Mar 272020
 


Rembrandt van Rijn Portrait of his father 1628-29

 

I was following the numbers all afternoon, because I knew this was going to be the day that the US would become the no. 1. The no. 1 loser, that is. Here’s some of what I wrote in the Automatic Earth Comments section as we went along:

500,000 global cases was at noon EDT. 3.5 hours later there were another 20,000. [..] At 12.38 pm the US was 6,300 cases behind China. That is now 1,200.

God’s Own Country will take the definite no. 1 position sometime this afternoon, and then run away with it. The US has many fewer fatalities so far, but there, too, it will come out on top.

All this is why America pronounced Nicolas Maduro a drug trafficker and narco-terrorist today.

The US took the topspot at about 3pm. That done and achieved, I realize I’ve been so busy lately documenting the spread of the coronavirus and -some of- its consequences that the next steps in the demise, though clearly visible, risk going unnoticed.

But then I saw that the US is charging Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro with drug trafficking (narco-terrorism?!), and I was wide awake again. Why does the US, on the verge of becoming the worst hit “corona country”, charge him now, of all possible times, when they could have done it any given day for the past 7 years? Well, exactly because of the corona threat.

And I don’t think this is Trump; he may take a political hit, but he only has to do better than Joe Biden, and anybody could do that. This smells much more like some deep state thing, Mike Pompeo and his crew.

 

In their phone alerts, CNN had a few real howlers as the day went by.

“Health officials say the peak is yet to come”

“Stocks see third day of gains”

Meanwhile, it took them hours to clue into the fact that the US had become the no. 1. But it’s that second point that warrants scrutiny. In the expectation and the “fulfillment” of the $6 trillion “stimulus” package, stocks managed to rise. Yay! But that no. 1 position won’t leave any of that standing. No sirree.

The US is no longer capable of formulating and negotiating adequate legislation even in times of real crisis. And it’s not that it’s GOP against Dems, and one would do everything so much better than the other. It’s one set of special interests against another, and in the end both win. And there is no escape left from that.

I said earlier about the stimulus that such a package in the US today is possible only provided that the rich get 1000 times what the poor get. That’s the only way to get those $1,500 checks to people who actually need them. For every such check a million bucks goes to the rich and powerful.

And if only they were also 1000 times more likely to catch the coronavirus, at least we would have a sense of justice. But no such luck.

 

What the stimulus will really end up doing is it will expose the Fed. You can talk about unlimited QE all you want, but talk enough and it will lose all meaning. I’ve long said that there are no markets left because there is no price discovery, and lately I’ve seen many people saying exactly that, just much later.

The stimulus really only serves to take even more price discovery away, if that was still possible. And that’s it. The rich will be handed hundreds of billions with nowhere to go. The losses in the stock “markets” lately have been staggering, trillions were lost. But then you look at a graph and you think holy sh*t, there’s so much more to go, so much more downside before we get to anything resembling normal. This was two weeks ago:

 

 

Markets as they -used to- exist under capitalism can be an awesome instrument, because there is such a multitude of participants. However, when you start trying to control the “markets” because sometimes they fall a little and you don’t like that, you unleash formidable forces that are also part of that instrument. Like so many natural phenomena, they will tend towards a balance, and you can’t stop that. Not for long.

The process that looks like it may end soon started under Alan Greenspan and the housing bubbles he blew, and the seeds of the demise were sown right then and there. Now that $6 trillion has been thrown at the wall that won’t stick, what is next?

The Fed policies (and I include most other central banks under that moniker) worked for a while because the QE’s and the ultra low rates supported banks and other enterprises that were essentially zombies. They also “zombified” many other companies that might have been able to survive without them. Look at Boeing.

Look at Apple. They look like a great company but what are their shares worth? Nobody knows, because they bought back too many of them to make price discovery viable. So at least part of Apple looks great only because of trickery, not because of great products. Steve Jobs is turning in his grave as we speak.

 

And now the zombies may be killed off by a virus. Just not if the Fed can help it. But if America runs away with that top spot hard enough, if tens of thousands of new cases become a daily occurrence (we’re at 17,000 so far today), and the first ten thousand fatalities are counted, the country will be locked down and the “markets” will fall off a cliff.

Unless, and that what I’m starting to fear may happen, the powers that be see no other choice than to close the “markets”. That will mean the entire financial system is on the brink of collapse. It would be announced as temporary, but the damage would be done. Everything would turn into one giant margin call, banks would be forced to close, the works, a real depression.

Let’s hope that none of this happens, but the signs are not favorable. America appears much less prepared for a pandemic than even Lombardy was, with too little or too late of everything, ventilators, masks, protective clothing, medicine, you name it. You can’t run an economy in a setting like that.

But at least you’ll be rid of the zombies. It’s a shame, really, that there is no virus that kills only zombies, that so much else must be destroyed with them. The thing is, we did have these instruments to kill zombies, they were called central banks. Should have used them when we had the chance.

 

Our readership is up a lot, but ad revenue only keeps dropping. I’ve said it before, it must be possible to run a joint like the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

You heard it here first, like so many other things. And no, though it would be far more lucrative financially, the Automatic Earth will not adopt any paywalls, not here and not on Patreon. But you can still support us there, as well as right here. It’s easy. Thanks everyone for your donations overnight.

 

 

 

 

 

Support us in virustime. Help the Automatic Earth survive. It’s good for you.

 

Mar 202020
 


David Hockney Do remember they can’t cancel the spring 2020 (released for corona crisis)

 

 

“We’re Not Even Counting The Dead Any More” (R.)
One Iranian Dies Of Coronavirus Every 10 Minutes, 50 Get Infected Every Hour (RT)
Madrid Reports One Coronavirus Death Every 16 Minutes (MT)
Young Adults Make Up A Big Part Of US Coronavirus Hospitalizations (CNN)
France Tightens COVID-19 Lockdown Restrictions To ‘Max 2km From Home’ (RT)
Severe Restrictions On Movement In California Now In Place (JTN)
‘Zero Prospect’ Of London Lockdown Involving Movement Limits, Says No 10 (G.)
4 GOP Senators Implicated In Stock Dumping Scandal (RawS)
Sen. Loeffler (R-GA) Dumped Stocks After Jan 24 Meeting On Coronavirus (NYP)
Untested Health Workers Put Elderly at Risk for Coronavirus
Senate GOP Coronavirus Bailout Bill Caps Executive Pay At $425,000 (CNBC)
South Korea Success In Virus Control Due To Acceptance Of Surveillance (Conv.)
Everyone In Iceland Can Get Tested For The Coronavirus (BF)
Baltimore Mayor Begs Residents To Stop Shooting Each Other (WJZ)

 

 

Saw some numbers come in yesterday, one coronavirus death in Madrid every 16 minutes on Monday, and one death in Iran every 10 minutes, with 50 new infections every hour. That sounds real horrible.

