Salvador Dalí The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus 1959
And just like that, Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg belatedly found they had fallen on their own swords, as these were already sticking out of their backs. Let’s see it as poetic justice. They thought they had the power- after all, they’re just private companies!- to restrict Donald Trump’s access to their organizations, and then ban him altogether, only to find that they themselves will now be restricted and perhaps even banned as a result.
They figured since most of the world doesn’t like Trump, it would applaud the moves as much as the US Democratic party does. But most of the world doesn’t. What it sees, what its leaders see, is a threat to everyone else’s freedom of speech, not just Trump’s. Those countries and their leaders have been suspicious of the might of US tech companies for longer, and they will now look elsewhere for social media functionality. It’s no accident that Facebook alone lost some $47 billion in market cap since the Trump ban.
This does not come from Trump supporters. Angela Merkel, not a Trump fun at all, summarizes the worries: “Her spokesman said Monday the German leader found it “problematic” that corporate managers could deny someone access under rules not defined by law.” That’s it right there, the heart of the matter: “law”. Twitter and Facebook act as judge, jury and henchman, and that is not legal, not even for private companies.
Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki wrote on Facebook of all places (love the irony): “Algorithms or the owners of corporate giants should not decide which views are right and which are not.” “There can be no consent to censorship.” Poland is drafting legislation which would make it illegal for social media companies to remove posts that did not break Polish law. “Removing lawful content would directly violate the law, and this will have to be respected by the platforms that operate in Poland.”
While Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said: “Yes, social media should not be used to incite violence and all that, but this cannot be used as a pretext to suspend freedom of expression.” “How can a company act as if it was all powerful, omnipotent, as a sort of Spanish Inquisition on what is expressed?” AMLO is actively seeking a coalation of countries in the world to counter social media’s recent policies.
It’s quite something that Dorsey and Zuckerberg were/are blind to this. That they were apparently thinking in “American terms” only when banning Trump, and given political sentiments thought they could get away with it, but did not see the broader international implications. Their shareholders will not appreciate that blind spot. The US is not their only market.
The first things that will happen now is that the EU will look at measures to curtail social media’s freedoms in its territory. This is not an obvious matter, many of its countries – see Poland’s example- will claim they have their own laws and standards, and they often do, but, if only for internal EU political reasons, that won’t stick.
Social media are important platforms in politics these days. In EU elections, national parties form coalitions with each other, and these then form bigger coalitions (blocs). A candidate for the European Parliament could potentially be banned in one country, while one from another country, but belonging to the same party or bloc, would not. That can’t be, it’s too messy even by EU standards, so legislation will have to be pan-EU.
The funniest thing that might come of this is Facebook and Twitter re-opening Trump’s accounts to appease Merkel et al, but it’s too late. There are plenty EU companies more than eager to fill the void that Silicon Valley would leave behind (or they can order Chinese). And Jack and Mark will not win the world’s trust back in time, they stepped over the line.
Replacing Facebook won’t happen overnight. But if access to it is cut in large parts of the world, it could happen faster than you think. As for Twitter and WhatsApp, oh well, dime a dozen. They can kill Parler, but already large numbers of people are switching over to Signal and Telegram. Can’t kill ’em all, @jack.
Talking of which, did you see the Project Veritas video secretly made by a Twitter employee? This is exactly why Twitter will be restricted and banned. @jack threatening to give many other people the same treatment as Trump is a scary sight for many people across the world, politicians or citizens. You know who’s next? You are next.
Plenty politicians want to ban people from all manner of things, but they want to be the ones doing the banning, not @jack. But as Merkel observes, banning someone with no basis whatsoever in law is not what anyone should want. In the end, refusing someone access to social media turns into the same thing as refusing them access to a computer. Or, maybe an even better example, to a phone. Things like that happen very rarely, and never to a President of the United States. Ma Bell, Baby Bells, AT&T, maybe that’s the future of Facebook and Twitter. If they’re lucky.
And while we’re at it, we haven’t even mentioned Google yet. Let’s turn them into baby-Googles too. Because the biggest threat that Silicon Valley poses is not that they ban Trump and actively tried to influence a US presidential election (remember Zuckerberg’s $500 million election fund)?
No, the biggest threat is their algorithms used to spy on you and me to “optimize” us as victims clients for their advertizers. That’s why this is not just about Facebook and Twitter, but certainly also about Google. These are virtual monopolies we’re talking about. And while you’re at it, add Apple and Amazon. It’s their ties to intelligence services that make these companies the most threatening. In the US, this is too far advanced to stop now. But in Europe, there may still be a chance.
This is a big fight when it comes to liberty and personal space. And if you don’t fight it now, you’ve already lost. Pay attention please.
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A wide-ranging anti-coronavirus vaccination campaign began in Moscow on Saturday, with thousands signing up for shots online, in the Russian capital. Frontline workers were given first priority, as previous indicated. Those wishing to participate have to sign up online before receiving their initial dose of Sputnik V at one of the city’s 70 specialist clinics. The vaccine consists of two separate injections, the second jab must be administered 21 days after the first one. The whole procedure, which includes the time needed to cool down the formula after it’s removed from the freezer, takes less than an hour, officials said. Injections are administered to people aged between 18 and 60 that present no chronic health conditions. Those who have had respiratory infections, like flu or common cold, less than two weeks ago, are not eligible. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers are also barred, for now.
On Friday, Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin wrote on his blog that 5,000 people had signed up for the vaccine in five hours after online registration was launched. He said they were doctors, care workers, and teachers, who were “risking their health and lives the most.” Vaccination is free for Russian citizens. Senior health official Alexey Kuznetsov announced that Sputnik V’s maximum commercial price will be 1,942 rubles ($26) for both injections. President Vladimir Putin authorized the start of a large-scale vaccination campaign on Wednesday. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said all of Russia’s regions would roll out their campaigns next week. Meanwhile, select groups of doctors and nurses had already been getting the vaccine, with the priority given to those on the frontline against Covid-19. The vaccination began in some army units as well.
The ruble rose sharply versus the dollar this week, collapsing below the critical 76 level to close this week below 74. More evidence that with Putin’s announcement of Sputnik V vaccine distribution starting Russia the markets are looking for a home where capital can have a prayer in hell of being treated well. Because that will most certainly not be the case in Europe. The only reasons the euro is rising in on political instability in the U.S. and the lack of forward budget thanks to the veto by Hungary and Poland. Because while the euro may be breaking out versus the dollar the bellwether bond markets in Europe, namely German bunds, are rising in yield.
While this isn’t a bear market in any sense since the selling hasn’t overwhelmed ECB buying, it’s also hard to determine if that would ever happen given just how much of the European sovereign debt market the ECB actually owns now. Investors in the West are trying to beat the COVID-19 narrative, pinning their hope of economic recovery on the vaccine restoring normality. But if there is one thing I’ve noted over and over again over the past ten months, it is that the goal posts for normality keep getting moved. Remember 15 days to flatten the curve? Now it’s a 100-day mask mandates with state-by-state full lockdowns. Anyone thinking that we’ll ever return to anything resembling the old world is terminally naïve.
The race for global capital begins now with Russia’s roll out of Sputnik V by the millions of doses. It doesn’t matter if the vaccine works or it doesn’t. Pfizer’s doesn’t. What matters is what excuses politicians can make to fit their agenda. Putin wants to make Russia a destination for global capital, keeping Russia open for business. Russia pushing Sputnik V out the door this quickly is forcing the West’s hand. They wanted bigger lockdowns for longer. Asia will stay open while the West plays games resetting its system. They are really angry at the Russians for being good at math and science.
That is why the race for the vaccine is actually the race for global capital in the end. Because the rollout of the vaccine asymmetrically around the world will be followed by where watching where the capital will flow to. Russia will be one of those places along with everyone they sell it to and everyone they do business with. COVID-19 is a litmus test of governments. Investors are looking around now looking for where the political risk really lies over the next decade. Sanctions, threats and capital controls can only slow the outflow but it can’t stop it.
U.S. deaths from the coronavirus will reach 410,000 by the end of the year, more than double the current death toll, and deaths could soar to 3,000 per day in December, the University of Washington’s health institute forecast on Friday. Deaths could be reduced by 30% if more Americans wore face masks as epidemiologists have advised, but mask-wearing is declining, the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said. The U.S. death rate projected by the IHME model, which has been cited by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, would more than triple the current death rate of some 850 per day.
“We expect the daily death rate in the United States, because of seasonality and declining vigilance of the public, to reach nearly 3,000 a day in December,” the institute, which bills itself as an independent research center, said in an update of its periodic forecasts. “Cumulative deaths expected by January 1 are 410,000; this is 225,000 deaths from now until the end of the year,” the institute said. It previously projected 317,697 deaths by Dec. 1. The model’s outlook for the world was even more dire, with deaths projected to triple to 2.8 million by Jan. 1, 2021. The United States, which has the world’s third largest population, leads the planet with more than 186,000 COVID-19 deaths and 6.1 million coronavirus infections.
[..] The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issues forecasts only four weeks in advance, and its latest estimate is for 200,000 to 211,000 dead by Sept. 26. But the institute said with so many Americans still refusing to wear masks, there remains “an extraordinary opportunity” to save lives. “Increasing mask use to the levels seen in Singapore would decrease the cumulative death toll to 288,000, or 122,000 lives saved compared to the reference scenario,” it said. “Mask use continues to decline from a peak in early August. Declines are notable throughout the Midwest, including in some states such as Illinois and Iowa with increasing case numbers,” the report said.
Although U.S. infections have declined to around 45,000 per day from a peak of around 70,000 per day in July, COVID-19 was the second leading cause of death, the institute said. That would place it behind only heart disease, having surpassed cancer as a cause of death in the United States.
The Florida Department of Health is requiring that all labs in the state report the critical “cycle threshold” level of every COVID-19 test they perform. In a press release this week, the department said that, regarding COVID-19 tests, “cycle threshold (CT) values and their reference ranges, as applicable, must be reported by laboratories to FDOH via electronic laboratory reporting or by fax immediately.” “Cycle thresholds” are the level at which widely used polymerase chain reaction test can detect a sample of the COVID-19 virus.
The higher the number of cycles, the lower the amount of viral load in the sample; the lower the cycles, the more prevalent the virus was in the original sample. Numerous epidemiological experts have argued that cycle thresholds are an important metric by which patients and the public can make an informed decision about how infectious and/or sick an individual with a positive COVID-19 test might be. However, health departments across the country are failing to collect that data.
The world’s appetite for borrowing is growing with global debt expected to reach the next milestone of $200 trillion as early as this year, according to ratings agency S&P Global. That will reportedly account for 265 percent of the world’s annual economic output, amounting to a 14-point rise as a percentage of world GDP. The dramatic surge was triggered by both the economic plunge due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the extra borrowing that governments, firms and households have had to fall back upon, the New York-based agency said. “Global debt-to-GDP has been trending up for many years; the pandemic simply exacerbated the rise,” the report reads.
Despite mounting debt and a series of defaults over the coming year, the S&P doesn’t expect a major crisis any time soon. “The projected 14-percent surge in global debt-to-GDP in 2020 is unlikely to cause a near-term debt crisis, provided economies recover, vaccines are widely distributed, interest rates remain very low, and borrowing behavior moderates,” the agency said. The global debt-to-GDP ratio will reportedly ease back to 256 percent within two years, as soon as the world economy gets back on its feet after the pandemic. “We expect the debt growth of corporates, governments, and household to ease as they tend to after recessions,” the report reads.
That Putin wanted Tump to win was one of the leading themes used by Democratic-Party-allied media outlets to attack Trump, rendering it crippling for Sanders to be similarly tied to Moscow, particularly given the perception that Putin would help Sanders because the Kremlin judged him to be the weakest candidate against the GOP president. Indeed, The Post article explicitly drew the Sanders/Trump comparison (emphasis added): The disclosure of Russian assistance to Sanders follows a briefing to lawmakers last week in which a senior intelligence official said that Russia wants to see Trump reelected, viewing his administration as more favorable to the Kremlin’s interests, according to people who were briefed on the comments. . . .
The prospect of two rival campaigns both receiving help from Moscow appears to reflect what intelligence officials have previously described as Russia’s broader interest in sowing division in the United States and uncertainty about the validity of American elections. Reflecting his 2020 strategy of trying to appease the Democratic establishment in lieu of his more successful 2016 strategy of proudly positioning himself as its adversary, Sanders by this point had repeatedly echoed the maximalist conspiracy theories about Trump and Russia, leaving him with little room to maneuver once this Cold War tactic was predictably deployed against him. After suggesting the leak to The Post was intended to harm his campaign, he had no other options beyond sputtering with faux-toughness about how he would show Putin who was boss.
In other words — both prior to the leak and after — Sanders repeatedly validated rather than scorned the CIA’s Russia narrative (just as he did with the equally cynical Bernie Bro attacks). So it put him in a defensive crouch for the rest of the campaign, unable to explain why Putin — Public Enemy Number One among the Democratic Party base — was trying to help him win.
It seems the subject of Donald Trump, like necessity, is the mother of invention, at least when it comes to legal analysis. From bribery statutes to constitutional provisions, legal experts routinely and unfailingly conclude that Trump or his family can be prosecuted or impeached for an endless array of misdeeds. Even theories denied by the Supreme Court are seen as valid when used against Trump. Now the same certainty has been declared on whether Trump can grant himself a pardon. One of the longest standing debates in constitutional law is dismissed as ill-informed by some of the same experts. His role as a catalyst for clarity was apparent in an interview by Harvard professor Laurence Tribe.
After host Lawrence O’Donnell said he believed a president could give himself a pardon, Tribe proclaimed such a view is “incoherent and incompatible” as a constitutional matter. The declaration likely surprised few on MSNBC. Tribe has been an outspoken critic of Trump, whom he has denounced as a “terrorist,” and he has supported a wide array of criminal and constitutional claims against him. These views are popular as are Tribe’s increasingly personal diatribes, including vulgar attacks on Republican leaders and even a false attack on Attorney William Barr for his Catholic faith. For the record, I have maintained that a president can grant himself a pardon. I held that position before Trump took office. I also believe a president can be indicted in office.
The reason is the same: The Constitution prohibits neither a self-pardon nor a presidential indictment. This is not the first time that Tribe and I have disagreed. Two decades ago, we testified together at the impeachment hearing of President Clinton. At that time, Tribe was far more restrictive in his legal and constitutional interpretations, declaring that lying under oath in the Clinton case would not be an impeachable offense. While a federal court and Democrats agreed that Clinton knowingly committed perjury, Tribe insisted that a president could commit perjury in certain circumstances and not be impeached. Thus, a president can commit a felony for which thousands have been incarcerated, including those prosecuted by his own administration, but he should not be removed from office for the same act.
[..] The stronger argument against a presidential self-pardon is not the textual one raised by Tribe but, simply, that the Constitution should be read to include a principle against self-dealing. Yet presidents regularly engage in all forms of self-dealing, from nepotism to favoritism to cronyism, without a hint of constitutional difficulty. Bill Clinton not only appointed his wife to head a major federal commission on health care but pardoned his own half-brother. The Framers did not bar such forms of self-dealing any more than they barred self-pardons. This is why Trump can pardon himself, and why he should not do so. Just as I denounced Clinton for abusing the pardon powers, I believe such a step by Trump would be an even greater abuse. In other words, it would be as constitutional as it would be wrong.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) faces an uphill battle if he challenges the Electoral College and backs President Trump on Jan. 6, when Congress is scheduled to certify Democrat Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential race. Brooks said this week he has been sharing his plan with fellow House members in hopes of invoking the 12th Amendment and helping Trump win. At least one senator must partner with Brooks to trigger a vote on an electoral challenge, and Brooks told Fox News Radio on Thursday, “We have some leads for United States Senators who may do it.” Under the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, in a contingent election no candidate wins a majority of Electoral College votes, and the election is thrown to the U.S. House of Representatives.
There, each state’s delegation has one vote, and a candidate must receive the votes of a majority of state delegations to win. Because of the calendar, the new Congress is the one that decides, not the outgoing one. In the new Congress, there are more states with Republican delegations than Democratic ones, so in that scenario, Trump would win. “Thank you to Representative Mo Brooks,” Trump tweeted Thursday morning after news of Brooks’ intention broke. “Ask your senators and congressman if they will object to any Electoral College certification of Joe Biden on January 6,” Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch tweeted Nov. 23. It’s unlikely, however, that Brooks would be able to successfully invoke the 12th Amendment if he can’t get a majority of both the House and the Senate to support his efforts.
Brooks said he doesn’t think he needs a majority. Legal experts disagree, arguing that while a single member of the House and Senate can raise an objection, majorities in both the House and the Senate would have to approve it for any electoral votes to be tossed out. This would not happen under a Democratic-controlled House. “They are misunderstanding the law,” says election law expert Hans von Spakovsky. The procedures for the counting of Electoral College votes in Congress are set forth in 3 U.S.C. 15, according to von Spakovsky, a former member of the Federal Election Commission and manager of the Heritage Foundation’s Election Law Reform Initiative.
“What it says is that an objection can be filed to the certification of votes from the states when they are being counted in the joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, if it is signed by one member of the House and one member of the Senate,” he told Just the News. “However, the Senate and the House then each have to stage a vote on the objection, which obviously will not go forward unless a majority of senators and a majority of representatives approve of the objection.”
It’s all happening at once for the EU. Fundamental problems and disputes, long fudged, postponed or ignored, are simultaneously coming to a head. Is this a union of shared values or of economic interests? Who pays the bills? How is Europe best defended when the US cannot be trusted? What about Turkey? And then there’s “bloody Brexit”. Little wonder some are predicting a nervous collapse. These fraught issues and more will converge at this week’s “doomsday” EU summit, presaging greater-than-usual fractiousness. But if it is as inconclusive as many previous gatherings, the European project faces serious trouble. Implementation of the €1.1tn, seven-year EU budget and €750bn Covid recovery fund cannot sensibly be delayed much longer. Yet two states – Poland and Hungary – are blocking the way.
Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s rightwing populist leader, and Mateusz Morawiecki, Poland’s prime minister, jointly declared last week they would veto the budget if it retained “rule of law” criteria requiring adherence to EU-defined standards of judicial independence. Both governments are in long-running disputes over what Brussels views as their illiberal, “un-European” policies on judges, media freedom and women’s and gender rights. They reject what they call “politically motivated” meddling. The fact that the row is blocking timely pandemic relief shames the EU. If it cannot unite to fight this unprecedented human emergency, voters will ask, then what can it do? Even the experienced German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who holds the EU presidency, is flailing as the French and others insist they will not bow to authoritarian diktats.
This dispute, plus ongoing tensions over the cost of an expanded budget now UK contributions are ending, prompted an intriguing intervention last week from António Costa, the Portuguese prime minister. Portugal assumes the EU presidency next month, and is staring aghast at the can of worms it’s inheriting. Costa’s proposal was suitably radical: effectively split the EU in two, and thus save it, by recognising irreconcilable internal differences. This variation on the old idea of a two-speed or two-tier Europe would be based not on geography but on values, Costa suggested. It would separate the so-called “frugal” states – the Netherlands, Austria and Nordic countries concerned about high spending and fiscal transfers – plus east European states opposed to rule of law mechanisms and migrant quotas – Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – from the remainder.
“Basically, it is whether the EU is a union of values or whether, on the contrary, it is primarily an economic instrument,” Costa argued. Countries opposing further integration would benefit from “variable geometries” while others like France, and southern states such as Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, could pursue their version of ever closer union. It’s a brave idea that Costa, reportedly with French backing, will pursue at a special spring summit in Lisbon. Yet it has a major flaw. Germany, the EU’s chief paymaster with a current net budget contribution of €12.8bn, gives lip service to EU integration and solidarity. But it has a deeply ingrained horror of underwriting the profligacy and pipe-dreams of indebted fellow eurozone members.
This same German reluctance hinders Emmanuel Macron’s ambitions for a unified “global Europe” to match the US and China: Berlin fears it will end up footing the bill, financially and politically. When France’s president called again last month for a sovereign European defence strategy, Germany’s defence minister, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, slapped him down. “The idea of strategic autonomy for Europe goes too far if it nurtures the illusion that we could ensure Europe’s security, stability and prosperity without Nato and the US … Germany and Europe cannot protect themselves without America’s nuclear and conventional power. This is simply a fact,” she said. Macron was furious.
Britain must end all oil and gas extraction in the North Sea as a matter of urgency if it is to maintain its position as a credible climate champion. That was the stark warning issued by green campaigners yesterday in the wake of last week’s decision by Denmark to halt its exploration for new North Sea reserves as part of its commitment to cut carbon emissions and tackle climate change. The Danish decision is an embarrassment for Boris Johnson who announced last week that Britain would take a lead in the battle against global heating by cutting national carbon emissions by 68% by 2030, a rate faster than any other major economy. However, the UK has not announced plans to end exploration in the North Sea for new gas and oil fields or to halt extraction there – despite the established link between global warming and fossil fuel extraction and burning.
By announcing its North Sea ban last week, say campaigners, Denmark has undermined Johnson’s attempt to portray himself as a world climate leader next Saturday when he is scheduled to co-host a virtual Climate Ambition summit of world leaders. “If the UK is to be a real global climate leader, it must follow Denmark’s lead by stopping issuing new oil and gas exploration licences and delivering a managed phase-out of oil and gas extraction,” said Ken Penton, UK climate campaigner for the international NGO, Global Witness. “This must include funding a just transition for oil and gas workers and their communities to ensure they can benefit from the new green economy and do not suffer the fate of UK coal miners and their communities.”
The Danish government voted on Thursday to cancel the country’s next North Sea oil and gas licensing round, 80 years after it first began exploiting its hydrocarbon reserves. Denmark’s 55 existing platforms, spread across 20 oil and gas fields, will be allowed to continue extracting fossil fuels but the decision to end the hunt for new reserves will guarantee an end to Denmark’s fossil fuel production.
