Jul 072020
 


Unknown No Dog Biscuits Today 1939

 

China’s Yuan Policy Has Made Hong Kong Redundant (Nikkei)
China Shares Rally, Asian Stocks Take A Breather (R.)
New Security Law Starts To Break Down Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Economy (R.)
TikTok Says It Will Exit Hong Kong Market Within Days (R.)
China Slams US As It Joins Global Arms Trade Treaty At UN (R.)
US Restrictions Drove Deutsche Telekom And Huawei Closer Together (Pol.eu)
US To Force Out Foreign Students Taking Classes Fully Online (R.)
South Korean COVID-19 patient Recovering After Double Lung Transplant (R.)
Hospitalizations Jump 50% In California As Coronavirus Infections Soar (R.)
Six Week Lockdown For Melbourne As Record 191 New Cases Reported (Conv.)
Brazil’s Bolsonaro Says Lungs ‘Clean’ After Coronavirus Test (R.)
US Supreme Court Curbs ‘Faithless Electors’ In Presidential Voting (R.)
California Short on Firefighters as Prison “Slaves” Under Lockdown (MPN)
Assange Lawyer Named French Justice Minister (AAP)

 

 

And all of a sudden (well, not that sudden) there’s so much stuff about China. I started off today reading an article in Nikkei entitled “China’s Yuan Policy Has Made Hong Kong Redundant”, and I thought: that is absolute nonsense. The idea seems to be that Shanghai would take Hong Kong’s place, as the renminbi (yuan) turns into a global currency.

That’s just wishful thinking. Or maybe a reaction to America’s new attitude towards China. The main sticking point for Beijing is a conundrum it cannot solve. The CCP wants to have BOTH a global currency AND total control over that currency. It will have to choose between the two, and cannot make up its mind. So it pretends it does’t have to choose.

Sure, there has been some advancement for the yuan, but I bet most of that is on the back of the Belt and Road (BRI), and that will turn out to be one of the main victims of the coronavirus. The BRI is China’s very clever way of exporting its overproduction, but potential buyers have other things on their mind today.

Meanwhile, even with that, the yuan is used in only 1.8% of cross-currency payments. So the claim that the yuan is used in 30% of China’s trade needs to be taken with a huge salt shaker.

And yes, it may be true that the yuan is now the sixth most used currency in international payments, but that’s only because there is no competition for the USD, and what competition does exist come from the euro.

The sudden, and rushed, take-over of Hong Kong with the new security law will not help China’s plans to be accepted internationally. US big tech is withdrawing, and even some Chinese tech is moving away.

The world’s large investors will not put their money into something that Xi Jinping can declare devalued by 50% on a rainy morning when he sees fit. He will have to cede that kind of control.

And reading through all this, why am I getting the feeling that China does not feel well, that its leaders perhaps have fallen victim to bouts of insecurity?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You can tell someone’s case for the mythical global yuan is not serious when they write “the yuan is now the sixth most used currency in international payments” rather than “the yuan accounts for about 1.8% of cross-currency payments..”

China’s Yuan Policy Has Made Hong Kong Redundant (Nikkei)

Many have claimed that the national security law China has imposed on Hong Kong will be the death of the city, stifling free speech and driving away businesses. But 10 years ago, China made Hong Kong part of a plan which, even more certainly than the national security law, is rendering the city redundant. For years, Hong Kong has been the entrepot for China’s trade in the region — it accounts for 6.3% of China’s total trade — and a leading international financial center. It has provided the infrastructure for the West to invest in mainland China: about two-thirds of foreign direct investment into and from there goes through Hong Kong.

In 2010, China made Hong Kong a critical component of its policy aimed at developing the yuan as an international currency that non-Chinese residents could hold as an asset or use to pay for international transactions. Before 2010, the yuan had almost no international use or circulation, with less than 1% of China’s trade settled in it. The Chinese monetary authorities had to balance the need to have an international currency and the risk of allowing capital to flow freely in and out of the domestic market. In principle, international currencies need to be fully convertible, but for China this was not a viable route.

Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” principle provided the solution to China’s conundrum and has been pivotal to the emergence of yuan-led finance, underpinning rising demand and facilitating the yuan business. Hong Kong’s judicial institutions, independent from mainland China, were at the heart of its role as a bridge between the Chinese planned economy and the Western market economy. The move worked, and although the international use of the Chinese currency remains limited, it has undergone significant growth. The yuan is now the sixth most used currency in international payments and is used for settling approximately 30% of China’s trade. Yuan-denominated financial instruments are used more in projects that are part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Yuan activities now account for a large chunk of Hong Kong’s trading as an international financial center, according to estimates by market participants. But rather than making Hong Kong stronger, this increases its dependence on Beijing — and hence its vulnerability. By becoming part of the yuan strategy, a policy-led initiative where Chinese policy makers set the pace and guide the market, Hong Kong has been following Beijing’s lead. A bigger, but related, problem for Hong Kong is that by strengthening the yuan trade, it is also strengthening one of its mainland rivals and making itself less important. Around the time it launched its yuan policy, China also put in place a plan to develop Shanghai as its top international financial center by 2020. According to the latest Global Financial Centres Index, Hong Kong at sixth now ranks lower than Shanghai at fourth. Ten years ago Hong Kong was the most important financial center in Asia and in third place globally after London and New York, while Shanghai ranked 11th.

Read more …

Just yesterday, Beijing talked about “fostering a healthy bull market”. And what the Fed can do, the PBOC can too. Buy buy buy.

China Shares Rally, Asian Stocks Take A Breather (R.)

The Chinese share market extended its positive run on Tuesday, in line with the mainland government’s push for a stronger market, while the rest of the region turned cautious on equities. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan see-sawed during the local session and was down 0.2%, after it briefly traded in positive territory. The negative performance on Tuesday came after the index rose 7% which took it to a 4-1/2 month high in the past five trading sessions. Japan’s Nikkei gave up 0.7% while U.S. stock futures shed 0.25% in Asia after hefty gains on Monday in the wake of surging Chinese shares.

In China, Shanghai’s blue chip CSI300 index and Shenzhen shares, which had gained more than 13% in the past five sessions, rose a further 1.5%, led by rises in the tech sector. Ample Finance Group director Alex Wong said while Chinese market sentiment was positive, investors remained cautious to the risk of that being short-lived. “The mood is still quite strong…and I think people will be willing to hold on for a while as we absorb some of the positive news in the world,” Wong told Reuters in Hong Kong. Analysts said jawboning by the Chinese government through a state-sponsored journal on the importance of “fostering a healthy bull market” published on Monday had spurred the buying binge in mainland Chinese shares.

The current China rally has echoes of the past, especially during 2007 and in the buying binge that followed the crash in 2015 that was largely driven by Chinese retail investors. “Shades of John F. Kennedy’s ‘Ask not what your country can do for you’ inauguration speech here and as close as you might get to a Chinese government ‘put’ as anything the Fed has done to date vis-à-vis the U.S. stock (and credit) markets,” said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at NAB, in a research note.

Read more …

The rich can leave if they want to. The rest cannot.

New Security Law Starts To Break Down Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Economy (R.)

As soon as Hong Kong’s new national security law came into force last week, Ivan Ng removed all the protest-themed paintings, posters and flags from the list of items for sale at his Onestep Printing shop. Sandra Leung at Wefund.hk, which sells protest-themed artwork and accessories, said she has suspended sales of protective gear worn by protesters, flags with the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong,” and other items carrying popular chants. Jeffrey Cheong, owner of Hair Guys Salon, said he closed his shop down for a few days last week to remove pro-democracy decorations. Ng, Leung and Cheong are three of the 4,500 or so small businesses in Hong Kong’s “yellow economy,” which supports pro-democracy protesters and vice versa. That circle of support is showing signs of weakening in the face of the new law.

“We took down all the protest-related products right after the law was implemented, because the law doesn’t have very clear boundaries of (what constitutes) subversion,” Ng said. In the past week, he said his overall sales are down as much as 80%. Leung said she had withdrawn items for sale she described as “sensitive,” such as gas masks used by protesters and items with anti-police slogans. The new law prohibits what China describes broadly as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with up to life in prison for offenders. It came into force late last Tuesday, about an hour before the 23rd anniversary of China taking back control of the former British colony.

The Hong Kong government went further on Friday, declaring the popular protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our times” illegal. Public libraries have started to review books written by pro-democracy activists to see whether they violate the new law. Hong Kong and Beijing authorities insist the city retains a “high degree of autonomy” but critics say the law effectively brings Hong Kong under the control of China’s Communist Party and violates China’s promise to safeguard Hong Kong’s freedom for 50 years after the 1997 handover. Some businesses told local media they had been visited by the police who warned them that pro-democracy decorations were against the new law.

Read more …

Which side of The Great Firewall do you want to be on?

TikTok Says It Will Exit Hong Kong Market Within Days (R.)

TikTok will exit the Hong Kong market within days, a spokesman told Reuters late on Monday, as other technology companies including Facebook suspend processing government requests for user data in the region. The short form video app owned by China-based ByteDance has made the decision to exit the region following China’s establishment of a sweeping new national security law for the semi-autonomous city. “In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong,” a TikTok spokesman said in response to a Reuters question about its commitment to the market. The company, now run by former Walt Disney Co executive Kevin Mayer, has said in the past that the app’s user data is not stored in China.


TikTok has also said previously that it would not comply with any requests made by the Chinese government to censor content or for access to TikTok’s user data, nor has it ever been asked to do so. The Hong Kong region is a small, loss-making market for the company, one source familiar with the matter said. Last August, TikTok reported it had attracted 150,000 users in Hong Kong. Globally, TikTok has been downloaded more than 2 billion times through the Apple and Google app stores after the first quarter this year, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower. The source said the move was made because it was not clear if Hong Kong would now fall entirely under Beijing’s jurisdiction in light of the new law.

Read more …

Easy pickings.

China Slams US As It Joins Global Arms Trade Treaty At UN (R.)

China on Monday joined a global arms trade treaty spurned by the United States, taking a swipe at U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration by accusing it of bullying, unilateralism and undermining efforts to combat global challenges. China’s U.N. ambassador, Zhang Jun, said he had deposited China’s instrument of accession to the treaty, which regulates a $70 billion global cross-border trade in conventional arms and seeks to keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers. China, which announced its plans in September, becomes the 107th party to the pact, approved by the U.N. General Assembly in 2013. Then-U.S. President Barack Obama signed it, but it was opposed by the National Rifle Association and never ratified by the U.S. Senate.


Trump said in April last year that he intended to revoke the status of the United States as a signatory. In July 2019, the United States told U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Washington did not intend to become a party to the treaty and that it had no legal obligations from its 2013 signature. Without naming the United States, but amid escalating tensions between Beijing and Washington, Zhang said in a statement that a “certain country … walked away from international commitments, and launched acts of unilateralism and bullying.” [..] China was the fifth-largest global arms exporter between 2014 and 2018, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, although China itself does not publish figures for how many arms it exports.

Read more …

A comment on Twitter about an article in German in Handelsblatt:

”Deutsche Telekom has doubled down on Huawei even as concerns rose, including discussions w/Chinese firm about how to get around US sanctions & “tactical” announcements to get T-Mobile/Sprint deal in US approved..”

US Restrictions Drove Deutsche Telekom And Huawei Closer Together (Pol.eu)

Global telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom strengthened its strategic partnership with Huawei last year despite growing defiance toward the dominant Chinese 5G vendor, documents reviewed by POLITICO show. The internal company records describe how Deutsche Telekom and Huawei agreed on a deal in mid-2019 that said the Chinese supplier would take measures to avoid supply chain disruption caused by U.S. measures, as well as cover the costs of potential damages and delays. The deal was struck just weeks before the U.S. administration imposed restrictions on businesses dealing with the Chinese firm in May 2019 — a milestone for Washington’s efforts to push back against Huawei’s dominance on 5G equipment.

It laid the groundwork for a partnership between the two companies for the early rollout of 5G networks in Europe, despite national lawmakers’ efforts in key markets like Germany, the Netherlands and Poland to reduce the use of Chinese equipment. In the months after the deal, the companies underlined mutual commitments to treat each other in preferential ways. Deutsche Telekom executives described Huawei repeatedly as a “strategic partner” that is “key for our 5G plans,” according to the internal documents. On Huawei’s end, Deutsche Telekom was described as a “preferred customer” for its 5G equipment. Deutsche Telekom has repeatedly declined in the past to disclose how much of its networks consist of Huawei equipment.

But in its internal communication, it has likened the scenario of not being able to use Huawei in its broader 5G rollout to “armageddon,” a recent report in German paper Handelsblatt showed. [..] At the core of the mutual agreement is a commitment by Huawei to shoulder the burdens and costs of the U.S. restrictions that have bogged down the Chinese vendor in the past year. “This pledge by Huawei to pay for any disruption adds to that incentive to stick with Huawei,” said Thorsten Benner, director of the Berlin-based Global Public Policy Institute, calling it a “care-free package” offered to Deutsche Telekom.

Read more …

Targeting China once more?!

US To Force Out Foreign Students Taking Classes Fully Online (R.)

Foreign students must leave the United States if their school’s classes this fall will be taught completely online or transfer to another school with in-person instruction, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency announced on Monday. It was not immediately clear how many student visa holders would be affected by the move, but foreign students are a key source of revenue for many U.S. universities as they often pay full tuition. ICE said it would not allow holders of student visas to remain in the country if their school was fully online for the fall. Those students must transfer or leave the country, or they potentially face deportation proceedings, according to the announcement.


Colleges and universities have begun to announce plans for the fall 2020 semester amid the continued coronavirus pandemic. Harvard University on Monday announced it would conduct course instruction online for the 2020-2021 academic year. The ICE guidance applies to holders of F-1 and M-1 visas, which are for academic and vocational students. The State Department issued 388,839 F visas and 9,518 M visas in fiscal 2019, according to the agency’s data. The guidance does not affect students taking classes in person. It also does not affect F-1 students taking a partial online course-load, as long as their university certifies the student’s instruction is not completely digital. M-1 vocational program students and F-1 English language training program students will not be allowed to take any classes online.

Read more …

Pretty amazing story. But scary too.

South Korean COVID-19 patient Recovering After Double Lung Transplant (R.)

After a record 112 days on a specialised life-support system, a South Korean COVID-19 patient is recovering from double lung transplant surgery, doctors say, in only the ninth such procedure worldwide since the coronavirus outbreak began. The 50-year-old woman was diagnosed with the disease and hospitalised in late February and then spent 16 weeks on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) support, which involves circulating a patient’s blood through a machine that adds oxygen to red blood cells. That’s the longest that any COVID-19 patient in the world has spent on ECMO support, her doctors said.

Various drugs such as the anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine, the HIV treatment Kaletra and steroids failed to stop her pulmonary fibrosis – scarring in the lungs – from worsening, said Dr Park Sung-hoon, professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Hallym University Sacred Heart Hospital. That left few options other than a lung transplant. “The probability of success in lung transplants on ECMO patients is 50%, and fortunately, our patient was well prepared before the surgery when we found the donor,” said Dr Kim Hyoung-soo, director of the hospital’s ECMO programme, who was in charge of the surgery.

The patient declined to be identified or interviewed. The doctors who conducted the eight-hour surgery described her destroyed lungs as hard like rock. She had an acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) when she came to hospital, Park said, and could not live without the ECMO machine’s help. ECMO is typically used on patients who need more help than ventilators can provide, and who are considered to have a 90% chance of dying. Half of patients recover in two to three weeks on ECMO, and a lung transplant is considered for those who don’t, Kim said.

Read more …

Stay home.

Hospitalizations Jump 50% In California As Coronavirus Infections Soar (R.)

New coronavirus cases soared in California over the July Fourth weekend, stressing some hospital systems and leading to the temporary closure of the state capitol building in Sacramento for deep cleaning, officials said on Monday. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased by 50% over the past two weeks to about 5,800, Governor Gavin Newsom said at a briefing. About a third of those hospitalized were in Los Angeles County, state and local records showed, with about 630 confirmed and suspected coronavirus patients requiring intensive care. And 25% of the hospitalizations in the county in July were among patients aged 18 to 40, health officials said, as new cases increasingly hit a younger population that may have been lax about safety precautions in recent weeks.


Farther north, nearly 1,400 inmates at San Quentin State Prison have been sickened by the virus, putting pressure on hospitals in Marin County, where the facility is located, Newsom said. All told, 271,684 Californians have tested positive for the virus, including 11,529 in the past 24 hours, state records show. About 6,300 have died. Determined to slow the spread of the disease over the holiday weekend, state alcohol regulators visited nearly 6,000 bars and restaurants to make sure they were complying with new rules banning indoor dining and closing bars that do not serve food, Newsom said.

Read more …

Turns out the 2nd wave concerns lockdowns.

Six Week Lockdown For Melbourne As Record 191 New Cases Reported (Conv.)

The Victorian government will lock down all metropolitan Melbourne for six weeks from Wednesday night, as a new wave of the coronavirus takes hold in the city. The lockdown will also cover the Mitchell Shire, north of Melbourne, which includes the towns of Broadford, Seymour, Kilmore, Tallarook, Pyalong and Wallan. Under the restrictions, people will only be able to leave their home to shop for essential goods and services, for care and compassionate reasons, exercise, and for work and study if it cannot be conducted from home. The dramatic action comes as the Victoria-NSW border closes on Tuesday night, amid some chaos in Albury-Wodonga, and follows the lockdown of suburbs in 12 Melbourne postcode areas, and the “lock in” of 3,000 residents in nine community housing towers.

Read more …

Brazilian media reports he tested positive.

Brazil’s Bolsonaro Says Lungs ‘Clean’ After Coronavirus Test (R.)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday he had undergone another test for the novel coronavirus and his lungs were “clean,” after local media reported he had symptoms associated with the COVID-19 respiratory disease. Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the impact of the virus, even as Brazil has suffered one of the world’s worst outbreaks, with more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and 65,000 related deaths, according to official data on Monday. CNN Brasil and newspaper Estado de S.Paulo reported that he had symptoms of the disease, such as a fever. Bolsonaro told supporters outside the presidential palace that he had just visited the hospital and been tested.


“I can’t get very close,” he said in comments recorded by Foco do Brasil, a pro-government YouTube channel. “I came from the hospital. I underwent a lung scan. The lung’s clean.” The president’s office said in a statement that the president is at his home and is “in good health.” [..] Over the weekend, Bolsonaro attended several events and was in close contact with the U.S. ambassador to Brazil during July 4 celebrations. The U.S. embassy in Brasilia said via Twitter that Todd Chapman, the ambassador, had lunch on July 4 with Bolsonaro, five ministers and Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo, who is a federal congressman. The ambassador has no symptoms, but will undergo testing and is “taking precautions,” the embassy said.

Read more …

The Electoral College still exists because some people think it’s in their advantage.

US Supreme Court Curbs ‘Faithless Electors’ In Presidential Voting (R.)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to free “faithless electors” in the complex Electoral College system that decides the outcome of presidential elections from state laws that force them to support the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote. The justices unanimously rejected the idea that electors, who act on behalf of a state in the Electoral College vote that occurs weeks after voters go the polls, can exercise discretion in the candidate they back. The decision erased a potential complicating factor in the Electoral College as President Donald Trump seeks re-election on Nov. 3 against Democratic challenger Joe Biden. The court sided with Washington state and Colorado, which had imposed penalties on several “faithless electors” – so named because they defied pledges in 2016 to vote for the winner of their states’ popular vote, Democrat Hillary Clinton.


Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the ruling “reaffirmed the fundamental principle that the vote of the people should matter in choosing the president.” State officials have said faithless electors threaten the integrity of American democracy by subverting the will of the electorate and opening the door to corruption. The plaintiffs had argued that the Constitution requires them to exercise independent judgment to prevent unfit candidates from taking office. “The Constitution’s text and the nation’s history both support allowing a state to enforce an elector’s pledge to support his party’s nominee – and the state voters’ choice – for President,” liberal Justice Elena Kagan wrote on behalf of the court.

Read more …

Only in America.

California Short on Firefighters as Prison “Slaves” Under Lockdown (MPN)

It is the height of California’s dangerous forest fire season. But despite blazes currently raging, the state’s fire department is dangerously understaffed. That is because many firefighters today are not the burly full time professionals of another era, but underpaid convict laborers risking their lives for pennies. Almost 40 percent of California’s firefighters are prisoners. But the state’s penitentiaries are themselves ablaze with COVID-19 outbreaks, leading to widespread lockdowns in what has become a routine for American’s dealing with competing crises. Jails have been among the deadliest hotspots for transmission of the coronavirus. At the notorious San Quentin State Prison just north of San Francisco, there are nearly 1,400 active cases.

Meanwhile, the state has announced the deaths from COVID-19 of 16 inmates at the California Institute for Men in Chino, San Bernardino County. In response to the crisis, prison authorities have enacted strict lockdowns, including at CCC Susanville, the home of the wildfire training program, where there are 224 confirmed active cases of the virus. This is severely hampering the fight against wildfires. Approximately 3,100 inmates work with the fire department tackling blazes, around 2,200 in the front line, and 900 in support roles. Only those with the least serious convictions are considered. Prisoners are paid between $2.90 and $5.12 per day (less than the average income of a sweatshop laborer in Nicaragua), plus $1 per hour of hazard pay during active emergency situations like the deadly fires that engulfed the state late last year.

They work alongside full-time firefighters making an average of $91,000 per year before overtime pay and bonuses but tend to do the harder, less desirable, or more dangerous tasks, leading to multiple deaths in recent years. This has led to widespread condemnation of the practice as akin to “modern slavery,” especially because inmates are effectively barred from even applying to the fire department once their sentences are over. In order to become a firefighter, an emergency medical technician license is required, something that is all but impossible to achieve with a criminal record. Despite this, prisoners still “volunteer” as the work is far more fulfilling than the alternative: more time locked up.

Read more …

“Eric Dupond-Moretti has been appointed as French Justice Minister. Earlier this year, he launched a campaign to grant the Australian asylum in France.”

Assange Lawyer Named French Justice Minister (AAP)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s lawyer Eric Dupond-Moretti has been appointed as France’s new justice minister. Dupond-Moretti, a prominent criminal defence lawyer, was elevated to the ministry by incoming Prime Minister Jean Castex on Monday. The 55-year-old is known for a his record number of acquittals and led a push by European lawyers for French President Emmanuel Macron to grant asylum to Assange in February. “We consider the situation is sufficiently serious that our duty is to talk about it,” Dupond-Moretti said about Assange’s case at the time.


