Specifically, it would pay a price for a drug that matches the lowest price paid among wealthy foreign governments. Medicare, the government healthcare program for seniors, is currently prohibited from negotiating prices it pays to drugmakers. It also requires issuing new federal rules, a complex process that might not be done by Election Day. Determining prices paid by other countries could be challenging as negotiations between governments and drugmakers often are kept confidential. The industry’s largest trade group – the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, or PhRMA – denounced Trump’s move as “a reckless attack on the very companies working around the clock to beat COVID-19.”

Read more …

Will this go away?

State Dept Reported Burisma Paid Bribe While Hunter Biden Served On Board (JTN)

Just eight months after Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter joined the board of Burisma Holdings, U.S. officials in Kiev developed evidence that the Ukrainian gas company may have paid a $7 million bribe to the local prosecutors investigating the firm for corruption, according to interviews and State Department memos. State officials believed the alleged bribe was paid between May and December 2014 and got confirmation from one prosecutor. They argued the bribe amounted to a “gross miscarriage of justice that undermined months of US assistance” to fight corruption in Ukraine, contemporaneous memos show. The concerns were eventually reported to the FBI, although it is not clear whether the allegations were ever investigated more fully, according to current and former U.S. and Ukrainian government officials.

The anecdote, buried in five-year-old diplomatic files, provides a fresh illustration of the awkward, uncomfortable conflict of interest State officials perceived as they tried to fight pervasive corruption in Ukraine under Joe Biden’s leadership while the vice president’s son collected large payments as a board member for an energy firm widely viewed as corrupt. The concerns first came to a head in January 2015, the memos show, about eight months after Hunter Biden was named to Burisma’s board and after two major corruption investigations — one in Ukraine and the other in Britain — were opened against the gas firm.

George Kent, then a State Department official newly sent to the U.S. embassy in Kiev to lead anti-corruption efforts, was concerned the bribery allegations surrounding Prosecutor General Vitaly Yarema were credible enough that he sought a meeting with one of Yarema’s deputies to demand action, according to State Department memos. His concern was triggered when Yarema took action over the Christmas 2014 holidays to undercut both the British and Ukraine investigations of Burisma and its founder Mykola Zlochevsky, and the U.S. embassy received word a $7 million bribe had changed hands, State memos show. The Feb. 3, 2015 meeting involved Kent, one of Yarema’s top deputies, Anatoliy Danylenko, as well as the DOJ’s liaison in Ukraine, Jeffrey Cole, memos show. It was arranged by Andrii Telizhenko, an English-speaking mid-level Ukrainian government official long trusted by the Obama administration in Kiev and Washington to facilitate contacts between the two countries.

“No problem, works for us. I’ll get you the names soonest. Likely George and Jeff Cole. Will confirm later,” U.S. embassy official Gregory W. Pfleger wrote Telizhenko in a lengthy Jan. 31, 2015 email chain that arranged the location, date and attendees for the meeting for three days later. Pfleger had forwarded Kent’s resume to the Ukrainians since he was new to the embassy, and Telizhenko reciprocated by forwarding a biography for Danylenko, the memos show. U.S. officials familiar with the meeting, as well as one eyewitness, told Just the News that Kent strongly confronted Danylenko, insisting the U.S. had strong reason to believe that Burisma officials made a multimillion dollar bribe to Yarema’s office between May 2014 when Hunter Biden joined the board and December 2014.

[..] A few days after the meeting, Yarema abruptly stepped down Feb. 10, 2015 as the chief prosecutor of Ukraine after just a few months in the job.

Strzok believes

Read more …

From Morgan Stanley’s chief economist Ellen Zentner. I must assume these people believe in their own gibberish, as well as the Fed’s.

The Fed’s New Framework: This Time Is Different (Zentner)

On August 27, Chair Powell and the Federal Open Market Committee made history, rolling out a new inflation-targeting framework. I believe that the central bank is now more likely to achieve its desired inflation target in the current cycle. If it does, this new framework may well be Chair Powell’s legacy. The Fed replaced its old symmetric 2% inflation target with a flexible average inflation-targeting framework. It emphasizes that the Fed will target an inflation overshoot in recoveries following inflation shortfalls during downturns. This has important implications for economic and policy outcomes over the medium term. Most specifically, under Powell’s leadership the Fed has now solidified a more dovish path than in previous recoveries.

Under the new outcome-based approach, the Fed needs evidence of inflation before raising rates, rather than simply forecasting that it will rise. Had this policy framework been in place in the last cycle, with inflation and unemployment evolving exactly as they did, the Fed might have delayed lift-off to as late as 2018, with its overall policy stance more accommodative for longer. It’s not just policy outcomes that are likely to differ. A change in monetary policy dynamics is likely to feed through to inflation expectations, which are relevant to price- and wage-setting. This would make it more likely that the Fed can achieve its inflation targets over the current cycle and that average 2% inflation outcomes are attainable over time.

To be sure, the change in the Fed’s framework makes us even more confident that inflation will be structurally higher over this cycle and beyond. How quickly the output and employment gaps close in this cycle will play a major role in determining when the first rate hike comes. Moreover, we believe that to demonstrate their commitment to the new strategy, policy-makers won’t rush to raise rates at the first sign of success. The longer-term simulations we laid out in Life After Covid suggest that the kind of labor market and inflation conditions the Fed would want to see sustained could be in place for the Fed to consider raising rates by the first half of 2024, sooner should the V-shaped recovery continue to run ahead of expectations.

Long before the first rate hike, the Fed should see the necessary conditions to start taking its foot off the gas. Working backwards, we think the Fed will want to end its asset purchases around a year before the first rate hike. This suggests that asset purchases would stop in early 2023, but tapering is likely to come in mid-2022. Chair Powell has time and again displayed an affinity for long-dated forewarning of Fed action to market participants, so starting to slow the pace of asset purchases around mid-2022 means we should get guidance that tapering is on the horizon by the December 2021 FOMC meeting.

Read more …

I thought they weren’t going to sell at all?!

Oracle Emerges As Likely US Partner For TikTok (JTN)

Oracle emerged Sunday evening as the likely U.S. partner for the popular social video app TikTok after Microsoft Corp. announced its bid had been rejected by the Chinese app’s owner. “ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft,” the U.S. software maker announced in a blog post. “We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests. To do this, we would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combatting disinformation, and we made these principles clear in our August statement. Microsoft’s rejection left Oracle as the lone remaining U.S. suitor. The Washington Post, quoting an anonymous source, reported Sunday night that ByteDance had chosen Oracle as TikTok’s U.S. technology partner.

Read more …

China emulates the CIA?!

Beijing’s Mass Surveillance Of Australia And The World (ABC.au)

A Chinese company with links to Beijing’s military and intelligence networks has been amassing a vast database of detailed personal information on thousands of Australians, including prominent and influential figures. A database of 2.4 million people, including more than 35,000 Australians, has been leaked from the Shenzhen company Zhenhua Data which is believed to be used by China’s intelligence service, the Ministry of State Security. Zhenhua has the People’s Liberation Army and the Chinese Communist Party among its main clients. Information collected includes dates of birth, addresses, marital status, along with photographs, political associations, relatives and social media IDs.

It collates Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and even TikTok accounts, as well as news stories, criminal records and corporate misdemeanours. While much of the information has been “scraped” from open-source material, some profiles have information which appears to have been sourced from confidential bank records, job applications and psychological profiles. The company is believed to have sourced some of its information from the so-called “dark web”. One intelligence analyst said the database was “Cambridge Analytica on steroids”, referring to the trove of personal information sourced from Facebook profiles in the lead up to the 2016 US election campaign.

[..] The database was leaked to a US academic based in Vietnam, Professor Chris Balding, who until 2018 had worked at the elite Peking University before leaving China citing fears for his physical safety. “China is absolutely building out a massive surveillance state both domestically and internationally,” Professor Balding told the ABC. “They’re using a wide variety of tools — this one is taken primarily from public sources, there is non-public data in here, but it is taken primarily from public sources. “I think it speaks to the broader threat of what China is doing and how they are surveilling, monitoring and seeking to influence… not just their own citizens, but citizens around the world.” Professor Balding has returned to the United States, leaving Vietnam after being advised it was no longer safe for him to be there.

It was also a grave risk taken by the person who leaked the database to him, who contacted him as he started publishing articles about Chinese tech giant Huawei. “We’ve worked very hard to make sure that there are no links between me and that person, once I realised what had been given to me,” he said. “They are still in China. But hopefully I think they will be safe.” Professor Balding gave the database to Canberra cyber security company Internet 2.0 which was able to restore 10 per cent of the 2.4 million records for individuals. Internet 2.0’s chief executive Robert Potter said Zhenhua had built the capacity to track naval vessels and defence assets, to assess the careers of military officers and catalogue the intellectual property of China’s competitors. “This mass collection of data is taking place in China’s private sector, in the same way Beijing outsources its cyber attack capability to private subcontractors,” Mr Potter told the ABC.

Read more …

Awfully simplistic, but a good reminder that this stuff makes your body, and your immune system, much weaker. The last thing you want with a virus like this going around is chronic inflammation.

The Rise of Ultra-Processed Foods (Conv.)

Humans (and our ancestors) have been processing food for at least 1.8 million years. Roasting, drying, grinding and other techniques made food more nutritious, durable and tasty. This helped our ancestors to colonise diverse habitats, and then develop settlements and civilisations. Many traditional foods used in cooking today are processed in some way, such as grains, cheeses, dried fish and fermented vegetables. Processing itself is not the problem. Only much more recently has a different type of food processing emerged: one that is more extensive, and uses new chemical and physical techniques. This is called ultra-processing, and the resulting products ultra-processed foods.

To make these foods, cheap ingredients such as starches, vegetable oils and sugars, are combined with cosmetic additives like colours, flavours and emulsifiers. Think sugary drinks, confectionery, mass-produced breads, snack foods, sweetened dairy products and frozen desserts. Unfortunately, these foods are terrible for our health. And we’re eating more of them than ever before, partially because of aggressive marketing and lobbying by “Big Food”. [..] We found that more ultra-processed foods in the diet associates with higher risks of obesity, heart disease and stroke, type-2 diabetes, cancer, frailty, depression and death. These harms can be caused by the foods’ poor nutritional profile, as many are high in added sugars, salt and trans-fats.


Also, if you tend to eat more ultra-processed foods, it means you probably eat fewer fresh and less-processed foods. Industrial processing itself can also be harmful. For example, certain food additives can disrupt our gut bacteria and trigger inflammation, while plasticisers in packaging can interfere with our hormonal system. Certain features of ultra-processed foods also promote over-consumption. Product flavours, aromas and mouthfeel are designed to make these foods ultra-tasty, and perhaps even addictive.

Read more …

 

 

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Sep 062020
 
 September 6, 2020  Posted by at 7:03 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  12 Responses »


Joel Meyerowitz/Beetles + Huxley New York City 1978

 

 

Of course, because I’m a dreamer, I start off an essay like this with the idea that I should do an all-encompassing idea of COVID19, all around the world no less, for the rest of 2020, and beyond. Only to find that nobody, including me, even if I have a few advantages over most, could possibly do such a thing. So of necessity there’ll be this essay and many more to come. As the US elections set the world on fire.

I did make a list of what every government, every society and community should be ordering by now (and that would be already very late) Here they are: A billion rapid tests, a billion doses of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), a billion doses of zinc, a billion doses of Vitamin D, and a zillion N95 facemasks. (I am not a doctor, but we do have doctors on this platform.)

Rapid tests: these things have been available for months, but have been obstructed by guidelines that say every test must be PCR, which take a long time to produce results, which test positive on dead virus etc. etc. Whereas rapid tests (there are several options) detect a virus load when it’s most likely to infect a third person (the no. 1 thing you want to find!, and moreover show a result in minutes and cost a few pennies each (don’t fall for the $5 a test thing!). You can do a paper test for everyone every single day.

We have this, we got this, but we’re not doing it. The answer from the politicians who have failed to grasp this reality will be: another lockdown! But there won’t be another lockdown. Or, there will be in some locations, but what good is that if neighbors don’t lock down? More on that in a bit.

Hydroxychloroquine (or ivermectin) and zinc -combined if you will with an antibiotic- for those who are infected or close to it, combined with a substantial increase in everyone’s vitamin D levels in your population -right now, you already lost half a year!- will bring down death and suffering enormously. Don’t listen to your doctor, listen to us.

A bit of -potential- harsh reality came to us today through a report from Washington University’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. They predict total deaths to triple globally, and double in the US, in less than four months from today.

 

Total COVID19 Deaths Projected To Double In US, Triple in World By Jan. 1

U.S. deaths from the coronavirus will reach 410,000 by the end of the year, more than double the current death toll, and deaths could soar to 3,000 per day in December, the University of Washington’s health institute forecast on Friday. Deaths could be reduced by 30% if more Americans wore face masks as epidemiologists have advised, but mask-wearing is declining, the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said. The U.S. death rate projected by the IHME model, which has been cited by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, would more than triple the current death rate of some 850 per day.


“We expect the daily death rate in the United States, because of seasonality and declining vigilance of the public, to reach nearly 3,000 a day in December,” the institute, which bills itself as an independent research center, said in an update of its periodic forecasts. “Cumulative deaths expected by January 1 are 410,000; this is 225,000 deaths from now until the end of the year,” the institute said. It previously projected 317,697 deaths by Dec. 1. The model’s outlook for the world was even more dire, with deaths projected to triple to 2.8 million by Jan. 1, 2021.

No, I won’t take back one word of what I’ve been saying about the best ways to tackle COVD19 over the past 8 months, for instance in April 15’s The Only Man Who Has A Clue about Nassim Taleb. He was still right, and that’s not going to change. But that doesn’t mean nothing has changed. Actually, a lot has.

Taleb’s approach, and that of his “co-conspirators” Yaneer Bar-Yam and Joe Norman, is as valid as it ever was, but that validity doesn’t last forever if it is not applied by those in charge of policy. It hasn’t been and today we’re way past the best-before date. Which, as we will see going forward, is highly unfortunate, because all the alternatives are -much- worse.

We’ve seen an entire world, and tons of governments in that world, caught with no blueprints and no playbooks for a coronavirus pandemic, despite having been warned about such a pandemic coming, for decades. And so they all went into “make it up as you go along” mode. With very little knowledge of what was going on, and what to expect.

With predictable failures as a result. But because the pandemic has largely played out on a national level, not international, they manage to keep their failures hidden behind a facade of “we listened to the best science”, “nobody could have seen this coming”, and “if only people had listened to (obeyed)” what we said all along.

As I explained in the Taleb piece, the first, the initial, scientists to refer to in a case like SARS-CoV-2 are not epidemiologists, because they are backward looking; they compare the little they know about a new virus with what they know about earlier ones. Even if it’s all essentially a mismatch.

Instead, the first people you consult are risk specialists; yes, like Taleb. To know what the -necessarily basic- steps are to take against something you know very little about, other than it is contagious and potentially lethal. One of the obvious steps is close your borders.Another is a lockdown. But a lockdown is not a lockdown is not a lockdown. If you don’t get it right, it’s useless, oppressive and even harmfully counterproductive.

That’s why blueprints and playbooks, written well before a pandemic happens, are so important. You should never leave those things up to politicians, who don’t understand the matter at hand, who will always have other interests in mind (the economy), and will therefore assemble a bunch of local epidemiologists in order to declare: we’re listening to science!

Most of these people mean well, but that’s not enough. And with that, we’re moving out of the summer time and into, what?, COVID 2.0? With Lockdowns 2.0? There is no need. Here’s what you do: Order a billion rapid tests, a billion doses of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), a billion doses of zinc, a billion doses of Vitamin D, and a zillion N95 facemasks.

Not the crappy bluish masks everyone’s wearing today, that’s just a symbolic thing, but get the real thing, for everyone. How many has your government offered to you to date, while spending billions of trillions on the effects of the virus? Really, politicians are always useless when it comes to emergencies, because that’s not what they get elected for.

And no, face masks are not useless, but they certainly are outside. The risk of you getting infected -or infecting someone- are infinitesimal on the street. Unless someone spits or coughs in your face, but if that happens, that bluish mask won’t do much good anyway. So when I see a photo like this, of Japanese girls en masse wearing almost useless masks (only because the others do it too), I can only think: why don’t we teach people what works and what doesn’t? (I see the same thing here in Athens a lot too)

 

 

But so, yeah if your government won’t protect you with a billion rapid tests, a billion doses of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), a billion doses of zinc, a billion doses of Vitamin D, and a zillion N95 facemasks., they’re going to be thinking Lockdown 2.0. And that is going to be a huge problem in many places. There are very big problems in Melbourne as we speak:

 

Melbourne Lockdown Extended By Two Weeks

A strict lockdown in the Australian city of Melbourne has been extended by two weeks, with officials saying new Covid-19 cases had not dropped enough. Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews said the restrictions would be in place until 28 September, with a slight relaxation. A gradual easing of the measures will be implemented from October. The state has been the epicentre of the country’s second wave, accounting for 90% of Australia’s 753 deaths. Australia has recorded a total of 26,000 cases in a population of 25 million. The greater Melbourne area entered a second lockdown on 9 July after a rise in cases. A 5km (3 mile) travel limit and night time curfew was imposed while shops and businesses were closed. The current stage four lockdown was originally set to end on 13 September.

2nd lockdowns are going to be hell to pay, for governments, for their citizens, for their economies. And they don’t have to be. If just everyone gets out the Fauci, “experts”, mood., and their potential connections to Big Pharma. Vitamin D and zinc and HCS look very promising. So does the Russian vaccine, but we don’t want it because, well, it’s Russian, and even more because it would deprive Gilead et al of huge potential profits furnished by western governments.

No, not all lockdowns are terrible. But a lock down should last maximum 2 months, or you will needlessly destroy your economy. Thing is, you must make sure it’s real, effective and short, not some Swedish or Dutch half-lockdown, or any of the half-assed US ones. A lockdown is either a lockdown or it’s not. But we’ve already passed that fase. Lockdowns in most locations will simply no longer be accepted.

Facemasks can have a real potential, but just as with lockdowns, only when applied appropriately, at the right time and under the right circumstances. I don’t subscribe to the right wing US idea that it is all just a bad joke and a means to oppress people. But if you order people to wear masks outside, where the infection risk borders on zero, and you order churches closed but not demonstrations or Target, you just show you understand neither the virus not your people. And then try and claw that one back.

Once again: tell your government to order – and have available ASAP: a billion rapid tests, a billion doses of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), a billion doses of zinc, a billion doses of Vitamin D, and a zillion N95 facemasks. You may not be perfect, but your prospects are going to be a lot better than they are now.

 

 

 

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jul 222020
 


Ben Shahn for the Farm Security Administration Daughter of Virgil Thaxton, farmer, near Mechanicsburg, Ohio 1938

 

It Has Become Clear Elimination Of The Virus Is The Best Option (Age)
Antibodies From Mild COVID-19 Infections Could Disappear Within A Year (CBS)
Yale Epidemiologist: Hydroxychloroquine Could Save 100,000 Lives (ZH)
Moderna, Merck Won’t Limit Price Of Coronavirus Vaccines To Company Cost (R.)
Our History Is A Battle Against The Microbes (Roser)
N.Y, N.J, Conn. Expand Travel Quarantine To Over Half Of U.S. States
Democrats Cry ‘Foreign Meddling’ In 2020 Election In Letter To FBI (RT)
House Bill Would Require Feds to Identify Themselves (.)
China’s Shipbuilding Industry Continues Leading Position Globally (Xinhua)
Britain Nears Abandoning Brexit Trade Deal Hope (R.)
Passengers Scramble For Limited Seats On Flights To Australia (G.)
Book Sales Hit Record Highs In 2019, But Publishers ‘Now Need Help’ (G.)
Smithsonian: ‘Rationality’ & ‘Hard Work’ Are Racist (RC)
Judicial Watch Sues DOJ/FBI/ODNI for Records of Obama Oval Office Meeting (JW)
Greta Thunberg Gets €1 Million ‘Humanity Prize’ From Oil Tycoon Foundation (RT)

 

 

An Australian hospital doctor writes that the best solution if for the virus to be eliminated from his country. But can that still be done? Is it realistic? Do you really want to isolate yourself from most of the world?

 

 

U.S. records over 1,000 coronavirus deaths in a single day for first time since early June.

And the world passed 15 million cases.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sidney Powell Hillary should be subpoenaed

 

 

A doctor in Victoria, Australia. The worries are very understandable, and the problem is clear, but as for the solution, is it possible? Realistic? Or just too late?

It Has Become Clear Elimination Of The Virus Is The Best Option (Age)

The hospital where I work has finally had to use its surge plan for COVID-19 patients, devised months ago but which has until now laid dormant. There is still capacity for more patients, but it is not infinite. People are starting to worry. Concerningly, while patient numbers around the state have climbed, staff numbers have fallen. Many front-line healthcare workers have become infected with the virus, forcing them to take time off work. Many more have been forced into mandatory quarantine following close contact with a known case. This is entirely necessary to stop the spread of the virus, but it is a cost we simply cannot afford. Our already-stretched health system is at risk of being stretched beyond its limit.

We have tried to suppress this virus; to keep infection numbers low enough to allow our hospitals to cope, while not actively trying to stamp it out. In Melbourne, it has failed. We may be seeing the beginnings of a similar story in Sydney, with cases slowly climbing. We may yet see it elsewhere. Many have argued for an explicit elimination strategy, acknowledging that while not without its costs, ultimately it is the best choice for our society and economy. As John Daley from the Grattan Institute wrote in March, this would be the “least-bad” option. We know elimination is possible. New Zealand implemented a harsh lockdown early in the pandemic, prompting some to criticise Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern for overreacting. Yet they have not seen a single case of community transmission in months.

