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.

Read more …

@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?”

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.”

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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.

Read more …

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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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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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May 012020
 


René Magritte L’avenir (the future) 1936

 

Wall St. Caps Best Month In 33 Years With Broad Sell-Off (R.)
Dr. Fauci Says Developing A COVID Vaccine By January Is ‘Doable’ (SAC)
Hydroxychloroquine Has About 90% Chance of Helping COVID-19 Patients (AAPS)
Turkey Claims Success Treating COVID-19 With Hydroxychloroquine (CBS)
WHO ‘Not Invited’ To Join China’s COVID-19 Investigations (Sky)
Sweden Forced To Admit Significant Under-Counting Of Coronavirus Deaths (Wsws)
Russian PM Mishustin Tests Positive For Virus (BBC)
American Airlines, Delta, United To Require Facial Coverings On US Flights
Ten Reasons Why A ‘Greater Depression’ For The 2020s Is Inevitable (Roubini)
Deflation Fears Creep Back In Japan (R.)
UK Factory Output At Risk Of More Than Halving (R.)
ECB Prepares For More Stimulus, Hints At Junk Bond Buys (R.)
Trump Says He Could Bring Back Fired Ex-National Security Adviser Flynn (R.)
Sidney Powell: More Evidence Shows FBI Set Up Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (SAC)

 

 

• According to Johns Hopkins University there are at least 1,069,534 cases of coronavirus in the U.S.; at least 63,001 people have died in the U.S. from coronavirus.

• On Thursday, JHU reported 29,625 new cases and 2,035 deaths.

 

 

 

Cases 3,323,935 (+ 90,943 from yesterday’s 3,232,992)

Deaths 234,471 (+ 5,951 from yesterday’s 228,520)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – Among Active cases, Serious/Critical fell to 2%

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

50 million Americans unemployed and Wall Street has a record month. What is wrong with this picture? Why would we want to re-open this system?

Wall St. Caps Best Month In 33 Years With Broad Sell-Off (R.)

U.S. stocks lost ground on Thursday as grim economic data and mixed earnings prompted investors to take profits at the close of the S&P 500’s best month in 33 years, a remarkable run driven by expectations the economy will soon start recovering from crushing restrictions enacted to curb the coronavirus pandemic. While risk-off selling pulled all three major U.S. stock averages into the red, the S&P 500 and the Dow posted their largest monthly percentage gains since January 1987, with the Nasdaq having its best month since June 2000. The three indexes remain well within 20% of record highs reached in February, having quickly rebounded since shutdown efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic brought the economy to a grinding halt.


The five-week tally of unemployment claims topped 30 million and consumer spending has plummeted, according to the latest round of dismal indicators providing another snapshot of the crushing economic effects of the widespread shutdown. “We’ve had a tremendous run but we’ve had the worst economic data since the Great Depression,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago. “Business and earnings might not be snapping back as quickly as the v-shaped recovery on Wall Street would imply.” The Federal Reserved announced that it would broaden its “Main Street Lending Program” by lowering the minimum loan size and expanding eligibility. “Wall Street is liking all the programs that the government and the Fed are putting together,” Nolte added. “So Wall Street is doing fine but Main Street is going to be a longer process.”

Read more …

Does he have info we don’t? If not, this is a crazy statement.

Dr. Fauci Says Developing A COVID Vaccine By January Is ‘Doable’ (SAC)

The Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Today Show’s Savannah Guthrie Thursday that developing a vaccine to combat the coronavirus outbreak by January is “doable.” “What the plan is right now is, as I mentioned to you a couple of times on this show, we’re in the early phases of a trial, Phase 1. When you go into the next phase, we’re gonna safely and carefully, but as quickly as we possibly can, try and get an answer as to whether it works and is safe,” Fauci said.


He added, “And, if so, we’re gonna start ramping up production with the companies involved. And you do that at risk. In other words, you don’t wait until you get an answer before you start manufacturing. You at risk proactively start making it assuming it’s gonna work, and, if it does, then you could scale up and hopefully get to that timeline. So we want to go quickly, but we want to make sure it’s safe and it’s effective.” The Trump Administration announced “Operation Warp Speed” to accelerate the development of a vaccine, Bloomberg News first reported Wednesday. The report states. “The project’s goal is to have 300 million doses of vaccine available by January, according to one administration official. There is no precedent for such rapid development of a vaccine.”

Read more …

Perhaps when the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons speaks, we should pay attention?

Hydroxychloroquine Has About 90% Chance of Helping COVID-19 Patients (AAPS)

In a letter to Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) presents a frequently updated table of studies that report results of treating COVID-19 with the anti-malaria drugs chloroquine (CQ) and hydroxychloroquine (HCQ, Plaquenil®). To date, the total number of reported patients treated with HCQ, with or without zinc and the widely used antibiotic azithromycin, is 2,333, writes AAPS, in observational data from China, France, South Korea, Algeria, and the U.S. Of these, 2,137 or 91.6 percent improved clinically. There were 63 deaths, all but 11 in a single retrospective report from the Veterans Administration where the patients were severely ill.

The antiviral properties of these drugs have been studied since 2003. Particularly when combined with zinc, they hinder viral entry into cells and inhibit replication. They may also prevent overreaction by the immune system, which causes the cytokine storm responsible for much of the damage in severe cases, explains AAPS. HCQ is often very helpful in treating autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Additional benefits shown in some studies, AAPS states, is to decrease the number of days when a patient is contagious, reduce the need for ventilators, and shorten the time to clinical recovery.

Peer-reviewed studies published from January through April 20, 2020, provide clear and convincing evidence that HCQ may be beneficial in COVID-19, especially when used early, states AAPS. Unfortunately, although it is perfectly legal to prescribe drugs for new indications not on the label, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended that CQ and HCQ should be used for COVID-19 only in hospitalized patients in the setting of a clinical study if available. Most states are making it difficult for physicians to prescribe or pharmacists to dispense these medications. As the letter to Gov. Ducey notes, “Many nations, including Turkey and India, are protecting medical workers and contacts of infected persons prophylactically.

According to worldometers.info, deaths per million persons from COVID-19 as of Apr 27 are 167 in the U.S., 33 in Turkey, and 0.6 in India.” After Morocco and Algeria began using HCQ, a trend break and sharp reduction in their COVID-19 case fatality rate occurred. Vaccines and results of randomized double-blind controlled trials of new drugs are at best months away. But patients are dying now, while affordable, long-used drugs would be available except for government restrictions, AAPS states. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) has represented physicians of all specialties in all states since 1943. The AAPS motto is omnia pro aegroto, meaning everything for the patient.

Read more …

The FDA “cites an observed risk of heart complications”. Okay, okay, but let’s see the reports on heart complications among 70 years of malaria-, lupus-, and RA sufferers.

By the by, HCQ was never a controversial drug until Trump mentioned it.

Turkey Claims Success Treating COVID-19 With Hydroxychloroquine (CBS)

Turkey has the biggest coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, with more than 117,000 confirmed infections. More than 3,000 people have died. But the government claims to have a lower fatality rate than the global average estimated by the World Health Organization at over 3%. The Turkish government imposed weekend-only lockdowns and banned only those under the age of 20 and over 65 from leaving their homes during the week, in an effort to limit the economic impact of the pandemic. Turkey’s Ministry of Health says the relatively low death toll is thanks to treatment protocols in the country, which involve two existing drugs — the controversial anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine touted by President Trump, and Japanese antiviral favipiravir.

