Jun 062020
 


F.A. Loumis Independence Day 1906

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

Why do all these medical professionals volunteer to look ridiculous?

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

A Second Major COVID Study Is Retracted (Newser)

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


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

Read more …

It’s cheaper to die, gramps.

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

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


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

Read more …

The bogeyman speaketh. Extreme fear ensues.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Storm warning.

Tidal Wave Of Defaults And Evictions Looms (NPR)

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

Life imitates Bizarro World.

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

Senate Approves 35 Subpoenas for Obama Administration Officials (NBC)

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

 

 

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May 302020
 


Edward Hopper Folly Beach, Charleston, South Carolina 1929

 

Protests Spread Nationwide: Minnesota Curfew, White House Locks Down (JTN)
Unsanitized: Social Unrest When There’s Nothing to Lose (Dayen)
Trump Orders His Administration To Begin Eliminating Hong Kong Privileges (R.)
Trump Says US To Withdraw From WHO. Does He Have The Authority To Do It? (NPR)
Twitter Targets Trump Again, Flagging Tweet After Executive Order (SAC)
Coronavirus Sinks US Consumer Spending As Savings Hit Record High (R.)
Investors Eye Consumer Discretionary Stocks As US Reopens (R.)
A Chronicle of a Lost Decade Foretold (Varoufakis )
Malaria Drug And Zinc, The Missing Link (Berry)
Australian Anti-Vaxxers Label COVID19 a ‘Scam’ At Anti-5G Protests (AAP)
States Are Copying & Pasting Immunity Laws For Nursing Home Execs (Sirota)
De Blasio Ramps Up Destruction Of Homeless Encampments (Gothamist)
No One Knows Where Ghislaine Maxwell Is (Esq.)

 

 

The conversation has shifted away from corona for now. Is that a good thing?

Total global cases pass 6 million as daily new cases set another record at 125,511.

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 25,069
• Brazil + 30,739
• Russia + 8,952
• UK 4,938
• India + 8,105
• Peru + 6,506
• Chile + 4,654

 

 

 

Cases 6,054,777 (+ 122,597 from yesterday’s 5,932,180)

Deaths 367,288 (+ 4,674 from yesterday’s 362,614)

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two sides prone to violence.

Protests Spread Nationwide: Minnesota Curfew, White House Locks Down (JTN)

The anger over George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody fueled intense protests coast to coast Friday night, as activists ignored a Minnesota curfew to set new fires while the White House temporarily locked down over security concerns just outside its gates. The arrest and murder charges filed earlier in the day against the police officer who allegedly knelt on Floyd’s neck did little to quell a swelling rage that drove protests in cities as diverse as New York and San Jose. In Atlanta, protesters spray-painted sayings and broke windows at CNN’s headquarters while tense officers in Brooklyn borough lined up to keep angry, chanting protesters from straying from street protests toward business.


The Secret Service on Friday evening put the White House on brief lockdown, sheltering reporters inside the press room, as several videos on social media showed unruly protesters outside of the Treasury Department, adjacent to the heavily fortified White House, and large groups of protesters walking from the city’s historically black U Street neighborhood chanting, “No peace, no justice.” The protests started Tuesday in Minneapolis, where weary residents and officers faced a fourth night of violence, rioting and fire setting. The Minnesota governor activated the national guard and a strict curfew for 8 p.m. was imposed in the Twin Cities, but it failed to keep large numbers of protesters from taking to the streets anew.

Read more …

“..that’s the same brutality..”

Unsanitized: Social Unrest When There’s Nothing to Lose (Dayen)

There’s a reason that Spike Lee set Do the Right Thing on the hottest day of the year in Brooklyn. The pressure from the heat simmered through the community and created sparks that ignited existing tensions. There was a triggering event, which led to a police chokehold and the death of Radio Raheem, and the destruction of Sal’s Pizzeria. The weather was the backdrop as events played out. That was 1989 and it couldn’t be more relevant right now. The death of George Floyd is obviously unforgivable on its own terms. There doesn’t need to be any context. Unreformed police murder in communities of color has been part of America since well before I was born. I have nothing to comment on about looters—at least eight people sent me this Onion headline, “Protestors Criticized For Looting Businesses Without Forming Private Equity Firm First.” (I guess my reputation precedes me.)

I can’t say anything about the burning of the 3rd police precinct. And I have a lot to say about the great misfortune of having Donald J. Trump in a leadership position during this moment, but most of it would be curse words. Decades of disinvestment and routinized brutality and structural racism created these conditions. The officer who killed George Floyd had enough history of violence alone to contribute mightily to this rage. (And yes, Amy Klobuchar declined to prosecute him and many others for these crimes.) But you cannot separate this outpouring of anger from two months of death, economic collapse, and the disproportionate pain raining down right now on communities of color.

Decades of environmental racism have created toxic vectors for spreading the virus; that’s the same brutality. Minority small business owners have had a harder time securing federal aid, owing to more distant relationships with local banks; that’s the same brutality. African Americans are more likely to be in “essential” jobs and unable to work from home and protect themselves; that’s the same brutality. They’re more likely to be in prisons under perhaps the worst conditions of this crisis; that’s definitely the same brutality. “Black Americans are 80 percent more likely than white people to have diabetes,” which puts them at higher risk from COVID-19; that’s the same brutality. Lack of decent food in communities of color, and access to healthcare, and the ability to rent enough space in shelter to physically distance—this is all brutality against a people, manifested today but going back 400 years.

When you are either out of work or on a hair trigger because you know you’re risking your life by going to work; when your business can’t get a bridge loan and you know everything you worked for is about to be extinguished; when you’re cut off from your friends and neighbors; when your source of sustenance is the food bank; when you have nothing to lose, and then on television you see a black man with his neck wedged between a police officer’s knee and the pavement until he chokes, and you hear he died in police custody after pleading “I can’t breathe,” and you remember how those words were spoken by Eric Garner, and you hear that the man was in custody for using counterfeit money and you don’t think that’s a sufficient reason to kill somebody, and you recall that the Minneapolis Police Department has had a really ugly history with the black community for a long time, and when you exhale a little because the cops involved were fired but then the local prosecutor says this murder of a black man doesn’t merit prosecution… what results from this injustice should meet your expectations.

Read more …

It boils down to: how big of a threat is China? Opinionsvary.

Trump Orders His Administration To Begin Eliminating Hong Kong Privileges (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he was directing his administration to begin the process of eliminating special treatment for Hong Kong, in response to China’s plans to impose new security legislation in the territory. Trump made the announcement at a White House news conference, saying China had broken its word over Hong Kong’s autonomy. He said its move against Hong Kong was a tragedy for the people of Hong Kong, China and the world. “We will take action to revoke Hong Kong’s preferential treatment,” he said, adding that the United States would also impose sanctions on individuals seen as responsible for smothering Hong Kong’s autonomy.


Trump’s move follows Chinese plans to impose new national security legislation on the former British colony. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the territory no longer warrants special treatment under U.S. law that has enabled it to remain a global financial center. Trump said he was directing his administration to begin the process of eliminating policy agreements on Hong Kong, ranging from extradition treatment to export controls. He said he would also issue a proclamation on Friday to better safeguard vital university research by suspending the entry of foreign nationals from China identified as potential security risks.

Read more …

The WHO has failed/refused to reform the way Trump asked them to.

Trump Says US To Withdraw From WHO. Does He Have The Authority To Do It? (NPR)

President Trump has announced that he is immediately halting the decades-long U.S. membership in the World Health Organization over its response to China’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic. In a press briefing Friday at the White House, Trump said, “We will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs.” Trump said the decision came because WHO has “failed to make” reforms the U.S. requested. Last week, Trump sent a letter to WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, outlining his views on how the agency favors China and asking the organization to “commit to major substantive improvements within the next 30 days.”

It’s not clear what specific reforms the U.S. has requested, because those discussions have not been made public. Nor did Trump say why he acted on the threat after one week rather than waiting a month. The U.S. was a major force in founding WHO in 1948 and is the organization’s top funder, providing around $450 million a year, according to Trump. The level of funding the U.S. provides to WHO has been a sore spot for Trump, who complained at the briefing that the U.S. pays significantly more than China but does not wield more power in the agency. Global health experts said the president’s choice to leave the global health governing body during a pandemic is a dangerous call.

“This decision is really so short-sighted and ill-advised, and all it does is put American lives at risk,” said Dr. Howard Koh, former assistant secretary for health in the Obama administration and now a professor at Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health. “I disagree with the president’s decision,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, in a statement after the announcement. “Withdrawing U.S. membership could, among other things, interfere with clinical trials that are essential to the development of vaccines, which citizens of the United States as well as others in the world need. And withdrawing could make it harder to work with other countries to stop viruses before they get to the United States.”

It’s questionable whether the president can make a unilateral decision to withdraw from WHO. “It is an overreach of his constitutional powers,” said Larry Gostin, director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University. Gostin said he believes that the president may need congressional approval to terminate U.S. membership in the U.N. agency. “The only situation where he can do this is if Congress had agreed beforehand to give these powers to the president,” said Kelley Lee, a professor of public health at Simon Fraser University. “It is the role of legal advisers to inform the president on what authority he can exert. He is either not receiving good advice or not listening to it.”

Read more …

Thugs, huh?

Twitter Targets Trump Again, Flagging Tweet After Executive Order (SAC)

Twitter flagged and hid a tweet posted by President Donald Trump’s early Friday morning after the president signed an Executive Order challenging the growing political bias in tech companies, whose platforms are meant to be neutral. Trump’s tweet was in response to the growing unrest and rioting in Minnesota, in response to the horrific death of George Floyd while in police custody. Thursday night the situation in Minneapolis escalated again when rioters overran a police precinct, forcing police officers, who were told not to respond by city officials, to evacuate before it was burned to the ground.

Trump signed the Executive Order Thursday aimed at social media giants he says, have been operating as biased publishers rather than platforms for free speech. Trump tweeted that these “THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”

The National Guard was sent to assist local authorities in containing the rioting. Earlier the president criticized the city’s mayor, who ordered the evacuation of the precinct saying, “the very weak radical left mayor Jacob Frey” if he didn’t bring the city under control. In response, Twitter flagged the President’s tweet and attached a notice saying “we have placed a public interest notice on this Tweet from @realDonaldTrump.” The tweet is actually hidden from public view but can be viewed if the reader so chooses to click on it. “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence,” said Twitter. “However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”

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Consumer spending is way down. Therefore, savings must be way up? is that so?

Coronavirus Sinks US Consumer Spending As Savings Hit Record High (R.)

U.S. consumers cut spending by the most on record for the second straight month in April while boosting savings to an all-time high, and the growing frugality reinforced expectations the economy could take years to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The report from the Commerce Department on Friday also showed an economy highly reliant on the government, with financial aid checks from a historic fiscal package worth nearly $3 trillion driving a record surge in personal income. Together with news that monthly exports collapsed, the report left economists anticipating the largest contraction in gross domestic product in the second quarter since the Great Depression. Data has also been dismal this month on the labor market, manufacturing production and homebuilding.

“Right now, the economy is totally dependent upon the largesse of the government,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economics in Holland, Pennsylvania. “Will the federal government keep sending out checks or will the household and business welfare payments dry up?” The Commerce Department said consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, plunged 13.6% last month, the biggest drop since the government started tracking the series in 1959. It eclipsed the previous all-time decrease of 6.9% in March.

[..] Personal income surged a record 10.5% last month. Without the government money, income would have declined 6.3% with business closures pushing wages down 8.0%. The unprecedented economic upheaval saw the saving rate hitting a record 33%. “If the economy reopens quickly without consequence, the millions who lost jobs are hired back and have no reason to fear they will lose their jobs again, these savings represent considerable spending power in the second half,” said Chris Low, chief economist at FHN in New York. “If it takes longer to reopen the economy, these savings will be used for sustenance over the next few months. They will limit the decline, but not fuel a sharp rebound.”

[..] In a second report on Friday, the Commerce Department said goods exports tumbled 25.2% to $95.4 billion in April, a 10-year low. The broad decline in exports was led by a 65.9% collapse in shipments of motor vehicles and parts. That outpaced a 14.3% tumble in imports. As a result, the goods trade deficit widened 7.2% to 69.7 billion last month. The larger goods trade deficit is likely a drag on second GDP, which economists expect could drop at as much as a 40% rate, a pace not seen since the 1930s. The economy contracted at a 5.0% annualized rate last quarter, the deepest pace of decline in GDP since the 2007-09 recession. Consumer spending tumbled at a 6.8% rate, the sharpest drop since the second quarter of 1980.

Read more …

Everyone buys Amazon, consumers and investors.

Investors Eye Consumer Discretionary Stocks As US Reopens (R.)

Investors are taking a closer look at the market’s consumer discretionary companies as a reopening U.S. economy fuels hopes of a turnaround for some of the sector’s hardest-hit names. Many companies in the sector have been battered by the country-wide coronavirus-fueled lockdowns that have weighed on growth and damaged retail spending over the last several months, though the stocks of a few, like Amazon, have soared. A gradual lifting of lockdowns in some states has stirred hopes for a bounce back for the retailers that make up much of the sector.Some investors, however, say it may be months before consumers return to their previous shopping habits, making it unlikely that the companies will see a pickup in revenues in the near term.

Firms ranging from middle-income retailers such as Gap Iand American Eagle Outfitters to high-end destinations like Tiffany & Co and Vail Resorts Inc are expected to report results in the week ahead. “This particular group is full of landmines,” said Jamie Cox, managing partner for Harris Financial Group. “There is not going to be a lot of investor follow-through until we get some certainty with what future revenue prospects are going to be.” Shares of the Gap, for instance, are down 43% for the year to date. A recession that persists through the fourth quarter of this year would reduce the company’s revenues by 40%, according to a note by research firm Trefis.

Next Friday’s U.S. jobs report is expected to show that the unemployment rate rose to 19.8% in May, smashing April’s record 14.7%, according to a Reuters poll. Non-farm payrolls are expected to drop by 7.4 million, adding to the 20.5 million jobs lost the previous month. Cox is focusing on dominant players such as Amazon.com Inc, Walmart Inc and Target Corp, which have a mix of essential items such as groceries as well as electronics and games that can appeal to customers who may face extended lockdowns during a potential second wave of the virus. Overall, retail companies in the S&P 500 are up 12.9% for the year to date, a gain powered largely by Amazon’s 31% rally. Apparel companies, by comparison, are down 16.2% over the same time.

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Yanis doesn’t want separate countries, though they are likely the best format in a pandemic. No, he wants globalization, just not the one we know. How practical is that?

A Chronicle of a Lost Decade Foretold (Varoufakis )

To exorcise my worst fears about the coming decade, I chose to write a bleak chronicle of it. If, by December 2030, developments have invalidated it, I hope such dreary prognoses will have played a part by spurring us to appropriate action. Before our pandemic-induced lockdowns, politics seemed to be a game. Political parties behaved like sports teams having good or bad days, scoring points that propelled them up a league table that, at season’s end, determined who would form a government and then do next to nothing. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic stripped away the veneer of indifference to reveal the political reality: some people do have the power to tell the rest of us what to do. Lenin’s description of politics as “who does what to whom” seemed more apt than ever.

By June 2020, as lockdowns began to ease, left-wing optimism that the pandemic would revive state power on behalf of the powerless remained, leading friends to fantasize about a renaissance of the commons and a capacious definition of public goods. Margaret Thatcher, I would remind them, left the British state larger, more powerful, and more concentrated than she had found it. An authoritarian state was necessary to support markets controlled by corporations and banks. Those in authority have never hesitated to harness massive government intervention to the preservation of oligarchic power. Why should a pandemic change that? As a result of COVID-19, the grim reaper almost claimed both the British prime minister and the Prince of Wales, and even Hollywood’s nicest star. But it was the poorer and the browner that the reaper actually did claim. They were easy pickings.

[..] Just as cathedrals were the Middle Ages’ architectural legacy, the 2020s left us tall walls, electrified fences, and flocks of surveillance drones. The nation-state’s revival made the world less open, less prosperous, and less free precisely for those who had always found it hard to travel, to make ends meet, and to speak their minds. For the oligarchs and functionaries of Big Tech, Big Pharma, and other megafirms, who got on famously with the strongmen in authority, globalization proceeded apace.

The myth of the global village gave way to an equilibrium between great-power blocs, each sporting burgeoning militaries, separate supply chains, idiosyncratic autocracies, and class divisions reinforced by new forms of nativism. The new socioeconomic cleavages threw the prevailing features of each country’s politics into sharp relief. Like people who become caricatures of themselves in a crisis, whole countries focused on their collective illusions, exaggerating and cementing pre-existing prejudices.

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Your daily dose of anti-remdesivir.

Malaria Drug And Zinc, The Missing Link (Berry)

Mystery surrounds why an anti-malaria drug is not being tested as a Covid-19 treatment in combination with zinc, which doctors say is crucial for efficacy. As we reported recently, President Trump revealed he was taking hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) alongside zinc after reports that many doctors are doing the same to help ward off Covid-19. Criticism of the President rose sharply after a non-randomised study published in the Lancet said that HCQ provided no benefit to hospitalised Covid-19 patients while being linked to increased deaths. What the mainstream media did not point out is that the Lancet study failed to test HCQ with zinc. Other experts have found zinc to be vital for efficacy in this context.

Zinc, available as an over-the-counter supplement, has long been seen as an immune-system booster that helps develop immune cells, or antibodies, and can strengthen the body’s response to a virus. American infectious disease specialist Joseph Rahimian explained that, in relation to Covid-19, zinc ‘does the heavy lifting and is the primary substance attacking the pathogen’. HCQ is said to work as a delivery systemfor zinc in fighting coronavirus. Ironically, the Lancet study came out at the same time as it was reported that India’s premier health body had expanded use of HCQ as a preventive for key workers following three studies showing positive results.

[..] ..a study by the New York University Grossman School of Medicine published this month [..] found that those receiving the triple-drug combination (HCQ, with azithromycin and, crucially, zinc) ‘were 44 per cent less likely to die, compared with the double-drug combination (i.e. without zinc)’. As the study notes:‘This study provides the first in vivo evidence that zinc sulfate in combination with hydroxychloroquine may play a role in therapeutic management for Covid-19.’ The above makes the question of why zinc was not used in the Lancet study more baffling. And why don’t the media note that the combination of zinc and HCQ is crucial?

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This sounds quite confused. “5G = communism”? Where do we start?

Yeah, 5G should be researched much more before it’s lanuched. But how can it turn COVID19 into a scam?

Australian Anti-Vaxxers Label COVID19 a ‘Scam’ At Anti-5G Protests (AAP)

Hundreds of anti-vaccination protesters have defied social distancing measures at rallies in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. Protesters claiming the Covid-19 pandemic was a “scam” gathered at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne on Saturday, and carried signs declaring they were against vaccines and 5G technology. Their placards claimed “5G = communism”, “Covid 1984” and “our ignorance is their strength”. They booed police – clad in gloves and face masks – who warned the crowd that they were breaching social distancing rules designed to slow the spread of coronavirus. In a statement, police said those found in breach of Covid-19 directions faced fines of $1,652 each.


In Sydney, up to 500 protesters voiced conspiracy theories regarding not only vaccination but also 5G telecommunication networks, fluoride and large pharmaceutical corporations. The group convened at Hyde Park in the CBD before holding a singalong of anti-vaccination songs and walking to NSW Parliament House. They chanted “freedom of choice” and “my body, my choice” on the march, with some attempting to raise the spectre of a “new world order”. The walk passed without incident or police intervention. When asked about the protest, Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, said “there’s no message that can get through to people who have no belief in science”. “There’s probably no reaching them,” he earlier told reporters.

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Hey, you wanted a for-profit medical system.

States Are Copying & Pasting Immunity Laws For Nursing Home Execs (Sirota)

To date, 19 states have enacted some form of immunity for the hospital and nursing home industries during the pandemic. In general, these new policies shield nurses, doctors and other frontline health care workers from liability when they are treating COVID patients. However, New York, Massachusetts and North Carolina go further: unlike other states, the identical language added to their laws explicitly define health care providers as including “a health care facility administrator, executive, supervisor, board member, trustee” or other corporate managers. That exact word-for-word clause appears in emergency legislation in all three states. In practice, it extends immunity to corporate officials who are not on the medical frontlines, but who are making life-and-death decisions across their companies.


“The new measures granting immunity to health care providers and professionals go well beyond protecting front-line workers from lawsuits — many also provide immunity to administrators who make unreasonable and dangerous, even lethal, decisions,” said Syracuse University law professor Nina Kohn. “New York, Massachusetts, and North Carolina take protection for corporate owners and executives to a whole new level by explicitly granting immunity to board members, trustees, and directors.” “This is extraordinary protection which is in no way in the public interest,” Kohn said. “These states are explicitly and unabashedly giving for-profit corporations and corporate executives the green light to make unreasonable decisions that put vulnerable people in imminent danger, and letting them know that they don’t have to worry about being held legally accountable for the avoidable human damage that results.”

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Teaching the poor another lesson will always trump the pandemic.

De Blasio Ramps Up Destruction Of Homeless Encampments (Gothamist)

Trudi and Rickey Reppi live in a tent on a triangular stretch of sidewalk between three lanes of traffic by the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel. The tent serves as a headquarters of sorts for a community of homeless people and panhandlers. Dave, Rob, Richard, Russia, and Seven all often sleep outside, some on mattresses or chairs, some on cardboard and bundled-up clothing. Others drop by frequently throughout the day, accepting packaged meals Trudi and Rickey had picked up from an aid organization (“Homeless people help each other way more than anyone in these hundred thousand dollar cars ever help us,” Trudi says) or fanning out, cardboard signs in hand, to ask passing drivers for money for hours on end.

The police arrive at about 9 a.m, flanked by outreach and Sanitation workers forming a team of around a dozen city employees. Trudi and Rickey wearily begin the weekly routine of taking down their tent, bundling up all the possessions they can carry, and leaving everything else on the side of the street for the Sanitation workers to throw away. For years, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has been sending joint teams of NYPD officers, Sanitation workers, and Department of Homeless Services staff to require that homeless people move from locations where they’ve set up shelter. The number of sweeps (also called “clean-ups”) per week has risen dramatically in the last six months, according to homeless people, advocates and case workers.

A DHS employee, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said that the team implementing the sweeps had increased last November from about 3 to about 40. The employee said that the clean-ups would be increasing to twice a week at most encampments; eventually, he suggested, homeless people would give in and accept shelter. Trudi says that she’s been subject to ten to fifteen sweeps in just the last three months. This count doesn’t include the nightly visits the NYPD has paid her in May, sending as many as nine police officers at 3 a.m. to demand that she take down her tent. “In my administration, we made a decision that from our point of view, it was unacceptable to have [a] single encampment anywhere in New York City and they had to be dismantled anytime they’re identified,” Mayor de Blasio said at a press conference earlier this month.

“And we’ve been doing that now for years and it’s really caused the encampments to become a rarity, but whenever we see a new one, we immediately take it down.” But the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has explicitly recommended against clearing encampments or displacing unsheltered homeless people during the pandemic. “If individual housing options are not available, allow people who are living unsheltered or in encampments to remain where they are,” the guidelines read. “Clearing encampments can cause people to disperse throughout the community and break connections with service providers. This increases the potential for infectious disease spread.”

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The Netflix series on Epstein brings her to our attention again.

Still No One Knows Where Ghislaine Maxwell Is (Esq.)

Though multiple survivors have alleged that Maxwell participated in Epstein’s alleged crimes, she’s never been criminally charged. One thing that could stymie potential efforts to level charges against Maxwell is the infamous 2008 plea deal that Epstein struck with the US Attorney for Miami, Alexander Acosta, which found him serving just 13 months in prison after initially facing charges that could have garnered him a life sentence. Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich producer Joe Berlinger described the deal to Esquire as “unprecedented, unheard of sweetheart deal” that “included a non-prosecution agreement for named and unnamed co-conspirators.”

In April, an appeals court upheld the 2007 deal, writing in its opinion that the decision was “not a result we like, but it’s the result we think the law requires.” Maxwell is currently suing Epstein’s estate for money for her legal fees, and for the price of private security, alleging that her “prior employment relationship” with Epstein has caused to her be subjected to death threats. Though once a fixture of the global high-society, Maxwell has been spotted rarely in recent years. Last summer, she was photographed at a Los Angeles In-N-Out Burger, though the authenticity of the photo has been disputed. Her New York townhouse was sold in 2016.

This month, it was reported that lawyers for accusers seeking to file a civil suit against Maxwell have been unable to locate her. According to ABC news, one alleged victim’s “legal team dispatched process servers to five addresses previously connected to Maxwell, including a multi-million dollar brownstone on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, an apartment building in Miami Beach and Epstein’s mansion on Palm Beach Island.” Maxwell is also contending with other civil lawsuits filed by alleged survivors. Just this month, she won the right to delay her questioning in a suit filed by Annie Farmer, the sister of fellow Epstein accuser Maria Farmer, on the grounds that her testimony could be used against her in a current criminal investigation. But with the FBI allegedly investigating Maxwell, her story could be far from over.