Pennsylvania is prohibited from certifying the rest of its election results in down ballot races — and from taking any further action in regards to yesterday’s certification of the presidential race — pending a hearing on Friday in an appellate court, or intervention by the state Supreme Court. The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, in an order signed by Judge Patricia McCullough, issued an injunction Wednesday that stops the state from continuing its certification, and intends to hear evidence in a case filed by U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly and GOP congressional candidate Sean Parnell about the constitutionality of mail-in ballots. Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar, Gov. Tom Wolf and the state — named as defendants in the suit — appealed the Commonwealth Court order to the state Supreme Court.
As it stands now, the hearing in Commonwealth Court is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Friday. The state certified the results in the race for president on Tuesday, giving its 20 electoral votes to Democrat Joe Biden and his running mate, California Sen. Kamala Harris. The court order said the state is prohibited from acting “to the extent that there remains any further action to perfect the certification of the results” of the races for president and vice president. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro wrote on Twitter that the order “does not impact yesterday’s appointment of electors.” In their suit, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Parnell are arguing that state lawmakers violated Pennsylvania’s Constitution by adopting Act 77 last year, which expanded the mail-in balloting option to let all qualified voters to vote by mail without an excuse.
They allege that absentee voting — which required an excuse from a set of allowed reasons — was rebranded as no-excuse mail-in voting “absent any constitutional authority.” The Republican-controlled state Legislature responded, in legal filings, that the case should be dismissed because Act 77 didn’t alter the requirements of who constitutes a qualified voter, and that the Legislature is constitutionally authorized to prescribe the method by which those electors may cast their votes.
Prominent defense attorney Sidney Powell sued Georgia’s top officials late Wednesday, alleging in federal court that the GOP-run state government permitted a massive voter fraud scheme that rigged the Nov. 3 election in favor of Democrat Joe Biden. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Atlanta on behalf of several Georgia residents, electors and Republican Party officials and named Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and state election board members as defendants. The 104-page complaint asked the court to issue an injunction “prohibiting the Governor and Secretary of State from transmitting the currently certified results to the Electoral College based on the overwhelming evidence of election tampering.”
“The fraud was executed by many means, but the most fundamentally troubling, insidious, and egregious is the systemic adaptation of old-fashioned ‘ballot-stuffing,'” Powell’s suit alleged. “It has now been amplified and rendered virtually invisible by computer software created and run by domestic and foreign actors for that very purpose. Mathematical and statistical anomalies rising to the level of impossibilities, as shown by affidavits of multiple witnesses, documentation, and expert testimony evince this scheme across the state of Georgia. “This scheme and artifice to defraud affected tens of thousands of votes in Georgia alone and ‘rigged’ the election in Georgia for Joe Biden,” the suit added.
Powell’s suit made a variety of allegations, including that:
• At least 96,600 absentee ballots were requested and counted but were never recorded as being returned to county election boards by the voter. “Thus, at a minimum, 96,600 votes must be disregarded,” the suit said.
• Kemp and Raffensperger “rushed through the purchase of Dominion voting machines and software in 2019 for the 2020 Presidential Election” without due diligence and disregarded safety concerns.
• “There is incontrovertible physical evidence that the standards of physical security of the voting machines and the software were breached, and machines were connected to the internet in violation of professional standards and state and federal laws.”
• Fulton County election workers used a claim of a water leak to evacuate poll watchers and workers for several hours on Election night, even as “several election workers remained unsupervised and unchallenged working at the computers for the voting tabulation machines until after 1:00 AM.
• State officials in a settlement with Democratic parties made changes to election procedures that violated both state law and the U.S. Constitution.
Strenstrom Missing USB cards
Upon the request of Pennsylvania Senator Doug Mastriano (R), the state’s Senate Majority Policy Committee is holding a public hearing to discuss election issues and irregularities at 12:30 ET. Former NYC Mayor and current Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani will appear. President Trump was slated to join him, only to cancel following adviser Boris Epshteyn’s Covid-19 diagnosis.
[..] President Trump joined the PA hearing by phone and was immediately on the offense, saying that “this is an election we won easily. We won it by a lot. This election has to be turned around.” “What we saw on November 3rd was not the United States of America. Democrats cheated. It was a fraudulent election. It would be very easy for me to wait 4 years and try again. We can’t wait for 4 years. Don’t be intimidated by these people. They don’t love our country!” “They kept poll watchers in pens in Philadelphia and then they threw them out of the building. You couldn’t see a thing on those cameras. They could have been playing a baseball game.”
“It’s a disgrace this is happening to our country. We got 11 million more votes than we did 4 years ago. At 10pm in the evening we were way ahead. Everybody knows we won it. The whole world is watching us. We can’t let them get away with this. We have more votes than voters!” Trump ends his remarks by telling Giuliani over speakerphone: “This is going to be your crowning achievement because you’re saving our country.”
President Trump on Wednesday fully pardoned his former national security adviser Michael Flynn, bringing to end a tumultuous four-year criminal case that felled the three-star general before prosecutors reversed course and declared they had improperly pursued his prosecution. Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, had pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about talking with a Russian diplomat during the 2016 Trump administration transition period. Attorney General William Barr earlier this year asked a federal court in Washington, D.C., to allow the Justice Department to drop the case. However, the matter has since been tied up in legal proceedings.
Trump informed the general and his lawyer Sidney Powell of the decision Wednesday afternoon, ahead of Thanksgiving Day. Flynn was elated by the news and the two men talked “like they had never missed a day since the campaign or early White House days,” an eyewitness told Just the News. Trump announced the news on his Twitter page. “It is my Great Honor to announce that General Michael T. Flynn has been granted a Full Pardon. Congratulations to @GenFlynn, and his wonderful family, I know you will now have a truly fantastic Thanksgiving!” he tweeted. Sidney Powell, the defense lawyer who doggedly sought to prove Flynn’s innocence post conviction, applauded the decision, suggesting it was necessary because the U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan had refused to dismiss the lying charge, even after DOJ pleaded it be done.
“The pardon of Michael Flynn is solely up to the President, but given the corruption we have witnessed in the judiciary and multiple agencies of government executed against General Flynn, this persecution should end,” she said. “The FBI and DOJ have been a national embarrassment for more than 15 years. It was my fervent hope to make our judicial system work to exonerate an innocent man–as all the Left would want were he anyone but Trump or Michael Flynn, but enough is enough. This is sick. It’s painfully obvious Judge Sullivan is playing an evil political game with a good man’s life and family. The entire country deserves better.”
The Supreme Court late Wednesday struck down New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new COVID-19 restrictions on religious gatherings, as new Justice Amy Coney Barrett cast one of her first high-impact votes and Chief Justice John Roberts sided in dissent with the court’s liberal bloc. In a 5-4 decision, the court said Cuomo’s restrictions violated the Constitution’s First Amendment right to freedom of worship and granted an injunction barring the rules from being enforced. “Members of this Court are not public health experts, and we should respect the judgment of those with special expertise and responsibility in this area,” the majority opinion said. “But even in a pandemic, the Constitution cannot be put away and forgotten. The restrictions at issue here, by effectively barring many from attending religious services, strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”
Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a separate opinion siding with the conservative majority, saying churches and synagogues were treated differently than commercial institutions by the state. “It is time — past time — to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues, and mosques,” Gorsuch argued. Roberts’ dissenting opinion accused the court of acting irrationally and disregarding the public health expertise of the state. “It is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic,” he wrote.
Mandatory vaccination does not automatically increase vaccine uptake. An EU-funded project on epidemics and pandemics, which took place several years before COVID-19, found no evidence to support this notion. Looking at Baltic and Scandinavian countries, the project’s report noted that countries “where a vaccination is mandatory do not usually reach better coverage than neighbour or similar countries where there is no legal obligation”. According to the Nuffield Council of Bioethics, mandatory vaccination may be justified for highly contagious and serious diseases. But although contagious, Public Health England does not classify COVID-19 as a high-consequence infectious disease due to its relatively low case fatality rate.
COVID-19 severity is strongly linked with age, dividing individual perceptions of vulnerability within populations. The death rate is estimated at 7.8% in people aged over 80, but at just 0.0016% in children aged nine and under. In a liberal democracy, forcing the vaccination of millions of young and healthy citizens who perceive themselves to be at an acceptably low risk from COVID-19 will be ethically disputed and is politically risky. Public apprehensions for a novel vaccine produced at breakneck speed are wholly legitimate. A UK survey of 70,000 people found 49% were “very likely” to get a COVID-19 vaccine once available. US surveys are similar. This is not because the majority are anti-vaxxers.
Despite promising headlines, the trials and pharmaceutical processes surrounding them have not yet been scrutinised. With the first trials only beginning in April, there is limited data on long-term safety and efficacy. We don’t know how long immunity lasts for. None of the trials were designed to tell us if the vaccine prevents serious disease or virus transmission. To disregard these ubiquitous concerns would be counterproductive. As a tool for combating anti-vaxxers – estimated at around 58 million globally and making up a small minority of those not getting vaccinated – mandatory vaccines are also problematic. The forces driving scientific and political populism are the same. Anti-vaxxers do not trust experts, industry and especially not the government. A government mandate will not just be met with unshakeable defiance, but will also be weaponised to recruit others to the anti-vaxxer cause.
Cuba has announced positive and promising results for a number of separate COVID-19 vaccines it is currently developing, but U.S. sanctions against the small island nation are hampering the development and rollout of the potentially life-saving treatments. Two candidates, named Sovereign 1 and Sovereign 2, have generated antibodies blocking infection in animals and are showing similarly encouraging signs on tests on human subjects. Meanwhile, a separate vaccine, based on a protein from the hepatitis B virus, is unique in that it is delivered through the nasal tract and does not require a needle to administer.
Should any of these efforts ultimately succeed, the Caribbean nation — already a medical powerhouse that has developed a lung cancer vaccine and methods to stop mother-to-baby HIV and syphilis transmission— will likely become an important supplier to other Latin American and developing countries who have been effectively shut out from purchasing COVID vaccines from Western companies, as rich nations have already begun hoarding coronavirus medicines. Dr. Helen Yaffe of Glasgow University, author of “We Are Cuba!: How a Revolutionary People Have Survived in a Post-Soviet World,” was impressed and heartened by the news, telling MintPress:
“Cuba now has four COVID-specific vaccine candidates under clinical trial. The fact that a small Caribbean island can achieve such a remarkable feat is testimony to its state-owned biotech sector, which is directed towards public health demands and integrated into its healthcare and education systems. After years of being told that only the market can lead to efficiency and innovation, Cuba’s socialist planned economy demonstrates what is possible when there is political will, good coordination, organization and the priority of social welfare.”
However, Cuban immunization developments are being seriously hamstrung by the actions of the U.S. government, primarily due to the decades-long blockade on the island, something which the Cuban government estimates has cost it over 750 billion U.S. dollars. As Reuters reported, cash-strapped Cuba cannot afford to buy the raw materials necessary to upscale its vaccine development to help other countries. Hospitals face huge obstacles importing lifesaving equipment from abroad due to the blockade, while the sanctions force the country, which imports the large majority of its staples, to spend far more on food than other nations. As a result, almost one third of young children suffer from anemia due to the monotonous and sub-par nutrition available, according to the World Food Program.
The World Health Organization has named the scientists on an international team tracing the origins of the new coronavirus, as their mission gathers steam some 11 months after the virus was identified. The 10-person team includes public health experts, animal health specialists and virus hunters from Japan, Qatar, Germany, Vietnam, Russia, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Britain and the United States. They will work alongside Chinese scientists on a set of investigations into how the virus that causes Covid-19 emerged and spilled over into humans, triggering a pandemic that has now claimed over 1.4 million lives.
The WHO on Monday said the names of the international team members had been shared with member states and released online, despite concerns about harassment given that the virus origins have become a highly contentious subject. “There has been a level of attack and abuse to people involved in international science. It is not an easy space to be in right now and let me be plain about that,” said Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme. He pointed to hate mail and threats within a climate of “anti-science movements” and “ideologic politics”. “We would like to thank them for their openness and transparency and for allowing us to release their names. That’s not an easy choice,” he said at a news briefing.
[..] One hanging question is when the international team will join field studies on the ground in China, considered a critical part of the mission, which was called for by over 130 nations at a May meeting of the WHO’s governing body.
Ryan on Monday said they “fully expect” the international team will be on the ground for this work, and they would like the scientists to be “deployed as soon as possible”. “We have reassurances from our Chinese government colleagues that … a field part of the mission will be facilitated as soon as possible, in order that the international community can be reassured of the quality of the science,” he said.
Any mention of the prosecution of Julian Assange has been removed from the EU’s latest report on fundamental rights, despite the best efforts of MEPs such as Ireland’s Clare Daly. The European Parliament passed the final version of the fundamental rights report for 2018 – 2019 on 25 November, excluding any mention of imprisoned publisher and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. An amendment to include reference to Mr Assange lost with 408 votes against its inclusion, 191 votes in favour and 93 abstentions. Chris Williamson, a former Labour MP and long-time supporter of Mr Assange, lamented the final vote, saying:
“This is a sad day for European democracy, freedom of speech and human rights. The European Parliament has failed to live up to its rhetoric about standing for fundamental rights. It has shown itself to be nothing more than a paper tiger that is content with being the US administration’s poodle”. The original draft of the fundamental rights report contained a passage saying that “the detention and criminal prosecution of Julian Assange sets a dangerous precedent for journalists as affirmed by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe” But, according to Irish MEP Clare Daly, a committee of European parliamentarians made up of the European People’s Party (EPP), the Socialists and Democrats (S&D) and the Renew Europe party voted to remove the passage from the report, on 23 November.
The Left group of MEPs (European United Left/Nordic Green Left) and Ms Daly, who was actually in charge of preparing the original draft report, lobbied heavily for the passage to be returned into the final draft. In a video published on 23 November, Ms Daly called upon EU citizens to contact their MEPs and push them to reinsert the paragraph mentioning Mr Assange, via Amendment 44, in their final vote. “I believe that no report on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union could possibly be taken seriously if it fails to mention the Trump administration’s radical and dangerous prosecution of a journalist for important journalism that was carried out in the European Union”, Ms Daley said in her message.
It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that the first half of 2020 has brought, among many other things, renewed calls for the demise of the US dollar. It’s been pretty much a non-stop call for over a decade now, and longer. But this time, like all previous ones, I’m thinking: I don’t see it. I guess my first question is always: please explain why the dollar would collapse before the euro does.
For one thing, the dollar would have to collapse/default against one or more “entities”. The dollar is not like one of those highrises that collapse upon themselves. It will have to default or collapse against something(s) else. Since it is the world reserve currency, that means there would have to be a replacement reserve currency. Yes, that could also be for example gold or SDR’s, or even a basket of currencies, and something like that may happen eventually, but it doesn’t appear in the cards in the short run.
There are really only two candidates for the role, and neither looks at all fit to play it. The euro may have some ambitions in that direction, but it has far too many problems still. The yuan/renminbi certainly has such ambitions, but the Communist party refuses to let it get on stage to show what it’s got. As I recently wrote:
The main sticking point for Beijing is a conundrum it cannot solve. The CCP wants to have BOTH a global currency AND total control over that currency. It will have to choose between the two, and cannot make up its mind. So it pretends it doesn’t have to choose. Sure, there has been some advancement for the yuan, but I bet most of that is on the back of the Belt and Road (BRI), and that will turn out to be one of the main victims of the coronavirus. The BRI is China’s very clever way of exporting its overproduction, but potential buyers have other things on their mind today.
Meanwhile, even with that, the yuan is used in only 1.8% of cross-currency payments. [..] The sudden, and rushed, take-over of Hong Kong with the new security law will not help China’s plans to be accepted internationally. [..] The world’s large investors will not put their money into something that Xi Jinping can declare devalued by 50% on a rainy morning when he sees fit. He will have to cede that kind of control.
The euro has made some gains vs the USD recently, going from 1.07 to 1.16 or so, but that means very little once you look at the broader picture. Moreover, the reason the financial press provides for -much of- those gains, which is that the EU supposedly showed “unity” in its recent Recovery Fund talks, is bollocks.
If it showed one thing, it was a lack of unity. That’s why these were the longest talks they ever had. And if this had not been Angela Merkel’s last hurrah, they might not have agreed at all. They paid off the Frugal Four to the tune of hundreds of millions, and that’s how they got a deal. Horse traders.
A simple screenshot from Bloomberg of the USD vs EUR over the last five years makes clear why the recent changes are no big deal. (All BBG screenshots are from July 24 just before 10 AM EDT and all cover a 5 year period.)
A reserve currency has two roles: being the currency that most international trade is conducted in, and -closely related- being the currency that countries hold most as foreign exchange (FX) reserves. After WWII, the US dollar became the most important currency for trade more or less by default, a position that it greatly strengthened with the petrodollar.
A 2015 SWIFT paper provides details about the US dollar’s share of international trade:
The US dollar prevails as the dominant international trade currency, with a 51.9% share of the value of international currency usage in 2014. The euro is second, with a 30.5% share of the total value. The British pound is third, with a 5.4% share of the total value, followed by Asian currencies such as the Japanese yen and the Chinese yuan.
That’s from five years ago, but things won’t have changed much. The system is complex and inert, it has a very strong resistance against large and sudden changes. (Do note that the euro’s share of international trade is substantially skewed because it includes payments between countries that use the euro as their currency, plus those EU countries that don’t -yet-). Single market, international trade.
The drop from 66 percent in 2015 to 62 percent in 2018, is probably a statistical artifact related to changes in the reporting of reserves. Compared with 2007, however, the dollar’s share of global FX reserves has declined by 2 percentage points while the euro’s share is down 6 percentage points. Over this period, the Japanese yen’s share has risen by 2 percentage points, while other less prominent reserve currencies have increased their total share by 4 percentage points. The renminbi, which was not an official reserve currency in 2007, now accounts for 2 percent of global FX reserves. [..] .. the euro has stumbled, the renminbi has stalled, and dollar supremacy remains unchallenged.
[..] In July 2019, China’s total official reserve assets amounted to just over $3.2 trillion, of which $3.1 trillion (97 percent of the total) was held in the form of FX reserves. Gold holdings amounted to about $89 billion [..] Coming amid rising trade tensions with the U.S., the 5 percent increase in China’s gold stock and the 24 percent increase in the value of its official gold holdings during 2019 have been interpreted as a sign of China’s attempting to diversify its reserve holdings away from U.S. dollars.
If this interpretation was indeed correct, China has a long way to go. Gold now accounts for 3 percent of China’s gross international reserves. From a global financial market perspective, and especially relative to its overall international reserves, the $18 billion increase in the value of China’s gold reserves during 2019 is trivial; it barely registers as a shift in the composition of China’s overall reserves.
Assuming that China still holds 58 percent of its FX reserves in dollar-denominated assets, the value of those assets in July 2019 was $1.8 trillion. So, the value of its gold reserves, $94 billion, is a mere one twentieth of that of China’s dollar-denominated reserves.
With the euro and yuan out of the way as potential reserve currency candidates, we can take a look at gold. Senior commenter Dr.D at the Automatic Earth recently wrote: “As advertised, the US$ is defaulting. What? Where? US$ has been cut in half compared to Silver in 3 months. US$ has been cut in half compared to BTC in 3 months. US$ has been cut in half compared to Gold in 4 years.
Like many people talking about a USD demise, perhaps that’s too much of a dollar-centric view and conclusion. Surely gold and silver can rise vs the USD without announcing an imminent collapse of the latter. And since precious metals tend to go up in times of uncertainty, and COVID has brought shovels full of just that, you would expect them to rise.
Therefore you would have to also look at how they do vs for example the euro, before concluding anything. Note: I didn’t include Bitcoin because it’s too new and volatile. Makes me think of the Lindy Effect, often cited by Nassim Taleb, the idea that the older something is, the longer it’s likely to be around in the future.
Here are a few more Bloomberg screenshots. And yes, gold has done well vs the USD in, say, the past two years, no doubt.
But gold has pretty much followed the exact same pattern vs the euro:
Silver has done even better, more recently, vs the USD, though compared to where it was in 2016 it’s not that big a step (barely more than 10%):
And the pattern of silver vs the euro is so similar it’s almost eery.
I don’t see anything there that would make me think the dollar is collapsing, no more than the euro is. What I see is gold and silver rising. People move into precious metals, perceived as safe havens; they always do when the world is in turmoil. And don’t forget there are trillions in additional recent central bank money sloshing around that have to move somewhere.
As for the changes of the USD vs the euro: we’ve already seen that they are not exceptional. Losing a few percent vs the euro will not collapse the dollar.
Also, there’s something missing in the discussion as far as I’ve seen: the option that it’s the US itself that wants a lower dollar at this point in time, and actively works to get it lower. A strong dollar works for a strong economy, but not for one weakened by a pandemic and an acrimonious political climate.
But the US has borrowed so much money!, you say. Yes, but so have Europe, and Japan, and China, everyone has who could.
A little more about gold, since some are clamoring for a return to the gold standard. Which is not likely, because too many parties would resist, either for ideological or practical reasons. But say you would consider it, then you would as one of the first things you do, look at gold reserves. Here are the top ten gold holding countries per March 2020, as assembled by TradingEconomics.com:
Note: Britain is not there, because “Between 1999 and 2002 the Treasury sold 401 tonnes of gold – out of its 715-tonne holding – at an average price of $275 an ounce, generating about $3.5bn during the period.” (BBC). Gold is at $1,900 today. Nuff said.
