Feb 202020
 


NPC Newsstand with Out-of-Town Papers, Washington DC 1925

 

2 Diamond Princess Passengers Die, Countries Rush To Evacuate Citizens (RT)
Two Coronavirus Patients From Diamond Princess Cruise Ship In Japan Die (SCMP)
New Coronavirus Spreads More Like Flu Than SARS (R.)
First Batch Of Diamond Princess Passengers Arrive In Hong Kong (R.)
Cruise Passengers Relieved To Be Ashore But Stranded In Cambodia (G.)
South Korea Reports 31 New Cases Of Coronavirus (SCMP)
Virus-Hit China Limps Back To Work (R.)
Trump ‘Offered Julian Assange A Pardon If He Denied Russia Link To Hack’ (G.)
Did Trump Offer Assange A Pardon? (ZH)
German Politicians And Professionals Demand Release Of Julian Assange (WSWS)
Roger Stone To Be Sentenced By Judge He Antagonized (R.)
Greece Labels Erdogan A Liar (K.)
Bolton Says His Impeachment Testimony Would Not Have Changed Outcome (NBC)
Russia Becomes A Safe Haven In An Increasingly Turbulent World (BNE)

 

 

Cases 75,757 (+ 560 from yesterday’s 75,197).

Number seems low because China used their accounting again (h/t ZH):

 

China’s National Health Commission may report – as soon as this evening – the first official drop in new cases since the pandemic started. Why does this matter? Because that is now the catalyst everyone is waiting for to pounce and declare that the epidemic is effectively over, even if of course isn’t.


But since for China it is no longer an option to not have people go to work, the Chinese Communist Party will take its chances with another major breakout in coronavirus, or rather pneumonia, which is how all the thousands of new “mystery” deaths will be tagged by the friendly Chinese coroner, who will be instructed to never use the word coronavirus again and instead attributed covid-19 fatalities to far more mundane causes such as pneumonia, and ordinary flu.

 

Deaths 2,130 (+ 120 from yesterday)

• First death among Diamond Princess passengers, first cases in Iran

 

 

I’ll go use these numbers from Worldometer as well:

 

 

 

 

“..as the number of those infected soared to over 620 people, Japanese authorities allowed some 600 passengers to leave the ship on Wednesday ..”

2 Diamond Princess Passengers Die, Countries Rush To Evacuate Citizens (RT)

An elderly couple aboard Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan, where over 620 cases of coronavirus were confirmed, has succumbed to the illness. The fatalities come as Tokyo allows hundreds of passengers to return home. Both passengers were in their 80s, according to public broadcaster NHK, and are the first on board the ship to die of the virus, which has spread to more than 75,000 people and killed over 2,100 worldwide since last December. So far, the majority of fatalities have involved elderly patients with preexisting conditions. The ship was initially quarantined on February 3 with around 3,700 people aboard, and has since turned into the largest disease hotspot outside China.

After more than two weeks in isolation, as the number of those infected soared to over 620 people, Japanese authorities allowed some 600 passengers to leave the ship on Wednesday and board flights back home, with several hundred more expected to disembark the following day. So far, the US has evacuated some 328 American citizens from the vessel on two chartered flights, 14 of whom were confirmed to carry the virus just as they were heading to the airport. They were isolated from the others on board the plane and remain in quarantine in the US.

Over 150 Australian passengers were allowed to return home – where they face another two-week observation period – while several Hong Kongers also disembarked. Canada, Britain and Indonesia are slated to carry out similar evacuations for citizens aboard the ill-fated cruise liner in the coming days. More than 130 Indian crew members will be the last to depart the ship, forced to endure another two weeks on board before facing yet another 14-day quarantine at home.

Read more …

“Americans flown back will have to complete another 14 days quarantine, as will returning Hong Kong residents. Disembarked Japanese passengers, however, face no such restrictions..”

Two Coronavirus Patients From Diamond Princess Cruise Ship In Japan Die (SCMP)

Two passengers from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship moored near Tokyo have died, public broadcaster NHK said on Thursday, as a second group of passengers began disembarking after two-weeks quarantined on-board. More than 620 of the passengers on the Diamond Princess liner have been infected on the ship, which has been quarantined since February 3, initially with about 3,700 people on board. NHK, citing a government source, said the passengers were a man and woman in their 80s. Both had underlying conditions and had been taken off the ship on February 11 and 12 before being treated in hospital, NHK said. The rapid spread of the disease – Japan has well over half of the known cases outside China – has sparked criticism of authorities just months before Tokyo is due to host the Summer Olympics.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato on Thursday defended Japan’s response in parliament, telling lawmakers that officials have taken expert advice and responded to issues on a daily basis. In a move to reassure the public, the health ministry also issued a statement in both English and Japanese that said all passengers had been required to stay in their cabins since February 5 to contain the virus. [..] About 500 passengers were set to disembark on Thursday while another 100 people were to leave for chartered flights home, a health ministry official said. An initial batch of passengers who had tested negative and shown no symptoms left the vessel on Wednesday.

Those who have shared a room with people testing positive were required to remain in quarantine, as were crew. The ministry could not confirm how many people remained on board, or when disembarkation would be complete. More than 150 Australian passengers arrived home after a predawn departure from Tokyo’s Haneda airport. They face another 14-day quarantine. Some Hong Kong passengers also went home, while Canadians were due to leave on a charter flight in the early hours of Friday, Tokyo time, a Canadian government spokeswoman said. An evacuation flight was also being arranged for British nationals to leave Tokyo on Friday.

Earlier in the week, the United States evacuated more than 300 nationals on two chartered flights. A State Department official said there were still about 45 US citizens on board the cruise ship as of Thursday. Americans flown back will have to complete another 14 days quarantine, as will returning Hong Kong residents. Disembarked Japanese passengers, however, face no such restrictions, a decision that has sparked concern.

Read more …

Transmissibility.

New Coronavirus Spreads More Like Flu Than SARS (R.)

Scientists in China who studied nose and throat swabs from 18 patients infected with the new coronavirus say it behaves much more like influenza than other closely related viruses, suggesting it may spread even more easily than previously believed. In at least in one case, the virus was present even though the patient had no symptoms, confirming concerns that asymptomatic patients could also spread the disease. Although preliminary, the findings published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, offer new evidence that this novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 2,000 people mostly in China, is not like its closely-related coronavirus cousins.

“If confirmed, this is very important,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, a virologist and vaccine researcher with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who was not involved with the study. Unlike Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which causes infections deep in the lower respiratory tract that can result in pneumonia, COVID-19 appears to inhabit both the upper and lower respiratory tracts. That would make it not only capable of causing severe pneumonia, but of spreading easily like flu or the common cold. Researchers in Guangdong province monitored the amount of coronavirus in the 18 patients. One of them, who had moderate levels of the virus in their nose and throat, never had any disease symptoms.

Among the 17 symptomatic patients, the team found levels of the virus increased soon after symptoms first appeared, with higher amounts of virus present in the nose than in the throats, a pattern more similar to influenza than SARS. The level of virus in the asymptomatic patient was similar to what was present in patients with symptoms, such as fever. “What this says is clearly this virus can be shed out of the upper respiratory tract and that people are shedding it asymptomatically,” Poland said. [..] “This virus is clearly much more capable of spreading between humans than any other novel coronavirus we’ve ever seen. This is more akin to the spread of flu,” said Andersen, who was not involved with the study.

Read more …

Yet another new name for the virus is spreading: SARS-CoV-2.

First Batch Of Diamond Princess Passengers Arrive In Hong Kong (R.)

More than 100 Hong Kong residents who were quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise in Japan for over two weeks landed on Thursday morning in the Asian financial hub, where they will face a further 14 days of quarantine. Arriving on a chartered Cathay Pacific aircraft, the 106 passengers were part of a first batch of at least two government arranged flights to bring back hundreds of remaining citizens. Authorities said 55 of the 364 Hong Kong residents on the ship were infected with the coronavirus. They will remain in Japan along with 33 other citizens who have been in close contact with them.


The British-flagged Diamond Princess arrived in Yokohama, near Tokyo, on Feb 3. with about 3,700 people onboard after the virus was diagnosed in a man who disembarked last month in Hong Kong. Over 600 passengers have tested positive for the virus, SARS-CoV-2, so far. Passengers began disembarking on Wednesday from the ship, which is operated by Carnival Corp. The process will be finished by Friday, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said. Passengers arriving in Hong Kong are being taken straight into quarantine at a new public housing estate in the city’s New Territories region.

Read more …

The Westerdam had 2,257 people, 1,455 passengers and 802 crew aboard. There are now 255 passengers and 747 crew. 1,200 potentially infected people have spread all over the globe. Countries are now “scrambling” to find them.

Cruise Passengers Relieved To Be Ashore But Stranded In Cambodia (G.)

The MS Westerdam arrived in Cambodia on 13 February, after repeatedly being denied entry to other ports. But the thrill of the moment, has now evaporated for those still facing a logistical nightmare. Travel options – already limited by the number of airlines serving Cambodia – have been narrowed by a growing list of countries denying entry to passengers from the ship. “We showed up in a city unexpected and there’s only so many flights a night and we have a lot of people we’re trying to funnel through that system and we’re putting a lot of stress on that system,” said Orlando Ashford, president of the Holland America Line, which operates the Westerdam. “It’s a math problem: how many people do you have? How many seats do you have?”

Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan are among those refusing to allow passengers in, making flying to Europe and the Americas difficult. Some airlines, such as Emirates, make a stop in Bangkok before proceeding to hubs such as Dubai, further limiting available flights. Still, Ashford expressed hope that remaining passengers would be on their way home “in a couple of days”. The Westerdam, with 2,257 passengers and crew aboard, began letting passengers off on Friday as they found flights home. But that was stopped once news broke that an 83-year-old American woman who had been on the ship and subsequently traveled to Malaysia was found to be carrying the virus. Some 255 passengers and 747 crew members were held on the ship while further testing was conducted.

Cambodia’s ministry of health said on Wednesday that all the tests came back negative and that all passengers were reported to be healthy and fever-free. After that, remaining passengers were allowed off the ship. Tony Martin-Vegue, whose wife, Christina Kerby, remains in Phnom Penh, began immediately preparing for her return home to California’s Bay Area once she got off the ship. Now he’s not sure when that might happen. “It’s kind of limbo right now,” he said. “I’m worried about how she’s going to get home.”

Read more …

Yesterday 20, now 31. 90 people at a temple service show symptoms.

South Korea Reports 31 New Cases Of Coronavirus (SCMP)

The mayor of a South Korean city at the centre of a new coronavirus outbreak told residents to stay indoors on Thursday as a surge in confirmed cases linked to a local church raised the prospect of wider transmission. Malls, restaurants and streets in Daegu, the country’s fourth largest city with a population of 2.5 million, were largely empty in scenes that local social media users likened to a disaster movie. “We are in an unprecedented crisis,” Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin said at a briefing in the city, about 240km (miles) southwest of the capital Seoul, as he warned of likely further cases. Korea’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 31 new cases of the virus on Thursday, following 20 a day earlier, taking the total across the country to 82.


Of that national tally, 49 patients are from Daegu or nearby and have been traced to an infected person who attended a local church, a scenario that KCDC described as a “super-spreading event”. Kwon cautioned that at least 90 more of the around 1,000 other people who attended services at the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony were also showing symptoms. [..] The cases previously reported in South Korea had mostly involved people who had travelled individually to China or come in contact with somebody who had. Daegu authorities ordered the shutdown of all kindergartens, while schools considered postponing the beginning of the spring semester scheduled for early March The Defence Ministry banned troops stationed in Daegu from leaving their barracks and receiving guests.

Read more …

Breaking the -supply- chains.

Virus-Hit China Limps Back To Work (R.)

The Chinese manufacturing engine that powers much of the world economy is struggling to restart after an extended Lunar New Year break, hindered by travel and quarantine restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus epidemic and still in place in many parts of the country. Case in point: in the southern China manufacturing hub of Dongguan, a factory that makes vaporizers and other products had just half of its workforce of 40 last week and was struggling to function without key personnel. “The quality inspectors, they’re all out,” said Renaud Anjoran, who runs the factory. “One is stuck in Hubei, the other is in an area with no transportation open.” Anjoran said other Dongguan manufacturers were also scrambling with half their normal staff levels, with some having even less than that.

The problems are exacerbating pain inflicted by loss of business from the U.S.-China trade war and present huge logistical challenges as companies, many dependent on migrant workers, grapple with a myriad of restrictions that differ by province, city and local district. Apple on Monday rescinded a quarterly sales target made just weeks ago, saying the ramp up of factories in China was slower than anticipated. Hyundai and Nissan have had to suspend some production – not just in China but also at home – for lack of parts. Some smaller firms, particularly in Southeast Asia and reliant on supplies from China, are having to make tough decisions. Taiwan’s Sica New Materials abruptly shut its factory in Thailand at the end of January, laying off about 350 workers.

“They couldn’t produce because raw materials weren’t being sent from China,” said Pairote Panthakarn from the government’s welfare and labor protection office in Kanchanaburi province, where the factory is located. Sica New Materials did not respond to a request for comment. Sinoproud Cambodia Garments, whose customers include fashion retailer Zara’s parent Inditex, told Reuters it may scale back production as stocks of fabric were getting low. “We hope we get the product in March and if we don’t get the product in March, we might just have to cut back and put the workers on half pay,” said general manager Tu Ailan. Nearly half of 109 U.S. companies responding to a poll by Shanghai’s American Chamber of Commerce said plant shutdowns have already had an impact on their supply chains, while almost all of the remainder expect an impact within the next month.

Read more …

WikiLeaks says on Twitter that there’s much more where this came from.

Julian Assange has always said Russia was not behind the leaked mails, and said they were not hacked, but leaked.. But that was not convenient. And now he’s locked up.

In early 2017, Assange negotiated with Congressmembers (?!) about providing proof Russia was not involved. James Comey shut that down.

Mollie Hemingway on Twitter: “Not only have the media not had a proper reckoning for their deceitful years-long push of the dangerous and false Russia collusion conspiracy theory, THEY ARE STILL DOING IT AS LATE AS TODAY. This propaganda is dangerous to domestic and national security and must stop.”

Trump ‘Offered Julian Assange A Pardon If He Denied Russia Link To Hack’ (G.)

Donald Trump offered Julian Assange a pardon if he would say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic party emails, a court in London has been told. The extraordinary claim was made at Westminster magistrates court before the opening next week of Assange’s legal battle to block attempts to extradite him to the US, where he faces charges for publishing hacked documents. The allegation was denied by the former Republican congressman named by the Assange legal team as a key witness. Assange’s lawyers alleged that during a visit to London in August 2017, congressman Dana Rohrabacher told the WikiLeaks founder that “on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC [Democratic National Committee] leaks.”


A few hours later, however, Rohrabacher denied the claim, saying he had made the proposal on his own initiative, and that the White House had not endorsed it. “At no time did I talk to President Trump about Julian Assange,” the former congressman wrote on his personal blog. “Likewise, I was not directed by Trump or anyone else connected with him to meet with Julian Assange. I was on my own fact finding mission at personal expense to find out information I thought was important to our country. “At no time did I offer Julian Assange anything from the president because I had not spoken with the president about this issue at all. However, when speaking with Julian Assange, I told him that if he could provide me information and evidence about who actually gave him the DNC emails, I would then call on President Trump to pardon him,” Rohrabacher added. “At no time did I offer a deal made by the president, nor did I say I was representing the president.”

Read more …

Zero Hedge appears to be confused here when they say According to Assange’s lawyer, Rohrabacher, it was him that informed Gen. Kelly..”

It wasn’t Assange’s lawyer, it was Rohrabacher (they are not the same person) who “said it was him that informed Gen. Kelly that “Assange would provide information about the purloined DNC emails in exchange for a pardon..” It should read: “According to Assange’s lawyer, Rohrabacher said it was him that informed Gen. Kelly..”

So their headline “Assange’s Lawyer Flip-Flops – Admits He Offered Russia Exoneration Quid Pro Quo, White House Ignored” doesn’t seem to make sense.

Did Trump Offer Assange A Pardon? (ZH)

Update: The story appears to have changed dramatically. According to Assange’s lawyer, Rohrabacher said it was him that informed Gen. Kelly that “Assange would provide information about the purloined DNC emails in exchange for a pardon,” but never heard back from the White House. It was Assange’s lawyer (not Assange) that offered a quid prod quo to expose the truth that Russia did not hack the DNC emails (none of which has been proven) in exchange for a pardon… but The White House never responded. [..] Attorneys for Julian Assange told a London court on Wednesday that they will provide evidence that the Trump administration offered to pardon the WikiLeaks founder if he was willing to say that Russia had nothing to do with leaks of Democratic Party emails, according to Bloomberg.

During the preliminary extradition hearing, Assange’s lawyers said that former GOP congressman Dana Rohrahbacher offered the deal in 2017, one year after WikiLeaks published emails which were damaging to then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. At the time, the FBI’s ‘Russiagate’ investigation was in full swing as the agency tried in vein to prove that Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 US election.

“At a preliminary hearing Wednesday, Assange’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald asked the court to allow more witness statements during the extradition hearing that will start next week. The new information includes a witness statement by Jen Robinson, another of Assange’s lawyers, that deals with the alleged offer made by then U.S. Representative. Dana Rohrabacher, he told the court. The witness statement will address “Mr. Rohrabacher going to see Mr. Assange, and saying on instructions of the president, offering pardon or some other way out if Mr. Assange played ball and said the Russians had nothing to do with” the leaks, Fitzgerald said.” -Bloomberg

Read more …

Where were they the past few years?

German Politicians And Professionals Demand Release Of Julian Assange (WSWS)

German-speaking politicians, cultural workers and journalists have published a joint appeal, “Release Julian Assange from prison,” which supports the demand “for the immediate release of Julian Assange, on medical grounds as well on the basis of the rule of law.” The 130 initial signatories have now been joined by 22,000 other supporters. The appeal expresses “great concern for the life of the journalist and founder of Wikileaks” and quotes the findings of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, saying, Assange showed “all the symptoms typical of victims of prolonged psychological torture.” The appeal also refers to the open letter from more than 60 medical doctors, who demand “Assange be transferred to a university hospital, as his state of health is now considered life-threatening.”


“It is obvious that Julian Assange cannot recuperate under the current conditions of detention, nor can he prepare for his extradition proceedings, which are scheduled to begin on February 24, 2020,” the appeal says. “Both constitute serious violations of fundamental principles of human rights and the rule of law, making a fair trial impossible and exposing Julian Assange to considerable suffering and health risks.” The appeal goes on to say, “We remind the German media that Assange is one of their own and that the defence of press freedom is a fundamental tenet of democracy. Notwithstanding the allegations levelled against Assange, we urge the United Kingdom, on the human rights and medical grounds outlined above, to release Julian Assange from custody immediately so that he can recover under expert medical supervision and exercise his fundamental rights without hindrance. We also call on the German Government to make representations to the British Government to this effect.”

Read more …

He’ll either get a new court case or be pardoned.

Roger Stone To Be Sentenced By Judge He Antagonized (R.)

Since his January 2019 arrest, President Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone has repeatedly tested the patience of the federal judge who presided over his trial. On Thursday, that judge will tell the self-described “dirty trickster” how long he will serve in prison. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson is scheduled to sentence Stone, a veteran Republican operative whose friendship with Trump dates back decades, after a 12-member jury in November found him guilty on all seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. The judge on Tuesday rejected Stone’s bid to delay the sentencing.

The high-profile case has taken on additional importance since Trump last week blasted the federal prosecutors who won Stone’s conviction as “corrupt” after they recommended to the judge a prison sentence of seven to nine years. Attorney General William Barr, appointed last year by Trump as the top U.S. law enforcement official, swiftly intervened and the Justice Department withdrew the recommendation as “excessive,” with all four prosecutors then quitting the case. The Republican president thanked Barr for “taking charge” of the Stone matter, though Barr rebuked Trump for tweeting about the case. Congressional Democrats have accused Trump and Barr of politicizing the U.S. criminal justice system and threatening the rule of law.

Stone has repeatedly pushed the boundaries set by Jackson since his arrest in a dramatic pre-dawn FBI raid on his Florida home. Stone violated the judge’s orders not to talk about the case or post on social media, and she accused him of “middle school” behavior. At one point, Stone posted an image of Jackson on Instagram with what looked like the crosshairs of a gun over her head. “His antics are definitely an aggravating factor, and he can expect a longer sentence than he otherwise would have received,” said Mark Allenbaugh, a co-founder of Sentencing Stats, LLC who previously worked for the U.S. Sentencing Commission that sets federal sentencing guidelines.

[..] Stone, 67, was convicted of lying under oath to U.S. lawmakers about his outreach to WikiLeaks – the website that disclosed many hacked Democratic emails ahead of the 2016 election that proved embarrassing to Trump’s Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton – to protect Trump from looking bad. Mueller’s investigation concluded the emails were hacked by Russia. Stone sought to cast doubt on Moscow’s role.

Read more …

Erdogan has a wild plan to destroy the Treaty of Lausanne, and now out of nowhere tells his party that Greece has agreed with that plan. It didn’t and never will.

Greece Labels Erdogan A Liar (K.)

Greece vehemently dismissed the claim by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that it has accepted the status quo Turkey wants in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying that not only it has not done so, but it has, along with the international community, condemned Turkey’s illegal moves in the region. “As we have repeatedly stressed, illegal actions produce no legal effect,” said Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexandros Gennimatas, who denounced “moves that continue to undermine regional peace and security, creating, among other things, pretexts for the violation of the arms embargo in Libya and for the attempt to usurp the sovereign rights of countries in the region.” ”Unfortunately, in this, too, Turkey continues to be a minority of one,” he said.


Erdogan said earlier Wednesday that Ankara’s resolute stance has led “the rest of the countries in the region, but mainly Greece,” to accept the status quo that Turkey wants in the Eastern Mediterranean. He also stressed that Europeans have no jurisdiction in the region. Moreover, he announced that Turkey has purchased its third offshore drilling ship which will arrive in Turkey next month and begin drilling in 2020, without specifying the location. Speaking to the ruling AKP’s parliamentary group, he stressed that the new drilling rig could reach a depth of 11,400 meters. Meanwhile, the third day on Wednesday of contacts in Athens between Greek and Turkish delegations on confidence building measures coincided with 39 airspace violations over the Aegean Sea by Turkish fighter jets.

Read more …

“Per the audio obtained, Bolton says the House committed “malpractice” and “made a mess” of the impeachment inquiry, calling it “grossly partisan.”

Bolton Says His Impeachment Testimony Would Not Have Changed Outcome (NBC)

Former national security adviser John Bolton said Wednesday he was surprised that Senate Republicans rejected his offer to testify in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. But he said that even if he had testified, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the trial because of how House Democrats handled their investigation. “I think the House committed impeachment malpractice,” Bolton said at an event at Vanderbilt University with Susan Rice, who was national security adviser during the administration of former President Barack Obama. “The process drove Republicans who might have voted for impeachment away” because “it was so partisan,” he said. But, he added, “my testimony would have made no difference to the ultimate outcome.”

All but one Senate Republican voted to acquit Trump of abusing the power of his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political opponent. Rice challenged Bolton repeatedly over his decision not to testify in the House or publicly discuss what he knows about the president’s Ukraine pressure campaign, particularly as officials who worked for him on the National Security Council have done so and have since endured Trump’s wrath. [..] Bolton noted that he offered to testify in the Senate trial and that the House didn’t subpoena him after Democrats learned that he would seek a court ruling because the White House had told him not to testify. He wouldn’t speculate about testifying before the House now if he is subpoenaed, because, he said, his lawyer has advised him not to take a position during a national security review by the White House of his book on his time as national security adviser.

Bolton also tried to deflect growing criticism that he isn’t speaking out because he’s simply out to sell his book about his 17 months in the Trump White House. He said he couldn’t speak out now because his book — “The Room Where it Happened”— is still undergoing a prepublication national security review and he believes Trump would have his administration sue him if he discussed its contents before that’s complete. “I’m not out here flacking for it,” he said. “I believe I wrote a book that does not contain any classified information. The staff reviewing it says it does.

Read more …

The benefits of sanctions.

Russia Becomes A Safe Haven In An Increasingly Turbulent World (BNE)

A year ago the main concern of international investors looking at Russia was uncertainty due to its geopolitical showdown with the West. A year on and global economic uncertainty is the main worry, not geopolitics. Russia is now seen by an increasing number of investors as a safe haven in an increasingly turbulent and unpredictable world. “Russia has seen a sharp change from the dominating attitudes from just a year ago: global uncertainty, not geopolitics, now seems the key risk factor. Russia is now seen as a “safe haven,” helped by reserves and sound macroeconomic policies. Low valuations are overtaking high dividend payments in importance and the new Russian government with Putin’s spending initiatives have been taken positively,” BSC Global Markets chief economist Vladimir Tikhomirov said in a note.

The majority of investors are already overweight Russian equities: 59% of dedicated funds are overweight, 33% are even weight and the remainder underweight. Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent the last few years constructing a “fiscal fortress” of record high gross international reserves (GIR) that have now surpassed the pre-crisis peak and are approaching $600bn. At the same time, the budget has been overhauled and the break-even price of oil for the budget to balance has tumbled from $115 in the boom years to around $40 now – well below the average oil prices of the last few years. Under Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, when he ran the tax office, the tax take grew by 20% despite the tax burden only rising by 2pp. And both external and public debt are now covered dollar for dollar with cash.

In short, Russia has probably the best macro fundamentals of any major country in the world. All this has not been lost on bond investors, who have piled into the market and now own about a third of all the Russian Ministry of Finance ruble-denominated OFZ treasury bills – the ministry’s main source of financing the budget. But last year the increasingly good story spilled over into the equity markets. Russia’s dollar-denominated Russia Trading System (RTS) index returned just under 50%, making it on of the top three performing equity markets in the world. This year got off to a very strong start with the market up 10% in the first two weeks, but the coronavirus epidemic in China took the wind out of its sails and the market is currently flat YTD, with the notable exception of the utilities sector, which is up a whopping 16% YTD.

Read more …

 

I have nothing against Warren. But politics sold in the same way as American Idol, and therefore ultimately in the same way as detergent, is very creepy.

 

 

 

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Feb 182020
 


Jack Delano Entrance to colored drivers’ lunchroom at truck service station on U.S. 1 (New York Avenue) 1940

 

338 Americans Flown Home From Cruise Ship, Including 14 With Coronavirus (R.)
US Breaks Cruise Ship Quarantine (ZH)
Virus Kills Chinese Film Director and Family in Wuhan (Chow)
Disease Modelers See The Future Of COVID-19 (STAT)
China Faces Back To Work Concerns As Firms Report Coronavirus Infections (SCMP)
Apple Unlikely To Meet Revenue Guidance Due To Coronavirus Impact (R.)
American Factories In China Unable To Staff Production Lines (SCMP)
At Stake (Jim Kunstler)
Senate Braces For Fight Over Impeachment Whistleblower Testimony (Hill)
NYC Taxpayers Spend Millions on Cyber Center with Ties to Israeli Intel (Webb)
WikiLeaks Locked Out of Twitter Account One Week Before Assange Hearing (GP)
Doctors Call For End Of Assange ‘Torture’ (AAP)
Julian Assange Must Be Freed, Not Betrayed (John Pilger)
Amazon’s Bezos Pledges $10 Billion To Climate Change Fight (R.)

 

 

Actually saw a Reuters headline that said “Coronavirus Infections Slow In China…”, and I thought: why would you say that, the number of new cases is still above 2,000, in spite of all the measures and containment and quarantines in the country.

But it was probably because of the second part of the headline that said “…As Apple Warns Of iPhone Shortages”. That’s what it took for people to take notice, though iPhones are a poor indicator of the economic consequences of the virus; the Big Hurt won’t be in the biggest firms. Look around your home and your stores and see how much stuff come from China. iPhones are but a blip on that radar.

Obviously, another matter people notice is the evacuation of Americans and other people from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama. If only because it allows CNN and BBC to endlessly lament the “terrible ordeal” their compatriots have endured. As entire families in Wuhan have been wiped out, and people are banned from any social activities.

 

• Cases 73,433 (+ 2,103 from yesterday)

• Deaths 1,873 (+ 98 from yesterday)

 

 

 

 

The Westerdam cruise ship unwind is even crazier than the Diamond Princess, and that’s saying something.

338 Americans Flown Home From Cruise Ship, Including 14 With Coronavirus (R.)

More than 300 Americans who had been stuck on a cruise ship affected by the coronavirus were back in the United States on Monday, flown to U.S. military bases for two more weeks of quarantine after spending the previous 14 days docked in Japan. Among those repatriated on a pair of U.S.-chartered jets were 14 people who tested positive for the fast-spreading virus, seven on each plane. The Diamond Princess cruise ship held by far the largest cluster of cases outside China, with more than 400 people infected out of some 3,700 on board. The coronavirus outbreak has killed 1,770 people in China and five elsewhere, with Chinese officials reporting another 2,048 cases on Monday, raising the total to 70,548.

