May 292020
 


Edward Hopper Railroad crossing 1923

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

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

New deaths past 24 hours in:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

@Jack is in trouble.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Louisville, Dallas, New York.

7 Shot During Protests In Louisville (NBC)

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


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

Read more …

If confused about the logic, see next article.

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

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


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

Read more …

The looters should copy Carl Icahn.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

If need be under grave threat.

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

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

Read more …

Two different voices saying the same thing. Agenda much?

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

Feels like Vito Corleone taking the Tattaglia family to court.

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

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


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

Read more …

Sorry to see this. Finish what you start.

Tulsi Gabbard Drops Defamation Suit Against Hillary Clinton (NYP)

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


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

Read more …

Where the real danger resides.

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

History lessons are always good.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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May 282020
 


Edward Hopper Railroad crossing 1926

 

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

 

 

The coronavirus death toll in Europe crossed 175,000

New cases past 24 hours in:

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

New deaths past 24 hours in:

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

India Invites Scepticism As It Sticks By Hydroxychloroquine (SCMP)

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

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

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

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Every government’s nightmare.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

China Approves Hong Kong Draft Security Law (NBC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Like either gives a damn about the UN.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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More reason to bail out people, not companies.

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

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


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

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Not everyone in Australia wants a travel bubble, apparently.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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How many consecutive investigations is that now?

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

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

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

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

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Openly lying to a court.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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What the heck, let’s do some gossip.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minneapolis Ablaze Amid Looting (ZH)

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


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

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

 

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

 

 

• 100,000 deaths broached in the US.

New cases past 24 hours in:

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Capitalism at its peak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

While just 15 have seen cases fall for 14 days.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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


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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Peak America.

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

Coronavirus Lockdowns Prompt Raft Of Lawsuits Against States (USAT)

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

Twitter Is Completely Stifling Free Speech – Trump (JTN)

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

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

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

Read more …

Something tells me it will never be enough.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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And a bit of Dominic Cummings at the end.

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

 

 

 

 

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May 262020
 


G. G. Bain Temporary footpath, Manhattan Bridge 1908

 

8,000 Additional Deaths In Mexican Capital As Coronavirus Rages – Study (R.)
Brazil Surpasses US In Daily Coronavirus Death Toll (R.)
WHO Halts Hydroxychloroquine Trial For Coronavirus Amid Safety Fears (G.)
Tail Risk Of Contagious Diseases – Cirillo/Taleb (Nature)
44% of Republicans Think Bill Gates Will Use Vaccine To Implant Microchip (BI)
China’s Coronavirus Campaign Offers Glimpse Into Surveillance System (R.)
Chinese City To Score And Rank Its Residents Based On Health, Lifestyle (CNN)
PBOC Lowers RRR For China Financial Institutions To 9.4% (Xinhua)
Hong Kong Homebuyers Walk Away, Forfeit $1.5 Million In Deposits (SCMP)
Why Joe Biden Can Do No Wrong (Turley)
The Unspooling (Kunstler)
Bill Barr Calls Action of Mueller and Rosenstein “Abhorrent” (CTH)
Michael Moore Film Planet of the Humans Removed From YouTube (G.)
Time for a Selective Debt Jubilee (Willem Buiter)
Debt, Liberty and “Acts of God” (Michael Hudson)

 

New cases in:

• US + 19,790
• Brazil + 11,456
• Russia + 8,946
• India + 6,589
• Chile + 4,895

 

 

 

 

Note: only 1,300 deaths worldwide in 24 hours?!

Cases 5,609,654 (+ 88,909 from yesterday’s 5,520,745)

Deaths 348,322 (+ 1,300 from yesterday’s 347,022)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Few certainties, but important research, that every country and city should do.

8,000 Additional Deaths In Mexican Capital As Coronavirus Rages – Study (R.)

Mexico’s capital registered 8,072 more deaths in the first five months this year than the average from the same period over the past four years, an analysis by independent researchers showed on Monday, suggesting a possible surge due to the coronavirus. Health officials have reported 1,655 deaths from the virus in Mexico City, out of 7,394 deaths nationwide. They have also acknowledged that the true death toll is higher, but difficult to estimate due to a low testing rate. Software developer Mario Romero Zavala and economic consultant Laurianne Despeghel, whose analysis was published in Mexican magazine Nexos, tallied 39,173 fatalities this year through May 20 by extracting data from Mexico City’s online database of death certificates.


Over the prior four years, they calculated just 31,101 deaths on average during the same period, using the same database. Mexico City’s official count of deaths from the coronavirus represents just over 20% of the study’s “excess mortality” – a term used by epidemiologists to estimate the increase in deaths, versus normal conditions, attributable to a public health crisis. Excess mortality is difficult to calculate in Mexico because the most recent data on fatalities from the national statistics institute is from 2018. Despeghel said the analysis was only a first step to measuring the virus’ impact. “While studying excess deaths allows us to identify a higher mortality rate during the COVID-19 crisis, it is not sufficient to attribute it directly or solely to the virus,” she said.

Read more …

But the US will come roaring back. Note that Sweden is in second place after the UK over the past week.

Brazil Surpasses US In Daily Coronavirus Death Toll (R.)

Brazil daily coronavirus deaths were higher than fatalities in the United States for the first time over the last 24 hours, according to the country’s Health Ministry. Brazil registered 807 deaths over the last 24 hours, whereas 620 died in the United States. Brazil has the second worst outbreak in the world, with 374,898 cases, behind the U.S. with 1.637 million cases. Total deaths in the U.S. has reached 97,971, according to Reuters tally compared with Brazil at 23,473.

Read more …

I kid you not, they call it a “solidarity trial”. Do keep providing it for malaria and lupus, but, because of ONE article in the Lancet, not for COVID19.

WHO Halts Hydroxychloroquine Trial For Coronavirus Amid Safety Fears (G.)

The World Health Organization has said it will temporarily drop hydroxychloroquine — the malaria drug Donald Trump said he is taking as a precaution — from its global study into experimental coronavirus treatments after safety concerns. The WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in light of a paper published last week in the Lancet that showed people taking hydroxychloroquine were at higher risk of death and heart problems than those who were not, it would pause the hydroxychloroquine arm of its solidarity global clinical trial. “The executive group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the solidarity trial while the safety data is reviewed by the data safety monitoring board,” Tedros said on Monday. “The other arms of the trial are continuing,”

He said the concern related only to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for Covid-19, adding that the drugs were accepted treatments for people with malaria and auto-immune diseases. Other treatments in the WHO’s solidarity trial, including the experimental drug remdesivir and an HIV combination therapy, are still being pursued. Hydroxychloroquine has been licensed for use in the US since the mid-1950s and is listed by the WHO as an essential medicine. There are numerous trials under way of the two drugs against coronavirus but neither is a proven treatment. The US National Institutes of Health is also running a clinical trial to establish whether the drug, administered with the antibiotic azithromycin, can prevent hospital admissions and death from Covid-19.

A controversial French doctor who has promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for coronavirus said on Monday he stood by his belief the drugs could help patients recover. He also rejected the Lancet study of the records of 96,000 patients across hundreds of hospitals. “How can a messy study done with ‘big data’ change what we see?”, Prof Didier Raoult asked in a video posted on the website of his infectious diseases hospital in Marseille. “Here we have had 4,000 people go through our hospital, you don’t think I’m going to change because there are people who do ‘big data’, which is a kind of completely delusional fantasy,” he said.

Read more …

Every decision maker should take an in-depth crash course in risk.

Tail Risk Of Contagious Diseases – Cirillo/Taleb (Nature)

The central point we wish to convey is the following: the more fat-tailed a statistical distribution, the more the ‘tail wags the dog’. That is to say, more statistical information resides in the extremes and less in the ‘bulk’—the events of high frequency—where it becomes almost noise. Under fat tails, the law of large numbers works slowly, and moments—even when they exist—may become uninformative and unreliable5. All this makes EVT the most effective and robust approach for risk management purposes, even with relatively small datasets like ours. The presence of a fat right tail in the distribution of pandemic fatalities has the following policy implications, useful in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.


First, it should be evident that it is not appropriate to compare fatalities from multiplicative infectious diseases (fat-tailed, like a Pareto distribution) to those from car accidents, heart attacks or falls from ladders (thin-tailed, like a Gaussian). This remains a common (and costly) error in policy making, and in both the decision sciences and the journalistic literature. Some research papers even criticise the wider public’s ‘paranoia’ with respect to pandemics, not appreciating that such a paranoia is merely responsible (and realistic) risk management in front of potentially destructive events. The main problem is that those articles—often relied upon for policy making—consistently use the wrong thin-tailed distributions, underestimating tail risk, so that every conservative or preventative reaction is bound to be considered an overreaction.

Read more …

Have you seen Bill Gates lately? That’s the guy that all these tough -formerly- Americans are so afraid of.

Are these people still using Microsoft software, further enriching Gates?

44% of Republicans Think Bill Gates Will Use Vaccine To Implant Microchip (BI)

A new survey by Yahoo News and YouGov has found that 44% of Republicans believe that Bill Gates will use the COVID-19 vaccination to implant a location-tracking microchip into the vaccine recipient, a conspiracy theory that has gained traction among fringe groups and conservative pundits. The survey also found that 26% of Republicans do not believe the false microchip vaccine narrative, while 31% remained undecided on the topic. Half of the people surveyed who use Fox News as their main source of TV news also believe the debunked theory. However, the poll also noted that 19% of Democrats, 24% of Independents, and 15% of people who use MSNBC as their source of TV news also believe the microchipping myth.


For the survey, YouGov conducted an online interview of a “nationally representative” group of 1,640 US adults who were a part of YouGov’s opt-in panel between May 20 and 21. There is about a 3% margin of error. An earlier Yahoo News and YouGov poll also found that only 55% of Americans surveyed would want the coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available. The rest were either unsure (26%) or did not plan on receiving the vaccine (19%). President Donald Trump has said that he is “very confident” that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready by the end of the year, while experts have predicted that the vaccine development could take up to 12 to 18 months to prepare.

Read more …

You’re right, maybe this is all Bill Gates too. Maybe he bought the Forbidden City.

China’s Coronavirus Campaign Offers Glimpse Into Surveillance System (R.)

The coronavirus outbreak in China has given unprecedented glimpses into how an extensive system of surveillance cameras works, as monitoring stations are rebranded epidemic “war rooms” helping to check people’s movements and stifle the disease. China is trying to build one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance technology networks, with hundreds of millions of cameras in public places and increasing use of techniques such as smartphone monitoring and facial recognition. This year, cities and villages across the country have used the system for what the government has labelled “an all-out people’s war on coronavirus”.

While authorities have primarily used mobile location data and ID-linked tracing apps to flag people coming back from abroad for quarantine, the camera surveillance system has played a crucial role, according to officials, state media and residents. The network has been used to trace the contacts of people confirmed as infected with the virus, and to punish businesses and individuals flouting restrictions. “This is a war situation,” said a civil servant surnamed Wang in Tianjin city, who was involved in tracing thousands of people linked to a coronavirus cluster at a department store. “We must adopt war-time thinking.” Despite the hi-tech ambitions of the system, it is heavily dependent on a lot of people watching footage on screens. Known as “grid members”, they sit in monitoring rooms or squint over smart-phone feeds from the networks of cameras.

“This type of surveillance is far more human driven than it is tech driven, said James Leibold, associate Professor at Australia’s La Trobe University, who researched similar systems in China’s far-west Xinjiang. State media, officials and local governments have given accounts of the system in action in the campaign against the coronavirus. In Donghan village in Hubei, the province where the coronavirus emerged late last year, grid member Liu Ganhe saw six villagers gathering without masks, so he called the authorities. “Village cadres rushed to the scene to disperse the crowd and educate the people,” media said, praising the “wartime restrictions” the system was able to enforce.

Read more …

There are really people who could see this happening in the west?!

Chinese City To Score And Rank Its Residents Based On Health, Lifestyle (CNN)

Imagine a smartphone app that has access to your medical records and assigns you a daily score based on your preconditions, recent checkups and lifestyle habits — how much you’ve drunk, smoked, exercised and slept on any given day can all affect your points total, boosting or lowering your ranking. That “health score” will be embedded in a digital QR code accessible on your phone, ready to be scanned whenever needed. This is what the city government of Hangzhou in eastern China has envisioned for its more than 10 million residents, inspired by a “health code” system it adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic to profile people based on their risk of infection.

Across the globe, governments have stepped up the collection of personal data in their fight against the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 345,000 people and infected close to 5.5 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. But there are also fears that some of these extraordinary measures could be here to stay even after the public health crisis is over, posing a long-term threat to privacy. That concern was amplified among Hangzhou residents when their municipal government announced Friday that it was planning to make permanent a version of the “health code” app used during the pandemic.

Since February, the Chinese government has used a color-based “health code” system to control people’s movements and curb the spread of the coronavirus. The automatically generated quick response codes, commonly abbreviated to QR codes, are assigned to citizens on their smartphones as an indicator of their health status. The color of these codes — in red, amber or green — decides whether users can leave home, use public transport and enter public places. The health codes can also serve as a tracker for people’s movements, as residents have their QR codes scanned as they enter public places. Once a confirmed case is diagnosed, authorities are able to quickly trace where the patient has been and identify people who have been in contact with that individual.

Hangzhou, a coastal city about a hundred miles southwest of Shanghai, was among the first cities to use the health code system to decide which citizens should go into quarantine. But now, the city government says it wants the “health code” to be “normalized” — meaning it could be here to stay well beyond the pandemic.

Read more …

Two years ago, the reserve requirement ratio was 14.2%, now it’s 9.4%. But Chinese banks haven’t shed risk. So this is dangerous. The RRR, simplified, is a gauge of the bad debt they hold, and I bet you it’s way more than 9.4%.

PBOC Lowers RRR For China Financial Institutions To 9.4% (Xinhua)

The average reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for financial institutions stood at 9.4 percent on May 15, down 5.2 percentage points from the beginning of 2018, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said. The PBOC has lowered the RRR 12 times since 2018, releasing about 8 trillion yuan (about 1.12 trillion U.S. dollars) in long-term funds to bolster the real economy. Of the total, four RRR cuts in 2018 released 3.65 trillion yuan, five RRR cuts in 2019 released 2.7 trillion yuan and three RRR cuts in the first five months this year released 1.75 trillion yuan. The RRR cuts have led to the contraction of the balance sheet of the PBOC, but this will not cause the tightening of money supply and is contrary to the balance sheet reduction of the central banks of the developed economies such as the U.S. Federal Reserve to reduce the bond holdings, the PBOC said.


The contraction has a strong expansion effect and the main reason is that lowering the RRR means commercial banks will have less money locked up by the central bank and more money for free use, the PBOC said. The RRR cuts have helped meet the liquidity demand of the banking system, boost support for small businesses, cut the social financing cost, promote the market-oriented and law-based debt-to-equity swaps, the central bank said. The cuts have encouraged the rural financial institutions to serve local entities, supported the epidemic prevention and control as well as enterprise work resumption, and played a positive role in bolstering the real economy, the PBOC said.

Read more …

The protests will pick up again.

Hong Kong Homebuyers Walk Away, Forfeit $1.5 Million In Deposits (SCMP)

Nineteen Hong Kong homebuyers who put down deposits for flats at the height of a market rally around June 2018 have walked away from their purchases, forfeiting as much as HK$11.83 million (US$1.53 million) and HK$12.4 million in two instances over the past month. Nine buyers walked away from Hong Kong developer K Wah International’s Solaria project in Tai Po district, forfeiting the HK$11.83 million on Friday, according to the project’s Register of Transactions. The second instance, of 10 forfeitures, was reported from Solaria on April 29. Altogether, more than 100 homebuyers have walked away from their purchases so far this year, according to reports.


Hong Kong’s economy has taken a battering since the heydays of June 2018. The year-long US-China trade war, the city’s anti-government protests and the novel coronavirus outbreak have all taken their toll, pushing the city’s economy into recession over two quarters of economic contraction. The proposed introduction of a new national security law by Beijing, announced at “Two Sessions” last week, has added to the turmoil by sparking fears about market stability.
Centa-City Leading Index, Centaline’s timelier price index for used homes, has declined about 5 per cent between June 2018 and now. It has dropped about 6.8 per cent since June 2019.

Read more …

What exactly is the game? Is CNN supporting Trump?

Why Joe Biden Can Do No Wrong (Turley)

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on special dispensation given Joe Biden by members of Congress, commentators, and the media. We previously discussed the muted media response to false legal comments from President Barack Obama and other Obama officials on the Flynn case. The pattern of media avoidance is more glaring with recent Biden controversies. Notably, the column ran when Biden gave his interview on the radio show “The Breakfast Club” that “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” This weekend, I was critical of segments on CNN and NBC’s Meet the Press which quoted Biden but cut off the line where he falsely claimed to have received multiple endorsements from the NAACP.


CNN’s John King derisively referred to controversy as something people are “trying to make hay” out of and then played the interview. However, CNN clipped the tape to leave out the next line where Biden declared “The NAACP has endorsed me every time I’ve run. Come on, take a look at my record.” Despite that invitation to look at his record, CNN and other media routinely cut out the false statement and also omitted any discussion of the false claim linked to the NAACP. On a story about Biden’s claim that all black voters must vote for him (or not be truly black), it would seem material that he also falsely claimed endorsements from the leading organization in the African American community. However, it was routinely omitted from the tape and Biden has not been asked to respond to the rebuttal from the NAACP. It is precisely the type of crafting of the coverage to confine damage for Biden that is discussed in the column.

Read more …

Once Emmet Sullivan gives in, Michael Flynn will be free to speak.

The Unspooling (Kunstler)

What “the Resistance” really fears more than anything is General Michael Flynn’s mouth. He’s been under a judicial gag order since his case went before Judge Emmet Sullivan’s federal district court. Understandably, Gen. Flynn wasn’t eager to complicate his unjust plight with a contempt citation. Judge Sullivan’s recent shenanigans have one object: to keep that gag order in force as long as possible. The moment Judge Sullivan confirms the DOJ’s move to dismiss the charges, as he is duty-bound to do, General Flynn will be free to offer his views to the public. That might be inconvenient in an election season.