Life across the ditch is returning to a “new normal”, and people and businesses are starting to plan for the future with a bit more certainty. There is no reason why Australia – and in particular Victoria – couldn’t follow suit. Yet the current six-week lockdown is unlikely to eliminate the virus, according to new analysis in the Medical Journal of Australia. We must either go harder, or go longer. While it is the best option for Australia, elimination has three important drawbacks: its impacts would be disproportionately felt by disadvantaged and marginalised people; it would require a longer, more intense period of initial lockdown; and it would make us dependent on a vaccine. A longer, harsher lockdown in Melbourne – and anywhere the virus begins to take hold again – would be enormously challenging for many, especially those who are disadvantaged, marginalised, or poor.

But so would repeated lockdowns, which are all-but inevitable under a suppression strategy. Better to do it once (or twice, as in Melbourne) and do it properly, rather than wait for infections to rise again in a few months and have to do it all again. If we succeed in ridding ourselves of SARS-CoV-2, we will make ourselves reliant on a vaccine. Until one is found, our borders will have to remain closed. The virus will become endemic in many other countries – countries who, unlike us, no longer have the option of eliminating it. Opening our borders too early would simply be kicking the can down the road. Things are moving faster than we have ever seen in vaccine development, but there is no guarantee we will have a safe and effective product soon – if at all. Until we do, we will be forced to seal ourselves off from countries where the virus remains.

Read more …

And the antibodies that you do have may attack you. Good luck with that vaccine.

Antibodies From Mild COVID-19 Infections Could Disappear Within A Year (CBS)

Antibodies from a mild case of COVID-19 appear to fall dramatically in the first three months after infection, and could disappear within about a year, according to a small study by UCLA researchers. The study, published Tuesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, tested 20 women and 14 men between 21 and 68 years old who recovered from mild cases of COVID-19. Each participant was tested at an average of 36 and 82 days after they initially showed symptoms. The study found that antibodies in these study participants dropped sharply after the first three months, and decreased by roughly half every 73 days.


At that rate, antibodies would disappear within about a year. The UCLA study was a more detailed look into previous reports that suggested antibodies against the novel coronavirus were short-lived, and the first to estimate the rate at which antibodies disappear. The study’s authors said the role of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 is not known, but the findings should prompt caution regarding antibody-based “immunity passports,” the goal of herd immunity, and vaccine durability.

Read more …

One positive report about HCQ after the other.

Yale Epidemiologist: Hydroxychloroquine Could Save 100,000 Lives (ZH)

Yale epidemiology professor Dr. Harvey Risch told Fox News’s “Ingraham Angle” that he thinks hydroxychloroquine could save 75,000 to 100,000 lives if widely used to treat COVID-19, and that it’s unfortunate that a “propaganda war” has been waged on the commonly prescribed drug which is not based on “medical facts.” “There are many doctors that I’ve gotten hostile remarks about saying that all the evidence is bad for it and, in fact, that is not true at all,” Risch said on Monday, adding that he believes the drug should be used as a prophylactic for front-line healthcare workers, as has been done in India. Researchers at the Henry Ford Health System in Southeast Michigan have found that early administration of hydroxychloroquine makes hospitalized patients substantially less likely to die.

“The study, published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, determined that hydroxychloroquine provided a “66 percent hazard ratio reduction,” and hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin a 71 percent reduction, compared with neither treatment. In-hospital mortality was 18.1 percent overall; 13.5 percent with just hydroxychloroquine, 22.4 percent with azithromycin alone, and 26.4 percent with neither drug. “Prospective trials are needed” for further review, the researchers note, even as they concluded: “In this multi-hospital assessment, when controlling for COVID-19 risk factors, treatment with hydroxychloroquine alone and in combination with azithromycin was associated with reduction in COVID-19 associated mortality.” -Fox News

“All the evidence is actually good for it when it is used in outpatient uses. Nevertheless, the only people who actually say that are a whole pile of doctors who are on the front lines treating those patients across the country and they are the ones who are at risk being forced not to do it,” Risch added, arguing that the MSM refuses to cover the benefits of the drug, and is actively silencing those trying to address the efficacy of HCQ.

Read more …

Not only do they seek to profit from the pandemic, their research was funded by … you.

Moderna, Merck Won’t Limit Price Of Coronavirus Vaccines To Company Cost (R.)

Moderna Inc and Merck & Co on Tuesday told a U.S. Congressional panel that they expect to profit from their coronavirus vaccines once approved, amid concerns the vaccines may not be accessible to all. “We will not be selling our vaccine at cost, although it is premature for us as we’re a long way from understanding the cost-basis,” Julie Gerberding, chief patient officer for Merck, told the House of Representatives subcommittee on oversight and investigations in a virtual, off-site hearing. Merck’s has yet to begin human studies of its experimental vaccine, lagging the leading candidates. Executives from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca Plc testified that they will price their respective potential vaccines at no profit while the pandemic rages on.

Gerberding and a representative from Moderna did not comment on the price they have in mind for their vaccines at the hearing, which focused on efforts to develop a safe, effective and widely accessible vaccine against COVID-19, which has claimed 600,000 lives globally. Pfizer Inc has said the company intends to make a profit from its potential coronavirus vaccine if approved. However, Pfizer Chief Business Officer John Young, testified: “We recognize that these are extraordinary times and our price will reflect that.” Unlike rivals Moderna and AstraZeneca, Pfizer has not received funding from the United States for its vaccine development.

Lawmakers questioned whether Pfizer had declined government funding so it could price the vaccine at a profit. “We didn’t access federal funding solely for the reason that we wanted to move the vaccine faster to the clinic,” Young said. AstraZeneca said its vaccine would be provided at no profit under its agreement with the United States for allocation of some 300 million doses.

Read more …

Long history thread at the Twitter link.

Our History Is A Battle Against The Microbes (Roser)

Humanity’s history is a continuous battle between us and the microbes. For most of our history we were on the losing side. It wasn’t even close. We were losing very decisively. Billions of children died from infectious diseases. They were the main reason why child mortality was so high: No matter where or when they were born, around half died as children. We looked at the evidence of child mortality in pre-modern times here. The recurring epidemics of influenza, measles, cholera, diphtheria, the bubonic plague, and smallpox also killed large parts of the adult population. Within just a few years the Black Death killed half of Europe’s population. The epidemics – especially of smallpox, but also measles, typhus and other diseases – that the colonialists brought from Europe with them to the Americas killed often an even larger share of the population in many places.

The world today is obviously very different. Infectious diseases are the cause of fewer than 1-in-6 deaths, and as the world made progress against the microbes our lives became much longer. Life expectancy doubled in every world region and the global average is now 73 years. How is it possible that for millennia we were losing the battle against the microbes so awfully and then turned things around in the span of just a few generations? It was science that laid the foundation for our success. 150 years ago nobody knew where diseases came from. Or more precisely, people thought they knew, but they were wrong. The widely accepted idea at the time was the ‘Miasma’ theory of disease. Miasma, the theory held, was a form of “bad air” that causes disease. The word malaria is testament to the idea that ‘mal aria’ – ‘bad air’ in medieval Italian – is the cause of the disease.

Thanks to the work of a number of doctors and chemists in the second half of the 19th century humanity learned that not noxious air, but specific germs cause infectious diseases. The germ theory of disease was the breakthrough in the fight against the microbe. Scientists identified the pathogens that cause the different diseases and thereby laid the foundation for perhaps the most important technical innovation in our fight against them: vaccines. Vaccines protect us from infectious diseases by offering our body a training session for how to fight the germs that cause the disease. “The fundamental idea of a vaccine is deliberate exposure to a relatively harmless or dead version of a germ. The immune system will then recognise and eliminate that germ rapidly if it is encountered again,” as vaccine developer Richard Moxon puts it.

Read more …

Two countries?!

N.Y, N.J, Conn. Expand Travel Quarantine To Over Half Of U.S. States

As the pandemic continues to surge across America, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut expanded their travel quarantine lists for the fourth consecutive week on Tuesday, adding 10 more states for a total of 31. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut require incoming travelers from the 31 states to self-isolate for two weeks upon arrival. New states added to the tri-state list on Tuesday are Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia and Washington. Minnesota was taken off the list this week, while Delaware returned after being removed last week. The list also includes Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has also issued a rule that out-of-state travelers must fill in a form for state officials to verify they are complying with the rules; failure to submit can result in a $2,000 fine and mandatory quarantine. Gov. Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont launched the travel list last month as parts of the country began to see rising case numbers. New York and New Jersey, in particular, were hit hard early on in the pandemic (New York still has the country’s highest number of deaths) and hope the travel limitations will prevent a resurgence from out-of-state travelers. The quarantine applies to states that report 10 or more new cases per 100,000 residents per day or a 10% rise in daily test positivity over a seven-day rolling period.

Read more …

It’s probably the Russians.

Whatever comes out of any investigation between now and November 3, will be blasted as being political. But Trump has been under investigation his entire first term, and that, too, was political, though it will be vehemently denied. Guess we’ll have to say along with the Dems that nobody is above the law, and that goes for them as well.

Democrats Cry ‘Foreign Meddling’ In 2020 Election In Letter To FBI (RT)

A probe into former VP Joe Biden’s dealings in Ukraine is reportedly the ‘foreign interference’ in US elections that prompted Democrats to demand an urgent defensive briefing from the FBI for all members of Congress. “We are gravely concerned, in particular, that Congress appears to be the target of a concerted foreign interference campaign, which seeks to launder and amplify disinformation in order to influence congressional activity, public debate, and the presidential election in November,” says a letter by four Democrats on the congressional ‘Gang of Eight’ that deals with intelligence matters. The letter was dated July 13, but was made public on Monday – the deadline the Democrats set for the FBI to schedule the defensive briefings with all members of Congress.

It was signed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California), Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-California), and ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner (D-Virginia). The fact that it lacked specifics, and was released a week after it was sent to the FBI, raised some eyebrows in Washington. Former acting director of national intelligence Richard Grenell tweeted that the ‘Gang of Eight’ and others were briefed “weeks ago” and that the letter amounted to a CYA – short for “cover your a**” – adding, “why the panic now?” One possibility is that it provided a pretext for the Democrats’ presidential nominee Joe Biden to announce on Monday evening that he was putting “the Kremlin and other foreign governments on notice” that he would impose “substantial and lasting costs on those who interfere with American elections” if elected.

According to Politico, who cited “two people familiar with the demand,” the letter is about an investigation led by Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) into Biden’s dealings with the former government of Ukraine. The most recent FBI briefing on “foreign influence operations” – back in early April – was also prompted by Johnson’s investigation, as Democrats objected to his efforts to subpoena former Ukrainian official Andrii Telizhenko. Ukrainians themselves have been investigating the role of former president Petro Poroshenko in getting corruption charges dropped against Burisma, a gas company that hired Biden’s son Hunter to nominally sit on its board of directors. Members of parliament and former prosecutors have made a case that Burisma paid Hunter Biden millions of dollars for acting as a de facto shield against prosecution, offering as evidence recordings of what they said were Biden and Poroshenko.

Read more …

Interesting. All of them? And the rioters too?

House Bill Would Require Feds to Identify Themselves (.)

Following a storm of controversy over arrests by federal agents in Portland, Ore., New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Washington, D.C., Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton will be introducing legislation this week that would require federal law enforcement officials to clearly identify themselves, according to a draft bill provided exclusively to The Nation. The bill would require on-duty federal agents to display not just the name of their agency but also the individual agent’s last name and identification number. It would also mandate a new form of oversight for the Justice Department, requiring its inspector general to conduct routine audits to ensure compliance with the legislation. The results of these audits would then be reported to Congress.

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) drew scrutiny after federal agents in military fatigues used unmarked vehicles to arrest protesters in Portland. Among these federal agents were members of elite Border Patrol Tactical Units (BORTAC), Custom and Border Protection’s SWAT team equivalent. Despite the mayor of Portland’s demand that federal agents leave the city, DHS Acting Secretary Chad Wolf refused. “I offered DHS support to help them locally address the situation that’s going on in Portland, and their only response was: please pack up and go home,” he said to Fox News. “That’s just not going to happen on my watch.”

Internal CBP documents obtained by The Nation revealed that these federal agents would be operating indefinitely and in undisclosed locations, with drones “on standby to assist as needed.” The documents describe the DHS’s creation of the Protecting American Communities Task Force in response to President Trump’s executive order “Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Activity.” While this incident was clearly a catalyst for public concern, a spokesperson for Representative Ocasio-Cortez said that her office had been working on this legislation for months.

Provided a copy of the draft legislation, Irvin McCullough, deputy director of legislation at the Government Accountability Project, said, “Lots of lawyers are asking the same thing: Where’s the transparency? Unidentified internal security forces are apprehending American citizens, and accounts allege these apprehension processes are more similar to overseas renditions than traditional arrests. Citizens deserve to know who’s arresting them—or at least what entity—to report any abuses they suffer or witness.”

Read more …

China’s Shipbuilding Industry Continues Leading Position Globally (Xinhua)

China’s shipbuilding industry maintained its leading position globally in the first half of the year (H1) as it held sway in three key aspects, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has said. The completion volume of shipbuilding in China, dropping by 10.6 percent year on year to 17.58 million deadweight tonnes (dwt) in H1, accounted for 37.2 percent of the global market share. New shipbuilding orders, up by 3.4 percent from last year to reach 12.47 million dwt in H1, took up 67.5 percent of the market share worldwide. The volume of holding orders, down by 6.3 percent year on year to 76.54 million dwt in H1, accounted for 48.2 percent of the global market share.

Read more …

Blame COVID.

Britain Nears Abandoning Brexit Trade Deal Hope (R.)

Britain and the European Union will fail to sign a post-Brexit trade deal, with only a few days left before Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s July deadline, The Telegraph reported. The UK government’s assumption is that there will not be a deal, though it remains possible that a “basic” agreement could be reached if the EU gives ground in the autumn, the newspaper said, citing government sources. The government expects it will trade with Europe on World Trade Organisation terms when the transition period ends, the report added.


Britain left the EU on Jan. 31 and its relationship with the bloc is now governed by a transition arrangement that keeps previous rules in place while the two sides negotiate new terms. Negotiators remain deadlocked on fishing rights, the deal’s governance, the European Court of Justice’s role and so-called level playing field guarantees, the newspaper reported. Britain is pursuing trade deals with other countries and setting up its own sanctions regime, and has previously insisted it should not have to sign up to the bloc’s standards.

Read more …

Double the price? Triple?

Passengers Scramble For Limited Seats On Flights To Australia (G.)

International airlines flying into Australia are having to bump passengers, often with little notice, in order to meet strict daily passenger caps set for airports still accepting flights from overseas. The passenger limits introduced to alleviate pressure on quarantine facilities in Australia have meant airports like Brisbane can only accept 70 passengers per day, while services bringing Australians back to Sydney are limited to as few as 30 travellers per flight. While the passenger caps have seen a surge in the cost of airfares into Australia – the cost of a one-way flight from Doha to Sydney on Qatar Airways is $3,729 in economy, a class of seat booked out until 9 August – some economy travellers who are concerned they will be bumped due to their cheaper seats are upgrading to business class tickets.

However airlines including Qatar Airways denied passengers with cheaper tickets would be more likely to be rescheduled, telling the Guardian that passenger lists were based on a range of criteria, including compassionate and medical requests. Originally introduced earlier this month “in order to manage and maintain quarantine arrangements” at hotels, the caps have shrunk from their original limits, now allowing 350 arrivals per day at Sydney, 75 per day at Perth and 70 per day at Brisbane. Melbourne airport remains closed to international visitors, with incoming capacity for Adelaide and Canberra assessed on a case-by-case basis. Between seven to eight international flights are scheduled to land each day at Sydney Airport. However, the cap per flight could increase if some scheduled services do not go ahead.

“The amount allocated to each airline for each flight varies depending on how many flights are operating on each day but within a total daily cap,” a spokeswoman for the federal Department of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development said. “Airlines have the ability to request more than their per-flight passenger allocation on a particular day if there is any spare capacity available on that particular day.”

Read more …

You have to love a publication like the Guardian printing a sentence like this, straight-faced:

“In an age of often unreliable sources..”

Book Sales Hit Record Highs In 2019, But Publishers ‘Now Need Help’ (G.)

Book sales in the UK hit record levels in 2019, driven by a surge in audiobook and nonfiction titles, according to new figures released as publishers warn of the huge impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on the industry. Book sales rose to £6.3bn in 2019, up 4% on 2018, when sales fell for the first time in five years, and 20% on 2015. According to the latest figures from the Publishers Association (PA), overall print sales were up 3% to £3.5bn in 2019 and digital sales were up 4% to £2.8bn, driven by a 39% increase in audiobook downloads. Digital formats accounted for 44% of the market in 2019, up from 40% in 2015. Strong nonfiction and reference sales, seen in bestsellers such as cookbook Pinch of Nom, Caroline Criado-Perez’s Invisible Women, and Charlie Mackesy’s The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, saw the sector grow 23.1% to £1bn in 2019, when compared with 2015.

“In an age of often unreliable sources, people are increasingly looking to books for trusted information and are reading nonfiction voraciously across formats,” Hachette chief executive David Shelley told the association. The growth in nonfiction stands in contrast to fiction. Despite the publication of highly anticipated novels such as Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, sales fell to £582m in 2019, down 5.6% when compared with 2015. “Before the coronavirus pandemic, the industry was flourishing, with 2019 being the strongest year in the history of publishing. These robust figures reflect people’s ongoing need and desire for books,” said PA chief executive Stephen Lotinga.

“[The figures] tell a story of pre-Covid success, but they do not reflect the significant challenges that publishers have faced during this pandemic. Despite those difficulties, we know that many people have continued to look to books for solace, enlightenment and entertainment.” Publishers have anticipated declines in revenue of up to 75% as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, with bookshops closed for more than two months, publication dates postponed, orders for books cancelled and author tours called off. One success story was revealed on Tuesday, however, when Harry Potter publisher Bloomsbury reported a 28% growth in consumer sales in the four months ending in June 2020. Previously, Bloomsbury had predicted that its print revenues could fall up to 75% due to coronavirus, but print sales actually rose by 9%.

Read more …

Yeah, the Smithsonian appears to be woker than the woke.

Smithsonian: ‘Rationality’ & ‘Hard Work’ Are Racist (RC)

In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and subsequent protests over police brutality, interest in “anti-racist” education has exploded among educators and advocates. The case that educators should seek to combat racism seems self-evident. What’s less clear is how the admirable cause of “anti-racism” is fueling, in some corners, the inclination to denounce universal virtues and useful skills as the product of “white culture.” Witness last week’s contretemps at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum, which bills itself as “the only national museum devoted exclusively” to educating the public on these topics, recently debuted the online guide “Talking about Race.”

The guide included a chart cataloguing the “aspects and assumptions” of “white culture” that “have been normalized over time and are now considered standard practices in the United States.” What are these sinister aspects of “white culture,” you ask? Well, according to the Smithsonian, values like “hard work,” “self-reliance,” “be[ing] polite,” and timeliness are all a product of the “white dominant culture.” Indeed, it turns out that conventional grammar, Christianity, the notion that “intent counts” in courts of law, and the scientific method and its emphasis on “objective, rational linear thinking” are all proprietary to “white culture.”

There are several things that might be said about all this. But the place to start may be by observing just how insidious it is to teach black children to reject intellectual and personal traits that promote personal and civic success — in the U.S. or anywhere else. After all, in what land are students well-served when they’re encouraged not to work hard, make decisions, think rationally, or be polite and on time? Among the extraordinarily accomplished people honored by the museum, those such as Frederick Douglass; Harriet Tubman; Jackie Robinson; Martin Luther King, Jr.; Toni Morrison; John Lewis; Oprah Winfrey; Michael Jordan; Condoleezza Rice; and Barack Obama might be surprised to learn that hard work and rational thinking are somehow alien to black culture.

Read more …

104 days till the election?!

Judicial Watch Sues DOJ/FBI/ODNI for Records of Obama Oval Office Meeting (JW)

Judicial Watch announced today it filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) for all records related to the January 5, 2017, meeting at the Obama Oval Office during which the Steele Dossier and the investigation of General Flynn were discussed (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of Justice and ODNI (No. 1:20-cv-01947)). The Oval Office meeting reportedly included President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, national security adviser Susan Rice, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and other Obama administration political and law enforcement officials.

At least two records describing the meeting – a January 20, 2017, memo Rice sent to herself and a set of notes taken by FBI counterespionage chief Peter Strzok – have been declassified and made public. Sally Yates also detailed the meeting to Robert Mueller’s investigation. Judicial Watch filed the lawsuit after the DOJ, FBI, and ODNI failed to respond to identical May 20, 2020, FOIA requests for: “All records regarding the January 5, 2017, meeting at the White House between former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director James Comey, President Obama, and others. This request includes all records created in preparation for, during, and/or pursuant to the meeting, as well as any and all related records of communication between any official or representative of the Department of Justice and any other individual.”

“Obama’s infamous January 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting is a key moment in the corrupt effort to smear and spy on President Trump and target General Flynn with a malicious prosecution,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said. “Rather than delay and stonewall, it is urgent the FBI, DOJ, ODNI release all records about this malicious, seditious conspiracy.”