The Frenchman has said the case against the Australian is unfair, citing Assange’s poor health and alleged violations of his rights while in jail in London Dupond-Moretti’s team also warned of “consequences for all journalists” if Assange is extradited and jailed in the US. French members of Assange’s legal team said they had been working on a “concrete demand” for Macron to grant Assange asylum in France, where he has children. It’s unclear whether Dupond-Moretti will now use his position to grant the Australian asylum.

Read more …

 

 

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Jun 192020
 


NPC “Largest electric locomotive and Congressman John C. Schafer” 1924 (he’d be in an electric car today)

 

Mainland China Reports 32 New Coronavirus Cases, 25 Of Them In Beijing (R.)
Mexico Posts Record Number Of New Coronavirus Infections (R.)
AMC Theaters To Reopen, Say Face Masks A “Political Controversy” (V.)
John Bolton’s Bad Reviews Don’t Stop Him Topping Us Book Charts (G.)
Bolton, Pelosi Agree: Trump Unfit To Be US President (R.)
Japan’s Deflation Gathers Momentum As Prices Extend Declines (R.)
Fed Chair: Keep Private Entities Out Of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CD)
EU Car Sales Crash 57% In May As Europe Amid Inventory Glut (ZH)
Australia Sees China As Main Suspect In State-Based Cyberattacks (R.)
Report Reveals CIA Incompetence To Blame For Vault 7 Breach (RT)
Americans Are Unhappiest They’ve Been In Nearly 50 Years (Ind.)
Indian Primate Jailed For Life After Carnivorous Rampage (RT)

 

 

Happy Juneteenth!

I made sure to check quite a few times, but it is what it is: according to Worldometer data, over the past 24 hours global new cases went from an almost record 141,872 on June 17 to an all-records shattering 177,168 on June 18. Maybe something’s off, but right now I couldn’t say what.

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 18 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 140,528. Third consecutive day above 140,000.

My count 6AM EDT to 6AM EDT based on Worldometer numbers is much higher today at 177,168.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 29,180
• Brazil + 23,050
• Russia + 7,790
• India + 13,827
• Mexico + 5,662

 

 

Cases 8,602,359 (+ 177,168 from yesterday’s 8,425,191)

Deaths 456,802 (+ 4,994 from yesterday’s 451,808)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunan we have a problem.

Mainland China Reports 32 New Coronavirus Cases, 25 Of Them In Beijing (R.)

Mainland China reported 32 new coronavirus cases as of the end of June 18, 25 of which were reported in the capital city Beijing, China’s National Health Commission said on Friday. This compared with 28 confirmed cases a day earlier, 21 of which were in Beijing. Local authorities are restricting movement of people in the capital and stepping up other measures to prevent the virus from spreading further following a series of local infections. Another five asymptomatic COVID-19 patients, those who are infected with the coronavirus but show no symptoms, were also reported as of June 18 compared with eight a day earlier. China does not count these patients as confirmed cases.

Read more …

Did we close the borders yet?

Mexico Posts Record Number Of New Coronavirus Infections (R.)

Mexico’s health ministry reported on Thursday a record 5,662 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and 667 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 165,455 cases and 19,747 deaths. The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Read more …

“AMC Theater CEO Adam Aron says their cinemas won’t require masks upon reopening because they didn’t “want to be drawn into a political controversy.”

Is testing also a political viewpoint? How about COVID19 treatment at hospitals? Can we deny that to people who have political issues with facemasks?

AMC Theaters To Reopen, Say Face Masks A “Political Controversy” (V.)

AMC Theatres, the world’s largest exhibitor, has unveiled plans to re-open after coronavirus forced it to close its more than 600 venues in the U.S. for nearly four months. The company is expected to resume operations in 450 of those locations on July 15 and expects to be almost fully operational by the time that Disney’s “Mulan” debuts on July 24 and Warner Bros.’ “Tenet” bows on July 31. As part of that process, AMC is reducing its seating capacity in order to help people social distance, it is implementing new cleaning procedures, placing hand-sanitizing stations throughout its theaters and encouraging contact-less and cash-free concessions. “We didn’t rush to reopen,” AMC CEO and president Adam Aron said in an interview with Variety.

“There were some jurisdictions in some states, such as Georgia and Texas, that allowed people to reopen theaters in mid-May. We opted to remain closed, so we could give the country time to get a better handle on coronavirus. We wanted to use this time to figure out how best to open and how to do so safely.” AMC’s competitors Regal and Cinemark announced their own plans to resume business earlier this week, targeting a similar mid-July timeframe for when they expect to be fully operational. [..] Prior to coronavirus there was a great deal of consolidation in the exhibition space, much of it made possible by debt financing. AMC’s decision to acquire rivals such as Odeon Cinemas, UCI Cinemas and Carmike Cinemas left it heavily leveraged with more than $5 billion in debt. In recent filings, AMC acknowledged that the coronavirus pandemic could push it into bankruptcy. [..]

AMC will not mandate that all guests wear masks, although employees will be required to do so. Nor will AMC perform temperature checks on customers, though it will monitor its employees’ temperatures and have them undergo screenings to check for signs of coronavirus. The situation will be different in states and cities that require residents to wear a mask when they’re in public, but Aron said that AMC was wary of wading into a public health issue that has become politicized. “We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy,” said Aron. “We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who believe strongly that it is not necessary. We think that the vast majority of AMC guests will be wearing masks. When I go to an AMC feature, I will certainly be wearing a mask and leading by example.”

[..] the theater chain said that it is going to lean heavily on technological solutions such as deploying electrostatic sprayers, HEPA vacuums and upgraded MERV 13 ventilation filters, which would eliminate airborne particles and reduce the chance that COVID-19 will spread. Other procedures being implemented include cleaning auditoriums between each showtime and allowing extra time between screenings for disinfection; blocking out every other row of seats to decrease congestion; pushing guests to use online ticketing and kiosks to limit interactions with staff, and designating various points within theaters for one-way foot traffic.

Read more …

“Orange Man Bad” beats Black Lives Matter.

John Bolton’s Bad Reviews Don’t Stop Him Topping Us Book Charts (G.)

John Bolton’s damning indictment of the Trump presidency is soaring up online charts in the US a week before its release, despite withering reviews describing it as “bloated with self-importance”, as the Trump administration makes a last-ditch attempt to prevent its publication. In the teeth of a series of critical assessments from papers including the New York Times and the Washington Post, Bolton’s The Room Where It Happened is currently No 1 on Amazon’s US charts. Its sales are just ahead of another scathing take on Donald Trump, this time his niece Mary Trump’s forthcoming Too Much and Never Enough, which is subtitled How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. Bolton’s book, which is out on 23 June, and Mary Trump’s, scheduled for 28 July, have knocked anti-racism titles by authors including Ibram X Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo and Robin DiAngelo off the top spots.

As the US justice department on Wednesday sought an emergency order to block publication of Bolton’s memoir, copies of the book were leaked to news outlets which revealed a series of explosive claims from the former national security adviser. According to Bolton, Trump pleaded with China to help him with his 2020 re-election campaign, praised China’s president Xi Jinping for his country’s internment camps, and was willing to halt criminal investigations to “give personal favours to dictators he liked”. Trump also weighed in, claiming on Twitter that the book is “made up of lies & fake stories”. Early reviews of the book have not been favourable. The New York Times said the memoir was “bloated with self-importance, even though what it mostly recounts is Bolton not being able to accomplish very much”.

Filled with “minute and often extraneous details”, the review continued, it “toggles between two discordant registers: exceedingly tedious and slightly unhinged”. The Washington Post said that “for a memoir that is startlingly candid about many things, Bolton’s utter lack of self-criticism is one of the book’s significant shortcomings”, while NPR found that Bolton “clearly does not expect to attract the casual reader, or anyone else unable to digest sentences such as this one on the third page: ‘Constant personnel turnover obviously didn’t help, nor did the White House’s Hobbesian bellum omnium contra omnes (war of all against all)’.”

Read more …

Bolton, Pelosi Agree: Trump Unfit To Be US President (R.)

President Donald Trump came under attack from both sides of the American political spectrum on Thursday as liberal Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and former White House aide and conservative hawk John Bolton both declared him unfit to lead the country. “President Trump is clearly ethically unfit and intellectually unprepared to be the president of the United States,” Pelosi, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, told a news briefing. In a new book, Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser, has accused the Republican president of sweeping misdeeds, including explicitly seeking Chinese President Xi Jinping’s aid to win re-election in November. “I don’t think he’s fit for office,” Bolton told ABC News in part of an interview aired on Thursday.

“There really isn’t any guiding principle that I was able to discern other than what’s good for Donald Trump’s re-election.” Pelosi told a weekly news conference she was consulting with her fellow Democrats on whether to subpoena Bolton about the allegations in the book, which has not yet been distributed. If Bolton testifies before Congress, it could revive the issue of Trump’s competence as he faces a stiff challenge on Nov. 3 from Joe Biden, the Democrats’ presumptive presidential nominee, and fends off criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and protests over racial injustice and police brutality. Bolton refused to testify in the House’s impeachment probe last year and threatened to sue if subpoenaed. He offered to testify in the subsequent trial in the Senate, but the Republican-controlled chamber did not take him up on the offer.

[..] Adam Schiff, the House Intelligence Committee chairman who led the impeachment inquiry, sharply criticized Bolton as unpatriotic for withholding information from the probe. The new allegations are “further proof” that Trump’s actions in Ukraine were part of a pattern of abusing his power and the U.S. government for personal political gain, Schiff said in a statement.

Read more …

Abenomics will die with Abe’s political career regardless.

Japan’s Deflation Gathers Momentum As Prices Extend Declines (R.)

Japan’s core consumer prices fell for a second straight month in May, reinforcing deflation expectations and raising the challenge for policymakers battling to revive an economy reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. The data will likely complicate the Bank of Japan’s job of restoring growth and inflation, with a raft of recent indicators suggesting the nation is in the grip of its worst postwar economic slump. Several BOJ board members warned that stronger monetary support and closer policy coordination with the government were needed to prevent Japan from returning to deflation, minutes of the bank’s April meeting showed.

“With the pandemic hurting the economy, there’s a good chance Japan may slide into deflation. Downward pressure on prices will likely persist throughout this year,” said Yoshiki Shinke, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. The nationwide core consumer price index (CPI), which includes oil but excludes volatile fresh food prices, fell 0.2% in May from a year earlier, government data showed on Friday. That compared with market forecasts of a 0.1% fall and followed a 0.2% drop in April, which was the first year-on-year decline since December 2016. The BOJ kept policy steady this week after expanding stimulus in March and April. But governor Haruhiko Kuroda conceded that inflation would remain well short of its 2% target for years to come.

[..} Some BOJ policymakers were concerned that bolder steps are needed to prevent the country from slipping back to sustained period of damaging price declines, the April minutes showed. “Japan is now facing the risk of deflation, so it’s possible to further enhance coordination between fiscal and monetary policies,” one BOJ board member was quoted as saying.

Read more …

“The private sector is not involved in creating the money supply, that’s something the central bank does.”

Fed Chair: Keep Private Entities Out Of Central Bank Digital Currencies (CD)

Private entities aren’t needed to build central bank digital currencies, said the head of the U.S. central bank on Wednesday. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, speaking before the House Financial Services Committee, said the idea of a digital dollar – a blockchain-based version of the current world reserve currency – is complex, and one that the Fed takes seriously, but also that the idea needs to be studied further before one can be created and implemented. However, in response to a question from Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Powell said he believed private entities did not have a role in designing a digital dollar.

“I do think this is something that the central banks have to design,” he said. “The private sector is not involved in creating the money supply, that’s something the central bank does.” Emmer was asking specifically about a recommendation from the Digital Dollar Project, which was launched earlier this year by former Commodities Futures Trading Commission Chairman J. Christopher Giancarlo, Chief Innovation Officer Daniel Gorfine and Accenture Director David Treat. The project suggested a digital dollar be issued by the Fed but designed in partnership with the private sector and accessible through a two-tiered banking system similar to the one in place in the U.S. today.

Powell said the general public may not be receptive to the idea of private employees being responsible for the money supply because they’re not accountable to “the public good.” Still, the idea is apparently being examined. A group of central banks have gotten together to discuss and better understand the concept as well as evaluate the implications on financial inclusion and concerns around cybersecurity, he said. “If this is something that is going to be good for the United States economy and for the world’s reserve currency, which is the dollar, then we need to be there and we need to understand it first and best,” Powell said. “So we’re working hard on it.”

Read more …

A guy I know said he was driving from Holland to Germany this week to pick up a car he bought, an 8-month old BMW at half the new price.

EU Car Sales Crash 57% In May As Europe Amid Inventory Glut (ZH)

New car sales in the EU plunged in May, falling 57% to 623,812, as Europe grapples with the same problem that the U.S. has had for weeks: a glut of inventory, despite re-opening some factories and re-starting production in certain areas. All 27 EU member states posted double digit declines in new car sales, with the U.K. falling an astounding 89%, according to MarketWatch. Production coming out of the EU remains “well blow” pre-crisis levels but the lack of demand continues to contribute to a growing inventory problem. This, in turn, has created a slowdown in an industry that’s already moving at a crawl to begin with. Jobs and profits are both threatened from the glut, in addition to the monumental threat they both still continue to face from the ongoing global pandemic.

Unsold cars on dealer lots are “at least 30% above normal” according to industry analysts, while unsold inventory in Germany alone was about $17 billion worth. Antje Woltermann, managing director of the ZDK industry group: “Unsold stocks are climbing, and on the other hand vehicles are not leaving the lots.” While Europe is struggling, many have looked to China, where sales were up 6% in May, for signs of optimism. For example, Stephan Wöllenstein, chief executive of Volkswagen Group China said: “The return of these kinds of figures is encouraging and gives us continued cautious optimism going forward.”

But those numbers don’t account for the recent second wave of lockdowns, including in Beijing, that China now faces. Countries like France and Germany continues to try and spur sales with government incentives, but Germany is focusing primarily on EVs while the glut is in traditional ICE cars. Recall, in May, we were ahead of the curve when we noted that European car registrations had plunged 76% in April. According to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, the number of new cars sold fell from 1,143,046 to just 270,682 YOY in that month.

Read more …

Australia is but a lap dog.

The story changed overnight to name China as the main “suspect”. Of course what would be really suspect is if China DID NOT spy on Australia.

Australia Sees China As Main Suspect In State-based Cyberattacks (R.)

Australia views China as the chief suspect in a spate of cyber-attacks of increasing frequency in recent months, three sources familiar with the government’s thinking told Reuters on Friday. The comments came after Prime Minister Scott Morrison said a “sophisticated state-based actor” had spent months trying to hack all levels of the government, political bodies, essential service providers and operators of critical infrastructure. “We know it is a sophisticated state-based cyber actor because of the scale and nature of the targeting,” Morrison told reporters in the capital, Canberra, but declined to say who Australia believed was responsible.


Three sources briefed on the matter said Australia believed China is responsible, however. “There is a high degree of confidence that China is behind the attacks,” one Australian government source told Reuters, seeking anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to media. Australian intelligence has flagged similarities between the recent attacks and a cyber-attack on parliament and the three largest political parties in March 2019.Last year, Reuters reported that Australia had quietly concluded China was responsible for that cyber-attack. Australia has never publicly identified the source of that attack, however, and China denied it was responsible.

Read more …

Russiagate revisited.

Report Reveals CIA Incompetence To Blame For Vault 7 Breach (RT)

According to a just-released internal CIA report, “CCI had prioritized building cyber weapons at the expense of securing their own systems. Day-to-day security practices had become woefully lax.” “Most of our sensitive cyber weapons were not compartmented, users shared systems administrator-level passwords, there were no effective removable media controls, and historical data was available to users indefinitely,” the report goes on to say. The heavily-redacted document actually dates back to October 2017 and was only made public Tuesday by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), in an effort to pressure the new Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe into imposing new security measures. While the CIA ineptitude is the obvious takeaway, no one seems to have noticed the real bombshell: the timing of the breach and its implications.

The report says the CIA “did not realize the loss had occurred until a year later, when WikiLeaks publicly announced it in March 2017.” Now, what all was happening between March 2016 and a year later? You guessed it: Russiagate! Even as his own cyber arsenal was getting swiped from under his very nose, CIA chief John Brennan was obsessing about “Russian hackers” of the Democratic National Committee, or Hillary Clinton’s emails, or something – and pushing the bogus ‘Steele Dossier’ alleging Donald Trump’s collusion with Russia, which eventually made it into the infamous ‘Intelligence Community Assessment’ that accused Moscow of meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. It gets worse. According to the report, “Had the data been stolen for the benefit of a state adversary and not published, we might still be unaware of the loss—as would be true for the vast majority of data on Agency mission systems.”

So if the mythic bogeymen ‘Russian hackers’ had actually wanted to harm the US, they could have just used the CIA’s own, unprotected cyberweapons to stage false flags and wreak havoc across the world? None of which happened, obviously. Yet Brennan and his confederates have been telling everyone for years that the Kremlins wanted to “hack our democracy” by publishing some Democrat emails and posting memes on social media! [..] As for how Vault 7 got to WikiLeaks, the jury is still out on that. Joshua Schulte, the employee charged with leaking the files, is being prosecuted again after a hung jury at his first trial in March. His lawyers have argued the CIA security was so lax, anyone else on the team, or even outsiders, could have done it. The next time the media report some incendiary claim based on US intelligence “assessments,” try to keep all this in mind.

Read more …

How cann you be lonely when you have a TV set to keep you company?

Americans Are Unhappiest They’ve Been In Nearly 50 Years (Ind.)

Happiness among Americans has fallen to the lowest level in nearly five decades during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new poll. The Covid Response Tracking Study, conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC), found that morale was at the lowest point it has ever been since tracking emotional health trends began in 1972. The number of people who described themselves as very happy fell by 17 points to just 14 per cent in 2020. The previous record low – seen shortly after the 2007/8 Financial Crisis – was 29%. For the first time in 48 years, more people said they were unhappy than very happy. More than 60 per cent of Americans reported being “pretty happy”.


Interviews of the 2,279 US adults that took part in the survey took place between 21-29 May, while large parts of the country were under some form of lockdown designed to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus. Feelings of loneliness have also increased as a result of the coronavirus lockdown, with half of all respondents saying they felt isolated either very often, often or sometimes. When asked the same question two years previously, less than a quarter of respondents said they experienced feelings of isolation.

Read more …

An alcoholic pet monkey…

Indian Primate Jailed For Life After Carnivorous Rampage (RT)

An alcoholic pet monkey has been locked up for good in Uttar Pradesh after a terror spree that left 250 people injured and one dead. Efforts to rehabilitate the animal were scrapped and zoo doctors affirm he’s a menace to society. The six-year-old monkey, named Kalua, received a life sentence of solitary confinement at India’s Kanpur Zoo this week after repeated attempts at normalizing his behavior left zookeepers and other monkeys much the worse for wear. Zoo doctor Mohd Nasir told local media the savage simian would harm people wherever he went if set free, explaining “he remains as aggressive as he was” when first brought to the zoo three years ago.

Kalua formerly belonged to an occultist in Mirzapur district, who fed him a diet of meat and copious alcohol. When his owner died, the grieving pet apparently went into withdrawal, becoming vicious and attacking locals. By the time forest and zoo teams succeeded in apprehending the aggressive creature, he had bitten over 250 people, including 30 children. One of his victims died of the injuries, while others – Kalua apparently has a thing for attacking women and girls – were left in need of plastic surgery. While the zookeepers had hoped to calm Kalua down, substituting a vegetarian diet for the human flesh he’d apparently come to rely on, they didn’t have much luck. The carnivorous creature has stayed hostile, especially toward female zookeepers, and plans to release him back into the wild a changed monkey have been shelved.

Kalua’s misbehavior predates the coronavirus outbreak, but he’s not the only monkey in Uttar Pradesh to make the news in recent weeks. A gang of monkeys attacked a lab technician in Meerut last month, stealing several blood samples taken from Covid-19 patients and running off with them in a scene that seemed lifted straight out of a Hollywood pandemic film.

Read more …

 

 

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 June 2, 2020  Posted by at 11:19 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  21 Responses »


Harris&Ewing F.W. Grand store, Washington, DC 1925

 

China Delayed Releasing Coronavirus Info, Frustrating WHO (AP)
Distancing And Masks Cut COVID19 Risk – Review (R.)
Why Europe is Irrelevant to Challenging China (Balding)
The Forgotten Coup Against ‘The Most Loyal Ally’ (John Pilger)
That Change You Requested…? (Jim Kunstler)
State, Independent Autopsies Agree On George Floyd Homicide, Not On Cause (R.)
Bellingcat: Russians Didn’t Kill George Floyd, But Are Still Bad (RT)
In Appellate Brief, DOJ Unloads On Behavior Of Judge In Flynn Case (Davis)
Julian Assange Too Unwell To Attend Court Hearing (CW)

 

 

Hardware problems this morning, my Chrome on MacBook started crashing and kept on doing it. Figured out it was due to Zerohedge’s ad settings conflicting with that set-up. Will look at the site in Forefox now. Cost a lot of time though.

Thanks for your support for our homeless project in Athens. Some of you are so generous it’s absolutely humbling.

 

 

Brazil overtakes the US for largest COVID-19 growth in the past week.

1 week of NEW cases:
Brazil: 151,600+
US: 144,000+
Russia: 61,400+
India: 51,600+
Peru: 44,500+
Chile: 31,100+

 

 

 

Cases 6,394,316 (+ 106,140 from Saturday’s 6,288,176)

Deaths 377,966 (+ 3,372 from Saturday’s 374,327)

 

 

 

Note: I dropped the SCMP graph, it doesn’t appear very relevant anymore.

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

On January 14, China’s no. 1 health official ordered the country to prepare for a pandemic. Only 8 weeks later did teh WHO declare a pandemic. Explanation?!

“On Jan. 13, WHO announced that Thailand had a confirmed case of the virus, jolting Chinese officials. The next day, in a confidential teleconference, China’s top health official ordered the country to prepare for a pandemic, calling the outbreak the “most severe challenge since SARS in 2003”..”