Washington previously flew hundreds of Americans from China to military bases in the United States, and then arranged to bring back the 338 cruise ship passengers once their 14-day quarantines on board had expired. Another 60 Americans remained in Japan for monitoring, State Department officials said. A further 200 U.S. citizens were stuck in Cambodia, among them 92 still on board another cruise ship, the Westerdam, that was also affected by the virus. The Diamond Princess was ordered to stay under quarantine at Yokohama port on Feb. 3 after an 80-year-old Hong Kong man, who was on board from Jan. 20 to Jan. 25, developed the virus. U.S. officials previously pledged to keep infected Americans in Japan for treatment. But they said they were forced to change plans after the passengers disembarked and were on their way to the airport when Japanese officials informed them that 14 of those in transit had tested positive.

“It was only when they were loaded onto these buses that we were made aware these positive results had come back from the government of Japan,” Dr. William Walters, a senior medical official for the State Department, told a news briefing. “They were then taken off the bus, moved into the aircraft and that dedicated isolation area, which was the safest place for them to get away from the rest of the passengers and give us time to make decisions,” Walters said. The infected passengers were isolated in specialized containment areas aboard the two chartered jets. They were exposed to other passengers for about 40 minutes during the bus ride.

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The US accuses Japan of utter failure, but never in those words. Main ally.

US Breaks Cruise Ship Quarantine (ZH)

[..] the Princess Cruises ship was carrying 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew when it set sail and was quarantined after 10 cases of coronavirus were reported Feb. 4. Since then the number of cases on board has exploded, and on Monday alone, Japan announced an additional 99 infections on the Diamond Princess, raising the ship’s total number of cases to 454. And since most of the people on the ship have yet to be tested, the real number of infections may not be known for days. Where things gets problematic, is that whereas until now most of those on board the cruise ship had remained in isolation, the self-imposed quarantine is now over, and on Sunday, fourteen evacuees from the Diamond Princess were allowed to fly back to the United States Sunday despite testing positive for coronavirus, the U.S. State Department and Health and Human Services said in a joint statement.


Why were they released? Because supposedly they were not symptomatic, and in a very ominous twist, they had tested negative initially! “These individuals were moved in the most expeditious and safe manner to a specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft to isolate them in accordance with standard protocols,” the statement, published Sunday, read. The State Department was unaware the individuals had coronavirus when they were being removed from the ship; they had tested negative just a few days before, Robert Kadlec, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, said on a phone call with reporters. “If those results had come back four hours earlier before we’d started to disembark the ship and before these people were evacuees within an evacuation system, then it would’ve been a different discussion.” Dr. William Walters, director of operational medicine at the U.S. Department of State, said on the call.

In other words, the quarantine that had isolated the biggest incubator of coronavirus cases outside of Wuhan was broken simply because an initial test had given a false negative, and subsequents test confirmed that at least 14 indeed had the coronavirus. Kadlec said that individuals received multiple screenings when moving from ship to bus to plane and a more extensive medical assessment upon arrival. In any case, the Diamond Princess quarantine is now broken, and two charter flights carrying at least 14 infected passengers landed at military bases in California and Texas overnight, starting the clock on a 14-day quarantine period to ensure those passengers don’t have coronavirus. In total, approximately 380 Americans were on board the Diamond Princess ship for the duration of the cruise and quarantine at sea.


[..] Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told the USA TODAY editorial board and reporters Monday that the original idea to keep people safely quarantined on the ship wasn’t unreasonable. Yet where the entire story falls on its face is that even with the quarantine process on the ship, virus transmission still occurred. One can only hope that there are proper precaution pathways in place to prevent transmission now that at least 13 infected cruise passengers are now on US soil. “ The quarantine process failed,” Fauci said. “I’d like to sugarcoat it and try to be diplomatic about it, but it failed. People were getting infected on that ship. Something went awry in the process of the quarantining on that ship. I don’t know what it was, but a lot of people got infected on that ship.”

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Mild? Mildly contagious? One wonders.

Virus Kills Chinese Film Director and Family in Wuhan (Chow)

A Chinese film director and his entire family have died from the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Chang Kai, a film director and an external communications officer at a Hubei Film Studio subsidiary, died in hospital on Feb. 14 from the virus now called COVID-19, according to a statement from the studio. He was 55. But Chang’s death was not the first in his family—the Chinese media reported that Chang’s father and mother were infected and died one after the other. Chang and his sister, who looked after their parents at home, were both infected with the virus as a result. His sister died just hours later. Chang’s wife is also infected, still alive, and is still battling the virus in an intensive care unit.


A note written by Chang, said to be his last words, has gone viral on the Chinese Internet. Chang wrote that his father succumbed to the illness on the first day of the Lunar New Year (January 25). “My father had a fever, cough and trouble breathing. [We] tried to send him to the hospital but none of the hospitals we visited took him, because they had no more beds,” he wrote. Instead, Chang brought his father home where ha died a few days later, having passed on the virus to the other family members. Chang’s note said that he and his wife were denied the opportunity to be treated early. Wuhan built a new hospital in six days, but capacity to handle the virus remains strained. Chang bade farewell to his family, friends and his son, who is reportedly studying in the U.K.

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Too many unknowns. Too easily lost in various favorite interpretations.

Disease Modelers See The Future Of COVID-19 (STAT)

At least 550,000 cases. Maybe 4.4 million. Or something in between. Like weather forecasters, researchers who use mathematical equations to project how bad a disease outbreak might become are used to uncertainties and incomplete data, and Covid-19, the disease caused by the new-to-humans coronavirus that began circulating in Wuhan, China, late last year, has those everywhere you look. That can make the mathematical models of outbreaks, with their wide range of forecasts, seem like guesswork gussied up with differential equations; the eightfold difference in projected Covid-19 cases in Wuhan, calculated by a team from the U.S. and Canada, isn’t unusual for the early weeks of an outbreak of a never-before-seen illness.

But infectious-disease models have been approximating reality better and better in recent years, thanks to a better understanding of everything from how germs behave to how much time people spend on buses. “Year by year there have been improvements in forecasting models and the way they are combined to provide forecasts,” said physicist Alessandro Vespignani of Northeastern University, a leading infectious-disease modeler. That’s not to say there’s not room for improvement. The key variables of most models are mostly the same ones epidemiologists have used for decades to predict the course of outbreaks. But with greater computer power now at their disposal, modelers are incorporating more fine-grained data to better reflect the reality of how people live their lives and interact in the modern world — from commuting to work to jetting around the world.

These more detailed models can take weeks to spit out their conclusions, but they can better inform public health officials on the likely impact of disease-control measures. Models are not intended to be scare machines, projecting worst-case possibilities. (Modelers prefer “project” to “predict,” to indicate that the outcomes they describe are predicated on numerous assumptions.) The idea is to calculate numerous what-ifs: What if schools and workplaces closed? What if public transit stopped? What if there were a 90% effective vaccine and half the population received it in a month?

“Our overarching goal is to minimize the spread and burden of infectious disease,” said Sara Del Valle, an applied mathematician and disease modeler at Los Alamos National Laboratory. By calculating the effects of countermeasures such as social isolation, travel bans, vaccination, and using face masks, modelers can “understand what’s going on and inform policymakers,” she said.

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Said it a few times before: factories become petri dishes too, the virus loves those.

China Faces Back To Work Concerns As Firms Report Coronavirus Infections (SCMP)

Cracks have appeared in China’s eagerness to resume economic activities amid the coronavirus outbreak, with a number of work-related cases reported. Gree Electric, the country’s biggest air-conditioner manufacturer located in the city of Zhuhai in Guangdong province, was forced to take emergency action last week to check and quarantine its employees after a bus driver was found to have had close contact with a suspected case, according to a notice published by the company’s labour union on its social media account. The contracted driver, surnamed Feng, had been driving employees to and from work last week until Saturday, with Gree now “intensely” checking the condition of employees who had travelled on the bus.

In addition, Feng was found to have had a meal with three colleagues last week, which was against his company’s policy concerning coronavirus control. According to the statement, Gree recommended that the contractor sack all four drivers despite the quartet, plus Feng’s son, later testing negative. The Gree statement, which was later removed, did not provide details on how many workers have been placed under quarantine. Gree was one of the first to resume production in Guangdong, with provincial party secretary Li Xi visiting the plant last week, two days after 11,000 workers – around one third of the total workforce – resumed operations, according to a report by the official Nanfang Daily.

In another case in Chongqing, more than 130 employees of Chongqing Titanium Industry, a unit of Pangang Group, had to be quarantined and the factory was again forced to halt production after two members of staff were confirmed as being infected at the start of last week, according to a notice by the local industrial estate where the plant is based. In Guangzhou, an employee tested positive for coronavirus, forcing the company to quarantine its remaining members of staff since Friday.

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This sinks the “markets”. And shows how dumb the people in them are.

Apple Unlikely To Meet Revenue Guidance Due To Coronavirus Impact (R.)

Apple warned on Monday it was unlikely to meet a sales target set just three weeks ago amid lost production and weakening demand in China from the coronavirus outbreak. The illness has killed 1,770 in China and stricken some 70,500 people, with millions of others confined to their homes and factories slow to reopen after the Chinese New Year holiday break was extended due to the virus. Manufacturing facilities in China that produce Apple’s iPhone and other electronics have begun to reopen, but they are ramping up more slowly than expected, Apple said. That will mean fewer iPhones available for sale around the world, making Apple one of the largest Western firms to be hurt by the outbreak.


Some of its retail stores in the country remain closed or are operating at reduced hours, which will hurt sales this quarter. China accounted for 15% of Apple’s revenue, or $13.6 billion, last quarter, and supplied 18% of revenue in the year-ago quarter. In late January, Apple had forecast $63 billion to $67 billion in revenue for the quarter ending in March. It did not offer a new revenue estimate nor provide a profit forecast on Monday. “The magnitude of this impact to miss its revenue guidance midway through February is clearly worse than feared,” Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives wrote in a note. Apple’s stock is expected to face a knee-jerk reaction on Tuesday, when Wall Street reopens after the Presidents Day holiday, Ives said.

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It’s irresponsible to open most of these factories.

American Factories In China Unable To Staff Production Lines (SCMP)

As China tries to put its economy back to work amid a novel coronavirus outbreak that has left swathes of the country on lockdown, American manufacturers have warned that they do not have enough staff to man their production lines. The Lunar New Year holiday was officially extended until February 10 in a bid to stem contagion, but factories begun reopening last week across the country, with differing rules applying across China’s almost 3,000 counties.
A survey of 109 companies in the manufacturing powerhouse of the Shanghai region found that while two-thirds of factories were up and running by the end of last week, 78 per cent did not have enough workers to kick-start full production. Almost half, meanwhile, said that their global operations have already been hit by the spread of the coronavirus.


Companies in the area, which includes Suzhou, Nanjing and the wider Yangtze River Delta, had to apply for permission to reopen, and of those that were granted a licence, just 58 per cent were permitted to open all of their production lines, according to the survey conducted by the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) in Shanghai between February 11 and 14. “The biggest problem is lack of workers as they are subjected to travel restrictions and quarantines, the number one and number two problems identified in the survey. Anyone coming from outside the immediate area undergoes a 14 day quarantine,” said Ker Gibbs, AmCham Shanghai president. “Therefore, most factories have a severe shortage of workers, even after they are allowed to open. This is going to have a severe impact on global supply chains that is only beginning to show up.

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A convenient list of names.

At Stake (Jim Kunstler)

I have a theory about the McCabe case: The Attorney General has taken the rinky-dink “lying to the FBI” charge off the table. It has become a liability, virtually the emblem for government misconduct, and Mr. Barr is getting rid of it in these matters. It has already caused too much mischief, insulted Americans’ sense of justice, and damaged the DOJ’s standing. Note, Andrew McCabe has been let off only on this charge, stemming from only one particular IG referral; he may well yet be liable for more serious charges-to-come. From here on, there will be no more rinky-dink lying charges against any of those implicated in the coup, only the most serious charges, and only those that add up to a solid case.

The coup has been so broad, deep, and thick that I predict cases will have to be brought under the RICO statutes in batches for different groups in separate agencies and branches of government. For instance, there is the Intel Mob, including former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intel (DNI) James Clapper, current Intel IG Michael Atkinson, so-called whistleblower (he that cannot be named, E*** C**********) and International Man of Mystery Joseph Mifsud. There is gang from the State Department who helped engineer UkraineGate, including former Ambassador Marie Yovanovich, former Sec’y of State John Kerry, and others. There is that big herd of rogue lawyers in the DOJ and its stepchild, the FBI, the names widely disseminated by now, Comey, Strzok, Baker, Boente, Carlin, Clinesmith, et. al.

There’s Robert Mueller and his henchpersons, Andrew Weissmann, Jeannie Rhee, et. al. There’s another a band of seditionists in Congress that includes Mark Warner of the Senate Intel Committee, the now notorious idiot Adam Schiff over in the House, and staffers who worked for both. There’s a bunch in the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment that paid over a million dollars to Alternate International Man of Mystery (actually, CIA asset) Stefan Halper to run entrapment schemes against people working for Mr. Trump. There’s a swarm from Barack Obama’s White House, including Valarie Jarrett, Susan Rice, Samantha Powers, Alexandra Chalupa, former Vice-President Joe Biden and the former President himself.

And finally, there is the 800-pound-gorilla over in the Democratic Party thicket, namely Hillary Clinton, and those connected to her and her charity fraud, the Clinton Foundation, which is the real and actual predicate for the whole sordid affair — a list that includes Viktor Vekselberg of Russia’s Skolkovo Project, $25-million donor Russian oligarch Victor Pinchuk, Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, and Dmitri Alperovich of CrowdStrike, (Russian collusion, anyone?) as well as rascally freelancers such as Christopher Steele, Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS, lawyer / Lobbyist Adam Waldman, and Hillary errand boys Sidney Blumenthal and Cody Shearer. The stories behind those names are all over the web, in case you want to hjedify yourself.

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The networks are bent in a strange pretzel to justify keeping the long known identity “secret”. It’s not about the identity, it’s about having an excuse not to let him testify.

Senate Braces For Fight Over Impeachment Whistleblower Testimony (Hill)

Senators are reviving the fight over the whistleblower complaint at the center of the months-long impeachment effort against President Trump. With Trump’s trial in the rearview mirror, the Senate Intelligence Committee is quietly shifting its attention back to its investigation into the complaint process after hitting pause on the inquiry as the impeachment effort consumed Washington. The probe will force senators to decide if, and how, they speak with the whistleblower — a controversial call that could test the bipartisan reputation the Intelligence panel has maintained even amid deeply partisan fights in Congress. Asked by The Hill if he was willing to formally compel and subpoena the whistleblower to testify, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) didn’t rule out the possibility.

“I think you can rest assured that I’m prepared to do whatever we have to to interview the whistleblower,” Burr said. The renewed interest in speaking with the whistleblower comes after committee staff and lawyers for the individual hit a stalemate late last year over potential questioning. Lawyers for the individual made offers at the time to both the House and Senate Intelligence committees that their client was willing to provide written answers under oath, but Burr rejected that offer. The North Carolina senator indicated no progress had been made since then in trying to reach a deal on testimony and that while he hadn’t spoken recently with Mark Zaid, one of the whistleblower’s lawyers, his plan is “an interview with committee staff.”

[..] A Democratic committee source said that protecting the whistleblower’s safety and anonymity “is a top priority.” “We do not expect to be asked to cooperate with any effort that might endanger his or her safety,” the source said. The prospect of calling the whistleblower to speak with the committee has been talked up most recently not by a member of the panel but by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a close ally of the president. “The Senate Intel Committee under Richard Burr has told us that we will call the whistleblower,” Graham said earlier this month during a Fox News interview. He added in a subsequent interview with CBS’s “Face the Nation” that the “whistleblower episode needs to be investigated by Richard Burr” and in an interview with Fox News Radio that “the Intel Committee should be looking at whether or not the whistleblower had a bias.”

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Whitney with a new angle. Includes some Epstein.

NYC Taxpayers Spend Millions on Cyber Center with Ties to Israeli Intel (Webb)

Early last week, the city of New York launched — with little media scrutiny — one of two new massive cybersecurity centers that will be run by private Israeli firms with close ties to Israel’s government, the so-called “Mega Group” tied to the Jeffrey Epstein scandal and prominent pro-Israel lobby organizations operating in the United States. The centers were first announced in 2018 as was the identity of the firms who would run them: Israel-based Jerusalem Venture Partners and SOSA. As MintPress has reported on several occasions, all three of these entities have a history of aggressively spying on the U.S. federal government and/or blackmailing top American politicians, raising concerns regarding why these companies were chosen to run the new centers in the heart of Manhattan.

The news also comes as Israeli cybersecurity companies tied to Israeli military intelligence Unit 8200 were revealed to have access to the U.S. government’s most classified systems and simulating the cancellation of the upcoming 2020 presidential election. The new cybersecurity centers are part of a new New York City public-private partnership called “CyberNYC” that is valued at over $100 million and officially aims to “spur the creation of 10,000 cybersecurity jobs and make New York City a global leader in cyber innovation.” CyberNYC is an initiative of New York City’s Economic Development Corporation. However, the companies that will be responsible for creating those cybersecurity jobs will benefit foreign companies, namely Israeli and most of the jobs to be created will go to foreigners as well, as media reports on the partnership have quietly noted.

Those reports also stated that, while the stated purpose of the centers is to create new jobs, the Israeli firms chosen to run them — Jerusalem Venture Partners (JVP) and SOSA — view it as an opportunity to provide Israeli cybersecurity companies with a foothold into the American market and to see Israeli cybersecurity products adopted by both small and medium-sized American businesses, not just large corporations and government agencies. [..] the founder of JVP and former Knesset member, Erel Margalit, told the Jerusalem Post that “the center we are setting up [in New York] will assist Israeli hi-tech companies in collaborating with customers and companies in the US and around the world.”

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I think I saw it’s been restored. Twitter saying it had been compromised or something like that.

WikiLeaks Locked Out of Twitter Account One Week Before Assange Hearing (GP)

WikiLeaks has been locked out of their Twitter account just one week before Julian Assange’s extradition hearing is scheduled to begin in the UK. WikiLeaks Editor-in-Chief Kristinn Hrafnsson tweeted on Monday that “all attempts to get it reopened via regular channels have been unsuccessful. It has been impossible to reach a human at twitter to resolve the issue.” A source familiar with the situation explained to the Gateway Pundit that WikiLeaks social media admins received an automated email on February 9 saying that they needed to reset their password to regain access, but were not able to do so. They were unsure about the reason for the email in the first place — whether it was a glitch from Twitter, a targeted effort, or a hack.

The source said that when the WikiLeaks admins attempted to change the password and log in they received responses from Twitter saying that they were unable to verify them as the owner of the account and that the email on file did not match the one that they were using. WikiLeaks maintains that they are indeed using the same email that has been associated with the account for years. Efforts by WikiLeaks to reach someone at Twitter, since the 9th, have been unsuccessful. Assange’s extradition hearing is scheduled to begin on February 24 at Belmarsh Magistrates Courts, which is a court under the jurisdiction of South London Magistrates Courts.

Assange faces charges under the Espionage Act in the United States for his publication of the Iraq and Afghan War Logs. If extradited and convicted, he could face a maximum sentence of 175 years for the “crime” of publishing material that the US government did not want the public to know. On Monday evening, a Twitter spokesperson confirmed to The Gateway Pundit that the “account was locked due to indicators it was compromised.”

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February 14 is the next hearing.

Doctors Call For End Of Assange ‘Torture’ (AAP)

A group of 117 doctors and psychologists has called for an end to what it calls “the psychological torture and medical neglect of Julian Assange”. WikiLeaks founder Assange is being held in London’s Belmarsh Prison awaiting a hearing on February 24 which could see him extradited to the US. In a 1200-word letter published in the medical journal The Lancet, the Doctors For Assange group expresses concern over his fitness for the legal proceedings. The letter says that “Assange is in a dire state of health due to the effects of prolonged psychological torture in both the Ecuadorian embassy in London and Belmarsh Prison, where he has been arbitrarily detained according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

“Should Assange die in a UK prison, as the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (Nils Melzer) has warned, he will have effectively been tortured to death,” the letter states. “Much of that torture will have taken place in a prison medical ward, on doctors’ watch. The medical profession cannot afford to stand silently by, on the wrong side of torture and the wrong side of history, while such a travesty unfolds.” The first hearing into the United States’ request for Assange’s extradition was held on May 2, 2019. When asked by the judge if he consented to the extradition, Assange said: “I do not wish to surrender myself for extradition for doing journalism that has won many, many awards and protected many people.”

A copy of the Doctors For Assange letter has been sent to the Australian minister for Foreign Affairs, Marise Payne, following up on a previous letter sent on December 16, calling on Ms Payne to bring Assange home to Australia for urgent medical care. A copy has also been sent to the UK Government, which the doctors accuse of violating Assange’s human right to health. The letter condemns what it calls the “torture” of Assange and “the denial of his fundamental right to appropriate healthcare”. It adds: “Politics cannot be allowed to interfere with the right to health and the practice of medicine.

“Abuse by politically motivated medical neglect sets a dangerous precedent, ultimately undermining our profession’s impartiality, commitment to health for all, and obligation to do no harm. “Our appeals are simple: we are calling upon governments to end the torture of Mr Assange and ensure his access to the best available healthcare, before it is too late.” The letter is signed by Stephen Frost, Lissa Johnson, Jill Stein and William Frost on behalf of 117 signatories.

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“..the “damage done personally to you” by Julian Assange.”

Julian Assange Must Be Freed, Not Betrayed (John Pilger)

WikiLeaks has informed us how illegal wars are fabricated, how governments are overthrown and violence is used in our name, how we are spied upon through our phones and screens. The true lies of presidents, ambassadors, political candidates, generals, proxies, political fraudsters have been exposed. One by one, these would-be emperors have realised they have no clothes. It has been an unprecedented public service; above all, it is authentic journalism, whose value can be judged by the degree of apoplexy of the corrupt and their apologists. For example, in 2016, WikiLeaks published the leaked emails of Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta, which revealed a direct connection between Clinton, the foundation she shares with her husband and the funding of organised jihadism in the Middle East — terrorism.


One email disclosed that Islamic State (ISIS) was bankrolled by the governments of Saudi Arabia and Qatar, from which Clinton accepted huge “donations”. Moreover, as U.S. Secretary of State, she approved the world’s biggest ever arms sale to her Saudi benefactors, worth more than $80 billion. Thanks to her, U.S. arms sales to the world — for use in stricken countries like Yemen — doubled.

[..] Revealed by WikiLeaks and published in The New York Times, the Podesta emails triggered a vituperative campaign against editor-in-chief Julian Assange, bereft of evidence. He was an “agent of Russia working to elect Trump”; the nonsensical “Russiagate” followed. That WikiLeaks had also published more than 800,000 frequently damning documents from Russia was ignored. On an Australian Broadcasting Corporation programme, Four Corners, in 2017, Clinton was interviewed by Sarah Ferguson, who began: “No one could fail to be moved by the pain on your face at [the moment of Donald Trump’s inauguration] … Do you remember how visceral it was for you?” Having established Clinton’s visceral suffering, the fawning Ferguson described “Russia’s role” and the “damage done personally to you” by Julian Assange.


Clinton replied, “He [Assange] is very clearly a tool of Russian intelligence. And he has done their bidding.” Ferguson said to Clinton, “Lots of people, including in Australia, think that Assange is a martyr of free speech and freedom of information. How would you describe him?” Again, Clinton was allowed to defame Assange — a “nihilist” in the service of “dictators” — while Ferguson assured her interviewee she was “the icon of your generation”. There was no mention of a leaked document, revealed by WikiLeaks, called Libya Tick Tock, prepared for Hillary Clinton, which described her as the central figure driving the destruction of the Libyan state in 2011. This resulted in 40,000 deaths, the arrival of ISIS in North Africa and the European refugee and migrant crisis.

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1) Be as destructive as you can and get rich off your efforts. 2) Spend 1-2% of your dirty wealth and expect to be hailed as a philantropist.

Amazon’s Bezos Pledges $10 Billion To Climate Change Fight (R.)

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos will commit $10 billion to fund scientists, activists, nonprofits and other groups fighting to protect the environment and counter the effects of climate change, he said on Monday. Cutting emissions will be challenging for Amazon. The e-commerce company delivers 10 billion items a year, has a massive transportation and data center footprint, and has faced criticism from within its own workforce. Bezos, the world’s richest man, is among a growing list of billionaires to dedicate substantial funds to battling the impact of global warming. “Climate change is the biggest threat to our planet,” Bezos said in an Instagram post. “I want to work alongside others both to amplify known ways and to explore new ways of fighting the devastating impact of climate change on this planet we all share.”


The Bezos Earth Fund will begin issuing grants this summer as part of the initiative. “It’s going to take collective action from big companies, small companies, nation states, global organizations, and individuals,” Bezos said. Counteracting climate change has become a popular cause for U.S. billionaires in recent years, with Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg and hedge fund manager Tom Steyer counted among the world’s wealthiest environmental philanthropists. Last year, Bezos pledged to make online retailer Amazon net carbon neutral by 2040 – the first major corporation to announce such a goal – and to buy 100,000 electric delivery vehicles from U.S. vehicle design and manufacturing startup Rivian Automotive.

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Feb 162020
 


John Collier Trucks on highway en route to Utica, New York 1941

 

Chinese Doctors Say Wuhan Coronavirus Reinfection Even Deadlier (ZH)
70 More Infections On Diamond Princess Cruise Ship Bring Total To 355 (SCMP)
Cruise Passengers Face 14 More Days In Quarantine On Return To Hong Kong (SCMP)
Quarantined Cruise Ship Passenger Speaks Out Against US Evacuation Plan (Fox)
American From Cruise Ship Docked In Cambodia Tests Positive In Malaysia For Coronavirus (R.)
Cruise Firm Seeks New Virus Test For Passenger From Ship In Cambodia (R.)
New Coronavirus Threatens Meltdown In China’s Economy (SCMP)
Coronavirus Scare Leaves China’s Empty Restaurants Selling Off Stocks (R.)
Chinese Students -Used To- Spend Billions Overseas (CNN)
Fiat Chrysler Suspends 500L Production Over China Supply Disruption (R.)
Looming Hill-Berg: Bloomberg Considering Hillary Clinton As Running Mate (NYP)
TV Execs Celebrate Unprecedented Flood Of Bloomberg Campaign Spending (IC)
Why Wasn’t Andrew McCabe Charged? (NR)

 

 

• Cases: 69,264, up 2,162 from yesterday

• Deaths: 1,669, up 143 from yesterday

 

Cruise ship the Diamond Princess -off Yokohama- has 3,711 people on board. 1,219 have been tested of which 355 have been confirmed positive for the virus. The ship has been in quarantine for 11 days, so capacity for testing is apparently limited to just over 100 per day. Not impressive. And this doesn’t yet tell us how many people have been tested more than once. But that appears to be necessary.

The main development over the past 24 hours concerns the cruise ships and getting infected more than once. The Diamond Princess is turning into one of Dante’s circles of hell -take your pick- just as governments send planes to pick up their citizens aboard the ship. Who will arrive home just in time to start another 14 days of quarantine. Lovely. Hong Kong and Canada have reported this renewed quarantine, the US must follow suit.

The Diamond Princess is also a loud flashing warning sign about the ease with which the virus spreads. Everyone has been isolated in their cabins for 10+ days, yet there are 70 more cases daily. With a 14-day incubation time, less than a third of passengers tested in those 10+ days with a 30% infection rate, and questionable testing quality, what awaits these people? What awaits those who are not at present considered suspect?

Another cruise ship, the Werkendam, finally accepted in Cambodia after being shunned by 4-5 other countries, has let well over 1,000 passengers leave the ship before one was diagnosed positive for COVID19. It arrived on Thursday carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, 236 passengers and 747 crew remain on board.

Potentially even more ominous is Tyler’s piece on re-infection. If people can be infected more than once, that means their immune systems have successfully fought the virus once, only to be weakened by both the fight and the medication applied in that fight. Imagine large scale re-infection. Imagine the hospital accomodation needed. Which country has that kind of spare capacity?

 

 

 

 

A second infection of a recovered patient will hit a body with compromised immunity. Cytokine storms, ACE2.

Chinese Doctors Say Wuhan Coronavirus Reinfection Even Deadlier (ZH)

Doctors working on the front lines of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak have told the Taiwan Times that it’s possible to become reinfected by the virus, leading to death from sudden heart failure in some cases. “It’s highly possible to get infected a second time. A few people recovered from the first time by their own immune system, but the meds they use are damaging their heart tissue, and when they get it the second time, the antibody doesn’t help but makes it worse, and they die a sudden death from heart failure,” reads a message forwarded to Taiwan News from a relative of one of the doctors living in the United Kingdom.