Read more …

Greta, go to school, don’t fall for being a marketing ploy.

Greta Thunberg Gets €1 Million ‘Humanity Prize’ From Oil Tycoon Foundation (RT)

Climate activist Greta Thunberg has been awarded the first Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity, in the form of €1 million. Problem is, Gulbenkian was a massive oil industrialist who paved the way for Western states to exploit Iraqi oil. Grand Jury Chair Jorge Sampaio said that “Thunberg has been able to mobilize younger generations for the cause of climate change” and is “one of the most remarkable figures of our days.” He also added that the decision was made by consensus. The Swedish activist, however, declined the opportunity to become a millionaire. Thunberg released an Instagram monologue, accompanied by some ambient spiritual music, in which she said she was “extremely honored” to receive the prize, but pledged to donate the money to various climate causes “as quickly as possible.”

It seems, though, that Thunberg is going to be spending fossil-fuel money to advance her cause. The foundation and the Humanity Prize are named after Calouste Gulbenkian, a British-Armenian oil tycoon who died in 1955. One of the wealthiest people of his era, he was a major shareholder in Royal Dutch Shell, developed many oil companies of his own and is historically credited with being the first person to exploit oil in Iraq, which made the petroleum riches of the Middle East ripe for the taking by the West. “By awarding this Prize, the Foundation highlights its commitment to urgent climate action,” the president of the Gulbenkian Foundation, Isabel Mota, commented.

The irony of an oil magnate of historic proportions financing an anti-oil climate activist, though indirectly, was not lost on the Internet. Both Thunberg’s supporters and detractors caught the humor in her now being sponsored by the money “of the polluters against whom she protests.” The prize money will supposedly be split between projects supporting people enduring the worst of the current “climate catastrophe.” For now, Thunberg mentioned she will donate to causes in countries of the Global South, specifically Brazil’s SOS Amazonia campaign to tackle Covid-19 in the Amazon, and the Stop Ecocide Foundation; each will receive €100,000.

Read more …

 

 

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Jul 052020
 
 July 5, 2020  Posted by at 10:19 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  14 Responses »


Nickolay Lamm Jefferson Memorial under 25 feet of water

 

On America’s Birthday, Celebrating The Corporate-Sponsored Revolution (Taibbi)
Protesters Pull Down Columbus Statue In Baltimore, Dump In Harbor (ZH)
COVID19 Close To Losing Epidemic Status In The US – CDC (JTN)
Hydroxychloroquine Knocked Again: WHO Shuts Down Trials (F.)
Early Treatment with Zinc, Low Dose HCQ and Azithromycin (Zelenko et al)
Financial Muscle Of Big Pharma Distorting Science During The Pandemic (RT)
More Than 200 Scientists Dispute WHO Theory On COVID19 Transmission (BT)
BP and Shell Write-Off Billions in Assets (ICN)
Flynn’s Prosecution: The More We Learn, The Worse It Seems (Hill)
False Allegations Of Affair With Flynn Used As Pretext For FBI Probe (JTN)
Sex Will Be Removed From Dutch ID-Cards (BT)

 

 

And there goes Columbus. Who and what’s next? Does anyone give any thought anymore to the fact that when all is said and done, Americans will still have to live in their country, together?

The Conservative half of the nation increasingly gets the picture, rightly or wrongly, through their media or their own thoughts, that the other half doesn’t just want to change their country, they want to take it away from them.

Sit down and talk before it’s too late.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matt Taibbi doesn’t hit every single button here, but this is certainly a valiant effort.

On America’s Birthday, Celebrating The Corporate-Sponsored Revolution (Taibbi)

It’s the Fourth of July, and revolution is in the air. Only in America would it look like this: an elite-sponsored Maoist revolt, couched as a Black liberation movement whose canonical texts are a corporate consultant’s white guilt self-help manual, and a New York Times series rewriting history to explain an election they called wrong. Much of America has watched in quizzical silence in recent weeks as crowds declared war on an increasingly incoherent succession of historical symbols.

Maybe you nodded as Confederate general Albert Pike was toppled or even when Christopher Columbus was beheaded, but it got a little weird when George Washington was emblazoned with “Fuck Cops” and set on fire, or when they went after Ulysses S. Grant, abolitionist Colonel Hans Christian Heg, “Forward,” (a seven-foot-tall female figure meant to symbolize progress), the Portland, Oregon “Elk statue,” or my personal favorite, the former slave Miguel de Cervantes, whose cheerful creations Don Quixote and Sancho Panza were apparently mistaken for reals and had their eyes lashed red in San Francisco.

Was a What the Fuck? too much to ask? It was! In the space of a few weeks the level of discourse in the news media dropped so low, the fear of being shamed as a deviationist so high, that most of the weirder incidents went uncovered. Leading press organs engaged in real-time Soviet-style airbrushing. Here’s how the Washington Post described a movement that targeted Spanish missionary Junipero Serra, Abraham Lincoln (a “single-handed symbol of white supremacy,” according to UW-Madison students), an apple cider press sculpture, abolitionist Mathias Baldwin, and the first all-Black volunteer regiment in the Civil War, among others: “Across the country, protesters have toppled statues of figures from America’s sordid past — including Confederate generals — as part of demonstrations against racism and police violence.”

The New York Times, once the dictionary definition of “unprovocative,” suddenly reads like Pol Pot’s Sayings of Angkar. Heading into the Fourth of July weekend, the morning read for upscale white Manhattanites was denouncing Mount Rushmore, urging Black America to arm itself, and re-positioning America alongside more deserving historical parallels in a feature about caste systems: “Throughout human history, three caste systems have stood out. The lingering, millenniums-long caste system of India. The tragically accelerated, chilling and officially vanquished caste system of Nazi Germany. And the shape-shifting, unspoken, race-based caste pyramid in the United States.”

It’s tragic that this even needs saying, but the sudden reinvention in the press of modern America as a Nazi apartheid state is as phony as the thousands of patriotic campaigns that occupied the news media previously. We’re witnessing an obscene malfunction of the elite messaging system. The people who run this country have run out of workable myths with which to distract the public, and in a moment of extreme crisis have chosen to stoke civil war and defame the rest of us – black and white – rather than admit to a generation of corruption, betrayal, and mismanagement.

Read more …

One down, two to go. When that’s done, rename DC. At least be consistent.

Protesters Pull Down Columbus Statue In Baltimore, Dump In Harbor (ZH)

A group of protesters in Baltimore spent their 4th of July using ropes to pull down a statue of Christopher Columbus in the city’s Little Italy neighborhood – tossing it into the Inner Harbor. The statue, dedicated in 1984, is the latest monument to be destroyed in what President Trump dubbed the “left-wing cultural revolution” by “angry mobs.” According to the Baltimore Sun, the Columbus statue has been the site of a wreath-laying ceremony right before the annual Columbus Day parade, which, in 2019 was replaced with the Italian Heritage Festival.


“Republican state delegates and Italian-American activists held a press conference at the statue last month to ask Gov. Larry Hogan and Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young to preserve and protect the memorials, following activists’ comments about pulling down the monuments themselves and the introduction of a City Council bill this week to rename one of them in honor of victims of police violence. The downed statue is one of three monuments to Columbus in Baltimore.“ -Baltimore Sun

Read more …

Certain to be misunderstood.

COVID19 Close To Losing Epidemic Status In The US – CDC (JTN)

Coronavirus deaths in the country have nearly reached a level where the virus will cease to qualify as an epidemic under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rules, the federal agency reported on Friday. The CDC qualifies a disease outbreak as an “epidemic” if the number of deaths attributable to the disease exceeds a certain percentage of total deaths per week. That threshold for pneumonia, influenza and COVID-19 fluctuates slightly depending on the time of year, ranging from around 7% at the height of flu season to around 5% during less virulent months. CDC data indicate that deaths from those ailments began skyrocketing in the country around the second week of March, hitting a peak around early May and then plummeting quickly after that.


The latest data show that the percentage of deaths in the country attributable to those factors had as of the last week in June reached its lowest point since the end of last year, becoming “equal to the [current] epidemic threshold of 5.9%,” the CDC said. The agency notes that the official tally of deaths “will likely change as more death certificates are processed, particularly for recent weeks.” Yet the number of deaths attributable to COVID-19, pneumonia and influenza have been declining for 10 straight weeks, the agency said on its website, suggesting COVID-19 may cease to qualify as an epidemic in the next few weeks. The welcome news comes as fear over a “second wave” of the virus has gripped the U.S., with some states experiencing fresh surges of COVID-19 along with increased hospitalizations.

Read more …

It is almost funny. One day after a study is published that says HCQ does work, the WHO strikes back again.

Hydroxychloroquine Knocked Again: WHO Shuts Down Trials (F.)

The World Health Organization announced Saturday it would suspend trials for the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and HIV treatment lopinavir/ritonavir for Covid-19 patients, casting further doubt on the drugs as potential coronavirus treatments. The two drugs “produced little or no reduction” in mortality rates for Covid-19 patients, the WHO’s statement read, and that the trial’s international steering committee recommended it discontinue the trials for the drugs. The call only applies to this specific trial and will not affect any other studies of how the treatments can be used as a pre- or post-exposure drug or by patients not in hospital, the WHO wrote.


According to Reuters, the WHO is also leading a trial into whether remdesivir, Gilead’s antiviral treatment, can be used for Covid-19 infections. Last month, the FDA announced it was withdrawing an emergency use authorization it issued in March for chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as Covid-19 treatments because the potential side effects—namely heart problems—outweighed possible benefits, although according to the FDA website the organization is still investigating risks of the two drugs.

Read more …

The Zelenko research is finally available.

Early Treatment with Zinc, Low Dose HCQ and Azithromycin (Zelenko et al)

Objective: To describe outcomes of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the outpatient setting after early treatment with zinc, low dose hydroxychloroquine, and azithromycin (the triple therapy) dependent on risk stratification. Design: Retrospective case series study. Setting: General practice. Participants: 141 COVID-19 patients with laboratory confirmed severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections in the year 2020. Main Outcome Measures: Risk-stratified treatment decision, rate of hospitalization and all-cause death. Results: Of 335 positively PCR-tested COVID-19 patients, 127 were treated with the triple therapy. 104 of 127 met the defined risk stratification criteria and were included in the analysis.


In addition, 37 treated and eligible patients who were confirmed by IgG tests were included in the treatment group (total N=141). 208 of the 335 patients did not meet the risk stratification criteria and were not treated. After 4 days (median, IQR 3-6, available for N=66/141) of onset of symptoms, 141 patients (median age 58 years, IQR 40-60; 73% male) got a prescription for the triple therapy for 5 days. Independent public reference data from 377 confirmed COVID-19 patients of the same community were used as untreated control. 4 of 141 treated patients (2.8%) were hospitalized, which was significantly less (p<0.001) compared with 58 of 377 untreated patients (15.4%) (odds ratio 0.16, 95% CI 0.06-0.5).

Read more …

“The New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet are the two most influential, most highly resourced medical journals in the world. If they no longer have the ability to detect what is essentially fraudulent research, then… Then what?”

Financial Muscle Of Big Pharma Distorting Science During The Pandemic (RT)

This idea was further reinforced by the knowledge that it has some effects on reducing the so-called ‘cytokine storm’ that is considered deadly with Covid-19. It’s prescribed in rheumatoid arthritis to reduce the immune attack on joints. The other reason for recommending hydroxychloroquine is that it’s extremely safe. It is, for example, the most widely prescribed drug in India. Billions upon billions of doses have been prescribed. It is available over the counter in most countries. So, I felt pretty comfortable in recommending that it could be tried. At worst, no harm would be done. Then hydroxychloroquine became the center of a worldwide storm. On one side, wearing the white hats, were the researchers who’d used it early on, where it seemed to show some significant benefits.

For example, Professor Didier Raoult, of the Institut Hospitalo-universitaire Méditerranée Infection, in France: “A renowned research professor in France has reported successful results from a new treatment for Covid-19, with early tests suggesting it can stop the virus from being contagious in just six days.” Then came this research from a Moroccan scientist at the University of Lille: “Jaouad Zemmouri … believes that 78 percent of Europe’s Covid-19 deaths could have been prevented if Europe had used hydroxychloroquine… Morocco, with a population of 36 million [roughly one tenth that of the US], has only 10,079 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and only 214 deaths. “Professor Zemmouri believes that Morocco’s use of hydroxychloroquine has resulted in an 82.5 percent recovery rate from Covid-19 and only a 2.1 percent fatality rate, in those admitted to hospital.”

Just prior to this, on May 22, a study was published in The Lancet, stating that hydroxychloroquine actually increased deaths. It then turned out that the data used could not be verified and was most likely made up. The authors had major conflicts of interest with pharmaceutical companies making anti-viral drugs. In early June, the entire article was retracted by Horton. Then a UK study came out suggesting that hydroxychloroquine did not work at all. Discussing the results, Professor Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor who is co-leading the Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 Therapy (RECOVERY) trial, stated: “This is not a treatment for Covid-19. It doesn’t work. This result should change medical practice worldwide. We can now stop using a drug that is useless.”

The study has since been heavily criticized by other researchers, who state that the dose of hydroxychloroquine used was potentially toxic. It was also given far too late to have any positive effect. Many of the patients were already on ventilators. This week, I was sent a pre-proof copy of an article about a study that will be published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases. Its author has found that hydroxychloroquine “significantly” decreased the death rate of patients involved in the analysis. The study analyzed 2,541 patients hospitalized in six hospitals between March 10 and May 2 2020, and found 13 percent of those treated with hydroxychloroquine died and 26 percent of those who did not receive the drug died.

Read more …

Smaller droplets.

More Than 200 Scientists Dispute WHO Theory On COVID19 Transmission (BT)

More than 230 scientists from 32 different countries have signed an open letter to the World Health Organisation (WHO) disputing the official view on how the coronavirus Covid-19 can be spread by aerosol. The official view of Covid-19 transmission supports two methods: droplets of saliva from an infected person produced during coughing or sneezing, which are then inhaled by someone else in the vicinity; and particles picked up from surfaces contaminated by such droplets, and then introduced to eyes, nose or mouth by someone else. However the open letter, due to be published next week in a scientific journal, argues that there is a third method.

In normal circumstances people produce aerosol droplets when singing or even speaking, which are much smaller than those produced in coughing and sneezing, and which because of their size, hang longer in the air and are also more likely to be carried on currents of air. The case for aerosol transmission came to light when 53 members of a 61-member choir in the US became infected in March despite observing sanitary measures. Two of those infected died. Scientists suggested that group singing was the source of the infection: a large group of people in a confined space breathing more or less in time with each other, and breathing in and out more forcefully than usual while singing.

That case was supported when news emerged of a restaurant in the Chinese city of Guangzhou, and an outbreak that took place there that affected ten people from three families dining at separate tables. One person from one of the families had recently returned from Wuhan, where the pandemic started, but was without symptoms.

Read more …

And will announce again they go green.

BP and Shell Write-Off Billions in Assets (ICN)

Two of the world’s largest energy companies have sent their strongest signals yet that the coronavirus pandemic may accelerate a global transition away from oil, and that billions of dollars invested in fossil fuel assets could go to waste. This week, Royal Dutch Shell said it would slash the value of its oil and gas assets by up to $22 billion amid a crash in oil prices. The announcement came two weeks after a similar declaration by BP, saying it would reduce the value of its assets by up to $17.5 billion. Both companies said the accounting moves were a response not only to the coronavirus-driven recession, but also to global efforts to tackle climate change. Some analysts say the global oil and gas industry is undergoing a fundamental transformation and is finally being forced to reckon with a future of dwindling demand for its products.


“I think we may look back on this as the turning point, the moment the industry finally started to say that real assets with real dollar figures associated with them are likely to be ‘stranded'”—or left undeveloped—”in a decarbonizing world,” said Andrew Logan, senior director of oil and gas at Ceres, a sustainable business advocacy group that has represented major investors in their engagement with oil companies. “This is a huge turnaround from the industry’s previous stance, which had been that no existing assets were likely to be stranded, that there may be risks in the future, but not in the here and now. That acknowledgment, that the risk is real and it’s here in the present, is a really big deal.”

Read more …

Ain’t that the truth.

Flynn’s Prosecution: The More We Learn, The Worse It Seems (Hill)

Flynn’s attorney, Sidney Powell, petitioned the court to order Sullivan to dismiss the appeals court case. Since both the prosecution and defense agree that the case should be dismissed, it had been in judicial limbo while the judge was deciding if he wanted to dismiss it or move forward with sentencing. This is the second federal court in less than a year to rebuke the FBI, with Judge Neomi Rao’s opinion noting the agency’s handling of cases related to the failed Russia collusion narrative. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court also did so in December.

The second, and perhaps more significant, news was the revelation that additional evidence in the FBI’s possession was not previously turned over to Flynn or his attorneys. In a landmark case that is rapidly becoming known to many Americans, the Supreme Court held in Brady v. Maryland in 1963 that prosecutors must disclose the existence of exculpatory evidence to a defendant, regardless of how they obtained it or if it relates to their theory of prosecution. And therein lies a two-part problem with the recent disclosure of a handwritten note by fired deputy assistant FBI director Peter Strzok.

The first problem is that such nondisclosure would even occur — especially in the courtroom of Judge Sullivan, who was burned by prosecutors’ violations of the Brady rule, including the 2008 prosecution of former Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Sullivan starts his trials with a strict admonition about Brady and stresses the continuing obligation on the part of the government. The second concern is that Strzok’s notes appear to document that then-President Obama and then-Vice President Joe Biden were driving a criminal investigation of a senior official of an incoming administration from the Oval Office.

Read more …

Halper’s role is ugly on multiple fronts.

False Allegations Of Affair With Flynn Used As Pretext For FBI Probe (JTN)

Svetlana Lokhova’s life flipped upside down when she became ensnared in what she describes as a completely false narrative that she had recruited Michael Flynn to work with the Russian government. Lokhova, an immigrant from Russia to Britain who worked as an academic at the world-renowned Cambridge University, found herself facing allegations that she had been involved in an affair with Flynn. A new mother at the time, Lokhova described herself as “absolutely gobsmacked” by the allegations. She explained during an interview on the “John Solomon Reports” podcast that she met Flynn once in 2014 when he visited Cambridge while he was serving as the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

She was seated across the table and one seat down from Flynn at a 2014 dinner that was held after Flynn had delivered a presentation, she said. During the dinner, Lokhova spoke about a postcard written by a young Joseph Stalin in 1912 that she had discovered in the Soviet archives. Flynn viewed the document on her iPad and requested that Lokhova email him a copy. She obliged, emailing it to Flynn and copying Flynn’s assistant. When Flynn left the event, Lokhova said, she remained and spoke with others about “how successful the dinner was.” During the podcast, Lokhova recalled an incident when an American man at Cambridge named Stefan Halper fell asleep and snored during a presentation that she gave.

But despite his apparent lack of interest in her, Halper in 2016 wanted to have dinner with her. Halper requested “through my professor to have a private dinner with me at my professor’s house,” Lokhova said. She declined to attend, and said that this occurred shortly after Flynn was announced as a Trump campaign adviser. Lokhova said that an FBI memo revealed that Halper told the FBI that he witnessed Lokhova departing the Cambridge dinner in a cab with Flynn and boarding a train along with him. She said Halper also claimed she was affiliated with Russian intelligence. Lokhova said all of those allegations are false and that Halper did not even attend the dinner. “But based on this completely false statement that I somehow seduced General Flynn, they start investigating General Flynn for espionage,” she said.

Read more …

Fine by me, fine by me. But a Dutch guy had me laugh when he wrote: “I don’t know about yours, but my ID card only has a photo of my head on it”.

Sex Will Be Removed From Dutch ID-Cards (BT)

Identity cards in the Netherlands will no longer state whether the holder is male or female, from 2024 or 2025. With this decision, the government wants to meet people who, for example, do not feel entirely male or female. The sex indication will not be removed until about four years from now, as the production of identity cards would be reviewed then anyway, making the costs and consequences of the change “limited,” according to Dutch Minister for Emancipation Ingrid van Engelshoven. However, the law and the instructions for the police still have to be amended. Interest groups COC Nederland (lesbians, gay men, bisexual, transgender and intersexual people), NNID (sex diversity) and TNN (transgender people) have been arguing for this for some time.


They are happy with the plans and call it “great news for people who have problems with that indication of sex on their identity documents day in, day out,” reports Het Laatste Nieuws. According to the organisations, the removal offers a solution to people who keep getting unnecessary and indiscreet questions at counters, on the train or at the border. For the time being, international passports will retain a sex indication. The Cabinet wants to wait and see if other countries want to get rid of gender registration, reports NOS. Germany, for example, has had an identity card without the designation ‘man’ or ‘woman’ for some time now, and an increasing number of countries are offering the same possibility.

Read more …

 

 

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May 162020
 


John French Sloan Backyards, Greenwich Village 1926

 

China Unauthorised Labs Were Told To Destroy Early Coronavirus Samples (SCMP)
French Doctors Think They May Have Treated COVID19 Patients Last Fall (Hill)
How ‘Overreaction’ Made Vietnam A Virus Success (BBC)
China Ready To Put Apple, Other US Companies In ‘Unreliable Entity List’
Dems’ Health Insurer Bailout Follows Bundled Checks from Lobbyists (RS)
Gilead To End Coronavirus Drug Trials, Adding To Access Worry (R.)
FDA Halts Bill Gates Coronavirus Testing Program (Hill)
Trump Names Big Pharma Exec Linked To Bill Gates To Head Vaccine Efforts (LAV)
Ohio Stops Denying Workers Unemployment After Hacker Targets Its Website (V.)
Coronavirus Could Deliver $8.8 Trillion Hit To Global Economy – ADB (Ind.)
Obamagate Is Not a Conspiracy Theory (NR)

 

 

• US in past 24 hours: 26,337 new cases, 1,680 new deaths. Total deaths 88,507.