Read more …

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

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 272020
 


G. G. Bain Metropolitan Opera baritone Giuseppe De Luca, New York 1920

 

Despite The Hype, Gilead’s Remdesivir Will Do Nothing To End The Coronavirus Pandemic (Lerner)
WHO Expects Hydroxychloroquine Safety Findings By Mid-June (R.)
Antibody Tests For COVID19 Wrong Up To Half The Time – CDC (CNN)
Coronavirus Cases Are On The Rise In 20 US States (R.) .
Coronavirus Uses Same Strategy As HIV To Dodge Immune Response (SCMP)
China’s Top Virus Warrior ‘Shocked’ By US Coronavirus Death Toll (SCMP)
Neglected Residents, Rotten Food, Cockroaches Found At Canada Care Homes (G.)
Cuomo Gave Immunity to Nursing-Home Execs After Big Campaign Donations (Sirota)
How Hong Kong Avoided A Single Coronavirus Death In Care Homes (Ind.)
Coronavirus Lockdowns Prompt Raft Of Lawsuits Against States (USAT)
Twitter Is Completely Stifling Free Speech – Trump (JTN)
Japan Eyes Fresh $1.1 Trillion Stimulus To Combat Pandemic Pain (R.)
Macron Wants France To Be Europe’s Top Clean Car Producer (R.)
The FBI Documents That Put Barack Obama In The Obamagate Narrative (Solomon)

 

 

• 100,000 deaths broached in the US.

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 19,582
• Brazil + 17,838
• Russia + 8,915
• UK 4,938
• India + 6,604
• Peru + 5,772

 

 

 

 

 

We’re back to “normal” numbers: about 100,000 new cases and 4,500 new deaths.

Cases 5,709,518 (+ 99,864 from yesterday’s 5,609,654)

Deaths 352,750 (+ 4,428 from yesterday’s 348,322)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close- Note: see bottom 2: Pakistan passed Belgium in cases, but has 5 deaths per million pop. vs Belgium’s 806.

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Capitalism at its peak.

Despite The Hype, Gilead’s Remdesivir Will Do Nothing To End The Coronavirus Pandemic (Lerner)

Desperation for the limited supply of remdesivir is so great that Virginia will hold a lottery to determine which of the almost 1,500 severely ill patients in the state will be able to get its several hundred donated doses of the drug. In Minnesota, state officials have come up with an action plan to allocate their supply of the Covid-19 treatment, which calls for designating “triage officers” who will randomly choose among equally eligible patients. And in Alabama, physicians on a coronavirus task force set up by the governor will determine which patients get remdesivir. Some hospitals there will receive just a single course of treatment. Still, Alabama’s state health officer, Dr. Scott Harris, recently offered his thanks to Gilead, the drug’s manufacturer, which donated some 940,000 vials of the drug to the federal government that are being distributed by state health departments.

“Although the total supply of remdesivir is limited, we are grateful that hospitalized COVID-19 patients with severe disease in Alabama can receive this potentially lifesaving medication,” said Harris. It is amid these feelings of scarcity and indebtedness that Gilead is setting the price for its antiviral medicine. The company, which has already arranged for distribution of remdesivir in 127 countries, is expected to begin selling it commercially as soon as June. And while a 10-day course of the drug, which was developed as a potential Ebola treatment with at least $79 million in U.S. government funding, costs only about $10 to produce, according to an estimate by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, its market price is expected to be several hundred times that amount.

Still, price gouging isn’t what has many scientists upset about remdesivir. It’s the fact that the coronavirus drug that has boosted hopes and sent Gilead’s stock price (and according to some analysts, the entire stock market) soaring doesn’t seem to do much for coronavirus patients. said William Haseltine, a scientist who has spent decades studying viruses and helped lead the U.S. government response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. “It is comparable to Tamiflu and maybe not even as good,” Haseltine added, referring to another antiviral drug that has been available by prescription for 20 years and is expected to be sold over the counter in the coming months.

Haseltine, who founded the divisions of biochemical pharmacology and human retrovirology at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, pointed out that Gilead hasn’t released data showing remdesivir’s effect on viral load in people with Covid-19. Meanwhile, the only available information on how the drug affects the amount of the coronavirus in patients, a Chinese study of the drug published in The Lancet, showed that the drug did not lower the viral load. “That’s why I call it the fuzzy-wuzzy drug,” said Haseltine. “When the Chinese tried to find the antiviral effect, it wasn’t there.” Instead, the excitement about remdesivir is based largely on a study sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that showed people taking the drug had a faster recovery than those who didn’t take it: 11 days on average compared to 15 for those taking a placebo.

An article published on May 22 in the New England Journal of Medicine showed mild improvement in hospitalized patients that took remdesivir, though the drug didn’t appear to be of any help to the sickest patients, who needed to receive high-flow oxygen through ventilators or other means. Nor did the drug significantly improve a patient’s chance of surviving Covid-19. Nevertheless, at an April 29 Oval Office press conference with President Donald Trump, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci declared that preliminary results from that trial proved that “a drug can block this virus.” Since then, remdesivir has been positioned as our savior and Gilead as its benevolent dispenser.

While some patients and their families have spent the past few weeks frantically trying to procure remdesivir, another Covid-19 treatment has been quietly been shown to be more effective. Although neither option appears to be the much-needed cure for Covid-19, a three-drug regimen offered a greater reduction in the time it took patients to recover than remdesivir did. People who took the combination of interferon beta-1b, lopinavir-ritonavir, and ribavirin got better in seven days as opposed to 12 days for those who didn’t take it. Critically, the treatment has another leg up on Gilead’s: It clearly reduced the amount of the coronavirus in patients who took it, according to a study published in The Lancet on May 8.

Yet so far there has been no stampede of patients demanding the new regimen or lotteries to mete out the doses, which may be due at least in part to the fact that the treatment hasn’t been the subject of a major marketing campaign. It’s worth noting that each of the three drugs in the new combination is generic, or no longer under patent, which means that no company stands to profit significantly from its use.

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We’d want to see all the other research from the past 65 years as well, please.

WHO Expects Hydroxychloroquine Safety Findings By Mid-June (R.)

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday promised a swift review of data on hydroxychloroquine, probably by mid-June, after safety concerns prompted the group to suspend the malaria drug’s use in a large trial on COVID-19 patients. U.S. President Donald Trump and others have pushed hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, but the WHO on Monday called time after the British journal The Lancet reported patients getting hydroxychloroquine had increased death rates and irregular heartbeats. “A final decision on the harm, benefit or lack of benefit of hydroxychloroquine will be made once the evidence has been reviewed,” the body said. “It is expected by mid-June.”


Those already in a 17-country study, called Solidarity, of thousands of patients who have started hydroxychloroquine can finish their treatment, the WHO said. Newly enrolled patients will get other treatments being evaluated, including Gilead Science’s remdesivir and AbbVie’s Kaletra/Aluvia. Separate hydroxychloroquine trials, including a 440-patient U.S. study by Swiss drugmaker Novartis, are continuing enrollment. Novartis and rival Sanofi have pledged donations of tens of millions of doses of the drug, also used in rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, for COVID-19. Novartis said The Lancet study, while covering 100,000 people, was “observational” and could not demonstrate a causal link between hydroxychloroquine and side effects. “We need randomised, controlled clinical trials to clearly understand efficacy and safety,” a Novartis spokesman said.

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You can’t do accurate testing for antibodies if too small a segment of a population is infected.

Antibody Tests For COVID19 Wrong Up To Half The Time – CDC (CNN)

Antibody tests used to determine if people have been infected in the past with Covid-19 might be wrong up to half the time, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in new guidance posted on its website. Antibody tests, often called serologic tests, look for evidence of an immune response to infection. “Antibodies in some persons can be detected within the first week of illness onset,” the CDC says. They are not accurate enough to use to make important policy decisions, the CDC said. “Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about grouping persons residing in or being admitted to congregate settings, such as schools, dormitories, or correctional facilities,” the CDC says.

“Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace.” Health officials or health care providers who are using antibody tests need to use the most accurate test they can find and might need to test people twice, the CDC said in the new guidance. “In most of the country, including areas that have been heavily impacted, the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibody is expected to be low, ranging from less than 5% to 25%, so that testing at this point might result in relatively more false positive results and fewer false-negative results,” the CDC said.

[..] The CDC explains why testing can be wrong so often. A lot has to do with how common the virus is in the population being tested. “For example, in a population where the prevalence is 5%, a test with 90% sensitivity and 95% specificity will yield a positive predictive value of 49%. In other words, less than half of those testing positive will truly have antibodies,” the CDC said. “Alternatively, the same test in a population with an antibody prevalence exceeding 52% will yield a positive predictive greater than 95%, meaning that less than one in 20 people testing positive will have a false positive test result.”

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While just 15 have seen cases fall for 14 days.

Coronavirus Cases Are On The Rise In 20 US States (R.) .

Twenty U.S. states reported an increase in new cases of COVID-19 for the week ended May 24, up from 13 states in the prior week, as the death toll from the novel coronavirus approaches 100,000, according to a Reuters analysis. Alabama had the biggest weekly increase at 28%, Missouri’s new cases rose 27% and North Carolina’s rose 26%, according to the analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak. New cases in Georgia, one of the first states to reopen, rose 21% after two weeks of declines. The state attributed the increase to a backlog of test results and more testing. Nationally, new cases of COVID-19 fell 0.8% for the week ended May 24, compared with a decline of 8% in the prior week.


All 50 states have now at least partially reopened, raising fears among some health officials of a second wave of outbreaks. The increase in cases could also be due to more testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended states wait for their daily number of new COVID-19 cases to fall for 14 days before easing social distancing restrictions. As of May 24, 15 states had met that criteria, up from 13 in the prior week, according to the Reuters analysis. Washington state, where the U.S. outbreak started, has the longest streak with cases falling for eight weeks in a row, followed by Hawaii at seven weeks and Pennsylvania and New York at six weeks.

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Viruses don’t use strategies. That’s just another absurdity provoked by all the war comparisons. How can you be at war with something that’s not even considered alive? You might as well declare war on a rock or a mountain, or the sky, the ocean.

The vast majority of people alive in the west today have no first hand experience of war, and neither do the politicians who speak to them in terms of war. What makes them feel comfortable with the language, then? Is it Hollywood?

Coronavirus Uses Same Strategy As HIV To Dodge Immune Response (SCMP)

The novel coronavirus uses the same strategy to evade attack from the human immune system as HIV, according to a new study by Chinese scientists. Both viruses remove marker molecules on the surface of an infected cell that are used by the immune system to identify invaders, the researchers said in a non-peer reviewed paper posted on preprint website bioRxiv.org on Sunday. They warned that this commonality could mean Sars-CoV-2, the clinical name for the virus, could be around for some time, like HIV. Virologist Zhang Hui and a team from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou also said their discovery added weight to clinical observations that the coronavirus was showing “some characteristics of viruses causing chronic infection”.


Their research involved collecting killer T cells from five patients who had recently recovered from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Those immune cells are generated by people after they are infected with Sars-CoV-2 – their job is to find and destroy the virus. But the killer T cells used in the study were not effective at eliminating the virus in infected cells. When the scientists took a closer look they found that a molecule known as major histocompatibility complex, or MHC, was missing. The molecule is an identification tag usually present in the membrane of a healthy cell, or in sick cells infected by other coronaviruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or Sars. It changes with infections, alerting the immune system whether a cell is healthy or infected by a virus.

Coronavirus spread would dramatically drop if 80% of a population wore masks – AI researcher

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Zhong Nanshan again, who said in late January that the epidemic in Wuhan would be over in 10 days. That was spoken as a Beijing mouthpiece, and that’s what he still is.

China’s Top Virus Warrior ‘Shocked’ By US Coronavirus Death Toll (SCMP)

The US death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has shocked the scientist leading the fight against the disease in China, with the respiratory disease expert attributing the magnitude of American fatalities to a failure by policymakers to heed scientists’ advice. More than 1.66 million Covid-19 infections have been reported in the US, with 98,226 people dying from the disease – the highest number of deaths for any country. In all, 5.49 million people have been infected globally and more than 340,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. “Seventeen years ago, the Sars epidemic was handled so well in the US, completely differently from the situation now,” said Zhong Nanshan, director of the National Clinical Research Centre for Respiratory Disease and the leader of a team of scientists advising the government.

“You can say that [the US] carried out very extensive screening or more screening than other countries … But the heavy casualties still shocked me,” he said in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post. Zhong said his counterparts in the US told him that the American system was ill-prepared for the epidemic, despite the country’s high level of medical care, equipment and facilities. He said this was similar to the early response in Wuhan – the central Chinese city where the outbreak was first identified – when many medical personnel were infected and died. But the main problem in the US was the failure to listen to medical experts, he said. As a result, US President Donald Trump “underestimated the disease’s infectious power as well as its harmful nature. He thought it was a big flu.

US officials also did not listen to medical experts’ views concerning the reopening of the economy, he said. “Opening the economy quickly can be risky. I think they should follow the rules of science and reopen the economy step by step,” Zhong said. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has cautioned against businesses reopening too soon because of the threat of a second wave of infections. Fauci, who is the government’s top medical specialist, has said repeatedly that “the virus will decide when the country is to open back up”.

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Do explain, Justin. Tell us how you do not see elderly people as disposable. See, there’s no way you never saw a single complaint before the virus came.

Neglected Residents, Rotten Food, Cockroaches Found At Canada Care Homes (G.)

Canadian troops deployed to long-term care homes overwhelmed by coronavirus outbreaks found neglected and malnourished residents, rotten food and insect infestations, and a blatant disregard for critical safety protocol, according to a bombshell report from the country’s armed forces. Military medics were dispatched to long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario in late April, with aim of blunting Covid-19 outbreaks among vulnerable populations. Soldiers deployed to five of Ontario’s worst-hit care homes encountered rotten food, cockroaches and residents in soiled diapers, according to the report published on Tuesday. At one facility, residents had not been bathed in weeks. At another, staff made “derogatory or inappropriate comments directed at residents’”.

Neglect of resident hygiene and health, often leading to infection, was documented at all facilities. At one point, “patients [were] observed crying for help with staff not responding for 30 mins to over two hours,” the report said. [..] Long-term care homes in Canada, many of which are privately run, have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, with residents making up nearly eight out of 10 Covid-19-related deaths across the country. The damage has been felt most acutely in Ontario and Quebec, which have the vast majority of the country’s coronavirus cases and fatalities. An estimated 225 people died at the five homes where the military was assisting in Ontario.

The report chronicled widespread “burnout” among staff, a number of whom hadn’t seen family in weeks. The military also found numerous examples of staff showing little knowledge of how to properly wear personal protective equipment when dealing with coronavirus cases. [..] Meanwhile, the Canadian military said today that some 36 members working in long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec have become sick with Covid-19.

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Peak America.

Cuomo Gave Immunity to Nursing-Home Execs After Big Campaign Donations (Sirota)

In 2018, hospitals, nursing homes, and their lobbyists gave $2.3 million to New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s political apparatus. Now health care executives are getting immunity for their deadly negligence during the coronavirus pandemic. Critics say New York’s liability shield is linked to higher nursing-home death rates during the pandemic.

As Governor Andrew Cuomo faced a spirited challenge in his bid to win New York’s 2018 Democratic primary, his political apparatus got a last-minute boost: a powerful health care industry group suddenly poured more than $1 million into a Democratic committee backing his campaign. Less than two years after that flood of cash from the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), Cuomo signed legislation last month quietly shielding hospital and nursing-home executives from the threat of lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. The provision, inserted into an annual budget bill by Cuomo’s aides, created one of the nation’s most explicit immunity protections for health care industry officials, according to legal experts.

Critics say Cuomo removed a key deterrent against nursing home and hospital corporations cutting corners in ways that jeopardize lives. As those critics now try to repeal the provision during this final week of Albany’s legislative session, they assert that data prove such immunity is correlating to higher nursing-home death rates during the pandemic — both in New York and in other states enacting similar immunity policies. New York has become one of the globe’s major pandemic hot spots — and the epicenter of the state’s outbreak has been nursing homes, where more than five thousand New Yorkers have died, according to Associated Press data.

Those deaths have occurred as Cuomo’s critics say he has taken a hands-off approach to regulating the health care industry interests that helped bankroll his election campaign. In March, Cuomo’s administration issued an order that allowed nursing homes to readmit sick patients without testing them for COVID-19. Amid allegations of undercounted casualties, the governor also pushed back against pressure to have state regulators more stringently record and report death rates in nursing homes. And then came Cuomo’s annual budget — which included a little-noticed passage shielding corporate officials who run New York hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities from liability for COVID-related deaths and injuries.

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You think we’ll listen now, listen more, listen better? I predict yes, we will. For two whole weeks.

How Hong Kong Avoided A Single Coronavirus Death In Care Homes (Ind.)

Coronavirus has ravaged care homes across Europe and America, killing tens of thousands, but in Hong Kong, not a single resident in care has even contracted Covid-19. Its apparent success offers vital lessons – ones that the city learned the hard way almost two decades ago. In Sweden and Belgium, care home residents make up roughly half of each country’s Covid-19 deaths. In Spain alone, almost 18,000 nursing home residents have died from the virus, El País estimates. And in England and Wales, more than 90 per cent of those who have died from the coronavirus have been people over the age of 65, including 12,500 care home residents, according to the Office for National Statistics.

No one would have been surprised if Hong Kong suffered from a major Covid-19 epidemic. It shares a border with mainland China, which is crossed by hundreds of thousands of people every day. Most of the city’s tourists come from the mainland, accounting for tens of millions of visitors every year. In early February, Hong Kong had its first death from coronavirus – only the second death outside of mainland China. But to this day, there have been only four Covid-19 deaths in Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million. This is not the first time Hong Kong has faced a novel coronavirus. In 2003, six years after the former British colony was handed back to China, it became the epicentre of the SARS outbreak: 299 people died, accounting for almost 40 per cent of the global death toll. The disease had first appeared the year before in Guangdong, the Chinese province that borders Hong Kong.

As is the case with Covid-19, the elderly were the most susceptible to SARS, and similar to the UK, about a fifth of Hong Kong’s population is over the age of 65. By the epidemic’s end, 54 nursing homes had had cases of SARS. Two nursing home workers died. It was not a trauma the industry would quickly forget. “The nightmare of SARS is still on everyone’s minds, so [care homes] were really afraid,” Prof Terry Lum, the head of the department of social work and social administration at the University of Hong Kong, told The Independent. “We had learned a very painful lesson,” he continued, “and since then the nursing homes had been preparing for another outbreak.” Seventeen years after SARS, Hong Kong’s nursing homes were taking no chances.

On 21 January, an infected tourist from Wuhan crossed the border into Hong Kong, becoming the city’s first case. Four days later, the government announced that it would be enacting the emergency phase of its infectious disease protocol. Because of Hong Kong’s collective memory of SARS, individuals, organisations and businesses did not need to wait for instructions from the government. Nursing homes enacted their own measures, Prof Lum recounted. They began limiting the length of workers’ leaves, in order to prevent them from taking weekend trips to mainland China and possibly bringing the virus back. When nursing homes were instructed to take the temperature of all visitors, they took it one step further: they banned visitors altogether, effectively closing off their residents from the outside world by the end of January. There were still only 13 confirmed cases in Hong Kong at the time.

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Send your kid to law school. That’s where the money is.

Coronavirus Lockdowns Prompt Raft Of Lawsuits Against States (USAT)

Camping in Scarborough, Maine. Gathering for church in Chincoteague, Virginia. Or just grabbing a burger at Poopy’s Pub and Grub in Savanna, Illinois. Each of these activities became the subject of a federal lawsuit, as residents, businesses and even lawmakers challenged state shutdown orders designed to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. The cases test where the lines are safely drawn, as governors balance protecting public health against individual liberties. Governors say strict rules save lives, but critics who are forced to stay home or shutter their businesses called the steps “draconian” or compared them to “house arrest.” The lawsuits come as President Donald Trump has become increasingly vocal in criticism of state restrictions, encouraged protests at state capitols and urged churches to reopen despite restrictions.

More than 1,300 state and federal lawsuits have been filed over COVID-19, including 240 dealing with civil rights, as of Friday, according to Hunton Andrews Kurth, a law firm tracking the cases. USA TODAY reviewed more than 80 lawsuits that often dealt with conditions at prisons and nursing homes, voting rights, and university tuition. USA TODAY focused on legal challenges to restrictions such as stay-at-home orders and business closures, and also whether abortion or church services can be limited during the pandemic, to gauge which orders were being challenged and how states were responding. The eventual rulings could redefine the balance between state police powers and constitutional rights that advocates contend are too important to sacrifice even temporarily.

Abortions are time sensitive. Buyers want guns during times of crisis. And parishioners seek solace at church. Other lawsuits test whether rules go beyond legislative authorities by requiring people to isolate themselves, stay apart in public and wear masks. “I tend to think there will be some new law made only because there are new scenarios that courts haven’t encountered before,” said Polly Price, a law professor at Emory University. “What they’re balancing is the scientific basis for a particular measure and the state’s need for it, in the face of uncertainty, to protect the public health.”

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CNN and the WaPo as fact-checkers. Oh boy.

No matter what else happens, Twitter just volunteered to go from being a platform to being a publisher. That has consequences.

Twitter Is Completely Stifling Free Speech – Trump (JTN)

President Trump on Tuesday night lambasted Twitter because the company slapped a message on two of his tweets that linked to a page disputing the accuracy of his posts. “@Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post,” the president tweeted. “Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he added in another tweet. Twitter labeled two of Trump’s tweets in which he warned that mail-in voting is ripe for fraud—he specifically warned that absue would be committed in California. Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this month signed an executive order for every registered voter to receive mail-in ballots for the November 2020 general election.

“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one,” President Trump tweeted in a two-tweet series. “That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!” Twitter plastered a message on both of Trump’s tweets that says “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” That message links to a page that pushes back against the president’s assertions.

“On Tuesday, President Trump made a series of claims about potential voter fraud after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an effort to expand mail-in voting in California during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the page says. “These claims are unsubstantiated, according to CNN, Washington Post and others. Experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud.”

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Something tells me it will never be enough.

Japan Eyes Fresh $1.1 Trillion Stimulus To Combat Pandemic Pain (R.)

Japan will compile a fresh stimulus package worth $1.1 trillion that will include a sizable amount of direct spending to cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic, a draft of the budget obtained by Reuters showed on Wednesday. The stimulus, which will be funded partly by a second extra budget, will be on top of a $1.1 trillion package already rolled out last month, putting the total amount Japan spends to combat the virus fallout at 234 trillion yen – roughly 40% of Japan’s GDP. The government’s 117 trillion yen ($1.1 trillion) in fresh stimulus, to be compiled on Wednesday, will include 33 trillion yen in direct spending, the draft showed.


To fund the costs, Japan will issue an additional 31.9 trillion yen in government bonds under the second supplementary budget for the current fiscal year ending in March 2021, according to the draft. “We must protect business and employment by any means in the face of the tough road ahead. We must also take all necessary measures to prepare for another wave of epidemic,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a meeting with ruling party lawmakers on Wednesday. Government officials have said the new package will include steps such as an increased medical spending, aid to firms struggling to pay rent, support for students who lost part-time jobs, and more subsidies to companies hit by slumping sales. In the second extra budget, the government will also set aside 10 trillion yen in reserves that can be tapped for emergency spending, the draft showed.

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Macron comes close to giving away cars for free to save the planet.

Macron Wants France To Be Europe’s Top Clean Car Producer (R.)

President Emmanuel Macron announced an 8 billion euro ($8.8 billion) plan on Tuesday to make France the top producer of clean vehicles in Europe and urged French carmakers to make vehicles in their own country. French car plants are only just starting to rev up production after the coronavirus lockdown, which hit the auto sector badly, and Macron wants to accelerate the transition to electric cars to help revive the industry. “We need a motivational goal: make France Europe’s top producer of clean vehicles by bringing output (up) to more than one million electric and hybrid cars per year over the next five years,” Macron told a news conference. To achieve that goal, he said France would increase the state bonus for consumers buying electric cars to €7,000 euros ($7,690) from €6,000.


But to help dealerships sell the 400,000 vehicles left unsold because of the lockdown, Macron said people buying a traditional car would also receive a €3,000 bonus under a scheme that would apply to three-quarters of households. “Our fellow citizens need to buy more vehicles, and in particular clean ones. Not in two, five or 10 years – now,” Macron said following a visit to a Valeo car parts factory in northern France. No car model currently produced in France should be manufactured abroad, he said. Renault, which produces its Zoe electric model in France, had pledged to make a future Renault-Nissan electric engine in France and not in Asia, as initially envisaged, he said.

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It’ll be an extreme election season. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.

The FBI Documents That Put Barack Obama In The Obamagate Narrative (Solomon)

Just 17 days before President Trump took office in January 2017, then-FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok texted bureau lawyer Lisa Page, his mistress, to express concern about sharing sensitive Russia probe evidence with the departing Obama White House. Strzok had just engaged in a conversation with his boss, then-FBI Assistant Director William Priestap, about evidence from the investigation of incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, codenamed Crossfire Razor, or “CR” for short. The evidence in question were so-called “tech cuts” from intercepted conversations between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, according to the texts and interviews with officials familiar with the conversations.