Then I saw that in Italy over the 24 hours prior to their announcement of their new numbers around 12 pm EDT, there had been 427 new deaths and 5,322 new cases. Off the top of my head, correct me if I’m wrong, that is one death every 3 minutes, and 3.7 new cases every minute (221.7 every hour).

The numbers below continue their relentless rise, and no, it’s not the numbers themselves that matter, it’s the trajectory. And as much as people can maintain that lockdowns are overkill, the alternative appears to be Italy. And of course that country has been far too late in its initial response, and made some huge mistakes in the process, but so has very other single country and government in the world.

Ergo, Boris Johnson solemnly swearing that that there will be no lockdown in London will only serve to isolate Britain even more than if it did have a lockdown. The most amazing images yesterday came from the British Parliament, which, as nations after nation forbids gatherings of more than 100 or even just 10, people, still has all these folk sitting practically on each other’s lap for hours on end.

One other point: I said last week that I did not agree with the accepted view, that the US would come in a separate wave behind France, Germany and Spain, even though the numbers back then seemed to indicate that view was correct. Today, the US, where both cases and deaths shot up some 45% in 24 hours, is right in the middle of what I called the Wave 2 group.

My prediction: The US has overtaken France, and will in the next few days pass Germany, Spain, and then Iran.

 

 

 

Cases 250,618 (+ 28,684 from yesterday’s 221,934)

Deaths 10,255 (+ 1,256 from yesterday’s 8,999)

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 10% –

 

 

From SCMP: (Note: the SCMP graph was useful when China was the focal point; they are falling behind now)

 

 

From COVID2019.app: (New format lacks new cases and deaths)

 

 

 

 

US #coronavirus March :

3/1: 89
3/2: 105
3/3: 125
3/4: 159
3/5: 227
3/6: 331
3/7: 444
3/8: 564
3/9: 728
3/10: 1,000
3/11: 1,267
3/12: 1,645
3/13: 2,204
3/14: 2,826
3/15: 3,505
3/16: 4,466
3/17: 6,135
3/18: 8,760
Now: 14,366

 

 

 

 

 

https://twitter.com/Talking_Monkeys/status/1240443538170617857

 

 

Remember, this from 12 days ago is still very much relevant: The Virus is a Time Machine. What’s happening in Italy today will very likely happen to your country and community in a week, or 2 or 3.

“We’re Not Even Counting The Dead Any More” (R.)

Doctor Romano Paolucci, who came out of retirement to help at a hospital in Italy’s coronavirus epicenter, says one of the hardest things for him is not so much seeing people die – he is used to that. It is seeing them die alone, without a loved one by their side, often having to say their final farewell over a scratchy cell phone line. Paolucci is one of 70 doctors working long and exhausting shifts at the small Oglio Po Hospital, which until only a month ago was a normal provincial institution treating everything from tonsils to tumors. Now, it has been totally converted to treat coronavirus as Cremona province became the fourth-worst impacted province in Italy.

“I would say that we are at the end of our strength. This is a small hospital and we are taking in a lot of people … capacity is filled,” he said in a hallway amid the sounds of ventilators pumping oxygen, equipment beeping, and colleagues bustling. More of that type of noise would be music to his ears. “We do not have sufficient resources and especially staff because apart from everything else, now the staff are beginning to get sick,” he said. While medical staff work exhausting shifts of 12 hour or more and struggle to keep the patients alive, they also have to deal with the heartbreak of people dying without a loved one by their side, a measure necessary to contain the virus. “We have started a service in which we contact relatives on the phone to explain to them what is happening. So there is at least some contact,” he said.

[..] Nearly every inch of the hospital has been turned over to the coronavirus emergency, said Doctor Daniela Ferrari. There is no longer a paediatric ward or a cardiology ward and only three beds have been kept aside for emergency surgery. Six of the nine surgeons tested positive and had to go home, she said, adding that the hospital had a rate of about 20 percent of staff infected. Daniela Confalonieri, a nurse at the an San Raffaele hospital in the Lombardy regional capital of Milan, is also worried about sick medical staff. “We too are working in a situation of total emergency. The problem is that so many of our staff are at home as they are (have tested) positive. So that leaves a handful of us to run everything,” she said on a video posted on the internet.

“Psychological tension has gone through the roof. Unfortunately we can’t contain the situation in Lombardy, there’s a high level of contagion and we’re not even counting the dead any more,” she said.

Read more …

We still know so little of what goes on in Iran. But strenghtening sanctions, as the US is doing, is murderous and brainless.

One Iranian Dies Of Coronavirus Every 10 Minutes, 50 Get Infected Every Hour (RT)

Iranian authorities have provided shocking statistics showing the massive scale of the local Covid-19 outbreak. The country remains the worst-affected in the Middle East, with 1,284 coronavirus deaths already. “Based on our information, every 10 minutes one person dies from the coronavirus and some 50 people become infected with the virus every hour in Iran,” Kianush Jahanpur, the health ministry spokesman, wrote on Twitter. The death toll from the disease in Iran has reached 1,284 people, with 149 deaths coming in the last 24 hours. With 18,407 infected, Iranian medics are overwhelmed with the number of patients. The fight against the highly-contagious virus is being hampered by the harsh US sanctions against Tehran which Washington refuses to remove or soften despite international calls.

Read more …

One day, one city.

Madrid Reports One Coronavirus Death Every 16 Minutes (MT)

The latest official figures produced by the Spanish government show that the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 throughout the country has risen to 17,147 with nearly 7,000 of the cases in the region of Madrid. The Region of Madrid is in crisis, with one death recorded every 16 minutes on Monday, the 88 deaths on Monday exacerbated by the influx of more than 3,000 people in one day taken into hospitals and clinics. At the same time, the latest data presented at lunchtime on Thursday include an increase in the number of fatalities related to the virus to 767. The number of cases increased by around 25% in the last 24 hours.

939 are in intensive care and 1,107 have recovered fully from the virus. One nurse has died in the Basque Country from the virus. It is hoped that the strict confinement of members of the public to their homes throughout Spain will slow the spread of the virus, but it is not known when the effects will become clear; according to Fernando Simón, who presented the latest data. Yesterday it was stated that the virus is expected to peak around 3 weeks after the start of the containment measures and nobody is under any illusions that this is not going to be a short-term lockdown.