• Russia dives below 10K new cases for the 2nd time in 14 days with 9,200. China reports 8.

 

 

• Sweden on May 15 had 625 new cases and 117 new deaths. Total 29,207 cases, 3,646 deaths.
• Denmark had zero new deaths and a total of 537.
• Deaths per million: Australia 3.92. Sweden: 346.5
• Finns and Danes are apprehensive about opening the border to Sweden because of Swedish coronavirus protocols

 

 

 

Note: total daily new cases are rising towards 100,000, while deaths are getting lower

Cases 4,645,386 (+ 99,316 from yesterday’s 4,546,070)

Deaths 308,980 (+ 5,117 from yesterday’s 303,863)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

You would think you’d want to preserve those at all cost, lest you lose a view of the virus’s history.

China Unauthorised Labs Were Told To Destroy Early Coronavirus Samples (SCMP)

China on Friday confirmed it had ordered unauthorised laboratories to destroy samples of the new coronavirus in the early stage of the outbreak, but said it was done for biosafety reasons. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly said that Beijing declined to provide virus samples taken from patients when the contagion began in China late last year, and that Chinese authorities had destroyed early samples. Liu Dengfeng, an official with the National Health Commission’s science and education department, said this was done at unauthorised labs to “prevent the risk to laboratory biological safety and prevent secondary disasters caused by unidentified pathogens”. “The remarks made by some US officials were taken out of context and intended to confuse,” he said at a briefing in Beijing.

When the pneumonia-like illness was first reported in Wuhan, “national-level professional institutes” were working to identify the pathogen that was causing it, Liu said. “Based on comprehensive research and expert opinion, we decided to temporarily manage the pathogen causing the pneumonia as Class II – highly pathogenic – and imposed biosafety requirements on sample collection, transport and experimental activities, as well as destroying the samples,” he said. Liu added that this was in line with China’s standard practice for handling highly pathogenic samples, which should not be done by labs that do not meet the requirements.

[..] According to a provincial health commission notice issued in February, those handling virus samples were ordered not to provide them to any institutions or labs without approval. Unauthorised labs that obtained samples in the early stage of the outbreak had to destroy them or send them to a municipal centre for disease control and prevention for storage. Chinese magazine Caixin reported in February that some hospitals had sent samples to private gene sequencing companies to identify the mystery virus early in the outbreak. Some of those results came back as early as December 27 and were identified as being from the same coronavirus family as Sars, the report said. One company had been told to destroy all virus samples, according to the report.

[..] The health commission also rejected claims by US officials that China denied a request by the WHO to visit the high-security Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is at the centre of conspiracy theories that the virus was engineered or escaped from the lab. Li Mingzhu, a senior official with the health commission’s international cooperation department, said the WHO did not make any request to visit the lab during two trips to Wuhan, in January and February. “The WHO has never made a request to visit a certain laboratory, so the statement that the WHO was denied a visit to the Wuhan laboratory is untrue,” Li said.

Read more …

One reason why you would want to preserve samples.

French Doctors Think They May Have Treated COVID19 Patients Last Fall (Hill)

In what would mark a massive shift in the timeline of coronavirus spread, French researchers believe there is evidence coronavirus may have been in Europe as early as November 2019. X-rays obtained exclusively by NBC News show two patients with symptoms in their lungs consistent with the novel coronavirus dated Nov. 16 and Nov. 18, months before COVID-19 was believed to be spreading in the country. Researchers from Colmar, France, announced the X-rays last week and are working to confirm whether the patients had coronavirus. France had originally believed its first case to have been Jan. 24.


The study comes in conjunction with a study by other French scientists who discovered last week that a coronavirus patient had been treated in the country in December. The doctors from the Groupe Hospitalier Paris Seine in Saint-Denis said a sample taken from a 42-year-old fishmonger admitted to the emergency room on Dec. 27 had tested positive for the coronavirus. Similarly, the U.S. recently discovered coronavirus had spread among citizens earlier than previously expected when a medical examiner’s report reclassified a California woman’s death in February as being due to COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — three weeks prior to what was originally believed to be the first U.S. coronavirus death.

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All winning countries have been told at some stage that they were overreacting.

How ‘Overreaction’ Made Vietnam A Virus Success (BBC)

Despite a long border with China and a population of 97 million people, Vietnam has recorded only just over 300 cases of Covid-19 on its soil and not a single death. Nearly a month has passed since its last community transmission and the country is already starting to open up. Experts say that unlike other countries now seeing infections and deaths on a huge scale, Vietnam saw a small window to act early on and used it fully. But though cost-effective, its intrusive and labour intensive approach has its drawbacks and experts say it may be too late for most other countries to learn from its success. “When you’re dealing with these kinds of unknown novel potentially dangerous pathogens, it’s better to overreact,” says Dr Todd Pollack of Harvard’s Partnership for Health Advancement in Vietnam in Hanoi.

Recognising that its medical system would soon become overwhelmed by even mild spread of the virus, Vietnam instead chose prevention early, and on a massive scale. By early January, before it had any confirmed cases, Vietnam’s government was initiating “drastic action” to prepare for this mysterious new pneumonia which had at that point killed two people in Wuhan. When the first virus case was confirmed on 23 January – a man who had travelled from Wuhan to visit his son in Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam’s emergency plan was in action. “It very, very quickly acted in ways which seemed to be quite extreme at the time but were subsequently shown to be rather sensible,” says Prof Guy Thwaites, director of Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) in Ho Chi Minh City, which works with the government on its infectious disease programmes.

Vietnam enacted measures other countries would take months to move on, bringing in travel restrictions, closely monitoring and eventually closing the border with China and increasing health checks at borders and other vulnerable places. Schools were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday at the end of January and remained closed until mid-May. A vast and labour intensive contact tracing operation got under way. “This is a country that has dealt with a lot of outbreaks in the past,” says Prof Thwaites, from Sars in 2003 to avian influenza in 2010 and large outbreaks of measles and dengue.

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The Global Times piece itself is too over the top.

China Ready To Put Apple, Other US Companies In ‘Unreliable Entity List’

China is ready to put U.S. companies in an “unreliable entity list,” as part of countermeasures against Washington’s move to block shipments of semiconductors to Huawei Technologies, the Global Times reported on Friday. The measures include launching investigations and imposing restrictions on U.S. companies such as Apple Inc, Cisco Systems Inc, Qualcomm Inc as well as suspending purchase of Boeing Co airplanes, the report said here citing a source. The Global Times is published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party. While the Global Times is not an official mouthpiece of the party, its views are believed to reflect those of its leaders. Earlier in the day, the U.S. Commerce Department said it was amending an export rule to “strategically target Huawei’s acquisition of semiconductors that are the direct product of certain U.S. software and technology.”

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But no M4A.

Dems’ Health Insurer Bailout Follows Bundled Checks from Lobbyists (RS)

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, progressives have argued that a single-payer health care system would prevent people who lose their jobs from going without health care and further exacerbating the public health crisis. “Medicare for All means never losing your health insurance if you lose your job,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted on March 26, the day the Labor Department announced that a record 3.3 million people had filed for unemployment insurance. (The unemployment figure has since risen to 17 million, and it is expected to keep increasing.) But the Democratic leadership in Congress, none of whom are among the 118 cosponsors of the Medicare for All Act, have embraced a different approach.

The leaders are planning to include a measure in the next coronavirus package to expand subsidies for the COBRA health insurance program, allowing people who lose their jobs to keep the same insurance plan that their employer had made available to them. Under the plan, which was viewed by Vox, the federal government would pay the full cost of the premiums to private health insurance companies to keep laid-off people on their plans. The COBRA expansion would not provide coverage to people who become unemployed but were not receiving coverage through their employers. It would also not cover people’s deductibles.

“The Democrats could push to simply expand Medicaid, but instead they are pushing new subsidies for private health insurance companies,” David Sirota, a journalist and former Sanders campaign staffer wrote on Twitter. [..] The Democrats’ proposal mirrors a recommendation put forward recently by the health insurance industry. Less than a week before the Democrats floated their plan, the presidents and CEOs of Blue Cross Blue Shield and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the health insurance industry’s top lobbying group, sent a list of policy proposals to Congress including a recommendation that it provide full federal subsidization of COBRA premiums.

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Yeah, let’s worry about NOT having access to a drug that does NOT work.

Gilead To End Coronavirus Drug Trials, Adding To Access Worry (R.)

Gilead Sciences Inc’s two clinical studies of its potential coronavirus treatment remdesivir will wind down by the end of May, closing off a path of patient access to the antiviral medication, according to U.S. researchers involved in the studies. The drug was given emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on May 1, but hospitals are concerned about access. “We would like to see equitable and transparent distribution of this very precious resource,” Dr. Helen Boucher, chief of infectious diseases at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, told Reuters. Gilead’s studies – one in patients with severe COVID-19 and the other in moderate disease – have enrolled around 8,000 subjects, according to FDA statistics.

The trials are “open label” meaning they do not compare the treatment to a placebo and participants know they are getting the drug. Interest in Gilead’s drug has been high given some promising early data and the lack of approved treatments or preventive vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has infected over 4 million people and killed more than 305,000 worldwide. Preliminary results from a trial conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health showed that remdesivir cut hospital stays by 31% compared to a placebo. The NIH is now studying remdesivir alone compared to remdesivir in combination with Olumiant, an anti-inflammatory drug approved for rheumatoid arthritis and sold by Eli Lilly and Co.

Remdesivir is still available on a compassionate use basis for pregnant women or children under the age of 18, but most COVID-19 patients will soon have access only under the emergency use authorization. “We participate in the Gilead clinical trials here at Tufts,” Dr. Boucher said. “We were notified that they will wind down … no later than the end of May.” Gilead told Tufts it is transitioning to product distribution under the emergency use authorization.

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The tests used at the White House don’t appear very accurate, either. Can we shift some of the billions spent on elusive vaccines to better testing?

FDA Halts Bill Gates Coronavirus Testing Program (Hill)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halted a coronavirus testing program promoted by billionaire Bill Gates and Seattle health officials pending reviews. The program sought to send test kits to the homes of people both healthy and sick to try to bring the country to the level of testing officials say is necessary before states can begin safely reopening. The program, which had already gone through thousands of tests, found dozens of cases that had been previously undiagnosed. The Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN) said on its website that the FDA had asked it to pause testing while it receives additional authorizations, but maintained its procedures are safe.

“[T]he Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recently clarified its guidance for home-based, self-collected samples to test for COVID-19. We have been notified that a separate federal emergency use authorization (EUA) is required to return results for self-collected tests,” the program said. “The FDA has not raised any concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of SCAN’s test, but we have been asked to pause testing until we receive that additional authorization.” The pause is emblematic of the fractured national response to the coronavirus, with federal officials proposing guidelines but leaving much of the implementation and administering of tests to states and localities.

Concerns have recently arisen over the reliability of coronavirus antibody tests, which can gauge if someone previously had the illness. However, the SCAN tests do not test for antibodies, and the program said it is working to get back up and running. “We are actively working to address their questions and resume testing as soon as possible,” the program said. Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft who has dedicated much of his personal fortune to global health issues, said the program could be an effective tool in guiding public health responses. “Not only will it help improve our understanding of the outbreak in Seattle, it will also provide valuable information about the virus for other communities around the world,” Gates wrote in a blog post this week.

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This just about has it all: Bill Gates, forced vaccinations, nanochip implants. Only thing missing is a secret plan to depopulate the planet,

Trump Names Big Pharma Exec Linked To Bill Gates To Head Vaccine Efforts (LAV)

On Friday, Donald Trump announced his appointment of Moncef Slaoui, a former executive with vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline, to lead “Operation Warp Speed”, Trump’s plan to fast track the development of vaccines for COVID-19. Slaoui will serve in a volunteer position, assisted by Army Gen. Gustave Perna, the commander of United States Army Materiel Command. According to the Trump administration, Operation Warp Speed program is focusing on four vaccines, with the hopes of testing and producing 100 million doses by October 2020, 200 million by December, and 300 million doses by January. At Friday’s press conference, Slaoui said he believes the goal of vaccines by January 2021 is a “credible goal”.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was more adamant, stating that, “winning matters and we will deliver, by the end of this year, a vaccine”. Operation Warp Speed and the calls for public-private partnerships mimic the National Institutes of Health’s recent call for bringing together pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. The NIH plan, Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership, emphasizes “a collaborative framework for prioritizing vaccine and drug candidates, streamlining clinical trials, coordinating regulatory processes and/or leveraging assets among all partners to rapidly respond to the COVID-19 and future pandemics.”

The appointment of Slaoui follows previous statements regarding Trump’s desire to have vaccines available to Americans by the fall. “I think we’re going to have a vaccine by the end of the year, and I think distribution will take place almost simultaneously because we’ve geared up the military,” Trump said Thursday afternoon. Trump also told the Fox Business Network that because of the “massive job to give this vaccine” the military is now being mobilized. “We’re going to be able to give it to a lot of people very, very rapidly,” Trump concluded.

At Friday’s press conference Trump said his team has been working 24 hours a day to develop treatments for COVID-19. Despite the heavy focus on vaccines, Trump did state that his administration is working on other treatments, including “therapeutics”. “It’s not solely vaccine based, other things have never had a vaccine and they go away. I don’t people to think this is all dependent on a vaccine, but it would be tremendous,” Trump stated.

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Big Tech Rules.

Ohio Stops Denying Workers Unemployment After Hacker Targets Its Website (V.)

The state of Ohio won’t deny unemployment benefits to people who refuse to work during the COVID-19 pandemic after people targeted the website it was using to track these workers, according to officials at the state’s Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). The state previously set up a “fraud” website encouraging employers to report those who refused to go back on the job, angering workers and labor rights advocates. State officials say they are now reconsidering the policy after Motherboard reported that a hacker created a script to flood the “COVID-19 Fraud” website with junk data, with the goal of making it impossible to process these claims.


“No benefits are being denied right now as a result of a person’s decision not to return to work while we continue to evaluate the policy,” ODJFS Director Kimberly Hall told Cleveland.com. “Because Ohio is still examining its policies in this area, no adjudications concerning a refusal to return to work have been initiated,” Bret Crow, a spokesperson for the department, told Motherboard in an email. The anonymous hacker previously told Motherboard they created the script as a form of direct action in support of working people. Ohio is among several states that have prematurely reopened against the advice of health experts, forcing many workers to return to their jobs and put themselves at risk of contracting the deadly virus.

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Or 88? Your guess is as good as theirs.

Coronavirus Could Deliver $8.8 Trillion Hit To Global Economy – ADB (Ind.)

Coronavirus could cut global economic output by as much as $8.8 trillion, with the outlook having worsened significantly in the past month, the Asian Development Bank has said. The bank warned on Friday that Covid-19 would result in $5.8 trillion to $8.8 trillion of lost gross domestic product – or 6.4 per cent to 9.7 per cent of the world’s output. That’s more than twice as bad as the ADB forecast in April. However, government measures to mitigate the economic impact could reduce that figure by as much as 40 per cent, ADB’s chief economist Yasuyuki Sawada said. As some countries, including the UK, lay out plans to ease lockdowns and get more people back to work, Mr Sawada cautioned that containing the pandemic is key to reducing the economic cost.


Testing, tracing, isolation, effective social distancing, and securing protective and medical equipment are all “essential elements” of containing Covid-19, he said. He also pointed to the importance of government support for struggling families and businesses to lessen the adverse effects of the pandemic and to avoid long-term consequences for growth and development. “Rapid and effective containment will allow for a faster recovery,” he said. [..] His words came as the UK government faced criticism from scientists over its easing of lockdown restrictions this week. The Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned on Tuesday that the UK faces “inevitable” future lockdowns if the government implements its “potentially dangerous” coronavirus strategy.

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People who still see it as such will be badly surprised.

Obamagate Is Not a Conspiracy Theory (NR)

Those sharing #Obamagate hashtags on Twitter would do best to avoid the hysterics we saw from Russian-collusion believers, but they have no reason to ignore the mounting evidence that suggests the Obama administration engaged in serious corruption. Democrats and their allies, who like to pretend that President Obama’s only scandalous act was wearing a tan suit, are going spend the next few months gaslighting the public by focusing on the most feverish accusations against Obama. But the fact is that we already have more compelling evidence that the Obama administration engaged in misconduct than we ever did for opening the Russian-collusion investigation.

It is not conspiracy-mongering to note that the investigation into Trump was predicated on an opposition-research document filled with fabulism and, most likely, Russian disinformation. We know the DOJ withheld contradictory evidence when it began spying on those in Trump’s orbit. We have proof that many of the relevant FISA-warrant applications — almost every one of them, actually — were based on “fabricated” evidence or riddled with errors. We know that members of the Obama administration, who had no genuine role in counterintelligence operations, repeatedly unmasked Trump’s allies. And we now know that, despite a dearth of evidence, the FBI railroaded Michael Flynn into a guilty plea so it could keep the investigation going.

What’s more, the larger context only makes all of these facts more damning. By 2016, the Obama administration’s intelligence community had normalized domestic spying. Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, famously lied about snooping on American citizens to Congress. His CIA director, John Brennan, oversaw an agency that felt comfortable spying on the Senate, with at least five of his underlings breaking into congressional computer files. His attorney general, Eric Holder, invoked the Espionage Act to spy on a Fox News journalist, shopping his case to three judges until he found one who let him name the reporter as a co-conspirator. The Obama administration also spied on Associated Press reporters, which the news organization called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”

And though it’s been long forgotten, Obama officials were caught monitoring the conversations of members of Congress who opposed the Iran nuclear deal. What makes anyone believe these people wouldn’t create a pretext to spy on the opposition party? If anyone does, they shouldn’t, because on top of everything else, we know that Barack Obama was keenly interested in the Russian-collusion investigation’s progress.

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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 process.

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Mar 142020
 

 

“Flattening the Curve” Is A Deadly Delusion (Bach)
Higher Temperatures Affect Survival Of New Coronavirus (Accu)
South Korea’s Drive-Through Testing For Coronavirus Is Fast – And Free (NPR)
Nancy Pelosi, Trump Administration Reach Deal On Coronavirus Aid Package (NYP)
EU Ready To Trigger Crisis Clause Allowing Fiscal Stimulus (BBG)
Big Pharma Prepares To Profit From The Coronavirus (IC)
Apple To Close All Stores Outside Of China (BI)
Bad Coronavirus News Starts To Hit US Auto Dealers (R.)
Next Week’s Primaries To Proceed Despite Coronavirus, Louisiana Delay (R.)
Major US Internet Firms Agree Not To Cancel Service Over Next 60 Days (R.)
FBI’s Russia Collusion Case Fell Apart In January 2017
‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ At DC Museum Of The Bible Are All Forgeries (NatGeo)
It Would Take 50 Million Years To Recover New Zealand’s Lost Bird Species (F.)

 

 

Yay! We’re setting records! Over 10,000 cases in one day, 2,547 of which in Italy, and 451 deaths, with 250 in Italy.

 

Cases 146,327 (+ 10,518 from yesterday’s 135,809)

Deaths 5,443 (+ 453 from yesterday’s 4,990)

 

Something went wrong with my usual snapshot from last night’s Worldometer numbers, so yesterday’s “gains” per country are lost. Apologies.

Trajectories are clear though. Spain is a country to watch, as are Denmark, Norway and Sweden. And Switzerland with 220 new cases today, and and and.

Other than that, economic policies are taking the spotlight, and especially the failures. The question arises: can the west do what it did in WWII, and confiscate production facilities?

Just as abhorrent to US “values”: Tulsi Gabbard and Bush economic adviser Greg Mankiw, separate from each other I think, want the US to give every citizen $1,000 a month to counter the corona fallout.

Can America as a nation unite, or is that ability forever lost? Because: if you give out that $1,000, will you allow your firms, say Big Pharma, to charge exorbitant prices for essentials?

In that same vein, Germany appears ready to abandon its long term fiscal prudence, and to drag Europe along for the ride.

I changed the order of the graphs around a bit, SCMP is getting further behind all the time.

 

From Worldometer (NOTE: mortality rate is back up to 7%!)

 

 

From COVID2019.app: (This site is playing with its formats while expanding, now over 200 global contributors)

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Joshua Bach is a scary dude.

“Flattening the Curve” Is A Deadly Delusion (Bach)

You have all seen a version of this curve of COVID-19 case loads by now:

Or this one:

There are many more. What all these diagrams have in common: They have no numbers on the axes. They don’t give you an idea how many cases it takes to overwhelm the medical system, and over how many days the epidemic will play out. They suggest that currently, the medical system can deal with a large fraction (like maybe 2/3, 1/2 or 1/3) of the cases, but if we implement some mitigation measures, we can get the infections per day down to a level we can deal with. They mean to tell you that we can get away without severe lockdowns as we are currently observing them in China and Italy. Instead, we let the infection burn through the entire population, until we have herd immunity (at 40% to 70%), and just space out the infections over a longer timespan.