The US gold reserves are so large it would appear to give them an unfair advantage if a gold standard were considered. Same as they have in the current set-up. Then again, if you insert population numbers into the equation, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, even the Netherlands, have more in relative terms. Question is: where does that leave all the others?
Long story short: I don’t see a US dollar default or collapse in the near future. But by all means enlighten me.
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It’s very bad luck to draw the line
On the night before the world ends
We can draw the line some other time
I was waiting for the British RussiaRussia report, but the parliamentary committee had basically only this to say: “Committee members said they could not definitively conclude whether the Kremlin had or had not successfully interfered in the Brexit vote because no effort had been made to find out.” Though they do know that “Russia sees the UK as one of its “top targets” in the west”. Sure guys, you’re really important. Yawn.
The EU reached a €750 billion COVID deal (and a long-term new budget deal) by engaging in horse trading: European Commission head Michel offered Dutch PM Rutte an additional €350 million annual discount on the Dutch contribution to the EU from 2021-2027, and then all principles went AWOL.
Meanwhile, rumors about vaccines move entire “markets”, something PR firms for Big Pharma and the CCP are all too eager to encourage.
Oh, and after today there really is nothing at all left of the credibility of the Steele dossier. Which leaves us asking why Robert Mueller was ever hired as Special Counsel. Who was behind that?
Madison WI has UW and the State Capitol a few blocks from each other. A perfect place to protest and a willing group to protest (also not hot).
(Not partisan, what happens when you have large gatherings, no masks, no social distancing, and lots of yelling/singing)
A coronavirus vaccine under early development by Chinese researchers produced a significant immune response for hundreds of volunteers, in one of two new studies offering hope as scientists race to develop a vaccine to counter the global pandemic. The Chinese scientists have completed phase two of their trial, published in The Lancet medical journal on Monday, which found that one injection of either a low or medium dose of the vaccine “induced significant neutralising antibody responses to live Sars-CoV-2”, the name for the novel coronavirus. An earlier phase-one trial of the vaccine had produced immune responses, but the latest trial was widened to include individuals aged 55 or older, given their higher risk of death from the Covid-19 virus.
“Single-dose immunisation with the vaccine induced rapid onset of immune responses within 14 days, and significant humoral and cellular immune responses within 28 days in the majority of the recipients,” the team of Chinese scientists, led by Zhu Fengcai from the Jiangsu Provincial Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Guan Xuhua from the Hubei Provincial CDC, wrote. [..] Most of the participants given the vaccine at a centre in central China’s Wuhan reported mild or moderate reactions, most commonly fatigue, fever and headache. Seventy-four per cent of the 129 individuals who received the lower dose and 72 per cent of those who received the medium dose reported at least one negative reaction but none had serious adverse reactions.
Scientists from Oxford University’s Jenner Institute also published findings from an early vaccine trial on Monday in The Lancet. In that trial 543 participants were injected with an experimental coronavirus vaccine, produced with the Cambridge-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. The vaccine produced both humoral and cellular responses against Sars-CoV-2, with antibodies for the virus peaking 28 days after vaccination and continuing to remain high up to two months later, the scientists said. The most common side effects from the Oxford vaccine included fatigue, which was reported by 70 per cent of participants, and headache, reported by 68 per cent. Other reactions included muscle ache, malaise and feeling feverish but there were no serious adverse events.
More than 500 women imprisoned at Federal Medical Center Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas, have tested positive for COVID-19. The facility has the second-most cases out of all federal prisons in the United States, and one of the prisoners who has tested positive is NSA whistleblower Reality Winner. Last week, The Dissenter reported that COVID-19 cases tripled at Carswell in one week. The article included comments from Winner’s sister Brittany Winner. Staff at Carswell apparently read the story, and according to Brittany Winner, she is experiencing retaliation for our reporting. “Reality is being retaliated against for speaking out about the conditions in the prison, but she won’t stop fighting for better treatment for herself and her fellow inmates,” Brittany Winner declared.
“She will continue to update us, and I want everyone to know that we are watching and won’t stop being her voice.” Brittany Winner continued, “I am terrified that she will develop severe symptoms and require urgent medical care, but with the huge swell of cases in FMC Carswell and the likelihood that the region’s hospitals are already overwhelmed, I have no confidence that she will receive the care she needs.” “She belongs at home where she can be safely quarantined and receive medical care,” Brittany Winner contended. It took at least five days for Reality Winner to receive the results of her COVID-19 test, and fortunately, she has not exhibited symptoms of the virus yet.
Reality Winner is waiting on the 11th Circuit to rule on an appeal that she filed after a lower court denied her request for compassionate release. As her attorneys warned in May, “The entire basis for Reality’s motion—and so many like hers—is that she cannot afford to wait until she is removed from FMC Carswell in a stretcher, or worse, before she is afforded relief.”
US President Donald Trump’s decision to take action against Beijing over its imposition of a new security law on Hong Kong is unlikely to undermine the city’s dollar peg system or its role as a financial hub in the short term, but escalating conflict between the US and China raises questions about the long-term outlook, according to analysts. Trump last week issued an executive order ending the city’s special economic treatment and enacted the Hong Kong Autonomy Act, which paves the way for punishment of Chinese and Hong Kong officials accused of curbing the autonomy of the ex-British colony, as well as the financial institutions that do business with them. The US State Department has 90 days to designate individuals or entities in contravention of the law, after which banks will have one year to cease business relations.
Only a few banks are expected to be targeted, and they would be allowed to appeal for removal from the US government’s sanctions list, analysts said. This has eased worries over a full-blown US-China financial war, as well as other extreme scenarios in the short-run, said Alicia Garcia Herrero, chief economist for Asia-Pacific at French investment bank Natixis. Carie Li Ruofan, an economist at OCBC Wing Hang Bank, said the biggest worry had been the threat of financial sanctions on banks. “But since the president has given leeway for a lot of time to identify these banks and to impose the actual sanctions, there isn’t a real market impact and there aren’t excessive concerns for the time being,” she said.
Trump’s executive order did not mention limiting Hong Kong banks’ access to the US dollar payment system as a way of punishing China, which would undermine the currency peg system that has allowed the city to remain a global financial hub. The Hong Kong dollar has been pegged to the US dollar since October 1983, but has been allowed to trade between 7.75 and 7.85 since 2005. Due to China’s draconian capital controls that restrict the use of the yuan globally, the freely convertible and stable Hong Kong dollar is especially important to China for attracting foreign investment and in turn allowing Chinese companies to easily raise hard currency in the city. Economists estimate that investment flows through the city account for more than 70% of China’s international funding.
Back in China, the biggest news overnight was that Jack Ma’s Ant Group is seeking a valuation of more than $200 billion as it goes public in Hong Kong and Shanghai. It could seek to raise more in its IPO than Saudi Aramco’s record $29 billion haul, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The significance of this deal is multifold:
• It would be the biggest IPO ever on mainland exchanges, smashing the record $10 billion debut by Agriculture Bank of China in 2010.
• It signifies the rise of New China in the form of private high-tech companies, as opposed to the Old China dominated by state-owned banks and energy giants.
• And it lends much needed credibility to the Shanghai stock exchange’s STAR board, which is designed to harbor tech startups.
More importantly, the choice of Shanghai and Hong Kong for listing signals China’s deliberate efforts to reduce its reliance on the U.S. capital market for fund-raising amid the tension between the two countries. Already, Chinese and Hong Kong exchanges accommodated the world’s biggest four public listings this year, including Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. and JD.com. In the debt market, China’s borrowing in foreign currencies seems to have also peaked. The external debt was little changed at $1.3 trillion last year, after rising 16% in 2018 and 22% in 2017. Dollar-denominated debt accounted for 83% of the total foreing debt outstanding, according to the State Administration of Foreign Exchange. Considering everything from the U.S.’s threat to delist Chinese companies, to moves to strip Hong Kong of its special status, it’s more than clear that China is starting its process of de-dollarization and furthering the internationalization of its own currency.
Yes, there is some common borrowing. Yay! But in reality it’s just more raw horse trading. EC head Michel gave Rutte 100s of millions in incentives to sign up. Nothing to do with principles. You don’t find that in the Anglo press. But the Dutch report it, and with pride.
EU leaders have reached a historic agreement on a €750bn coronavirus pandemic recovery fund and their long-term spending plans following days of acrimonious debate at the bloc’s longest summit in nearly two decades. As the meeting reached its fifth day, the 27 exhausted heads of state and government finally gave their seal of approval to a plan for the EU to jointly borrow debt to be disbursed through grants on an unprecedented scale, in the face of an economic downturn not seen since the Great Depression. The end of the tortuous process was announced by the European council president, Charles Michel, who had been chairing the leaders’ long debates, with a single word on Twitter: “Deal!”
The euro rose against the dollar on the news to stand at $1.145. France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, described it as a “historic day for Europe”. Ursula von der Leyen, the European commission president, said that the more than 90 hours of negotiations had been “worth it” and that the EU could not be accused this time of doing “too little, too late”. Negotiations for the hard-won deal pitted north against south and east against west as governments haggled over the terms of both the bloc’s seven-year budget and a one-off economic stimulus. The summit, stretching from Friday morning into the early hours of Tuesday, was so prolonged that two leaders, Xavier Bettel of Luxembourg and Ireland’s Micheál Martin, briefly returned home before coming back to Brussels.
Despite initial opposition from the so-called frugal states of the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark, agreement was finally found, following a final 5.15am session of the 27 on Tuesday morning, to disburse vast sums in the form of non-repayable grants to countries most stricken by the coronavirus pandemic. The breakthrough followed a new proposal from Michel for the EU to pay out €390bn in grants and €360bn in loans from the new economic reconstruction fund. The “frugal” states had been pushing for the original proposal by the European commission for €500bn in grants to be reduced to €350bn, to the evident frustration of Macron and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, had at one stage warned his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte, who led the way on reducing the level of grants, that he might become a hero at home but that he faced being blamed by the rest of Europe for his lack of solidarity. But Michel’s new formulation, emerging out of hours of bilateral talks with the leaders on both sides of the debate outside of the full plenary sessions of the leaders, finally received the unanimous support it required.
Italy vs Facebook
Good morning from #Italy, a stock market developing country. Although Italy is still the 8th largest econ in the world, all Italian shares combined are worth just $602bn. That’s less than the mkt cap of Facebook ($690bn), and only about a third of Apple’s mkt cap of $1.7tn. pic.twitter.com/P42jpdWg20
The airlines frittered away billions in stock buybacks – American Airlines alone spent $13 billion on share buybacks. Airlines received at least $50 billion in government bailouts that taxpayers will be on the hook for when they go bankrupt. As I explained (here), American Airlines’ CEO Robert Parker was paid 150 million dollars to crash the airline that will cost tens of thousands of jobs – jobs that will be gone forever. The mainstream media is reporting on the 25,000 jobs AA is preparing to furlough, but is failing – or refusing – to see the macroeconomic big picture and the reality that MILLIONS of jobs could be on the line. [..] It is clear that the business and the ancillary supply-chain businesses (leases and purchases from Boeing, airplane parts, airline maintenance, jet fuel, food services, employees to clean planes and airports) are not returning anytime soon.
We are talking MILLIONS of jobs across the airline supply chain that will never return. Will airlines go bankrupt? YES! Why wasn’t Parker fired and the board sacked? Why did the government fund $10 billion in bailouts when 25,000 people are about to be sacked? What caused the current global economic depression and are the governments being honest about it? The credit crisis that began in earnest back in 2008 was caused by too much debt, credit and leverage. Then it hit high gear with Boris Johnson’s top adviser shrieking “2.2 million Americans and over half a million Brits will die from coronavirus.” This statement was the shot that ended democracy around the world, and it came from Dr Neil Ferguson and his Imperial College “models” funded by Microsoft’s Bill Gates.
New York City’s economy is in the tank. It is estimated that over fifty percent of the small businesses that closed due to Covid-19 will never reopen. This means millions of jobs are gone forever, and it will cause more vacant commercial real estate to come onto an already over-supplied property market. Property prices in cities will collapse and, as job losses continue, we will see a catastrophic increase of defaults on residential mortgages that will cause a broader collapse in all property prices. The global economy is in an economic depression, illustrated and compounded by massive unemployment, contracting gross domestic product, staggering amounts of private and public debt and a wealth inequality gap that has rocketed to stratospheric new highs. Central Banks, aka rogue hedge funds, have printed trillions of dollars. These funds have re-inflated asset bubbles to wildly grotesque levels of valuation that have never been seen.
As of mid-July no fewer than 33 million are receiving unemployment benefits, with another 6 million having dropped out of the labor force altogether and no longer even being counted as unemployed. Unemployment therefore remains at what will likely be a chronically high number, at around 40 million—with about 25% of the US labor force unemployed—as renewed service-retail sector layoffs, plus new permanent layoffs, both loom on the horizon. Added to the growing problem of renewed service layoffs and the 2nd wave of permanent layoffs in the private sector is the growing likelihood of significant layoffs in the public sector, as states and cities facing massive budget deficits are forced to lay off several millions of the roughly 22 million public sector workers in the US.
[..] There is an imminent crisis in rents affecting tens of millions. At the peak in April, it is estimated that roughly one-third of the 110 million renters in the US economy had stopped making rent payments due to the COVID-related shutdowns of the economy. The CARES ACT, passed in March, provided forbearance on rental payments, although perhaps as many as 20 states failed to enforce it. That forbearance directive expires at the end of July, with as many as 23 million rent evictions projected in coming months. A major housing crisis is thus brewing, as well as the second wave of job layoffs.
A combined education-child care crisis is about to occur almost simultaneously. The K-12 public education system is approaching chaos, as school districts plan to introduce remote learning on a major scale in order to deal with the renewed COVID-19 infection and hospitalization wave. The heart of the crisis is that tens of millions of US working class families dependent on two paychecks to survive economically cannot afford to accommodate school district practices for remote learning—especially for young children in the K-6 grade levels. Even if such families could afford to pay for expensive child care, the current US child care system is far from being able to accommodate them. Many minority and working class households, moreover, lack the computers and networking equipment, or even the requisite skills to set it up, to enable their children participate in remote learning.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial legislation granting nursing home CEOs legal immunity during the COVID-19 pandemic became a template this week for Washington Republicans, who are reportedly finalizing a national version of the liability shield for corporate executives. Now, new campaign finance records show that the landmark provision in New York was inserted into the state’s budget by Democratic legislators as they were benefiting from a boost in campaign cash from the health care industry lobbying group that sculpted the provision. Those same New York legislators may now face a vote on legislation to repeal the immunity language, or water down that repeal.
Meanwhile, the same health care industry lobbying group has been funneling millions to Democratic lawmakers in Washington, who could soon face votes on the federal version of the New York initiative. In the first half of 2020, the Greater New York Hospital Association — which said it “drafted and aggressively advocated for” the immunity provision — funneled $260,000 to Democratic state lawmakers’ that control the New York legislature, according to newly released campaign finance records. That represents more than double the amount the group gave those committees in the same reporting period during the 2018 election cycle.
In all, GNYHA delivered more than $450,000 to Democratic and Republican party committees in New York since the beginning of the year. The Healthcare Association of New York State (HANYS) — another lobbying group whose members benefit from the immunity law — delivered an additional $69,000 to New York legislators in the same time period. In an investigative report co-published in Jacobin and The Guardian, TMI previously broke open the news that when Cuomo first proposed the immunity legislation, state party committees that he controls had already raked in more than $1 million from GNYHA. This new data from the first half of 2020 show that the largesse extended to the state legislators whose support Cuomo and GNYHA needed in order to pass the provision into law.
New York’s immunity provision, which passed in April, is one of the farthest-reaching in the nation. It not only shields frontline health care workers from lawsuits during the coronavirus outbreak — it extends such legal immunity to the executives, board members and other corporate officials who operate health care facilities, and whose staffing and medical policy decisions govern entire nursing homes and hospitals.
The old Republican right’s idea of “humor” was its usual diatribes against Bad People, only with puns thrown in (are you ready for “OxyClinton”?). As a result the Fox effort at countering the Daily Show, the 1/2 Hour News Hour — a string of agonizing “burns” on Bush-haters and Hillary — remains the worst-rated show in the history of television, according to Metacritic. The irony gap eventually spelled doom for that group of Republicans, as Trump drove a truck through it in 2016. However, it’s possible they just weren’t as committed to the concept as current counterparts. Take the Smithsonian story. The museum became the latest institution to attempt to combat racism by pledging itself to “antiracism,” a quack sub-theology that in a self-clowning trick straight out of Catch-22 seeks to raise awareness about ignorant race stereotypes by reviving and amplifying them.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture created a graphic on “Aspects and Assumptions of White Culture” that declared the following white values: “the scientific method,” “rational, linear thinking,” “the nuclear family,” “children should have their own rooms,” “hard work is the key to success,” “be polite,” “written tradition,” and “self-reliance.” White food is “steak and potatoes; bland is best,” and in white justice, “intent counts.” The astute observer will notice this graphic could equally have been written by white supremacist Richard Spencer or History of White People parodist Martin Mull. It seems impossible that no one at one of the country’s leading educational institutions noticed this messaging is ludicrously racist, not just to white people but to everyone (what is any person of color supposed to think when he or she reads that self-reliance, politeness, and “linear thinking” are white values?).
General Flynn, the American Dreyfus, remains twisting slowly in the wind despite the DOJ dropping charges against him. Judge Emmet Sullivan is busy destroying the credibility and authority of the federal bench with bad faith procedural shenanigans underwritten by Ben Wittes’s Lawfare claque of Beltway shysters maneuvering in the background to protect Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Is it not past time for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals to force Judge Sullivan to end the case, or admonish and remove him? Beyond all the legalese bullshit, an innocent man’s life is stuck unfairly and unjustly in limbo after three years of a malicious prosecution.
Why has the attorney general not preferred charges against Gen. Flynn’s chief prosecutor, Brandon Van Crack — or, for that matter, against Robert Mueller, Andrew Weissmann and the whole Special Counsel staff — for withholding evidence and plenty of other obvious prosecutorial mischief? Mr. Barr has stated plainly more than once that the agency he took charge over in 2019 “us[ed] the criminal justice process as a political weapon.” Is that against the law or not? Does it injure this society to leave that question unanswered, month after month?
In a better society, the newspapers would have rushed to Gen. Flynn’s defense. Except our leading newspapers are so vested in years of their own untruth that they don’t dare to cover the story. Where is the consequence for Dean Baquet, editor of The New York Times, since Times staffer Bari Weiss disclosed his failure to control the ideological bullying, coercion, and hostility to fair play in his newsroom? Mr. Baquet has not just wrecked an institution; he’s made the whole business of covering reality look like a hustle. Does The New York Times’s board of directors not care about its reputation? Maybe the message is: why should anyone care about his or her reputation? And what kind of culture grows out of that code?
Berlin has systematically broken EU guidelines by selling weapons to bad actors across the globe, a new study says. It alleges that German-made arms and military hardware have led to more violence on the ground. Over the years, Germany has been selling both weapons and munitions to “countries affected by war and crisis, to countries with human rights violations and to regions of tension,” a new study by the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt (PRIF) says. According to the EU criteria, the recipient of arms must respect human rights and international law, as well as maintain peace and stability in the region. However, since 1990, Germany has repeatedly struck deals with nations with a poor human rights record, such as Algeria, Egypt, and Indonesia, oftentimes selling off old Bundeswehr hardware, PRIF notes.
In many instances, the equipment ended up in war zones, as happened in Indonesia, where German-made ships were spotted transporting soldiers during an insurgency in Indonesia’s Aceh region. The research raises particular alarm over Berlin’s long history of supplying military technology to Saudi Arabia and Turkey. In 2019, German-made Leopard 2A4 main battle tanks were used in Ankara’s invasion of Syria, and Riyadh has been waging a bloody air war in Yemen since 2015. Despite mounting reports of mass civilian casualties on the ground, the German government has approved arms sales worth €1.5 billion ($1.7 billion) to Saudi Arabia since its bombing campaign began, the study said. It noted that even the UK-supplied Tornado and Eurofighter Typhoon that carry out air strikes on Yemeni cities “contain parts produced in Germany.”
The news of the shooting of the husband and son of Esther Salas, the judge recently assigned to oversee the Jeffrey Epstein – Deutsche Bank case, caused shock and confusion while also bringing renewed scrutiny to the Epstein scandal just a week after Epstein’s main co-conspirator, Ghislaine Maxwell, was denied bail in a separate case. The case Salas is set to oversee is a class action lawsuit brought by Deutsche Bank investors who allege that Deutsche Bank “failed to properly monitor customers that the Bank itself deemed to be high risk, including, among others, the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.” The case came after the New York state Department of Financial Services had settled with Deutsche Bank over the bank’s failure to cut ties with Epstein-linked accounts, resulting in Deutsche Bank paying a $150 million fine.
Deutsche Bank, unlike other financial institutions, failed to close all of its accounts linked to Epstein until less than a month prior to his arrest last year, even though the bank had identified him as “high risk” yearsbefore. Beyond the tragedy of Sunday’s shooting, which claimed the life of Salas’ only child, the quick discovery of the death of the main suspect, Roy Den Hollander, of a “self-inflicted” gunshot to the head before he could be arrested or questioned by authorities has led to speculation that there is more to the official narrative of the crime than meets the eye. With law enforcement sources now claiming that Esther Salas was not the intended target of the attack and some media reports now suggesting that Den Hollander’s motive was related to his dislike of feminism, it appears there are efforts underway to distance Sunday’s tragic shooting from Salas’ recent assignment to the Epstein case, which occurred just four days before the tragic shooting.
The most likely reason for any such “damage control” effort lies in the fact that both U.S. law enforcement investigations and mainstream media reports have consistently downplayed the connections of Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual trafficking and financial crimes to intelligence agencies in the U.S. and Israel. Similarly, Roy Den Hollander previously worked for a New York firm has been described as a “private CIA” with ties to those countries’ intelligence agencies and, also, ties to Deutsche Bank.