[..] “On Jan. 22, WHO convened an independent committee to determine whether to declare a global health emergency. After two inconclusive meetings where experts were split, they decided against it — even as Chinese officials ordered Wuhan sealed in the biggest quarantine in history. The next day, WHO chief Tedros publicly described the spread of the new coronavirus in China as “limited.“

China Delayed Releasing Coronavirus Info, Frustrating WHO (AP)

Throughout January, the World Health Organization publicly praised China for what it called a speedy response to the new coronavirus. It repeatedly thanked the Chinese government for sharing the genetic map of the virus “immediately,” and said its work and commitment to transparency were “very impressive, and beyond words.” But behind the scenes, it was a much different story, one of significant delays by China and considerable frustration among WHO officials over not getting the information they needed to fight the spread of the deadly virus, The Associated Press has found. Despite the plaudits, China in fact sat on releasing the genetic map, or genome, of the virus for more than a week after three different government labs had fully decoded the information.

Tight controls on information and competition within the Chinese public health system were to blame, according to dozens of interviews and internal documents. Chinese government labs only released the genome after another lab published it ahead of authorities on a virologist website on Jan. 11. Even then, China stalled for at least two weeks more on providing WHO with detailed data on patients and cases, according to recordings of internal meetings held by the U.N. health agency through January — all at a time when the outbreak arguably might have been dramatically slowed. WHO officials were lauding China in public because they wanted to coax more information out of the government, the recordings obtained by the AP suggest.

Privately, they complained in meetings the week of Jan. 6 that China was not sharing enough data to assess how effectively the virus spread between people or what risk it posed to the rest of the world, costing valuable time. “We’re going on very minimal information,” said American epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove, now WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, in one internal meeting. “It’s clearly not enough for you to do proper planning.” “We’re currently at the stage where yes, they’re giving it to us 15 minutes before it appears on CCTV,” said WHO’s top official in China, Dr. Gauden Galea, referring to the state-owned China Central Television, in another meeting. [..] Although international law obliges countries to report information to WHO that could have an impact on public health, the U.N. agency has no enforcement powers and cannot independently investigate epidemics within countries. Instead, it must rely on the cooperation of member states.

[..] “It’s obvious that we could have saved more lives and avoided many, many deaths if China and the WHO had acted faster,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. However, Mokdad and other experts also noted that if WHO had been more confrontational with China, it could have triggered a far worse situation of not getting any information at all. If WHO had pushed too hard, it could even have been kicked out of China, said Adam Kamradt-Scott, a global health professor at the University of Sydney. But he added that a delay of just a few days in releasing genetic sequences can be critical in an outbreak. And he noted that as Beijing’s lack of transparency becomes even clearer, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’s continued defense of China is problematic.

“It’s definitely damaged WHO’s credibility,” said Kamradt-Scott. “Did he go too far? I think the evidence on that is clear….it has led to so many questions about the relationship between China and WHO. It is perhaps a cautionary tale.”

Read more …

Because there are idiots who’d want to contest it. The sky is not blue.

Distancing And Masks Cut COVID19 Risk – Review (R.)

Keeping at least one metre apart and wearing face masks and eye protection are the best ways to cut the risk of COVID-19 infection, according to the largest review to date of studies on coronavirus disease transmission. In a review that pooled evidence from 172 studies in 16 countries, researchers found frequent handwashing and good hygiene are also critical – though even all those measures combined can not give full protection. The findings, published in The Lancet journal on Monday, will help guide governments and health agencies, some of whom have given conflicting advice on measures, largely because of limited information about COVID-19.


“Our findings are the first to synthesise all direct information on COVID-19, SARS, and MERS, and provide the currently best available evidence on the optimum use of these common and simple interventions to help ‘flatten the curve’”, said Holger Schünemann from McMaster University in Canada, who co-led the research. Current evidence suggests COVID-19 is most commonly spread by droplets, especially when people cough, and infects by entering through the eyes, nose and mouth, either directly or via contaminated surfaces. For this analysis, an international research team conducted a systematic review of 172 studies assessing distance measures, face masks and eye protection to prevent transmission of three diseases caused by coronaviruses – COVID-19, SARS and MERS.

Read more …

“..other than rubber rafts and unused vacation time, Europe can and will contribute nothing to Indo Pacific focused institutions, policies, and security strategies. The US should not be bound by historical alliances to fight different security threats and economic objectives.”

Why Europe is Irrelevant to Challenging China (Balding)

One of the most widely watched geopolitical events is how will Europe respond to Chinese aggression from the national security law in Hong Kong to the invasion of India as well as a range of other events. Given that many have built a counter Trump foreign policy contingent upon attracting European allies to confront China, the importance of Europe in the unfolding geopolitical tragedy becomes even more important. The only problem with the Old World obsession? Europe is almost entirely irrelevant to the China problem. America has a European obsession. Coming out of a post World War II geopolitical environment there is good reason why that was the focus of resource allocation.

This resulted in significant work that focused on the trans Atlantic relationship from bilateral and multilateral alliances and institutions to economic and security relationships that built the post war world. In a post war world, rebuilding Europe rapidly and building alliances to confront the Soviet Union was tantamount. This formed the foundation for the post war institutional and alliance order. However, even beyond the broader institutional and alliance focus many in America looked to Europe as a natural ally that shared the same values but also behaved differently acting as a type of moderating influence on US foreign policy. They preferred to highlight different policy domains like the environment and human rights. They focused on institution building whether it was the European Union or whether it was NATO and post 1989 institutions.

This endeared them to many foreign policy wonks in the United States who admired European sensibilities. However, these threads of foreign policy and institutional alliances also overlooked key problems. First, much of this European cooperation flowed from the need to solve uniquely European centric problems. Whether the NATO security alliance facing the USSR to the United Nations Security Council with the two major victorious European powers as members or receiving financial benefits to rebuild Europe, enormous amounts of the cooperation involved European centric or adjacent needs, alliances, and institutions. In a post WWII world this is not a major problem. In a 2020 Asia focused threat theater, this is a problem.

Read more …

Australia went from being a loyal vassal in one empire to the same in the next. A country without an identity or an opinion.

The Forgotten Coup Against ‘The Most Loyal Ally’ (John Pilger)

The Australian High Court has ruled that correspondence between the Queen and the Governor-General of Australia, her viceroy in the former British colony, is no longer “personal” and the property of Buckingham Palace. Why does this matter? Secret letters written in 1975 by the Queen and her man in Canberra, Sir John Kerr, can now be released by the National Archives. Kerr infamously sacked the reformist government of the prime minister, Gough Whitlam, and delivered Australia into the hands of the United States. Today, Australia is a vassal state bar none: its politics, intelligence agencies, military and much of its media are integrated into Washington’s “sphere of dominance” and war plans. In Donald Trump’s current provocations of China, the U.S. bases in Australia are described as the “tip of the spear”.

There is an historical amnesia among Australia’s polite society about the catastrophic events of 1975. An Anglo-American coup overthrew a democratically elected ally in a demeaning scandal in which sections of the Australian elite colluded. This is largely unmentionable. The stamina and achievement of the Australian historian Jenny Hocking in forcing the High Court’s decision are exceptional. Gough Whitlam was driven from government on Nov. 11, 1975. When he died six years ago, his achievements were recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. The truth of the coup against him, it was hoped, would be buried with him. During the Whitlam years, 1972-75, Australia briefly achieved independence and became intolerably progressive.

The last Australian troops were ordered home from their mercenary service to the American assault on Vietnam. Whitlam’s ministers publicly condemned U.S. barbarities as “mass murder” and the crimes of “maniacs”. The Nixon administration was corrupt, said the Deputy Prime Minister, Jim Cairns, and called for a boycott of American trade. In response, Australian dockers refused to unload American ships. Whitlam moved Australia towards the Non-Aligned Movement and called for a Zone of Peace in the Indian ocean, which the U.S. and Britain opposed. He demanded France cease its nuclear testing in the Pacific. In the UN, Australia spoke up for the Palestinians. Refugees fleeing the CIA-engineered coup in Chile were welcomed into Australia.

Read more …

“..it’s not just black people who struggle to thrive in the USA, but everybody else of any ethnic group who is not a hedge fund veep, an employee of BlackRock Financial, or a K-Street lobbyist..”

That Change You Requested…? (Jim Kunstler)

The nation was already reeling from the weird twelve-week Covid-19 lockdown of everyday life and the economic havoc it brought to careers, businesses, and incomes. In Minnesota, the stay-at-home order was just lifted on May 17, but bars and restaurants were still closed until June. Memorial Day, May 25, was one of the first really balmy days of mid-spring, 78 degrees. People were out-and-about, perhaps even feeling frisky after weeks of dreary seclusion. So, once the video of George Floyd’s death got out, the script was set: take it to the streets!

Few Americans were unsympathetic to the protest marches that followed. Remorse, censure, and tears flowed from every official portal, from the mouth and eyes of every political figure in the land. The tableau of Officer Chauvin’s knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck was readymade for statuary. Indeed, there are probably dozens of statues extant in the world of just such a scene expressing one people’s oppression over another. And yet the public sentiments early-on after the George Floyd killing had a stale, ceremonial flavor: The people demand change! End systemic racism! No justice, no peace! How many times have we seen this movie?

What is changing — and suddenly — is that now it’s not just black people who struggle to thrive in the USA, but everybody else of any ethnic group who is not a hedge fund veep, an employee of BlackRock Financial, or a K-Street lobbyist — and even those privileged characters may find themselves in reduced circumstances before long. The prospects of young adults look grimmest of all. They face an economy so disordered that hardly anyone can find something to do that pays enough to support the basics of life, on top of being swindled by the false promises of higher education and the money-lending racket that animates it. So, it’s not surprising that, when night falls, the demons come out.

Things get smashed up and burned down. And all that after being cooped up for weeks on end in the name of an illness that mostly kills people in nursing homes. Ugly as the ANTIFA movement is, it’s exactly what you get when young people realize their future has been stolen from them. Or, more literally, when they are idle and broke and see fabulous wealth all around them in the banks’ glass skyscrapers, and the car showrooms, and the pageants of celebrity fame and fortune on the boob tube. They are extras in a new movie called The Fourth Turning Meets the Long Emergency but they may not know it.

Read more …

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner tried to get away with “no strangulation”, didn’t expect to be corrected.

State, Independent Autopsies Agree On George Floyd Homicide, Not On Cause (R.)

The medical examiner’s finding that the death was a homicide confirms the same conclusion of the independent autopsy that was also released on Monday, but there are key differences over the cause. A press release from the Hennepin County Medical Examiner said that Floyd, who struggled to breathe as an officer pinned him down by kneeling on his neck, had “recent methamphetamine use” and “fentanyl intoxication” – along with hypertension and coronary artery disease – all of which were possible contributing factors to his death. But two doctors who carried out that independent autopsy of Floyd, 46, and two attorneys for the family said that he had no underlying health conditions that may have contributed to his death.

They argued that not only the officer who was kneeing Floyd’s neck killed him, but also two officers who were pressing their weight onto Floyd’s back while he was on the ground. They added that they did not have information on toxicology and any drug or alcohol use by Floyd. Dr. Allecia Wilson of the University of Michigan, one of the two forensic doctors who performed the independent autopsy, said the evidence pointed to homicide by “mechanical asphyxia” meaning from some physical force that interfered with oxygen supply. While the county’s full autopsy report has not yet been released – Monday’s press release appeared to show authorities walked back their conclusions on what killed Floyd.

The original criminal complaint against the police officer who pinned Floyd with his knee cited the medical examiner’s office when it said it found no findings of strangulation. Carolyn Marinan, a spokeswoman for Hennepin County, did not confirm any reversal, saying only that Monday’s press release were the “final findings.”

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“Your ‘expose’ is multiplying the stupidity in the world.”

Bellingcat: Russians Didn’t Kill George Floyd, But Are Still Bad (RT)

Bellingcat, the UK-based enablers of Western narratives in Syria and Ukraine now fueling US race riots, selectively translated a satirical post from Russian social media shared by RT’s editor-in-chief to get her “canceled.”
On Sunday, Margarita Simonyan shared a Telegram post by Dmitry Steshin, a war correspondent for the newspaper KP, which purported to give “advice” to rioters in the US on how to make their uprising more “successful” along the lines of the 2014 US-backed coup in Ukraine. Given that the post was entirely in Russian, it was obvious that the real objective of Steshin – and Simonyan – was to comment on the Maidan uprising in Kiev and the ensuing war in Ukraine. Not so, declared the self-proclaimed experts on “open-source” intelligence.

Bellingcat selectively translated a handful of sentences from Steshin’s post and accused Simonyan of – what else? – racism. “Bellingcat accusing me of racism for a repost that used the Russian word for a black person is as baseless as me accusing Bellingcat of racism for calling me Russian, and not Armenian (I am both),” Simonyan said in response to the accusations. RT also responded to Bellingcat on Twitter, pointing out that they “missed the point” of the Telegram post, which was not aimed at black protesters in 2020, but satirized the 2014 Ukrainian unrest. Indeed, Simonyan’s post starts with “good advice to black people of Minnesota from a journalist who covered seven Maidans and color revolutions” – referring to US-backed astroturfed protests that often escalated into riots for the purpose of regime change.

Being in Russian, though, the advice was clearly not meant for Minnesotans. While Steshin’s post might have used rough language, “humor norms vary by country. More so in countries not dealing with [the] burden of once being such enthusiastic African slave traders,” RT noted in a retort to Bellingcat. [..] It needs to be said that the declaration by Bellingcat’s founder Eliot Higgins that “Russia is behind the killing of George Floyd to provoke protests and riots” is a stupid take. It’s also a straw man, because even the media outlets stoking the riots only talk of some “Russian playbook” and sowing discord, and other such vague and unprovable insinuations, just as they’ve done for years with ‘Russiagate.’

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The court’s deadline for Sullivan to explain his ruling was yesterday. Did he comply?

In Appellate Brief, DOJ Unloads On Behavior Of Judge In Flynn Case (Davis)

The Department of Justice on Monday unloaded on the antics of the rogue federal judge overseeing the Michael Flynn trial, accusing him of usurping the constitutional authority of the executive branch to make prosecutorial decisions and ignoring both statutory law and federal court precedent requiring him to dismiss the case against Flynn. After Judge Emmet G. Sullivan refused to grant the unopposed DOJ motion to dismiss the charges against Flynn after the government unearthed and relevant reams of evidence that the government had abused its power and unlawfully targeted Flynn, Flynn’s attorney Sidney Powell filed a writ of mandamus with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia asking it to order the trial court to dismiss the charges against Flynn.

The appellate court ordered Sullivan to respond by close of business on June 1 and invited DOJ to file its own response as well. [..] Sullivan, who at one point accused Flynn, a decorated military combat veteran, of being a traitor to his country, refused to dismiss the charges and instead appointed John Gleeson, a former federal judge, to make arguments to the court about why the unopposed motion to dismiss charges should be denied. Days before Gleeson was appointed by Sullivan, Gleeson co-authored a Washington Post column calling on Sullivan to deny DOJ’s motion to dismiss the Flynn charges. Sullivan also asked Gleeson to provide the trial court with arguments to support new charges of perjury against Flynn.

“The failure to dismiss the indictment was error,” DOJ wrote in its brief. “And the court’s efforts to pursue additional charges of contempt compounded its error.” “When, like many other defendants, petitioner pleaded guilty but later asserted his innocence, he did not expose himself to prosecution for criminal contempt of court,” Francisco and the other DOJ attorneys noted. “The court lacks authority to bring its own prosecution of petitioner, for two independent reasons.”

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But the judge simply claims Julian refused to attend. She needs to be excused.

Julian Assange Too Unwell To Attend Court Hearing (CW)

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, was too unwell to attend a court hearing by video link today at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. Assange’s lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald QC, told the court that his client had had respiratory problems for some time. The WikiLeaks founder faces 17 charges under the 1917 Espionage Act after WikiLeaks published a series of leaks from Chelsea Manning, a former US Army soldier turned whistleblower, in 2010-11. The 48-year-old faces a further charge of conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. The charges, filed in an indictment by the Easter District of Virginia, carry a maximum sentence of 175 years. Observers and journalists dialled in to a short court hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, but frequently had difficulty hearing what the lawyers and judge were saying over noises on the line.

According to one journalist present at the court, district judge Vanessa Baraitser said the court had received an email from Belmarsh Prison, saying Assange was “refusing to attend the hearing and refusing to sign a refusal form”. Fitzgerald told the judge that Assange’s solicitor, Gareth Peirce, had sent the court an email on Friday explaining that Assange was unwell with respiratory problems, 7 News reported. The judge said she had hoped to provide the name of the crown court that could hear Assange’s extradition case today, but said she was still waiting for confirmation of the venue. The court heard that the prosecution had been unable to complete a psychiatric report on Assange because a medical expert had been unable to gain access to Belmarsh Prison during the lockdown.

The judge gave the prosecution a deadline of 31 July to produce the psychiatric report on Assange. James Lewis for the prosecution said the defence had served new evidence that would need to be examined to determine admissibility. The judge ordered the prosecution to present a new skeleton argument to the court on 25 August, with the defence skeleton argument due on 1 September, 7 News reported. The next scheduled hearing will take place on 29 June, and a full three-week hearing is due to start on 7 September. In a separate development, 36 members of the European Parliament have called for Assange to be released from Belmarsh on press freedom and humanitarian grounds.

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“Only A Pawn In Their Game”
March on Washington
August 28, 1963


 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

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.

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“..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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 292020
 


Edward Hopper Railroad crossing 1923

 

Half of Britain Is Broke – And The Other Half Is Richer Than Ever (G.)
Trump Signs Order Targeting Social Media Firms’ Legal Protections (Hill)
Police Precinct Torched inThird Night Of Rioting In Minneapolis (R.)
7 Shot During Protests In Louisville (NBC)
Why Do Protestors Loot Shops Without Forming Private Equity Firm? (Onion)
The Hertz Story Isn’t What You Think (Ben Hunt)
EU Not In Mood To Follow Donald Trump Into China Conflict (SCMP)
Europe, China, and Hong Kong: New Red Lines Will Be Worth The Cost (EFCR)
China Says Wants ‘Peaceful Reunification’ With Taiwan (R.)
Attack On Taiwan An Option To Stop Independence, Top China General (R.)
Britain Seeks Alliance Of 10 Democracies To Break China’s 5G Monopoly (Sun)
US Judge Orders 15 Banks To Face Big Investors’ FX Rigging Lawsuit (R.)
Tulsi Gabbard Drops Defamation Suit Against Hillary Clinton (NYP)
Adam Schiff Alarmingly Close to Handing Trump Dangerous Spying Powers (Timm)
Law Professionals Support DOJ Decision To Dismiss Michael Flynn Case (Hill)
Why Did So Many Restaurants Stay Open During the 1918 Pandemic? (Spang)

 

 

First Debt Rattle in a very long time without a direct virus article. Unfortunately that’s not going to last. New global cases set a new record at 119,000.

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 22,618
• Brazil + 26,417
• Russia + 8,572
• UK 4,938
• India + 7,466
• Peru + 5,874
• Chile + 4,654

New deaths past 24 hours in:

• US + 1,230
• Brazil + 1,294
• Mexico + 447
• UK + 446
• Peru + 3,984(?!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 5,932,180 (+ 118,941 from yesterday’s 5,813,239)

Deaths 362,614 (+ 4,721 from yesterday’s 357,893)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

You start a piece with a headline that says everyone’s broke, and then list all the billions in extra savings. Why?

Half of Britain Is Broke – And The Other Half Is Richer Than Ever (G.)

When was the last time you filled up the car? Bought a train ticket? Paid an air fare? Ordered a new sofa? Or even just bought a latte or booked the cinema? Days now go by when I do not spend one pence. And I know I’m far from alone. Figures emerging across Europe reveal that forced saving is happening on an unprecedented scale. French savers put aside nearly €20bn (£16.2bn) in March, compared with the monthly average before coronavirus of €3.8bn. The Italians were much the same, adding €16.8bn to savings accounts, or five times the monthly average of €3.4bn. In the UK, the Bank of England says bank deposits soared by £13.1bn in March, a record monthly rise.

Unorthodox spending patterns abound. GoCompare reckons UK drivers spent £267m less on petrol during the strictest phase of the lockdown. Retail data company Kantar says we are spending a lot more on online groceries but £1bn less on the likes of those £3 sandwich, crisps and juice lunch deals popular in Tesco Express or Sainsbury’s Local. Nationwide says four out of 10 of its customers have more disposable income than before the crisis. The better off are almost wallowing in spare cash. Even after assuming we are spending 20% more on food and alcohol, stockbroker Peel Hunt reckons upper-middle-class households in the UK (those in the ninth decile of income distribution) have cut their disposable spending by just over half.

It estimates that across the entire economy, households in 2020 will save £120.8bn, compared with £38.2bn in 2019, a gigantic increase. That’s a cool £82bn extra kicking around in savings and current accounts. [..] The stockbroking firm at least has the good grace to note we’re not all in this together. “The beneficiaries are skewed towards the top end of the income distribution. Lower-income earners are more likely to work in sectors most affected by job losses and reduced working hours. They also spend a greater proportion of their income on essentials,” it says. So what’s going to happen with all this money? These involuntary savings are entirely the product of the pandemic rather than frugality so we might expect them to go back down to normal levels when the crisis is over and pent-up demand is satisfied.

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@Jack is in trouble.

Trump Signs Order Targeting Social Media Firms’ Legal Protections (Hill)

President Trump signed an executive order Thursday aimed at increasing the ability of the government to regulate social media platforms, a marked escalation of his lengthy feud with Silicon Valley over allegations of anti-conservative bias. The brunt of the order is focused on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 law that gives platforms legal immunity for content posted by third-party users while also giving them cover to make good-faith efforts to moderate their platforms. Trump’s order directs an agency within the Commerce Department to file a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clarify the scope of Section 230, a proposition that has already drawn rebukes from the two Democratic members of the five-person commission.

Another section of the order would encourage federal agencies to review their spending on social media advertising. Trump, joined by Attorney General William Barr, addressed reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon before signing the executive order. “We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers it has faced in American history, frankly, and you know what’s going on as well as anybody. It’s not good,” Trump told reporters. The president accused social media companies of having “unchecked power to censure, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences.” He also said that if he were able to shut Twitter down, he would.