These suggestions are dangerously wrong, and if implemented, will lead to incredible suffering and hardship. Let’s try to understand this by putting some numbers on the axes. What is the capacity of the healthcare system? This is a difficult question and cannot be answered in a short post like this. The US has about 924,100 hospital beds (2.8 per 1000 people). California has only 1.8. Countries like Germany have 8. South Korea has 12. (Their hospital system got overloaded nonetheless.) Most of these beds are in use, but we can create more, using improvisation (for instance using hotels and school gyms) and strategic resources of the military, national guard and other organizations.

Based on Chinese data, we can estimate that about 20% of COVID-19 cases are severe and require hospitalization. However, many severe cases will survive if they can be adequately provided for at home (which may include oxygen, IVs and isolation). More important is the number of ICU beds, which by some estimates can be stretched to about a 100,000, and of which about 30,000 may be available. About 5% of all COVID-19 cases need intensive care, and without it, all of them will die. We can also increase the number of ICU beds somewhat, but the equipment that we need to deal with sepsis, kidney, liver and heart failure, severe pneumonia etc. cannot be stretched arbitrarily between them.

An important part of the equation are ventilators. Most of the critically ill COVID-19 cases die of an infection of the lungs that makes it impossible to breathe and even destroys so much tissue that the blood can no longer be sufficiently oxygenated. These patients need intubation and mechanical ventilation to give them a chance of survival, or even an ECMO machine, which oxygenates the blood directly. About 6% of all cases need a ventilator, and if hospitals put all existing ventilators to use, we have 160,000 of them. In addition, the CDC has a strategic stockpile of 8900 ventilators that can be deployed in hospitals that need them. If we take the number of ventilators as a proximate limit on the medical resources, it means we can take care of up to 170,000 critically ill patients at the same time.

How many people will get infected? Without containment, the virus becomes endemic, and leading epidemiologists like Marc Lipsitch (Harvard) and Christian Drosten (Charité Berlin) estimate that between 40% and 70% of the population get infected until we develop some degree of herd immunity. (Unfortunately, we do not know how long this immunity lasts. We already observe multiple strain of COVID-19, and will see many more, due to the large number of carriers.) In a population like the US (327 million), that means between 130 million and 230 million. Let’s assume that 55% of the US population (the middle ground) get infected between March and December, and we are looking at 180 million people.

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Saw that picture with the narrow yellow band before. But of course they still don’t agree on anything.

Higher Temperatures Affect Survival Of New Coronavirus (Accu)

Research from a laboratory-grown copy of the coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes the COVID-19 illness shows that heat affects the virus and impacts its behavior, a top pathologist said new research has shown. But other infectious disease experts aren’t yet convinced. “In cold environments, there is longer virus survival than warm ones,” Hong Kong University pathology professor John Nicholls told AccuWeather exclusively. Nicholls and colleagues from a team at Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, previously produced a study, which was published in February and has yet to be peer-reviewed, noting the effect of heat. Their research is based on one of the world’s first lab-grown copies of SARS-CoV-2.


“Temperature could significantly change COVID-19 transmission,” the authors note in the study. They also pointed out that the “virus is highly sensitive to high temperature.” On March 11, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic. This is the first pandemic in 11 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). One recent research paper supported this assertion by pointing out the proximity of the major hotspots. The authors of the study, which was published last week, wrote that COVID-19 “has established significant community spread in cities and regions only along a narrow east-west distribution roughly along the 30-50 North latitude corridor at consistently similar weather patterns (5-11 degrees C [41 to 51 F] and 47-79 percent humidity).”

“Notably, during the same time, COVID-19 failed to spread significantly to countries immediately south of China,” the paper notes. “The number of patients and reported deaths in Southeast Asia is much less when compared to more temperate regions noted … The association between temperature in the cities affected with COVID-19 deserves special attention.” Some have suggested the possibility that weather factors might affect the virus – particularly the intensity and amount of hours of sunshine as well as heat and humidity. “Obviously, the virus is something we’ve never dealt with before, but if we look at other viruses … they all had their peak during the cold season,” said AccuWeather Founder and CEO Dr. Joel N. Myers.

“The statistics all show that they breed and survive longer when it’s cold and dry,” Myers said. “So, when it’s warmer and more humid and there’s a lot of sunshine, the statistics on all of the others show a virus is less lethal, it spreads less efficiently and less effectively among humans.” Dr. Joseph Fair, a virologist, epidemiologist and infectious disease specialist, suggested sunshine is a critical factor in subduing the virus. “It really doesn’t have anything to do with the warmth, but it has to do with the length of the day and the exposure to sunlight, which inactivates the virus through UV light,” Fair [said]. “We expect a dip in infections as we would see with the cold and flu in the spring and summer months.


But, he cautioned, “The science is still out. We can assume this will follow typical other coronavirus cases. We can expect a dip in the summer. But that doesn’t mean that we will be out of the woods … Everyone in the scientific and public health community expects it to be back in the fall and we expect to be in this for quite some time.”


Transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S. Virus particles are emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. The spikes on the outer edge of the virus particles give coronaviruses their name, crown-like. (NIAID-RML)

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What a nation is capable of when it starts working together.

South Korea’s Drive-Through Testing For Coronavirus Is Fast – And Free (NPR)

If you roll up to a drive-through COVID-19 testing center in South Korea, you might notice that safety procedures extend all the way to your car’s air conditioning. You will be advised to hit the recirculation button so that if you’re sick, you can keep your pathogens to yourself, in your car, and avoid infecting the medical personnel doing the testing. The test takes 10 minutes at most. Results are texted to you, usually the next day. And it’s free — paid for by the government. Drive-through centers have helped South Korea do some of the fastest, most-extensive testing of any country. And while nobody is claiming that South Korea has defeated the outbreak, experts credit the emphasis on testing with reducing case numbers and fatalities.

“I think our approach was right,” says professor Lee Hyukmin of the Yonsei University College of Medicine in Seoul. “We will continue to see sporadic infections,” he predicts. “But still, the situation in Daegu,” the epicenter of the outbreak, “is being stabilized.” South Korea has about 8,000 infections. Italy and Iran overtook it this week as the countries with the most cases outside of China. South Korea’s new cases have gradually declined since the end of last month. For the first time since Jan. 20, the number of patients released from treatment on Friday, March 13 — 510 — outnumbered the 110 new cases. A nation of 51 million, South Korea has tested about 250,000 people since its outbreak began on Jan. 20, with a daily capacity of 15,000. It has conducted 3,600 tests per million people compared to five per million in the U.S.


South Korea’s aggressive testing may make it unnecessary to impose the sort of lockdowns to which China and Italy have resorted, although health officials insist that all options remain on the table in dealing with the epidemic. “It’s much better to test and then quarantine a specific person than to do a citywide or provincewide lockdown, which in certain ways prevents the virus from leaving the province but actually doesn’t make the province any less likely to have high infection rates,” says Eric Feigl-Ding, a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, D.C., and an epidemiologist at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health.

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Just like Tulsi: “Greg Mankiw, a former top economic adviser to President George W. Bush, advocated sending $1,000 checks to everyone as soon as possible.”

Nancy Pelosi, Trump Administration Reach Deal On Coronavirus Aid Package (NYP)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Trump administration reached a last-minute deal Friday on a sweeping coronavirus aid package that will provide free testing for all Americans. The “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” will guarantee free tests for all Americans, including the uninsured, and provide two weeks of paid sick leave for those affected by the health crisis, Pelosi said. It will also provide up to three months of paid family and medical leave and strengthened unemployment Insurance for those facing layoffs amid the health and economic crisis. The aid package will also strengthen food banks, seniors’ meals and the food stamps program, known as SNAP.

Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin had been locked in feverish negotiations as the crisis rapidly escalated — speaking up to seven times a day — and by Friday morning, senior Democrats were confident the package would pass the House by the end of the day. But the deal appeared to hit a snag when Trump on Friday declared a State of Emergency at the White House Rose Garden and announced he didn’t support the aid package. “We don’t think the Democrats are giving enough,” Trump told reporters. “We are negotiating. We thought we had something, but all of a sudden they didn’t agree to certain things that they agreed to,” he added, without specifying the sticking point.


The president has repeatedly demanded a payroll tax cut be included in the bill, something that has been met with tepid support from within his own administration. “We could have something but we don’t think they are giving enough. They are not doing what is right for the country,” he concluded. Pelosi was bullish about passing the bill on Friday, even though it now languishes until Monday when the Senate returns from a break, calling the health outbreak a “grave and accelerating challenge.” The new bill comes after Trump last week signed into law a separate $8.3 billion in emergency aid for states and local authorities to combat the spread of the virus.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1238516118391791617

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Jim Bianco on Twitter:

“German Gov’t will offer unlimited loans to all companies that want them. Will buy stakes in German Governments. Guaranteed every job in Germany. Said “no on will lose their job over a virus.” They are essentially asking all EU countries to do the same as Germany. Couple this with the Fed trillions, the ECB yesterday , the BOE wed and the BoJ overnight … Everyone is “all-in” to stop the decline. If this does not work, closing mkts might be all that is left.”

EU Ready To Trigger Crisis Clause Allowing Fiscal Stimulus (BBG)

Denmark, Poland and Cyprus tightened their borders to limit the spread of the coronavirus even as European leaders called for more concerted action to contain the economic fallout. Germany, which borders two of those countries, pledged to spend whatever was necessary to protect its economy and the European Commission said it’s ready to green-light widespread spending after a market meltdown and a forecast that the euro zone was headed for recession. With Group of Seven policy makers struggling to forge a united front, the response from national capitals reflects the urgency to avoid the lockdown that hit Italy amid an epidemic that seemed to be spiraling out of control.

In Denmark, only Danes, Danish residents and green card holders will be let in. For everyone else, the country’s borders will be closed until April 14 and people arriving in Denmark will be sent back. “We’re painfully aware that this will have severe consequences,” Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said in Copenhagen on Friday, as she announced borders would close. “We can see how the situation in Italy developed in a catastrophic direction,” she said. “Everything we’re doing is to ensure that we get through this situation in a different way.” Likewise, Cyprus is closing its borders for 15 days to foreigners who don’t live or work on the Mediterranean island, President Nicos Anastasiades said in a televised address.

[..] The ability to travel without border checks has been a fact of life for more than two decades in most of Europe, with passport-free movement arguably the most successful feature of daily life for more than 400 million people in the EU. Officials in Brussels are accepting the new – if temporary – restrictions through gritted teeth. “General travel bans are not seen as being the most effective by the World Health Organization,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm. “Moreover, they have a strong social and economic impact. They disrupt people’s lives and business across the borders.”

Just hours earlier, German officials announced KfW, the state bank, can lend as much as €550 billion to companies to ensure they survive the pandemic and shield their workers from its impact. Switzerland pledged 10 billion francs ($10.5 billion) of aid for its companies. European stocks surged. “This is the bazooka,” Finance Minister Olaf Scholz. “We’re using it to do what is necessary. We’ll check later to see if we need additional smaller weapons.”

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Suspect that unlike in WWII, US industry would be allowed to turn huge profits.

Big Pharma Prepares To Profit From The Coronavirus (IC)

As the new coronavirus spreads illness, death, and catastrophe around the world, virtually no economic sector has been spared from harm. Yet amid the mayhem from the global pandemic, one industry is not only surviving, it is profiting handsomely. “Pharmaceutical companies view Covid-19 as a once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity,” said Gerald Posner, author of “Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America.” The world needs pharmaceutical products, of course. For the new coronavirus outbreak, in particular, we need treatments and vaccines and, in the U.S., tests. Dozens of companies are now vying to make them.

“They’re all in that race,” said Posner, who described the potential payoffs for winning the race as huge. The global crisis “will potentially be a blockbuster for the industry in terms of sales and profits,” he said, adding that “the worse the pandemic gets, the higher their eventual profit.” The ability to make money off of pharmaceuticals is already uniquely large in the U.S., which lacks the basic price controls other countries have, giving drug companies more freedom over setting prices for their products than anywhere else in the world. During the current crisis, pharmaceutical makers may have even more leeway than usual because of language industry lobbyists inserted into an $8.3 billion coronavirus spending package, passed last week, to maximize their profits from the pandemic.

[..] According to calculations by Axios, drug companies make 63 percent of total health care profits in the U.S. That’s in part because of the success of their lobbying efforts. In 2019, the pharmaceutical industry spent $295 million on lobbying, far more than any other sector in the U.S. That’s almost twice as much as the next biggest spender — the electronics, manufacturing, and equipment sector — and well more than double what oil and gas companies spent on lobbying. The industry also spends lavishly on campaign contributions to both Democratic and Republican lawmakers. Throughout the Democratic primary, Joe Biden has led the pack among recipients of contributions from the health care and pharmaceutical industries.

Big Pharma’s spending has positioned the industry well for the current pandemic. While stock markets have plummeted in reaction to the Trump administration’s bungling of the crisis, more than 20 companies working on a vaccine and other products related to the new SARS-CoV-2 virus have largely been spared. Stock prices for the biotech company Moderna, which began recruiting participants for a clinical trial of its new candidate for a coronavirus vaccine two weeks ago, have shot up during that time. On Thursday, a day of general carnage in the stock markets, Eli Lilly’s stock also enjoyed a boost after the company announced that it, too, is joining the effort to come up with a therapy for the new coronavirus. And Gilead Sciences, which is at work on a potential treatment as well, is also thriving.

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1 day (or is it 2?) after re-opening all Chinese stores.

Apple To Close All Stores Outside Of China (BI)

Apple will be temporarily shuttering all stores outside China until March 27, in response to mounting concern over the novel coronavirus, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced on Saturday. Cook also said in a tweet that the company will be committing $15 million to recovery efforts and matching employee donations two-to-one as the coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19, continues to grip the US. “What we’ve learned together has helped us all develop the best practices that are assisting enormously in our global response,” Cook wrote in a press release. “One of those lessons is that the most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance.” “As rates of new infections continue to grow in other places, we’re taking additional steps to protect our team members and customers.” The retailer will continue to fulfill purchases made online or through the Apple phone apps.

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Can you self-isolate in a car?

Bad Coronavirus News Starts To Hit US Auto Dealers (R.)

A relentless barrage of bad news surrounding the coronavirus epidemic has begun to affect customer visits at some U.S. auto dealers and even those businesses that have thrived so far believe a big sales decline is imminent if China’s experience is any guide. Since the coronavirus outbreak began in China last year it has killed more than 5,000 people globally, including 41 so far in the United States, where President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency. The outbreak has caused automakers to shutter plants in Asia and Europe, and the mounting responses in the United States – school closures, pro sports leagues suspending play and other big events canceled – are now being felt by some U.S. dealers. For a sign of what may be in store, analysts said look no further than China, where auto sales plunged 79% last month.


“Sales are definitely falling,” said John Luciano, managing partner with Street Volkswagen in Amarillo, Texas, and chairman of Volkswagen’s national dealer council. “We’re waking up in a different world a little bit more every day.” At Russ Shelton’s Buick GMC dealership in Rochester Hills, Michigan, so far this month customer visits are down 30% while the service department has seen a 40% drop in business due to the outbreak. “When schools close, mothers get worried – and this stops economic activity,” industry consultant and former GM executive Warren Browne said. Cox Automotive now sees negative U.S. economic growth in the second quarter and has withdrawn its forecast for 16.6 million new-vehicle sales in the United States this year.

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“We’re definitely voting. They voted during the Civil War. We’re gonna vote..”

Next Week’s Primaries To Proceed Despite Coronavirus, Louisiana Delay (R.)

Louisiana on Friday became the first U.S. state to postpone its presidential nominating contest because of the coronavirus pandemic, while four states holding their primaries next week said those elections would go forward as planned. The Southern state said it would reschedule voting in the run-up to the Nov. 3 election because of the outbreak. Officials there said they would postpone their scheduled April 4 primary to June 20 “to best protect the health and safety of Louisiana voters and voting officials,” Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said at a news conference. The four states holding their primaries on Tuesday – Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio – said in a joint statement they would proceed with their contests while taking steps to ensure public safety.

“Americans have participated in elections during challenging times in the past, and, based on the best information we have from public health officials, we are confident that voters in our states can safely and securely cast their ballots in this election, and that otherwise healthy poll workers can and should carry out their patriotic duties on Tuesday,” election officials from the four states said. “We’re definitely voting. They voted during the Civil War. We’re gonna vote,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis told reporters on Friday. Louisiana’s move poses a problem for the Democratic Party, which mandates all nominating contests must be held by early June or states risk losing delegates to the party convention in July.


[..] Biden’s attempt to connect with voters via a virtual town hall on Friday was plagued by early technical glitches that delayed its start and made most of his early remarks impossible to understand. The event provided the first glimpse into the challenges of running a virtual campaign. He used his opening remarks to discuss his plan for tackling the coronavirus crisis and pleading for citizens to listen to public health officials and wash their hands. He then turned to virtual attendees for questions and comments. The first person said, “Mr. Biden’s speech was garbled the entire time.”

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Let Washington handle it, make it free.

Major US Internet Firms Agree Not To Cancel Service Over Next 60 Days (R.)

The Federal Communications Commission said Friday that major internet providers – including Comcast Corp, AT&T Inc and Verizon Communications Inc – agreed not to terminate service for subscribers for the next 60 days if they are unable to pay their bills due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said after calls with more than 50 companies that they also agreed to waive any late fees residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic. They also agreed to open Wi-Fi hotspots to anyone who needs them, the FCC said.

Millions more Americans are expected to work from home as employers and states urge people to telework to reduce the potential to spread the coronavirus outbreak. Others agreeing to take part are Alphabet Inc’s Google Fiber, Charter Communications Inc, CenturyLink Inc, Cox Communications, Sprint Corp, T-Mobile US Inc. “As the coronavirus outbreak spreads and causes a series of disruptions to the economic, educational, medical and civic life of our country, it is imperative that Americans stay connected,” Pai said in a statement. “Broadband will enable them to communicate with their loved ones and doctors, telework, ensure their children can engage in remote learning.”


FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, praised the companies adopting the pledge, but said the FCC should do more. She called on the commission to “provide hotspots for loan for students whose school doors have closed” and should “work with health care providers to ensure connectivity for telehealth services are available for hospitals, doctors, and nurses treating coronavirus patients and those who are quarantined.” Pai also said he had asked providers that offer low-income consumers lower-speed cheaper service to increase speeds and expand eligibility. Comcast said Thursday it was raising its speeds for all its low-income users, while AT&T said it was waiving data caps for consumers that have plans with usage caps.

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John Solomon promises more. Will there be elections, though?

FBI’s Russia Collusion Case Fell Apart In January 2017 (Solomon)

Flynn’s motion is confirmed by a 2018 letter obtained by Just the News between Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office and defense lawyers. It shows the DOJ exoneration memo was written after Flynn had been interviewed by FBI agents in January 2017 and after the government learned the former Defense Intelligence Agency chief had kept his old agency briefed on his contacts with Russia, something that weighed heavily against the notion he was aiding Moscow.

“According to an internal DOJ memo dated January 30, 2017, after the Jan. 24 interview, the FBI advised that based on the interview the FBI did not believe Flynn was acting as an agent of Russia,” Mueller’s team wrote in the letter. U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan so far has concluded that the exoneration of Flynn on the Russia collusion charge wasn’t relevant to his conviction since he pled guilty to a different crime, making a false statement to the FBI. But for the American public, such a revelation is momentous. Less than two weeks into Trump’s presidency the FBI had concluded his national security adviser had not been working as an agent of Russia.

While that was the view of federal law enforcement, the false storyline of Flynn as a Russian stooge was broadcasted across the nation, with leaks of his conversations with a Russian ambassador and other tales, for many more months. In an interview with Just the News and its John Solomon Reports podcast, Powell confirmed she was provided by letter three sentences from the DOJ memo but has been unable to get the full document. “It’s just horrible,” Powell said. “They gave us a little three lines summary of it and the letter and told us it existed but have refused to give us the actual document, which I know means there’s a lot of other information in it that would be helpful to us.” Powell also confirmed that Mueller was fully aware of a letter sent in early January 2017 to Flynn from Britain’s national security adviser raising concerns about Steele’s credibility.

The British government “hand-delivered” a letter to Flynn’s team that “totally disavowed any credibility of Christopher Steele, and would have completely destroyed the Russia collusion narrative,” Powell said. Flynn himself has no memory of receiving the communique, but people around him at the time do and confirmed the existence of the document, Powell explained. Flynn was questioned about it during his debriefings by Mueller’s team, she added. “I was told that a copy of the document would have been given to [then-National Security Adviser] Susan Rice as well,” she added. “So the Obama administration knew full well that the entire Russia collusion mess was a farce.”

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Evangelical humor.

‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ At DC Museum Of The Bible Are All Forgeries (NatGeo)

On the fourth floor of the Museum of the Bible, a sweeping permanent exhibit tells the story of how the ancient scripture became the world’s most popular book. A warmly lit sanctum at the exhibit’s heart reveals some of the museum’s most prized possessions: fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient texts that include the oldest known surviving copies of the Hebrew Bible. But now, the Washington, D.C. museum has confirmed a bitter truth about the fragments’ authenticity. On Friday, independent researchers funded by the Museum of the Bible announced that all 16 of the museum’s Dead Sea Scroll fragments are modern forgeries that duped outside collectors, the museum’s founder, and some of the world’s leading biblical scholars. Officials unveiled the findings at an academic conference hosted by the museum. “The Museum of the Bible is trying to be as transparent as possible,” says CEO Harry Hargrave.