Much of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation into Donald Trump was built on the premise that Christopher Steele and his dossier were to be believed. This even though, early on, Steele’s claims failed to bear scrutiny. Just how far off the claims were became clear when the FBI interviewed Steele’s “Primary Subsource” over three days beginning on Feb. 9, 2017. Notes taken by FBI agents of those interviews were released by the Senate Judiciary Committee Friday afternoon. The Primary Subsource was in reality Steele’s sole source, a long-time Russian-speaking contractor for the former British spy’s company, Orbis Business Intelligence. In turn, the Primary Subsource had a group of friends in Russia. All of their names remain redacted.
From the FBI interviews it becomes clear that the Primary Subsource and his friends peddled warmed-over rumors and laughable gossip that Steele dressed up as formal intelligence memos. Steele’s operation didn’t rely on great expertise, to judge from the Primary Subsource’s account. He described to the FBI the instructions Steele had given him sometime in the spring of 2016 regarding Paul Manafort: “Do you know [about] Manafort? Find out about Manafort’s dealings with Ukraine, his dealings with other countries, and any corrupt schemes.” The Primary Subsource admitted to the FBI “that he was ‘clueless’ about who Manafort was, and that this was a ‘strange task’ to have been given.” The Primary Subsource said at first that maybe he had asked some of his friends in Russia – he didn’t have a network of sources, according to his lawyer, but instead just a “social circle.”
And a boozy one at that: When the Primary Subsource would get together with his old friend Source 4, the two would drink heavily. But his social circle was no help with the Manafort question and so the Primary Subsource scrounged up a few old news clippings about Manafort and fed them back to Steele. Also in his “social circle” was Primary Subsource’s friend “Source 2,” a character who was always on the make. “He often tries to monetize his relationship with [the Primary Subsource], suggesting that the two of them should try and do projects together for money,” the Primary Subsource told the FBI (a caution that the Primary Subsource would repeat again and again). It was Source 2 who “told [the Primary Subsource] that there was compromising material on Trump.”
It looks like the facemask issue is being absolved by US politics. That is a shame because it’s not as if we have such a wide array of initial defense options against COVID19.
Trump gets scolded for calling Fauci an alarmist, but what he actually said was “a bit of an alarmist”. And that’s really a nice way of putting it, because would anyone want to question that he is? The man has said some strange things.
That goes back to what I’ve covered before, a long time ago already, that in the initial phase of dealing with an unknown pathogen, epidemiologists are not the people to listen to, because it’s unknown to them as well. You need basic risk assessment, and basic tools. Lockdowns and masks are prominent among those tools.
Today, we know so little still, even if many would claim we’ve gathered a lot of knowledge, that they remain those tools. And now they’re being lost to arguments that have nothing at all to do with the pathogen. Maybe that is inevitable as distancing is not an inborn human trait, but the consequences are potentially huge.
A cautionary tale from Switzerland, where a New Dead/New Case index shot up after the use of HCQ was stopped and went back down when it was resumed.
“With relatively low levels of natural immunity in the population, no vaccine and few effective treatments, there’s no pressure on it to adapt.”
This coronavirus is actually changing very slowly compared with a virus-like flu. With relatively low levels of natural immunity in the population, no vaccine and few effective treatments, there’s no pressure on it to adapt. So far, it’s doing a good job of keeping itself in circulation as it is. The notable mutation – named D614G and situated within the protein making up the virus’s “spike” it uses to break into our cells – appeared sometime after the initial Wuhan outbreak, probably in Italy. It is now seen in as many as 97% of samples around the world. The question is whether this dominance is the mutation giving the virus some advantage, or whether it’s just by chance. Viruses don’t have a grand plan. They mutate constantly and while some changes will help a virus reproduce, some may hinder it. Others are simply neutral.
They’re a “by-product of the virus replicating,” says Dr Lucy van Dorp, of University College London. They “hitch-hike” on the virus without changing its behaviour. The mutation that has emerged could have become very widespread just because it happened early in the outbreak and spread – something known as the “founder effect”. This is what Dr van Dorp and her team believe is the likely explanation for the mutation being so common. But this is increasingly controversial. A growing number – perhaps the majority – of virologists now believe, as Dr Thushan de Silva, at the University of Sheffield, explains, there is enough data to say this version of the virus has a “selective advantage” – an evolutionary edge – over the earlier version.
[..] When studied in laboratory conditions, the mutated virus was better at entering human cells than those without the variation, say professors Hyeryun Choe and Michael Farzan, at Scripps University in Florida. Changes to the spike protein the virus uses to latch on to human cells seem to allow it to “stick together better and function more efficiently”. When it comes to looking at the population as a whole, it’s difficult to observe the virus becoming more (or less) infectious. Its course has been drastically altered by interventions, including lockdowns.
But Prof Korber says the fact the variant now appears to be dominant everywhere, including in China, indicates it may have become better at spreading between people than the original version. Whenever the two versions were in circulation at the same time, the new variant took over. In fact, the D614G variant is so dominant, it is now the pandemic. And it has been for some time – perhaps even since the start of the epidemic in places like the UK and the east coast of the US. So, while evidence is mounting that this mutation is not neutral, it doesn’t necessarily change how we should think about the virus and its spread.
During a blue-sky moment in 2018 near the end of a decade-long economic expansion, it was the United States that helped pull the world along as the extra cash from tax cuts and government spending flowed through domestic and global markets. But if it was U.S. policy that pushed the world higher then, it is U.S. policy that threatens to pull the world under now as the country’s troubled response to the coronavirus pandemic emerges as a chief risk to any sustained global recovery. Officials from Mexico to Japan are already on edge. Exports have taken a hit in Germany, and Canada looks south warily knowing that any further hit to U.S. growth will undoubtedly spill over.
“Globally there will be difficult months and years ahead and it is of particular concern that the number of COVID-19 cases is still rising,” the International Monetary Fund said in a review of the U.S. economy that cited “social unrest” due to rising poverty as one of the risks to economic growth. “The risk ahead is that a large share of the U.S. population will have to contend with an important deterioration of living standards and significant economic hardship for several years. This, in turn, can further weaken demand and exacerbate longer-term headwinds to growth.”
[..] The U.S. economy accounts for about a quarter of world gross domestic product. Though much of that is service-related, and much of the direct impact of the virus is tied up in industries like restaurants with weak links to the global economy, the connections are still there. A lost job leads to lower consumer spending leads to fewer imports; weak business conditions lead to less investment in the equipment or supplies that are often produced elsewhere. Year-to-date U.S. imports through May are down more than 13%, or roughly $176 billion. In Germany, whose measures to contain the pandemic are considered to have been among the most effective, exports to the United States plunged 36% year-over-year in May. Analysts see little prospect for improvement, with year-to-date U.S. auto sales through June down nearly 24% from a year earlier.
With the coronavirus pandemic exacerbating a slowdown in the global economy, governments around the world may have no choice but to increase spending to support businesses and households well into the next year, according to an economist from S&P Global Ratings. Many governments have announced large amounts of fiscal support in the wake of the pandemic. But some countries, including the U.S., have shown “a degree of fiscal fatigue” and are considering rolling back some of the stimulus, said Shaun Roache, the ratings agency’s chief economist for Asia Pacific.
“We’re seeing some fiscal policymakers think about pulling back some of their measures or maybe letting them expire without renewing them, and that’s quite a dangerous thing to do when demand in the rest of the economy still remains quite suppressed,” he told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Asia” on Monday. “So we expect and we hope to see some of those fiscal measures being renewed, pushed forward into the next year. That is going to mean more fiscal easing but at the moment there is no alternative to that,” he added. Roache explained that additional spending will worsen the balance sheets of governments, but it’s necessary to “prevent things from getting even worse.” That’s especially so when authorities have to take actions that suppress economic activity to contain the virus given the absence of an apparent medical solution to the outbreak, he added.
Global wealth managers are examining whether their clients in Hong Kong have ties to the city’s pro-democracy movement, in an attempt to avoid getting caught in the crosshairs of China’s new national security law, according to six people with knowledge of the matter. Bankers at Credit Suisse Group, HSBC, Julius Baer and UBS, among others, are broadening scrutiny under their programs that screen clients for political and government ties and subjecting them to additional diligence requirements, these people said. The designation, called politically exposed persons, can make it more difficult or altogether prevent people from accessing banking services, depending on what the bank finds about the person’s source of wealth or financial transactions.
The checks at some wealth managers have involved combing through comments made by clients and their associates in public and in media, and social media posts in the recent past, these people said. The new law prohibits what Beijing describes broadly as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with up to life in prison for offenders. The sources, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, said the broadened scrutiny of clients also applied to Hong Kong and Chinese officials who had implemented the law in anticipation of any U.S. sanctions against them. One banker at a global wealth manager that holds more than $200 billion in assets said the audit of its clients could go back as far as 2014 in some cases to gauge a client’s political stance since Hong Kong’s 2014 pro-democracy “umbrella” movement. Protesters at the time used umbrellas to shield themselves from tear gas and pepper spray deployed by police.
Global real estate investment fell by 33% in the first half as the coronavirus pandemic battered economies and disrupted deals. The Asia-Pacific region took the biggest hit, with volumes down 45% from the year-earlier period, because it was the first struck by the outbreak, according to a report from broker Savills Plc. Investment dropped by 36% in the Americas and 19% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. With the tourism industry shut down for months by government lockdowns, hotels saw investment decline by 59% in the first half of the year, followed by a 41% drop for retail properties, according to the Savills report. Industrial and residential properties fared better.
Investment is “expected to remain well below pre-pandemic levels for the rest of 2020 as investors wait for market clarity,” Simon Hope, Savills head of global capital markets, said in a statement on Monday. “However, certain sectors are expected to outperform as investors focus on secure assets, namely logistics, residential and life sciences.” The IMF has forecast that global GDP will shrink 4.9% this year as the pandemic wears on. IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath has said the cumulative loss for the world economy this year and next as a result of the recession is expected to reach $12.5 trillion. Still, the investment decline was less severe than at the start of the last financial crisis in the first half of 2008, when investment cratered by 49% and kept falling until the middle of 2009, Sophie Chick, director of Savills World Research team, said in the statement.
Airline passenger numbers are not expected to recover to the levels before the Covid-19 pandemic, which resulted in nationwide shutdowns around the world, for at least three years, Moody’s Investors Service warns. The drop in demand could last even longer as the recovery depends on how fast health and safety concerns are relieved, according to the agency’s recent research. Noting the rising number of infections across the US, Moody’s analysts said that passenger demand “may ultimately align with its slower recovery case, or worse,” if strict quarantine measures are reinforced. Airlines saw demand plunge by more than 90% shortly after the pandemic struck.
Given that the industry supports economic activity across many sectors, providing thousands of jobs and supporting fuel demand, the severe blow will affect a broad swath of the global economy “well into 2022 and beyond,” according to the report. “Passenger demand for air travel drives demand for key stakeholders in the aviation industry, including airport operators, aircraft leasing companies and aircraft manufacturers, as well as a multitude of service providers that keep airlines and airports running,” Moody’s Senior Vice President Jonathan Root said in a statement. He added that demand for the key stakeholders’ products and services may fall between 40 and 50 percent or even more this year, while they are expected to feel the impact of the coronavirus crisis for at least the next three years.
While the recovery for airlines and airports will be largely aligned, followed by aircraft lessors, plane makers will be the last to regain their 2019 footing. “To the extent that an environment characterized by fits and starts of health safety confidence levels and ensuing passenger demand persists beyond 2021, the risk of more extensive industry disruption and a more protracted recovery period would escalate further,” Moody’s Associate Managing Director Russell Solomon said.
While Morgan Stanley continues to stubbornly repeat that the US economy is undergoing a jolly V-shaped recovery, one would be very hard pressed to observe that in either the number of airline passengers, or the commercial aerospace sector in general, where Boeing has become a poster child for how quickly the fate can turn… and it’s not just the company’s ill-fated Boeing 737 MAX which may or may not fly again. According to Bloomberg, Boeing is now also running out of space to stash newly-built 787 Dreamliners, as unsold jetliners are now crammed onto “every available patch of pavement on airfields near its factories in Washington and South Carolina.”
Citing people familiar with the situation, Bloomberg writes that “dozens of the planes are sitting on the company’s premises” with Uresh Sheth, a closely followed blogger who meticulously tracks the Dreamliners rolling through Boeing’s factories, putting the total somewhere above 50. That’s more than double the number of jets typically awaiting customers along Boeing’s flight lines. According to Sheth, brand-new widebodies are lined up on a closed off runway at the airport that abuts Boeing’s hulking plant north of Seattle. In North Charleston, 787s are tucked around the delivery center and a paint hangar. The U.S. planemaker has even started sending aircraft to be stored in a desert lot in Victorville, California.
Boeing’s troubles with parked jets are nothing new: last year Boeing had so many 737 Maxes after their global ground when it emerged that Boeing had drastically cut corners to save on costs even if it meant risking people’s lives, that it commandeered an employee parking lot to store surplus aircraft. Now, as it finally starts to emerge from that crisis, another critical source of cash – the company’s marquee jet, the 787 Dreamliner – is under pressure but not do to airworthiness concerns but simply due to the global depression that commercial air traffic has found itself in.
There is still no agreement among EU leaders on a massive coronavirus recovery package after three days of intense meetings in Brussels. Leaders left the marathon summit early Monday morning and are set to resume talks at 16:00 CET. The summit was originally planned to end on Saturday. Talks have focussed on a proposed €1.68 trillion package, a seven-year budget and a coronavirus recovery fund. Eastern Europe leaders have opposed attaching rule of law conditions, while southern European countries are rejecting demands from the so-called frugal four, now five, countries – Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Sweden and Denmark – for a great sum bound by economic reform requirements.
EU Council President Charles Michel urged leaders to set aside disagreements on Sunday night. “Are the 27 EU leaders capable of building European unity and trust or, because of a deep rift, will we present ourselves as a weak Europe, undermined by distrust,” he said in a copy of the speech obtained by the AP. Early Monday morning, Austrian Prime Minister Sebastian Kurz tweeted that “tough negotiations had ended” but that leaders can be “very happy with today’s result.” Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has provided the strongest opposition to the plans on the table – said to be insisting on a cap of €350 billion worth of grants – preferring loans of strict conditions.
The recovery fund had originally set €500 billion to be handed out as grants and €250 billion in loans. Differences were so great that Sunday’s resumption of talks by all 27 leaders together was pushed back several hours as small groups worked on new compromise proposals. “The actual size of the package in terms of the scale of the package and the balance within the package between grants and loans, that’s where significant disagreement still remains, notwithstanding movement yesterday and overnight,” said Irish Taoiseach, Micheál Martin. Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said in his seven years’ experience of European meetings he “had never seen positions as diametrically opposed as this.”
To an economist, everything may well look like an economics issue, because everything is about money, we get it. But is this really the appropriate time to discuss this? Is Southern Europe had been destroyed by a hurricane or an earthquake, would you want to have the same conversation? And we get it, the north has been hit too, but they’re in much better shape. The essence is that solidarity is not an economics issue, and perhaps that should chase economists away from the negotiating table. If you had just decided on coronabonds, none of this would have been necessary. It all simply shows that the north are determined to continue profiting from the south, and that solidarity is an alien concept to them.
There is no solidarity without responsibility. The European Union Recovery Fund cannot be used as an excuse to perpetuate bloated political spending and create a transfer union where governments use taxpayers’ money to increase bureaucracy, because it would be the end of the European project. A union based on excess spending, debt and extractive policies would be destroyed in a few years. The strength of a unified group of countries comes from diversity and responsibility. No one denies the challenges created by the Covid-19 crisis, but there are countries that have used the excuse of the pandemic to inflate political spending and now demand free money.
The Spanish government has doubled the cost of government, maintained all the spending it increased during the growth period and increased the number of ministerial seats and advisors despite the crisis. Additionally, the government has approved a basic income plan that had no budget or fiscal space. There has been no management of costs whatsoever to allow budget room for automatic stabilizers, health, and unemployment costs. A government that increased the deficit in 2019 by 24% in a year of 2% GDP growth and record tax revenues has doubled the cost of government in the crisis and now demands no conditions or scrutiny from other member states.
Why would a serious government oppose a detailed scrutiny of the funds received? It should welcome it. Why would a government that calls itself reformist and states its commitment to budget stability reject any structural reform proposed by other member states? They should be implementing them now. Furthermore, why would a government that talks about an unprecedented emergency prefer to receive less funds than to accept the member states’ monitoring of grants? One could suspect that they are not aiming to use the funds in the most effective way.
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said Sunday that it’s “time for people to go to jail” as part of U.S. Attorney John Durham’s probe into FBI misconduct — prompting ex-Trump aide George Papadopoulos to sound a celebratory note on Twitter. The comments came as Fox News learned this weekend that Jennifer Boone, a senior FBI official who oversaw the flawed probe into former Trump adviser Carter Page, has received a major promotion to lead a field office — and the bureau won’t say why. Meadows, during his Sunday interview with Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” also previewed the Trump administration’s soon-to-be-released plans for reopening schools and implementing new economic stimulus measures.
More details, Meadows said, would be coming this week. However, Meadows’ comments on the Durham probe were among his most suggestive yet. They followed Attorney General Bill Barr’s comments to Fox News earlier this year that Durham’s findings have been “very troubling” and that familiar names are currently being probed. “I think the American people are expecting indictments,” Meadows told anchor Maria Bartiromo. “I expect indictments based on the evidence I’ve seen. Lindsey Graham did a good job in getting that out. We know that they not only knew that there wasn’t a case, but they continued to investigate and spy.”
Internal FBI documents that emerged in April showed that Peter Strzok — the now-disgraced anti-Trump former head of FBI counterintelligence — ordered the investigation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn to remain open even after it was slated to be closed due to a lack of so-called “derogatory” information. Strzok pursued an investigation based on the Logan Act, a law never used in a successful prosecution and that was intended to prevent individuals from falsely representing the U.S. government abroad in a pre-telephone era. “And yes, I use the word spy on Trump campaign officials and actually even doing things when this president was sworn in,” Meadows continued. “And after that and doing in an inappropriate manner, you’re going to see a couple of other documents come out in the coming days that will suggest that not only was the campaign spied on, but the FBI did not act appropriately as they were investigating. It’s all starting to come unraveled. And I tell you, it’s time that people go to jail and people are indicted.”
In the latest bizarre series of rumours from Unionists, Andrew Marr has suggested that Scottish independence is a Russian plot. Marr asked Russian Ambassador Andrey Vladimirovich Kelin if he is “interested in the cause of Scottish nationalism” in an interview on his show. Kelin replied: “Our interest in Scotland is only one. We are open for business.” Marr said: “The reason I ask is that there are many people in this Government and the Conservative party at least, who feel that Russia is enthusiastic about breaking up the UK.”
That’s despite the Tories receiving £3.5 million from Russian donors, according to an invesigation in The Ferrett in November last year. It comes as a report is expected to reveal that Russian interference may have influenced the Brexit and independence referendums. The Russia report by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC), released on Tuesday, is expected to raise concerns about Moscow’s interference in aspects of Scottish politics. The development comes just days after Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, revealed that Russian “actors” were highly likely to have interfered in December’s General Election.
Brilliant. Hoping v much I’ll have to deal with “you pursuing the right to national self-determination is actually a fiendish Russian plot” in next few years. Will have to adopt subtle Roosky signifiers to drive UK establishment nuts. Some kind of hat? pic.twitter.com/KTU5yXvx67
Do they stand by this story that Strzok refuted privately, Comey refuted publicly, & Mueller found no evidence of like they stand by their Russia bounty story, which their own reporting contradicted? https://t.co/lqcE3bPQ5B
That’s not standing by reporting, it’s denying reality.
Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, a New York based primary care physician, announced that a retrospective analysis based on his patient data is available to read online at www.thezelenkoprotocol.com. The study, which has been submitted for peer review, found that early intervention and treatment of risk stratified COVID-19 patients in the outpatient setting resulted in five times less hospitalizations and deaths. The medications used in the treatment approach were zinc, low dose hydroxychloroquine, and azithromycin. Prior studies of COVID-19 treatments have been largely based on severely ill patients in the hospital. This study examines outcomes of patients treated after their first visit to the doctor’s office.
Using simple risk stratification criteria, Dr. Zelenko identified which patients required prescriptions for the triple drug therapy, and prescribed these medications for five days. To produce the study, Zelenko collaborated with Dr. Roland Derwand, a German medical doctor and life science industry expert, and Professor Martin Scholz, an independent consultant and adjunct professor for experimental medicine at Heinrich Heine University, Düsseldorf, Germany. Derwand and Scholz performed the data analysis while Zelenko handled all in-person treatments. The main results show that of 141 patients who were treated with the triple therapy, only 2.8% (4/141) were hospitalized compared to 15.4% of an untreated control group (58/377) (odds ratio 0.16, 95% CI 0.06-0.5; p<0.001).
Only 0.71% (1/141) patients died in the treatment group, versus 3.5% (13/377) in the untreated group (odds ratio 0.2, 95% CI 0.03-1.5; p=0.16). “These three medications are affordable, available in pill form, and work in synergy against COVID-19,” said Zelenko. “Hydroxychloroquine’s main function within this treatment approach is to allow zinc to enter the cell. Zinc is the virus killer, and azithromycin prevents secondary bacterial infection in the lungs and reduces the risk of pulmonary complications.” “The world seems to have forgotten common medical knowledge: that we want to treat any patient with an infectious disease as soon as possible,” said Derwand. “What differentiates this study is that patients were prescribed these medications early, in the outpatient setting. Dr. Zelenko treated his risk stratified patients immediately and didn’t wait for the disease to intensify.”
