Jul 262020
 


Elaine de Kooning Fairfield Porter #1 1954

 

 

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.

And then there’s the dollar’s FX role.

In September 2019, Eswar Prasad at Brookings reported that the dollar’s share of global FX reserves remains around 65%.

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.

 

 

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, your support is now an integral part of the interaction you have with us.

Thank you.

 

 

It’s very bad luck to draw the line
On the night before the world ends
We can draw the line some other time

X – Some other time

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jul 212020
 


LOOK Detroit’s 1960 look. Sneak preview of the new models, Dodge Polara 1959

 

Chinese and UK Vaccine Trials Produce Immune Responses (SCMP)
Reality Winner, 500 More Women Test Positive For COVID-19 in Texas Prison (D.)
US Autonomy Act Opens ‘Pandora’s Box’ For Hong Kong Dollar Peg (SCMP)
Jack Ma’s Ant IPO Signals Start Of De-Dollarization (Xe Yie)
EU Leaders Seal Deal On Spending And €750bn COVID19 Recovery Plans (G.)
No One’s Flying, Millions Of Jobs Might Be Lost as Airlines Took Billions (RT)
What Lies Ahead (CP)
NY Dems Created McConnell’s Corporate Immunity Template (SIrota)
The Left is Now the Right (Matt Taibbi)
Is Thinking Cancelled? (Jim Kunstler)
German Weapons Exports Have Flouted EU Rules For Decades (RT)
Alleged Salas Family Assailant Linked To US/Israeli Intelligence (Webb)
Steele ‘Primary Subsource’s’ Guide to Russiagate, as Told to the FBI (RCI)

 

 

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bianco WA-OR

 

 

 

 

This infomercial was brought to you by Big Pharma and the CCP. Designed to move “markets”. And it worked.

Chinese and UK Vaccine Trials Produce Immune Responses (SCMP)

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.

Read more …

Assange is not the only one.

Reality Winner, 500 More Women Test Positive For COVID-19 in Texas Prison (D.)

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.”

Read more …

I think perhaps it’s more of a Schrödinger’s box.

US Autonomy Act Opens ‘Pandora’s Box’ For Hong Kong Dollar Peg (SCMP)

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.

Read more …

There we go again. Let’s see the HK dollar peg gone.

Jack Ma’s Ant IPO Signals Start Of De-Dollarization (Xe Yie)

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.

Read more …

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 Seal Deal On Spending And €750bn COVID19 Recovery Plans (G.)

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

Read more …

Mitch Feierstein states the obvious.

No One’s Flying, Millions Of Jobs Might Be Lost as Airlines Took Billions (RT)

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.

Read more …

“A second wave of job layoffs is going to strike at the same time that rent forbearance expires.”

What Lies Ahead (CP)

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.

Read more …

David Sirota worked in Bernie’s campaign until the latter was thrown out again. Tulsi Gabbard was muzzled by the DNC and removed. Why do people like them still hang around this hornet’s nest?

NY Dems Created McConnell’s Corporate Immunity Template (SIrota)

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.

Read more …

Matt’s stream of consciousness.

The Left is Now the Right (Matt Taibbi)

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?).

Read more …

How did the country ever end up in this mess?

Is Thinking Cancelled? (Jim Kunstler)

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?

Read more …

Arms sales are the best: profits are huge, and the press dare not touch them.

German Weapons Exports Have Flouted EU Rules For Decades (RT)

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.”

Read more …

And thereby Epstein.

Alleged Salas Family Assailant Linked To US/Israeli Intelligence (Webb)

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.

Read more …

Without the Steele dossier, paid for by the DNC and FusionGPS, there would never have been a Mueller investigation. Both have now been more than fully discredited. Question remains: who drove this?

Steele ‘Primary Subsource’s’ Guide to Russiagate, as Told to the FBI (RCI)

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.”

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you.

 

 

The New York Times threatens to publish Tucker Carlson’s home address, after he was forced to move with his wife and four kids two years ago following severe threats.