“We’re victims—we’re victims of misrepresentation, we’re victims of fraud.” In a report spanning more than 200 pages, a team of researchers led by art fraud investigator Colette Loll found that while the pieces are probably made of ancient leather, they were inked in modern times and modified to resemble real Dead Sea Scrolls. “These fragments were manipulated with the intent to deceive,” Loll says. The new findings don’t cast doubt on the 100,000 real Dead Sea Scroll fragments, most of which lie in the Shrine of the Book, part of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem. However, the report’s findings raise grave questions about the “post-2002” Dead Sea Scroll fragments, a group of some 70 snippets of biblical text that entered the antiquities market in the 2000s. Even before the new report, some scholars believed that most to all of the post-2002 fragments were modern fakes.

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How long does it take to kill 50 million years?

It Would Take 50 Million Years To Recover New Zealand’s Lost Bird Species (F.)

Long before people arrived in New Zealand, it was dominated by multitudes of unique birds. They were absolutely everywhere: big birds, little birds, colorful birds, flightless birds. In the absence of reptilian and mammalian predators, birds evolved to fill every available niche, from giant moas that stood 11 feet tall and weighed as much as 230 kilograms (510 pounds) that were the ecological equivalent of deer and antelopes, to the largest eagle that ever lived, which was New Zealand’s apex predator, functioning similarly to lions and tigers and other big cats. But after humans arrived 700 years ago, it took us only a few hundred years to drive more than half of New Zealand’s bird species into extinction, and more than 30% of the birds that survived our original onslaughts are threatened with extinction today. Nearly two-thirds could be under threat in the future.

Considering these dire circumstances, an international team of scientists wondered how long it might take for New Zealand to recover its full diversity of bird species lost to human actions. According to their recently published study, the researchers estimated this process would take approximately 50 million years (50Ma). Further, they found that, if bird species that are currently threatened are allowed to go extinct, it would take an additional 10Ma for New Zealand to achieve today’s (severely compromised) level of species diversity. “The conservation decisions we make today will have repercussions for millions of years to come”, said the lead author of the study, Luis Valente, a Research Associate at the Museum für Naturkunde in Berlin.


“Some people believe that if you leave nature alone it will quickly recuperate, but the reality is that, at least in New Zealand, nature would need several million years to recover from human actions — and perhaps will never really recover.” New Zealand is home to a collection of odd birds, including the wrybill, a small shorebird whose bill curves sideways; the iconic kiwis, whose feathers resemble fur and which are the only bird species in the world to have nostrils at the tip of their beak; the flightless kakapo, which resembles a large moss-colored owl and is the heaviest parrot alive today; and of course, the kea, which is the world’s only alpine parrot and who is pushing the boundaries of our understanding of how astonishingly clever parrots can be. Despite this modern surfeit of avian biodiversity, it is just a mere whisper of what once lived on New Zealand, which was the result of many millions of years of evolutionary history.

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If you read us, please support us. Help the Automatic Earth survive.

 

Dec 082019
 


Arthur Rothstein “Bank that failed. Kansas” May 1936

 

UK’s Johnson Ahead But Polls Suggest Majority Might Be Tough (R.)
Calls Grow To Stop Boris Johnson With Tactical Voting As Race Tightens (O.)
Patient Data From GP Surgeries Sold To US Companies (G.)
How The Democrats & Federal Reserve Ensured Trump’s Re-Election (Hamilton)
Tracking Every Presidential Candidate’s TV Ad Buys (538)
Trump: Giuliani To Deliver Report On Ukraine Trip To Congress, Barr (Hill)
Is Russia Overtaking The US In The Realm Of Strategic Bombers? (SF)
China Crude Oil Imports Hit Record High As Refiners Race To Use Up Quotas (R.)
US Government Drops Case Against Journalist Max Blumenthal (GZ)
Fire ‘Too Big To Put Out’ May Blanket Sydney In Smoke For Months (NW)

 

 

There are so many different polls with even more different results, you’d think they do it on purpose.

UK’s Johnson Ahead But Polls Suggest Majority Might Be Tough (R.)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is heading into Britain’s election next week with a lead in opinion polls, but some of the surveys also suggest that his chance of winning a parliamentary majority could be too close to call. Four opinion polls published on Saturday put the lead of Johnson’s Conservative Party over the main opposition Labour Party at between eight and 15 points, five days before the Dec. 12 national election. At the lowest end of that range, Johnson cannot count on winning the majority in parliament he needs to take Britain out of the European Union by Jan. 31, especially if voters choose to put aside their usual allegiances to vote tactically over Brexit.

Polling firm Savanta ComRes said Johnson’s lead over Labour had shrunk to eight points from 10 in a previous poll published on Wednesday – the tightest margin of Saturday’s four surveys. Its head of politics, Chris Hopkins, said the final few days of the campaign could be crucial. “The margins are incredibly tight,” he said. “The Conservative lead over Labour dropping or increasing by one or two points could be the difference between a hung parliament and a sizeable Conservative majority.” The election pits Johnson’s plan to get Brexit done next month against Labour’s call for a second referendum on a new Brexit deal under its veteran socialist leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Opinion pollsters were embarrassed by Britain’s last election in 2017, when they under-estimated the size of Labour’s support which cost previous prime minister Theresa May her majority and threw Brexit into chaos. They also failed to predict the victory of the Leave campaign in the 2016 EU membership referendum. However, one poll, published before the 2017 election, by YouGov, was more accurate in predicting the number of seats won by each party. Known as an MRP poll – an acronym for its Multilevel Regression and Post-stratification model – it predicted 93% of results in individual constituencies correctly. The Sunday Times said a poll by Datapraxis, also using the MRP model and based on 500,000 online interviews, predicted that Johnson would win a majority of 38 in parliament next week, down from a projection of 48 two weeks ago.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1203590220173713409

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It doesn’t take that many votes.

Calls Grow To Stop Boris Johnson With Tactical Voting As Race Tightens (O.)

A cross-party alliance of opposition politicians has launched an 11th-hour appeal to anti-Tory voters to consider switching allegiance in Thursday’s general election, amid signs that a late surge of tactical voting in a few swing seats could deprive Boris Johnson of a majority in parliament. The calls from senior Labour, Liberal Democrat and SNP figures come as a major poll suggests Johnson’s likely majority has been cut in half in the last two weeks – from 82 a fortnight ago to just 40 with four days to polling day. The analysis of almost 30,000 voters, for the pro-EU Best for Britain campaign, also finds that tactical votes by as few as 40,700 people in 36 key seats could prevent Johnson from forming a majority government.

Without a majority, Johnson is unlikely to be able to deliver the central promise of the Tory campaign – “to get Brexit done” – as he will struggle to get enough MPs’ votes. The DUP, which agreed to prop up the Tories after the 2017 general election, is now fiercely opposed to Johnson’s Brexit deal. The special polling analysis concludes that if tactical voting keeps the Tories out in the three dozen seats, the Conservatives would have 309 MPs, Labour 255, the SNP 49, the Lib Dems 14, Plaid Cymru three and the Greens one. To guarantee a majority, a governing party needs 325 MPs.

Naomi Smith, Best for Britain’s chief executive, said: “This election is on a knife-edge, and, if enough Remainers hold their nose and vote for the candidate with the best chance of stopping the Tories, we’re heading for a hung Parliament and a final-say referendum.”

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Not sure this is the scandal it’s made out to be, but transparency is key.

Patient Data From GP Surgeries Sold To US Companies (G.)

Data about millions of NHS patients has been sold to US and other international pharmaceutical companies for research, the Observer has learned, raising new fears about America’s growing ambitions to access lucrative parts of the health service after Brexit. US drugs giants, including Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly, have paid the Department of Health and Social Care, which holds data derived from GPs’ surgeries, for licences costing up to £330,000 each in return for anonymised data to be used for research. Campaigners working to protect the privacy of patients’ medical histories said they were concerned at the lack of transparency that surrounded the sale of licences and a lack of clarity about what the data was being used for.

The most recent accounts of the government organisation that issues the licences, Clinical Practice Research Datalink or CPRD, reveal it received more than £10m in revenue last year. “Patients should know how their data is used. There should be no surprises. While legitimate research for public health benefit is to be encouraged, it must always be consensual, safe and properly transparent,” said Phil Booth, coordinator of medConfidential, which campaigns for the privacy of health data. “Do patients know – have they even been told by the one in seven GP practices across England that pass on their clinical details – that their medical histories are being sold to multinational pharma companies in the US and around the world?”

[..] Last week, a leak of secret government papers about private discussions between UK and US officials over a post-Brexit trade deal showed that the “free flow of data” was a “top priority” for the US. America appears to be pressing for unrestricted access to Britain’s 55 million health records, which are estimated to have a total value of £10bn a year. A minute of one of the meetings says: “On data flows, the critical element highlighted by the US was agreement that no parties will restrict information.” Another US demand is for “data localisation” to be ruled out, meaning the data of NHS patients could be stored on cloud servers abroad.

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That and demographics. Much more from Hamilton and as usual, tons of graphs.

How The Democrats & Federal Reserve Ensured Trump’s Re-Election (Hamilton)

July 31…Debt Ceiling Deal – July 31st of this year, Senate Democrats carried President Trump’s budget deal eliminating the debt ceiling through July 31st of 2021. This after a majority of Trump’s House Republicans voted against the budget deal but House Democrats overwhelmingly passed it. And thus the debt ceiling was no more. Since July 31st, the Treasury has issued over $1 trillion in net new debt but that is just the start. Trump tweeted there would always be plenty of time to make budget cuts “later”.

July 31…Federal Reserve begins series of interest rate cuts – On July 31st, the Federal Reserve begins cutting rates and has cut rates from 2.4% to 1.55% or a 35% reduction on the cost of overnight intra-bank lending, the foundation of credit.

August 21.. Federal Reserve restarts QE – In August, the Fed ceased quantitative tightening (QT) and restarted quantitative easing (QE). The Federal Reserve balance sheet has expanded by over $300 billion in short order, with an $180 billion increase in Treasuries held. The supposed rationale for the QE restart, inadequate excess reserves or liquidity…

Excess Reserves Not Restarted – With all the new QE, hardly any of it has been added to bank excess reserves…just a paltry $16 billion out of the $306 billion in new currency digitally conjured.

Direct Monetization – That is $290 billion in new dollars directly in banks hands…and banks do what banks do, which is leverage those dollars by 5x’s to 10x’s (or more), resulting in…

Asset Explosion – Using the Wilshire 5000 as a proxy (as it represents all publicly traded US equities), US equities have risen $2.42 trillion over the 4 month period as all the new digitally conjured cash has been passed to large banks for the “assets” they held…or about a 8.5x the quantity of new “not QE” and “not excess reserves”.

[..] Debt creation by periods, 1960 through 2000, 2000 through 2008, and 2008 through 2019. Relatively stable corporate debt creation, collapsing mortgage debt, and surging federal debt. And collapsing mortgage debt and surging federal debt is only just getting started, because…

And finally, why mortgage debt won’t be rising anytime soon and all debt creation will be up to the federal government. The chart below shows the annual change in young (working age) versus elderly…a surging population of elderly versus huge deceleration of growth among the working age population.

Just a reminder, elderly earn and spend half as much as working age persons and “destroy money” via deleveraging while working age persons “create money” via undertaking new loans (debt). The current and future situation is one of collapsing credit and collapsing money creation as the growth of deflationary elderly overwhelms inflationary working age growth…and into that entirely predictable situation, steps the Federal government, Federal Reserve, and ludicrous politicians to serve the interests of the few at the expense of the many.

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Bloomberg.

Tracking Every Presidential Candidate’s TV Ad Buys (538)

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Wonder what he’s got.

Trump: Giuliani To Deliver Report On Ukraine Trip To Congress, Barr (Hill)

President Trump said that Rudy Giuliani, his personal attorney, will deliver a report to Congress and Attorney General William Barr about information he uncovered during his latest trip to Ukraine. “He’s going to make a report, I think to the attorney general and to Congress. He says he has a lot of good information. I have not spoken to him about that information yet,” Trump told reporters Saturday. “He has not told me what he found, but I think he wants to go before Congress … and also to the attorney general and the Department of Justice,” he added. “I hear he has found plenty.” Giuliani raised eyebrows this week when he traveled to Ukraine as the House conducts a whirlwind impeachment investigation into whether the president abused his power.


Democrats say Trump overstepped his bounds by pressuring Kyiv to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden on unfounded corruption allegations and disproven claims that Ukraine was involved in 2016 election meddling. During his trip, Giuliani met with multiple Ukrainian officials as he continued his campaign to convince American lawmakers Trump did nothing wrong. Photos from the visit showed the ex-New York City mayor meeting with a former Ukrainian diplomat who has propagated the unsubstantiated claim that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election. He also met with Yuriy Lutsenko, a Ukrainian politician, former prosecutor general and important figure in the impeachment inquiry, who proposed a joint corruption investigation between the U.S. and Ukraine.

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Reading between the lines, what we see is America can only keep up by going to war and spending more with that as an excuse.

Is Russia Overtaking The US In The Realm Of Strategic Bombers? (SF)

In March 2018, Russia announced that it would completely overhaul its entire Tu-160 long-range strategic bomber fleet by 2030. According to Deputy Defense Minister Yuri Borisov, the entire fleet of Tu-160 bombers will be replaced with the newer Tu-160M2 version, in addition to heavy upgrades of all operational aircraft. All on-board radio-electronic equipment and engines will be replaced. Serial production of the Tu-160M2 will begin in 2023 and the plan is for it to remain a state of the art warplane for the next 40 years. The Russian Aerospace Forces intend to purchase no less than 50 such aircraft.

The first such warplane is to be delivered in 2021, with 3 more in 2023. Afterwards serial production will continue with 3 Tu-160M2s being produced per year. The Tupolev Tu-160 (NATO codename: Blackjack) is a long range, supersonic, variable geometry wing, strategic bomber -designed to penetrate sophisticated air defense systems at low altitude and supersonic speed. It is the Soviet counterpart to the US Air Force B-1B Lancer strategic bomber.

[..] Currently, the US operates three types of strategic bombers – the B-1B, the B-2, and the B-52. The US Air Force has 62 B-1Bs, out of which, according to data from August 2019, only 6 were fully operational, with the others being grounded or undergoing maintenance. They have been in service since 1985. The longest serving bomber in the US Air Force is the B-52A which was commissioned back in 1955. The existing fleet was upgraded to the B-52H Stratofortress, commissioned in 1961. It is planned for this warplane to be operated until 2050. As of June 2019, there were 58 B-52 bombers in operation, with 18 more in reserve.

The B-2 is the only stealth bomber in operation anywhere in the world. It was commissioned in 1993. Thef US Air Force operates 20 such warplanes. There is also the B-21 Raider stealth bomber in development by Northrop Grumman. The first test aircraft is being built in Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale, California, facility and has yet to make its maiden flight. The optimistic forecast is that the first bomber should enter service by 2025.

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Beijing actively encourages additional oil imports. If you don’t produce output now, you’ll be cut next year. Fill your teapot!

China Crude Oil Imports Hit Record High As Refiners Race To Use Up Quotas (R.)

China’s crude oil imports hit a record high on a daily basis in November, as refiners operated at high run rates to use up annual import quotas. The world’s top oil buyer imported 45.74 million tonnes of crude, equivalent to 11.13 million barrels per day (bpd), according to data released by the General Administration of Customs on Sunday. That compared with 10.72 million bpd in October and 9.61 million bpd in November last year. For the first 11 months of 2019, China brought in a total of 461.88 million tonnes, or 10.09 million bpd, up 10.4% from the same period last year, the data showed. As the year draws to a close, private refineries, known as teapot refiners, are ramping up output to use up their crude import quotas for the year in order to be able to apply for more quotas next year.


[..] Total natural gas imports, including liquefied natural gas (LNG) and pipeline, in November rose 3.3% from the same period last year to 9.45 million tonnes, customs data showed. In the period of January-November, natural gas imports reached 87.11 million tonnes, up 7.4% from same period last year. On Monday, Russia started to transport pipeline gas from Siberia to northeastern China.

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Another failed coup.

US Government Drops Case Against Journalist Max Blumenthal (GZ)

The US government has dropped its bogus charge of “simple assault” against journalist Max Blumenthal, after having him arrested on a 5-month-old warrant and jailed for nearly two days. The Grayzone has learned that Secret Service call logs recorded during the alleged incident were either not kept or destroyed. The mysteriously missing evidence included print documents and radio recordings that may have exposed collusion between Secret Service officers operating under the auspices of the US State Department and violent right-wing hooligans in an operation to besiege peace activists stationed inside Venezuela’s embassy in Washington, DC.

Blumenthal, who is the editor of The Grayzone, was arrested at his home on October 25 by a team of DC cops who had threatened to break down his door. He later learned that he was listed in his arrest warrant as “armed and dangerous,” a rare and completely unfounded designation that placed Blumenthal at risk of severe harm by the police. The government’s case rested entirely on a false accusation by a right-wing Venezuelan opposition activist, Naylet Pacheco, that Blumenthal and Benjamin Rubinstein had assaulted her while they were delivering food to Venezuela’s embassy in Washington, DC in the early morning on May 8. (Rubinstein is the brother of journalist and Grayzone contributor Alexander Rubinstein, who was reporting from inside the embassy at the time.)

The Grayzone has reported extensively on the corruption of coup leader Juan Guaidó, whom Washington recognizes as “interim president” of Venezuela, as well as the scandals plaguing Guaidó’s “ambassador” to the United States, Carlos Vecchio. Vecchio personally presided over the weeks-long siege of Venezuela’s embassy in Washington, DC, stage-managing efforts by a mob of rabid right-wing activists to prevent peace activists from receiving deliveries of food and sanitary supplies. As The Grayzone reported, the Donald Trump administration has diverted USAID funding originally intended to assist Central American migrants to pay the salaries of Vecchio and his team in Washington.

[..] Lawyers representing Blumenthal and Rubinstein placed multiple and highly specified discovery requests to the prosecutor for Secret Service call recordings and reports logged on May 8 at the location of the embassy food delivery. The US prosecutor was unable to satisfy the request, verbally confirming that if the documents had existed, they no longer did. “This is highly unusual and highly notable, almost inexplicable in the ordinary course of operations that these records were not maintained and preserved,” said Carl Messineo, the counsel to Rubinstein and a co-founder of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. “Given the false nature of allegations and that they advanced a prosecution based on these it is really questionable that this information was not produced.”

Read more …

It’s getting out of hand. Australia has a huge water/moisture shortage.

Fire ‘Too Big To Put Out’ May Blanket Sydney In Smoke For Months (NW)

A wildfire blazing 37 miles northwest from Sydney, Australia has been determined to be “too big to put out,” leaving residents to evacuate and the city with the prospect of months of heavy smoke. The fire is currently 1,150 square miles across and is comprised of several fires merging into one. Called the Gospers Mountain mega blaze, 2,200 firefighters are reported to be out in the field battling the fire, with groups of Canadian and American firefighters said to be joining them soon. Walkabout Wildlife Park has evacuated hundreds of animals to keep them safe from the fire. But the Bureau of Meteorology declared that some of the fires were too big to extinguish and would only be put out when the country received a good rain.


Sydney may be blanketed in smoke for weeks—possibly months. Sydney has already been enduring higher smoke levels than normal, and hospital officials report a 10 percent increase in admissions. Health officials warn that those who inhale the smoke long term might see effects similar to smoking cigarettes. “A cigarette is basically a plant that we purposely inhale. And in bushfires, it’s another plant that we’re inhaling the smoke from, so it’s not surprising the health effects are actually quite similar,” said Associate Professor Brian Oliver, an expert in respiratory disease from the University of Technology, Sydney to the BBC. “We cannot stop these fires, they will just keep burning until conditions ease, and then we’ll try to do what we can to contain them,” said NSW RFS deputy commissioner, Rob Rogers to the ABC.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Mar 092019
 


Juan Gris Portrait of Pablo Picasso 1912

 

World’s Biggest Debt Slaves: Americans Wimp Out in 11th Place (WS)
Chelsea Manning Jailed For Refusing To Testify About Wikileaks (ZH)
On Trump’s Ties To Russia, Americans Have Made Up Their Minds – Poll (R.)
Trump’s Private Talks With Putin May Contain Clues To His Russia Romance (G.)
Ilhan Omar Criticizes Obama And Past Presidents’ ‘Really Bad Policies’ (MW)
EU’s Barnier Sets May On Course For Brexit Defeat (G.)
Corbyn Tells May Second Defeat For Her Deal Is ‘The End Of The Road’ (Ind.)
Greenpeace Co-Founder Thrashes Global Warming ‘Brainwashing’ Campaign (RT)
Italy’s Government On Verge Of Collapse Over A Train (ZH)
Dutch Pharmacies Join Backlash At Expensive Drugs By Making Their Own (R.)
A Place of Your Own (Jim Kunstler)

 

 

Wolf Richter has the entire top-11. I picked a few. Note: this is debt-to-GDP. For debt-to-disposable income, graphs are different. Note 2: Switzerland is always an odd one out because of the role of its banking system.

