Sep 232020
 


SalvadorDali Girl at a window 1925

 

The US Is Using The Guardian To Justify Jailing Assange For Life (Cook)
Prosecutor Claims Assange May Be Faking His Depression (RT)
The War on Assange is a War on Truth (Ron Paul)
Edward Snowden To Give Up More Than $5 Million From Book And Speeches (CNN)
US Suspects Deutsche Bank Laundered $1.3 Trillion In 20 Years (RT)
Amy Coney Barrett Would Be The Ultimate Insult To RBG (NBC)
Amy Coney Barrett Is Hands-Down Best Pick To Replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg (NYP)
Michael Bloomberg Pays Fines For 32,000 Florida Felons So They Can Vote (NYP)
New York Times Wrongly Cuts Election Year Nominations By Almost Half (Turley)
Spotify Employees Demand Editorial Oversight Over Joe Rogan Podcasts (DMN)
Putin Offers UN Staff Free Dose Of Russia’s Sputnik V Vaccine (RT)
Putin: Global Economy Won’t Recover From Pandemic ‘For A Long Time’ (RT)
How Rescuing Drowning Migrants Became A Crime (G.)
Washed Clothing’s Synthetic Mountain of ‘Fluff’ (BBC)
380 Whales Dead In Worst Mass Stranding In Australia’s History (G.)
NBA Players Wear Special Lace Collars To Honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg (BBee)

 

 

“Quiet” numbers. But not in Western Europe. Governments are talking about new lockdowns. People will not obey.

 

 

 

 

Western Europe second wave.

 

 

 

 

Stella Moris

 

 

Excellent by Jonathan Cook. There are quite a few people at the Guardian who should be on trial instead of Assange..

The US Is Using The Guardian To Justify Jailing Assange For Life (Cook)

[..] The corporate media had two possible responses to the promised Wikileaks revolution. One was to get behind it. But that was not straightforward. As we have noted, Wikileaks’ goal of transparency was fundamentally at odds both with the corporate media’s need for access to members of the power elite and with its embedded role, representing one side in the “competition” between rival power centres. The corporate media’s other possible response was to get behind the political elite’s efforts to destroy Wikileaks. Once Wikileaks and Assange were disabled, there could be a return to media business as usual.

Outlets would once again chase tidbits of information from the corridors of power, getting “exclusives” from the power centres they were allied with. Put in simple terms, Fox News would continue to get self-serving exclusives against the Democratic party, and MSNBC would get self-serving exclusives against Trump and the Republican Party. That way, everyone would get a slice of editorial action and advertising revenue – and nothing significant would change. The power elite in its two flavours, Democrat and Republican, would continue to run the show unchallenged, switching chairs occasionally as elections required.

[..] The Guardian may be largely ignoring the hearings, but the Old Bailey is far from ignoring the Guardian. The paper’s name has been cited over and over again in court by lawyers for the US. They have regularly quoted from a 2011 book on Assange by two Guardian reporters, David Leigh and Luke Harding, to bolster the Trump administration’s increasingly frantic arguments for extraditing Assange. When Leigh worked with Assange, back in 2010, he was the Guardian’s investigations editor and, it should be noted, the brother-in-law of the then-editor, Alan Rusbridger. Harding, meanwhile, is a long-time reporter whose main talent appears to be churning out Guardian books at high speed that closely track the main concerns of the UK and US security services.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should note that I had underwhelming experiences dealing with both of them during my years working at the Guardian. Normally a newspaper would not hesitate to put on its front page reports of the most momentous trial of recent times, and especially one on which the future of journalism depends. That imperative would be all the stronger were its own reporters’ testimony likely to be critical in determining the outcome of the trial. For the Guardian, detailed and prominent reporting of, and commentary on, the Assange extradition hearings should be a double priority.

So how to explain the Guardian’s silence? The book by Leigh and Harding, WikiLeaks: Inside Julian Assange’s War on Secrecy, made a lot of money for the Guardian and its authors by hurriedly cashing in on the early notoriety around Assange and Wikileaks. But the problem today is that the Guardian has precisely no interest in drawing attention to the book outside the confines of a repressive courtroom. Indeed, were the book to be subjected to any serious scrutiny, it might now look like an embarrassing, journalistic fraud. The two authors used the book not only to vent their personal animosity towards Assange – in part because he refused to let them write his official biography – but also to divulge a complex password with which he had entrusted Leigh to an online cache of encrypted documents.

That egregious mistake by the Guardian opened the door for every security service in the world to break into the file, as well as other files by cracking Assange’s sophisticated formula for devising passwords. Much of the furore about Assange’s supposed failure to protect names in the leaked documents Assange published stems from Leigh’s much-obscured role in sabotaging Wikileaks’ work. Assange was forced into a damage limitation operation because of Leigh’s incompetence, forcing him to hurriedly publish files so that anyone worried they had been named in the documents could know before hostile security services identified them.

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All is fair in war.

Prosecutor Claims Assange May Be Faking His Depression (RT)

A prosecutor representing the US at Julian Assange’s extradition hearings has argued that the WikiLeaks founder could be feigning depression after a psychiatrist said he might commit sucide if he is sent to the US to be tried. James Lewis, the lawyer representing Washington at Assange’s hearings in London, sought to poke holes in the testimony of renowned professor of neuropsychiatry, Michael Kopelman, who said on Tuesday that the WikiLeaks founder is suffering from “severe depression” after being confined to the maximum security Belmarsh Prison for over 16 months. Kopelman, who has visited Assange more than 20 times in prison, opined that if the court rules in favor of extradition to the US, it might drive Assange to take his own life.


He pointed out that the Australian’s years-long isolation at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and the history of depression running in his family make the scenario even more plausible. It’s the imminence of extradition and/or an actual extradition that will trigger the [suicide] attempt, in my opinion Lewis argued that the symptoms of depression Kopelman saw in Assange are no more than pretense, suggesting that Assange has learned how to imitate the condition by reading the British Medical Journal in his cell and might have lied about having hallucinations, reported Shadowproof’s Kevin Gosztola, who attended the hearing. Lewis also blasted the expert for not identifying Assange’s partner, Stella Morris, by name in his first report, which Kopelman said was omitted for the sake of her privacy. Lewis then argued that the fact that Assange had a wife and two small children was “a protective factor against suicide” – a notion which Kopelman rejected, saying that suicide is not a sole prerogative of single people.

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“President Trump should end the US government’s war on Assange…and on all whistleblowers and their publishers.”

The War on Assange is a War on Truth (Ron Paul)

It is dangerous to reveal the truth about the illegal and immoral things our government does with our money and in our name, and the war on journalists who dare reveal such truths is very much a bipartisan affair. Just ask Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who was relentlessly pursued first by the Obama Administration and now by the Trump Administration for the “crime” of reporting on the crimes perpetrated by the United States government. Assange is now literally fighting for his life, as he tries to avoid being extradited to the United States where he faces 175 years in prison for violating the “Espionage Act.” While it makes no sense to be prosecuted as a traitor to a country of which you are not a citizen, the idea that journalists who do their job and expose criminality in high places are treated like traitors is deeply dangerous in a free society.

To get around the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press, Assange’s tormentors simply claim that he is not a journalist. Then-CIA director Mike Pompeo declared that Wikileaks was a “hostile intelligence service” aided by Russia. Ironically, that’s pretty much what the Democrats say about Assange. Earlier this month, a US Federal appeals court judge ruled that the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records was illegal. That bulk collection program, born out of the anti-American PATRIOT Act, was first revealed to us by whistleblower Edward Snowden just over seven years ago. That is why whistleblowers and those who publish their information are so important. Were it not for Snowden and Assange, we would never know about this government criminality.

And if we never know about government malfeasance it can never be found to be criminal in the first place. That is convenient for governments, but it is also a recipe for tyranny. While we might expect the US media to aggressively come to the aid of a fellow journalist being persecuted by the government for doing his job, the opposite is happening. As journalist Glen Greenwald wrote last week, the US mainstream media is completely ignoring the Assange extradition trial. Why would they do such a thing? Partisan politics. Journalists – with a few important exceptions like Greenwald himself – are no longer interested in digging and reporting the truth. These days they believe they have a “higher calling.”

[..] We cannot have a self-governing society as was intended for our Republic if the government, with the complicity of the mainstream media, decides that there are things we are not allowed to know about it. President Trump should end the US government’s war on Assange…and on all whistleblowers and their publishers.

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I’m sure we all feel a lot more comfortable once CNN starts showing a human-interest interest in Edward Snowden, right?

Edward Snowden To Give Up More Than $5 Million From Book And Speeches (CNN)

Edward Snowden, the former CIA contractor who leaked intelligence secrets in 2013, has agreed to forfeit more than $5 million he earned from his book and speaking fees to the US government, according to court records. Snowden published his book “Permanent Record” last year without government approval, in violation of contracts he signed with the CIA and the National Security Agency. A federal judge had sided with the Justice Department in its lawsuit to claw back Snowden’s proceeds, and was considering how much he would need to pay. The agreement Snowden’s legal team reached may not be the end of the dispute of his book proceeds, however. The judge has not yet approved the forfeiture plan.

And Snowden, in the agreement, said he still wants the ability to appeal the judge’s earlier decision against him. He tweeted his reaction to CNN’s reporting on Tuesday. “A) This is not a settlement; I didn’t agree to it. B) The judgement from this censorship case is not enforceable while I am in exile, but I’ve never had that much money anyway,” he wrote on Twitter, highlighting how he may still contest his case in court or be able to block handing over his proceeds. “Better headline: ‘US could gain up to $5m by pardoning Edward Snowden,'” he added. Snowden’s pardon suggestion on Twitter downplayed the current reality of his situation — if the court proceedings stand, Snowden would still be liable for the $5 million his lawyers said he’s gained and agreed to give up, and potentially more.

[..] The case represents one of the few ways the US government has found to hold former employees accountable for unauthorized leaks. John Bolton, the former national security adviser who published a damaging book about President Donald Trump earlier this year, faces a similar attempt by the Justice Department to claw back proceeds for publishing. That case is still ongoing, with a hearing set for this week. Bolton disputes the government’s accusations. Snowden, who lives in Russia, had earned $4.2 million from his book sales, royalties and related rights as of this month. He gave 56 paid speeches that included disclosures that breached his government secrecy agreement, according to the court filing from his lawyers in the US and the Justice Department. In all, Snowden made about $1.03 million from the speeches, with an average speaking fee of $18,000. The money will be put in a trust, according to the plan to which Snowden and the Trump administration agreed.

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Meanwhile, where the real criminals hang out…

US Suspects Deutsche Bank Laundered $1.3 Trillion In 20 Years (RT)

Germany’s largest lender, Deutsche Bank, is reportedly suspected by the US of facilitating more than half of the $2 trillion of suspicious transactions that were flagged by the US government between 1999 and 2017. According to broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), some $1.3 trillion of $2 trillion in leaked transactions that occurred between 1999 and 2017 and were flagged as suspicious passed through Deutsche Bank. DW cited documents obtained by BuzzFeed News and shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. The documents revealed that five major banks (Bank of New York Mellon, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, JPMorgan and Standard Chartered) processed trillions of dollars of transactions identified as suspicious.


The activity reports that banks and other financial institutions filed with the US Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, or FinCEN, showed that the megabanks continued to profit from powerful and dangerous players even after US authorities fined the financial institutions for earlier failures to stem flows of dirty money. Deutsche Bank said in a statement that the incidents in the leaked documents “have already been investigated and led to regulatory resolutions in which the bank’s cooperation and remediation was publicly recognized. Where necessary and appropriate, consequence management was applied.” Deutsche added that it has “devoted significant resources to strengthening our controls” and is “very focused on meeting our responsibilities and obligations.”

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I confess, I like to f*ck with your mind. Two articles with 180º different views of Barrett, who may well not even be nominated. Gotta stay ahead of the game, right?

I still don’t get why people keep talking up RBG’s “dying wish”, if she ever had one. She would have been the first to acknowledge it was never her call. Don’t you dishonor her by suggesting it was?

Amy Coney Barrett Would Be The Ultimate Insult To RBG (NBC)

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg entered Harvard Law School in 1956, she was one of just nine women in a class of about 500 men. She transferred to Columbia and graduated at the top of her class, but many judges wouldn’t hire a woman as a clerk. When she began to teach law, there were fewer than two dozen female law professors. Sixteen years after Ginsburg started at Harvard Law, Barrett was born. The same year, 1972, Notre Dame Law School — which would become Barrett’s alma mater — began admitting female students, thanks to people like Ginsburg who pushed through doors long closed. Barrett wasn’t even 1 year old in 1973, when the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade and legalized abortion nationwide; just a few years before that, the court had decided Griswold v. Connecticut, which established a right to sexual and intimate privacy and legalized contraception.

With those two decisions, women had unprecedented power to control their reproductive lives, which in turn gave them greater control over their educations, their finances and their futures. In Roe and Griswold’s wake, women flooded into college, law school and the workplace. Barrett was one of them. But instead of doing what Ginsburg did — pushing doors open, reaching out to help others through — Barrett tried to slam them shut. She went on to be a conservative lawyer, professor and judge, and if she is appointed to the Supreme Court, she will likely be key in undermining much of what has allowed American women to make the progress they have: abortion rights, contraception access and prohibitions on many forms of gender discrimination.

This certainly puts Barrett at odds with most of America’s most venerated female lawyers and jurists and with female lawyers more generally. Feminism creates something like a virtuous cycle: As women gain greater opportunity, they become more invested in preserving and expanding what they’ve gained. But making the initial gains, and moving them forward, has always been difficult. Constraints on women’s rights in the United States have historically been couched in the language of benevolence and protection, of women being too moral and too delicate to play in the same arena as men. Gender discrimination was justified as chivalrous, as an effort to protect women and treat them as ladies. This, Ginsburg noted, “helps to keep women not on a pedestal, but in a cage.”

Clarence Thomas

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“Picture a female jurist who has consistently defied social expectations imposed on women and whose legal thinking is closely bound up with her faith.”

Amy Coney Barrett Is Hands-Down Best Pick To Replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg (NYP)

Picture a female jurist who has consistently defied social expectations imposed on women and whose legal thinking is closely bound up with her faith. No, I’m not talking about Amy Coney Barrett, reported to top President Trump’s list of candidates to fill the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat. I’m talking about Ginsburg herself. Ginsburg believed fervently that conventional expectations shouldn’t hinder women as they seek their full, fair share of public life. Nor was she shy about how her Jewish faith shaped her judicial mind. In an essay for the American Jewish Committee published in 1993, she wrote: “Laws as protectors of the oppressed, the poor, the loner, is evident in the work of my Jewish predecessors .. The biblical command ‘Justice, justice shalt thou pursue’ is a strand that ties them together.”

By those criteria, Barrett would make a most worthy successor to RBG. In nominating the 48-year-old Louisianan, the president would present the nation with an inspiring vision of what it means to be an American woman in 2020 — one that could by turns surprise and captivate the suburban women Trump is keen to court while also delivering for the GOP base. “Amy represents an opportunity to showcase a generationally brilliant, special intellect — who also is a mom,” says O. Carter Snead, Barrett’s longtime faculty colleague at the Notre Dame law school, where Barrett also received her law degree. Her rare combination of hyper-intelligence and humility is a matter of bipartisan consensus. “The smartest person in the room and also the most humble” was how Snead and two other sources intimately familiar with Barrett described her, echoing each other almost verbatim.

Harvard Law School prof Noah Feldman -a liberal who testified before Congress in favor of impeaching the president- hailed her as “a truly brilliant lawyer” in a 2018 column. Feldman should know. He and Barrett were members of the same class of Supreme Court clerks in 1998. “She was one of the two best lawyers” of the 40 clerks “and arguably the single best.” Feldman concluded: “She was legally prepared enough to go on the court 20 years ago.” When Trump nominated Barrett to the Seventh Circuit, every single one of those 40 fellow clerks endorsed her as a “first-rate” thinker including such vehemently anti-Trump figures as Neal Katyal, solicitor general under Team Obama. The entire Notre Dame law faculty likewise endorsed her, “and that includes people who identify as liberal,” as Snead was quick to note.

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“774,000 Floridians who have already served their time in jail or prison are not eligible to vote..”

That is nuts. But isn’t this too close for comfort to buying votes? It would be funny if they all vote Trump.

Michael Bloomberg Pays Fines For 32,000 Florida Felons So They Can Vote (NYP)

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has helped pay the outstanding fines and fees of 32,000 convicted felons in Florida so they could regain their right to vote ahead of the November election, according to a report. The billionaire and former presidential candidate raised over $16 million for, and donated $5 million to, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, according to Axios. Bloomberg’s push would benefit ex-cons as part of a 2018 state constitutional amendment allowing felons who have served their time to regain their right to vote. Before they can regain that right, however, they need to pay any fines, fees or restitution.

In a statement to the news outlet, a representative for Bloomberg said, “The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and no American should be denied that right. Working together with the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, we are determined to end disenfranchisement and the discrimination that has always driven it.” On Monday, the FRRC shared a New York Times op-ed titled, “This Is How Bloomberg Can Help Biden Win Florida.” The piece praised his decision to spend $100 million in the Sunshine State to boost Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as he fights a neck-and-neck race against President Trump.

“An even more politically effective, and charitable, use of those dollars might be to help pay off the debts of Floridians who have financial obligations related to a felony conviction — as LeBron James and the group behind More Than a Vote did this summer. “Because of an 11th Circuit appeals court ruling on Sept. 11, an estimated 774,000 Floridians who have already served their time in jail or prison are not eligible to vote in the 2020 election until they pay the fines and fees associated with their sentences,” read the op-ed, authored by computer scientist Dr. Robert Montoye.

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Hey, it fits their MO!

NYT, Guardian, rest of MSM in 2020 know only one side of the population reads and watches them, and that they don’t read the other side. That frees them up to paint a very one-sided picture.

New York Times Wrongly Cuts Election Year Nominations By Almost Half (Turley)

The New York Times ran a story declaring that there were only “there have been 16 Supreme Court vacancies that occurred before Election Day.” [..] I decided to do another rough count and, if anything, it would seem that the 29 nomination figure is arguably too low and that there appears almost twice the number cited by the New York Times. [..]

There has been considerable push back on the “precedent” for an election-year nomination. NBC Meet the Press Host Chuck Todd exclaimed “What precedent?!” when John Barrasso (R-WY) even used the word precedent in his interview. In reality, such nominations have occurred regularly in history. Indeed, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself said in 2016 that the Senate had to do its “job” and vote on such nominations because “there’s nothing in the Constitution that says the president stops being president in his last year.” (While Todd correctly considered it newsworthy to note that Ginsburg wanted to leave her seat for the next president to fill, he did not consider it relevant to also note that Ginsburg previously insisted that the Senate was supposed to fill such seats in an election year).

Justice Sonia Sotomayor also stated that it was wrong to leave the Court with only eight justices. That debate will continue to rage, but we should be able to reach a consensus on the historical record, even in this time of rage. Here is my effort (taken at my own peril). I may be missing something obvious but I count 30 nominations in the year before a presidential election. The current vacancy could produce 31. There are a couple that could be excluded by a day or so (Johnson, Rutledge, Jay, and Crittenden). There is a recess appointment (Brennan). There were also a couple on the last day of the election period (King and Walworth). Moreover, a couple nominees were nominated and then renominated.

Some are repeaters. For example, President John Tyler nominated Reuben Walworth three times in 1844, but Tyler was unpopular with the Democrats and the Whigs in Congress (leading to a series of stalled efforts on nominations and legislation). Spencer and King were also repeaters but represented separate nominations. However, even with such eliminations, it comes to roughly 30 not 16 from what I can see.

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There is nothing in Joe Rogan’s $100 million contract to protect his freedom? If so, what lawyer negotiated that?

Spotify Employees Demand Editorial Oversight Over Joe Rogan Podcasts (DMN)

A group of Spotify staffers are now reportedly pushing to introduce direct editing oversight over The Joe Rogan Experience — before the episodes go live. That includes content flags, trigger warnings, references to fact-checked information, or simply refusing to publish an episode at all. The demands follow a string of controversial comments by Joe Rogan, who was lured to Spotify in a massive, $100 million deal. Rogan’s appeal to millions of listeners is his unfiltered and irreverent approach, though that style isn’t sitting well with an activist group of Spotify staffers who say he needs to be reined in.

Earlier this month, Digital Music News first reported that multiple podcast episodes were missing following a migration to Spotify’s platform. That included controversial interviews with the likes of Alex Jones, Milo Yiannopoulos, and Gavin McInnes. Also missing are episodes featuring right-wing figures like Owen Benjamin, Stefan Molyneux, and Charles C. Johnson. But despite the glaring omissions, Spotify staffers are now stepping up their demands to control more of Rogan’s content. Vice first reported that Spotify employees have conducted more than ten meetings to discuss possible changes. Those discussions included proposals for the outright removal of additional podcast episodes.

Of particular focus in an earlier conversation featuring author Abigail Shrier, who wrote Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. Shrier’s opinions on the matter drew howls of protest from certain Spotify staffers, who demanded its removal — though the episode is still available on the Spotify platform. Now, Digital Music News has learned that the protesting employee group is stepping up its demands to control Rogan’s work.
Part of the rationale is that Spotify already exerts control over content like playlists, even those created by outside curators. So why not extend that oversight to podcasts as well?

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I’ll take some.

Putin Offers UN Staff Free Dose Of Russia’s Sputnik V Vaccine (RT)

Speaking at the UN General Assembly, Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for a top-level conference on joint global development of a Covid-19 vaccine. He also offered UN staff a dose of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for free. The UN General Assembly, held in a coronavirus-appropriate virtual format, kicked off on Tuesday. Putin delivered a speech during its morning session, largely focusing on the ongoing pandemic. “We’ve all faced a fundamentally new challenge – the coronavirus pandemic. The disease directly affected millions of people, [and] claimed the most precious thing – hundreds of thousands of human lives. Quarantines, the closure of borders, creation of numerous problems for citizens of almost all countries – all these things are the reality today,” Putin said.

All world leaders interested in cooperation on the development of a Covid-19 vaccine should meet and discuss fending off the deadly disease and making the jab freely accessible to everyone, he said, calling it the top priority for the whole of humankind. Russia was the first in the world to register a vaccine – Sputnik V, which has proven to be “reliable, safe and effective” – and is ready to provide all the assistance needed, Putin stressed. “We are absolutely open and committed to partnership. In this regard, we are coming with an initiative to hold a high-level online conference in the nearest future with states interested in cooperation in the development of vaccines against coronavirus.”

Noting that the disease has already affected UN staff, Putin then offered the organization help in battling the virus. He said that Moscow is ready to provide free Sputnik V shots to any UN staffers willing to be vaccinated, adding that Russia has already received some requests from their UN colleagues. The Sputnik V vaccine is currently undergoing large-scale final trials. Tens of thousands of Russians and foreigners have volunteered to take part in the pilot immunization program.

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Cut out all sanctions.

Putin: Global Economy Won’t Recover From Pandemic ‘For A Long Time’ (RT)

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin told the 75th session of the UN General Assembly that global trade needs to be released from illegitimate sanctions. He also decried a “lack of humanity” in international affairs in the Covid era. Addressing the assembly on Tuesday, Putin added that it will take a long time to resuscitate the global economy from the damage wrought by coronavirus. In his opinion, it will be necessary to make radical choices. The Russian president added that the UN Security Council should “take into fuller account the interests of all countries.” “I would like to once again draw attention to the Russian proposal on the introduction of so-called ‘green corridors,’ [which would be] free from trade wars and sanctions, primarily for essential goods, food, medicines, and personal protective equipment, which are in demand specifically to combat the pandemic,” he said.


“In general, releasing and freeing world trade from barriers, bans, restrictions, [and] illegitimate sanctions could help to restore global growth and reduce unemployment.” Putin also urged the UN itself to adapt to the present global situation. “[It] should reflect in its development the dynamics of the 21st century, and consistently adapt to the realities of the modern world, which is indeed becoming more complex, multipolar, multidimensional,” he explained. Sounding a downbeat note on the global economy, the Russian leader noted that “experts have yet to fully assess the scale of the socio-

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Direct result of our criminal actions in their home counntries.

How Rescuing Drowning Migrants Became A Crime (G.)