“The source also said the virus has “outsmarted all of us,” as it can hide symptoms for up to 24 days. This assertion has been made independently elsewhere, with Chinese pulmonologist Zhong Nanshan saying the average incubation period is three days, but it can take as little as one day and up to 24 days to develop symptoms. Also, the source said that false negative tests for the virus are fairly common. “It can fool the test kit – there were cases that they found, the CT scan shows both lungs are fully infected but the test came back negative four times. The fifth test came back positive.” -Taiwan Times

Notably, one of the ways coronaviruses cripple the immune system is via an HIV-like attachment to white blood cells, which triggers a ‘cytokine storm’ – a term popularized during the avian H5N1 influenza outbreak – in which an uncontrolled release of inflammatory ‘cytokines’ target various organs, often leading to failure and in many cases death. The cytokine storm is best exemplified by severe lung infections, in which local inflammation spills over into the systemic circulation, producing systemic sepsis, as defined by persistent hypotension, hyper- or hypothermia, leukocytosis or leukopenia, and often thrombocytopenia. In addition to lung infections, the cytokine storm is a consequence of severe infections in the gastrointestinal tract, urinary tract, central nervous system, skin, joint spaces, and other sites. (Tisoncik, et. al, Into the Eye of the Cytokine Storm – 2012)

According to the 2012 study, “Cytokine storms are associated with a wide variety of infectious and noninfectious diseases and have even been the unfortunate consequence of attempts at therapeutic intervention.” How do coronaviruses enter the body? With SARS (sudden acute respiratory syndrome), another coronavirus, researchers discovered that one of the ways the disease attaches itself is through an enzyme known as ACE2, a ‘functional receptor’ produced in several organs (oral and nasal mucosa, nasopharynx, lung, stomach, small intestine, colon, skin, lymph nodes, thymus, bone marrow, spleen, liver, kidney, and brain).

ACE2 is also “abundantly present in humans in the epithelia of the lung and small intestine, which might provide possible routes of entry for the SARS-CoV,” while it was also observed “in arterial and venous endothelial cells and arterial smooth muscle cells” – which would include the heart. This has led some to speculate that Asians, who have higher concentrations of ACE2 (per the 1000 genome project) may be affected to a greater degree than those of European ancestry, who produce the least of it – and have largely been the asymptomatic ‘super spreaders’..

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The Diamond Princess is a mess. But would it have been better to let potentially infected passengers leave and spread the disease? Perhaps this is one of those situations that we don’t have an solution for.

70 More Infections On Diamond Princess Cruise Ship Bring Total To 355 (SCMP)

The number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which remains quarantined in a dock in Yokohama, Japan, has risen to 355, up 70 from the last government count, the country’s health minister said on Sunday. “So far, we have conducted tests for 1,219 individuals. Of those, 355 people tested positive. Of those, 73 individuals are not showing symptoms,” Katsunobu Kato told public broadcaster NHK. Canada has chartered a plane to evacuate its citizens from the ship, the Canadian government said in a statement late on Saturday. Canadian passengers who exhibit symptoms of infection will not be allowed to board the flight and will instead be transferred to the Japanese health care system, the government said. Passengers who fly to Canada will enter a 14-day quarantine on arrival.

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I lost count, which circle of hell is this again?

Cruise Passengers Face 14 More Days In Quarantine On Return To Hong Kong (SCMP)

Hong Kong passengers stranded on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan have baulked at the suggestion they spend another 14 days in quarantine when they return home, even as they welcomed the government’s move to arrange chartered flights to bring them back to the city. The evacuation plan came as 70 new cases of the coronavirus were confirmed by Japanese health officials on Sunday morning, taking the total number of infections aboard the vessel to 355, including at least 11 Hongkongers who have been hospitalised. Among the 330 passengers from Hong Kong who have been held on the ship for 11 days, Young Wo-sang, who was stranded with his wife, welcomed the news, but said he did not understand the need for another two weeks in quarantine.


“We have been placed in quarantine in Japan from February 5, and it has been nearly 14 days already. Why is there a need to quarantine us for another 14 days?” The Hong Kong Immigration Department said the move was to protect against the health risks associated with repatriating the residents, 260 of whom are SAR passport holders, with the remaining 70 travelling on other passports. Young said his wife received text messages from the department in the early hours of Sunday, that said the couple would be notified when they could leave, once Japanese authorities had confirmed the detailed plans for disembarkation.

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Damned if you do and doomed if you don’t.

Quarantined Cruise Ship Passenger Speaks Out Against US Evacuation Plan (Fox)

A passenger aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which is currently quarantined off the coast of Japan amid a coronavirus outbreak, is speaking out against the United States’ plan to evacuate American passengers. Matthew Smith, who has been quarantined with his wife since Feb. 5, told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto that he prefers to stay on the cruise ship. “Our greatest desire at this point is to maintain the quarantine that the Japanese health officials have established,” Smith said, “then get a test for the virus at the end of that quarantine so we can establish with relative certainty that we are not infected and be free to go. “Unfortunately, the State Department has thrown a monkey wrench into that,” he added.

Approximately 400 Americans and their families on the Diamond Princess will be offered seats on two flights that could arrive at Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento, Calif., as early as Sunday, a CDC official told The Wall Street Journal. A CDC team will screen passengers and those exhibiting symptoms won’t be allowed on the flights. Smith, however, said he’s skeptical about the proposed plan. “I understand getting off the ship to be in another space, but under this circumstance, the offer is we’re going to put you on buses with other people who haven’t completed their quarantines and have not been tested for the virus,” Smith said.


“We’re going to then put you on a plane with all these people and take you back to the United States, and because of the risk you still pose due to that situation we’re going to stick you in another quarantine.” Smith said he would rather stay put on the Diamond Princess ship. While the ship is “getting a bad rap” for its living conditions, Smith said he is content where he is. “We have access to the balcony, we are fed well – three times a day along with excess food — they provide all the necessities we need in there,” he said.

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Or did she?

American From Cruise Ship Docked In Cambodia Tests Positive In Malaysia For Coronavirus (R.)

An 83-year-old American woman who had been a passenger on a cruise ship that docked in Cambodia has tested positive for the new coronavirus on landing in Malaysia, health authorities said on Saturday. The American woman flew to Malaysia on Friday from Cambodia along with 144 others from the ship, the Malaysian health ministry said in a statement. The woman’s husband had tested negative, it said. The MS Westerdam, operated by Carnival Corp unit Holland America Inc, docked in the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville on Thursday after being shunned by five countries on fears that passengers could be carrying the virus.


The Westerdam, carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew, spent two weeks at sea. The passengers were tested regularly on board and Cambodia also tested 20 once it docked. None was found to have the new coronavirus that has killed more than 1,500 people, the vast majority in China. U.S. President Donald Trump has thanked Cambodia for taking in the ship in a rare message to a country that is one of China’s closest allies and has often been at odds with Washington.

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Holland America Line doesn’t think she was ever really positive.

Cruise Firm Seeks New Virus Test For Passenger From Ship In Cambodia (R.)

More tests are needed to confirm that an American passenger from a cruise ship docked in Cambodia has the new coronavirus after she tested positive in Malaysia, the MS Westerdam’s operator said on Sunday. The 83-year-old woman was the first passenger from the MS Westerdam, operated by Carnival Corp unit Holland America Inc, to test positive for the virus. “While the first results have been reported, they are preliminary at this point and we are awaiting secondary testing for confirmation,” Holland America said in a statement. Cambodian authorities called on Malaysia to review its test results.

Holland America said 236 passengers and 747 crew remained aboard the vessel, which is docked in the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville. It arrived on Thursday carrying 1,455 passengers and 802 crew. It had spent two weeks at sea after being turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand. The passengers were tested regularly on board and Cambodia also tested 20 once it docked. None was found to have the new coronavirus that has killed more than 1,500 people, the vast majority in China.


The American woman flew to Malaysia on Friday from Cambodia along with 144 others from the ship, the Malaysian health ministry said in a statement, adding that she was in stable condition. The woman’s husband had shown symptoms but tested negative, it said. The couple were the only ones among the 145 to show symptoms, the ministry said. Cambodia’s government said its own tests had been done in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The Ministry of Health requests the Malaysian authorities to review the results of the test,” Cambodia’s Ministry of Health said in statement.

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Everything stands still. Nobody believes China’s official numbers anymore. How about 0% GDP growth?

New Coronavirus Threatens Meltdown In China’s Economy (SCMP)

Given the rapid advance of medical science and globalisation of recent decades, the scale, spread and economic costs of human epidemics are rocketing up, even if fatality rates are starting to fall. Never before has China paid such an economic price for an epidemic as it has done already with the coronavirus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan and causes the disease now officially known as Covid-19. And the damage is spreading. It is too soon to assess the full impact of the virus as the data changes day after day and not even the brightest expert can say with any certainty when the outbreak might end. Nevertheless, that has not stopped economists from attempting to forecast the likely economic cost based on precedents such as the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or Sars.

Sars sickened about 8,000 people and killed fewer than 800 and in these terms has already been surpassed by the new coronavirus, though its fatality rate of 9.6 per cent is significantly higher than that of Covid-19, which some estimates put at around 2.4 per cent. Sars cut two percentage points from China’s real GDP growth in the second quarter of 2003 and caused US$50 billion of damage to the global economy. Of course, the economic losses from Covid-19 will depend somewhat on how long the outbreak lasts and on what policy support the Chinese government comes up with to offset the impact. But even at this stage, it is obvious that the economic impact of Covid-19 will be far more severe than that of Sars, or any other previous epidemic, for a number of reasons.


Firstly, the Chinese economy is four times as big as it was in 2003, so its losses and the impact on the global economy are likely to be correspondingly larger. China’s gross domestic product accounted for around 16 per cent of the global total last year while it was just four per cent in 2003. A rough estimate is that Covid-19 will cause at least four times as big a loss as Sars. Secondly, the timing is far worse. The outbreak took place just days before the Lunar New Year holiday, when hundreds of millions of Chinese travel domestically and internationally to attend family reunions and festive events. Sars happened in the second quarter of the year, when there was far less activity to disrupt. [..] Thirdly, China’s rapid urbanisation means Chinese are now much more likely to travel domestically and abroad than two decades ago. This also means that when they stop travelling, the disruption is greater.

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Not a good time for small business in China.

Coronavirus Scare Leaves China’s Empty Restaurants Selling Off Stocks (R.)

Wang Chuanchao shuttered his restaurant in central Beijing three weeks ago as the scare over the coronavirus epidemic in country kept customers away and now he’s reduced to selling off vegetables on the street outside to cut losses. Anticipating packed tables at his 125-seater restaurant over the Lunar New Year, Wang says he bought in 300,000 yuan (nearly $43,000) worth of ingredients, ranging from celery to ox tripe. Now, he has to find ways to pay the rent, and his staff, so he can re-open for business once his customers find the courage to come back. “We must help ourselves as we can’t count on anything else,” the 32-year-old Wang, standing in front of a stall laden with vegetables that would perish unless they’re sold quickly. “We must try all efforts to cut our losses.”


Most other restaurants have been forced to do the same, as demand has plummeted following the outbreak in the central city of Wuhan in December, with local authorities across the country curbing travel and closing off public areas to prevent the coronavirus spreading. “We purchased stocks of foodstuffs worth 500,000 yuan before the new year, but now the fresh vegetables have started rotting,” said Liu, a young man working at The Cheng’s restaurant in downtown Beijing. “We threw it all away yesterday.” A report published this week by China Cuisine Association said scare over the epidemic has cost the catering sector 500 billion yuan in lost earnings during the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, with 93% restaurants shutting down operations.

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“In 2017, an estimated 900,000 Chinese tertiary students studied abroad.”

Chinese Students -Used To- Spend Billions Overseas (CNN)

If it weren’t for the novel coronavirus outbreak, Xu Mingxi would have been in class at a prestigious New York university this week. Instead, the 22-year-old has spent the past three weeks confined to his family’s apartment in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the outbreak, which is currently on lockdown to prevent the virus spreading. But even if Xu could leave home, the United States – where he’s studied for the past four-and-a-half years – won’t let him in. Over 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) away in Beijing, Alex – who asked not to use her real name for fear of online retribution – is in a similar situation. She’s spent the past two weeks at home with her mom and grandpa, being delivered groceries by community leaders.

She’s worried she won’t be able to fly to Sydney to study later this month and may have to delay her law degree by a semester. As novel coronavirus spreads, over 60 countries have imposed travel restrictions on Chinese citizens, hoping to limit their exposure to the virus that has killed more than 1,600 people, almost all in mainland China, and infected over 68,000 worldwide. Both Australia and the US have put temporary bans on foreign nationals who visited China in the 14 days prior to their arrival. That has locked Xu and Alex out of their studies — and they are by no means alone. In 2017, an estimated 900,000 Chinese tertiary students studied abroad. Around half of those went to either the United States or Australia, contributing billions of dollars to their economies — money that those countries now stand to lose.


It is not clear how many of the 360,000 Chinese students studying in the US were outside the country when the US travel ban hit on January 31, shortly before many universities were due to resume. But when Australia imposed its restrictions at the start of February, authorities estimated that 56% of Chinese students — about 106,680 people — were still abroad. Term was due to begin in late February or early March. “For Australia, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. It’s exactly the time of the year in which people are coming from China to Australia,” said Andrew Norton, a professor in the practice of higher education policy at the Australian National University. The virus outbreak coincided with the Lunar New Year — the most important holiday in the Chinese calendar, when many students go home to see their family.

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First of many?

Fiat Chrysler Suspends 500L Production Over China Supply Disruption (R.)

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles said it had temporarily halted production at its Serbian plant due to disruptions related to components sourced from China, where companies have been hampered by the outbreak of a new coronavirus. Planned downtime at the Kragujevac plant in Serbia has been rescheduled, an FCA spokesman said on Friday. Production will restart later this month, the spokesman said, adding that the group did not expect the changes would affect total production forecasts for this month. “We are in the process of securing future supply of the affected parts,” the spokesman said. The automaker builds the 500L in Kragujevac.


The spokesman said the supply of audio system parts had been disrupted. Output at the Kragujevac plant was about 40,000 units last year, Serbian media reported, or a quarter of total capacity. FCA had said on Feb. 6 that it might have to temporarily close a European plant within two to four weeks if the impact of the coronavirus in China created supply line issues. The Kragujevac stoppage marks first time an automaker has had to idle a facility in Europe due to the virus. The next few weeks will be critical for automakers. Parts made in China are used in millions of vehicles assembled around the world. China’s Hubei province, epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, is a major hub for vehicle parts production and shipments.

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The ultimate fight for control over the party. How can Bernie, Tulsi and AOC be expected to support the Looming Hill-Berg?

Looming Hill-Berg: Bloomberg Considering Hillary Clinton As Running Mate (NYP)

He’s with her? Mike Bloomberg could team up with Hillary Clinton to try to take down President Trump in November — by making her his running mate. Bloomberg’s internal polling found the combo “would be a formidable force,” sources close to the campaign told the Drudge Report Saturday. Bloomberg’s communications director did not deny the rumored matchmaking effort. “We are focused on the primary and the debate, not VP speculation,” Jason Schechter said in a statement. But minutes after Drudge broke the news, Bloomberg himself posted a coy message about working with female colleagues. “I would not be where I am today without the talented women around me,” he tweeted. “I’ve depended on their leadership, their advice and their contributions.”

A Bloomberg campaign insider told The Post that the two have long been simpatico – going back to the days when she represented New York in the U.S. Senate and he was Gotham’s mayor. “I am sure that they polled it, just because you would be dumb not to wonder,” the insider said. “You want to see what a match-up might look like.” But the pairing is a “net negative” for Bloomberg, a Democratic strategist said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me,” said Brad Bannon, a consultant not affiliated with any presidential campaign. “If he wins the nomination, there’s going to be a lot of unhappiness in the progressive wing of the party,” Bannon explained. “You can’t afford to have them sit on their hands in November.”


[..] Asked about the looming Hill-Berg, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has endorsed Sanders, deflected. “I would hope [Bloomberg] would not be in a position to be choosing a running mate at all,” she told The Post during her Queens campaign office opening Saturday. “I think Bloomberg’s past on stop and frisk, on harassment of women— all of these claims are huge red flags.” Clinton and Bloomberg were spotted together in December at Orso in the Theatre District, where they dined with daughter Chelsea, Barry Diller, Diane von Furstenberg, and others, Page Six reported – supposedly to celebrate the birthday of socialite Annette de la Renta. “From what I have seen they have always been friendly,” the campaign insider said.

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Trump draws the viewers, Bloomberg pays for them.

TV Execs Celebrate Unprecedented Flood Of Bloomberg Campaign Spending (IC)

Fox news hosts regularly bash former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg as a globalist demagogue intent on seizing Americans’ firearms and big gulp sodas. High-level executives at the company, however, are much more enthusiastic about the billionaire politician and Democratic presidential candidate. Lachlan Murdoch, the chief executive of Fox Corp., the parent company of Fox News, is one of several media executives to welcome Bloomberg’s unprecedented spending spree on television advertisements. In a February 5 briefing for investors, Murdoch noted that he had heard “the Bloomberg campaign has expected to sort of double its advertising spend earlier this week.” The billionaire’s campaign, Murdoch noted, makes purchases on a week-to-week basis, making it difficult to project the ultimate benefit for his company.

“But obviously,” he added, “we expect it to be very strong and particularly, as I mentioned, in the markets of our local TV stations.” Bloomberg, the ninth wealthiest person in the world, with a fortune estimated at almost $62 billion, has upended the Democratic presidential primary with an infusion of cash that has smashed through historical records in a matter of weeks. Advertising Analytics, which tracks campaign spending, reported Thursday that Bloomberg has already spent $363 million on cable, broadcast, and radio advertisements alone. The 2020 campaign is shaping up to be an incredible financial opportunity for media companies, with one market research firm recently estimating that nearly $7 billion of paid advertising be spent this year, up over 60 percent since the 2016 presidential race.


Bloomberg alone has enticed media executives to see the race as a golden opportunity. “The political is going to be huge this year,” boasted Christopher Ripley, president and chief executive of Sinclair Broadcast Group, one of the largest owners of television stations in the country, speaking last month at the Citi 2020 Global TMT West conference in Las Vegas. “The amount of fundraising that’s happened through this year has broken all records. And the good news about politicians is they never return the money, they spend it,” Ripley quipped.

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Well, it’s going to be an election like never before.

Why Wasn’t Andrew McCabe Charged? (NR)

The Justice Department announced Friday that it is closing its investigation of Andrew McCabe, the FBI’s former deputy director, over his false statements to investigators probing an unauthorized leak that McCabe had orchestrated. McCabe was fired in March 2018, shortly after a blistering Justice Department inspector general (IG) report concluded that he repeatedly and blatantly lied — or, as the Bureau lexicon puts it, “lacked candor” — when questioned, including under oath. Why not indict McCabe on felony false-statements charges? That is the question being pressed by incensed Trump supporters.

After all, the constitutional guarantee of equal justice under the law is supposed to mean that McCabe gets the same quality of justice afforded to the sad sacks pursued with unseemly zeal by McCabe’s FBI and Robert Mueller’s prosecutors. George Papadopoulos was convicted of making a trivial false statement about the date of a meeting. Roger Stone was convicted of obstruction long after the special counsel knew there was no Trump–Russia conspiracy, even though his meanderings did not impede the investigation in any meaningful way. And in the case of Michael Flynn’s false-statements conviction, as McCabe himself acknowledged to the House Intelligence Committee, even the agents who interviewed him did not believe he intentionally misled them.

I emphasize Flynn’s intent because purported lack of intent is McCabe’s principal defense, too. Even McCabe himself, to say nothing of his lawyers and his apologists in the anti-Trump network of bureaucrats-turned-pundits, cannot deny that he made false statements to FBI agents and the IG. Rather, they argue that the 21-year senior law-enforcement official did not mean to lie, that he was too distracted by his high-level responsibilities to focus on anything as mundane as a leak — even though he seemed pretty damned focused on the leak while he was orchestrating it. The “he did not believe he intentionally misled them” defense is not just implausible; it proved unavailing on McCabe’s watch, at least in General Flynn’s case.

Hence, McCabe has a back-up plan: To argue that it would be extraordinary — and thus unconstitutionally selective and retaliatory — for the Justice Department to prosecute a former official for false statements in a “mere” administrative inquiry (which the leak probe was), as opposed to a criminal investigation. Again, tell that to Flynn, with whom the FBI conducted a brace-style interview — at the White House, without his counsel present, and in blithe disregard of procedures for FBI interviews of the president’s staff — despite the absence of a sound investigative basis for doing so, and whom Mueller’s maulers squeezed into a guilty plea anyway.

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Don’t ask.

 

 

 

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Feb 152020
 


Harris & Ewing Gettysburg 50th reunion: Grand Army of the Republic and the United Confederate Veterans 1913

 

Massive Medical Response As China Death Toll Reaches 1,526 (SCMP)
Beijing To Quarantine All Arrivals As Economic Life Struggles To Pick Up (R.)
Xi Puts On Brave Face, Vows To Deliver Economic Goals Amid Coronavirus (SCMP)
Egypt Confirms Coronavirus Case, The First In Africa (AlJ)
Chinese Medical Staff Pay ‘Too High A Price’ In Battle To Curb Virus (SCMP)
Wandering Ship Becomes ‘Best Cruise Ever (R.)
Sidney Powell: One Atrocity After The Other In Michael Flynn Case (SAC)
Barr Assigns Outside Prosecutor To Review Case Against Flynn (ZH)
DOJ Drops Investigation Of Former FBI Deputy Andrew McCabe (UPI)
Roger Stone Asks For New Trial (Hill)
Carville Slams Sanders For ‘Hack’ Slam: ‘At Least I’m Not A Communist’ (Hill)
United Airlines Pulls Boeing 737 MAX From Schedule Until September 4 (R.)
Impure Thoughts (Kunstler)
US Soldiers in Deathly Scuffle With Syrian Civilians (Whitney Webb)
Varoufakis Submits Recordings Of Eurogroup Talks To Greek Parliament (K.)
Multibillion Mystery Of The Great British Gold Sale (Conway)

 

 

And we’re off to the races again. With the renewed attention for the FBI and DOJ shenanigans in the cases past and present of Roger Stone, Michael Flynn and even Andrew McCabe, it’s easy to get too many articles for an effective aggregator.

 

• Cases 67,102, up 2,661 from yesterday. 11,053 – 18% of cases listed as severe.

• Deaths 1,526, up 143 from yesterday

First death in Europe, a Chinese tourist in France. Close the borders!

• 2,420 new cases (total 54,406) and 139 new deaths in Hubei province

• Chinese experts expect surge in confirmed cases inn coming days.

• 4 more cases in Japan, 3 more cases in Hong Kong

• Infected passengers and crew aboard ‘the Diamond Princess’ climbs to 218

• Lockdown in Beijing

• 217 medical teams sent to provinces, including 25,033 medical professionals to Hubei, in addition to 181 teams of army doctors in Wuhan and 36 army medical teams across Hubei

 

 

 

 

They’re even sanitizing coins and bank notes with UV light.

Massive Medical Response As China Death Toll Reaches 1,526 (SCMP)

China reported 2,641 new confirmed cases and 849 new severe cases on Saturday. A total of 143 more people have died, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 1,526. There are 2,277 suspected new cases. The total number of confirmed cases across the country stands at 66,492, of which 11,053 – 18 per cent – are severe. In Hubei province – epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak – 2,420 new confirmed cases were reported with 1,923 of those in provincial capital Wuhan. The city also accounted for 107 of the 139 new deaths reported in Hubei on Saturday. National Health Commission deputy director Wang Hesheng said nine medical shelters had been opened to accommodate patients with mild symptoms, as well as people with suspected infections.

It was Wang’s first press conference since his arrival in Wuhan – provincial capital of Hubei where the novel coronavirus emerged – about a week ago. Wang and Chen Yixin, secretary general of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, the Communist Party’s top law enforcement body, were sent to Wuhan in response to public uproar about the death of ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, widely regarded as a whistle-blower about the new virus. Wang said China had sent 217 medical teams across provinces, including a total of 25,033 medical professionals to Hubei. These were in addition to the 181 teams of army doctors in Wuhan and a further 36 military medical teams in other cities in the province.


[..] Fan Yifei, vice-governor of the People’s Bank of China, said money supply in the country would be ensured, with 4 billion yuan (US$572 million) in new bank notes already allocated to Hubei before the Spring Festival holiday. Fan said the central bank would temporarily store bank notes from major government institutes or state enterprises in warehouses to prevent the disease spreading through the handling of cash. Banks have also been told to sanitise notes before giving them to enterprises. Fan said cash from hospitals and wet markets were being stored and bank notes and coins sanitised with UV light before they were released back into circulation.

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Imagine this in Paris, London, New York.

Beijing To Quarantine All Arrivals As Economic Life Struggles To Pick Up (R.)

The Chinese capital Beijing on Friday imposed a 14-day self-quarantine on people returning to the city from holidays to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, and threatened to punish those who failed to comply. It was not immediately clear how the restriction, relayed by the official Beijing Daily newspaper, would be enforced, or whether it would apply to non-residents of Beijing or foreigners arriving from abroad. [..] Wuhan, the city of 11 million people where the outbreak began, has the most acute problem. With all public transport, taxis and ride-hailing services shut down in the city, volunteer drivers are responding to requests on ad hoc messaging groups to ferry medical staff and others in vital jobs to and from work, risking their own health.


Others work round the clock to find accommodation for medical workers in hotels that have volunteered rooms. Many of the drivers keep their identities secret to avoid objections from family and friends. “Everyone in our group has such a strong sense of mission,” said 53-year-old Chen Hui, who runs one of the ad hoc ride services. [..] “From now on, all those who have returned to Beijing should stay at home or submit to group observation for 14 days after arriving,” read the notice from Beijing’s virus prevention working group cited by the Beijing Daily. “Those who refuse to accept home or centralised observation and other prevention and control measures will be held accountable under law.”

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He’s starting to acknowledge he can’t do both. How to save face?

Xi Puts On Brave Face, Vows To Deliver Economic Goals Amid Coronavirus (SCMP)

Shrouded in utmost secrecy, the Politburo Standing Committee is the inner circle of China’s power structure. The seven-member body, which is the core of the 25 member Politburo cabinet with general secretary Xi Jinping as its head, rarely publishes meeting schedules or agendas before or even after meetings. The details of only four standing committee meetings have been published in the two and half years since Xi consolidated his power in late 2017, even though the group is believed to have met on a weekly basis. Two of the meetings were to listen to work reports from China’s government, parliament and the top court, one was a discussion about a grand plan to build an entirely new city in Xiongan, Hebei province, and the fourth concerned a low-quality vaccine scandal.

This all changed last month with the outbreak of the coronavirus, which causes the disease now officially known as Covid-19. The conclusions of three standing committee meetings in three consecutive weeks have since been published, an attempt to make it clear that China’s leadership, in particular Xi himself, has a strong message to send to the country’s ruling apparatus and the general public. During Wednesday’s meeting, Xi said control of the coronavirus had entered a critical stage despite “positive developments” in containing the outbreak, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. However, Xi emphasised that the outbreak of coronavirus should not stop China from achieving its social and economic goals, while also continuing the country’s long-term rise.


“This year is the last year to complete the goal of building up a comprehensively well-off society” said Xi, with all levels of the government expected to ensure economic stability and social harmony to achieve set goals despite the coronavirus. The meeting came just a day after Xi told his Indonesian counterpart, Joko Widodo, that China “has the capability, confidence and certainty to score an outright victory over the epidemic”. “We must see that the long-term sound fundamentals of our economy haven’t changed. The impact of the outbreak will only be short-term and [China] won’t be intimidated by the current problems and difficulties,” Xi said according to Xinhua.

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Africa is an ideal breeding ground for a virus like this. But who’s going to do the testing, and with what? A hospital in Cairo may do it, but what about the Congo for instance? There are at least a millionn Chinese working in Africa. Come to think of it, what will COVID19 mean for Belt and Road?

Egypt Confirms Coronavirus Case, The First In Africa (AlJ)

Egypt has confirmed its first case of a deadly coronavirus that emerged in central China at the end of last year and has since spread to more than two dozen countries around the world. Health Ministry spokesman Khaled Mugahed said in a statement on Friday that the affected person was a “foreigner” who did not show any serious symptoms. Officials were able to confirm the case through a follow-up programme implemented by the government for travellers arriving from countries where the virus has spread. The ministry statement said the person was hospitalised and in isolation. It did not specify the person’s nationality or their point of entry. The development made Egypt the first country in the African continent to report a confirmed case, and the second in the Middle East region, after the United Arab Emirates late last month diagnosed its first cases.

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China must ask for mass assistance.

Chinese Medical Staff Pay ‘Too High A Price’ In Battle To Curb Virus (SCMP)

More than a thousand health care workers have been infected with Covid-19, many of whom contracted the virus that causes the disease in the early weeks of the outbreak when there was a shortage of protective equipment and the authorities said there had been few cases of human-to-human transmission. One specialist warned that frontline medical workers were paying “too high a price” in the battle to contain the disease and warned that the high number of infected health care staff increased the risk of cross-infection in hospitals. On Friday the government said a total 1,716 health care workers had been infected with the disease. The number is far higher than that recorded during the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) epidemic, although there have been 12 times more confirmed cases of Covid-19.