“Doctors prescribe hydroxychloroquine to everyone who is tested positive for coronavirus” Dr. Sema Turan, a member of the Turkish government’s coronavirus advisory board, told CBS News. Hospitalized patients may be given favipiravir as well if they encounter breathing problems, she said. Turan said the combination of drugs appeared to “delay or eliminate the need for intensive care for patients.” But it’s important to note that Turkey’s use of the drug is not a clinically controlled trial; there’s no control group of patients not given the medication to compare the results against. Clinical trials have been underway in the U.S. and elsewhere, but the results aren’t yet clear. Preliminary studies on hydroxychloroquine have yielded uninspiring results thus far.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved emergency use of hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus patients, but has warned it should only be used in clinical trials or under the close observation of doctors, citing an observed risk of heart complications.

Read more …

They refused entry to the WHO team for many weeks in January-February. Anyone remember how long, and what dates?

WHO ‘Not Invited’ To Join China’s COVID-19 Investigations (Sky)

China has refused repeated requests by the World Health Organisation to take part in investigations into the origins of COVID-19, the WHO representative in China has told Sky News. “We know that some national investigation is happening but at this stage we have not been invited to join,” Dr Gauden Galea said. “WHO is making requests of the health commission and of the authorities,” he said. “The origins of virus are very important, the animal-human interface is extremely important and needs to be studied. “The priority is we need to know as much as possible to prevent the reoccurrence.” Asked by Sky News whether there was a good reason not to include the WHO, Dr Galea replied: “From our point of view, no.”

The Australian government has said that an independent public enquiry should be held into the origins of COVID-19, a measure EU countries are reportedly considering publicly endorsing. China has reacted angrily, saying that the investigation into the virus should be a matter for scientists. Dr Galea also told Sky News that the WHO had not been able to investigate logs from the two laboratories working with viruses in Wuhan, the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan CDC. “From all available evidence, WHO colleagues in our three-level system are convinced that the origins are in Wuhan and that it is a naturally occurring, not a manufactured, virus,” he said.

Nevertheless, according to Dr Galea, the laboratory logs “would need to be part of any full report, any full look at the story of the origins”. Dr Galea defended the WHO’s role in the early days of the novel coronavirus outbreak. “We only know what China is reporting to us at that period in time.” From 3 January to 16 January, Wuhan officials reported no new coronavirus cases beyond the 41 already published. “Is it likely that there were only 41 cases for that period of time? I would think not,” Dr Galea told Sky News. [..] The WHO has been criticised for a tweet it posted on 14 January, saying “Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission”. The same day, in Geneva, a WHO official said there had been “limited” human-to-human transmission.

Dr Galea told Sky News that, at the time, the “WHO was increasingly worried and convinced, suspecting strongly there would be human-to-human transmission. But as yet the cases that had been presented to us and the investigations had not yet confirmed that 100%.”

Read more …

The difference between underestimated and undercounted.

Sweden Forced To Admit Significant Under-Counting Of Coronavirus Deaths (Wsws)

Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare released figures Tuesday revealing that the death toll from the coronavirus has been underestimated in public figures. This came as total infections in the country of 10 million passed 20,000 yesterday, with almost 2,500 deaths. The discrepancy is due to the Public Health Agency’s policy of only counting deaths following a positive COVID-19 test confirmed by a laboratory. However, the National Board of Health and Welfare noted that as of 21 April, only 82 percent of the deaths it linked to coronavirus had a positive lab test. Assuming that this difference has persisted over the last week, there would have been approximately 400 more deaths from the virus than the 2,462 officially recorded yesterday by the Public Health Agency.

This significant under-counting of deaths is not to be explained by an error, but is the direct product of the Swedish government’s “herd immunity” strategy. Unlike its Nordic neighbours and other European countries, Sweden avoided imposing a general lock-down and even delayed for some time the issuing of limited social distancing guidelines. Gatherings of up to 50 people are still permitted, and shops, restaurants, schools, and non-essential businesses of all types remain open. As a result, the population has been subjected to a reckless experiment that some scientists have likened to playing “Russian roulette.” Even taking the lower official death toll as a point of comparison, the death rate in Sweden dramatically exceeds neighbouring countries.


In Norway, for example, which has a population approximately half the size of Sweden’s, 7,660 cases and 206 deaths have been recorded. Sweden therefore has a death rate more than five times higher than its neighbour per head of population. The refusal to impose strict social distancing measures is stretching the health care system to its limits. At Tuesday’s daily briefing, Johanna Sandwall, crisis manager at the National Board of Health and Welfare, stated that across the country, intensive care units have 30 percent spare capacity. However, she acknowledged that in some areas, there was zero spare capacity. Asked where these were, she refused to answer.

Read more …

Putin doesn’t meet anyone outside his closed quarters anymore.

Russian PM Mishustin Tests Positive For Virus (BBC)

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has gone to hospital after he was diagnosed with coronavirus. His positive test came on the same day that Russia recorded a record 7,099 cases, taking the total number of infections above 100,000. Mr Mishustin was given the role of prime minister in January and has been actively involved in Russia’s handling of the epidemic. Russian TV showed him telling President Vladimir Putin of his diagnosis. “I have just learned that the test on the coronavirus I took was positive,” the prime minister said during the video call.


Mr Mishustin suggested that First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov should take his place and Mr Putin agreed. Mr Mishustin will now go into self-isolation. “What’s happening to you can happen to anyone, and I’ve always been saying this,” Mr Putin told him. “You are a very active person. I would like to thank you for the work that has been done so far.”Despite the sharp rise in cases, the Moscow-based coronavirus headquarters says 1,073 people in Russia have now died of coronavirus, a relatively low number for Russia’s size. Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Russia’s reaction to the pandemic has enabled it to avoid an “Italian scenario”.

Read more …

American Airlines, Delta, United To Require Facial Coverings On US Flights

Three of the largest four U.S. airlines said Thursday they will require passengers to wear facial coverings on U.S. flights, joining JetBlue Airways in taking the step to address the spread of the coronavirus and convince reluctant passengers to resume flying. United Airlines, Delta Air and American Airlines, along with the smaller Frontier Airlines, which is owned by private equity firm Indigo Partners LLC, announced they will require facial coverings next month. Delta and United’s new rules start May 4, while Frontier’s start May 8 and American’s requirements begin May 11. The policies exempt young children from wearing masks or other facial coverings.


Many U.S. airlines are also requiring pilots and flight attendants to use facial coverings while on board aircraft. Airlines in the United States have seen a nearly 95% drop in U.S. passengers and have slashed flight schedules. They are now working to reassure customers about the safety of air travel by instituting new cleaning and social distancing procedures. Some airline unions and U.S. lawmakers have urged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to require facial coverings for all passengers and crew. United said it will provide complimentary masks to passengers. Southwest Airlines), one of the largest U.S. airlines, has not required facial coverings.

Read more …

Dr. Doom should feel right at home in today’s world.