The spokesman also reiterated that the virus is not only attacking elderly people. 33% of the cases are those aged 65 and more, 18% of whom are aged over 75. He also stated that 3 of the dead are known to have been under the age of 65, although it is also known that the young are less vulnerable to serious attacks and their symptoms are generally milder. He also reminded the public of the need for patience during the confinement period which has been established during the emergency, recognizing that frustration is beginning to mount and that tempers will be fraying. It is important to remember, he says, that staying at home is essential in order to make the period of confinement as short as possible for everyone and reduce the number of deaths. 

Read more …

About time that fable was halted.

Young Adults Make Up A Big Part Of US Coronavirus Hospitalizations (CNN)

Up to 20% of people hospitalized with coronavirus in the United States are young adults between ages 20 to 44, a new federal study shows. While the risk of dying was significantly higher in older people, the report issued Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows younger people are making up a big portion of hospitalizations. Nearly 9,000 Americans have tested positive for the virus. At least 149 have died. The CDC analyzed the cases of about 2,500 patients in the United States whose ages were known. Of the 508 patients known to have been hospitalized, 20% were notably younger — between ages 20 and 44, while 18% were between ages 45 and 54, the report says. The highest percentage of hospitalized patients was at 26% between ages 65 and 84. And of the 121 patients known to have been admitted to an ICU, 36% were adults ages 45 to 64, while 12% were ages 20 to 44. There were no ICU admissions reported for those under age 19, the report says.

Read more …

France is done fooling around.

France Tightens COVID-19 Lockdown Restrictions To ‘Max 2km From Home’ (RT)

France has dramatically tightened restrictions on movement amid its coronavirus lockdown, warning citizens that they should limit their travel to within one kilometer of their homes – and a maximum of two kilometers. The country went into a 15-day lockdown over the Covid-19 outbreak at noon on Tuesday, and a list of acceptable reasons for travel was published by the government. Those reasons include shopping for basic necessities, seeking medical treatment, helping a neighbor or relative, and walking the dog. Getting exercise was also seen as a legitimate reason – provided that it was done alone. All tolerated activities were only acceptable if a person filled out a government form stating their reasons for movement (those without a printer were permitted to handwrite a statement).


As of Thursday, a new advisory from the Ministry of Sport reminded people that the goal of the lockdown was for “everyone to be confined” and not to leave home unless it was for an “urgent” matter. The ministry said people should now stay within one (maximum two) kilometers of their home and that a “little jogging” was possible, but “not a 10k” run. Cycling is also now completely out of the question, with the French Cyclist Federation noting on Twitter that the activity “does not comply with the criteria” outlined by the government. The federation urged cyclists to help save lives and “stay at home!” In a joint statement, Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo and Paris Police Chief Didier Lallement made a “solemn appeal” to walkers and joggers, who are still frequenting the banks of the Seine and other areas in large numbers, to limit their movement to what is “strictly necessary.”

Read more …

How on earth can you call this “the most severe restrictions yet”?

Severe Restrictions On Movement In California Now In Place (JTN)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday night ordered residents in America’s largest state to mostly stay at home, imposing the most severe restrictions yet aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus. The order will impact the state’s population of approximately 40 million people “until further notice.” “The California State Public Health Officer and Director of the California Department of Public Health is ordering all individuals living in the State of California to stay home or at their place of residence except as needed to follow the federal critical infrastructure sectors,” a state coronavirus response website says.


“Those that work in critical sectors should go to work. Grocery stores, pharmacies, banks and more will stay open,” the governor tweeted. Some of the places that will be closed include: “Dine-in restaurants,” “Bars and nightclubs,” “Entertainment venues,” “Gyms and fitness studios,” “Public events and gatherings” and “Convention Centers.”

Read more …

France has already threatened to close it borders on all Britons.

‘Zero Prospect’ Of London Lockdown Involving Movement Limits, Says No 10 (G.)

There is “zero prospect” of a London lockdown involving limits on movement but new restrictions could be put in place on pubs and cafes to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the capital, the government has said. The prime minister’s official spokesperson sought to quash overnight reports that there would be limits on transport or on who can enter or leave London, saying there was also no truth to reports that key workers would be asked to present papers to prove their status. But with people still being asked to avoid congregating in public, details of new steps to slow the virus in London – where it is spreading faster than anywhere else in the UK – are expected to be released later and are likely to include new conditions on pubs, cafes, bars and theatres.


The spokesperson said: “There are no plans to close down the transport network in London and there is zero prospect of any restriction being placed on travelling in or out of London. The prime minister and his advisers have set out the need for social distancing measures to limit the spread of the virus and to protect lives. “What we’re focused on is ensuring as many people as possible take that advice and don’t unnecessarily put themselves in a position where they could be spreading coronavirus.” He said speculation that households could be limited to only one person at a time leaving their home were untrue and he dismissed claims that people could be fined if they left their homes. Sweeping changes to ordinary life in the capital are already in place, with Transport for London announcing on Wednesday night that it was closing 40 tube stations that are not interchange hubs. A reduced service is expected on the underground and buses.

Read more …

Stay home!

Note: I think these people can’t even be investigated for this because of their jobs. Kick them out!

4 GOP Senators Implicated In Stock Dumping Scandal (RawS)

The GOP Senate Caucus faced a massive scandal on Thursday after multiple GOP senators revealed in public filings that they had sold large stock holdings after private briefings on the coronavirus scandal. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) have all be implicated in the scandal. Now conservative Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe has also been caught up, after reporting he sold in late February. There have been calls for the implicated lawmakers to resign from office over the scandal.

Read more …

“Kelly Loeffler’s net worth is almost $500,000,000. She is the wealthiest member of Congress … and … it … just … isn’t … enough.”

“For some 18 years, Kelly Loeffler worked for Intercontinental Exchange. Most recently, she was the CEO of Bakkt, its cryptocurrency platform.”

“Sen. Kelly Loeffler is married to Jeffrey Sprecher, the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange, and the chairman and CEO of Intercontinental Exchange, which is NYSE’s parent company.”

Sen. Loeffler (R-GA) Dumped Stocks After Jan 24 Meeting On Coronavirus (NYP)

A wealthy Georgia senator is reportedly the second member of Congress to have dumped massive shares of stocks following a private, chamber-wide meeting on the new coronavirus. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), whose husband is the chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, began selling off more than a million dollars in stocks on the same day as the closed-door Senate meeting on Friday, Jan. 24, reports The Daily Beast. Over the next three weeks, through Feb. 14, Loeffler made 27 sales worth between $1,275,000 and $3,100,000, before the market nosedived and her holdings’ values tanked. She also purchased stocks on Feb. 14 from two work-from-home related companies Citrix, which specializes in teleworking software, and another tech frim, Oracle, according to the report.