Trump and Barr indicated that legislation on Section 230 could be coming soon in Congress. Barr did not provide further details, while Trump suggested they could just “remove or totally change 230.” When asked about the possibility of a legal challenge to the order, Trump said, “I guess it’s going to be challenged in court, but what isn’t?”

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The victim and the killer had worked together as bouncers in a bar for 17 years.

Police Precinct Torched inThird Night Of Rioting In Minneapolis (R.)

Peaceful rallies gave way to a third night of arson, looting and vandalism in Minneapolis on Thursday as protesters vented their rage over the death of a black man seen on video gasping for breath while a white police officer knelt on his neck. The latest spasm of unrest in Minnesota’s largest city went largely unchecked, despite Governor Tim Walz ordering the National Guard activated to help restore order following the first two days of disturbances sparked by Monday night’s fatal arrest of George Floyd, 46. In contrast with Wednesday night, when rock-throwing demonstrators clashed repeatedly with police in riot gear, law enforcement kept a low profile around the epicenter of the unrest, outside the city’s Third Precinct police station.

Protesters massing outside the building briefly retreated under volleys of police tear gas and rubber bullets fired at them from the roof, only to reassemble and eventually attack the building head on, setting fire to the structure as police seemed to withdraw. Protesters were later observed on the roof. The city authority warned about ‘unconfirmed’ reports that gas lines to the Third Precinct police station were cut and that there were other explosives in the building. It appealed to people to retreat from the building.A car and at least two other buildings in the vicinity were also set ablaze, and looters returned for a second night to a nearby Target discount store, left boarded up and vacant from the previous night, to make off with whatever remained inside. Fire officials said 16 buildings were torched on Wednesday night.

President Donald Trump on Twitter said that he will send the National Guard troops and “get the job done right” if Mayor Jacob Frey failed to bring the city under control. “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he wrote in tweets posted late midnight.

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Louisville, Dallas, New York.

7 Shot During Protests In Louisville (NBC)

Seven people were shot in Louisville, Kentucky, one of whom was in critical condition, during protests that turned violent Thursday night, police said. Circumstances of the shootings were not immediately clear, and a police spokesman called the situation downtown fluid early Friday. Officers were not involved in the shootings, Police Sgt. Lamont Washington said. No other details were immediately available from police. Mayor Greg Fischer said in a video statement early Friday that seven people were shot “from within the crowd” and no police officers fired their weapons. Five were in good condition, two were sent to surgery, he said, adding “my prayers are with all of them.”


The violence happened as hundreds had gathered to protest the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old woman who was killed by Louisville police this spring. “What we are seeing tonight in this community is the obvious frustration of the tension between police and residents,” police special adviser Jessie Halladay said earlier in a video call. “What started out as a peaceful protest earlier this evening is now escalating into property damage, more aggressive action, and we’ve just heard reports of shots fired in the crowd,” she said at the time. She said that in addition to property damage bottles had been thrown at officers.

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If confused about the logic, see next article.

Why Do Protestors Loot Shops Without Forming Private Equity Firm? (Onion)

Calling for a more measured way to express opposition to police brutality, critics slammed demonstrators Thursday for recklessly looting businesses without forming a private equity firm first. “Look, we all have the right to protest, but that doesn’t mean you can just rush in and destroy any business without gathering a group of clandestine investors to purchase it at a severely reduced price and slowly bleed it to death,” said Facebook commenter Amy Mulrain, echoing the sentiments of detractors nationwide who blasted the demonstrators for not hiring a consultant group to take stock of a struggling company’s assets before plundering.


“I understand that people are angry, but they shouldn’t just endanger businesses without even a thought to enriching themselves through leveraged buyouts and across-the-board terminations. It’s disgusting to put workers at risk by looting. You do it by chipping away at their health benefits and eventually laying them off. There’s a right way and wrong way to do this.” At press time, critics recommended that protestors hold law enforcement accountable by simply purchasing the Minneapolis police department from taxpayers.

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The looters should copy Carl Icahn.

The Hertz Story Isn’t What You Think (Ben Hunt)

On June 30, 2016, Carl Icahn led a restructuring of “Old Hertz”, where the Hertz Equipment Rental Corporation (HERC) was split off from the car rental operations (Hertz Global Holdings). Each became a separate publicly-traded company (Icahn with 39% equity stake in Hertz and a 15% stake in HERC), each installed an Icahn-controlled board (not “controlled” in a legal sense, but controlled sure enough), and each started taking on massive amounts of debt. How much debt? Well, HERC has about $2.1 billion in long-term debt, against an equity market cap of only $830 million (and that’s more than twice what it was at the March lows). The equity position is what we might call a stub … a small piece of the enterprise value of the overall corporation (debt + equity – cash). If you want to understand HERC as an equity investment, you better focus your analysis on that debt position and how the company can support that kind of leverage!


As for the debt levels at Hertz … LOL. Hertz has more than $19 billion in long-term debt, against a market cap that was (at its 2019 peak!) about $2.1 billion. Now there’s a stub for you. It’s hard for me to adequately convey the playground that an insanely levered rental company – whether it rents cars or construction equipment – provides for a financialization genius like Carl Icahn. Between asset depreciation assumptions, cost of capital assumptions, and the ability to securitize or otherwise move assets off your balance sheet … the accounting cookie jar that a rental company gives Icahn is otherworldly. Keep in mind, too, that in 2017 – more than a year after Icahn took control – Hertz was forced to report that management had “identified material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting.”

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Well, actually, the UE has no mechanism with which to rapidly agree on this.

EU Not In Mood To Follow Donald Trump Into China Conflict (SCMP)

European leaders are in no mood to follow the United States in threatening trade sanctions against China as it moves to tighten its grip on Hong Kong, although foreign ministers will meet on Friday to try to hack out a common position. China’s top legislature on Thursday voted to impose a national security law on Hong Kong, sparking concerns that Beijing will limit the autonomy granted by the “one country, two systems” principle that followed the end of British rule in 1997. The US, Canada, Australia and Britain condemned Beijing’s step, hailing Hong Kong as a “bastion of freedom,” while Britain held open the prospect of citizenship for more Hongkongers if Beijing presses ahead.

But despite growing tensions over the former British colony, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe’s most powerful politician, insisted she still wants the European Union to reach a landmark investment agreement with China this year. And while US President Donald Trump said on Thursday the US would be announcing new US policies on Friday as “we are not happy with China” after his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had already cast doubt on Hong Kong’s continued preferential trading status, the EU stuck to traditional diplomatic expressions of concern. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he had “deep concern” about Thursday’s move.

He has previously insisted Brussels “attaches great importance to the preservation of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy,” but said this week he did not think “sanctions against China are going to be a solution for our problems”. Merkel also said the EU, the world’s biggest trade bloc, needed to maintain a “critical and constructive” dialogue, with trade retaliation not on the agenda when European foreign ministers meet on Friday. “Sanctions are not on the table, our relations with the Chinese are simply too important,” one senior EU diplomat said. The senior EU diplomat added that Hong Kong could be “a game changer” as questions increase about the rule of law in a city of 7 million people that is the base for many European investors in the region.

But the key issue is whether China’s power grab in Hong Kong will weigh on the EU’s investment agreement with China. Germany wants the deal to be concluded at an EU-China summit in the German city of Leipzig in September, although the agreement was already in trouble even before the latest flare-up in Hong Kong. Michael Clauss, Germany’s ambassador to the EU and a former ambassador to China, admitted earlier this month that talks were stuck over market access rights for European companies.

Read more …

Europe’s Council on Foreign Relations likes a hard line.

Europe, China, and Hong Kong: New Red Lines Will Be Worth The Cost (EFCR)

Both international and Chinese companies have long benefitted from the framework of ‘one country, two systems’. It has allowed business to take place outside the direct access of Beijing’s tight authoritarian control of people and capital on the mainland. For decades Hong Kong has enjoyed special privileges in international trade and has thus been one of Asia’s most vibrant economic and financial hubs. Beijing’s alteration of the status quo will likely provoke a US response in the form of sanctions against China or the cancellation of Hong Kong’s special economic privileges. The attempt to turn Hong Kong into just another Chinese city will no doubt hurt Chinese businesses and elites, but it will likely hurt Western companies even more, as they have long relied on Hong Kong’s excellent business conditions as an invaluable gateway to the Chinese market.


Amid the global pandemic and rising US-China tensions, the push on Hong Kong was foreseeable, but still somewhat unexpected. The Chinese government has likely judged that now is the perfect time to complete some unfinished business. China is intensifying its patrols and creating new administrative structures in the South China Sea. It has increased sabre-rattling towards Taiwan. And Chinese military forces have reportedly entered into Indian territory along the Sino-Indian border, where stand-offs and limited skirmishes have lately occurred on a more regular basis. While the coronavirus has effectively pressed the pause button on the world economy, China’s policymakers have hit fast-forward on restoring ‘territorial integrity’ and dominance in Asia. For Europe, this comes at the worst possible moment.

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If need be under grave threat.

China Says Wants ‘Peaceful Reunification’ With Taiwan (R.)

The head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said on Friday that “one country, two systems” and “peaceful reunification” is the best way to bring China and Taiwan together. Outside attempts by foreign forces to interfere in “reunification” will fail, Liu Jieyi told an event at the Great Hall of the People marking 15 years since China signed into law its Anti-Secession Law. Beijing passed the law in 2005 which authorises the use of force against Taiwan if China judges it to have seceded.

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Two different voices saying the same thing. Agenda much?

Attack On Taiwan An Option To Stop Independence, Top China General (R.)

China will attack Taiwan if there is no other way of stopping it from becoming independent, one of the country’s most senior generals said on Friday, in a rhetorical escalation from China aimed at the democratic island Beijing claims as its own. Speaking at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on the 15th anniversary of the Anti-Secession Law, Li Zuocheng, chief of the Joint Staff Department and member of the Central Military Commission, left the door open to using force. The 2005 law gives the country the legal basis for military action against Taiwan if it secedes or seems about to, making the narrow Taiwan Strait a potential military flashpoint.


“If the possibility for peaceful reunification is lost, the people’s armed forces will, with the whole nation, including the people of Taiwan, take all necessary steps to resolutely smash any separatist plots or actions,” Li said. “We do not promise to abandon the use of force, and reserve the option to take all necessary measures, to stabilise and control the situation in the Taiwan Strait,” he added. Although China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, it is rare for a top, serving military officer to so explicitly make the threat in a public setting. The comments are especially striking amid international opprobrium over China passing new national security legislation for Chinese-run Hong Kong.

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Five Eyes alliance. They should ban 5G until it’s been properly researched.

Britain Seeks Alliance Of 10 Democracies To Break China’s 5G Monopoly (Sun)

Britain is seeking an international alliance to supply Brits with 5G internet and break China’s monopoly over the network. The Government is driving forward plans for 10 democratic countries to work together and find a new provider for the superfast internet. Ministers want the UK to form a club of nations, dubbed the ‘D10’, to fund technology companies and find a 5G supplier to replace Huawei. The PM approved plans for the Chinese company to build part of the UK’s new internet network in January, despite pressure from MPs and the US government. The D10 club would see G7 nations – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US – join forces with Australia, South Korea and India to find another company to build the 5G network.


The UK has already approached Washington with the plan, the Times has reported. A source told the newspaper: “We need new entrants to the market. That was the reason we ended up having to go along with Huawei at the time.” It comes amid rising tensions between the UK and China, with the Government accusing the Communist state of covering up coronavirus. Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove said in March that China “was not clear about the scale, the nature, the infectiousness of this disease.” Nokia and Ericsson are the only two companies in Europe that are currently supplying 5G infrastructure, but it is believed they could not build the network as quickly as Huawei.

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Feels like Vito Corleone taking the Tattaglia family to court.

US Judge Orders 15 Banks To Face Big Investors’ FX Rigging Lawsuit (R.)

A U.S. judge on Thursday said institutional investors, including BlackRock and PIMCO, can pursue much of their lawsuit accusing 15 major banks of rigging prices in the $6.6 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market. U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield in Manhattan said the nearly 1,300 plaintiffs, including many mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, plausibly alleged that the banks conspired to rig currency benchmarks from 2003 to 2013 and profit at their expense. “This is an injury of the type the antitrust laws were intended to prevent,” Schofield wrote in a 40-page decision.


The banks, which sometimes controlled more than 90% of the market, included Bank of America, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Canada, Royal Bank of Scotland, Societe Generale, Standard Chartered and UBS or various affiliates. In their complaint, the plaintiffs accused the banks of improperly sharing confidential orders and trading positions, and using chat rooms with such names as “The Cartel,” “The Mafia” and “The Bandits’ Club.” Banks were also accused of using deceptive trading tactics such as “front running,” “banging the close” and “taking out the filth.” [..] The litigation began in November 2018, after the plaintiffs “opted out” of similar nationwide litigation that had resulted in $2.31 billion of settlements with most of the banks.

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Sorry to see this. Finish what you start.

Tulsi Gabbard Drops Defamation Suit Against Hillary Clinton (NYP)

Former presidential contender Tulsi Gabbard dropped her defamation lawsuit against Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, saying the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 presidential election are more important than her legal claims. In court papers filed in Manhattan federal court Wednesday, Gabbard wrote that, while her claims have merit, it’s better to “focus their time and attention on other priorities, including defeating Donald Trump in 2020, rather than righting the wrongs here.” Gabbard, a congresswoman from Hawaii, sued Clinton in January, claiming the former first lady defamed her by calling her a “Russian asset” during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.


“Tulsi Gabbard is running for President of the United States, a position Clinton has long coveted, but has not been able to attain,” Gabbard’s Manhattan federal lawsuit read. “In October 2019 — whether out of personal animus, political enmity, or fear of real change within a political party Clinton and her allies have long dominated — Clinton lied about her perceived rival Tulsi Gabbard. She did so publicly, unambiguously, and with obvious malicious intent,” it added. Clinton had refused to walk back comments she made during a 2019 appearance on a podcast, in which she referred to Gabbard as a “favorite of the Russians.” “She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far,” Clinton told “Campaign HQ” host and former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe.

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Where the real danger resides.

Adam Schiff Alarmingly Close to Handing Trump Dangerous Spying Powers (Timm)

Congress has been embroiled in debate over the potential renewal of three controversial provisions of the Patriot Act, the post-9/11 spying bill that has been harshly criticized by civil liberties advocates for almost two decades. At issue in Congress is the fact that Section 215 of the Patriot Act (the provision once secretly reinterpreted by the FISA court to authorize the NSA’s mass phone surveillance program) allows the Trump administration to gather the internet browsing and search histories of Americans without a warrant. Sen. Ron Wyden had proposed an amendment that would require federal authorities to get a probable cause warrant before ever accessing this data.

It seemed like a popular no-brainer: Web browsing and search history is some of the most sensitive content online, and internet privacy has never been a bigger concern to the public. But in a dramatic vote two weeks ago, the Senate roll call on Wyden’s amendment fell just one vote short of the 60-member threshold from passing. With two Democratic caucus members — Bernie Sanders and Patty Murray — missing the vote, the final tally was 59 for and 37 against. The outrage was swift. Even in the Covid-saturated media environment, dozens of news outlets covered the controversy, and the reaction from constituents across the country then came pouring in. Civil liberties organizations immediately mobilized their supporters to contact members of the House, which still must vote on the final bill before it goes to Trump’s desk for a signature.

The pressure worked. Later that same day, Senators voted to pass another amendment that has the potential to reform the secretive FISA court in a significant way. And the House’s privacy advocates felt emboldened to push House leadership to hold a vote on the Wyden amendment during its debate of the Patriot Act bill this week. At the behest of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a bipartisan team of House representatives — led by Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Republican Rep. Warren Davidson — negotiated for three days with Schiff on the exact language of the amendment. Lofgren and Davidson wanted an up and down vote on Wyden’s version that failed in the Senate by one vote, but Schiff reportedly resisted. The sides reached a compromise late Tuesday afternoon.

Schiff pushed for a change to the amendment so that warrant protections would only cover “U.S. persons,” a definition that would exclude millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States, including the thousands of DACA recipients, who are at particular risk of surveillance under the Trump administration. Even with the weakened language, Wyden supported the bill, while emphasizing in a statement that the bill’s language meant that if there was any possibility of Trump collecting U.S. persons’ data, then the administration had to get a warrant.

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The judge will get roasted. Nobody agrees with the move.

Law Professionals Support DOJ Decision To Dismiss Michael Flynn Case (Hill)

More than two dozen former prosecutors, judges and active trial lawyers filed a brief backing the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) decision to dismiss the case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The bipartisan group of former government attorneys are asking U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan for them to formally file an amicus brief on the case. The group includes former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr and U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). “The issue presented in this case is whether the court has discretion to deny a motion to dismiss to which the defendant consents, as Gen. Flynn has done here. The answer is no,” the attorneys wrote.


Attorney General William Barr requested that the Justice Department drop the charges against Flynn of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia shortly before Trump took office. The attorneys argue that Sullivan does not have the legal right to override the decision from the prosecutor — in this case the DOJ — to dismiss a case they are prosecuting. “There is simply no basis upon which this Court can review and deny the Government’s motion to dismiss, to which the defense has consented,” they wrote. Earlier this month, 16 former Watergate prosecutors also asked Sullivan for permission to weigh in on the case. The attorneys argued that given the DOJ’s decision to dismiss Flynn’s criminal prosecution — despite his 2017 guilty pleas — the department cannot be counted on to give the court a fair and complete presentation of the issues raised by the move.

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History lessons are always good.

Why Did So Many Restaurants Stay Open During the 1918 Pandemic? (Spang)

You’re living in a pandemic. Public health officials recommend new measures every few days: avoid crowds, open windows, wear a mask. Schools close, theaters go dark, even churches shut their doors. But at least the restaurants are open! The year is 1918—maybe not so much like 2020 after all. For years, centuries even, we took restaurants for granted; it is news to most people that they had to be invented (I write about this history in my book The Invention of the Restaurant). As a child, it made sense to me that Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin and Alexander Graham Bell, the telephone—as we learned in school, “progress” meant currently familiar technologies had all started at some point in the past. Jonas Salk created a polio vaccine. These people were all famous because they invented a new thing. But that social and cultural forms had a history, that not just individual eateries but the entire category of restaurants might be new at one point and non-existent at another? Go figure.

Now it appears that restaurants may not only have a start date, but an end date as well. Born of Enlightenment medical sensibility (the first restaurateurs sold restorative broths and marketed their products especially to people with “weak and delicate chests”), restaurants as we knew them just six months ago may well be a thing of the past—killed off, or at least radically altered, by the current pandemic. For more than 200 years, restaurants have been public places where people go to be private: to sit at their own tables, have their own conversations, eat their own meals. But even that limited degree of interaction violates the social distancing guidelines widely in place today.

Operating in most cases with small profit margins—this month’s customers pay next month’s rent—few restaurants can afford two weeks (much less months) of forced closure. Estimates are that 75 percent of independently owned restaurants may never re-open. Without them, bakeries, specialty farmers, and wine distributors are likely to be in serious trouble as well. While most authorities in the United States today agreed on restaurants closures as a vital public-health measure, their counterparts during the deadly 1918 influenza epidemic saw things differently. A hundred years ago, it seemed obvious that crowds would form along parade routes, in public parks, at revival or club meetings—but not in restaurants.

Read more …

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 282020
 


Edward Hopper Railroad crossing 1926

 

Questions Raised Over HCQ Study Which Caused WHO To Halt Trials (G.)
India Invites Scepticism As It Sticks By Hydroxychloroquine (SCMP)
South Korea Could Face Return To Restrictions After Spike In New Cases (G.)
Hong Kong Is No Longer Autonomous From China, US Determines (SCMP)
China Approves Hong Kong Draft Security Law (NBC)
Hong Kong’s ‘Significance Is Eroding’, As Trump Considers Next Move (SCMP)
US And China Fight At United Nations Over Hong Kong (R.)
What To Expect Now US Deems Hong Kong No Longer ‘Autonomous’ (SCMP)
Taiwan Will Help Relocate Fleeing Hongkongers – President Tsai (SCMP)
Suddenly Everything is Too Big to Fail – John Rubino (USAW)
Flightless Kiwi Economy To Land With A Thud (Austr.)
The General Election Scenario That Democrats Are Dreading (Pol.)
AG Barr Launches New ‘Unmasking’ Investigation Around 2016 Election (CNN)
Former Flynn Lawyers “Find” 6,800 Documents They Failed To Produce (Solomon)
Rosenstein First Witness In Senate Judiciary’s ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ Probe (JTN)
New Book Claims Bill Clinton Had Affair With Ghislaine Maxwell (NYP)
Minneapolis Ablaze Amid Looting (ZH)

 

 

The coronavirus death toll in Europe crossed 175,000

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 20,103
• Brazil + 20,154
• Russia + 8,371
• UK 4,938
• India + 7,540
• Peru + 6,154

New deaths past 24 hours in:

• US + 1,529
• Brazil + 1,104
• Mexico 462
• UK 343

 

 

 

Cases 5,813,239 (+ 103,721 from yesterday’s 5,709,518)

Deaths 357,893 (+ 5,143 from yesterday’s 352,750)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

One single report in the Lancet, based on data from a company nobody seems to know, has had the desired effect. France, the WHO, and now Italy and Belgium have all turned their backs on HCQ.

Questions Raised Over HCQ Study Which Caused WHO To Halt Trials (G.)

Questions have been raised by Australian infectious disease researchers about a study published in the Lancet which prompted the World Health Organization to halt global trials of the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19. The study published on Friday found Covid-19 patients who received the malaria drug were dying at higher rates and experiencing more heart-related complications than other virus patients. The large observational study analysed data from nearly 15,000 patients with Covid-19 who received the drug alone or in combination with antibiotics, comparing this data with 81,000 controls who did not receive the drug.

[..] The study, led by the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Center for Advanced Heart Disease in Boston, examined patients in hospitals around the world, including in Australia. It said researchers gained access to data from five hospitals recording 600 Australian Covid-19 patients and 73 Australian deaths as of 21 April. But data from Johns Hopkins University shows only 67 deaths from Covid-19 had been recorded in Australia by 21 April. The number did not rise to 73 until 23 April. The data relied upon by researchers to draw their conclusions in the Lancet is not readily available in Australian clinical databases, leading many to ask where it came from.