“The well-tolerated 5-day triple therapy resulted in a significantly lower hospitalization rate and less fatalities with no reported cardiac side effects compared with relevant public reference data of untreated patients,” said Sholz. “The magnitude of the results can substantially elevate the relevance of early use, low dose hydroxychloroquine, especially in combination with zinc. This data can be used to inform ongoing pandemic response policies as well as future clinical trials.” “It’s unfortunate much of the news coverage surrounding hydroxychloroquine has been negative,” Zelenko added. “This study suggests that when taken early and together with zinc and azithromycin, this cost-effective drug can be part of the solution to the pandemic.”
Researchers at the University of Oxford believe they have made a breakthrough in the development of a coronavirus vaccine. Human trials are reported to have shown promising results after the team discovered the jab could provide “double protection” against the virus. Blood samples taken from volunteers in phase one trials have shown the vaccine stimulated the body to produce antibodies and T-cells, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph. T-cells play a central part in the body’s immune response. A source told the newspaper that the combination “will hopefully keep people safe”. The vaccine is one of more than 100 in development as the coronavirus continues to spread – infecting more than 13 million people and killing at least 582,000.
David Carpenter, chairman of the Berkshire Research Ethics Committee, which approved the Oxford trial, said the vaccine team was “absolutely on track”. He added: “Nobody can put final dates… things might go wrong but the reality is that by working with a big pharma company, that vaccine could be fairly widely available around September and that is the sort of target they are working on.” The vaccine development is being supported by the UK government and AstraZeneca. The pharmaceutical company’s chief executive said last month that phase one trials were due to finish and a phase three trial had begun which will see the vaccine given to thousands of people so it can be tested for efficacy and safety.
The firm has reached agreements to supply around two billion doses worldwide, despite acknowledging that it is not yet certain the vaccine will work. The vaccine is based on a weakened version of the common cold that causes infections in chimpanzees. It also contains the genetic material of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 – the strain of coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 illness. The UK government has also given £41m to the development of another coronavirus vaccine being developed by London’s Imperial College.
Symptoms of Covid-19 appear to fall into six different groupings, researchers have revealed, in work they say could help to predict whether a patient will end up needing a ventilator or other breathing support. The team say the findings could give healthcare providers several days advanced warning of demand for hospital care and respiratory support. But it could also help flag patients at risk of becoming seriously ill, meaning home support, such as an oxygen meter or nurse visits, could be provided so that any deterioration is spotted quickly and hospital attendance is prompt. At present, the team added, the average time to get to hospital with Covid-19 is 13 days.
[..] The researchers drew on data from 1,653 users who tested positive for Covid-19, reported persistent symptoms and regularly logged updates on their health and situation. Overall, 383 of these users made at least one trip to hospital, and 107 required either extra oxygen or ventilation. [..] The team then used machine learning algorithms – a type of artificial intelligence – to explore whether some symptoms, among the 14 monitored, cluster together. The results suggest six different groupings based on the type of symptoms, when they occurred, and their duration within the first 14 days of participants’ sickness.
And there was more. “We saw that there was a very clear gradient between these clusters and outcomes in terms of [participants’ need for] respiratory support,” said Dr Claire Steves, clinical senior author on the paper from King’s College London, adding other factors such as older age or certain pre-existing medical conditions were more common in some groups.
The six groupings, or “clusters”, are:
Cluster 1: Mainly upper respiratory tract symptoms, such as a persistent cough, with muscle pain also present. About 1.5% of patients in this group required respiratory support, with 16% making one or more trips to hospital. This was the most common cluster of symptoms, affecting 462 participants.
Cluster 2: Mainly upper respiratory tract symptoms, but also a greater frequency of skipped meals and fever. Of patients in this group 4.4% required respiratory support, with 17.5% making one or more trips to hospital.
Cluster 3: Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhoea, but few other symptoms. While only 3.7% of patients in this group later needed respiratory support, almost 24% made at least one visit to hospital.
Cluster 4: Early signs of severe fatigue, continuous chest pain and cough. Of patients in this group 8.6% required respiratory support, with 23.6% making one or more trips to hospital.
Cluster 5: Confusion, skipped meals and severe fatigue. Of patients in this group 9.9% required respiratory support, with 24.6% making one or more trips to hospital.
Cluster 6: Marked respiratory distress including early onset of breathlessness and chest pain, as well as confusion, fatigue and gastrointestinal symptoms. Almost 20% of this group needed respiratory support and 45.5% made one or more visits to hospital. But this was the least common symptom cluster, affecting 167 participants.
The theories they base their decisions on are either outdated, plain wrong or made up on the spot. They have one thing in common: they benefit banks, not people. As long as the Fed remains in place, the US will never have a healthy economy.
For the Federal Reserve, this time really is different. Having learned a hard lesson in the last recovery – don’t tighten monetary policy too early – the central bank is leaning in the opposite direction. In practice, that means the Fed will not just emphasize actual inflation over forecasted inflation, but will also attempt to push the inflate rate above its 2 per cent target. It’s a whole new ballgame. The Fed’s traditional Phillips curve approach to forecasting inflation, which relies on the theory that inflation accelerates as unemployment falls, was widely criticized during the most recent economic recovery. Inflation remained quiescent in the wake of the Great Financial Crisis even as the unemployment rate fell to 3.5 per cent, well below the 2012 high estimate of the natural rate, or 5.6 per cent.
The Fed’s commitment to Phillips curve-based inflation forecasts induced it to raise interest rates too early in the cycle and continue to boost rates into late 2018 even as faltering markets signaled the hikes had gone too far. The Fed was eventually forced to lower rates 75 basis points in 2019 to put a floor under the economy. Inflation remained stubbornly below the Fed’s 2 per cent target throughout that period. Faced now with the prospect of another prolonged period of low inflation, Fed officials are signaling they will place less emphasis on Phillips curve estimates when setting policy. Fed Governor Lael Brainard said this week that “with inflation exhibiting low sensitivity to labor market tightness, policy should not preemptively withdraw support based on a historically steeper Phillips curve that is not currently in evidence.”
No longer are estimates of longer-run unemployment taken as almost certainly indicating the economy is at full employment. Instead, Brainard said the Fed should focus on achieving “employment outcomes with the kind of breadth and depth that were only achieved late in the previous recovery.” The Fed is going to try to run the economy hot to push down unemployment. By de-emphasizing the Philips curve, the Fed loses its primary inflation forecasting tool. Instead of an inflation forecast, the Fed will rely on actual inflation outcomes to determine the appropriate time to change policy. Brainard pointed out that “research suggests that refraining from liftoff until inflation reaches 2 per cent could lead to some modest temporary overshooting, which would help offset the previous underperformance.”
EU leaders failed on Friday to make headway in negotiations over a massive stimulus plan to breathe life into economies ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, returning to their Brussels hotels shortly before midnight to rest and try again in the morning. Many of the 27 heads declared on arrival for their first face-to-face summit for five months that a deal was crucial to rescue economies in free fall and shore up faith in the European Union, which has lurched for years from crisis to crisis. But officials said a thrifty camp of wealthy northern states led by the Netherlands stood its ground on access to the recovery fund, in the face of opposition from Germany, France, southern nations Italy and Spain, and eastern European states.
The proposed sums under discussion include the EU’s 2021-27 budget of more than 1 trillion euros and the recovery fund worth 750 billion euros that will be funneled mostly to Mediterranean coast countries worst affected by the pandemic. Diplomats said the 27 remained at odds over the overall size of the package, the split between grants and repayable loans in the recovery fund and rule-of-law strings attached to it. But the main stumbling block was over vetting procedures to access aid, an EU official said, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte demanding that one country could block payouts from the fund if member states backslide on economic reform. “If they want loans and even grants then I think it’s only logical that I can explain to people in the Netherlands … that in return those reforms have taken place,” Rutte said, estimating the chances for a deal at fifty-fifty.
Polish premier Mateusz Morawiecki was even more gloomy. As the leaders broke up for the day, he tweeted that they were divided by a bundle of issues and said it was “highly probable” that they would fail to reach a deal on Saturday or even on Sunday if the summit drags past its scheduled two days. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who celebrated her 66th birthday around the negotiating table in Brussels, was also cautious on chances for an agreement, envisaging “very, very difficult negotiations”.
While the media are reporting the news of the deadlocked EU Summit negotiations over the so-called ‘Recovery Fund’, an eerie silence prevails regarding the Elephant in the Room: The huge wave of austerity the Eurozone is sleepwalking towards. Let’s look at the facts. Even if the Dutch Prime Minister, Mr Rutte, and the rest of the ‘frugal four’, were to remove their objections to the Recovery Fund’s terms and conditions, the net fiscal effect across the Eurozone will be no more than 1% annually for three years. Now, let us turn to the Elephant in the Room: the dreaded return of the obligation to balance government budgets, the infamous Fiscal Compact.
According to the optimistic scenario of the European Commission, the Eurozone’s mean government budget in 2020 will be -8% of total Eurozone GDP . Of this, next year, the nascent steady-state recovery will remove, at best 4%, leaving the Eurozone, on average, with a -4% 2021 budget deficit. Moreover, as this is a mean, some countries (e.g. Italy and Greece) are facing, in 2021, a steady state budget deficit in excess of -8% (down from -15% in 2020). Which means that, to get back to balanced budgets, on average, the Eurozone will impose upon itself fiscal austerity of approximately 4% of its aggregate GDP, with countries like Italy and Greece facing an austerity nightmare in excess of 8% of their crushed GDP.
If this were to be allowed to happen, the Recover Fund’s 1% annual fiscal boost will be countered by a 4% fiscal austerity wave. As Europe begins to recover from the pandemic’s disastrous effects, Brussels will be hitting our economies over the head with a sledgehammer. And yet, ultimate proof that the EU’s establishment resembles the Bourbons (in that they forget nothing and learn nothing!), our great and good leaders refuse to discuss this ominous Elephant in the Room, choosing instead to invest hours in endless negotiations over the 1% fiscal boost and whether it should be reduced or how it will be managed.
Nearly a third of more than 40 large companies seeking U.S. bankruptcy protection during the coronavirus pandemic awarded bonuses to executives within a month of filing their cases, according to a Reuters analysis of securities filings and court records. Under a 2005 bankruptcy law, companies are banned, with few exceptions, from paying executives retention bonuses while in bankruptcy. But the firms seized on a loophole by granting payouts before filing. Six of the 14 companies that approved bonuses within a month of their filings cited business challenges executives faced during the pandemic in justifying the compensation.Even more firms paid bonuses in the half-year period before their bankruptcies.
Thirty-two of the 45 companies Reuters examined approved or paid bonuses within six months of filing. Nearly half authorized payouts within two months. Eight companies, including J.C. Penney and Hertz, approved bonuses as few as five days before seeking bankruptcy protection. Hi-Crush Inc, a supplier of sand for oil-and-gas fracking, paid executive bonuses two days before its July 12 filing. J.C. Penney – forced to temporarily close its 846 department stores and furlough about 78,000 of its 85,000 employees as the pandemic spread – approved nearly $10 million in payouts just before its May 15 filing. On Wednesday, the company said it would permanently close 152 stores and lay off 1,000 employees.
[..] Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus Group in March temporarily closed all of its 67 stores and in April furloughed more than 11,000 employees. The company paid $4 million in bonuses to Chairman and Chief Executive Geoffroy van Raemdonck in February and more than $4 million to other executives in the weeks before its May 7 bankruptcy filing, court records show. Neiman Marcus drew scrutiny this week on a plan it proposed after filing for bankruptcy to pay additional bonuses to executives. Hertz – which recently terminated more than 14,000 workers – paid senior executives bonuses of $1.5 million days before its May 22 bankruptcy, in part to recognize the uncertainty they faced from the pandemic’s impact on travel, the company said in a filing.
There was a telling moment of dissonance on CNN this week, a network that is now unrelenting in its negative and highly partisan coverage of the Administration. CNN’s White House reporter Jim Acosta has been repeatedly called out for such bias and sent out a clearly misleading tweet bashing White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. Meanwhile, CNN host Jake Tapper set the record straight in fairness to McEnany. While I have occasionally criticized Tapper, I have more often praised him for his professionalism and intellect. This is why. This is what CNN was once and, with the help of figures like Tapper, it could be again: an honest and objective news organization.
In Thursday’s briefing, McEnany repeated President Trump’s call for children to go back to school in the fall. “The science should not stand in the way of this, but as Dr. Scott Atlas said — I thought this was a good quote, ‘Of course, we can do it. Everyone else in the Western world, our peer nations are doing it. We are the outlier here.’ The science is very clear on this. For example, you look at the JAMA pediatric study of 46 pediatric hospitals in North America that said the risk of critical illness from COVID is far less for children than the seasonal flu. The science is on our side here. We encourage localities and states to just simply follow the science. Open our schools.”
She is clearly citing the science as supporting the position of the Administration. However, Acosta clipped the statement to make it sound like McEnany was dismissing the relevance of science: “The White House Press Secretary on Trump’s push to reopen schools: ‘The science should not stand in the way of this.’” That was clearly and absolutely false. However, Acosta knew that it would play well in the eco-journalistic model adopted by CNN. He quickly racked up 30,000 retweets. He then later added that McEnany actually meant the opposite. That received less than 700 retweets. It is the ultimate example of the demand of many viewers to only hear news that supports their own bias and adds to a type of journalistic comfort zone.
That was clearly and absolutely false. However, Acosta knew that it would play well in the eco-journalistic model adopted by CNN. He quickly racked up 30,000 retweets. He then later added that McEnany actually meant the opposite. That received less than 700 retweets. It is the ultimate example of the demand of many viewers to only hear news that supports their own bias and adds to a type of journalistic comfort zone. To Acosta’s credit, he sent out the second tweet, but saying “McEnany went on to say ‘the science is on our side here’” does not quite capture the scene. The quote was McEnany referring to a scientific study and, right after the line quoted, McEnany said “The science is very clear on this.” She then two lines later added “The science is on our side here.” The entire quote was McEnany raising a scientific study that supports their position.
It is akin to a McEnany saying “National security is not relevant because the Defense Department report supports this policy” only to have Acosta tweet “The White House Press Secretary: “National Security is not relevant” in White House policy. Over at CNN headquarters however Tapper stepped out of that comfort zone and corrected CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta after he repeated the same false narrative that McEnany was having an “alternative facts kind of moment.” Tapper responded: “If I could just say, Sanjay,. I think she was just trying to say that the science shouldn’t stand in the way because the science is on our side. I don’t know that all of the science is on their side- and certainly, this White House, their respect for science knows bounds, let’s put it that way, but I think that’s what she was getting at.”
The Missouri Justice Public Safety PAC, which is linked to George Soros, has donated nearly $78,000 in contributions to St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner’s 2020 campaign, according to her July 15, 2020 financial report, obtained by Just the News. Missouri Justice & Public Safety PAC, which donated the amount through in-kind contributions, was contacted for this story but has yet to respond with comment. The Washington, D.C.-based political action committee is listed at the same street address as one that contributed to Gardner’s 2016 campaign. The Safety and Justice PAC that contributed to the 2016 campaign has the same 13th Street NW address of the Missouri Justice & Public Safety PAC. Both have financial links to Soros.
“Yes, it’s no secret we contribute to Safety and Justice PACs,” Soros spokesman Michael Vachon, told Just the News. “We are for criminal justice reform.” The Gardner campaign filed its financial report on Thursday, the same day Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley sent a letter to Attorney William Barr calling for a federal civil rights investigation into Gardner. Gardner, St. Louis’ top prosecutor, remains under criminal investigation for her handling of the criminal investigation into former Republican Gov. Eric Greitens. More recently, Gardner has targeted Mark and Patricia McCloskey for defending their home June 28 when they brandished their guns as hundreds of Black Lives Matters protestors trespassed onto their property as they headed to the St. Louis mayor’s home.
The protesters barged through the McCloskeys’ privately closed gate and onto their private road. President Trump and Missouri Governor Michael Parson have even weighed in with concern for how Gardner is handling the situation. Hawley, who is the former Missouri attorney general, argues that Gardner has abused her office after seizing McCloskey’s guns while pursuing a possible indictment of the married couple.
As Western governments opened their checkbooks for the White Helmets – a controversial ‘rescue organization’ in Syria – their co-founder used the cash to top up his wage and even finance his wedding, according to a Dutch report. Days before he plunged from a window in Istanbul to his death last year, White Helmets co-founder and British mercenary James Le Mesurier admitted to defrauding Mayday Rescue, an organization that fundraised for the anti-government rescue group in Syria. According to documents seen by Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant, Le Mesurier told an accountant sent to audit the charity’s books that he forged receipts for $50,000, pretending that it was sent to finance an evacuation operation in Syria.
Instead, the money was paid to Le Mesurier himself. In addition to paying himself a salary of €24,000 ($27,414) per month, Le Mesurier dipped into company cash to finance a lavish wedding in Istanbul in 2018, and to issue loans to his new wife, former diplomat Emma Winberg, the report claims. The accountant sent to investigate Mayday found that “tens of thousands of dollars in cash” were withdrawn to pay for the “fairytale wedding.” Meanwhile, governments across the Western world were lining up to support Mayday, and channel money to the White Helmets. According to a 2018 report by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the organization took in $127 million between 2014 and 2018, with only $19 million of this haul coming from non-state donors.
The government of the Netherlands paid out almost $11.5 million in this period, while similar donations flowed in from Germany, Great Britain, Canada, Qatar, and others. Despite being hailed as fearless rescue workers, the White Helmets have been accused of partnering with Al-Qaeda. Operating exclusively in rebel-held territory, the group’s members have been photographed posing with jihadists and have been accused of staging chemical weapons attacks to draw in Western forces against Syrian President Bashar Assad. Le Mesurier’s death was deemed a suicide by Turkish authorities. Shortly afterwards, a number of countries that had donated to Mayday demanded an accountant have another look over the organization’s books. According to De Volkskrant, this probe found that most of Mayday’s financial records are “missing.” Donations were not just handed to the organization in Amsterdam and forwarded to Syria, but distributed through a network of commercial organizations in Turkey and Dubai.
An FBI document released Friday details at least 14 inaccuracies in a New York Times report from early 2017 that leveled shocking allegations of Trump associates’ contacts with Russian intelligence officers. The document shows then-FBI counterintelligence official Peter Strzok’s comments on a Feb. 14, 2017 article entitled “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence.” Written by journalists Michael Schmidt, Mark Mazzetti and Matt Apuzzo, the story cited four current and former American officials who said that U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies had intercepted call records showing that Trump associates had contacts with Russian intelligence in the year prior to the election. Strzok, who was the lead investigator on the Trump investigation, spotted 14 errors in the article.
The Senate Judiciary Committee released the document on Friday along with a memo of the FBI’s interviews with a key source of information for dossier author Christopher Steele. “This statement is inaccurate and misleading as written,” Strzok wrote in reference to the lead of the Times story, which said that officials had intercepted calls and obtained phone records of contacts between Russian intelligence officials and individuals associated with Trump. “We have not seen evidence of any individuals affiliated with the Trump team in contact with [Intelligence Officers],” Strzok’s note said. The Times reported that sources said former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was one of the individuals picked up in intercepted calls with Russian intelligence officers.
The story also said that the FBI was sifting through a vast trove of call logs and intercepted communications as part of the investigation into any links between Trump associates and Russia. Strzok discounted those allegations, writing that “we are unaware of any call with any Russian government official in which Manafort was a party.” He also wrote that the FBI had “very few” call logs in its possession. Strzok reiterated in another section of the document that the FBI had no evidence that any Trump advisers had contact with Russian intelligence officials. “Again, we are unaware of ANY Trump advisers engaging in conversations with Russian intelligence officials,” he wrote.
The Times also inaccurately reported that the FBI was at the time investigation Roger Stone, a longtime Trump confidant. “We have not investigated Roger Stone,” Strzok wrote in reference to a section that said the FBI had “closely examined” the political operative along with several Trump campaign aides. [..] Sen. Lindsey Graham, who released the FBI documents on Friday, said in a press release that Strzok’s annotations on the Times article “are devastating in that they are an admission that there was no reliable evidence that anyone from the Trump Campaign was working with Russian Intelligence Agencies in any form.”
Presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Joe Biden has a serious problem: His compulsive plagiarism has gotten out of control. As is clearly evident from his new policy platform, the former vice president just can’t stop stealing original ideas from other politicians—a rather worrying sign for someone whose mental fitness for the pressures of the presidency has already come under serious scrutiny. Biden’s “Made in America” doctrine—which calls for increased government purchases from U.S. producers—is strikingly similar to President Trump’s own America First economic platform. In fact, it’s almost identical to the executive order the president signed a full year ago prioritizing the purchasing of American-made products and the hiring of American workers by government agencies.
“Biden starts with a pretty basic idea—when we spend taxpayer money, we should buy American products and support American jobs,” the document reads, echoing Donald Trump’s repeated calls to “buy American” products and “hire American” workers (the very ideas the president has already put into practice using his executive authority). “He plagiarized from me, but he could never pull it off,” President Trump said recently, pointing out that Biden’s policies would not have nearly the same rejuvenating effect on the U.S. economy as Trump’s own decisive actions. “He likes plagiarizing. …But he said the right things because he’s copying what I’ve done, but the difference is he can’t do it.”
Of course, this sort of thing is nothing new for Biden. The “unity platform” he just released—a 110-page list of policy recommendations for the Democratic Party—shamelessly appropriated entire chunks of Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “democratic-socialist” political agenda, in many cases word-for-word. Indeed, Biden even invited members of Bernie’s policy team to help craft the proposals. Last year, the Biden presidential campaign was also called out for pilfering language from various far-left special interest groups while crafting the candidate’s climate and education policies. Biden’s track record of plagiarism, in fact, can be traced all the way back to his days in law school. When confronted with his academic fraud, Biden airily blew off the accusations by claiming that his cheating was not “malevolent.”
