René Magritte Promenades d’Euclid 1955
California has had a nearly identical case trajectory as Texas.
In TX, schools are open. Businesses are open. People can go for a walk.
To test vaccines that hardly work and could be very dangerous. It’s taking on Matrix-like proportions.
The World Health Organization is holding discussions on Monday about the feasibility of trials in which healthy young volunteers are deliberately infected with coronavirus to hasten vaccine development – amid questions over whether they should go ahead given the promising data from the frontrunner vaccine candidates. Some scientists have reservations about exposing volunteers to a virus for which there is no cure, although there are treatments that can help patients. However, proponents argue that the risks of Covid-19 to the young and healthy are minimal, and the benefits to society are high. The WHO advisory group meeting, which will focus on reviewing existing plans for “human challenge trials” and discuss associated technical concerns, will not include groups representing research participants or members of the public.
1Day Sooner, a non-profit organisation advocating for human challenge study volunteers, said it asked to attend the meeting but was turned away. In a statement to the Guardian, the WHO said the meeting was a focused technical consultation with scientific experts, and that such meetings were not usually open to the public but that future meetings could include civil participation. More than a dozen scientific experts are expected to convene as part of the advisory group on Monday, and observers could include representatives of the Wellcome Trust, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the US-based National Institutes of Health and the FDA.
Joshua Morrison, executive director of 1Day Sooner, said: “If the argument is, we’re just giving advice into what the studies should look like – we think research participants should be a part of that. And if the argument is that this [meeting] is completely separate from the ethical side of things, I do think that’s hard to disentangle from the technical concerns.” [..] The UK government has invested about £30m to back a human challenge trial, although ethical approval is pending, and similar studies are being planned in the Netherlands. Enthusiasm for such trials in the United States has reportedly waned since the positive vaccine results poured in last month.
“..it is possible that imported equipment necessary for dealing with the pandemic gets caught up in that..”
Well before scientists were sure that a vaccine would be ready for use in the UK by the end of this year, the government regulator – the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – put out an urgent call for help. Its appeal, issued in September, was evidence that even if a vaccine were to be developed and approved soon, things would be far from plain sailing. The call to tender stated: “The MHRA urgently seeks an artificial intelligence (AI) software tool to process the expected high volume of Covid-19 vaccine-adverse drug reactions (ADRs) and ensure that no details from the ADRs’ reaction text are missed. For reasons of extreme urgency under Regulation 32(2)(c) related to the release of a Covid-19 vaccine, MHRA have accelerated the sourcing and implementation of a vaccine specific AI tool…”
The Cabinet Office, which coordinates policy across government departments and their responses to crises, was alerted. A company called Genpact won the £1.5m tender soon after. The MHRA said then that based on previous vaccination campaigns, there would be between 50,000 and 100,000 reports of suspected side effects for every 100 million doses over a six to 12-month period. This weekend there is real hope inside government that an end is in sight to the pandemic. News that the UK had become the first country in the world to approve the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, which the MHRA says offers up to 95% protection against Covid-19, has been hailed as a potentially decisive moment.
There are, however, no celebrations in Whitehall. Rather there is much caution, just as there was back in September. It is not only the administrative challenge of vaccinating much of the population safely that is worrying officials, but the prospect of doing so just as the deep mid-winter approaches – a time when NHS staff would, even in a normal year, be run off their feet. This year it is worse, however. The pandemic is still claiming hundreds of lives a day and a Covid-19 third wave may be round the corner, after festive relaxations, to add to intense pressures already on the NHS. And on top of it all, there are the hugely disruptive, and to some extent unknown, effects of Brexit on the UK’s trade and ability to import and export that are about to reveal themselves.
Those concerns also preoccupy an overloaded government machine and Cabinet Office. As Sam Lowe, a former member of the Department for International Trade’s Strategic Trade Advisory Group, now a senior research fellow at the Centre for European Reform, says, there is a possibility that the two issues will intersect and collide, making matters worse. “There are going to be delays at the borders and it is going to take the EU and UK a while to get used to trading under the new system and it is possible that imported equipment necessary for dealing with the pandemic gets caught up in that,” says Lowe.
“We do hundreds of millions of vaccinations a year. We’re leveraging the systems that are known and that work here in the United States.”