“Appreciate today’s briefing from the President’s top health officials on the novel coronavirus outbreak,” she tweeted after the meeting. Even after allegedly dumping her holdings, Loeffler bashed Democrats for playing up the threats of the virus. “Democrats have dangerously and intentionally misled the American people on #Coronavirus readiness,” she tweeted in late February. “Here’s the truth: @realDonaldTrump & his administration are doing a great job working to keep Americans healthy & safe.” The freshman senator didn’t make any market moves before the meeting since taking office on Jan. 6, the Daily Beast reported. [..] A spokesperson for Loeffler said the senator didn’t directly handle her stock portfolio and wasn’t aware of the transactions until weeks after the meeting, on Feb 16.

“This is a ridiculous and baseless attack. Sen. Loeffler does not make investment decisions for her portfolio,” the spokesperson said. “Investment decisions are made by multiple third-party advisors without her or her husband’s knowledge or involvement.” She was the second member of Congress to reportedly dump large stock holdings following the briefing. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and his wife, Brooke, sold between $628,000 and $1.7 million in publicly traded stocks on Feb. 13, a week before the market fell, the Center for Responsive Politics first reported.

Read more …

Insane. These things should have been arranged 2 months ago, whe those senators were selling their stocks.

Untested Health Workers Put Elderly at Risk for Coronavirus

Dr. Jennifer Rhodes-Kropf has reason to fear that she might be infected with the new coronavirus. Just last week, her husband was sick with a dry cough after taking several flights and attending conferences. And this past weekend, her 8-year-old daughter had a high fever and cough. Rhodes-Kropf was able to get her daughter tested for the flu and cytomegalovirus, another common viral infection — and she was negative for both — but she hasn’t been able to get a coronavirus test for herself or anyone else in her family. And while everyone who hasn’t already had the viral illness now sweeping the world is now likely fearing for their health, Rhodes-Kropf has a particular reason to worry: She cares for 185 patients whose an average age is 91.

And if she has the new coronavirus known as SARS CoV-2 and passes it onto them, it could be disastrous. “They’re often very frail,” said Rhodes-Kropf, a geriatrician who practices in Boston. “If they do get the virus, a lot of them would not survive it.” A report released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control confirms her fears, showing that 27 percent of 130 patients who contracted the virus in the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, had died as of March 9. Rhodes-Kropf, who is now seeing urgent patients after being fitted with an N95 face mask, tried to get tested. She asked her daughter’s pediatrician first and then inquired at a local hospital.

But, even after explaining that she was a doctor caring for many elderly patients and had reason to suspect she might have been exposed, she wasn’t able to find a site that would test her. CDC testing guidelines say that coronavirus testing should be done on people who are residents of affected communities and have symptoms. Nevertheless, many people who are already ill with fever and the dry cough that is a signature of the viral Covid-19 infection are finding it impossible to get tested. For the asymptomatic, it is virtually impossible, even though there is ample evidence that they can spread the disease.

Read more …

Help people who make $10k working 3 jobs. Help health workers risking their lives. This is just grotesque.

Senate GOP Coronavirus Bailout Bill Caps Executive Pay At $425,000 (CNBC)

Executives at companies that would receive bailout cash from the coronavirus-relief bill unveiled by Senate Republicans on Thursday would see their annual compensation capped at $425,000 for two years. The legislation would also allow the government a chance to make money off its investments in these firms. Under the proposal, the American airline industry would receive $50 billion, cargo air carriers would get $8 billion, and other ailing industries would get $150 billion. The money for cargo air carriers was an addition to the White House’s original proposal, a person familiar with the situation told CNBC. Senate Republicans now must negotiate the terms of the final bill with their Democratic counterparts, as well as with lawmakers in the Democratic-controlled House.

According to the measure, no executive at a company receiving money may make more than $425,000 in total annual compensation for two years, retroactive to March 1. Company employees whose salary has already been determined through collective bargaining agreement may be exempt from that restriction. That likely applies to the union workers at companies accepting aid. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have acknowledged a need to offer aid to industries like the airlines, for fear their fall would eliminate jobs for thousands of workers. But Democrats have warned against any corporate aid that appears to be lining the pockets of executives. Republicans have worried about the appearance of flagrant spending.

[..] President Donald Trump said Thursday he would consider taking an equity stake in companies accepting federal aid, a move that would ultimately dilute shareholders. Trump didn’t specify which companies he was referring to but called out those that have bought back stock. Delta, American, Southwest and United airlines have collectively spent about $39 billion over the last five years buying back shares. Democrats have said they may push for more restrictions, like forbidding stock buybacks. Trump himself said he would be “OK” with such a stipulation. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement: “Any economic stimulus proposal must include new, strong and strict provisions that prioritize and protect workers, such as banning the recipient companies from buying back stock, rewarding executives, and laying off workers.”

Read more …

Western countries all have such scenarios waiting as well.

South Korea Success In Virus Control Due To Acceptance Of Surveillance (Conv.)

South Korea has been widely praised for its management of the outbreak and spread of the coronavirus disease COVID-19. The focus has largely been on South Korea’s enormous virus testing programme. What hasn’t been so widely reported is the country’s heavy use of surveillance technology, notably CCTV and the tracking of bank card and mobile phone usage, to identify who to test in the first place. And this is an important lesson for more liberal countries that might be less tolerant of such privacy invading measures but are hoping to emulate South Korea’s success.

While Taiwan and Singapore have excelled in containing the coronavirus, South Korea and China arguably provide the best models for stopping outbreaks when large numbers of people have been infected. China quarantined confirmed and potential patients, and restricted citizens’ movements as well as international travel. But South Korea accomplished a similar level of control and a low fatality rate (currently 1%) without resorting to such authoritarian measures. This certainly looks like the standard for liberal democratic nations. The most conspicuous part of the South Korean strategy is simple enough: test, test and test some more. The country has learned from the 2015 outbreak of MERS and reorganised its disease control system. It has a good, large-capacity healthcare system and a sophisticated biotech industry that can produce test kits quickly.

These factors enable the country to carry out 15,000 tests per day, making it second only to China in absolute numbers and third in the world for per person testing. But because COVID-19 is a mild disease for most people, only a small fraction of patients tend to contact health authorities for testing based on their symptoms or known contact with infected people. Many patients with mild symptoms, especially younger ones, don’t realise they are ill and infecting others. If these patients can’t be found, testing capacity doesn’t mean much. This is where smart city infrastructure comes in. The aim is to work out where known patients have been and test anyone who might have come into contact with them. There are three main ways people are tracked.