[..] Cai Haodong, a communicable diseases specialist from Beijing’s Ditan Hospital, said the absolute number of health care worker infections was far higher than during the Sars epidemic because there were many patients who had not initially shown any symptoms. “The enemy (coronavirus) is in the dark. The awareness of doctors of non-communicable disease was not strong. They may have lowered their guard when the patient did not show any symptoms.” Health care workers were also forced to go to the frontline without proper protective clothing and masks, she added. “The doctors in Wuhan don’t have sufficient protective gear and they are forced to go to the frontline. The price is just too high,” she said.


The large number of health care worker infections increases the risks of cross-infection in hospitals. “When doctors are infected, they may infect patients and cause cross-infections. That is why the United States requires doctors to have influenza vaccines so that they won’t pass it on to patients,” Cao said.

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How much did the industry pay for this commercial?

“We had free internet and free wine. We had three-course meals. There was so much choice..”

Wandering Ship Becomes ‘Best Cruise Ever (R.)

After nearly two weeks cast away in search of a port that would take them, passengers aboard the MS Westerdam cruise ship spoke of an ordeal that was anything but harrowing. “Everyone says ‘poor you’. But there was no poor you. We had free internet and free wine. We had three-course meals. There was so much choice,” said Zahra Jennings, a retired staff nurse from Britain. How was it? “Lovely,” she said. The 1,544 passengers and 802 crew had never expected a port stop in Hong Kong to metastasize into full-blown fear that some of the ship’s passengers carried the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan, China, late last year and has killed more than 1,500 people.

Turned away by Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand, it was Cambodia that finally let the lost ship dock – and it was discovered there that none of the passengers was infected. The only complaint aboard? “They ran out of hash browns a couple of days ago, and tomato sauce,” said Robert Sayers, a 60-year-old chemical company employee from New Zealand. “But that was it. It was fine, really.” Cruise ships around Asia face widespread fears they may be spreading the virus since it was found aboard the Diamond Princess that is now at anchor in Yokohama and where 218 of the passengers have been diagnosed with the virus.

Vietnam turned back two ships on Friday. It was Valentine’s Day when the first passengers disembarked from the Westerdam. The prime minister, Hun Sen, flew in from the capital, shaking hands with passengers and handing out roses. Government officials draped “Welcome to Cambodia” banners on buses. All passengers were given free visas. Hun Sen, an authoritarian ruler condemned by Western countries for human rights abuses said: “Our current disease around the world is fear and discrimination,” he said. “If Cambodia didn’t allow this ship to dock, where should these 2,000 passengers go?”


Holland America sent letters to all passengers saying it would reimburse the cost of the cruise, give them another free 14-day cruise, and charter them flights home. The company, it said, would do its best to match the class of flight they had originally booked. The cruise had been scheduled to end in Shanghai on Saturday. In Shanghai it was 14 Celsius, overcast and raining. In Sihanoukville, it was 27C and sunny.

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He was led to believe that he wasn’t being investigated, so he didn’t need a lawyer, and now we’re off to the races.

Sidney Powell: One Atrocity After The Other In Michael Flynn Case (SAC)

Sidney Powell, the attorney for former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn told Sean Hannity on Friday that there has been “one atrocity after another” in the proceedings. “So not only was [Michael Flynn] not warned of his rights, he didn’t even know that he was being investigated,” Powell told host Sean Hannity. “In fact, he was led to believe that he wasn’t being investigated.” Powell added that Michael Flynn’s case was the first instance she had heard of in which a defendant accused of making false statements to the FBI was not warned of his rights or informed that he was under investigation. “They say they can’t find [it], he can’t produce it [the 302 form],” she said of Michael Flynn prosecutor Brandon Van Grack. who she claimed has a separate conflict of interest in the case. “There is one atrocity after the other in this case.”

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Would this have happened if Powell hadn’t taken over? I don’t believe it for a second.

Barr Assigns Outside Prosecutor To Review Case Against Flynn (ZH)

A week of two-tiered legal shenanigans was capped off on Friday with a New York Times report that Attorney General William Barr has assigned an outside prosecutor to scrutinize the government’s case against former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, which the Times suggested was “highly unusual and could trigger more accusations of political interference by top Justice Department officials into the work of career prosecutors.” Notably, the FBI excluded crucial information from a ‘302’ form documenting an interview with Flynn in January, 2017. While Flynn eventually pleaded guilty to misleading agents over his contacts with the former Russian ambassador regarding the Trump administration’s efforts to oppose a UN resolution related to Israel, the original draft of Flynn’s 203 reveals that agents thought he was being honest with them – evidence which Flynn’s prior attorneys never pursued.

His new attorney, Sidney Powell, took over Flynn’s defense in June 2019 – while Flynn withdrew his guilty plea in January, accusing the government of “bad faith, vindictiveness, and breach of the plea agreement.” In addition to a review of the Flynn case, Barr has hired a handful of outside prosecutors to broadly review several other politically sensitive national-security cases in the US attorney’s office in Washington, according to the Times sources. Of particular interest will be cases overseen by now-unemployed former US attorney for DC, Jessie Liu, which includes actions against Stone, Flynn, the Awan brothers, James Wolfe and others. Notably, Wolfe was only sentenced to leaking a classified FISA warrant application to journalist and side-piece Ali Watkins of the New York Times – while prosecutors out of Liu’s office threw the book at former Trump adviser Roger Stone – recommending 7-9 years in prison for process crimes.


[..] New York Times: “The moves amounted to imposing a secondary layer of monitoring and control over what career prosecutors have been doing in the Washington office. They are part of a broader turmoil in that office coinciding with Mr. Barr’s recent installation of a close aide, Timothy Shea, as interim United States attorney in the District of Columbia, after Mr. Barr maneuvered out the Senate-confirmed former top prosecutor in the office, Jessie K. Liu. Mr. Flynn’s case was first brought by the special counsel’s office, who agreed to a plea deal on a charge of lying to investigators in exchange for his cooperation, before the Washington office took over the case when the special counsel shut down after concluding its investigation into Russia’s election interference”.

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But that’s not the end of the line for McCabe, says Jason Chaffetz. Stay tuned.

DOJ Drops Investigation Of Former FBI Deputy Andrew McCabe (UPI)

The Justice Department has dropped its investigation into former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe over accusations he leaked information to news media, his attorneys said Friday. A letter to McCabe’s lawyers said the Justice Department declined to pursue criminal charges. “Based on the totality of the circumstances and all of the information known to the government at this time, we consider the matter closed,” said the letter, signed by J.P. Cooney and Molly Gaston of the Fraud & Public Corruption Section of the Justice Department. Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions fired McCabe from the FBI in March 2018 after the Justice Department’s inspector general determined he’d authorized FBI officials to reveal sensitive information to media about an investigation related to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


The IG report accused McCabe of subsequently misleading investigators about his role in the matter. McCabe had stepped down from his role as deputy director of the FBI months earlier. McCabe’s lawyers, Michael Bromwich and David Schertler, said the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Washington, D.C., notified them the case was closed.

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How can the request be refused? Hard to see.

Roger Stone Asks For New Trial (Hill)

Attorneys for Roger Stone on Friday requested a new trial, a day after saying they were looking into potential bias by a juror who voted to convict the longtime Trump associate of lying to Congress and witness tampering. The request also comes after President Trump accused the juror of harboring “significant bias” following reports that her social media activity contained posts that were critical of Trump. “Now it looks like the fore person in the jury, in the Roger Stone case, had significant bias. Add that to everything else, and this is not looking good for the “Justice” Department. @foxandfriends @FoxNews,” Trump tweeted Thursday.

Stone’s attorneys would not reveal the contents of the motion, which was filed under seal to protect sensitive information, saying only that an un-redacted version will be submitted later for public filing. However, a day earlier they indicated they were looking into the newly surfaced social media activity of jury foreperson Tomeka Hart. “Mr. Stone and his defense team are diligently reviewing the newly reported information to determine any appropriate next steps,” said attorney Grant Smith, who did not refer to the juror by name. Hart’s role as the jury foreperson became publicly known Wednesday when she confirmed to CNN that she had written a Facebook post defending the prosecutors in Stone’s case.


The four-person prosecution team quit Tuesday after their recommended sentence of seven to nine years in prison was overruled by top Justice Department officials, sparking questions about whether the White House had put undue political pressure on the department to seek a lighter sentence for Trump’s longtime associate. Stone, a 67-year-old right-wing provocateur, was found guilty in November of lying to Congress and witness tampering related to his efforts to provide the Trump campaign inside information about WikiLeaks in 2016. [..] It was unclear if the request for a new trial — Stone’s second attempt after the first was denied — would delay his scheduled Feb. 20 sentencing.

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Carville is THE symbol of the demise of the Democratic Party in the past 30 years. He’s a sleaze like Roger Stone, only he’s free.

Carville Slams Sanders For ‘Hack’ Slam: ‘At Least I’m Not A Communist’ (Hill)

James Carville fired back at Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for calling him “a political hack,” calling the self-described democratic socialist “a communist.” The back and forth follows a week in which Carville has repeatedly sounded the alarm about a potential Sanders match-up against President Trump in November, calling the scenario “the end of days” for the Democratic Party while referring to Sanders supporters as “a cult.” Sanders returned fire on Wednesday night during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, arguing that “political hack” Carville represents the establishment his campaign is running against.

“James, in all due respect, is a political hack,” Sanders said. “We are taking on Trump, the Republican establishment, Carville and the Democratic establishment. But at the end of the day, the grassroots movement that we are putting together — of young people, of working people, of people of color — want real change.” Carville, who worked as a campaign strategist for former President Clinton, escalated the feud Thursday on Snapchat with former CNN reporter Peter Hamby. “Last night on CNN, Bernie Sanders called me a political hack,” Carville said. “That’s exactly who the f— I am! I am a political hack! I am not an ideologue. I am not a purist. He thinks it’s a pejorative. I kind of like it! At least I’m not a communist.”


Trump also recently referred to Sanders as a communist. “I think he’s a communist. I mean, you know, look, I think of communism when I think of Bernie,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity before the Super Bowl. Sanders dismissed Trump’s comment a week later in an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday.” “Obviously I am not a communist,” Sanders said, adding that maybe Trump “doesn’t know the difference.”

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Does anyone think the 737 MAX will fly again this year? How about ever?

United Airlines Pulls Boeing 737 MAX From Schedule Until September 4 (R.)

United Airlines said on Friday it is extending the cancellation of Boeing 737 MAX flights until Sept. 4, a fresh delay that comes as sources told Reuters that the timing of a key certification flight may not happen until at least April. U.S. airlines that operate Boeing’s737 MAX, which was grounded worldwide last March after two fatal crashes, had last pulled the jet from their flight schedules until early June. On Thursday, Southwest Airlines extended its MAX cancellations until Aug. 10.

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“..it is a peculiar feature of our times that a lot of things have an appearance that doesn’t sync with reality..”

Impure Thoughts (Kunstler)

..companies doing business need a revenue stream to service their revolving debts. They have to make stuff, and move stuff, and get paid for it. What happens when there is no revenue stream? The workings of this hyper-complex financial system depend utterly on the velocity of these revenue streams. They can’t just… stop! Everybody who follows these things understands that China’s banking system is 1) a hot mess of confabulated public and private lending relationships, 2) completely opaque as regards the true workings of its operations, and 3) shot through with fraud, swindling, and Ponzis. Did China’s ruling party just put its banking system in an induced coma while Corona virus plays out? How can that possibly not affect the rest of global finance, which is plenty janky, too?

The USA gets everything from car parts to pharmaceuticals from China. How long will it take for the manufacturing lock-down to show up in American daily life? What if it continues for some months going forward? You can easily draw your own conclusions. Here’s another interesting angle on that: Corona virus might give President Donald Trump an easy out from being the bag-holder for a stock market crash and banking train wreck. The signal weakness of Mr. Trump’s term-in-office was his taking ownership of a magical mystery stock market that climbs ever-higher day after day, defying all known rules of physics as applied to money.


This longest “expansion” in US history (if that’s what it was, and I’m not so sure about it) seems to have hit a speed bump last September when something broke in the short-term “re-po” lending markets, at which time (and ever since), Jay Powell’s Federal Reserve began jamming hundreds of billions of dollars into them to smash down zooming interest rates and prevent a heart attack in the system. That creation of “liquidity” — money from thin air — appears to have stabilized the situation. But then, it is a peculiar feature of our times that a lot of things have an appearance that doesn’t sync with reality.

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Time to go before things get out of hand.

US Soldiers in Deathly Scuffle With Syrian Civilians (Whitney Webb)

As resistance to U.S. troop presence in both Iraq and Syria gains steam, a rare scuffle between Syrian civilians and U.S. forces broke out on Wednesday resulting in the death of one Syrian, believed to be a civilian, and the wounding of another. A U.S. soldier was also reportedly injured in the scuffle. The event is likely to escalate tensions, particularly in the Northeastern region where the incident took place, as Syria, Iraq and Iran have pushed for an end to the U.S. troop presence in the region following the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.

The clash between U.S. forces and Syrian locals took place near the town of Qamishli where the U.S. forces were conducting a patrol that, for reasons that are still unclear, entered into territory controlled by the Syrian government instead of territory occupied by the U.S. and its regional proxy, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). At a Syrian military checkpoint, the U.S. patrol was met by Syrian civilians of a nearby village who gathered at the checkpoint and began throwing rocks at the U.S. convoy. Then, one Syrian took a U.S. flag off of one of the military vehicles. Reports from activists on the ground and Syrian media then claim that U.S. troops opened fire using live ammunition and fired smoke bombs at the angry residents, killing one and wounding another.


A U.S. soldier was said to have received a superficial wound, though the nature of the wound was not specified. After the scuffle, the protests grew larger, preventing more U.S. troops from arriving at the scene. In one video of the protests, a local was seen ripping a U.S. flag as he approached an American soldier. The obstruction of the road prevented the U.S. patrol from advancing and two military vehicles had to be towed after becoming stuck in the grass after an apparent attempt to circumvent the roadblock created by the Syrian military checkpoint and supportive Syrian civilians.

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After the Greek House speaker refused to accept the recordings, Varoufakis -through DiEM25- said this:

“No one has the right to keep a sovereign Parliament, nor citizens, in the dark. This is why by the end of February we will release all recordings, so that all European citizens finally get to see the hypocrisy of the Establishment and the despicable way in which governments behave, in their name, behind closed doors.”

Varoufakis Submits Recordings Of Eurogroup Talks To Greek Parliament (K.)

The head of Mera25 party and former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis on Friday submitted to Parliament an envelope allegedly containing his secret audio recordings from the Eurogroup meetings while he was negotiating for Greece’s SYRIZA-led government in the first half of 2015. Varoufakis said he expected House speaker Kostas Tasoulas to forward the content to Greek lawmakers. Tasoulas, however, said he had no intention of sharing the recordings. “Parliament will not shoulder [Varoufakis’] responsibilities,” he said. The exchange took place during a debate on labor issues.


Tasoulas’ reaction was welcomed by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. In a statement, Mera25 said that Tasoulas’ refusal to accept the transcripts “confirms that Eurogroup’s wall of intransparency suited and still suits many people, while truth and transparency terrifies [them].” “All European citizens have a right to directly access the statements, the dialogues and the decisions that shape their future,” it said. Eurogroup rules do not explicitly prohibit participants from recording talks as long as the contents are kept confidential.

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Intruiging. But no answer.

Multibillion Mystery Of The Great British Gold Sale (Conway)

Every so often you encounter a chart that takes your breath away. This week I saw just such a graph and I’m still struggling to get my head round it. It depicts something which on the face of it sounds mundane — exports of gold from the UK — and it looks like a hockey stick. You’ve probably seen a hockey-stick chart before. There’s the one Al Gore put up on the big screen in An Inconvenient Truth showing temperatures hovering at about the same level for century after century before shooting up in recent decades. Or the one of GDP going back to the dark ages: for most of history we subsisted on meagre earnings until the industrial revolution came along and catapulted GDP into the stratosphere.

The one this week has much the same shape. Not much of anything for month after month from 1998 when it begins until October 2019. Sure, there were occasional months when the amount of gold leaving British hands would hit a few hundred million pounds. Once or twice it ticks over a billion. But nothing like what occurs in November and December last year: in those months it skyrockets at a rate that doesn’t make any sense. Until then, the monthly average of gold exports was £126 million. Then in November they leapt to £4 billion. In December they doubled to £8 billion. [..] Britain does not mine any significant quantity of gold yet we are the world’s hub for the trade in physical bullion.

This is something of an accident of history, in much the same way as we are also the world’s centre for the trade in fine wine, despite the fact that we produce very little of the stuff ourselves. Yet gold bullion is so valuable that every time it changes hands it massively distorts the trade figures. Consider: Britain has not achieved a goods trade surplus, which is where we export more goods than we import, in any single month since comparable records began more than two decades ago. Yet in December that astonishing leap in gold exports meant that the headline figures published this week showed Britain achieving its first goods trade surplus in modern times. That this was almost entirely down to a mysterious movement of gold bars was seemingly lost on Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, who promptly issued a press release hailing a “record-breaking year for UK exports”.

[..] why did gold exports soar at the end of last year? Was it down to Brexit, with traders switching out of gold in the run-up to Brexit day? Was it to do with the election? Was it central banks repatriating gold or investment banks shifting their portfolios from UK-domiciled funds to EU ones? We still don’t know. I have spoken to statisticians, to gold analysts and economists, to traders and industry experts. None of them have the foggiest idea what is going on. One analyst took a look at the chart and spluttered a four-letter word. “That’s crazy,” he said. “Must be a mistake.” Another person pointed to the fact that Poland flew back about £4 billion worth of gold from the UK last year, before remembering that this happened before December and, oh, these kinds of things don’t count as official exports anyway.


The most plausible explanation I’ve heard is that this was simply an accounting change: one of London’s leading gold custodians, an American investment bank, shifted some of the gold from one column of its accounts to another. The gold didn’t leave the country; someone simply fiddled with a spreadsheet. Even so, that raises further questions: is that bank in trouble? Why do it now? Who ordered it: the bank holding the gold or the gold’s owners? If the latter, then who owns so much gold that they could single-handedly distort this country’s trade figures and surface in Britain’s national accounts?

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Valentine’s.

 

 

 

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Feb 142020
 
 February 14, 2020  Posted by at 10:58 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  24 Responses »


Alfred Palmer Halftrack scout car brought up to Army standards of smartness. White Motor Company, Cleveland Dec 1941

 

Beijing Lowers Coronavirus Deaths By 108 Due To “Double Counting” (ZH)
Singapore’s Biggest Daily Jump In New Coronavirus Cases Takes Tally To 58 (R.)
Foxconn Denies Reuters Reports On Factory Restart In China (ZH)
WHO Advisor Says Coronavirus May Infect Over 5 Billion People (ZH)
Senate Passes Iran War Powers Resolution Despite Trump’s Opposition (CNN)
Barr Says Trump Tweets About DOJ Cases Make It ‘Impossible To Do My Job’ (CNN)
Foreperson On Roger Stone Jury Revealed As Anti-Trump Activist (DM)
Judge Napolitano: Roger Stone Should Get New Trial (Fox)
Senate Attacks Judy Shelton For Sin Of Being Outside The Mainstream (Mises)
Why Is Bloomberg’s Long History of Egregious Sexism Getting a Pass? (GQ)
Irish MEP Calls Venezuela’s Guaido ‘Unelected Gobshite’ In EU Parliament (RT)
UK Tells 100-Year-Old Man His Parents Must Sign For Settled Status (Ind.)

 

 

I noticed late last night my time that the COVID19 death tally went from an initial 1486 all the way back to 1380. Found that very curious, thought it was an error. But woke up this morning to find they really did it. As Tyler put it at the time: “Hubei province reports 116 new coronavirus deaths and 4,823 cases, bringing the overall official count to 1,486 deaths and 65,213 confirmed. China must feel its credibility is completely shot by now, or they’d be much more careful.

As I wrote this, the numbers are (from various sources, fluid):

• Cases: 64,443 (from yesterday’s 60,108)

• Deaths: 1,383 (from yesterday’s 1,363)

• Suspected cases 10,109

• In serious/critical condition 10,227

• Recovered 6,801

• Health workers infected 1716

• Hubei deducted 1,043 older cases and 108 deaths due to double counting

• 267 new cases and 5 new deaths outside Hubei province

• First death in Japan, 15th case in US

 

 

 

 

The “double-counted” deaths can’t have anything to do with the new accounting measures that lifted the numbers of cases yesterday. So what happened? No explanation. Something Beijing cannot afford.

Beijing Lowers Coronavirus Deaths By 108 Due To “Double Counting” (ZH)

..while China “can now claim it wants to be more transparent (which is odd for a nation that is still refusing to admit the US CDC on the ground) and wants a more comprehensive definition of “infection” because it is suddenly so concerned about all those people it ordered to go back to work on Monday, it somehow also changed the definition of “death”, because at the same time as the explosion in new cases, which clearly indicates that the pandemic is now clearly out of control, the number of reported deaths in Hubei alone spiked by 242 to 1,310.”

One day later China appears to have realized just how flagrant this “mistake” – which exposed the lie which Chinese officials had used until now to avoid a panic, and reset the infection count to a sharply higher number – was, because even as Hubei reported an additional 4,823 cases as of Thursday (and the Chinese National Health Commission said this number was up 5,090 for all of China), there was some major confusion about what the actual number of deaths was. Here’s why. In its official daily update on the coronavirus epidemic on Thursday, Feb 13 – the day of the great surge in infections and deaths – the NHC reported that across all of China, there was an increase of 242 death cases in China, of which 216 in Wuhan to 1,367..

… which is bizarre, because one day later, in its latest update from Friday, Feb 14, the NHC said that while the number of deaths – which as of Thursday recall were 1,367 (see above) – increased by 121, the total number of declared deaths across China was just 1,380. In other words, somehow the jump from 1,367 deaths to 1,380 was an increase of 121 deaths!? But don’t take our word for it: here is JPMorgan’s official count of all related data as of this morning, showing that indeed, as of Feb 13 (so for Feb 12), there was a total of 1,367 deaths reported by the National Health Commission.

Is this just pro-forma, adjusted death math with Chinese characteristics? As it turns out no, because recall that while China may have reset the number of new cases sharply higher, it certainly did not mean to also send the number of deaths surging, as it would means that this had nothing to do with a change in the definition of infection, and everything to do with undercounting the number of infected and dead. So what did Beijing do?


Well, as the NHC “explained” in its Friday statement, that 242 increase in deaths officially reported on Thursday somehow also included 108 deaths that were “double counted.” There was no explanation how or why it was possible to “double count” a death. Which of course, it isn’t and what really happened is that China, having realized its glaring mistake which prompted us to mock its “data” yesterday, had to quickly cut by roughly half the surge in Thursday deaths to make the progression in the number of new deaths “smooth.” And sure enough, this is what the revised death chart looks like after the “double counting” revision: compare the chart up top of the number in new deaths before today’s “revision”, with what the death number looks like now, after the latest “data.”

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The sign suggests wearing a mask only when you’re already sick. Someone tell 500 million Chinese.

Singapore’s Biggest Daily Jump In New Coronavirus Cases Takes Tally To 58 (R.)

Singapore on Thursday reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus cases, with eight newly infected patients bringing its total to 58, the health ministry said. All of the new patients were linked to previous cases, the ministry said. Of the 58 confirmed cases reported, 15 have recovered and been discharged from hospital while seven are in critical condition in intensive care, it added.


REUTERS/Feline Lim

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This has been a He Said She Said all week. It gets serious if false reports make shares surge, though.

Foxconn Denies Reuters Reports On Factory Restart In China (ZH)

Foxconn denied a report that it plans to resume over half its production by the end of February, as the Covid-19 outbreak worsens. The report via Reuters noted that 50% of Foxconn’s production would come back online by the end of the month, and the aim for full production for next month. This sent Apple shares to near record highs this week; however, Foxconn ruined the party and said Reuters was incorrect about plant resumptions. The statement by the world’s largest contract electronics maker was published via the Taipei stock exchange on Thursday, and first cited by Reuters. Foxconn is Apple’s main iPhone assembler in China and offered no timetable of when its factories would reopen. Foxconn received the go-ahead to reopen some plants in China this week. However, only about 10% of its workforce had returned to several plants in southern Shenzhen and central Zhengzhou on Monday.


Apple has also extended the shutdown of its retail stores across the country. Stores were supposed to open earlier this week but have now delayed until February 15. TrendForce Corp. said Apple could see a 10% decline in iPhone sales in 1Q, from 45.5 million to about 41 million units, due mostly because of factory shutdowns tied to the virus outbreak. We’ve noted, in the last several weeks, that if Foxconn factories cannot resume production by early February and have full production by the end of the month, shortages would develop for Apple iPhones and AirPods. The one sector with the most exposure to Greater China and the Asia Pacific is also the sector that has outperformed the most in recent months: Tech. This means that supply chain disruptions are about to cause one of the most significant shocks since the financial crisis.

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Second expert to say this. The media should set the proper context: this is true if no measures to contain the disease are taken.

WHO Advisor Says Coronavirus May Infect Over 5 Billion People (ZH)

In yet another sign of the World Health Organization’s about-face on the coronavirus outbreak, a top epidemiologist and advisor to the organization said Thursday that if the virus isn’t contained soon, it could infect 60% of the global population – or more than 5 billion people – echoing projections made by a Hong Kong scientist who was once labeled an alarmist despite his pioneering work in the fight against SARS. According to Bloomberg, that’s what WHO advisor Ira Longini said after finishing a study of the virus’s transmissibility. His estimates suggest that the virus could one day infect billions of people, far more than the ~60,000 or so cases as of earlier on Thursday.

If the virus truly has a mortality rate of 2% (around the low end of current estimates), at this rate, it would kill more than 100 million. Of course, if the virus manages to spread so widely, it will unequivocally prove that China’s draconian quarantines weren’t effective enough, and that the government effectively set itself up for failure when it hesitated to try and contain the outbreak after it first emerged in Wuhan late last year. In recent days, growing attention has been paid to the lack of reliable virus tests, not just in China, but in virtually all countries where the virus has spread. The difficulties in diagnosing the virus could mean we see another sudden surge of cases – but this time, it could be even larger than last night’s dump from officials in Hubei.

Even if we could find a way to reduce the virus’s ability to spread by half, it would could still wind up infecting more than 2 billion people. “Unless the transmissibility changes, surveillance and containment can only work so well,” Longini, co-director of the Center for Statistics and Quantitative Infectious Diseases at the University of Florida, said in an interview at WHO headquarters in Geneva. “Isolating cases and quarantining contacts is not going to stop this virus.”

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Excuse me, but doesn’t this give Trump exactly what he would want, a bipartisan vote against the swamp, the War Party, without him having to do the heavy lifting?!

In taking the power away from him, you also absolve him of any responsibility. And that power, BTW, is only that involving Iran. Or course Trump puts up token resistance, but…

Senate Passes Iran War Powers Resolution Despite Trump’s Opposition (CNN)

The Senate passed an Iran War Powers resolution on Thursday, a rare measure that was approved with bipartisan support despite the fact that it has been opposed by President Donald Trump and aims to rein in his ability to use military action against Iran without congressional approval. The vote was 55-45. Eight Republicans voted in favor of it: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Todd Young of Indiana, Mike Lee of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Jerry Moran of Kansas. The President warned the Senate not to green-light the measure on Wednesday, tweeting that “it is very important for our country’s security that the United States Senate not vote for the Iran War Powers Resolution,” and adding, “If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day.”

The White House has also issued a veto threat against it. Despite that, the resolution, chiefly authored by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, won bipartisan support. Several Republican senators, including Lee, Paul and Collins, signed on as co-sponsors. Earlier on Thursday, potential problems threatened to derail the resolution ahead of an the final vote, with Senate Democrats warning that an amendment filed late Wednesday by GOP Sen. Tom Cotton – that Democrats described as a poison pill – could draw enough support to pass and possibly make it difficult for the underlying bipartisan War Powers Resolution to maintain majority support.

Ultimately, however, the Senate defeated the controversial amendment, clearing the way for final passage. The Senate voted to table — or kill — the amendment. The resolution “directs the President to terminate the use of United States Armed Forces for hostilities against the Islamic Republic of Iran or any part of its government or military, unless explicitly authorized by a declaration of war or specific authorization for use of military force against Iran.” It includes a provision stating that no part of the resolution “shall be construed to prevent the United States from defending itself from imminent attack.”

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There were calls for an investigation into Barr and Trump interfering in the Roger Stone case. Barr just reduced Trump’s role to a bunch of tweets. They’re going to investigate a bunch of tweets? And what is there about Barr to investigate when he’s just publicly put a distance between him and Trump? Or do the want to investigate the Attorney General over a decision he hasn’t even made yet?

Barr Says Trump Tweets About DOJ Cases Make It ‘Impossible To Do My Job’ (CNN)

Attorney General William Barr on Thursday rebuked President Donald Trump for publicly commenting on sensitive investigations but insisted the Justice Department had acted appropriately after an extraordinary falling out with career prosecutors who had handled the case of Roger Stone earlier this week. In an interview with ABC News, Barr provided a robust defense of the department’s rank-and-file and said Trump’s online missives made it “impossible” to do his job. “I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me,” Barr said.