Ten Reasons Why A ‘Greater Depression’ For The 2020s Is Inevitable (Roubini)

After the 2007-09 financial crisis, the imbalances and risks pervading the global economy were exacerbated by policy mistakes. So, rather than address the structural problems that the financial collapse and ensuing recession revealed, governments mostly kicked the can down the road, creating major downside risks that made another crisis inevitable. And now that it has arrived, the risks are growing even more acute. Unfortunately, even if the Greater Recession leads to a lacklustre U-shaped recovery this year, an L-shaped “Greater Depression” will follow later in this decade, owing to 10 ominous and risky trends.

The first trend concerns deficits and their corollary risks: debts and defaults. The policy response to the Covid-19 crisis entails a massive increase in fiscal deficits – on the order of 10% of GDP or more – at a time when public debt levels in many countries were already high, if not unsustainable. Worse, the loss of income for many households and firms means that private-sector debt levels will become unsustainable, too, potentially leading to mass defaults and bankruptcies. Together with soaring levels of public debt, this all but ensures a more anaemic recovery than the one that followed the Great Recession a decade ago.

A second factor is the demographic timebomb in advanced economies. The Covid-19 crisis shows that much more public spending must be allocated to health systems, and that universal healthcare and other relevant public goods are necessities, not luxuries. Yet, because most developed countries have ageing societies, funding such outlays in the future will make the implicit debts from today’s unfunded healthcare and social security systems even larger. A third issue is the growing risk of deflation. In addition to causing a deep recession, the crisis is also creating a massive slack in goods (unused machines and capacity) and labour markets (mass unemployment), as well as driving a price collapse in commodities such as oil and industrial metals. That makes debt deflation likely, increasing the risk of insolvency.

Read more …

Those fears should be global.

Deflation Fears Creep Back In Japan (R.)

Consumer prices in Japan’s capital city fell for the first time in three years in April and national factory activity slumped, data showed on Friday, increasing worries the coronavirus pandemic could tip the country back into deflation. The darkening outlook in the world’s third-largest economy is already heightening calls for bigger spending, even after parliament approved an extra budget to fund a $1.1 trillion stimulus package to cushion the blow from the pandemic. “The government will work with the central bank to ensure Japan absolutely does not slip back into deflation,” Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a news conference on Friday.


Core consumer prices in Tokyo, a leading indicator of nationwide inflation trends, slipped 0.1% in April from a year earlier, government data showed, dashing expectations for a 0.1% rise and following a 0.4% increase in March. It was the first year-on-year decline since April 2017. While the drop was largely due to slumping energy costs following the collapse in the crude oil price, it has consolidated expectations that Japan will see consumer prices fall in coming months as the economy feels a sharper hit from the pandemic. A separate business survey on Friday confirmed Japan’s factory activity shrank at its fastest pace in more than a decade in April, as the coronavirus hurt output and new orders.

Read more …

As the government keeps bumbling its actions.

UK Factory Output At Risk Of More Than Halving (R.)

British factory output risks falling by more than half during the current quarter after 80% of manufacturers reported a collapse in orders due to the coronavirus, trade body Make UK said on Friday. Make UK said a survey of 297 members, conducted from April 20-27, showed that more than three quarters had already suffered a drop in sales. Britain’s Office for Budget Responsibility said on April 14 that factory output could fall by 55% in the second quarter, as part of a scenario for the broader economy that showed a 35% plunge in total output if lockdown restrictions stay in place. “The extent of the collapse in demand is such it means that the recent OBR forecast could be an underestimate unless there is a quite remarkable turnaround which, to be frank, just isn’t going to happen,” Make UK chief executive Stephen Phipson said.


A separate survey from the Confederation of British Industry showed that private-sector activity fell by the most since July 2009 during the three months to April, and that output expectations were the weakest on record. Britain’s government ordered non-essential businesses to close to the public on March 23 and urged staff to work from home if possible. It is due to review the measures on May 7 but officials have said it is too soon for a major easing. Some 87% of manufacturers are still carrying out some operations, but more than a third had put staff members on leave under a government wage guarantee scheme which was likely to be needed beyond its planned end-June closing date, Make UK said.

Read more …

ECB Prepares For More Stimulus, Hints At Junk Bond Buys (R.)

The European Central Bank tweaked policy around the edges on Thursday but kept the door wide open to further stimulus — including potentially controversial purchases of junk debt — to help an economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. Facing an unprecedented recession, the ECB said it would make loans to banks even cheaper but kept the terms of its hallmark asset purchase scheme unchanged, disappointing investors who had bet on even more money-printing. Lockdowns in place across Europe to curb the spread of the virus have already cost millions their jobs and governments are borrowing record amounts just to keep their economies going until restrictions on businesses and households can be eased.


ECB President Christine Lagarde made clear the central bank for the 19 countries that use the euro currency would do its part but said political leaders must agree on more ambitious and coordinated action, a goal that has so far eluded them. “The euro area is facing an economic contraction of a magnitude and speed that are unprecedented in peacetime,” Lagarde told a news conference held via webcast. Speaking to an empty press room, Lagarde said the euro zone economy could shrink by 5 percent to 12 percent this year and may contract by 15 percent in the second quarter alone, a rate that would far outpace any decline during the global financial crisis a decade ago.

[..] As part of Thursday’s moves, the ECB said it would allow banks to borrow long-term funds for rates as low as minus 1 percent and it would set up a new shorter-term liquidity operation. Even if markets were disappointed with the measures, Lagarde made clear the ECB would do its job, a signal that more action is coming, perhaps as soon as June. She said the ECB could increase the size of its Emergency Pandemic Purchase Scheme (PEPP) and even extend it beyond 2020. When asked if the ECB could buy bonds below investment grade, she hinted at flexibility. “We have been very clear … we will not accept fragmentation of monetary transmission in the euro area or any pro-cyclical tightening of financing conditions,” Lagarde said. “With these two principles in mind, we will adjust as and when needed.”


The hint at future junk bond purchases is significant as Italy, the euro zone’s third-largest economy, is rated in the lowest investment-grade bracket and seen at risk of downgrades that could lose it access to ECB help just as it needs it most. Letting go of Italy would be politically unacceptable, however and the ECB’s recent decisions to temporarily buy Greek debt and accept bonds recently downgraded to junk as collateral from banks were seen as a way of preparing the ground.

Read more …

Obviously.

Trump Says He Could Bring Back Fired Ex-National Security Adviser Flynn (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he would consider bringing his fired former national security adviser Michael Flynn, a key figure in the probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, back into his administration. The president’s comments, the latest in a string of remarks about Flynn, go beyond prior suggestions by Trump that the retired general could be in line for a presidential pardon. “I would certainly consider it, yeah. I think he’s a fine man,” Trump told reporters, without specifying which role he might give to Flynn. Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements in a charge brought by then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller. He is now insisting he did not lie and wants to back out of the plea.


Internal FBI documents turned over by the Justice Department on Wednesday showed FBI officials debated whether and when to warn Flynn that he could face criminal charges as they prepared for a January 2017 interview with him in the Russia probe. Trump blamed Flynn’s predicament on “dirty cops” and said the documents show Flynn was a victim. “He’s in the process of being exonerated. If you look at those notes from yesterday, that was total exoneration,” Trump said.