I’m sure he has a lot to say. Gen. Flynn was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency for two years (2012 – 2014) under Barack Obama, and he knows a ton about every crooked operation Mr. Obama presided over, including the Benghazi fiasco, the Ukraine regime change op, and especially Mr. Obama’s hijacking of the NSA supercomputer surveillance database known as “the Hammer,” which was set up originally to track terrorists and then used by DNI James Clapper and CIA chief John Brennan to spy on Americans, most particularly Mr. Obama’s political adversaries. It’s rumored that Mr. Obama took the database with him when he left the White House, and it is said to contain great gouts of usefully damning information about just about everyone in government, including senators, congressmen, and Supreme Court justices.

Gen. Flynn became an antagonist to Obama & Co. when he objected to the nuclear deal they were cooking up with Iran and when he spoke out against the CIA’s 2013 Timber Sycamore op to arm and give money to Isis terrorists opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Mr. Obama canned Gen. Flynn in 2014. What really sealed Gen. Flynn’s fate was when he started publicly complaining about the politicization of John Brennan’s CIA. The New York Times quoted him saying, “They’ve lost sight of who they actually work for. They work for the American people. They don’t work for the president of the United States. Frankly, it’s become a very political organization.”

Read more …

There’s a major battle coming, but I don’t see Bill Barr playing a major role in it.

Bill Barr Calls Action of Mueller and Rosenstein “Abhorrent” (CTH)

For well over a year we’ve been saying AG Bill Barr’s biggest challenge is not investigating the soft-coup but rather managing through what We The People are already aware of. With that in mind; and with congress moving to put former DAG Rod Rosenstein and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller under a microscope; it is interesting to note AG Bill Barr recently conceding his two friends were corrupt.

[Transcript] …”Now what happened to the president – and I’ve said this many times – what happened to the president in the 2016 election; and throughout the first two years of his administration was abhorrent. It was a grave injustice and it was unprecedented in American history.” “The law enforcement and intelligence apparatus of this country were involved in advancing a false and utterly baseless Russian-collusion narrative against the president.” The proper investigative and prosecutive standards of the Dept of Justice were abused, in my view, in order to reach a particular result.” ~ (AG Barr, May 18, 2020)

How can AG Barr say the DOJ/FBI conduct during the first two years of the administration “was abhorrent” without specifically implying his two friends, Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein were complicit in the “grave injustice” he outlines? It is interesting that no media (of any disposition) has ever questioned AG Barr about Rosenstein and Mueller considering his words that outline their behavior as abhorrent.

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4 seconds.

Note: it’s not a Michael Moore film, his name was used only for publicity. And now the detractors use it too. Is that wise?

Michael Moore Film Planet of the Humans Removed From YouTube (G.)

YouTube has taken down the controversial Michael Moore-produced documentary Planet of the Humans in response to a copyright infringement claim by a British environmental photographer. The movie, which has been condemned as inaccurate and misleading by climate scientists and activists, allegedly includes a clip used without the permission of the owner Toby Smith, who does not approve of the context in which his material is being used. In response, the filmmakers denied violating fair usage rules and accused their critics of politically motivated censorship. Smith filed the complaint to YouTube on 23 May after discovering Planet of the Humans used several seconds of footage from his Rare Earthenware project detailing the journey of rare earth minerals from Inner Mongolia.

Smith, who has previously worked on energy and environmental issues, said he did not want his work associated with something he disagreed with. “I went directly to YouTube rather than approaching the filmmakers because I wasn’t interested in negotiation. I don’t support the documentary, I don’t agree with its message and I don’t like the misleading use of facts in its narrative.” Planet of the Humans director Jeff Gibbs said he was working with YouTube to resolve the issue and have the film back up as soon as possible. He said in a statement: “This attempt to take down our film and prevent the public from seeing it is a blatant act of censorship by political critics of Planet of the Humans. It is a misuse of copyright law to shut down a film that has opened a serious conversation about how parts of the environmental movement have gotten into bed with Wall Street and so-called “green capitalists.” There is absolutely no copyright violation in my film. This is just another attempt by the film’s opponents to subvert the right to free speech.”

Planet of the Humans, which has been seen by more than 8 million people since it was launched online last month, describes itself as a “full-frontal assault” on the sacred cows of the environmental movement. Veteran climate campaigners and thinkers, such as Bill McKibben and George Monbiot, have pointed out factual errors, outdated footage and promotion of myths about renewable energy propagated by the fossil fuel industry. Many are dismayed that Moore – who built his reputation as a left-wing filmmaker and supporter of civil rights – should produce a work endorsed by climate sceptics and right-wing thinktanks. Several have signed a letter urging the removal of what they called a “shockingly misleading and absurd” documentary. Climate scientist Michael Mann said the filmmakers “have done a grave disservice to us and the planet” with distortions, half-truths and lies.

Read more …

Buiter is your typical career insider. His opinions are pretty useless.

Time for a Selective Debt Jubilee (Willem Buiter)

Across most advanced economies, much of the additional private debt accumulated during the crisis will likely end up being owned by public entities, including central banks, and most of it will never be repaid. To protect their independence and political legitimacy, central banks should not act as fiscal principals. And yet, in the case of small and medium-size enterprises, it is simply obvious that COVID-19-related debt will have to be forgiven. The national Treasury will need to compensate the central bank for any losses it incurs.For publicly traded companies the debt held by public creditors should be turned into equity, in the form of non-voting preference shares, which would minimize the impression that the pandemic had inaugurated a new era of central planning.

Again, the national Treasury will have to indemnify the central bank for any losses it incurs. An equitization option should be attached to all newly issued public debt. The resulting equity instruments could represent claims on part of the government’s primary budget surplus, or their interest rates could be linked to GDP growth. But poorer countries will not have this option. According to the Brookings Institution, emerging markets and developing countries already owe about $11 trillion in external debt and face $3.9 trillion in debt-service costs this year. In April, the World Bank and the IMF offered a modicum of debt relief to many of these countries, and the G20 agreed to a temporary payment standstill for official debt, which paved the way for hundreds of private creditors to do the same.

Yet these forms of assistance offer too little, too late. The fact is that most of these debts never should have been issued in the first place. Grants are the proper way to transfer resources to low-income countries. After World War II, the Marshall Plan involved only grants; today, the case for “corona grants” to low-income countries could hardly be stronger. Under the IMF and the World Bank’s 1996 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, some 36 countries received full or partial debt relief. It is time to return to that idea, starting with a comprehensive round of debt forgiveness for the world’s poorest countries. This selective jubilee should include debts owed to the IMF, the World Bank, other multilateral lenders, national sovereigns, official bodies like state-owned enterprises, and private creditors.

Debt is a dangerous instrument. For far too long, the world has used it to avoid awkward but unavoidable decisions. In the midst of an unprecedented global crisis, something will have to give.

Read more …

I don’t think many people understand how bad the situation will be during and after the virus. Recovery and return to normal are pretty much empty terms now.

Debt, Liberty and “Acts of God” (Michael Hudson)

Western civilization distinguishes itself from its predecessors in the way it has responded to “acts of God” disrupting the means of support and leaving debts in their wake. The great question always has been who will lose under such conditions. Will it be debtors and renters at the bottom of the economic scale, or creditors and landlords at the top? This age-old confrontation between creditors and debtors, landlords and tenants over how to deal with the unpaid debts and back rents is at the economic heart of today’s 2020 coronavirus pandemic that has left large and small businesses, farms, restaurants and neighborhood stores – along with their employees who have been laid off – unable to pay the rents, mortgages, other debt service and taxes that have accrued.

For thousands of years ancient economies operated on credit during the crop year, with payment falling due when the harvest was in – typically on the threshing floor. Normally this cycle provided a flow of crops and corvée labor to the palace and covered the cultivator’s spending during the crop year, with interest owed only when payment was late. But bad harvests, military conflict or simply the normal hardships of life occasionally prevented this buildup of debt from being paid, threatening citizens with bondage to their creditors or loss of their land rights. Mesopotamian palaces had to decide who would bear the loss when drought, flooding, infestation, disease or military attack disrupted economic activity and prevented the settlement of debts, rents and taxes.

Recognizing that this was an unavoidable fact of life, rulers proclaimed amnesties for taxes and the various debts that were incurred during the crop year. These acts saved smallholders from having to work off their debts by personal bondage and ultimately to lose their land. Classical antiquity, and indeed subsequent Western civilization, rejected such Clean Slates to restore social balance. Since Roman times it has become normal for creditors to use social misfortune as an opportunity to gain property and income at the expense of families falling into debt. In the absence of kings or democratic civic regimes protecting debtor rights and liberty, pro-creditor laws obliged debtors to lose their land or other means of livelihood to foreclosing creditors, sell it under distress conditions and fall into bondage to work off their debts, becoming clients or quasi-serfs to their creditors without hope of recovering their former free status.

Read more …

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May 252020
 


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

 

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

 

 

Global new cases in past 24 hours: 101,325

New cases in:

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

 

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

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

But many places still seem to report quite differently over weekends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Did Putin get lost in the message?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Stop being so US-centric.”

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

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

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


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

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Kuroda’s still fighting deflation.

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

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


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

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Time for an update on the shadow banks.

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

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

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

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

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Excellent from the Globe and Mail.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Long and great, reading under lockdown.

Tuxedo Park (Guinn)

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

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

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

Tuxedo Park.

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May 242020
 


Walker Evans Street Scene, Vicksburg, Mississippi 1936

 

Trump: ‘I Have A Chance To Break The Deep State’ (Attkisson)
The Influential Evangelical Group Mobilizing To Reelect Trump (IC)
Over 4,300 Virus Patients Sent To NY Nursing Homes (AP)
Cuomo Tries To Deflect Blame Of Nursing Home COVID19 Deaths On To Trump (Fox)
Russia Reports 153 Coronavirus Deaths, Highest Daily Toll Yet (R.)
Dominic Cummings Must Quit Over Lockdown Drive – Tory MP (R.)
UK To Require Employers To Pay 20-30% Of Furloughed Wage Cost (R.)
Project Leader: Oxford’s COVID19 Vaccine Trial Has 50% Chance Of Success (R.)
Powell’s Problem? He Can’t Print Jobs – DDMB (TA)
Judge Lifts Stay On Sale Of Venezuela’s Us Refineries (AP)
Judge In Flynn Case Hires Lawyer To Defend His Decision Not To Drop It (JTN)
Personal #Coronavirus Update 03 May 23rd 2020 (Steve Keen)

 

 

Global new cases in past 24 hours: 101,325

New cases in:

• US + 21,475
• Russia + 8,599
• Brazil + 15,016
• India + 6,274
• Peru + 4,056

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 5,427,555 (+ 101,325 from yesterday’s 5,326,230)

Deaths 344,417 (+ 4,034 from yesterday’s 340,383)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Hope you won’t mind if we don’t hold our breath.

Trump: ‘I Have A Chance To Break The Deep State’ (Attkisson)

President Trump says he is making inroads in taming Washington’s permanent bureaucracy, which he likes to call the “deep state.” “What am I doing? I’m fighting the deep state,” Trump said in an exclusive interview with Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson. “I’m fighting the swamp…If it keeps going the way it’s going, I have a chance to break the deep state. It’s a vicious group of people. It’s very bad for our country.” In the wide-ranging interview with Full Measure set to air Sunday, Trump also addressed the debate over whether religious services should remain closed. Calling them “essential services,” he says it’s time for them to open.


[..] Also addressed in the interview: the controversy over using the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus prevention or treatment. Trump says he just finished a two week course of of the drug for preventive purposes after two White House staffers were diagnosed with coronavirus. “I’m still here, to the best of my knowledge,” he says. The president also talked about the strengths and weaknesses of his political opponent in the presidential race, Joe Biden, his own Twitter practices, the new Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe, and the scandal over FBI surveillance abuses. “That was the insurance policy,” Trump tells Attkisson, speaking of the FBI’s targeting of the Trump campaign in 2016 and the transition team in early 2017. “[They thought ‘Clinton is] going to win but just in case she doesn’t, we have an insurance policy.’ And now I beat them on the insurance policy. And now they’re being exposed.”

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Those who target old ladies in arcane churches are more tech-savvy than those who target more tech savvy people.

• United in Purpose is a group on the religious right that worked to grow evangelical support for Donald Trump in 2016.
• UIP’s 2020 strategy, as discussed on an April call, is to target religious Latino and African American voters.
• Ralph Reed boasted of “data partners” who had identified 26 million key voters in battleground states, about three-fourths of whom they could target via Facebook.

The Influential Evangelical Group Mobilizing To Reelect Trump (IC)

“The covid virus has been a gift from God,” began Ken Eldred. “The kingdom of God advances through a series of glorious victories, cleverly disguised as disasters.” In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Eldred noted, millions of Americans are turning to Christ, Walmart is selling out of Bibles, and online church broadcasts have hit record numbers. But while religiosity was growing, there have been setbacks from the disease outbreak. “Satan has been busy too,” Eldred, a major donor to evangelical and Republican causes, explained. “The virus has messed up many of our plans involving our in-person meetings with voters.” And the rise of mail-in ballots, Eldred added, would undercut voter identification laws, which have been a pillar of GOP election strategy.


“The children of the darkness put early voting into this CARES package,” he grumbled, a reference to the $400 million for election assistance programs to states included in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill. Following a brief prayer led by Eldred, in which he declared that “we have now turned the corner on the virus” and asked God for an end to coronavirus deaths, the business of the call got started: How Christian voters can be a force to reelect Donald Trump. The call, held in mid-April, one in a series of meetings sponsored by United in Purpose, a low-key group that has quietly become a preeminent venue for leaders on the religious right to convene. UIP was crucial in connecting Trump to evangelical leaders in 2016, and it promises to be one of the most vital weapons in Trump’s reelection arsenal this year.

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Whose fault is it? Cuomo says it’s Trump. That at least doesn’t appear to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The CDC plays a role. And people now like saying it’s Trump’s CDC, but the influence of any single president on the CDC is of course limited. Which is, as those same people will say in other circumstances, exactly how it should be. That feels a little like having your cake and eating it to.

Over 4,300 Virus Patients Sent To NY Nursing Homes (AP)

More than 4,300 recovering coronavirus patients were sent to New York’s already vulnerable nursing homes under a controversial state directive that was ultimately scrapped amid criticisms it was accelerating the nation’s deadliest outbreaks, according to a count by The Associated Press. AP compiled its own tally to find out how many COVID-19 patients were discharged from hospitals to nursing homes under the March 25 directive after New York’s Health Department declined to release its internal survey conducted two weeks ago. It says it is still verifying data that was incomplete.

Whatever the full number, nursing home administrators, residents’ advocates and relatives say it has added up to a big and indefensible problem for facilities that even Gov. Andrew Cuomo — the main proponent of the policy — called “the optimum feeding ground for this virus.” “It was the single dumbest decision anyone could make if they wanted to kill people,” Daniel Arbeeny said of the directive, which prompted him to pull his 88-year-old father out of a Brooklyn nursing home where more than 50 people have died. His father later died of COVID-19 at home. “This isn’t rocket science,” Arbeeny said. “We knew the most vulnerable — the elderly and compromised — are in nursing homes and rehab centers.”

[..] Nationally, over 35,500 people have died from coronavirus outbreaks at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, about a third of the overall death toll, according to the AP’s running tally. Cuomo has deflected criticism over the nursing home directive by saying it stemmed from Trump administration guidance. Still, few states went as far as New York and neighboring New Jersey, which has the second-most care home deaths, in discharging hospitalized coronavirus patients to nursing homes. California followed suit but loosened its requirement following intense criticism.

Some states went in the opposite direction. Louisiana barred hospitals for 30 days from sending coronavirus patients to nursing homes with some exceptions. And while Louisiana reported about 1,000 coronavirus-related nursing home deaths, far fewer than New York, that was 40% of Louisiana’s statewide death toll, a higher proportion than in New York.

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But okay, there are CDC guidelines that may have played a role in the nursing home disaster. Only, what are those guidelines? Are they:

“nursing homes should admit any individuals that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was/is present.”

Or

“CDC guidelines require any newly admitted and readmitted resident with a COVID-19 case to be placed in a designated COVID-19 care unit, while those who have met the criteria to have recovered can return to a regular unit in the nursing home. [..] “a nursing home can accept a resident diagnosed with COVID-19… as long as the facility can follow CDC guidance.”

Cuomo Tries To Deflect Blame Of Nursing Home COVID19 Deaths On To Trump (Fox)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Saturday doubled down on his state’s now-scrapped nursing home policy that critics say contributed to thousands of coronavirus deaths and instead blamed the problem on President Trump and his administration. “New York followed the president’s agencies’ guidance,” Cuomo said Saturday at his press conference. “…. What New York did was follow what the Republican Administration said to do. That’s not my attempt to politicize it. It’s my attempt to depoliticize it. So don’t criticize the state for following the president’s policy.” The governor’s office said New York’s original nursing home policy was in line with a March 13 directive from the Trump Administration’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and Centers from Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that went out to all states on how to control infections in nursing homes.

The guidance says “nursing homes should admit any individuals that they would normally admit to their facility, including individuals from hospitals where a case of COVID-19 was/is present.” “Not could. Should,” Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor and Cuomo’s top aide, said at the Saturday press conference. “That is President Trump’s CMS and CDC…There are over a dozen states that did the exact same thing.” Cuomo has been under scrutiny from GOP politicians who say the governor should have never allowed recovering coronavirus patients to leave hospitals and go back to their residential nursing homes to spread the contagious virus. Nursing care facilities, home to some of the most vulnerable citizens, have been coronavirus hotspots around the country.

New York leads the nation with the most reported coronavirus nursing home deaths at more than 5,000 — though the state changed how it counts deaths so the numbers of nursing home patient deaths could be even higher. Cuomo’s response Saturday echoed his past answers, that he was only following guidelines from the Trump administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [..] CDC guidelines require any newly admitted and readmitted resident with a COVID-19 case to be placed in a designated COVID-19 care unit, while those who have met the criteria to have recovered can return to a regular unit in the nursing home. The March 13 guidance that Cuomo’s office cited says “a nursing home can accept a resident diagnosed with COVID-19… as long as the facility can follow CDC guidance.”