[..] The text messages, which were never released to the public by the FBI but were provided to this reporter in September 2018, have taken on much more significance to both federal and congressional investigators in recent weeks as the Justice Department has requested that Flynn’s conviction be thrown out and his charges of lying to the FBI about Kislyak dismissed. U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen of Missouri (special prosecutor for DOJ), the FBI inspection division, three Senate committees and House Republicans are all investigating the handling of Flynn’s case and whether any crimes were committed or political influence exerted.

The investigators are trying to determine whether Obama’s well-known disdain for Flynn, a career military intelligence officer, influenced the decision by the FBI leadership to reject its own agent’s recommendation to shut down a probe of Flynn in January 2017 and instead pursue an interview where agents might catch him in a lie. They also want to know whether the conversation about the Presidential Daily Briefings involved Flynn and “reporting” the FBI had gathered by early January 2017 showing the incoming national security adviser was neither a counterintelligence nor a criminal threat. “The evidence connecting President Obama to the Flynn operation is getting stronger,” one investigator with direct knowledge told me.

“The bureau knew it did not have evidence to justify that Flynn was either a criminal or counterintelligence threat and should have shut the case down. But the perception that Obama and his team would not be happy with that outcome may have driven the FBI to keep the probe open without justification and to pivot to an interview that left some agents worried involved entrapment or a perjury trap.” The investigator said more interviews will need to be done to determine exactly what role Obama’s perception of Flynn played in the FBI’s decision making. Recently declassified evidence show a total of 39 outgoing Obama administration officials sought to unmask Flynn’s name in intelligence interviews between Election Day 2016 and Inauguration Day 2017, signaling a keen interest in Flynn’s overseas calls.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1265258033392820228

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

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

And a bit of Dominic Cummings at the end.

If Boris loses the Daily Mail in this fashion, what can he do?

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 192020
 


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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moderna: Early Coronavirus Vaccine Results Are Encouraging (AP)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tedros should simply explain the delays.

Trump Threatens To Permanently Cut Off WHO Funding (CNBC)

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

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

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

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

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


click to read in new tab

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

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

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


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

Read more …

15 times more deadly is a lot.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

1.3 billion people. 100,000 ICU beds.

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

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


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

Read more …

A global problem.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Stay in the basement.

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 142020
 


Byron Street haberdashery, New York 1900

 

95,000 Entered UK By Air In 25 Days During Lockdown (G.)
Australia Saw Overseas Visitors Fall 99% In April (R.)
Why California Is Struggling To Control Coronavirus (LAT)
Real UK Care Home Death Toll Double Official Figure (G.)
Pensioners 34 Times More Likely To Die Of COVID19 Than Working Age Brits (G.)
Only 4.4% of French Population Infected By Coronavirus (R.)
Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down State’s Stay-at-Home Order (NBC)
72 People In Wisconsin Test Positive After Attending ‘Large Gathering’ (DM)
36.6% of COVID19 Patients In NY Study Develop Acute Kidney Injury (R.)
Ontario Redeploys Educators Into Nursing Homes, As One Records 56 Deaths (R.)
Why Are So Many People Getting Sick And Dying In Montreal From Covid-19? (G.)
COVID-19 Bailout Gave Wall Street a No-Lose Casino (Taibbi)
FBI Accidentally Reveals Name Of Saudi Embassy Official Suspected In 9/11 (Y!)
US Judge Asks If Michael Flynn Should Be Held In Contempt (R.)
Flynn Case Requires Letting The Sun Shine On Comey And Mueller (McLaughlin)

 

 

• US New cases 21,449

• New deaths 1,896 (yesterday 1,894, Monday: 830, Sunday: 776)

• Russia breaks its chain of 10 consecutive days of more than 10,000 new cases with 9,974

 

 

 

Cases 4,451,226 (+ 93,006 from yesterday’s 4,358,220)

Deaths 298,520 (+ 5,284 from yesterday’s 293,236)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

The UK never had an actual lockdown, they just pretended they did.

18.1 million arrivals to the UK by air, land and sea from 1 January to 23 March, pre-“lockdown”. Another 95,000 just by air between 1 April and 26 April, during the lockdown. With tons of stories of very few if any checked out.

The government stopped issuing guidance at the border to arrivals from specific countries – including from Italy and China – to self-isolate on 13 March, 10 days before the lockdown was imposed.

95,000 Entered UK By Air In 25 Days During Lockdown (G.)

At least 95,000 people have entered the UK from overseas since the coronavirus lockdown was imposed, one of the government’s chief scientific advisers has revealed, while repeatedly failing to provide an estimate of how many of these people had Covid-19. Appearing before MPs on the science and technology committee, Prof John Aston, the chief scientific adviser at the Home Office, admitted that had tougher restrictions been introduced at the border, the peak of the virus may have been delayed – but he did not say by how long, or if this would have saved lives. Aston, who attends meetings of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), which is advising the government during the crisis, was asked repeatedly for the estimated proportion or number of people arriving in the UK with Covid-19.

He insisted instead that a more “robust” assessment was the ratio of imported cases to domestic cases. This model, formulated by Sage, estimates 0.5% of all cases on any given day are imported from overseas. The government stopped issuing guidance at the border to arrivals from specific countries – including from Italy and China – to self-isolate on 13 March, 10 days before the lockdown was imposed. Since then, there has been little intervention other than advice provided on leaflets and posters. Arrivals will have been subjected to the same lockdown restrictions imposed on the wider population since 23 March. [..] Yvette Cooper, the chair of the home affairs select committee, [..] asked Aston if ministers had a central estimate of the number of people arriving each week who might have Covid-19 when the decision to stop asking any arrivals to self-isolate was made.

[..] Cooper [..] said: “Previously people were asked to self-isolate at the border for 14 days. Inexplicably when other countries were increasing their restrictions or their requirements to self-isolate, the UK lifted them all. It was before the peak in Spain, it was still around the peak in Italy, it was several weeks before the peak in UK.” Aston’s evidence comes as the government prepares to enforce a 14-day quarantine for arrivals by air at the UK border – a policy that some have suggested would have been more appropriate prior to the UK lockdown on 23 March. There were 18.1 million arrivals to the UK in the period from 1 January to 23 March across air, land and sea, of whom 273 air passengers were formally quarantined. Aston told the committee that between 1 April and 26 April there were 95,000 arrivals into the UK by air, of whom about 53,000 were UK citizens.

Read more …

This looks more like a lockdown. Just 6,500 non-Australians arrived in April.

Australia Saw Overseas Visitors Fall 99% In April (R.)

Australia saw overseas arrivals collapse to almost nothing in April as it closed its borders to fight the coronavirus pandemic, in a massive blow for the tourist industry. Preliminary data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics released on Wednesday showed arrivals of 21,600 in April, down 98.7% from a year earlier. Returning Australian citizens accounted for 15,100 of them. The biggest decline was in arrivals from New Zealand, which dived by 161,950 to just 1,180. Arrivals from China, where closures had already badly curbed tourism in March, dropped 132,040 to only 320. Departures from Australia likewise plunged 96.5% to 63,500, mostly foreigners returning home.

Read more …

50% of people still leave their homes every day. Not a lockdown.

Why California Is Struggling To Control Coronavirus (LAT)

The Times asked UC San Francisco epidemiologist and infectious disease expert Dr. George Rutherford, a former epidemic intelligence service officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about why the plateau persists. “As long as it’s going up, it has not ended. It’s got to come down for it to end,” he said. Rutherford offered two reasons why the disease is persisting: a certain percentage of people still must go out to work, and others are getting fed up with staying at home. A significant part of the population has chosen not to say home or has been unable to do so because they’re essential workers manning supermarkets, meat processing plants, prisons and nursing homes.

A CDC study estimated that around April 1, about two weeks into a regional stay-at-home order, nearly 50% of residents in five Bay Area counties were still leaving home, down from 80% in late February. “That’s still 50%,” Rutherford said, adding that people can still get infected even if they limit their trips outside the home to buy a loaf of bread at the supermarket. Essential workers who must leave home — people working in the food industry, making deliveries and staffing medical facilities — are among those contracting the coronavirus. A UC San Francisco study of thousands of residents and workers in the city’s Mission District found that 57% of those tested must leave their homes for work, and those who had to leave home to work accounted for 90% of the positive cases.

Nearly 89% of those who tested positive earn less than $50,000 a year, and most live in households with three or more people. While Latinos made up 44% of those tested, they accounted for more than 99% of the positive COVID-19 cases. Many residents and workers in the Mission District are employed in essential services such as agriculture, construction, manufacturing, restaurants, grocery stores and janitorial and domestic services, the university said. Staying home, the researchers said, clearly seemed to make a difference.

Read more …

Ambrose Evans Pritchard quotes a “London cardiologist friendly to Boris”:

“We discharged known, suspected and unknown cases into care homes which were unprepared with no formal warning that the patients were infected, no testing available, and no PPE to prevent transmission.”

Real UK Care Home Death Toll Double Official Figure (G.)

More than 22,000 care home residents in England and Wales may have died as a direct or indirect result of Covid-19, academics have calculated – more than double the number stated as passing away from the disease in official figures. Academics at the London School of Economics found that data on deaths in care homes directly attributed to the virus published by the Office for National Statistics significantly underestimated the impact of the pandemic on care home residents and accounted for only about four out of 10 of the excess deaths in care settings recorded in recent weeks in England and Wales. ONS statisticians said on Tuesday that 8,314 people had died from confirmed or suspected Covid-19 in English care homes up to 8 May.

The figures suggest the impact of the virus in care homes is finally reducing. They are based on reports filed directly from care home operators to the regulator, the Care Quality Commission. Care Inspectorate Wales has said Covid was confirmed or suspected in a further 504 cases in homes up to the 8 May in Wales. But academics at the care policy and evaluation centre at the LSE found that when excess deaths of other care residents and the deaths of care home residents from Covid-19 in hospitals are taken into account, the toll that can be directly and indirectly linked to the virus pandemic is likely to be more than double the current official count.

[..] Care homes have been running at 10% to 20% staff absence rates and many homes have been trying to isolate residents in their rooms to reduce infection spread, but this can also make their normal care more difficult and residents’ needs less visible.

Read more …

Well, if you put them all together and insert known patients, no wonder. Do the same with younger people and you get the same result.

Pensioners 34 Times More Likely To Die Of COVID19 Than Working Age Brits (G.)

As Britain edges back to work and employees consider the risks of moving beyond lockdown, official figures underscore that working-age Britons are 34 times less likely to die of coronavirus than over-65s. About 12% of all deaths relating to Covid-19 have occurred among those under 65 – a total of 4,066 deaths. Most victims have been in the over-65 category, accounting for 30,978 fatalities. There have been 8.4 deaths per 100,000 people among the under-65 category, which rises to 286 deaths per 100,000 in the over-65 group, meaning pensioners are 34 times more likely to die of the illness. The contrast is even starker in data concerning those under 45. According to the Office for National Statistics figure, there have been just 401 deaths in this age group – one death for every 100,000 people, or around 1% of the overall death toll.

However, age is just one of the factors that will affect a person’s vulnerability to the virus. Research has shown that ethnicity, deprivation, pre-existing health conditions and occupation also contribute to an individual’s risk of dying. The death rate among the working population differs by gender. The death rate for men is 9.9 per 100,000 people and 5.2 per 100,000 women. This may also be driven by the death rate in particular occupations, as some workers appear to be more vulnerable depending on exposure to the virus.

Death rates among some minority ethnic groups are also disproportionately high, according to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies. It found the death rate among British black Africans and British Pakistanis from coronavirus in English hospitals was more than 2.5 times that of the white population. Guardian reporting also found that areas with high BAME populations tended to have higher death rates.

New data released by the ONS on Monday showed for the first time that people in low-paid manual jobs were at much greater risk of dying from Covid-19. Men in low-paid jobs were almost four times more likely to die from coronavirus than professionals, with 21.4 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 5.6 among white-collar male workers, according to the analysis. Jobs which were found to have high death rates included security guards, care workers, construction workers, plant operatives, cleaners, taxi drivers, bus drivers, chefs and retail workers. Commenting on the findings, Professor Neil Pearce, a professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “The observations are almost certainly due to … exposure to people….”

Read more …

Probably a lowball, but very far from herd immunity.

Only 4.4% of French Population Infected By Coronavirus (R.)

A study led by the Pasteur Institute says a mere 4.4% of the French population – or 2.8 million people – have been infected by the novel coronavirus, much higher than the official count of cases but way too low to achieve so-called “herd immunity”. In a study published on Wednesday in the journal Science, researchers say the infection rate in the worst-hit parts of France – the eastern part of the country and the Paris region – is between 9 and 10 percent on average. “Around 65% of the population should be immune if we want to control the pandemic by the sole means of immunity”, the study says. Herd immunity refers to a situation where enough people in a population have immunity to an infection to be able to effectively stop that disease from spreading. The rate of infection was measured by the Pasteur Institute as of May 11, the day when France started to unwind its almost two-month-long national lockdown.


“As of a consequence, our results show that, without a vaccine, the herd immunity alone will not be enough to avoid a second wave at the end of the lockdown. Efficient control measures must thus be upheld after May 11”, researchers say. France’s overall death toll from the virus rose to 27,074 on Wednesday, the fifth-highest in the world, and total number of cases officially stood at 177,700, the seventh-highest total. The Pasteur Institute also said the lockdown put in place on March 17 in France led to a drastic decline of the coronavirus’ reproduction rate, going from 2.9 to 0.67 over the 55-day virtual standstill of the country. A Spanish study also published on Wednesday showed similar results, saying about 5% of the country’s population had contracted the disease and that there was no herd immunity in Spain, also emerging progressively for long lockdown.


Large sero-survey in Spain with 60,000 participants shows ~5% of population tested positive for #coronavirus antibodies, 11% in region with highest incidence (Madrid)
1) Infection fatality rate ~1.2%
2) Herd immunity is not an option

Read more …

Why then have a law that says you can’t drive through city center at 200 mph? Same difference. “I will not give up my freedom for your safety”.

Wisconsin Supreme Court Strikes Down State’s Stay-at-Home Order (NBC)

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the state’s stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic as “unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable” after finding that the state’s health secretary exceeded her authority. In a 4-3 ruling, the court called Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm’s directive, known as Emergency Order 28, a “vast seizure of power.” The order directed all people in the state to stay at home or at their places of residence, subject only to exceptions allowed by Palm, the ruling says. The order, which had been set to run until May 26, also restricted travel and business, along with threatening jail time or fines for those who don’t comply.


The ruling says the judges weren’t challenging Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ emergency powers, but the decision effectively undercuts his administration and forces him to work out a compromise with the Republican-controlled Legislature. One of the dissenting justices, Rebecca Dallet, said her conservative colleagues in the majority were the ones who were exceeding their authority, and she noted precedent for Palm’s directives — a monthslong stay-at-home order during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic. “This decision will undoubtedly go down as one of the most blatant examples of judicial activism in this court’s history,” she said. “And it will be Wisconsinites who pay the price.” [..] During oral arguments, Justice Rebecca Bradley suggested that the order amounted to “tyranny,” and at another point, she referred to Japanese Americans’ internment during World War II.

Read more …

A protest meeting.

72 People In Wisconsin Test Positive After Attending ‘Large Gathering’ (DM)

More than 70 people in Wisconsin have tested positive for coronavirus after admitting they attended a ‘large gathering’ in the state – around the same time that thousands of protesters were pictured ignoring social distancing and shunning face masks at a mass anti-lockdown rally. The state’s Department of Health Services (DHS) confirmed that 72 individuals who were diagnosed with the deadly virus on or after April 26 had all attended a large gathering not long before their diagnosis. ‘We were able to pull some limited data – out of 1,986 cases with onset/diagnosis on or after 4/26, there were seventy-two cases who reported attending a large gathering,’ DHS spokesperson Jennifer Miller told The Progressive.


Two days earlier on April 24, thousands of protesters gathered outside Wisconsin’s capitol building in Madison demanding Democratic Governor Tony Evers reopen the state for business. It marked one of the largest anti-lockdown rallies to take place across the country. At the time there were 5,356 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Wisconsin and 262 people had died. As of Wednesday, cases have almost doubled to 10,611 and the death toll has reached 418. [..] ‘Possible exposures during protests haven’t been specifically added to the database because we already ask about large gatherings,’ Miller told The Progressive. ‘Contact tracers do ask if patients attended mass gatherings, but not specifically about protests, so there’s really no data on who may have contracted COVID-19 at a protest.’ Miller added: ‘No, it doesn’t specifically state that the 72 were at a rally, but this is the data we have.’

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Right before they go on the ventilator.

36.6% of COVID19 Patients In NY Study Develop Acute Kidney Injury (R.)

Over a third of patients treated for COVID-19 in a large New York medical system developed acute kidney injury, and nearly 15% required dialysis, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday. The study was conducted by a team at Northwell Health, the largest health provider in New York state. “We found in the first 5,449 patients admitted, 36.6% developed acute kidney injury,” said study co-author Dr. Kenar Jhaveri, associated chief of nephrology at Hofstra/Northwell in Great Neck, New York, whose findings were published in the journal Kidney International. Acute kidney injury occurs when the kidneys fail and become unable to filter out waste. Of those patients with kidney failure, 14.3% required dialysis, Jhaveri said in a phone interview.


The study is the largest to date to look at kidney injury in COVID-19 patients. It may be helpful, Jhaveri said, as other hospitals face new waves of patients with the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has infected more than 4.3 million people and killed over 295,000 globally. Several groups have noted increased rates of kidney failure among patients with COVID-19. Jhaveri and colleagues set out to quantify it by combing through medical records of 5,449 COVID-19 patients hospitalized between March 1 and April 5. They found that kidney failure occurred early on, with 37.3% of patients arriving at the hospital with failing kidneys, or developing the condition within the first 24 hours of being admitted. In many cases, the kidney failure occurred around the time severely ill patients needed to be placed on a ventilator, Jhaveri said.

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Canada’s not doing well.

Ontario Redeploys Educators Into Nursing Homes, As One Records 56 Deaths (R.)

The Canadian province of Ontario is allowing its education staff, including teachers and custodians, to voluntarily redeploy into the province’s long-term care homes, the provincial government said on Wednesday, as the coronavirus outbreak at just one Toronto-area home alone has killed dozens. Coronavirus deaths in long-term care nursing homes account for 815 of 1,765 total deaths in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, according to provincial data released on Wednesday. Camilla Care Community recorded 56 deaths, according to the home’s owner, Sienna Senior Living, on Wednesday. The regional health authority reported 179 residents and 39 staff have tested positive at the facility.


In March, Ontario closed schools in an effort to stop the spread of the virus, requiring many educators and other staff to leave their jobs. This latest redeployment focuses on training and moving any employees who volunteer into nursing homes. Ontario has previously moved workers from hospitals into long-term care homes, and Wednesday’s announcement expands the province’s support for the facilities, which have been hit hard by the virus. The province also issued an emergency order on Wednesday morning, allowing the provincial government to issue mandatory management orders to any long-term care home struggling to deal with an outbreak.

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Not just care homes, poor parts of town as well.

Why Are So Many People Getting Sick And Dying In Montreal From Covid-19? (G.)

Springtime in Montreal is normally a cause for celebration. After the city’s long, arduous winters, people emerge from the confines of their apartments at the first inkling of warmth to lounge in parks and on patios – or terrasses – and enjoy a meal, beverage and the company of friends. Not this year. Montreal, a city touted by tourist guides as “North America’s Europe” for its rich culture and joie de vivre, is Canada’s centre for Covid-19. Of the entire country’s 70,000 cases and 5,000 deaths, the city of 2 million people has 20,000 cases and more than 2,000 deaths, or about 64% of the entire province’s death toll. Those numbers have catapulted Quebec into an unfavourable position: it is now the seventh deadliest place in the world for daily coronavirus deaths, according to Quebec newspaper La Presse.


[..] Earlier this month, the province admitted that its effort to manage staffing shortages by moving workers around the long-term care network could be spreading the virus. Montreal North feels the consequences of that. One in five Montrealers infected with Covid-19 are healthcare workers – none of whom are receiving danger pay. In Montreal North, 23% are infected, said community organizer Will Prosper. “It’s these people who are still taking care of us, when not too long ago they were the people who we wanted to kick out,” said Prosper.

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Just a bigger casino.

COVID-19 Bailout Gave Wall Street a No-Lose Casino (Taibbi)

The $2.3 trillion CARES Act, the Donald Trump-led rescue package signed into law on March 27th, is a radical rethink of American capitalism. It retains all the cruelties of the free market for those who live and work in the real world, but turns the paper economy into a state protectorate, surrounded by a kind of Trumpian Money Wall that is designed to keep the investor class safe from fear of loss. This financial economy is a fantasy casino, where the winnings are real but free chips cover the losses. For a rarefied segment of society, failure is being written out of the capitalist bargain. This is a fresh take on a long-developing dynamic. Dating to the late Eighties, when then-Fed-chief Alan Greenspan slashed interest rates after the 1987 stock-market crash, there’s been an understanding that the government would be there to help Wall Street back on its feet in hard times.

[..] What’s happening in the COVID-19 crisis is the next step: a financial bubble where the Fed isn’t the cleanup mechanism, but the source of the mania itself. While the real economy is seeing record disruptions, Wall Street has seen prolonged rallies of “rational exuberance” over the Fed’s decision to usher in “QE infinity” and essentially ban losing in finance capitalism. Though this is a Trump bill — El Pompadour is so determined that the CARES Act be remembered as his work, he fought to get his signature on relief checks — it passed unanimously, by voice vote in the House, and 96-0 in the Senate. Talk to Democrats on the Hill and they will tell you this is a bailout to be cheered and supported, nothing like the 2008 rescue. This time is different, the argument goes: Three-quarters of the money goes to real people.

[..] Technically, “only” about $500 billion of the congressionally passed rescue package goes to “big business.” Moreover, the big-business aid ostensibly comes with a range of draconian-sounding conditions barring greedy hijinks, meaning no layoffs, no stock buybacks, no big bonuses, etc., if companies want the handout. The loophole comes via $454 billion created as part of that big-business package. This “emergency fund” will be dumped into a “special-purpose vehicle” used to backstop further lending by the Federal Reserve. That $454 billion is designed to grow by a factor of 10 or more. “We can lever up to $4 trillion,” said Steve Mnuchin, playing the “free-spending Goldman Sachs-trained Treasury secretary” role that apparently is a prerequisite for financial-disaster narratives in modern America.

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Lovely.

FBI Accidentally Reveals Name Of Saudi Embassy Official Suspected In 9/11 (Y!)

The FBI inadvertently revealed one of the U.S. government’s most sensitive secrets about the Sept. 11 terror attacks: the identity of a mysterious Saudi Embassy official in Washington who agents suspected had directed crucial support to two of the al-Qaida hijackers. The disclosure came in a new declaration filed in federal court by a senior FBI official in response to a lawsuit brought by families of 9/11 victims that accuses the Saudi government of complicity in the terrorist attacks. The declaration was filed last month but unsealed late last week. According to a spokesman for the 9/11 victims’ families, it represents a major breakthrough in the long-running case, providing for the first time an apparent confirmation that FBI agents investigating the attacks believed they had uncovered a link between the hijackers and the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

It’s unclear just how strong the evidence is against the former Saudi Embassy official — it’s been a subject of sharp dispute within the FBI for years. But the disclosure, which a senior U.S. government official confirmed was made in error, seems likely to revive questions about potential Saudi links to the 9/11 plot. It also shines a light on the extraordinary efforts by top Trump administration officials in recent months to prevent internal documents about the issue from ever becoming public. “This shows there is a complete government cover-up of the Saudi involvement,” said Brett Eagleson, a spokesman for the 9/11 families whose father was killed in the attacks. “It demonstrates there was a hierarchy of command that’s coming from the Saudi Embassy to the Ministry of Islamic Affairs [in Los Angeles] to the hijackers.”

Still, Eagleson acknowledged he was flabbergasted by the bureau’s slip-up in identifying the Saudi Embassy official in a public filing. Although Justice Department lawyers had last September notified lawyers for the 9/11 families of the official’s identity, they had done so under a protective order that forbade the family members from publicly disclosing it. Now, the bureau itself has named the Saudi official. “This is a giant screwup,” Eagleson said.

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Or should the FBI be held in contempt?

US Judge Asks If Michael Flynn Should Be Held In Contempt (R.)

A U.S. judge on Wednesday signaled reluctance to allow the Justice Department to drop its criminal prosecution of Michael Flynn, tasking a retired judge with advising on whether the former Trump administration official should face an additional criminal contempt charge for perjury. In a short written order, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington asked John Gleeson, a former federal judge in New York, to present arguments in the case as an amicus curiae, or friend of the court. Sullivan said he was seeking Gleeson’s recommendation on whether Flynn should face a criminal contempt charge for perjury because he testified under oath that he was guilty of lying to the FBI but then reversed course and said he had never lied. Sullivan also said he wanted Gleeson to make the case for why a motion to dismiss the Flynn case filed by the Justice Department last week should be rejected.


The Justice Department’s bombshell May 7 decision to drop its case against Flynn came on the heels of growing pressure from Trump and Trump’s political allies who repeatedly accused the FBI of improprieties in how it handled the investigation. Up until that point, the Justice Department had staunchly defended the FBI’s actions in the case. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general who served as an adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign, pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI about his interactions with Russia’s U.S. ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the weeks before Trump took office. However, later in the case he switched lawyers and tactics, accusing the FBI of tricking him and seeking to have his guilty plea withdrawn.