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar during an interview on Fox News Sunday pushed back against a statement Joe Biden recently made regarding the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. “There is no detailed plan, that we’ve seen anyway, as to how you get the vaccine out of a container into an injection syringe, into somebody’s arm,” Biden said. “With all respect that’s just nonsense,” Azar said in response after the clip of Biden’s statement played during the interview. He went on to push back against Biden’s statement. “We have comprehensive plans from the CDC working with 64 public health jurisdictions across the country as our governors have laid out very detailed plans that we’ve worked with them on,” Azar said.
“We’re leveraging our retail pharmacies, our hospitals, our public health departments, our community health centers. We have the…kits that have the syringes, the diluent, the needles, the PPE to administer.” Azar continued: “This is being micromanaged and controlled by the United States military as well as our incredible private sector. We do hundreds of millions of vaccinations a year. We’re leveraging the systems that are known and that work here in the United States.”
“This idea that there was not FISA abuse and it was a bunch of nonsense — look, someone is going to prison over that. It’s just a question now of how wide and how deep it was..”
Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe said an interim report from special counsel John Durham should be released as a deterrent against President-elect Joe Biden trying to shut down the federal prosecutor’s inquiry into the Russia investigation. President Trump’s spy chief also told Maria Bartiromo on Fox News’s Sunday Morning Futures that now that the election is over, publicizing Durham’s findings is not a political issue anymore. “I think the American people should know what’s happening in a two-year investigation into this, and I hope that that report will be forthcoming,” Ratcliffe said, adding, “The American people deserve a full accounting, but the special counsel regulations not only require a final report, they allow for interim reports, so I’d like to see an interim report that talks about this from the angle of someone that has not only the intelligence community documents that I have but the law enforcement documents.”
It remains unclear what a Biden administration will do with Durham’s work, but Attorney General William Barr elevating him to special counsel in October provides some protection against a swift dismissal. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff and other Democrats have suggested that Biden could end Durham’s inquiry, to which Ratcliffe pointed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuses detailed in Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s lengthy report from late last year. “Chairman Schiff has indicated he thinks that the Durham investigation should end — which is exactly why an interim report is appropriate. It would show whether or not there’s a good-faith basis to continue. It would protect the work that’s been done,” Ratcliffe said.
“So, I would encourage my colleagues over at the Department of Justice and at the FBI and, in particular, now special counsel Durham to consider doing that, so that the American people can get the full accounting that they deserve.” “Look, it’s not a question anymore whether or not there was illegal spying,” he added. “This idea that there was not FISA abuse and it was a bunch of nonsense — look, someone is going to prison over that. It’s just a question now of how wide and how deep it was, and I know John Durham has been investigating that, and I’m confident, and I’ve said that based on what I’ve seen I think there should be additional indictments, I’m not backing off of that, but he’s the prosecutor I’d like to hear from him in an interim report, and I think the American people would agree with me.”
I try to never link to paywalled articles. But this is just too crazy. The inevitable outcome will be that those who need their water the most won’t be able to afford it.
Water is joining gold, oil and other commodities traded on Wall Street, highlighting worries that the life-sustaining natural resource may become scarce across more of the world. Farmers, hedge funds and municipalities alike will be able to hedge against — or bet on — potential water scarcity starting this week, when CME Group Inc. launches contracts linked to the $1.1 billion California spot water market. According to Chicago-based CME, the futures will help water users manage risk and better align supply and demand. The contracts, a first of their kind in the U.S., were announced in September as heat and wildfires ravaged the U.S. West Coast. They are meant to serve both as a hedge for California’s biggest water consumers against skyrocketing prices and a scarcity gauge for investors worldwide.
“Climate change, droughts, population growth, and pollution are likely to make water scarcity issues and pricing a hot topic for years to come,” said RBC Capital Markets managing director and analyst Deane Dray. “We are definitely going to watch how this new water futures contract develops.” Two billion people now live in nations plagued by water problems, and almost two-thirds of the world could face water shortages in just four years, Tim McCourt, global head of equity index and alternative investment products at CME, said in an interview. “The idea of managing risks associated to water is certainly increased in importance.” The futures will be financially settled, as opposed to requiring the actual physical delivery of water, and are based on the Nasdaq Veles California Water Index started two years ago.
The index sets a weekly benchmark spot price of water rights in California, underpinned by the volume-weighted average of the transaction prices in the state’s five largest and most actively traded water markets. Contracts will include quarterly ones through 2022, with each representing 10 acre-feet of water, equal to roughly 3.26 million gallons. Currently, if a farmer wants to know what water will cost in California six months from now, it’s kind of a “best guess,” Patrick Wolf, senior manager and head of product development at Nasdaq, said in an interview. The futures will allow market participants to see “what is everybody’s best guess,” he said.