“To have public statements and tweets made about the department, about people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job and to assure the courts and the prosecutors in the department that we’re doing our work with integrity,” he said. The criticism was a notable zag for Barr after days of mounting scrutiny over his role in the fraught decision to publicly disavow prosecutors who had sought a stiff punishment for Stone, a longtime friend of Trump. The President had tweeted congratulations Barr for the move, provoking protest from Democrats who demanded an investigation.

The four career attorneys who had worked on the Stone case and signed off on the original sentencing memorandum each withdrew from the case on Tuesday in an apparent protest. On Thursday, Barr said he was “a little surprised” that the prosecutors had stepped down, and told ABC News that it was “preposterous” to characterize his role in the developments this week as an intervention. He argued he had merely acted to resolve an internal department dispute. He has not spoken with the prosecutors, he added. Barr told ABC that he hoped the President would react and respect the criticism of his tweets delivered in the interview. “I hope he will react,” Barr said.

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Jurors are supposed to be vetted to make sure they’re impartial. This woman may have been selected for being the opposite. She should never have been selected.

Foreperson On Roger Stone Jury Revealed As Anti-Trump Activist (DM)

The foreperson on the jury that convicted Roger Stone has come forward, and is revealed to be a failed Democrat candidate for Congress and activist vehemently opposed to President Donald Trump. Tomeka Hart, a former Memphis City Schools Board President, came forward as the Stone jury foreperson in a Facebook post on Wednesday, voicing support for prosecutors in the case. Hart confirmed to The Daily Memphian that she wrote the Facebook post, but she declined an interview with the newspaper. Stone supporters were shocked when a review of Hart’s social media posts showed that she posted on Twitter mocking Stone’s dramatic arrest prior to being seated on the jury, and frequently denounced Trump, including calling the president and his supporters racists.

It’s unclear whether Stone’s political views and social media history were disclosed during jury selection, potentially raising questions about fairness that could impact the verdict on appeal. [..] Hart unsuccessfully ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2012, and is an activist who has participated in anti-Trump rallies and protests. Immediately, journalists and Trump supporters began scouring Hart’s social media history, finding a trove of anti-Trump sentiment. Independent journalist Mike Cernovich was the first to report on Hart’s extensive history of anti-Trump social media posts. In January 2019, Hart also re-tweeted a post by pundit Bakari Sellers mocking Stone’s arrest, and suggesting that racism was the reason conservatives were upset about the use of force in the FBI’s armed pre-dawn raid on his home.

Months later, Hart was impaneled on Stone’s jury. On the day the jury convicted him, she posted emojis of hearts and fist pumps.

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She was tweeting about the case while it was going on, and she was the lead juror. How ridiculous can it get?

Judge Napolitano: Roger Stone Should Get New Trial (Fox)

Judge Andrew Napolitano said on Thursday that former Trump adviser Roger Stone deserves a new trial in light of resurfaced tweets that indicate partisanship and “inherent bias” from a jury member against Stone. Former Memphis City Schools Board President Tomeka Hart revealed Wednesday that she was the foreperson of the jury that convicted Stone on obstruction charges last year — and soon afterward, her history of Democratic activism and a string of her anti-Trump, left-wing social media posts came to light. “[Stone is] absolutely entitled to a new trial with a member of a jury making these types of revelations about the politics involved in the decisions to prosecute him,” Napolitano told “Fox & Friends.”

Hart even posted specifically about the Stone case before she voted to convict, as she retweeted an argument mocking those who considered Stone’s dramatic arrest in a predawn raid by a federal tactical team to be excessive force. She also suggested President Trump and his supporters are racist and praised the investigation conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, which ultimately led to Stone’s prosecution. Some of Hart’s posts were written as Stone’s trial was in progress. Hart, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress as a Democrat in 2012, quoted someone in an August 2017 tweet referring to Trump as a member of the KKK. In January 2019, she retweeted a post by pundit Bakari Sellers, who noted that “Roger Stone has y’all talking about reviewing use of force guidelines,” before suggesting that racism was the reason for all the attention Stone’s arrest had received from conservatives.

Napolitano said that he presided over 150 jury trials and “most were criminal.” “It is the duty of the judge to ensure that both the government and defendant get a fair trial and if the judge discovers afterward that there was a built-in inherent bias on the part of a member of a jury against the defendant, that is an automatic trigger for a new trial,” he explained.

Read more …

Can the Fed deal with diversity of opinion?

Senate Attacks Judy Shelton For Sin Of Being Outside The Mainstream (Mises)

Today the Senate Banking Committee held a hearing for President Trump’s two most recent Federal Reserve nominees. In one chair sat Christopher Waller, vice president and director of research at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, whose dreadfully dull answers could have been the product of a bot forced to watch 1,000 hours of central bank testimony. Luckily for those watching, most of the questions were directed towards the far more intriguing – and controversial – Judy Shelton. While by no means an Austrian, Judy Shelton’s record includes public support for a modern gold standard, criticism of the Fed’s response to the financial crisis, and even compared America’s central bank to Soviet central planners.

On the topic of competing currencies, Ms. Shelton once referred to Bernard von NotHaus, a man arrested by the US government for the production of silver “Liberty Dollars”, as the “Rosa Parks of monetary policy” for his willingness to challenge the Fed. Beyond monetary policy, she cited government deposit insurance as a program that risks creating moral hazard, suggested that the US could pay off its public debts by selling off assets like the US Postal Service and Federally-held public lands, and even publicly questioned the accuracy of government inflation measures. The recounting of the Greatest Hits of Judy Shelton offered a glimpse of what it would look like to actually drain the swamp of central bankers.

Of course, all of this was sharply – and at times uncivilly – criticized by duly-elected economic midwits that sought to lecture to Ms. Shelton while desperately relying upon the prepared questions of legislative aides. Senator Richard Shelby, at one point the Chairman of the Banking Committee, was particularly appalled at the notion of nominating a Federal Reserve candidate so outside the mainstream. His grilling of Ms. Shelton included sagely pointing out that the amount of gold in the world is worth less than the American GDP, and suggested that the gold standard was a product of the days when the US was a “barter economy.” Of course, it is a reflection of the dilapidated state of modern economics that Shelby’s ignorance would make him a safer choice for the Federal Reserve than either Shelton or her friend James Grant.

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All the racism and sexism he can buy for $1650 million and counting.

Why Is Bloomberg’s Long History of Egregious Sexism Getting a Pass? (GQ)

In December 2015, employees at Everytown for Gun Safety, the gun control organization funded by Mike Bloomberg, arrived at work to find a holiday gift on their desks from their employer: the former mayor’s 1997 autobiography, Bloomberg by Bloomberg. Flipping through the book, staffers found themselves uncomfortably reading their billionaire founder’s boasts about keeping “a girlfriend in every city” and other womanizing exploits as a Wall Street up-and-comer. “A few people started immediately going through it and sending the cringe-iest parts around on email chains,” one former Everytown employee told me. “Hardly the most controversial things he’s said, but it’s still a bad look.”

Indeed, Bloomberg’s casual boasts about his sex life in his own autobiography are now some of the least problematic parts of the his candidacy for president. In recent days, the former New York City mayor’s track record on race is undergoing renewed scrutiny: Bloomberg oversaw and expanded the racist and unconstitutional “stop and frisk” program, and a newly unearthed video shows him blaming the end of a racially discriminatory housing practice known as “redlining” for the 2008 economic recession.

But it takes a telling amount of gall and cluelessness to gift a book with anecdotes about your own womanizing to employees at your gun safety non-profit in the year 2015, especially for a politician with presidential ambitions who has been vigorously denying allegations of misogyny throughout his entire career—including some 40 sex discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuits brought against him and his organizations by 64 women over the past several decades. Bloomberg’s sexism, like that of fellow New York City billionaire Donald Trump, has been prolific and well-documented, but for some reason, the stories about him don’t seem to have taken hold. He is still being embraced by the Democratic establishment as a viable option for its presidential nominee. He surged to third place in several 2020 polls this week; the DNC changed its rules to allow him to participate in the next primary debate; Nancy Pelosi said his presence in the primary is a “positive one.”

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Priceless how the speaker first has to wait for the translation in his earphone. Wonder what the translation was.

Irish MEP Calls Venezuela’s Guaido ‘Unelected Gobshite’ In EU Parliament (RT)

Irish MEP Mick Wallace has been reprimanded for referring to Venezuela’s self-declared president Juan Guaido as an “unelected gobshite” during remarks at the European Parliament. Wallace, an Independents 4 Change MEP, was speaking Wednesday about Venezuela’s ongoing political crisis and the European Parliament’s recent decision to recognize Guaido as the country’s interim president, when he slipped the insult in. Dressed in a neon green t-shirt, the clearly irate MEP said the decision was “an absolute embarrassment to anyone who has to occupy this chamber” and a “disgrace on the part of the member states of Europe” that so many of them have recognized an “unelected gobshite.”


“Gobshite” is a favorite Irish term for a less-than-competent individual. The Ireland South MEP was quickly admonished by the parliament’s vice president Rainer Wieland. “Now, you did use the word ‘gobshite’ sir, and I would reprimand you over that,” he said. Wallace wasn’t in the mood for apologies, however. He later doubled down on the comment on Twitter, saying that Guaido “is” in fact a gobshite and the parliament’s recognition of him is “outrageous.” Fellow Independents 4 Change MEP Clare Daly also tweeted in support of Wallace, saying that his remark was “probably the best contribution EVER” on Guaido at the European Parliament.

Read more …

Just another chapter in the UK morality tale, (mal-)functioning at a 1780 AD level. Fits right in with more Jamaicans being sent back in Windrush fashion.

UK Tells 100-Year-Old Man His Parents Must Sign For Settled Status (Ind.)

A 100-year-old Italian man was told his parents must confirm his identity if he wants to stay in the UK after Brexit. Giovanni Palmiero, who has lived in London since 1966, went to an advice centre in Islington, north London, to apply for settled status. But when a volunteer scanned his passport using the Home Office EU settled status app, it misinterpreted his birth year to be 2019 instead of 1919. An apparent glitch means the system does not recognise triple digit ages and misinterpreted the “19” in 1919 to be 2019. Since the app believed the great-grandfather was only a baby, it asked him to enter his father’s residency details to complete the application.


Mr Palmiero, who will turn 101 on 28 February, moved to London in 1966, before the UK joined the European Economic Community in 1973. He worked at a restaurant in Piccadilly and in a fish and chip shop until the age of 94. He has been married to his wife Lucia, 92, for 75 years and they have four children, eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren together. Their son Assuntino Palmiero said it was “like a humiliation” because his father has lived in the UK for so long. He told The Guardian: “I am not worried about him because he has got us but it’s completely unfair on old people.”

Read more …

 

 

 

The Automatic Earth will not survive without your Paypal and Patreon donations. Please support us.

 

Feb 132020
 


Saul Leiter 463 1956

 

Hubei’s Coronavirus Cases Rise 10-Fold After Change In Diagnostic Criteria (SCMP)
COVID-19 Coronavirus Cases (Worldometer)
Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Mortality Rate (Worldometer)
44 More Cases On Diamond Princess Cruise Ship Anchored Off Japan (SCMP)
WHO Team Arrives In China As Wuhan Coronavirus Deaths Top SARS (CNN)
Beijing’s Purge Over Virus Takes Down Top Communist Party Officials In Hubei (SCMP)
Botched Wuhan Quarantine Left Dead Bodies In The Street (ZH)
What Happened After One Chinese Company Reopened After The Corona-Chaos (ZH)
China Struggles To Balance Coronavirus Containment With Economic Cost (SCMP)
Protecting The US From Global Pandemics (Scott Gottlieb)
South Korea’s Moon Says Virus Epidemic To End Soon (YNA)
Epidemics Are Tough To Turn Into Profit (R.)

 

 

Major developments today (overnight for many) with regards to the COVID19 coronavirus. Probably not so much in infections or deaths per se (at least not that we know), but in the way(s) cases are reported. Or, if a spade is called a spade, the way they have been severely underreported so far.

What happened is Hubei’s health commission changed the diagnostic criteria used to confirm cases. And that looks something like this:

 

 

Which leads to this global picture:

 

 

What it comes down to is Hubei used to count cases according to “the old method”, which required clinical diagnosis PLUS testing, and has now switched to “the new method”, in which clinical diagnosis suffices. “Clinically diagnosed cases” here means those cases that show up positive on a CT scan (CT: computed tomography, a way to “look at” internal organs). The changes are in red in the doc:

 

 

Basically, “showing up positive on a CT scan” refers to the detection of pneumonia. For weeks, officials maintained that in an area under heavy siege of a disease for which pneumonia is one of the main symptoms, additional testing was mandatory to confirm a case as COVID19. Yeah, that’s a little crazy.

Ironically, the WHO went along with these counts based on “the old method”, with its chief effusively praising China for its efforts to combat the virus, but the switch to “the new method” comes just two days after a first team of WHO specialists arrived in China, which will “lay the groundwork for a larger international team.” Looks like Beijing has lost control.

The Party understood that it would no longer be able to keep up appearances, so it fired a whole bunch of politicians (Wuhan Party Chief et al) and other functionaries, appointed others in their place, and now vows a fresh start without the Party being blamed for a thing. And it can say nothing really changed, there is no large amount of additional cases, it’s all just a diagnostic ”tweak”.

Still, this hides the reasons behind the diagnostic changes: China either doesn’t have enough testing kits, or can’t get them out -and used- in the field fast enough. And that means too many potentially infectious patients are out there able to spread the virus. Add the WHO team of specialists to the mix and they chose to do damage control.

 

 

All of which leads to these provisionary official numbers:

 

 

Obviously, this has blown all previously referenced models out of the water.

Even JPMorgan’s most pessimistic case can’t keep up. Everybody needs to go back to the drawing board. And will do so, much more suspicious of anything China says from here on in. Tomorrow’s official numbers are likely to “normalize” again, 2,000 new cases, 90 deaths, that sort of thing. But they will now be reported with big question marks. Still, politicians and media alike, whether in the west or in China, will tell you things are improving. They can’t help themselves. But you can.

 

 

Here are some of the relevant news stories. Regular news in the Automatic Earth Debt Rattle will follow later today.

 

 

“Hubei’s new confirmed cases pegged at 14,840, nearly 10 times more than the previous day, while deaths more than doubled to 242.”

Note: that may look like a mortality rate of 20%, but that is far too high. Then again, 2% max doesn’t look tenable anymore either. More on that below.

Hubei’s Coronavirus Cases Rise 10-Fold After Change In Diagnostic Criteria (SCMP)

Health authorities in China’s Hubei province – the epicentre of the coronavirus epidemic – reported on Thursday 14,840 new confirmed cases, almost 10 times the number reported a day earlier, and new deaths attributable to the contagion rose to 242, more than double on the day. This brings the totals announced by the province’s health commission to 48,206 and 1,310, respectively, as of Wednesday. Officials in Hubei had reported 94 fatalities and 1,638 newly confirmed cases a day earlier. Hubei’s health commission said in its daily statement that it had changed the diagnostic criteria used to confirm cases, effective Thursday, meaning that doctors have broader discretion to determine which patients are infected.

“From today on, we will include the number of clinically diagnosed cases into the number of confirmed cases so that patients could receive timely treatment,” the health authority said. Previously, patients could only be diagnosed by test kits, which has seen a shortage of supply across the country. Tong Zhaohui, an expert in the central guidance group and vice-president of Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, said the move was in line with the National Health Commission’s latest diagnostic guidelines to include clinical diagnosis, using CT scans and other tests. “When doctors diagnose pneumonia, they can only get the etiology of the disease 20 to 30 per cent of the time. We have to rely on clinical diagnosis 70 to 80 per cent of the time. Increasing the diagnosis of clinical cases will help us make an additional judgment on the disease,” he told state broadcaster CCTV in an exclusive interview.

[..] Some 13,436 of the new cases announced on Thursday were confirmed in Hubei’s capital of Wuhan …

Read more …

The mortality rate looks bad. See more in next article. (h/t Doc Robinson)

COVID-19 Coronavirus Cases (Worldometer)

There are currently 60,373 confirmed cases and 1,369 deaths from the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak as of February 13, 2020, 05:20 GMT. The condition of patients, according to the World Health Organization (Feb. 7 press conference) and based on 17,000 cases in China, are: • 82% mild •15% severe •3% critical


“Total Cases” = total cumulative count (60,373). This figure therefore includes deaths and recovered/discharged patients (cases with an outcome). By removing these from the “total cases” figure, we get “currently infected cases” (cases still awaiting for an outcome). The charts include provisional data and values for Feb. 12 that are the result, for the most part, of a change in diagnosis classification, for which an additional 13,332 cases and 107 deaths were counted on Feb. 12..

Read more …

Mortality rate in Hubei/mainland China looks awful at 18%. Is that just because no “light” cases are counted, which the world outside China does seem to do?

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Mortality Rate (Worldometer)

Let’s take, for example, the data at the end of February 8, 2020: 813 deaths (cumulative total) and 37,552 cases (cumulative total) worldwide. If we use the formula (deaths / cases) we get: 813 / 37,552 = 2.2% CFR (flawed formula). With a conservative estimate of T(ime) = 7 days as the average period from case confirmation to death, we would correct the above formula by using February 1 cumulative cases, which were 14,381, in the denominator: Feb. 8 deaths / Feb. 1 cases = 813 / 14,381 = 5.7% CFR (correct formula, and estimating T=7).

T could be estimated by simply looking at the value of (current total deaths + current total recovered) and pair it with a case total in the past that has the same value. For the above formula, the matching dates would be January 26/27, providing an estimate for T of 12 to 13 days. This method of estimating T uses the same logic of the following method, and therefore will yield the same result. An alternative method, which has the advantage of not having to estimate a variable, and that is mentioned in the American Journal of Epidemiology study cited previously as a simple method that nevertheless could work reasonably well if the hazards of death and recovery at any time t measured from admission to the hospital, conditional on an event occurring at time t, are proportional, would be to use the formula:

CFR (case fatality rate)= deaths / (deaths + recovered) which, with the latest data available, would be equal to: 1,369 / (1,369 + 6,032) = 18% CFR (worldwide) If we now exclude cases in mainland China, using current data on deaths and recovered cases, we get: 2 / (2 + 76) = 2.6% CFR (outside of mainland China) The sample size above is extremely limited, but this discrepancy in mortality rates, if confirmed as the sample grows in size, could be explained with a higher case detection rate outside of China especially with respect to Wuhan, where priority had to be initially placed on severe and critical cases, given the ongoing emergency.

Unreported cases would have the effect of decreasing the denominator and inflating the CFR above its real value. For example, assuming 10,000 total unreported cases in Wuhan and adding them back to the formula, we would get a CFR of 7.9% (quite different from the CFR of 18% based strictly on confirmed cases). Neil Ferguson, a public health expert at Imperial College in the UK, said his “best guess” was that there were 100,000 affected by the virus even though there were only 2,000 confirmed cases at the time. [11] Without going that far, the possibility of a non negligible number of unreported cases in the initial stages of the crisis should be taken into account when trying to calculate the case fatally rate.

Read more …

Ship has 2,600 passengers, 1,100 crew. Only a few hundred have been tested. And we get it, it’s very hard to isolate that many untested people off the ship, where do you get the accomodation.

Now crew members are increasingly getting infected, while attending to the passengers. A crew member told CNN the quality of meals is getting real good, children get new toys every day etc.

The same crew member said she herself waited for 2 days to see a doctor. Crew also don’t have private rooms. They must be very anxious.

44 More Cases On Diamond Princess Cruise Ship Anchored Off Japan (SCMP)

Another 44 people on board a cruise ship moored off Japan’s coast have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the country’s health minister said on Thursday. Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said the 44 new cases were detected from another 221 new tests. They raise the number of infections detected on the Diamond Princess to 218, in addition to a quarantine officer who also tested positive for the virus. Kato said authorities now want to move elderly people off the ship if they test negative for the virus, offering to put them in government-designated lodging. “We wish to start the operation from tomorrow or later,” Kato told reporters.


Of the newly diagnosed infections, 43 are passengers, and one a member of the crew. The Diamond Princess set off from Hong Kong on January 25 for a trip scheduled to end on February 4. Instead, it has been moored off Japan since February 3, after it emerged that a former passenger who disembarked in Hong Kong last month had tested positive for the virus now named Covid-19.

Read more …

At the WHO, the administrative leadership is miles apart from the medical specialists. The latter are now taking over.

WHO Team Arrives In China As Wuhan Coronavirus Deaths Top SARS (CNN)

The number of deaths from the Wuhan coronavirus had risen to over 1,000 by Tuesday morning, as experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) arrived in China to assist with controlling the epidemic. Chinese health authorities said 108 people died from the virus in mainland China on Monday, with the majority of those deaths occurring in Hubei province, the capital of which is Wuhan – the city where the virus was first found. The total number of deaths stands at 1,018, all but two of those in mainland China. Globally, 43,114 have now been diagnosed with the virus, again with the majority in China. Around 4,000 patients have been treated and released from hospital in China since late December.


A team of World Health Organization (WHO) experts landed in China on Monday. The organization’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said they will “lay the groundwork for a larger international team,” which will join them “as soon as possible.” The WHO group in China is led by Bruce Aylward, who helmed the body’s response to Ebola, as well as initiatives for immunization, communicable diseases control and polio eradication. Their arrival comes as the WHO is facing increasing criticism for its initial decision not to declare a global health emergency, and for officials’ effusive praise of China’s handling of the crisis, even as Beijing faces outrage domestically for, among other things, the death of whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang, and the subsequent censorship of that news.

Read more …

Spring cleaning.

Beijing’s Purge Over Virus Takes Down Top Communist Party Officials In Hubei (SCMP)

Beijing’s purge of officials in Hubei province picked up pace with the removal of the top Communist Party leaders in the region as the central government responded to public anger over what is seen as a botched response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak in the region. China’s official Xinhua news agency reported that Hubei party secretary Jiang Chaoliang will be replaced by Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong, 61, a close ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping. The Communist Party leader of Wuhan city Ma Guoqiang, 56, is also set to be dismissed, according to a person familiar with the development who was not authorised to speak on the issue. Ma will be replaced by Wang Zhonglin, 57, party secretary of Shandong’s provincial capital Jinan.


Jiang, 61, is the highest-ranking political casualty so far in the outbreak, which has killed more than 1,100 people in mainland China, the vast majority in Hubei and its capital, Wuhan city. As details have trickled out on how local officials mismanaged the outbreak, public anger has swelled on social media. Academics have also signed a public petition to demand free speech after the police punished doctors who raised the early alarm about the outbreak. “Sending Ying Yong and Wang Zhonglin to Hubei shows the central government is determined to fix Hubei and give people answers. The cadres there have been really disappointing,” the unnamed person said. “The outbreak cost the party dearly. Those who are responsible will be held accountable.”

Read more …

“Then on day 8, the reporters saw their first dead body in the street. He’s a man, in his sixties, who is lying on his back in front of a closed furniture store. Officials in hazard suits slowly approach the body, taking every conceivable precaution.”

Botched Wuhan Quarantine Left Dead Bodies In The Street (ZH)

[..] few have captured the atmosphere of the situation quite like a team of AFP journalists who lingered in Wuhan after the lockdown, and have detailed their experiences in diary format. The diary begins on Jan. 23, the day Wuhan was placed under lockdown. It starts as one might expect: Though the news was a shock, few tried to escape the city before the lockdown officially went into effect. Police chase the last travelers out of the railroad station. But the situation doesn’t really start to escalate until Jan. 25, or New Year’s Day in China. Those who went to worship at the city’s Guiyan temple, normally packed this time of year, found it empty: nobody was allowed inside.

“No-one is allowed inside in order to prevent the virus spreading,” a uniformed man – who is not wearing the compulsory mask – tells AFP. On the fourth day of the crackdown, conditions in Wuhan really started to deteriorate. This marked the beginning of hard times for Wuhan. Overwhelmed hospitals arbitrarily turned people away if their swab tests came back negative for the virus. One man told an AFP reporter that he had been turned away by four hospitals, despite being seriously ill. “I haven’t slept,” he said. He was getting ready to wait in line all night to hopefully be admitted to another hospital. For the first in their memory, the AFP reporters said Chinese out on the streets approached them to complain about the government’s handling of the lockdown.

“Like a horror film,” says one witness, who tells AFP bodies were left unattended for hours. [..] On day 6, the AFP spoke to a French doctor who had decided to stay in Wuhan, a Dr. Philippe Klein. “It’s not an act of heroism,” he said. “It’s been well thought out, it’s my job.” More signs of the government crackdown are beginning to appear: Guards take the temperature of customers at supermarkets and other stores hawking essential goods. Then on day 8, the reporters saw their first dead body in the street. He’s a man, in his sixties, who is lying on his back in front of a closed furniture store. Officials in hazard suits slowly approach the body, taking every conceivable precaution.

Read more …

Well, you can’t say I didn’t warn you. This is precisely what I warned about. And the new numbers will do nothing to restore any confidence at all.

What Happened After One Chinese Company Reopened After The Corona-Chaos (ZH)

Today, two days after China officially returned to work, we got the first confirmation of just how catastrophic Beijing’s order to local enterprises and businesses to rush back reboot the economy could be, when Jennifer Zeng reported that a company in Suzhou reopened, and immediately at least one CoVid2019 case found. As a result, the company’s 200+ employees couldn’t go home and were immediately placed under quarantine. At least the workers managed to “organize” quilts for themselves. This is just the first such case. Expect many more – especially across Hubei and its neighboring provinces – as latent cases of Coronavirus which were never caught and cured spark new infections and mini epidemics, all of which dutifully captured on a smartphone clip for everyone in China to watch and freak out even more.

Which reminds us of another comment from Rabobank, which last week explained why the dilemma facing China is “truly awful”: The quandary for China between releasing the quarantine straitjacket in days to stop its economy from getting truly sick, and allowing a virus like this to spread further as people start to mingle again is truly awful. There are no good options. For a world with a serious lack of final end-demand, and which has been relying on China, along with increasingly “Chinese” central banks, this is going to be a nasty shock either way that Mr Market is treating like he is Mr Magoo.

And since Beijing has no way out, especially since the epidemic is still raging despite Beijing’s “doctored”, no pun intended, infection and death numbers, expect China to unleash the most draconian censorship crackdown on any reports Covid-2019 has not only not been purged but is making unwelcome appearances across China’s enterprises, which will be quietly put under blanket quarantine even as Beijing pretends that all is well and its economy is once again humming on all cylinders until eventually the epidemic reaches a critical mass and China has no choice but to once again admit the full extent of the social and economic fallout. And just like in the case of SARS, don’t expect such “honesty” to emerge for at least several weeks if not months.

Read more …

“The city governments of Zhongshan and Foshan in Guangzhou province have postponed the resumption of work until March 1, while companies must apply for special permission in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province. The local administration has so far only given the green light to 1,462 out of nearly 30,000 companies based in the city”

Will these party officials be fired for being too strict?

China Struggles To Balance Coronavirus Containment With Economic Cost (SCMP)

To work or not to work – that is proving a crucial question for Chinese officials, companies and employees as the world’s second largest economy struggles to balance the risk of the deadly coronavirus with the need to resume business. Most provinces across China restarted operations on Monday after an extended Lunar New Year holiday, but an influx of workers returning from their hometowns is posing a headache for authorities. The coronavirus, which has killed more than 1,100 people and infected nearly 45,000, shows few signs of being contained, stoking fears of a potential spike in infections as people return to work. While the central government has made it clear that containing the outbreak is an overriding priority, Communist Party leaders know they cannot afford to freeze industrial production indefinitely, especially as China’s economy grows at its slowest pace in decades.

[..] As the virus has spread from Hubei’s provincial capital Wuhan, authorities across China have imposed travel restrictions, cancelled public events and locked down neighbourhoods. Last week, the government of Suzhou, a major manufacturing hub in Jiangsu province, which is known for its silk products, asked local communities to tell workers from Hubei and Zhejiang provinces not to return until further notice. This employee “blacklisting” was echoed by other cities, including Wuxi in the south of Jiangsu, which banned migrant workers from at least seven provinces. While most provincial level governments have urged companies to resume operations this week, officials at local levels are dragging their feet.

The city governments of Zhongshan and Foshan in Guangzhou province have postponed the resumption of work until March 1, while companies must apply for special permission in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province. Once approved, employees are required to report their body temperatures to local authorities daily. The local administration has so far only given the green light to 1,462 out of nearly 30,000 companies based in the city, an approval rate below 5 per cent. Small and medium-sized enterprises in China, which are a cornerstone for employment and social stability, are at most risk from the efforts to contain the outbreak. A recent survey conducted by researchers from Tsinghua and Peking universities in Beijing, two of China’s top institutions of higher learning, found that 67.1 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises had only enough financial reserves to sustain operations for two months if revenues dried up. The survey of 995 companies also found that 30 per cent expected revenues to shrink by at least half from 2019.