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Appointed by President Ronald Reagan, Patrick M. McLaughlin served as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio from 1984-1988 and as an assistant U.S. attorney from 1978 to 1984.

Flynn Case Requires Letting The Sun Shine On Comey And Mueller (McLaughlin)

For most Americans, it must be absolute confusion trying to decipher truth from non-truth as charges and countercharges are leveled by the Democrats and Republicans, and the media weigh in on the Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn case. My suggestion is to ignore the talking heads and read the DOJ’s 20-page motion to dismiss the criminal information against Flynn, and all the exhibits attached to that motion. Then, you will have the facts necessary to come to an informed opinion. I have done that, so let me give a primer. The DOJ determined that “continued prosecution of this case would not serve the interests of justice” because the interview of Flynn by the FBI was unjustified by the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation into Flynn, since that investigation “had yielded an ‘absence of any derogatory information.’”

The DOJ is unpersuaded that Flynn’s interview “was conducted with a legitimate investigative basis” and does not believe that Flynn’s statements “were material even if untrue.” In addition, in consideration of all the evidence “including newly discovered and disclosed information,” the government doubts that it can prove “either the relevant false statements or their materiality beyond a reasonable doubt.” The motion, plus 86 pages of exhibits, provides evidence, at best, of the dereliction of duty by the FBI under James Comey and, at worst, possible criminal misconduct. Only a full disclosure of all relevant information, documents, and testimony under oath by participants will satisfy the right of Americans to have the evidence we deserve in order to form our opinions unfiltered by the talking heads. Let the real facts fall where they may.

[..] When you review the DOJ’s filing, put yourself in Flynn’s shoes and consider how you would feel if the government treated you in the same manner and, to top it off, hid material exculpatory information from your defense team and the court. Overlay on that: How would you handle it if legal fees had wiped you out financially and the agents and prosecutors were threatening to indict a member of your family to pressure you to cave? The conduct of Comey’s FBI, of the Special Counsel, and of some at Main Justice should be placed under the microscope of a truth-seeking, nonpartisan inquiry with the interests of the nation in mind. Find out what happened and why — then fix it.

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Apr 192020
 


Unknown A couple wearing smog masks, London 1953

 

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

 

 

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

=

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Just as everyone says it was the lab.

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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About 20 times higher.

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

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


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

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And then the nurses start dying too.

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

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

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

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

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

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No more of this.

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

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

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

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

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

The Trickle-Up Bailout (Matt Taibbi)

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

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

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

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Russia has done something very wrong.

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

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

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There should be different ways.

Spain To Allow Children Outside After Six Weeks (BBC)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

His own party appears to be after his head.

38 Days When Britain Sleepwalked Into Disaster (Times)

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

But the incumbent order always protests violently first.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

 

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https://twitter.com/ValaAfshar/status/1251634686348210178

 

 

 

 

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Apr 142020
 


John M. Fox Garcia Grande newsstand, New York 1946

 

Getting A Coronavirus Test In Wuhan: Fast, Cheap And Easy (R.)
South Korea Confirms 111 Cases Of Coronavirus Reinfection (KT)
How Coronavirus Almost Brought Down The Global Financial System (Tooze)
US Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 23,000 (R.)
New York, California, Other States Plan For Reopening As Crisis Eases (R.)
30 Union Members Die, Rest Risk Their Lives So Americans Can Eat Meat (HuffPo)
North America Meat Plant Workers Fall Ill, Walk Off Jobs (R.)
Smithfield Shuts US Pork Plant Indefinitely, Warns Of Meat Shortages (R.)
White House Seeks To Lower Farmworker Pay To Help Agriculture Industry (NPR)
In Mea Culpa, Macron Extends France’s Lockdown Until May 11 (R.)
A French Disaster (Guy Millière)
Older People Being ‘Airbrushed’ Out Of British Virus Figures (BBC)
Québec To Ramp Up Care Home Inspections After 31 Die In Montréal Facility (R.)
Brazil Likely Has 12 Times More Coronavirus Cases Than Official Count (R.)
China Tightens Russian Border Checks, Approves Experimental Vaccine Trials (R.)
China Big Tech Moves Into Healthcare (R.)

 

 

It’s been a few days, but leafing through today’s news, it seems obvious that incompetence once again rules the day. Macron is the first to say he’s sorry for that. Sort of. Still, we should not lose sight of the fact that, as I wrote recently in Little Managers, we don’t elect our ‘Leaders’ to solve pandemics. The best I can do for you is we elect them to make us feel rich, which is why they focused for far too long, as the pandemic already raged, on their economies.

• Over the past 24 hours, the U.S. reported 27,243 new cases of coronavirus and 1,555 new deaths, raising total to 587,752 cases and 23,765 dead.

 

 

1,934,128
Cases 1,862,584 (+ 72,011 from yesterday’s 1,790,573)

120,437
Deaths 114,982 (+ 5,328 from yesterday’s 109,654)

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

I would certainly pay $37 for a test if it were available. And reliable.

Getting A Coronavirus Test In Wuhan: Fast, Cheap And Easy (R.)

Coronavirus tests can be difficult to come by in many countries including in hard-hit parts of the United States and Britain, but in Wuhan, the Chinese epicentre of the pandemic, they are fast, cheap and easy to get. My colleagues and I had just arrived in the central city where the novel coronavirus emerged in humans late last year, and as a foreigner I was told that I was required to take a nucleic test to prove that I was free of the potentially deadly flu-like virus. A government official escorted me to the test site, a table outside the entrance of a shuttered hotel. A single medical worker sat there, dressed in a zipped-up hazmat suit and goggles.

She asked for my personal details and told me to sit. She then stuck a swab down my throat, nearly triggering a gag, and then it was over. “You’ll get your results in about one and a half days,” the official said. The test, while not pleasant, took less than three seconds. Wuhan is testing liberally as it tries to get back up and running after lifting a 76-day lockdown last week. The term “nucleic acid test” has become a familiar one in the city of 11 million people, where many companies are asking workers to present test results before they can return to work, although it is not mandatory. At one Wuhan hospital, people only need to spit into a test tube. That test costs 260 yuan ($37) and results are available by mobile app. Since Feb. 21, 930,315 tests have been carried out in Wuhan, according to government data.

“Testing is a good thing,” said Zhao Yan, a emergency medicine doctor and vice president of Wuhan’s Zhongnan Hospital told reporters on a government-organised trip last week. “If you’re an enterprise with 500 employees and you want to start working again, you test everybody.” Across China, officials are simplifying and speeding up the process to obtain a nucleic acid test, even though questions persist about its accuracy. Some Chinese doctors have pushed to raise requirements for discharging hospitalised patients from two negative nucleic acid tests to three. Cities including Beijing have required some arriving travelers to present test results when entering. China has not yet indicated it will require testing for large swathes of the population.

Read more …

There go the dreams of reopening your economy.

South Korea Confirms 111 Cases Of Coronavirus Reinfection (KT)

South Korea has confirmed 111 cases of coronavirus reinfection (as of Sunday noon) with most cases reported in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, two epicenters of the domestic outbreak. Jung Eun-kyeong, director of Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), said on Sunday the organization was exploring possible causes of reinfection. “For now it is uncertain what led to reinfection  revived virus that survived treatment or fresh exposure to the virus after recovery,” Jung said. The director said an extensive research was under way and the KCDC would share the result with WHO and other nations battling coronavirus.

Earlier health authorities here have said the virus was highly likely to have been reactivated, instead of the people being reinfected, as they tested positive again in a relatively short time after being released from quarantine. They also said the COVID-19 virus may remain latent in certain cells in the body and attack the respiratory organs again once reactivated. A COVID-19 patient is deemed fully recovered after showing negative results for two tests in a row within a 24-hour interval. The country’s COVID-19 infections reported 32 additional virus cases, bringing total infections to 10,512.

Read more …

Oh no. No sirree. The system is bringing itself down, not the virus. This is like you take a house so decrepit that it should long have been condemned, and then you blame a storm when it finally collapses.

How Coronavirus Almost Brought Down The Global Financial System (Tooze)

In the third week of March, while most of our minds were fixed on surging coronavirus death rates and the apocalyptic scenes in hospital wards, global financial markets came as close to a collapse as they have since September 2008. The price of shares in the world’s major corporations plunged. The value of the dollar surged against every currency in the world, squeezing debtors everywhere from Indonesia to Mexico. Trillion-dollar markets for government debt, the basic foundation of the financial system, lurched up and down in terror-stricken cycles. On the terminal screens, interest rates danced. Traders hunched over improvised home workstations – known in the new slang of March 2020 as “Rona rigs” – screaming with frustration as sluggish home wifi systems dragged behind the movement of the markets.

At the low point on 23 March, $26tn had been wiped off the value of global equity markets, inflicting huge losses both on the fortunate few who own shares, and on the collective pools of savings held by pension and insurance funds. What the markets were reacting to was an unthinkable turn of events. After a fatal period of hesitation, governments around the world were ordering comprehensive lockdowns to contain a lethal pandemic. Built for growth, the global economic machine was being brought to a screeching halt. In 2020, for the first time since the second world war, production around the world will contract. It is not only Europe and the US that have been shut down, but once-booming emerging market economies in Asia. Commodity exporters from Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa face collapsing markets.

[..] What Europe and the US have succeeded in doing is to flatten the curve of financial panic. They have maintained the all-important flow of credit. Without that, large parts of their economies would not be on life support – they would be stone dead. And our governments would be struggling with a financial crunch to boot. Maintaining the flow of credit has been the precondition for sustaining the lockdown. It is the precondition for a concerted public health response to the pandemic. During major crises, we are reminded of the fact that at the heart of the profit-driven, private financial economy is a public institution, the central bank. When financial markets are functioning normally, it remains in the background.

But when they threaten to break down, it has the option of stepping forward to act as a lender of last resort. It can make loans, or it can buy assets from banks, funds or other businesses that are desperate for cash. Because it is the ultimate backer of the currency, its budget is unlimited. That means it can decide who sinks and who swims. We learned this in 2008. But 2020 has driven home the point as never before.

Read more …

Where are Dr. Fauci’s 200,000 deaths?

US Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 23,000 (R.)

U.S. deaths from the novel coronavirus topped 23,000 on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, as officials said the worst may be over and the outbreak could reach its peak this week. The United States, with the world’s third-largest population, has recorded more fatalities from COVID-19 than any other country. There were a total of nearly 570,000 U.S. cases as of Monday with over 1.8 million reported cases globally. Deaths reported on Sunday numbered 1,513, the smallest increase since 1,309 died on April 6. The largest number of fatalities, over 10,000, was in New York state with the concentration in and around New York City, the most populous U.S. city with about 8.4 million people.


Wyoming reported its first coronavirus death on Monday, the final U.S. state to report a fatality in the outbreak. Sweeping stay-at-home restrictions to curb the spread of the disease, in place for weeks in many areas of the United States, have taken a painful toll on the economy. With businesses closed and curbs on travel, officials and lawmakers are debating when it might be safe to begin reopening some sectors. The Trump administration has indicated May 1 as a potential date for easing the restrictions while urging caution.

Read more …

Stop planning. Make sure you get it right first.

New York, California, Other States Plan For Reopening As Crisis Eases (R.)

Ten U.S. governors on the east and west coasts banded together on Monday in two regional pacts to coordinate gradual economic reopenings as the coronavirus crisis finally appeared to be ebbing. Announcements from the New York-led group of Northeastern governors, and a similar compact formed by California, Oregon and Washington state, came as President Donald Trump declared any decision on restarting the U.S. economy was up to him. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was teaming up with five counterparts in adjacent New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island to devise the best strategies for easing stay-at-home orders imposed last month to curb coronavirus transmissions. Massachusetts later said it was joining the East Coast coalition.


“Nobody has been here before, nobody has all the answers,” said Cuomo, whose state has become the U.S. epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic, during an open conference call with five other governors. “Addressing public health and the economy: Which one is first? They’re both first.” The three Pacific Coast states announced they, too, planned to follow a shared approach for lifting social-distancing measures, but said they “need to see a decline in the rate of spread of the virus before large-scale reopening” can take place. The 10 governors, all Democrats except for Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, gave no timeline for ending social lockdowns that have idled the vast majority of more than 100 million residents in their states. But they stressed that decisions about when and how to reopen non-essential businesses, along with schools and universities, would put the health of residents first and rely on science rather than politics.

Read more …

How on earth do you get this so wrong?

30 Union Members Die, Rest Risk Their Lives So Americans Can Eat Meat (HuffPo)

Never has so much been asked of America’s grocery store and meatpacking workers. They are working through a pandemic, getting sick and in some cases even dying so that others can put food on the table. Most of them are doing it for lower wages than other essential workers who continue to do their jobs as coronavirus cases balloon. Many who risk their health each day have been relaying their fears and frustrations to the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents 1.3 million workers in the U.S. and Canada and is one of the largest private-sector unions in the country.

Marc Perrone, the UFCW’s president, told HuffPost that the union is working hard to keep up with its members’ concerns, as well as those of nonunion workers now highly interested in organizing. For many in the latter category, the pressure of recent weeks has stripped away any sense that they are paid fairly and protected adequately on the job. “We have more leads than we’ve ever had as a union,” Perrone said. “The question is … are we at the tipping point yet? This pandemic ripped gaping holes in the system. Is it going to change the way workers can unify together to make a move?”

The UFCW has emerged as one of the most important labor unions in the coronavirus crisis because of where it represents workers: in grocery stores, meatpacking and processing plants and pharmacies. Few private-sector unions outside of health care would have so many members continuing to clock in because their work is so crucial to the lives of others. The work seems to have come at a steep cost already. The union is still gathering data on infections and deaths among its membership, but Perrone said that around 30 people appear to have died since the pandemic began. In some cases, he cautioned, a COVID-19 diagnosis has not been confirmed yet.

Read more …

Better get some other protein supply in.

North America Meat Plant Workers Fall Ill, Walk Off Jobs (R.)

At a Wayne Farms chicken processing plant in Alabama, workers recently had to pay the company 10 cents a day to buy masks to protect themselves from the new coronavirus, according to a meat inspector. In Colorado, nearly a third of the workers at a JBS USA beef plant stayed home amid safety concerns for the last two weeks as a 30-year employee of the facility died following complications from the virus. And since an Olymel pork plant in Quebec shut on March 29, the number of workers who tested positive for the coronavirus quintupled to more than 50, according to their union. The facility and at least 10 others in North America have temporarily closed or reduced production in about the last two weeks because of the pandemic, disrupting food supply chains that have struggled to keep pace with surging demand at grocery stores.


According to more than a dozen interviews with U.S and Canadian plant workers, union leaders and industry analysts, a lack of protective equipment and the nature of “elbow to elbow” work required to debone chickens, chop beef and slice hams are highlighting risks for employees and limiting output as some forego the low-paying work. Companies that added protections, such as enhanced cleaning or spacing out workers, say the moves are further slowing meat production. Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork processor, on Sunday said it is indefinitely shutting a pork plant that accounts for about 4% to 5% of U.S. production. It warned that plant shutdowns are pushing the United States “perilously close to the edge” in meat supplies for grocers.

Read more …

The size of this “industry” is bearable only because we keep it hidden.

Smithfield Shuts US Pork Plant Indefinitely, Warns Of Meat Shortages (R.)

Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork processor, said on Sunday it will shut a U.S. plant indefinitely due to a rash of coronavirus cases among employees and warned the country was moving “perilously close to the edge” in supplies for grocers. Slaughterhouse shutdowns are disrupting the U.S. food supply chain, crimping availability of meat at retail stores and leaving farmers without outlets for their livestock. Smithfield extended the closure of its Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant after initially saying it would idle temporarily for cleaning. The facility is one of the nation’s largest pork processing facilities, representing 4% to 5% of U.S. pork production, according to the company.


South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem said on Saturday that 238 Smithfield employees had active cases of the new coronavirus, accounting for 55% of the state’s total. Noem and the mayor of Sioux Falls had recommended the company shut the plant, which has about 3,700 workers, for at least two weeks. “It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running,” Smithfield Chief Executive Ken Sullivan said in a statement on Sunday. “These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain, first and foremost our nation’s livestock farmers.” Smithfield said it will resume operations in Sioux Falls after further direction from local, state and federal officials. The company will pay employees for the next two weeks, according to the statement.

Read more …

Stupid is as stupid does. Come autumn, you’re going to need food. Underpaying essential workers will not help. Raise their wages, and you may even attract a few Americans.

White House Seeks To Lower Farmworker Pay To Help Agriculture Industry (NPR)

New White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is working with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to see how to reduce wage rates for foreign guest workers on American farms, in order to help U.S. farmers struggling during the coronavirus, according to U.S. officials and sources familiar with the plans. Opponents of the plan argue it will hurt vulnerable workers and depress domestic wages. The measure is the latest effort being pushed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help U.S farmers who say they are struggling amid disruptions in the agricultural supply chain compounded by the outbreak; the industry was already hurting because of President Trump’s tariff war with China.


“The administration is considering all policy options during this unprecedented crisis to ensure our great farmers are protected, and President Trump has done and will do everything he can to support their vital mission,” a White House official told NPR. The nation’s roughly 2.5 million agricultural laborers have been officially declared “essential workers” as the administration seeks to ensure that Americans have food to eat and that U.S. grocery stores remain stocked. Workers on the H-2A seasonal guest-worker program are about 10% of all farmworkers. The effort to provide “wage relief” to U.S. farmers follows an announcement Friday by the USDA to develop a program that will include direct payments to farmers and ranchers hurt by the coronavirus. Trump said Friday that he has directed Perdue to provide at least $16 billion in relief.

Read more …

Well, at least he did it. Where are the others?

In Mea Culpa, Macron Extends France’s Lockdown Until May 11 (R.)

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday announced he was extending a virtual lockdown to curb the coronavirus outbreak until May 11, adding that progress had been made but the battle not yet won. Following Italy in extending the lockdown but announcing no immediate easing of restrictive measures as in Spain, Macron said the tense situation in hospitals in Paris and eastern France meant there could be no let-up in the country. Since March 17, France’s 67 million people have been ordered to stay at home except to buy food, go to work, seek medical care or get some exercise on their own. The lockdown was originally scheduled to end on Tuesday.

“I fully understand the effort I’m asking from you,” Macron told the nation in a televised address at the end of the lockdown’s fourth week, adding the current rules were working. “When will we be able to return to a normal life? I would love to be able to answer you. But to be frank, I have to humbly tell you we don’t have definitive answers,” he said. Schools and shops would progressively reopen on May 11, Macron said. But restaurants, hotels, cafes and cinemas would have to remain shut longer, he added. International arrivals from non-European countries will remain prohibited until further notice. Macron, whose government has faced criticism over a shortage of face masks and testing kits, said that by May 11, France would be able to test anyone presenting COVID-19 symptoms and give nonprofessional face masks to the public.

Macron also said he had asked his government to present this week new financial aid for families and students in need. Acknowledging his country had not been sufficiently prepared early on to face the challenges posed by the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Macron appeared to seek a humble tone in contrast to the war-like rhetoric of his previous speeches. “Were we prepared for this crisis? On the face of it, not enough. But we coped,” he said. “This moment, let’s be honest, has revealed cracks, shortages. Like every country in the world, we have lacked gloves, hand gel, we haven’t been able to give out as many masks as we wanted to our health professionals.”

The French, long accustomed to being told their high taxes paid for the “best healthcare in the world,” have been dismayed by the rationing of critical drugs, face masks and equipment and have watched with envy the situation in neighbouring Germany. Macron’s acknowledgment of the shortcomings was broadly well-received. “It’s not every day you hear a president offer a mea culpa and dare say ‘we have no definitive answers.’ Reassuring and necessary sincerity,” analyst Maxime Sbaihi of the think tank GenerationLibre said.

Read more …

You have to read this to believe it. Mind you, I read a note earlier that said 200 flights came into to Heathrow yesterday from all over the globe, including China, Italy, Spain, whose passengers were barely checked if at all.

A French Disaster (Guy Millière)

On April 9, in France, one of the three European countries most affected by COVID-19 — the others being Spain and Italy, 1,341 people died from the Chinese Communist Party virus. For Italy, the main European country affected so far, the figure on April 9 was 610 deaths; for Spain 446, and for Germany 266. While the pandemic has been stabilizing in Italy and Spain — and in Germany seems contained — in France it seems still expanding. Extremely bad decisions taken by the authorities created a situation of contagion more destructive than it should have been. The first bad decision was that, in contrast to European Union fantasies, borders apparently do matter. France never closed them; instead it allowed large numbers of potential virus-carriers to enter the country.

Even when it became clear that in Italy the pandemic was taking on catastrophic proportions, France’s border with Italy remained open. The Italian government, by contrast, on March 10, prohibited French people coming to its territory or Italians going to France, but to date, France has put no controls on its side of the border. The situation is the same on France’s border with Spain, despite the terrifying situation there. Since March 17, it has been virtually impossible to go from France to Spain, but coming to France from Spain is easy: you just show a police officer your ID. The same goes for France’s border with Germany. On March 16, Germany closed its border with France, but France declined to do the same for its border with Germany.

When, on February 26, a soccer match between a French team and an Italian team took place in Lyon, the third-largest city in France, 3,000 Italian supporters attended, even though patients were already flocking to Italy’s hospitals. France never closed its airports; they are still open to “nationals of EEA Member States, Switzerland, passengers with a British passport, and those with residence permits issued by France” and healthcare professionals. Earlier, until the last days of March, people arriving from China were not even subject to health checks. French people in Wuhan, the city where the pandemic originated, were repatriated by a military plane, and, upon their arrival in France, were placed in quarantine. While Air France interrupted its flights to China on January 30, Chinese and other airlines departing from Shanghai and Beijing continue to land in France.

French President Emmanuel Macron summarized France’s official position on the practice: “Viruses do not have passports,” he said. Members of the French government repeated the same dogma. A few commentators reminded them that viruses travel with infected people, who can be stopped at borders, and that borders are essential to stop or slow the spread of a disease, but the effort was useless. Macron ended up saying that the borders of the Schengen area (26 European states that have officially abolished all passport and border control with one another) could not be shut down and raged at other European leaders for reintroducing border checks between the Schengen area member countries. “What is at stake,” he said, seemingly more concerned with the “European project” than with the lives of millions of people, “is the survival of the European project.”

[..] by the end of March, most doctors and caregivers still had no masks. Several doctors fell ill. As of April 10, eight have died from COVID-19 and several others are in critical condition. On March 20, the government’s spokeswoman, Sibeth N’Diaye, incorrectly said that “masks are essentially useless”. At the end of February, France had almost no tests available, and no means of manufacturing them. The government decided to buy tests from China, but by March 19, the number of tests was still insufficient. While Germany performed 500,000 screening tests per week, France was only able to only perform 50,000. Rather than admit that tests were unavailable, or that the government had mismanaged situation, the France’s minister of health, Olivier Veran, announced that large-scale screening was useless, and that France had chosen to “proceed differently”.

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“..92 homes in the UK reported outbreaks in one day. [..] 2,099 care homes in England have so far had cases of the virus.”

Older People Being ‘Airbrushed’ Out Of British Virus Figures (BBC)

Many older people are being “airbrushed” out of coronavirus figures in the UK, charities have warned. The official death toll has been criticised for only covering people who die in hospital – but not those in care homes or in their own houses. It comes after the government confirmed there had been virus outbreaks at more than 2,000 care homes in England. Meanwhile, scientific advisers for the government will meet later to review the UK’s coronavirus lockdown measures. The evaluation will be passed to the government – but ministers have said it was unlikely restrictions would change.

On Monday, the UK’s chief medical adviser said he would like “much more extensive testing” in care homes due to the “large numbers of vulnerable people” there. Prof Chris Whitty told the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing on that 92 homes in the UK reported outbreaks in one day. The Department of Health and Social Care later confirmed 2,099 care homes in England have so far had cases of the virus. The figures prompted the charity Age UK to claim coronavirus is “running wild” in care homes for elderly people. “The current figures are airbrushing older people out like they don’t matter,” Caroline Abrahams, the charity’s director, said.

Ms Abrahams said the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing is leading to the spread of coronavirus across the care home sector. “We were underprepared for this, we are playing catch-up on getting enough PPE and testing, I’m wondering if the needs of care homes were taken seriously early on,” she said. She joined industry leaders from Marie Curie, Care England, Independent Age and the Alzheimer’s Society in writing a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock demanding a care package to support social care through the pandemic. They have also called for a daily update on deaths in the care system.

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“The home charges up to C$10,000 a month for each resident,..”

Care homes, nursing homes are a major issue. Stories abound from the UK, France, Belgium, Holland, Canada about elderly people being left alone and untested, and their subsequent COVID19 deaths not counted.

Québec To Ramp Up Care Home Inspections After 31 Die In Montréal Facility (R.)