In the summer of 2017, two years on from the peak of Europe’s refugee crisis, smugglers in Libya were still sending hundreds of people a day to sea in unsafe rubber boats, and the Iuventa’s crew wanted to be where the action was. In a patch of sea just off the coast of north Africa, about a dozen NGO ships were searching for boats in distress – a direct challenge, as many of them saw it, to European governments that had scaled back state-run rescue efforts. Yet the Iuventa had been following instructions that drew it further away from the rescue zone and closer to Italian territorial waters. According to the ship’s records, the Italian coastguard first told the crew to rendezvous with an Italian navy ship to collect two men found adrift at sea, and deliver them to another. The second ship never turned up.

Then they were told to look for a blue and white fishing boat with 50 people on board, apparently foundering in the sea close to Lampedusa. As night fell on 1 August, after a day spent searching the waves in vain, a message came through: call off your search and proceed into port. It was the third time in a few months that the ship had been ordered into the harbour at Lampedusa. In just over a year, the Iuventa – crewed by a group of young, motivated people “who could not stand to see the situation in the Mediterranean any longer”, as one put it to me – rescued more than 14,000 people. Most of these rescues were coordinated by the Italian coastguard, but the relationship was increasingly strained.

The Iuventa’s revolving crew of volunteers were outspoken critics of Europe’s border policies, and the small, agile ship took more risks than some of the larger NGO vessels, sailing as close as possible to Libyan waters in order to be able to rescue people from unsafe boats sooner. As one Italian media outlet put it, the ship was “like a sort of Berliner squat out in the middle of the sea – very well organised, radical and antagonistic”. As the Iuventa entered the harbour of Lampedusa, the crew expected to be questioned briefly by police, as they had been on previous occasions, then allowed to get back to work. They were wrong. Within a few hours, their ship would be seized, marking the beginning of a long and still unresolved criminal investigation that leaves 10 humanitarian volunteers facing up to 20 years in prison.

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You are what you wear. Literally: the article doesn’t mention it, but those microfibers pile up inside our bodies too.

Washed Clothing’s Synthetic Mountain of ‘Fluff’ (BBC)

When you add it up, the total amount of synthetic microfibres going into the wider environment as we wash our clothes is an astonishing number. US scientists estimate it to be 5.6 million tonnes since we first started wearing those polyester and nylon garments in a big way in the 1950s. Just over half this mass – 2.9 million tonnes – has likely ended up in our rivers and seas. That’s the equivalent of seven billion fleece jackets, the researchers say. But while we fret about water pollution, and rightly so, increasingly this synthetic “fluff” issue is one that affects the land. The University of California, Santa Barbara, team which did the calculations found that emission to the terrestrial environment has now overtaken that to water bodies – some 176,500 tonnes a year versus 167,000 tonnes.

The reason? Wastewater treatment works have become very good at catching the fibres lost from washing machines. What’s happening is those captured fibres, along with biosolid sludge, are then being applied to cropland or simply buried in landfills. “I hear people say that the synthetic microfibre problem from apparel washing will take care of itself as wastewater treatment works become more widespread around the world and more efficient. But really what we’re doing is just moving the problem from one environmental compartment to another,” Roland Geyer, from UCSB’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, told BBC News. The industrial ecologist, working with a range of other experts, has previously totted up the total amount of virgin plastics ever produced (8.3 billion tonnes); and the annual flow of plastics into the oceans (roughly eight million tonnes a year).

These types of calculations are fiendishly complicated, involve models and necessarily resort to quite a few assumptions to plug real-world data gaps. They can’t be absolute in their descriptions of the issues, but at the very least they provide some ball-park figures on which to base serious conversations around mitigation. [..] When the UCSB team ran its flow analysis on all these variables, the number that emerged for the total mass of synthetic microfibres emitted from apparel washing between 1950 and 2016 was 5.6 million tonnes. Half of this amount, however, was released in just the last decade. This is in part a consequence of course of our ballooning collections of clothes. In 1990, say the researchers, the global average stock of garments per capita was 8kg. By 2016 it was 26kg per head.

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Mysteries can make one sad too.

380 Whales Dead In Worst Mass Stranding In Australia’s History (G.)

Rescuers fighting to save a pod of 270 whales stranded in Tasmania’s west have discovered a further 200 whales about 10km away in the same harbour, which all appear to be dead. The stranding is likely one of the largest on record globally and the worst in Australia’s history. The sighting was made by helicopter over Macquarie Harbour on Wednesday morning and brings the total number of dead long-finned pilot whales in the stranding to about 290. The number of dead could rise further today as data from infrared helicopter surveillance is analysed, said Nic Deka, the coordinator of the rescue from Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service regional manager.


Dr Kris Carlyon, a marine conservation program wildlife biologist, said on Wednesday that the addition of 200 whales made this current stranding the largest in Tasmania’s history. Records show some 294 whales, also long-finned pilots, stranded at Stanley on Tasmania’s north-west in 1935.


Manas Sharma/Reuters

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Babylon Bee Brilliance.

NBA Players Wear Special Lace Collars To Honor Ruth Bader Ginsburg (BBee)

NBA players are honoring the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg this week by wearing pretty lace collars just like Notorious RBG used to wear. In a touching show of respect for the late Justice Ginsburg, and in solidarity with her progressive cause, Lebron James and the LA Lakers took to the court yesterday wearing a stunning variety of delicate white collars inspired by RBG’s wardrobe. According to several commentators on ESPN, the virtual teleconference crowd fell silent in reverent awe as the players all knelt down and chanted “RBG! RBG! RBG!” “Yeah, RBG was an amazing person,” said LeBron James after the game. “I have her biography right here and I totally read it right before the game. She was a judge. That’s cool, I respect that. Judges judge things and not everyone can do that. She believed in Black Lives Matter and being on the right side of history and stuff.”

Power forward Anthony Davis also expressed his happiness with the collars. “It’s good to honor her today with these lacey things. Commissioner Adam Silver and President Xi Jinping told us to wear them so we did. I just took this little doily thing from under a table lamp at my mom’s house and cut a hole in the middle. Easy.” NBA players are vowing to wear the collars until Trump is removed from office, or until angry rioters burn their basketball arenas down, whichever comes first.

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May 082020
 


NPC Shad fishing on the Potomac 1920

 

US Death Toll Would Have Been Halved Had It Acted 4 Days Sooner (SCMP)
US Doctors Want Details On Federal Distribution Of Remdesivir (R.)
China Backs WHO Investigating COVID19 Origin (SCMP)
Blood Thinners May Help Sickest COVID19 Patients Survive
COVID19 Wreaks Economic Havoc Across Europe (ZH)
Japan On Course For Deep Recession As Spending, Services Plunge (R.)
Black Britons Face ‘Twice The Risk’ Of Death – ONS (BBC)
Black African Deaths Three Times Higher Than White Britons (BBC)
Black People Four Times More Likely To Die From COVID19 – ONS (G.)
No One Can Be Evicted In New York Until August 20 (JTN)
The Great Potato Giveaway: US Farmers Hand Out Spuds To Avoid Food Waste (R.)
Seattle Permanently Closes 20 Miles Of Residential Streets To Most Traffic (ST)
This Year’s Pulitzer Prize Award Has An Anti-Russian Infowar Agenda (OffG)
Schiff Releases Transcripts Undercutting Dem Claims Of Russia Collusion (JTN)
Former FBI intel Chief Slams Comey’s Pursuit Of Flynn (JTN)

 

 

 

 

• US records 2,448 #coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total toll to 75,543, according to Johns Hopkins University.

• The US has now confirmed a total of 1,254,750 case

• Russia has 6th consecutive day of over 10,000 new cases

• Peru, India keep rising fast, Saudi Arabia is the next “crown prince”

 

 

 

Deaths are not increasing, but cases are in an upward trend. Today close to 100,000. Give it another half hour.

 

Cases 3,934,711 (+ 97,885 from yesterday’s 3,836,826)

Deaths 271,095 (+ 5,729 from yesterday’s 265,366)

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

True for every country, we must assume. There was a report a while ago that said China could have avoided 95% of cases had it acted earlier, I think that was a week.

US Death Toll Would Have Been Halved Had It Acted 4 Days Sooner (SCMP)

The daily death toll from Covid-19 in the United States could have been more than halved if authorities had acted more swiftly in recommending self-isolation and the wearing of face masks, according to a new study. Several US states began issuing stay-at-home orders in late March, while federal health authorities began recommending the use of face masks for all in early April. However, had such measures been implemented just four days earlier, the roughly 2,000 Covid-19 deaths currently being recorded each day would have been cut to less than 1,000, the study said. Furthermore, lifting the measures in a bid to kick-start the economy would almost instantly increase the daily death toll to more than 3,000, it said.

“These findings may inform policymaking,” said the researchers from Princeton Medical Centre and other research institutes in a yet-to-be-peer reviewed paper posted on Medrxiv.org on Wednesday. The findings echoed comments made last month by Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US. “Obviously, if we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different,” he said in a television interview on April 12. “But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then”. Both Fauci and other senior health officials were banned from speaking freely to the media or testifying at congressional hearings by the Trump administration, according to media reports. Swifter action “could have saved lives”, he said, without giving an exact number.

But the figures could be found in publicly available data, according to the research team led by Lanjing Zhang, director of gastrointestinal and liver pathology at Princeton Medical Centre. By tracking the changes in the numbers of infections and deaths after the implementation of the containment measures in the US, Zhang’s team was able to build a mathematical model to simulate the impact of the policies, and then used it to estimate what might have happened had they been introduced at different times. California was the first state to issue a stay-at-home order to its 4 million residents on March 19, and by April 7 similar restrictions had been implemented across the country, affecting almost 90 per cent of the population.

On April 3, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention changed its long-standing policy on the wearing of face masks, and urged everyone to cover their nose and mouth when in public. The effect of the policies was almost instant, the study said. The growth rate for both infections and deaths began slowing on March 23 and by April 4 had plateaued and begun a gentle decline. But according to the model, had the same measures been introduced just four days earlier, the number of new daily infections in April would have fallen by about two-thirds to 10,000. And had the move been made a week sooner, that figure would have dropped to just 3,000, with about 300 daily deaths, it said.

Read more …

We know since last week’s report that remdesivir has no impact on cure, it only -at best- helps patients spend a few less days in hospital. So you would expect doctors to have questions about that. But no, they only worry about how fast they can get the drug. If Reuters is to be believed, that is. But why worry about a drug that has zero chance of avoiding death? Nothing better to do?

US Doctors Want Details On Federal Distribution Of Remdesivir (R.)

The Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) is asking for more information on the federal government’s plan for deciding how and where to supply the only drug so far shown to help patients infected with the novel coronavirus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday gave emergency use authorization to Gilead Sciences Inc’s remdesivir for patients with severe COVID-19 – the disease caused by the coronavirus – clearing the way for broader use in more hospitals around the United States. The federal government began distributing the drug this week.


But doctors across the country, particularly in COVID-19 hotspots like New York and Boston, became concerned after being denied their request to obtain the new therapy, IDSA president Dr. Thomas File told Reuters on Thursday. “Some are seeing other hospitals approved, but say ‘we have more cases than they do, so why were we turned down?’” he said. The IDSA on Wednesday called on the Trump Administration to explain how it will ensure equitable distribution of remdesivir to states and hospitals based on COVID-19 case and hospitalization rates. The physician group also stressed the importance of fair allocation to health facilities in communities disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, including African American and Hispanic populations.

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This becomes interesting only if and when a WHO team can investigate in China, not bothered by anyone.

China Backs WHO Investigating COVID19 Origin (SCMP)

China says it supports World Health Organisation efforts to investigate the origin of the Covid-19 pandemic, but rejects any “presumption of guilt”, after the global body said it was talking to Beijing about sending another delegation to the country. The remarks came as Beijing is under mounting international pressure – particularly from the United States – to allow an inquiry into how the pandemic started, and if it was linked to a laboratory in Wuhan, the city where the new virus strain was first reported. Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist with the WHO, on Wednesday said the agency was in discussion with China about examining potential animal origins of the coronavirus.

“There is discussion with our counterparts in China for a further mission, which would be more academic in focus and really focus on looking at what happened at the beginning in terms of the exposures with different animals, so that we can look to have an approach to find the zoonotic source,” she said. “The public health importance of this is critical because without knowing where the animal origin is, it’s difficult for us to attempt to prevent this from happening again,” she added. US President Donald Trump has suggested the virus may be the result of an accident at a Chinese lab, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said the US had evidence of this. Trump has also been critical of the WHO, calling it “China-centric” and halting funding to the body. He described the pandemic as an “attack” worse than Pearl Harbour and September 11 that “could have been stopped in China”.

In Beijing on Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying accused the US of “untruthful and insincere remarks”, but said China would support a review of the outbreak “at an appropriate time”. “China has supported the work of the WHO for a long time, and worked with the WHO in an open, responsible and transparent manner. China agrees to make a conclusion on the origin of the virus at an appropriate time,” Hua said. “China opposes nations such as the US politicising the issue regarding the origin of the virus, and pushing for an international investigation with a presumption of guilt.”

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And they can kill them too.

Blood Thinners May Help Sickest COVID19 Patients Survive

Blood thinners could improve the survival rate among the most severely ill Covid-19 patients, according to a hospital study in New York City. The finding comes as doctors have been observing blood clot disorders among coronavirus patients that can damage vital organs. The researchers found that intubated patients treated with anticoagulants – medicines that help prevent blood clots – had a mortality rate of 29 per cent. Of those who were not treated with blood thinners, 63 per cent died. And among the ventilated patients who did not survive, those on anticoagulants died after 21 days, while those not given the medicine died after nine days, the researchers said.


“Our findings suggest that systemic anticoagulation may be associated with improved outcomes among patients hospitalised with Covid-19,” they wrote in a peer-reviewed paper published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology on May 6. The study analysed 786 cases where patients had been given blood thinners – about 30 per cent of all Covid-19 patients admitted to five hospitals in the Mount Sinai Health System in New York City between mid-March and April. They were given the medicine orally and via injection under the skin or into a vein, the study said. The researchers also noted that “patients who received anticoagulation were more likely to require invasive mechanical ventilation”.

Read more …

No. The economic system is eating itself. The virus is merely a catalyst.

COVID19 Wreaks Economic Havoc Across Europe (ZH)

The European Commission has released its Spring 2020 Economic Forecast which shows that COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on Europe’s economy. The collective GDP of the EU-27 was expected to grow 1.2 percent this year but it is now forecast contract 7.4 percent due to the pandemic. By contrast, Statista’s Niall McCarthy notes that the Financial Crisis “only” led to a contraction of 4.5 percent for the EU-28 back in 2009. The current crisis has now pushed the EU into the deepest recession since its foundation with unemployment rates set to rise drastically. Last year, unemployment across the bloc was 6.7 percent and it is now forecast to grow to 9 percent this year.

The data shows that no EU member state is going to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis unscathed with countries in southern Europe set to be worst impacted. Even though Greece has made progress since the Financial Crisis and has earned plaudits for limiting the spread of the coronavirus, it is expected to suffer the worst decline in GDP our of all EU member states at 9.7 percent. Italy and Spain who have both been badly impacted by the pandemic are also expected to suffer GDP contractions greater than 9 percent this year. Even though Germany has suffered a far lower death toll than many of its neighbors and is slowly easing its lockdown, Europe’s economic powerhouse is still predicted to see its GDP shrink by 6.5 percent this year.

While the situation remains serious in some parts of Europe, particularly the UK, there is light at the end of the tunnel. After 7 weeks of strict confinement, Italians finally emerged from their homes at the start of the week while Germany’s schools and restaurants are set to open over the next couple of days. Even though the situation is improving, most EU leaders are remaining cautious due to the possibility of a second wave of infections. The European Commission has stated that fundamental uncertainty surrounds the forecast and that the danger of a deeper and more protracted recession is very real.

Read more …

The entire rich(er) world has economic systems that cannot withstand a few weeks of less activity.

Japan On Course For Deep Recession As Spending, Services Plunge (R.)

Japan’s household spending plunged in March and service-sector activity shrank at a record pace in April, reinforcing expectations that the coronavirus pandemic is tipping the world’s third-largest economy into deep recession. Overtime pay – a barometer of strength in corporate activity – also plunged at a record pace in March, data showed, a sign companies were hit by shrinking business even before the government announced a state of emergency in early April. The weak readings make it a near certainty the economy suffered a second straight quarter of contraction in January-March, the technical definition of a recession, and was on track for a deeper decline in the current quarter as the health crisis kept shoppers home and businesses closed.


“Even without the virus, Japan’s economy was very weak due to the hit from last year’s sales tax hike. The pandemic has completely destroyed any chance of a recovery,” said Taro Saito, executive research fellow at NLI Research Institute. “The economy may rebound somewhat in July-September but won’t return to pre-coronavirus levels for the rest of this year,” said Saito, who expects the economy to contract an annualised 30% in the current quarter. Household spending slumped 6.0% in March from a year earlier following a 0.3% fall in February, marking the biggest drop in five years, government data showed on Friday.

Read more …

I noted yesterday that in their coverage of a report, the BBC and Guardian came to very different conclusions. One said blacks in the UK were twice as likely as whites to die from COVID19, the other said it was 4 times. Then when I read the BBC piece this morning, a link had appeared to an article that claimed it was 3 times.

Black Britons Face ‘Twice The Risk’ Of Death – ONS (BBC)

Black men and women are nearly twice as likely to die with coronavirus as white people in England and Wales, according to the Office for National Statistics. The analysis shows the inequality persists after taking into account age, where people live and some measures of deprivation and prior health. People from Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities also had a significantly higher risk of dying. The government has launched a review into the issue. The analysis by the ONS combined data on deaths involving Covid-19 with information on ethnicity from the 2011 census.


Taking into account age, location and some measures of deprivation, disadvantage and prior health, it found black people were 90% more likely to die with Covid-19 than white people. Men and women from Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities had an increased risk of between 30% and 80%, the analysis found. The ONS suggested some of the risk might be caused by other social and economic factors that are not included in the data. And it said that some ethnic groups may be “over-represented in public-facing occupations” and so more at risk of being infected while at work.

Read more …

And yeah, there are a bunch of different data, age, sex etc., but it looks weird.

Black African Deaths Three Times Higher Than White Britons (BBC)

Coronavirus patients from black African backgrounds in England and Wales are dying at more than triple the rate of white Britons, a study suggests. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said a higher proportion of people from ethnic minority backgrounds live in areas hit harder by Covid-19. However, they tend to be younger on average, so should be less vulnerable. But the report found various black, Asian and minority ethnic groups were experiencing higher per capita deaths. And after accounting for differences in age, sex and geography, the study estimated that the death rate for people of black African heritage was 3.5 times higher than for white Britons. It added that for people of black Caribbean heritage, per capita deaths were 1.7 times higher, rising to 2.7 times higher for those with Pakistani heritage. The IFS study said given demographic and geographic profiles, most minority ethnic groups are dying in “excess” numbers in hospitals.

Read more …

In the end it’s simply a class society.

Black People Four Times More Likely To Die From COVID19 – ONS (G.)

Black people are more than four times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white people, according to stark official figures exposing a dramatic divergence in the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in England and Wales. The Office of National Statistics found that the difference in the virus’s impact was caused not only by pre-existing differences in communities’ wealth, health, education and living arrangements. It discovered that after taking into account age, measures of self-reported health and disability and other socio-demographic characteristics, black people were still almost twice as likely as white people to die a Covid-19-related death.


Bangladeshi and Pakistani males were 1.8 times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white males, after other pre-existing factors had been accounted for, and females from those ethnic groups were 1.6 times more likely to die from the virus than their white counterparts. The risk of Covid-19 death for people from Chinese and mixed ethnic groups was found to be similar to that for white people. “These results show that the difference between ethnic groups in Covid-19 mortality is partly a result of socio-economic disadvantage and other circumstances, but a remaining part of the difference has not yet been explained,” the ONS said.

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And some of the things he does are actually good. Nobody screws up all the time.

No One Can Be Evicted In New York Until August 20 (JTN)

Governor Andrew Cuomo said Thursday New York renters cannot be kicked out of their homes for failing to pay rent until Aug. 20. “The No. 1 issue that people talk to me about probably is rent, and fear about being able to pay their rent, and this just takes that issue off the table until August 20,” he said at his daily coronavirus briefing. Cuomo extended for another two months his 90-day suspension of evictions in the state — issued in March and set to expire in June. Cuomo said that landlords who face utility bills and mortgages can turn to banks and federal programming for help. He also said that officials will ban any late-payment fees and allow renters to use their security deposits as payment. “Everyone is just making do, and everyone has hardships,” he said during his daily briefing Thursday. “We just want to make sure the people who are most vulnerable are protected.”

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“Everyone in Washington would have to eat about 500 pounds of potatoes from now until the 4th of July to clear out that pipeline..”

The Great Potato Giveaway: US Farmers Hand Out Spuds To Avoid Food Waste (R.)

Giving away food is just one example of how people around the world are adjusting to the strain the coronavirus pandemic has put on supply chains, as restaurants, schools and hotels close. With unemployment soaring, demand from food banks is rising fast at the same time farmers have fewer outlets to sell their crops. In Washington, the No. 2 U.S. potato growing state after Idaho, a billion pounds of russet potatoes, normally processed into french fries and hash browns, are sitting in warehouses that would typically be emptying ahead of the July harvest, the Washington State Potato Commision said. Instead, the organization is handing out the surplus for free in brown sacks, 100,000 pounds at a time.


“Everyone in Washington would have to eat about 500 pounds of potatoes from now until the 4th of July to clear out that pipeline,” said Brandy Tucker, the commission’s director of marketing. Around 90% of Washington potatoes are processed for food service, nearly half for international markets. Potato producers in Europe have also faced enormous surpluses. The commission is planning more than a dozen donation events by the end of May. But even giving away potatoes comes with the cost of washing, bagging and shipping. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is attempting to chip away at the mountain of produce unable to get to consumers. This week it said it would buy an additional $470 million in food, including $50 million in potatoes to give to food banks.

Read more …

Good, give public space back to where it belongs, the public. Not cars. Like the guy’s name, Sam Zimbabwe.

Seattle Permanently Closes 20 Miles Of Residential Streets To Most Traffic (ST)

Nearly 20 miles of Seattle streets will permanently close to most vehicle traffic by the end of May, Mayor Jenny Durkan announced Thursday. The streets had been closed temporarily to through traffic to provide more space for people to walk and bike at a safe distance apart during the coronavirus pandemic. Now the closures will continue even after Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order is lifted. Over the next couple of weeks, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will replace the temporary closure signs on the so-called Stay Healthy Streets with permanent markings, guiding drivers to other routes.


[..] Residents, delivery drivers, garbage and recycling workers, and emergency response vehicles can continue to use the streets, but no through traffic is allowed. “Our rapid response to the challenges posed by COVID-19 have been transformative in a number of places across the city,” SDOT Director Sam Zimbabwe said. “Some of the responses are going to be long lasting, and we need to continue to build out a transportation system that enables people of all ages and abilities to bike and walk across the city.”

Read more …

The Off-Guardian has turned too much into a 24/7 anti-lockdown channel lately, but this is good.

This Year’s Pulitzer Prize Award Has An Anti-Russian Infowar Agenda (OffG)

The Russian Embassy in the US condemned the Pulitzer Prize Board’s awarding of its eponymous prize for “International Reporting” to The New York Times “for a set of enthralling stories, reported at great risk, exposing the predations of Vladimir Putin’s regime”, describing it as: “.. a wonderful collection of undiluted Russophobic fabrications, which can be studied as a guideline on creating false facts.” The six articles and two videos that were responsible for the outlet receiving that “recognition” shared the theme of military-intelligence intrigue, be it accusing the country’s GRU intelligence agency of involvement in several shadowy assassination attempts across Europe or claiming that businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin had a hidden hand in election meddling in Madagascar, for example.

Other assertions that were made by the “journalistic” pieces in question also include the Russian state’s complicity in carrying out war crimes in Syria. As has become the norm in the Western Mainstream Media’s reporting about Russia, an abundance of unnamed sources, fabricated recordings, and disreputable sources were relied upon to push fearmongering narratives about the Eurasian Great Power. The conclusions that were reached – or rather, “reverse-engineered” after first determining the meta-narrative and then subsequently fleshing it out from a variety of geopolitical angles – were predictable enough because they perfectly conformed to the “politically correct” interpretation of President Putin’s global intentions.