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In case the virus didn’t scare you enough:

“80 percent of the U.S. supply of antibiotics are made in China…”

Protecting The US From Global Pandemics (Scott Gottlieb)

About 40 percent of generic drugs sold in the U.S. have only a single manufacturer. A significant supply chain disruption could cause shortages for some or many of these products. Last year, manufacturing of intermediate or finished goods in China, as well as pharmaceutical source material, accounted for 95 percent of U.S. imports of ibuprofen, 91 percent of U.S. imports of hydrocortisone, 70 percent of U.S. imports of acetaminophen, 40 to 45 percent of U.S. imports of penicillin, and 40 percent of U.S. imports of heparin, according to the Commerce Department. In total, 80 percent of the U.S. supply of antibiotics are made in China.

While much of the fill finishing work (the actual formulation of finished drug capsules and tablets) is done outside China (and often in India) the starting and intermediate chemicals are often sourced in China. Moreover, the U.S. generic drug industry can no longer produce certain critical medicines such as penicillin and doxycycline without these chemical components.iv According to a report from the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, China’s chemical industry, which accounts for 40 percent of global chemical industry revenue, provides a large number of ingredients for drug products.

It’s these source materials – where in many cases China is the exclusive source of the chemical ingredients used for the manufacture of a drug product – that create choke points in the global supply chain for critical medicines. Moreover, when it comes to starting material for the manufacture of pharmaceutical ingredients, a lot of this production is centered in China’s Hubei Provence, the epicenter of coronavirus. Most drug makers have a one to three-months of inventory of drug ingredients on hand. But these supplies are already being drawn down. Among big API makers in Wuhan are Wuhan Shiji Pharmaceutical, Chemwerth, Hubei Biocause, Wuhan Calmland Pharmaceuticals.

[..] We’re facing the potential for unprecedented supply chain disruptions. You can’t easily switch component part suppliers — either starter material for the manufacture of drugs or components for device devices. You have to qualify those alternative sources, make sure they meet regulatory standards for Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), and meet the conditions set by those incorporating these materials into their finished goods. Even if FDA is able to offer manufacturers flexibility in making these component changes, substitutions are often complex.

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Some people are just not all that smart.

South Korea’s Moon Says Virus Epidemic To End Soon (YNA)

President Moon Jae-in expressed confidence Thursday that South Korea will soon bring the novel coronavirus pandemic under control and stressed it is time to resume full-scale efforts to revitalize the economy, meeting with a group of local business leaders. “COVID-19 will be terminated (in South Korea) before long,” he said, using the official name of the disease, during the session held at the Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) in Seoul. Fortunately, he said, domestic quarantine management “appears to have entered a stable stage to some extent,” although it is still too early to be complacent. He emphasized that quarantine authorities here would continue their efforts “until the end” to contain the virus.


The president voiced regret once again over the outbreak’s negative impact on the country’s economy, which he said had been showing clear indications of recovery. “It’s very regrettable that the ankle of the economy has been seized by the occurrence of the COVID-19 incident,” Moon told the attendees including Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, CJ Group Chairman Lee Jae-hyun and Park Yong-maan, chairman of the KCCI. “Now, it’s time for the government and business circles to join forces and revive the recovery trend of the economy,” Moon said. He reaffirmed the government’s resolve to ramp up its bid to create more jobs with massive investment projects and support private firms with “bold” tax incentives and regulatory reform.

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And here’s for the morally challenged. If it won’t make us rich, we should we develop a vaccine?

Epidemics Are Tough To Turn Into Profit (R.)

Epidemics are catastrophic for humans, and it turns out they aren’t much better for healthcare companies. The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus has multiplied more than 80-fold over three weeks despite measures such as travel bans, and exceeded 45,000 across 26 countries on Wednesday, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Tests and treatments are in demand. Yet past events like SARS show slow research, high production costs and political pressure on pricing often add up to disappointing returns. Tests for the virus now called SARS-CoV-2 are here. These are vital for diagnosing, isolating carriers, and tracking exposure.

Meridian Bioscience saw its stock pop on news it had developed a test, but the shares then dropped as investors realized Roche, Qiagen and others would all fight for thin margins. So far, none of the stocks has moved much. A treatment has better profit potential, as competition probably will be limited. The snag is, proving a drug’s effectiveness typically takes years. There are already multiple trials started using existing anti-viral treatments, and potential new drugs by Gilead Sciences and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals have begun testing, or will soon. Even if one company hits the jackpot, production can be a problem. Flu fears in 2009 made Roche’s Tamiflu a blockbuster. But securing enough production of spice star anise to make the drug proved troublesome.

The best long-term hope for coronavirus control is a vaccine. Old-school giant Novartis, biotechnology outfit Moderna and others want to make one. But drug development is hard, and vaccines can be particularly tricky due to viral mutation. World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday a vaccine might be available in 18 months, a long way off even assuming no hiccups. Vaccines can be profitable for endemic diseases – Pfizer sold $1.6 billion of a pneumonia vaccine last year. But the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003 flared up and hasn’t been seen in humans since. SARS-CoV-2 might follow the same path.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Feb 122020
 


Dorothea Lange Daughter of white tobacco sharecropper at country store. Person County, North Carolina 1939

 

China Reports 97 New Deaths, 2,059 New Cases Confirmed (SCMP)
Coronavirus Cases Fall, Experts Disagree Over Whether Peak Is Near (R.)
Japan Cruise Ship Virus Cases Jump To 175 (R.)
At Least 500 Wuhan Medical Staff Infected With Coronavirus (SCMP)
China’s Banks Face $6 Trillion Coronavirus Cataclysm (ZH)
China Home Sales Crash In First Week Of February ‘Worse Than SARS’ (ZH)
Trump Swipes At Resigned Prosecutors, Judge In Roger Stone Case (Hill)
Despite Iowa Fiasco, Nevada Democrats Plan to Use New Software “Tool” (Webb)
Executive Order (Kunstler)
Third Whistle-Blower Comes Forward To Corroborate Complaints About OPCW (RT)
Subprime Auto Loans, Serious Delinquencies Soar. These Are the Good Times (WS)
Job Openings Plunge the Most Since the Great Recession (WS)
How Unfunded Pensions Will Destroy Your Retirement (Raoul Pal)
Volkswagen and Daimler Push For More ‘Sustainable’ Chile Lithium (R.)

 

 

And there we go once more with the Covid19 statistics (will that new name ever stick?):

 

• Deaths: 1,115, up 97 from yesterday’s 1,108


• Cases: 45,171, up 2059 from yesterday’s 43,112

 

“Everyone” is saying the numbers are going down, and that must mean we’re over the peak, or something.

But I quoted Ben Hunt yesterday in Corona Cartoon Numbers as saying the numbers conformed to a simple quadratic function, and speaking in the “voice” of Xi Jinping:

Yesterday we told everyone that 500 people have died since the outbreak. That’s a made-up number, of course, but that’s what we told everyone. Today let’s tell everyone that an additional 15% of that number died yesterday, so 75 new deaths for 575 total dead. And tomorrow let’s tell everyone that 14% of that total number died, and the day after 13%, and then 12% and then 11%. Clear progress!

That was in reaction to this predicted sequence Hunt saw presented by Antimonic:

 

 

My updated interpretation of this was:

Today according to “official” numbers we have 43,103 cases and 1,018 fatalities, which is up 108 from yesterday’s 910. What’s that, 10.5%? Close enough for discomfort.

And sure enough, today’s 97 deaths constitute 9.5% of yesterday’s 1,108. If this sequence holds (note that it was never meant as anything precise, just a trend), tomorrow’s new added deaths should be around 8.5% of 1,115, or 93-96 deaths. Let’s see. If that is correct, we know Beijing has been reporting false deaths numbers according to that quadratic “formula” -we already know, really.

 

 

 

You wait 2,5 months to name the thing, and then expect everyone to use that name?

China Reports 97 New Deaths, 2,059 New Cases Confirmed (SCMP)

China’s health authority reported 97 new deaths attributable to the Covid-19 outbreak and 2,015 newly-confirmed cases as of Tuesday. This brings the national totals to 1,113 and 44,653, respectively. As of yesterday, 744 recovered patients have been discharged, while the total number of recovery cases stands at 4,740. Outside Hubei province – epicentre of the Covid-19 epidemic – new infections on the mainland fell for the eighth consecutive day. Health authorities in Hubei reported 94 new deaths attributable to the contagion, and 1,638 newly confirmed cases as of Tuesday. This brings the totals announced by the province’s health commission to 1,068 and 33,366, respectively.


Officials in Hubei had reported 103 fatalities and 2,097 newly confirmed cases a day earlier. Some 1,104 of the new cases announced were confirmed in Hubei’s capital of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated at a seafood and meat market. The figures from Hubei on Tuesday mark the lowest number of newly confirmed cases since the beginning of February. It is also the first time that Hubei has reported fewer than 2,000 new daily cases since February 2. Michael Ryan, the World Health Organisation’s head of emergency programmes, said on Tuesday in Geneva that Covid-19 had the potential to spread faster than either the Ebola or Sars viruses. Earlier this week, Covid-19 exceeded the Sars outbreak of 2002-03 in terms of deaths attributed to it.

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“China’s foremost medical adviser on the outbreak, Zhong Nanshan..” Who said two weeks ago it would all be over within a week or ten days. “China’s foremost medical adviser on the outbreak”. Zhong now says: “I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April..”

Coronavirus Cases Fall, Experts Disagree Over Whether Peak Is Near (R.)

China on Wednesday reported its lowest number of new coronavirus cases since late January, lending weight to a prediction from its senior medical adviser that the outbreak could be over by April. Global markets took heart from the outlook but other international experts remain alarmed by the spread of the flu-like virus, which has killed more than 1,100 people, all but two in mainland China, and said optimism could be premature. China’s foremost medical adviser on the outbreak, Zhong Nanshan, said the numbers of new cases were falling in some provinces, and forecast the epidemic would peak this month.

“I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April,” Zhong, an epidemiologist whose previous forecast of an earlier peak turned out to be premature, told Reuters on Tuesday. Total cases of the new coronavirus in China have hit 44,653, according to health officials, including 2,015 new confirmed cases on Tuesday. That was the lowest daily rise in new cases since Jan. 30. China last week amended its guidelines on prevention and control of the coronavirus, saying that only when asymptomatic cases show clinical signs should they be recorded as a confirmed case. However, it is not clear if the government data previously included asymptomatic cases. The number of deaths on the mainland rose by 97 to 1,113 by the end of Tuesday.

While Chinese officials said the situation was under control, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned the epidemic posed a global threat potentially worse than terrorism. The world must “wake up and consider this enemy virus as public enemy number one”, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday, adding the first vaccine was 18 months away. Asked about Zhong’s prediction, Australia’s chief medical officer, Brendan Murphy, said: “I think it’s far too premature to say that.” “We’ve just got to watch the data very closely over the coming weeks before we make any predictions,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp, while praising China’s “Herculean efforts” to contain the virus.

[..] Even if the epidemic ends soon, it has already taken a toll on China’s economy, with companies laying off workers and other firms needing loans running into billions of dollars to stay afloat. Supply chains for car manufacturers to smartphone makers have broken down. Wu Chaoming, chief economist at Fortune Securities, wrote in a report that the impact on China’s labor market would be far greater than that of a 2002-2003 outbreak of another coronavirus that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. About 24% of the labor force, or 186 million people, “could face some risks in salary reduction or even being laid off”, he said. ANZ bank said China’s first-quarter growth would likely slow to 3.2-4.0% compared with an earlier projection of 5.0%. China’s aviation regulator urged countries to lift virus-related travel restrictions as soon as possible, but airlines showed no sign of easing their curbs on flights.

Read more …

Highest concentration of infections outside of China.

Japan Cruise Ship Virus Cases Jump To 175 (R.)

Another 39 people have tested positive for the coronavirus on the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan as well as one quarantine officer, bringing the total to 175, the health ministry said on Wednesday. The Diamond Princess was placed in quarantine for two weeks upon arriving in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, on Feb. 3, after a man who disembarked in Hong Kong was diagnosed with the virus. About 3,700 people are aboard the ship, which usually has a crew of 1,100 and a passenger capacity of 2,670. The ministry said tests are being conducted for others who are deemed to need them and it will announce the results later.


The U.K.-flagged Diamond Princess is managed by Princess Cruise Lines, one of the world’s largest cruise lines and a unit of Carnival Corp. The government was considering allowing elderly and those with chronic illnesses to disembark before the Feb. 19 target date for ending the quarantine, some media reported, but added it would take time to figure out where they could be sent. As of last week, about 80% of the passengers were aged 60 or over, with 215 in their 80s and 11 in the 90s, the English-language Japan Times newspaper reported.

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Yup. Poor hygiene.

At Least 500 Wuhan Medical Staff Infected With Coronavirus (SCMP)

At least 500 hospital staff in Wuhan had been infected with the deadly new strain of coronavirus by mid January, multiple medical sources have confirmed, leaving hospitals short-staffed and causing deep concern among health care workers. While the government has reported individual cases of health care workers becoming infected, it has not provided the full picture, and the sources said doctors and nurses had been told not to make the total public.
The reason for this edict was not explained, but the authorities have been trying to boost morale among frontline medical staff, especially following the death of Li Wenliang, who was killed by the disease weeks after being reprimanded by police for warning colleagues about the new virus.


A slide circulating online, however, reveals the scale of infections among medical workers in Wuhan. It said that by mid-January there had been about 500 confirmed cases among hospital staff with a further 600 suspected ones. A source from a major hospital in Wuhan with knowledge of the situation confirmed that the slide was authentic. The figures shown on the slide were also in line with the figures given by two other doctors from major hospitals in Wuhan.

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How many businesses and banks can the PBOC save if the virus lasts into April or beyond?

China’s Banks Face $6 Trillion Coronavirus Cataclysm (ZH)

In a little noticed post back in November, we reported that as part of a stress test conducted by China’s central bank in the first half of 2019, 30 medium- and large-sized banks were tested; In the base-case scenario, assuming GDP growth dropped to 5.3% – nine out of 30 major banks failed and saw their capital adequacy ratio drop to 13.47% from 14.43%. In the worst-case scenario, assuming GDP growth dropped to 4.15%, some 2% below the latest official GDP print, more than half of China’s banks, or 17 out of the 30 major banks failed the test. Needless to say, the implications for a Chinese financial system – whose size is roughly $41 trillion – having over $20 trillion in “problematic” bank assets, would be dire.

Why do we bring this up now? Because according to many Wall Street estimates, as a result of the slowdown resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic, China’s economic growth is set to slow sharply, with some banks such as JPMorgan now expecting as little as 1% GDP growth in Q1 assuming the epidemic is contained in the next few weeks; if it isn’t, Chinese Q1 GDP growth may print negative for the first time on record. This is a big problem, because as noted above if the PBOC’s 2019 stress test is credible, more than half of China’s banks would fail the “stress test” should GDP drop to just 4.15%; and one can only imagine what happens to China’s banks if GDP prints negative.

Or, alternatively, one can read the fine print, where we find that among the immediate first order consequences of a GDP crunch is that the bad loan ratio at the nation’s 30 biggest banks would rise five-fold, flooding the country with trillions in non-performing loans, and potentially unleashing a tsunami of bank defaults. [..] “The banking industry is taking a big hit,” You Chun, a Shanghai-based analyst at National Institution for Finance & Development told Bloomberg. “The outbreak has already damaged China’s most vibrant small businesses and if it prolongs, many firms will go under and be unable to repay their loans.” [..] .. a recent nationwide survey showed that about 30% [of small businesses] expect to see revenue plunge more than 50% this year because of the virus and 85% said they are unable to maintain operations for more than three months with cash currently available.

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“..new apartment sales crashed 90% in the first week of February..[..] .. Sales of existing homes in 8 cities plunged 91% over the same period..”

That can’t last long, but: “Real estate transactions have been forbidden in many cities.”

Seen more reports on that seconnd pic: the virus spreading through pipes in buildings.

China Home Sales Crash In First Week Of February ‘Worse Than SARS’ (ZH)

Bloomberg cited a new report via China Merchants Securities (CMSC) that said new apartment sales crashed 90% in the first week of February over the same period last year. Sales of existing homes in 8 cities plunged 91% over the same period. “The sector is bracing for a worse impact than the 2003 SARS pandemic,” said Bai Yanjun, an analyst at property-consulting firm China Index Holdings Ltd. “In 2003, the home market was on a cyclical rise. Now, it’s already reeling from an adjustment.” Long before the coronavirus outbreak, China’s housing market has been on shaky grounds amid declining demand, stricter mortgage requirements, and price discounts.

The latest shock: two-thirds of China’s economy has come to a standstill, could generate enough pessimism to pop the country’s massive housing bubble. After all, coronavirus is a mass distraction from the overall domestic problems the Communist Party of China (CPC) faces. The CPC failed to stimulate the economy last year, with credit impulse not turning up as expected. The virus outbreak has allowed the CPC to scapegoat the slowdown and the inevitable crash. “…China’s ability to stimulate its economy is now virtually nil, since China’s record debt load has now made it virtually impossible to push the country’s credit impulse higher,” we noted last week. Real estate transactions have been forbidden in many cities. This means fire sales could be seen once selling restrictions end.

E-House China Enterprise Holdings Ltd.’s research institute said four units per day were being sold in Beijing last week, and this is down from several hundred per day during the same period in the previous year. China International Capital Corp. analyst Eric Zhang said demand could pick back up in April, assuming the virus outbreak is under control.

Read more …

The 4 prosecutors in the Roger Stone case should be investigated. They won’t be, if only because they’re not independent. But this feels like sour grapes for the Mueller report failure.

Stone is a dirty trickster, but he’s been that for decades, and he’s only one of many in DC, on both sides. You can’t be locked up for that. Stone faces two main allegations, IIRC:

1) Lying about his link to WIkiLeaks/Russia. But we know Stone never had any such links. He lied to the Trump campaign about having them though, and then to the DOJ about that. But in essence, he was lying about something that never existed.

Sentencing him for that serves only to keep the illusion alive (just like the coward Rober Mueller did), that WikiLeaks had Russia links, and it’s high time to get rid of that ridiculous notion once and for all.

2) Stone is accused of threatening Randy Credico, his friend who testified to the DOJ. Or more specifically, he’s accused of threatening to kill Credico’s dog, Bianca. Credico wrote to Judge Amy Berman last month pleading with her NOT to send Stone to prison, and saying neither the threats against him or Bianca were serious.

Summarized, there are (were) 4 prosecutors who wanted to send Stone to prison for 9 years for threatening a dog, which according to the dog’s owner wasn’t even a real threat. And if the DOJ or Barr or Trump criticize this, they become the accused, “lawless”, parties.

Trump Swipes At Resigned Prosecutors, Judge In Roger Stone Case (Hill)

President Trump on Tuesday swiped at the prosecutors and judge in the case of longtime confidant Roger Stone amid the fallout of the Justice Department’s decision to intervene in Stone’s sentencing recommendation. Trump weighed in on the sentencing late Tuesday even as Democrats and critics expressed alarm that the president seemed to be blurring the line between the executive branch and the Department of Justice (DOJ). “Who are the four prosecutors (Mueller people?) who cut and ran after being exposed for recommending a ridiculous 9 year prison sentence to a man that got caught up in an investigation that was illegal, the Mueller Scam, and shouldn’t ever even have started? 13 Angry Democrats?” Trump tweeted.

All four prosecutors who worked on Stone’s case resigned Tuesday after the DOJ asked a federal court to reduce the seven- to nine-year prison sentence they had originally recommended. One prosecutor, Aaron Zelinsky, worked on former special counsel Robert Mueller’s team. Stone, a 67-year-old right-wing provocateur, was found guilty in November of lying to Congress and witness tampering related to his efforts to provide the Trump campaign inside information about WikiLeaks in 2016. The timing of the DOJ’s involvement raised questions given that it came hours after Trump ridiculed the initial recommendation as a “miscarriage of justice” and previous accusations from Democrats that Attorney General William Barr has interceded at times in the president’s favor.

The president later told reporters he had not spoken with DOJ officials about Stone’s case but insisted he had the right to do so. He declined to say whether he was considering commuting Stone’s eventual sentence. “All starting to unravel with the ridiculous 9 year sentence recommendation!” Trump tweeted Tuesday night. Trump late Tuesday also swiped at D.C. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is overseeing the Stone case, implying she had treated his former campaign chairman unfairly. “Is this the Judge that put Paul Manafort in SOLITARY CONFINEMENT, something that not even mobster Al Capone had to endure? How did she treat Crooked Hillary Clinton? Just asking!” Trump tweeted.

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The most boring show on TV. If you watch it or g-d forbid write about it, I feel for you.

Iowa: screwed up app, and ButtGeek gets bought into contention.

New Hampshire: Klobuchar gets bought into contention.

All of a sudden Warren and Biden are gone, and two no-no’s are Sanders’ only rivals left?

Despite Iowa Fiasco, Nevada Democrats Plan to Use New Software “Tool” (Webb)

Even while the chaos of the recent Iowa Caucus remains fresh in voters’ minds, the Nevada State Democratic Party is setting itself up for more of the same by using a new software application for reporting results that is set to be coded and tested in less than a month. The application, still currently under development, will come preloaded onto iPads that will be distributed to precinct chairs during Nevada’s upcoming caucus, scheduled for February 22. The scramble to create this new application followed revelations that the same company that had developed the software largely blamed for the Iowa debacle – known as Shadow Inc. – had also developed the two applications that Nevada Democrats had planned to use both for early voting and for Caucus Day.

[..] .. the Shadow Inc. app was reported to have been developed over a period of roughly two months, though the company’s CEO, Gerard Niemira, has since claimed that the app’s creation began last August. In contrast, Nevada Democrats are now slated to use a software application developed in less than half that time [..] Another issue is the fact that Nevada Democrats decided to go this route after consulting “a group of tech and security folks” whose names and affiliations were not provided. As previously mentioned, after the Iowa debacle, several media reports quoted technology and cybersecurity experts as well as software developers who had cited the rushed development of the Shadow Inc. app as having largely led to the app’s failure and the resulting chaos in Iowa.

It thus seems odd that a group of “tech and security folks” are urging Nevada Democrats to pay for the development of a new program in an even shorter time frame as a way to prevent Nevada’s caucus from repeating Iowa’s failures. Though the identity of this group remains unknown, concerns have been raised that some may have links to the 2020 presidential campaign of Pete Buttigieg, given that the Shadow Inc.-developed app used in Iowa was found to have ties to the Buttigieg campaign and the Iowa caucus chaos clearly benefited the Buttigieg campaign. Concerns about possible connections between these tech and security consultants and the Buttigieg campaign have only grown since it was revealed that Nevada Democrats recently hired an organizer for Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 presidential campaign, Emily Goldman, as the Caucus’ Voter Protection Director, just weeks before the caucus is set to take place.

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I felt a song coming on. From one of my favorite albums.

Executive Order (Kunstler)

In this pause between past and future Deep State seditions, and the full-blown advent of Corona Virus in every region of the world, we pause to consider Mr. Trump’s executive order requiring new federal buildings to be designed in the classical style. The directive has caused heads to explode in the cultural wing of Progressive Wokesterdom, since the worship of government power has replaced religion for them and federal buildings are their churches — the places from which encyclicals are hurled at the masses on such matters as who gets to think and say what, who gets to use which bathroom, and especially whose life and livelihood can be destroyed for being branded a heretic.

[..] A virtue of classicism is that it employs structural devices that allow buildings to stand up: arches, columns, colonnades. These are replicable in modules or bays along scales from small to large. These devices honestly express the tectonic sturdiness of a building within the realities of gravity. A hidden virtue of classicism is that it is based on the three-part representation of the human figure: the whole and all the parts within it exist in nested hierarchies of base-shaft-and-head. This is true of columns with capitols set on a base, of windows with their sills, sashes, and lintels, and the whole building from base to roof. Classical architecture follows proportioning systems universally found in nature, such as the Fibonacci series of ratios, which are seen in everything from the self-assembly of seashells to the growth of tree branches.

Thus, classicism links us to nature and to our own humanity. Classical ornaments — the swags, moldings, entablatures, cartouches, corbels, festoons, and what-have-you — are not mandatory, but, of course, they also provide a way of expressing our place in nature, which is a pathway to expressing truth and beauty.

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Just disband the thing alright. And defund Bellingcat.

Third Whistle-Blower Comes Forward To Corroborate Complaints About OPCW (RT)

A third whistle-blower has come forward to corroborate the previous complaints that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) tried to suppress evidence-gathering in the Douma probe, a report says. The alleged new whistleblower, whose redacted email was shared by the Grayzone Project on Tuesday, backed the complaints made by two former OPCW employees — South African engineer and organization’s veteran Ian Henderson, and another whistleblower known as ‘Alex.’ OPCW Director-General Fernando Arias had earlier dismissed the pair — dubbed Inspector A and Inspector B in the organization’s inquiry into their claims — as low-level rogue employees who conducted field work without proper authorization and which simply “could not accept that their views were not backed by evidence.”

However, the person, described by Grayzone as a former senior official with the OPCW, stood by Henderson and ‘Alex,’ writing that his time with the organization was “the most stressful and unpleasant” one in his life. “I feel ashamed for the Organization and I am glad I left it. “I fear those behind the crimes that have been perpetrated in the name of ‘humanity and democracy,’ they will not hesitate to do harm to me and my family,” the person wrote, explaining the decision to remain anonymous. Henderson was deployed with the fact-finding mission to Syria shortly after the alleged chemical attack in Douma. The inspector concluded that the cylinders, supposedly containing chlorine, were more likely manually placed on the ground rather than dropped from planes.

According to him, the higher-ups discarded his findings without explanation, and sidelined him from the rest of the mission. Its final report was later used by the US and some European countries to implicate the Syrian government of Bashar Assad in conducting the attack, which the Syrian authorities vehemently deny.

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What keeps America motoring.

Subprime Auto Loans, Serious Delinquencies Soar. These Are the Good Times (WS)

Auto loan and lease balances have surged to a new record of $1.33 trillion. Delinquencies of auto loans to borrowers with prime credit rates hover near historic lows. But subprime loans (borrowers with a credit score below 620) are exploding at a breath-taking rate, and they’re driving up the overall delinquency rates to Financial Crisis levels. Yet, these are the good times, and there is no employment crisis where millions of people have lost their jobs. All combined, prime and subprime auto-loan delinquencies that are 90 days or more past due – “serious” delinquencies – in the fourth quarter 2019, surged by 15.5% from a year ago to a breath-taking historic high of $66 billion, according to data from the New York Fed released today:

Loan delinquencies are a flow. Fresh delinquencies that hit lenders go into the 30-day basket, then a month later into the 60-day basket, and then into the 90-day basket, and as they move from one stage to the next, more delinquencies come in behind them. When the delinquency cannot be cured, lenders hire a company to repossess the vehicle. Finding the vehicle is generally a breeze with modern technology. The vehicle is then sold at auction, a fluid and routine process.[..] Seriously delinquent auto loans jumped to 4.94% of the $1.33 trillion in total loans and leases outstanding, above where the delinquency rate had been in Q3 2010 as the auto industry was collapsing, with GM and Chrysler already in bankruptcy, and with the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression approaching its peak. But this time, there is no unemployment crisis; these are the good times:

About 22% of the $1.33 trillion in auto loans outstanding are subprime, so about $293 billion are subprime. Of them, $68 billion are 90+ days delinquent. This means that about 23% of all subprime auto loans are seriously delinquent. Nearly a quarter!

Read more …

The biggest threat vs Trump’s re-election. Will the Dems weaponize it?

Job Openings Plunge the Most Since the Great Recession (WS)

The number of job openings in December dropped by 364,000 from November (seasonally adjusted), after having already plunged by 574,000 in November, according to the Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). This two-month plunge of 938,000 job openings came after a series of ups and downs with downward trend starting after the peak in January 2019. It brought the number of job openings in December to 6.42 million (seasonally adjusted), same level as in October 2017. Since the peak in January 2019, over 1.2 million job openings have dissolved into ambient air (November and December in red).

On a not-seasonally adjusted basis, job openings in December plunged by 14.9% from December 2018, the steepest since the Great Recession. In total, 1.05 million job openings have disappeared over the period. This was the seventh month in a row of year-over-year declines. Year-over-year comparisons eliminate seasonal fluctuations. And the fact that this year-over-year drop of 14.9% in December occurred in the not-seasonally adjusted data shows that the drop to 6.42 million job openings was not due to seasonal adjustments gone berserk. It was due to other reasons. There had been a minuscule dip into the negative in January 2013, and then the more visible dip into the negative in late 2016 and early 2017. What we’re seeing now is in an entirely different ballpark:

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I haven’t watched the entire video, but this is a topic that warrants much more scrutiny.

How Unfunded Pensions Will Destroy Your Retirement (Raoul Pal)

How can ordinary people behaving rationally create a generational threat? Raoul Pal, in his role as CEO and co-founder of Global Macro Investor, joins Real Vision to explain the interconnected problem of the everything bubble and the coming retirement crisis to answer the question, “why do we invest?” He explains in detail how the baby boomer generation, through the rational and reasonable behavior of seeking to live and retire comfortably, has fueled the creation of a massive financial bubble that touches nearly every corner of the economy as pensions take more and more risk. Pal breaks down the crucial demographic, economic, and political trends that have combined to create the problem and suggests potential solutions for Baby Boomers, Millennials, and Gen Xers to get out door before the fire of the coming recession. Filmed on February 4, 2020 in Grand Cayman.