The Quebec government on Monday said it was putting the safety and general conditions of the province’s 2,600 long-term care and nursing home facilities under the microscope following the deaths of 31 people in a single home for the elderly since March 13. Police and the coroner’s office are investigating the deaths at the Residence Herron, a 139-unit home in Montreal, which has been put under provincial control. Quebec Premier François Legault said health officials had only been informed that the nursing home had a shortage of staff, but not that dozens of residents had died. “[Health officials] didn’t know before Friday night that there were 31 deaths,” Legault told reporters on Monday. “We knew that there were a few deaths, but surely not 31.”


Only five deaths are confirmed to have been caused by COVID-19, with the rest under investigation. Legault blamed the situation on “major negligence” over the weekend and said the facility’s management had not cooperated when authorities first tried to probe reports of problems. “I think that what happened in the month of March was that suddenly many of their residents got the COVID-19, many of the employees decided to leave,” he said. The residence is located on Montreal’s West Island and is owned and operated by Katasa Group, which owns six other retirement homes. The home charges up to C$10,000 a month for each resident, according to the Montreal Gazette. The private nursing home touts itself as having “an enviable reputation in the field of residences for retirees in need of special care,” according to its website.

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Until further- convincing- notice, make that Brazil and every other country.

Brazil Likely Has 12 Times More Coronavirus Cases Than Official Count (R.)

Brazil likely has 12 times more cases of the new coronavirus than are being officially reported by the government, with too little testing and long waits to confirm the results, according to a study released on Monday. Researchers at a consortium of Brazilian universities and institutes examined the ratio of cases resulting in deaths through April 10 and compared it with data on the expected death rate from the World Health Organization. The much higher-than-expected death rate in Brazil indicates there are many more cases of the virus than are being counted, with the study estimating only 8% of cases are being officially reported.


The government has focused on testing serious cases rather than all suspected cases, according to the consortium, known as the Center for Health Operations and Intelligence. The center and medical professionals have also complained of long wait times to get test results. Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta has said that it is difficult to distribute tests in Brazil because of the size of the country but acknowledges that testing needs to improve. Officially, Brazil’s coronavirus death toll rose to 1,328 on Monday, while the number of confirmed cases hit 23,430, according to health ministry data. As of last Thursday, Brazil had had around 127,000 suspected cases and carried out just short of 63,000 tests, ministry figures indicate. A health ministry official on Monday said more than 93,000 tests are still being processed for results.

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Russia is not doing well.

China Tightens Russian Border Checks, Approves Experimental Vaccine Trials (R.)

China has approved early-stage human tests for two experimental vaccines to combat the new coronavirus as it battles to contain imported cases, especially from neighbouring Russia, the new “front line” in the war on COVID-19. Russia has become China’s largest source of imported cases, with a total of 409 infections originating in the country, and Chinese citizens should stay put and not return home, the state-owned Global Times said in an editorial. “Russia is the latest example of a failure to control imported cases and can serve as a warning to others,” said the paper, which is run by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily. “The Chinese people have watched Russia become a severely affected country… This should sound the alarm: China must strictly prevent the inflow of cases and avoid a second outbreak.”


China’s northeastern border province of Heilongjiang saw 79 new cases of imported coronavirus cases on Monday. All the new cases were Chinese citizens travelling back into the country from Russia, state media said on Tuesday. They formed the bulk of new cases on the Chinese mainland, which stood at 89. Heilongjiang’s provincial authority said on Tuesday that it had established a hotline to reward citizens for reporting illegal immigrants crossing into the province. According to a notice, people supplying verified information about illegal cross-border crimes will be granted 3,000 yuan. Those who apprehend the illegal immigrants themselves and hand them over to the authorities will be given 5,000 yuan. As of Tuesday, China had reported 82,249 coronavirus cases and 3,341 deaths. There were no deaths in the past 24 hours.

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The robots, like the doctors, are on Big Pharma’s payroll.

China Big Tech Moves Into Healthcare (R.)

China’s biggest corporate showdown has kicked off. Alibaba, Tencent and Ping An Insurance dominate e-commerce, video games and insurance respectively. Now the trio, worth a combined $1 trillion-plus in market capitalisation, is converging on healthcare. Before Covid-19 hit, China’s medical system suffered from chronic under-investment. Healthcare expenditure, of which the government accounts for over half, was just 5.2% of GDP in 2017, data from the World Health Organization show, far lagging 17% in the United States. A big problem is a shortage of general practitioners, resulting in threadbare primary care. It’s geographically unbalanced too; medical resources are concentrated in wealthier urban areas.

Top-tier hospitals, representing just 8% of the country’s total, received nearly half of all patients in 2016, according to research cited by China Renaissance. Alibaba and Ping An, as well as the Tencent-backed WeDoctor, see potential for profit in filling the gaps left by overstretched, overcrowded hospitals. All three offer cheap online consultations, which have spiked in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. They are racing to develop all-encompassing apps offering diagnosis, prescriptions, referrals, appointment bookings, 1-hour drug delivery and even insurance.

Ping An’s Good Doctor is ahead for now. The app, run by a Hong Kong-listed subsidiary, has 67 million monthly active users as of the end of last year, thanks to a sizable team of in-house doctors and a network of partner hospitals and pharmacies. But Alibaba is beefing up its healthcare arm, also listed in Hong Kong, by reshuffling its pharmaceutical business and appointing a new chief executive. Tencent’s ubiquitous messaging app, WeChat, too has rolled out features like Covid-19 heat maps and hospital appointment bookings. It owns an undisclosed stake in WeDoctor, which is now looking to raise up to $1 billion in a Hong Kong initial public offering this year …

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Nov 222015
 
 November 22, 2015  Posted by at 10:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


Marjory Collins “Italian girls watching US Army parade on Mott Street, New York” 1942

Will $4.6 Trillion Leveraged Loan Market Cause Next Financial Crisis? (Cohan)
Asia-Europe Container Freight Rates Drop 70% in 3 Weeks (Reuters)
Nightmare of Mario Draghi’s Crowded Trade (FT)
The Long, Cold Winter Ahead (Tenebrarum)
Oil Companies Brace For Big Wave Of Debt Defaults (CNBC)
Eurozone Agrees Greece Can Get Next Loan Tranche, Cash For Bank Recap (Reuters)
Half Of UK Care Homes To Close If £2.9 Billion Gap Is Not Plugged (Guardian)
Report Urges UK Government To Act Now To Avoid Energy Crisis (EAEM)
How Did a UK Power Plant Get 25 Times the Market Price? (Bloomberg)
State Of Emergency In Crimea After Electricity Pylons ‘Blown Up’ (Reuters)
Brazil Dam Toxic Mud Reaches Atlantic Ocean (BBC)
Deforestation Threatens Majority of Amazon Tree Species (PSMag)
Saudi Arabia, an ISIS That Has Made It (NY Times)
The Saudi Connection to Terror (Daniel Lazare)
Terrorism Links Trigger Greater Scrutiny For Greece (Kath.)
Chaos In Greek Islands Over Three-Tier Refugee Registration System (Guardian)

One of many factors that could be the trigger.

Will $4.6 Trillion Leveraged Loan Market Cause Next Financial Crisis? (Cohan)

Financial crises take about a decade to be born. Having lived through four of them, I see the raw materials for a fifth one — flowing from the collapse of so-called leveraged loans — debt piled on top of companies with weak credit ratings. Before examining the latest news on leveraged loans, let’s take a quick tour down the memory lane of financial crises I’ve lived through. My first one was in 1982 — that’s when banks lent too much money to oil and gas developers in Oklahoma and Texas as well as local real estate developers. At the suggestion of McKinsey, money-center banks like Chemical Bank thought it would be a great idea to buy a piece of those loans. It’s all described nicely in a wonderful book — Belly Up. Too bad the price of oil and gas tumbled, leaving lenders in the lurch and causing a spike in bank failures that gave me the chance to spend a balmy summer in Washington helping the FDIC develop a system to manage the liquidation of those failed banks.

By 1989, it was time for another banking crisis — this one was pinned to too much lending to commercial real estate developers in New England and junk-bond-backed loans for what used to be known as leveraged buyouts. The government shut down Bank of New England and was threatening my employer, Bank of Boston, with the same. I worked on a government-mandated strategic plan intended to save the bank from a similar fate. Next up — the dot-com bust — which introduced me to the idea that not all bubbles are bad if you can get in when they’re forming and exit before they burst. I invested in six dot-coms and had a mixed record — the three winners offset the three wipe outs.

Finally, there is the latest and greatest — the so-called Great Recession of 2008. I am now getting to the end of Ben Bernanke’s The Courage To Act. It brings back all the memories — from my first story on subprime mortgages back in December 2006 in which I recommended selling short shares of subprime lender, NovaStar Financial when they traded at $106 apiece. (NovaStar changed its name to Novation in 2012 and you can pick up a share for 17 cents.) The key causes of the crisis that Bernanke describes as the worst in history were weak subprime regulation, liar loans, global securitization, too little capital, limited transparency, skewed banker and ratings agency incentives, and lame risk management. What does this little financial crisis tour have to do with leveraged loans? I have often cited the Mark Twain’s expression that history does not repeat itself, but sometimes it rhymes.

I think leveraged loans rhyme with junk bonds and subprime mortgages. Banks make leveraged loans “to companies that have junk credit ratings in the hope of quickly selling the debt to investors, including mutual funds, hedge funds and entities called collateralized loan obligations,” according to the New York Times. Why the rhyme? As in the late 1980s, leveraged loans are made to companies with bad credit ratings; like subprime mortgages they are being packaged into securities that supposedly give investors a diversified portfolio; and like the early 1980s crisis, there is excess debt on the books of energy and mining companies.

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World trade comes to a crawl.

Asia-Europe Container Freight Rates Drop 70% in 3 Weeks (Reuters)

Shipping freight rates for transporting containers from ports in Asia to Northern Europe plunged by 27.9% to $295 per 20-foot container (TEU) in the week ending on Friday, one source with access to data from the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index told Reuters. The drop came after spot freight rates on the world’s busiest route dropped 39.3% last week, and the current rates are widely seen as loss-making levels for container shipping companies. The spot freight rates for transporting containers, carrying anything from flat-screen TVs to sportswear from Asia to Northern Europe, has fallen 70% in three weeks.

In the week to Friday, container freight rates fell 22.5% from Asia to ports in the Mediterranean, dropped 8.6% to ports on the U.S. West Coast and were down 8.0% to ports on the U.S. East Coast. Maersk Line, the global market leader with more than 600 container vessels and part of Danish oil and shipping group A.P. Moller-Maersk, earlier in November reported a 61% drop in net profit in the third quarter. The Danish shipping company controls around one fifth of all transported containers from Asia to Europe.

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He leaves nothing for others to buy.

Nightmare of Mario Draghi’s Crowded Trade (FT)

Investors are putting too much faith in Mario Draghi. The ECB president is largely responsible for one of the most overcrowded trades in markets — and there is a risk it could all go horribly wrong. In the past month, every investor I have spoken to has told me they are overweight European equities, citing the quantitative easing policy of Mr Draghi and the ECB as one of the main reasons. But is Mr Draghi creating a potential nightmare scenario for investors? The European equity trade makes sense for a variety of reasons. The eurozone economy is recovering, albeit sluggishly, earnings are growing, valuations are relatively attractive and, most important of all, the ECB is buying billions of euros of bonds to underpin the market.

Indeed, European equities have rallied sharply since the start of September when Mr Draghi first hinted he was prepared to launch a second round of QE, expected in December. Investors reason that it is unwise to fight a central bank. It makes sense to be fully invested in risk assets such as equities when a central bank is actively easing, as looser monetary policy encourages corporations to borrow at cheap rates. This is certainly true. Euro-denominated investment grade corporate debt issuance has surged to a record high so far this year. This corporate borrowing often translates into higher profits as the money is invested for growth, which in turn boosts the share price. With the US Federal Reserve expected to diverge from the ECB and tighten policy next month, it makes European stocks even more appealing, particularly given that US valuations are stretched.

With the ECB easing and the Fed tightening, the euro is likely to remain weak. A cheaper euro should lift demand for exports. This is helpful to Germany, the region’s biggest economy, which relies on exports for growth. However, when a trade becomes this crowded, there are risks. Upside is limited because the good news is largely priced in. More significantly, if the market reverses, it can be difficult to exit as everyone wants to sell at the same time. Investors only have to look back to the summer for a reminder of the dangers. Worries about the Chinese economy wiped out all the equity gains from Mr Draghi’s first round of QE, which was launched in March, in a matter of days. European equities plunged about 10% in August.

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“..somewhere between collapsing oil prices, dollar strength, and consumer lethargy the economy’s narrative has drifted off plot. The theme has transitioned from one of renewed growth and recovery to one of recurring sickness and stagnation.”

The Long, Cold Winter Ahead (Tenebrarum)

Cold winds of deflation gust across the autumn economic landscape. Global trade languishes and commodities rust away like abandoned scrap metal with a visible dusting of frost. The economic optimism that embellished markets heading into 2015 have cooled as the year moves through its final stretch. If you recall, the popular storyline since late last year has been that the U.S. economy is moderately improving while the world’s other major economies – Japan, China, and Europe – are rolling over. The U.S. economy would power through. Moreover, stock prices had achieved a permanently high plateau. But somewhere between collapsing oil prices, dollar strength, and consumer lethargy the economy’s narrative has drifted off plot. The theme has transitioned from one of renewed growth and recovery to one of recurring sickness and stagnation.

Mass malinvestments in U.S. shale oil, Brazilian mines, and Chinese factories and real estate must be reckoned with. Price adjustments, bankruptcies, and debt restructuring must be painfully worked through like a strawberry picker hunkered over a seemingly endless furrow row of over ripening fruits. Sore backs, burnt necks, and tender fingers are what the over-all economy has in front of it. The U.S. economy is not immune to the global disorder after all. More evidence is revealed each week that the unexpected is happening. Instead of economic strength and robust growth, economic fundamentals are breaking down. Manufacturing is slowing. Consumer spending is soft. For additional edification, let’s turn to Dr. Copper…

Dr. Copper – the metal with a PhD in economics – is always the first to know which way the economy will go. Copper’s broad use in industry and many different sectors of the economy, ranging from infrastructure to housing and consumer electronics, makes it a good early indicator of economic activity. When copper prices rise, economic activity soon increases. When copper prices fall the economy often then stagnates. Thus, here’s the latest from Dr. Copper and his industrial metals cohorts… As Bloomberg reported earlier this week: “Copper plunged to the lowest intraday price since May 2009 on concern Chinese demand is slowing and as the dollar traded near its strongest level in more than a decade. Lead touched the lowest since 2010, while all industrial metals retreated.”

No doubt, marking price levels last seen during the depths of the Great Recession would not be happening if the economy was strengthening. If demand was robust industrial metals prices would be going up. Instead, they continue their slide into the void of worldwide non-activity. Stocks may soon follow…The last time copper prices were this low, in May 2009, stocks were also much lower. Yet, today, they’re at extremely lofty prices. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is currently over 17,500. Back then, the Dow was less than half that…it ranged in the low 8,000s. In other words, stocks are still up while the economy is slowing down. Perhaps the economy is taking a brief pause before roaring back to life. Most likely it’s hunkering down for the long, cold winter ahead.

Financialization, namely massive amounts of leverage, has made the disconnect between the stock market and the economy extend wider and longer than ever before. Maybe another speculative melt up is ahead. Who knows? Maybe DOW 20,000 or 30,000 is in the cards. With enough monetary deception anything’s possible. But, nonetheless, gravity still exists. Stocks cannot go up for ever. After a six year bull market, accompanied by a lackluster recovery, stocks could return to prior levels that were in line with present commodity prices. Remember, just a few years ago, Dow 8,000 matched up with current copper prices. Soon it likely will again.

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Remember how lower oil prices would be a boon for the economy?

Oil Companies Brace For Big Wave Of Debt Defaults (CNBC)

Low oil prices are leaving many oil and gas companies with difficult debt loads, causing them to default at an extraordinary rate. On top of that, rating firm Moody’s forecasts the default rate will increase. “The energy sector remains the most troubled, accounting for almost a quarter of the 79 defaults so far this year,” said Sharon Ou, Moody’s Credit Policy Research senior credit officer. The strain on the oil patch comes after years of borrowing heavily at the start of the domestic energy renaissance. At the time, oil was hovering around $100 a barrel. But now, with West Texas Intermediate crude oil slightly above $40 a barrel, these companies are seeing their revenue dry up — and remain saddled with debt.

Marc Lasry, the chief executive of distressed investing specialist Avenue Capital Group, said these energy companies boosted their borrowings to between $250 billion and $300 billion, compared with the $100 billion at the start of this year. The energy boom of the past decade was fueled by a wave of credit from U.S. banks that now say they expect more delinquencies and charge-offs from energy companies this year. Federal Reserve officials earlier in November noted an increase in weakness among credits related to oil and gas exploration, production, and energy services following the decline in energy prices since mid-2014. Among the major banks raising red flags about the health of the loans are Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase.

Some banks are renegotiating their credit lines to gas and oil companies, while others are cutting credit lines to oil and gas firms and are requiring more collateral to protect against the surge of defaults. Of the 31 companies that have disclosed information on loan resets so far, banks have cut credit lines of 10 firms by just over $1.1 billion, Reuters reported. Some energy companies are aggressively looking to take matters into their own hands to alleviate the debt pressure. Some are selling assets, others are cutting spending, some are issuing new shares, and others are hedging their oil production at a certain price. Some, however, can’t escape the grip of debt, falling victim to low oil prices and filing for bankruptcy.

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There is a government in Greece only to lend legitimacy to Brussels.

Eurozone Agrees Greece Can Get Next Loan Tranche, Cash For Bank Recap (Reuters)

Greece has done all the reforms in the a first package of measures agreed with euro zone creditors, which paves the way for Athens to get the next tranche of loans, the head of euro zone finance ministers Jeroen Dijsselbloem said on Saturday. Greece is getting very cheap loans form the euro zone bailout fund ESM under its third bailout agreement in exchange for putting its public finances in order and reforming the economy to make it more efficient and competitive. Euro zone deputy finance ministers (EWG) reviewed on Saturday the progress made by Athens in the reforms.

“On the basis of a final compliance notice… the EWG agreed that the Greek authorities have now completed the first set of milestones and the financial sector measures that are essential for a successful recapitalization process,” Dijsselbloem said. “The agreement paves the way for the formal approval by the ESM Board of Directors on Monday 23 November of disbursing the €2 billion sub-tranche linked to the first set of milestones,” he said. He said that it will also allow the ESM to make case by case decisions to transfer money to Greece for the recapitalization of the Greek banking sector. The ESM already has €10 billion earmarked for this purpose and the capital needs of Greek banks from the euro zone are estimated at between six and nine billion, one euro zone official said on Friday.

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This is happening all across the western world. We better make up our minds, fast, about what kind of society we want.

Half Of UK Care Homes To Close If £2.9 Billion Gap Is Not Plugged (Guardian)

Up to half of Britain’s care homes will close and the NHS will be overwhelmed by frail, elderly people unless the chancellor, George Osborne, acts to prevent the “devastating financial collapse” facing social care, an alliance of charities, local councils and carers has warned. In a joint letter, 15 social care and older people’s groups urge Osborne to use his spending review on Wednesday to plug a funding gap that they say will hit £2.9bn by 2020. They warn that social care in England, already suffering from cuts imposed under the coalition, will be close to collapse unless money is found to rebuild support for the 883,000 older and disabled people who depend on personal care services in their homes.

Osborne has already decided to use his overview of public finances to give town halls the power to raise council tax by up to 2% to fund social care, in a move that could raise up to £2bn for the hard-pressed sector. However, the signatories of the letter, such as Age UK and the Alzheimer’s Society, want him to commit more central government funding to social care. The looming £2.9bn gap “can no longer be ignored”, the letter says. “Up to 50% of the care home market will become financially unviable and care homes will start to close their doors,” it adds. “74% of domiciliary home-care providers who work with local councils have said that they will have to reduce the amount of publicly funded care they provide. If no action is taken, it is estimated that this would affect half of all of the people and their families who rely on these vital services.”

Osborne’s endorsement of a hypothecated local tax to boost social care comes after intense lobbying behind the scenes and public warnings from bodies such as the King’s Fund health thinktank. “Social care in England has been in retreat for a long time. But the fact that the industry is now losing its appeal, both as a business and as a form of employment, marks a new and dangerous phase in its decline,” said Caroline Abrahams, Age UK’s charity director. She urged Osborne to use the spending review “to bring stability to a worryingly fragile situation”. Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Society, another signatory, said: “Since 2010, £4.6bn of cuts have already resulted in an estimated 500,000 older and disabled people being denied access to care. If the government blazes ahead with 25%-40% cuts to local authority budgets, more people with dementia will be severely affected.”

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I count on them to fail spectacularly.

Report Urges UK Government To Act Now To Avoid Energy Crisis (EAEM)

Britain is on the verge of an energy crisis, with demand set to outstrip supply for the first time in early 2016, according to a new report by a leading energy analyst. In the report The Great Green Hangover, published by the Centre for Policy Studies, author Tony Lodge says that electricity demand is set to outstrip dispatchable supply for the first time from early 2016. Due to widespread plant closures, on-tap energy capacity has been in decline – and now for the first time will be lower than the forecasted demand. Lodge argues that decades of energy policy mismanagement have overseen the shutdown of energy plants vital to Britain’s long-term energy security.

The average dispatchable capacity remaining by the end of March 2016 is calculated to be 52,360MW, whereas National Grid’s 2015/2016 Winter Outlook demand forecast is 54,200MW. The report also raises concerns over the continued affordability of energy costs. Over the last ten years electricity bills have risen by 131% in real terms, easily outstripping any other household essential. High energy prices also burden British industry, jeopardising manufacturing in particular as businesses consider closure or overseas relocation due to unaffordable production costs. Though operating efficiently, they nevertheless consume large quantities of energy, which can account for between 20 and 70% of their production costs.

Author Tony Lodge comments: “Britain has lost over 15,400MW (20%) of its dispatchable electricity generating capacity in the last five years as baseload power plants have closed with no equivalent replacement. This month National Grid used emergency measures for the first time to call on industry to reduce its power usage in order to avoid shortages. “High UK Carbon Price Support should be abandoned before it forces the premature closure of more baseload power plants and thus threatens energy security and affordability,” he added. Lodge says the Government should prioritise energy security alongside its environmental commitments and legislate to deliver targets to maintain security of energy supply, diversity and affordability.

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I can see Britain’s future from here.

How Did a UK Power Plant Get 25 Times the Market Price? (Bloomberg)

On the afternoon of Nov. 4, a U.K. power station began to shut down one of its gas-fired units and the network manager was told it wouldn’t be available. Within an hour, the operator ramped it up again after the grid called for increased reserves and the power station got paid a handsome premium for doing so. The facility at the Severn power plant in Wales, operated by Macquarie Group Ltd., was running near full throttle at 396 megawatts. It didn’t report any operational problems, a requirement of European regulations, that would have prevented it supplying the market. Nonetheless, it began to decrease output from 3 p.m. When the network manager requested additional generation capacity for two hours from 4:30 p.m., Severn responded.

The reward for providing extra power was a payout 25 times the market price for that time in the day, according to calculations by Bloomberg based on exchange and grid data. The episode raises questions about how U.K. power plants operate as National Grid Plc, the company responsible for ensuring supply meets demand, grapples with a thinner buffer of surplus generating capacity. That margin will be about 5% this winter, down from as much as 16% four years ago, according to data from the London-based company. “This is a market, and it might be argued that price spikes are a necessary condition for its long-term viability, and therefore that it’s not unreasonable for individual generators to exploit scarcities,” said John Rhys, a senior research fellow at the Oxford Energy Institute. “If we really are in a period of very tight capacity, then I’m afraid that’s what having a market means and it’s going to happen.”

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Curious that this didn’t happen earlier.

State Of Emergency In Crimea After Electricity Pylons ‘Blown Up’ (Reuters)

A state of emergency has been declared in Crimea after pylons carrying electricity from Ukraine were blown up cutting off power to almost two million people, media and the Russian government said on Sunday. The Russian Energy Ministry didn’t say what had caused the outages, but Russian media reported that two pylons in the Kherson region of Ukraine north of Crimea had been blown up by Ukrainian nationalists. The attack, if by Ukrainian nationalists opposed to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine last year, is likely to further increase tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Russia’s Energy Ministry said in a statement that two power lines bringing power from Ukraine to Crimea had been affected, as a result of which 1,896,000 people had been left without power.

The ministry said that a state of emergency had been declared in Crimea. It also said that emergency supplies had been turned on for critical needs and 13 mobile gas turbine generators were being prepared. Ilya Kiva, a senior officer in the Ukrainian police who was at the scene, also said on his Facebook page that the pylons had been blown up, without giving further details. On Saturday, the pylons were the scene of violent clashes between activists from the Right Sector nationalist movement and paramilitary police, Ukrainian media reported. The pylons had already been damaged by the activists on Friday before they were blown up on Saturday night, according to these reports.

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“..compromised for a minimum of a 100 years..”

Brazil Dam Toxic Mud Reaches Atlantic Ocean (BBC)

A wave of toxic mud travelling down the Rio Doce river in Brazil from a collapsed dam has reached the Atlantic Ocean, amid concerns it will cause severe pollution. The waste has travelled more than 500km (310 miles) since the dam at an iron mine collapsed two weeks ago. Samarco, the mine owner, has tried to protect plants and animals by building barriers along the banks of the river. Workers have dredged the river mouth to help the mud flow out to sea fast. The contaminated mud, tested by the water management authorities, was found to contain toxic substances like mercury, arsenic, chromium and manganese at levels exceeding human consumption levels. Samarco has insisted the sludge is harmless.