New York – along with California and New Jersey – went further and turned the guidance into state directives and said at the time that nursing homes cannot refuse to take patients from hospitals solely because they have the coronavirus. After mounting criticism that the policy put the most vulnerable people at risk and contributed to a high number of fatalities, New York reversed course May 10. Now hospitals can only send patients who have tested negative for COVID-19 to nursing homes.

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Russia has very few deaths vs its cases. HCQ rules? Or are the death numbers about to increase rapidly?

Russia Reports 153 Coronavirus Deaths, Highest Daily Toll Yet (R.)

Russia on Sunday reported 153 coronavirus deaths over the previous 24 hours, the epidemic’s highest daily toll, raising total fatalities to 3,541, the country’s coronavirus crisis response centre said It also said 8,599 new cases had been documented, fewer than on the previous day, pushing the nationwide tally of infections to 344,481.

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The UK talks about one topic only this weekend. Dominic Cummings has violated his own rules by taking a number of long distance trips while everyone stayed home. As his wife had COVID19 and he probably did as well.

The best twist is the government saying he did this because “he cares”. Does that mean everyone who “cares” should have done the same, instead of watching their parents’ funerals on a lap top?

Oh well, at least no-one talks about all the other failures anymore.

Dominic Cummings Must Quit Over Lockdown Drive – Tory MP (R.)

A lawmaker from Britain’s ruling Conservative Party on Sunday called for the resignation of Dominic Cummings, the senior adviser to Prime Minister Boris Johnson who travelled 400 km (250 miles) from London to northern England during lockdown while his wife showed coronavirus symptoms. “It is intolerable that Boris’ government is losing so much political capital,” Steve Baker wrote on Twitter. “Dominic Cummings must go.” Cummings, who masterminded the 2016 campaign to leave the European Union during the Brexit referendum, travelled to Durham in late March, when measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus were already in place.

Johnson’s office said on Saturday he made the journey to ensure his 4-year-old son could be properly cared for as his wife was ill with COVID-19 and there was a “high likelihood” that Cummings would himself become unwell. The Daily Mirror later reported that the advisor made a second trip from London during the lockdown and was spotted near Durham on April 19, days after returning to London from his first trip. “We will not waste our time answering a stream of false allegations about Mr Cummings from campaigning newspapers,” Johnson’s Downing Street office said on Saturday. Opposition politicians have called for Cummings, who wields huge influence on the government, to go, saying his actions were hypocritical at a time when millions of Britons were staying in their homes. Cummings has said he will not quit.

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From August. They sense how long and deep the misery will be, but they refuse to address it other than through this kind of nonsense. Every government does.

UK To Require Employers To Pay 20-30% Of Furloughed Wage Cost (R.)

The United Kingdom has drawn up plans to require employers to cover 20% to 30% of furloughed employees’ wages from August to reduce the vast burden of the coronavirus crisis on government finances, The Times newspaper reported. The United Kingdom extended its job retention scheme – the centrepiece of its attempts to cushion the coronavirus hit to the economy – by four months on May 12, but told employers they would have to help to meet its cost from August. “The Treasury has drawn up plans that would require employers to cover between 20 and 30 per cent of people’s wages,” The Times said.


“They would also be required to cover the cost of employer’s national insurance contributions, on average 5 per cent of wages.” A spokesman for finance minister Rishi Sunak declined to comment on the report. Sunak is expected to announce the changes next week, The Times said. Sunak said on Friday that Britain was facing a “very serious economic crisis” and jobs would be lost in the “days, weeks and months to come”.

Read more …

Why? “…low transmission of COVID-19 in the community..”

It’s so sad it’s almost not funny.

Project Leader: Oxford’s COVID19 Vaccine Trial Has 50% Chance Of Success (R.)

The University of Oxford’s COVID-19 vaccine trial has only a 50% chance of success as the coronavirus seems to be fading rapidly in Britain, the professor co-leading the development of the vaccine told the Telegraph newspaper. Adrian Hill, director of Oxford’s Jenner Institute, which has teamed up with drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc to develop the vaccine, said that an upcoming trial, involving 10,000 volunteers, threatened to return “no result” due to low transmission of COVID-19 in the community. “It’s a race against the virus disappearing, and against time”, Hill told the British newspaper. “At the moment, there’s a 50% chance that we get no result at all.” The experimental vaccine, known as ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is one of the front-runners in the global race to provide protection against the new coronavirus causing the COVID-19 pandemic. Hill’s team began early-stage human trials of the vaccine in April, making it one of only a handful to have reached that milestone.

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The businesses are gone. But the people are still there.

Powell’s Problem? He Can’t Print Jobs – DDMB (TA)

“The Federal Reserve is stuck in the middle,” said Danielle DiMartino Booth, CEO and chief strategist of Quill Intelligence and a former advisor to the Federal Reserve. Speaking about Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on a Hedgeye webcast Thursday, she explained: “He wants to print more money, because he wants to put it into the hands of the lowest third of income earners.” Powell also “wants to keep his facilities open that violate the Federal Reserve Act and buy junk bonds, because he wants to keep Wall Street happy,” DiMartino Booth said. “So, he wants to keep the wealthiest happy, and he wants to print money to give to the lowest income earners in the economy. He cannot print jobs in the middle, and that is the problem,” she explained.

“He can’t print jobs. He can’t print cash flow. And he can’t print these small businesses back into business that the PPP failed,” the Fed critic said, referring to the Paycheck Protection Program. Powell “practically begged” for stimulus legislation to be passed by Congress during his appearance on the CBS show “60 Minutes” this past Sunday, she added. He “can’t get enough traction, because we’re getting closer and closer to Election Day,” and neither the Republicans nor Democrats want to give in to the other side when it comes to new stimulus dollars, DiMartinoBooth explained. Powell’s “naivete right now is very dangerous,” she said, pointing to his support for the expanded Main Street Lending Program.

The private equity firms that lobbied for it “were trying to make sure that the companies that pay them dividends didn’t have to go out of business,” the Fed expert said. “Powell thinks that he’s keeping those employees employed,” she explained. “But what he’s really doing is bailing out the big private equity guys, so that they can continue to pay themselves one-time dividends [and] load these companies up with debt and make them that much more dangerous.” When this situation deteriorates much further, “there is no Chapter 11 route,” DiMartino Booth said. “They’re just going to have to liquidate.”

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Criminal enterprise.

Judge Lifts Stay On Sale Of Venezuela’s US Refineries (AP)

A U.S. judge on Friday approved moving forward with the sale of Venezuela’s prized U.S.-based CITGO refineries, allowing a Canadian mining company to collect $1.4 billion it lost in a decade-old takeover in the South American nation by the late socialist President Hugo Chávez. The case is critical to Venezuela’s opposition led by Juan Guaidó, which was banking on profits from the Houston-based company to finance the crisis-torn nation’s recovery — if they were ever able to force President Nicolás Maduro from power. The order by Chief Judge Leonard P. Stark of U.S. District Court in Delaware follows a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday that upheld an earlier ruling by Stark authorizing CITGO’s liquidation.

Obstacles still remain before moving ahead with CITGO’s sale. The Canadian mining company Crystallex must first get a license from U.S. Treasury officials, which had temporarily shielded Venezuela’s opposition from losing CITGO. Crystallex and attorneys for Venezuela also have to agree on how it will sell CITGO, Stark’s latest ruling said. Chavez took over the gold mining firm’s Venezuela concession and the local operations of other international companies as part of his Bolivarian revolution that has left Venezuela spiraling into deepening economic and political turmoil.

Crystallex, which went bankrupt, sued Venezuela to recover its lost investment in Venezuela. The case is unique, because the court allowed Crystallex to attach assets of CITGO’s parent company, the Venezuelan state-run oil firm PDVSA, finding that Venezuela had erased the lines between the government and its oil firm. Venezuela has owned CITGO since the 1980s as part of PDVSA. It has three refineries in Louisiana, Texas and Illinois in addition to a network of pipelines crisscrossing 23 states. It provides between 5% and 10% of U.S. gasoline.

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The case gets crazier by the day. He’s hired a defense lawyer because he was asked to explain his decision. Bad conscience?

Judge In Flynn Case Hires Lawyer To Defend His Decision Not To Drop It (JTN)

Emmet Sullivan, the judge who has been directed to explain his conduct in overseeing Michael Flynn’s case—including his unwillingness to drop the case after the Justice Department requested it—has hired a lawyer to defend his conduct before the court. The judge was ordered by an appeals court this week to explain his unorthodox handling of Flynn’s ongoing case in district court. The Justice Department this month moved to drop its case against Flynn, but Sullivan declined to immediately do so, instead appointing a retired judge to argue against dismissing the case.


Sullivan has retained Beth Wilkinson, a high-profile attorney known for successfully arguing in favor of the execution of domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh. She also assisted Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 after he was accused of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford in the 1980s. Sullivan has been given until June 1 to respond to the appeals court’s order to explain his conduct. The judges at appeal will also hear arguments from Flynn’s team as to why they believe Sullivan should be dismissed from the case.

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Lovely from my good mate Steve in Thailand. Do read the whole piece.

Personal #Coronavirus Update 03 May 23rd 2020 (Steve Keen)

It has certainly been eliminated in the province we’re living in, Trang (in the capital city of the same name). There were 3 cases here when we arrived in Thailand, then 4, 6 and finally 7—all from one family so I’m told, of a 24-year-old who had been working in Phuket. Phuket is a major tourist destination, and has had a total of 224 cases out of a population of 420,000—or about 1 case per 2000 residents (that’s about half as bad as The Netherlands). The province of Trang has had 7 cases amongst it 700,000 residents—or 1 case per 100,000. The last new case was over a month ago. All the most recent cases have been in Bangkok, a sprawling city of 8 million that I was sure would be a viral hotspot. Instead, it has recorded just 1548 cases: about 19 cases per 100,000, versus 260 per hundred thousand in the Netherlands and close to 400 in the UK.

The personal impact of this is palpable. Even though people are still practicing personal caution here, the mood is relaxed: you’re no longer afraid of your fellow human being. I noticed this at a restaurant earlier this week, when the owner came up and clinked glasses with us over a meal. Even a month ago, that was unthinkable. Now, it feels like old times—as in, like six months ago. I wouldn’t even have noted such an event back then. Now, it’s significant. I feel like someone who almost drowned, noticing the air in a way that everyone else takes for granted. Thailand won’t let this relaxed mood lead to a resurgence of cases, however. It is still locking down provinces—you can’t travel from one to another without a health clearance, a good reason to travel (tourism doesn’t qualify!), and a clearance to travel from the provincial government; you have to scan a QR code when you enter and leave a shop, to enable case tracking; everyone everywhere wears a mask when they are in contact with people they don’t know

[..] So I find myself in part of the world that is virus-free, and watching a New World Order evolve that no-one anticipated—not even Huxley or Orwell. It’s a “fractured planet”, with two enormously disparate fractions: China, Southeast Asia and Oceania in the “virus free” segment, and the rest of the world in the “virus afflicted”. I’m glad to be in the virus-free part, but I do have some trepidation about the future politics of this block, in which China is by far the major power economically and militarily.


The “winners and losers” from EndCoronavirus.org at https://www.endcoronavirus.org/map-visualization

That worry aside, I’m relaxed and working well, though enormously behind on numerous projects thanks to the time I lost in the move. Initially, getting settled here took total precedence: finding a place to rent (we rapidly located an unfurnished 4 bedroom house in a gated community on the outskirts of Trang, for US$300 a month), furnishing it, buying the essentials for mobility in a region where the temperature never drops below 24°C and frequently hits 37°C (a car, motorbike, and bicycles for exercise before the sun rises too high). That took about six weeks all up. It came after spending two weeks visiting my family in Sydney for what I was sure would be the last time for at least a year, after working with Russell Standish on Minsky for two weeks in late February. All of March, all of April, and part of May was thus lost to the personal impact of the virus. I finally got down to solid work about two weeks ago.

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

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 232020
 


Adam Zyglis The son of man May 19 2020

 

US Grants Tentative OK For 15 Air Carriers To Cut Service To 75 Airports (R.)
UK Confirms 14-Day Quarantine Post-Travel (Y!)
Remdesivir Study Finds Mortality Too High For Standalone Treatment (ZH)
NIH Trial: Redesivir Works Best In COVID Patients On Oxygen (R.)
US Veterans Agency Has Given HCQ To 1,300 Coronavirus Patients (R.)
COVID19 ‘Taking Different Path In Africa’, Says WHO (G.)
Peruvian President Extends Nationwide Lockdown Through June 30 (CNN)
Chileans Rediscover Community Kitchens As Coronavirus and Hunger Bite (R.)
Car Rental Giant Hertz Files For Bankruptcy (Solomon)
This Sucker Is Going Down (Kunstler)
Argentina Set For Default As Bondholders Reject New Terms (G.)
FBI Launches Internal Investigation Into Its Handling Of Flynn Case (JTN)
FBI Opened Russia Probe On Third-Hand ‘Suggestion’ Of Collusion (JTN)

 

 

Global new cases in past 24 hours: 107,743

New cases in:
• US + 23,591
• Russia + 9,434
• Brazil + 21.461
• India + 6,568
• Chile + 4,726

New deaths in past 24 hours:
• US + 1,260 (total deaths 97,655)
• Russia + 139
• Brazil + 1,034
• Spain + 688
• UK +351
• Mexico + 337

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 5,326,230 (+ 107,743 from yesterday’s 5,218,496)

Deaths 340,383 (+ 5,314 from yesterday’s 335,069)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Now that their lockdowns end, the US and UK take measures they should have when they started. The cart and the horse.

How is this not insane? During the lockdowns, US airlines have kept flying everywhere, and people have entered the UK without even being checked (an official policy).

Now that the virus is solidly embedded in the home population, they start acting to prevent it from embedding itself in the population.

US Grants Tentative OK For 15 Air Carriers To Cut Service To 75 Airports (R.)

The U.S. Transportation Department said late on Friday it had granted tentative approval to 15 airlines to temporarily halt service to 75 U.S. airports because of the coronavirus pandemic. Airlines must maintain minimum service levels in order to receive government assistance but many have petitioned to stop service to airports with low passenger demand. Both United Airlines and Delta Air Lines won tentative approval to halt flights to 11 airports, while JetBlue Airways, Alaska Airlines and Frontier Airlines were approved to stop flights to five airports each. The department said all airports would continue to be served by at least one air carrier.


The Transportation Department said objections to the order can be filed until May 28. U.S. air carriers are collectively burning through more than $10 billion in cash a month as travel demand remains a fraction of prior levels, even though it has rebounded slightly in recent weeks. They have parked more than half of their planes and cut thousands of flights. The department has previously granted airlines waivers to cancel some additional flights and denied others. On May 12, the department said it would allow carriers to halt flights to up to 5% of required destinations.


Getty

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Millions of travelers since January, and 100,000 air passengers alone from April 1-26, have entered the UK unhindered. No More! We have all the virus we need!

UK Confirms 14-Day Quarantine Post-Travel (Y!)

The UK government confirmed in a statement that it will put in place a 14-day period of quarantine for anyone that lands on British soil in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The move, which was announced at the government’s daily press briefing, will be a huge blow for the airline industry that is predicted to lose $314bn this year, according to the latest prediction from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). That number is still 25% more than previously forecasted. This is also due to a 55% drop in 2020 passenger revenue compared with last year.


Home secretary Priti Patel confirmed at the daily coronavirus briefing from Downing Street on Friday that alongside the 14-day quarantine, those under that lockdown could be contacted regularly throughout this period to ensure compliance. “As the world begins to emerge from what we hope is the worst of the coronavirus pandemic, we must look to the future and protect the British public by reducing the risk of cases crossing our border,” she said in a statement. “We are introducing these new measures now to keep the transmission rate down and prevent a devastating second wave. “I fully expect the majority of people will do the right thing and abide by these measures. But we will take enforcement action against the minority of people who endanger the safety of others.”

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When a ‘pivotal’ study is released on a Friday at 6pm, you know something’s wrong. But we still see headlines today like:

“Gilead’s drug works best in COVID patients on oxygen” and “Anti-viral drug ‘remdesivir’ effective against coronavirus, study finds”.

Remdesivir doesn’t work. It may have a little effect on people who already get oxygen, but that’s it. It doesn’t cure a thing.

There’s a Chinese study out on a drug with the great plus that it hasn’t killed anyone in phase 1 testing.

That is the new standard. All investors should move in! This could be the one!

Remdesivir Study Finds Mortality Too High For Standalone Treatment (ZH)

… According to a pivotal study published in the New England Journal of Medicine late on Friday, Remdesivir, which was authorized to treat Covid-19 in a group of 1063 adults and children (split into two groups, one receiving placebo instead of remdesivir) who need i) supplemental oxygen, ii) a ventilator or iii) extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), only significantly helped those on supplemental oxygen. Meanwhile, and explaining the 6pm release on a Friday, the study also found no marked benefit from remdesivir for those who were healthier and didn’t need oxygen or those who were sicker, requiring a ventilator or a heart-lung bypass machine.

The NEJM, almost apologetically, stated that “the lack of benefit seen in the other groups might have stemmed from a smaller number of patients in each group.” Still, as a result of the partial benefit for patients in the supplemental oxygen group, the study from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was evaluated early and led to the authorization of remdesivir before the full trial was completed. Our findings highlight the need to identify Covid-19 cases and start antiviral treatment before the pulmonary disease progresses to require mechanical ventilation.

A visual representation of the outcomes is below; it shows that whereas there was a modest benefit only to patients who were receiving oxygen, the results were statistically insignificant vs placebo for patients not receiving oxygen, while in a surprising twist patients on high-flow oxygen or mechanical ventilator/ECMO did modestly better in the placebo group than those taking remdesivir. Also, the overall results showed a very modest, but not statistically significant improvement in the remdesivir group vs placebo. [..] Another disappointment: the study found that overall “mortality was numerically lower in the remdesivir group than in the placebo group, but the difference was not significant”, in other words the alleged “miracle drug” has largely the same effect as a placebo in terms of overall disease mortality.

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It looks like advertizing gone wrong.

NIH Trial: Redesivir Works Best In COVID Patients On Oxygen (R.)