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Now taking bets on when the term “sustainable” loses the last bit of its meaning. And no, electric cars don’t solve single problem. They create plenty new ones, though, so if problems are your thing…

Volkswagen and Daimler Push For More ‘Sustainable’ Chile Lithium (R.)

German automakers Volkswagen and Daimler have launched a study to push for more “sustainable” lithium mining in Chile, according to lobbyist filings reviewed by Reuters, a sign of growing supply chain concerns ahead of an expected electric vehicle boom. Chile’s Atacama salt flat is by far the biggest source of supply of the ultralight battery metal in South America’s so-called “lithium triangle.” The region, whose fragile ecosystem relies on a limited water supply, is home to the globe’s top two producers, U.S.-based Albemarle and Chile’s SQM. But concerns over sustainability have long plagued Atacama’s miners, which extract the metal from pools of brine beneath the world’s driest desert.

Residents and environmental groups worry about potential damage to a regional ecosystem home to an ancient indigenous culture, lagoons inhabited with rare flamingos and a booming tourism industry. Lobbying records show a team from German development agency GIZ and the public-private Fundacion Chile met with Cristóbal De La Maza, chief of top Chilean environmental regulator SMA, early this year to formally present plans for the “feasibility study.” “This project is driven by the Volkswagen and Daimler companies,” the filings read. “The growing importance of batteries has made the sustainability of lithium a key priority for these companies.”

Pressure is mounting on German carmakers to fast-track production of electric vehicles to meet increasingly stringent European Union anti-pollution rules. Volkswagen alone has staked its future on a $91 billion plan to profitably mass-producing zero-emission vehicles. That push has prompted beefed-up scrutiny of mining practices around key metals such as cobalt, copper and lithium, all of which are predicted to see a spike in demand in coming years. [..] Australia, the world’s No. 1 producer of the white metal, mines its lithium from hard rock, not brine.

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Joseph Shabalala died this week. He was the founder -and “father”- of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the South African vocal group that accompanied Paul Simon on his Graceland album and tour.

 

 

 

The Automatic Earth will not survive without your Paypal and Patreon donations. Please support us.

 

Feb 112020
 


Mathew Brady Grand Review of the Army. Units of XX Army Corps, Army of Georgia, Pennsylvania Ave. near the Treasury, Washington, DC. May 24 1865

 

3 Wuhan Officials Summoned To Explain Failings (SCMP)
China Gets Back To Work As Death Toll Reaches 1,018 (SCMP)
China Firms Cut Staff On Virus Outbreak As Xi Vows No Large-Scale Layoffs (R.)
Senior Chinese Officials ‘Removed’ As Death Toll Hits 1,000 (BBC)
Outspoken Academic Blames Xi Jinping For ‘Catastrophe’ Sweeping China (G.)
Expert Warns Infection Could Reach 60% Of World’s Population (G.)
China Delayed Reporting The Outbreak And The WHO Is Staying Mum (Vox)
Coronavirus Exposes Fundamental Flaws In China’s Economic Growth Model (SCMP)
Coronavirus Could Have Incubation Period Of 24 Days (Ind.)
Look How Low Oil Prices Have Fallen (F.)
Coronavirus Could Trim 1 Percentage Point From China GDP Growth – Gov’t. (R.)
China Q1 Smartphone Shipments To Fall More Than 30% (CNBC)
US Charges Four Chinese Military Officers Over Equifax Hack (BBC)
Aboriginal Australians Are Not ‘Aliens’, Cannot Be Deported – High Court (G.)
‘The World Is Looking At New Hampshire’ – Bernie Sanders (R.)

 

 

First, don’t forget to read my article earlier today, Corona Cartoon Numbers, because thay may teach you a thing or two about the “official” numbers.

Those numbers for Feb 11:

• Cases 43,112 vs 40,614 yesterday. That’s up 2498

• Deaths 1,108 vs 910 yesterday. Up 108.

• Hubei provincial health commission said the province had confirmed a total of 31,728 cases with 974 deaths by the end of Monday, a fatality rate of 3.07%. More than three-quarters of the deaths have been in the provincial capital Wuhan. The commission said there were still a total of 16,687 suspected but unconfirmed cases

Bizarre news item: In January, several individuals on a Paris takeoff flight bound for Shanghai were diagnosed with the #Coronavirus— in the opposite travel direction of the outbreak epicenter.

 

 

An update of a familiar BBC graph:

 

 

And this from the Yokohama cruise ship. 439 tested, 135 positive. 32.5%.

The Holland America cruise ship Westerdam, which had gotten permission to dock in Thailand after 9 days at sea and 3 countries refusing entry, has been denied entry by Thailand at the last minute as well. There are no known carriers aboard.

 

 

 

And this guy, bless his soul, has been disappeared.:

Lawyer and citizen journalist Chen Qiushi: “I’m not even afraid of death. You think I’m afraid of the Communist Party?”

 

 

Time flies when you’re having fun with viruses. It’s already been 9 days since I explained in The Party and the Virus: “Never a bad word should be uttered about the Party, and nothing said that could embarrass it.”

The Party blames individuals, so it can escape the blame. Problem with that is that is the Party is wrong, it won’t be corrected.

3 Wuhan Officials Summoned To Explain Failings (SCMP)

A special task force reviewing prevention efforts in Wuhan, Hubei’s capital, has summoned three local officials for emergency meetings and detailed their failings in containing the outbreak. Wuhan deputy mayor Chen Xiexing and two district chiefs in the city, Lin Wenshu and Yu Song, were called in for meetings, state news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday. Officials found to have been negligent would be held accountable, the report said. Headed by Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan, the task force was set up by the Communist Party’s Central Committee. Mainland media reported on Friday that Chen Yixin, a protégé of President Xi Jinping, had been added to the team.


China has had nearly 1,000 cluster outbreaks of the coronavirus and found that 83 per cent occurred in families, with the rest arising in hospitals, schools and shopping malls, said Wu Zunyou, chief scientist of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, at a media briefing on Tuesday. Among the cluster cases, 86 per cent were first or second-generation transmissions – people who lived or travelled in Hubei, contracted the virus and passed it to people who were in close contact with them, such as family members or people who shared meals with them. “Occurrences of these cluster cases showed our control and treatment measures have been effective and it did not spread from small units to bigger areas of society,” Wu said.

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Let’s see your priorities. For now, “gets back to work” looks a bit much.

Do note: when Xi comes out of hiding to announce it will be a hard fight, expect trouble.

China Gets Back To Work As Death Toll Reaches 1,018 (SCMP)

Health authorities in China reported on Tuesday 108 new fatalities attributable to the novel coronavirus, bringing the national death toll to 1,018. This is the first time more than 100 people have died from the disease in a single day on the mainland. The National Health Commission also reported 2,478 new confirmed cases of the illness, bringing that total to 42,638 as of Monday. Of the new deaths, 103 were in Hubei province – the epicentre of the novel coronavirus epidemic – and five in other provinces. As millions of people in China prepare to return to work, Beijing has made clear that the reopening of businesses must not be hampered by “crude and oversimplified” restrictions.

As many as 160 million people are expected to be returning to their cities of employment over the following week, according to Xu Yahua, director of the transport services department at the Chinese ministry of transport. The coronavirus outbreak coincided with the Lunar New Year travel season, when millions of migrant workers traditionally travel to their homes to spend the holiday with their families. As part of China’s response to the outbreak, the holiday season was extended to February 18. Many local authorities – from megacities like Beijing and Shanghai to remote villages – have curbed public transport provision and restricted people from moving outside their communities during the outbreak.

Many local governments have also adopted a registration system and prior approval requirements for companies planning to resume production. Some business owners have been detained for resuming work in advance. But Beijing has now made clear these practices were not in line with the requirements and policies of the central authorities. “Such a tendency must be stopped,” said Ou Xiaoli, director of social development at the National Development and Reform Commission, the country’s top economic planning agency. “We will strictly stop restricting the production resumption in an oversimplified and crude way,” he said, at the same press conference on Tuesday.

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Anything public has lost most of their income. Whaddaya mean no lay-offs?

China Firms Cut Staff On Virus Outbreak As Xi Vows No Large-Scale Layoffs (R.)

A Chinese media company said it will lay off 500 employees due to the coronavirus outbreak, the latest among a string of firms to do so in the past two weeks as the epidemic takes a toll on small-to-medium sized businesses. Xinchao Media, which places advertisements in elevators, will cut 10% of its workforce to “ensure survival”, the company said in a post on its official WeChat account on Monday, which carried the transcript of an internal speech by CEO Zhang Jixue. “To overcome the epidemic, you have to step on the brakes, jam the cash flow, reduce costs,” Zhang said, as he noted the company’s cash reserve of 1 billion yuan ($143 million) would likely be enough for only 6-7 months in the absence of income.

The job cuts come even as President Xi Jinping said the government would prevent large-scale layoffs caused by the virus outbreak – which has killed more than a 1,000 people in mainland China and infected over 40,000. Authorities said on Tuesday they will roll out measures to stabilize jobs. But many companies are hurting from disruptions felt since late-January after local governments extended Lunar New Year holidays and urged people to stay home. Beijing’s “Karaoke King” has said it wants to terminate contracts with all its 200 employees as it shut its outlets due to the outbreak, local media reports said. The karaoke chain did not immediately return calls made by Reuters on Tuesday.

Chinese restaurant chain Xibei, which has over 360 outlets, said it was worried about wages for its roughly 20,000 workers given how the epidemic had impacted its income. “We need 156 million yuan a month to pay our workers, and if the epidemic continues, and cash flow continues to be inadequate, we will not be able to hold up for much longer,” it said on its official Weibo account. In Beijing, only 11,500 restaurants were operational mid last week, or 13% of the total, the Beijing Municipal Market Supervision Bureau said.

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Cited this last week. Individuals get the blame, so the Party does not.

Senior Chinese Officials ‘Removed’ As Death Toll Hits 1,000 (BBC)

China has “removed” several senior officials over their handling of the coronavirus outbreak – as the death toll passed 1,000. The party secretary for the Hubei Health Commission, and the head of the commission, were among those who lost their jobs. They are the most senior officials to be demoted so far. The deputy director of the local Red Cross was also removed for “dereliction of duty” over “handling of donations”. The two Hubei party officials will be replaced by a national figure – the deputy director of China’s National Health Commission, Wang Hesheng. On Monday, some 103 died in Hubei province alone, a daily record, and the national death toll is now 1,016. But the number of new infections nationally was down almost 20% from the day before, from 3,062 to 2,478.

Hubei’s health commission confirmed 2,097 new cases in the province on Monday, down from 2,618 the previous day. According to state media, there have been hundreds of sackings, investigations and warnings across Hubei and other provinces during the outbreak. But removal from a certain role – while regarded as a censure – does not always mean the person will be sacked entirely, as it can also mean demotion. As well as being removed from their posts, officials can also be punished by the ruling Communist Party. For example, the deputy head of the Red Cross, Zhang Qin, was given “a serious intra-Party warning as well as a serious administrative demerit”, state media said. Earlier this month, the deputy head of the Wuhan bureau of statistics was removed, also with a “serious intra-party warning a well as a serious administrative demerit for violating relevant regulations to distribute face masks”.

The Hubei health commission said the province had a total of 31,728 cases with 974 deaths by the end of Monday – a fatality rate of 3%.

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“..a culture of suppression and “systemic impotence”..”

Outspoken Academic Blames Xi Jinping For ‘Catastrophe’ Sweeping China (G.)

A prominent Chinese intellectual has become the first high-profile public figure to lay the blame for the coronavirus crisis at the feet of the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, saying the spread of the deadly virus has “revealed the rotten core of Chinese governance”. As the crisis expands across the country, Xu Zhangrun, a law professor from one of the country’s top universities, lambasted the government under Xi in an essay titled: Viral Alarm, When Fury Overcomes Fear. In it, Xu laid the blame for the current national crisis at the feet of Xi and a culture of suppression and “systemic impotence” that he has created. The virus has now killed more than 1,000 people inside China.

“The cause of all of this lies with The Axelrod and the cabal that surrounds him,” Xu writes, referring to Xi, according to a translation of the article by historian Geremie Barmé published on Monday by the website ChinaFile. “It is a system that turns every natural disaster into an even greater man-made catastrophe. The coronavirus epidemic has revealed the rotten core of Chinese governance; the fragile and vacuous heart of the jittering edifice of state has thereby shown up as never before.” Xu describes the outbreak as a “national calamity” that involves politics, the economy and “nation’s ethical fabric” making it “more perilous than total war itself”.

After weeks of disappearing from public view, Xi on Monday visited a neighbourhood and hospital in Beijing where he held a video call with health workers in Wuhan. Coverage of his appearance filled the front page of the official People’s Daily on Tuesday. Xu’s essay captures growing public anger at the government, which has reached a new peak after the death of a doctor and whistleblower last week. Officials have tried to blame lower-level bureaucrats, but top bosses have not escaped. On Tuesday, the party secretary of health commission of Hubei province and the director of the Hubei provincial health commission were both fired.

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Professor Gabriel Leung, around whose January 31 report I based my Feb 5 article The Big Lockdown:

Expert Warns Infection Could Reach 60% Of World’s Population (G.)

The novel coronavirus epidemic could spread to around two-thirds of the world’s population if it cannot be controlled, according to Hong Kong’s leading public health epidemiologist. His warning came after the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said recent cases of coronavirus patients who have never visited China could be the “tip of the iceberg”. Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of Public Health Medicine at Hong Kong University, said the overriding question was to figure out the size and shape of the iceberg. Most experts thought that each person infected would go on to transmit the virus to around 2.5 other people. That gave an “attack rate” of 60-80%.

“Sixty per cent of the world’s population is an awfully big number,” Leung told the Guardian in London, en route to an expert meeting at the WHO in Geneva. Even if the general fatality rate is as low as 1%, which Leung thinks is possible once milder cases are taken into account, the death toll would be massive. He will tell the WHO expert meeting that the main issue is the scale of the growing worldwide epidemic and the second priority is to find out whether the drastic measures taken by China to prevent the spread have worked – because if so, other countries should think about adopting them. Leung – one of the world’s experts on coronavirus epidemics, who played a major role in the Sars outbreak in 2002-2003 – works closely with other leading scientists such as counterparts at Imperial College London and Oxford University.

At the end of January he warned in a paper in the Lancet that outbreaks were likely to be “growing exponentially” in cities in China, lagging just one to two weeks behind Wuhan. Elsewhere, “independent self-sustaining outbreaks in major cities globally could become inevitable” because of the substantial movement of people who were infected but had not yet developed symptoms, and the absence of public health measures to stop the spread. Epidemiologists and modellers were all trying to figure out what was likely to happen, said Leung. “Is 60 to 80% of the world’s population going to get infected? Maybe not. Maybe this will come in waves. Maybe the virus is going to attenuate its lethality because it certainly doesn’t help it if it kills everybody in its path, because it will get killed as well,” he said.

[..] In January Leung published two papers in the Lancet. The first examined the damage done by social unrest to the mental health of the Hong Kong population. The second was on the spread of coronavirus. “So the two have now come together. The first has made the second impossible to deal with – impossible. I mean, how do you bring your population along when there’s been this huge chasm in society?” he said.

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Western governments and media are as guilty here as China. No use singling out China. Everyone just wishes it would all go away. Everyone’s more afraid for the economy than of the virus. Until they can’t. Dumb piece. Find your own faults first, not those of the other. You really want people to believe western governments would react differently?

China Delayed Reporting The Outbreak And The WHO Is Staying Mum (Vox)

Nearly six weeks after China announced the coronavirus outbreak, there’s still a surprising amount we don’t know about this newly discovered disease. But one thing is becoming clear: China’s silence in the earliest days of the crisis may have made it worse. Chinese authorities delayed informing the world about the severity of a deadly disease spreading within the country’s borders — even trying to muzzle whistleblowers, like the late Dr. Li Wenliang. Now hailed as a national hero, Li was forced on January 3 by police to sign a letter saying he spread “untrue speech” for warning colleagues about the virus that eventually took his life. With more than 40,500 people infected and 910 deaths, China’s missteps early on seem increasingly fateful.

The fact that the international community has not acknowledged those missteps is also consequential. On Friday, President Trump applauded China. “They’re working really hard and I think they’re doing a very professional job,” Trump told ABC News. Meanwhile, the leading global health body, the World Health Organization, has stayed mum about China’s blunders — and is drawing criticism for failing to publicly criticize the country and creating “a false sense of security” about an emerging health crisis. But the reality is this: China’s mishandling and the ensuing silence from the international community is emblematic of how the global system governing the international response to pandemics fails to work, half a dozen global health experts told Vox.

Though we have global health laws — in particular, the International Health Regulations, or IHR — meant to guide countries dealing with outbreaks, they’re not actually enforceable. “You can’t penalize [countries that] don’t follow it,” said Devi Sridhar, the chair in global public health at the University of Edinburgh. Instead, the international community has to rely on “soft law and norms” — or “disease diplomacy.” This means that when a pandemic threat looms, the world has little recourse to punish those that fail to live up to the IHR for not detecting a public health problem, or hiding a crisis, even when that mishandling imperils the lives of billions. And with just about every outbreak, history repeats. “Our global outbreak response system depends on the full participation of all actors at all levels of government,” Steven Hoffman, director of the Global Strategy Lab and a professor of global health at York University, summed up. “But our system is only as strong as its weakest link.” Understanding the IHR, and how disease diplomacy is done today, helps explain why.

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Not just economic growth. Flaws in the Party system, which is incapable of adapting to being found out.

Coronavirus Exposes Fundamental Flaws In China’s Economic Growth Model (SCMP)

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus, which has killed over 1,000 people and infected over 40,000, has exposed fundamental flaws in China’s governance system and its growth model – the excessive concentration of power, information and resources in the hands of a powerful state. But given the path of China’s political and economic evolution, it is difficult for China to loosen its grip on power as a response to so-called black swan events such as the coronavirus. The most likely outcome is that Beijing will continue to strengthen centralised control, which in turn is a greater threat to China’s prospects than the virus itself.

When it is done right, a centralised political system means the government can deliver positives such as rapid economic growth, but it also make it possible for the government to place emphasis on the wrong things, which has the potential to lead to uncertainty and even disaster for society. There is precedent that China tends to enhance centralisation as the solution to a problem that has stemmed from over control. The “new normal” concept, which was adopted by the state in 2014, dissociated the political legitimacy of the Chinese government from economic growth, therefore reducing the pressure on local Chinese authorities to deliver. And while the concept had the good intention of seeking high quality growth, it has, in reality, made the local authorities less friendly to the private sector.

To achieve high economic growth, local governments have had to free up market forces and allow the private sector to thrive, but without the pressure, they do not have the incentive to conduct the necessary political and economic liberalisations to entertain private investors. As a result, the central government is increasingly reliant on state-owned enterprises and state money to maintain social stability and to deliver environmental improvement, while the private economy is gradually marginalised and local autonomy is weakened.

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Co-author Dr Zhong Nanshan was very very wrong when he said late January that the epidemic would be over in 7-10 days. Talked about that. Just saying.

Coronavirus Could Have Incubation Period Of 24 Days (Ind.)

Medical researchers in China have found the incubation period for coronavirus ranges up to 24 days — 10 days longer than experts previously thought. The research was co-authored by Dr Zhong Nanshan, who discovered the SARS coronavirus in 2003 and has been appointed as a leading advisor in managing the current coronavirus crisis. Current advice from health organisations and ministries say the virus’ incubation period is as long as 14 days, based on the incubation period of previous MERS viruses. Public Health England and the Department of Health and Social Care has urged anyone travelling from specific countries, including China, to quarantine themselves at home for 14 days.


The findings, which have not yet been peer reviewed, were published on Sunday and titled ‘Clinical characteristics of 2019 novel coronavirus infection in China’. They found only 1.18 per cent of patients “had a direct contact with wildlife”. The majority of the patients had contracted the virus from being in contact with people from Wuhan, where the centre of the outbreak is. More than 80 percent of patients developed lymphopenia, which is a state where a specific white blood cell that is part of the body’s first-line defence against diseases is reduced.

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Wait till we see car sales in China.

Look How Low Oil Prices Have Fallen (F.)

West Texas Intermediate oil is trading just below $50 midday Monday. This is a very low price for the US benchmark, otherwise known as WTI. The lesson: don’t underestimate the impact of the Coronavirus on the oil market and the greater American economy. The price of WTI last fell below this level for a couple of weeks at the end of 2018 and start of 2019. Other than that moment, the price has not been this low since September of 2017. The concern is that the current low price is not a blip like last year but rather a sustained drop or maybe only the beginning of a situation that could get significantly worse. If the Coronavirus continues to interfere with the Chinese economy and international trade, oil prices are likely to fall further. After all, China is the world’s largest importer of oil by a wide margin, accepting 10.78 million barrels per day in December, 2019.

Here’s who really needs to keep an eye on these low oil prices.

  1. First is, of course, oil producers—from international oil companies like Exxon and Chevron to wildcatters in shale fields—need to beware.
  2. Next, we have the oil industry employees and supplemental industries like truck drivers, welders and restaurant workers near oil fields who could all be affected.
  3. Financiers and investors—hedge funds, private equity and retail investors alike—who fund oil operations are worried about failed projects if revenue drops.
  4. Airlines need to watch oil volatility, because they have an opportunity to buy jet fuel at low prices if it drops, which allows them to hedge for when higher prices eventually return.
  5. Certain state governments, such as Alaska, Wyoming, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, North Dakota and others that fund their budgets in part with taxes on oil production and sales have to beware, as they may be facing unexpected lean times.
  6. Last, businesses that contract for products to be trucked around the country should be looking for discounted pricing.

Despite all the talk about electric vehicles and alternative energy, oil is still the vital liquid that keeps much of our economy moving. We are reminded of that at times like these, when the oil market is anticipating volatility and change.

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Well, if the virus gives up later this very day, he might be right. But not a minute later.

Coronavirus Could Trim 1 Percentage Point From China GDP Growth – Gov’t. (R.)

Zeng Gang, vice chair of the National Institute for Finance and Development, compared the current crisis with the SARS epidemic of 2003, when China’s growth declined by about 2 percentage points in a single quarter. “The impact of this epidemic on the economy in the first quarter is expected to be comparable,” Zeng said in a commentary published in the 21st Century Business Herald newspaper. “At present, according to different scenario assumptions, researchers expect the negative impact of the epidemic on full-year GDP growth to be in the range of 0.2% to 1%.” If the official response to the epidemic is timely and effective at limiting its spread, long-term growth trends would not be significantly affected, Zeng said.

“But in the short term, the epidemic’s impact on economic activity cannot be ignored, especially with tertiary industries and small enterprises with tight cash flows facing greater pressures,” Zeng said. Zeng said difficulties for small companies could prompt a rise in bankruptcies and put upward pressure on the unemployment rate in the first quarter. “The employment situation is not optimistic. This will also pose a serious challenge to the macro policy goal of ‘employment first’,” he said. Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday that the government would prevent large-scale layoffs, Chinese state television reported.

China’s central bank has taken steps to support the economy, including reducing interest rates and flushing the market with liquidity. It has also said it will provide special funds for banks to lend to businesses. Analysts at Citi said they expect growth to slow significantly despite expectations of more proactive fiscal policy and more accommodative monetary policy. “Assuming the virus is contained by the end of March, we revise down our 20Q1 GDP growth forecast considerably to 3.6% and the annual growth modestly to 5.3%”, Citi analysts said in a note. Citi previously forecast first-quarter growth of 4.8% and full-year growth of 5.5%.

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But GDP growth only 0.2% lower?

China Q1 Smartphone Shipments To Fall More Than 30% (CNBC)

China’s smartphone shipments for the three months ending in March could decline by more than 30% from the same period a year ago, International Data Corporation said on Tuesday. The world’s largest smartphone market could experience a so-called “Black Swan effect” in the first half of the calendar year due to the new coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 1,000 people on the mainland, according to the research firm. [..] “The coronavirus outbreak impacted the Lunar New Year’s shopping season in late January and is also expected to have adverse effects in the following months,” IDC said in a statement, adding that it expects “China’s smartphone shipments to drop more than 30% year-on-year in 2020Q1.”


The virus outbreak will also “create uncertainty in product launch plans, the supply chain, and distribution channels, in the mid and long term,” IDC said. Research firm Canalys earlier this month predicted China’s smartphone shipments could drop by as much as 50% between the last three months of 2019 and the first three months of 2020. “Technology vendors are likely to stall marketing activities as they are unlikely to divert attention to new product launches, such as 5G devices,” Canalys said in a Feb. 3 report. “It will take time for vendors to change their product launch roadmaps in China, which is likely to dampen 5G shipments in 2020.”

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Curious where this will go.

US Charges Four Chinese Military Officers Over Equifax Hack (BBC)

The US has charged four Chinese military officers over the huge cyber-attack on credit rating giant Equifax. More than 147 million Americans were affected in 2017 when hackers stole sensitive personal data including names and addresses. Some UK and Canadian customers were also affected. Announcing the indictments, Attorney General William Barr called the hack “one of the largest data breaches in history”. According to court documents, the four are allegedly members of the People’s Liberation Army’s 54th Research Institute, a component of the Chinese military.


They spent weeks in the company’s system, breaking into security networks and stealing personal data, the documents said. The nine-count indictment also accuses the group of stealing trade secrets including data compilation and database designs. The whereabouts of the suspects is unknown and it is highly unlikely that they will stand trial in the US. FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich said: “We can’t take them into custody, try them in a court of law, and lock them up – not today, anyway.”

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The country that never tires of embarrassing itself.

Aboriginal Australians Are Not ‘Aliens’, Cannot Be Deported – High Court (G.)

The Australian government has released an Aboriginal man from immigration detention after a landmark high court case decided Aboriginal Australians are not aliens for the purpose of the constitution and cannot be deported. On Tuesday afternoon the acting immigration minister, Alan Tudge, said the government is still reviewing the decision but “in the light of the court’s ruling, Mr [Brendan] Thoms was this morning released from immigration detention”. The case was a major defeat for the deportation powers of Peter Dutton’s home affairs department and a significant development in the rights of Indigenous Australians. In a four-to-three split decision the high court ruled that Aboriginal people with sufficient connection to traditional societies cannot be aliens, giving them a special status in Australian constitutional law likely to have ramifications far beyond existing native title law.


The majority of the high court ruled that New Zealand-born Brendan Thoms was not an alien and the commonwealth therefore did not have power to order his deportation. The court was not able to decide if the second plaintiff, Daniel Love, was an Aboriginal Australian, requiring a further hearing to establish whether he is accepted as a member of the Kamilaroi tribe. Speaking outside the court earlier, the men’s lawyer, Claire Gibbs, called on the government to immediately release Thoms, who had been in immigration detention for 500 days. Love had previously been released in September 2018. Gibbs said she was “confident” Love will also be found not to be an alien and told reporters the pair will seek “significant” damages.

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Nobody’s looking at New Hampshire. It’s an illusion. Trump is only watching out of Schadenfreude. The only people who care about Democrats today are Democrats. And they have themselves to blame for that. The only thing is that Biden and Warren, on the brink of annihilation, might come with heavy and utterly ridiculous allegations vs ButtGeek and Bernie.

‘The World Is Looking At New Hampshire’ – Bernie Sanders (R.)

In Plymouth, Buttigieg tried to reach out to undecided voters, referring to “future former Republicans” who he said were more than welcome to back his campaign. “It’s decision time,” Buttigieg said. He took a shot at Sanders, saying that the self-described democratic socialist would have a hard time pulling in moderate voters. “Knowing how much depends on bringing Americans together, we cannot risk alienating Americans at this critical moment,” he said. “And that’s where I part ways with my friend Senator Sanders.” In a separate event, Sanders aimed his attacks at Trump. “I know not everybody agrees with everything I say, but I think what we can agree about is that we cannot continue having a president who is a pathological liar,” Sanders told a crowd at a sports club in Manchester.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Feb 112020
 


René Magritte La belle captive 1946

 

 

Today I took a few things out of my daily Debt Rattle news aggregator because I think they shouldn’t get lost in there. It’s interesting, for instance, that the coronavirus incubation period is now thought to be 24, not 14 days. It’s also interesting that the Chinese government tells local officials not to be too strict on companies wanting to re-open plants: “We will strictly stop restricting the production resumption in an oversimplified and crude way”.

If you ask me, that’s asking for trouble. What if one of those factories becomes a petri dish for new infections? Yesterday perhaps 10% of workers are thought to have reported back to their workplaces, today it might be 30%. Then again, in certain places the Lunar New Year has apparently been extended to February 18, so let’s not read too much into this-yet.