The ugly tendency came back to haunt him during his 1988 presidential campaign, when he shamelessly stole turns of phrase from former Attorney General Bobby Kennedy and former Vice President Hubert Humphrey, and even appropriated the life story of British Labour Party Leader Neil Kinnock. Biden’s extensive history of plagiarism shows that neither he nor his political team have a clear, independent vision for the country. While the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has never liked being called an empty vessel or a Trojan horse, that is precisely what his candidacy this election cycle has now become.
In 1918, the country was lashed by a far deadlier pandemic disease at the same time it was fighting a world war, and daily life barely missed a step. The economy then was emphatically one of production, not the mere consumption of things made elsewhere in the world (exchanged for US IOUs), nor of tanning parlors, nail salons, streaming services, and Pilates studios. The economy was a mix of large, medium, and small enterprises, not just floundering giants, especially in the retail commerce of goods.
We lived distributed in towns, cities not-yet-overgrown, and a distinctly rural landscape devoted to rural activities — not the vast demolition derby of entropic suburbia that has no future as a human habitat. Banking was only 5% of the economy, not the bloated matrix of rackets now swollen to more than 40% of so-called GDP. Government at the federal and state levels was miniscule compared to the suffocating, parasitic leviathan it is now. What happened? Like Hemingway’s old quip about a man going broke slowly and then all-at-once, we allowed everything in American life to creep into hapless giantism too cumbersome to adapt to new conditions, and suddenly conditions have changed.
And now it’s all coming apart: the dying chain stores, the giant zombie companies that can only exist by borrowing money to buy back their own stocks, the auto-makers who have run out of lending schemes for non-creditworthy customers, the shale oil fracking companies that could never make a red cent, the agri-biz farmers grown morbidly obese on a diet of credit and government subsidies (just like their end-customers grew obese on engineered snack-foods), the Wall Street lords of financialization hypothecating fortunes by leveraging the stripped assets of everything not nailed down from sea to shining sea, the swelling underclass conditioned to helplessness, addiction, and vice, the inescapable ambient tyranny of media hype, propaganda, and disinformation, and, of course, the catastrophe that government has become.
If this chart doesn’t make you think the crash is coming soon, then probably nothing will: The Nasdaq is on its final run and is going vertical, a classic end of bubble move. This is trader heaven and turns into speculator hell for those who think that markets do grow to the skies. It could go up a long way in price but it won’t go for long in time. It could last to Christmas, it could fold tomorrow, but my feeling is that unless this bubble is cut down by the Fed, the final move will be large and quick. You can refer to the dotcom crash for the general shape of what looks possible next.
The attempts by the government to pump up the economy with new money is resulting in it going straight into equities and straight into the tip of the equity spear, the giant high beta story stocks. This is a malfunction of the QE mechanism that supports asset prices and slowly trickles the benefits of this support down the pyramid of wealth. Now the game is up because the new money is going straight into this bubble of financial assets that are spiralling up out of control. If we now get a Nasdaq bull vertical that is the end of the chapter of the process, it will be followed by a devastating crash as everyone dashes to the exit in a blaze of wealth destruction.
The Federal Reserve needs to get a lid on this fast and it appears to be trying to by tapering its balance sheet, but the bubble is still fizzing and if it does not stop soon it will do what bubbles generally do, erupt then collapse. The final eruption before collapse looks to be underway and we should only hope it doesn’t happen. If it does enter the terminal bubble phase and then collapse, it will be the second blow to the U.S. and world economy, which repeats the 1930 narrative of the one-two punch of twin crises. In the Great Depression it was “stock market crash” followed by “banking crisis.” Here it will be “lockdown” followed by “stock market crash.”
Differences in the way people’s immune systems respond to being infected with the coronavirus could be a matter of life or death, according to a new study. When the human body comes under attack from a virus, the immune system produces T cells to tackle it. These mostly come in two forms: “helpers”, which organise the defence response, and “killers”, which are told how and where to fight. The killers destroy virus cells with toxic chemicals, but to do the job effectively requires precise coordination with the helper cells. In many patients who became seriously ill with Covid-19, this teamwork was missing, according to researchers from the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in the United States led by associate professor of medicine Dr Nuala Meyer.
According to their study, published in Science magazine on Wednesday, there are “three ‘immunotypes’ associated with poor clinical trajectories versus improving health”. The team found that in some patients there was a disproportionately large number of helper cells while the generation of killer cells was suppressed. This meant that while there was a lot of “horn blowing” about the threat posed by the virus, there were too few fighters to tackle it effectively. The second immunotype encompassed those people whose immune systems produced a much higher number of killer cells, meaning they were better armed to destroy the invaders, but not enough helper cells to coordinate the fight. As a result, they suffered significantly from Covid-19 but managed to survive it, the study said.
At the other end of the spectrum were those who failed to produce enough T cells of either kind, meaning they lacked the firepower to destroy the invasive cells and were therefore the most at risk of dying. The US study looked at 125 patients, making it the largest of its kind yet conducted. Although the scientists were unable to fully explain the different immune system responses, they suspected it might be linked to the patients’ general health at the time of infection. While most of the Covid-19 patients in the study had received more or less the same treatments, the researchers said doctors might need to consider a more tailored approach. “The findings promote the idea of tailoring clinical treatments or future immune-based clinical trials for patients whose immunotype suggests a greater potential benefit,” they said.
However, a doctor at a hospital treating Covid-19 patients in Beijing, who asked not to be named, said such a system was already in place. He said that while the reasons for different immune responses remained unclear, frontline doctors had been observing huge differences in the way people reacted to treatment methods since the early days of the coronavirus outbreak in China. A treatment that might work wonders for one person, could kill another, he said. “Too many helper T cells can lead to a storm [of inflammation],” he said. “Some drugs can suppress this signal before they raise havoc.”
“Wait. I can catch Covid twice?” my 50-year-old patient asked in disbelief. It was the beginning of July, and he had just tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, for a second time — three months after a previous infection. While there’s still much we don’t understand about immunity to this new illness, a small but growing number of cases like his suggest the answer is yes. Covid-19 may also be much worse the second time around. During his first infection, my patient experienced a mild cough and sore throat. His second infection, in contrast, was marked by a high fever, shortness of breath, and hypoxia, resulting in multiple trips to the hospital.
Recent reports and conversations with physician colleagues suggest my patient is not alone. Two patients in New Jersey, for instance, appear to have contracted Covid-19 a second time almost two months after fully recovering from their first infection. Daniel Griffin, a physician and researcher at Columbia University in New York, recently described a case of presumed reinfection on the This Week in Virology podcast. It is possible, but unlikely, that my patient had a single infection that lasted three months. Some Covid-19 patients (now dubbed “long haulers”) do appear to suffer persistent infections and symptoms. My patient, however, cleared his infection — he had two negative PCR tests after his first infection — and felt healthy for nearly six weeks.
I believe it is far more likely that my patient fully recovered from his first infection, then caught Covid-19 a second time after being exposed to a young adult family member with the virus. He was unable to get an antibody test after his first infection, so we do not know whether his immune system mounted an effective antibody response or not. Regardless, the limited research so far on recovered Covid-19 patients shows that not all patients develop antibodies after infection. Some patients, and particularly those who never develop symptoms, mount an antibody response immediately after infection only to have it wane quickly afterward — an issue of increasing scientific concern. What’s more, repeat infections in a short period are a feature of many viruses, including other coronaviruses.
Gotta start with this chart many of you have seen by now In early June after months of following articles, treatment protocols, declarations, etc. I was curious about how the countries lined up. For the most part, it’s accurate
Image It’s not perfect as HCQ was also used in Belgium and Spain and later in Italy, but the idea is that Western Europe as a whole never embraced the ‘treat early and often’ strategy. Mostly they tried it with sick patients, didn’t work..moved on They mainly followed the WHO position. I wanted to address the chart first, because its not a work of great science. It was meant to provoke thought and discussion. Along the way, some saw it as proof. It’s not, but it does make you say “hmm..” In this thread, I’m going to try and go much deeper into the data.
Social distancing and wearing a mask prevent you from spreading COVID-19, but they also protect you from getting it, two experts explain in a new video discussion of coronavirus transmission. A range of new research on face coverings shows that the risk of infection to the wearer decreases by 65%, says Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California, Davis Children’s Hospital. “On the issue of masks, I’d like to restart—because we’ve learned a lot,” Blumberg says. “We’ve learned more due to research and additional scientific evidence. What we know now is that masks work and are very important.” Blumberg and William Ristenpart, a professor of chemical engineering, appeared on a recent livestream devoted to explaining how the coronavirus spreads and how to prevent transmission.
In their comments and answers to questions from viewers, Blumberg and Ristenpart repeatedly made the point that research continues to support the fundamental methods to prevent spreading COVID-19: Wear masks, maintain social distance, and keep social interactions outdoors whenever possible. There are two primary methods of coronavirus transmission, Blumberg and Ristenpart explain. The first is via droplets a carrier expels, which are about one-third the size of a human hair but still large enough that we can see them. Masks create an effective barrier against droplets. “Everyone should wear a mask,” Blumberg says. “People who say, ‘I don’t believe masks work,’ are ignoring scientific evidence. It’s not a belief system. It’s like saying, ‘I don’t believe in gravity.’
“People who don’t wear a mask increase the risk of transmission to everyone, not just the people they come into contact with. It’s all the people those people will have contact with. You’re being an irresponsible member of the community if you’re not wearing a mask. It’s like double-dipping in the guacamole. You’re not being nice to others.” The second major coronavirus transmission method is via the aerosol particles we expel when we talk. Those are about 1/100th the size of a human hair and are more difficult to defend against. Social distancing and staying outdoors, where there is more air flow, are helpful, Blumberg and Ristenpart say. “Studies in laboratory conditions now show the virus stays alive in aerosol form with a half-life on the scale of hours. It persists in the air,” Ristenpart says. “That’s why you want to be outdoors for any social situations if possible. The good air flow will disperse the virus. If you are indoors, think about opening the windows. You want as much fresh air as possible.”
The emergency room overflowed with patients. Then, the next wave arrived. This time on stretchers. “They were lined up along the walls in the ER,” a health care worker inside a Navicent Health-owned hospital in middle Georgia told GPB News. “We never have had an influx like that. Since the Fourth of July, it has just exploded.” Staff members did what they always do. They tended to patients as best they could. For the sickest patients, staff searched for available beds in nearby hospitals. In previous weeks, the health care worker said, COVID-19 patients typically got transported to medical centers about 70 miles north to Atlanta or 160 miles east to Savannah. This week, there was no room. Desperate, the health care worker said, administrators began checking available hospitals in Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida.
The distance stretched more than 850 miles north to south, from Louisville, Ky., down to Orlando, Fla. “When you have to start shipping patients out of state, it’s bad,” the worker said. “When the hospitals are full, that’s when it becomes really dangerous for everybody.” The Navicent employee approached GPB News late Wednesday, saying hospital systems are not providing an accurate reflection of what staffers are seeing inside the walls of medical centers overrun with patients. The employee spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of getting fired, and NPR is not identifying the Navicent hospital where the employee works to maintain that person’s anonymity. “People will never understand if we do not tell the truth about how bad it really is,” the employee said. “That’s what makes us so angry.”
Tired of being stuck at home, Georgians headed to beaches and bars, to hair salons and restaurants. Many flaunted not wearing masks as if the virus were gone. For some, it was their own personal way of telling the government to shove its restrictive policies. Public health officials warned of opening too fast, too soon – that you can’t wish a virus away. Georgia has seen coronavirus cases skyrocket as residents have gone about business as usual in recent weeks. Cases have topped 127,000, and more than 3,000 lives have been taken. Just three weeks ago, the overall cases stood at 69,000.
A boost in unemployment pay is about to run out for people who lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic — as jobless claims pass 51 million. The $600-per-week federal supplement in unemployment insurance is a flashpoint ahead of talks next week on a new coronavirus relief bill. Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell oppose extending the boost — though there are hints of a potential compromise. The supplement for weekly unemployment was intended to ensure that most people kept the same income if they were temporarily out of work, but it officially runs out at the end of July. If it’s taken away, people would only get weekly benefits from state governments, which range from less than $250 a week in Arizona and Louisiana to over $1,200 with dependents in Massachusetts.
Many people have returned to work as states allow businesses to reopen, but another 1.3 million Americans applied for first-time unemployment benefits last week. From the start, Senate Republicans objected to the boost resulting in some jobless people earning more than 100 percent of their prior pay due to varying state rates, saying it created an incentive not to work. McConnell (R-Ky.) said this month that extending the boost won’t be in a new bill. “We’re hearing it all over the country that it’s made it harder actually to get people back to work,” he said. White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow is pushing for a “back to work” bonus to replace the unemployment bump. But signaling room for compromise, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the top Trump administration negotiator on past packages, said last week a priority was changing the provision to ensure “no more” than 100 percent of pre-pandemic pay was awarded.
Key U.S. House Democrats are backing a push by airline unions for a new round of government bailouts to keep workers employed in the face of tens of thousands of possible layoffs this fall, according to a letter encouraging other colleagues to sign on. In March, Congress approved $32 billion for the aviation industry to keep workers on payroll through Sept. 30, but as air travel demand remains depressed in the pandemic, airlines have warned of furloughs in October, prompting union calls for a six-month extension of aid. Airlines for America (A4A), a trade group representing major U.S. airlines, said Thursday it is not actively seeking new government assistance but would accept new bailout funds as long as no new strings were attached.
Under the first package, airlines agreed to limits on share buybacks and executive compensation, and issued warrants on a portion of the funds that the government can exchange for shares. If Congress enacts labor’s proposal, “we would support our workforce’s decision to pursue a simple and clean extension of the grants as long as no additional or extraneous conditions are required,” an A4A spokeswoman said. Airlines also agreed not to force any job cuts before October, giving them time to assess the pace of a recovery. Now over 60,000 airline workers at American Airlines and United Airlines alone are facing furlough warnings. Delta is hoping to avoid furloughs after about 17,000 employees volunteered for buyouts, though Chief Executive Ed Bastian said in a memo on Friday that the airline is still overstaffed in some areas based on its network and demand projections.
Attorney General William Barr on Thursday condemned U.S. businesses for compromising American principles while chasing profits from China. Barr during a speech at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Michigan warned about the Asian super power’s ambitions and the tactics it uses to achieve its aims. “The People’s Republic of China is now engaged in an economic blitzkrieg — an aggressive, orchestrated, whole-of-government (indeed, whole-of-society) campaign to seize the commanding heights of the global economy and to surpass the United States as the world’s preeminent technological superpower,” Barr said.
“It is clear that the PRC seeks not merely to join the ranks of other advanced industrial economies, but to replace them altogether,” he said. “If you are an American business leader, appeasing the PRC may bring short-term rewards. But in the end, the PRC’s goal is to replace you.” The attorney general said that while doing business with China has failed to soften the country’s authoritarian regime, it has had negative results as some American businesses seek to appease China in order to retain the ability to do business there. “As this administration’s China Strategy recognizes, ‘the [Chinese Communist Party’s] campaign to compel ideological conformity does not stop at China’s borders.’
Rather, the CCP seeks to extend its influence around the world, including on American soil,” he said. “All too often, for the sake of short-term profits, American companies have succumbed to that influence—even at the expense of freedom and openness in the United States.” Barr pointed to Hollywood for taking actions to appease the Chinese regime. He also called out technology companies, saying that organizations “such as Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, and Apple have shown themselves all too willing to collaborate with the CCP.” “The American people are more attuned than ever to the threat that the Chinese Communist Party poses not only to our way of life, but to our very lives and livelihoods,” he said. “And they will increasingly call out corporate appeasement.”
As European Union leaders start pouring in early for a two-day summit starting Friday, all realize that rarely so much has been on the line. The 27-nation bloc is battered by the coronavirus pandemic, much of its economy in need of a massive aid injection and its countries riven by disputes ranging from the respect for basic democratic principles to the need for tough controls on spending. “The crisis brought about by this pandemic, with all of its economic and social consequences, is the most severe we have had to face since the Second World War,” European Council President and summit host Charles Michel said Thursday.
To make sure their nations bounce back, the 27 leaders will be assessing an overall budget and recovery package spread over seven years estimated at around 1.75 trillion to 1.85 trillion euros. “Does 1.75 trillion euros ($2 trillion) seem like a lot of money to you? Believe me, it does to the European heads of state or government too,” Michel said. It has certainly been enough to end a rut of five remote videoconference summits that yielded little to bring sides closer together and forced everyone to come in person to the urn-shaped Europa summit center for at least two days of summiteering. On the eve of Friday’s opening, French President Emmanuel Macron will already be huddling with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to find the best way to help nations most affected by the crisis.
Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency and is seen as holding the key to a successful outcome, already had video conference talks with Michel. “An agreement is not guaranteed — to the contrary,” said an EU official involved in the talks. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the talks were ongoing. “There are still important differences.” The members were already fighting bitterly over the seven-year, 1-trillion-euro EU budget when COVID-19 was still a local story in Wuhan, China, late last year.
Then the virus hit the EU head on and estimations are now that the economy of the 19 countries that use the euro currency will contract by 8.7% this year. It sent the EU into a panic as it was at a loss on how to coordinate policies of its member states early on. Now, the EU’s executive is proposing a 750-billion-euro recovery fund, partly based on common borrowing, to be spent as loans and grants to the most needy countries. The group of the four so-called frugal countries, led by the Netherlands, is questioning the need for grants and also wants strict governance criteria, including the possibility of veto, on how the money will be spent. There are also questions on which nations should be the main beneficiaries.
Contradictions in the words of the UK’s top diplomat were pointed out by the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova. Raab’s statement “was so ambiguous and inconsistent that it was practically impossible to understand,” she said. With London confirming that it has no proof against Russia, but still threatening retaliatory measures, “there’s a feeling that we have a new loop of the ‘highly likely’ tactics.” “Highly likely” was the phrase used by then-UK Prime Minister Theresa May to blame Russia for the chemical poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury back in 2018. Two years later, London hasn’t provided any convincing evidence to back the claim.
Raab’s “almost certain” will apparently become the new go-to formula for the UK authorities, but the tactics of blaming Russia for internal problems in Britain will remain the same, Zakharova said. The Russian Embassy in London called it a purely propagandist step, noting that it never received any notes of protest from the British parties regarding the hacking claims. As for Raab’s threats of retaliation, an embassy spokesman said that “any unfriendly steps towards Russia won’t be left without a proper and adequate response.” The hacking claims were an attempt to “tarnish the reputation of the Russian vaccine” against the coronavirus, CEO of Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) Kirill Dmitriev said.
Those behind the slur are “scared of [the vaccine’s] success because the Russian vaccine could potentially be the first on the market and it potentially could be the most effective,” he explained. It’s no coincidence that those accusations were made just after the announcement that the state regulators will be approving the Russian vaccine in August, Dmitriev added. Besides, stealing data from the UK would have made no sense for Moscow, as a Russian firm, R-Pharm, will be producing the British vaccine made by Oxford-based AstraZeneca. “No secrets are needed. Everything is already given to R-Pharm,” Dmitriev said.
When was the last time you filled up the car? Bought a train ticket? Paid an air fare? Ordered a new sofa? Or even just bought a latte or booked the cinema? Days now go by when I do not spend one pence. And I know I’m far from alone. Figures emerging across Europe reveal that forced saving is happening on an unprecedented scale. French savers put aside nearly €20bn (£16.2bn) in March, compared with the monthly average before coronavirus of €3.8bn. The Italians were much the same, adding €16.8bn to savings accounts, or five times the monthly average of €3.4bn. In the UK, the Bank of England says bank deposits soared by £13.1bn in March, a record monthly rise.
Unorthodox spending patterns abound. GoCompare reckons UK drivers spent £267m less on petrol during the strictest phase of the lockdown. Retail data company Kantar says we are spending a lot more on online groceries but £1bn less on the likes of those £3 sandwich, crisps and juice lunch deals popular in Tesco Express or Sainsbury’s Local. Nationwide says four out of 10 of its customers have more disposable income than before the crisis. The better off are almost wallowing in spare cash. Even after assuming we are spending 20% more on food and alcohol, stockbroker Peel Hunt reckons upper-middle-class households in the UK (those in the ninth decile of income distribution) have cut their disposable spending by just over half.
It estimates that across the entire economy, households in 2020 will save £120.8bn, compared with £38.2bn in 2019, a gigantic increase. That’s a cool £82bn extra kicking around in savings and current accounts. [..] The stockbroking firm at least has the good grace to note we’re not all in this together. “The beneficiaries are skewed towards the top end of the income distribution. Lower-income earners are more likely to work in sectors most affected by job losses and reduced working hours. They also spend a greater proportion of their income on essentials,” it says. So what’s going to happen with all this money? These involuntary savings are entirely the product of the pandemic rather than frugality so we might expect them to go back down to normal levels when the crisis is over and pent-up demand is satisfied.
President Trump signed an executive order Thursday aimed at increasing the ability of the government to regulate social media platforms, a marked escalation of his lengthy feud with Silicon Valley over allegations of anti-conservative bias. The brunt of the order is focused on Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 law that gives platforms legal immunity for content posted by third-party users while also giving them cover to make good-faith efforts to moderate their platforms. Trump’s order directs an agency within the Commerce Department to file a petition with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to clarify the scope of Section 230, a proposition that has already drawn rebukes from the two Democratic members of the five-person commission.