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Friday said that data from its trial of Gilead Sciences Inc’s (GILD.O) remdesivir show that the drug offers the most benefit for COVID-19 patients who need extra oxygen but do not require mechanical ventilation. The peer-reviewed data was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The trial, for which final results are still trickling in, showed that recovery time for patients given remdesivir was shortened by four days, or 31%, compared to placebo patients. The biggest benefit was seen in patients who were sick enough to need supplemental oxygen, but were not on a ventilator. The data detailed in the journal is similar to early results that the NIH released last month from the study, which began in February with 1,063 participants in 10 countries.


Researchers now calculate that after follow up, 7% of patients given remdesivir will have died, compared with 12% in the placebo group, but they said the difference in the death rate was not significant. “Our findings highlight the need to identify COVID-19 cases and start antiviral treatment before the pulmonary disease progresses to require mechanical ventilation,” the researchers wrote. They noted that “given high mortality despite the use of remdesivir,” it is likely that the antiviral drug would be more effective in combination with other treatments for COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Gilead said it expects results from its own study of remdesivir in patients with moderate COVID-19 at the end of this month.

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Chuck Schumer is only interested because he can smear Trump. That the VA employs thousands of doctors makes no difference. They are all wrong.

US Veterans Agency Has Given HCQ To 1,300 Coronavirus Patients (R.)

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has treated 1,300 coronavirus patients with the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which a study has tied to an increased risk of death, according to a document released by a Senate Democrat on Friday. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, who received the information from the VA in response to questions he submitted on the issue, said he was “deeply troubled” by the data. President Donald Trump has long urged use of hydroxychloroquine against coronavirus and recently said he has been taking it himself, despite evidence that the treatment could be harmful.

A study published on Friday in the medical journal Lancet tied the drug to an increased risk of death in hospitalized patients with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. In April, doctors at VA itself also said hydroxychloroquine did not help COVID-19 patients and might pose a higher risk of death. The VA, which provides care to 9 million veterans, said that about 1,300 coronavirus patients who received the drug are among more than 10,000 COVID-19 patients it has treated.

It has also dispensed hydroxychloroquine to about 7,500 patients with other conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. The VA said it will continue to dispense the drug under the guidelines of the Food and Drug Administration. In answer to a question from Schumer, the VA said it was not pressured into using hydroxychloroquine by the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services or any other federal agency. “VA, like so many medical facilities across this nation, is in a race to keep patients alive during this pandemic, and we are using as many tools as we can,” the VA told Schumer.

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Sure, younger population. But more than that, no health care systems, no ways to keep track of infected or dead, let alone with what.

Different path alright.

COVID19 ‘Taking Different Path In Africa’, Says WHO (G.)

There had been apocalyptic forecasts for the potential impact of the coronavirus pandemic in Africa. On Friday evening, after the 100,000th case was reached, the World Health Organization’s Africa office circulated a note saying that it now seemed clear that the pandemic “appears to be taking a different pathway in Africa.” The note continued: Case numbers have not grown at the same exponential rate as in other regions and so far Africa has not experienced the high mortality seen in some parts of the world. Today, there are 3,100 confirmed deaths on the continent. By comparison, when cases reached 100,000 in the WHO European region, deaths stood at more than 4,900.

Early analysis by WHO suggests that Africa’s lower mortality rate may be the result of demography and other possible factors. Africa is the youngest continent demographically with more than 60% of the population under the age of 25. Older adults have a significantly increased risk of developing a severe illness. In Europe nearly 95% of deaths occurred in those older than 60 years. WHO also noted that African governments swiftly imposed restrictive measures on their populations in an attempt to contain the spread of the disease. However, it also said that despite “significant progress in testing”, rates of testing remain low in comparison to other regions.

It insisted that, despite the relatively low number of cases, “the pandemic remains a major threat to the continent’s health systems”. Now that countries are starting to ease their confinement measures, there is a possibility that cases could increase significantly, and it is critical that governments remain vigilant and ready to adjust measures in line with epidemiological data and proper risk assessment.

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Peru has it bad.

Peruvian President Extends Nationwide Lockdown Through June 30 (CNN)

Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra announced Friday that a national state of emergency, which includes mandatory social isolation measures, will be extended through June 30. He announced that “a national state of emergency is being declared from Monday, May 25 until June 30, including obligatory social isolation, quarantine, due to the grave circumstances that affect the life of the nation due to Covid-19,” according to state news agency Andina. Vizcarra first declared a nationwide state of emergency, which included mandatory self-quarantine and closed the country’s borders, on March 15. With the current extension, Peru will be under a state of emergency for at least three and a half months.

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“On the first night, the word “hunger” was projected onto one of Santiago’s tallest buildings.”

Chileans Rediscover Community Kitchens As Coronavirus and Hunger Bite (R.)

Poor neighbourhoods in the Chilean capital Santiago have seen a resurgence in the use of community kitchens once prevalent in the darkest days of dictatorship, as coronavirus shutdowns put pressure on jobs and send thousands into poverty. With winter approaching and temperatures chilling, canteen-style operations provide plates of hot food to those with dwindling incomes or nothing at all. They are organized by neighbors, local leaders and councils, who donate money or food. “My people are getting desperate, they have nothing to eat so we asked for help and as always, the people answered,” Sandra Cariz, the president of a community association, told Reuters in the Puente Alto suburb of Santiago on Friday.


The kitchens come alongside a growing number of drives circulating on social media for food, money and clothing donations. Chile has about 62,000 coronavirus cases and 600 deaths. Its economy has taken a hit unlike anything since the 1980s, government officials have said, when almost half of Chileans lived below the poverty line and the country was rocked by protests against Augusto Pinochet’s regime. When the coronavirus hit in March, Chile was just recovering from intense social protests over inequality which included arson attacks and looting. Protests restarted this week, with skirmishes between police and people denouncing the highest job losses in a decade. On the first night, the word “hunger” was projected onto one of Santiago’s tallest buildings.

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Uber.

Car Rental Giant Hertz Files For Bankruptcy (Solomon)

Hertz Global Holdings on Friday eveing filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as large debts and 700,000 vehicles mostly idled by the pandemic brought the car rental giant to its knees. The Florida-based company, which listed more than $24 billion in debt, took the action in a Delaware bankruptcy court in an effort to avoid permanent closure and a liquidation of its fleet. The company said it had $1 billion in cash to keep operating on a limited basis while it negotiated with its lenders and vendors. Its financial problems became apparent last month when it missed a round of payments. Hertz is the nation’s second largest car rental agency and boasts the brands Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty, and Firefly.

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“As in any extinction event, it will be the smaller organisms that survive and eventually thrive and that’s how it will go in the next edition of America..”

This Sucker Is Going Down (Kunstler)

It was only a few decades ago that Walmart entered the pantheon of American icons, joining motherhood, apple pie, and baseball on the highest tier of the altar. The people were entranced by this behemoth cornucopia of unbelievably cheap stuff packaged in gargantuan quantities. It was something like their participation trophy for the sheer luck of being born in this exceptional land, or having valiantly clawed their way in from wretched places near and far – where, increasingly, the mighty stream of magically cheap stuff was manufactured. The evolving psychology of Walmart-ism had a strangely self-destructive aura about it. Like cargo cultists waiting on a jungle mountaintop, small town Americans prayed and importuned the gods of commerce to bring them a Walmart.

Historians of the future, pan-frying ‘possum cutlets over their campfires, will marvel at the potency of their ancestors’ prayers. Every little burg in the USA eventually saw a Walmart UFO land in the cornfield or cow-pasture on the edge of town. Like the space invaders of sci-fi filmdom, Walmart quickly killed off everything else of economic worth around it, and eventually the towns themselves. And that was where things stood as the long emergency commenced in the winter of early 2020, along with the Covid-19 corona virus riding shotgun on the hearse-wagon it rolled in on. We’re in a liminal, transitional moment of history, like beach-goers gawking at the glassy-green curve of a great wave in the throes of breaking. Such mesmerizing beauty!

Alas, most people can’t surf. It looks easy on TV, but you’d be surprised at the conditioning it takes, and Americans are way, way out of condition. (All those tattoos don’t give you an ounce of extra mojo.) And so, in this liminal moment, the people still trudge dutifully to the Walmarts with their dwindling reserves of cash money to get stuff, going through all the devotions that we took for granted before the wave welled up and threatened to break over us. Which is happening. Despite all the fake-heroic blather from the Federal Reserve, from Nancy Pelosi, from Mr. Trump and Mr. Mnuchin – from everybody in charge, to be really fair – and in the immortal words of another recent president — this sucker is going down. Specifically, what’s going down is the aggregate of transactions we call “the economy.”

[..] As in any extinction event, it will be the smaller organisms that survive and eventually thrive and that’s how it will go in the next edition of America, whether we remain states united or find ourselves organized differently. Accordingly, the giants must fall. When the communities of America rebuild, it will be the thousands of small activities that matter, because they will entail the rebuilding of social capital as well as exchanges that amount to business. Social capital is exactly what Walmart and things like it killed in every community from sea to shining sea. People stopped doing business with their neighbors. It took a cataclysm for them to finally notice.

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On average once every decade?!

Argentina Set For Default As Bondholders Reject New Terms (G.)

Argentina is on course for a technical default on its government borrowing on Friday as the country continues to hold talks with international investors over plans to restructure its debts. Financial investors said they expected the country to miss $500m (£410m) in interest payments on its borrowing, according to the Reuters news agency, as the government tries to renegotiate its borrowing before a 2 June deadline. With the economy in recession even before the coronavirus outbreak and spiralling inflation, Argentina has about $65bn in debt owned by overseas investors, which both the state and its creditors believe is unsustainable. The government has asked bondholders to accept significantly lower interest payments on its debts and to defer payments until 2024. Investors had thus far rejected the terms proposed by president Alberto Fernández’s centre-left government, which came to power late last year.


This month, a group of leading economists including Thomas Piketty and the Nobel prize-winner Joseph Stiglitz urged bondholders to take a constructive approach to restructuring Argentina’s debts. They argued debt relief for the country would be “the only way to combat the pandemic and set the economy on a sustainable path”. A group of international investors – including Ashmore, BlackRock and AllianceBernstein – that hold about $16.7bn of Argentinian bonds said on Friday that they recognised the country was seeking a comprehensive deal, even though failure to pay would trigger a default, Reuters reported. Sarah-Jayne Clifton, director of Jubilee Debt Campaign, said that Argentina was right to demand a deep debt restructuring and to default if lenders did not accept a deal. “Reckless lending at high interest rates helped to create the current crisis, so lenders and speculators should share in the costs,” she said.

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Oh, get serious.

FBI Launches Internal Investigation Into Its Handling Of Flynn Case (JTN)

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Friday ordered an internal investigation into the bureau’s handling of the Michael Flynn case, just two weeks after the Justice Department declared that it was dropping the case against him and that federal investigators had no standing to interview the general in early 2017. Wray “today ordered the Bureau’s Inspection Division to conduct an after-action review of the Michael Flynn investigation,” the FBI announced on Friday. The Inspection Division essentially functions similarly to an internal affairs office found in lower law enforcement agencies. Fox News reported on Friday that the bureau will seek to identify whether any current FBI officials “engaged in misconduct” during the investigation, as well as whether or not the agency can improve its investigation process moving forward.


The bureau “does not have the ability to take any disciplinary action” against former employees, the FBI’s statement said. Flynn’s plight has received new attention in recent weeks, starting with the stunning Justice Department announcement at the beginning of the month. Following the department’s decision, the judge overseeing the Flynn case, Emmet Sullivan, declined to immediately dismiss it per the recommendation from Justice, instead inviting an amicus curiae brief from retired Judge John Gleeson in support of continuing the case against the general.

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Boy what a sh*tshow.

FBI Opened Russia Probe On Third-Hand ‘Suggestion’ Of Collusion (JTN)

The FBI’s probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia was opened on a third-hand “suggestion” of wrongdoing and the thinnest of suspicions that illegal foreign lobbying had occurred, according to a declassified memo released Friday that shows agents immediately flagged the strong limitations of their evidence. The July 31, 2016 electronic communication that officially open the counterintelligence investigation codenamed Crossfire Hurricane was obtained by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch. It shows the criminal basis for opening the probe was suspected violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act, but it did not identify a single episode that it said violated the law.

Rather it focused on a “suggestion” passed on by Australian ambassador Alexander Downer that Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos might be coordinating with Russia the release of damaging information about Hillary Clinton. Downer had heard the information about the Russians during a bar conversation in May 2016 from Papadopoulos, who had heard it two months earlier from a European professor who had heard it from Russians allegedly. The memo shows the case agent, Peter Strzok, expressed some doubts and reservations about the limitations of the evidence even as he opened the probe. The memo cited concerns about “suggestions from the Russians that they (the Russians) could assist the Trump campaign with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton.”

Papadopoulos “suggested the Trump team had received some kind of suggestion from Russia” that it had damaging information, the memo said. But Strzok’s memo immediately noted the limitations of the allegations forwarded from the Australians. “It was unclear whether he or the Russians were referring to material acquired publicly of through other means. It was also unclear how Mr. Trump’s team reacted to the offer,” the memo stated. Kevin Brock, the former chief of intelligence for the FBI, said the electronic communication did not meet the bureau’s rigorous standards for predicating the opening of a criminal or counterintelligence case. [..] Asked whether as an FBI assistant director he would have approved opening Crossfire Hurricane based on what was in the memo, Brock said: “Not in a millions years. I wouldn’t have approved it as a squad supervisor either. This would have set off alarm bells in any FBI field for not meeting our standards for a predicate.”

Read more …

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May 222020
 


Cave of swimmers, Gilf Kebir plateau, Sahara c6000 BCE

 

Just 7.3% Of Stockholm Had COVID19 Antibodies By End Of April (G.)
Brazil Suffers Record Daily Coronavirus Death Toll, Soon To Be World No. 2 (R.)
Which US States Meet WHO Recommended Testing Criteria? (Johns Hopkins)
US Layoffs Spread Despite Businesses Reopening (R.)
New Zealand Discussing ‘Helicopter Money’ Handouts To Stimulate Economy (R.)
Washington State Loses 100s Of Millions Of Dollars In Unemployment Fraud (ST)
America’s 600+ Billionaires So Far Made $434 Billion During The Pandemic (F.)
US Prepared To Spend Russia, China Into Oblivion To Win Nuclear Arms Race (R.)
Biden Asks Amy Klobuchar To Undergo Vetting As Possible Running Mate (CBS)
Warren Pivots On ‘Medicare For All’ In Bid To Become Biden’s VP (Pol.)
Appeals Court Orders Judge In Flynn Case To Explain Actions (JTN)
The Railroading of Michael Flynn (Lake)
Russiagate Began With Obama’s Iran Deal Domestic Spying Campaign (Tablet)

 

 

Another record in global new cases over past 24 hrs at 109,627:

• US + 28,215
• Brazil + 17,564
• Russia + 8,894
• India + 7,784
• Peru + 4,749
• Chile + 3,964
• Mexico + 2,973
• Pakistan + 2,603
• Saudi Arabia + 2,532

New deaths
• US + 1,503
• Brazil + 1,188
• Mexico +357
• UK +338

 

 

 

Cases 5,218,496 (+ 109,627 from yesterday’s 5,108,869)

Deaths 335,069 (+ 4,987 from yesterday’s 330,082)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Herd immunity is a failed figment of the imagination, and not one to experiment on the entire population of a country with.

Just 7.3% Of Stockholm Had COVID19 Antibodies By End Of April (G.)

Just 7.3% of Stockholm’s inhabitants had developed Covid-19 antibodies by the end of April, according to a study, raising concerns that the country’s light-touch approach to the coronavirus may not be building up broad immunity. The research by Sweden’s public health agency comes as neighbouring Finland warned that it would be risky to welcome tourists from Sweden after figures suggested the country’s death rate per capita was the highest in Europe over the seven days to 19 May. Sweden’s state epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, said the Stockholm antibodies figure was “a bit lower than we’d thought”, but added that it reflected the situation some weeks ago and he believed that by now “a little more than 20%” of the capital’s population had probably contracted the virus.


However, the public health agency had previously said it expected about 25% to have been infected by 1 May and Tom Britton, a maths professor who helped develop its forecasting model, said the figure from the study was surprising. “It means either the calculations made by the agency and myself are quite wrong, which is possible, but if that’s the case it’s surprising they are so wrong,” he told the newspaper Dagens Nyheter. “Or more people have been infected than developed antibodies.” Björn Olsen, a professor of infectious medicine at Uppsala University, said herd immunity was a “dangerous and unrealistic” approach. “I think herd immunity is a long way off, if we ever reach it,” he said after the release of the antibody findings.

Read more …

They’re only just starting.

Brazil Suffers Record Daily Coronavirus Death Toll, Soon To Be World No. 2 (R.)

Brazil suffered a record of 1,188 daily coronavirus deaths on Thursday and is fast approaching Russia to become the world’s No. 2 COVID-19 hot spot behind the United States. Brazil also passed 20,000 deaths on Thursday and has 310,087 confirmed cases, up over 18,500 in a single day, according to Health Ministry data. The true numbers are likely higher but Brazil has not carried out widespread testing, the ministry said. President Jair Bolsonaro is under growing pressure for his handling of the outbreak, which looks set to destroy the Brazilian economy and threatens his re-election hopes.


He strongly opposes social distancing measures and has repeatedly pushed for greater usage of chloroquine as a remedy for the virus, despite health experts’ warnings about risks. Bolsonaro’s relationship with governors and mayors has also grown increasingly bitter. The president is angry over local shutdowns to slow the spread of the virus and argues that keeping the economy running is more important. Bolsonaro said he will approve on Thursday or Friday a 60 billion-real ($10.72 billion) federal aid program for states and cities hit by coronavirus but asked governors for support freezing public sector pay increases.

Read more …

An unfortunate format for the graph. Click the link to the original for a somewhat better version.

Which US States Meet WHO Recommended Testing Criteria? (Johns Hopkins)

On May 12, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) advised governments that before reopening, rates of positivity in testing (ie, out of all tests conducted, how many came back positive for COVID-19) of should remain at 5% or lower for at least 14 days. If a positivity rate is too high, that may indicate that the state is only testing the sickest patients who seek medical attention, and is not casting a wide enough net to know how much of the virus is spreading within its communities. A low rate of positivity in testing data can be seen as a sign that a state has sufficient testing capacity for the size of their outbreak and is testing enough of its population to make informed decisions about reopening.