Read more …

To be continued. People will go to jail.

Sidney Powell: More Evidence Shows FBI Set Up Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (SAC)

In another dramatic twist of events 15 documents unsealed Thursday show that the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane team and senior FBI officials had worked diligently behind the scenes to target former National Security Advisor for President Trump Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who has withdrawn his guilty plea and is fighting for his case to be dismissed by the courts. Further, the text messages reveal that there was an original 302 interview with Flynn that was never turned over to the defense. In those text messages between former FBI lovebirds Attorney Lisa Page and FBI Special Agent Peter Strzok, they discuss the interview that was conducted with Flynn at the White House and allude to the alteration of the document.

Those explosive documents suggest that the FBI was planning on closing the case on Flynn because there was no proof that he committed any crimes. In fact, the case against Flynn was closed on January 4, 2017 but reopened, according to text messages unsealed and obtained by Powell. The documents, which reveal his FBI code name ‘Crossfire Razor,’ expose that the Department of Justice withheld large amounts of exculpatory evidence from his defense team and, according to his attorney Sidney Powell, reveal egregious government misconduct. “To be clear, we now know by the production of new text messages between Lisa Page and Peter Strzok that there in fact exists an original 302 document created by SSA 1 from his own notes of the January 24, 2017 ambush interview of Gen Flynn,” said Powell.

“Further, we know in fact that SSA 1’s original 302 document went to Stzrok who rewrote it substantially, but tried not to “completely re-write it so as to save [redacted] voice” and then was shared by Stzrok with a “pissed off” Page who revised it substantively yet again, crafting the narrative to charge Gen Flynn with a crime he did not commit.” She noted that as repugnant as this conduct is on its face, “the travel of this vital document establishes continuously – and until this day – the original FBI agents, the prosecutors, and FBI management’s determination to withhold exculpatory evidence required under Brady, among other violations of Gen Flynn’s civil rights. They withheld it not only to try to convict an innocent man, but to hide their own crimes.”

Read more …

 

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Apr 212020
 


Gordon Parks Muhammad Ali in training 1966

 

There are times when you think: now things must be easy to comprehend, but as it turns out, they are still not. Let me try once more. See, I was thinking it must have become much easier to gauge the impact in the US of COVID19 when I published the graph below from TheNewAtlantis.com a few days ago. That the stories about seasonal flu etc. at least should be dead and buried, because, well, just look at the graph.

No such “luck”. That warped comparison keeps on rearing its head. The graph is plenty clear about it, however. In a period of about 3 weeks, COVID19 obliterated all other causes of death far behind.

 


click to enlarge in new tab

 

 

I have followed the progress of the virus since early January, so plenty of graphs are available. Below are those from Worldometer and SCMP, starting February 20.

On February 2, the US had 5 cases and zero deaths. Then we get to the graphs.

On February 20, there were 75,750 global cases, 74,500 of which were in China. There were 2,130 deaths, of which just maybe 10 were outside China.

The US had fewer than 15 cases and zero deaths.

 


 

 

One month later, things had changed quite dramatically, or so it seemed.

On March 20, there were 250,000 global cases and over 10,000 deaths. Cases had tripled, deaths had almost quintupled. Italy had overtaken China in most fatalities, from zero a month earlier.

The US had emerged “on the forefront”. It now had 10,400 cases and 150 deaths. Yes, that is just one month ago, 32 days to be exact.

 


 

 

Today, on April 21 2020, you would hardly recognize the situation as it was on February 20 or March 20.

There are now over 2,500,000 cases and over 172,000 deaths.

The US has become the frontrunner, and by a very large margin. It has over 800,000 cases and over 43,000 deaths.

From those 10,400 cases and 150 deaths 32 days ago.

Moreover, of those 43,000 deaths, almost half, 20,000, died in just the past 7 days.

And it’s at this point that people want to call the peak.

 


 

Investor John Hussman developed a model from early February which he’s been updating ever since. His model followed (or actually, predicted) actual numbers quite well:

Apr 15 (637,716 cases, 30,826 deaths): Assuming sustained containment efforts, the “optimistic” projection (my adaptive model) suggests that U.S. daily new cases may have peaked. This does NOT mean these efforts can now be abandoned. Most U.S. fatalities are still ahead, and we still lack capacity to test/track/trace.

 

 

But 5 days ago, John started getting worried:

Apr 16 (667,801, 32,917): This isn’t good. U.S. fatalities just jumped off book. We shouldn’t see 31,000 yet.

Apr 18 (735,076, 38,903): So much for the optimistic scenario. We’re way off book. I had hoped this was just a one-time adjustment. Understand this:

PEAK daily new cases in a containment scenario is also PEAK infectivity if containment is abandoned at that moment.

 

 

 

I’ve long said that people are social animals, and you cannot -and shouldn’t- keep them apart for too long. But at the same time, containment measures in case of epidemics go back a very long way in history. And it’s very well for people to develop models that appear to show that the virus will do whatever it can until it no longer does, and it will soon disappear even if we didn’t do anything to prevent it from spreading.

But those are still just models, just like the one John Hussman developed. And until they are proven, which takes time, the actual numbers we have now speak loudly. Globally, we went from 250,000 to 2,500,000 cases in one month, and from 10,000 fatalities to 172.000. In the US in that same month we went from 10,400 cases to over 800,000 and from 150 deaths to 43,000.

“PEAK daily new cases in a containment scenario is also PEAK infectivity if containment is abandoned at that moment”, says Hussman. Of course everybody wants their freedom back. But at what price? If you don’t, because you can’t, know what the price will be, are you still willing to pay that price?

What I mean is, everyone’s trying to call a peak, but for most that’s merely because they want there to be a peak. The numbers don’t really say that; they may seem to do, but that’s just over 1,2 or 3 days at best. While half of all US fatalities have been over the past 7 days.

If the peak has really already occurred, we will not know it until about 10-14 days from now. So the only thing we can do is to wait that long. Perhaps it would be a good idea to listen to what those have to say who are so enthusiastically labeled “heroes” all over the globe, the doctors, nurses and other frontline caretakers.

If they are indeed your heroes, and that’s not just some empty phrase, listen to what they have to say about the pressure on them, on the system they work in, on the numbers of cases and deaths they see themselves confronted with.

But also listen when they say things you may not like to hear. If anybody deserves a relaxation of a lockdown, and of pressure overall, surely it must be them, before you.

Guess it’s too much to ask that perhaps you may have learned some lessons lately, about things that you don’t need to do but that you always did. Or to ask you if you heard the birds singing louder in the bluer skies this morning.

Just out of curiosity: Did you know that Anne Frank spent 2 whole years locked down behind a wall?

 

 

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Apr 172020
 


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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

• US new cases 29,567

• US new deaths 2,174

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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More things we don’t know.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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What a surprise.

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

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


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

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

Biophysical Economics and the Coronavirus Pandemic (Fix)

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

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

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


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

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Millions losing health care in a pandemic….

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

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


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

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…vs the other side of America…

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

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


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

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And there are the dollar-denominated debts again…

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Wisdom.

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

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

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

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

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It should be easy for Xi to prevent this.

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

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

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

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

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

Greece to Celebrate Easter Under Coronavirus Lockdown (GR)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roger Stone Denied Bid For New Trial (G.)