[..] The Lancet told Guardian Australia: “We have asked the authors for clarifications, we know that they are investigating urgently, and we await their reply.” The lead author of the study, Dr Mehra Mandeep, said he had contacted Surgisphere, the company that provided the data, to reconcile the discrepancies with “the utmost urgency”. Surgisphere is described as a healthcare data analytics and medical education company. [..] Dr Allen Cheng, an epidemiologist and infectious disease doctor with Alfred Health in Melbourne, said the Australian hospitals involved in the study should be named. He said he had never heard of Surgisphere, and no one from his hospital, The Alfred, had provided Surgisphere with data.

“Usually to submit to a database like Surgisphere you need ethics approval, and someone from the hospital will be involved in that process to get it to a database,” he said. He said the dataset should be made public, or at least open to an independent statistical reviewer. “If they got this wrong, what else could be wrong?” Cheng said. It was also a “red flag” to him that the paper listed only four authors. “Usually with studies that report on findings from thousands of patients, you would see a large list of authors on the paper,” he said. “Multiple sources are needed to collect and analyse the data for large studies and you usually see that acknowledged in the list of authors.”

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This is about health care workers on the front lines, who have nothing else to protect themselves.

India Invites Scepticism As It Sticks By Hydroxychloroquine (SCMP)

The Indian government is courting controversy by continuing to give the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine to health care workers on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus, despite safety concerns that have prompted the World Health Organisation to pause a large-scale trial of the drug. Scientists at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the body leading the coronavirus battle in India, say their studies have shown definitively that the drug – also known as HCQ – helps to prevent infections among health care workers exposed to Covid-19. The ICMR has conducted three studies, involving control groups of between 330 and 1,300 people, in which frontline health care staff have taken the drug as a preventive measure.

Dr Suman Kanungo, ICMR’s senior epidemiologist, told This Week in Asia that further research was being carried out on a control group of 1,500 health care workers and that the results of the studies would be released within a month. He stressed the ICMR recommended the drug as a preventive measure, indirectly implying that it was not recommended as a cure for Covid-19. His comments came after the ICMR’s director general Balram Bhargava said on Tuesday that the group’s studies had shown that HCQ, when used as a preventive measure, had no side-affects. However, some experts are sceptical of the ICMR’s claims, pointing out that India is the world’s largest manufacturer of the drug and that only very limited details of the studies have been made public.

Dr Sapan Desai, CEO of the Surgisphere Corporation and a co-author of the Lancet study, said the study was based on a “specific group” of hospitalised Covid-19 patients. “[We] have clearly stated that the results of our analyses should not be over-interpreted to those that have yet to develop the disease or those that have not been hospitalised. It is in recognition of these limitations of our observational study that we recommended that RCTs [randomly controlled trials] be urgently completed,” he said.

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Every government’s nightmare.

South Korea Could Face Return To Restrictions After Spike In New Cases (G.)

South Korea has reported its biggest daily increase in coronavirus cases in 53 days, triggering warnings it may have to revert to stricter social distancing measures after appearing to have brought the outbreak under control. The Korean Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 79 new infections on Thursday with 67 of them from the Seoul metropolitan area, home to about half of the country’s population of 51 million. Officials said health authorities were finding it increasingly difficult to track the transmission routes for new infections and urged people to remain vigilant amid fears of a second wave of Covid-19 infections.

The health minister, Park Neung-hoo, pleaded with residents in and around the capital to avoid unnecessary gatherings and urged companies to allow sick employees to take time off work. “Infection routes are being diversified in workplaces, crammed schools and karaoke rooms in the metropolitan area,” Park said. The recent spike in infections has underlined the risks that come with relaxing social distancing rules, as countries seek to breathe life into their struggling economies. More than 250 new infections were traced to clubs and bars in the Itaewon district of Seoul in early May, while the latest cluster has been linked to a distribution centre in Bucheon, near Seoul, owned by the e-commerce firm Coupang.

The recent rise in cases is affecting the phased reopening of schools, only recently held up as evidence that South Korea, one of the first countries outside China to be affected, had contained the outbreak. More than 500 schools have delayed the resumption of classes over virus concerns, the education ministry said this week. Thursday’s figures followed reports of 40 new cases on Wednesday – the highest figure in seven weeks. South Korea has reported a total of 11,344 cases and 269 deaths from Covid-19.

Read more …

Pompeo is a pompous fool, but how could one claim he’s mistaken here?

Hong Kong is pivotal for the banking sector that underlies trade between China and the west, between the renminbi and the USD. But because nobody wants the renminbi, it’s that much more pivotal for China.

Hong Kong is interesting for the west only when it’s independent. Once it’s part of China, why stay there?

Hong Kong as it is today, is the culmination of 200 years of development, negotiations, trust building. It will take a very long time for China to establish that somewhere else. Hong Kong has a “special trading status” with the US. Those are not handed out with every box of detergent.

Hong Kong Is No Longer Autonomous From China, US Determines (SCMP)

In a huge blow to Hong Kong, the Trump administration informed the US Congress on Wednesday that the city is no longer suitably autonomous from China. The assessment is a crucial step in deciding whether Hong Kong will continue to receive preferential economic and trade treatment from the United States. “No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “This decision gives me no pleasure. But sound policy making requires a recognition of reality.” The State Department’s certification is a recommendation and does not necessarily lead to an immediate next step. US officials, including President Donald Trump, now must decide to what extent sanctions or other policy measures should be levelled on the city.

“While the United States once hoped that free and prosperous Hong Kong would provide a model for authoritarian China, it is now clear that China is modeling Hong Kong after itself,” Pompeo said. Under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act passed by the US Congress in November, the administration must decide annually whether governance of Hong Kong is suitably distinct from China. Options available to the administration – which may in part depend on Beijing’s reaction, analysts said – include higher trade tariffs, tougher investment rules, asset freezes and more onerous visa rules. The move sent shock waves through China and Hong Kong policy circles. “Wow,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

“I fully expect the US to proceed with sanctions on individuals and entities deemed to be undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy,” she continued. “Secondary sanctions are possible on banks that do business with entities found in violation of law guaranteeing Hong Kong’s autonomy.” Analysts noted a long-standing dilemma faced by successive US administrations: if Washington imposes sanctions on Hong Kong, it risks hurting residents of the city at least as much as it penalises Beijing. Following through on threats to change Hong Kong’s status will have a hugely negative impact on US companies operating there as well as on Hongkongers while having a minuscule effect on China, said Nicholas Lardy, a fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “And I don’t know why we want to punish the citizens of Hong Kong for something that the government in Beijing is doing,” he added.

[..] Under the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini constitution, the city’s government has leeway to make its own decisions, other than those involving defence and national security, where Beijing prevails. But at annual political meetings last week in Beijing, China unveiled a resolution that will initiate the legislative process for a new draft legislation banning “secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference”. The move will greatly expand the mainland’s power over the city and has elevated concerns that China is rapidly eliminating the “one country, two systems” principle.

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They’re going to pass it, because otherwise they would lose face.

China Approves Hong Kong Draft Security Law (NBC)

The Chinese parliament passed the first hurdle of enacting a draft security law for Hong Kong on Thursday, legislation that has prompted widespread concern about Beijing’s increasing influence on the semi-autonomous region. The annual National People People’s Congress approved the framework of the law by 2,878 votes to one, and it will now go to senior party officials in the Standing Committee of the NPC to be fleshed out. The draft law, which is set to tackle issues such as secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference, comes after a year of anti-government protests that at times brought Hong Kong to a standstill. It has already prompted widespread concern around the world. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it meant that Hong Kong no longer qualifies for its special status under U.S. law. “The United States stands with the people of Hong Kong,” he said in a statement Wednesday.

Read more …

“Coming out and decertifying Hong Kong’s autonomy is not the hard decision, The hard work comes now, which is how you implement it.”

Hong Kong’s ‘Significance Is Eroding’, As Trump Considers Next Move (SCMP)

Economists, diplomats and business figures were scrambling on Thursday to quantify the effect of Washington’s decision to deem Hong Kong “no longer autonomous” from China, with many gaming out the “nuclear option”, in which the United States revokes the city’s special trading status. Former White House officials said that the most likely immediate scenario is that US President Donald Trump approves a “variety” of sanctions, potentially on both Chinese and Hong Kong officials, by the end of the week in response to China’s national security law for Hong Kong. However, “the nuclear option is certainly on the table”, said a former senior Trump administration official, which would see Hong Kong’s status as a region apart from the rest of China removed at a later date, leaving the city vulnerable to trade war tariffs, technological export controls, visa and travel restrictions and greater financial sector scrutiny.

“Coming out and decertifying Hong Kong’s autonomy is not the hard decision,” said Evan Medeiros, who served as former president Barack Obama’s top adviser on the Asia-Pacific and who confirmed that he would have done the same. “The hard work comes now, which is how you implement it.” Should Trump go gung-ho on China, there would be no direct change to Hong Kong’s international status. It would remain a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group. The direct economic impact would be sharp, but short-term, analysts said. But in the long run it will be a huge blow to Hong Kong’s image as an international commercial centre – even as a gateway to China.

“I guess the significance of Hong Kong is eroding and when I go to see the members in Shenzhen and Guangzhou and listen to discussion about the Greater Bay Area, it is pretty much one story, as if Hong Kong is insignificant,” said Joerg Wuttke, president of the European Union Chamber of Commerce for China in Beijing. “Hong Kong cannot be replicated, the unique density of professionals, the transparency of the system, the rule of law, the kind of debate possibilities, the openness. They’re definitely important for developing business in China, for many of us it’s being challenged right now,” Wuttke said.

Read more …

Like either gives a damn about the UN.

US And China Fight At United Nations Over Hong Kong (R.)

The United States and China clashed over Hong Kong at the United Nations on Wednesday after Beijing opposed a request by Washington for the Security Council to meet over China’s plan to impose new national security legislation on the territory. The U.S. mission to the United Nations said in a statement that the issue was “a matter of urgent global concern that implicates international peace and security” and therefore warranted the immediate attention of the 15-member council. China “categorically rejects the baseless request” because the national security legislation for Hong Kong was an internal matter and “has nothing to do with the mandate of the Security Council,” China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun posted on Twitter. The U.S. request coincides with rising tensions between Washington and Beijing over the coronavirus pandemic.


Washington has questioned China’s transparency about the outbreak, which first emerged in Wuhan, China late last year. China has said it was transparent about the virus. The U.S. said China’s opposition to a Security Council meeting on Hong Kong coupled with its “gross cover-up and mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis, its constant violations of its international human rights commitments, and its unlawful behavior in the South China Sea, should make obvious to all that Beijing is not behaving as a responsible U.N. member state.” Zhang responded: “Facts prove again and again that the U.S. is the trouble maker of the world. It is the U.S. who has violated its commitments under the international law. China urges the U.S. to immediately stop its power politics and bullying practices.”

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In the beginning, things will move with caution. But that may not last very long as parties realize the scope of what is happening.

What To Expect Now US Deems Hong Kong No Longer ‘Autonomous’ (SCMP)

US President Donald Trump has to decide what actions to take after the State Department informed Congress on Wednesday that Hong Kong was no longer considered autonomous from China, an assessment that could threaten the city’s long-standing special trading status. “It’s a one-two action,” said David Stilwell, assistant secretary of the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the State Department on Wednesday evening. “One being the State Department making the assessment that Hong Kong no longer enjoys autonomy,” said Stilwell at a briefing to reporters, referring to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement earlier in the day. “And then, [the second action will be] the determination by the White House as to how we’re going to respond,” Stilwell said.

The State Department did not specify how fast that decision may be. “A lot of” options are being considered, including personnel and sanctions “as determined in the United States – Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 and in the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act [of 2019],” he said. Under the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act passed by the US Congress in November, the administration must decide every year whether governance of Hong Kong is suitably distinct from China, which is the prerequisite for the special status to continue. A revocation of Hong Kong’s special trading status with the US will put an end to the preferential economic and trade treatment the city has enjoyed and which has, at least partly, contributed to making it the financial and business hub in the region.

Some analysts and members of the business community, following the State Department’s assessment, have voiced concerns that a status change would inflict more pain on Hong Kong and its people than on Beijing. “Today’s action is best understood as another turn of the screw,” said Terry Haines, an independent political analyst and former Congressional staffer. “It is a strong signal of US government displeasure.” But, given that this is only the first step, and does not necessarily lead to US sanctions or other actions against Hong Kong, there is opportunity to lessen tension, he said. “Expect Congress to help Trump pressure China on Hong Kong autonomy, but not to force Trump’s hand or require sanctions or other actions,” he said.

In his statement earlier on Wednesday, Pompeo said “no reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground.” Pompeo’s assessment came a day before Beijing could pass the national security law tailor-made for Hong Kong. The move aimed to thwart Beijing’s plan to move forward with the passage of the legislation, which is considered a violation of the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the treaty that established the principle of “one country, two systems” and which stipulates the sovereign and administrative arrangement of Hong Kong after the 1997 handover.

Read more …

After being accused domestically of doing the opposite. Taiwan has always offered help.

Taiwan Will Help Relocate Fleeing Hongkongers – President Tsai (SCMP)

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has assured Hongkongers that her government would come up with special measures to help them relocate to the island, in an apparent effort to counter claims that she is giving up on Hong Kong. Tsai said her cabinet would form an ad hoc committee to work out a humanitarian action plan for Hong Kong people. Under the plan, the Mainland Affairs Council, the island’s top mainland policy planner, would establish concrete ways for the administration to help Hongkongers “live, relocate and work in Taiwan”, Tsai said. She said a special budget and resources would be set aside for the programme, which would launched as soon as possible to address the needs of Hongkongers wanting to move amid concerns about threats to freedoms posed by the introduction of a national security law.

After months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, the National People’s Congress is expected to pass on Thursday a resolution to set up and improve legal and enforcement mechanisms for national security in Hong Kong, a move that has been widely condemned overseas and in the city. The decision to form the committee comes after Tsai came under attack for suggesting in a Facebook post on Sunday that she might consider invoking Article 60 of the Laws and Regulations Regarding Hong Kong and Macau Affairs by suspending the “application of all or part of the provisions of the act” if the NPC bypassed Hong Kong’s Legislative Council to approve the security law. That would mean an end to the preferential treatment given to people from Hong Kong and Macau, including to visit and invest in the self-ruled island.

Opposition lawmakers said the move would effectively suspend the city’s special status, essentially shutting the door to Hong Kong people doing business, studying or fleeing to Taiwan to avoid penalties for their protest actions in the city.
They criticised Tsai for trying to “dump” Hong Kong people after using them to win January’s presidential election. Tsai’s strong support for the mass protests in Hong Kong last year – triggered by a now-shelved extradition bill – helped her win a landslide in January’s presidential poll for which she secured a second four-year term. Tsai’s suggestion also attracted concerns from civic and human rights groups in Taiwan.

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More reason to bail out people, not companies.

Suddenly Everything is Too Big to Fail – John Rubino (USAW)

Everyone needs be looking past the Coronavirus crisis and at what governments are trying to do to counter the economic destruction and massive unemployment. Is the financial cure worse than the disease? Financial writer John Rubino says look at commercial real estate as an omen of what is to come. Rubino explains, “Sooner or later you’ve got to pay your bills, and if you don’t have anybody paying your bills to you, then you go bankrupt. Commercial real estate could just be a blood bath, which take us back to all the bailouts. You can’t let a big sector go bust in this world because suddenly everything is too big to fail. There is not a major sector out there that can be allowed to go bust. Not the airlines, not commercial real estate, certainly not the banks, you name it and it has to be bailed out. That’s where the really crazy stuff starts. When people figure out we are basically bailing out everybody from home owners to student loan holders, to car loan holders and right down the line, and then we get state and local governments with this gigantic multi-trillion dollar problem . . . and the amount of debt is off the charts to bail all of these guys out, that is when the real fun starts.”


How long will the bailouts go on? Rubino says, “We are heading into a Presidential election, which means we cannot let anything major fail. If you are the Trump Administration and Congress, you can’t let something big fail because it’s a crisis right before you need to get re-elected. So, you’ve got to bail people out. That’s what California, Illinois and Chicago, New York, Kentucky and all the bankrupt and badly run states have been hoping for all along. They have been hoping there would be a big crisis that would bail them out of their horrendous mismanagement of the past 20 or 30 years. There was no way that Illinois was not going to go bankrupt in normal times . . . or Chicago. . . . Now, they can go to the federal government and say we need a trillion dollars right now or we are going to lay off all the cops and all the teachers, and they think they have a pretty good chance of getting the bailout because the alternative is poison for the people running for office . . . . If you are the Trump Administration or Congress, I don’t see how you stop bailing people out before the election.”

Read more …

Not everyone in Australia wants a travel bubble, apparently.

Flightless Kiwi Economy To Land With A Thud (Austr.)

No national leader has been as feted as Jacinda Ardern during this pandemic. Young and progressive, New Zealand’s Prime Minister was popular before the crisis. Since she imposed the favoured pandemic solution of the left — a hard lockdown, shutting practically all business and no socialising with anyone outside your home — her star has only risen. “Laughing in the face of seismic shakes, she has calmly steered her country in the face of a massacre, an eruption and a pandemic,” The Guardian cooed on Tuesday. Steering it into an economic abyss, perhaps. New Zealand’s economy is in strife. Without major change, our constitutional cousin is in decline. Its public finances are in tatters, its biggest export, tourism, has been obliterated — Air New Zealand announced 4000 job losses this week — and New Zealand police now can enter people’s homes without a warrant.


“New Zealand is going backwards, falling behind the vast ≠majority of our OECD partners in virtually every social and economic measure that matters,” said Roger Douglas, a former New Zealand Labour treasurer and the famed architect of Rogernomics. New Zealand ranks fourth last in the OECD for labour productivity growth, and last for multi-factor productivity growth, according to economist Michael Reddell, based on OECD data. Health and education are gobbling up more of the budget as the population ages, with less and less to show for it.

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I think they fear other scenarios a lot more. Like the full exposure of Obamagate.

The General Election Scenario That Democrats Are Dreading (Pol.)

In early April, Jason Furman, a top economist in the Obama administration and now a professor at Harvard, was speaking via Zoom to a large bipartisan group of top officials from both parties. The economy had just been shut down, unemployment was spiking and some policymakers were predicting an era worse than the Great Depression. The economic carnage seemed likely to doom President Donald Trump’s chances at reelection. Furman, tapped to give the opening presentation, looked into his screen of poorly lit boxes of frightened wonks and made a startling claim. “We are about to see the best economic data we’ve seen in the history of this country,” he said.

[..] Furman’s case begins with the premise that the 2020 pandemic-triggered economic collapse is categorically different than the Great Depression or the Great Recession, which both had slow, grinding recoveries. Instead, he believes, the way to think about the current economic drop-off, at least in the first two phases, is more like what happens to a thriving economy during and after a natural disaster: a quick and steep decline in economic activity followed by a quick and steep rebound. The Covid-19 recession started with a sudden shuttering of many businesses, a nationwide decline in consumption and massive increase in unemployment. But starting around April 15, when economic reopening started to spread but the overall numbers still looked grim, Furman noticed some data that pointed to the kind of recovery that economists often see after a hurricane or industrywide catastrophe like the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

Consumption and hiring started to tick up “in gross terms, not in net terms,” Furman said, describing the phenomenon as a “partial rebound.” The bounce back “can be very very fast, because people go back to their original job, they get called back from furlough, you put the lights back on in your business. Given how many people were furloughed and how many businesses were closed you can get a big jump out of that. It will look like a V.”

Read more …

How many consecutive investigations is that now?

AG Barr Launches New ‘Unmasking’ Investigation Around 2016 Election (CNN)

Attorney General William Barr has tasked a US attorney with reviewing instances of “unmasking” done around the 2016 election, adding the weight of a senior federal prosecutor behind an issue that President Donald Trump has seized on in recent weeks to underpin unfounded allegations about his predecessor. John Bash, the US attorney in San Antonio, will be handling the review in support of the ongoing criminal investigation being led by John Durham, a Connecticut prosecutor, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman. “Unmasking inherently isn’t wrong but certainly the frequency, the motivation and the reasoning behind unmasking can be problematic.

“When you’re looking at unmasking as part of a broader investigation, like John Durham’s investigation, looking specifically at who was unmasking whom can add a lot to our understanding about motivation and big picture events,” Kerri Kupec, the department spokeswoman, said in an interview with Fox News. Earlier this month, then-acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell declassified a list of names of former Obama administration officials who allegedly had requested the “unmasking” of the identify of Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn. Senate Republicans later released the list, which named Obama administration officials who “may have received” Flynn’s identity in National Security Agency intelligence reports after requests to unmask Americans.

On Fox, Kupec said that Barr had “determined that certain aspects of unmasking needed to be reviewed separately as a support” to the Durham investigation. Bash will be looking “specifically at episodes both before and after the election,” Kupec said. Bash is the latest in a string of top prosecutors Barr has assigned to handle politically charged reviews. Durham, the longtime Connecticut prosecutor, was assigned to review the origins of the Russia investigation earlier this month. Jeff Jensen, the US attorney in St. Louis, had scrutinized the handling of the Flynn prosecution and recommended earlier this month that the Justice Department drop the charges. Barr has said that he has since tasked Jensen with examining other issues, but the department has not said what those issues are.

Read more …

Openly lying to a court.

Former Flynn Lawyers “Find” 6,800 Documents They Failed To Produce (Solomon)

The surprises keep coming in former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s legal battle to overturn his conviction in the Russia probe. Just days after the FBI belatedly produced possible evidence of innocence to Flynn’s new legal team led by Attorney Sidney Powell, his old law firm on Tuesday informed the judge it had located 6,800 documents that it failed to turn over as required by a court order in 2019. Covington & Burling LLP told the court its search team failed to search all of the law firm’s records and missed the documents, mostly emails. The documents were produced to Powell on Tuesday.


“Covington determined that an unintentional miscommunication involving the firm’s information technology personnel had led them, in some instances, to run search terms on subsets of emails … rather than on the broader sets of emails that should have been searched,” Flynn’s former attorney Robert Kelner told the court in a motion. “We now have performed another search, using search terms and manual reviews, on a broader universe of material to correct the earlier error and to transfer additional documents that are part of the client file,” Kelner wrote, saying his firm was willing to assist Powell on any other matters and to address any questions the judge may have about the oversight.