 

 

The best way to teach your kids about taxes is to eat 30% of their ice cream
– Bill Murray

 

 

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”
Simple.
To even out the good things that happen to bad people.

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jul 202020
 


Jack Delano “Lower Manhattan seen from the S.S. Coamo leaving New York.” 1941

 

Are Mutations Making Coronavirus More Infectious? (BBC)
When The US Sneezes, The World Catches A Cold. Now It Has Severe COVID19 (R.)
S&P Says Governments Must Spend To Support Coronavirus-Hit Economy (CNBC)
Global Banks Scrutinize Their Hong Kong Clients For Pro-Democracy Ties (R.)
Global Real Estate Investment Plunges 33% Amid Covid Pandemic (BBC)
Global Air Travel Demand Won’t Recover Till At Least 2023 – Moody’s (RT)
Boeing Is Running Out Of Space To Park Its Newly-Built 787 Dreamliners (ZH)
‘Diametrically Opposed Positions’ in EU On Coronavirus Rescue Package (EN)
The “Frugal” Countries Are Right (Lacalle)
Meadows Signals Imminent Indictments In Durham Probe (Fox)
BBC’s Andrew Marr Suggests Scottish Independence Is A Russian Plot (Nat.)

 

 

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.”

Are Mutations Making Coronavirus More Infectious? (BBC)

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.

Read more …

Global trade was a useless bubble anyway. COVID can teach us the value of localizing again. If we’re wise.

When The US Sneezes, The World Catches A Cold. Now It Has Severe COVID19 (R.)

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.

Read more …

But some will insist the global trade bubble must be reinvented.

S&P Says Governments Must Spend To Support Coronavirus-Hit Economy (CNBC)

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.

Read more …

They’re trying to comply with both Chinese and US demands at the same time. Good luck with that.

Global Banks Scrutinize Their Hong Kong Clients For Pro-Democracy Ties (R.)

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.

Read more …

Fine by me.

Global Real Estate Investment Plunges 33% Amid Covid Pandemic (BBC)

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.

Read more …

Good for the planet.

Global Air Travel Demand Won’t Recover Till At Least 2023 – Moody’s (RT)

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.

Read more …

Nothing that a new big bailout can’t fix.

Boeing Is Running Out Of Space To Park Its Newly-Built 787 Dreamliners (ZH)

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.

Read more …

The rich governments have their rich voters to appease.

‘Diametrically Opposed Positions’ in EU On Coronavirus Rescue Package (EN)

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.”

Read more …

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.

The “Frugal” Countries Are Right (Lacalle)

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.

Read more …

We’ve heard that too much. You have 3.5 months.

Meadows Signals Imminent Indictments In Durham Probe (Fox)

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.”

Read more …

RussiaRussia every day. We mustn’t forget it.

BBC’s Andrew Marr Suggests Scottish Independence Is A Russian Plot (Nat.)

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.

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jul 182020
 


John Vachon Paramount Theater and dairy truck, 44th Street, NYC 1943

 

Zelenko Study Suggests HCQ, Zinc Effective as Early Corona Treament (PRN)
Oxford Vaccine Could Provide ‘Double Protection’ (Sky)
Coronavirus Symptoms Fall Into Six Different Groupings (G.)
The Fed Is Setting The Stage For A Major Policy Change (BBG)
EU Leaders Deadlocked Over COVID Recovery Plan (R.)
As EU Leaders Squabble, The Elephant In The Room Goes Unnoticed (Varoufakis)
On Eve Of Bankruptcy, US Firms Shower Execs With Bonuses (R.)
A Tale of Two CNNs: A Network Struggling With Objectivity (Turley)
St. Louis Prosecutor Targeting McCloskeys Gets $78,000 From Soros Group (JTN)
White Helmets Co-Founder Stole Aid Money Destined For Syria (RT)
Docs Show Peter Strzok Tore Apart NYT Report On Trump-Russia Contacts (DC)
Joe Biden’s Plagiarism Is a Danger to America (Epshteyn)
A Bigger Picture (Jim Kunstler)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maté NYT

 

 

“Hydroxychloroquine’s main function within this treatment approach is to allow zinc to enter the cell. Zinc is the virus killer..”