First, credit and debit cards. South Korea has the highest proportion of cashless transactions in the world. By tracking transactions, it’s possible to draw a card user’s movements on the map. Second, mobile phones can be used for the same purpose. In 2019, South Korea had one of the world’s highest phone ownership rates (there are more phones than people). Phone locations are automatically recorded with complete accuracy because devices are connected to between one and three transceivers at any time. And there are approximately 860,000 4G and 5G transceivers densely covering the whole country. Crucially, phone companies require all customers to provide their real names and national registry numbers. This means it’s possible to track nearly everyone by following the location of their phones.

Finally, CCTV cameras also enable authorities to identify people who have been in contact with COVID-19 patients. In 2014, South Korean cities had over 8 million CCTV cameras, or one camera per 6.3 people. In 2010, everyone was captured an average of 83.1 times per day and every nine seconds while travelling. These figures are likely to be much higher today. Considering the physical size of the country, it is safe to say South Korea has one of the highest densities of surveillance technology in the world.

Read more …

Screw globalization. Get self-sufficient.

Everyone In Iceland Can Get Tested For The Coronavirus (BF)

As countries around the world scramble to fight back the spread of the coronavirus, Iceland is doing things a little differently from the rest — and the approach could have a much larger impact on our understanding of the virus. The small island nation of 364,000 is carrying out large-scale testing among its general population, making it the latest country to put aggressive testing at the heart of its fight against the pandemic. But — crucially — the testing also includes people who show no symptoms of the disease. Iceland’s government said it has so far tested a higher proportion of its citizens than anywhere else in the world.

The number of individuals tested by the country’s health authorities and the biotechnology firm deCode Genetics — 3,787 — roughly translates to 10,405 per million, which compares to about 5,203 in South Korea, 2478 in Italy, and 764 in the UK. “Iceland’s population puts it in the unique position of having very high testing capabilities with help from the Icelandic medical research company deCode Genetics, who are offering to perform large scale testing,” Thorolfur Gudnason, Iceland’s chief epidemiologist, told BuzzFeed News. “This effort is intended to gather insight into the actual prevalence of the virus in the community, as most countries are most exclusively testing symptomatic individuals at this time.”

Of 3,787 individuals tested in the country, a total of 218 positive cases have been identified so far. “At least half of those infected contracted the virus while travelling abroad, mostly in high-risk areas in the European Alps (at least 90),” the government said on Monday. Those numbers include the first results of the voluntary tests on people with no symptoms, which started last Friday. The first batch of 1,800 tests produced 19 positive cases, or about 1% of the sample. “Early results from deCode Genetics indicate that a low proportion of the general population has contracted the virus and that about half of those who tested positive are non-symptomatic,” said Gudnason. “The other half displays very moderate cold-like symptoms.”

Read more …

The greatest country on earth.

Baltimore Mayor Begs Residents To Stop Shooting Each Other (WJZ)

Baltimore Mayor Jack Young urged residents to put down their guns and heed orders to stay home after multiple people were shot Tuesday night amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Young said hospital beds are needed to treat positive COVID-19 patients and not for senseless violence. Seven people were shot Tuesday night in the Madison Park neighborhood, as Baltimore reported its fifth positive coronavirus case Wednesday. “I want to reiterate how completely unacceptable the level of violence is that we have seen recently,” Young said. “We will not stand for mass shootings and an increase in crime.”


“For those of you who want to continue to shoot and kill people of this city, we’re not going to tolerate it,” Young implored. “We’re going to come after you and we’re going to get you.” He urged people to put down their guns because “we cannot clog up our hospitals and their beds with people that are being shot senselessly because we’re going to need those beds for people infected with the coronavirus. And it could be your mother, your grandmother or one of your relatives. So take that into consideration.”

Read more …

 

 

 

 

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Mar 082020
 


Heinrich Hofmann Christ and the Rich Young Man 1889

 

Around mid-January I started including coronavirus news in the daily Automatic Earth “Debt Rattle” news aggregators, and wrote the first essay on the topic on January 29. Tons of people since have asked why, but I thought the virus had “potential”. Though not everybody would agree, I still think that. So the Debt Rattles are full of coronavirus these days.

For a proper understanding, we must remember that China was 4-5 weeks too late in reporting the disease, and after that the west was 4-5 weeks late in acting on the news. This happens simply because a politician who cries wolf will have a short career, and reporters, certainly today, follow that same model.

I explained 5 weeks ago why this happens the way it does in China in The Party and the Virus, but western countries’ political and media systems are structured very much the same way. Being early to warn does not help your job prospects. Unless you’re 100% sure, but then you won’t be alone and there’s nothing left to warn about. So might as well stay mum.

Until you must speak, and then you’re way behind, and you’ll be as wrong as you are late. Cast in stone. Bias “R” Us. But then, that’s why there’s the Automatic Earth. The Matrix is never perfectly sealed.

 

In the case of COVID19, the story is not about the numbers of cases or fatalities at any given point after two months and change, it’s about the disruption it will cause. We have a highly contagious virus that can cause death. That is all you need to know really. Feel free to claim that reactions and measures are over the hill, but no government has the option to say things are not all that bad and it’s business as usual.

They all tried again though. It’s in their job description. One of their tasks is to prevent panic, and yes, they use that to hide their ignorance behind, but they still must do it. But that’s alright, because all halfway smart people know what to do when a politician says not to panic.

However, they will still quarantine you and close borders, no matter what you think. Politicians are dead set to react too late, and then when they do, to order measures that are over the top and at best partly effective. But it’s not them, it’s the model they function within.

I first said this days ago, that it’s easy for people to look past that reality, but it’s always good to see Nassim Taleb share that view, that what you think about your own situation is not an option for politicians:

 

 

And people comparing COVID 19 to seasonal flu are therefore way off base. It’s not apples and oranges, it’s apples and baseballs -if not baseball bats-. Both are round but they have little else in common. The seasonal flu has been around since at least 1899, when the first epidemic was reported, what ever that meant back then.

The COVID19 virus is, far as we know, 3 months and change old. So any numbers you can toss around, of so many people killed by one and not the other, are pretty much meaningless. They are completely different entities that just happen to perhaps look alike if you don’t look to close. You can bring up the comparison, but you don’t say a thing about COVID19 if you do.

 

There are more interesting things to say about COVID 19. Unlike seasonal flu (largely), this one is not standing still. That means it will take 12-18 months to develop a vaccine, while any given year’s vaccine vs that year’s “normal” flu takes a few weeks. That difference may not say it all, but it comes close.