Which U.S. states are testing enough to meet the WHO’s goal? The graph below compares states’ rate of positivity to the recommended positivity rate of 5% or below. States that meet the WHO’s recommended criteria appear in green, while the states that are not testing enough to meet the positivity benchmark are in orange.

Read more …

Time to assess what jobs will never return. There will be millions.

US Layoffs Spread Despite Businesses Reopening (R.)

Millions more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, more than two months after a shutdown of the country to deal with the coronavirus crisis, pointing to a second wave of layoffs in industries not initially impacted by closures caused by the pandemic. The Labor Department’s weekly jobless claims report on Thursday, the most timely data on the economy’s health, also showed the number of people on unemployment rolls surging to a record high in early May, suggesting that businesses were probably not rushing to rehire workers as they reopen.

This also raises questions about the efficacy of the government’s Paycheck Protection Program. A broad lockdown of the country in mid-March to contain the spread of COVID-19 initially led to layoffs in mostly low-wage consumer-facing businesses such as restaurants and retailers. But economists say weak demand was causing layoffs in other industries like utilities, information, finance and insurance, and education. “This raises the possibility that new private and public sector cutbacks may be creating a major barrier to stopping the labor market bleeding,” said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economics in Holland, Pennsylvania.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits totaled a seasonally adjusted 2.438 million in the week ended May 16, down from 2.687 million in the prior week, the government said. Last week’s claims reading [..] marked the seventh straight weekly decline. First-time claims have been gradually decreasing since hitting a record 6.867 million in the week ended March 28. Still they remained more than triple their peak during the 2007/09 Great Recession. The elevated claims have also been blamed on backlogs after the unprecedented amount of applications overwhelmed state unemployment offices.

[..] Attention is shifting from new claimants for jobless benefits to the number of people still on aid. These so-called continuing claims numbers are reported with a one-week lag, but are considered a better gauge of the labor market. They offer a glimpse into how soon the economy ramps up and companies’ ability to get people off unemployment or keep workers on payrolls as they access their share of a historic fiscal package worth nearly $3 trillion, which offered loans that could be partially forgiven if they were used for employee salaries. Continuing claims surged 2.525 million to a record 25.073 million in the week ending May 9.

Read more …

Nice size economy to try something like it. But they dare not call it UBI.

New Zealand Discussing ‘Helicopter Money’ Handouts To Stimulate Economy (R.)

New Zealand is considering distributing free cash directly to individuals as a way of policy stimulus to help boost the economy reeling from a COVID-19 pandemic driven contraction, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said on Friday. At a regular news conference Robertson was asked to share details about the government’s plans for launching ‘helicopter money’ – whether it would be the central bank printing money and distributing it or the government increasing its borrowing and then handing it out. Robertson said the concept was being discussed but “it’s not something that has got to that level of discussion at all.” “I am pretty keen on making sure that fiscal policy remains the role of the government,” he added.


The idea of helicopter money, or dumping cash unexpectedly onto a struggling economy, is slowly gaining currency among economists and policymakers as the pandemic looks to inflict the worst blow to global growth since the Great Depression in the 1930s. None of the wealthy countries have embarked on it, though, citing risks such as central bank independence and the risk of flaring long-term inflation. In a helicopter money drop, a central bank would directly increase the money supply and, via the government, distribute the new cash to the population with the aim of boosting demand and inflation.

Read more …

An entire state run by gullible grandmas.

Washington State Loses 100s Of Millions Of Dollars In Unemployment Fraud (ST)

Washington state officials have acknowledged the loss of “hundreds of millions of dollars” to an international fraud scheme that hammered the state’s unemployment insurance system and could mean even longer delays for thousands of jobless workers still waiting for legitimate benefits. Suzi LeVine, commissioner of the state Employment Security Department (ESD), disclosed the staggering losses during a news conference Thursday afternoon. LeVine declined to specify how much money was stolen during the scam, which is believed to be orchestrated from Nigeria. But she conceded that the amount was “orders of magnitude above” the $1.6 million that the ESD reported losing to fraudsters in April.

LeVine said state and law enforcement officials were working to recover as much of the money as possible, though she declined to say how much had been returned so far. She also said the ESD had taken “a number of steps” to prevent new fraudulent claims from being filed or paid but would not specify the steps, to avoid alerting criminals. “We do have definitive proof that the countermeasures we have put in place are working,” LeVine said. “We have successfully prevented hundreds of millions of additional dollars from going out to these criminals and prevented thousands of fraudulent claims from being filed.”

Thursday’s disclosure, which came after state officials had largely refused to discuss the scale of the fraud, helped explain the unusual surge in the number of new jobless claims filed last week in Washington. For the week ending May 16, the ESD received 138,733 initial claims for unemployment insurance, a 26.8% increase over the prior week and one of the biggest weekly surges since the coronavirus crisis began. That sharp increase came as the number of initial jobless claims nationwide fell 9.2%, to 2.4 million, according to data released earlier in the day by the Labor Department.

Read more …

Since they won’t stop it, and it can’t last either, it’s up to you.

America’s 600+ Billionaires So Far Made $434 Billion During The Pandemic (F.)

America’s billionaires saw their wealth increase by $434 billion during the course of the global pandemic, according to a new report, a staggering figure that coincided with upheaval to the global economy and more than 38 million Americans filing for unemployment. Per the report by Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies’ Program for Inequality, between March 18 and May 19, the total net worth of the 600-plus U.S. billionaires jumped by $434 billion or 15%, based on the group’s analysis of Forbes data. The top five U.S. billionaires (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison) saw their wealth grow by a total of $75.5 billion.


Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has seen his net worth grow 30.6% in the past two months, boosting it to $147.6 billion; the fortunes of Bezos and Zuckerberg combined grew by nearly $60 billion, or 14% of the $434 billion total. Tech stocks have continued to rise, with both Facebook and Amazon hitting new all-time highs on Wednesday. While the technology sector has remained strong, many Americans in other markets haven’t been nearly as fortunate, as evidenced by an additional 2.4 million workers filing for temporary unemployment benefits last week, and with 47% of adults reporting that they or another person in their household has lost income since mid-March. Low-income earners have been hit hardest over the last two months, as almost 40% of people working in February and earning less than $40,000 annually have lost their jobs over the last month.

Read more …

They know the US has already lost the arms race, but A) you can’t explain that to the people, and B) the industry must be kept well-fed.

US Prepared To Spend Russia, China Into Oblivion To Win Nuclear Arms Race (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump’s arms control negotiator on Thursday said the United States is prepared to spend Russia and China “into oblivion” in order to win a new nuclear arms race. “The president has made clear that we have a tried and true practice here. We know how to win these races and we know how to spend the adversary into oblivion. If we have to, we will, but we sure would like to avoid it,” Special Presidential Envoy Marshall Billingslea said in an online presentation to a Washington think tank.

Read more …

Just in case he still doubted he does NOT intend to win.

Biden Asks Amy Klobuchar To Undergo Vetting As Possible Running Mate (CBS)

Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, has been asked by Joe Biden to undergo a formal vetting to be considered as his vice presidential running mate, one of several potential contenders now being scrutinized by his aides ahead of a final decision, according to people familiar with the moves. In an interview with Stephen Colbert on Thursday night, Biden said “no one’s been vetted yet by the team” but confirmed the initial preliminary outreach to gauge interest is “coming to an end now.” Biden said the “invasive” vetting process will soon begin. When pressed on Klobuchar’s chances of making his running mate “short list,” Biden responded positively: “Amy’s first rate, don’t get me wrong.”


The request for information from potential running mates like Klobuchar “is underway,” a senior Biden campaign aide tells CBS News. If a potential contender consents, she should be poised to undergo a rigorous multi-week review of her public and private life and work by a hand-picked group of Biden confidantes, who will review tax returns, public speeches, voting records, past personal relationships and potentially scandalous details from her past. While several are expected to consent to a vetting, at least one potential contender has bowed out. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, who is running for reelection this year, declined Biden’s invitation to be considered, according to a person familiar with her decision. But Senator Maggie Hassan, the other New Hampshire senator, has agreed to be vetted, according to local news reports.

Read more …

https://twitter.com/megslay27/status/1263591562476285954

Warren Pivots On ‘Medicare For All’ In Bid To Become Biden’s VP (Pol.)

In the thick of primary season, Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden brawled over “Medicare for All”: He called her approach “angry,” “elitist,” “condescending”; she shot back, anyone who defends the health care status quo with industry talking points is “running in the wrong presidential primary.” Six months later, with Biden the presumptive Democratic nominee and Warren in the running for VP, she is striking a more harmonious chord. “I think right now people want to see improvements in our health care system, and that means strengthening the Affordable Care Act,” she told students at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics this week, while adding that she still wants to get to single payer eventually.


The shift is the latest public signal Warren has sent Biden’s way in recent weeks that she wants the job of vice president — and wants Biden to see her as a loyal governing partner despite their past clashes, which go back decades. Warren’s policy-centered, team-player pitch is counting on Biden caring more about Jan. 20 than Nov. 3, when he makes his vice presidential pick. In other words, that the current crisis has elevated governing concerns above political ones — and that the times call for someone with her policy chops and, yes, plans.

Read more …

The power of Sidney Powell.

Appeals Court Orders Judge In Flynn Case To Explain Actions (JTN)

A federal appeals court Thursday has agreed to hear a request from Michael Flynn’s legal team to remove the district judge overseeing his case, and has also ordered the judge to explain his controversial and unorthodox conduct in handling it. Judge Emmett Sullivan has been given a June 1 deadline to respond. The government has also been invited to “respond in its discretion” during that window. Flynn’s legal team had filed a request on Tuesday asking the appeals court to remove Judge Emmett Sullivan from the case, claiming the judge was biased against the defendant. Following the Justice Department’s request earlier this month to dismiss the case against Flynn, Sullivan had appointed retired federal Judge John Gleeson to file an amicus curiae brief arguing in favor of not dropping the case against the general.


Flynn’s lawyers sharply criticized Sullivan’s handling of the case. “The district judge’s latest actions – failing to grant the Government’s Motion to Dismiss, appointing a biased and highly-political amicus who has expressed hostility and disdain towards the Justice Department’s decision to dismiss the prosecution, and the promise to set a briefing schedule for widespread amicus participation in further proceedings – bespeaks a judge who is not only biased against Petitioner, but also revels in the notoriety he has created by failing to take the simple step of granting a motion he has no authority to deny,” the Tuesday petition read.

Read more …

Good long overview.

The Railroading of Michael Flynn (Lake)

As it happens, the FBI case manager for the Flynn investigation, Joe Pientka, had indeed drafted a memo closing the Flynn investigation—but he hadn’t filed it formally. Because of Pientka’s “incompetence” (the word was Peter Strzok’s, in a delighted text exchange on January 4, 2017, with his paramour Page), the probe was not shut down and a new predicate wasn’t required. In his motion to dismiss the prosecution of Flynn, U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea said this “sidestepped a modest but critical protection that constrains the investigative reach of law enforcement: the predication threshold for investigating American citizens.”

Until the end of April 2020, Pientka’s memo was kept from Flynn’s counsel and the public. It has been released only now because career U.S. attorney Jeffrey Jensen completed his review of Flynn’s case and declassified documents relevant to it. The Pientka memo provides far more detail on the status of the Flynn investigation than was previously known—and what it shows isn’t pretty. We learn from the memo that after the FBI ran down a lead provided by a confidential human source about Flynn’s contact with a person with links to the Russian state, the bureau could not confirm that any such relationship ever existed. That source was likely Stefan Halper, a fellow at Cambridge University and an intelligence community insider. Halper was being paid by the U.S. government to inform on Flynn as well as another Trump campaign aide, George Papadopoulos.

Flynn’s suspected contact, whose name is redacted in the memo, is likely Svetlana Lokhova. She is a Russian-born academic who, the Guardian and other news outlets reported in 2017, had traveled in the same car with Flynn as they left a Cambridge University seminar in 2016. These stories made it seem as if Lokhova was luring Flynn into a honey trap, during which sex is offered for blackmail leverage later on. “The CIA and FBI were discussing this episode, along with many others, as they assessed Flynn’s suitability to serve as national security adviser,” the Guardian reported.

The Lokhova story was a smear. Two months after it was published, the Guardian was forced to append an embarrassing correction. The correction read in part, “Her lawyers have also subsequently informed us that she does not have privileged access to any Russian intelligence archive. We also wish to make clear, for the avoidance of doubt, that there is no suggestion that Lokhova has ever worked with or for any of the Russian intelligence agencies.” Last year, Lokhova sued Halper and several news organizations for the smear against her.

Read more …

Flynn was opposed to it. He had to go.

Russiagate Began With Obama’s Iran Deal Domestic Spying Campaign (Tablet)

Obama and his foreign policy team were hardly the only people in Washington who had their knives out for Michael Flynn. Nearly everyone did, especially the FBI. As former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Pentagon’s spy service, and a career intelligence officer, Flynn knew how and where to find the documentary evidence of the FBI’s illegal spying operation buried in the agency’s classified files—and the FBI had reason to be terrified of the new president’s anger. The United States Intelligence Community (USIC) as a whole was against the former spy chief, who was promising to conduct a Beltway-wide audit that would force each of the agencies to justify their missions.

Flynn told friends and colleagues he was going to make the entire senior intelligence service hand in their resignations and then detail why their work was vital to national security. Flynn knew the USIC well enough to know that thousands of higher-level bureaucrats wouldn’t make the cut. Flynn had enemies at the very top of the intelligence bureaucracy. In 2014, he’d been fired as DIA head. Under oath in February of that year, he told the truth to a Senate committee—ISIS was not, as the president had said, a “JV team.” They were a serious threat to American citizens and interests and were getting stronger. Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers then summoned Flynn to the Pentagon and told him he was done.

“Flynn’s warnings that extremists were regrouping and on the rise were inconvenient to an administration that didn’t want to hear any bad news,” says former DIA analyst Oubai Shahbandar. “Flynn’s prophetic warnings would play out exactly as he’d warned shortly after he was fired.” Flynn’s firing appeared to be an end to one of the most remarkable careers in recent American intelligence history. He made his name during the Bush administration’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where soldiers in the field desperately needed intelligence, often collected by other combat units. But there was a clog in the pipeline—the Beltway’s intelligence bureaucracy, which had a stranglehold over the distribution of intelligence.

Flynn described the problem in a 2010 article titled “Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan,” co-written with current Deputy National Security Adviser Matt Pottinger. “Moving up through levels of hierarchy,” they wrote, “is normally a journey into greater degrees of cluelessness.” Their solution was to cut Washington out of the process: Americans in uniform in Iraq and Afghanistan needed that information to accomplish their mission.

Read more …

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May 212020
 


Charles Camoin Village Street in Collioure 1912

 

Don’t Count On Vaccine, US Scientist Warns (G.)
42% Of Recent US Layoffs To Result In Permanent Job Loss – Study (Y!)
Sweden Had Highest Coronavirus Death Rate Per Capita In Last Week (Tel.)
YouTube Censors Video In Which Medical Doctors Said HCQ Might Help (JTN)
Media Matters and its Propaganda About Hydroxycholoroquine (Attkisson)
Apple-Google Contact Tracing Tech Draws Interest In 23 Countries (R.)
Andrew Cuomo’s No Hero. He’s To Blame For New York Coronavirus Catastrophe (G.)
Senate Passes Bill On Oversight Of Chinese Companies (CNBC)
First as Tragedy, Then as Farce: The Collapse of the Sanders Campaign (AA)
Another Bank Bailout Under Cover of a Virus (Ellen Brown)
Turn Out the Lights, Russiagate is Over (Ray McGovern)
US Supreme Court Blocks Disclosure Of Mueller Grand Jury Material (R.)
FBI Offered To Pay Steele ‘Significantly’ To Dig Up Dirt On Michael Flynn (DC)
Susan Rice Email Confirms Flynn Was Targeted In Oval Office Meeting (Fed.)
Judge Orders Attorney Steven Donziger Under House Arrest Until September (IC)

 

 

• US 21,173 new cases in past 24 hrs

• Brazil 21,472 new cases, will overtake Russia for no. 2 spot this week

• Globally, over 100,000 new cases, a new record.

The virus is spreading, and often to vulnerable areas. India, Peru, Pakistan, Chile. Rising deaths numbers to follow, if properly reported

 

 

https://twitter.com/i/status/1263196507169316864

 

 

 

Cases 5,108,869 (+ 102,194 from yesterday’s 5,006,675)

Deaths 330,082 (+ 4,762 from yesterday’s 325,320)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

“Do not listen to the politicians who say we’re going to have one by the time my re-election comes around..”

Don’t Count On Vaccine, US Scientist Warns (G.)

A top US scientist has said that people should not count on a Covid-19 vaccine being developed any time soon, as global infections passed 5 million after surges in Latin America, including Brazil, which has recorded nearly 20,000 new cases. William Haseltine, the groundbreaking cancer, HIV/AIDS and human genome projects researcher, has said the best approach to the pandemic is to manage the disease through careful tracing of infections and strict isolation measures whenever it starts spreading. He said that while a vaccine could be developed, “I wouldn’t count on it”, and urged people to wear masks, wash hands, clean surfaces and keep a distance. “Do not listen to the politicians who say we’re going to have one by the time my re election comes around,” he said.


“Maybe we will (but) I’m just saying it’s not a slam-dunk case by any means … because every time people have tried to make a vaccine – for Sars or Mers – it hasn’t actually protected.” Vaccines developed previously for other types of coronavirus had failed to protect mucous membranes in the nose where the virus typically enters the body, he said. The United States and other countries has not done enough to “forcibly isolate” people exposed to the virus, Haseltine said, but praised China, South Korea and Taiwan’s efforts to curb infections. Haseltine said the US, Russia and Brazil – which rank first, second and third for infections – have done the worst. As global infections passed 5 million, Brazil reported a record 19,951 cases on Wednesday, according to the ministry of health, taking total infections to 291,579.

Read more …

Why bailing out businesses is a bad idea.