The political economy of the Digital Age remains virtually terra incognita. In Techno-Feudalism , published three months ago in France (no English translation yet), Cedric Durand, an economist at the Sorbonne, provides a crucial, global public service as he sifts through the new Matrix that controls all our lives. Durand places the Digital Age in the larger context of the historical evolution of capitalism to show how the Washington consensus ended up metastasized into the Silicon Valley consensus. In a delightful twist, he brands the new grove as the “Californian ideology”. We’re far away from Jefferson Airplane and the Beach Boys; it’s more like Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” on steroids, complete with IMF-style “structural reforms” emphasizing “flexibilization” of work and outright marketization/financialization of everyday life.
The Digital Age was crucially associated with right-wing ideology from the very start. The incubation was provided by the Progress and Freedom Foundation (PFF), active from 1993 to 2010 and conveniently funded, among others, by Microsoft, At&T, Disney, Sony, Oracle, Google, and Yahoo. In 1994, PFF held a ground-breaking conference in Atlanta that eventually led to a seminal Magna Carta: literally, Cyberspace and the American Dream: a Magna Carta for the Knowledge Era, published in 1996, during the first Clinton term. Not by accident the magazine Wired was founded, just like PFF, in 1993, instantly becoming the house organ of the “Californian ideology”. Among the authors of the Magna Carta we find futurist Alvin “Future Shock” Toffler and Reagan’s former scientific counselor George Keyworth.
Before anyone else, they were already conceptualizing how “cyberspace is a bioelectronic environment which is literally universal”. Their Magna Carta was the privileged road map to explore the new frontier. Also not by accident the intellectual guru of the new frontier was Ayn Rand and her quite primitive dichotomy between “pioneers” and the mob. Rand declared that egotism is good, altruism is evil, and empathy is irrational. When it comes to the new property rights of the new Eldorado, all power should be exercised by the Silicon Valley “pioneers”, a Narcissus bunch in love with their mirror image as superior Randian heroes. In the name of innovation they should be allowed to destroy any established rules, in a Schumpeterian “creative destruction” rampage. That has led to our current environment, where Google, Facebook, Uber, and co. can overstep any legal framework, imposing their innovations like a fait accompli.
Problem is, it appears to work.
While half of the United States is mesmerized by witness testimony describing the ‘irregularities’ that purportedly occurred in the 2020 presidential contest between the incumbent Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the other half has been left deliberately in the dark by an activist media. It has become almost a cliché to say that the United States is now fiercely divided into parallel universes, alternative realities, otherwise known as the Republican and Democratic camps. One of the primary reasons for this great divide, aside from the obvious ideological differences, is that just one side, that is, the left, predominantly controls the flow of news and social media content. Indeed, the ‘legacy media’ even feels itself bold enough to cast judgment on presidential messages via Twitter in real time.
If ever there was a recipe for disaster, as the most consequential election in recent memory remains up for grabs, this is it. On November 30, Bobby Piton, a mathematician and expert, testified at the Arizona voter fraud hearing where he provided compelling evidence that up to 300,000 “fake people” cast a vote in the contested election of Nov. 3. The data, if correct, was alarming in its implications since it meant the difference between Trump or Biden winning the fiercely contested swing state. Certainly the major media networks, in the interest of safeguarding the voting process and consequentially democracy itself, would be interested in providing its viewers with such news, right? Think again.
Not only was Piton’s riveting testimony sent to the memory hole by all of the ‘legacy’ media networks, but Twitter actually decided to block his account the very next day. Piton was treated as yet another ‘conspiracy theorist’ nutcase who will probably need to enter some sort of re-indoctrination internment camp before he can join polite society again. He certainly won’t be in need of company if the thought police get their way. Just days earlier, the social media platform also suspended the account of Pennsylvania state senator Doug Mastriano, who testified at that state’s election hearing. Twitter later said that Mastriano’s suspension was a “glitch,” which begs the question as to why these technological breakdowns almost always, without fail, target Republicans.
“..Come on, this is Hollywood where creative showmen can dazzle our minds with plots so twisted that when you leave the theater you keep wondering what it was all about..”