It’s for that reason The New York Times’ pieces were “celebrated” by the Pulitzer Prize Board with this supposedly “distinguished” award in an attempt to “legitimize” them for posterity. The Russian Embassy in the US, therefore, did the right thing by condemning this charade as Russophobic and describing The New York Times’ work as “a guideline on creating false facts.” That said, the success of the Pulitzer Prize Board’s efforts to manage global perceptions about Russia as part of the West’s ongoing Hybrid War against it is dependent on whether their targeted audience even cares about what that institution says. In theory, the Pulitzer Prize is supposed to be one of the most distinguished awards that any journalist or outlet can ever receive, but it’s actually more akin to an elite club commending its own members.

To explain, the Pulitzer Prize Board counts among its ranks representatives from The Washington Post and even The New York Times itself. It also includes other professionals as well, such as those from Bloomberg, National Public Radio, and a few folks from academia. Prior to Trump’s rise, these figures might have been almost universally respected, but the American President has since opened the eyes of a broad swath of the country and even the world more broadly to the so-called “Fourth Estate’s” insidious political agendas. Trust in traditional media is dwindling by the day, meaning that the awards ceremonies that they preside over are becoming similarly less prestigious as well.

Read more …

One can only imagine what attention this would have gotten were it not for COVID19. The MSM is still trying to defend the FBI, DNC and Obama White House, but that battle has long been lost.

And there is still this kind of thing, as if nothing had changed: “In releasing the transcripts Thursday, the current Democratic House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff claimed they provided proof of nefarious connections between Russians and Trump associates.”

It is almost hard to believe.

Schiff Releases Transcripts Undercutting Dem Claims Of Russia Collusion (JTN)

“Papadopoulos’ comment didn’t particularly indicate that he was the person that had had — that was interacting with the Russians,” McCabe answered when asked by lawmakers why a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant request in October 2016 focused only on Page and not the man the FBI originally predicated the Trump investigation upon. It was one of the few extraordinary admissions from McCabe: The FBI opened up an entire counterintelligence probe of the Trump campaign on a figure agents did not believe was having contact with Moscow. The transcripts, otherwise, contain mostly old news, long since surpassed by revelations in Robert Mueller’s final report that concluded there was no collusion between any Americans and Russia to hijack the 2016 election and Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s detailed report of abuses of the FISA process by the FBI.

But perhaps the biggest piece of previously unreported news came from Michael Sussmann, a lawyer for the Perkins Coie law firm that represented the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016. It was that law firm that contracted with Fusion GPS to hire Steele to develop the anti-Trump dossier that was shared with the FBI. Sussmann acknowledged under questioning by Republican staff that in February 2017 he shared dirt he had gotten on the Trump organization’s possible ties to Russia with the CIA. The agency’s name was redacted from the transcript but confirmed to Just the News by multiple U.S. officials. What was your contact [redacted] about?” a lawyer asked Sussmann.

“So the contact was about reporting to them information that was reported to me about possible contacts, covert or at least nonpublic, between Russian entities and various entities in the United States associated with the — or potentially associated with the Trump Organization,” Sussmann answered. The lawyer followed up: “And when did that contact occur, month and year?” “February 2017,” Sussmann answered. “Where did you get that information from to relay to [redacted]?” he was asked. “From a client of mine,” he answered, declining to be more specific. In releasing the transcripts Thursday, the current Democratic House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff claimed they provided proof of nefarious connections between Russians and Trump associates.

“The transcripts released today richly detail evidence of the Trump campaign’s efforts to invite, make use of, and cover up Russia’s help in the 2016 presidential election,” he alleged. In fact, witnesses were repeatedly pressed to offer specific evidence of a conspiracy between Trump and Russia and could offer none, saying it was either too preliminary or they did not have any. “I never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign or someone in it was plotting/conspiring with the Russians to meddle with the election,” former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told lawmakers. “That’s not to say that there weren’t concerns about the evidence we were seeing, anecdotal evidence.

Read more …

Former FBI intel Chief Slams Comey’s Pursuit Of Flynn (JTN)

The FBI’s former top intelligence official says the bureau under James Comey’s leadership did not have a legitimate reason to launch an investigation into Michael Flynn and may have engaged in an “historic misuse” of the nation’s premier law enforcement agency. Retired FBI Assistant Director for Intelligence Kevin Brock told Just the News that agents had sought to close the investigation into the incoming national security advisor in January 2017 but the “Comey team” intervened via fired agent Peter Strzok to stop the closure and to pivot to an interview with Flynn. The closing memo communicated that “they had never established any reasonable suspicion that Michael Flynn was acting on behalf of a foreign country at all, ever in the beginning. In other words they had no basis to start the investigation in the first place,” Brock explained.

He described the FBI’s interview of Flynn as “some type of intimidation” and he said they did not have a legal justification to question him. “They wanted to get in front of him and see if they could elicit some type of false statement, that was their goal,” Brock told the John Solomon Reports podcast on Thursday. “They had no right to get in front of him. They had no legal basis to be in the same room with him. That’s the disgrace of all of this.” [..] Brock, the bureau’ first ever intelligence chief under former Director Robert Mueller, described the Flynn episode as very abnormal.

[..] Brock described a 302 interview report related to Flynn’s interview as the most peculiar he had ever encountered out of the thousands he has written or reviewed. He said that if it is shown that the FBI interviewed Flynn for reasons pertaining to “a policy dispute” that would represent a “historic misuse of the FBI.”

Read more …

 

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The best thing to happened to Santorini in forever. Beautiful.

 

 

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May 012020
 


René Magritte L’avenir (the future) 1936

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

The difference between underestimated and undercounted.

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

Russian PM Mishustin Tests Positive For Virus (BBC)

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


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

Read more …

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Those fears should be global.

Deflation Fears Creep Back In Japan (R.)

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


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

Read more …

As the government keeps bumbling its actions.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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


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

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


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

Read more …

Obviously.

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

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


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

Read more …

To be continued. People will go to jail.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

 

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Byron In Chinatown, Pell Street, New York 1900

 

Greek Mothers, Grandmas and Wives to Enforce Quarantine As Police Struggle (GR)
White House Predicts 100,000 To 240,000 Will Die In US From Coronavirus (CNBC)
Putin Asked Trump If He Needed Help & He Accepted (RT)
How To Rescue Our Coronavirus-Infected Economy From Collapse (Richard Vague)
Obama’s Failure To Resupply Respirators In Federal Stockpile (JTN)
Do I Have to Pay My Rent or Mortgage During the Pandemic? (DB)
Will Shift To Distance Learning Reshape American Education? (JTN)
Should All Americans Be Wearing Face Masks? (JTN)
Fed Will Do ‘Whatever It Takes’ To Help US Economy Likely In Recession (R.)
US Virus Cases Off The Scale – But People Can Build Movement From This (MoA)
China Starts To Report Asymptomatic Coronavirus Cases (R.)
How Disinformation Really Works: Russian COVID19 Aid To Italy Smeared (RT)

 

 

The US is slowly coming to terms with the numbers representing its reality. And unlike fast food, they need to be fed the news in little bites.

 

 

Cases 872,777 (+ 73,054 from yesterday’s 799,723)

Deaths 43,271 (+ 4,551 from yesterday’s 38,720)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 19% –

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

A good representation by Jo Michell of how the FT graph (see below) can be made clearer by tweaking between log scale and linear scale.

Log scale corona:

 

 

Linear scale corona:

 

 

 

 

Best story of the day for this day.

Greek Mothers, Grandmas and Wives to Enforce Quarantine As Police Struggle (GR)

Greek Prime Minister Kiriakos Mitsotakis who was among the first EU leaders to implement a strict quarantine in Greece, in now transferring the authority of enforcing the quarantine to Greek women. The decision took most by storm but police sources say it was planned since a few weeks ago, when police was needed to help in hospitals in vital positions for the fight against Coronavirus. The PM made his decision known with a tweet in the early hours of Wednesday:

“Police will continue to assist in enforcing the quarantine if needed on a case by case basis, but this won’t be its primary responsibility,” a Greek official clarified. The amendment to the current quarantine law transfers the power of issuing the necessary permits primarily to mothers and grandmothers, as well as wives and sisters where there in no mother or grandmother.


“A checkpoint on Patission street. Groups of 3-4 women will be assembling in each neighbourhood during rush-hour to check cars and individuals if they are on the street legally.” Credit: Greek Government handout

“Women have been defending the Greek household for thousands of years, since the Ancient times when every Greek woman was the protector of ‘estia’” noted the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou. It is also true that women and especially Greek women are also experts on discovering germs and dirt where you think there is none, so this might be another skill that comes in handy. “If one person of the household is infected the whole family is in danger, notes Antonia Parisi who sees this as a necessary step for a family’s wellbeing. “Women are best to protect the family” adds the shop owner and mother of two from Piraeus, Greece.


[..] some Greeks are not happy by the move. Most complain that Greek mothers and wives are way stricter in accepting fair reasoning to go out during a pandemic. “I don’t know if I will ever see the light of the day,” says Petros Kakavas from Peristeri, Athens who in absence of a mother and a grandmother has to ask his wife for permission to leave the house. In ancient Sparta the male fighters’ health was a responsibility of their mothers and wives. It is since then, we have the saying behind every strong man there is an even stronger woman. But sometimes history just repeats itself.

Read more …

I got a lot of criticism on my Fauci article 2 days ago, thought I merely connected two things he said over the space of two days, which meant 200 million Americans would become infected. That number is still not mentioned for some reason, but soon it will have to be. For now 240,000 deaths are the new normal.

White House Predicts 100,000 To 240,000 Will Die In US From Coronavirus (CNBC)

President Donald Trump prepared Americans for a coming surge in coronavirus cases, calling COVID-19 a plague and saying the U.S. is facing a “very, very painful two weeks.” “This could be a hell of a bad two weeks. This is going to be a very bad two, and maybe three weeks. This is going to be three weeks like we’ve never seen before,” Trump said at a White House press conference Tuesday. White House officials are projecting between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths in the U.S. with coronavirus fatalities peaking over the next two weeks. “When you look at night, the kind of death that has been caused by this invisible enemy, it’s incredible.” The U.S. has more coronavirus cases than any other country across the globe with 184,000 confirmed infections, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

New York has now become the new epicenter of the outbreak in the world with 75,795 confirmed cases as of Tuesday morning, more reported infections than China’s Hubei province where the coronavirus emerged in December. Earlier in the day, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the outbreak in the state may not peak for three weeks. “I’m tired of being behind this virus. We’ve been behind this virus from day one,” the governor said in Albany. “We underestimated this virus. It’s more powerful, it’s more dangerous than we expected.” Trump, who grew up near New York City’s Elmhurst hospital in Queens, said no one can believe officials are setting up refrigerator trucks as temporary mortuaries outside the hospital. Trump said New York “got a late start” in rolling out its mitigation efforts.

New York City is setting up a handful of makeshift field hospitals to house coronavirus patients at the Jacob K. Javits Center, in Central Park and at the tennis courts in Queens that host the U.S. Open. De Blasio said the city is working with the federal government, the hotel industry and various other businesses to turn other buildings into potential medical facilities. More than 1,000 people in New York City alone have already died from the coronavirus, according to data updated at 5 p.m. ET by the NYC Health Department. “This is going to be the roughest three weeks we’ve ever had in this country,” Trump said. “I wanted as few as a number of people to die as possible. And that’s all we’re working on.”

US coronavirus deaths:

3/1 2
3/2 6
3/3 9
3/4 11
3/5 12
3/6 17
3/7 19
3/8 21
3/9 26
3/10 31
3/11 38
3/12 41
3/13 49
3/14 58
3/15 65
3/16 87
3/17 111
3/18 149
3/19 195
3/20 263
3/21 323
3/22 413
3/23 541
3/24 704
3/25 938
3/26 1195
3/27 1588
3/28 2043
3/29 2419
3/30 3004
Now 4076

Read more …

“At least 400 people died TODAY in New York because of the coronavirus.

We have refrigerated trucks now set up all over the city to hold the bodies.

The morgues are at capacity.

Absolutely heartbreaking day.”

Putin Asked Trump If He Needed Help & He Accepted (RT)

A cargo plane loaded with medical supplies and protection equipment may depart for the US by the end of Tuesday, the Kremlin said, after a phone call between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The issue of protective gear was raised during the Monday phone talks, with Putin asking if the US needed help and Trump accepting, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday. Moscow suggested the aid in anticipation that the US will be able to return the favor if necessary, once its manufacturers of medical and protective equipment catch up with demand, Peskov said. The current situation “affects everyone without exception and is of a global nature,” he added. “There is no alternative to acting together in the spirit of partnership and mutual assistance.”


On Monday, Trump told reporters at the White House press briefing that “Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment, which was very nice.” The comment left everyone scratching their heads, as no one in the US seemed to know anything about the plane in question. It appears the US president was referring to the aid arranged on the phone call as something that had already happened. Peskov chastised “some of the American side” who “at least did not contribute to the prompt resolution of technical issues” regarding the agreed-upon delivery, which could explain the delay. Official data shows the US has been among the nations hardest-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with almost 175,000 confirmed cases and 3,416 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon – overtaking China, where the contagion originated in December. Italy still has the highest death toll in the world, at 12,428.

Read more …

Steve Keen: “an editorial in The Hill by Richard Vague, who is Pennsylvania’s acting Secretary of Banking and Securities. Richard was a highly successful banker, the co-founder of two major personal-finance-oriented companies Juniper Financial, and First USA Bank, and then CEO of the energy marketing company Energy Plus. He is a patron and a close friend. He is the author of “A Brief History of Doom” (2019), which I regard as the best history of financial crises ever written–far better than Kindleberger and Mackay.”

How To Rescue Our Coronavirus-Infected Economy From Collapse (Richard Vague)

The U.S. government should implement a program of monthly checks of $1,000 for three months — a timeframe which could be extended — to individuals above 18 and below some income threshold, say $200,000. A one-time check is not enough. The continuity of these payments is the most central, critical recommendation. Even if Americans stay cooped up, they can and should be encouraged to spend across the board, including on things like restaurant gift certificates, since the restaurant industry alone now estimates up to 7 million job losses. Even ten years after the Great Recession, households and businesses still have near-record levels of debt and, with this GDP collapse, will now be drowning in that debt.

The U.S. government should institute an immediate three-month moratorium on payments of mortgages, credit cards and student debt, along with a similar moratorium policy for business loan payments. This should be extended beyond three months if necessary. Having spent much of my career in banking, I view this approach as feasible, as long as regulators have the guidance to allow it. As part of this, the federal government would implement this policy for government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for government-guaranteed student loans and other lending programs that have its full or partial backing; the loans could be extended or restructured to accommodate this, and borrowers could continue to pay if they chose. Regulators also should work with the industry to put together other prudent forms of loan forbearance.

The government should implement a three-month moratorium on all rent payments, and establish a fund to extend money to landlords to accommodate this rent forbearance. It should implement a three-month moratorium on all federal tax payments, which could be extended if necessary. It should commit to cover all healthcare costs associated with the coronavirus, structured such that care providers can bill the government directly so no forms or reimbursements would be required of individuals. It also will be necessary to provide capital support for select, troubled industries beyond the airline, hotel and cruise ship industries. This part does not need to be a handout; it can take the form of a preferred equity investment. It will soon need to provide substantial support to states and local governments. This program will not provide a result that is perfect in its fairness, but the need to move quickly far outweighs that consideration.

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From a right wing source. A different view on this topic: “On March 1, 2003, the NPS became the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) program managed jointly by DHS and HHS. With the signing of the BioShield legislation, the SNS program was returned to HHS for oversight and guidance. In 2018, oversight of Strategic National Stockpile was transferred to HHS/ASPR from HHS/CDC.”

What does the move from CDC to Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response entail?

Obama’s Failure To Resupply Respirators In Federal Stockpile (JTN)

The Strategic National Stockpile, America’s giant medical storage closet for a terrorist or biological crisis, once boasted more than 100 million respirator masks to protect doctors, nurses and other frontline health care workers in case of a contagion. But when the COVID-19 pandemic started a few months ago, the supply had dwindled down to just 12 million fitted masks, known as N95 respirators, and 30 million surgical masks, a supply deemed to be less than 2 percent of what the nation would need for full-blown pandemic. The tale of how such a critical supply lapsed, leading the Trump administration to scramble for 500 million new masks in the midst of pandemic, is one of government neglect and competing priorities that began in 2009.

That’s when the Obama administration drew down nearly 97 million of the masks to deal with the H1N1 swine flu pandemic, effectively protecting frontline medical workers from a virus that infected more than 60 million Americans. But when it was over, the administration decided not to fully restock the respirators, choosing to spend its $600 million annual budget for the stockpile on other priorities such as key drugs and vaccines to deal with smallpox, anthrax and the like, experts said. There is really “no answer why the supplies were not replenished because the N95 masks are invaluable tools for preparedness and it was important that they be restocked,” said Charles Johnson, President of International Safety Equipment Association, whose members make supplies for the stockpile.

In the end, Johnson said, the Obama administration chose to use its “limited funds” in other ways and “made the best choices at the time even though his association and others periodically restated their calls to replenish” the N95 masks. That trend continued in the early Trump years as well. The Clinton administration first began to examine a national plan to respond to pandemics and create the federal stockpile in 1990s. But the formal National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza was not officially published until 2005 during the George W. Bush administration, following the anthrax scare in 2001 and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2002.

[..] According to a Center for Disease Control report published after the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, 39 million N95 masks were initially distributed from the stockpile, followed by 59.5 million more in second wave. According to Johnson, the stockpile originally was about 100 million masks. From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, there were over 60 million cases of H1N1 requiring 274,304 hospitalizations and resulting in 12,469 deaths in the United States. After the H1N1 virus slowed down in 2010, according to Johnson, “it was important to restock.” That did not happen as the national stockpile budget focused on other priorities deemed higher.

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Literally every single state appears to have different rules?!

Do I Have to Pay My Rent or Mortgage During the Pandemic? (DB)

As March winds down, at least 250 million Americans have been told to stay home or “shelter in place” to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Problem is, many can’t help wondering if they can still afford a place to shelter in—if they ever could. Long before the coronavirus pandemic, generous swaths of the United States faced an affordable housing crisis. With millions of Americans losing their jobs and millions more facing unemployment in the near future thanks to a concerted economic shutdown geared at reining in the disease, talk of rent strikes and freezes are in the air.

The Trump administration recently nodded to the problem by ordering a foreclosure moratorium on single-family home mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration or obtained through government-owned lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Fannie and Freddie have also offered forbearance for borrowers experiencing hardship. And the finance giants have dangled payment relief to indebted apartment building owners who grant respite to renters, a move the Federal Housing Finance Agency estimates could affect 43 percent of the market in multifamily leases. Then there’s the $2 trillion stimulus bill that passed last week, which contains language forbidding evictions and late charges on any property receiving virtually any federal aid.

It also permits those owing money to Fannie or Freddie to request up to six months of forbearance, though it leaves the onus on borrowers to do so. If your home doesn’t fall under one of these categories or programs, and you’re wondering if you owe money to your landlord or lender, the answer is probably yes—at least for now. Still, some state and local governments have moved to stem evictions and foreclosures for everyone, and a few are even freezing rent and mortgage payments entirely. Here’s a breakdown of COVID-19 rules on housing across every state and many large metropolitan areas. This story will be updated as events warrant.

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Like, make it even worse?

Will Shift To Distance Learning Reshape American Education? (JTN)

It likely represents one of the most ambitious, albeit uncoordinated, educational experiments in history: Can you successfully digitize an entire country’s higher education industry very nearly overnight? And if so, what does that say about the future of distance learning? Where does it go from here? Distance education itself is already widespread throughout the United States: The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that in the fall of 2017 there were well over 6.5 million American students enrolled in online programs, nearly a third of all postsecondary students in the country. Nearly half of those were exclusively enrolled in online programs; slightly more than half had “at least one” online course.

When they hear of online education, most people might picture private, for-profit corporations, the ones that build vanilla, office park-like campuses in the suburbs of American cities and whose commercials pop up regularly on network television and YouTube advertisements: Strayer, the University of Phoenix, DeVry University. Yet those establishments form a relatively small minority of the overall online education industry: the NCES says the vast majority of students who attend virtual classrooms do so at more traditional institutions. Not even 15% of all online attendance is done at private, for-profit organizations.

Distance education, then, is very much a concern for legacy institutions, including those known for their idyllic and venerated campus experiences: Schools like Harvard and Princeton and Northwestern and Chicago all have their own exclusively online divisions, while more and more state and regional schools are expanding their digital opportunities. Indeed, the existence of those programs is likely why many American schools were able to transition with (relative) ease to online learning environments. A vital question to ask, then, is: Does this near-total transition to online learning suggest an upcoming major shift in the distance education economy? Will schools be able to use this monumental adjustment to expand online learning and perhaps fundamentally reshape American higher education?

Dr. Wallace Boston, the president of the private, for-profit, online American Public University System, says yes. “I believe we will see an uptick in distance education” following the pandemic, he told Just the News. “The most likely reason that we will see an uptick is that many institutions will want to keep some form of online instruction and infrastructure in the event that this pandemic recycles through again or that there is another event that might require social distancing or quarantines,” he argued. “Some may even view online offerings as strategic opportunities for their institution.”

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Before or after they’ve been tested?

Should All Americans Be Wearing Face Masks? (JTN)

[California] Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday said that the state is considering guidance around whether people beyond the medical profession should wear some sort of mask or face covering, including in professions like grocery store workers. The science is incomplete in this area, according to Newsom, and there is a concern that people will think masks are a replacement for social distancing, which they aren’t. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has said that the practice often leads to increased touching of one’s face and can produce a “false sense of security,” adding that the World Health Organization and the CDC have reaffirmed in the last few days is that they do not recommend the general public wear masks.

“The virus is not spreading in the general community,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a Jan. 30 briefing. “We don’t routinely recommend the use of face masks by the public to prevent respiratory illness. And we certainly are not recommending that at this time for this new virus.” As the cases of COVID-19 grows across America and supplies like face masks and gowns are in short supply, health experts say implementing guidance may take masks away from the health care providers who are on the frontlines of the pandemic. However others believe that masks, even homemade masks, would help reduce the risk of unknowingly spreading the virus through coughs, sneezes, even yawns or simple conversation.

George Gao, director-general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said in an interview with Science magazine that “when you speak, there are always droplets coming out of your mouth.” “The big mistake in the U.S. and Europe, in my opinion, is that people aren’t wearing masks,” Gao said. Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Tuesday that the White House coronavirus task force is also seriously considering guidance that Americans wear masks. “The idea of getting a much more broad, community-wide use of masks outside of the health care setting is under very active discussion at the task force. The CDC group is looking at that very carefully,” Fauci told CNN.

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Poor choice of words perhaps? To hide the emptiness implied?

Fed Will Do ‘Whatever It Takes’ To Help US Economy Likely In Recession (R.)

The Federal Reserve is ready to do more to help a U.S. economy ground to a sudden halt as businesses shutter and people stay home to slow the coronavirus pandemic, San Francisco Fed President Mary Daly said on Tuesday. “The Federal Reserve is prepared to do whatever it takes within our powers to ensure that we are part of the solution of shoring up people over the virus, shoring up the American economy and putting us in the best position to grow again once the virus recedes,” Daly said in an interview with Yahoo Finance. “If we do the right thing and shelter in place and curb the spread of the virus, the economy will be in the best position to bounce back.”


With the coronavirus infecting tens of thousands of Americans and killing hundreds each day, three-quarters of the U.S. population are under orders to stay home except for essential trips to slow the spread of the virus. With businesses laying off millions of workers as demand dries up and states ordering non-essential businesses to close, the economy is likely already in recession, Daly said. The Fed’s job, along with that of the U.S. government that on Friday finalized a $2.2 trillion rescue package, is to provide the support to financial markets, businesses and people who are doing their duty to boost the public health, Daly said. Once the pandemic threat has passed, the Fed’s programs and low interest rates will help drive the economic recovery, she said.

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FTCoronaGraphMar31

Is Moon of Alabam going full hippie on us?