World’s Biggest Debt Slaves: Americans Wimp Out in 11th Place (WS)

US household debt inched down to 76.4% of GDP in the third quarter 2018, according to the newest batch of global data from the Bank for International Settlements. This was the lowest level since 2002. It put Americans in the inexplicably wimpy, and for the finance sector, insufferable 11th place:

Canadian households have long been making headlines with their top-notch borrowing binge to support their top-notch housing bubble. By other debt measures, such as debt-to-disposable income, Canadian and Australian households have been battling over first place for years. In the debt-to-GDP measure, Canadian households are in a still respectable 6th place: This debt will pose some issues as the majestic housing bubbles in top metros are now deflating:

Households in the Netherlands were track to be undisputed king of the hill, with a debt-to-GDP ratio nearing 120%, in part because GDP plunged during the Financial Crisis, which caused the spike in the debt-to-GDP ratio and the collapse of some banks. During the subsequent euro debt crisis, GDP declined again. But since then, the economy has grown, and households have curtailed their borrowing, edging away from the brink, and in the process getting demoted to 4th place:

Australian households have been caught up in one of the biggest housing bubbles in the world, financed by debt. The household-debt-to-GDP ratio more than doubled between 1997 and 2016. Now that the housing bubble is deflating at an astounding pace, the debt ratio has begun to tick down, but remains in second place:

[..] the #1 debt slaves in the world: Swiss households. This is one of the reasons interest-rate repression remains the rule in Switzerland. The Swiss National Bank has imposed its negative interest rate policy on the country for years, and there have been stories of mortgages with 0% and even negative interest rates. There is simply too much household debt, and no one wants to see it blow up. Hence the negative interest rate policy. But this policy encourages more household borrowing, and the cycle will continue until it can’t:

China is in a category of its own. And so the chart has a different scale. The household-debt-to-GDP ratio is still in the German neighborhood of just above 50%, but it has quintupled in the 12 years since the BIS data began in 2006. The idea that Chinese households are paying cash to sustain their housing bubble or to buy cars has become a bad joke: Chinese consumers have discovered debt, and they are eagerly turning into debt slaves:

Read more …

Daniel Ellsberg: “Chelsea Manning is again acting heroically in the name of press freedom, and it’s a travesty that she has been sent back to jail for refusing to testify to a grand jury. An investigation into WikiLeaks for publishing is a grave threat to all journalists’ rights, and Chelsea is doing us all a service for fighting it. She has already been tortured, spent years in jail, and has suffered more than enough. She should be released immediately.”

Chelsea Manning Jailed For Refusing To Testify About Wikileaks (ZH)

Following a dramatic hearing at a federal district court in Eastern Virginia, activist and former military prisoner Chelsea Manning was jailed by a judge for contempt of court after refusing to testify to a grand jury empaneled in the government’s long running criminal investigation into Wikileaks and its founder, Julian Assange. The judge, the Hon. Claude H. Hilton, ruled that Manning must remain in civil detention until she testifies, her lawyer Moira Meltzer-Cohen told the New York Times. Manning was subpoeaned in January to testify before the jury. But she vowed not to cooperate even though prosecutors offered immunity for her testimony. “In solidarity with many activists facing the odds, I will stand by my principles,” she said on Thursday. “I will exhaust every legal remedy available. My legal team continues to challenge the secrecy of these proceedings, and I am prepared to face the consequences of my refusal.”

Manning’s jailing offers another glimpse into the government’s secretive investigation into Wikileaks, which was started under the Obama Administration and picked up by the Trump Administration. Manning served seven years in prison for leaking the infamous “collateral murder” tape to Wikileaks, by far the longest prison term ever served for leaking government secrets. Manning, who transitioned to a woman during her time in prison, twice tried to commit suicide before she was pardoned by Obama. Late last year, an accidental leak of some information in the case revealed that Assange had been charged under seal last summer. And while Manning has decided to refuse to cooperate, a Wikileaks volunteer recently agreed to testify against Assange in exchange for immunity. The grand jury has been investigating Assange for nine years.

Read more …

This is the worst condemnation of US media to date. And I betcha, no-one sees it that way. Whatever Mueller says, minds are made up. By what then? Can only be unproven accusations.

And it has similarities with the Chelsea Manning disaster: When will the first Republican refuse to testify before Nadler’s committee? In both cases people are looking to confirm pre-established narratives, if need be by force.

On Trump’s Ties To Russia, Americans Have Made Up Their Minds – Poll (R.)

Only a small number of Americans have not yet made up their minds about whether Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign coordinated with Russian officials, according to new Reuters/Ipsos polling, which also showed deep divisions in the United States in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. Eight out of 10 Americans decided almost immediately about Trump campaign ties to Moscow and only about two in 10 appear to be undecided, the opinion poll released on Friday showed. About half of Americans believe President Trump tried to stop federal investigations into his campaign, the survey found. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to soon wrap up his investigation into U.S. allegations that Moscow interfered in the U.S. political process as well as the Trump campaign links and possible obstruction of justice.

Moscow and Trump deny the allegations. Barring bombshell revelations, the survey results suggest the investigation’s influence on voters in the 2020 campaign may already have run its course. The Reuters/Ipsos poll has tracked public opinion of the investigation since Mueller was appointed in May 2017 following Trump’s firing of FBI chief James Comey, gathering responses from more than 72,000 adults. Public opinion appears to have hardened early, changing little over the past two years despite a string of highly publicized criminal charges against people associated with the Trump campaign. Every time respondents were asked about the investigation, about 8 in 10 Democrats said they thought the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, while 7 in 10 Republicans said they did not.

With so few voters left undecided, the report expected from Mueller looks unlikely to serve as a significant voter turnout tool for Republicans or Democrats in November 2020 and could backfire on Democrats if they overplay it. “We keep waiting for something to happen during the Trump era to vastly change the way people view him,” said Kyle Kondik, a non-partisan analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics. “It hasn’t happened yet,” he said. “Maybe at this point there just aren’t many minds left to change.”

Read more …

The media can’t let go of Russiagate, no matter what Mueller says, it would leave them empty handed. So they play into the fact that Americans have their minds made up anyway. Scary when you think about it.

Trump’s Private Talks With Putin May Contain Clues To His Russia Romance (G.)

Since Donald Trump was sworn in as president he has met his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, five times. The details of their conversations remain unknown to the public, and in most cases even to senior administration officials. Democrats in Congress are now demanding more details of communications between the two leaders. Secrecy around such meetings, they say, raises fresh questions about the nature of Trump’s relationship with Putin at a time when his ties to Russia are the subject of several investigations. The meetings with Putin are not the only subject of such Democratic demands. House leaders left little room for doubt this week that they will utilize their newly minted majority to cast a wide net around the president, his family and their businesses.

The judiciary committee issued document requests to 81 individuals and entities, seeking information on everything from contacts between Trump aides and Moscow to hush money payments to women and possible obstruction of justice. [..] Democrats now say Trump’s reportedly forceful attempts to conceal his communications with Putin raise questions about his motivations in pursuing closer relations with a regime largely regarded as a primary adversary. In a joint letter this week, the chairs of the House intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight committees raised “profound national security, counterintelligence and foreign policy concerns, especially in light of Russia’s ongoing active measures campaign to improperly influence American elections.

Read more …

Discussions America should have but refuses. The Dem old guard wants things to stay as they were/are. But the party must change in radical ways.

Ilhan Omar Criticizes Obama And Past Presidents’ ‘Really Bad Policies’ (MW)

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) says former President Barack Obama’s promise of “hope and change” was just a mirage in a Politico interview that hit on Friday. The magazine profile explains that when she ran for office in 2016, she was fed up with the Democratic Party — not so much Trumpism or politics in general. Omar also reminded the interviewer that there was “caging of kids” at the U.S.-Mexico border under the Obama administration. (Obama was called the “deporter-in-chief” by immigrant rights advocates for the record number of undocumented immigrants deported during his presidency; ICE deportations peaked at 409,849 in 2012. But it dropped to almost half of that by 2017.) mAnd she called out the “droning of countries around the world” under Obama. A 2015 report claimed that nearly 90% of people killed in recent drone strikes in the Middle East “were not the intended targets.”

The interview dropped the day after the House passed a resolution condemning bigotry that included anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim discrimination, which was a response to comments made by Omar, who accused people of having allegiances to foreign countries. (It did not mention Omar by name, however.) Her comments to Politico suggest she doesn’t mind being at the center of controversy. “As much as other people are uncomfortable, I’m excited about the change in tone that has taken place that is extremely positive … and my ability, I think, to agitate our foreign policy discussions in a way that many of my colleagues who have been anti-intervention, antiwar have been unable to do in the past,” she said. “So, I’m OK with taking the blows if it means it will ignite conversations that no one was willing to have before.”

Read more …

Is the Guardian finally standing up for May? Bit late, isn’t it?

EU’s Barnier Sets May On Course For Brexit Defeat (G.)

Theresa May appears set for a second humiliating defeat when she brings her Brexit deal back to parliament next week, after the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, rebuffed her pleas for last-minute concessions. The prime minister urged MPs to “get it done” and back her deal, in an impassioned speech at a dockside warehouse in the leave-voting town of Grimsby. A vote against the deal would mean “not completing Brexit and getting on with all the other important issues people care about, just yet more months and years arguing”, May told MPs. “If we go down that road we might never leave the EU at all.”

Addressing workers from Ørsted, a Danish energy and wind turbine firm, May also urged the EU to make new concessions over the Irish backstop – the issue that caused many of her MPs to vote against the deal the first time – before last-ditch talks in Brussels this weekend. The EU “has to make a choice too”, the prime minister said. “We are both participants in this process. It is in the European interest for the UK to leave with a deal. We are working with them but the decisions that the European Union makes over the next few days will have a big impact on the outcome of the vote. “European leaders tell me they worry that time is running out and that we only have one chance to get it right. My message to them is: now is the moment for us to act.”

But Barnier immediately appeared to rebuff the prime minister, by responding with an offer of reverting to his original plan, the Northern Ireland-only backstop, which May repeatedly said no prime minister could accept, because it risked creating a border in the Irish Sea. The EU’s chief negotiator said in a series of tweets that the EU was committed “to give the UK the option to exit the single customs territory unilaterally, while the other elements of the backstop must be maintained to avoid a hard border. [The] UK will not be forced into a customs union against its will.” The Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay, immediately replied: “With a very real deadline looming, now is not the time to rerun old arguments. The UK has put forward clear new proposals. We now need to agree a balanced solution that can work for both sides.”

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If a tree falls in a forest….

Corbyn Tells May Second Defeat For Her Deal Is ‘The End Of The Road’ (Ind.)

Jeremy Corbyn has warned Theresa May not to make a third attempt to ram through her Brexit deal if it crashes to its expected defeat next week, saying it must be “the end of the road”. The prime minister has not ruled out a third “meaningful vote” if MPs reject her agreement next week – even with the scheduled exit day from the EU just three weeks away. But, speaking to Labour activists in Scotland, Mr Corbyn said Ms May must accept that defeat on Tuesday would “represent an unprecedented failure in British political history”. “Having already failed once to get her deal through, I want to make it clear to the prime minister if she fails again it will be the end of the road for her deal,” the Labour leader said.

“There is no coming back from it. There can be no more playing for time.” Mr Corbyn again insisted Labour’s softer Brexit proposals could secure agreement both at Westminster and in Brussels, following his “discussions with Michel Barnier” [the EU negotiator]. However, he also insisted Labour was not “obsessed” by Brexit like other parties – pointing to poverty and climate change as the issues that really matter. “Turn on the news at the moment and you’ll hear endlessly about constitutional issues. Brexit. Independence. It borders on the obsessive,” he told a conference in Dundee. “You don’t hear so much about the children arriving hungry to school or how the teachers at one nursery have had to arrange for Tesco and Greggs to donate their leftovers so they can feed the kids.”

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I think Moore has at least a partial burden of proof here. Just shouting out stuff isn’t good enough at this stage. Suggesting that research is good only if it’s paid by General Electric or Dupont or 3M is quite the stretch. Even if politics and business are indeed eyeing huge profits off of going green and off people’s ignorance about what that means.

Greenpeace Co-Founder Thrashes Global Warming ‘Brainwashing’ Campaign (RT)

Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore had harsh words for the modern environmental movement, calling global warming “the greatest scam in history” and denouncing the use of “fear and guilt” to push the message. “The climate catastrophe is strictly a fear campaign – well, fear and guilt,” Moore told Breitbart radio host Rebecca Mansour. “You’re afraid you’re killing your children because you’re driving them in your SUV and emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and you feel guilty for doing that. There’s no stronger motivation than those two.” “This abomination that is occurring today in the climate issue is the biggest threat to the enlightenment that has occurred since Galileo.”

“Nothing else comes close,” Moore insisted, likening the contemporary environmental movement to “a toxic mix of ideology, of politics and religion.” “CO2 is the food for life! It’s not pollution,” the would-be heretic declared, claiming that the use of fossil fuels had actually “saved life from an early demise” because CO2 had been declining since the last ice age, with barely enough for the earth’s plant life to sustain itself, until humanity stepped into the breach during the Industrial Revolution. Moore, who founded the pioneering environmental activist group almost 50 years ago to protest nuclear war, met with an outpouring of support from conservatives and weary Democrats alike, after tweeting a scathing rebuke earlier this week to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose quixotic Green New Deal has become the standard-bearer of the 21st century environmental movement.

“And so you’ve got the green movement creating stories that instill fear in the public. You’ve got the media echo chamber — fake news — repeating it over and over and over again to everybody that they’re killing their children, and then you’ve got the green politicians who are buying scientists with government money to produce fear for them in the form of scientific-looking materials, and then you’ve got the green businesses, the rent-seekers and the crony capitalists who are taking advantage of massive subsidies, huge tax write-offs, and government mandates requiring their technologies to make a fortune on this, and then of course you’ve got the scientists who are willingly, they’re basically hooked on government grants.

When they talk about the 99 percent consensus [among scientists] on climate change, that’s a completely ridiculous and false numbers, but most of the scientists — put it in quotes, scientists — who are pushing this catastrophic theory are getting paid by public money. They are not being paid by General Electric or Dupont or 3M to do this research, where private companies expect to get something useful from their research that might produce a better product and make them a profit in the end because people want it — build a better mousetrap type of idea — but most of what these so-called scientists are doing is simply producing more fear so that politicians can use it control people’s mind and get their votes because some of the people are convinced, ‘Oh, this politician can save my kid from certain doom.’

Read more …

The collapse may happen soon, but likely not because of an old topic like this.

Italy’s Government On Verge Of Collapse Over A Train (ZH)

With the Italian government seemingly on the verge of collapse every few months, and with tensions between the two parties in the ruling coalition – Five Star and the League, especially as the former has been sliding in the polls at the expense of the latter’s rising popularity – escalating in recent weeks, it was only a matter of time before Italian bondholders had a PTSD flashback to May 2018 when the populist government first stormed on the stage, sending Italian bonds plunging. All that was missing was a catalyst. Said catalyst emerged as a lingering dispute within Italy’s ruling coalition over the future of a train, or technically a high-speed rail link with France, escalated suddenly on Thursday, once again raising the risk of a government collapse, with the 5-Star chief accusing his partner of acting irresponsibly.

The Alpine rail line has been backed by the ruling League party but is fiercely opposed by its coalition partner, the 5-Star Movement, which argues Italy’s share of the funding would be better spent upgrading existing roads and bridges. And after League leader, the outspoken Matteo Salvini who continues to enjoy rising popularity with every new poll, said in an evening television interview he would not back down and his party would “never sign” a decree to block the project, 5-Star chief Luigi Di Maio accused him of threatening to bring down the government.

While the tensions between Di Maio and Salvini were for the most part contained before closed doors, the animosity between the two “equal” vice premiers erupted in public when Di Maio said in a statement that Salvini “will bear the responsibility before millions of Italians” adding that he considers “this to be irresponsible behavior” adding that he was “stunned by the threat of a government crisis” coming from Salvini. The TAV project (Treno Alta Velocita) is a joint venture between the Italian and French states to link the cities of Turin and Lyon with a 58-km (36-mile) tunnel through the Alps on which work has already begun. According to Reuters, the EU has pledged to fund up to 40 percent of costs, Italy up to 35 percent and France up to 25 percent.

Earlier on Thursday, Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that recently updated traffic projections for the line warranted a review of the project’s long-term viability and, if necessary, a renegotiation of the way the funding is split. Conte told reporters he had strong personal doubts about the validity of the venture and he would take responsibility for a final decision based on a cost-benefit analysis already carried out by the government. That analysis, commissioned by Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli, a 5-Star politician, found the TAV was a waste of public money, estimating the economic return would be a negative balance of $7.9-$8.8 billion. Conte, who is technically not a member of either party but is closer to 5-Star, called the funding of the TAV “iniquitous” and said he would speak to France and the EU “to share our doubts and perplexities.”

Read more …

Like the part where Big Pharma gets the big subsidies.

Dutch Pharmacies Join Backlash At Expensive Drugs By Making Their Own (R.)

In a radiation-proof room at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Emar Thomasa sits behind shielded glass as he carefully measures and mixes lutetium octreotate, an intravenous treatment for certain types of cancer. The Dutch hospital has been offering it to patients for more than a decade at 16,000 euros ($18,000) for one course of treatments. Drug firm Novartis, which in 2018 acquired rights to sell it in Europe, is asking more than five times that for its proprietary version, Lutathera. Thomasa is part of a protest against high drug prices launched by an unlikely group of rebels: Dutch pharmacies.

Three – Erasmus, Amsterdam’s University Medical Center (UMC) and the Transvaal Pharmacy in The Hague – have vowed to bypass drug company products and make treatments for a handful of rare diseases themselves, exercising their right to “compound” medicines. The Dutch market is small, with only hundreds of patients for the diseases in question. But the dispute is part of a growing global backlash against high drug prices, from the United States and Canada to Japan, and campaigners said it was being closely watched by health experts elsewhere. “People with rare diseases are dependent on medicines that are so expensive that they can’t afford them, when they could be offered for a much lower price,” said UMC pharmacist Marleen Kemper.

“The pharmaceutical industry plays an important role in developing good products, but we think it’s not fair if these firms make big money off these patients.” Compounding is the ancient practice of preparing medicines for individual patients. Pharmacists are trained to compound, though nowadays most medicines are made by industrial producers. Drug companies have raised concerns about the safety of compounded medicines that have not been approved by European regulators. But the specialized compounding pharmacies, which have on-site laboratories, have been backed by the Dutch government as part of efforts to tame rapidly rising medicine costs.

[..] The first two drugs targeted by Dutch pharmacies are Novartis’s Lutathera and a drug called CDCA, registered in Europe by Leadiant. High prices are not unusual for new rare disease drugs, as companies must recoup development costs from a relatively small group of patients. Novartis charges 92,000 euros for a one-off course of four Lutathera injections. But while the drug is innovative, its development costs were relatively small and cannot justify the price tag, said Erasmus MC Chief Executive Ernst Kuipers. Main development costs amounted to about 40 million euros, including 15 million euros in public funding, according to Erasmus – where most of the testing took place – and a review published in the Dutch Journal of Medicine.

Read more …

Jim at his best.

A Place of Your Own (Jim Kunstler)

I don’t think you can overstate the damage we’ve done to ourselves in the sheer material arrangement of our national life. A decade ago, I sat in on many zoning board meetings called to approve new WalMarts and other chain-stores around my region of upstate New York and southern Vermont. Inevitably, the companies organized a claque of locals in the meeting hall — itself a depressing, low-ceilinged chamber of cinder blocks and fluorescent lighting — to fill the seats and yell in support of “bargain shopping.” That was some bargain they got. The chain-stores got approved and the Main Streets died, but that wasn’t the end of it. This dynamic also destroyed networks that gave local citizens an economic and social place.

Locally owned business people were the caretakers of the town. They took care of two buildings — their place of business and their home. They sat on library, school, and hospital boards and donated money to running local institutions. They employed people who lived in town and there were consequences for treating them well or badly. There was even a time in this country when local business people wouldn’t dare to put up an insultingly ugly building. A lot of this economic behavior has produced the social perversities of our time. Exterminating an entire class of local merchants has eliminated the heart of the American middle-class and grotesquely concentrated the nation’s wealth among corporate leviathans who comprise one percent of the population.

It also eliminated the place where young people learned how to do business, preparing themselves to try ventures of their own, and to make a place for themselves in the world. What is your place now? A cubicle in the marketing department of Old Navy? An aisle in the Home Depot? A desk in the Diversity and Inclusion office of some State University, pushing to sort the student population into racial and sexual categories because all other ways of belonging in society are gone? Or do you occupy ten square feet of sidewalk with a tarp and a shopping cart? None of those places are liable to furnish a personal sense that life is worth living.

Read more …

Dec 202018
 


Giovanni Bellini Madonna and Child with St. John the Baptist and Female Saint 1500-04

 

It’s 100 days to Brexit (Ind.)
Powell Breaks The Market (ZH)
A Major Technical Breakdown Just Occurred In Stocks (Colombo)
Peter Schiff : Not A Bear Market But ‘A House Of Cards The Fed Built’ (MW)
Asian Shares Battered After Fed Raises Rates For Fourth Time (G.)
Short-Term Funding Bill Announced To Stop Trump’s Government Shutdown (Ind.)
Trump Plans Full Withdrawal Of US Troops From Syria (AFP)
Don’t Hold Your Breath on US Troop Withdrawal from Syria (CN)
US Occupation of Middle East Doesn’t Suppress Terrorism, It Causes It (Murray)
Big Pharma Returning To US Price Hikes In January After Pause (R.)
Italy Avoids EU Sanctions After Reaching 2019 Budget Agreement (G.)
French Police Threaten To Join Protesters (NW)
London’s Gatwick Airport Shut Down After Drones Spotted Overhead (AP)
Der Spiegel Says Top Journalist Faked Stories For Years (G.)
Finless Porpoise, China’s Smiling Angel, Fights To Survive (AFP)

 

 

Yes it is. And so of course the UK talked about one thing only. Did Corbyn call Theresa May a ‘stupid woman’ or did he say ‘stupid people’ about a group of Tories, as a whole contingent of lipreaders claimed?