Another section of the order would encourage federal agencies to review their spending on social media advertising. Trump, joined by Attorney General William Barr, addressed reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon before signing the executive order. “We’re here today to defend free speech from one of the greatest dangers it has faced in American history, frankly, and you know what’s going on as well as anybody. It’s not good,” Trump told reporters. The president accused social media companies of having “unchecked power to censure, restrict, edit, shape, hide, alter virtually any form of communication between private citizens or large public audiences.” He also said that if he were able to shut Twitter down, he would.
Trump and Barr indicated that legislation on Section 230 could be coming soon in Congress. Barr did not provide further details, while Trump suggested they could just “remove or totally change 230.” When asked about the possibility of a legal challenge to the order, Trump said, “I guess it’s going to be challenged in court, but what isn’t?”
Twitter places public interest notice on this new tweet from President Trump.
"violates our policies regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today" pic.twitter.com/Z1TuCHO1Pi
Peaceful rallies gave way to a third night of arson, looting and vandalism in Minneapolis on Thursday as protesters vented their rage over the death of a black man seen on video gasping for breath while a white police officer knelt on his neck. The latest spasm of unrest in Minnesota’s largest city went largely unchecked, despite Governor Tim Walz ordering the National Guard activated to help restore order following the first two days of disturbances sparked by Monday night’s fatal arrest of George Floyd, 46. In contrast with Wednesday night, when rock-throwing demonstrators clashed repeatedly with police in riot gear, law enforcement kept a low profile around the epicenter of the unrest, outside the city’s Third Precinct police station.
Protesters massing outside the building briefly retreated under volleys of police tear gas and rubber bullets fired at them from the roof, only to reassemble and eventually attack the building head on, setting fire to the structure as police seemed to withdraw. Protesters were later observed on the roof. The city authority warned about ‘unconfirmed’ reports that gas lines to the Third Precinct police station were cut and that there were other explosives in the building. It appealed to people to retreat from the building.A car and at least two other buildings in the vicinity were also set ablaze, and looters returned for a second night to a nearby Target discount store, left boarded up and vacant from the previous night, to make off with whatever remained inside. Fire officials said 16 buildings were torched on Wednesday night.
President Donald Trump on Twitter said that he will send the National Guard troops and “get the job done right” if Mayor Jacob Frey failed to bring the city under control. “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he wrote in tweets posted late midnight.
Andrea Jenkins, vice president of Minneapolis City Council, says George Floyd and Officer Chauvin worked at restaurant near Third Precinct.
Seven people were shot in Louisville, Kentucky, one of whom was in critical condition, during protests that turned violent Thursday night, police said. Circumstances of the shootings were not immediately clear, and a police spokesman called the situation downtown fluid early Friday. Officers were not involved in the shootings, Police Sgt. Lamont Washington said. No other details were immediately available from police. Mayor Greg Fischer said in a video statement early Friday that seven people were shot “from within the crowd” and no police officers fired their weapons. Five were in good condition, two were sent to surgery, he said, adding “my prayers are with all of them.”
The violence happened as hundreds had gathered to protest the death of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old woman who was killed by Louisville police this spring. “What we are seeing tonight in this community is the obvious frustration of the tension between police and residents,” police special adviser Jessie Halladay said earlier in a video call. “What started out as a peaceful protest earlier this evening is now escalating into property damage, more aggressive action, and we’ve just heard reports of shots fired in the crowd,” she said at the time. She said that in addition to property damage bottles had been thrown at officers.
Calling for a more measured way to express opposition to police brutality, critics slammed demonstrators Thursday for recklessly looting businesses without forming a private equity firm first. “Look, we all have the right to protest, but that doesn’t mean you can just rush in and destroy any business without gathering a group of clandestine investors to purchase it at a severely reduced price and slowly bleed it to death,” said Facebook commenter Amy Mulrain, echoing the sentiments of detractors nationwide who blasted the demonstrators for not hiring a consultant group to take stock of a struggling company’s assets before plundering.
“I understand that people are angry, but they shouldn’t just endanger businesses without even a thought to enriching themselves through leveraged buyouts and across-the-board terminations. It’s disgusting to put workers at risk by looting. You do it by chipping away at their health benefits and eventually laying them off. There’s a right way and wrong way to do this.” At press time, critics recommended that protestors hold law enforcement accountable by simply purchasing the Minneapolis police department from taxpayers.
On June 30, 2016, Carl Icahn led a restructuring of “Old Hertz”, where the Hertz Equipment Rental Corporation (HERC) was split off from the car rental operations (Hertz Global Holdings). Each became a separate publicly-traded company (Icahn with 39% equity stake in Hertz and a 15% stake in HERC), each installed an Icahn-controlled board (not “controlled” in a legal sense, but controlled sure enough), and each started taking on massive amounts of debt. How much debt? Well, HERC has about $2.1 billion in long-term debt, against an equity market cap of only $830 million (and that’s more than twice what it was at the March lows). The equity position is what we might call a stub … a small piece of the enterprise value of the overall corporation (debt + equity – cash). If you want to understand HERC as an equity investment, you better focus your analysis on that debt position and how the company can support that kind of leverage!
As for the debt levels at Hertz … LOL. Hertz has more than $19 billion in long-term debt, against a market cap that was (at its 2019 peak!) about $2.1 billion. Now there’s a stub for you. It’s hard for me to adequately convey the playground that an insanely levered rental company – whether it rents cars or construction equipment – provides for a financialization genius like Carl Icahn. Between asset depreciation assumptions, cost of capital assumptions, and the ability to securitize or otherwise move assets off your balance sheet … the accounting cookie jar that a rental company gives Icahn is otherworldly. Keep in mind, too, that in 2017 – more than a year after Icahn took control – Hertz was forced to report that management had “identified material weaknesses in our internal control over financial reporting.”
European leaders are in no mood to follow the United States in threatening trade sanctions against China as it moves to tighten its grip on Hong Kong, although foreign ministers will meet on Friday to try to hack out a common position. China’s top legislature on Thursday voted to impose a national security law on Hong Kong, sparking concerns that Beijing will limit the autonomy granted by the “one country, two systems” principle that followed the end of British rule in 1997. The US, Canada, Australia and Britain condemned Beijing’s step, hailing Hong Kong as a “bastion of freedom,” while Britain held open the prospect of citizenship for more Hongkongers if Beijing presses ahead.
But despite growing tensions over the former British colony, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Europe’s most powerful politician, insisted she still wants the European Union to reach a landmark investment agreement with China this year. And while US President Donald Trump said on Thursday the US would be announcing new US policies on Friday as “we are not happy with China” after his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had already cast doubt on Hong Kong’s continued preferential trading status, the EU stuck to traditional diplomatic expressions of concern. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he had “deep concern” about Thursday’s move.
He has previously insisted Brussels “attaches great importance to the preservation of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy,” but said this week he did not think “sanctions against China are going to be a solution for our problems”. Merkel also said the EU, the world’s biggest trade bloc, needed to maintain a “critical and constructive” dialogue, with trade retaliation not on the agenda when European foreign ministers meet on Friday. “Sanctions are not on the table, our relations with the Chinese are simply too important,” one senior EU diplomat said. The senior EU diplomat added that Hong Kong could be “a game changer” as questions increase about the rule of law in a city of 7 million people that is the base for many European investors in the region.
But the key issue is whether China’s power grab in Hong Kong will weigh on the EU’s investment agreement with China. Germany wants the deal to be concluded at an EU-China summit in the German city of Leipzig in September, although the agreement was already in trouble even before the latest flare-up in Hong Kong. Michael Clauss, Germany’s ambassador to the EU and a former ambassador to China, admitted earlier this month that talks were stuck over market access rights for European companies.
Both international and Chinese companies have long benefitted from the framework of ‘one country, two systems’. It has allowed business to take place outside the direct access of Beijing’s tight authoritarian control of people and capital on the mainland. For decades Hong Kong has enjoyed special privileges in international trade and has thus been one of Asia’s most vibrant economic and financial hubs. Beijing’s alteration of the status quo will likely provoke a US response in the form of sanctions against China or the cancellation of Hong Kong’s special economic privileges. The attempt to turn Hong Kong into just another Chinese city will no doubt hurt Chinese businesses and elites, but it will likely hurt Western companies even more, as they have long relied on Hong Kong’s excellent business conditions as an invaluable gateway to the Chinese market.
Amid the global pandemic and rising US-China tensions, the push on Hong Kong was foreseeable, but still somewhat unexpected. The Chinese government has likely judged that now is the perfect time to complete some unfinished business. China is intensifying its patrols and creating new administrative structures in the South China Sea. It has increased sabre-rattling towards Taiwan. And Chinese military forces have reportedly entered into Indian territory along the Sino-Indian border, where stand-offs and limited skirmishes have lately occurred on a more regular basis. While the coronavirus has effectively pressed the pause button on the world economy, China’s policymakers have hit fast-forward on restoring ‘territorial integrity’ and dominance in Asia. For Europe, this comes at the worst possible moment.
The head of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office said on Friday that “one country, two systems” and “peaceful reunification” is the best way to bring China and Taiwan together. Outside attempts by foreign forces to interfere in “reunification” will fail, Liu Jieyi told an event at the Great Hall of the People marking 15 years since China signed into law its Anti-Secession Law. Beijing passed the law in 2005 which authorises the use of force against Taiwan if China judges it to have seceded.
China will attack Taiwan if there is no other way of stopping it from becoming independent, one of the country’s most senior generals said on Friday, in a rhetorical escalation from China aimed at the democratic island Beijing claims as its own. Speaking at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on the 15th anniversary of the Anti-Secession Law, Li Zuocheng, chief of the Joint Staff Department and member of the Central Military Commission, left the door open to using force. The 2005 law gives the country the legal basis for military action against Taiwan if it secedes or seems about to, making the narrow Taiwan Strait a potential military flashpoint.
“If the possibility for peaceful reunification is lost, the people’s armed forces will, with the whole nation, including the people of Taiwan, take all necessary steps to resolutely smash any separatist plots or actions,” Li said. “We do not promise to abandon the use of force, and reserve the option to take all necessary measures, to stabilise and control the situation in the Taiwan Strait,” he added. Although China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control, it is rare for a top, serving military officer to so explicitly make the threat in a public setting. The comments are especially striking amid international opprobrium over China passing new national security legislation for Chinese-run Hong Kong.
Britain is seeking an international alliance to supply Brits with 5G internet and break China’s monopoly over the network. The Government is driving forward plans for 10 democratic countries to work together and find a new provider for the superfast internet. Ministers want the UK to form a club of nations, dubbed the ‘D10’, to fund technology companies and find a 5G supplier to replace Huawei. The PM approved plans for the Chinese company to build part of the UK’s new internet network in January, despite pressure from MPs and the US government. The D10 club would see G7 nations – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US – join forces with Australia, South Korea and India to find another company to build the 5G network.
The UK has already approached Washington with the plan, the Times has reported. A source told the newspaper: “We need new entrants to the market. That was the reason we ended up having to go along with Huawei at the time.” It comes amid rising tensions between the UK and China, with the Government accusing the Communist state of covering up coronavirus. Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove said in March that China “was not clear about the scale, the nature, the infectiousness of this disease.” Nokia and Ericsson are the only two companies in Europe that are currently supplying 5G infrastructure, but it is believed they could not build the network as quickly as Huawei.
A U.S. judge on Thursday said institutional investors, including BlackRock and PIMCO, can pursue much of their lawsuit accusing 15 major banks of rigging prices in the $6.6 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market. U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield in Manhattan said the nearly 1,300 plaintiffs, including many mutual funds and exchange-traded funds, plausibly alleged that the banks conspired to rig currency benchmarks from 2003 to 2013 and profit at their expense. “This is an injury of the type the antitrust laws were intended to prevent,” Schofield wrote in a 40-page decision.
The banks, which sometimes controlled more than 90% of the market, included Bank of America, Barclays, BNP Paribas, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Canada, Royal Bank of Scotland, Societe Generale, Standard Chartered and UBS or various affiliates. In their complaint, the plaintiffs accused the banks of improperly sharing confidential orders and trading positions, and using chat rooms with such names as “The Cartel,” “The Mafia” and “The Bandits’ Club.” Banks were also accused of using deceptive trading tactics such as “front running,” “banging the close” and “taking out the filth.” [..] The litigation began in November 2018, after the plaintiffs “opted out” of similar nationwide litigation that had resulted in $2.31 billion of settlements with most of the banks.
Former presidential contender Tulsi Gabbard dropped her defamation lawsuit against Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, saying the COVID-19 pandemic and 2020 presidential election are more important than her legal claims. In court papers filed in Manhattan federal court Wednesday, Gabbard wrote that, while her claims have merit, it’s better to “focus their time and attention on other priorities, including defeating Donald Trump in 2020, rather than righting the wrongs here.” Gabbard, a congresswoman from Hawaii, sued Clinton in January, claiming the former first lady defamed her by calling her a “Russian asset” during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary.
“Tulsi Gabbard is running for President of the United States, a position Clinton has long coveted, but has not been able to attain,” Gabbard’s Manhattan federal lawsuit read. “In October 2019 — whether out of personal animus, political enmity, or fear of real change within a political party Clinton and her allies have long dominated — Clinton lied about her perceived rival Tulsi Gabbard. She did so publicly, unambiguously, and with obvious malicious intent,” it added. Clinton had refused to walk back comments she made during a 2019 appearance on a podcast, in which she referred to Gabbard as a “favorite of the Russians.” “She’s the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far,” Clinton told “Campaign HQ” host and former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe.
Congress has been embroiled in debate over the potential renewal of three controversial provisions of the Patriot Act, the post-9/11 spying bill that has been harshly criticized by civil liberties advocates for almost two decades. At issue in Congress is the fact that Section 215 of the Patriot Act (the provision once secretly reinterpreted by the FISA court to authorize the NSA’s mass phone surveillance program) allows the Trump administration to gather the internet browsing and search histories of Americans without a warrant. Sen. Ron Wyden had proposed an amendment that would require federal authorities to get a probable cause warrant before ever accessing this data.
It seemed like a popular no-brainer: Web browsing and search history is some of the most sensitive content online, and internet privacy has never been a bigger concern to the public. But in a dramatic vote two weeks ago, the Senate roll call on Wyden’s amendment fell just one vote short of the 60-member threshold from passing. With two Democratic caucus members — Bernie Sanders and Patty Murray — missing the vote, the final tally was 59 for and 37 against. The outrage was swift. Even in the Covid-saturated media environment, dozens of news outlets covered the controversy, and the reaction from constituents across the country then came pouring in. Civil liberties organizations immediately mobilized their supporters to contact members of the House, which still must vote on the final bill before it goes to Trump’s desk for a signature.
The pressure worked. Later that same day, Senators voted to pass another amendment that has the potential to reform the secretive FISA court in a significant way. And the House’s privacy advocates felt emboldened to push House leadership to hold a vote on the Wyden amendment during its debate of the Patriot Act bill this week. At the behest of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a bipartisan team of House representatives — led by Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren and Republican Rep. Warren Davidson — negotiated for three days with Schiff on the exact language of the amendment. Lofgren and Davidson wanted an up and down vote on Wyden’s version that failed in the Senate by one vote, but Schiff reportedly resisted. The sides reached a compromise late Tuesday afternoon.
Schiff pushed for a change to the amendment so that warrant protections would only cover “U.S. persons,” a definition that would exclude millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States, including the thousands of DACA recipients, who are at particular risk of surveillance under the Trump administration. Even with the weakened language, Wyden supported the bill, while emphasizing in a statement that the bill’s language meant that if there was any possibility of Trump collecting U.S. persons’ data, then the administration had to get a warrant.
More than two dozen former prosecutors, judges and active trial lawyers filed a brief backing the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) decision to dismiss the case against President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn. The bipartisan group of former government attorneys are asking U.S. District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan for them to formally file an amicus brief on the case. The group includes former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr and U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). “The issue presented in this case is whether the court has discretion to deny a motion to dismiss to which the defendant consents, as Gen. Flynn has done here. The answer is no,” the attorneys wrote.
Attorney General William Barr requested that the Justice Department drop the charges against Flynn of lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russia shortly before Trump took office. The attorneys argue that Sullivan does not have the legal right to override the decision from the prosecutor — in this case the DOJ — to dismiss a case they are prosecuting. “There is simply no basis upon which this Court can review and deny the Government’s motion to dismiss, to which the defense has consented,” they wrote. Earlier this month, 16 former Watergate prosecutors also asked Sullivan for permission to weigh in on the case. The attorneys argued that given the DOJ’s decision to dismiss Flynn’s criminal prosecution — despite his 2017 guilty pleas — the department cannot be counted on to give the court a fair and complete presentation of the issues raised by the move.
You’re living in a pandemic. Public health officials recommend new measures every few days: avoid crowds, open windows, wear a mask. Schools close, theaters go dark, even churches shut their doors. But at least the restaurants are open! The year is 1918—maybe not so much like 2020 after all. For years, centuries even, we took restaurants for granted; it is news to most people that they had to be invented (I write about this history in my book The Invention of the Restaurant). As a child, it made sense to me that Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin and Alexander Graham Bell, the telephone—as we learned in school, “progress” meant currently familiar technologies had all started at some point in the past. Jonas Salk created a polio vaccine. These people were all famous because they invented a new thing. But that social and cultural forms had a history, that not just individual eateries but the entire category of restaurants might be new at one point and non-existent at another? Go figure.
Now it appears that restaurants may not only have a start date, but an end date as well. Born of Enlightenment medical sensibility (the first restaurateurs sold restorative broths and marketed their products especially to people with “weak and delicate chests”), restaurants as we knew them just six months ago may well be a thing of the past—killed off, or at least radically altered, by the current pandemic. For more than 200 years, restaurants have been public places where people go to be private: to sit at their own tables, have their own conversations, eat their own meals. But even that limited degree of interaction violates the social distancing guidelines widely in place today.
Operating in most cases with small profit margins—this month’s customers pay next month’s rent—few restaurants can afford two weeks (much less months) of forced closure. Estimates are that 75 percent of independently owned restaurants may never re-open. Without them, bakeries, specialty farmers, and wine distributors are likely to be in serious trouble as well. While most authorities in the United States today agreed on restaurants closures as a vital public-health measure, their counterparts during the deadly 1918 influenza epidemic saw things differently. A hundred years ago, it seemed obvious that crowds would form along parade routes, in public parks, at revival or club meetings—but not in restaurants.
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YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki says anything that goes against the W.H.O. is a violation of YouTube policies. All content that isn't "medically substantiated," such as advising people take Vitamin C, will be removed by the platform. pic.twitter.com/OinPge6KoZ
More countries are demanding people wear face masks, even the CDC in the US talks about making it obligatory, but masks are no more available in many places than tests are. We’re three months into this thing -though I know for most people it’s been just 2 weeks-, and we’re still debating this.
In the US, half the people have it easy, they can just blame everything on Trump, it’s a entire industry, even though his approval numbers rise at the same time. But in all those other countries, who do you blame when you have face the coordinated efforts to praise your government of the day? Life isn’t easy. Maybe you can blame Trump too.
Meanwhile, we’re sadly waiting for US cases and death numbers to explode. 15,000 new cases and close to 1,000 new deaths is devastating, but nowhere near what we expect the trend to become.
• Cases 799,723 (+ 64,792 from yesterday’s 734,931)
• Deaths 38,720 (+ 3,940 from yesterday’s 34,780)
From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close-. Note: Turkey’s in the ascendancy (though not in the zodiac)
From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 19% –
Sharyl Attkisson noticed something too. Fauci must be more careful.
You’ve probably heard that COVID-19 is far deadlier than the flu. But it could turn out to be more akin to a severe flu season. Surprisingly, both of those assessments come from the same authority at the same time: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s chief infectious disease specialist. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has repeatedly cited more jarring figures in public. For instance, Fauci declared in March 11 congressional testimony that the current coronavirus “is 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu,” which would be about 1 percent. His testimony generated news headlines that blared across the internet and television news, and it remains frequently cited today. But among his learned colleagues in academia, he has provided the more conservative analysis.
“[T]he case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%,” Fauci wrote in an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine on March 26. “This suggests that the overall clinical consequences of COVID-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.” A day after the NEJM article was published, Fauci was back to repeating the higher fatality number in public rather than “considerably less than 1%.” “The mortality of [COVID-19] is about 10 times [flu],” Fauci told Comedy Central host Trevor Noah on March 27.
Healthcare providers facing medical equipment shortages and exorbitantly high drug prices during the coronavirus outbreak are captive to kickback-receiving “middlemen” who lock up hospitals in exclusive contracts that enable price gouging and supply bottlenecks, according to a network of physician advocacy groups representing 3,000 physicians. Nearly 90% of U.S. mayors who responded to a national survey released Friday by the U.S. Conference of Mayors said they lack enough protective equipment for their coronavirus medical workers, and 85% said they do not have enough ventilators for their hospitals.
Dr. Marion Mass, a Duke-educated physician who founded Practicing Physicians of America (PPA), told Just the News that so-called “safe harbor” (legal protection) provisions allowing for payments from medical equipment and drug manufacturers to pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and group purchasing organizations (GPO) — what Dr. Mass calls the “middlemen” between providers and manufacturers — amount to “kickbacks.” The “safe harbor” payments are overseen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), monitored by the HHS Inspector General (IG), and are currently protected by law, but Dr. Mass and her physician network argue they should be repealed.
“After significant consolidation, four behemoth GPOs now control 90% of the entire chain of hospital and nursing home supplies, and we are in the grip of an unspeakably corrupt, pay-to-play system of financial kickbacks,” Mass wrote in a white paper co-authored by the Physicians for Reform and Texas Public Policy Foundation. “If the law that established the ‘safe harbor’ for kickbacks to the GPOs (and extended to PBMs in 2003) was repealed, the cost for medical supplies and medications would fall by an estimated 25% to 30%. The cost of prescription medications would fall by 35% to 43%. Additional declines in prices are projected as true competition replaces a rigged marketplace. We estimate this reform would save Medicare and Medicaid an estimated $75 billion each year.”