US Virus Cases Off The Scale – But People Can Build Movement From This (MoA)

When John Burn-Murdoch created that daily updated chart he did not anticipate that any country would have more than a 100,000 total cases. That was a reasonable assumption as China, with 1.4 billion inhabitants, stopped the epidemic with less than 85.000 total cases even when it was surprised by the outbreak. As of now the U.S. has 164.435 known cases. It will reach a total number of several dozens of millions and will have several hundreds of thousands of dead caused by the covid-19 disease. Most but not all of those who will die from it will have one or more co-morbid diseases.

The number of death in the U.S. will likely be higher than elsewhere because obesity, diabetes and heart problems are more prevalent in the U.S. than in most other countries. Another reason why the U.S. will have a larger than necessary outbreak is wide mistrust in the authority of the state. A significant number of people will reject stay at home orders or other measures the authorities will have to take. Then there is this: Pouya Alimagham @iPouya – 0:48 UTC · Mar 31, 2020 “The regime doesn’t want to antagonize the religious classes. Thus, it isn’t doing anything about the fact that some religious sites remain open & clerics are encouraging worshippers to come & pray. These gatherings risk exploding #COVID19. I’m talking about the US, not #Iran.”

The U.S. also has many people without health insurance. The many newly laid off people will additionally lose theirs. These people will avoid seeing a doctor or to go to a hospital as the enormous costs would ruin them. The for-profit health system will reject sick persons who are unlikely to be able to pay their bills. The cases of people who die from such circumstance should be put into the death by lack of money category instead of being blamed on something else. Congress has failed to take the necessary measures and to give everyone access to free tests and free care. This will come back to bite everyone as it makes sure that the disease will circulate longer and stronger than in other rich countries.

Every crisis is also a chance. Congress has used it to again loot the people and to push more money to the rich. At the same time the powers that be have denied universal healthcare and paid sick leave to those who need it. The covid-19 epidemic is a chance to change that. There are already a number of strikes at Amazon and similar companies over work safety, health care and pay. Rent strikes must now follow. When the bills come in for families with covid-19 cases many more people will get more interested in medicare for all. A movement can be build from these issues. The Sanders campaign should provide a (virtual) platform for it.

The U.S. has enough money to pay for the security of its people. Security is not a military issue. A hugely expensive aircraft carrier with sick sailors is worth nothing. Pandemics are a real security issues and the U.S. has left its people defenseless against them. Cut the aircraft carriers and other insane military spending and invest it in the health of the people. That message will soon be widely understood. We can all help to reinforce it.

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Q: how useless is this if you test only some people? Can’t very well adopt the western idea of testing only those who look sick.

China Starts To Report Asymptomatic Coronavirus Cases (R.)

Chinese health authorities began on Wednesday reporting on asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus as part of an effort to allay public fears that people could be spreading the virus without knowing they are infected with it. China, where the coronavirus emerged late last year, has managed to bring its outbreak under control and is easing travel restrictions in virus hot spots. But there are concerns that the end of lockdowns will see thousands of infectious people move back into daily life without knowing they carry the virus, because they have no symptoms and so have not been tested. Up to now, the number of known asymptomatic cases has been classified, and it is not included in the official data, though the South China Morning Post newspaper, citing unpublished official documents, recently said it was more than 40,000.


In an effort to dispel public fears about hidden cases of the virus, the government has this week ordered health authorities to turn their attention to finding asymptomatic cases and releasing their data on them. Health authorities in Liaoning province were the fist to do so on Wednesday, saying the province had 52 cases of people with the coronavirus who showed no symptoms as of March 31, they said in a statement on a provincial government website. Hunan province said it had four such cases, all of them imported from abroad, it said in a statement on its website. The National Health Commission is due to start reporting aggregate, national data on asymptomatic cases later on Wednesday.

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Unthinkable now, but soon Americans will be thanking Putin, and thanking Trump.

How Disinformation Really Works: Russian COVID19 Aid To Italy Smeared (RT)

With over 11,000 deaths and more than 100,000 cases of Covid-19, Italy is currently a country which feels under siege. But this is no impediment to the think tank racket twisting an offer of support for its propaganda purposes. Here’s what happened. The weekend before last, Vladimir Putin called Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. During the conversation, Conte asked for help, in fighting coronavirus, according to the Kremlin readout which hasn’t been contradicted by Italian officials. Let’s be clear from the outset, there was undoubtably a strong PR, as well as practical, element to Russia’s assistance. However, there were also advantages to Rome from this approach, as the move may have helped to concentrate a few minds among its traditional allies.

Moscow sent teams of “doctors, protective gear and medical equipment” to the stricken country. The detail included 100 military virologists and epidemiologists, along with eight medical teams, according to Russian news outlets. Most importantly, it delivered 600 ventilators. A significant amount given Italy apparently had only about 5,000 of the devices. Indeed, a few days after the Putin/Conte call, the New York Times was writing about Italy’s “ventilator crisis.” There’s usually nothing like a bit of Russian influence to jolt EU and NATO elites into action. As mentioned above, no doubt this was also part of Conte’s reasoning. That said, it’s also worth mentioning that some other Europeans states have tried to help the Italians. Germany and France, in particular, took patients and sent supplies, despite dealing with outbreaks of their own. Yet, many in Italy feel they haven’t done enough.

A few days after the aid landed, a campaign began on Twitter to discredit the Russian initiative. The first I saw of it was a tweet from Oliver Carroll, of London’s Independent newspaper, who presumably speaks Italian (I don’t, so I am relying on his translation). “Some Italians are expressing unease about Putin’s Covid-19 emergency aid,” he wrote. “Acc(ording) to La Stampa, 80 percent of supplies (are) “useless,” (and) sources worry about high-ranking military officers now in (the) country. Russian soldiers (are) free to roam (in) Italy a few steps away from NATO,” the paper stated. “La Stampa says China sent masks (and) ventilators; (but) Russia sent irrelevant equipment used for bacteriological and chemical outbreaks,” Carroll added. “(There is a) belief that Russia … (is) not helping us only for great goodness of its people… now beginning to circulate in broad sectors, military and political.”

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It must be possible to run 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?

Thanks everyone for your wonderful and generous donations over the past days.

 

 

“Our leaders, if they think of empathy at all, think in terms of Steve Martin’s advice: ‘Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes.’”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Mar 272020
 

 

 

More People Are Dying Of COVID-19 In The US Than We Know (BF)
We Could Watch Entire Populations Vanish (IC)
Coronavirus Could Kill 81,000 In US, Subside In June – Washington U. (R.)
Hold The Line (M.)
China Promotes Bear Bile As Coronavirus Treatment (NatGeo)
Fed Balance Sheet Tops $5 Trillion For First Time (R.)
Broward Poll Workers Test Positive For COVID-19 (L10)
Moscow Laboratories Will Conduct 13,000 Tests For Coronavirus Every Day (Tass)
New Zealand Coronavirus Deaths During Lockdown Could Be Just 20 – Modelling (G.)
Coronavirus Job Losses Will Raise Mortgage Stress More Than GFC Did (ABC.au)
France, Czechs, & Other US Allies Exit Iraq Over COVID-19 Fears (ZH)
Spike in Unemployment Claims is Even More Horrid Than it Appears (WS)
What Should The EU Do Now: 3-Point Plan For Averting A Depression (Varoufakis)
Dylan Ratigan: “An Abomination Beyond Comprehension” – “Bernie Folded” (Dore)
Muder Most Foul (Bob Dylan)

 

 

A word about testing. There are stories everywhere of people dying without even having beenn tested, and of doctors not getting permission to test. Many countries have a central body that must give permission for a test, and they often don’t until it’s too late in the game (the life). To a larg extent, this is because politicians simply failed to procure test kits. But there’s another thing: political incentives for massive and accurate testing hardly exist at all (in the short term), while incentives for not testing are obvious: you look better.

The UK testing story could change that all, with its potential finger-prick 15 minute test, but only if that test is at least 95% accurate. I know they claim it is, but we’ll have to see. There are stories about Chinese tests that are 30% accurate, and it’s easy to see why that is useless. But I was talking to someone yesterday who said: there are now tests that are fast and 70% accurate! But isn’t that useless too. No, they can do a better test with those who test negative! Yes, but the 70% applies to the positives too… So 70% means you have to retest everyone. And we haven’t even mentioned asymptomatic cases yet…

 

 

Note: we may see the first time that 100,000 new cases come within 24 hours

Cases 542,385 (+ 55,683 from yesterday’s 486,702)

Deaths 24,368 (+ 2,347 from yesterday’s 22,021)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close) US: 17,000 cases in a day

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 16% –

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

 

 

Not in the US, everywhere.

More People Are Dying Of COVID-19 In The US Than We Know (BF)

Medical professionals around the US told BuzzFeed News that the official numbers of people who have died of COVID-19 are not consistent with the number of deaths they’re seeing on the front lines. In some cases, it’s a lag in reporting, caused by delays and possible breakdowns in logging positive tests and making them public. In other, more troubling, cases, medical experts told BuzzFeed News they think it’s because people are not being tested before or after they die. In the US, state and county authorities are responsible for collecting data on cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and deaths. The data is then reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In California, one ER doctor who works at multiple hospitals in a hard-hit county told BuzzFeed News, “those medical records aren’t being audited by anyone at the state and local level currently and some people aren’t even testing those people who are dead.” “We just don’t know. The numbers are grossly underreported. I know for a fact that we’ve had three deaths in one county where only one is listed on the website,” the doctor said. A spokesperson for the California Department of Health told BuzzFeed News in an email that “local health jurisdictions are required to report all positive COVID-19 cases to the state. In addition, when a death or impending death from COVID-19 occurs, health care facilities must immediately notify their local health jurisdiction and the state.”

[..] two of the hardest-hit areas in the nation — New York City and Los Angeles County — released guidance earlier this week encouraging doctors not to test patients unless they think the test will significantly change their course of treatment. That means that potentially more people in both places could be admitted to hospitals with severe respiratory symptoms and recover — or die — and not be registered as a coronavirus case.

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Africa. Pray.

We Could Watch Entire Populations Vanish (IC)

On March 18, Burkina Faso suffered the first confirmed Covid-19 fatality in all of sub-Saharan Africa. The victim was Rose-Marie Compaoré, the first vice president of the Sahelian nation’s parliament. Tiny, impoverished, and conflict-scarred, Burkina Faso is now West Africa’s worst-affected country, with 146 confirmed cases, including four government ministers. The U.S. ambassador to Burkina Faso, Andrew Young, has also tested positive for the disease. Burkina Faso has seen more than its share of hardships: poverty, drought, hunger, coups. But the coronavirus poses a new kind of threat to a country wracked by a war that has displaced around 700,000 Burkinabe in the last year.

Many of those people now find themselves under great physical and emotional strain, lacking proper shelter, food, and the other necessities — all of which makes them more vulnerable to the pandemic. Experts fear that Covid-19 could decimate entire settlements of Burkina Faso’s displaced, and they are bracing for devastating outbreaks in conflict zones, refugee camps, and the poorest countries in the developing world. Globally, millions of refugees and internally displaced persons, or IDPs, living in cramped, squalid conditions find themselves at risk. “When the virus hits overcrowded settlements in places like Iran, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and Greece, the consequences will be devastating,” warned Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council [..] He also spoke of “carnage when the virus reaches parts of Syria, Yemen, and Venezuela where hospitals have been demolished and health systems have collapsed.”

[..] I have no reason to believe Moumoumi Sawadogo had Covid-19 when I met him eight weeks ago in Burkina Faso. After living 89 years in an arid, impoverished land on the fringe of the Sahara Desert, surviving a massacre, walking for a week and enduring hunger and homelessness, it was clear that Sawadogo was a survivor. But Covid-19 posed a different kind of danger. “These populations are already very vulnerable to diseases that are otherwise easy to treat. But that’s not the case when they have no access to water or proper sanitation or health care,” Alexandra Lamarche, senior advocate for West and Central Africa at Refugees International, told The Intercept. “We could watch entire populations vanish.”

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Modelling is only as good as its initial assumptions. Which in this case come out of hot thin air.

Coronavirus Could Kill 81,000 In US, Subside In June – Washington U. (R.)

The coronavirus pandemic could kill more than 81,000 people in the United States in the next four months and may not subside until June, according to a data analysis done by University of Washington School of Medicine. The number of hospitalized patients is expected to peak nationally by the second week of April, though the peak may come later in some states. Some people could continue to die of the virus as late as July, although deaths should be below epidemic levels of 10 per day by June at the latest, according to the analysis. The analysis, using data from governments, hospitals and other sources, predicts that the number of U.S. deaths could vary widely, ranging from as low as around 38,000 to as high as around 162,000.

The variance is due in part to disparate rates of the spread of the virus in different regions, which experts are still struggling to explain, said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who led the study. The duration of the virus means there may be a need for social distancing measures for longer than initially expected, although the country may eventually be able relax restrictions if it can more effectively test and quarantine the sick, Murray said. The analysis also highlights the strain that will be placed on hospitals. At the epidemic’s peak, sick patients could exceed the number of available hospital beds by 64,000 and could require the use of around 20,000 ventilators. Ventilators are already running short in hard-hit places like New York City.

The virus is spreading more slowly in California, which could mean that peak cases there will come later in April and social distancing measures will need to be extended in the state for longer, Murray said. Louisiana and Georgia are predicted to see high rates of contagion and could see a particularly high burden on their local healthcare systems, he added.

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Let the caretakers talk. They need to, and we need to hear them.

Hold The Line (M.)

As an infectious disease epidemiologist (although a lowly one), at this point I feel morally obligated to provide some information on what we are seeing from a transmission dynamic perspective and how they apply to the social distancing measures. Like any good scientist I have noticed two things that are either not articulated or not present in the “literature” of social media. I have also relied on my much smarter infectious disease epidemiologist friends for peer review of this post; any edits are from peer review. Specifically, I want to make two aspects of these measures very clear and unambiguous. First, we are in the very infancy of this epidemic’s trajectory. That means even with these measures we will see cases and deaths continue to rise globally, nationally, and in our own communities in the coming weeks.

This may lead some people to think that the social distancing measures are not working. They are. They may feel futile. They aren’t. You will feel discouraged. You should. This is normal in chaos. But this is normal epidemic trajectory. Stay calm. This enemy that we are facing is very good at what it does; we are not failing. We need everyone to hold the line as the epidemic inevitably gets worse. This is not my opinion; this is the unforgiving math of epidemics for which I and my colleagues have dedicated our lives to understanding with great nuance, and this disease is no exception. I want to help the community brace for this impact. Stay strong and with solidarity knowing with absolute certainty that what you are doing is saving lives, even as people begin getting sick and dying. You may feel like giving in. Don’t.

Second, although social distancing measures have been (at least temporarily) well-received, there is an obvious-but-overlooked phenomenon when considering groups (i.e. families) in transmission dynamics. While social distancing decreases contact with members of society, it of course increases your contacts with group (i.e. family) members. This small and obvious fact has surprisingly profound implications on disease transmission dynamics. Study after study demonstrates that even if there is only a little bit of connection between groups (i.e. social dinners, playdates/playgrounds, etc.), the epidemic isn’t much different than if there was no measure in place. The same underlying fundamentals of disease transmission apply, and the result is that the community is left with all of the social and economic disruption but very little public health benefit. You should perceive your entire family to function as a single individual unit; if one person puts themselves at risk, everyone in the unit is at risk.

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This is about wildlife, not economic pessimists. Just in case you were confused.

China Promotes Bear Bile As Coronavirus Treatment (NatGeo)

Less than a month after taking steps to permanently ban the trade and consumption of live wild animals for food, the Chinese government has recommended using Tan Re Qing, an injection containing bear bile, to treat severe and critical COVID-19 cases. It is one of a number of recommended coronavirus treatments—both traditional and Western—on a list published March 4 by China’s National Health Commission, the government body responsible for national health policy. This recommendation highlights what wildlife advocates say is a contradictory approach to wildlife: shutting down the live trade in animals for food on the one hand and promoting the trade in animal parts on the other. Secreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder, bile from various species of bears, including Asiatic black bears and brown bears, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine since at least the eighth century.

It contains high levels of ursodeoxycholic acid, also known as ursodiol, which is clinically proven to help dissolve gallstones and treat liver disease. Ursodeoxycholic acid has been available as a synthetic drug worldwide for decades. [..] Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners typically use Tan Re Qing to treat bronchitis and upper respiratory infections. Clifford Steer, a professor at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, has studied the medical benefits of ursodeoxycholic acid. He knows of no evidence that bear bile is an effective treatment for the novel coronavirus. But, he says, ursodeoxycholic acid is distinct from other bile acids in its ability to keep cells alive and may alleviate symptoms of COVID-19 because of its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to calm the immune response.

Although use of bear bile from captive animals is legal in China, bile from wild bears is banned, as is the import of bear bile from other countries. According to Aron White, wildlife campaigner for the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA)—a nonprofit based in London, England, that exposes wildlife crimes—his organization learned first about the Chinese government’s recommendations to treat COVID-19 via social media posts from illegal traders. “We were witnessing how this government recommendation was being coopted by the traffickers to advertise their illegal products as a treatment,” White says. Illegal bile from wild bears is produced in China, he says, and is also imported from wild and captive bears in Laos, Vietnam, and North Korea.

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If numbers get big enough, they lose meaning.

Fed Balance Sheet Tops $5 Trillion For First Time (R.)

The U.S. Federal Reserve’s balance sheet soared past $5 trillion in assets for the first time this week as it scooped up bonds and extended loans to banks, mutual funds and other central banks in its unprecedented effort to backstop the economy in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic. The Fed’s total balance sheet size exploded by more than half a trillion dollars in a single week, roughly twice the pace of the next-largest weekly expansion in the financial crisis in October 2008. As of Wednesday, the Fed’s stash of assets totaled $5.3 trillion, according to data released on Thursday.

The Fed bought $355 billion of Treasuries and mortgage-backed bonds in the last week in what is now an open-ended commitment to stabilize financial markets rocked by the outbreak and the halt in economic activity that has come in its wake. It also offered more than $200 billion in credit through so-called foreign currency swap lines to other central banks to allow them to pump much-needed greenbacks into their jurisdictions to help foreign borrowers stay current with their dollar-denominated liabilities.

The weekly snapshot of the Fed’s balance sheet, released each Thursday, also showed sizable demand for a pair of brand new liquidity facilities aimed at stabilizing money markets and supporting primary dealers, the banks that transact directly with the central bank. The new Primary Dealer Credit Facility had been tapped for $27.7 billion in loans as of Wednesday, while the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility had borrowings of $30.6 billion.

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Which bunch of fools decided to have that vote?

Broward Poll Workers Test Positive For COVID-19 (L10)

Two poll workers have been positively diagnosed with coronavirus, according to a statement from The Broward County Supervisor of Elections. One of the workers was only at Precinct V011 on Tuesday, March 17, Election Day, which is located at the Martin Luther King Community Center in Hollywood. The other worked at V020 at the David Park Community Center (also in Hollywood) as well as a Weston early voting location. The supervisor said that county staff as well as other poll workers at the locations have been notified of the situation. However, voters who were at the polls in person on March 17 at either of those locations or who voted early at the Weston early voting location may “wish to take appropriate steps and seek medical advice.”

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Because of western testing that may seem like a high number, but it’s not.

Moscow Laboratories Will Conduct 13,000 Tests For Coronavirus Every Day (Tass)

The laboratories in Moscow will carry out up to 13,000 tests for the novel coronavirus per day, Deputy Mayor Anastasiya Rakova said on Thursday. “Last week, only federal laboratories were authorized to conduct tests. We have fully joined this effort, launching nine laboratories. Today we are conducting nearly 4,000 tests for the coronavirus in Moscow laboratories. In the coming week w will boost the capacity to 13,000 [tests] per day,” Rakova told a TV program hosted by Vladimir Solovyov on Rossiya-1 channel. According to Rakova, the authorities were preparing for all scenarios of how the events would unfold. “Increasing the number of people who are to be tested for the coronavirus is a necessary condition and a crucial step for stopping the spread of the virus,” she stressed.


In late December 2019, Chinese authorities notified the World Health Organization (WHO) about the outbreak of a previously unknown pneumonia in the city of Wuhan, central China. Since then, cases of the novel coronavirus – named COVID-19 by the WHO – have been reported in more than 150 countries. [..]Russia has recorded 840 coronavirus cases, with more than half of them in Moscow. Some 38 people have recovered and have been discharged from hospitals, and two people have died.

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When the desire for optimist political messaging becomes fully irresponsible.

New Zealand Coronavirus Deaths During Lockdown Could Be Just 20 – Modelling (G.)

Jacinda Ardern has implored New Zealanders to “stay local” during a four-week countrywide lockdown as modelling showed that strict measures adopted by the country could limit deaths to 0.0004% of the population – or about 20 people. Research released by Te Punaha Matatini suggested that, left unchecked, the virus could eventually infect 89% of New Zealand’s population and kill up to 80,000 people in a worst-case scenario. According to the research, intensive care beds would reach capacity within two months and the number of patients needing intensive care would exceed 10 times capacity by the time the virus peaked.


However, with the strictest suppression measures, which the country has adopted, the fatalities would drop to just 0.0004%. Hospital capacity would not be exceeded for over a year. These measures included physical distancing, case isolation, household quarantine, and closing schools and universities and would require the restrictions to remain in place until a vaccine or other treatment was developed. However, researchers noted such strategies can “delay but not prevent the epidemic”. “When controls are lifted after 400 days, an outbreak occurs with a similar peak size as for an uncontrolled epidemic,” the researchers wrote. The government has currently mandated a four-week lockdown.

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Zero recognition of living in a bubble.

Coronavirus Job Losses Will Raise Mortgage Stress More Than GFC Did (ABC.au)

As job losses continue to rise because of shutdowns in place to fight the coronavirus crisis, the number of Australians struggling to repay their mortgages is expected to lift to higher levels than seen during the global financial crisis. Credit rating agency S&P Global has warned the number of Australians falling behind on their mortgage repayments is likely to soar. “We currently expect increases in arrears to be higher than during the 2008 global financial crisis, given the wide-ranging effects on the economy stemming from the sudden disruption to economic activity,” S&P analyst Erin Kitson said. Australia avoided mass defaults during the GFC, with mortgage arrears rising to 1.69 per cent after the 2008 crisis, from a pre-crisis average of about 1.40 per cent.

The latest S&P data said mortgage arrears were 1.36 per cent in January, up from 1.28 per cent last December. Ms Kitson could not put a number on the exact number of Australian households that would be impacted by arrears but noted that many of those facing difficulty would be the self-employed. But the Federal Government’s stimulus packages and hardship relief measures from banks would limit some of the damage, Ms Kitson added. To fight the economic threat, the Government will announce a third stimulus package, expected within days. Many banks have also recently announced COVID-19 support packages that provide affected borrowers with an option to defer their repayments for up to six months.

The Reserve Bank cuts interest rates to a record low and announces a quantitative easing program for the first time in its history to help prevent a coronavirus-driven recession. And regulator, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA), has said if a borrower who has been meeting their repayment obligations until recently chooses to take up the repayment holiday, then the bank need not classify that period as “arrears”. Other emergency measures aimed at banks include an emergency interest rate cut and $90 billion in cheap 0.25-per-cent funding for three years for small business loans.

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One day the Pentagon stops all troop movements, the next day the US declares Maduro a terrorist, and the allies, want nno part of this.

Seeing your soldiers die of corona would be much too close to WWI mass Spanish flu deaths in the trenches.

France, Czechs, & Other US Allies Exit Iraq Over COVID-19 Fears (ZH)

The United States has shown itself willing to both keep up its ‘maximum pressure’ campaign on Iran and its proxies while riding roughshod over Iraqi sovereignty by remaining in the country even as Baghdad leaders and the broader population demand a final exit. But in another sign Europe is ready to divorce itself from US aims in the region, France has abruptly withdrawn its forces from the country after being there for five years. Interestingly the prime reason given was troop safety concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, but we imagine European leaders likely now see an opportunity to make a swift and easy exit without provoking the ire of their US counterparts. International correspondents say this includes French withdrawal from six bases, with a small contingent of about 100 troops remaining in the country.