They sure know what’s important, and what not.

It’s 100 days to Brexit (Ind.)

The vote of the House of Commons on the Brexit deal will now be in the week beginning 14 January, the prime minister confirmed on Monday. She hopes that her MPs are slowly coming round to the deal as the least worst option. She may also hope that Jeremy Corbyn gives his MPs a free vote, in which case enough of them may vote for her deal as a way of avoiding another referendum. It still seems more likely that Theresa May will lose, in which case the Brexit timetable will slip further. She would probably then ask the Commons to vote again after it had rejected the other options.

The one that is easiest to eliminate would be that of leaving the EU without a deal, even if it were dressed up as a “managed no deal” – at least, it ought to be easy to eliminate this option, but, until all the hoops have been jumped through, a no-deal Brexit remains the default, which is why there was such a fuss about no-deal planning at yesterday’s cabinet. The more difficult course for parliament to rule out is that of postponing Brexit and holding a referendum. If Corbyn backs a final say referendum, a Commons vote could be close, but, if May can defeat that option, she could then ask MPs to vote again on her deal. That seems to be her plan: to wear parliament down. That way she might finally win the vote at a second attempt a week later, in the week beginning 21 January – or even after that.

By then, the country would be running out of time to complete Brexit by 29 March. The problem is that a vote to approve the deal, important though it is, is only one of the things that need to be done to take us out of the EU. Once the deal has been approved, parliament also has to pass legislation to give effect to the withdrawal agreement in UK law. This will be called the EU (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill – yet another bill that sounds similar to all the others. It will be a complex and contentious bill that will be tricky to get through a hung parliament. In particular, it will contain a mechanism to entrench parts of the withdrawal agreement in UK law and make it hard for future parliaments to change them.

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Well, not really. Powell and his predecessors built such a huge zombie that it can’t be called a market. So he’s not breaking a market but a zombie, and how exactly can that be a bad thing?

Powell Breaks The Market (ZH)

“Everything was awesome” and then Jay Powell said… Some years ago, we took away the lesson that the markets were very sensitive to news about the balance sheet, so we thought carefully about how to normalize it and thought to have it on automatic pilot, and use rates to adjust to incoming data. That has been a good decision, I think, I don’t see us changing that…. we don’t see balance sheet runoff as creating problems” And everything broke…

Overnight futures show hopeful buying – “surely The Fed will deliver and capitulate… for goodness sake, someone has to rescue my FANG portfolio!!??” – But The Fed did not – cutting their rate outlook by a mere one hike, with plenty still seeing 3 hikes ahead in 2019…

The market now expects 18bps of RATE CUTS in 2020!!!

And Futures collapsed…

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Same here with my buddie Jesse: comparing what happens with today’s zombie, with functioning markets of the past, is dangerous and of limited value.

A Major Technical Breakdown Just Occurred In Stocks (Colombo)

The much-anticipated December Fed meeting has finally come and gone, and the stock market did not like what it heard. The Fed raised rates by 0.25% and cut its expectation for 2019 rate hikes from three to two. Because the Fed didn’t sound as dovish as many investors would have liked, the S&P 500 promptly fell 1.54% to a fresh 2018 low. From a technical perspective, today’s action is extremely concerning because the S&P 500 broke the key 2,550 to 2,600 support zone that I’ve been showing for the past couple months. Today’s breakdown increases the probability of further bearish action unless the index somehow manages to close back above that zone.

The longer-term S&P 500 chart shows how critical today’s breakdown is. Today’s breakdown is the second important technical breakdown in recent months (the first one being the break below the trendline that formed in early-2016, which I said was a bad omen). Assuming today’s breakdown remains intact, 2,100 (the 2015 and 2016 highs) is the next price target and support level to watch.

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Peter Schiff appears to agree with me, only he calls it a house of cards, not a zombie.

Peter Schiff : Not A Bear Market But ‘A House Of Cards The Fed Built’ (MW)

Where in the world is Peter Schiff, as the stock market entered an apparent unraveling phase? Find the chief executive of Euro Pacific Capital, a longtime gold bug and market pundit, on a beach in Puerto Rico, where he’s taken up residence as he watches the equity market get rocked. “I’m watching the U.S. economy implode from the beach,” Schiff told MarketWatch during a recent phone interview. “We’re in a lot of trouble,” he said. “This isn’t a bear market, we’re in a house of cards that the Fed built,” he said. Indeed, despite recent attempts to rebound, the Dow Jones is on track for its worst year since 2008 — down by about 3.5% — when the financial crisis brought global markets to their knees, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

The same goes for the S&P 500 which would also notch its worst year in a decade, if its roughly 4% decline thus far this year hold. Schiff is a polarizing figure on Wall Street, a man that critics say has harbored a persistent and unrealized post-crisis narrative for the Fed’s monetary policy, with predictions of soaring inflation and a dollar collapse. However, the prominent investor should be worthy of investors’ attention, on the back of his prescient calls ahead of the 2008 financial crisis, which earned him plaudits as one of the few able to spot a global economic crisis emanating from the housing market.

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“The Fed’s been a huge friend of the stock market and they are now a little bit of an enemy and will probably become worse of an enemy..”

Asian Shares Battered After Fed Raises Rates For Fourth Time (G.)

Asian stock markets have taken a battering after the US Federal Reserve voted to raise borrowing costs for the fourth time this year, signalling a further squeeze on liquidity around the world. In Tokyo, the Nikkei closed down nearly 3% to its lowest point for 14 months as the Fed’s pledge to continue with “gradual” rate hikes next year sent shivers through financial markets. Shares in Hong Kong and Seoul were both down more than 1% while stocks in Sydney finished at a two-year low. Futures trading pointed to a drop of 2% in the FTSE100 index in London and the Dax in Frankfurt when when the markets open on Thursday morning.

Investors’ confidence that the global economy is headed for a significant slowdown was further weakened when China’s central bank introduced a new lending facility for small private businesses, which was seen as a targeted rate cut designed to kickstart the spluttering economy. The move by the People’s Bank of China shows the two biggest economies are out of step with Beijing responding to a rate hike in the US with a de facto cut. The Shanghai Composite share index was down nearly 1% in afternoon trade while the yuan wad fixed 0.22% lower against the US dollar. [..] “The Fed’s been a huge friend of the stock market and they are now a little bit of an enemy and will probably become worse of an enemy before this is all over,” Bob Doll, Nuveen chief equity strategist and senior portfolio manager, told Bloomberg.

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McConnell saves the day…

Short-Term Funding Bill Announced To Stop Trump’s Government Shutdown (Ind.)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has introduced a short-term spending bill to finance the US government and avoid a shutdown at the end of the week Mr McConnell, the leading Republican in the Senate, said that the funding bill known as a continuing resolution “will ensure continuous funding for the federal government” until 8 February. The short-term bill needs to be approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives before it can proceed to President Donald Trump’s desk to be signed into law. Mr McConnell’s bill comes as Congress races against time before funding for the government runs out on Friday at midnight, amid a contentious push by Mr Trump to make $5bn worth in funding for his controversial border wall a requirement for any spending agreement.

But, while Mr Trump had indicated that he would take responsibility for a shutdown in order to make a point about the wall, the White House has since stepped back from that threat. We have other ways that we can get to that $5 billion”, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Tuesday. On the Senate floor, Mr McConnell lashed out at Democrats, who will reclaim their House majority in January, for failing to give Mr Trump any of the $5bn he has asked for. “This seems to be the reality of our political moment,” Mr McConnell said. “It seems like political spite for the president may be winning out over sensible policy.”

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We’re going to see endless and contradictory ‘analyses’ of this. It’s already drawn out the likes of Lindsey Graham and Mario Rubio and exposed them as deep state soldiers.

Trump Plans Full Withdrawal Of US Troops From Syria (AFP)

The United States will withdraw its troops from Syria, a US official told AFP on Wednesday, after President Donald Trump said America has “defeated ISIS” in the war-ravaged country. The stunning move will have extraordinary geopolitical ramifications and throws into question the fate of US-backed Kurdish fighters who have been tackling Islamic State jihadists. “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency,” the Republican president tweeted. The US official told AFP that Trump’s decision was finalized Tuesday. “Full withdrawal, all means all,” the official said when asked if the troops would be pulled from all of Syria.

Currently, about 2,000 US forces are in Syria, most of them on a train-and-advise mission to support local forces fighting IS. The official would not provide a timeline for a withdrawal, saying only: “We will ensure force protection is adequately maintained, but as quickly as possible.” Echoing Trump, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said IS has been defeated territorially, noting the US-led coalition that includes dozens of nations would continue fighting IS. “These victories over ISIS in Syria do not signal the end of the Global Coalition or its campaign,” Sanders said in a statement. “We have started returning United States troops home as we transition to the next phase of this campaign.”

[..] Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, said the president’s decision was shortsighted. “President @realDonaldTrump is right to want to contain Iranian expansion,” Graham said on Twitter. “However, withdrawal of our forces in Syria mightily undercuts that effort and put our allies, the Kurds at risk.” Charles Lister, a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute, called the decision “extraordinarily short-sighted and naive.” “This move will look like a ‘withdrawal,’ not a ‘victory,’ and yet more evidence of the dangerous unpredictability of the US president,” Lister said. “This is not just a dream scenario for ISIS, but also for Russia, Iran and the Assad regime, all of whom stand to benefit substantially from a US withdrawal.”

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It is quite possible that the deep state will eventually swallow Trump’s announcement whole. However, if he had gone through the usual channels to make his announcement, they would have caught it before it became public. That’s why he has Twitter.

Don’t Hold Your Breath on US Troop Withdrawal from Syria (CN)

The announcement on Wednesday that the U.S. will withdraw all remaining troops from Syria within the next month looked at first like a rare victory for Donald Trump in his admittedly erratic opposition to senseless wars of adventure. “We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there,” the president tweeted with an unmistakable air of triumph. Don’t get your hopes up. Just about everything in these initial reports is either wrong or misleading. One, the U.S. did not defeat the Islamic State: The Syrian Arab Army, aided by Russia, Iran, and Hezbollah militias did. Two, hardly was ISIS the only reason the U.S. has maintained a presence in Syria. The intent for years was to support a coup against the Assad government in Damascus—in part by training and equipping jihadists often allied with ISIS.

For at least the past six months, the U.S. military’s intent in Syria has been to counter Iranian influence. Last and hardly least, the U.S. is not closing down its military presence in Syria. It is digging in for an indefinite period, making Raqqa the equivalent of the Green Zone in Baghdad. By the official count, there are 503 U.S. troops stationed in the Islamic State’s former capital. Unofficially, according to The Washington Post and other press reports, the figure is closer to 4,000—twice the number that is supposed to represent a “full withdrawal” from Syrian soil. It would be nice to think Washington has at last accepted defeat in Syria, given it is preposterous to pretend otherwise any longer.

Damascus is now well into its consolidation phase. Russia, Iran, and Turkey are currently working with Staffan de Mistura, the UN’s special envoy for Syria, to form a committee in January to begin drafting a new Syrian constitution. It would also be nice to think the president and commander-in-chief has the final say in his administration’s policies overseas, given the constitution by which we are supposed to be governed. But the misleading announcement on the withdrawal of troops, followed by Trump’s boastful tweet, suggest something close to exactly the opposite. As Trump finishes his second year in office, the pattern is plain: This president can have all the foreign policy ideas he wants, but the Pentagon, State, the intelligence apparatus, and the rest of what some call “the deep state” will either reverse, delay, or never implement any policy not to its liking.

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The Grand Coalition includes the media.

US Occupation of Middle East Doesn’t Suppress Terrorism, It Causes It (Murray)

Even the neo-con warmongers’ house journal The Guardian, furious at Trump’s attempts to pull US troops out of Syria, in producing a map to illustrate its point, could only produce one single, uncertain, very short pen stroke to describe the minute strip of territory it claims ISIS still control on the Iraqi border. Of course, the Guardian produces the argument that continued US military presence is necessary to ensure that ISIS does not spring back to life in Syria. The fallacy of that argument can be easily demonstrated. In Afghanistan, the USA has managed to drag out the long process of humiliating defeat in war even further than it did in Vietnam.

It is plain as a pikestaff that the presence of US occupation troops is itself the best recruiting sergeant for resistance. In Sikunder Burnes I trace how the battle lines of tribal alliances there today are precisely the same ones the British faced in 1841. We just attach labels like Taliban to hide the fact that invaders face national resistance. The secret to ending the strength of ISIS in Syria is not the continued presence of American troops. It is for America’s ever closer allies in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf to cut off the major artery of money and arms, which we should never forget in origin and for a long time had a strong US component. The US/Saudi/Israeli alliance against Iran is the most important geo-political factor in the region today.

It is high time this alliance stopped both funding ISIS and pretending to fight it; schizophrenia is not a foreign policy stance. There has been no significant Shia Islamic terrorist or other threat against the West in recent years. 9/11 was carried out by Saudi Sunni militants. Al Qaida, ISIS, Al Nusra, Boko Haram, these are all Sunni groups, and all Saudi sponsored. It is a matter of lunacy that the West has adopted the posture that it is Iran – which has sponsored not one attack on the West in recent memory – which is the threat in the Middle East.

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Trump will have to act, or risk looking like a fool.

Big Pharma Returning To US Price Hikes In January After Pause (R.)

Novartis and Bayer are among nearly 30 drugmakers that have taken steps to raise the U.S. prices of their medicines in January, ending a self-declared halt to increases made by a pharma industry under pressure from the Trump administration, according to documents seen by Reuters.The hikes will pose a new challenge to President Donald Trump’s pledge to lower the costs of prescription medications in the world’s most expensive pharmaceutical market. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has proposed a slew of policies aimed at lowering prices and passing more of the discounts negotiated by health insurers on to patients.

Those measures are not expected to provide relief to consumers in the short-term, however, and fall short of giving government health agencies direct authority to negotiate or regulate drug prices. 28 drugmakers filed notifications with California agencies in early November disclosing that they planned to raise prices in 60 days or longer. Under a state law passed last year, companies are required to notify payers in California if they intend to raise the U.S. list price on any drug by more than 16 percent over a two-year period. [..] “Requests and public shaming haven’t worked” to lower drug prices, said Michael Rea, chief executive of RX Savings Solutions, which helps health plans and employers seek lower cost prescription medicines. “We expect the number of 2019 increases to be even greater than in past years.”

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I think Salvini will get away with presenting this as a victory. But I may be wrong. How far removed is it from what Tsipras pulled in summer 2015? And how much is it like Macron and the yellow vests?

Italy Avoids EU Sanctions After Reaching 2019 Budget Agreement (G.)

Italy has managed to avert EU sanctions after reaching a compromise with the European commission over its 2019 budget. The Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said the government had managed to reach an agreement to reduce the deficit target to 2.04% of GDP from 2.4%. This has been achieved without making drastic changes to key budget proposals such as the promise of a universal basic income and lowering the pension age. “Over the last few weeks we worked to bring the positions closer without ever moving backwards with respect to the objectives the Italian people set us in the 4 March election,” Conte said.

“The economic-financial estimates about the measures that attracted the most attention of our European partners revealed that the resources [needed] were less than forecast.” The yield, or effective interest rate, on Italian 10-year government bonds fell to 2.79%, the lowest level since September. Less than two months ago the yield, the price the Italian government has to pay to borrow, rose to 3.8%. However, Valdis Dombrovskis, a European commission vice-president, described the agreement with Italy as a “borderline compromise” that fails to provide long-term solutions to the country’s economic problems. “But it enables us, for now, to avoid opening a debt procedure, as long as the negotiated measures are fully applied,” he said at a press conference in Brussels.

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Hilarious: “Police have accumulated some 23 million hours of overtime that is yet to be paid.”

French Police Threaten To Join Protesters (NW)

The French government is desperately trying to keep its exhausted police force onside following weeks of violent protests demanding economic reforms, improved living standards and the resignation of President Emmanuel Macron. On Wednesday, French officials met with police trade union leaders to work out a deal to soothe anger in law enforcement ranks regarding overwork, unpaid overtime and difficult working conditions, Le Monde reported. But some activists are calling on police to walk out on government negotiations, close down police stations and join the “gilets jaunes”—or yellow vest—protesters with whom they have been facing off since November 17. Negotiations between three unions—Alliance, UNSA-Police and Unity-SGP-FO—and Interior Minister Christophe Castaner on Tuesday failed to reach a settlement.

As talks resumed on Wednesday, France 24 reported that activists were calling on forces across the country to commit to a “slowdown” and only respond to emergencies until the dispute had been settled. Police have accumulated some 23 million hours of overtime that is yet to be paid. According to The Local France, police union leader Frédéric Lagache explained, “Faced with this irresponsibility [of the government], we are forced to be irresponsible in our actions.” The Alliance and Unity-SGP-FO unions called for a “black day for the police” on Wednesday. The Alliance is using Twitter and Facebook to rally support for what it calls “Act 1” of the police protests, using the name given to the ongoing demonstrations held by the gilets jaunes. The group has also threatened to hold “Act II” and “Act III” if required.

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I’m thinking one word here: copycats. Too easy not to try at home.

London’s Gatwick Airport Shut Down After Drones Spotted Overhead (AP)

London’s Gatwick Airport shut down late Wednesday while officials urgently investigated reports that two drones were flying above the airfield. The airport suspended all flights, causing severe disruptions just days before Christmas during one of the heaviest travel times of the year. Police and aviation authorities were still investigating early Thursday as incoming flights were diverted to other locations in Britain and nearby countries. Passengers complained on Twitter that their flights had landed at London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham and other cities. Other flights were sent to France and the Netherlands. One traveler whose flight was diverted tweeted that passengers were not being told when they could continue to their destination.

Gatwick advised travelers via Twitter to check flights scheduled for Thursday before heading to the airport. It also advised anyone planning to pick up arriving passengers to check first. Any problem at Gatwick causes a ripple effect throughout Britain and continental Europe, particularly during a holiday period when the air traffic control system is under strain. It is a busy airport 27 miles south of London, hosting a variety of short- and long-haul flights and serving as a major hub for the budget carrier easyJet. Gatwick normally operates throughout the night but the number of flights is restricted because of noise limitations. The airport website says it usually handles 18 to 20 flights overnight during the winter months.

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Yes, it’s priceless to read the Guardian on fake news.

Craig Murray tweets: ..The Guardian today published a story about a German journalist who invented stories, but still has never apologised for its own 100% fabricated Luke Harding piece about Manafort’s “visits to Assange in the Embassy”, and Harding and Viner are still employed..

Der Spiegel Says Top Journalist Faked Stories For Years (G.)

The German news magazine Der Spiegel has been plunged into chaos after revealing that one of its top reporters had falsified stories over several years. The media world was stunned by the revelations that the award-winning journalist Claas Relotius had, according to the weekly, “made up stories and invented protagonists” in at least 14 out of 60 articles that appeared in its print and online editions, warning that other outlets could also be affected. Relotius, 33, resigned after admitting to the scam. He had written for the magazine for seven years and won numerous awards for his investigative journalism, including CNN Journalist of the Year in 2014.

Earlier this month, he won Germany’s Reporterpreis (Reporter of the Year) for his story about a young Syrian boy, which the jurors praised for its “lightness, poetry and relevance”. It has since emerged that all the sources for his reportage were at best hazy, and much of what he wrote was made up. The falsification came to light after a colleague who worked with him on a story along the US-Mexican border raised suspicions about some of the details in Relotius’s reporting, having harboured doubts about him for some time.

The colleague, Juan Moreno, eventually tracked down two alleged sources quoted extensively by Relotius in the article, which was published in November. Both said they had never met Relotius. Relotius had also lied about seeing a hand-painted sign that read “Mexicans keep out”, a subsequent investigation found. Other fraudulent stories included one about a Yemeni prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, and one about the American football star Colin Kaepernick.

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Sometimes I think that if all my friends are leaving, why would I stay behind?

Finless Porpoise, China’s Smiling Angel, Fights To Survive (AFP)

In an oxbow lake along the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, a breathy sigh pierces the surface stillness as one of China’s most endangered animals comes up for a gulp of hazy air. A slick black back with no dorsal fin arches briefly above the water line before plunging back down. Such glimpses of the shy Yangtze finless porpoise, the only aquatic mammal left in China’s longest river and known in Chinese as the “smiling angel” for its perma-grin, are increasingly rare. Pollution, overfishing, hydroelectric dams and shipping traffic have rendered them critically endangered, worse off even than China’s best-known symbol of animal conservation, the panda.


AFP Photo/Johannes EISELE

China’s government estimates there were 1,012 wild Yangtze finless porpoises in 2017, compared to more than 1,800 giant pandas, which is no longer endangered. But researchers see signs of hope. Porpoise numbers fell by nearly half from 2006-2012 to an estimated 1,040. But the rate of decline has slowed markedly since then, suggesting that conservation may be making a dent. A central component of the rescue effort is the introduction of porpoises to several conservation areas off the busy river, where researchers say numbers have been actually increasing. [..] Chinese officials are keen to avoid a repeat of the “baiji”, or Yangtze dolphin, the river’s only other aquatic mammal, which since 2006 has been considered extinct in a huge conservation setback for China. Losing the “smiling angel” would be a further tragedy, conservationists say.

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