The Institute for Policy Studies has just released a new analysis showing that since the start of the Covid-19 “pandemic” in mid-March and the subsequent transfer upwards of $5 trillion to the wealthy and largest corporations through the Cares Act, approved 96-0 in the US Senate, 650 US billionaires have gained over a trillion dollars in eight months as the American people have suffered an economic catastrophe. This shift upward of massive wealth under Trump is similar to Obama’s massive 2009 bailout of the banks on the backs of American workers. Both were justified through feats of legerdemain by both political parties, accomplices in the fleecing of regular people, many of whom continue to support the politicians that screw them while telling them they care.
If the Democrats and the Republicans are at war as is often claimed, it is only over who gets the larger part of the spoils. Trump and Biden work for the same bosses, those I call the Umbrella People (those who own and run the country through their intelligence/military/media operatives), who produce and direct the movie that keeps so many Americans on the edge of their seats in the hope that their chosen good guy wins in the end. I am well aware that most people disagree with my analysis. It does seem as if I am wrong and that because the Democrats and their accomplices have spent years attempting to oust Trump through Russia-gate, impeachment, etc. that what seems true is true and Trump is simply a crazy aberration who somehow slipped through the net of establishment control to rule for four years.
To those 146+ million people who voted for Biden and Trump this seems self-evident. But if that is so, why, despite their superficial differences – and Obama’s, Hillary Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s for that matter – have the super-rich gotten richer and richer over the decades and the war on terror continued as the military budget has increased each year and the armament industries and the Wall Street crooks continued to rake in the money at the expense of everyone else? These are a few facts that can’t be disputed. There are many more. So what’s changed under Trump? We are talking about nuances, small changes. A clown with a big mouth versus traditional, “dignified” con men.
If you were writing this script as part of long-term planning and average people were getting disgusted from decades of being screwed and were sick of politicians and their lying ways, wouldn’t you stop the reruns and create a new show? Come on, this is Hollywood where creative showmen can dazzle our minds with plots so twisted that when you leave the theater you keep wondering what it was all about and arguing with your friends about the ending. So create a throwback film where the good guy versus the bad guy was seemingly very clear, and while the system ground on, people would be at each other’s throats over the obvious differences, even while they were fabricated.
More Brexit fallout.
Toyota will not invest in building battery electric cars in Britain until at least the mid-2030s, dealing a blow to hopes that UK car factories will take a leading role in the move away from fossil fuels. Johan van Zyl, the chief executive of Toyota Motor Europe, said that hybrid cars containing both internal combustion engines and battery-powered motors would be the only option for the next round of investment at the company’s plant in Burnaston, Derbyshire. Production of the Corolla at Burnaston is due to end in 2027, and Toyota has yet to decide to invest in production after that point. That means the first zero-emissions Toyota cars would not be built in the UK until 2034 at the earliest, based on the manufacturer’s usual seven-year product cycles.
At the same time, Toyota is also preparing to launch multiple zero-emission battery electric vehicles to cater for countries with the strictest rules. This includes the UK, where all hybrids will be banned by 2035. Continued production of hybrids with internal combustion engines at Burnaston would be a boon for employment at Toyota’s other UK factory, an engine plant at Deeside. However, in the longer term the future of both plants, and others in the UK such as BMW’s Hams Hall engine plant, could be called into question if they are not favoured for investment in zero-emissions technology. The factory at Burnaston started production of the Corolla hatchback in January 2019, after a £240m investment that was decided in 2017.
At the time, the investment was hailed as a vote of confidence, but future spending will be dependent on Toyota’s assessment of post-Brexit trading conditions. “By 2027, when this Corolla’s life cycle comes to an end, I think it will be not possible to produce a zero-emissions vehicle there,” Van Zyl said. “Therefore it will have to be a hybrid technology vehicle.” Van Zyl also warned that a no-deal Brexit would be harmful for the UK and the EU, with only weeks to go until cross-Channel trade moves to new regulations, which are still under negotiation. Brexit could add to the challenges facing the plant if no deal is agreed and 10% tariffs are imposed on 1 January. Some 90% of Burnaston’s products are exported, meaning they would be hit hard by such tariffs.
“..civilization is effectively a heat engine whose power is expressed in the form of economic growth..”
“Tim Garrett, physicist/professor of atmospheric sciences who hypothesised that civilization is effectively a heat engine whose power is expressed in the form of economic growth, admits that we will never decarbonize.”
It’s rather jarring to see an expert like Tim Garrett, whose work I have followed for many years, come out and say so bluntly that we will not do the steps needed to save ourselves. And the reason is very simple… People will raise hell if their right to pollute and consume is severely curtailed. We see this today with people’s refusal to simply wear a damn mask and do what’s for the greater good in a global pandemic. Now can you imagine the outrage when they are told they have to drastically reduce their living standards to prevent catastrophic climate change, a threat we cannot see but which will nevertheless destroy us in the long run? The reality that humans are causing the climate to warm, with catastrophic consequences, demands radical government intervention in the market as well as collective action on an unprecedented scale.