In an interview with the BBC, Andres Ruchi, director of the Marine Biology school in Santa Cruz in Espirito Santo state, said that mud could have a devastating impact on marine life when it reaches the sea. He said the area of sea near the mouth of the Rio Doce is a feeding ground and a breeding location for many species of marine life including the threatened leatherback turtle, dolphins and whales. “The flow of nutrients in the whole food chain in a third of the south-eastern region of Brazil and half of the Southern Atlantic will be compromised for a minimum of a 100 years,” he said. The magazine Chemistry World quotes Aloysio da Silva Ferrao Filho, a researcher at the respected Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, as saying that the impact has been severe in the river itself. “The biodiversity of the river is completely lost, several species including endemic ones must be extinct.”

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Compromised forever.

Deforestation Threatens Majority of Amazon Tree Species (PSMag)

It’s been estimated that the Amazon rainforest and surrounding areas are—or once were—home to upwards of 11,000 different tree species. It’s also been estimated that those forests have shrunk by about 12%, and that human meddling could double or triple that number by 2050. Now, researchers report, the loss of forest cover could threaten the existence of more than half the tree species in the Amazon. The Amazon basin hosts perhaps the greatest biodiversity on Earth—so much so that researchers know relatively little about many of the region’s native species. “While we know quite a bit about Amazonian deforestation, we know little about the effects on the Amazonian [tree] species,” says lead author Hans ter Steege at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, the Netherlands.

“We’ve never had a good idea about how many species are threatened in the Amazon, and now with this study we have an estimate,” adds study co-author Nigel Pitman, a senior conservation ecologist at the Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. To get a picture of the health of forests in the Amazon basin and the Guiana Shield north of Brazil, a team of 160 botanists, ecologists, and taxonomists from 97 institutions went out into the field and, well, started counting. The team ultimately mapped 4,953 “relatively common” tree species at 1,485 sites throughout the region. Using a standard model of biodiversity, the researchers inferred the existence of another 10,000 species, which they assumed were largely hidden in the densest Amazonian forests, but rare enough that even a careful accounting could have missed them.

Hans ter Steege and his colleagues next compared species maps with maps of deforested and protected areas, then computed how many trees of each species could be lost under two different chain of events: a business-as-usual scenario, in which deforestation continues more or less as it has been for decades, and 40% of the Amazon’s trees would be gone by 2050; and a less severe scenario, in which governments step up protections, and deforestation tops out at 20%. Under the business-as-usual scenario, 51% of the Amazon’s common tree species’ populations and 43% of rare tree species’ populations would decline by 30% or more, qualifying them for inclusion on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “Red List” of threatened species.

Even under the less severe scenario in which forest governance improves, 16% of common species and 25% of rare species qualify for the Red List. Those losses would likely affect iconic tree species including Brazil nut, cacao, and açai palm, which play central roles in the regional economy. What’s more, Amazonian forests help trap a vast amount of carbon, which, if unleashed through deforestation, could exacerbate an already warming climate. “We want to make sure the Amazon keeps the carbon sink,” ter Steege says. “This is important.”

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Russia has far fewer qualms about confronting The House of Saud.

Saudi Arabia, an ISIS That Has Made It (NY Times)

Black Daesh, white Daesh. The former slits throats, kills, stones, cuts off hands, destroys humanity’s common heritage and despises archaeology, women and non-Muslims. The latter is better dressed and neater but does the same things. The Islamic State; Saudi Arabia. In its struggle against terrorism, the West wages war on one, but shakes hands with the other. This is a mechanism of denial, and denial has a price: preserving the famous strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia at the risk of forgetting that the kingdom also relies on an alliance with a religious clergy that produces, legitimizes, spreads, preaches and defends Wahhabism, the ultra-puritanical form of Islam that Daesh feeds on. Wahhabism, a messianic radicalism that arose in the 18th century, hopes to restore a fantasized caliphate centered on a desert, a sacred book, and two holy sites, Mecca and Medina.

Born in massacre and blood, it manifests itself in a surreal relationship with women, a prohibition against non-Muslims treading on sacred territory, and ferocious religious laws. That translates into an obsessive hatred of imagery and representation and therefore art, but also of the body, nakedness and freedom. Saudi Arabia is a Daesh that has made it. The West’s denial regarding Saudi Arabia is striking: It salutes the theocracy as its ally but pretends not to notice that it is the world’s chief ideological sponsor of Islamist culture. The younger generations of radicals in the so-called Arab world were not born jihadists. They were suckled in the bosom of Fatwa Valley, a kind of Islamist Vatican with a vast industry that produces theologians, religious laws, books, and aggressive editorial policies and media campaigns.

One might counter: Isn’t Saudi Arabia itself a possible target of Daesh? Yes, but to focus on that would be to overlook the strength of the ties between the reigning family and the clergy that accounts for its stability — and also, increasingly, for its precariousness. The Saudi royals are caught in a perfect trap: Weakened by succession laws that encourage turnover, they cling to ancestral ties between king and preacher. The Saudi clergy produces Islamism, which both threatens the country and gives legitimacy to the regime. One has to live in the Muslim world to understand the immense transformative influence of religious television channels on society by accessing its weak links: households, women, rural areas. Islamist culture is widespread in many countries — Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Mauritania.

There are thousands of Islamist newspapers and clergies that impose a unitary vision of the world, tradition and clothing on the public space, on the wording of the government’s laws and on the rituals of a society they deem to be contaminated. It is worth reading certain Islamist newspapers to see their reactions to the attacks in Paris. The West is cast as a land of “infidels.” The attacks were the result of the onslaught against Islam. Muslims and Arabs have become the enemies of the secular and the Jews. The Palestinian question is invoked along with the rape of Iraq and the memory of colonial trauma, and packaged into a messianic discourse meant to seduce the masses. Such talk spreads in the social spaces below, while up above, political leaders send their condolences to France and denounce a crime against humanity. This totally schizophrenic situation parallels the West’s denial regarding Saudi Arabia.

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“The more one side gains political control in the name of Islam, the more vulnerable it becomes to accusations from the other side that its claim to power is less than legitimate.”

The Saudi Connection to Terror (Daniel Lazare)

[..] the proceeds from a hundred-odd oil trucks doesn’t explain how ISIS pays its bills. Nor does the speculation about ISIS’s antiquity sales. So if Islamic State does not get the bulk of its funds from such sources, where does the money come from? The politically inconvenient answer is from the outside, i.e., from other parts of the Middle East where the oil fields are not marginal as they are in northern Syria and Iraq, but, rather, rich and productive; where refineries are state of the art, and where oil travels via pipeline instead of in trucks. It is also a market in which corruption is massive, financial controls are lax, and ideological sympathies for both ISIS and Al Qaeda run strong. This means the Arab Gulf states of Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia, countries with massive reserves of wealth despite a 50% plunge in oil prices.

The Gulf states are politically autocratic, militantly Sunni, and, moreover, are caught in a painful ideological bind. Worldwide, Sunnis outnumber Shi‘ites by at least four to one. But among the eight nations ringing the Persian Gulf, the situation is reversed, with Shi‘ites outnumbering Sunnis by nearly two to one. The more theocratic the world grows – and theocracy is a trend not only in the Muslim world, but in India, Israel and even the U.S. if certain Republicans get their way – the more sectarianism intensifies. At its most basic, the Sunni-Shi‘ite conflict is a war of succession among followers of Muhammad, who died in the Seventh Century. The more one side gains political control in the name of Islam, consequently, the more vulnerable it becomes to accusations from the other side that its claim to power is less than legitimate.

The Saudi royal family, which styles itself as the “custodian of the two holy mosques” of Mecca and Medina, is especially sensitive to such accusations, if only because its political position seems to be growing more and more precarious. This is why it has thrown itself into an anti-Shi‘ite crusade from Yemen to Bahrain to Syria. While the U.S., Britain and France condemn Bashar al-Assad as a dictator, that’s not why Sunni rebels are now fighting to overthrow him. They are doing so instead because, as an Alawite, a form of Shi‘ism, he belongs to a branch of Islam that the petro-sheiks in Riyadh regard as a challenge to their very existence. Civil war is rarely a moderating force, and as the struggle against Assad has intensified, power among the rebels has shifted to the most militant Sunni forces, up to and including Al Qaeda and its even more aggressive rival, ISIS.

In other words, the Islamic State is not homegrown and self-reliant, but a product and beneficiary of larger forces, essentially a proxy, paramilitary army of Gulf state sheiks. Evidence of broad regional support is abundant even if news outlets like The New York Times have done their best to ignore it.

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Are they making it up as they go along? Something fishy: “It later emerged that the passport was fake and that four other people, including a dead Syrian soldier, shared the same details.” Look, if there are four people with identical -fake- passports, how do they know the perpetrator was the one who passed through Greece, and not one of the other three?

Terrorism Links Trigger Greater Scrutiny For Greece (Kath.)

Greece is under growing pressure to monitor its borders and properly register the thousands of refugees and migrants who arrive each week after it emerged that at least two of the Paris suicide bombers passed through the country on their way to France. The European Union has already started taking measures in the wake of the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris. EU interior ministers agreed on Friday to tighten checks on points of entry to the 26-country Schengen area, which includes Greece. French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said the European Commission would present plans to introduce “obligatory checks at all external borders for all travelers,” including EU citizens, by the year’s end. Previously, only non-EU nationals had their details checked against a database for terrorism and crime when they enter the Schengen area.

Earlier, Cazeneuve revealed that a second suicide bomber at the Stade de France in Paris had entered the EU via Greece. A total of three jihadists blew themselves up at the stadium. One had already been identified as having arrived on Leros with a larger group of migrants. He was carrying a Syrian passport in the name of Ahmad Almohammad. It later emerged that the passport was fake and that four other people, including a dead Syrian soldier, shared the same details. It is thought a second bomber arrived with him on Leros, while unconfirmed sources suggest that the third Stade de France bomber also followed the same route. There has been no official reaction from the government to these revelations but Greek authorities have handed all the information from the registered arrivals to Europol.

Athens, however, has not confirmed that the alleged leader of the terrorist cell that carried out the fatal attacks in Paris, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, had been in Greece in January. In fact, the citizens’ protection minister issued a statement on Friday asking Cazeneuve to retract comments in which he suggested the Belgian national, who was killed in a police raid last week, had passed through Athens. Greek authorities mounted a search for Abaaoud in Athens after his mobile phone was allegedly traced to the Greek capital but the device was eventually found in the possession of an Algerian man who was extradited to Belgium due to alleged links with a terrorist cell there.

Nevertheless, this adds to the pressure on Greece to ensure proper checks are being carried out. Authorities made multiple arrests last week in connection to the alleged forging of documents for migrants. Also, the police picked up 50 migrants that were allowed to board ferries in Lesvos and Chios without having registered with authorities there.

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It’s hard not to think now and again that the EU deliberately screws this up. Couldn’t do a better job at it if they tried.

Chaos In Greek Islands Over Three-Tier Refugee Registration System (Guardian)

The EU’s refugee registration system on the Greek islands has created a three-tier system that favours certain nationalities over others, encourages some ethnic groups to lie about their backgrounds to secure preferential treatment, and has led to a situation Human Rights Watch calls absolute chaos. The dynamic will increase fears over the security threat posed by the hundreds of thousands of migrants arriving in Europe amid a backlash against refugees after the Paris attacks. The passport of a Syrian refugee who passed through Greece was found on or near the body of a dead suicide bomber. It will also amplify calls to scale up resettlement schemes from the Middle East, which will help Europe to improve screening of refugees and give them an incentive not to take the boat to Greece.

Syrian families arriving on the island of Lesbos, where nearly 400,000 asylum seekers have landed so far in 2015, are separated from other nationalities and given expedited treatment that allows them to leave the island for mainland Europe within 24 hours. Syrian males, Yemenis and Somalis are registered in a separate and slower camp but still receive preferential treatment and are usually able to continue their journey within a day. But a third category of asylum seekers – including many from war-torn countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan – are being processed in another camp where there are roughly half as many passport-scanners. The result is a chaotic parallel registration process that can last up to a week, and which has left many non-Syrians sleeping outside in the cold of winter for several nights, while they wait to be registered.

The Guardian found families living in dire, unsanitary conditions in an olive grove surrounding the main registration centre. They said they were receiving just one significant meal a day, and had resorted to burning trees to keep warm at night. Even once they are finally processed, Afghans only receive one month’s leave to remain in Greece, while Syrians are given six months. The island’s mayor told the Guardian that the three-track process is to prevent fighting between different ethnic groups and nationalities. But the director of one of the three camps admitted that non-Syrians are given lower priority because officials assume that they do not have as strong a claim for asylum. “In the [lowest-priority] camp, there are the Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis who are mostly migrants, economic migrants,” said Spyros Kourtis. By contrast, he said that the better-equipped centre was for “people who come from countries with a refugee profile”.

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Nov 072015
 
 November 7, 2015  Posted by at 9:33 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle November 7 2015


Russell Lee Front of livery stable, East Side, New York City 1938

US Looks Set For December Interest Rate Rise After Jobs Boost (Guardian)
US Jobs Report: Workers Aged 25-54 Lose 35K Jobs, 55+ Gain 378K (Zero Hedge)
Peter Schiff: It’s Going To Be A ‘Horrible Christmas’ (CNBC)
US Consumer Credit Has Biggest Jump In History, Government-Funded (Bloomberg)
Primary Dealers Are Liquidating Corporate Bonds At An Unprecedented Pace (ZH)
Will China’s Consumers Step Up In 2016? (Bloomberg)
China’s Demand For Cars Has Slowed. Overcapacity Is The New Normal. (Bloomberg)
World’s Largest Steel Maker ArcelorMittal Loses $700 Million in Q3 (NY Times)
Berlin Accomplices: The German Government’s Role in the VW Scandal (Spiegel)
EU Asks Members To Investigate After VW Admits New Irregularities (Reuters)
VW Says Will Cover Extra CO2 And Fuel Usage Taxes Paid By EU Drivers (Guardian)
Goldman Sachs Dumps Stock Pledged By Valeant Chief (FT)
New Countdown For Greece: A Bank Bail-In Is Looming (Minenna)
UK Care Home Sector In ‘Meltdown’, Threatened By US Vulture Fund (Ind.)
US Congress Proposes A Chilling Resolution On Social Security (Simon Black)
Germany Imposes Surprise Curbs On Syrian Refugees (Guardian)
Germany Receives Nearly Half Of All Syrian Asylum Applicants (Guardian)
Sweden Feels The Refugee Strain (Bloomberg)
Sweden Tells Refugees ‘Stay in Germany’ as Ikea Runs Out of Beds (Bloomberg)
Greek Coast Guard: Five More Migrants Found Dead (Kath.)

We -should- know better than to trust US jobs reports.

US Looks Set For December Interest Rate Rise After Jobs Boost (Guardian)

The US appears to be on course for its first interest rate rise in almost a decade next month after higher than expected job creation pushed the unemployment rate down to 5%. Non-farm payrolls – employment in all sectors barring agriculture – increased by 271,000 in October, according to official figures published on Friday, compared with 142,000 the previous month and above the 185,000 that economists polled by Reuters had expected. In September, the US Federal Reserve signalled that, barring a deterioration in the US economic recovery, it would raise rates from 0.25% at its December meeting. Janet Yellen, the head of the Federal Reserve, repeated her forecast a few days ago.

Analysts said the prospect of a rate rise was now almost certain, especially after figures from the US labor department also showed wages increased at a healthy 0.4% month on month. The dollar jumped by more than 1% to a seven-month high and benchmark US bond yields rose to their highest in five years as traders priced in a 72% chance of a move next month. Stock market futures on New York exchanges slipped as it became clearer that a long period of cheap borrowing costs was coming to an end. The rise in pay took the wage inflation rate to 2.5% year on year, the best annual wages boost since 2009, when it was falling in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Growth in jobs occurred in industries including professional and business services, healthcare, retail, food services and construction, according to Tanweer Akram, a senior economist at Voya Investment Management. Rob Carnell, an analyst at ING Financial Markets, said: “While this does not guarantee a December rate hike from the Fed at this stage [there is one more labour report before the December 16 meeting], we feel that we would need to see a catastrophically bad November labour report for the Fed to sit on their hands again.”

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And there we go again: it’s all a sleight of hand.

US Jobs Report: Workers Aged 25-54 Lose 35K Jobs, 55+ Gain 378K (Zero Hedge)

After several months of weak and deteriorating payrolls prints, perhaps the biggest tell today’s job number would surprise massively to the upside came yesterday from Goldman, which as we noted earlier, just yesterday hiked its forecast from 175K to 190K. And while as Brown Brothers said after the reported that it is “difficult to find the cloud in the silver lining” one clear cloud emerges when looking just a little deeper below the surface. That cloud emerges when looking at the age breakdown of the October job gains as released by the BLS’ Household Survey. What it shows is that while total jobs soared, that was certainly not the case in the most important for wage growth purposes age group, those aged 25-54.

As the chart below shows, in October the age group that accounted for virtually all total job gains was workers aged 55 and over. They added some 378K jobs in the past month, representing virtually the entire increase in payrolls. And more troubling: workers aged 25-54 actually declined by 35,000, with males in this age group tumbling by 119,000! Little wonder then why there is no wage growth as employers continue hiring mostly those toward the twilight of their careers: the workers who have little leverage to demand wage hikes now and in the future, something employers are well aware of. The next chart shows the break down the cumulative job gains since December 2007 and while workers aged 55 and older have gained over 7.5 million jobs in the past 8 years, workers aged 55 and under, have lost a cumulative total of 4.6 million jobs.

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Schiff always see some right signs, and then always finds it hard to interpret them.

Peter Schiff: It’s Going To Be A ‘Horrible Christmas’ (CNBC)

The Grinch has nothing on Peter Schiff. On CNBC’s “Futures Now” Thursday, the contrarian investor said that while Americans are wrapping presents this holiday season, they should instead brace themselves for “a horrible Christmas” and possible recession. “I expect [job] layoffs to start picking up by the end of the year,” Schiff said, pointing to retailers as the first victim. “Retailers have overestimated the ability of their customers to buy their products. Americans are broke. They are loaded up with debt,” he said. “We’re teetering on the edge of an official recession,” and “the labor market is softening.” For Schiff, there is no one else to blame but the Federal Reserve.

As he sees it, the central bank’s easy money policies have created a bubble so big that any prick could send the U.S. economy spiraling out of control. And that makes the possibility of hiking interest rates slim to none. “The Fed has to talk about raising rates to pretend the whole recovery is real, but they can’t actually raise them,” said the CEO of Euro Pacific Capital. “[Fed Chair Janet Yellen] can’t admit that she can’t raise them because then she’s admitting the whole recovery is a sham and that the policy was a failure.” According to Schiff, the recent rally in the dollar is “the biggest bubble that the Fed has ever inflated” and “it’s the only thing keeping the economy afloat.”

The greenback hit a three-month high this week after Yellen said a December rate hike was a “live” possibility. “[The inflated dollar] is keeping the cost of living from rising rapidly and it’s keeping interest rates artificially low. It’s allowing the Fed to pretend everything is great,” Schiff said. “Eventually the bottom is going to drop out of the dollar and we are going to have to deal with reality,” he added. “That reality is we are staring at a financial crisis much worse than the one we saw in 2008.”

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It’s all still built on debt, and increasingly so. The more ‘confident’ the consumer, the more willing (s)he’s to put her neck in a noose.

US Consumer Credit Has Biggest Jump In History, Government-Funded (Bloomberg)

Borrowing by American households rose at a faster pace in September on increased lending for auto purchases and bigger credit-card balances. The $28.9 billion jump in total credit followed a $16 billion gain in the previous month, Federal Reserve figures showed Friday. Non-revolving debt, which includes funding for college tuition and auto purchases, rose $22.2 billion, the most since July 2011. Borrowing probably remained elevated in October in the wake of the strongest back-to-back months of motor vehicle sales in 15 years. Having made progress in restoring their balance sheets after the last recession, some households are more willing to finance purchases as the labor market continues to improve.

The median forecast of 31 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for an $18 billion increase in credit, with estimates ranging from gains of $10 billion to $26 billion. The Fed’s consumer credit report doesn’t track debt secured by real estate, such as home equity lines of credit and home mortgages. The pickup in non-revolving credit in September followed a $12 billion increase the previous month. Revolving debt rose $6.7 billion, the biggest gain in three months, after a $4 billion advance, the data showed.

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The biggest threat to US markets?

Primary Dealers Are Liquidating Corporate Bonds At An Unprecedented Pace (ZH)

By now it is common knowledge that over the past two years the primary source of stock buying have been corporations themselves (recall Goldman’s admission that “buybacks have been the largest source of overall US equity demand in recent years”) with two consecutive years of near record stock repurchases. However, now that a December rate hike appears practically certain following the “pristine” October jobs report, suddenly the question is whether the recent strong flows into bond funds will continue, and generously fund ongoing repurchase activity. The latest fund flow report from BofA puts this into perspective

“The increase in interest rates is starting to impact US mutual fund and ETF flows. Hence, the inflow into the all fixed income category declined to +$0.96bn this past week (ending on October 4th) from a +$2.80bn inflow the week before… Outflows from government funds accelerated further to -$2.43bn this past week from -$1.73bn and -$1.00bn in the prior two weeks, respectively.”

But more concerning for corporations than even fund flows, which will surely see even bigger outflows now that both yields are spreads are set to blow out making debt issuance far less attractive to corporations whose cash flows continue to deteriorate, is what the NY Fed reported as activity by Primary Dealer, i.e., the most connected, “smartest people in the room” who indirectly execute the Fed’s actions in the public markets, in the most recent week. As the charts below show, the Primary Dealers aren’t waiting for the December announcement to express how they feel about their holdings of both Investment Grade and Junk Bond (mostly in the longer, 5-10Y, 10Y+ maturity buckets where duration risk is highest). Indeed, as of the week ended October 28, Primary Dealer corporate holdings tumbled across both IG and HY, plunging to the lowest level in years in what can only be called a rapid liquidation of all duration risk.

Investment Grade Bonds:

And Junk Bonds:

Why would dealers be liquidating their corporate bond portfolios at such a fast pace? For junk, the obvious answer is that with ongoing concerns around rising leverage, not to mention yields being dragged higher by the ongoing pain in the energy sector, this may be merely a proactive move ahead of even more selling. But for IG the answer is less clear, and the selling likely suggests fears that any December rate hike will see spreads blow out even further, and as a result dealers are cutting their exposure ahead of December.

Whatever the answer keep a close eye on this series: if Dealer net positions turn negative it will mean that the corporate buyback door is about to slam shut in a hurry as others begin imitating the ‘smartest and most connected traders in the room’, depriving corporations of their biggest source of stock buyback “dry powder.” In fact, taken to its extreme, if companies suddenly find it problematic to raise capital using debt, we may soon enter that phase of the corporate cycle best known by a spike in equity issuance, whose impact on stock price is just the opposite to that of buybacks.

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Not a chance. They’re scared to bits.

Will China’s Consumers Step Up In 2016? (Bloomberg)

)China’s practice of laying out five-year economic plans is a legacy of its Maoist past. And so, as the Communist Party has done since the 1950s, officials met in Beijing in October to hash out the plan to take the world’s second-biggest but now struggling economy from 2016 to 2020. Policymakers have two big goals. In 2016 they’ll continue to feature the consumer as the star of a hoped-for economic resurgence. They’ll also try to ensure by any means necessary that gross domestic product doesn’t slow rapidly, even if that involves injecting more credit into overleveraged, declining industries. China will target “medium-high economic growth,” the Party said in an Oct. 29 communiqué after meeting to discuss the new five-year plan.

Those two goals—fostering a consumer economy and giving GDP a short-term boost—are contradictory. Developing a consumption-driven economy means accepting growth below the 7%+ annual rise of recent years, which was achieved in part by state-run banks and local government finance companies giving enterprises cheap credit to build often unneeded factories and real estate developments. For many economists, it’s a no-brainer to switch to this slower-growing but more sustainable model, one that relies on a strong service sector and robust household consumption. The dramatic growth of the last 35 years has brought serious industrial overcapacity, a polluted environment, and declining productivity even as the workforce shrinks.

In October, days after the announcement that GDP rose in the third quarter at a rate of 6.9% from a year earlier, the slowest pace since 2009, the central bank cut rates for the sixth time in a year. It also lowered the amount of funds banks must hold in reserve, allowing them to make more loans. Economic planners have loosened curbs on borrowing by local officials and stepped up approvals of railway and costly environmental projects. Says Andrew Polk, senior economist at the Conference Board China Center for Economics and Business in Beijing: “Cutting interest rates and adding fiscal spending are temporary salves to much bigger problems. The leadership has very little power to stop the slide in growth into next year.”