Read more …

Graham wants Flynn, Obama and Trump to participate, but he doesn’t seek their testimony.

Rosenstein First Witness In Senate Judiciary’s ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ Probe (JTN)

Former acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein will be the first witness to testify in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation into the FBI’s handling of its Russia collusion probe, the panel announced Wednesday. Rosenstein is set to testify the morning of June 3 before the committee led by Chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham. The South Carolina Republican called for a formal inquiry a few weeks ago, following the release of declassified information that showed officials in the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane probe appeared to exceed authority, or at the very least break with protocol. Among the biggest revelations in the documents was that the FBI appeared to know that then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had not colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential election to influence the race’s outcome, but still interviewed him and pressed him into a guilty plea.

Graham, who is seeking subpoena authority in the probe, has said the committee will look into the appointment of retired FBI chief Robert Mueller as special counsel in the investigation. Rosenstein appointed Mueller and set the parameters of his authority. Graham said after the release of the documents — which was followed by the Justice Department asking a federal court to dismiss its Flynn case — that he would also seek testimony from former FBI Director James Comey, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates.

The first phase of the panel’s investigation “will deal with the government’s decision to dismiss” the case against Flynn, as well as “an in-depth analysis of the unmasking requests made by Obama Administration officials against Gen. Flynn,” Graham recently said. He has also invited Flynn, former President Obama and President Trump to participate.

Read more …

What the heck, let’s do some gossip.

New Book Claims Bill Clinton Had Affair With Ghislaine Maxwell (NYP)

Bill Clinton had an affair with British-born socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, who is accused of helping recruit underage victims for notorious pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, according to a blockbuster new book. The ex-president — who denies cheating on wife Hillary Clinton with Maxwell — reportedly engaged in the romps during overseas trips on Epstein’s private plane, a customized Boeing 727 that’s since become known as the “Lolita Express.” The nation’s 42nd head of state also repeatedly sneaked out to visit Maxwell at her Upper East Side townhouse, as detailed in this exclusive excerpt. Excerpt from “A Convenient Death: The Mysterious Demise of Jeffrey Epstein,” by Alana Goodman and Daniel Halper, out June 2:

“Clinton was allegedly carrying on an affair with at least one woman in Epstein’s orbit, but she was well over the age of consent. Ghislaine Maxwell, a constant presence at the ex- president’s side during these trips, was the primary reason Clinton let Epstein ferry him around the world. “[Bill] and Ghislaine were getting it on,” a source who witnessed the relationship said in an interview. “That’s why he was around Epstein—to be with her.” The source explained that reporters have been missing the point about the Clinton- Epstein relationship by focusing on Epstein’s sex crimes. “[Clinton’s] stupid but not an idiot,” the source says, dismissing the idea that the ex- president was sexually involved with children.

Clinton’s primary interest in Epstein was the woman he once dated and who allegedly helped procure her ex-boyfriend’s future victims. “You couldn’t hang out with her without being with him,” the source said of the Epstein-Clinton relationship. “Clinton just used him like everything else,” the source explains. In this case, Epstein was being used as an alibi while he hooked up with Maxwell.

[..] while attending the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City, at the end of an Indian summer, in September 2009, a process server walked through the packed lobby of the Sheraton Hotel…and served Ghislaine Maxwell papers for a deposition,” the journalist Conchita Sarnoff recalls. “Maxwell…was huddled in a small group talking to other guests” as the server approached her. He “called out her name and…with so many people surrounding her, Maxwell was unsuspecting. She confirmed her identity and he served her notice. The deposition was in relation to Epstein’s sexual abuse case. The server left at once,” Sarnoff writes in her book, TrafficKing.

Read more …

I’m old enough to remember that Black Lives Matter only became a going concern under America’s first black president.

Minneapolis Ablaze Amid Looting (ZH)

High unemployment, crashed economy, and now social unrest rears its ugly head as America descends into chaos ahead of the summer months. Across social media, pictures and videos coming from the streets of Minneapolis on Tuesday evening are absolutely stunning. Protests broke out following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody a day earlier. This reminds us of the 2014 Ferguson Riots and 2015 Baltimore Riots, in both incidents, the trigger for unrest was a young black man killed while in police custody. Unlike 2014/15, the economy has now plunged into a depression and tens of millions of people are unemployed, as some have to resort to food banks because they’ve fallen into instant poverty, which all suggests tensions are already running high as warmer weather entices people to step outside. With no work, why not riot?


Shown below, police fired rubber bullets, tear gas, and stun grenades at protesters. The initial demonstrations started peacefully than quickly got out of hand. Some hurled blunt objects at law enforcement while damaging police cars. The early hours of the protest were peaceful, hundreds, and maybe even more than a thousand people, were seen marching across 38th Street. Some carried signs that read “Justice for George Floyd,” “I can’t breathe,” and “Black Lives Matter.”

Read more …

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May 252020
 


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

 

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

 

 

Global new cases in past 24 hours: 101,325

New cases in:

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

 

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

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

But many places still seem to report quite differently over weekends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Did Putin get lost in the message?

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

“Stop being so US-centric.”

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

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

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


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

Read more …

Kuroda’s still fighting deflation.

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

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


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

Read more …

Time for an update on the shadow banks.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Excellent from the Globe and Mail.

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Long and great, reading under lockdown.

Tuxedo Park (Guinn)

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

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

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

Tuxedo Park.

Read more …

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May 102020
 


Andre Derain The port of Collioure 1905

 

Closing Borders Is The Most Effective Way Of Combatting Coronavirus (SN)
Accepting Death Is Not an Option (Kahn)
Early Herd Immunity: A Dangerous Misconception (Johns Hopkins)
US COVID19 Test Results: Third Consecutive Day Over 300K (CR)
Over 1 Out of Every 1000 People in NY and NJ Die From COVID19 (Mish)
Trump Says ‘No Rush’ On More Aid As Jobless Crisis Grows (AP)
South Korea Reports 34 New Coronavirus Cases, Highest In A Month (R.)
China Reports 14 New Confirmed Coronavirus Cases, Most in 2 Weeks (R.)
China Asked WHO To Cover Up Coronavirus Outbreak: German Intelligence (TN)
Top German Politician Wants To ‘Urgently’ Reopen French Border (RT)
Corona Under Control: Bavaria Lets Residents Go Out & Businesses Reopen (RT)
German Towns Bring Back Lockdown After Infections Spike Within Days (DM)
Facebook Censors Iconic Photo With Soviet Flag Raised Over Reichstag (RT)
Swiss National Bank Battling Enormous Pressure On Safe-Haven Franc (R.)
Obama Says That ‘Rule Of Law Is At Risk’ In Michael Flynn Case (Y!)

 

 

• US adds 1,568 #coronavirus deaths in 24 hours. Total deaths 80,037

 

• Significant progress in slowing growth in India, today 3,115 with plateau for 5 days at about 3,000 cases after earlier rapid increase.

• Pakistan has rapid increase from 1,165 three days ago doubling to 2,301 today.

 

 

 

Cases 4,121,778 (+ 89,015 from yesterday’s 4,032,763)

Deaths 280,868 (+ 4,191 from yesterday’s 276,677)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

First point of Crushing the Curve. Re: New Zealand. As long as air travel is the no. 1 mode of transport, it’s relatively easy to do, and to prove as well. But too late now. Next up: testing.

Closing Borders Is The Most Effective Way Of Combatting Coronavirus (SN)

Scientists in Brazil have found that the countries most affected by the coronavirus spread are the ones who continued to allow unrestricted travel across their borders, prompting further arguments that the most effective method of preventing the spread is tighter frontier controls. The research, carried out by the Federal University of Bahia in Salvador, suggests that screening and quarantining those coming into countries from outside could have been “a cheap solution for humanity”. The researchers based their analysis on records of 7,834 airports, using online flight databases documenting 67,600 transport routes in 65 countries.

The scientists factored in a number of forces, including climate, socioeconomic factors, as well economic and air transport, in an attempt to ascertain how the size of outbreaks was affected in 65 countries which had more than 100 cases. The overwhelming factor was found to be air travel, leading to a conclusion that it is “the main explanation for the growth rate of COVID-19.” The study notes that “The 2019 – 2020 world spread of COVID-19 highlights that improvements and testing of board control measures (i.e. screening associated with fast testing and quarantine of infected travellers) might be a cheap solution for humanity in comparison to health systems breakdowns and unprecedented global economic crises that the spread of infectious disease can cause.”

The data tallies with the fact that the US and the UK, which have the first and third highest air travel globally, have also suffered the most COVID-19 deaths with 74,600 and 30,615, respectively so far. The US did not close its airports until late March, while Britain’s borders have remained completely open with little to no testing or quarantining of incoming travellers happening at all. On the other hand, nations like Austria, Denmark and New Zealand closed their borders within days of their first confirmed cases, and have experienced much fewer deaths. Austria in particular has enacted tight border controls, refusing entry to anyone without a medical certificate confirming they had tested negative for the virus, and placing a mandatory 14 day quarantine on those who do not have them. The country has suffered just 68 deaths per million of its population, with only 606 overall.

Denmark closed its borders to all non-citizens in mid March, only excluding those with ‘credible purpose’ such as non-citizen Danish residents. The Scandinavian nation has recorded just 503 deaths. The UK, on the other hand has allowed some 18 million people to enter from outside the country with hardly any of them undergoing health screenings or being put into quarantine. Labour MP Stephen Doughty noted that “The fact that many of these people then likely arrived and travelled onwards across the UK with little or no adherence to social distancing, and with no checks or protections at the border is deeply disturbing.” The UK has seen 100,000 people arriving from foreign countries at UK airports every single week, all with virtually no health checks whatsoever.

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A good point. But you’re not making it better by blaming things on the “conservative movement”, or by dragging climate change into the topic.

Accepting Death Is Not an Option (Kahn)

The worst-case scenario with coronavirus is not mass death. It’s that people come to accept mass death—to accept that someone will die in the U.S. every 30 seconds as “just how it is.” Yet that is the proposition being thrust on us now. Yesterday, 2,746 people died of covid-19 in the U.S., the highest daily death toll recorded since the first confirmed deaths on American soil in February. That’s on the high end of leaked Trump administration forecasts for this time period and shows the 3,000 daily deaths come June in those forecasts might be wishful thinking. This is, in a word, horrific. But the Trump administration and its backers from conservative media to the small but vocal “reopen” movement are trying to convince people it’s not only normal but worth it.

They have turned the idea we should avoid the Bad Thing—namely, the needless deaths of thousands of Americans—on its head, arguing we should embrace it full-on and just plow forward with reopening the country. It’s a monstrous idea in the here and now, but it also sets up a dangerous precedent, priming people to accept policy failure—or, worse, reject legitimate policy solutions—on what remains the biggest issue facing humanity: climate change. Unless we demand more from our leaders and each other, we risk an even bigger catastrophe in our lifetimes. There is nothing acceptable about 3,000 people dying every day from coronavirus. What’s so nauseating about this is that we know what it looks like to contain the virus.

We’ve seen it in action. Countries as diverse as South Korea, New Zealand, and Vietnam have all successfully flattened the curve of death and suffering. The steps they broadly followed are proactive lockdowns and a slow reopening as the curve of infections flattened followed by contact tracing, mass testing, and ensuring frontline workers have ready access to personal protective equipment.

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Even if herd immunity were achievable, and this takes the fattest question mark you have ever seen, we don’t need it anymore than we need a vaccine. Which is good, because we have neither.

Early Herd Immunity: A Dangerous Misconception (Johns Hopkins)

We have listened with concern to voices erroneously suggesting that herd immunity may “soon slow the spread” of COVID-19. For example, Rush Limbaugh recently claimed that “herd immunity has occurred in California.” As infectious disease epidemiologists, we wish to state clearly that herd immunity against COVID-19 will not be achieved at a population level in 2020, barring a public health catastrophe. Although more than 2.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide, studies suggest that (as of early April 2020) no more than 2-4% of any country’s population has been infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes COVID-19). Even in hotspots like New York City that have been hit hardest by the pandemic, initial studies suggest that perhaps 15-21% of people have been exposed so far.

In getting to that level of exposure, more than 17,500 of the 8.4 million people in New York City (about 1 in every 500 New Yorkers) have died, with the overall death rate in the city suggesting deaths may be undercounted and mortality may be even higher. Some have entertained the idea of “controlled voluntary infection,” akin to the “chickenpox parties” of the 1980s. However, COVID-19 is 100 times more lethal than the chickenpox. For example, on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the mortality rate among those infected with SARS-CoV-2 was 1%. Someone who goes to a “coronavirus party” to get infected would not only be substantially increasing their own chance of dying in the next month, they would also be putting their families and friends at risk.

COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death in the United States, killing almost 2,000 Americans every day. Chickenpox never killed more than 150 Americans in a year. To reach herd immunity for COVID-19, likely 70% or more of the population would need to be immune. Without a vaccine, over 200 million Americans would have to get infected before we reach this threshold. Put another way, even if the current pace of the COVID-19 pandemic continues in the United States – with over 25,000 confirmed cases a day – it will be well into 2021 before we reach herd immunity. If current daily death rates continue, over half a million Americans would be dead from COVID-19 by that time.

As we discuss when and how to phase in re-opening, it is important to understand how vulnerable we remain. Increased testing will help us better understand the scope of infection, but it is clear this pandemic is still only beginning to unfold.

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Someone tries to claim that less than a million tests per day will be enough.

US COVID19 Test Results: Third Consecutive Day Over 300K (CR)

The US might be able to test 400,000 to 600,000 people per day sometime in May according to Dr. Fauci – and that might be enough for test and trace. However, the US might need more than 900,000 tests per day according to Dr. Jha of Harvard’s Global Health Institute. There were 300,842 test results reported over the last 24 hours. This data is from the COVID Tracking Project. The percent positive over the last 24 hours was 8.4% (red line). The US probably needs enough tests to push the percentage positive below 5%. (probably much lower based on testing in New Zealand).

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Singapore is not the greatest example. It had another 876 new cases yesterday.

Over 1 Out of Every 1000 People in NY and NJ Die From COVID19 (Mish)

New Jersey joined New York today in the dubious distinction of coronavirus deaths rates of over 1 in 1,000 people. As states start opening up here are some charts to consider. The chart is not population adjusted. I made the chart as a spot check to see if new deaths were generally in line with the lead chart. There are some new states, notably Texas and Florida, but they are not in the front of the pack, and the day-to-day totals are very noisy.

Three Obvious Standouts • Singapore • South Korea • Japan.


Singapore , South Korea, and Japan all did three things that the US did not do and many in the US still do not want to do.
1) Aggressive Early Testing
2) Cooperative Society on Social Distancing Rules
3) Contact Tracing
1: The US did not do aggressive early testing and it’s too late for that now.
2: The US was late in social distancing and some want to fight it
3: The US did not do contact tracing and may still view that as violation of personal privacy.

Too Late for Early Testing, But Not Overall Testing: Most do want aggressive testing, but despite Trump’s claims, the US is not where we need to be. However, the number of tests is finally ramping up. Coupled with spotty social distancing (compared to other countries) Is that enough? I don’t know, but we are about to find out.

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Guess the bankers are satisfied for a few weeks.

Trump Says ‘No Rush’ On More Aid As Jobless Crisis Grows (AP)

President Donald Trump says he’s in “no rush” to negotiate another financial rescue bill, even as the government reported that more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs last month due to economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus. The president’s low-key approach came Friday as the Labor Department reported the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression and as Democrats prepared to unveil what Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer calls a “Rooseveltian-style” aid package to shore up the economy and address the health crisis. Some congressional conservatives, meanwhile, who set aside long-held opposition to deficits to pass more than $2 trillion in relief so far, have expressed reservations about another massive spending package.

“We’ve kind of paused as far as formal negotiations go,” Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council told reporters Friday. He said the administration wanted to let the last round of recovery funding kick in before committing to hundreds of billions or more in additional spending. “Let’s have a look at what the latest round produces, give it a month or so to evaluate that.” Kudlow added that talks were in a “lull” and that administration officials and legislators would “regroup” in the next several weeks. Still, White House aides are drawing up a wish-list for a future spending bill, including a payroll tax cut, liability protection for businesses that reopen and potentially billions in infrastructure spending.

Kudlow added that the White House was also considering allowing businesses to immediately expense the costs of modifiying their facilities to accommodate public safety measures necessary to reopen. The notion was brought up on a call with House members advising the White House on reopening plans Thursday evening and drew bipartisan support. “We’re in no rush, we’re in no rush,” Trump told reporters Friday during an event with House Republicans. He called on Democratic-controlled House to return to Washington, adding, “We want to see what they have.”

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One guy “meets” 1,500 people in one day, infects 42.

South Korea Reports 34 New Coronavirus Cases, Highest In A Month (R.)

South Korea reported 34 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, the highest daily number in a month, after a small outbreak emerged around a slew of nightclubs that a confirmed patient had visited. Of the new cases, 26 were domestically transmitted infections and eight were imported cases, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said. Sunday’s total was the highest since April 9. After battling the first major epidemic outside China, South Korea posted zero or very few domestic cases over the past 10 days, with the daily tally hovering around 10 or less in recent weeks.


The resurgence followed a small but growing coronavirus outbreak centred around a handful of Seoul nightclubs, which a man in his late 20s had visited before testing positive for the virus. At least 15 people were traced to that man as of Friday, and 14 of the 26 cases were reported from Seoul on Sunday, although the KCDC did not specify how many were linked. The outbreak prompted Seoul city to impose an immediate temporary shutdown of all nightly entertainment facilities on Saturday. The city said it is tracking down abut 1,500 people who have gone to the clubs, and has asked anyone who was there last weekend to self-isolate for 14 days and be tested.

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Time for more lockdowns.

China Reports 14 New Confirmed Coronavirus Cases, Most in 2 Weeks (R.)

China’s National Health Commission reported 14 new confirmed coronavirus cases on May 9, the highest number since April 28, including the first for more than a month in the city of Wuhan where the outbreak was first detected late last year. While China had officially designated all areas of the country as low-risk last Thursday, the new cases according to data published on Sunday represent a jump from the single case reported for the day before. The number was lifted by a cluster of 11 in Shulan city in northeastern Jilin province.


Jilin officials on Sunday raised the Shulan city risk level to high from medium, having hoisted it to medium the day before after one woman tested positive on May 7. The 11 new cases made public on Sunday are members of her family or people who came into contact with her or family members. The new Wuhan case, the first reported in the epicentre of China’s outbreak since April 3, was previously asymptomatic, according to the health commission. Aside from the Shulan cluster and the Wuhan case, the remaining two new confirmed cases were imported infections. It also said newly discovered asymptomatic cases were at 20, the highest since May 1 and up from 15 a day earlier.

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Is this why Tedros didn’t declare a pandemic for another 7 weeks after?

China Asked WHO To Cover Up Coronavirus Outbreak: German Intelligence (TN)

Chinese leader Xi Jinping asked World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to suppress news about the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the German intelligence agency BND found, according to a report by German magazine Der Spiegel. During a conversation on Jan. 21, Xi reportedly asked Tedros not to announce that the virus could be transmitted between humans and to delay any declaration of a coronavirus pandemic. It took until the end of January before the WHO declared that the coronavirus outbreak needed to receive international attention.


Because of China’s delay, the world wasted four to six weeks it could have used better to counter the virus from spreading, the BND concluded. Germany’s Robert Koch Institute also said that China failed to reveal all relevant information at the outset of the epidemic, leading it to turn to the BND for advice, according to a report in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung quoted by CNA. In a response to the German media reports, Chinese diplomats said the opposite was true, arguing that the communist country’s handling of the virus saved time that was then wasted by other governments.

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Keeping the borders shut would risk “permanently damaging cross-border coexistence”. But exporting the virus from one country to the next would not?

Top German Politician Wants To ‘Urgently’ Reopen French Border (RT)

The head of Germany’s most populous state has called for the reopening of the country’s French border to be fast-tracked. The federal government earlier warned that such actions risk launching a new wave of Covid-19 infections. “We urgently need to open the border with France,” Armin Laschet, minister president of the country’s North Rhine-Westphalia state, which borders France, told German media. The lockdown there ends on May 11. That would be a good time to send a signal to our neighbors that we are striving for a common European response to the pandemic. Laschet suggested that the German government should also “talk to Austria in this sense.”


France is due to initiate its first phase of relaxing quarantine rules on Monday. However, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said earlier this week that the border will remain closed until at least June 15. The German government has been under pressure to lift restrictions on international travel early as some European countries begin to gradually ease their lockdowns. A group of German lawmakers and members of the European Parliament have called on Interior Minister Horst Seehofer to fast-track the reopening of the border crossings. The foreign minister of the small nation of Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn, has also written a letter to Seehofer, arguing that the shutdown of the border crossings is causing “growing discontent” among the population on both sides of the border and risks “permanently damaging cross-border coexistence” in the region.

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And how does one define “under control”? “.. the number of fresh cases has dropped by more than half across the region..”

Corona Under Control: Bavaria Lets Residents Go Out & Businesses Reopen (RT)

Despite warnings the Covid-19 crisis isn’t over, one of Germany’s wealthiest states is set to open up, allowing people to go out for any reason and letting almost all businesses – from retail to tourism – welcome visitors again. “Now it is time to act,” proclaimed Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Soeder as he rolled out“a path of reason” for the wealthy Alpine state. “In the beginning we had an explosive [rate of] infection,” Soeder admitted, adding though that “coronavirus is now under control.” Bavaria claims almost one-quarter – over 43,000 – of all confirmed coronavirus infections in Germany, but the number of fresh cases has dropped by more than half across the region, he said, explaining why relaxing the lockdown is an option. The current figures “allow for careful steps toward opening up,” provided that a “combination of caution and freedom” prevail.


Starting from May 6, Bavarians can visit anyone outside their own household. Seeing relatives in nursing homes will also become possible this weekend, although strict rules will remain in place, with visitors still having to wear masks at all times and meet their loved ones outdoors wherever possible. From May 11, zoos, botanical gardens, museums, libraries, galleries, exhibitions, and memorials will likewise open their doors – but only conditionally, meaning that their staff will have to accommodate social distancing and coronavirus hygiene measures. Supermarkets and stores with premises bigger than 800 square meters are also cleared to resume their activities. Locals will be able to more fully enjoy the outdoors in the second half of May when the state-wide ban on open-air dining is lifted. Bavaria, on a par with a handful of other German states, is also allowing hotels and leisure places to welcome visitors again, to much relief of its tourism industry.