The most striking characteristic of the virus may be, if not should be, its exponential (or quadratic, if you will) progress once it gets hold. Ben Hunt tweeted earlier today, in reaction to Rome shutting down a quarter of the entire country, that “Italy is a time machine that shows us our future. Why do we ignore it?” But it’s not just Italy. It’s a pattern, it’s a dynamic, it’s motion. All things that regular flu is not.

And here’s what that dynamic looks like:

 

First, South Korea till March 4. when it had 5,621 cases. Today it has 7,313. But it is suspicious; they have very few deaths AND very few recovered cases. Well over 90% of cases are unresolved, way more than in other countries. It also has by far the largest numbers infected per million people.

 


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Italy till March 4. when it had 3,089 cases. Today it has 7,375. 1,492 new cases today, and 133 new deaths (366 total). Ouch. 25% more cases, 57% more deaths.

 


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China may have leveled off a little (who knows, really?), but the rest of the world is just getting started.

 


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The US is starting to get in line:

 

 

And this pair of graphs from Worldometer just keeps going as well:

 

 

COVID19 is not a point in space, it’s not standing still. You can’t look at it and compare it to anything else around today, because it moves much faster. Let’s try this vein:

I would suggest we’re looking at something like this:
Wave 0: Wuhan/Hubei (11/58.5 million people)
Wave 1: Rest of China (1.375 million people, total China 1,435)
Wave 2: Italy, South Korea, Iran (59, 51 and 81 million people)

And the next wave could well be, given their development in new cases, countries that are following the early phases of the graphs for Italy and South Korea above:
Wave 3: US, Germany, France, Spain (?!) (330, 83, 67, 47 million people)

The UK is a candidate with its 66.8 million people, but it’s either cheating (don’t test) or it may “have to wait” for Wave 4. Note: the US doesn’t have all that many cases either, but its death rate is high.

I mention the numbers of inhabitants because Wave 3 may also include some countries with fewer people (Wave 3.5?):

Switzerland, Sweden, Belgium, Netherlands (8.5, 10.1, 11.5 and 17.1 million people) are all countries with relatively small populations and relatively high numbers of new cases that may well contain the same sort of clusters that have caused the explosion in cases in Wave 1 countries. We can not predict excatly what happens, but we can see trendlines.

 

The virus is a time machine in the sense that whereas we can -in theory- assume that the regular flu moves in human time, COVID19 very much appears to move in virus time. Almost something you would ask a quantum theorist to look into.

Meanwhile of course you can theorize about the possibility that this is a bioweapon, but first of all that doesn’t help any patients right now, and second it’s only interesting if you can find out whether it was made on purpose or by accident, released by accident or on purpose, and was it the Chinese, the Americans, the Russians, the British, or someone else, why did they do it, why does it target which group, etc etc.

This thing plays out today, not in an imaginary future where you may have found out the who what and why. In the meantime, people are dying.

If you look at the graphs for Italy and South Korea above, you can see your future. Not in a precise way, but certainly in a general one. You can see ahead. Time machine.

 

 

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Jan 292020
 


M.C. Escher Fluorescent sea 1933

 

It’s a little amusing, though that word may not fit the topic, to see how people react to the 2019-nCoV (Wuhan coronavirus) “epidemic” that appears to have started in the city of that name. It’s understandable that people compare the warnings about it to those about for instance SARS (also a coronavirus, so either call this one 2019-nCoV or “Wuhan coronavirus”), and conclude that since that episode was not so bad, neither will this one be, but that’s certainly not the definitive story.

If only because stating that the world is due for a large-scale epidemic, a pandemic, is not some scare-mongering exercise, it’s basic statistics and broadly recognized. The last really big one is over 100 years ago. The Spanish flu of 1917-1918 killed an estimated 50 million people, more than WWI which took place from 1914-1918, and saw an estimated 40 million fatalities.

(Un)predictability is key: Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, director of Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City says: “There is no good way to predict [when a flu pandemic will occur], but “this is something that happens every 10 to 40 years”. In essence, since a real flu pandemic hasn’t happened in 100 years, we’re overdue.

There are of course vast differences between today and 1918. But then again, these differences may balance each other out to an extent: on the one hand: 1) medical science has made enormous progress in the past 100 years. But on the other: 2) there are many more people, and they move around and come in contact with each other a lot more too.

 


Cross-sectional model of a coronavirus. Source:
Scientific Animations (CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

World population in 1918 was 1.8 billion; today it’s over 4 times that at 7.7 billion. Add increased mobility through planes, trains and automobiles -in the west and now China- and you will find the number of miles traveled and the number of people “met” per capita has probably gone up by a factor of 10 or more. Just what a virus wants: 10+ times more potential hosts.

The 2009 swine flu killed “only” 200,000 people. Not the “real thing”. SARS affected about 8,000 people and killed 774 in the early 2000s. Hardly even an epidemic, let alone a pandemic. MERS, another coronavirus, infected 186 people and with a death toll of 36. Small change in comparison.

But of course scientists are looking into the matter all the time. And, certainly compared to 1918, they have developed much more sophisticated models to do that, aided greatly by computing power. A simulation of a global pandemic that involves a coronavirus, developed late last year by scientist Eric Toner at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, showed that 65 million people might die within 18 months in such an event.

A more recent model was developed by a team led by Hong Kong University’s medicine dean Gabriel Leung:

The Coronavirus outbreak doubles every 6.2 days [..] That figure validates the forecast of top virologists who claim that Coronavirus is ten times worse than SARS. Hong Kong University is ranked a top 25 college globally and houses the world’s top 1% scientists according to Thomson Reuters. Based on the model used by HKU, up to 150,000 individuals could be affected by Coronavirus in the next three to four months on a daily basis.

Leung’s team said that it confirmed transmission from humans to humans is already occurring in virtually every major city in China. By April to May, Leung said Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing are likely to see widespread infections of Coronavirus, [before the number of infections could begin to gradually decline in June or July, Leung said.


As many as 44,000 people could be infected in Wuhan alone, with only 25,000 likely to be showing symptoms at this time..] Specifically, Leung noted that due to the close ties between Chongqing and Wuhan, Chongqing could see nearly 150,000 people affected per day at its peak.

Chongqing is sometimes presumed to be the world’s most populous city, with 30 million inhabitants, though data are somewhat opaque.

SCMP adds:

Leung, who sits on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s advisory committee on the coronavirus, called for drastic measures to curb the spread of the virus. “Substantial, draconian measures limiting population mobility should be taken immediately,” he said, calling for the cancellation of mass gatherings, along with school closures and work-from-home arrangements.