42% Of Recent US Layoffs To Result In Permanent Job Loss – Study (Y!)

Permanent job losses are likely to be a feature of the eventual U.S. recovery, according to University of Chicago research, which estimates that 42% of recently unemployed workers will not return to their jobs amid the “profound” shock stemming from coronavirus lockdowns. The pandemic has taken a brutal toll on the world’s largest economy, with at least 36 million people thrown out of work over the last two months. With states gradually relaxing restrictions that have shut down businesses and locked workers at home, economists are forecasting at least some of those employers could rehire laid off workers. However, researchers at the U of C’s Becker Institute for Economics have painted a dour picture of the labor market reallocating those lost positions.

Calling the crisis a “major reallocation shock” across all major economic sectors, the authors found that for every 10 coronavirus-induced job losses, only 3 were created. Some employers — primarily Amazon and Walmart — have hired en masse to deal with temporary demand spikes, yet the Chicago study suggests positions created during the COVID-19 crisis are unlikely to offset the labor market’s extreme bloodletting. The lockdowns have cratered activity in an economy that consists of 70% consumer spending, while undoing all of the jobs created since the great recession ended. “Even if medical advances or natural forces bring an early resolution to the crisis, many pandemic-induced shifts in consumer demand and business practices will persist,” wrote [..] the study’s authors.

They cautioned that a litany of reasons — such as generous unemployment benefits that exceed their lost job earnings, policies to encourage companies to keep people on the payroll and other regulatory factors “will impede reallocation responses to the COVID-19 shock.” As a result, “much of the near-term reallocative impact of the pandemic will also persist, as indicated by our forward-looking reallocation measures,” they wrote, adding that “42 percent of recent layoffs will result in permanent job loss.” “If the pandemic and partial economic shutdown linger for many months, or if pandemics with serious health consequences and high mortality rates become a recurring phenomenon, there will be profound, long-term consequences for the reallocation of jobs, workers and capital across firms and locations,” the U of C’s researchers wrote.

Read more …

Nobody counts for just a week. But Sweden has major problems. Their numbers are going up, not down.

Sweden Had Highest Coronavirus Death Rate Per Capita In Last Week (Tel.)

Sweden has now overtaken the UK, Italy and Belgium to have the highest coronavirus per capita death rate in the world, throwing its decision to avoid a strict lockdown into further doubt. According to figures collated by the Our World in Data website, Sweden had 6.08 deaths per million inhabitants per day on a rolling seven-day average between May 13 and May 20. This is the highest in the world, above the UK, Belgium and the US, which have 5.57, 4.28 and 4.11 respectively. However, Sweden has only had the highest death rate over the past week, with Belgium, Spain, Italy, the UK and France, still ahead over the entire course of the pandemic. State epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, the spokesman for Sweden’s outlier coronavirus strategy, dismissed the figures on Tuesday night, arguing that it was misleading to focus on the death toll over a single week….

Read more …

We were having a discussion in the Comments at the Automatic Earth the other day, specifically about “hemolytic anemia in people with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency”, a problem linked to Chloroquine (CQ), but not Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ). 400 million people worldwide, and 1 in 10 African-American males in the U.S have G6PD deficiency.

It was mentioned that the closely related primaquine (not chloroquine) appears to be the drug of choice to fight malaria worldwide, and that primaquine also is problematic for G6PD-deficient patients. Though the numbers don’t reflect that: “In six decades of primaquine use in approximately 200 million people, 14 deaths have been reported.” Not a big issue. If that is what is meant by the danger imposed by hydroxychloroquine, I’ll take it.

And there was this curious line: “G6PD deficiency provides great protection from malaria infection, especially for falciparum infections. On the other hand, G6PD deficiency has been recently demonstrated to cause serious problems in fighting against malaria.

YouTube Censors Video In Which Medical Doctors Said HCQ Might Help (JTN)

YouTube on Wednesday reinstated a video it has previously censored in which several medical doctors suggested that the drug hydroxychloroquine might be useful in treating coronavirus, with the company reportedly claiming at the time of censorship that the presentation was “dangerous.” The video report, presented by Sharyl Attkisson at Full Measure News, examined the possible benefits of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 and the possible financial interest some parties have in downplaying the drug and promoting a separate treatment called remdesivir. One of the doctors interviewed in the video, William O’Neill, tells Attkisson, also a Just the News contributor, that there is “some value” to hydroxychloroquine and “it has to be tested.”

O’Neill, a cardiologist in Detroit, has prescribed the drug to multiple patients and “saw improvement in all of them,” Attkisson reported. At the Henry Ford Health System, where O’Neill works, officials are working with hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir. The doctor said the media campaign against the drug, which began around the time President Trump first started touting it, has left patients “scared to use the drug without any scientifically valid concern.” “We’ve talked with our colleagues at the University of Minnesota who are doing a similar study, and at the University of Washington,” he said. “We’ve treated 400 patients and haven’t seen a single adverse event. And what’s happening is because of this fake news and fake science, the true scientific efforts are being harmed because people now are so worried that they don’t want to enroll in the trials.”

Another physician, Dr. Jane Orient, the executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons as well as a clinical lecturer at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, urged viewers to “look at the money” when it comes to the two drugs. “There’s no big profits made in hydroxychloroquine,” said Orient. “It’s very cheap, easy to manufacture, been around for 70 years. It’s generic. Remdesivir is a new drug that could be very expensive and very lucrative if it’s ever approved. So I think we really do have to consider there’s some financial interest involved here.” Sharyl Attkisson on Wednesday afternoon told Just the News that it wasn’t immediately clear when the video was removed

It was originally uploaded to YouTube two days ago. Attkisson said YouTube had removed the presentation with a note claiming that it was “dangerous,” without offering any explanation as to why. She said Full Measure News appealed the removal, after which YouTube subsequently reinstated it. Attkisson cited a critical report by Media Matters, published the same day as her report, as the likely cause of the removal. “These are organized efforts,” she said, arguing that politically biased parties are behind efforts to remove or censor contrarian information on social media. “They know they can use these systems to limit information. It’s very frightening because I feel like if something’s not done, in five years, we’re going to be telling our kids, ‘There was once a time we could get any information we wanted on the Internet.’ That’s changing. We can’t anymore.”

She noted recent efforts by Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, to pressure social media companies to censor and downgrade “harmful” coronavirus-related material and push users instead toward information from the World Health Organization. “I don’t know why we’re allowing this,” Attkisson said. “Nobody appointed Adam Schiff to police our content on social media.”

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Sharyl Attkisson also has some personal pain.

Media Matters and its Propaganda About Hydroxycholoroquine (Attkisson)

For most thinking Americans, it is unnecessary to bother to fact check the propaganda group Media Matters. If they have heard of Media Matters at all, they typically understand it’s a smear group funded by donors with political and corporate interests whose names are kept secret. (The last big Media Matters donor whose name was publicly revealed years ago was that of liberal billionaire activist George Soros.) The problem is, too many news organizations and even journalism groups such as Poynter use Media Matters and their affiliates as if they are legitimate news sources. They are either unforgviably ignorant of Media Matters’ slants— or choose to keep readers in the dark because they agree with the slant. One major interest Media Matters and its affiliates have served over the years is that of the pharmaceutical industry. They often smear scientists and journalists who report on prescription drug and vaccine safety issues, falsely labelling them as “anti-vaccine.”


The segment mentioned both positive and negative scientific findings about hydroxychloroquine and remdesivir. It did not attempt to take a comprehensive look at all of the studies underway or completed (there are hundreds); or their methodology, limits and criticism. It was to show that some well regarded, peer-reviewed, independent, published scientists who are actually studying hydroxychloroquine, and have no financial connections to the makers of the drug, have a different opinion than what has been widely presented in the media. It was also to show that the government, academic institutions and hospitals are actively studying hydroxycholorquine as both a preventive agent and treatment for coronavirus. Further, the esteemed scientists consulted do not agree with Media Matters’ spin on the topic, and it is their prerogative to present their scientific opinion. It’s important to hear from scientists who hold differing views on matters of public health importance.

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It can be done safely, but will it?

Apple-Google Contact Tracing Tech Draws Interest In 23 Countries (R.)

Authorities in 23 countries across five continents have sought access to contact tracing technology from Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google, the companies announced on Wednesday as they released the initial version of their system. But authorities would have to stop requiring phone numbers from users under the companies’ rules, one of several restrictions that have left governments fighting the novel coronavirus frustrated that the world’s top two smartphone software makers undercut the technology’s usefulness by prioritizing user privacy. Apple and Google said several U.S. states and 22 countries have sought access to their technology, but it is unclear how many will end up publishing mobile apps that use it.

Using apps to accelerate contact tracing, in which authorities identify and test people who were recently near a virus carrier, has emerged as a tool to stem new outbreaks. It could help authorities test more potentially infected individuals than they would normally be able to based on patients recalling recent interactions from memory. But some governments contend their app-based efforts would be more effective if they could track users’ locations to identify hot spots for virus transmission and notify them about possible exposure through calls or texts, rather than a generic push notification. Apple and Google have barred authorities using their technology from collecting GPS location data or requiring users to enter personal data.

“We have a collision of tech, privacy and health professionals and the Venn diagram doesn’t really have a spot where they all overlap,” said Chester Wisniewski, a principal research scientist at cybersecurity company Sophos. Australia, the United Kingdom and other countries that have sought to develop their own technology are experiencing glitches, draining device batteries and seeing limited adoption. Apple and Google have said their system will more reliably use Bluetooth connections between devices to log users who are in physical proximity for at least five minutes.

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You can say this about almost every “leader”. Incompetence.

Andrew Cuomo’s No Hero. He’s To Blame For New York Coronavirus Catastrophe (G.)

Andrew Cuomo may be the most popular politician in the country. His approval ratings have hit all-time highs thanks to his Covid-19 response. Some Democrats have discussed him as a possible replacement for Joe Biden, due to Biden’s perceived weakness as a nominee. And there have even been some unfortunate tributes to Cuomo’s alleged sex appeal. All of which is bizarre, because Cuomo should be one of the most loathed officials in America right now. ProPublica recently released a report outlining catastrophic missteps by Cuomo and the New York City mayor, Bill de Blasio, which probably resulted in many thousands of needless coronavirus cases. ProPublica offers some appalling numbers contrasting what happened in New York with the outbreak in California.

By mid-May, New York City alone had almost 20,000 deaths, while in San Francisco there had been only 35, and New York state as a whole suffered 10 times as many deaths as California. Federal failures played a role, of course, but this tragedy was absolutely due, in part, to decisions by the governor. Cuomo initially “reacted to De Blasio’s idea for closing down New York City with derision”, saying it “was dangerous” and “served only to scare people”. He said the “seasonal flu was a graver worry”. A spokesperson for Cuomo “refused to say if the governor had ever read the state’s pandemic plan”. Later, Cuomo would blame the press, including the New York Times for failing to say “Be careful, there’s a virus in China that may be in the United States?” even though the Times wrote nearly 500 stories on the virus before the state acted.

Experts told ProPublica that “had New York imposed its extreme social distancing measures a week or two earlier, the death toll might have been cut by half or more”. But delay was not the only screw-up. Elderly prisoners have died of coronavirus because New York has failed to act on their medical parole requests. As Business Insider documented: “Testing was slow. Nonprofit social-service agencies that serve the most vulnerable couldn’t get answers either. And medical experts like the former CDC director Tom Frieden said ‘so many deaths could have been prevented’ had New York issued its stay-at-home order just ‘days earlier’ than it did. On March 19, when New York’s schools had already been closed, Cuomo said ‘in many ways, the fear is more dangerous than the virus.’”

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Keeping China out of the US.

Senate Passes Bill On Oversight Of Chinese Companies (CNBC)

The Senate passed legislation on Wednesday that could ban many Chinese companies from listing shares on U.S. exchanges or raising money from American investors without adhering to Washington’s regulatory and audit standards. The bill, sponsored by Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy, would require companies to certify that “they are not owned or controlled by a foreign government.” Alibaba, an e-commerce giant based in China, saw its U.S.-listed shares fall more than 2% on the news. Though the law could be applied to any foreign company that seeks access to U.S. capital, lawmakers say the move to strengthen disclosure requirements is aimed principally at Beijing.


“The Chinese Communist Party cheats, and the Holding Foreign Companies Accountable Act would stop them from cheating on U.S. stock exchanges,” Kennedy, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, wrote Tuesday afternoon on Twitter. “We can’t let foreign threats to Americans’ retirement funds take root in our exchanges.” Specifically, the statute would require a foreign company to certify it’s not owned or manipulated by a foreign government if the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board is unable to audit specified reports because the company uses a foreign accounting firm not subject to inspection by the board. If the board is unable to inspect the company’s accounting firm for three consecutive years, the issuer’s securities are banned from trade on a national exchange.

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Things are leaking from inside the campaign, in particular accusations that Bernie was taking money from rich people. I stopped being interested when he sold out his small donors a second time.

First as Tragedy, Then as Farce: The Collapse of the Sanders Campaign (AA)

The Warren rationalization also raises the question of why so many pro-Bernie commentators and publications were writing pro-Warren commentary until just a few months ago, with many of them even condemning her left-wing critics as toxic before moving in lockstep against her when it was too late. Notably, these same publications and personalities were ruthlessly hostile toward Tulsi Gabbard – a relatively minor candidate electorally speaking, but one who actually defended Sanders at critical junctures, including when he was under attack by Warren. After Liz ambushed Bernie with a far-fetched story purporting to cast him as a malevolent sexist, it was Tulsi who rose to his defense. (Sanders advisers eventually admitted that the sexism attack “inflicted permanent damage” on his candidacy.)


And when Warren mused that it might, after all, be just fine for superdelegates to thwart Sanders’s nomination even if he entered the convention with the most pledged delegates, Gabbard was the only other candidate to object. And when Sanders permitted himself to be “Russiagated” in the critical period before the South Carolina primary – appearing to accept the nonsensical premise of a Washington Post article alleging that the all-powerful Vladimir Putin was once again “interfering” in U.S. democracy, this time on Sanders’s behalf – it again fell to Gabbard to defend him more vigorously than even Sanders chose to defend himself

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Was there a problem for the banks already when the bailout was given? What will happen when people stop paying their mortgages and car loans? Endless bailouts?

Another Bank Bailout Under Cover of a Virus (Ellen Brown)

In March 2020, under cover of a national crisis, the Fed therefore flung the doors open to its discount window, where only banks could borrow. Previously, banks were reluctant to apply there because the interest was at a penalty rate and carried a stigma, signaling that the bank must be in distress. But that concern was eliminated when the Fed announced in a March 15 press release that the interest rate had been dropped to 0.25% (virtually zero). The reserve requirement was also eliminated, the capital requirement was relaxed, and all banks in good standing were offered loans of up to 90 days, “renewable on a daily basis.” The loans could be continually rolled over, and no strings were attached to this interest-free money – no obligation to lend to small businesses, reduce credit card rates, or write down underwater mortgages. Even J.P. Morgan Chase, the country’s largest bank, has acknowledged borrowing at the Fed’s discount window for super cheap loans.


The Fed’s scheme worked, and demand for repo loans plummeted. But unlike in Canada, where big banks slashed their credit card interest rates to help relieve borrowers during the COVID-19 crisis, US banks did not share this windfall with the public. Canadian interest rates were cut by half, from 21% to 11%; but US credit card rates dropped in April only by half a percentage point, to 20.15%. The giant Wall Street banks continued to favor their largest clients, doling out CARES Act benefits to them first, emptying the trough before many smaller businesses could drink there. In 1969, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi nationalized 14 of India’s largest banks, not because they were bankrupt (the usual justification today) but to ensure that credit would be allocated according to planned priorities, including getting banks into rural areas and making cheap financing available to Indian farmers. Congress could do the same today, but the odds are it won’t. As Sen. Dick Durbin said in 2009, “the banks … are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place.”

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Somehow I doubt it.

Turn Out the Lights, Russiagate is Over (Ray McGovern)

Given the diffident attitude the Security State plotters adopted regarding hiding their tracks, Durham’s challenge, with subpoena power, is not as formidable as were he, for example, investigating a Mafia family. Plus, former NSA Director Adm. Michael S. Rogers reportedly is cooperating. The handwriting is on the wall. It remains to be seen what kind of role in the scandal Barack Obama may have played. But former directors James Comey, James Clapper, and John Brennan, captains of Obama’s Security State, can take little solace from Barr’s remarks Monday to a reporter who asked about Trump’s recent claims that top officials of the Obama administration, including the former president had committed crimes. Barr replied:

“As to President Obama and Vice President Biden, whatever their level of involvement, based on the information I have today, I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man. Our concerns over potential criminality is focused on others.” In a more ominous vein, Barr gratuitously added that law enforcement and intelligence officials were involved in “a false and utterly baseless Russian collusion narrative against the president. It was a grave injustice, and it was unprecedented in American history.” Meanwhile, the corporate media have all been singing from the same sheet since Trump had the audacity a week ago to coin yet another “-gate” — this time “Obamagate.” Leading the apoplectic reaction in corporate media, Saturday’s Washington Post offered a pot-calling-the-kettle-black pronouncement by its editorial board entitled “The absurd cynicism of ‘Obamagate”?

The outrage voiced by the Post called to mind disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok’s indignant response to criticism of the FBI by candidate Trump, in a Oct. 20, 2016 text exchange with FBI attorney Lisa Page: Strzok: I am riled up. Trump is a f***ing idiot, is unable to provide a coherent answer. Strzok – I CAN’T PULL AWAY, WHAT THE F**K HAPPENED TO OUR COUNTRY … Page– I don’t know. But we’ll get it back. We’re America. We rock. Strzok– Donald just said “bad hombres” Strzok– Trump just said what the FBI did is disgraceful.

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Endless regurgitation.

US Supreme Court Blocks Disclosure Of Mueller Grand Jury Material (R.)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday blocked the disclosure to a Democratic-led House of Representatives committee of grand jury material redacted by President Donald Trump’s administration from former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report documenting Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In a brief order, the justices put on hold a March ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the material must be disclosed to lawmakers. The order gave the administration until June 1 to formally appeal that ruling, meaning that if the justices decide to hear the case a final resolution may not be reached until after the Nov. 3 election in which the Republican president is seeking a second four-year term.