Zelenko Study Suggests HCQ, Zinc Effective as Early Corona Treament (PRN)

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.”

Read more …

Shame they don’t explain what that double thing might be. Reads like an ad.

Oxford Vaccine Could Provide ‘Double Protection’ (Sky)

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.

Read more …

If you let an algoritm do your work for you, it had better be a very good one. This feels shaky.

Coronavirus Symptoms Fall Into Six Different Groupings (G.)

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.

Read more …

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.

The Fed Is Setting The Stage For A Major Policy Change (BBG)

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.”

Read more …

The sheer quantity of the economic losses may well tear the EU apart. The rich countries have rich citizens to answer to, the poor have different problems.

EU Leaders Deadlocked Over COVID Recovery Plan (R.)

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”.

Read more …

Recovery plan: 1%. Austerity: 4%.

As EU Leaders Squabble, The Elephant In The Room Goes Unnoticed (Varoufakis)

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.

Read more …

This is America.

On Eve Of Bankruptcy, US Firms Shower Execs With Bonuses (R.)

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.

Read more …

Turley is overly diplomatic. CNN left objectivity behind a long time ago. CNN only still exists because Trump exists and they can dump on him 24/7.

A Tale of Two CNNs: A Network Struggling With Objectivity (Turley)

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.”

Read more …

Where the real battle is.

St. Louis Prosecutor Targeting McCloskeys Gets $78,000 From Soros Group (JTN)

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.

Read more …

I’m so surprised I can’t tell you. These wankers receive over $30 million a year from governments?! To do what? Plants chemical canisters twice a year?

White Helmets Co-Founder Stole Aid Money Destined For Syria (RT)

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.

Read more …

Less than four months until the election.

Docs Show Peter Strzok Tore Apart NYT Report On Trump-Russia Contacts (DC)

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.”

Read more …

And he’s not even doing the plagiarizing. His puppeteers to do it for him.

Joe Biden’s Plagiarism Is a Danger to America (Epshteyn)

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.

Read more …

Jim back to basics.

A Bigger Picture (Jim Kunstler)

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.

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jul 172020
 


Fred Stein Evening, Paris 1934

 

Welcome To The End Game (F.)
Immune Response To Coronavirus Could Be a Matter of Life And Death (SCMP)
My Patient Caught COVID19 Twice. So Long To Herd Immunity Hopes? (Vox)
My Hydroxychloroquine Deep Dive (GB)
A Mask Cuts Your COVID-19 Risk By 65% (WEF)
Georgia Hospital Worker Sounds Alarm (NPR)
Unemployment Increase Set To End As Jobless Claims Climb (NYP)
Key US Lawmakers Back Unions’ Call For New Airline Bailout (R.)
AG Barr: US Companies Kowtow To China (JTN)
So Much Money, So Little Time To Find Deal At EU Summit (AP)
Russia Rejects UK’s Claims Of Hacking & Election Meddling (RT)

 

 

Let’s go break some records, shall we?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Second wave watch: Israel, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong

Taleb

 

 

 

 

“It won’t be hard to see it coming because if the Nasdaq goes vertical it will be hard to miss.”

Welcome To The End Game (F.)

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.”

Read more …

Immune response differs greatly from one person to the next.

Immune Response To Coronavirus Could Be a Matter of Life And Death (SCMP)

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.”

Read more …

We know nothing. When will we acknowledge that?

My Patient Caught COVID19 Twice. So Long To Herd Immunity Hopes? (Vox)

“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.

Read more …

A Twitter thread that looks into a whole slew of reports on HCQ.