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


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

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

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

Surviving Plague in an Early Modern City (Henderson)

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

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

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

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

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Apr 152020
 


Harris&Ewing National Press Club Building newssstand, Washington DC 1940

 

First, The People Die; Then, The Stories (Rusty Guinn)
Trump Announces ‘Halt’ In US Funding To WHO Amid Pandemic (USAT)
WHO Urges China To Close ‘Dangerous’ Wet Market As Stalls In Wuhan Reopen (Ind.)
COVID19 Twice As Contagious As Previously Thought – Los Alamos Lab (SCMP)
New Coronavirus Outbreak Hotspots Emerging Across US (SCMP)
Universal Screening for COVID19 in NY Women Admitted for Delivery (NEJM)
New Zealand PM, Ministers Take 20% Pay Cut For Six Months (R.)
Chinese Study Suggests Airco Helps Spread Coronavirus (SCMP)
The Next Stage Must Be To Let The Virus Spread (AFR)
California Meat Factory Workers Strike For Right To Be Tested (CN)
California Governor Newsom Says Mass Gatherings Unlikely Through Summer (R.)
South Korea Holds Parliamentary Election Under Strict Safety Measures (R.)
UK Government Loans Not Reaching Businesses (Sky)
US Military Says Coronavirus Likely Occurred Naturally But Not Certain (R.)
Iraq Suspends Reuters For Three Months Over Report On Coronavirus Cases (R.)
Trump Oil Deal Raises Question For Mexico: At What Cost? (R.)
GOP Senator Aims To Release Hunter Biden Investigation Report This Summer (NYP)

 

 

• Past day: U.S. reports 26,540 new cases of coronavirus and 2,384 new deaths.
– Yesterday it had 27,243 new cases and 1,555 new deaths.
– Total: 608,458 cases and 25,992 deaths.

• New York adds over 3,700 deaths, of people who were never tested but are now presumed to have died from corona. Similar ‘recounts’ occur in multiple countries

• Coronavirus update, Americas:
– USA: 26,540 new cases
– Brazil: 1,509 new cases
– Canada: 1,383 new cases
– Peru: 519 new cases
– Chile: 392 new cases
– Mexico: 385 new cases
– Colombia: 127 new cases
– Dom Rep: 119 new cases
– Panama: 102 new cases
– Ecuador: 74 new cases

 

 

Cases 2,014,000 (+ 79,872 from yesterday’s 1,934,128)

Deaths 127,592 (+ 7,155 from yesterday’s 120,437)

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: (Note: this indicates 6090 new US deaths, that can’t be true)

 

 

 

 

On Ben Hunt’s Epsilon Theory website, Rusty Guinn does an very extensive overview of who failed where: WHO, FDA, CDC, Universities, Media, Boards, Wall Street, Congress, Donald Trump.

There goes your afternoon.

First, The People Die; Then, The Stories (Rusty Guinn)

The first World War was bloody and vicious. By its end, it had taken the lives of more than 20 million people. That number a few times over perished in the Spanish Flu that followed in its wake. It is a story that has been retold a lot lately. There were other casualties of the Great War, too. The narratives of a protective ruling class across Europe. Fervent embrace of trade and economic models based on colonialism and imperialism. Oligarchies and monarchies, yes, but belief in the capacity of oligarchies and monarchies to act benevolently and competently in the defense of the people, too. First, the people die; then, the stories.

The human toll of COVID-19 is unlikely to approach even a mean fraction of the pain visited on humanity in the first quarter of the 20th century. But what about the stories we tell about our global institutions, our shared values, and our own orthodoxies and authorities? Those stories are dying. They are dying because the institutions built on those stories failed us all, and all at once. First, the people die; then, the stories. The failures of these institutions were not simple mistakes, evidence of wrongness of one kind or another. The failures of these institutions were failures of narrative, devastating revelations of each institution’s fundamental inability to do what they said they would do. Revelations that their purpose was something other than the story they told about themselves.

In various ways they each held power over us through those stories, told using the language of our needs and values and beliefs. In a single event, the world proved those stories false on their faces. Whether we allow the world-as-it-is that was revealed by COVID-19 to change our commitment to these institutions and ideas is up to us; this is a time in which the world may be reshaped. In the past month and for the first time in most of our lives, each of us looked around and knew that everyone else had seen the same thing. We saw the emperors of our world standing naked as the day they were born. If the ravages of war and disease are humanity’s birthright, so too is the opportunity that comes along ever so rarely to seize something different. Something better.

Read more …

I found it hard to find coverage of this that did not immediatedly and extensively point to Trump’s own failings. But whatever those may be, they say little to nothing about the WHO’s failings. Can’t we keep these issues separate anymore?

Trump Announces ‘Halt’ In US Funding To WHO Amid Pandemic (USAT)

President Donald Trump said Tuesday his administration will “halt” U.S. funding to the World Health Organization as it conducts a review of the global organization’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. “We have deep concerns about whether America’s generosity has been put to the best use possible,” the president said in a Rose Garden press conference. “The reality is that the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion.” Trump has accused the organization of not moving quickly enough to sound the alarm over COVID-19 and of being too China friendly. He has attacked the agency for advising the U.S. against banning travel from China to other parts of the world amid the outbreak.

“And the World – WHO – World Health got it wrong,” the president told reporters at the White House last week. “I mean, they got it very wrong. In many ways, they were wrong. They also minimized the threat very strongly and – not good.” Trump has previously said he was considering cutting WHO funding, but on Tuesday he accused the organization of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread of the coronavirus after the initial outbreak in Wuhan,China. The U.S. paid $893 million to the WHO during its two-year budget window, according to the organization’s website. That money represents about 15% of the WHO’s budget. Established in 1948, the WHO is an autonomous organization that works with the United Nations and is considered part of the U.N. system.

During Tuesday’s briefing, the president asked whether it was appropriate to freeze WHO’s funding in the middle of a pandemic that has claimed more than 125,000 lives worldwide with over 2 million cases confirmed, according to Johns Hopkins University data. “This is an evaluation period, but in the meantime, we’re putting a hold on all funds going to World Health,” Trump said. Trump said the review would last between 60 and 90 days. He said the administration would “channel” the money into other areas to combat the coronavirus outbreak, but declined to provide any specifics.

Read more …

What have they said about this since December, or in the past 10 years, for that matter?

WHO Urges China To Close ‘Dangerous’ Wet Market As Stalls In Wuhan Reopen (Ind.)

The World Health Organisation is urging countries across the world to close “dangerous” wet markets amid warnings about the risks posed by environments where humans are in close contact with animals. Wet markets in Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus outbreak first emerged, have begun to reopen following the lifting of lockdown restrictions. This move comes despite the virus being linked to the city’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. But WHO, as well as other public health organisations and campaigners, have said the markets pose a “real danger” as pathogens can spread easily and quickly from animals to humans. Dr David Nabarro, a WHO special envoy on Covid-19 and special representative of the United Nations secretary general for food security and nutrition, said the world health body “pleads with governments and just about everybody” to be respectful of how viruses from the animal kingdom are rife.


Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Dr Nabarro said while WHO is not able to tell governments what to do, their advice is to close wet markets. He replied: “You know how WHO and other parts of the international system work – we don’t have the capacity to police the world. Instead, what we have to do is offer advice and guidance, and there’s very clear advice from the Food and Agriculture Organisation and WHO that said there are real dangers in these kinds of environments. “75 per cent of emerging infections come from the animal kingdom. It’s partly the markets, but it’s also other places where humans and animals are in close contact. Just make absolutely certain that you’re not creating opportunities for viral spread,” added Dr Nabarro.

Read more …

To add to the long list of what is still not known about the virus. Epidemiology may not be very useful at this point.

COVID19 Twice As Contagious As Previously Thought – Los Alamos Lab (SCMP)

The new coronavirus could have been twice as contagious as previously thought when it spread from its initial epicentre in central China, a fresh look at the early stages of the outbreak has suggested. Epidemiologists had previously estimated that each person with Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, infected two to three people on average, based on early cases in the city of Wuhan. But researchers in the United States have said that the chaos in Wuhan as infections there rose at the start of the year may have produced incomplete data and a distorted picture. The new estimation by Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico is that those who carried the coronavirus in Wuhan were passing it on to 5.7 people on average. The finding could help public health experts to refine their containment and vaccination strategies.

In their study, published last week in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, the researchers, led by Steven Sanche and Lin Yen-ting, wrote: “Unavailability of diagnostic reagents early in the outbreak, changes in surveillance intensity and case definitions, and overwhelmed health care systems confound estimates of the growth of the outbreak based on data.” The Los Alamos research analysed about 140 early patients outside Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, to project how intensely the coronavirus was spreading from the epicentre. Most of the initial cases in other provinces had epidemiological links or exposure to Wuhan. “By the time cases were confirmed in provinces outside Hubei, all of the provinces of China had access to diagnostic kits and were engaging in active surveillance of travellers out of Wuhan,” the researchers said.

“The health care systems outside Hubei were not yet overwhelmed with cases and were actively searching for [their] first positive case, leading to much lower bias in the reporting.” Many provinces’ health commission or local Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would also release basic epidemiological information on how each patient could have been related to another, or where they had shared exposure. The US researchers also used mobile phone data to estimate the numbers of daily travellers in and out of Wuhan. Their projection was then compared back with the death rate pattern in Wuhan, which was more clearly defined and consistent than the city’s other data on the outbreak. They found that instead of taking six to seven days for the number of infected people to double, as was previously thought, it took only 2.3 to 3.3 days to do so.

[..] In late January, researchers from mainland China and Hong Kong, including China CDC chief George Gao, had estimated that a Covid-19 patient could infect an average of 2.2 people, based on studying 425 patients in Wuhan. A more recent estimate of this reproduction number, by Imperial College London last month, found the figure for 11 European countries including Britain to be 3.87 people. Also last month, research at Payame Noor University in Tehran, which was subject to peer review, found that an average of 4.86 people could be infected per patient in the first week of the outbreak in Iran.

[..] The authors of the new Los Alamos study added that a higher level of infectiousness meant that if asymptomatic carriers accounted for a substantial proportion of transmission, then quarantine and tracing of contacts of those showing symptoms would not be enough to halt the virus’ spread. “When 20 per cent of transmission is driven by unidentified infected persons, high levels of social distancing efforts will be needed to contain the virus,” they said. “The decline in newly confirmed cases in [mainland] China and South Korea in March 2020 and the stably low incidences in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, strongly suggest that the spread of the virus can be contained with early and appropriate measures.”

Read more …

Reached a peak? I doubt it.

New Coronavirus Outbreak Hotspots Emerging Across US (SCMP)

As infection rates begin to level out in New York and California finds success in flattening the curve, other states across the US are starting to reel as their coronavirus numbers spike in communities large and small. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned three weeks ago that his state was “the canary in the coal mine” presaging outbreaks around the country, and some now fear the worst is only starting to come. According to The New York Times, while half of the 10 US counties with the highest amount of coronavirus infections per residents remain in New York, the second highest per capita infection rate is in Blaine County, Idaho, in the intermountain West.

Home to fewer than 22,000 people, the county is best known for the Sun Valley ski resort, which draw a steady stream of skiers, outdoor recreation enthusiasts and owners of second homes from across the country – and is now making headlines for a coronavirus infection rate that is one of the highest in the world. In fact, as of Tuesday one of the largest single coronavirus clusters in the country was in the sparsely populated Great Plains state of South Dakota, where more than 300 workers at a giant pork-processing plant in Sioux Falls became sick with the virus over the weekend. While the total number of cases can seem more alarming in larger cities, for smaller towns the virus can be especially devastating both to their already overtaxed health care systems and fragile local economies.

Many smaller towns are kept afloat by only a few major employers, and when they close the effects can be catastrophic. In the south, Louisiana has been especially hard-hit, with Orleans Parish, home to New Orleans, battling the eighth largest degree of infection in the nation. Three relatively rural counties in Georgia make up the rest of the top 10 counties list — a clear reminder that not only large urban areas are at risk. While there is evidence that the rate of new cases and deaths is flattening out in Louisiana, the reality on the ground remains daunting. On Tuesday, the state health department reported 884 deaths and 21,016 positive cases across the state, with the virus now present in every one of Louisiana’s 64 parishes.

New Orleans alone has had 5,718 cases, and 244 deaths — with the contagion thought to have initially spread during the city’s Mardi Gras celebration in late February. Georgia, too, is reeling, with 14,223 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 501 deaths, with most of the deaths, 71, coming from Dougherty County, which has fewer than 100,000 people.


‘Welcome to Wuhan’ is spray-painted on a bridge in Highland Park, Michigan. Photo- AP

Read more …

Infected pregnant women is a scary idea. “Maybe third trimester immunosuppression has a role to play.”

Universal Screening for COVID19 in NY Women Admitted for Delivery (NEJM)

Between March 22 and April 4, 2020, a total of 215 pregnant women delivered infants at the New York–Presbyterian Allen Hospital and Columbia University Irving Medical Center . All the women were screened on admission for symptoms of Covid-19. Four women (1.9%) had fever or other symptoms of Covid-19 on admission, and all 4 women tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Of the 211 women without symptoms, all were afebrile on admission. Nasopharyngeal swabs were obtained from 210 of the 211 women (99.5%) who did not have symptoms of Covid-19; of these women, 29 (13.7%) were positive for SARS-CoV-2. Thus, 29 of the 33 patients who were positive for SARS-CoV-2 at admission (87.9%) had no symptoms of Covid-19 at presentation.

Of the 29 women who had been asymptomatic but who were positive for SARS-CoV-2 on admission, fever developed in 3 (10%) before postpartum discharge (median length of stay, 2 days). Two of these patients received antibiotics for presumed endomyometritis (although 1 patient did not have localizing symptoms), and 1 patient was presumed to be febrile due to Covid-19 and received supportive care. One patient with a swab that was negative for SARS-CoV-2 on admission became symptomatic postpartum; repeat SARS-CoV-2 testing 3 days after the initial test was positive.