This has been known for decades and those catastrophic consequences are now coming to fruition, yet we remain a carbon-based, growth-oriented civilization. The later the “peak” the harder the reductions, bearing in mind that it is the area under the lines (cumulative emissions) which ensures a 2°C outcome. The 2020 peak (above) indicates the “unprecedented” 10% reductions trajectory giving only a 50/50 chance of staying under 2°C. Not only do we need to halt future CO2 emissions, but we need to magically extract CO2 already in the atmosphere with technology that does not exist.
Quoting Prof Anderson from last month: “…in 2020 such technologies remain highly speculative, with a few very small laboratory/pilot schemes now operating, with other proposed technologies still in the imagination of academics and tech-entrepreneurs. This faith in utopian technology reflects a deep and systemic bias that has hugely undermined the real scale of the mitigation challenge and misinformed policy makers for many years. Our fate is sealed.
“..Prices of summer vegetables, stone fruit, apples, pears, and table grapes are forecast to rise by between 15% and 25%.”
Australia may be able to divert a “limited amount” of wine to its allies in the UK and the US, but China’s tariffs will probably reduce the value of exports. That is the conclusion of the Department of Agriculture’s Abares commodities report, released on Monday, which lists trade tensions as a dark spot in an otherwise recovering industry. The report also warns that fruit and vegetable prices are expected to rise in Australia due to Covid-19 travel restrictions limiting labour available for harvesting. Prices of summer vegetables, stone fruit, apples, pears, and table grapes are forecast to rise by between 15% and 25%. By some estimates commodity markets exposed to China trade tensions are worth $19bn, with services worth a further $28bn of exports.
The Abares report argues that the causes of trade tensions with China “appear to lie mostly outside commodity markets” although not all rigorous applications of trade law, biosecurity protocols and technical trade rules can be interpreted as an escalation. It notes that growth in exports to China follows its accession to the World Trade Organization and Australia’s free trade deal, but defends Australia’s increasing reliance on China, by arguing the phenomenon is “not unique to Australia” and China is expanding trade with “many other countries”. The report finds that concentration of Australia’s export markets varies, and China’s share ranges from 10% of wheat exports to 79% of wool exports.
Australia’s markets for fibre are “more concentrated in China than other exports” but sectors with recently applied tariffs, including wine and barley, are “much less concentrated”. Wine is predicted to be the biggest loser, with a 28% price fall estimated for wine grapes. The report blames “measures implemented to combat Covid-19” for reduced demand for red wine imports in China, as well as anti-dumping security deposits imposed in late November.
The arms industry protests.
Greece will insist in this week’s European Council on a European Union embargo on selling arms to Turkey. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is also expected to tell his counterparts that the arms they sell to Turkey could be used against EU member-states. Athens’ main concern is Germany’s T-214 submarines. Germany is expected to deliver components of six submarines to Turkey, which will finish building them locally. Mitsotakis and Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias have repeatedly discussed the issue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Heiko Maas. Some countries, notably Germany and Spain, appear unwilling to implement an embargo because of the economic losses they would sustain.
Greece considers these misgivings unfounded, saying such cancellations have happened in the past. A notable precedent is the cancellation of the sale of two Mistral-class amphibious assault ships (helicopter carriers) to Russia after the latter invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014. Russia had ordered the ships in 2010 and France cancelled the order in 2015, selling the two ships instead to Egypt for 1.2 billion euros. The above precedent shows that Germany is capable of selling the T-214 submarines under construction to a third country and avoid financial loss. Germany had also cancelled the sale of a weapons system to Russia – in its case, combat simulators – after the Crimea invasion.
Spain has also provided components for a vessel, a helicopter carrier, currently being built in Istanbul. Spain is one of the countries that uses its economic exposure in Turkey to argue against an arms embargo. The Netherlands, however, with a far longer presence in Turkey and with far greater investments (over $30 billion) – through the presence of multinational firms such as ING Bank, Philips, Shell and Unilever – is one of the major proponents of the EU putting greater pressure upon Turkey to force it to stop its provocations in the Eastern Mediterranean. Not to mention the US Congress’ decision to push for the imposition of sanctions against Turkey over its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile air defense system.
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