If the justices refuse to hear the appeal, the materials would need to be handed over. Mueller submitted his report to U.S. Attorney General William Barr in March 2019 after a 22-month investigation that detailed Russian hacking and propaganda efforts to boost Trump’s candidacy as well as multiple contacts between Trump’s campaign and Moscow. Barr, a Trump appointee who Democrats have accused of trying to protect the president politically, released the 448-page report in April 2019 with some parts redacted. Some Democrats have expressed concern that Barr used the redaction process to keep potentially damaging information about Trump secret.

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Time for Durham.

FBI Offered To Pay Steele ‘Significantly’ To Dig Up Dirt On Michael Flynn (DC)

An FBI offer to pay former British spy Christopher Steele to collect intelligence on Michael Flynn in the weeks before the 2016 election has been one of the more overlooked revelations in a Justice Department inspector general’s report released in December. The reference to the FBI proposal, which was made in an Oct. 3, 2016, meeting in an unidentified European city, has received virtually no press attention. But it might have new significance following the recent release of government documents that show that Steele peddled an unfounded rumor that Flynn had an extramarital affair with a Russian woman in the United Kingdom. It is not clear how and when Steele came across the rumor, or if it was the result of the FBI asking him to look into Flynn.

The inspector general’s report, released on Dec. 9, 2019, said that FBI agents offered to pay Steele “significantly” to collect intelligence from three separate “buckets” that the bureau was pursuing as part of Crossfire Hurricane, its counterintelligence probe of four Trump campaign associates. One bucket was “Additional intelligence/reporting on specific, named individuals (such as [Carter Page] or [Flynn]) involved in facilitating the Trump campaign-Russian relationship,” the IG report stated. FBI agents also sought contact with “any individuals or sub sources” who Steele could provide to “serve as cooperating witnesses to assist in identifying persons involved in the Trump campaign-Russian relationship.”

Steele at the time had provided the FBI with reports he compiled alleging that members of the Trump campaign had conspired with the Kremlin to influence the 2016 election. An FBI agent provided Steele with a “general overview” of the ongoing Crossfire Hurricane probe, according to the IG report. The agent told Steele about the actions of George Papadopoulos, a Trump campaign aide, and said the FBI had undertaken a “small analytical effort” that centered on Paul Manafort, Carter Page and Flynn. Some FBI agents who attended the meeting questioned whether the lead agent had disclosed too much to Steele about Crossfire Hurricane, according to the IG report.

[..] In the FBI memo, the Washington Field Office proposed closing a counterintelligence investigation of Flynn because investigators found no evidence that he was acting as an agent of Russia. Peter Strzok, the deputy chief of counterintelligence, intervened at the last minute to keep the investigation open after the FBI obtained a transcript of Flynn’s phone calls in late December 2016 with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Strzok helped set the “primary objectives” for the FBI meeting with Steele in October 2016, the IG report also stated.

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The story that will compete with corona this summer.

Susan Rice Email Confirms Flynn Was Targeted In Oval Office Meeting (Fed.)

Michael Flynn was personally targeted during a crucial Jan. 5, 2017 Oval Office meeting arranged by then-President Barack Obama, a newly declassified document shows. On Jan. 20, 2017, as President Donald Trump was being inaugurated, former White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice sent herself a bizarre email detailing the Jan. 5 meeting between her, Obama, then-Vice President Joe Biden, then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, and fired former Federal Bureau of Investigations Director James Comey. In the email, portions of which were not declassified until recently, Rice recorded that Flynn, who at the time was the incoming national security adviser for Trump, was personally discussed and targeted during the meeting with Obama.

“From a national security perspective, President Obama said he wants to be sure that, as we engage with the incoming team, we are mindful to ascertain if there is any reason we cannot share information fully as it relates to Russia.” At the time, the Obama administration was actively spying on members of the Trump team as part of its Crossfire Hurricane investigation against Trump. “Comey said he does have some concerns that incoming NSA Flynn is speaking frequently with Russian Ambassador Kislyak,” Rice wrote in a portion of the email that was only recently declassified. “Comey said that could be an issue as it relates to sharing sensitive information.”

“President Obama asked if Comey was saying the NSC should not pass sensitive information related to Russia to Flynn,” Rice continued. “Comey replied ‘potentially.’” “[Comey] added that he has no indication thus far that Flynn has passed classified information to Kislyak, but he noted that ‘the level of communication is unusual.’” The email did not explain how it would be “unusual” for an incoming national security adviser to converse with foreign leaders ahead of a new president’s inauguration.

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Almost as insane as the Assange tale. He got a $9.5 billion verdict against Chevron. Then they went after him.

Judge Orders Attorney Steven Donziger Under House Arrest Until September (IC)

A federal judge ruled this week that environmental attorney Steven Donziger must remain on house arrest until September. The decision means that by the time his trial begins, Donziger, who represented Indigenous people and farmers in a decadeslong legal battle against Chevron and has been confined to his Manhattan apartment and required to wear an electronic ankle monitor since August, will have spent 13 months in home detention awaiting trial on charges that carry a maximum sentence of six months. In a telephone conference on Monday, District Judge Loretta A. Preska said that the trial of Donziger on contempt of court charges stemming from his refusal to give his cellphone and computer to the court will be delayed until September 13 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

While Donziger’s attorneys requested that he be released from home confinement until then, Preska said that she believed the lawyer was a flight risk and must continue to remain confined to his home. In another significant setback for Donziger, who has been the target of an aggressive legal attack from Chevron after winning a $9.5 billion judgment against the company over environmental devastation in Ecuador, Preska also decided that the attorney was not entitled to a jury trial. While the judge had already denied Donziger’s motion requesting a jury trial in a May 7 hearing, in the phone conference this week, one of his attorneys, Andrew Frisch, said that he believed her earlier ruling had left open the possibility that Donziger could face a penalty of more than six months in prison, which would have entitled him to have his case heard by a jury. But during the phone conference, Preska made it clear that that was not the case.

It is not the first time that Donziger has tried — and failed — to get his case heard by his peers. In 2007, after Donziger and other attorneys sued Chevron over water and soil contamination resulting from oil drilling in the Lago Agrio region of Ecuador, the company successfully moved to have the case heard in the Ecuadorian courts, which don’t hold jury trials. And in 2011, after Donziger’s team won an $18 billion judgment from Chevron (an award that was later reduced to $9.5 billion), Chevron filed a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, suit against Donziger. Although the company initially sought significant financial damages in that case, which would have entitled Donziger to a jury trial, the company dismissed the monetary claims weeks before the trial and Donziger again faced trial without a jury. Instead, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, who decided the RICO case, found that the judgment against Chevron had been the result of fraud.

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

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 202020
 


Russell Lee South Side market, Chicago 1941

 

Study Finds Recovered COVID Patients Who Test Positive Not Infectious (ZH)
Australian Study: COVID19 Spreads In Schools ‘Considerably Less’ Than Flu (JTN)
Why Australia Must SPEND Its Way Out Of The COVID19 Crisis (DM)
EU Exec To Propose €1 Trillion Euro Recovery Plan With Grants And Loans (R.)
The Great Opening-up (Jim Kunstler)
China Backs Investigation Of WHO And Coronavirus Pandemic (SCMP)
8 Countries to Import Iran-Made Coronavirus Test Kits (FARS)
Global Carbon Emissions Down Nearly 20% Since Lockdowns Began (JTN)
The Mystery Behind Worldometer (CNN)
Venezuela Files Claim To Force Bank Of England To Hand Over Gold (R.)
Senate GOP Compile Massive Subpoena List For FBI Abuse Probe (ZH)
Flynn Lawyers Appeal Requests Case Dismissal, Removal Of Judge Sullivan (JTN)
Phone Calls Between Biden And Ukraine’s Poroshenko Leaked (ZH)
Ukraine Judge Orders Joe Biden Listed As Alleged Perpetrator Of Crime (Solomon)

 

 

• Global cases top 5,000,000

• Russia +8,764 (down from 9,263 May 19 and 9709 May 18)

• US records over 21,000 new cases in past 24 hours

• US records 1,536 new deaths (vs 759 day before),

• Total US deaths 93,533, projected to be 113,000 by mid-June

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Well, “according to the results of his medical exam released last year, Trump, 73, had a listed height of 6 feet, 3 inches and a weight of 243 pounds. That would put his body mass index at 30.4, which narrowly qualifies him in the “obese” category of 30 or greater.”

And very far removed from morbidly obese. But Pelosi said it anyway, and then “quipped” that she didn’t know he’d be offended by it. Fine, if that’s the level of conversation you want….. But what do you think will happen if he pays her back in kind? Don’t you dare complain, Nancy.

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 5,006,675 (+ 94,955 from yesterday’s 4,911,720)

Deaths 325,320 (+ 4,866 from yesterday’s 320,454)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Tyler claims this is ground for reopening economies, but fear of reinfection has not been a major factor so far, it’s fear of first-time infection.

Study Finds Recovered COVID Patients Who Test Positive Not Infectious (ZH)

[..] a study from the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that patients who test positive for COVID-19 after recovering from the illness appear to be shedding dead copies of the virus. That would suggest that these patients are not infectious, the scientists said, which helped dispel fears that some patients can remain infectious for months after being infected. While the study doesn’t answer every question about the virus’s longevity – such as patients who almost appear to have developed a “chronic” form of the illness because their symptoms have persisted for so long. But still, the finding was greeted as a major relief, and, if anything, should encourage economies to reopen more quickly, as a potential trigger for reinfection that had panicked some experts appears to be a non-issue.

The research also undermines the reliability of ‘antibody’ tests like the ones NY Gov Andrew Cuomo insisted would be ‘critical’ for NY’s reopening. The results mean health authorities in South Korea will no longer consider people infectious after recovering from the illness. Research last month showed that so-called PCR tests for the coronavirus’s nucleic acid can’t distinguish between dead and viable virus particles, potentially giving the wrong impression that someone who tests positive for the virus remains infectious. The research may also aid in the debate over antibody tests, which look for markers in the blood that indicate exposure to the novel coronavirus. Experts believe antibodies probably convey some level of protection against the virus, but they don’t have any solid proof yet. Nor do they know how long any immunity may last.


[..] As a result of the findings in the South Korea study, authorities said that under revised protocols, people should no longer be required to test negative for the virus before returning to work or school after they have recovered from their illness and completed their period of isolation. “Under the new protocols, no additional tests are required for cases that have been discharged from isolation,” the Korean CDC said in a report. The agency said it will now refer to “re-positive” cases as “PCR re-detected after discharge from isolation.” Some coronavirus patients have tested positive again for the virus up to 82 days after becoming infected. Almost all of the cases for which blood tests were taken had antibodies against the virus. If nothing else, this study is just the latest reminder of how much we don’t know about the virus.

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One study says nothing. Are you going to send your kids to school BECAUSE one Australian study says this?

Australian Study: COVID19 Spreads In Schools ‘Considerably Less’ Than Flu (JTN)

A study out of Australia shows the spread of COVID-19 is not driven by children in educational environments, a finding expected to influence the ongoing debate about when to reopen schools in many Western countries. Authorities in the United States, the European countries and other nations around the world began shutting down schools in February and March under the assumption that schoolhouses – packed full of children and usually hotspots of community virus transmission – would contribute to major coronavirus outbreaks. Many public officials, particularly in the U.S., have vowed to keep schools closed until the fall and possibly beyond. Yet health authorities are beginning to question that approach to pandemic mitigation.

Soumya Swaminathan, the chief scientist at the World Health Organization, said last week that “children don’t seem to be getting severely ill from this infection,” that there “have not been big outbreaks in schools” where they have remained open, and that it sees “children are less capable of spreading” the virus. The study out of Australia, released last month by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, found that “SARS-CoV-2 transmission in children in schools appears considerably less than seen for other respiratory viruses, such as influenza.” The study determined that, out of hundreds of “close contacts” that were in proximity to numerous positive COVID-19 patients in a school environment, only a scant number contracted the disease there.


“In contrast to influenza, data from both virus and antibody testing to date suggest that children are not the primary drivers of COVID-19 spread in schools or in the community,” the researchers said. “This is consistent with data from international studies showing low rates of disease in children and suggesting limited spread among children and from children to adults,” they also said. The researchers do note that, in mid-March, the government advised parents to keep their children at home for online learning even as schools remained open. Following that advice, “face-to-face attendance in schools decreased significantly and this may have impacted the results of this investigation.” School holidays in early April may have also affected the results.

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Steve Keen: ‘Give $100,000 per person as a flat rate to everyone to eliminate the private debt..’

Why Australia Must SPEND Its Way Out Of The COVID19 Crisis (DM)

[Economist Martin North] said Australia just has to accept it’s been hit by a one-in-a-hundred-year storm and that the Budget will not be balanced for a long time. Australia’s government debt level is hovering around 30 per cent of GDP which is low compared to Japans which hit 238 per cent of GDP in 2018. ‘Interest rates have never been as low as now and from a debt servicing perspective we have the capacity to get more funds,’ he said. Mr North said now was the time to invest in solid nation-building infrastructure that would set the groundwork for the next 30 years of Australia’s future. However, Mr North said he feared the Government would be pressured to prop up old economic distortions such as the over-reliance on housing construction which fueled a house price bubble and unsustainable mass migration. ‘We can’t just go back to pre-covid days, it would be a major mistake,’ he said.

[..] Economist Leith Van Onselen, who worked for Treasury, Goldman Sachs and now writes for website Macrobusiness, said governments should take advantage of the low borrowing rates to build infrastructure now. ‘Not only would this help overcome Australia’s massive infrastructure deficit brought about by 15 years of mass immigration, but would also help stimulate the economy during a period of weak private demand and high unemployment,’ he told Daily Mail Australia. Mr Van Onselen said the nation-building benefits would be undone if the government reverted back to mass migration. ‘This would overload the new infrastructure and lift labour supply, thus being self defeating,’ he said. Wages had already stagnated due to an oversupply of labour before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

[..] Australia’s economy has also been distorted by runaway house prices in recent years. Professor Steve Keen of the University College of London said this had resulted in Australia’s private debt levels becoming the ‘biggest bubble in human history’ at 190 per cent of GDP, far greater than the government’s relatively modest debt to GDP ratio of 30 per cent. Professor Keen has advocated massive cash handouts to every Australian to get rid of the enormous levels of private debt so the economy can have a chance to recover. ‘Give $100,000 per person as a flat rate to everyone to eliminate the private debt,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.


The money would need to be distributed in such a way that it would go directly to paying down debt, Professor Keen said. But those without debt should still receive the payment so they are not penalised. The Australian economy may be unable to recover from the coronavirus shock unless the private debt burden is reduced, Professor Keen said. He said the solution was a debt jubilee, reducing private debt from 190 per cent of GDP to just 90 per cent of GDP.

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Guaranteed to fail spectacularly. The EU should stay out of this.

EU Exec To Propose €1 Trillion Euro Recovery Plan With Grants And Loans (R.)

The European Commission will present a pandemic recovery plan next week that will exceed 1 trillion euros in a mix of grants and loans, Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis said on Tuesday. Dombrovskis, speaking after a meeting of EU finance ministers, welcomed a proposal by France and Germany for a 500 billion euro fund to disburse grants to worst-hit regions and sectors. But he said the Commission would be bolder. “Our ambition is not to increase the financing capacity in the range of hundreds of billions, but rather by a figure exceeding a trillion euros,” he said. “Of course in this case we are talking about both in loans and grants.”

Dombrovskis said the Commission, like France and Germany, would link access to the recovery money to sound economic policies and structural reforms. This could become a friction point with Italy and Spain, worst affected by the epidemic, who are wary of northern fiscal hawks dictating policies in exchange for grants. “We not only need additional money for the recovery, but we also need reforms, we need to ensure a business environment that is conducive to investment,” Dombrovskis said. “So, as part of our recovery instrument, we intend to propose… a Recovery and Resilience Facility, which will be concentrating on investments and structural reforms,” he said.


Dombrovskis also said the recovery money would have to follow the EU’s long-term priorities of making the bloc climate-neutral by 2050, digitalising the economy and investing in research and innovation. mEU governments are divided if the recovery money should be loans or transfers, with the highly indebted southerners like Italy, Greece or Spain calling for grants and less indebted and fiscally frugal countries in favour of loans. The commission’s proposal on May 27, linking the Recovery Fund with the EU’s next long-term budget for 2021-2027, will be the basis for discussions of all EU governments in June. Dombrovskis said the Commission was examining if some of the cash could be available in 2020, but said most was likely to be available in 2021.

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“Spooky as it’s been, the Covid-19 virus has also been a great cover-story for the natural collapse of a severely unbalanced, ecologically unsound, and dishonestly represented set of arrangements..”

The Great Opening-up (Jim Kunstler)

The current nostalgia for pre-Covid-19 business-as-usual is understandably intense. Gone especially from daily life are all the ceremonies of human togetherness, from gatherings of friends to the casual shoulder-rubbings of urban life to the crowded venues of the lively arts to the great moiling orgies of pro sports. The life of the perpetual jigsaw puzzle, YouTube, and Netflix has proved inadequate to human aspiration. Gone, too, are livelihoods, revenue streams, and rewarding roles in everyday existence. The itch to get out and do, get out and make, get out and be, is overwhelming. Behind those plain yearnings, though, looms the specter of a system that appeared to be already foundering before Covid-19 entered the scene.

There is, at least, considerable agreement that the disease catalyzed the disorders of finance and economy and accelerated the damage – just not among the people most responsible for engineering the fragilities that actually crashed things Jerome Powell, Pope of the Church of the Federal Reserve, went on the 60-Minutes show last night to reassure the nation that things will eventually get back to normal. “I think you’ll see the economy recover steadily through the second half of this year.” Yessir, if you say so. Were his fingers crossed? You couldn’t tell because the camera had him framed in a head-shot. Personally, I think the Fed Chairman was blowing smoke up the nation’s wazoo. Spooky as it’s been, the Covid-19 virus has also been a great cover-story for the natural collapse of a severely unbalanced, ecologically unsound, and dishonestly represented set of arrangements that are now unspooling at horrifying speed.