The Czech Ministry of Defense also announced the exit of its forces Wednesday, which followed a large contingent of British forces leaving last week, also on fears of coronavirus exposure during the mission. “British, French, Australian and Czech troops who were coaching Iraqi counterparts were being temporarily sent home as Baghdad had put a hold on training operations to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” reports the AFP this week. All had been there to support coalition anti-ISIL operations led by Washington. But as the US mission to defeat the Islamic State has lately become less relevant given the demise of the terror group, Washington’s focus became Iranian influence inside Iraq – far beyond the original mission scope. The US itself had been reportedly drawing down from certain bases, but is not expected to ultimately depart given the current high state of tensions with Iran-backed militias in the country.

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The stimulus bill has opened access to assictance for the entire gig economy.

Spike in Unemployment Claims is Even More Horrid Than it Appears (WS)

This morning, the US Dept. of Labor announced that 3.283 million people had filed initial unemployment claims in the week ended March 21. We were warned yesterday that today’s initial claims would be horrid. In his press conference yesterday concerning the coronavirus, California Governor Gavin Newsom said that California by itself had “just passed the 1 million mark” in unemployment claims since March 13 — and this might include claims to be reflected in the next reporting week. And it’s going to get worse. The five largest counties of the San Francisco Bay Area were the first major region in the US to go into lockdown on March 17. The State of California followed on March 20, toward the end of the unemployment-claims reporting week (through March 21), and many other states followed within days – and many of those claims were filed after this reporting week had ended. This is the mind-blowing effect what started to happen in the week ended March 21:

The report by the Department of Labor this morning listed some sectors that were particularly hard hit by “COVID-19 virus impacts”: • Services industries broadly, particularly accommodation and food services; • health care and social assistance services; • arts, entertainment and recreation; • transportation and warehousing; • manufacturing industries. However, this horrid spike in claims only shows a partial picture. Since the end of that reporting week, lockdowns have spread to many other states, and companies in those states are now struggling with how to cope. Many companies had already laid off people before the lockdowns – and this is reflected in today’s unemployment claims. But much of the fallout from those lockdowns and their secondary effects will be reflected in future reports.


The gig economy, as the US economy has been called due to the growth of business models that shift labor from employees to contract workers, is unprepared for this. Under current rules, gig workers cannot file for unemployment claims – though the stimulus package will change this. And for now, they have not filed for unemployment claims. But their hours of many have been cut, and others lost their gigs entirely. This includes musicians whose gigs were eliminated when bars, restaurants, and clubs shut down. It includers actors and singers and artists. It includes Uber and Lyft drivers whose business has dwindled. It includes self-employed vacation-rental entrepreneurs with some units on Airbnb that no one is booking because the travel industry has shut down. It includes tech workers whose projects have been put on hold. It includes instructors and coaches of all kinds – such as figure skating coaches, language coaches, and corporate coaches. And so on. Many millions of people.

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The battle between getting closer together and staying further apart. Stuck between social distancing and political distancing.

What Should The EU Do Now: 3-Point Plan For Averting A Depression (Varoufakis)

With Lives, Livelihoods and the Union on the brink, the COVID-19 pandemic is the greatest test of the European project in the history of the Union — and we are failing. Solidarity was meant to be a foundational principle of the EU. But solidarity is missing at the moment it is most needed. COVID-19 has revealed a fundamental truth: Europe is only as healthy as its sickest resident, only as prosperous as its most bankrupted. But the EU’s leadership is paralysed by its beggar-thy-neighbour – and now sicken-thy-neighbour – mindset. The price of this failure will not merely be lives lost and livelihoods destroyed. It will be the disintegration of the Union itself. In line with its Green New Deal for Europe, DiEM25 offers a 3-point plan to protect all European residents, avert an economic depression, and prevent the collapse the Union.

Our plan is premised on four basic facts.
1) Public debt will, and must, rise: The precipitous fall in private sector incomes must be replaced by government expenditure. If not, bankruptcies will destroy much of Europe’s productive capacity and, thus, deplete the tax base even further.

2) The wholesale rise in public debt must not divide us: The last euro crisis wrecked some member-states’ fiscal position while improving the fiscal position of others. The results are wildly different fiscal absorption capacities across the eurozone. If the rise in public debt is not a shared burden, the new euro crisis will destroy the last chance to hold the European Union together once the virus itself has been defeated.

3) A Eurobond is essential, but the devil is in its details: Nine eurozone governments have rightly demanded the issue of a Eurobond so that the burden of rising public debt is shared. But the most important questions remain: Which institution should issue it? And who will back it? DiEM25 believes there is only one answer: an ECB-Eurobond backed solely by the ECB.

4) A Eurobond is essential, but it is not enough: Two more interventions are needed. During the pandemic, Europe must inject directly cash into every citizen’s bank account immediately so as to prevent as many bankruptcies and lost livelihoods as possible. Once the pandemic recedes, Europe must embark upon a sizeable, effective and common green investment program so as to improve Europe’s overall capacity to bounce back.

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I haven’t had time to listen to the whole thing. But I miss Dylan Ratigan.

Dylan Ratigan: “An Abomination Beyond Comprehension” – “Bernie Folded” (Dore)

Jimmy Dore talks to Dylan Ratigan

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In the midst of the corona crisis,, Bob Dylan dropped a 17-minute song, on the murder of JFK. It’s his first original song in 8 years, and also of course since getting the Nobel Prize.. And why not. For help with lyrics go here

The day that they killed him, someone said to me, ‘Son
The age of the Antichrist has only begun.’
Air Force One coming in through the gate
Johnson sworn in at 2:38
Let me know when you decide to thrown in the towel
It is what it is, and it’s murder most foul


What’s new, pussycat? What’d I say?
I said the soul of a nation been torn away
And it’s beginning to go into a slow decay
And that it’s 36 hours past Judgment Day

Muder Most Foul (Bob Dylan)

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Readership is up, but ad revenue is not. 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?

Thanks everyone for your wonderful donations over the past few days.

 

 

 

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

 

Dec 172018
 
 December 17, 2018  Posted by at 10:37 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  7 Responses »


Arnold Böcklin The Isle of Life 1888

 

Market Meltdown Could Spark Conditions ‘Worse Than 1929’- Ron Paul (CNBC)
For The First Month Since 2008, Not A Single Junk Bond Prices (ZH)
Starvation, Homelessness And More REAL Problems Pushed Aside By Brexit (Mi.)
Average UK Home Asking Price Dips £10,000 From October (G.)
No 10 Denies Making Plans For Second Brexit Referendum (G.)
May To Urge MPs Not To ‘Break Faith’ By Demanding People’s Vote (G.)
Saudi Arabia Rejects US Senate ‘Interference’ In Kingdom’s Affairs (AFP)
Turkey FM Says Saudis ‘Didn’t Share Anything’ On Khashoggi Murder (CNBC)
Turkey FM: Washington Is ‘Working On’ Gulen Extradition (CNBC)
US Ready To Fight To Last Brit (Garrison)
Trump Will Sit Down With Mueller ‘Over My Dead Body’ – Giuliani (Ind.)
FBI, CIA Told WaPo They Doubted Key Allegation In Steele Dossier (ZH)
Guardian Most Trusted Newspaper In Britain – Report (G.)

 

 

We’re just waiting for leveraged loans to go Poof.

Market Meltdown Could Spark Conditions ‘Worse Than 1929’- Ron Paul (CNBC)

Ron Paul is warning this year’s corrections could be a precursor to an epic market collapse that may come sooner than investors think. According to the former Republican presidential candidate, Wall Street is becoming more vulnerable to near-depression conditions within the next 12 months. “Once this volatility shows that we’re not going to resume the bull market, then people are going to rush for the exits,” Paul said Thursday on CNBC’s “Futures Now.” The relentlessly bearish former congressman added that “It could be worse than 1929.” During that year, the stock market began hemorrhaging, falling almost 90 percent and sending the U.S. economy into a tailspin.

Paul, a well-known Libertarian, has been warning Wall Street a massive market plunge is inevitable for years. He’s currently projecting a 50 percent decline from current levels as his base case, citing the ongoing U.S.-China trade war as a growing risk factor. “I’m not optimistic that all of the sudden, you’re going to eliminate the tariff problem. I think that’s here to stay,” he said. “Tariffs are taxes.” The scenario is exacerbating Paul’s chief reason behind his bearish call: 2008 financial crisis easy money policies. He contended the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing has caused the “biggest bubble in the history of mankind.” “It’s so important to understand the original cause of the problem, and that is the Federal Reserve running up debt and letting politicians spend money,” he added.

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Damn vigilantes!

For The First Month Since 2008, Not A Single Junk Bond Prices (ZH)

Late last week, we reported that in the aftermath of a dramatic drop in loan prices, a record outflow from loan funds, and a general collapse in investor sentiment that was euphoric as recently as the start of October, the wheels had come off the loan market which was on the verge of freezing after we got the first hung bridge loan in years, after Wells Fargo and Barclays took the rare step of keeping a $415 million leveraged loan on their books after failing to sell it to investors. The two banks now “plan” to wait until January – i.e., hope that yield chasing desperation returns – to offload the loan they made to help finance Blackstone’s buyout of Ulterra Drilling Technologies, a company that makes bits for oil and gas drilling.

The reason the banks were stuck with hundreds of millions in unwanted paper is because they had agreed to finance the bridge loan whether or not there was enough demand from investors, as the acquisition needed to close by the end of the year. The delayed transaction means the banks will have to bear the risk of the price of the loans falling further, as well as costs associated with holding loans on their books. The pulled Ulterra deal wasn’t alone. As we reported previously, in Europe the market appears to have already locked up, as three loans were scrapped over the last two weeks. To wit, movie theater chain Vue International withdrew a 833 million pound-equivalent ($1.07 billion) loan sale.

While the deal was meant to mostly refinance existing debt, around 100 million pounds was underwritten to finance the company’s acquisition of German group CineStar. More deals were pulled the prior week when diversified manufacturer Jason Inc. became at least the fourth issuer to scrap a U.S. leveraged loan. Additionally, Perimeter Solutions also pulled its repricing attempt, Ta Chen International scrapped a $250MM term loan set to finance the company’s purchase of a rolling mill, and Algoma Steel withdrew its $300m exit financing. Global University System in November also dropped its dollar repricing.

[..] the FT picks up on the fact that the junk bond market – whether in loans or bonds – has frozen up, and reported that US credit markets have “ground to a halt” with fund managers refusing to fund buyouts and investors shunning high-yield bond sales as rising interest rates and market volatility weigh on sentiment (ironically it is the rising rates that assure lower rates as financial conditions tighten and the Fed is forced to resume easing in the coming year, that has been a major hurdle to floating-rate loan demand as the same higher rates that pushed demand for paper to all time highs are set to reverse). Meanwhile, things are even worse in the bond market, where not a single company has borrowed money through the $1.2tn US high-yield corporate bond market this month according to the FT. If that freeze continues until the end of the month, it would be the first month since November 2008 that not a single high-yield bond priced in the market

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“About a third of all kids are in “Dickensian” poverty.”

Starvation, Homelessness And More REAL Problems Pushed Aside By Brexit (Mi.)

I watched the ultimate damp squib -my friend’s mum says squid but I m pretty sure it’s squib- as it unfolded on Wednesday night. Theresa May had it confirmed that only 117 of her own MPs hate her. So, on she limps. She said she was going anyway but won’t say when -maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of our lives. In the process she revealed what this is really all about. Brexit must be delivered at all costs and it must be HER that does it. If not, she slinks off into the night with a legacy that adds up to nothing.

I watched it in one of the House of Commons bars with a friend of mine from Scotland. Good bloke. Hibs fan.And as we watched the ‘drama’ unfold we were talking about the real problems in the country. His mate helps direct people to foodbanks in Scotland. In one afternoon they saw five families, hungry and without food, seek help. Five different families. A mixture of out-of-work and in-work poverty. And across these five families there were 27 children. That is, in 2018, in Britain, 27 children going to bed hungry each night. It gets, as you can imagine, worse. One of the kids couldn’t go to school. Not through illness, mercifully, but because he didn’t have any shoes. One of the mums hadn’t eaten for three days. Three days without food. Starving so she could feed her kids.

There are lots more stories like this, about 4.1 million, in fact. About a third of all kids are in “Dickensian” poverty. In Britain, in the winter, in 2018. About 1.9 million pensioners live the same way. Last winter 94 people died on Scotland’s streets. Universal Credit has hit so hard some are turning to prostitution, others are eating out of bins. What happened this week is not going to make any of that better. Look at Scotland. Everything is viewed through the prism of independence and talk of a “second independence referendum”. That is the central aim of the Scottish National Party, so you can’t blame them for concentrating on it. But what it means is that, in the real world, people suffer. [..] here’s the thing about parliamentary sovereignty, and backstops, and Brexit, and independence, and the future of the Union: You can’t eat them.

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Only fools would buy homes in the UK right now. But yeah, there are lots of those over there.

Average UK Home Asking Price Dips £10,000 From October (G.)

Asking prices for homes coming on to the market in the UK are nearly £10,000 lower than they were in October, as the property market headed for its worst annual performance in almost a decade. The average asking price of a UK home dipped by 3.2%, or £9,719, between October and December to £297,527, according to the property website Rightmove, with prices dipping 1.7% and 1.5% in November and December respectively. A softening of prices at the end of 2018 meant that asking prices rose by just 0.7% over the year as a whole, the weakest rate of growth since 2010. The traditional hotspots of London and south-east England became the weakest spots this year, recording the biggest annual falls in asking prices.

This followed a 1% rise in UK asking prices in 2017. Rightmove is predicting zero growth in UK prices in 2019, against a backdrop of stretched affordability and Brexit uncertainty. The property market is a cornerstone of the British economy and drives a large proportion of consumer spending, from DIY to carpets and furniture. But with buyers and sellers reluctant to pay the current market prices, especially in the east and south of England where prices have rocketed in recent years, analysts expect the difficult conditions to radiate out from the property market to other areas of spending. And while a slowdown in prices will be welcomed by younger buyers and those on lower incomes, any falls in values are expected to add the pressure on MPs to agree a Brexit deal.

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That can’t NOT do it.

No 10 Denies Making Plans For Second Brexit Referendum (G.)

Theresa May will summon EU27 ambassadors to No 10 this week as she continues to seek reassurances over the Irish backstop, with Downing Street vehemently denying drawing up contingency plans for a second referendum. The education secretary, Damian Hinds, said on Sunday: “Government policy couldn’t be clearer. We are here to act on the will of the people clearly expressed in the referendum.” He added: “A second referendum would be divisive. We had the people’s vote, we had the referendum, and now we’ve got to get on with implementing it. Any idea that having a second referendum now would break through an impasse is wrong. It might postpone the impasse, but then it would extend it.”

May attacked the former Labour prime minister Tony Blair this weekend for advocating a second vote, saying: “There are too many people who want to subvert the process for their own political interests rather than acting in the national interest. “For Tony Blair to go to Brussels and seek to undermine our negotiations by advocating for a second referendum is an insult to the office he once held and the people he once served.” The prime minister appears determined to pursue her strategy of seeking legal guarantees on the backstop and then putting her deal to MPs after Christmas. She is sending the government’s most senior legal officer, Jonathan Jones, to Brussels this week.

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As millions of her people starve, May focuses on her legacy.

May To Urge MPs Not To ‘Break Faith’ By Demanding People’s Vote (G.)

Theresa May will urge MPs on Monday not to “break faith with the British people” by demanding a second referendum, as she faces intense pressure to give parliament a say on Brexit before Christmas. The prime minister will make a statement to MPs on last week’s European council summit in Brussels, from which she returned with little evidence of progress in securing legal reassurances on the Irish backstop. Jeremy Corbyn will take the opportunity to call on her to hold a vote on her Brexit deal this week, and senior Labour figures refuse to rule out an imminent no-confidence motion if she fails to do so. May, however, will use her appearance at the dispatch box to strongly reject the idea of a second referendum after Downing Street was forced to deny reports on Sunday that some of her key aides were secretly considering the idea.

“Let us not break faith with the British people by trying to stage another referendum,” the prime minister will tell MPs. “Another vote which would do irreparable damage to the integrity of our politics, because it would say to millions who trusted in democracy, that our democracy does not deliver. Another vote which would likely leave us no further forward than the last.” Her message is aimed partly at Conservative MPs, and some ministers, who have become increasingly convinced that a referendum is the only way out of the impasse at Westminster after the prime minister abruptly pulled plans for a vote on her deal last week. She also faces growing demands from within cabinet to present MPs with alternatives in non-binding indicative votes that might help to find options that could command a majority.

[..] May’s reluctance to hold a second referendum put her in rare agreement with her former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson. In his column in Monday’s Telegraph, he said the public would be “utterly infuriated” if Britain were to be put through the “misery and expense” of another referendum. However, the former Labour foreign secretary Margaret Beckett said: “It is highly significant that Downing Street felt it had to issue these advance extracts of Theresa May’s statement to the House of Commons on Sunday night, because officials know the prospect of a people’s vote is being discussed, not just in Westminster, but in the corridors of Whitehall, too. “The case for the public being given the final say is becoming so overwhelming that people from all parties, and of none, now recognise that this is the best way forward for our country.”

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They’re only too happy when the interference benefits them., as it has for many decades.

Saudi Arabia Rejects US Senate ‘Interference’ In Kingdom’s Affairs (AFP)

Saudi Arabia has rejected as “interference” a US Senate resolution to end American military support for a Riyadh-led war in Yemen, and another holding its crown prince responsible for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia rejects the position expressed recently by the United States Senate, which was based upon unsubstantiated claims and allegations, and contained blatant interferences in the Kingdom’s internal affairs, undermining the Kingdom’s regional and international role,” the statement carried by Saudi Press Agency on Sunday said.

“The Kingdom hopes that it is not drawn into domestic political debates in the United States of America, to avoid any ramifications on the ties between the two countries that could have significant negative impacts on this important strategic relationship.” On Thursday, the US Senate passed a resolution calling for an end to American military support to the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemen war, and asserted Congress’s right to decide on matters of war and peace. The measure, which passed by 56 votes to 41, marked the first time the Senate had invoked the 1973 War Powers Resolution to seek to curb the power of the president to take the US into an armed conflict. It marked a significant bipartisan rebuke to the Trump administration, which lobbied intensively against it.

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Maybe the US Senate can ask where the body is.

Turkey FM Says Saudis ‘Didn’t Share Anything’ On Khashoggi Murder (CNBC)

Turkey still hasn’t received actionable information on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, its foreign minster Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNBC Sunday. “So far we haven’t been provided any information from the ongoing investigation in Saudi Arabia. Their chief prosecutor got everything from us, he didn’t share anything with us. We want a transparent, credible, swift investigation on Saudi side as well,” Cavusoglu told the network’s Hadley Gamble at the annual Doha Forum in Qatar. The minister has previously vowed to get to the bottom of the case and hold those responsible to account. [..] Among the many questions remaining unanswered is that of the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s remains.

“We don’t know where the body is,” the minister said. “This is the main question – we need to find out. They said they had local collaborators; they haven’t provided the names of collaborators.” [..] Meanwhile, Cavusoglu said Saudi officials have listened to tapes of Khashoggi’s murder, contradicting earlier statements by Saudi foreign minister Adel al Jubeir that the Saudis had not heard them. [..] “You can hear very clearly that they planned in advance to kill him,” Cavusoglu said, reminding the audience that a forensic expert had been brought into the consulate to cut Khashoggi’s body apart. “From the beginning we’ve been willing to cooperate with Saudi Arabia as well, since all these perpetrators came from Saudi Arabia and now they are arrested there and we accepted immediately the proposal coming from them for cooperation with our prosecutors.”

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If true, that would be a really bad thing.

Turkey FM: Washington Is ‘Working On’ Gulen Extradition (CNBC)

Ankara and Washington have discussed the extradition of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen from the United States, Turkey’s foreign minister told CNBC Sunday. Turkey’s government has demanded Gulen’s return since the failed Turkish coup of 2016, which it accuses the cleric of orchestrating. “Last time when they met in Buenos Aires, Trump told Erdogan that they have been working on that, but we need to see concrete steps because it’s been already two years, almost three years,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble at the Doha Forum on Sunday. A former ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. for nearly 20 years.

He denies any involvement in the coup attempt, which saw rogue Turkish military personnel commandeer helicopters, jets and tanks, attack parliament and seize television stations. Political analysts suspected Trump might use Gulen as a bargaining chip in exchange for Turkish compliance in the scandal of Jamal Khashoggi. [..] But Trump told press last month that he was not considering extraditing the preacher to meet those ends.

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Ann Garrison interviews George Szamuely, a Hungarian-born scholar and Senior Research Fellow at London’s Global Policy Institute.

US Ready To Fight To Last Brit (Garrison)

GS: Well, of course Ukraine can ask for anything it likes. There’s no way in the world Turkey would try to stop Russian ships going through the Bosporus Strait. That would be a violation of the 1936 Montreux Convention and an act of war on the part of Turkey. It isn’t going to happen. As for the Kerch Strait, it is Russian territorial water. Ukraine is free to use it and has been doing so without incident since 2014. The only thing the Russians insist on is that any ship going through the strait use a Russian pilot. During the recent incident, the Ukrainian tug refused to use a Russian pilot. The Russians became suspicious, fearing that the Ukrainians were engaged in a sabotage mission to blow up the newly constructed bridge across the strait. You’ll remember that an American columnist not so long ago urged the Ukrainian authorities to blow up the bridge. That’s why the Russians accuse Kiev of staging a provocation.

AG: There’s a longstanding back channel between the White House and the Kremlin, as satirized in Dr. Strangelove. Anti-Trump fanatics keep claiming this is new and traitorous, but it’s long established. Obama and Putin used it to keep Russian and US soldiers from firing on one another instead of the jihadists both claimed to be fighting in Syria. Kennedy and Khrushchev used it to keep the Bay of Pigs crisis from escalating into a nuclear war. Shouldn’t Trump and Putin be talking on that back channel now, no matter how much it upsets CNN and MSNBC?

GS: Well, of course, they should. The danger is that in this atmosphere of anti-Russian hysteria such channels for dialogue may not be kept open. As a result, crises could escalate beyond the point at which either side could back down without losing face. What’s terrifying is that so many US politicians and press now describe any kind of negotiation, dialogue, or threat-management as treasonous collusion by Donald Trump.

Remember Trump’s first bombing in Syria in April 2017. Before he launched that attack, Trump administration officials gave advance warning to the Russians to enable them to get any Russian aircraft out of harm’s way. This perfectly sensible action on the part of the administration—leave aside the illegality and stupidity of the attack—was greeted by Hillary Clinton and the MSNBC crowd as evidence that the whole operation was cooked up by Trump and Putin to take attention off Russia-gate. It’s nuts.

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Why would there be a sit down with so much water under the bridge? What are the odds that Mueller would be impartial?

Trump Will Sit Down With Mueller ‘Over My Dead Body’ – Giuliani (Ind.)

Donald Trump will sit and talk to special counsel Robert Mueller “over my dead body”, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani has said, in the latest pushback against the investigation into possible collusion between the president’s election campaign and Moscow. As Mr Trump called his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen “a rat” for cooperating with the FBI, Mr Giuliani made clear Mr Mueller would not be offered an interview with the president. Mr Trump recently provided Mr Mueller’s team written answers to a series of questions, but on Friday CNN said the special prosecutor was still interested in an in-person interview. “Nothing has changed in that sense from the first day,” said a source.

Mr Giuliani, the former New York mayor who now serves as the president’s personal lawyer, on Sunday again firmly pushed back at such a notion. Asked on Fox News whether Mr Trump would take part in an interview, Mr Giuliani said: “Yeah, good luck, good luck – after what they did to [Michael] Flynn, the way they trapped him into perjury, and no sentence for him.” He added: “Over my dead body. But you know, I could be dead.” Mr Giuliani also attacked Mr Mueller’s investigation, saying the probe was a “joke”. “I am disgusted with the tactics they have used in this case,” he said. “What they did to Gen Flynn should result in discipline. They’re the ones who violated the law. They’re looking at a non-crime, collusion.”

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And WaPo declined to follow up on it. That’s American media for you.