He would undoubtedly also cancel all flights to and from Wuhan, and perhaps even all of China, as British Airways has already done, and as other airlines will be forced to follow suit.

Yesterday was the first day that the 2019-nCoV virus had infected over 1,000 new patients. And that’s in official numbers, those are the confirmed ones for a disease with a 2-week incubation period and an R0 rate (how many people are infected by each positive person) of 2.5 to 4. It was also the first day that more new cases were reported outside of Hubei province than inside it.

Scores of new countries were added to the list of those with confirmed cases. There are now 19: China, United States, France, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Nepal, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Canada, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Germany and UAE (Finland was just added; now there’s 20). Moreover, several of these countries have confirmed human-to-human transmission.

Still, while Hong Kong University’s Gabriel Leung estimates the 2019-nCoV peak at late April-early May 2020, Chinese respiratory diseases expert Zhong Nanshan, echoed by Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said the peak would be reached in 10 days.

 


Infection cycle of a coronavirus

 

The WHO is, as I speak, burying China in compliments for its efforts to control the disease. Which is fine, and likely more constructive than criticism, but we’ve all been able to see the footage of dead and dying people in the corridors of Wuhan hospitals. And we know China’s history on SARS reporting. Beijing is worried sick by now, but the CCP’s biggest worry will always remain power and control. The Hong Kong protests have only enforced that attitude.

But who are we to criticize China anyway? In our own countries, the main concern in the media is still about the economic effects of what may or may not become a pandemic. “It’s going to hurt global trade, it’s going to hurt our economy, woe, woe..” As if it’s such a disaster that for a few months fewer non-essential goods are schlepped halfway across the globe. That period is likely too short for us to realize than we would do good to produce at least essential goods closer to home. The main concern is money, not that 132 people have died and many more will soon. Those are our priorities.

For a bright light to hit home upside our heads that we would actually notice, that would make us take a look at ourselves, we would need a real bad pandemic. Or we will not learn that we should not need a pandemic to realize we should take care of ourselves, our own basic needs, and not let someone 10,000 miles away do that.

As for fewer airline bookings or Louis Vuitton or Apple sales, if that’s your priority, maybe you’re overdue a lesson no matter what. A lesson about what your society needs to survive, vs what are extras, luxuries, added benefits. We seem to have lost comprehension of that difference entirely.

Summary: no panic, but vigilance. Same as every other day. And not too much focus on money and profits. 2019-nCoV doesn’t care about those either. In 2020, with all the resources at our disposal, and with 1918 to guide us, we should be able to see these things coming from miles away, and not need any time to respond. It should be no more than flicking a switch.

Now it’s like: but where will our food come from, and our iPhones? We should have the answers to such questions ready at all times, or we have failed as societies. Maybe someone’s holding up a mirror to us.

A question I can’t resist is: Are we better prepared today than people were in 1918? And I can’t give you the answer. I know we should be with all the wealth and resources and available energy we’ve added, but I can’t.

 

 

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Aug 272015
 
 August 27, 2015  Posted by at 1:34 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  18 Responses »


Dorothea Lange Arkansas flood refugee family near Memphis, Texas 1937

This is a story I’ve been wanting to write for a while now, at least two full weeks, but haven’t gotten around to because I have my dying mother to attend to. Something I can to an extent approach from a rational point of view, because she has expressed her explicit will to die. But it will of course never be easy, if only because I’ve been close to her all my life even in the 20-odd years I lived thousands of miles away. It’s a thing of the heart.

And so must be, at some moment or another, my dealing with what she goes through, and what I will go through when she finally gets her wish. A wish I would have thought would be reasonably easy to fulfill in a country as supposedly advanced as Holland, but that’s not true. People have to suffer more, long after they’ve signaled they’ve had enough, just to satisfy someone or another’s idea of ethics who has little to no involvement in the situation. Unless they’ve been through endless series of conversations with total strangers who will then decide when it’s time.

The person herself doesn’t have the right to make that decision. Now that I’m witnessing the process in progress, I would recommend everyone buy that pill or that gun well in advance, lest they get subjected to the same kind of self-serving morality nonsense themselves. We may not have the legal right to decide about our own lives, but what law is going to stop us from taking that decision regardless? The craziest expression of this mindless attitude is probably that in countless nations and cultures, suicide is still a punishable offence. My mother is not the suicidal kind; she just wants dignity, and is denied it.

But that’s not the story I wanted to write.

The way I write is that I sit down and let fly, most often inspired by things I’ve read recently. I make some notes, site down and often don’t use even half of those notes. In this case, I’ve taken lots of notes through the weeks, and now don’t know where to start anymore, let alone finish. Nicole (Foss) is a whole different writer: she can do the notes thing, and work on an article, which often turns out to be quite lengthy, for days if not weeks. I guess I just don’t have that kind of attention span. But you know, because we’re so different we work so well together. Because our styles may vary greatly, but we still have the same views, we just express them in different ways.

But that’s not the story I wanted to write either.

I want to say something about the issue of the refugees -never ever again migrants- that are swamping Europe. So much has been said about them, and so much has happened since I made my first notes, but not a soul has put their finger on the sore spot, and the real story. At least not that I’ve seen.

That real story is the painfully woefully inadequate -and I’m being painfully polite here- failure of Brussels and Berlin and Paris in responding to what’s been unfolding. And don’t get me started about London; there’s nothing coming from Britain these days that’s even worth talking about. When you dare talk about a ‘swarm of migrants’, you’re no longer part of the conversation.

And it’s not as if what Europe has perpetrated upon the Greek economy, and the Greek people who depend on it, isn’t enough. It is more than enough. Only, nobody seems to be willing to understand this, to let it sink in to its fullest. But that’s still kind of alright; financial policies are not the EUs biggest failure.

Even if even Varoufakis insists on being part of the EU -albeit a reformed one-. You can’t reform the EU. It’s allergic to any reform that would take even just a few of its powers away. That is embedded in its model. Varoufakis doesn’t sufficiently get this: you can’t any longer just change a few puppets in Brussels. Its alleged democracy is no longer anything but thin and peeling veneer.

It’s like the old Groucho joke, that he wouldn’t want to be part on any club that would have him as a member. It’s exactly that, actually. If you want to survive in Europe, let alone with dignity and values, it cannot be done inside the EU. And the refugee crisis tells us why, even more than the Greek crisis has.

What Brussels lacks most of all is morals, decency and compassion. It is a bureaucracy that has no human values. And this is expressed, in a painful and deadly way, not only in the streets of Athens, though it’s plenty glaringly clear there too, but even more in how the so-called Union “deals with” (that is, it doesn’t) the Mediterranean refugee issue.