The car industry is dying. The airline industry is laying out its fleet of big birds in desert graveyards. The college racketeering operation went off a cliff, along with medical profiteering. Agribusiness no longer has a business model. Hundreds of kinds of services no longer have customers who can afford their offerings from acupuncture to zymurgy. None of that will be fixed by injections of miracle money borrowed from ourselves in quantities that would turn every US citizen into a millionaire – if it wasn’t just pounded down the rat-holes of the stock and bond markets. The big question about the Great Opening-up is when the recognition of all that turns to raw emotion. Covid-19 may still be with us then, but it will be the least of our problems. The masks will come off. The dance will commence.

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But not now. Try again in 5 years.

China Backs Investigation Of WHO And Coronavirus Pandemic (SCMP)

Member states of the World Health Organisation, including China, backed a call on Tuesday for an independent investigation into the coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 318,000 people around the world. The resolution, which was drafted and promoted by the European Union but did not identify any country by name, called for an “impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation” of the pandemic, including the actions of the WHO. At a virtual meeting of the WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly, the United States, which has accused the WHO of being a “puppet of China”, did not block the adoption of the resolution.

The US said the resolution was the “first critical step” in ensuring the world health body could play its roles and there was an international system capable of “responding effectively” to the next pandemic. But it also “dissociated” itself from the resolution’s statement on rights for poor countries to waive intellectual property rules in obtaining medicine in emergencies, Reuters reported. Earlier on Tuesday, US President Donald Trump threatened to permanently freeze US funding to the WHO and reconsider his country’s membership if the United Nations agency did not commit to “major substantive improvements” within the next 30 days.[..]

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the resolution was in line with Beijing’s positions that countries should support the WHO and that the evaluation should be carried out at “appropriate time”. “These are all consistent with China’s positions and also reflect the common wishes of the majority of countries in the world,” Zhao said. Zhao also hit out at Australia for pushing for an investigation into China’s handling of the outbreak. The two-day gathering did not include discussions of a proposal for Taiwan to regain its observer status. [..] Liu Weidong, a specialist in international affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that after weeks of posturing by countries such as the US and Australia, Beijing’s cooperative approach at the gathering had softened criticism of China.


“China’s performance at this assembly and its stance, were open and very selfless,” Liu said. “China’s actions do make it seem that it is selflessly contributing to building a global community of health for all.” He said US calls to trace the origins of Sars-CoV-2, the official name for the virus that causes Covid-19, were losing support. “Everybody will realise the [US] criticised China and found fault with China due to internal politics, which is a very calculating behaviour. Not many countries may end up following [the US] because it will affect their own soft power,” he said. “America’s international influence now compared to before Covid-19 definitely has fallen a lot.”

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A country of 83 million people that sees numbers rise again, should perhaps not export its tests.

8 Countries to Import Iran-Made Coronavirus Test Kits (FARS)

Vice President for Science and Technology Sorena Sattari said that Iranian knowledge-based firms have started manufacturing coronavirus test kits and eight countries have agreed to import such items from the country.
“Iran presently has a capacity of producing 1 million serology test kits per day and 1.5 million of C-Creative Protein (CPR) test kits per month,” Sattari said on Tuesday. “Part of the mentioned figure is used inside the country and the rest is exported,” he added. In relevant remarks on May 10, Deputy head of the Iranian presidency’s office for scientific affairs Mehdi Qalenoyee said that Iranian firms are going to export serological test kits to eight more countries after a first successful cargo was sent to Germany earlier in the week.

Qalenoyee said export of two types of coronavirus test kits to the Philippines and Pakistan was waiting for confirmation from the local officials after Iranian companies manufacturing the special tools sent sample kits to labs in those countries. He added that India, Nigeria and Armenia will receive the items once travel restrictions are eased. The official also said that Qatar, Georgia and Syria will soon be included in the list of export destination for the Iranian test kits. The announcement comes a few days after Iran sent a first cargo of serological test kits to Germany, where officials are trying to conduct the tests on a great scale to identify the immunity rate against COVID-19.


Exports of diagnostic devices and equipment from Iran to other countries is a sign of success for home-grown efforts to fight the coronavirus. Iran has been highly praised for its robust response to the disease as many governments and organizations keep castigating the US for its refusal to lift illegal sanctions to let the country access medical supplies and vital equipment needed to confront the virus.

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Half the global economy is on hold, and the reduction is still only 20% of what is called for.

Global Carbon Emissions Down Nearly 20% Since Lockdowns Began (JTN)

Carbon emissions worldwide are reportedly down by nearly 20% since the beginning of the coronavirus lockdowns, another highlighting the impact of ongoing shutdowns on human activity and the worldwide economy. A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, titled “Temporary reduction in daily global CO2 emissions during the COVID-19 forced confinement,” states that the reduction in average global emissions peaked at 26% before settling at 17%, compared mean emission levels in 2019. The authors, who hail from the U.K., the U.S., Norway and other countries, say that the total level of emission reductions for the whole year could range anywhere from 4% to 7%, depending on the disease mitigation procedures that remain in place, and for how long.


“Government actions and economic incentives post-crisis will likely influence the global CO2emissions path for decades,” they write. “At present it is unclear how long and deep the [economic] crisis will be, and how the recovery path will look, and therefore how CO2 emissions will be affected.” Governments worldwide have enacted severe and open-ended lockdowns and shutdowns since the disease began spreading late last year, with presidents, governors and other executives around the world unilaterally closing down huge swaths of their economies in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.

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CNN sets out to discredit Worldometer, mentions that Wikipedia editors find it makes errors. First, that would be a badge of honor for anyone not working at either CNN or Wikipedia, and second, it’s not possible to get every detail right when tracking multiple data from 200+ countries. If only because they themselves track data in different ways from each other.

The story falls apart when CNN finds that Johns Hopkins, which it thinks is much more reliable, cites Worldometer on a very regular basis.

The Mystery Behind Worldometer (CNN)

When Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez boasted of Spain’s high rankings, he didn’t pull his numbers out of thin air. On April 27, the OECD wrongly ranked Spain eighth in testing per capita. Initially, the OECD had used data from OWID to compile its statistics. But it sourced the Spanish numbers independently because OWID’s data was incomplete. [..] In its statement, the OECD said “we regret the confusion created on a sensitive issue by any debate on methodological issues” and stressed that increasing the availability of testing in general is more important than knowing where any particular country ranks. Sánchez’s later reference to a Johns Hopkins study, in which he said Spain ranked fifth for testing worldwide, appears to have been a case of mixed-up attribution by the prime minister.

JHU has not published international testing figures. Jill Rosen, a spokeswoman for the school, told CNN the university couldn’t identify a report that matched Sánchez’s description. At a press conference on May 9, Sánchez evaded a CNN question pressing him on the JHU study’s existence and listed the government’s numbers on testing totals instead. In comments made to a Spanish reporter the next day, health minister Salvador Illa continued to insist the testing data had been released by JHU, though he pointed to Worldometer as the underlying source. Since Johns Hopkins gets its data from Worldometer, he argued, it’s just as good. “It is data given by the John Hopkins University […] taken from as a fundamental source of information, the website Worldometer,” Illa said. “You can check it.”

[..] One Wikipedia editor, James Heilman, a clinical assistant professor of emergency medicine at the University of British Columbia, said Wikipedia volunteers have noticed persistent errors with Worldometer, but also with “a more reputable name with a longer history of accuracy,” referring to Johns Hopkins. “We hope they also double check the numbers.” In an article published in February, JHU said it began manually tracking Covid-19 data for its dashboard in January. When that became unsustainable, the university began scraping data from primary sources and aggregation websites. Lauren Gardner, the associate engineering professor who runs the university’s Covid-19 dashboard, told CNN in a statement that the university uses a “two-stage anomaly detection system” to catch potential data problems.


“Moderate” changes are automatically added to the dashboard but flagged so staff can double-check them in real time. Changes beyond a certain threshold require “a human to manually check and approve the values before publication to the dashboard,” Gardner said. The university’s reliance on Worldometer has surprised some academics. Phil Beaver, a data scientist at the University of Denver, seemed at a loss for words when he was asked what he thought of JHU citing Worldometer. “I am not sure, that is a great question, I kind of got the impression that Worldometer was relying on [Johns] Hopkins,” he told CNN after a lengthy pause.

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Reuters labels it “foot-dragging”. Like we are clueless nitwits.

Venezuela Files Claim To Force Bank Of England To Hand Over Gold (R.)

Venezuela’s central bank has made a legal claim to try to force the Bank of England to hand over €930 million ($1.02 billion) of gold so President Nicolas Maduro’s government can fund its coronavirus response, according to the document submitted in a London court. The claim follows a request Venezuela made to the Bank of England in April to sell part of its gold reserves there and send the proceeds to the United Nations to help with the country’s coronavirus-fighting efforts. Since 2018, the Bank of England has delayed the transfer of 31 tonnes of Venezuelan gold stored there to Maduro, who Britain does not recognize as the country’s legitimate leader. The bank offers gold custodian services to many developing nations.


The claim, submitted in a commercial court and dated May 14, says the Venezuelan central bank “seeks an order requiring BoE to comply with the proposed instruction.” The funds, once transferred to the United Nations Development Programme, would be used to buy healthcare equipment, medicine, and food to address Venezuela’s “COVID-19 emergency,” the document seen by Reuters said. Selling off the country’s gold reserves has become one of the Maduro administration’s few options to raise funds due to U.S. sanctions. The collapse in global oil prices and a paralyzing coronavirus quarantine has further crippled Venezuela’s moribund economy. “The foot-dragging by the Bank of England is critically hampering Venezuela and the UN’s efforts to combat COVID-19 in the country,” Sarosh Zaiwalla, a London-based lawyer representing the central bank, said in a statement.

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Nice list.

Senate GOP Compile Massive Subpoena List For FBI Abuse Probe (ZH)

In the wake of bombshell evidence that shows the Obama DOJ inappropriately targeted the 2016 Trump campaign, Senate Republicans have compiled a list of 53 individuals they want to interview as part of their own comprehensive probe into the matter, separate of the Trump DOJ’s separate criminal investigation headed up by US Attorney John Durham. That said, as Fox News reports, the effort is being led by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC), so we expect weekly cable news appearances in which Graham wags his finger and issues the sternest of empty threats to investigate the swamp. Graham has previously come under fire for failing to follow through on promises to seek testimony from current and former DOJ and FBI officials – telling Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo that he doesn’t want to interfere with Durham’s probe.

But – in the unlikely event Graham isn’t going to simply run cover for the swamp in a sham investigation designed to placate those who seek justice, here are the names of those on the subpoena list, via Fox News: The majors: [former FBI Director] James Comey, [former FBI Deputy Director] Andrew McCabe, [former Director of National Intelligence] James Clapper, [former CIA Director] John Brennan, [former Deputy Attorney General] Sally Yates. We note that the names of both President Obama and his VP Joe Biden are conspicuously absent, despite the fact that both of them were in a January 5, 2017 meeting in which Obama gave Comey the nod to conceal information from the incoming Trump administration. Graham, in response, said that asking for testimony from a former president would set a ‘dangerous precedent.’


Everyone else: “Trisha Anderson, Brian Auten, James Baker, William Barr, Dana Boente, Jennifer Boone, Kevin Clinesmith [the FBI lawyer who allegedly falsified a CIA email to secure the Carter Page FISA warrant], Patrick Conlon, Michael Dempsey, Stuart Evans, Tashina Gauhar [a top DOJ deputy when classified details of Flynn’s calls with the Russian ambassador were illegally leaked to The Washington Post], Carl Ghattas, Curtis Heide, Kathleen Kavalec, David Laufman [who arranged a key meeting with a Steele dossier source], Stephen Laycock, Jacob Lew, Loretta Lynch, Mary McCord, Denis McDonough, Arthur McGlynn, Jonathan Moffa, Sally Moyer, Mike Neufield, Sean Newell, Victoria Nuland, Bruce Ohr, Nellie Ohr, Stephanie L. O’Sullivan, Lisa Page, Joseph Pientka [who interviewed Flynn at the White House while also playing a key role in the Carter Page probe, and whom the FBI has hidden from scrutiny], John Podesta, Samantha Power, E.W. “Bill” Priestap [who authored the memo debating whether the bureau simply wanted Flynn “fired”], Sarah Raskin, Steve Ricchetti, Susan Rice, Rod Rosenstein, Gabriel Sanz-Rexach, Nathan Sheets, Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Glenn Simpson, Steve Somma [an FBI case agent who apparently was involved in several key FISA omissions], Peter Strzok, Michael Sussman, Adam Szubin, Jonathan Winer, and Christopher Wray.”

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The more they resist, the harder Powell will come.

Flynn Lawyers Appeal Requests Case Dismissal, Removal Of Judge Sullivan (JTN)

Attorneys for former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court to force a district court to dismiss the case, as the Justice Department has requested. The petition also asks that the judge, Emmet Sullivan, be removed from Flynn’s case and that his U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacate his order to appoint former federal judge John Gleeson to argue against the dismissal of Flynn’s case and discuss whether the retired lieutenant general deserves to face contempt for perjury. Flynn in 2017 plead guilty to lying to the FBI but later sought to withdraw his plea. Evidence has since emerged suggesting the FBI had no case against Flynn but set up an interview hoping it would catch him lying, his lawyers and Justice officials have said.

Sullivan last week announced his intention to allow the filing of amicus curiae briefs, which meant that Flynn’s case would not immediately conclude. These “friend of the court” briefs allow parties interested in but not involved in a case to present their views. Sullivan also announced last week the appointment of Gleeson. In the petition filed Tuesday, Flynn’s legal team, which includes attorney Sidney Powell, blasted Sullivan and requested that the case be reassigned to a different judge.


“The district judge’s latest actions – failing to grant the Government’s Motion to Dismiss, appointing a biased and highly-political amicus who has expressed hostility and disdain towards the Justice Department’s decision to dismiss the prosecution, and the promise to set a briefing schedule for widespread amicus participation in further proceedings – bespeaks a judge who is not only biased against Petitioner, but also revels in the notoriety he has created by failing to take the simple step of granting a motion he has no authority to deny,” the petition says of Sullivan. “This is an umpire who has decided to steal public attention from the players and focus it on himself. He wants to pitch, bat, run bases, and play shortstop. In truth, he is way out in left field” the petition also states.

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Haven’t heard from Zelensky for a while.

Phone Calls Between Biden And Ukraine’s Poroshenko Leaked (ZH)

Leaked phone calls between Joe Biden and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko explicitly detail the quid-pro-quo arrangement to fire former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Victor Shokin – who Poroshenko admits did nothing wrong – in exchange for $1 billion in US loan guarantees (which Biden openly bragged about in January, 2018). The calls were leaked by Ukrainian MP Andrii Derkach, who says the recordings of “voices similar to Poroshenko and Biden” were given to him by investigative journalists who claim Poroshenko made them. Shokin was notably investigating Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that hired Biden’s son, Hunter, to sit on its board.

Shokin had opened a case against Burisma’s founder, Mykola Zlochevsky, who granted Burisma permits to drill for oil and gas in Ukraine while he was Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources. In January, 2019, Shokin stated in a deposition that there were five criminal cases against Zlochevesky, including money laundering, corruption, illegal funds transfers, and profiteering through shell corporations while he was a sitting minister. The leaked calls begin on December 3, 2015, when former Secretary of State John Kerry starts laying out the case to fire Shokin – who he says “blocked the cleanup of the Prosecutor Generals’ Office,” and sated that Biden “is very concerned about it,” to which Poroshenko replies that the newly reorganized prosecutor general’s office (NABU) won’t be able to pursue corruption charges, and that it may be difficult to fire Shokin without cause.

Later in the leaked audio on February 18, 2016 – less than three months after the Kerry conversation – Poroshenko delivers some “positive news.” “Yesterday I met with General Prosecutor Shokin,” says Poroshenko. And despite of the fact that we didn’t have any corruption charges, we don’t have any information about him doing something wrong, I specially asked him – no, it was day before yesterday – I specially asked him to resign. In, uh, as his, uh, position as a state person. And despite of the fact that he has a support in the power. And as a finish of my meeting with him, he promised to give me the statement on resignation. And one hour ago he bring me the written statement of his resignation. And this is my second step for keeping my promises.” To which Biden replied: “I agree.”


Four weeks later on March 22, 2016, Biden says “Tell me that there is a new government and a new Prosecutor General. I am prepared to do a public signing of the commitment for the billion dollars.” Poroshenko tells Biden that one of the leading candidates is the man who replaced Shokin, Yuriy Lutsenko who later said in a deposition that Hunter Biden and his business partners were receiving millions of dollars in compensation from Burisma. Then, on May 13, 2016, Biden congratulates Poroshenko on “getting the new Prosecutor General,” saying that it will be “critical for him to work quickly to repair the damage Shokin did.” “And I’m a man of my word,” Biden adds. “And now that the new Prosecutor General is in place, we’re ready to move forward to signing that one billion dollar loan guarantee.”

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Next nail. Same coffin.

Ukraine Judge Orders Joe Biden Listed As Alleged Perpetrator Of Crime (Solomon)

The infamous story of Joe Biden’s effort to force the firing of Ukraine’s chief prosecutor in 2016 has taken a new legal twist in Kiev, just as the former vice president is sewing up the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination in America. In Kiev late last month, District Court Judge S. V. Vovk ordered the country’s law enforcement services to formally list the fired prosecutor, Victor Shokin, as the victim of an alleged crime by the former U.S. vice president, according to an official English translation of the ruling obtained by Just the News. The court had previously ordered the Prosecutor General’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigations in February to investigate Shokin’s claim that he was fired in spring 2016 under pressure from Biden because he was investigating Burisma Holdings, the natural gas company where Biden’s son Hunter worked.


The court ruled then that there was adequate evidence to investigate Shokin’s claim that Biden’s pressure on then-President Petro Poroshenko, including a threat to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees, amounted to unlawful interference in Shokin’s work as Ukraine’s chief prosecutor. But when law enforcement agencies opened the probe they refused to name Biden as the alleged perpetrator of the crime, instead listing the potential defendant as an unnamed American. Vovk ruled that anonymous listing was improper and ordered the law enforcement agencies to formally name Biden as the accused perpetrator.

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