FBI, CIA Told WaPo They Doubted Key Allegation In Steele Dossier (ZH)

FBI and CIA sources told a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter that they didn’t believe a key claim contained in the “Steele Dossier,” the document the Obama FBI relied on to obtain a surveillance warrant on a member of the Trump campaign. The Post’s Greg Miller told an audience at an October event that the FBI and CIA did not believe that former longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen visited Prague during the 2016 election to pay off Russia-linked hackers who stole emails from key Democrats, reports the Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross. “We’ve talked to sources at the FBI and the CIA and elsewhere — they don’t believe that ever happened,” said Miller during the October event which aired Saturday on C-SPAN.

“We literally spent weeks and months trying to run down… there’s an assertion in there that Michael Cohen went to Prague to settle payments that were needed at the end of the campaign. We sent reporters to every hotel in Prague, to all over the place trying to – just to try to figure out if he was ever there, and came away empty.” -Greg Miller. Ross notes that WaPo somehow failed to report this information, nor did Miller include this tidbit of narrative-killing information in his recent book, “The Apprentice: Trump, Russia, and the Subversion of American Democracy.”

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Britian is as bad as the US.

Not the Onion, not April 1.

Guardian still hasn’t apologized for making up the Manafort-Assange story from scratch.

Guardian Most Trusted Newspaper In Britain – Report (G.)

The Guardian is the most trusted newspaper in Britain as well as being the most read quality news outlet, and the most popular quality news outlet among younger readers, according to industry figures released on Monday. The Guardian is now reaching more than 23 million British adults every month, with the organisation’s articles being read by 12 million Britons in a typical week and 4.1 million on the average day, aided by the decision to keep the website free for all readers. In addition, more than 97% of online readers think that reading the Guardian is time well spent, which is the highest score among all national publishers in the country. The figure rises to 99% among Guardian print readers.

Readers of the Guardian website were also substantially more likely to say that they felt a close connection to the outlet, that it offered them something they could not get elsewhere, and that they trusted its reporting. The Observer topped the equivalent rankings for Sunday newspapers. “This fantastic set of results demonstrates the Guardian’s unique position in the media,” said the editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner. “We see consistently high scores for trust and engagement from both our digital and print readers, and it is excellent news that the Guardian resonates so strongly with younger audiences, too.”

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Nov 142018
 
 November 14, 2018  Posted by at 10:15 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  4 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Still life 1917

 

Britiain, EU Agree on Brexit Plan (G.)
France and Facebook Announce Partnership Against Online Hate Speech (Pol.eu)
Oil’s Unprecedented Slide Accelerates, Capitulates To Darkening Outlook (BBG)
Major Markets Are All Flashing Warning Signs (Roberts)
Trump’s Tariff Battle With China Spurs Record Dollar-Yuan Trading (CNBC)
Goldman Sachs Is Implicated In History’s Largest Financial Con (Ind.)
IMF Says Governments Could Set Up Their Own Cryptocurrencies (G.)
Amazon’s ‘HQ2’ Headquarters Will Cost US Taxpayers $2 Billion (R.)
Decoding The Hypersonic Putin On A Day Of Remembrance (Escobar)
Angela Merkel Calls For Creation Of ‘Real, True’ EU Army (Ind.)
Saudi ‘Kill Team’s’ Luggage Contained Syringes, Defibrillators, Scissors (AFP)
Who Gets to Live in Victimville? (Monics Lewinsky)
Social Media Increases Depression And Loneliness (TI)
Heatwaves Can ‘Wipe Out’ Male Insect Fertility (G.)

 

 

At sort of the last moment, the long awaited deal is announced. Alas, all it really does is push forward any awkward decisions- and there are many. And even that can be voted down by the Cabinet, or parliament, or some other party involved, like the DUP. One thing seems certain: Theresa May will no longer be in charge when actual decisions are made. So why would she care? It’s about saving face by now.

Britiain, EU Agree on Brexit Plan (G.)

Theresa May summoned her cabinet to an emergency meeting on Wednesday afternoon to sign off her long awaited final Brexit deal, prompting hard-Brexit Tories to call for senior ministers to stand up and block it. The critical meeting is the culmination of months of negotiations and will see May’s senior ministers consider whether they can personally endorse the agreement that the prime minister has been able to reach. Ministers were summoned to No 10 in the early evening and some met individually with May or her chief of staff, Gavin Barwell. They were given the chance to read the key documents, although they were not trusted to take any papers home.

Further one-on-one meetings were expected to take place on Wednesday. “Cabinet will meet at 2pm tomorrow to consider the draft agreement the negotiating teams have reached in Brussels, and to decide on next steps,” a No 10 spokesman confirmed. “Cabinet ministers have been invited to read documentation ahead of that meeting.” Key elements of the deal began to leak in the early evening. The UK was understood to have agreed that an independent arbitration committee will judge when a UK-wide customs backstop could be terminated, comprising an equal number of British and EU representatives plus an independent element.

There will be a review in July 2020, Brussels sources added, six months before the end of the transition period, at which it will be determined if the UK is ready to move to a free trade deal; transfer to the backstop; or extend the transition period, possibly by a year to 2021.

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Scary. The leader of one political party seeks to decide with Silicon Valley, what constitutes hate speech. The main potential target of this is Marine le Pen, who’s already had her share of hate accusations. Thing is, Macron has fallen behind her in the -EU election- polls, his popularity has fallen to 23%. And now Zuckerberg gives him the tools to get rid of Le Pen.

France and Facebook Announce Partnership Against Online Hate Speech (Pol.eu)

Emmanuel Macron just “friended” Mark Zuckerberg. The French president announced on Monday a six-month partnership with Facebook aimed at figuring out how the European country should police hate speech on the social network. As part of the cooperation — the first time that Facebook has teamed up with national politicians to hammer out such a contentious issue — both sides plan to meet regularly between now and May, when the European election is due to be held. They will focus on how the French government and Facebook can work together to remove harmful content from across the digital platform, without specifying the outcome of their work or if it would result in binding regulation.

The partnership, which will involve meetings in Paris, Dublin and California, may be broadened out to cover other as yet unnamed areas after six months. A French official who asked not to be named called the partnership an “unprecedented experiment” that would grant authorities insight into Facebook’s processes to formulate recommendations that are “concrete and operational.” The social networking giant is now trying to lobby national lawmakers on the perceived dangers of regulating the internet. “We are giving blind faith to our daily digital tools,” Macron told an audience in Paris. “Today, when I see our democracy, internet is much better used by the extremes … or by terrorist groups.”

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Feeding on itself by now?!

Oil’s Unprecedented Slide Accelerates, Capitulates To Darkening Outlook (BBG)

Oil’s unprecedented decline deepened as investors fled a market hammered by swelling excess supplies, a darkening demand outlook and U.S. President Donald Trump’s Twitter critique of the world’s biggest crude exporter. Futures plunged 7.1 per cent in New York on Tuesday for the biggest one-day drop in three years. OPEC’s dire forecast for 2019 demand came at a time of steadily rising American production and stockpiles. Trump admonished Saudi Arabia for planning to curb output and lamented prices that settled below US$56 a barrel for the first time in a year. “This tweet certainly did not help prices,” said Warren Patterson, a senior commodities strategist at ING Bank.

“Given the growing global surplus over the first half of 2019, OPEC will likely try to ignore President Trump’s call as much as possible.” West Texas Intermediate futures have fallen for a record 12 sessions on fears that a supply glut similar to the price-killing surplus of 2014 is redeveloping. In London, Brent futures have declined in 11 of the past 12 sessions. Money managers’ combined bullish positions in WTI and Brent sank to the lowest in 14 months as of Nov. 6, Commodity Futures Trading Commission data show, as long positions shrank and shorts increased.

“Today’s move is just capitulation,” said Nick Gentile, managing partner of commodity trading advisor NickJen Capital Management & Consulting LLC in New York. “You’re getting a combination of the systematic CTAs, the trend following guys, adding to the shorts and global macro guys liquidating longs.” WTI for December delivery dropped US$4.24 to end the session at US$55.69 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Total volume traded Tuesday was about 90 per cent above the 100-day average.

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Master graphmaker Lance Roberts has some more. I picked a few.

Major Markets Are All Flashing Warning Signs (Roberts)

[..] the failure of the market to hold the 200-dma also increases the downside risk of the market currently. There is an important point here to be made about “bull markets” and “bear markets. While there is no “official” definition of what constitutes a “bull” or “bear” market, the generally accepted definition is a decline of 20% in the market. However, since I really don’t want to subject my clients to a loss of 20% in their portfolios, I would suggest a different definition based on the “trend” of the market as a whole. As shown in the chart below: • If prices are generally “trending higher” then such is considered a “bull market.” • A “bear market” is when the “trend” changes from positive to negative.

[..] what is happening domestically should not be a surprise. The rest of the world markets have already confirmed bear market trends and continue to trade below their long-term moving averages. (The very definition of a bear market.) While it has been believed the U.S. can “decouple” from the rest of the world, such is not likely the case. The pressure on global markets is a reflection of a slowing global economy which will ultimately find its way back to the U.S.

(Note: we closed all international and emerging market positions in our portfolios at the beginning of this year.) Just as a side note, China has been in a massive bear market trend since 2015 and is down nearly 50% from its previous highs.

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China’s foreign reserves are under severe pressure.

Trump’s Tariff Battle With China Spurs Record Dollar-Yuan Trading (CNBC)

Market uncertainty tied to the ongoing U.S.-China trade war has spurred more transactions than ever before between the American dollar and the Chinese yuan in recent months. Much of that volume comes as businesses and investors with exposure to the Chinese market are looking to hedge their foreign exchange risk. Many of them are looking to buy into the strengthening dollar, and that’s stoked speculation that Chinese authorities are intervening in the market to defend their currency, boosting trading volumes to new highs in the process. On Tuesday, currency traders told Reuters major state-owned banks were selling dollars to defend the Chinese yuan, as the greenback climbed to a 16-month peak against a basket for currencies.

Most trading between the two currencies takes place on the spot market, where dollars and yuan change hands as soon as a deal is done. That sort of market has seen volumes surge this year for the currency pair. But futures trading — where the transaction is agreed to take place at a later date at a certain price — is also increasingly catching dollar-yuan traders’ interests, according to Benjamin Lu, an investment analyst with Singapore brokerage Phillip Futures. [..] ups-and-downs in the foreign exchange market have prompted a Singapore-based privately backed Chinese exchange to launch a new dollar-offshore yuan futures contract. “Nobody knows how the trade war will end. There’s a lot of fear and panic in the financial market and worries about trade,” said Eugene Zhu, CEO of the Chinese-backed Asia Pacific Exchange.

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Malaysia should call Blankfein to testify in court. He knew, he was there. But Goldman is far more likely to just pay some huge fine.

Goldman Sachs Is Implicated In History’s Largest Financial Con (Ind.)

Even by Wall Street standards of gouging customers this was one hell of a skim. In 2012 and 2013, the Malaysian government was raising $6.5bn (£5bn) from investors to establish a sovereign wealth fund and finance various domestic infrastructure investment projects. And the cut for Goldman Sachs – the most prestigious investment bank in the world – for arranging the fundraising from the global capital markets? Ten per cent, or $600m. Now we can have a guess as to why the Malaysian authorities were so insouciant about those extortionate fundraising costs: because they themselves were, apparently, going to loot the pot in one of the biggest frauds in history. Around half of the fund has gone missing.

According to the US Justice Department a fair amount has been pumped into luxury American real estate and shady art auction bids. Appropriately, some went into investing in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. At one stage $680m mysteriously appeared in the bank account of the former Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, who chaired the 1MDB advisory board, and who is now charged in his own country with corruption. Malaysian politicians, officials and financiers had effectively bought Goldman Sachs’ blue chip reputation to pull in naive investors to the “1MDB” state investment fund. Ten per cent probably seemed a reasonable cut in the circumstances. The question is: what did Goldman know about the theft?

The bank claims today that it was completely oblivious. But the senior Goldman banker on the ground in Malaysia, Tim Leissner, certainly knew. He pleaded guilty in New York to financial crimes related to 1MDB last week, including bribery of officials to ensure Goldman was the sole fundraiser. What’s even more problematic for the bank is that Leissner told the court there was a “culture” at Goldman Sachs of bypassing internal compliance. That’s backed up by US prosecutors, who say Goldman’s business culture in the region was “highly focused on consummating deals, at times prioritising this goal ahead of the proper operation of its compliance functions”.

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And then let the IMF control them all.

IMF Says Governments Could Set Up Their Own Cryptocurrencies (G.)

Governments should consider offering their own cryptocurrencies to prevent the systems becoming havens for fraudsters and money launderers, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund said referring to the fast-growing fintech industry. Lagarde said central banks had to work quickly to establish digital cash for burgeoning networks of private financial transactions or risk their mushrooming into trading networks that were inherently unstable. A system regulated by central banks could become the basis for a rapid expansion of financial services to developing world countries and the poorest people in western societies without the risks associated with privately managed digital currencies, she said.

[..] Speaking at a fintech conference in Singapore, Lagarde said central banks would take over the processing of transactions while private-sector providers offered innovative services to customers. “The advantage is clear. Your payment would be immediate, safe, cheap, and potentially semi-anonymous. And central banks would retain a sure footing in payments. In addition, they would offer a more level playing field for competition, and a platform for innovation. Meanwhile your bank or fellow entrepreneurs would have ensured a friendly user experience based on the latest technologies,. “Putting it another way. The central bank focuses on its comparative advantage – back-end settlement – and financial institutions and start-ups are free to focus on what they do best – client interface and innovation. This is public-private partnership at its best.”

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Because Bezos is barely scraping by. Everywhere you look, Amazon gets rewarded for destroying communities.

Amazon’s ‘HQ2’ Headquarters Will Cost US Taxpayers $2 Billion (R.)

Amazon.com picked America’s financial and political capitals for massive new offices on Tuesday, branching out from its home base in Seattle with plans to create more than 25,000 jobs in both New York City and an area just outside Washington, D.C. The world’s largest online retailer plans to spend $5 billion on the two new developments in Long Island City and Arlington, Virginia, and expects to get more than $2 billion in tax credits and incentives with plans to apply for more. The prize, which Amazon called HQ2, attracted hundreds of proposals from across North America in a year-long bidding war that garnered widespread publicity for the company. Amazon ended the frenzy by dividing the spoils between the two most powerful East Coast U.S. cities and offering a consolation prize of a 5,000-person center in Nashville, Tennessee, focused on technology and management for retail operations.

[..] At the outset of its search last year, Amazon said it was looking for a business-friendly environment. The company said it will receive performance-based incentives of $1.525 billion from the state of New York, including an average $48,000 for each job it creates. It can also apply for other tax incentives, such as New York City’s Relocation and Employment Assistance Program that offers tax breaks potentially worth $900 million over 12 years. What benefit the company would actually get was unclear. In Virginia, Amazon will receive performance-based incentives of $573 million, including an average $22,000 for each job it creates. These rewards come on top of $1.6 billion in subsidies Amazon has received across the United States since 2000, according to a database from watchdog Good Jobs First.

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“We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us.”

Decoding The Hypersonic Putin On A Day Of Remembrance (Escobar)

A battle of ideas now rages across Europe, epitomized by the clash between the globalist Macron and populism icon Matteo Salvini, the Italian interior minister. Salvini abhors the Brussels system. Macron is stepping up his defense of a “sovereign Europe.” And much to the horror of the US establishment, Macron proposes a real “European army” capable of autonomous self-defense side by side with a “real security dialogue with Russia.” Yet all these “strategic autonomy” ideals collapse when you must share the stage, live, with the undisputed stars of the global show: President Donald Trump and President Vladimir Putin.

So the optics in Paris were not exactly of a Yalta 2.0 conference. There were no holds barred to keep Trump and Putin apart. Seating arrangements featured, from left to right, Trump, Chancellor Angela Merkel, Macron, his wife Brigitte and Putin. Neither Trump nor Putin, for different reasons, took part in a “walking in the rain” stunt evoking peace. And yet they connected. Sir Peter Cosgrove, the governor general of Australia, confirmed that Trump and Putin, at a working lunch, had a “lively and friendly” conversation for at least half an hour. No one better than Putin himself to reveal, even indirectly, what they really talked about. Three themes are absolutely key.

[..] Vast sectors of the US Deep State are in denial, but Putin may have been able to impress on Trump the necessity of serious dialogue due to an absolutely key vector: the Avangard. The Avangard is a Russian hypersonic glide vehicle capable of flying over Mach 20 – 24,700km/h, or 4 miles per second – and one of the game-changing Russian weapons Putin announced at his ground-breaking March 1 speech. The Avangard has been in the production assembly line since the summer of 2018, and is due to become operational in the southern Urals by the end of next year or early 2019.

In the near future, the Avangard may be launched by the formidable Sarmat RS-28 intercontinental ballistic missile and reach Washington in a mere 15 minutes, flying in a cloud of plasma “like a meteorite” – even if the launch is from Russian territory. Serial production of Sarmat ICBMs starts in 2021. The Avangard simply cannot be intercepted by any existing system on the planet – and the US knows it. Here is General John Hyten, head of US Strategic Command: “We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us.”

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“This is one of the scariest speeches I have heard as an MEP in my nine years. Merkel is an out-and-out European federalist and we should not be pandering to her as if she is on our side. She is on the side of the superstate.”

Angela Merkel Calls For Creation Of ‘Real, True’ EU Army (Ind.)

Angela Merkel has called for the creation of a “real, true” European army, echoing a similar call by her French counterpart. The German chancellor’s backing for the force comes amid a spat with US president Donald Trump, who took offence to a suggestion by Emmanuel Macron that such an army could ensure Europe’s security in the shadow of the United States. Ms Merkel endorsed the creation of the army while addressing MEPs at the European parliament in Strasbourg. “We should work on a vision of one day establishing a real, true European army,” Ms Merkel said. The French president made his call during a radio interview last week: “We have to protect ourselves with respect to China, Russia and even the United States of America.

“We will not protect the Europeans unless we decide to have a true European army.” He added: “When I see President Trump announcing that he’s quitting a major disarmament treaty which was formed after the 1980s Euro-missile crisis that hit Europe, who is the main victim? Europe and its security.” [..] Ms Merkel’s intervention is significant because France has historically been the strongest and most vocal proponent of an EU army, with its neighbour tentatively endorsing proposals for a joint command structure for military interventions. Eurosceptics reacted angrily to the speech. Conservative MEP David Campbell Bannerman said: “This is one of the scariest speeches I have heard as an MEP in my nine years. Merkel is an out-and-out European federalist and we should not be pandering to her as if she is on our side. She is on the side of the superstate.”

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Bone saw was a local purchase. As was the acid.

Saudi ‘Kill Team’s’ Luggage Contained Syringes, Defibrillators, Scissors (AFP)

Luggage carried by a 15-member Saudi team dispatched to Istanbul included scissors, defibrillators and syringes that may have been used against journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Saudi consulate, a pro-government Turkish daily said Tuesday. X-ray images of the luggage were published in the Sabah newspaper as the New York Times reported that a member of the team at the consulate had told a superior by phone to “tell your boss”, suspected to be Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, that the operation was accomplished. Turkish media has published gruesome details of the murder of 59-year-old Khashoggi who according to a Turkish prosecutor was strangled and dismembered soon after he entered the Istanbul consulate on October 2.

After repeated denials, Saudi Arabia finally admitted Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and Riyadh critic, had been murdered at the mission in a “rogue” operation. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the 15-member Saudi team travelled from Riyadh to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi. The luggage carried by the team was loaded into two planes that left for Riyadh at 1520 GMT and 1946 GMT on October 2, Sabah newspaper said. The luggage contained 10 phones, five walkie-talkies, intercoms, two syringes, two defibrillators, a jamming device, staplers, and scissors, the paper reported. [..] Khashoggi’s body has never been found, but Sabah reported on Saturday that his killers poured his remains down the drain after dissolving them in acid.

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“..with the false narrative that my mouth was merely a receptacle for a powerful man’s desire”

Who Gets to Live in Victimville? (Monics Lewinsky)

The process of this docuseries led me to new rooms of shame that I still needed to explore, and delivered me to Grief’s doorstep. Grief for the pain I caused others. Grief for the broken young woman I had been before and during my time in D.C., and the shame I still felt around that. Grief for having been betrayed first by someone I thought was my friend, and then by a man I thought had cared for me. Grief for the years and years lost, being seen only as “That Woman”—saddled, as a young woman, with the false narrative that my mouth was merely a receptacle for a powerful man’s desire. (You can imagine how those constructs impacted my personal and professional life.)

Grief for a relationship that had no normal closure, and instead was slowly dismantled by two decades of Bill Clinton’s behavior that eventually (eventually!) helped me understand how, at 22, I took the small, narrow sliver of the man I knew and mistook it for the whole. The process became meta. As the project re-examined the narratives, both personal and political, surrounding the events of 1998, so did I. I revisited then-President Bill Clinton’s famous finger-wagging Oval Office interview from early 1998, in which I was anointed “That Woman,” and was transported to my apartment in the Watergate apartment complex.

Sitting on the edge of my grandma’s bed and watching it unfold on TV, 24-year-old me was scared and hurt, but also happy that he was denying our relationship, because I didn’t want him to have to resign. (“I didn’t want to be responsible for that,” I thought at the time, absolving anyone else of responsibility.) Forty-five-year-old me sees that footage very differently. I see a sports coach signposting the playbook for the big game. Instead of backing down amid the swirling scandal and telling the truth, Bill instead threw down the gauntlet that day in the Oval Office: “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” With that, the demonization of Monica Lewinsky began. As it so often does, power throws a protective cape around the shoulders of the man, and he dictates the spin by denigrating the less powerful woman.

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Just like alcohol and cocaine do.

Social Media Increases Depression And Loneliness (TI)

Ever since sites like Facebook and Instagram became part of daily life, scientists have wondered whether they contribute to mental health problems. In fact, research has hinted at a connection between social media use and depression for several years. A new study, published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, has added more evidence to the theory. [..] “Here’s the bottom line,” said Melissa G. Hunt, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania and lead author of the study. “Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness. These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”

She added 18-to-22-year-olds shouldn’t stop using social media altogether, but cutting down might be beneficial. “It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely,” she said. “Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there’s an enormous amount of social comparison that happens. When you look at other people’s lives, particularly on Instagram, it’s easy to conclude that everyone else’s life is cooler or better than yours.”

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Mammals too. Semen is temperature sensitive.

Heatwaves Can ‘Wipe Out’ Male Insect Fertility (G.)

Heatwaves severely damage the fertility of male beetles and consecutive hot spells leave them virtually sterilised, according to research. Global warming is making heatwaves more common and wildlife is being annihilated, and the study may reveal a way in which these two trends are linked. The scientists behind the findings said there could also be some relevance for humans: the sperm counts of western men have halved in the last 40 years. Researchers studied beetles because their 400,000 species represent about a quarter of all known species. Insect populations are plunging worldwide as temperatures rise, falling by about 80% in 30 years in Puerto Rico’s rainforest and by 75% in German nature reserves.

Insects are such an integral part of life, as pollinators and prey, that scientists say their decline could lead to “ecological Armageddon”. Little is known about the precise causes of the decline, though climate change, habitat destruction and global use of pesticides are considered probable factors. The research, published in the Nature Communications journal, found that exposing beetles to a five-day heatwave in the laboratory reduced sperm production by three-quarters; females were unaffected. “Beetles are thought to constitute a quarter of biodiversity, so these results are very important for understanding how species react to climate change,” said Kris Sales, at the University of East Anglia, who led the work.

Other research has shown that heat can damage male reproduction in humans as well as cows, sheep and other mammals. “There could be relevance for human fertility,” said Prof Matt Gage, co-leader of the UEA research group. “The paradox is that one of the reasons the climate is warming up and we are having more heatwaves is there are too many humans. So maybe this is a leveller.” Stuart Wigby, of the University of Oxford, who was not involved in the study, said: “Given what we already know about the generality of the sensitivity of sperm to heat, there is every reason to expect that similar effects would be seen in other insects and also in mammals including humans.”