But that I’ll deal with later today in the February 11 Debt Rattle, which will be a bit later than usual because of this article. I’ll start this with Hong Kong University Professor Gabriel Leung, around whose January 31 report I based my February 5 article The Big Lockdown. Professor Leung has some more BIG numbers today. We’re getting into Spanish Flu territory now:

Expert Warns Infection Could Reach 60% Of World’s Population

The novel coronavirus epidemic could spread to around two-thirds of the world’s population if it cannot be controlled, according to Hong Kong’s leading public health epidemiologist. His warning came after the head of the WHO said recent cases of coronavirus patients who have never visited China could be the “tip of the iceberg”. Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of Public Health Medicine at Hong Kong University, said the overriding question was to figure out the size and shape of the iceberg. Most experts thought that each person infected would go on to transmit the virus to around 2.5 other people. That gave an “attack rate” of 60-80%.

“Sixty per cent of the world’s population is an awfully big number,” Leung told the Guardian in London, en route to an expert meeting at the WHO in Geneva. Even if the general fatality rate is as low as 1%, which Leung thinks is possible once milder cases are taken into account, the death toll would be massive. He will tell the WHO expert meeting that the main issue is the scale of the growing worldwide epidemic and the second priority is to find out whether the drastic measures taken by China to prevent the spread have worked – because if so, other countries should think about adopting them. [..]

At the end of January he warned in a paper in the Lancet that outbreaks were likely to be “growing exponentially” in cities in China, lagging just one to two weeks behind Wuhan. Elsewhere, “independent self-sustaining outbreaks in major cities globally could become inevitable” because of the substantial movement of people who were infected but had not yet developed symptoms, and the absence of public health measures to stop the spread.

Epidemiologists and modellers were all trying to figure out what was likely to happen, said Leung. “Is 60 to 80% of the world’s population going to get infected? Maybe not. Maybe this will come in waves. Maybe the virus is going to attenuate its lethality because it certainly doesn’t help it if it kills everybody in its path, because it will get killed as well,” he said.

About that fatality rate, we read today that “The Hubei health commission said the province had a total of 31,728 cases with 974 deaths by the end of Monday – a fatality rate of 3%..

 

The most interesting part of the numbers game comes from Ben Hunt at Epsilon Theory, who ‘normally’ writes about finance, investing, not viruses or epidemics. He’s the Chief Risk Officer of Salient Partners, an $18 billion asset manager. Hunt starts out his piece with showing how the US and Vietcong incessantly lied about casualties in the Vietnam war.

He then cites someone with the moniker Antimonic, I think on Reddit, who predicted the coronavirus death tolls of the past 5 days, 5 days ago, before they happened, using very simple math.

Hunt on Twitter: “I just published an update to this note, where I developed an absurdly simple model of how I’d show “Progress in the War against Coronavirus!”. It predicts the DAILY reported death rates with ridiculous accuracy. They’re. Not. Even. Pretending. Anymore.

Here’s how Hunt summarizes it in his own words:

Let’s imagine, for example, that you’re President Xi, and you’d like to show that you are Winning the War ™ against nCov2019. You can’t just say that the epidemic is over and the disease is cured, because you’ve got more than 100 MILLION people in a military quarantine, and it’s kinda obvious that the disease is anything but cured. But you want to show progress in Winning the War ™. So maybe you come up with a rough formula that goes something like this …


Yesterday we told everyone that 500 people have died since the outbreak. That’s a made-up number, of course, but that’s what we told everyone. Today let’s tell everyone that an additional 15% of that number died yesterday, so 75 new deaths for 575 total dead. And tomorrow let’s tell everyone that 14% of that total number died, and the day after 13%, and then 12% and then 11%. Clear progress! Got it, my loyal cadres?

This way, the absolute numbers can rise, while the percentages fall.

 

Body Count (Ben Hunt)

The daily body count of killed and wounded North Vietnamese soldiers was, in Epsilon Theory-speak, a cartoon – an abstraction of an abstraction in service to the creation of Common Knowledge. Hey, everyone knows that everyone knows that we’re winning the war in Vietnam. Didn’t you see the body count numbers on CBS last night? Once you start looking for cartoons, you will see them everywhere. Inflation numbers? Cartoon. Employment data? Cartoon. Asset allocation? Electoral coverage? Financial journalism? Cartoon, cartoon, cartoon. And yes, we write a lot about cartoons. But this is the kicker.


Because it was so important to maintain the fiction that we were Winning the War ™, and that fiction required metrics like a body count of North Vietnamese that was always a multiple of the South Vietnamese casualties and always a factor of the American casualties, American war-fighting policy was soon driven by the narrative requirement to find and count the “right number” of North Vietnamese casualties! These were the infamous search-and-destroy missions of the Vietnam War. This is The Maw in action. Do a little research on search-and-destroy. Read about My Lai and Son Thang. Read Matterhorn. And then take a fresh look at the coronavirus stats coming out of China. Here’s the core post in a reddit thread that’s Matterhorn-esque in its truth (and a heck of a lot shorter to read).

 

 

The point of this quadratic regression on Chinese infection and death numbers as reported by the World Health Organization from the first official announcement through February 4 was the publication of this projection.

 

 

Sure enough, the WHO announcements since this prediction was published have been eerily close.
• 2/5 — 24,363 cases — 491 fatalities
• 2/6 — 28,060 cases — 564 fatalities
• 2/7 — 31,211 cases — 637 fatalities
• 2/8 — 34,598 cases — 723 fatalities
• 2/9 — 37,251 cases — 812 fatalities
• 2/10 — 40,171 cases — 908 fatalities


Crazy, right? The deaths being reported out of China are particularly accurate to the model, while the reported cases are leveling off (which is what you’d expect from a politically adjusted epidemic model over time … at some point you have to show a rate-of-change improvement from your epidemic control measures). But wait, there’s more. The really damning part of Antimonic’s modeling of the reported data with a quadratic formula is that this should be impossible. This is not how epidemics work. All epidemics take the form of an exponential function, not a quadratic function.

 

 

All epidemics – before they are brought under control – take the form of a green line, an exponential function of some sort. It is impossible for them to take the form of a blue line, a quadratic formula of some sort. This is what the R-0 metric of basic reproduction rate means, and if – as the WHO has been telling us from the outset – the nCov2019 R-0 is >2, then the propagation rate must be described by a pretty steep exponential curve. As the kids would say, it’s just math.

Read more …

Today according to “official” numbers we have 43,103 cases and 1,018 fatalities, which is up 108 from yesterday’s 910. What’s that, 10.5%? Close enough for discomfort.

And we now have a whole new way to interpret the offical numbers.

 

 

 

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Feb 092020
 


Dorothea Lange Play street for children. Sixth Street and Avenue C, NYC June 1936

 

Authorities Order Foxconn To Keep Chinese Facilities Closed (AI)
China To Stagger Back To Work As Coronavirus Deaths Surpass SARS (R.)
In-Hospital Infection Blamed In Wuhan Hospital (NHK)
Coronavirus Outbreak Has Affected 4 Different Cruise Ships (H.)
Still No Port For Cruise Ship Westerdam (NHK)
Five Britons Contract Coronavirus In French Ski Resort (R.)
Coronavirus Brings China’s Surveillance State Out Of The Shadows (R.)
Coronavirus Threatens The Chinese Communist Party’s Grip On Power (SCMP)
Yesterday’s Gone: Iowa Was Waterloo for Democrats (Taibbi)
The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President (Atl.)
A Stock Market Boom Is Not The Basis Of Shared Prosperity (Palley)
Argentina Won’t Repay IMF Debt Till Recession Over – VP Kirchner (R.)

 

 

Late last night in my present timezone, CET, initial new coronavirus numbers came out and everyone said they meant the virus has now killed more people (805-806) than SARS. Everyone except for SCMP which cited a WHO number of 813 SARS deaths (they still haven’t figured that out after 17 years). And then, wouldn’t you know, when I got up in the morning, SCMP had revised their new deaths number to … exactly 813. If I weren’t born so wonderfully gullible I would ask myself something.

Global death toll for new coronavirus hits 805, exceeding that of SARS

The global death toll from the new coronavirus is now at 805, higher than that of SARS. Hubei province reported Sunday morning that there were 81 additional deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities in the mainland to 803 so far. The global death toll for the new coronavirus currently stands at 805, including one death in the Philippines and another in Hong Kong. That compares to the SARS outbreak which killed at least 774 people and infected 8,096 people worldwide in 2002 and 2003, according to data from the World Health Organization.

NOTE: SARS deaths took 9 months. This epidemic is just 1-2 months old.

China’s Hubei reports 81 deaths, global total just short of WHO’s SARS figure

China’s Hubei province, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus epidemic, reported 81 new deaths from the disease on Saturday, bringing the province’s total fatalities from the outbreak to 780. Total deaths globally stood at 805, just short of the 813 total fatalities attributed to the deadly Sars epidemic of 2002-2003 by the World Health Organisation. The provincial health authorities also reported 2,147 newly confirmed cases of the disease in the past 24 hours. This brings the total cases in Hubei to 27,100. These figures compared to the reported deaths and newly confirmed cases of 81 and 2,841, respectively, on Friday.

 

 

• 813 deaths, up from 724 yesterday. 89 new deaths is a new record again.

• Confirmed new cases rose to 37,198, an increase of 2,652 overnight

• 3,916 suspected new cases, bringing the total to 28,942 suspected cases.

 

And this little map looks promising, but I do have questions about it:

 

 

Questions like: what are the effects of the ever wider and ever more stringent lockdowns on this? Do fewer people get infected if they’re all locked up in their homes? Or are infected people also harder to find when they’re behind closed doors? Would families volunteer to deliver potentially infected family members to authorities, or would they wait until they’re as good as dead?

I found this interesting as well: “Wuhan has 49 crematoriums, which can each burn 5 bodies every two hours. They’ve been working 24 hours a day for 17 days now. 49 x 17 x 24 x 5/2 = 49,980 bodies.”

 

Still, as I said yesterday, it’s really all about Monday morning, when the economy is supposed to start “working” again. On Friday, Tesla said its Shanghai plant would re-open tomorrow morning. But then today, the government ordered Foxconn’s Shenzhen factories to remain closed. Will Tesla really open?

As I also said somewhere yesterday, “restarting” the economy where 100s of millions are under some form of lockdown now, means shoving all those millions into planes, trains and subways to bring them to plants where they spend 8-10-12 hours in close proximity to potential virus carriers. Thousands more petri dishes.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

 

 

Well, that’s my question: “No-one wants to bear the responsibility for restarting work at this critical moment.”

Authorities Order Foxconn To Keep Chinese Facilities Closed (AI)

As authorities attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus in China, Foxconn did its part to help on Friday by telling staff not to return to work on February 10, following the Lunar New Year. Rather than resuming operations on the originally anticipated return date, the assembly partner told its tens of thousands of employees to stay away from the Shenzhen plant. A report by Nikkei claims the calling off of production has been further halted by the Chinese authorities, who have told Foxconn not to reopen. People familiar with the matter advised the factory was subject to on-site inspections by public health officials, which found there were “high risks of coronavirus infection” if it did reopen.

One internal memo about the inspection and government-ordered closure mentioned “Violation of epidemic prevention and control could potentially face the death penalty.” Part of the problem is the production facilities use central air condition and have a high density of workers, conditions ripe for viral transference. “The local governments do not want to risk the potential virus spreading in such a labor-intensive working environment,” a source told the report. “No-one wants to bear the responsibility for restarting work at this critical moment.” On Friday, Foxconn took the extra step of canceling flight bookings for employees from Taiwan returning from their home country to China between February 7 and February 14.


The measure was allegedly announced by Chairman Young Liu in a video conference that morning, who also confirmed the company’s Zhengzhou complex would need to be evaluated by the local government before it could be reopened. Foxconn has previously confirmed the coronavirus will affect production, and it is allegedly affecting Apple’s AirPods along with other products it makes, such as iPhones.

Read more …

What will stocks do?

China To Stagger Back To Work As Coronavirus Deaths Surpass SARS (R.)

China raised the death toll from the coronavirus epidemic to 811 on Sunday, passing the number killed globally by the SARS epidemic in 2002/2003 and raising anxiety among people preparing to return to work after an extended Lunar New Year break. Struggling to contain the spread of the disease, authorities had told businesses to tack up to 10 extra days onto holidays that had been due to finish at the end of January as the rising numbers of dead and infected cast a pall over the country. Many of China’s usually teeming cities have almost become ghost towns during the past two weeks, as the Communist Party rulers ordered virtual lockdowns, cancelled flights, closed factories and kept schools shut.


The sight of an economy regarded as a workshop to the world laid so low has also taken a toll on international financial markets, as shares slumped and investors switched into safe-havens like gold, bonds and the Japanese yen. Even on Monday, a large number of workplaces will remain closed and many white-collar workers will continue to work from home. The new deaths on Saturday reached another daily record at 89, data from the National Health Commission showed, pushing the total well over the 774 who died from SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.

Read more …

“..around 40 percent of the patients with the new coronavirus they have treated may have contracted the illness at their hospital.”

In-Hospital Infection Blamed In Wuhan Hospital (NHK)

A team of medical professionals at a hospital in Wuhan says that around 40 percent of the patients with the new coronavirus they have treated may have contracted the illness at their hospital. The team works at a Wuhan University hospital in the Chinese city at the heart of the outbreak. They published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Friday. The study says 138 cases were confirmed at the hospital between January 1 and 28. Of those, 41 percent, or 57 people, were medical staff or patients who were initially hospitalized for other reasons.


The study found that one patient in the surgical department may have infected more than 10 members of hospital staff. It says that while patients had symptoms such as high fever and sense of fatigue, researchers revealed that 10 percent either had atypical symptoms such as diarrhea, or complained of nausea. It concludes that it was difficult to screen patients with symptoms not previously associated with the virus. The team says that an important feature of the new coronavirus is the rapid human-to-human transmission among people in close contact.

Read more …

I think the ship off Hong Kong was freed today. The Yokohama one with 61 infected won’t be so lucky.

Coronavirus Outbreak Has Affected 4 Different Cruise Ships (H.)

Cruises are, for the most part, meant to elicit feelings of relaxation—literally floating away from your landlocked responsibilities for a few days. But, for thousands of passengers aboard at least four different cruise ships, their vacations quickly turned into nightmare scenarios. As of Friday, four major vessels—the Diamond Princess, Westerdam, World Dream, and Royal Caribbean’s The Anthem of the Seas cruise ships—have been impacted by the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), aka the Wuhan coronavirus. Most affected by the outbreak is the Diamond Princess cruise ship, currently quarantined off the coast of Yokohama, near Tokyo.

The ship was docked Tuesday after a former passenger tested positive for the coronavirus. Since then, 61 passengers of the 3,700 people on board have tested positive for the virus, reports CNN. The ship’s quarantine is expected to last until at least February 19. The two other ships—the Westerdam, currently in search of a port in the East China Sea; and the World Dream, docked in Hong Kong—have also come to a halt due to fears of coronavirus, per CNN. No current or former passengers on the Westerdam have been reported as having the coronavirus, nor have any current passengers on the World Dream, though eight former passengers of the cruise ship have been confirmed as having the illness.


And most recently, on Friday, the Royal Caribbean’s The Anthem of the Seas was docked near New York City, at a port in Bayonne, New Jersey, where 27 passengers were screened for the coronavirus, according to CNN. Four of those passengers were sent to the hospital for further investigation, while the other 23 were cleared. In a statement, per CNN, Royal Caribbean confirmed that, like airlines, they too are working to help limit the spread of the coronavirus. “We continue to work in close consultation with the CDC, the WHO, and local health authorities to align with their guidance and ensure the health and wellbeing of our guests and crew.”

Read more …

Sailed on Feb 1. Now it’s like the original Flying Dutchman ship.

Still No Port For Cruise Ship Westerdam (NHK)

The operator of the cruise ship Westerdam is searching for a port to call at after being rejected by destinations including Japan amid fears of the spreading coronavirus. The US-based Holland America Line said in a statement on Friday that the ship is “currently sailing on a southwesterly course off the coast of Taiwan.” The firm says it is positioning the ship “for access to potential port locations.” The Westerdam departed Hong Kong on February 1 with more than 2,200 passengers and crew onboard. Taiwan denied it permission to call, citing a suspicion of coronavirus infection among the passengers. Japanese authorities followed suit, preventing it from entering a port in the southwestern prefecture of Okinawa. Holland America Line said in the statement that “The ship is not in quarantine” and there is “no reason to believe there are any cases of coronavirus on board.” It added the ship has sufficient fuel and food, and passengers are provided with free internet and phone access.

Read more …

Is this the first cluster than doesn’t involve Chinese people? Note that the original infection came from Singapore, not China.

Five Britons Contract Coronavirus In French Ski Resort (R.)

Five British nationals including a child have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus at a French mountain village, and health officials said they were checking who else might have been exposed, including at local schools. In total, 11 people, including the five who tested positive, have been hospitalized in southeastern France and were being examined, the French health ministry said on Saturday, adding that none were in serious condition. The group of Britons included holidaymakers and a family currently residing in the Alpine village and ski resort, Les Contamines-Montjoie. They shared neighboring apartments in a chalet and temporarily hosted a British man believed to have contracted the virus at a business congress in Singapore before his short visit to France in late January, the ministry added.


Two schools would be shut next week for checks, regional health official Jean-Yves Grall said, after it emerged that the nine-year-old who tested positive had attended lessons and French classes in different establishments. Two other children were also part of the group of 11 now in hospital in the cities of Lyon, Saint-Etienne and Grenoble, and they had been schooled in the area too, according to Etienne Jacquet, mayor of Les Contamines-Montjoie. Some parents in the village, nestled in the mountains close to the Mont Blanc peak and the Swiss city of Geneva, said on Saturday they had received little information so far and were being cautious.

Read more …

Thermal cameras, cameras that see through face-masks, a good crisis to step up state control.

Coronavirus Brings China’s Surveillance State Out Of The Shadows (R.)

When the man from Hangzhou returned home from a business trip, the local police got in touch. They had tracked his car by his license plate in nearby Wenzhou, which has had a spate of coronavirus cases despite being far from the epicenter of the outbreak. Stay indoors for two weeks, they requested. After around 12 days, he was bored and went out early. This time, not only did the police contact him, so did his boss. He had been spotted near Hangzhou’s West Lake by a camera with facial recognition technology, and the authorities had alerted his company as a warning.

“I was a bit shocked by the ability and efficiency of the mass surveillance network. They can basically trace our movements with the AI technology and big data at any time and any place,” said the man, who asked not to be identified for fear of repercussions. Chinese have long been aware that they are tracked by the world’s most sophisticated system of electronic surveillance. The coronavirus emergency has brought some of that technology out of the shadows, providing the authorities with a justification for sweeping methods of high tech social control. Artificial intelligence and security camera companies boast that their systems can scan the streets for people with even low-grade fevers, recognize their faces even if they are wearing masks and report them to the authorities.

If a coronavirus patient boards a train, the railway’s “real name” system can provide a list of people sitting nearby. Mobile phone apps can tell users if they have been on a flight or a train with a known coronavirus carrier, and maps can show them locations of buildings where infected patients live. Although there has been some anonymous grumbling on social media, for now Chinese citizens seem to be accepting the extra intrusion, or even embracing it, as a means to combat the health emergency. “In the circumstances, individuals are likely to consider this to be reasonable even if they are not specifically informed about it,” said Carolyn Bigg, partner at law firm DLA Piper in Hong Kong.

[..] Facial recognition firm Megvii said on Tuesday it had developed a new way to spot and identify people with fevers, with support from the industry and science ministries. Its new “AI temperature measurement system”, which detects temperature with thermal cameras and uses body and facial data to identify individuals, is already being tested in a Beijing district. SenseTime, another leading AI firm, said it has built a similar system to be used at building entrances, which can identify people wearing masks, overcoming a weakness of earlier technology. Surveillance camera firm Zhejiang Dahua says it can detect fevers with infrared cameras to an accuracy within 0.3ºC.

Read more …

Wishful thinking?

Coronavirus Threatens The Chinese Communist Party’s Grip On Power (SCMP)

China missed the best opportunity to contain the spread of the virus because officials at first delayed – or possibly covered up – the release of information and were slow in taking precautionary actions. The first patient who experienced symptoms was found on December 1, 2019, suggesting the origin of the disease was even earlier. And there has been some evidence of human-to-human transmissions since late December, with more emerging in early January when several medical workers were infected. These vital bits of information were not released to the public in time. Nor was any decisive action taken between early December and January 23, the day Beijing told the world about the severity of the epidemic and declared war on it just two days before the Lunar New Year on January 25.

Lives continued as normal in Wuhan in the week before then. On January 18, the Wuhan government hosted a banquet attended by more than 40,000 families in a bid to set a Guinness world record. On January 20, the municipal government said it was distributing 200,000 free tickets to residents for festive new year activities. Videos show few people wearing face masks in Wuhan before mid-January. Compare that to Hong Kong, where since early January the government has been updating people on the situation daily and holding frequent news briefings.


In terms of human-to-human transmissions, the alarm wasn’t raised until the prominent epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan spoke out on January 20 – nearly 50 days after the first patient was found and three weeks after it was established that human-to-human infections were taking place. Instead of acting against the virus, the government focused on controlling the information. In an effort to underscore the CCP’s determination to crack down on unsanctioned information, the broadcaster CCTV reported on January 2 that Wuhan police had interrogated and warned eight whistle-blowers, frontline doctors, for “rumourmongering” about the epidemic. It seemed all too familiar to 2003, when military doctor Jiang Yanyong defied government rules and risked his own life to break the news about the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) to the international media.

Read more …

“Perhaps all the Democrats need to win the presidency is a Rust Belt millennial who’s gay and speaks Norwegian.”

Yesterday’s Gone: Iowa Was Waterloo for Democrats (Taibbi)

Democratic campaign events have long been more pep rally than discussion, more about the terribleness of Republicans than substance. “They’re so used to events where everyone is rooting for them,” says Redd. “It’s like, ‘No, we’re actually here to challenge you on issues that matter.’” Biden performed surprisingly well all year in polls, but he headed into Iowa like a passenger jet trying to land with one burning engine, hitting trees, cows, cars, sides of mountains, everything. The poking incidents were bad, but then one of his chief surrogates, John Kerry, was overheard by NBC talking about the possibility of jumping in to keep Bernie from “taking down” the party.

“Maybe I’m fucking deluding myself here,” Kerry reportedly said — mainstream Democrats may not have changed their policies or strategies much since Trump, but they sure are swearing more — then noted he would have to raise a “couple of million” from people like venture capitalist Doug Hickey. Kerry later said he was enumerating the reasons he wouldn’t run, though those notably did not include humility about his own reputation as a comical national electoral failure, or because there’s already a candidate in the race (Biden) he’d been crisscrossing Iowa urging people to vote for, but instead because he’d have to step down from the board of Bank of America and give up paid speeches. French aristocrats who shouted “Vive le Roi!” on the way to the razor did a better job advertising themselves.

With days, hours left before the caucuses, there were signs everywhere that the party establishment was scrambling to find someone among the remaining cast members to stop what Kerry called the “reality of Bernie.” But who? Yang said smart things about inequality, so he was out. Tulsi Gabbard was Russian Bernie spawn. Tom Steyer was Dennis Kucinich with money. Voters had already rejected potential Trump WWE opponents like the “progressive prosecutor” (Kamala Harris), the “pragmatic progressive” (John Delaney), “the next Bobby Kennedy” (Beto O’Rourke), “Courageous Empathy” (Cory Booker), Medicare for All can bite me (John Hickenlooper), and over a dozen others.

Former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg seemed perfect, a man who defended the principle of wine-based fundraisers with military effrontery. New York magazine made his case in a cover story the magazine’s Twitter account summarized as: “Perhaps all the Democrats need to win the presidency is a Rust Belt millennial who’s gay and speaks Norwegian.”

Read more …

The Trump people meddle in conspiracy theories. The “others” don’t. This is how and why you will lose the election.

The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President (Atl.)

One day last fall, I sat down to create a new Facebook account. I picked a forgettable name, snapped a profile pic with my face obscured, and clicked “Like” on the official pages of Donald Trump and his reelection campaign. Facebook’s algorithm prodded me to follow Ann Coulter, Fox Business, and a variety of fan pages with names like “In Trump We Trust.” I complied. I also gave my cellphone number to the Trump campaign, and joined a handful of private Facebook groups for MAGA diehards, one of which required an application that seemed designed to screen out interlopers. The president’s reelection campaign was then in the midst of a multimillion-dollar ad blitz aimed at shaping Americans’ understanding of the recently launched impeachment proceedings.

Thousands of micro-targeted ads had flooded the internet, portraying Trump as a heroic reformer cracking down on foreign corruption while Democrats plotted a coup. That this narrative bore little resemblance to reality seemed only to accelerate its spread. Right-wing websites amplified every claim. Pro-Trump forums teemed with conspiracy theories. An alternate information ecosystem was taking shape around the biggest news story in the country, and I wanted to see it from the inside. The story that unfurled in my Facebook feed over the next several weeks was, at times, disorienting. There were days when I would watch, live on TV, an impeachment hearing filled with damning testimony about the president’s conduct, only to look at my phone later and find a slickly edited video—served up by the Trump campaign—that used out-of-context clips to recast the same testimony as an exoneration. Wait, I caught myself wondering more than once, is that what happened today?

[..] Every presidential campaign sees its share of spin and misdirection, but this year’s contest promises to be different. In conversations with political strategists and other experts, a dystopian picture of the general election comes into view—one shaped by coordinated bot attacks, Potemkin local-news sites, micro-targeted fearmongering, and anonymous mass texting. Both parties will have these tools at their disposal. But in the hands of a president who lies constantly, who traffics in conspiracy theories, and who readily manipulates the levers of government for his own gain, their potential to wreak havoc is enormous.

The Trump campaign is planning to spend more than $1 billion, and it will be aided by a vast coalition of partisan media, outside political groups, and enterprising freelance operatives. These pro-Trump forces are poised to wage what could be the most extensive disinformation campaign in U.S. history. Whether or not it succeeds in reelecting the president, the wreckage it leaves behind could be irreparable.

Read more …

How you tie your impression of Trump as a con-man in with the topic is unclear. Today’s bubbles started with Greenspan and Bill Clinton, not Trump.

A Stock Market Boom Is Not The Basis Of Shared Prosperity (Palley)

The United States is currently enjoying another stock market boom. If history is any guide, it may well end in a bust. In the meantime, the boom is having a politically toxic effect. Donald Trump uses it to make the case for his reelection in the fall. But his argument, at a minimum, requires a big leap of faith. Trump’s assertion — that a stock market boom is the basis for shared prosperity — is just that, an assertion. It certainly hasn’t led to any broad-based prosperity. The beneficiaries are the happy few at the top of the U.S. economic pyramid. Anyone who ever read John Kenneth Galbraith’s The Great Crash 1929, his 1954 classic, has run across Galbraith’s idea of the “bezzle.” In addition to Ponzi schemes, Galbraith’s bezzle also captures the dynamic of speculative bubbles.

Those bubbles are a form of fraud we collectively inflict on ourselves. Investors buy in believing they will be able to sell at a higher price, and their purchases drive up prices and attract new investors who hope to jump on the price appreciation band wagon. The bubble continues until belief in ever higher prices is punctured, whereupon buyers evaporate and the bubble implodes. Once again, all feel richer along the way. Today’s stock market increasingly has the smell and feel of another bezzle. That smell is metaphorically rather perfectly reflected in President Trump who has all the integrity of a con man. Better yet, Trump’s business history, in addition to reliance on funding from suspect sources, is marked by serial bankruptcies.


Trump has also managed to use the presidential bully pulpit to cajole the U.S. Federal Reserve into further inflating asset prices by enjoining it to lower interest rates. In addition to directly impacting asset pricing, the Federal Reserve has given a green flag for speculative buying. In that process, it has strengthened beliefs that it stands ready to guarantee stock prices, via the so-called “Powell put.” That put is an amplification of the prior “Bernanke put,” which was in turn an amplification of the “Greenspan put” which launched the Federal Reserve’s commitment to stock prices. To be honest, it did not take much cajoling from Trump as the Federal Reserve has evidently learned little from the past 35 years of serial asset price bubbles.

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A lesson for Greece.

Argentina Won’t Repay IMF Debt Till Recession Over – VP Kirchner (R.)

Argentine Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said on Saturday that the government will not pay “even half a cent” of its debt back to the International Monetary Fund before the country has exited recession. “The first thing we have to do in order to be able to pay is to exit the recession,” Fernandez de Kirchner said at a presentation of her book “Sinceramente” (Sincerely) at Havana’s international book fair. “If there is a recession no-one will pay even half a cent and the way you exit recession is through a lot of state investment.” Argentina needs to restructure $100 billion in sovereign debt with creditors, including part of a $57 billion credit facility that the IMF extended the country in 2018.


Dealings with the IMF are key as Argentina hopes to avoid a default amid a currency crash, steep inflation and a contracting economy. An IMF technical mission is expected in Buenos Aires next week to discuss obligations owed to the fund. Fernandez de Kirchner said Argentina should get a “substantial haircut” on its IMF debt. A leftist and militant Peronist, she has traveled frequently to Communist-run Cuba over the past year to visit her daughter Florencia Kirchner who is undergoing medical treatment there.

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Just one of those timelines where Dean Koontz wrote a book about a Chinese super virus called Wuhan that escaped a secret lab.

 

 

 

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