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They’re risking the country falling apart. Just like the US does.

German Towns Bring Back Lockdown After Infections Spike Within Days (DM)

Local authorities in Germany are bringing back lockdown measures after coronavirus infections spiked just days after Angela Merkel started to ease them. Germany has 16 federal states, with the power to relax restrictions, who have all agreed to reimpose lockdown if new cases hit 50 per 100,000 people over seven days. The regional government in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populated state, recorded a spike in coronavirus cases after 150 of 1,200 employees tested positive at a slaughterhouse in Coesfeld. The regional government has postponed reopening restaurants, tourist spots, fitness studios and larger shops which was supposed to happen on May 11.

Reopening schools and daycare centres is set to go ahead as planned. North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann said the slaughterhouse infection rate had pushed the region above 50 per 100,000 people to 61 per 100,000 people. He closed the slaughterhouse temporarily and said employees at all of the state’s meat processing plants would be tested. A different slaughterhouse in the northern state Schleswig-Holstein also saw a rise in employees testing positive for the virus taking the district’s infection rate over the 50 per 100,000 people threshold. In the eastern state of Thuringia, the local government recorded more than 80 infections per 100,000 people over the past week.

The majority of these infections were among employees and residents in six care homes and one geriatrics hospital. Martina Schweinsburg, the chief administrator of Thuringia’s Greiz, said: ‘To be clear: We’re not going to put the entire district in quarantine just two small towns were particularly affected.’

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Note: the photo apparently wasn’t taken on May 2, but the day after during a re-enactment.

Facebook Censors Iconic Photo With Soviet Flag Raised Over Reichstag (RT)

Social media feeds are filled with historic shots marking Victory Day, but Facebook seems to have taken issue with one that symbolizes the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, and it keeps deleting a recently-colorized version of it. Taken during the Battle of Berlin on May 2, 1945, Yevgeny Khaldei’s ‘Raising a Flag over the Reichstag’ commonly springs to mind when it comes to the subject of World War II and Victory Day celebrations. It universally appears in literature, documentaries and, indeed, in social media posts. RT has even reenacted the iconic moment as part of its V-Day project.

All the more puzzled, then, were social media users who tried posting the iconic shot on Facebook on May 9, as Russia marked 75 years since the defeat of Nazi Germany. While the vintage black-and-white versions of the famous photo seemed to pass FB algorithms with flying colors, the version skilfully colorized by Olga Shirnina (aka Klimbim) –showing the Soviet flag in its original bright red– set off alarm bells. “Your post goes against our Community Standards on dangerous individuals and organisations,” was the message shown to several RT employees who’d set out to verify the reports and tried to post the picture. The warning appeared minutes after posts were completed, after which the image just vanished altogether.

Details provided in the warning only broadly outline the topics banned on FB, such as terrorism and incitement of hate and violence. There is no indication that FB has ever consistently associated the Soviet symbols with any on the list, although the network does have a history of erroneously censoring certain historic shots.


Yevgeny Khaldei – 75 years ago the Soviet banner was raised over the Reichstag. 11 million Soviet soldiers died in WW2 and three-quarters of German losses were suffered at the hands of the Red Army – May 2 1945

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Just link it to the euro.

Swiss National Bank Battling Enormous Pressure On Safe-Haven Franc (R.)

The Swiss National Bank has no alternative to its ultra-expansive monetary policy, with the coronavirus crisis heaping “enormous” appreciation pressure on the safe-haven Swiss franc, SNB Chairman Thomas Jordan said in newspaper interviews. The SNB was not happy about the negative interest rate of minus 0.75% it charges banks who park money with it overnight, Jordan told the SonntagsZeitung paper. It would lift the rates — the lowest in the world — as soon as circumstances allowed, he said, although this was currently impossible. “We unfortunately have no choice but to maintain the negative interest rate,” said Jordan. “Without it, we would be in a much more difficult situation now.

“The Swiss franc would be massively more attractive and the financing conditions for the Swiss economy would be much worse,” he added. “The negative interest is necessary at the moment to avert major damage to Switzerland.” The SNB was also stepping up foreign currency purchases to dampen the rise of the franc, Jordan said. Sight deposits at the central bank, a proxy for SNB interventions, have risen by nearly 77 billion Swiss francs ($79.33 billion) this year, while the franc has risen to its highest level against the euro since July 2015. “We have emphasized several times … we are active in the foreign exchange markets to reduce the pressure on the Swiss franc,” Jordan told the paper.

“We deliberately never report our transactions in detail, but I would like to emphasise that we are making a substantial commitment,” he said. All this was necessary to prevent the franc from strengthening, hurting Switzerland’s export-orientated economy and triggering deflation.

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It certainly is. But not in the way he means.

Obama Says That ‘Rule Of Law Is At Risk’ In Michael Flynn Case (Y!)

Former President Barack Obama, talking privately to ex-members of his administration, said Friday that the “rule of law is at risk” in the wake of what he called an unprecedented move by the Justice Department to drop charges against former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn. In the same chat, a tape of which was obtained by Yahoo News, Obama also lashed out at the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as “an absolute chaotic disaster.” “The news over the last 24 hours I think has been somewhat downplayed — about the Justice Department dropping charges against Michael Flynn,” Obama said in a web talk with members of the Obama Alumni Association.

“And the fact that there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free. That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk. And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we’ve seen in other places.” The Flynn case was invoked by Obama as a principal reason that his former administration officials needed to make sure former Vice President Joe Biden wins the November election against President Trump. “So I am hoping that all of you feel the same sense of urgency that I do,” he said.

“Whenever I campaign, I’ve always said, ‘Ah, this is the most important election.’ Especially obviously when I was on the ballot, that always feels like it’s the most important election. This one — I’m not on the ballot — but I am pretty darn invested. We got to make this happen.” Obama misstated the charge to which Flynn had previously pleaded guilty. He was charged with false statements to the FBI, not perjury. But the Justice Department, in a filing with a federal judge on Thursday, asked that the case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller be dismissed, arguing that FBI agents did not have a justifiable reason to question the then national security adviser about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak — talks FBI agents and Mueller’s prosecutors concluded he had lied about.

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

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 072020
 


Banksy – Sounthampton General Hospital – 2020

 

 

Coronavirus May Have Jumped To Humans As Early As October (SCMP)
Italian Scientists Claim To Have Developed World’s First Coronavirus Vaccine (Ind.)
Trump Calls Americans ‘Warriors’ In Fight To Open The Economy (LAT)
Are Americans Ready For A -Costly- Breakup With China? (CSM)
Coronavirus Survivors ‘Permanently Disqualified’ From Joining US Military (NW)
California Expected To Experience ‘Jaw-Dropping’ Unemployment – Newsom (JTN)
UK GPs In The Dark Over COVID19 Tests (G.)
All 400,000 Gowns Flown From Turkey For NHS Fail UK Standards (G.)
COVID19 Deaths: How Does Britain Compare With Other Countries? (Spiegelhalter)
New Zealand ‘Halfway Down Everest’, Plans Big Easing Of COVID Lockdown (G.)
Baltic States To Create ‘Travel Bubble’ As Pandemic Curbs Eased
China’s Services Sector Contracts For Third Month As Job Losses Hit Record (R.)
Republicans Want Review Of Aid To WHO (R.)
OPCW Chief Made False Claims To Denigrate Douma Whistleblower (Maté)
Cuomo Taps Bill Gates To Help Him ‘Reimagine’ New York’s Public Schools (JTN)

 

 

The US had +2,528 new coronavirus deaths yesterday, the highest number since April 21, bringing the national total to 74,799.

 

 

 

 

Cases 3,836,826 (+ 92,061 from yesterday’s 3,744,765)

Deaths 265,366 (+ 6,482 from yesterday’s 258,884)

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

The FT has a section, Coronavirus: free to read, with a few good graphs.

They look at excess deaths as the best way to gauge COVID19.

And some more graphs:

https://twitter.com/RemiGMI/status/1258021339362885634

 

 

Makes sense.

Coronavirus May Have Jumped To Humans As Early As October (SCMP)

The Covid-19 pandemic might have started as early as October, according to the latest research into the genetic make-up of the coronavirus. The pathogen, formally known as SARS-CoV-2, is thought to have made the jump from initial host to humans some time between October 6 and December 11 last year, according to an article released on Tuesday and set to be published in an upcoming edition of the scientific journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution. The findings are based on analysis of more than 7,000 genome sequence assemblies collected from around the world since January. By examining the evolution of the mutations, researchers from University College London and the University of Reunion Island were able to rewind their molecular clocks to a common starting point.

They were also able to identify the major mutations to the coronavirus, which has continued to evolve since making the jump to humans. While retrospective studies have suggested various dates for the first Covid-19 patient, government data seen by the South China Morning Post put the first confirmed infection at November 17. Based on information from the first whole genome sequence of the coronavirus – published by a laboratory in Shanghai in January – and other genome analyses, scientists had earlier concluded that SARS-CoV-2 most likely came from a bat and made the jump to humans via an intermediate animal some time in November.

But by the time the latest study was conducted, late last month, the researchers had access to much more information via data-sharing platforms. They selected 7,710 assemblies, curated a data set of 7,666 and then analysed the emergence of genomic diversity over time. While there were variations in the mutations and evolutionary stages of the viruses they studied, the team was able to determine their most recent common ancestor (MRCA), which in turn gave them their new estimate for the start of the global health crisis. “These dates for the start of the epidemic are in broad agreement with previous estimates performed on smaller subsets of the Covid-19 genomic data using various computational methods, though they should still be taken with some caution,” the study said.

In most countries, including Britain, the United States and Ireland, the genetic diversity of the samples essentially reflects the global diversity, suggesting the local epidemics came from independent introductions of the virus. However, China, where the outbreak was first reported, is a main exception to this pattern, where only a fraction of the global diversity can be found. “The genomic diversity of the global SARS-CoV-2 population being recapitulated in multiple countries points to extensive worldwide transmission of Covid-19, likely from extremely early on in the pandemic,” the study said.

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2022 and onwards. Crushing the curve is much easier. And faster.

Italian Scientists Claim To Have Developed World’s First Coronavirus Vaccine (Ind.)

Italian researchers claim to have developed a vaccine that can neutralise the coronavirus in human cells. Tests carried out at Rome’s Lazzaro Spallanzani Hospital, which specialises in infectious diseases, generated antibodies in mice that work in human cells. “This is the most advanced stage of testing of a candidate vaccine created in Italy,” said Luigi Aurisicchio, chief executive of Takis, the company working on the treatment. “According to Spallanzani Hospital, as far as we know we are the first in the world so far to have demonstrated a neutralisation of the coronavirus by a vaccine,” he told the Italian news agency Ansa. “We expect this to happen in humans too.”

“Human tests are expected after this summer,” Mr Aurisicchio said. He added: “We are working hard for a vaccine coming from Italian research, with an all-Italian and innovative technology, tested in Italy and made available to everyone. “In order to reach this goal, we need the support of national and international institutions and partners who may help us speed up the process.” After a single vaccination, the mice developed antibodies capable of blocking the virus from infecting human cells, Mr Aurisicchio claimed. He said researchers observed that five candidate vaccines generated a large number of antibodies and they then selected the two with the best results.

Last week, experts at the University of Oxford said the first results of their coronavirus vaccine trials could be ready by as early as mid-June. The institution also announced a new partnership with British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. Human trials of the vaccine developed at the university’s Jenner Institute began last month, with hundreds volunteering to be part of the study.

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Some non-thinkers here: “Good generals do not send their soldiers into battle without knowing that there will be a net gain..”. Right, US generals only go into battle if and when they already know they will win. Must be a lesson learned in Vietnam.

Trump Calls Americans ‘Warriors’ In Fight To Open The Economy (LAT)

Donald Trump has described himself as a “wartime president” during the coronavirus crisis, and now he seems to have found his army as he pushes the country to reopen despite the risks. In recent days, he’s begun describing citizens as “warriors” in the battle against the pandemic and suggested some of those fighters might have to die if that will help boost the economy.“Will some people be affected? Yes,” he said on a trip to Arizona this week, his first outside of the Washington area in nearly two months. “Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open, and we have to get it open soon.” Trump previously described healthcare workers as “warriors” for risking their safety to treat coronavirus patients, wording he used again on Wednesday when signing a proclamation honoring nurses.

But his decision to expand the characterization to everyday Americans is a noticeable shift from his previous declarations that “one is too many” deaths. The toll from the illness surpassed 70,000 this week and seems on track to top 100,000 by the end of the month, numbers far larger than Trump recently predicted. Asked Wednesday if the nation needs to accept greater loss of life, Trump said “hopefully it won’t be the case, but it may very well be the case.” “We have to be warriors,” he said from his seat behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office. “We can’t keep our country closed down for years.” The new language shows Trump appears to view people as “collateral damage to salvage the economy,” said Jeffrey Levi, a public health expert at George Washington University.

“Good generals do not send their soldiers into battle without knowing that there will be a net gain,” Levi said. “And here we know reopening too soon will be a net loss, both in lives and the long-term stability of the economy.” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany denied that Trump was suggesting that citizens must put themselves in harm’s way to fight the coronavirus — “not in the slightest,” she said. Although the president has repeatedly said that Americans must be “warriors” to reopen the economy, McEnany offered an alternative explanation for the description. “They’re warriors because they’ve stayed home,” she said at a White House briefing Wednesday. “They’re warriors because they’ve social distanced. They’re warriors because this mitigation effort is something that could only be done by the American people coming together and making really hard sacrifices.”

[..] Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, said there’s no valor in sacrificing people’s lives to fight the pandemic. “People who are dying of this virus are not dying to protect the American way of life,” he said. “They’re dying because their government has had a completely ineffective response to this infectious disease.” If Americans are being considered warriors, Jha said, Trump is sending them onto the battlefield without the testing and contact tracing required for protection. “He has left Americans disarmed,” he said. “He’s not given the American people the tools they need to fight this virus.”

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See yesterday. Lots of people quoting the SCMP article today, but it’s just hot air.

Are Americans Ready For A -Costly- Breakup With China? (CSM)

[..] some longtime advocates of a “decoupling” from China say the pandemic offers the best opportunity since the 1970s for a robust national debate on the merits of a significant and policy-driven separation. Such a debate would span issues from technology transfer and U.S. economic sectors’ dependence on China trade to sharpening criticism of China’s violations of human rights. “Three months ago I would have said there was no chance of a serious decoupling from China, but the political environment has changed,” says Derek Scissors, an expert in U.S.-China economic relations at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “We’re still not near the serious – and what would be costly – steps necessary to separate [from them] and reduce our participation in the success of China’s economic model,” he adds.

“But all the outrage over the tremendous suffering and economic impact of [the pandemic] has opened a door to a reassessment of our relationship.” More likely than a new China strategy that sets out to reduce ties, say others, is an acceleration and intensification of actions that were already being pursued or promoted by some in Congress and some China analysts. “What this [rise in tensions] is really doing is exacerbating the geopolitical trends we’ve already been seeing in recent years,” says Michael Auslin, a distinguished research fellow in contemporary Asia at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution in Stanford, California. “The tensions were already growing.” Thus there is likely to be rising pressure for action on topics that have raged for years, from stemming the theft of intellectual property and repatriating supply chains critical to U.S. national security, to confronting China’s expansionist activities in the South China Sea.

A change that the U.S. and other Western countries should capitalize on in the post-pandemic period, some experts say, is that China is now going to be marked by many countries as an untrustworthy partner. That is not just because of how China handled the initial outbreak of the coronavirus, they say, but because its heavy-handed actions in its pandemic-related foreign assistance has left a bad taste from Europe to Africa. “The world has put an asterisk next to China,” says Mr. Auslin, who notes for example that the White House now puts an asterisk next to coronavirus statistics out of China. And the theme running through much of the European press last week, he says, was “The Week China Lost Europe.”

Read more …

No, not just survivors, but anyone who’s ever tested positive.

If that herd immunity idea ever goes anywhere, that would mean 60%+ can’t join anymore. Who said Americans have no sense of humor?

Coronavirus Survivors ‘Permanently Disqualified’ From Joining US Military (NW)

The military will stop recruiting applicants who have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a proposal in a memo from the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (MEPCOM). The contents of the memo, which has been circulating on the internet, were confirmed to Newsweek by the Pentagon, which described them as “interim guidance.” The story was first reported by the Military Times. “During the medical history interview or examination, a history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or a clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying,” the memo reads. Additionally, the memo lays out guidelines for handling possible and confirmed coronavirus cases in applicants.


It says any applicants at any of the 65 nationwide Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) should be evaluated for possible coronavirus infection, most likely through a temperature check and questions about their symptoms and possible contact with infected individuals. If an applicant seems likely positive for the coronavirus, they can return to the MEPS if they’re symptom-free after 14 days. Anyone who tests positive through a lab test or clinical diagnosis can return to MEPS 28 days after their diagnosis. However, their application will be marked as “permanently disqualifying,” and while applicants can request a waiver the memo offers no further guidance for possible COVID-19 exceptions, meaning that “a review authority would have no justification to grant a waiver,” says the Military Times.

Read more …

A lot of support for opening up also involves halting financial support plans. Worst idea ever, because:

California Expected To Experience ‘Jaw-Dropping’ Unemployment – Newsom (JTN)

California Governor Gavin Newsom forewarned of “jaw-dropping” unemployment at his daily press conference on Wednesday. After stating the state is experiencing an unprecedented spike in unemployment claims, he said, “You’ll see these numbers translating into unemployment rates that will be rather jaw-dropping.” Newsom called the rise in unemployment claims “Without precedent in our state’s history,” noting that 4.2 million people have now applied for Public Unemployment Assistance and $10.6 billion in aid has already been distributed.


He also announced his signing an executive order extending worker’s compensation to essential workers who test positive for COVID-19, adding that benefits could only be rebutted by an employer “under strict criteria.” Newsom is facing mounting criticism over a plan he announced on April 16 that would create a $125 million fund for undocumented immigrants affected by the coronavirus. Non-profits will distribute the money, but it’s still unclear when people will see a check.

Read more …

Link on the page to another Giurdian article: Q&A – Coronavirus tests in the UK – who qualifies for one?

That would have been a reasonable question in January, perhaps into February. It’s idiotic in May.

UK GPs In The Dark Over COVID19 Tests (G.)

The results of hundreds of thousands of coronavirus tests carried out at privately run drive-through centres in England have not yet been shared with GPs or local authorities, who complain they have “no idea” where local disease clusters are. GPs told the Guardian they had been “totally left out of the conversation” after the government said it was still “working on a technical solution” to get Covid-19 test results into individual GP records in England, having promised to do so weeks ago. Meanwhile, the chief medical officer for England, Prof Chris Whitty, apologised to local health leaders who have not yet received any detailed data from “pillar two” tests conducted by the private firm Deloitte over the past month.


These now form the majority of tests being carried out each day, either at drive-through testing centres or via the post. During a conference call on Wednesday with directors of public health at local authorities across England, the government’s national coordinator of the UK coronavirus testing programme, Prof John Newton, also apologised for not yet sharing the detailed data. He said there had been “data quality issues”. Newton admitted that the Deloitte tests did not yet ask people for their ethnicity or whether they worked in health or social care – an oversight described by one director of public health on the call as “really disappointing”. People of colour and healthcare workers and those working in care homes are known to have much higher incidences of the disease.

Read more …

• UK unemployment to double and economy to shrink by 25%, warns Bank of England

• British economic output is set to crash 14% this year owing to the coronavirus, the Bank of England said as it left its interest rate at 0.1%.

• UK gross domestic product would rebound by 15% in 2021 however, the BoE said

• Buy some more gowns, unseen preferably

All 400,000 Gowns Flown From Turkey For NHS Fail UK Standards (G.)

Last month, amid dire warnings of shortages of personal protective equipment for health workers, ministers publicised the imminent arrival from Turkey of a fleet of RAF cargo planes bringing in a “very significant” shipment of PPE for the NHS. More than a fortnight later, it has emerged that every one of the 400,000 protective gowns that eventually arrived has been impounded after being found not to conform to UK standards. The Department for Health and Social Care confirmed on Wednesday evening that the items were being held in a facility near Heathrow airport. It is understood that they are due to be sent back and that the DHSC intends to seek a refund, as it has done in similar situations in the past.

The announcement of the shipment by the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, on 18 April came as unions and professional bodies warned that NHS staff may refuse to work without PPE. Jenrick told the daily Downing Street press briefing that healthcare workers should be “assured that we are doing everything we can to correct this issue”, saying they would have the equipment they “need and deserve”. Sources later told the Guardian that the DHSC had advised No 10 not to allow Jenrick to publicise the shipment in case it backfired, but was overruled. The necessary clearances, it turned out, had not been sought. When the consignment did not arrive on time as promised, the delay prompted hospital leaders to directly attack the government for the first time during the pandemic.

Ministers responded by saying they thought it may only a one-day delay. Two days later, with the shipment only then beginning to clear Turkish customs checks, they were only able to give an estimate of arrival “in the next few days”. The first planeload of gowns eventually arrived on 22 April, but the next day it was reported that “less than a 10th” of the order had arrived. Now all are expected to be returned. The saga, first reported by the Telegraph, is one of a series of highly publicised government coronavirus initiatives that have failed to deliver the promised results. Its much-trumpeted “ventilator challenge” asked companies such as Rolls-Royce and Dyson to begin producing the machines, but none have reached the final stages of testing and the majority have proved surplus to requirements.

Read more …

David Spiegelhalter was quoted by the PM yesterday to prove Britain can’t be compared to opther countries, and didn’t like that. He tweeted: “Polite request to PM and others: please stop using my Guardian article to claim we cannot make any international comparisons yet. I refer only to detailed league tables-of course we should now use other countries to try and learn why our numbers are high..”

BTW, Spiegelhalter translate as “someone who holds (up) a mirror”. Fitting.