Read more …

Aug 012018
 
 August 1, 2018  Posted by at 8:59 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Getty Marilyn Monroe in NY subway 1955

 

Apple Buybacks Eclipse Value Of Most S&P 500 Companies (R.)
A Record 18% Of China’s GDP Goes To Debt Service (ZH)
IMF Warns On Greek Debt Sustainability (ZH)
The Greatest Depression (Coppola)
EU’s Brexit Declaration Could Be Just ‘Four Or Five Pages’ Long (G.)
UK Government Accused Of Trying To Hide Devastating Impact Of Brexit (Ind.)
No UK Car Manufacturer Ready For Brexit (Ind.)
Seymour Hersh On Novichok, Russian Links To Donald Trump And 9/11 (Ind.)
Please Sign Letter To Pope Francis Seeking Help For Julian Assange (LACW)
Julian Assange And Lawyer Want Malcolm Turnbull To ‘Stand Up To US’ (N.)
As Long As Assange Is Silenced, Claims Against Him Are Illegitimate (CJ)
Italian Ship Violates International Law, Returns Rescued People To Libya (G.)

 

 

Why are Apple shares rising? We can’t know. This is not a market.

Apple Buybacks Eclipse Value Of Most S&P 500 Companies (R.)

Apple Inc said on Tuesday it handed its shareholders $20 billion through share buybacks in the June quarter, bringing its tally this year to a record $43 billion and helping push its stock price to an all-time high. With a mountain of overseas cash freed up by last year’s sweeping U.S. corporate tax cuts, Apple’s share repurchases in the first half of calendar 2018 exceed the stock market value of almost three quarters of the companies in the S&P 500, including Ford, Delta Air Lines and Twitter Inc. Apple’s share repurchases in the June quarter were only eclipsed in the history of the S&P 500 by Apple repurchasing $22.8 billion of its shares in the prior quarter, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices analyst Howard Silverblatt.

The recent pace of Apple’s buybacks, disclosed in a quarterly report that beat Wall Street’s expectations, could help support the iPhone maker’s stock as investors worry that some high-flying technology companies have become too expensive. Confidence in top-shelf technology and consumer stocks has been shaken in recent days following poor results from Facebook and Netflix. Apple said in May it was adding $100 billion to its budget for buybacks. Its stock is up 16% in 2018, compared with the S&P 500’s 5% rise. “I see the buybacks as a major determinant of near-term price appreciation,” said D.A. Davidson & Co analyst Thomas Forte.

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Effectively borrowing at an 18% interest rate?!

A Record 18% Of China’s GDP Goes To Debt Service (ZH)

Think China’s new “proactive” fiscal policy shigt will be sufficient to kick start the local economy, and boost global GDP? Think again. In the latest analysis from Vertical Group’s Gordon Johnson, the strategist writes “that China’s proactive fiscal policy pledge could fall short as servicing its existing credit stock absorbs an increasing share of GDP.” As a reminder, last week, China’s State Council said it will adopt a proactive fiscal policy, outlining ways to fund ¥1.4tn in bonds to local government for infrastructure & provide ¥1.1tn in tax cuts, among other actions (e.g., R&D tax credits), all while urging no broad-based stimulus.

In Johnson’s view, this is a narrative that is rather reminiscent of ‘14, when the gov’t unleashed a wave of “micro-stimulus” measures after a string of weak data points (i.e., 5 mos. of contracting real estate investment). Yet, as he notes, the most recent PBoC mini-stimulus is much smaller than ‘14, while key restrictions remain in place for real estate/shadow loans (historically growth-driving conduits), compounded by the law of diminishing returns, suggesting a smaller boost from a much larger base this time around.

Moreover, China’s total credit stock is markedly higher now than in ’14, implying more of every yuan in stimulus is going to service outstanding debt. How much? That may well be the critical question to gauge the flow through from any new fiscal policy. Here is Vertical Group’s answer: While China exited ’17 with an est. 266% of total credit to GDP, some economists put that ratio at >300% today. On trailing 12-mo. nominal GDP of ¥86.5tn, as of 2Q, this equates to >¥259.5tn in credit, which, assuming an avg. borrowing cost of 6%, means China’s annual debt service is ~¥14.3tn, or 18.0% of GDP – sensitizing interest & credit-to-GDP, to a respective range of 4-7% & 285-320%, puts China’s debt service at 14-22% of GDP.

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Insanity: “..Greece’s debt costs will “begin an uninterrupted rise” after 2038 — costing around 20% of the country’s GDP every year..”

IMF Warns On Greek Debt Sustainability (ZH)

As Greeks attempt to recover from the devastating and deadly wildfires, The IMF has decided to pile on the pain with a new report that raises questions about Greece’s debt sustainability, warning that the nation’s cash buffer is set to drop by half by end of 2022. IMF Mission Chief for Greece Peter Dohlman told reporters on conference call this morning that Greece’s cash buffer will rise to EU24b as a result of debt relief measures agreed by euro-area finance ministers in June, but that amount is set to drop by half to EU12b by end of 2022. Translating The IMF’s newspeak, it is explaining that without more generous debt relief measures, Greece “could struggle to maintain market access over the long run”, the fund said in its last economic assessment of the country before the end of its bailout on August 20.

The fund’s calculations find Greece’s debt costs will “begin an uninterrupted rise” after 2038 — costing around 20% of the country’s GDP every year. It is at this point that “additional relief would be needed to secure debt sustainability”, said the report. [..] Additionally, the fund suggests that Greek banks raise capital: “Stress tests results published by the ECB in May point to the resilience of the Greek banks in the baseline scenario but significant capital depletions in the adverse scenario,” IMF says in Art. IV report on the state of the Greek economy. IMF “staff estimates that if the three banks with lower CET1 were asked to maintain capital ratios under adverse conditions in line with a capital requirement of 7.5–8.0%, the related capital shortfall could be in the range of €1.3–1.9 billion”.

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Any recovery stories for Greece are bogus. Oh, and Zero Hedge is a ‘satirical blog’?

The Greatest Depression (Coppola)

The IMF has just released its latest review of the Greek economy. “Following a deep and protracted contraction,” it says in its press release, “growth has finally returned to Greece.” The green light has been given for Greece’s exit from its bailout program in August 2018. For many, this is welcome news. Greece has turned a corner. The dark days are behind it, and the future will be bright. But is this really the end of Greece’s troubles – or will there be more pain to come? The magnitude of Greece’s collapse over the last decade is extraordinary. Right at the start of the IMF’s review is this chart, which compares the fall in Greek output over the last 10 years with other major historical contractions, including the U.S.’s Great Depression:

The Greek people have just lived through a Depression as deep as the Great Depression and considerably longer. It is now the greatest recorded peacetime Depression. Fortunately, the Greatest Depression may now have run its course. The Greek economy grew by 1.4% in 2017, and the IMF projects that GDP growth will rise to 2% in 2018 and 2.4% in 2019. Of course, IMF growth forecasts for Greece need to be treated with considerable caution. As the Greek economy sank ever deeper into depression, the IMF continued to predict that growth would rebound “any day now.” The satirical blog ZeroHedge lampooned the IMF’s dire forecasting record as “hockey stick comedy.” But Greece did emerge from its long-running depression in 2017, and indications so far are that growth will be maintained this year.

[..] The legacy of the Greatest Depression, even with the doubtful benefit of those structural reforms, is a terribly weak and deeply damaged economy. Adult unemployment, which peaked at over 25% at the height of the Greatest Depression, is still over 20%, while youth unemployment is twice as high. In a footnote to its review, the IMF comments that structural unemployment (the average excess of people over jobs across the business cycle) was 15% in 2016 and is expected to fall only gradually “over the next two decades.” Many of Greece’s young people will be middle-aged by the time there is any work for them. Some may never work at all. An entire generation thrown on the scrap heap.

Despite all the pain the Greeks have endured to fix their country’s finances, Greece’s fiscal situation remains extremely precarious. The IMF staff predictions show absolutely no room for fiscal expansion, even though it is desperately needed, not least to relieve extremely high poverty levels. One in four people in Greece is living below the poverty line.

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The EU doesn’t think May will last much longer.

EU’s Brexit Declaration Could Be Just ‘Four Or Five Pages’ Long (G.)

The EU’s declaration on the trade and security relationship with the UK after Brexit will be just five to 30 pages long, reflecting a lack of time to have an internal debate and scepticism that Theresa May will remain in Downing Street to deliver it, officials in Brussels have disclosed. While the UK is seeking a “precise and substantive” document, to match the recently published 100-page white paper, officials in Brussels say the EU’s political declaration on the “future framework” has diminishing importance for them. Brussels is aware that the prime minister needs the document, due in the autumn, to be a “sweetener” to the main withdrawal agreement, which will commit the UK to pay a £39bn divorce bill and spell out whatever difficult deal is sealed on the issue of the Irish border.

The declaration will not be legally binding on either party but is designed to offer major economic actors some reassurance through a vision of the future trading and security relationship, and it will form part of the package on which the UK parliament and MEPs will ultimately vote in the new year. Given doubts in Brussels that May will get a deal through parliament, or remain in Downing Street for long if she manages it with the help of Labour votes, there will not be the high level of detail that the British government has been seeking, sources said.

A senior EU official told The Guardian that the paper could even be as short as “four or five pages”, the same length as the European council guidelines setting out the bloc’s headline objectives. “It can either be four five pages, or it could be a bit more elaborate but I think we are in the league of five to 25 to 35 pages. We have not time to thrash out the details,” the official said. “The more details you want the more advanced you should be in these negotiations.” The official added: “The reality is that, imagine after March next year the UK gets rid of May, the hard Brexiters take over and Boris says: ‘Too bad. I am not interested in all this. I want a basic free trade agreement, I want all my freedom.’ We have to adjust.

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And it will get a lot worse.

UK Government Accused Of Trying To Hide Devastating Impact Of Brexit (Ind.)

Ministers have been accused of misleading the public after denying that plans to “turn most of Kent into a giant lorry park” are because of Brexit. Work is underway to convert four lanes of a 13-mile stretch of the M20 motorway to allow hundreds of articulated lorries to park up if they are delayed in reaching the Port of Dover. The Department for Transport (DfT) claimed the work was simply an improvement on the existing Operation Stack, a way of managing traffic used many times to cope with “serious disruption to cross-channel transport”. But it has now emerged that the project has been renamed Operation Brock – which Kent County Council says stands for “Brexit Operations Across Kent”.

Vast extra space for lorries will be needed if the Brexit talks fail and, as Theresa May has threatened, the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal next year. There will be massive disruption if any extra checks are required in future – with one study warning of immediate 20-mile tailbacks at Dover if the time taken to clear customs merely doubles from the current two minutes. Virendra Sharma, a Labour MP and supporter of the anti-Brexit Best for Britain group, said: “The government is trying to hide the devastating impact of their Brexit policy. “Food will rot on the motorway and jobs are at risk as manufacturing supply chains are muddled and slowed by Brexit. We cannot let ministers use secrecy to railroad the concerns of councils about Brexit.”

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Nobody’s ready. If only because they don’t know what to be ready for.

No UK Car Manufacturer Ready For Brexit (Ind.)

The British motor industry has warned that “no one would confess to being Brexit ready” in their trade. Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), argues that his members are “increasingly concerned” about the prospects for the UK leaving the EU on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms, in the light of developments since Theresa May published the government’s latest Brexit white paper, which he and the SMMT welcomed. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has since expressed scepticism about the proposed Facilitated Customs Arrangement (FCA), which would have been of particular value to manufacturing and the automotive sector.

In the light of EU resistance, and growing UK political volatility, the chances of the UK going to a “no deal” exit are increasing, meaning that Britain would move to WTO terms, as opposed to staying in the Single Market, the customs union or the FCA. This would imply tariffs of up to 10% in UK-EU trade in cars and parts, and greater bureaucracy in both directions, which would only be partly mitigated by “stockpiling” in the short run, given the demands of “just in time” manufacturing techniques and integrated cross-border supply chains. There is a tail risk that factory production of models such as the Mini at BMW’s plant in Oxford could be disrupted if crucial car components become unavailable.

Mr Hawes added that the prospect of a “no deal” Brexit was something no-one wished to see and that industry leaders wished to see “all options open as long as possible”. Reflecting on the 1,100 trucks that enter the UK from Europe every day to feed its factories, he said that the eight months remaining until formal Brexit on 29 March 2019 were “a real challenge”. British car production for the home market almost halved in June, compared to the same month a year ago, due to what the industry calls “a perfect storm” of factors that resulted in a freakish result.

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“The day after 9/11 we should have gone to Russia. We did the one thing that George Kennan warned us never to do – to expand NATO too far..”

Seymour Hersh On Novichok, Russian Links To Donald Trump And 9/11 (Ind.)

Hersh is honest enough to admit that today he might not have made it. He worked during the heyday of American journalism – when he was paid handsomely for exposes and when media outlets had the financial muscle to fund serious writing. When he covered the Paris Peace Accords for The Times, he was put up at the world famous five-star deluxe Hotel de Crillon. It is not long before we discuss contemporaneous events including the alleged Russian hacking of the US presidential election. Hersh has vociferously strong opinions on the subject and smells a rat. He states that there is “a great deal of animosity towards Russia. All of that stuff about Russia hacking the election appears to be preposterous.” He has been researching the subject but is not ready to go public… yet.

Hersh quips that the last time he heard the US defence establishment have high confidence, it was regarding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. He points out that the NSA only has moderate confidence in Russian hacking. It is a point that has been made before; there has been no national intelligence estimate in which all 17 US intelligence agencies would have to sign off. “When the intel community wants to say something they say it… High confidence effectively means that they don’t know.” Hersh is also on the record as stating that the official version of the Skripal poisoning does not stand up to scrutiny. He tells me: “The story of novichok poisoning has not held up very well. He [Skripal] was most likely talking to British intelligence services about Russian organised crime.”

The unfortunate turn of events with the contamination of other victims is suggestive, according to Hersh, of organised crime elements rather than state-sponsored actions – though this flies in the face of the UK government’s position. [..] He ends the Goldsmiths talk with an anecdote about having lunch with his sources in the wake of 9/11. He vents his anger at the agencies for not sharing information. One of his CIA sources fires back: “Sy you still don’t get it after all these years – the FBI catches bank robbers, the CIA robs banks.” It is a delicious, if cryptic aphorism.

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The Pope is not a bad idea.

Please Sign Letter To Pope Francis Seeking Help For Julian Assange (LACW)

Your Holiness,

In your first Papal visit outside of Rome only months after your election as Supreme Pontiff, you choose the Italian island of Lampedusa, a refuge for migrants and asylum seekers fleeing the prospect of death. You did so to express your closeness and love to suffering people, to promote their dignity, which was under threat at home and in jeopardy in the countries where they seek refuge. Your first act upon arrival was to lay a wreath in the sea in memory of all those who had lost their lives seeking refuge. We, the undersigned, write to you, Your Holiness, as a loving Father to those who lives are in imminent danger, begging and beseeching you to speak up for someone whose life is in imminent danger.

A life that can only be saved by your intervention. In order to lessen the possibility of us laying a wreath in the coming days, in memory of the stateless asylum seeker Julian Assange, we ask that you speak out on his behalf. Julian is possible moments or hours away but certainly days away from being abducted by a SAS squad from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where his asylum status is about to be revoked. Based on the precedent the risk of death is very high. Last time the SAS entered an Embassy in London they assassinated their targets after they had surrendered and were unarmed lying on the ground.

With all legal avenues exhausted and the British, American, Ecuadorian and Australian governments all arranging the imminent raid on Julian, we cry out to you, Holy Father and ask that you encourage nations to respect the life of Julian Assange and to cease his arbitrary detention (as cited by the United Nations) and grant him asylum status where he can continue his work as a journalist, telling the truth, that is the truth that respects the dignity of persons. Please, Holy Father speak up and defend this life which so many powerful nations want to end and whose life only you can plead for leniency in a manner which may be heeded by the powerful who seek to end him.

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Australia should honor its own laws. And that means protecting its citizens.

Julian Assange And Lawyer Want Malcolm Turnbull To ‘Stand Up To US’ (N.)

[..] new British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt claimed Assange was facing “serious charges” from local police. But there is confusion about what they are, as he is only facing a minor charge for breaching bail. Jennifer Robinson, Assange’s lawyer in London, told news.com.au she was “obviously very concerned” about the speculation he could be forced from the embassy. “We are monitoring that really closely. From our point of view he requires ongoing protection (because) the risk of prosecution is as high as it has ever been.” The Times quoted a source familiar with the case who expected Assange would “lose his asylum status imminently. This means he will be expelled from the embassy. When this will happen is impossible to say.”

It was Ms Robinson’s view, and Assange’s, that Australia could help break the stalemate. “Julian is still an Australian citizen and they have an obligation — and I think a duty — to exercise rights of protection over an Australian citizen,” she said. “They could usefully engage in this to help solve the impasse.” Ms Robinson said Canberra had good relationships with both the UK and US, so it shouldn’t be a difficult matter. “For me as a fellow Australian citizen, it is disappointing the government has not done more — but that doesn’t preclude them from doing it now and I very much hope that they will.” She said it raised concerns about the Federal Government’s willingness to “stand up for Australians” when the US Government was involved.

[..] Ms Robinson was mystified as to what charges Mr Hunt was referring to. “Jeremy Hunt’s statement is curious in the sense that Mr Assange doesn’t face any charges whatsoever … A magistrate will have to decide whether to bring bail proceedings against him when he leaves the embassy.” [..] “So is Mr Hunt talking about an extradition request from the US where he would face serious charges?” asked Ms Robinson. “Has he misspoken and disclosed that?” She told news.com.au that would be a serious matter. Assange’s legal team had sought assurances from the UK there was no extradition request and had been met with a “standard, blanket will not confirm or deny”. “So if Mr Hunt is talking about serious charges … there are none on the public record, so of course, we are concerned about what that might be from the US.”

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“..prosecuting a journalist for publishing authentic documents would arguably constitute a greater leap in the direction of Orwellian dystopia than the Patriot Act.”

As Long As Assange Is Silenced, Claims Against Him Are Illegitimate (CJ)

As attempts to evict Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London get more and more aggressive, we are seeing a proportionate increase in the establishment smear campaign against him and against WikiLeaks. This is not a coincidence. The planned campaign to remove Assange from political asylum and the greatly escalated smear campaign to destroy public support for Assange are both occurring at the same time that Assange has been cut off from the world without internet, phone calls or visitors, completely unable to defend himself from the smear campaign. This, also, is not a coincidence.

The ability to control the narrative about what is going on in the world is of unparalleled importance to the plutocrats who use governments as tools to advance their agendas. The agenda to make an example of a leak publisher with a massive platform who has repeatedly exposed the corruption of the establishment upon which western plutocrats have built their empires will require continuous narrative spin, since the precedent set by prosecuting a journalist for publishing authentic documents would arguably constitute a greater leap in the direction of Orwellian dystopia than the Patriot Act.

Among the latest components of this campaign has been a viral dump of Twitter DMs being promoted as a hot news item by outlets like Motherboard, The Hill, Forbes and Think Progress and across #Resistance Twitter. The fact that the juicy bits from those DMs had already been published months ago by The Intercept, and the fact that the smears and spin we’re seeing reruns of today were long ago ripped to shreds in journalist Suzie Dawson’s epic essay “Being Julian Assange” after the Intercept publication, has not dampened the orgiastic frenzy with which this non-story is being bandied about by establishment loyalists and defenders of power as evidence of Assange’s nefariousness.

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Are we ever going to have that UN Emergency Meeting?

Italian Ship Violates International Law, Returns Rescued People To Libya (G.)

A search and rescue charity has alleged that an Italian ship returned scores of people rescued from the Mediterranean to Libya, even though Libya is not regarded by Europe as a safe place under international law. In what would be an unprecedented case if confirmed, the Asso 28, an oil rig support vessel, allegedly saved 108 people from a dinghy and then took them to Tripoli. The allegation was made by Òscar Camps, the founder of Proactiva Open Arms, a Spanish sea search and rescue NGO. It is unclear whether the ship had received instructions from the Italian coastguard. “The Asso 28, with an Italian flag, rescued 108 people in international waters and is now deporting them to Libya, a country where human rights are not respected. No chance [for them] to get asylum or shelter,” Camps wrote on Twitter.

Camps’ allegation was supported by Nicola Fratoianni, an Italian politician with Free and Equal, a small leftwing party, who was on board the Proactiva rescue ship. “We don’t know yet if this operation was instructed by the Italian coastguard, but if so it would be a very serious precedent, a real collective rejection, which Italy and the captain of the ship would have to respond to in court,” Fratoianni said. Two weeks ago Italy assured Germany that it would continue to accept migrants rescued at sea until an EU-wide plan on redistributing people across the continent was established. The pledge came after high-profile moves by Matteo Salvini, the interior minister and leader of the far-right League, to block rescue ships from docking at Italian ports.

In a response to Camps’ allegation on Tuesday, Salvini made no mention of the alleged involvement of an Italian ship in the incident. He wrote on Twitter: “The Libyan coastguard has rescued and brought back 611 immigrants in recent hours. The NGOs protest and the traffickers lose business? Fine, we’ll continue in this direction!” In another post, on Facebook, he wrote: “The Italian Coast Guard has not coordinated and participated in any of these operations, as falsely declared by a foreign NGO and a poorly informed leftist MP.”

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Jan 242018
 
 January 24, 2018  Posted by at 3:59 pm Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Rembrandt van Rijn The Storm on the Sea of Galilee 1633
On March 18, 1990, the painting was stolen by thieves disguised as police officers. They broke into the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston, MA, and stole this painting, along with 12 other works. The paintings have never been recovered, and it is considered the biggest art theft in history. The empty frames still hang in their original location.

 

 

This is an article written by Dr. D, who last month wrote a series at the Automatic Earth entitled Bitcoin Doesn’t Exist.

It shouldn’t surprise you that bitcoin plays a cameo in his Modest -but actually quite grand- Plan as well.

 

 

Dr. D: With all the talk about the bubble market, people are once again saying Donald Trump is a fool, he should never have taken credit for a Dow that’s about to collapse. In addition, how does he think he can get away with claiming we have a great economy made greater? He said in the election the economy was terrible and the Dow was a bubble, that’s why he won.

But hold on: you have to remember, they’re politicians; they may be dishonest but they’re not stupid. Let’s try a scenario to see what they’re thinking:

We have a situation in the U.S. where 100 million people are out of the workforce, the real economy is on life-support, debt is crushing, and monetary velocity is at an all-time low. The Fed’s every effort at market-rigging, lowering rates and pumping in money, bailing out the banks and giving unearned interest for Fed deposits have run up both the housing market and the stock market, neither of which is their legal mandate. If either one goes higher, they’ll pop as workers, particularly millennials, have no income to buy houses, and stocks are levitating on just 5 insider-paid FAANG stocks.

It’s untenable. However, if either falls, the collateral that upholds the whole system will fail, margins will be called, the housing market will fall, and there will be an instant Depression… You know, more than the 100 million out of work Depression we already have. A Depression that makes Congressmen and government workers lose their profits and 401k’s instead of just turning students to open prostitution, and mass opioid death, and starving people in Oklahoma – you know, a Depression that finally hurts someone who matters.

Since this is self-evident and unsustainable, isn’t Trump just stepping in it by pushing all the same policies as Obama? Not necessarily. Look at what matters to him. A tax plan, and barely, not one he liked, but look at what he settled for: return of foreign profits abroad. Why? Large as it is – and it’s already creating long-withheld bonuses – that’s not enough to turn the dial. But that’s a card he wanted. Tax policy and a high stock market. What else?

Well, we have a crippling high debt, easily 100% even 200% of GDP. With that weight, nothing can move, no way to win. Pensions also are nearly dead, along with insurance companies; the high Dow is all that’s saving them from bankruptcy. What else? Well he was interested in health reform but was willing to let it remain for now. He wrote deferrals but not pardons for 5 banks showing he’d like to keep them functioning for the moment. He wanted to increase the military.

Certainly the only other promise was to create jobs and economies again, in a way saying the few protected industries: Finance, Health Care, and Military would have to become a smaller % of GDP, so those dollars could be returned back to Main Street. But we just said those three aren’t happening.

So. What if instead of pulling money from intractable lobbying groups he got new investment money from abroad? We saw this initially with Carrier and Ford and more recently with Japan. But it’s not enough and he knows all this; they all do. How do you solve the problem? How do you get more?