In the first quarter of 2015, for the first time, service industries—including jobs from lawyers to tourist guides—made up a bit more than half of GDP. The service economy grew 8.4% in the first nine months; manufacturing, only 6%. “The answer to the question of whether China’s economy is sinking or swimming lies in its service sector,” wrote Capital Economics’ Mark Williams and Chang Liu in an Oct. 29 note. Service companies employ more people than manufacturers to generate the same amount of GDP. Not only are service workers more numerous, they’re also often better paid than factory hands. More Chinese with more money in their pockets should nurture consumption. To date, that’s been hard to engineer, with households socking away about 30% of disposable income, one of the world’s highest savings rates. Household consumption makes up only a little more than one-third of GDP. (In the U.S., consumption is almost 70% of the economy.)

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Overcapacity is China’s 2016 key word.

China’s Demand For Cars Has Slowed. Overcapacity Is The New Normal. (Bloomberg)

For much of the past decade, China’s auto industry seemed to be a perpetual growth machine. Annual vehicle sales on the mainland surged to 23 million units in 2014 from about 5 million in 2004. That provided a welcome bounce to Western carmakers such as Volkswagen and General Motors and fueled the rapid expansion of locally based manufacturers including BYD and Great Wall Motor. Best of all, those new Chinese buyers weren’t as price-sensitive as those in many mature markets, allowing fat profit margins along with the fast growth. No more. Automakers in China have gone from adding extra factory shifts six years ago to running some plants at half-pace today—even as they continue to spend billions of dollars to bring online even more plants that were started during the good times.

The construction spree has added about 17 million units of annual production capacity since 2009, compared with an increase of 10.6 million units in annual sales, according to estimates by Bloomberg Intelligence. New Chinese factories are forecast to add a further 10% in capacity in 2016—despite projections that sales will continue to be challenged. “The Chinese market is hypercompetitive, so many automakers are afraid of losing market share,” says Steve Man, a Hong Kong-based analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence. “The players tend to build more capacity in hopes of maintaining, or hopefully, gain market share. Overcapacity is here to stay.” The carmaking binge in China has its roots in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, when China unleashed a stimulus program that bolstered auto sales.

That provided a lifeline for U.S. and European carmakers, then struggling with a collapse in consumer demand in their home markets. Passenger vehicle sales in China increased 53% in 2009 and 33% in 2010 after the stimulus policy was put in place. But the flood of cars led to worsening traffic gridlock and air pollution that triggered restrictions on vehicle registrations in major cities including Beijing and Shanghai. Worse, the combination of too many new factories and slowing demand has dragged down the industry’s average plant utilization rate, a measure of profitability and efficiency. The industrywide average plunged from more than 100% six years ago (the result of adding work hours or shifts) to about 70% today, leaving it below the 80% level generally considered healthy. Some local carmakers are averaging about 50% utilization, according to the China Passenger Car Association.

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And this is what China’s overcapacity leads to.

World’s Largest Steel Maker ArcelorMittal Loses $700 Million in Q3 (NY Times)

ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel maker, on Friday reported a $700 million loss for the third quarter, blaming falling prices and competition from Chinese exports. In a news release, the company said that customers were hesitating to buy its products and that “unsustainably low export prices from China,” which produces far more steel than any other country, had hurt its bottom line. Lakshmi N. Mittal, the company’s chief executive, said in an interview on Friday that steel demand in the company’s main markets, Europe and North America, was healthy, but that low-cost Chinese steel was depressing prices. “The Chinese are dumping in our core markets,” Mr. Mittal said. “The question is how long the Chinese will continue to export below their cost.”

The company’s loss for the period compared with a $22 million profit for last year’s third quarter. ArcelorMittal, which is based in Luxembourg, also sharply cut its projection for 2015 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization — the main measure of a steel company’s finances. The new estimate is $5.2 billion to $5.4 billion, down from the previous projection of $6 billion to $7 billion. On a call with reporters, Aditya Mittal, Mr. Mittal’s son and the company’s chief financial officer, said that a flood of low-price Chinese exports was the biggest challenge for ArcelorMittal in the European and North American markets. The company estimates that Chinese steel exports this year will reach 110 million metric tons, compared with 94 million tons last year and 63 million tons in 2013. ArcelorMittal produced 93 million metric tons of steel in 2014.

ArcelorMittal is one of several companies operating in the United States that have brought complaints against the dumping of Chinese steel. On Tuesday, the United States Commerce Department issued a preliminary ruling in those companies’ favor in one product category, saying it would impose tariffs of up to 236% on imports of corrosion-resistant steel from some Chinese companies, on the grounds that their products are subsidized by the government. “That clearly shows there is substance in the trade cases,” Lakshmi Mittal said.

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Berlin fails. Having VW investigate itself is crazy.

Berlin Accomplices: The German Government’s Role in the VW Scandal (Spiegel)

This week wasn’t just a bad one for the Volkswagen concern. The German government is also happy that it’s over. Berlin had painstakingly developed a damage control strategy in an effort to prevent the VW scandal from damaging the reputation of German industry as a whole. Top advisors to Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had even written a confidential letter to German diplomats around the world, providing guidelines for how they should go about defending “the Germany brand.” “The emissions scandal should be presented as a singular occurrence,” they wrote. “External communication” should focus “to the extent possible on preventing VW and the ‘Made in Germany’ brand from being connected.”

But then Monday arrived and the announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States that “VW has once again failed its obligation to comply with the law that protects clean air for all Americans.” In addition to the 11 million diesel vehicles whose emissions values were manipulated, additional models are also thought to have been outfitted with illegal software to cheat on emissions compliance tests, including the popular SUV Cayenne. That vehicle is manufactured by Porsche, the company that VW’s new CEO, Matthias Müller, used to lead before being hired to replace Martin Winterkorn, who was ousted when the VW scandal first broke. Then Tuesday arrived, and along with it the admission from Müller that VW had deceived even more of its customers.

The fuel consumption claims for more than 800,000 vehicles were manipulated, with the specified average mileage not even achievable in testing, much less in real-world conditions. The new scandal affects models carrying the company’s own environmental seal-of-excellence known as BlueMotion, a label reserved for “the most fuel efficient cars of their class,” as the company itself claims. It has now become clear that such claims are a fraudulent lie. And it shows that this scandal may continue to broaden before VW manages to get it under control.

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Short version: nothing is happening. This is how the EU ‘runs’.

EU Asks Members To Investigate After VW Admits New Irregularities (Reuters)

The European Commission has written to all 28 European Union member countries urging them to widen their investigations into potential breaches of vehicle emissions rules after Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) admitted it had understated carbon dioxide levels. Europe’s biggest motor manufacturer admitted in September it had rigged U.S. diesel emissions tests to mask the level of emissions of health-harming nitrogen oxides. In a growing scandal, the German company said on Tuesday it had also understated the fuel consumption – and so carbon dioxide emissions – of about 800,000 vehicles. In a letter seen by Reuters, the Commission said it was not aware of any irregularities concerning carbon dioxide values and was seeking the support of EU governments “to find out how and why this could happen”.

It said it had already contacted Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA), which is responsible for approving the conformity of new car types, and raised the issue with other national authorities at a meeting late on Thursday in Brussels. A Commission spokeswoman confirmed the letter, adding it asked national governments “to widen their investigations to establish potential breaches of EU law”. “Public trust is at stake. We need all the facts on the table and rigorous enforcement of existing legislation,” the spokeswoman said. With vehicle testing in the EU overseen by national authorities, the bloc’s executive body, the Commission, is reliant on each country to enforce rules.

This arrangement has come under fire from environmentalists because on-road tests have consistently shown vehicles emitting more pollutants than laboratory tests. Car manufacturers are a powerful lobby group in the EU, as a major source of jobs and exports. In an open letter on Friday, a group of leading investors urged the EU to toughen up testing of vehicle emissions to prevent a repeat of the VW scandal and the resulting hit to its shareholders. VW shares have plunged as much as a third in value since the crisis broke in September.

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Do note this by Mary Nichols, head of the California Air Resources Board: “The case is “the biggest direct breach of laws that I have ever uncovered … This is a serious issue, which will certainly lead to very high penalties..”

VW Says Will Cover Extra CO2 And Fuel Usage Taxes Paid By EU Drivers (Guardian)

Volkswagen has said it will foot the bill for extra taxes incurred by drivers after it admitted understating the carbon dioxide emissions of about 800,000 cars in Europe. In a letter to European Union finance ministers on Friday, seen by Reuters, Matthias Müller, the VW chief executive, asked member states to charge the carmaker rather than motorists for any additional taxes relating to fuel usage or CO2 emissions. The initial emissions scandal, which erupted in September when Volkswagen admitted it had rigged US diesel emissions tests, affecting 11m vehicles globally, deepened this week when VW said it had also understated the carbon dioxide emissions and fuel consumption of 800,000 vehicles in Europe. Analysts say VW, Europe’s biggest carmaker, could face a bill of up to €35bn for fines, lawsuits and vehicle refits.

To help meet some of the anticipated costs, VW has announced a €1bn programme of spending cuts. The head of VW’s works council said the announcement of the cuts had broken strict rules in Germany on consultation with workers and demanded immediate talks with company bosses. “Management is announcing savings measures unilaterally and without any foundation,” Bernd Osterloh said in an emailed statement. [..] Since the emissions revelations, VW has been criticised by lawmakers, regulators, investors and customers frustrated at the time it is taking to get to the bottom of a scandal that has wiped almost a third off the carmaker’s market value. Mary Nichols, the head of the California Air Resources Board, which is investigating VW in the US, told the German magazine WirtschaftsWoche: “Volkswagen is so far not handling the scandal correctly.

“Every additional gram of nitrogen oxide increases the health risks for our citizens. Volkswagen has not acknowledged that in any way or made any effort to really solve the problem.” The case is “the biggest direct breach of laws that I have ever uncovered … This is a serious issue, which will certainly lead to very high penalties,” Nichols added. The scandal has also piled pressure on European regulators, who have long been criticised by environmentalists on the grounds that on-road tests have consistently shown vehicles emitting more pollutants than official laboratory tests. In an open letter, a group of leading investors urged the EU to toughen up vehicle testing. But it faces a battle because carmakers have traditionally had a strong influence on policy in countries such as Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, where they are an important source of jobs and export income.

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Now everyone else must jump ship too.

Goldman Sachs Dumps Stock Pledged By Valeant Chief (FT)

Valeant said on Friday that Goldman Sachs had sold more than $100m-worth of shares in the struggling drugmaker, which had been pledged as collateral against a personal loan from the investment bank to the company’s chief executive. Goldman contacted Michael Pearson, Valeant’s chief executive, earlier this week and gave him 48 hours to pay off a $100m loan that he took out in 2013 after a precipitous decline in the company’s share price triggered a so-called margin call on the debt. After he failed to raise enough cash to pay off the loan, Goldman Sachs on Thursday morning dumped the entire block of just under 1.3m shares, held in Mr Pearson’s name, which were worth roughly $119.4m at the open of trading in New York on Thursday.

The sale of Mr Pearson’s pledged shares contributed to a rout in the company’s stock price on Thursday, during which its market value fell as much as 20%. Roughly 57m shares changed hands during the day, compared with a daily average of 4m over the past 12 months. The embarrassing announcement is the latest setback for Valeant and its high-profile hedge fund backers, who include Bill Ackman, Jeff Ubben and John Paulson. It comes after months of controversy surrounding the drugmaker’s reliance on high prices, aggressive sales techniques and debt-fuelled deal making. Goldman’s decision to terminate the loan to Mr Pearson underscores the impact of the rout in Valeant’s shares on his personal wealth. Mr Pearson owns roughly 9m shares, accounting for Goldman’s sale on Thursday. In August that stake was worth almost $2.4bn; as of Friday morning, the value had plummeted to $720m.

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The EU’s criminal folly: “In the questionable strategy of EU bureaucrats, an increase in foreclosures should boost the banks’ assets and in this way should help to reduce the financial demands on the ESM bailout fund.”

New Countdown For Greece: A Bank Bail-In Is Looming (Minenna)

The debt crisis may no longer be in the spotlight but the financial situation in Greece remains complex. Greek banks continue to survive at the edge of bankruptcy, kept afloat only by Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) from the ECB and by still-enforced capital controls. After the August “agreement”, the Troika has promised the Greek government €25 billion for bank recapitalization, of which €10bn is in a Luxembourg account ready to be wired. The funds will be disbursed only if the government manages, before the 15th of November, to approve a long list of urgent reforms: the infamous list of the “48 points” that embraces tax increases, public spending cuts and the highly controversial pensions reform. It is obviously a tough task for the Tsipras government, even if September’s election victory gave him a solid mandate.

After a parliamentary marathon, it seems that the government has successfully passed some unpopular measures: the increase from 26% to 29% in income tax, the rise from 5% to 13% in the tax on luxury goods and the restoring of the tax on television advertisements. The process was not so smooth with the first steps in reforming pensions and slowdowns are on the horizon. Tsipras is also trying to gain time against the pressure of Brussels to modify the laws that still protect primary homeowners from foreclosure. According to some estimates, there are around 320,000 families in Greece that are not paying down their mortgages and obviously these bad loans are dead weights for the banking system. In the questionable strategy of EU bureaucrats, an increase in foreclosures should boost the banks’ assets and in this way should help to reduce the financial demands on the ESM bailout fund.

Anyway, the Greek government is still living for the day, and the Troika has noticed that only 19 of the mandatory 48 reforms have been approved so far. Brussels is unhappy with this situation and has sent a strong “signal” to the Tsipras government by delaying the last €2 billion tranche of loans. At end-October 2015, €13 billion has already been transferred to Greece; these cash inflows alone have allowed the government to guarantee payments of salaries and pensions and reduced the dangerous social tensions experienced in July. Moreover, part of these funds has been diverted to pay down the ECB and this could allow the QE programme to be extended to Greece as early as November. This would be an unexpected image success for Mr. Tsipras and would give breathing space to the banking system, where up to €15 billion of government bonds eligible for purchase by the ECB are still languishing.

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2016 looks to be a watershed year for British care in general.

UK Care Home Sector In ‘Meltdown’, Threatened By US Vulture Fund (Ind.)

The UK’s largest provider of care homes is preparing to sell scores of properties and slash its budget by millions to fend off an attack from a US vulture fund hoping to cash in on the UK elderly-care crisis. Four Seasons Health Care, which cares for thousands of residents, is facing a £500m-plus credit crunch after government spending cuts and financial engineering by City investors left it struggling to pay lenders. The little-known H/2 Capital Partners has been buying up the group’s debt in the hope that the current owners, Terra Firma, will cede control of the homes after finances were squeezed by local government funding cuts.

Martin Green, the chief executive of Care England, a trade group for elderly-care provision, said the Government needed to step in to stop speculative investors targeting the troubled industry. “If the Government does not fund the sector properly, people will come into it to make money rather than deliver care,” he warned. To stave off the hedge fund assault, Four Seasons is considering plans to make deep cuts to the money it spends refurbishing and developing care homes. [..] Unions are concerned that the funding crisis will force many elderly residents to move into NHS beds and have called on Chancellor George Osborne to deliver ringfenced funding to the social care sector in his spending review later this month.

“The sector is going through a slow-motion collapse and Four Seasons is part of that situation,” GMB national officer Justin Bowden said. “It’s in meltdown and there will be tens of thousands of our mums and dads who will have to be looked after.” The squeeze on funding has put Four Seasons’ owner Terra Firma in a bind as it tries to meet annual costs of about £110m a year. The buyout group, led by well-known dealmaker Guy Hands, bought Four Seasons in 2012 from Royal Bank of Scotland for £825m in a debt-fuelled takeover. Most of the takeover cash was borrowed using two loans sold on to investors – one worth £350m and the other £175m.

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The care disaster will spread across the western world. It will get ugly and deadly.

US Congress Proposes A Chilling Resolution On Social Security (Simon Black)

Officially, the US government is now $18.5 trillion in debt, and Social Security is the biggest financial sinkhole in America. Social Security’s various trust funds currently hold about $2.7 trillion in total assets; yet the government itself estimates the program’s liabilities to exceed $40 trillion. And Social Security’s second biggest trust fund, the Disability Insurance fund, will be fully depleted in a matter of weeks. The trustees who manage these massive funds on behalf of the current and future retirees of America are clearly concerned. In the 2015 report of the Social Security and Medicare Board of Trustees they state very plainly:

“Social Security as a whole as well as Medicare cannot sustain projected long-run program costs…”, and that the government should be “giving the public adequate time to prepare.” Wow. Now, we always hear politicians say that ‘Social Security is going to be just fine’. So this Board of Trustees must be a bunch of wackos. Who are these guys anyhow? The Treasury Secretary of the United States of America, as it turns out. Along with the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The Secretary of Labor. Etc. These are the folks who sign their name to the report saying that Social Security is going bust, and that Congress needs to give people time to prepare. And prepare they should.

The US Government Accountability Office recently released a report showing that tens of millions of Americans haven’t saved a penny for retirement; and roughly half of Baby Boomers have zero retirement savings. This means that there’s an overwhelming number of Americans pinning all of their retirement hopes on Social Security. Bad idea. In a recently proposed resolution, H. Res 488, Congress states point blank that Social Security “was never intended by Congress to be the sole source of retirement income for families.” Apparently they got the message from the Social Security Trustees and they want to start preparing people for the inevitable truth. This is no longer some wild conspiracy theory.

The Treasury Secretary is saying it. Congress is saying it. The numbers are screaming it: Social Security is going to fail. Ultimately this is a just another chapter in the same story– that government cannot be relied on to provide or produce, only to squander and fail. Sure, their intentions may be noble. But this level of serial incompetence can no longer be trusted, nor should we be foolish enough to believe that some new candidate can fix it. If you’re in your fifties and beyond, you’re probably going to be OK and at least get 10-15 years of benefits. If you’re in your 40s and below, you have to be 100% prepared to fend for yourself. Fortunately you have time to recover. Time to build. And time to learn.

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The chaos only deepens.

Germany Imposes Surprise Curbs On Syrian Refugees (Guardian)

Angela Merkel has performed an abrupt U-turn on her open-door policy towards people fleeing Syria’s civil war, with Berlin announcing that the hundreds of thousands of Syrians entering Germany would not be granted asylum or refugee status. Syrians would still be allowed to enter Germany, but only for one year and with “subsidiary protection” which limits their rights as refugees. Family members would be barred from joining them. Germany, along with Sweden and Austria, has been the most open to taking in newcomers over the last six months of the growing refugee crisis, with the numbers entering Germany dwarfing those arriving anywhere else.

However, the interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere, announced that Berlin was starting to fall into line with governments elsewhere in the European Union, who were either erecting barriers to the newcomers or acting as transit countries and limiting their own intake of refugees. “In this situation other countries are only guaranteeing a limited stay,” De Maiziere said. “We’ll now do the same with Syrians in the future. We’re telling them ‘you will get protection, but only so-called subsidiary protection that is limited to a period and without any family unification.’” The major policy shift followed a crisis meeting of Merkel’s cabinet and coalition partners on Thursday.

The chancellor won global plaudits in August when she suspended EU immigration rules to declare that any Syrians entering Germany would gain refugee status, though this stirred consternation among EU partners who were not forewarned of the move. Thursday’s meeting decided against setting up “transit zones” for the processing of refugees on Germany’s borders with Austria, but agreed on prompt deportation of people whose asylum claims had failed.

Until now Syrians, Iraqis and Eritreans entering Germany have been virtually guaranteed full refugee status, meaning the right to stay for at least three years, entitlement for family members to join them, and generous welfare benefits. Almost 40,000 Syrians were granted refugee status in Germany in August, according to the Berlin office responsible for the programme, with only 53 being given “subsidiary” status. That now appears to have ended abruptly. An interior ministry spokesman told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: “The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees is instructed henceforth to grant Syrian civil war refugees only subsidiary protection.”

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What happens when you fail to prepare.

Germany Receives Nearly Half Of All Syrian Asylum Applicants (Guardian)

Germany has received nearly one in two of all asylum applications made by Syrians in EU member states this year. New figures released by the ministry of the interior on Thursday put the total number of asylum applications filed in Germany so far this year at 362,153, up 130% on January to October 2014. Nearly 104,000 of these applications were made by Syrians. This corresponds to about 47.5% of all requests for asylum submitted by Syrians in EU member states this year. Together with Germany, the countries that have received the most asylum applications from Syrians relative to their population sizes are Austria, Sweden and Hungary, with 1.3, 1.5, 2.7 and 4.7 applications per 1,000 people respectively. Europe’s next two biggest economies, France and Britain, on the other hand, have received only 0.03 and 0.02 applications from Syrians per 1,000 people respectively, according to Eurostat data.

Germany received 54,877 asylum applications in October alone, an increase of nearly 160% compared with the same month last year, according to the same figures. But the figure for formal asylum applications doesn’t reveal the full scale of the number of people Germany is absorbing. Filing the required paperwork takes time. The German interior ministry notes that the country registered 181,166 asylum seeker arrivals in October alone. Of these, 88,640 were from Syria, 31,051 from Afghanistan and 21,875 from Iraq. Between January and October, Germany registered the arrival of 758,473 asylum seekers, about a third of which (243,721) were from Syria. The country expects to receive more than a million asylum seekers this year. So far this year, 81,547 people have been granted refugee status in Germany, which represents just under 40% of all asylum decisions taken from January to October 2015.

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Sweden’s been a light in a very opaque darkness, but…

Sweden Feels The Refugee Strain (Bloomberg)

Sweden, which considers itself a humanitarian superpower, has long welcomed refugees, whether they be Jews escaping the Holocaust or victims of civil wars and natural disasters. Some 16% of its population is foreign-born, well above the U.S. figure of 13%. Since the 1990s the Scandinavian nation of 9.6 million has absorbed hundreds of thousands of migrants from the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East, and Africa. Still, Swedes have never experienced anything like the current influx. Some 360,000 refugees—mainly from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria—are expected to enter the country in 2015 and 2016, on top of the 75,000 who sought asylum last year. It’s as if North Carolina, which has about the same population as Sweden, sprouted a new city the size of Raleigh in three years.

In a sign that its hospitality may be wearing thin, the government announced on Oct. 23 that by next year it will end a policy of automatically granting permanent residency to most refugees. In the future, adults arriving without children will initially get only a temporary residence permit. The Swedish Migration Agency says that meeting refugees’ basic needs could cost the national government 60 billion kronor ($7 billion) in 2016. Local governments and private organizations will spend billions more. If the flow doesn’t subside, “in the long term our system will collapse,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Margot Wallström in an Oct. 30 interview with the daily Dagens Nyheter.

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And Germany says ‘Stay in Austria’, and we’re off to the races…

Sweden Tells Refugees ‘Stay in Germany’ as Ikea Runs Out of Beds (Bloomberg)

Europe’s refugee crisis is having such a major impact in Sweden that even Ikea is running out of beds. The Swedish furniture giant says its shops in Sweden and Germany are running short on mattresses and beds amid increased demand due to an unprecedented inflow of asylum seekers in the two countries. In Sweden, which along with Germany has been the most welcoming, the Migration agency had to let about 50 refugees sleep on the floor of its head office on Thursday night as it tries to find accommodation for the latest arrivals. “There are some shortages of bunk beds, mattresses and duvets” in some stores in Germany and Sweden, Josefin Thorell, an Ikea spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed response when asked whether the company had been affected by the biggest influx of migrants since World War II.

“If the situation persists we expect that it will be difficult to keep up and maintain sufficient supply,” Thorell said. Ikea has been supplying local authorities handling the refugee crisis. So far, 120,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Sweden this year and as many as 190,000 are expected to head to the country of 10 million people. Although Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson told reporters on Friday that the pressure on public finances “is not acute,” the Swedish government says it is no longer able to offer housing to new arrivals. “Those who come here may be met by the message that we can’t arrange housing for them,” Migration Minister Morgan Johansson told reporters. “Either you’ll have to arrange it yourself, or you have to go back to Germany or Denmark again.”

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Meanwhile, ….

Greek Coast Guard: Five More Migrants Found Dead (Kath.)

Greek authorities say the bodies of five more migrants have been found in the eastern Aegean Sea, which hundreds of thousands have crossed in frail boats this year seeking a better life in Europe. The coast guard said Friday that three men and a woman were found dead over the past two days in the sea off Lesvos. The eastern island is where most of the migrants head from the nearby Turkish coast, paying large sums to smugglers for a berth on overcrowded, unseaworthy vessels. The body of another man was found Thursday off the islet of Agathonissi. Well over half a million people have reached the Greek islands so far this year – a record number of arrivals – and the journey has proved fatal for hundreds.