COVID19 Deaths: How Does Britain Compare With Other Countries? (Spiegelhalter)

You would think it would be easy for a bean-counting statistician to count deaths – the one certain thing (apart from taxes). But it is remarkably difficult. I have stopped taking much notice of the number given out at the daily press conferences, as it is only based on reports from hospitals, oscillates wildly around weekends, and recently included deaths that occurred a month ago. And this week the number of UK deaths jumped up by nearly 5,000 to 26,097 in one day – rather close to Starmer’s count – by retrospectively including non-hospital deaths that had tested positive for the virus. But even this is too low, as it does not include the many deaths of people who were not tested.

The Office for National Statistics data on death registrations is the last word, although inevitably delayed by around 10 days, and these figures would be expected to take the current total to significantly more than 30,000. But we should be very cautious in comparing even this uncertain total with those of other countries. Every country has different ways of recording Covid-19 deaths: the large number of deaths in care homes have not featured in Spain’s statistics – which, like the UK’s require a positive test result. The numbers may be useful for looking at trends, but they are not reliable indicators for comparing the absolute levels. If we were naive enough to take the counts at face value, the new figures propelled the UK past France and Spain into second place in Europe behind Italy, which is not encouraging because we are behind Italy in terms of what stage of the epidemic we are at.

A more equitable metric might be Covid-19 deaths per million. Ignoring tiny countries, our current score of 388 puts us fourth, behind Belgium (632), Spain (509) and Italy (452). But these are still deeply unreliable numbers, as it is not clear if we should just be looking at Covid-19-labelled deaths anyway. The effects of seasonal flu are not based on tests or death certificates, but at looking at the total number of deaths over the winter, seeing how many extra there are than a baseline, allowing for climate, and assuming these excess deaths were linked to flu. On average, over the last 10 years this has come to about 8,000 flu-related deaths, rising to 26,400 in 2017-2018 and 28,300 in 2014-15.

Read more …

Being an island helps. And so does a real lockdown.

New Zealand ‘Halfway Down Everest’, Plans Big Easing Of COVID Lockdown (G.)

Hairdressers, bars and competitive sport could be back on the agenda for New Zealanders from next week as the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said the country was “halfway down Everest” in its fight against Covid-19. New Zealand has been under strict lockdown restrictions for more than five weeks, but the low number of cases this week – zero for two consecutive days – means restrictions will soon be lifted. Ardern and her cabinet will make a decision on downgrading the country’s alert level from three to two on Monday, and by Wednesday, life could begin to look much more normal – and fun – for millions of cooped-up Kiwis. The relaxation of restrictions, which would allow gatherings of up to 100 people, both indoors and outdoors, was greeted with jubilation across the country.

Public spaces such as playgrounds and libraries would be reopened, bars and restaurants would be able to accept patrons, and domestic travel and competitive sport allowed to resume, including the professional leagues, but there will be no stadium crowds for now. Most workers would be allowed to head back to the office, though Ardern urged any who could stay home – or found it more productive – to do so. Widespread social-distancing rules would continue to apply, including patrons being seated two metres apart in public spaces, strangers keeping their distance from one another, and hairdressers, barbers and beauticians being required to wear PPE.

New Zealanders have been living in tight “bubbles” for more than a month, only allowed to socialise with those in their own home. Under the plans outlined by Ardern on Thursday, they would be permitted to see friends, family and even online dates – so long as they keep a log of their movements, and did not participate in indoor or outdoor gatherings of any more than 100. Weddings, funerals and anniversary celebrations would also be permitted. [..] the measures appear to have been effective, with just 21 deaths – all older people with pre-existing health conditions – and global praise has been heaped on the small island nation of 5 million by the World Health Organization, among others.

Read more …

Eastern Europe is a success story.

Baltic States To Create ‘Travel Bubble’ As Pandemic Curbs Eased

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia will open their borders to each others’ citizens from May 15, creating a Baltic “travel bubble” within the European Union amid an easing of pandemic restrictions, their prime ministers said on Wednesday. “It’s a big step towards life as normal”, Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas wrote on Twitter. The Baltic travel area would be first of its kind in the bloc, where most countries restricted entry to non-nationals and imposed quarantine on incoming travellers as the coronavirus spread across the continent. Citizens of the three countries will be free to travel within the region, but anyone entering from outside will need to self-isolate for 14 days, Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said.


“We showed a good example by stating, very clearly, that only countries which successfully dealt with the situation can open themselves up,” he added. “I think we will keep to this principle when dealing with countries where the situation is very bad, which did not take measures to control the virus spread.” Poland and Finland could be the next countries to join the free travel bloc, said Skvernelis. The European Commission has recommended that internal border controls between all member states should be lifted in a coordinated manner, once their virus situation converges sufficiently, the commission’s office in Lithuania said.

Read more …

No buyers left.

China’s Services Sector Contracts For Third Month As Job Losses Hit Record (R.)

China’s services firms wallowed in contraction in April as layoffs hit a record and export orders plunged after signs of improvement in March, a private survey showed, dashing hopes of a quick recovery from the coronavirus blow. The Caixin/Markit services Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) did manage to pull up to 44.4 in April from 43 in March, but remained in a deep slump and far below historic averages. The 50-mark separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis. The third straight month of contraction for China’s services sector, an important generator of jobs and which accounts for about 60% of the economy, suggests a still turbulent period ahead after the collapse in economic activity in the first quarter, when GDP shrank 6.8%.


It also raised worries about the outlook even though the pandemic has been largely brought under control domestically, as a sharp global downturn dampens demand for Chinese goods and services. “The second shockwave for China’s economy brought about by shrinking overseas demand should not be underestimated in the second quarter,” said Zhengsheng Zhong, director of macroeconomic analysis at CEBM Group. Major economies, including the United States and Europe, remain in the grip of the pandemic amid rapidly rising infections and deaths. The sweeping impact of the coronavirus, with the global death toll at well over 250,000, has many worried that a worldwide recession could be far more damaging than first thought. In April, new export orders shrank further after their pace of contraction slowed in March, declining at the second-fastest rate on record, just marginally better than February’s collapse.

Read more …

You mean, you don’t do such reviews normally? High time then. Still, “..a task force to assess how well multilateral institutions carry out their missions and serve American interests.” sounds nuts. They’re supposed to serve global interests. If not, they would start serving US interests at the cost of other countries. Oh wait…

Republicans Want Review Of Aid To WHO (R.)

Five U.S. Senate Republicans introduced a bill on Wednesday seeking a review of U.S. participation in the World Health Organization and other international institutions, after President Donald Trump’s administration suspended U.S. contributions to the U.N. health agency and accused it of mishandling the coronavirus pandemic. Introduced by Chairman Jim Risch and four other Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the “Multilateral Aid Review Act of 2020” would establish a task force to assess how well multilateral institutions carry out their missions and serve American interests.

The bill requires a report on 38 institutions. Besides the WHO, they include the World Bank; Asian, African, Inter-American and North American Development Banks, and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, several U.N. organizations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Trump suspended U.S. contributions to the WHO on April 14, accusing it of promoting China’s “disinformation” about the coronavirus outbreak and saying his administration would launch a review of the organization. WHO officials have denied the claims and China insists it has been transparent and open. The United States is the WHO’s biggest donor.

“As we have seen most recently with questionable actions taken by the World Health Organization in response to the spread of COVID-19, it is critically important to have accountability and oversight of our assistance,” Risch said in a statement announcing the bill. [..] Critics of the aid review bill said they were concerned the task force would be too partisan because Pompeo would be its chairman and members would be appointed by Trump.

Read more …

Why are we still discussing the OPCW? Why does it still exist? They’re a bunch of liars who were found out.

OPCW Chief Made False Claims To Denigrate Douma Whistleblower (Maté)

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has made false and misleading statements about two veteran inspectors who challenged a cover-up of their investigation in Syria, leaked documents show. The inspectors probed an alleged chemical weapons attack in the Syrian city of Douma in April 2018, and later objected when their evidence was suppressed. Documents obtained by The Grayzone reveal that OPCW leaders have engaged in a pattern of deception that minimized the inspectors’ senior roles in the Douma mission and diminished the prestige they enjoyed within the world’s top chemical weapons watchdog.

OPCW Director General Fernando Arias has claimed that the first inspector, South African chemical engineering and ballistics expert Ian Henderson, “was not a member” of the Douma investigative team and only played a “minor supporting role.” However, contemporaneous communications from the OPCW’s Douma Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) directly contradict Arias. They show that Henderson was indeed a Douma team member, and that OPCW leadership directed him to lead its most critical inspections. They also show that Arias, rather than acknowledge that Henderson was an FFM member, offered up a false explanation for why Henderson was in Syria at the time of the probe.

Arias has also disingenuously minimized the role of the second inspector, known only to the public as “Inspector B.” This will be examined in part two of this article. The OPCW’s investigation was triggered when extremist anti-Syrian government militants and Western states accused the Syrian army of dropping gas cylinders on two buildings in Douma, killing dozens of civilians. The U.S., France, and Britain bombed Syrian government targets days later, asserting their right to enforce the chemical weapons “red line.” After a nearly year-long investigation, the OPCW issued a final report in March 2019 that claimed “reasonable grounds” existed to believe that a chlorine attack occurred.

However, a trove of leaked documents has shown that the OPCW leadership suppressed and manipulated evidence that undermined the allegation against the Syrian military. The first of such leaks was an engineering assessment authored by Henderson that concluded that the gas cylinders in Douma were likely “manually placed.” That conclusion suggested the incident was staged on the ground by the armed militants who controlled Douma at the time. Additional leaks later revealed that Inspector B protested the censorship of critical evidence and toxicology reports, as well as the manipulation of chemical samples and witness statements. Henderson and B also complained that OPCW leaders excluded all of the Douma investigators except for one paramedic from a so-called “core” team that wrote the organization’s final report.

Read more …

In case you needed any confirmation that Andrew Cuomo is not exactly your hero.

As for Bill Gates, he’s just a fool with too much money, and should be kept far from schools. We don’t need another generation using his crappy software.

I had a text talk with a friend in Greece Tuesday, who tried to convince me that Bill Gates wanted to force-vaccinate everyone and force implant them with nano-chips to prove vaccination. I think maybe because of the language barrier he may not have grasped the nuances whenn I said: “You have nothing to worry about then, because there is no vaccine”.

Someone else sent me a video from the Alex Jones studios that claimed Bill Gates is the mastermind behind a grand secret global conspiracy to depopulate the planet -hence COVID19-. I’m sorry, but I cannot post that here.

Cuomo Taps Bill Gates To Help Him ‘Reimagine’ New York’s Public Schools (JTN)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to “reimagine” schools when they reopen after the coronavirus pandemic. “Bill Gates is a visionary in many ways, and his ideas and thoughts on technology and education he’s spoken about for years,” Cuomo said Tuesday. “But I think we now have a moment in history where we can actually incorporate and advance those ideas. Cuomo said the state is exploring the possibility that K-12 schools will utilize distancing learning in the future and wondered aloud if the “old model” of in-person learning was obsolete.

He said Gates would help evaluate possible changes to the education system, including providing more opportunities to students, using technology to reduce educational inequality, and recreating larger class or lecture hall environments with virtual classrooms. The Gates Foundation has experimented with education before with some mixed results. Business Insider reports that Gates spent $1 billion and seven years working on an initiative to improve test performance for students in low-income schools by closely monitoring teacher effectiveness. The program reportedly didn’t improve test scores or drop-out rates in the long-term, and even “did more harm than good.”

The Gothamist reports at least five organizations have already spoken out against the partnership, citing concerns about the Microsoft founder’s support of standardized testing and Common Core curriculum. Allies for Public Education, Class Size Matters, and the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy — have already written to Cuomo and state education officials to voice their objections. “We were appalled to hear that you will be working with the Gates Foundation on ‘reimagining’ our schools following the Covid crisis,” the coalition wrote. “Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation have promoted one failed educational initiative after another, causing huge disaffection in districts throughout the state.

Read more …

 

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May 062020
 


Saul Leiter Phone call c1957

 

Don’t worry, we’re still talking virus, just from a slightly different angle. I was going to do something completely different, but then I saw an article at the South China Morning Post (SCMP) today that made me think “I don’t think that’s true”, realizing that at the same time many people would think it is.

Foreign holdings of US Treasuries are a misty environment for perhaps not just many, but most people. What triggered the SCMP piece is Trump’s threat, if it was ever meant to be one, to default on US dollar-denominated debt owned by China. Which by one estimate consists for about 70% of Treasuries.

And there are entire choirs full of voices willing to tell us that China can simply start dumping the -estimated- $1.2 trillion in Treasuries it holds, and threaten if not end the USD reserve currency status that way, if the US doesn’t “behave”. There’s little doubt that China would want this, but that doesn’t make the idea any more realistic.

What should give that away is, how easy can we make it for you, that it hasn’t done so yet. And now a conflict over the origin of a virus would trigger this? On a side note: if that origin is somewhere in China, even if it’s unintentional, how could Beijing possibly “admit” to it? How could it ever settle the lawsuits that would ensue?

No, the US cannot default on China’s holdings of its Treasuries. That alone would be a larger threat to the reserve currency status than anything anybody else could do, other then nuclear war. But at the same time, China cannot dump its Treasury holdings. because that would hurt … China.

And don’t forget that China and the US are in a symbiotic relationship of chief seller and chief buyer. Drastic changes in that relationship would -almost- certainly lead to consequences that neither can fully oversee, and that could hurt either or both tremendously.

Where are the US going to buy what they now buy from China? Who is China going to sell to what they today sell to the US? The countries are for all intents and purposes Siamese twins. Whatever can change, can only do so gradually. And even then.

No matter how much I read about it (a lot), this particular field is still not my expertise. But when I read the SCMP piece, it reminded me right off the bat of something that Michael Pettis, professor of finance at Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management, where he specializes in Chinese financial markets, wrote on May 28 2019, in an update of an article he wrote in January 2018 (all pre-virustime).

I liked Michael’s take from the moment it was published, because I learned a lot. I think you might too. I can’t do this without some elaborate quotes, but at least that will make me shut up a little. Please bear with me. I don’t find the SCMP piece all that interesting, but it’s good as a failing counterweight to Pettis.

With all that in mind, let’s take the SCMP piece first:

 

China Could Cut US Debt Holdings In Response To White House COVID19 Compensation Threats

[..] White House officials have debated several measures to offset the cost of the coronavirus outbreak, including cancelling some or all of the nearly US$1.1 trillion debt that the United States government owes China. While analysts added that the US was highly unlikely to take the “nuclear option”, the mere fact that the idea has been discussed could well prompt Beijing to seek to insulate itself from the risk by reducing its US government debt holdings.

That, in turn, could spell trouble for the US government bond market at a time when Washington is significantly ramping up new issuance to pay for a series of programmes to combat the pandemic and the economic damage it is causing. “It’s such a crazy idea that anyone who has made it should really have their fitness for office reconsidered,” said Cliff Tan, East Asian head of global markets research at MUFG Bank. “We view this as largely a political ploy for [Donald Trump’s] re-election and a cynical one because it would destroy the financing of the US federal budget deficit.”

[..] any move to cancel the debt owed to China – effectively defaulting on it – would be counterproductive to US interests because it would likely destroy investors’ faith in the trustworthiness of the US government to pay its bills [..] The US Treasury two-year yield continued to trade near record low levels this week, suggesting market traders and fund managers are largely shrugging off what is widely seen as a far-fetched idea that the US could cancel some or all of China’s debt.

The whole idea that the US would default on its own Treasury debt is nonsensical. Why write about it? Is that only because you don’t understand what’s involved? And your editor doesn’t either?

Nevertheless, the news that the idea was discussed by top US officials is likely to raise concerns among Chinese leaders about the growing risks of holding a large amount of US government debt at a time when relations appear to be deteriorating rapidly, analysts said. Iris Pang, Greater China chief economist at ING Bank, said unless it had no choice, China would want to avoid quickly offloading its US government debt without first considering other punitive measures against the US.


[..] China could trigger a crash in the US dollar and financial markets by flooding the market with US Treasuries for sale, which would push down US bond prices and cause yields to spike. But that would also ignite a global financial catastrophe, hurting China as well. Instead, China could cut back or stop buying new US Treasury issues, which would gradually reduce its holdings of US government securities as old ones expire and are not replaced. “In the coming months, [China could] halt its Treasury purchases to send a clear signal of its intentions,” said Pang. “If it decides to do that, it could make actual sales [of its other holdings] at a later date.”

This is my central point here. The article says: “China could trigger a crash in the US dollar and financial markets by flooding the market with US Treasuries..”, and I don’t think that’s true. Yeah, they can do tariffs or buy less US soybeans, but then again, those have been linked by Trump to US purchases from China.

In the meantime, China may consider imposing tariffs of its own, or reducing its US agricultural purchases. China has agreed to buy an additional US$200 billion worth of US products and services over the next two years compared to 2017 levels as part of the phase one trade deal signed in January. [..] There have always been calls for China to diversify its US$3 trillion in foreign exchange reserve holdings, around one-third of which are held in US Treasuries. According to the latest US Treasury Department report, China’s holdings slipped to US$1.09 trillion in February from a peak of US$1.32 trillion in November 2013.


[..] “There’s a strong urge for countries like China, and Russia, to move away from US dollar settlements. This is simply because the US dollar can be weaponised by the US government,” said Xu Sitao, chief economist at Deloitte China, referring to the recent practise by the US government of cutting off foreign individuals, companies and governments from the global US dollar financial transaction settlement system, greatly complicating their ability to conduct business. “Clearly there’s more willingness for certain countries just to diversify and move away from US dollar settlements.”

Sure, but that’s old stuff, as old as the petrodollar. Still, the article supposedly deals with -life-during-and-after-COVID19. Has nothing changed? Well, perhaps not. But then why the article?

[..] David Chin, the founder of Basis Point Consulting, said China could be forced to toughen up its act if it no longer earned US dollars from its exports to the US because of a significant US-China decoupling. If that were to happen, China could sell its US Treasury holdings for yuan, seeking to engineer a collapse in the US dollar to end its status as the ruling currency. “Its ‘I die, you die harder’,” Chin said. “With no US export market, China would go the other way and rely on internal consumption, trade with Belt and Road countries and the rest of the world in their local currencies, and prepare to ‘eat bitter’ as local conditions worsen.”

If China doesn’t have the US as an export market, both go down, so I’m not sure why a news outlet would want to discuss this without providing the proper news “environment”. And anyway, it’s just not true. Here’s Michael Pettis very methodically putting the final nail in that coffin, and showing why the whole notion is just a load of crock.

 

China Cannot Weaponize Its US Treasury Bonds

China cannot sell off its holdings of U.S. government bonds because Chinese purchases were not made to accommodate U.S. needs. Rather, China made these purchases to accommodate a domestic demand deficiency in China: Chinese capital exports are simply the flip side of the country’s current account surplus, and without the former, they could not hold down the currency enough to permit the latter.

To see why any Chinese threat to retaliate against U.S. trade intervention would actually undermine China’s own position in the trade negotiations, consider all the ways in which Beijing can reduce its purchases of U.S. government bonds:

1) Beijing could buy fewer U.S. government bonds and more other U.S. assets, so that net capital flows from China to the United States would remain unchanged.

2) Beijing could buy fewer U.S. government and other U.S. assets, but other Chinese entities could then in turn buy more U.S. assets , so that net capital flows from China to the United States would stay unchanged.

3) Beijing and other Chinese entities could buy fewer U.S. assets and replace them with an equivalently larger amount of assets from other developed countries , so that net capital flows from China to the United States would be reduced, and net capital flows from China to other developedcountries would increase by the same amount.

4) Beijing and other Chinese entities could buy fewer U.S. assets and replace them with an equivalently larger amount of assets from other developing countries , so that net capital flows from China to the United States would be reduced, and net capital flows from China to other developing countries Beijing and other Chinese entities could buy fewer U.S. assets and not replace them by purchasing an equivalently larger amount of assets from other countries, so that net capital flows from China to the United States and to the world would be reduced.

These five paths cover every possible way Beijing can reduce official purchases of U.S. government bonds: China can buy other U.S. assets, other developed-country assets, other developing-country assets, or domestic assets. No other option is possible. The first two ways would change nothing for either China or the United States. The second two ways would change nothing for China but would cause the U.S. trade deficit to decline, either in ways that would reduce U.S. unemployment or in ways that would reduce U.S. debt.

Finally, the fifth way would also cause the U.S. trade deficit to decline in ways that would likely either reduce U.S. unemployment or reduce U.S. debt; but this would come at the expense of causing the Chinese trade surplus to decline in ways that would either increase Chinese unemployment or increase Chinese debt. By purchasing fewer U.S. government bonds, in other words, Beijing would leave the United States either unchanged or better off, while doing so would also leave China either unchanged or worse off. This doesn’t strike me as a policy Beijing is likely to pursue hotly, and Washington would certainly not be opposed to it.

I always thought this was a crystal clear explanation of what lies behind the threats that are continually uttered from both sides. One half of a Siamese twin can stab or poison the other, but what would be the outcome of that? And Pettis has more, and then much more at the link.

[..] Even if Beijing forced institutions like the People’s Bank of China to purchase fewer U.S. government bonds, such a step cannot credibly be seen as meaningful retaliation against rising trade protectionism in the United States. As I have showed, Beijing’s decision would have no impact at all on the U.S. balance of payments, or it would have a positive impact.

It would have almost no impact on U.S. interest rates, except to the extent perhaps of a slight narrowing of credit spreads to balance a slight increase in riskless rates. It would also have no impact on the Chinese balance of payments in the case that it leaves the U.S. balance of payments unaffected. To the extent that it would result in a narrower U.S. trade deficit, there are only three possible ways this might affect the Chinese balance.

First, China could export more capital to developed countries, in which case the decision would have no immediate impact on China’s overall balance of payments, but it would run the risk of angering its trade partners and inviting retaliation. Second, China could export more capital to developing countries, in which case the decision would have no immediate impact on China’s overall balance of payments, but it would run the very high risk of increasing its investment losses abroad. Or third, China could simply reduce its capital exports abroad, in which case it would be forced into running a lower trade surplus, which could only be countered, in China’s case, with higher unemployment or a much faster increase in debt.

The US cannot default on its debt because its reserve currency status would be shot. Trump knows that and still throws it out there. So what do you do as a serious journalist? Repeat that without as much as a question mark?

In the same vein, China cannot sell its USD-denominated assets, or at least not at any meaningful kind of pace. So what do you do as a serious journalist? You claim that it can?

 

 

 

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