Our use of universal SARS-CoV-2 testing in all pregnant patients presenting for delivery revealed that at this point in the pandemic in New York City, most of the patients who were positive for SARS-CoV-2 at delivery were asymptomatic, and more than one of eight asymptomatic patients who were admitted to the labor and delivery unit were positive for SARS-CoV-2. Although this prevalence has limited generalizability to geographic regions with lower rates of infection, it underscores the risk of Covid-19 among asymptomatic obstetrical patients. Moreover, the true prevalence of infection may be underreported because of false negative results of tests to detect SARS-CoV-2.

Read more …

Commendable, but in reality this is what every government should do, and 20% is not so much.

New Zealand PM, Ministers Take 20% Pay Cut For Six Months (R.)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, ministers in her government and public service chief executives will take a 20% pay cut for the next six months amid the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. New Zealand’s offices, schools and non-essential services have been closed for the last three weeks, and economic activity is at a standstill as the country undertakes one of the strictest lockdowns globally. The government has forecast joblessness to surge because of the global and domestic slowdown.


“This is where we can take action and that is why we have,” Ardern said in a news conference announcing the decision. “We acknowledge New Zealanders who are reliant on wage subsides, taking a pay cut, and losing their jobs as a result of the global pandemic,” she added. New Zealand on Wednesday recorded 20 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases to 1,386. It has recorded nine deaths so far.

Read more …

Let summer begin!

Chinese Study Suggests Airco Helps Spread Coronavirus (SCMP)

A study of 10 coronavirus cases from three families who dined at the same restaurant in southern China has suggested that air conditioning aided droplet transmission between them. “Strong airflow from the air conditioner could have propagated droplets” between three tables, according to the report of the research, based on the infections in the city of Guangzhou in late January. Droplet transmission alone could not explain the infections, it concluded. Restaurants should increase the space between tables and improve ventilation to reduce the risk of infection, according to the report of the research, led by Jianyun Lu of the Guangzhou Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

The research is revealed in an early-release article for the July edition of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the open-access and peer-reviewed journal published by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States. Family clusters of infections have helped the spread of a pandemic in which the world’s total cases are approaching 2 million and the death toll has passed 120,000. The first patient of the 10 cases studied in Guangzhou had on January 23 returned from Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first reported in December. The person had lunch with three family members the next day at a windowless restaurant with an air conditioner on each floor. Two other families sat at neighbouring tables, with about one metre between each and an overlap in dining time of about an hour, the report said.

The first patient had a fever and cough later that day and went to hospital. Within two weeks, four further members of their family, three members of the second family and two of the third family had become ill with Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. After detailed investigation, it was found that the only known source of exposure for the second and third families was the first patient in the restaurant. “From our examination of the potential routes of transmission, we concluded that the most likely cause of this outbreak was droplet transmission,” the report said. “We conclude that in this outbreak, droplet transmission was prompted by air-conditioned ventilation. The key factor for infection was the direction of the airflow.”

Read more …

The idiot who wrote the next article should be quarantined without any means of communication. Whenever you read about a cost-benefit analysis of the virus, stop reading. Luckily, this tweet has the right approach to this:

The Next Stage Must Be To Let The Virus Spread (AFR)

Last week, the government released the modelling it uses to inform its pandemic response. It appeared reticent; in press conferences, the government was keen to stress its limitations, its use of overseas assumptions and so on, as if to say: “We are not relying on models to decide what to do”. It should not have been. Disease modelling is one of the best tools we have for shaping our pandemic response. The government’s modelling is sound. It aligned closely with ours (I would hope so); we predict 32,000 daily ICU admissions at the peak if we do nothing, the government predicts 35,000. It presents a coherent picture of why we are “flattening the curve” and strong justification for what is being done today.

Australia is containing COVID-19 for now but needs to move on to the next phase. That requires an understanding of the costs and benefits of different social distancing measures and how best to change them as the pandemic proceeds. Our modelling sheds light on both, pointing to faster rather than slower relaxation. I was struck by the announcement that governments are expanding ICU capacity three-fold to 7000 beds. It is worth exploring the implications. Assuming patients admitted to ICU need eight days of treatment, 25 per cent of patients admitted to ICU will die, and that the case fatality rate for COVID-19 with treatment is about 0.5 per cent, it looks like governments are preparing for a peak of around 44,000 new infections a day, much higher than the number today.

I am encouraged by this. It signals that governments are contemplating a managed increase in the spread of the disease. As I said in The Australian Financial Review last week, in the absence of a vaccine or a cure, the best policy involves a managed increase in spread so that some degree of herd immunity develops, seeking to protect those most at risk while it does. How might we achieve this? One policy that is unlikely to work is to try to prevent every death. Why not? Because to do so we would need to eliminate infections entirely. That can only be done with severe and prolonged social distancing at prodigious economic cost (2 per cent of GDP per month for at least 10 months, at least $400 billion).

Read more …

What it really means to be an essential worker.

California Meat Factory Workers Strike For Right To Be Tested (CN)

Dozens of One World Beef employees lined up in front of Valley Urgent Care to get tested for coronavirus Monday. Many of them participated in a strike that led to their employer granting this test to even occur. The employees say they decided to strike after some began getting sick and sanitary precautions weren’t being taken. Karicia Aguilar’s husband works for the company and said that their main fear was that her husband would contract the virus and spread it to their family. “My husband told me about a young man, who was his neighbor at the lockers who right now is on a ventilator. And so that situation really scared them and they realized they had to do something. They thought we could be taking the virus to our home and our families could get sick,” she said.


Some employees say they were told by HR if they did test positive they would be able to keep their jobs however the time off they took would be discounted from vacation and sick days. “We’re scared for our families. Our families are quarantined in our homes and we’re here working. And we’re in and out of the house. The one thing I hope is we still have a job. We work hard and we care about our job but we’re also concerned about our health,” said one factory worker. The fear of waking up every morning for work and not knowing whether or not you will contract the virus is a reality for many essential workers.

Read more …

A new world has arrived.

California Governor Newsom Says Mass Gatherings Unlikely Through Summer (R.)

Mass gatherings of hundreds or thousands of people will likely be banned in California at least through summer, as the state plots reopening its economy and recovering from the coronavirus pandemic despite a spike in deaths, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday. Incremental steps to loosen stay-at-home orders could begin after “a few weeks” of evidence that the rates of infection and hospitalization from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, are decreasing, Newsom told a news conference in the state capital, Sacramento. But he warned that socialization in the most-populous U.S. state would look very different for a long time even after the rules are eased.


“You may have dinner where the waiter is wearing gloves and maybe a face mask, where menus may be disposable, where your temperature is checked as you walk into the restaurant.” School start times may be staggered so children are not crowded together, and lunch and physical education periods may also change. Restaurants will likely have fewer tables – and forget about big celebrations for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. “The prospect of mass gatherings,” Newsom said, “is negligible at best.”

Read more …

Massive testing campaign equals 1% of people?!

South Korea Holds Parliamentary Election Under Strict Safety Measures (R.)

South Koreans began going to the polls on Wednesday to elect members of parliament under strict safety guidance in one of the first national elections held amid the coronavirus pandemic. About 14,000 polling stations were open at 6 a.m. (0900 GMT) around the country after disinfection, and voters were required to wear a mask and have a temperature check upon arrival. Anyone whose temperature was higher than 37.5 Celsius (99.5 Fahrenheit) was led to a special booth. All voters must use hand sanitizer and plastic gloves when casting ballots and maintain 1 meter (40 inches) distance between each other.