DiMartino Booth tweet: “(Bloomberg) 3 days after President Trump signed $2T stimulus, Kohl’s, Macy’s & Gap joined growing number of retailers to halt pay for much of their workforce while preserving some benefits. With these furloughs, total number of employees out a paycheck at major US chains >500,000”
Millions of Americans already have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus crisis and the worst of the damage is yet to come, according to a Federal Reserve estimate. Economists at the Fed’s St. Louis district project total employment reductions of 47 million, which would translate to a 32.1% unemployment rate, according to a recent analysis of how bad things could get. The projections are even worse than St. Louis Fed President James Bullard’s much-publicized estimate of 30%. They reflect the high nature of at-risk jobs that ultimately could be lost to a government-induced economic freeze aimed at halting the coronavirus spread. “These are very large numbers by historical standards, but this is a rather unique shock that is unlike any other experienced by the U.S. economy in the last 100 years,” St. Louis Fed economist Miguel Faria-e-Castro wrote in a research paper posted last week.
There are a couple of important caveats to what Faria-e-Castro calls “back-of-the-envelope” calculations: They don’t account for workers who may drop out of the labor force, thus bringing down the headline unemployment rate, and they do not estimate the impact of recently passed government stimulus, which will extend unemployment benefits and subsidize companies for not cutting staff. However, the jobless picture already looks bleak. A record 3.3 million Americans filed initial jobless claims for the week ended March 21. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expect another 2.65 million to join them this week. Friday’s nonfarm payrolls count for March is expected to show a decline of just 56,000, but that’s largely due to a statistical distortion [..]
Pelosi falls innto the Chuck Todd “blood on his hands” trap. It’s a cheap political game that should not now be played. Sure, Trump was way off. But so were his advisers (Fauci), all other western and other leaders, and Pelosi herself, who was busy fiddling with impeachment when she could have been focusing on what she now says Trump should have been doing.
President Trump unleashed on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in an early morning phone interview on “Fox & Friends,” slamming her comments about his “deadly” handling of coronavirus. Speaking to the Fox News hosts Monday morning, the commander-in-chief described the California Democrat as “a sick puppy,” who has “a lot of problems,” when asked about Pelosi’s criticism of his response to the virus. Trump added that her remarks were “a horrible thing to say.” “When I stopped some very, very infected, very, very sick people — thousands coming in from China — earlier than anyone thought [was necessary], including the experts.
Nobody thought we should do it, except me,” Trump said, adding that he was praised by government infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci for his decision to close the borders. “If I didn’t do that, you would’ve had deaths like you have never seen before,” he continued before knocking Pelosi for not crediting him for the move. Trump went on to call San Francisco, a city that is part of Pelosi’s district, a “slum,” adding that the federal government may need to address the city’s problems. Speaking about Pelosi’s impeachment crusade against the president — which passed the House but failed in the Senate — Trump said, “Don’t forget, she was playing the impeachment game where she ended up looking like a fool.”
On Sunday, Pelosi slammed Trump’s response to the pandemic, telling CNN, “We should be taking every precaution. What the president, his denial at the beginning was deadly.” “As the president fiddles, people are dying. And we just have to take every precaution,” she continued. CNN host Jake Tapper pressed the speaker on whether she believed Trump’s downplaying of the crisis had cost American lives, to which Pelosi responded, “Yes, I am. I’m saying that.”
House Democrats are moving rapidly on ambitious plans for a fourth coronavirus relief package, with Speaker Nancy Pelosi eager to put her imprint on legislation that she says could be ready for a vote in the coming weeks. Pelosi told reporters Monday that Democrats are in the early stages of drafting another major bill that will not only shore up health systems and protect frontline health care workers but could include substantial investments in infrastructure. “Our first bills were about addressing the emergency. The third bill was about mitigation. The fourth bill would be about recovery. Emergency, mitigation, recovery,” Pelosi said on a conference call. “I think our country is united in not only wanting to address our immediate needs — emergency, mitigation, and the assault on our lives and livelihoods — but also, how we recover in a very positive way.”
But Democrats’ approach could put them on a collision course with senior Republicans, who say they are very much in wait-and-see mode when it comes to another potential multi-trillion-dollar bill and are warning Pelosi not to try to jam the Senate with a progressive plan. “They’re approaching it — it seems like — as an opportunity to pass their political and ideological agenda. We’re approaching it as, ‘How do we protect the public health and our economy?’ And those are pretty divergent goals,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) [..]
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on March 20 cast doubt on the notion that two Navy hospital ships would soon reach ports on the East and West coasts to relieve hospitals combatting the coronavirus pandemic as President Trump had promised. The ships have since arrived at their respective destination ports in California and New York where they will serve non-COVID-19 patients in an effort to decrease pressure on the hospitals ashore. “In terms of the happy talk we’ve had on this front from the federal government, there is no sign that the Navy hospital ships that the president made such a big deal of, the Comfort and the Mercy, there’s no sign that they’ll be anywhere on site helping out anywhere in the country for weeks yet,” Maddow said on her television show.
“The president said when he announced that those ships would be put into action against the COVID-19 epidemic, he said one of those ships would be operational in New York harbor by next week. That’s nonsense, it will not be there next week,” Maddow asserted. The USNS Comfort arrived in New York harbor on Monday March 30, while the USNS Mercy arrived in the Port of Los Angeles on Friday March 27 and began accepting patients on Sunday March 29. Republicans on Monday highlighted the Maddow clip.
It isn’t the first time the popular liberal host has faced criticism — both on the left and the right — for her prognostication or promotion. Maddow was criticized in March 2017 when she over-hyped a story about Donald Trump’s 2005 tax returns, underwhelming many viewers once she finally divulged the information she had been teasing. “In positioning it as a grand revelation, a vital step in comprehending Trump’s corruption, MSNBC created an exceedingly cynical spectacle,” Willa Paskin wrote on Slate.com.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called on the federal government to take control of the medical supply market. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker demanded that President Trump take charge and said “precious months” were wasted waiting for federal action. Some critics are even more direct in demanding a federal takeover, including a national quarantine. It is the legal version of panic shopping. Many seem to long for federal takeovers, if not martial law. Yet like all panic shopping, they are buying into far more than they need while not doing as much as they could with what they have. For decades, governors tried to retain principal authority over public emergencies, but they did very little with those powers.
While many are doing impressive work now, some governors seem as eager to contain the blame as the coronavirus. Call it political distancing. Even if Trump nationalized the crisis by deploying troops, imposing price controls, and forcing production of ventilators, the Constitution has left most police authority and public health safety to the states in our system of federalism. The Framers believed liberties and powers were safest when held closest to citizens in local and state governments. Elected officials at the local and state levels are more readily held accountable than unknown Washington bureaucrats. Of course, with authority comes responsibility, and the latter notion is not always as welcomed as the former.
Despite all the hyperbole of the last few days, the federal authority of the president to act is much more limited than many appear to believe. Trump cannot, and should not, simply take over the crisis. While he may want to “open for business” by Easter, he has no clear authority to lift state orders for citizens to stay at home. His greatest authority is supplying assistance in the production and delivery of necessary resources such as ventilators. While he can put conditions on some assistance, he cannot commandeer the authority of governors in their responses to the pandemic.
Macy’s announced today that it would lay off “the majority” of its 123,000 employees after it had closed all its Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury stores on March 18. Even before the lockdowns, its headcount was already down 17% from four years ago, in line with the decline of its brick-and-mortar operations. It said these stores would “remain closed until we have clear line of sight on when it is safe to reopen.” Whenever that may be. But “at least through May,” the furloughed employees who were already enrolled in its health benefits program “will continue to receive coverage with the company covering 100% of the premium.” And it said, “We expect to bring colleagues back on a staggered basis as business resumes.” That is, if business at these brick-and-mortar stores resumes.
Department stores have been on a 20-year downward spiral that has ended for many of them in bankruptcy court where they got dismembered and sold off in pieces. The survivors, which have been shuttering their brick-and-mortar stores for years, are now getting hit by the lockdowns. The chart depicts the brick-and-mortar business that Macy’s, Nordstrom, Kohl’s, JCPenney, Neiman Marcus, Sears, Bon-Ton Stores, Barney’s and others are in – or were in. Over the past 20 years, department store revenues declined by 43%. And now they’re getting whacked for good by the lockdowns. That declining line of revenues is going to make a 90-degree downward kink in Q1, Q2 and Q3, to violate the WOLF STREET beer-bug dictum that “Nothing Goes to Heck in a Straight Line”:
As many brick-and-mortar stores have shut down, and as people are fearful about going to those stores that are still open (such as grocery stores), ecommerce sales have exploded. Americans have long been reluctant to buy groceries online. But that has changed overnight. Amazon, Walmart and other online retailers have gone on a hiring binge to deal with the onslaught of online buying, including the stuff people normally bought in grocery stores. Online retail is the huge winner of COVID-19. When the Q1 and Q2 ecommerce revenues emerge, we will see a historic spike in online sales even as brick-and-mortar sales went straight to heck.
Most of the economic data is released weeks and months after the fact. But surveys of manufacturing and service companies foreshadow what will happen with the official data when it finally appears. The Texas manufacturing production index, for which data was collected between March 17 to 25 from 110 Texas-based unnamed manufacturers, plunged from +16.4 in February to -35.3 in March, the largest month-to-month drop in the history of the index going back to 2004, the Dallas Fed reported this morning:
Many manufactures in Texas supply the oil and gas industry, where mayhem had broken out long before the coronavirus lockdowns started impacting the economy. Manufacturer’s perceptions of broader business conditions collapsed from an already low 1.2 reading in February to -70.0, the lowest in survey history. The report observed laconically: “Perceptions of broader business conditions turned quite pessimistic in March”:
The price of crude-oil grade West Texas Intermediate (WTI) has now plunged into the range of $20 per barrel, which is catastrophic for the entire oil and gas sector. This is down from a range of $80 to $110 per barrel from 2010 through mid-2014. In an effort to stay alive a little longer, exploration-and-production companies and oil-field services companies are cutting operations, and as they’re running out of funds, they are slashing orders for equipment and supplies. And this ripples through the Texas economy. The comments made by the executives in the survey ranged from: “We are mostly just concerned.” …to something more apocalyptic: “If we see this downward trend continue, we will run out of cash within four months. New orders and inquiries have stopped instantly. Our work in-house will be finished mid to end of April, with no new orders coming in, all due to this real or imagined shutdown. I believe the country will be in a depression by the fall unless the work environment changes dramatically.”
TUI, the global travel and vacation giant that owns six European airlines, 1,600 travel agencies, over 300 hotels and 14 cruise ships, desperately needs help. And it appears to have got it. On Friday, the company announced that the German government had approved a €1.8 billion loan to help keep the group afloat as COVID-19 brings the global travel sector to a literal standstill. The bridge loan, which still needs to be approved by TUI’s creditors, would be one of the biggest ever issued through German state-owned lender KfW. “We are currently facing unprecedented international travel restrictions. As a result, we are temporarily a company with no product and no revenue. This situation must be bridged,” TUI CEO Fritz Joussen said in a statement. The same could be said for millions of companies around the world. But unlike TUI, many of them don’t have the ear of their national government.
Even as giant travel companies like TUI line up with airlines and cruise owners for multi-billion dollar bailouts, huge question marks loom over the global travel industry’s future. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), in its updated assessment of the potential impact of COVID-19 — based on the optimistic assumption that the tourism industry will experience a swift recovery over the next 3-4 months — projects that for the whole year 2020, tourist arrivals will have fallen 20-30% from 2019, and international tourism revenues will have plunged by $300 billion to 450 billion, almost one third of the $1.5 trillion generated in 2019. Taking into account past market trends, this would mean that between five and seven years’ worth of accumulated industry growth will have been wiped out in one fell swoop.
U.S. home rental firm Airbnb said on Monday it was allocating $250 million to help offset losses by hosts around the world whose guests have canceled bookings in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The aid, which will pay hosts 25% of their normal cancellation fees, is being offered globally except for China, the company said in a letter sent to hosts by Chief Executive Brian Chesky. The payments apply to the cancellation of reservations with check-in dates between March 14 and May 31. Because hosts can choose different cancellation policies – some requiring a penalty payment, with others allowing free cancellation up to a certain date before check-in – not all canceled reservations will qualify.
Airbnb had earlier announced that guests would receive a full refund for the cancellation of reservations made on or before March 14 for check-in between March 14 and April 14, which angered many hosts. Airbnb also said that hosts could cancel reservations without a charge. Airbnb said it is funding the program for hosts itself and will begin to issue the payments in April. Airbnb’s revenue in 2019 exceeded $4.8 billion, up 35% on the year, and it has $3 billion in cash, a source told Reuters last week. [..] Airbnb also said it is creating a $10 million relief fund for its Superhosts – so-named for meeting certain requirements including good ratings – who rent out their own home and need help paying their rent or mortgage, and some Experience hosts who charge for sharing an experience like food tours.
China on Tuesday said the official Purchasing Manager’s Index for March was 52.0, beating expectations for an economy hit by the coronavirus outbreak. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the official PMI to come in at 45 for the month of March. In February, the official PMI hit a record low of 35.7. PMI readings above 50 indicate expansion, while those below that level signal contraction. China’s National Bureau of Statistics said in its announcement of the PMI reading that there was continued improvement in the prevention and control of the outbreak in March, with a significant acceleration in the resumption of production. Sub-indices for production, new orders and employment expanded, the bureau said.
The bureau attributed the expansionary PMI reading to the low base in February, but cautioned that it does not mean that the country’s economic activities have returned to normal levels. Earlier this year, manufacturing activity slowed dramatically in China as the government instituted large-scale lockdowns and quarantines to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease, formally known as COVID-19. Qian Wang, Asia Pacific chief economist at Vanguard Investment Strategy, said March’s manufacturing PMI reading was “totally expected” as activity improved during the month. “In February, the Chinese economy was at a full stop. It doesn’t take much to rise from such a low base,” she told CNBC’s “Street Signs.”
The Hungarian parliament on Monday voted by a two-thirds majority to allow the government of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to rule by decree without a set time limit. While the new legislation remains in place, no elections can be held and Orbán’s government will be able to suspend the enforcement of certain laws. Plus, individuals who publicize what are viewed as untrue or distorted facts — and which could interfere with the protection of the public, or could alarm or agitate a large number of people — now face several years in jail. In the vote, 137 members of parliament were in favor, 53 against and 9 did not cast a ballot. The new rules can only be lifted with another two-thirds vote of the parliament and a presidential signature.
The legislation has elicited deep concern both among civil rights groups in Hungary and international institutions, with officials from the Council of Europe, United Nations and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe publicly expressing fears about the bill. The legislation also drew criticism from members of the European Parliament. Critics say that emergency measures to address the coronavirus crisis should be temporary and time-limited to allow for checks and balances. Hungary is currently facing Article 7 proceedings under the EU Treaty, used when a country is considered at risk of breaching the bloc’s core values.
“Civil society, journalists and international and European organizations will have to step up their efforts even more in this new situation to ensure that the potential for grave abuses by government overreach are monitored, documented and responded to,” Márta Pardavi, co-chair of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, a human rights NGO, said following the passage of the bill. “It’s now essential that the idea that executive power cannot be unlimited is reinforced by action,” she said. “The health crisis cannot be allowed to turn into a constitutional crisis.”
Portugal has temporarily given all migrants and asylum seekers full citizenship rights, granting them full access to the country’s healthcare as the outbreak of the novel coronavirus escalates in the country. The move will “unequivocally guarantee the rights of all the foreign citizens” with applications pending with Portuguese immigration, meaning they are “in a situation of regular permanence in National Territory,” until June 30, the Portuguese Council of Ministers said on Friday. The Portuguese Council of Ministers explained that the decision was taken to “reduce the risks for public health” of maintaining the current scheduling of appointments at the immigration office, for both the border agents and the migrants and asylum seekers.
Portugal declared a State of Emergency on March 18 that came into effect at midnight that day and was due to last for 15 days. Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said during a news conference that “democracy won’t be suspended.” The country was a dictatorship for decades, with democracy being restored in 1974. President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa called the Covid-19 pandemic “a true war,” which would bring true challenges to the country’s “way of life and economy.” Rebelo de Sousa also praised the behavior of Portuguese citizens, “who have been exemplary in imposing a self-quarantine,” reflecting “a country that has lived through everything.”
From the stage of an evangelical superchurch, the leader of the gospel choir kicked off an evening of prayer and preaching: “We’re going to celebrate the Lord! Are you feeling the joy tonight?” “Yes!” shouted the hundreds gathered at the Christian Open Door church on Feb. 18. Some of them had travelled thousands of miles to take part in the week-long gathering in Mulhouse, a city of 100,000 on France’s borders with Germany and Switzerland. For many members of this globe-spanning flock, the annual celebration is the highpoint of the church calendar. This time, someone in the congregation was carrying the coronavirus. The prayer meeting kicked off the biggest cluster of COVID-19 in France – one of Europe’s hardest-hit countries – to date, local government said.
Around 2,500 confirmed cases have been linked to it. Worshippers at the church have unwittingly taken the disease caused by the virus home to the West African state of Burkina Faso, to the Mediterranean island of Corsica, to Guyana in Latin America, to Switzerland, to a French nuclear power plant, and into the workshops of one of Europe’s biggest automakers. Weeks later, Germany partially closed its border with France, suspending a free-movement pact that has been in place for the past 25 years. The church cluster was a key factor, two people familiar with the German decision told Reuters. Church officials told Reuters that 17 members of the congregation have since died of complications linked to the disease.
[..] As the faithful gathered on a clear Tuesday evening in the church, an old shopping centre converted into a 2,500 seat auditorium, the disease seemed remote. France had 12 confirmed cases, according to World Health Organization (WHO) data. There were none in the Mulhouse area. France, like other governments in northern Europe, had imposed no restrictions on big meetings. There was no alcohol gel for the congregations to clean their hands, no elbow bumps instead of handshakes. “At the time, we viewed COVID as something that was far off,” said Jonathan Peterschmitt, son of the lead pastor and grandson of the church’s founder. His father, Samuel, was unavailable for an interview because he had been sickened by the virus, his son and a church spokeswoman said.
The cable news announced the other day that Covid-19 patients placed in critical care may have to be on ventilators for 21 days. Only a few years ago, I went in for an ordinary hip replacement. A month or so later, I got the hospital billing statement. One of the line-items went like this: Room and board: 36 hours…$23,482.79. I am not jiving you. That was just for the hospital bed and maybe four lousy hospital meals, not the surgery or the meds or anything else. All that was billed extra. Say, what…? Now imagine you have the stupendous good fortune to survive a Covid-19 infection after 21 days on a ventilator and go home. What is that billing statement going to look like? Will the survivors wish they’d never made out of the hospital alive?
Right now, we’re in the heroic phase of the battle against a modern age plague. The doctors, nurses, and their helpers are like the trembling soldiers in an amphibious landing craft churning toward the Normandy beach where the enemy is dug in and waiting for them, with sweaty fingers on their machine guns and a stink in the pillbox. Some of the doctors and nurses will go down in the battle. The fabled fog-of-war will conceal what is happening to the health care system itself, while the battle rages. After that, what? One thing will be pretty clear: That the folks in charge of things gave trillions of dollars to Wall Street while tens or perhaps hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 survivors got wiped out financially with gargantuan medical bills.
Do you think the Chargemaster part of the hospital routine will just stop doing its thing during this emergency? The billings will continue – just as the proverbial beatings will continue until morale improves! In the aftermath, I can’t even imagine the ‘splainin’ that will entail. The rage may be too intense to even get to that. For some, it may be time to lubricate the guillotines? Meantime, of course, the global economy has shut down which suggests to me, anyway, that any prior frame of reference you may have had about money and business and social normality goes out the window. The world is still here. We’re just going to have to learn to live in it differently.
A group of 12 Italian politicians lambasted the Netherlands on Tuesday, angered by Dutch reticence to support European financial assistance to countries most affected by coronavirus. The Netherlands blocked emergency aid to EU member states, despite “using its tax system to withdraw tax revenue from major European countries for years,” they wrote in an open letter published in German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. At issue are “coronabonds”, where the funds raised from selling such bond instruments would be used to help all member states overcome economic hurdles during the ongoing health crisis. The money could then be invested in supporting any EU member state, while repayment obligations would be the responsibility of the entire EU.
Nine nations supported the plan. “However, the Netherlands are currently leading a group of countries that oppose this strategy, and Germany also seems to want to follow this group,” the politicians said, accusing the Dutch tax regime of siphoning money away from other member states which would otherwise have allowed them to assist “the socially week… who are most affected by the crisis today.” The politicians, led by Member of Europea Parliament Carlo Calenda, called for the German public to recall the unified support it had to rebuild after World War II, up through the country’s reunification. “The Dutch attitude is an example of a lack of ethics and solidarity in every respect.”
That sentiment was echoed by the leader of Dutch political party ChristenUnie, one of the parties in the governing coalition led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “[Italy] is in ruins. The first message, in my opinion, would be: we are going to help you,” said Gert-Jan Segers. He also called for an approach like the U.S. Marshall Plan which promoted the reconstruction of European nations after the War. The large European rescue fund could be structured similarly to the billions of deutschmarks Germany needed even though it “could never have repaid the accumulated debts,” the Italians stated. Former Dutch Central Bank leader Nout Wellink was also critical of the Dutch approach, saying that the crisis and the debt needed to get past it is “a shared responsibility.” He said, “the Netherlands will “no longer be a rich country in the North if the South falls.”
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