We can take a philosophical approach to this, which can be interesting, though it doesn’t change a thing. We can for instance theorize about how a country, a society, a culture, that is hundreds or thousands of years old, and has gone through numerous natural and man-made disasters in its history, like so many in Europe, will have a response formulated for the next batch of mayhem, and on how to deal with those who are the victims of said mayhem.

That is what we see in how Italy and Greece have been trying to deal with the flood of refugees sailing off from Lybia and Turkey towards their shores. Both countries – or at least substantial segments of them – have gone out of their way to save refugees. Then late last year the EU -ostensibly- took over. But the EU has done next to nothing. It has paid lip service only. Which has cost thousands of human lives this year alone. And still nothing happens.

Now, now, some of them are waking up. The EU agency that is supposed to deal with it, Frontex, has announced it’s going to step up efforts to halt refugees from entering Europe. Just like it did when it took over from Italy and Greece, and the main idea was to send in the military to blow up the boats of the ugly and evil people smugglers.

Hungary is building a wall. Macedonia fired tear gas and stun grenades. The Czechs have said they’re going to send in the army. Police dogs and batons have become a common sight wherever the refugees are. Who are forced to walk a thousand miles or more, children and women and everyone. It’s a picture of disgrace. And the disgrace belongs to all of us.

EC head Juncker, after breaking a months long silence on the topic, declared this week that there’s no need for an Immigration Summit. All EU countries need to do is comply with existing regulations. Which, if I may remind you, were ‘agreed’ upon in a time when there was no such thing as the present influx of people.

What Europe should do, or rather should have done, because I guarantee you it’s too late now, is send as many people as needed to make sure people would stop drowning. To make sure the media would stop using the term ‘migrants’. To show Europe cares, and it alleged leaders first of all. To make sure there would be space and provisions for all who undertook the perilous journey, women, children, men, every single one.

Europe instead has only tried to ignore the issue, hoping it would go away by itself. This has cost at least 17,000 lives so far. And they know it. Here is a picture of a 100-meter list of 17,306 migrants who have died attempting to reach Europe, a list which was recently unveiled at the EU Parliament:

They know, and they’ve known for a long time. But still the UN said this week that Greece should do more. Greece? And Juncker says a summit is not needed. Juncker is supposed to be one of the main leaders of Europe. If we didn’t already know before, we now know for sure he’s no leader. Merkel? Haven’t seen her until this week when she said the situation is unworthy of Europe. But if anything, it’s unworthy of Merkel. She’s supposed to be a leader in Europe, and she’s very obviously not.

There’s a huge amount of people in Brussels and various European capitals who are posing as ‘leaders’, and all of them have fallen way short. All of them, Merkel, first, need to shut up and act now. Not tell other nations, or her own co-Germans, that they should be ashamed. Merkel should be ashamed of herself first. And we know that there are elections coming up, but we’re talking about human lives here, for sweet Jesus’s sake. What’s wrong with you, Angela, and all those like you? What part of you guys is even human anymore? Is only your ego left?

The EU, unlike Greece and Italy, has no history, no society, and above all no culture. The way it reacts to the refugee issue tells its entire empty story. All of it. Brussels doesn’t do anything at all in the face of thousands of people drowning. It waits for Greece to deal with the problem, which is obviously far too great for the Greeks to solve by themselves. And besides, the EU a year ago insisted on taking over rescue operations from Rome and Athens. This has brought about a strange and eery and deadly kind of Mexican stand-off.

The EU has already failed, dramatically and irreparably, in this regard. The only help refugees get is from Italy, Greece and private parties. It’s so bad that if Greece would take “full care” of the refugees entering the country -and that’s assuming it could-, there’d be even much less hope of Brussels ever lifting a finger.

In this fashion, the EU doesn’t just leave the refugees to their fate, it uses them as bait, as hostages, in its fight over financial and political power with Alexis Tsipras and the Syriza government. And though of course multiple voices try to lay the blame on Tsipras, that’s not where it belongs. Even if he could, he couldn’t. The only solution is for Greece to get out of the EU(ro) and restore dignity and humanity within its own borders.

For make no mistake, if you elect to remain part of the EU, and you let Juncker and Merkel speak in your name, then the blood of all those needlessly lost lives is also on your hands. That goes for every European citizen as much as it goes for the hapless heartless leaders they have elected.

For one thing, I can’t for the life of me understand why there are not thousands of young Dutch and German and British and French people, organized and all, in Athens, and on the Greek islands. While there are plenty of them there to get a bloody suntan on their “well-deserved vacation” while people are perishing within eyesight, and complain about their holidays being spoiled. Not all of them, I know, but c’mon, get a life! There are people dying every single day, and just because your so-called leaders let them drown doesn’t mean you should too.

Do you even know what “a life” is anymore, either yours or that of someone else? Have you ever known? A life means caring about other people. A life is not trying to make sure your own ass can sit as pretty as it can.

As for finding a solution to the refugee issue, Europe has done nothing to find one. The EU still wants the problem to just go away, and it wants the refugees to just go away. But it won’t and they won’t.

Yes, we have a mass migration on our hands. And these are invariably hard to deal with. But our first priority should always be to approach the people involved with decency and compassion. And that is not happening. We are approaching them with the opposite of decency. With stun grenades and police dogs. And with misleading terminology such as ‘migrants’.

The EU doesn’t seem to have any idea what’s causing the wave of refugees entering ‘its’ territory. When the refugees themselves state “we’re here because you destroyed our countries”, Brussels will simply say that is not true. That kind of admission is way beyond the consciousness of the ‘leadership’. But it’s a denial that won’t get them anywhere.

Meanwhile, this issue, like so many others, is being used as a reason to plea for more EU:

Summer Crisis Tests Europe’s New Nationalisms

Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU home affairs commissioner, argued last week [that] the very reach of the migration crisis shows the limits of national solutions. That, he said, puts pressure on governments to agree in Brussels to collective measures – even, he stressed, when they are not popular.

It’s an empty hollow plea. Why agree to give up more sovereignty if Brussels only uses its growing powers to do nothing? Europeans who give in to this kind of thing give up much more than sovereignty; they give up their decency and human values too.

The refugee issue can and will not be solved by the EU, or inside the EU apparatus, at least not in the way it should. Nor will the debt issue for which Greece was merely an ‘early contestant’. The EU structure does not allow for it. Nor does it allow for meaningful change to that structure. It would be good if people start to realize that, before the unholy Union brings more disgrace and misery and death upon its own citizens and on others.

However this is resolved and wherever the refugees end up living, we, all of us, have the obligation to treat them with decency and human kindness in the meantime. We are not.