Calling all 1st year econ students: how do you attract capital to your country? With higher rates. As the US 10-year breaks out above 2.6% you’d have to think that’s attractive. Attractive investing in a bankrupt nation that’s barely moving? It does if you’re a company that must maintain legal investment ratios and you’re getting 0% in Japan, and negative rates in Europe, both with economies as bad or worse.

But aren’t rising rates bad? The Fed model raises rates to clamp down on the economy. Money will leave the stock market and go to bonds. Housing prices will fall as the monthly cost increases. Cats and Dogs living together….except it isn’t true.

 

Let’s go down the list:

 

1. Trump starts with plausible seed corn, a billboard sign: a tax cut and a few trillion overseas to start economic motion.

2. If the Fed raises rates, that will draw in trillions of world capital Trump wants, enough to turn the dial and really matter.

3. Enough money flowing into the U.S. will create demand for the US$, and the US$ will rise. This part has to work. Be flashy, attract attention. Go big or go home.

4. The US$ rising will attract foreign buyers into U.S. investment and together the stock market will counterintuitively rise.

5. The Fed will detect overheating and raise rates again and again in a reinforcing cycle, drawing capital to only the U.S. and suffocating the world.

6. The massive investment re-industrializes the U.S. to some extent while the high US$ gives some relief to Main Street.

7. Foreign buying, better jobs, and low exchange rates hold off the housing collapse, while all the mortgage bonds are also sold overseas.

8. Emerging markets are hammered by the high US$ and fail, driving ever-more capital to safe havens like the US.

9. Ultimately, the U.S. does what all reserve currencies do and fails LAST.

 

See why they think they can get away with this? The U.S. can still ravage the world, and Trump can, in fact, call it his “success.” …Just like all the Presidents since Nixon.

But this is history, and it never ends there.

 

10. The whole world, strangled by the US and its dollar have no choice but to reject the US system entirely in private contracts and move to an alternative.

11. We now have at least three alternatives: the CIPS/Yuan banking bloc, gold, and cryptocurrencies. They aren’t exclusive: the most likely outcome is a gold-backed trading note priced in Yuan on a blockchain, perhaps in the Shanghai Exchange.

12. Being entirely too high the US$ ultimately cripples the U.S. as well, but the alternative currency the world creates becomes the lifeboat to escape. Let’s be simple and say it’s Bitcoin (it won’t be): Bitcoin hits John McAfee’s $1 million. What do you call it when a currency rapidly becomes worth 1/10th, 1/100th, 1/1,000,000th of the standard? Isn’t that hyperinflation?

13. The U.S., like every nation since Adam Smith, defaults on its $20T in $ debt – and all its internal consumer, corporate, and pension debt – using “hyperinflation” of the dollar. New twist is that, instead of gold, it hyperinflates vs. cryptos or the new world exchange standard as planned in 1971 and publicized in 1988.

14. The reset occurs, no one dies (in the U.S.), supply chains are maintained, oil flows, and the economy stops being a feral, diabolical means of theft and control and returns to being a fair, voluntary exchange. For now.

 

That’s not to say they’ll succeed, but this is why they think they can go this way and win at it. What does the Trump world look like?

 

1. Stock market rose, like he said.

2. Manufacturing returns, reindustrializing a hollow nation and allowing the country to catch up to the stock prices, like he said.

3. Unemployment drops, like he said.

4. Crime is reduced and the cities are improved, like he said.

5. This helps win the black vote, snatching the rest of the Democratic base and locking them out for years, like Bannon said.

6. Economic growth normalizes the banking/medical oversize, like he wanted.

7. Free, untracked money for bribes and illegal cover end and law and order returns with fair exchange, like he said.

8. The U.S. is unwelcome overseas, and the breaking of bonds re-sets the multipolar world, where the U.S. is just one trading nation among many, like he said.

9. Without the money of empire the military returns home, like he said.

10. The world is pretty mad at us and that renewed military came in handy. That’s okay, they’ll be consoled that the economy now works and the U.S. can no longer start wars and act terribly.

 

What does the world look like after? A lot more like it was before 1945. You know, back when we were great and before we got terrible.

Again, not to say this WILL happen, but you can see that it CAN happen, and they are now in control of most of the levers required. From their rhetoric, you can see the glass darkly that this is what they find a priority, a possibility, and therefore a doorway out. In addition, downsizing and re-establishing honesty will not allow their opponents to wiggle out and reverse it.

Why wasn’t this done before? My guess is that a) previous planners thought with a little more effort they could take over the world, as seen in the Arab Spring plan that would culminate in the capture of Iran, the only remaining oilfields on the planet, and b) given the world’s first entirely fiat financial system, it was too complex and disruptive to return to a gold standard.

Without a lighting fast crypto base, banking and trade would fail and millions would die. Only when the one was burned out and the other made available could this move be attempted. Watch and see.

 

 

Jan 212018
 
 January 21, 2018  Posted by at 11:09 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Francisco Goya The Dog 1819-23

 

US Senate In Weekend Bid To End Shutdown Impasse (BBC)
Trump’s Trip To Davos Is Up In The Air Because Of The Shutdown (CNBC)
Republicans Have Four Easy Ways to #ReleaseTheMemo – and the Evidence (GG)
China Orders Banks To Stop Financing Cryptocurrencies (SCMP)
China Urges U.S. to Abandon ‘Cold War’ Mindset (BBG)
Britain’s Tired Old Economy Isn’t Strong Enough For Brexit (G.)
Macron: Bespoke Brexit Deal Possible If UK Accepts ‘Preconditions’ (G.)
Athens Hopeful For Eurogroup Decisions Despite Problems (K.)
In New Zealand, 100% Pure Is 100% Propaganda (Stuff)
Ain’t No Sunshine: Winter Is One Of Darkest Ever For Parts Of Europe (G.)
Turkey Threatens Refugee Deal With EU (K.)
15 Syrian Refugees Found Frozen To Death On Lebanon Border (BBC)

 

 

Let it go down; why maintain the illusion that the system functions?

US Senate In Weekend Bid To End Shutdown Impasse (BBC)

The US Senate is due back in session to try to end a budget impasse before the start of the working week when the shutdown of many federal services will be felt around the country. Hundreds of thousands of federal staff face the prospect of unpaid leave. On Saturday, recriminations flew around over the Senate’s failure to pass a new budget and prevent the shutdown. A bill to fund the federal government for the coming weeks did not receive the required 60 votes by Friday. The Republican leader of the US Senate, Mitch McConnell, has said there will be a vote at 01:00 in the early hours of Monday (06:00 GMT) on a bill to fund the government until 8 February. The last government shutdown was in 2013, and lasted for 16 days.

This is the first time a government shutdown has happened while one party, the Republicans, controls both Congress and the White House. The vote on Friday was 50-49, falling far short of the 60 needed to advance the bill. With a 51-seat majority in the Senate, the Republicans do not have enough votes to pass the bill without some support from the Democrats. They want funding for border security – including the border wall – and immigration reforms, as well as increased military spending. The Democrats have demanded protection from deportation of more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who entered the US as children.

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No gloating.

Trump’s Trip To Davos Is Up In The Air Because Of The Shutdown (CNBC)

Donald Trump was set to be the first U.S. president to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in nearly two decades, but the government shutdown might have scrambled those plans. White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney said Saturday that Trump’s plans to travel to Davos next week are up in the air while Congress scrambles to strike a deal to fund the federal government. “We’re taking Davos, from the president’s perspective and the Cabinet’s perspective, on a day-by-day basis,” Mulvaney told reporters during an impromptu briefing. The government shut down at midnight Friday, after congressional negotiators failed to pass a budget.

Earlier in the day, Trump cancelled a planned trip to Florida, where he was scheduled to host a party at his private Mar-a-Lago club to mark the one year anniversary of his inauguration. Tickets for the Mar-a-Lago party begin at $100,000 per couple, and proceeds will benefit the Trump reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee. On Saturday, RNC staffers were busy setting up TV screens in the private club, so Trump could address the guests via satellite, according to CNN. The budget impasse showed no signs of letting up on Saturday, as both Democrats and Republicans dug their heels in, and each party blamed the other. The president is scheduled to depart for Switzerland on Wednesday, along with a delegation of more than a dozen Cabinet members, including Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and top White House aides.

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They have to release it, no choice.

Republicans Have Four Easy Ways to #ReleaseTheMemo – and the Evidence (GG)

One of the gravest and most damaging abuses of state power is to misuse surveillance authorities for political purposes. For that reason, The Intercept, from its inception, has focused extensively on these issues. We therefore regard as inherently serious strident warnings from public officials alleging that the FBI and Department of Justice have abused their spying power for political purposes. Social media last night and today have been flooded with inflammatory and quite dramatic claims now being made by congressional Republicans about a four-page memo alleging abuses of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act spying processes during the 2016 election.

This memo, which remains secret, was reportedly written under the direction of the chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, and has been read by dozens of members of Congress after the committee voted to make the memo available to all members of the House of Representatives to examine in a room specially designated for reviewing classified material. The rhetoric issuing from GOP members who read the memo is notably extreme. North Carolina Republican Rep. Mark Meadows, chair of the House Freedom Caucus, called the memo “troubling” and “shocking” and said, “Part of me wishes that I didn’t read it because I don’t want to believe that those kinds of things could be happening in this country that I call home and love so much.”

GOP Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania stated: “You think about, ‘Is this happening in America or is this the KGB?’ That’s how alarming it is.” This has led to a ferocious outcry on the right to “release the memo” – and presumably thereby prove that the Obama administration conducted unlawful surveillance on the Trump campaign and transition. On Thursday night, Fox News host and stalwart Trump ally Sean Hannity claimed that the memo described “the systematic abuse of power, the weaponizing of those powerful tools of intelligence and the shredding of our Fourth Amendment constitutional rights.” Given the significance of this issue, it is absolutely true that the memo should be declassified and released to the public — and not just the memo itself.

The House Intelligence Committee generally and Nunes specifically have a history of making unreliable and untrue claims (its report about Edward Snowden was full of falsehoods, and prior claims from Nunes about “unmasking” have been discredited). Thus, mere assertions from Nunes — or anyone else — are largely worthless; Republicans should provide American citizens not merely with the memo they claim reveals pervasive criminality and abuse of power, but also with all of the evidence underlying its conclusions.

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Don’t worry, the shadow banks will.

China Orders Banks To Stop Financing Cryptocurrencies (SCMP)

The People’s Bank of China has ordered financial institutions to stop providing banking or funding to any activity related to cryptocurrencies, further tightening the noose since its shutdown of crypto exchanges last September sent digital currency enthusiasts fleeing overseas. “Every bank and branch must carry out self-inspection and rectification, starting from today,” according to a document issued by the central bank on Wednesday. “Service for cryptocurrency trading is strictly prohibited. Effective measures should be adopted to prevent payment channels from being used for cryptocurrency settlement.” The Chinese-language document, as seen by the South China Morning Post, was distributed as an internal document among banks, and not published on the central bank’s official website.

“Banks should enhance their daily transaction monitoring, and the timely shut down of the payment channel once they discover any suspected trading of cryptocurrencies,” the document said, adding that the deadline for disclosing the measures is on January 20. The emphasis was on handling any capital settlement to avoid any financial losses by cryptocurrency investors from escalating into public protests – known as “group events” in China – and preserve social stability, the central bank said. [..] Chinese cryptocurrency traders, who once dominated 90 per cent of the world’s trading volume of bitcoin, the most popular and oldest form of cryptocurrency, have moved to the underground market, or overseas to Japan. Bitcoin is considered legal tender in Japan.

“Most of the trading is taking place via US dollar now, as some big accounts active in digital currency trading are already on China’s official watch list and payment channel already blocked,” said Zhao Dong, an individual bitcoin investor who spends most of his time in Japan now. “This move by the PBOC is further pushing capital and innovation out of China.” Still, a person no less than Zhou Xiaochuan, the longest-serving governor in the Chinese central bank, has himself announced that the People’s Bank of China itself is studying the feasibility of developing its own digital currency.

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As does Russia.

China Urges U.S. to Abandon ‘Cold War’ Mindset (BBG)

China’s National Defense Ministry said the U.S. should abandon a “Cold War” mindset and view Chinese national security and military efforts “rationally and objectively.” The instigators of militarization of the South China Sea are “other countries” that don’t seem to want to see peace in the region and are using the banner of “navigational freedom” to undertake military activities in a tyrannical manner, ministry spokesman Ren Guoqiang said in a statement released late Saturday. The statement was in response to a U.S. Defense Department strategy report, released last week, that singled out China’s military modernization and expansion in the South China Sea as key threats to U.S. power.

China has undertaken massive land reclamation in the contested waterway that hosts $5 trillion in trade a year, to strengthen its claim to more than 80 percent of the area. That has strained ties with other claimant states, such as Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as the U.S. The National Defence ministry’s statement on Saturday came shortly after China’s Foreign Ministry vowed to take “necessary measures” to safeguard its sovereignty after a U.S. warship entered waters surrounding the Huangyan Island in the South China Sea. China’s activities in the South China Sea is “a matter within China’s sovereign rights,” Ren said, adding that the country is committed to a path of peaceful development and a harmonious world order.

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A good point not particularly well made.

Britain’s Tired Old Economy Isn’t Strong Enough For Brexit (G.)

Brexit, at its heart, is a recognition that Britain has become steadily weaker since it spent much of its empire wealth fighting two world wars – too feeble in the years before the 2016 referendum to sustain an exchange rate of $1.60 and €1.40, just as it was too poor to cope with $4 to the pound in the 1950s and $2 to the pound in 1992. Manufacturers were unable to make things cheaply, reliably or efficiently enough against the headwind of a high-value currency, forcing many to give up. An economy that boasted 20% of its income coming from manufacturing in the 1980s found it was the source of barely 10% at the beginning of this decade.

Surges in GDP growth in the 70 years since the war can be attributed (and this short list makes the point crudely) to periods when there were cheap raw materials and energy costs; or a growing population; or foreign ownership and management of key industries; or the offloading of vast amounts of state and mutually owned assets; or cheap borrowing. Without these in operation to improve the UK’s performance, a lower exchange rate became inevitable. Some Brexit campaigners made a cheaper currency their explicit aim, arguing that while Britain’s wealth and standing in the world would be diminished in the short term, the breathing space given to manufacturers would allow them to sell abroad at cheaper prices, then use the funds to invest and gain the efficiencies needed to cope with a return to a higher exchange rate sometime in the next decade.

There is a good deal of logic to the argument, but it rests, like so many revolutionary aims, on the many and competing forces in the economy doing exactly what its proponents want them to. For instance, manufacturers, with a few honourable exceptions, have refused to invest more than the bare minimum for decades, even when the exchange rate has helped them. There are windfall profits to be made when currencies fall: but these windfalls have been trousered by shareholders, not invested.

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Little emperor.

Macron: Bespoke Brexit Deal Possible If UK Accepts ‘Preconditions’ (G.)

Emmanuel Macron has said it would be possible for Britain to secure a bespoke trade deal but only if the UK accepts certain “preconditions”. The French president said that while a special solution could be secured, full access to the single market without accepting its rules was “not feasible”. The comments were made during an interview recorded for BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. Macron has been in the UK for his first visit since taking office. On Thursday, at the end of a joint press conference with Theresa May at Sandhurst military training college, he rejected the idea of a tailored Brexit deal for Britain’s financial services sector. Macron said full access to EU markets would not be possible unless the UK paid into the EU budget and accepted all its rules.

In the interview with Marr, he said there was “a competition between different countries” to attract financial services companies in the future and that France wanted “to attract the maximum activity”. The Brexit secretary, David Davis, has said he is seeking a “Canada plus plus plus” arrangement, based on the EU-Canada trade treaty, but with additional access for services. However, EU negotiators have stressed that Britain would not be allowed to “cherry-pick” sectors. Pressed on whether there would be a bespoke special solution for the UK, Macron said: “Sure, but … this special way should be consistent with the preservation of the single market and our collective interests. “And you should understand that you cannot, by definition, have the full access to the single market if you don’t tick the box.” He added: “So it’s something perhaps between this full access and a trade agreement.”

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It’s starting to feel like Stockholm Syndrome.

Athens Hopeful For Eurogroup Decisions Despite Problems (K.)

Eurozone finance ministers are to meet in Brussels on Monday to assess Greece’s progress in enforcing economic reforms, decide whether to disburse 6.7 billion euros in bailout loans and, Athens hopes, signal talks on debt relief. It was unclear if the loan tranche would be disbursed in its entirety, as some prior actions are pending. However, Greek officials sounded upbeat following a decision late on Friday by Standard & Poor’s to raise Greece’s sovereign credit rating from B- to B with a positive outlook. “Greece’s growth and fiscal outlooks have improved alongside a labor market recovery and amid a period of relative policy certainty,” S&P said.

“These positive developments boost the sense that the trust of the markets and investors in the Greek economy is being restored with steady steps,” the Finance Ministry said on Saturday. “With the conclusion of the program in August 2018 and the securing of steady access to the markets, the Greek economy is definitely moving away from a long period of crisis.” Despite the upbeat rhetoric, there are divisions within SYRIZA over government policies, particularly in the radical Group of 53 faction. In comments to SYRIZA’s central committee on Saturday, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos conceded that there are “many short-term problems” and underlined two major risks. “One is the banks and the other is the IMF,” he said.

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Nice. Kiwis believe in fairy tales.

In New Zealand, 100% Pure Is 100% Propaganda (Stuff)

Ask Tourism New Zealand what 100% Pure means and they’ll tell you: it’s not a ‘clean, green’ campaign, but a campaign that delivers a “100% Pure New Zealand experience”. What it is is 100% pure advertising, and a slogan fit to replace the fertiliser used in the country’s intensive farming. But while Kiwis do seem to be realising there’s something murky about our clean-green image, there is one area we are still fooling ourselves about – the state of our native creatures. Stuff has just wrapped up its Forgotten Species series, a five-part series looking at a handful of the estimated 3700 native species which are either approaching extinction or at risk. Despite having one of the highest proportions of threatened or endangered species of anywhere on the planet, 70% of the public feel the state of our country’s natives is adequate or doing well, according to a recent Lincoln University study.

Ask study co-author Ross Cullen and he will tell you – 70% of the public is “totally wrong”. All countries advertise, and everyone accepts it with a pinch of salt. If we didn’t we would all be jetting off to England expecting a village in the Cotswolds and end up at a sleazy pub in Plumstead, east London. Advertising is advertising, and good advertising brings in tourism money. However, when the public believes its own advertising, it’s no longer advertising, it’s propaganda –and that’s a problem. It’s a problem because if the populace think something’s going well, they ignore it, the political hot-potato cools, and the decline continues. Case in point – the National Government’s Minister for Conservation, Maggie Barry, paraded the new Threatened Species Strategy in front of voters just as the 2017 general election was heating up.

It promised to increase the number of at-risk species directly managed by 40%. On the face of it, this seems great, but when the Budget was released a couple of weeks later, almost all of DOC’s extra funding was ring-fenced for upgrading tourism infrastructure and developing new Great Walks. It was a great ad delivered by a great ex-garden show host. Kiwis might have kicked up a fuss – if the majority didn’t think we were doing a bang up job on protecting native species already. I remember a telling moment after ex-Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright’s launched her report finding 80% of native birds were threatened. I was present to hear why Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts didn’t fancy this was a problem. “The people come here for our scenery, not our wildlife,” he said. Roberts didn’t disagree with any of the report’s findings, he just thought a visitor levy would do more harm to the country than the rapid die-off of our native birds.

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Depression zone. I went from Athens to Amsterdam 5 weeks ago, lost 2 hours of daylight to begin with, and been dead tired ever since. Vitamin D doesn’t do it either.

Ain’t No Sunshine: Winter Is One Of Darkest Ever For Parts Of Europe (G.)

Sunshine is in short supply across a swathe of north-west Europe, shrouded in heavy cloud from a seemingly never-ending series of low pressure systems since late November and suffering one of its darkest winters since records began. If you live in Brussels, 10 hours and 31 minutes was your lot for the entire month of December. The all but benighted inhabitants of Lille in France got just two hours, 42 minutes through the first half of January. “Sound the alarm and announce the disappearance,” read a despairing headline in photon-deprived northern France’s regional paper, La Voix du Nord. “A star has been kidnapped. We still have no sign of life from the sun.”

Belgium’s Royal Meteorological Institute has declared December 2017 “the second darkest month since 1887”, when it began measuring, after the 10.5 hours of sun recorded at its Uccle weather station last month were beaten only by a bare 9.3 hours in 1934. France’s northern Hauts-de-France region did better with 26 hours of sunshine in December, but that was against a norm of 48. But Météo France described the paltry 2.7 hours of sun recorded from 1 to 13 January in Lille, the region’s biggest city, as “exceptional”. The January average stands at 61.4 hours, according to the agency – meaning Lille and its unfortunate residents were deprived of perhaps 30 hours’ worth of rays in the first part of the month.

[..] Even southern French sun-traps such as Bordeaux and Marseille fell a very long way short of their usual ray quota in the first half of the month, basking in just 10.3 and 26.9 hours respectively against monthly averages of 96 and 92.5. Health experts say a shortage of sunshine can lead to seasonal depression, whose symptoms include a lack of energy, a desire to sleep and a perceived need to consume greater quantities of sugar and fat. “Exposure to morning light inhibits the secretion of melatonin that promotes sleep and favours the production of hormones that will stimulate the body,” Matthieu Hein, a psychiatrist at the Erasmus Hospital in Brussels, said. In the absence of light, we are “rather slow, tired, which is characteristic of SAD, or seasonal affective disorder”. Florent Durand, who runs a massage studio in Lille, told France 3 TV that his €39 light therapy sessions were booked out.

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As Turkey bombs US supported Kurds, Erdogan feels like a god.

Turkey Threatens Refugee Deal With EU (K.)

Turkey’s agreement with the European Union to curb human trafficking across the Aegean appears to be in jeopardy again after a top Turkish official warned that a current impasse with the EU gives Ankara no reason to honor the deal. A collapse of the deal would put more pressure on Greek islands where thousands of migrants are cooped up in overcrowded reception centers. The comments on Friday by Turkey’s minister for EU affairs, Omer Celik, essentially rejected a proposal by French President Emmanuel Macron for a partnership rather than full EU membership for Turkey. “A privileged partnership or similar approaches, we don’t take any of these seriously. Turkey cannot be offered such a thing,” Celik told Reuters.

Celik said the EU was not fully honoring its part of the migration deal, noting that financial aid was “not working well” and that no new chapters have been opened in Turkey’s EU accession bid. “Technically there’s no reason for Turkey to maintain this deal,” he said. The minister’s words echoed those of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who, during a landmark visit to Greece in December, hit out at the EU for giving Turkey just a portion of the aid it had pledged as part of the 2016 migrant deal. During Erdogan’s visit, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras proposed that Turkey take back migrants from facilities on the Greek mainland to free up space for migrants from overcrowded camps on the islands. Erdogan did not publicly respond to the suggestion.

After Celik’s comments on Friday, a spokesman for the Greek Migration Ministry said the government’s position, that all sides must honor the Turkey-EU deal, remained “fixed and firm.” Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas visited Lesvos on Friday, together with Valentin Radev, the interior minister of Bulgaria, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency. Mouzalas reassured local residents, who had gathered at the Moria facility, that measures would be taken to ensure that migrants alleged to have been involved in thefts or other offenses will no longer be allowed to leave the premises. Lesvos Mayor Spyros Galinos said the minister was not doing enough to adequately inform residents and was shifting the blame for the situation on the islands on to local authorities.

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New year, same old lack of humanity.

15 Syrian Refugees Found Frozen To Death On Lebanon Border (BBC)

Fifteen Syrian refugees – some of them children – have been found frozen to death while trying to cross the mountainous border into Lebanon. Thirteen bodies were found on Friday and two more were discovered on Saturday after the area was hit by a fierce snowstorm. Lebanese civil defence officials found the bodies after being told a group of refugees were in trouble near Masnaa. Local reports say the group had been abandoned by smugglers. Two smugglers have reportedly been arrested.

Several refugees were rescued, including a young boy who was found wandering by himself. The group were taking the same route hundreds of thousands of Syrians have taken before them trying to flee the conflict at home. Lebanon, with a population of four million, has taken in nearly one million Syrians since the war began in 2011. The Lebanese authorities brought in new restrictions in 2015 to try to restrict the number of refugees arriving in the country.

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