The election is set to decide control of parliament and shape President Moon Jae-in’s ability to push through his agenda in the final two years of his administration, including looser fiscal policy aimed at creating jobs, raising the minimum wage, and continued re-engagement with North Korea. Globally, South Korea was one of the first countries to hold a national election since the coronavirus epidemic began, while many others postponed votes. Once grappling with the first large outbreak outside China, South Korea has largely managed to bring its cases under control without major disruptions thanks to a massive testing campaign and intensive contact tracing. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 27 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, bringing the total infections to 10,564. The daily tally has hovered around 30 over the past week, most of them from overseas travelers.


Media members cover inside a polling station for upcoming parliamentary election in Seoul, South Korea, April 14, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

Read more …

I’m stunned. Stunned, I tell you.

“Just 2% of the businesses questioned said they had successfully accessed the government’s loan scheme..”

UK Government Loans Not Reaching Businesses (Sky)

Around one in three British businesses have furloughed at least 75% of their workforce due to the coronavirus crisis, according to a new survey. The British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) found that two-thirds of businesses it spoke to said they had to put some staff on the furlough scheme, which covers 80% of salaries up to £2,500 a month. But just 2% of the businesses questioned said they had successfully accessed the government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, and the BCC said many need cash, quickly. It comes after the chancellor’s announcement in the Downing Street briefing on Tuesday that we are in “tough times” economically and that he “can’t protect every business and every household” throughout the pandemic.


Speaking to Sky News, the BCC’s Co-Executive Director Hannah Essex said: “If businesses don’t have the money in their accounts they’re going to have to look at all of their costs and make some really difficult decisions. “One of those will be if they continue to employ people even if they have the furlough scheme or not. “It’s so important to get the money into firms accounts so that they can take the time to make the best decisions for them, looking at what the future holds and what decisions come out this week about the lockdown, whether it continues or not.” She added: “This will be a hugely worrying time for businesses in Britain and especially for the people they employ. The economy has had an extraordinary impact across the country.

Read more …

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff shoots from the hip and largely misses.

US Military Says Coronavirus Likely Occurred Naturally But Not Certain (R.)

U.S. intelligence indicates that the coronavirus likely occurred naturally, as opposed to being created in a laboratory in China, but there is no certainty either way, the top U.S. general said on Tuesday. The remarks by Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, could fan speculation about the coronavirus’ origins — something China has dismissed as a conspiracy theory that is unhelpful to the fight against the pandemic. Asked whether he had any evidence that the virus began in a Chinese laboratory and was perhaps released accidentally, Milley was non-committal at a Pentagon news briefing.


“There’s a lot of rumor and speculation in a wide variety of media, the blog sites, etc. It should be no surprise to you that we’ve taken a keen interest in that and we’ve had a lot of intelligence take a hard look at that,” Milley said. “And I would just say, at this point, it’s inconclusive although the weight of evidence seems to indicate natural. But we don’t know for certain.” Milley’s comments could again stoke tension with Beijing, where Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian wrote on Twitter last month that the U.S. Army might have “brought the epidemic to Wuhan.”

Read more …

“Iraqi President Barham Salih said it was a “regrettable decision” taken by a commission which is independent of the government…”

Iraq Suspends Reuters For Three Months Over Report On Coronavirus Cases (R.)

Iraq has suspended the licence of the Reuters news agency after it published a story saying the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country was higher than officially reported. Iraq’s media regulator said it was revoking Reuters’ licence for three months and fining it 25 million dinars ($21,000) for what it said was the agency’s violation of the rules of media broadcasting. In a letter to Reuters, the Communications and Media Commission (CMC) said it had taken the action “because this matter is taking place during current circumstances which have serious repercussions on societal health and safety.”


Reuters said it regretted the Iraqi authorities’ decision and that it stood by the story, which it said was based on multiple, well-placed medical and political sources, and fully represented the position of the Iraqi health ministry. “We are seeking to resolve the matter and are working to ensure we continue to deliver trusted news about Iraq,” the news agency said in a statement. Asked about the Reuters suspension in an interview with Christiane Amanpour on CNN, Iraqi President Barham Salih said it was a “regrettable decision” taken by a commission which is independent of the government. “From my vantage point you would not get me in a situation where I would defend that. I’m working with our legal team in order to revoke that and manage the situation,” Salih said.

Read more …

“There was no secret agreement,” he told reporters at a regular news conference. “Nothing.”

Trump Oil Deal Raises Question For Mexico: At What Cost? (R.)

Mexico’s president has incurred a debt with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump by accepting U.S. help to end a standoff over global oil cuts, triggering concern the American will in return make the country pay on issues like migration and security. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a leftist oil nationalist, had balked at a demand by the OPEC+ group of oil producing nations to cut output by 400,000 barrels per day. Instead, he offered a cut of 100,000 bpd and said Trump “generously” agreed last week to help Mexico make up the rest. Trump has angered Mexicans by insisting the country will pay for a border wall he is building to keep out illegal immigrants. He has imposed a series of migration and trade-related demands on Lopez Obrador, and said Mexico would “reimburse” the United States for the oil cuts.


He has not yet said how. It could easily mean more demands on immigration and security, Sergio Alcocer, a former Mexican deputy foreign minister for North America, told Reuters. “This could become a joker, a sort of blank check,” for Trump, Alcocer said. Under U.S. coercion, Mexico has had to spend extra money on border policing, looking after asylum seekers and security. The thought of Trump having additional leverage has sown disquiet among both supporters and adversaries of Lopez Obrador. Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday he had not agreed to anything in return for Trump’s help on the oil cuts. “There was no secret agreement,” he told reporters at a regular news conference. “Nothing.”

Read more …

But! The Russians!

GOP Senator Aims To Release Hunter Biden Investigation Report This Summer (NYP)

Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson says he is aiming to release a status report on his investigation into Hunter Biden’s work for Ukrainian gas company Burisma Holdings “sometime this summer,” saying that the coronavirus pandemic “hampered” the probe. “We’re in the process of writing different sections of the report that I’d like to make public sometime this summer,” Johnson (R-Wis.) told Politico in an interview Monday. “But obviously, [the coronavirus] has not been helpful and hampered our efforts,” he added. The Wisconsin Republican told the outlet that committee staffers have been going through documents provided by the State Department and National Archives.

The National Archives’ documents include information from the Obama administration. “I’ve got staff that have been devoted to that and they’re working on that stuff from home. We — and I — can walk and chew gum at the same time here. This is not taking up massive amounts of staff time,” he said. Staffers are quarantining at home as the Senate remains in recess until April 20, a deadline that appears to be in flux. During that time, the committee is unable to take multiple actions regarding the probe, including being able to subpoena Blue Star Strategies, a Democratic consultancy firm that was hired by Burisma Holdings.

[..] Senate Republicans argue that Joe Biden may have acted inappropriately as vice president when his son — who had no material experience for the job — was given a high-paying seat on the board of Burisma when the elder Biden was in charge of US policy toward Ukraine. Senate Democrats, however, have argued that the investigation could aid efforts by Russians to spread disinformation and act as a smear campaign for the Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden.

Read more …

 

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