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Nov 012015
 
 November 1, 2015  Posted by at 10:52 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  Comments Off on Debt Rattle November 1 2015


Unknown Drowned baby boy, Lesbos Oct 25 2015

New Tragedy In The Aegean, Sinking 11 Dead, 4 Babies (In.gr)
‘So Many Of Them Were Babies. We Saw At Least 30 Bodies In The Water’ (HRW)
Crunch Talks For Merkel On Refugee Crisis As Thousands More Arrive (Reuters)
Greek Banks Need Extra €14 Billion To Survive Dire Economic Downturn (Guardian)
Greek Bad Debt Rises Above 50% For The First Time, ECB Admits (Zero Hedge)
Cash Crisis ‘Could Close 50% Of UK Care Homes’ (Observer)
Crisis In UK Care Homes Set To ‘Dwarf The Steel Industry’s Problems’ (Observer)
China Bad Loans Estimated At 20% Or Higher vs Official 1.5% (Bloomberg)
China’s Official Factory Gauge Signals Contraction Continues (Bloomberg)
‘Lipstick’-ing The GDP Pig Amid An Epochal Global Deflationary Swoon (Stockman)
Fed Admits: ‘Something’s Going On Here That We Maybe Don’t Understand’ (ZH)
Fed Looks At Way To Shift Big-Bank Losses To Investors (AP)
Australia Should ‘Tell The Story Of The Pacific To The World’ (Guardian)

At dawn Sunday: “five are women, two are children and four infants..” Four more deaths reported since… (Google translation)

New Tragedy In The Aegean, Sinking 11 Dead (In.gr)

Without end continues the refugee drama in the Aegean Sea. This time 11 refugees died when the six meter plastic boat, which was carrying them sank while approaching rocky area in Samos Blue, in the six meters from the shore, just before they occupants disembark. From the dead five are women, two are children and four infants. Most of the dead were trapped in the cabin of plastic boat. The new wreck occurred at dawn Sunday. From the new wreck rescued 15 people. The point is boat of the Coast, volunteer groups and divers.

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Deaths of single often go unreported: “The ultimate death toll is no doubt even higher, since only families with surviving members were able to report their missing to the coast guard..”

‘So Many Of Them Were Babies. We Saw At Least 30 Bodies In The Water’ (HRW)

On Wednesday off the Greek island of Lesbos, a large Turkish fishing boat carrying some 300 people trying to reach Europe sank, causing at least seven to drown, including four children, with at least 34 still missing. The needless loss of life should be enough to outrage us all. But just as outrageous is the reality that months into Europe’s refugee crisis, Europe’s leaders still have not taken the steps necessary to help prevent such unnecessary tragedies, let alone adopt policies that could provide people fleeing war and repression with legal and safe alternatives to seek asylum in Western Europe. Turkish smugglers taking advantage of those desperately fleeing the horrors of war in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq promised the victims that the trip aboard a “yacht” would be safer than the more common trips in overloaded rubber dinghies.

They then packed the 300 people like sardines on both decks of the aging fishing vessel. Disaster unfolded as the boat hit rough seas and high winds at about 4 in the afternoon. Suddenly, the sheer weight of those packed on the upper deck caused it to collapse, crashing everyone down onto the lower deck. Spanish volunteer life guards, working on the beaches of Lesbos to bring in the boats safely, watched the tragedy unfold through their binoculars from a beachhead on the Greek island. A Syrian man who survived told one of the doctors who treated the survivors that the collapse of the upper deck injured many people and created a large hole in the bottom of the boat, which began filling with water. The Turkish smuggler driving the boat called his fellow smugglers, and a speedboat came to evacuate him, its occupants firing several times in the air to warn off the panicking people on the boat.

As it evacuated the skipper, the speedboat hit the fishing boat, causing it to sink almost immediately. “Suddenly, we just saw hundreds of lifejackets in the sea,” Gerard, one of the Spanish volunteer lifeguards, told me over the phone. “We rushed down to get our jet skis, and we were in the water in minutes.” For more than four hours, until long after nightfall, three Spanish lifeguards tried to rescue as many of the people in the water as they could, using only their jetskis in the rough water many kilometers offshore. They performed CPR on some right on their jetskis. Several local fishing boats also came to join the rescue efforts, pulling survivors out of the water until their decks were packed with shivering, traumatized survivors.

Both the Greek coast guard and boats under the coordination of FRONTEX, the EU’s external borders agency, joined the effort as well, but their large boats sitting high out of the water made it difficult to hoist survivors unto their decks in the rough seas. The Spanish lifeguards had to risk their lives to scramble onto the Greek coast guard ship to perform CPR on those who had lost consciousness, including a tiny baby. Their jetskis were damaged in the process. Long after nightfall, the Spanish volunteers returned to shore, themselves so chilled to the bone that they were risking hypothermia. “We passed so many lifeless bodies floating in the sea as we left the rescue area,” Gerard said, his voice still shaking a day later.

“So many of them were babies. We saw at least 30 bodies at the scene in the water.” By Thursday, 242 people had been rescued, and the Greek coast guard confirmed that at least 34 people remained missing, in addition to the seven bodies recovered from the water the evening before. The ultimate death toll is no doubt even higher, since only families with surviving members were able to report their missing to the coast guard.

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WIll Merkel pull to the right with her country?

Crunch Talks For Merkel On Refugee Crisis As Thousands More Arrive (Reuters)

Nearly 10,000 refugees continued to arrive in Germany daily, police said on Saturday, highlighting the scale of the challenge facing the country’s stretched border staff ahead of a crunch meeting between Angela Merkel and a Bavarian ally on the crisis. Chancellor Merkel will discuss refugee policy on Saturday evening with Bavarian premier Horst Seehofer, head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) and who has criticized her asylum policy and handling of the crisis. The CSU, sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has been outspoken about her “open doors” policy towards refugees, in part because its home state of Bavaria is the entry point for virtually all of the migrants arriving in Germany.

Berlin expects between 800,000 and a million refugees and migrants to arrive in Germany this year, twice as many as in any prior year. The huge numbers have fueled anti-immigration sentiment, with support for Merkel’s conservatives dropping to its lowest level in more than three years. There have also been a spate of right-wing attacks on shelters: police in Dresden reported two more arson attacks on Friday night on a hotel and a container, both of which were planned to house refugees and asylum seekers. On Sunday, Merkel and Seehofer will hold talks with Sigmar Gabriel, who leads the other party in her “grand coalition”, the Social Democrats (SPD).

Conservative officials believe it is likely Seehofer will come away from this weekend’s meetings with Merkel with a deal to introduce so-called ‘transit zones’ at border crossings to process refugees’ asylum requests. SPD politicians have rejected that idea, instead calling for faster registration and processing of asylum applications. The crisis has also prompted squabbling among EU states over how best to deal with the influx. European leaders last weekend agreed to cooperate to manage migrants crossing the Balkans but offered no quick fix. German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Europe needed to work together to come up with a solution to the crisis but that Germany would continue to welcome refugees. “We will not slam the door in the face of the refugees,” she said at a security conference in Bahrain.

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A lot less than was prviously announced.

Greek Banks Need Extra €14 Billion To Survive Dire Economic Downturn (Guardian)

Greece’s four main banks need to find another €14bn of reserves to ensure they could withstand an economic downturn, the ECB said on Saturday. The four banks – Alpha Bank, Eurobank, NBG and Piraeus Bank – have until 6 November to say how they intend to make up that shortfall, the ECB said. The money could come from private investors or from EU bailout funds. An ECB stress test known as a “comprehensive assessment” identified a capital shortfall of €4.4bn under a best-case scenario and €14.4bn in a worst-case situation. The shortfall is smaller than originally feared, with the most recent bailout deal setting aside up to €25bn to prop up Greece’s banks.

The ECB audit examined the quality of the banks’ assets and considered the “specific recapitalisation needs” of each institution under Greece’s EU bailout. “Overall, the stress test identified a capital shortfall across the four participating banks of €4.4bn under the baseline scenario and €14.4bn under the adverse scenario,” the ECB said. “The four banks will have to submit capital plans explaining how they intend to cover their shortfalls by 6 November. This will start a recapitalisation process under the economic adjustment programme that must conclude before the end of the year.” Increasing the banks’ capital reserves would “improve the resilience of their balance sheets and their capacity to withstand potential adverse macroeconomic shock”, the central bank added.

In August, eurozone finance ministers released €26bn of the €86bn in bailout funds that went to recapitalising Greece’s stricken banking sector and make a debt payment to the ECB. Greek banks have already been bailed out under earlier deals for the country. They suffered further losses as Greece headed towards a third bailout earlier this year. Depositors pulled billions out of the country fearing that Greece would be forced to leave the euro. Limits on withdrawals and transfers imposed in June to prevent Greek banks from collapsing remain in place, although they have been loosened.

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Now that’s a real ugly number. And austerity assures the number will get worse. What does that spell for Greek banks?

Greek Bad Debt Rises Above 50% For The First Time, ECB Admits (Zero Hedge)

According to the FT, “the bill states that bank rescue fund HFSF will have full voting rights on any shares it acquires from banks in exchange for providing state aid. Under the bill the bank rescue fund will have a more active role, assessing bank managements.

The exact mix of shares and contingent convertible bonds the HFSF will buy from banks in exchange for any fresh funds it will provide will be decided by the cabinet. The capital hole has emerged chiefly due to the rising number of Greeks unable or unwilling to repay their debt.

And therein lies the rub, because in the span of three months, Greek NPLs have risen from 47.6% of total to 51%: an increase of just over 1% in bad debt every month. Which means that whether or not the latest attempt to boost confidence by the ECB, ESM, and the Greek parliament succeeds is moot. Yes, a few hedge funds may invest funds alongside the ESM, but in the end, as the NPLs keep rising and as long as Greek debtors refuse – or simply are unable – to pay their debt or interest, the next Greek crisis is inevitable. The biggest wildcard is whether or not the Greek population will accept this latest promise of stability in its banking sector at face value: a banking sector which since July is operating under draconian capital controls.

Granted, we should point out that in the past two months the deposit outflow from banks has stopped, and even reversed modestly adding about €900 million in deposits in the past two months, although that is mostly due to the inability of households and corporations to withdraw any sizable amount of funds. The real answer whether Greek banks have been “saved” will wait until the shape of the final bank recapitalization takes place, even as NPLs continue to mount. Remember: Greek lenders are currently kept afloat only by the ECB’s ELA but there is a rush to get the recapitalization finished. If it is not done by the end of the year, new EU rules mean large depositors such as companies may have to take a hit in their accounts.

If the proposed recap is insufficient – and it will be since under the surface the Greek economy continues to collapse and NPLs continue to mount – and a bank bail-in of depositors takes place (a bail-in which took place immediately in the case of Cyprus back in 2013 when Russian oligarch savings were “sacrificed” to bail out the local insolvent banking system), the next leg in the Greek bank crisis will promptly unveil itself, only this time Greece will have some 200% in debt/GDP to show for its most recent, third, bailout. Finally, the real question is: having read all of the above, dear Greek readers, will you hand over what little cash you have stuffed in your mattress to your friendly, neighborhood, soon to be recapitalized bank?

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The entire western world get bogged down under this pressure.

Cash Crisis ‘Could Close 50% Of UK Care Homes’ (Observer)

Ministers are under mounting pressure to pump more money into care for the elderly as investigations by the Observer reveal how some of the largest providers may have to pull out of supplying services because of an escalating financial crisis. Before chancellor George Osborne’s autumn statement on 25 November, Sarah Wollaston, the Conservative chair of the all-party Commons select committee on health, is calling for the government to act, saying that social care providers are reeling from rising costs and declining fees from cash-strapped local authorities. Meanwhile, the head of Care England, which represents independent care providers, claims that the care home sector is heading for a bigger crisis than the steel industry, while Chai Patel, the boss of one of Britain’s largest care home operators, HC-One, says half of Britain’s care homes could go bust.

The warnings come as residents in the 470 homes and specialist centres run by leading provider Four Seasons face uncertainty about the future of the company. Four Seasons has to make a £26m interest payment in December, but is losing money under the weight of £500m of debt. Four Seasons has insisted that it can make the payment, but bosses at rival companies warned that the industry was under unsustainable pressure. In the home care sector, where specialists look after the elderly in their own properties, the United Kingdom Homecare Association cautioned that leading providers could pull out of 55,125 care hours and 33 contracts because of the shortfall between the cost of care and the amount local authorities were paying for the service. Wollaston, a former GP, said she supported the new national living wage and moves to pay transport costs to carers, but added that the government had to recognise that both measures would increase the costs of care.

“There has been a longstanding gap in funding for social care and this will become much more severe if there is not adequate recognition of the rising costs the sector will face as a result of the living wage. Otherwise, we will see more care providers pulling out of the sector,” she said. Many problems result from the fact that local authorities, which have suffered funding cuts of more than 40% since 2010, cannot offer enough to make contracts attractive or, in many cases, viable. Many providers are turning to the private market as an alternative, where they can. Martin Green, the head of Care England, said the crisis would lead to more people ending up in hospitals and Patel, whose company runs 250 care homes, said he had given research to the government that showed that half of care homes could disappear.

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So who’s going to pay, now and in 5 years, 10 years?

Crisis In UK Care Homes Set To ‘Dwarf The Steel Industry’s Problems’ (Observer)

The ghost of Southern Cross hangs over Britain’s care home industry. Four years ago the country’s largest care home group collapsed, sparking months of uncertainty and worry for its 31,000 residents and their families, until Southern Cross’s rivals stepped forward to agree rescue deals for its 750 homes. Now, however, the industry could be rewarded by facing an even bigger crisis. While it was a set of circumstances unique to Southern Cross that laid it low in 2011 – particularly high rents for its properties and the costs of a debt mountain left by its private equity owners – today care homes across the country are feeling the squeeze. Four Seasons, which has more than 22,000 beds spread among 470 homes nationwide, is at forefront of the new crisis.

The company is owned by private equity group Terra Firma, the organisation led by financier Guy Hands that has, at various times, controlled companies as diverse as Méridien hotels, Odeon cinemas and record label EMI. It is losing millions of pound a year and struggling under £500m of debt. Four Seasons needs to make a £26m interest payment in December to satisfy creditors who could put it into administration. Terra Firma insists it will be able to make the payment, but the private equity group, trade unions, and local authorities all agree this is only the start of the problems for the care home industry. Justin Bowden, national officer at the GMB union, which represents thousands of care home employees, said: “You are looking potentially at several Southern Crosses in the next 12 months if something drastic is not done.”

Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, the body that represents independent care providers, warned that the crisis in the sector would dwarf the problems in the steel industry. “We are looking at Redcar happening twice a month if care homes go down,” he said. “These people can only be looked after in care homes and hospitals. If Jeremy Hunt thinks he has a problem with bed blocking now, it is nothing on what it is going to be like if these care homes start to close. Hospitals won’t be able to do elective care because they will be full of old people.” The problems for care homes are rooted in the gap between the costs of care and the amounts local authorities are paying for residents. There are staggering variations in fees across the country, ranging from £350 a week to as high as £750, according to consumer watchdog Which?

The Local Government Association itself estimates that there will be a £2.9bn annual funding gap in social care by the end of the decade. This gap will widen with the introduction of the national living wage next April, which will add another £1bn to the costs of care homes between now and 2020.

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“China is confronting a massive debt problem, the scale of which the world has never seen.”

China Bad Loans Estimated At 20% Or Higher vs Official 1.5% (Bloomberg)

Corporate investigator Violet Ho never put a lot of faith in the bad loan numbers reported by China’s banks. Crisscrossing provinces from Shandong to Xinjiang, she’s seen too much — from the shell game of moving assets between affiliated companies to disguise the true state of their finances to cover-ups by bankers loath to admit that loans they made won’t be recovered. “If I have one piece of advice for people worrying about the financial status of Chinese companies, it’s this: it’s right to be worried,” said Ho, senior managing director in Hong Kong for Kroll Inc., a U.S. risk consultancy. “Often a credit report for a Chinese company is not worth the paper it’s written on.”

As China’s banking industry persists with publishing delinquent-debt numbers that few have faith in – a survey in 2014 indicated that even lenders didn’t believe them – some financial analysts, too, have turned detectives to try to work out what the real numbers may be. The amount of bad debt piling up in China is at the center of a debate about whether the country will continue as a locomotive of global growth or sink into decades of stagnation like Japan after its credit bubble burst. Bank of China Ltd. reported on Thursday its biggest quarterly bad-loan provisions since going public in 2006. While the analysts interviewed for this story differ in their approaches to calculating likely levels of soured credit, their conclusion is the same: The official 1.5% bad-loan estimate is way too low.

Charlene Chu, who made her name at Fitch Ratings making bearish assessments of the risks from China’s credit explosion since 2008, is among those crunching the numbers. While corporate investigator Ho relies on her observations from hitting the road, Chu and her colleagues at Autonomous Research in Hong Kong take a top-down approach. They estimate how much money is being wasted after the nation began getting smaller and smaller economic returns on its credit from 2008. Their assessment is informed by data from economies such as Japan that have gone though similar debt explosions. While traditional bank loans are not Chu’s prime focus – she looks at the wider picture, including shadow banking – she says her work suggests that nonperforming loans may be at 20% to 21%, or even higher.

The Bank for International Settlements cautioned in September that China’s credit to gross domestic product ratio indicates an increasing risk of a banking crisis in coming years. “A financial crisis is by no means preordained, but if losses don’t manifest in financial sector losses, they will do so via slowing growth and deflation, as they did in Japan,” said Chu. “China is confronting a massive debt problem, the scale of which the world has never seen.”

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But there’s still plenty voices willing to paint rosy picstures.

China’s Official Factory Gauge Signals Contraction Continues (Bloomberg)

China’s first key indicator this quarter, an official factory gauge, missed analysts’ estimates, signaling that the manufacturing sector has yet to bottom out as global demand falters and deflationary pressures deepen. The official purchasing managers index was unchanged at 49.8 in October, the National Bureau of Statistics said Sunday, compared with the median estimate of 50 in a Bloomberg survey. It was the third straight reading below 50, the line between expansion and contraction. The official non-manufacturing PMI, a barometer of services and construction, fell to 53.1 from 53.4 in September, the weakest since December 2008. “The manufacturing sector is still contracting, though stabilizing,” and the report indicates economic momentum remains sluggish, said Liu Ligang at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group.

“We still believe the Chinese economy will experience modest rebound supported by faster infrastructure investment in November and December.” The newest data highlight the challenges confronting China’s old growth drivers. The nation’s leaders have reiterated priorities of both reforming the economy and maintaining medium- to high-speed growth in the next five years, according to a communique released by Xinhua News Agency on Thursday. The readings suggest continued monetary easing by the central bank hasn’t yet boosted smaller businesses as much as their larger, state-owned counterparts, which are able to borrow at reduced rates. “Big companies are stabilizing, while smaller ones continue to perform below the contraction-expansion line,” Zhao Qinghe, a senior statistician at NBS, wrote in a statement interpreting the data on Sunday.

“The percentage of small companies facing a financial strain is considerably higher than that of bigger companies.” The unchanged manufacturing PMI suggests “managed stabilization” as policy makers strive to balance growth, reform, and market stability, according to Zhou Hao at Commerzbank in Singapore. The manufacturing sector stabilized “somewhat” due to monetary policy easing, Zhou said, while slowing power generation, steel production and housing sales are “suggesting that the overall economy is still under downward pressure.” The employment gauges of both manufacturing and non-manufacturing sectors remained mired in contraction zone, Sunday’s report showed. China’s survey-based unemployment rate picked up slightly to around 5.2% in September, while a ratio of job supply and demand rose in the third quarter.

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Stop confusing inflation with rising prices, and things get a lot clearer.

‘Lipstick’-ing The GDP Pig Amid An Epochal Global Deflationary Swoon (Stockman)

The talking heads were busy yesterday morning powdering the GDP pig. By averaging up the “disappointing” 1.5% gain for Q3 with the previous quarter they were able to pronounce that the economy is moving forward at an “encouraging” 2% clip. And once we get through this quarter’s big negative inventory adjustment, they insisted, we will be off to the ‘escape velocity’ races. Again. No we won’t! The global economy is in an epochal deflationary swoon and the US economy has already hit stall speed. It is only a matter of months before this long-in-the-tooth 75-month old business expansion will rollover into outright liquidation of excess inventories and hoarded labor. That is otherwise known as a recession.

Its arrival will be a thundering repudiation of the lunatic monetary policies of the last seven years; and it will send into panicked shock all those buy-the-dip speculators and robo-traders who still presume the central bank is omnipotent. So forget all the averaging and seasonally maladjusted noise in yesterday’s report and peak inside at the warning signs. To begin, the year/year gain of just 2.0% was the weakest result since the first quarter of 2014. And that’s only if you believe that inflation during the last 12 months was just 0.9%, as per the GDP deflator used by the Commerce Department statistical mills. Needless to say, there are about 90 million households in America below the top 20%, which more or less live paycheck to paycheck, that would argue quite vehemently that their cost of living including medical care, housing, education, groceries, utilities and much else – has gone up a lot more than 0.9%.

So put a reasonable “deflator” on the reported “real” GDP number, and you are getting pretty close to stall speed – even before you look inside at the internals. Indeed, even before you get to the components of the “deflated” GDP figure, you need to examine an even more important number contained in yesterday’s report that was not mentioned by a single talking head. To wit, the year/year gain in nominal GDP was only 2.9%, and it represented a continuing deceleration from 3.7% in the year ending in Q2 2015 and 3.9% in the years ending in Q1 2015 and Q4 2014, respectively. In short, the US economy is sitting there with $59 trillion of credit market debt outstanding, but owing to the tides of worldwide deflation now washing up on these shores, nominal GDP growth is sinking toward the flat line.

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QE accelerates deflation.

Fed Admits: ‘Something’s Going On Here That We Maybe Don’t Understand’ (ZH)

In a somewhat shocking admission of its own un-omnipotence, or perhaps more of a C.Y.A. moment for the inevitable mean-reversion to reality, Reuters reports that San Francisco Fed President John Williams said Friday that low neutral interest rates are a warning sign of possible changes in the U.S. economy that the central bank does not fully understand. With Japan having been there for decades, and the rest of the developed world there for 6 years… Suddenly, just weeks away from what The Fed would like the market to believe is the first rate hike in almost a decade, Williams decides now it is the time to admit the central planners might be missing a factor (and carefully demands better fiscal policy)… (as Reuters reports)

“I see this as more of a warning, a red flag that there’s something going on here that isn’t in the models, that we maybe don’t understand as well as we think, and we should dig down deep deeper and try to figure this out better,” said San Francisco Federal Reserve President John Williams on Friday pointing out that low neutral interest rates are a warning sign of possible changes in the U.S. economy that the central bank does not fully understand.

Williams, who is a voting member of the Fed’s policy-setting panel through the end of the year, has said the central bank should begin to raise interest rates soon but thereafter go at a gradual pace; ironically adding that the low neutral interest rate had “pretty significant” implications for monetary policy, and put more focus on fiscal policy as a response.

“If we could come up with better fiscal policy, find a way to have the economy grow faster or have a stronger natural rate of interest, then that takes the pressure off of us to try to come up with other ways to do it, like through a large balance sheet or having a higher inflation target,” Williams said. “It also means we don’t have to turn to quantitative easing and other policies as much.”

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As long as the investors are not the big banks?!

Fed Looks At Way To Shift Big-Bank Losses To Investors (AP)

In their latest bid to reduce the chances of future taxpayer bailouts, federal regulators are proposing that the eight biggest U.S. banks build new cushions against losses that would shift the burden to investors. The Federal Reserve’s proposal put forward Friday means the mega-banks would have to bulk up their capacity to absorb financial shocks by issuing equity or long-term debt equal to prescribed portions of total bank assets. The idea is that the cost of a huge bank’s failure would fall on investors in the bank’s equity or debt, not on taxpayers. The Fed governors led by Chair Janet Yellen voted 5-0 at a public meeting to propose the so-called “loss-absorbing capacity” requirements for the banks, which include JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America.

The eight banks would have to issue a total of about $120 billion in new long-term debt to meet the requirements of the proposal, the Fed staff estimates. If formally adopted, most of the requirements wouldn’t take effect until 2019, and the remainder not until 2022. The new cushions would come atop rules adopted by the Fed in July for the eight banks to shore up their financial bases with about $200 billion in additional capital — over and above capital requirements for the industry. And they would be in addition to 2014 rules directing all large U.S. banks to keep enough high-quality assets on hand to survive during a severe downturn. Combined with the regulators’ previous actions, the new proposal “would substantially reduce the risk to taxpayers and the threat to financial stability stemming from the failure of these (banks),” Yellen said at the start of the meeting.

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Problem is: Australia would need to address its own role.

Australia Should ‘Tell The Story Of The Pacific To The World’ (Guardian)

Australia should “tell the story of the Pacific to the world” when global leaders sit down to climate change talks in Paris at the end of this month, Labor has said. The impact of climate change on the nations of the Pacific is a focus for both the government and opposition ahead of COP21, where governments of more than 190 nations will gather to discuss a possible new global climate accord. The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, accompanied by foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek and immigration spokesman Richard Marles, will visit Papua New Guinea, the Marshall Islands, and Kiribati over four days this week, while the government’s minister for international development and the Pacific, Steve Ciobo, will travel to New Caledonia, Fiji and Niue. The Labor leaders said climate change was an existential threat to some countries in the region.

“The dangerous consequences of climate change is no more evident than in the Pacific region. Pacific leaders have consistently identified climate change as the greatest threat to their livelihoods, food production, housing, security and wellbeing. “This is a serious problem that demands serious attention.” Marles, the former parliamentary secretary for Pacific island affairs, told Guardian Australia that it was important for Australia to have strong and constructive relations with its Pacific neighbours. He praised Pacific leaders, in particular Kiribati’s president, Anote Tong, for highlighting the issues being faced by Pacific nations on the international stage. “It is crucial that, in the lead-up to Paris, the world understands the problems being faced by the Pacific. And it’s important that Australia plays a role in telling that story of the Pacific to the world.”

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