My Hydroxychloroquine Deep Dive (GB)

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.

Read more …

Sometimes I think maybe it’s just too simple, that people want it to be more complicated for them to believe it.

By the way, pieces like this should always mention the risk cuts when two people in an interaction both wear a mask.

And all the things you see about wearing masks outdoors? BS. Unless you’re in prolonged close interaction.

A Mask Cuts Your COVID-19 Risk By 65% (WEF)

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.”

Read more …

More stories about refrigerated trucks outside morgues.

Georgia Hospital Worker Sounds Alarm (NPR)

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.

Read more …

End of July.

Unemployment Increase Set To End As Jobless Claims Climb (NYP)

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.

Read more …

It’s obvious the industry will not return, or at least for a very long time. So why bail it out?

Key US Lawmakers Back Unions’ Call For New Airline Bailout (R.)

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.

Read more …

To be continued.

AG Barr: US Companies Kowtow To China (JTN)

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.”

Read more …

And in the midst of it all, they insist on keeping the twice-yearly idiotic move between Brussels and Strasbourg going. You don’t want to know what that costs.

So Much Money, So Little Time To Find Deal At EU Summit (AP)

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.

Read more …

Why even bother denying anymore?

Russia Rejects UK’s Claims Of Hacking & Election Meddling (RT)

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.

Read more …

 

 

We try to run the Automatic Earth on donations. Since ad revenue has collapsed, your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you.

 

 

McEnany

LarryElder

 

 

Who on earth made this? And how? 2020 The Movie.

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 292020
 


Edward Hopper Railroad crossing 1923

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

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

New deaths past 24 hours in:

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

@Jack is in trouble.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

Louisville, Dallas, New York.

7 Shot During Protests In Louisville (NBC)

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


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

Read more …

If confused about the logic, see next article.

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

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


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

Read more …

The looters should copy Carl Icahn.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

If need be under grave threat.

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

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

Read more …

Two different voices saying the same thing. Agenda much?

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

Feels like Vito Corleone taking the Tattaglia family to court.

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

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


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

Read more …

Sorry to see this. Finish what you start.

Tulsi Gabbard Drops Defamation Suit Against Hillary Clinton (NYP)

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


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

Read more …

Where the real danger resides.

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

History lessons are always good.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Mar 312020
 


Vincent van Gogh The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen in Spring 1884 (stolen yesterday)

 

Fauci Offers More Conservative Death Rate In Academic Article Than In Public Briefings (JTN)
Hospital Equipment Shortages Renew Spotlight On Supply Chain Middlemen (JTN)
US COVID19 Job Losses Could Be 47 Million, Unemployment May Hit 32% (CNBC)
Trump Rips Pelosi For Criticizing His Handling Of Coronavirus Pandemic (NYP)
Pelosi Aims To Move Fast On Next Rescue Package (Pol.)
Rachel Maddow’s Recent Predictions Get Roasted (JTN)
Political Distancing (Turley)
Many Brick & Mortar Stores Will Not Reopen, CMBS will Default (WS)
How Will COVID-19 Impact US Manufacturing? First Indications Are Ugly (WS)
“We Are Temporarily A Company With No Product And No Revenue” (WS)
Airbnb To Pay Out $250 Million To Hosts To Help Ease Cancellation Pain (R.)
China Says Manufacturing Activity Expanded In March (CNBC)
Hungary’s Viktor Orbán Wins Vote To Rule By Decree Indefinitely (Pol.)
Portugal Gives Migrants, Asylum-Seekers Full Citizenship Rights (CNN)
Five Days Of Worship That Set A Virus Time Bomb In France (R.)
People Get Ready! (Kunstler)
Italian Politicians Criticize Netherlands Over Lack Of Solidarity (NLT)

 

 

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% –

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

 

 

Sharyl Attkisson noticed something too. Fauci must be more careful.

Fauci Offers More Conservative Death Rate In Academic Article Than In Public Briefings (JTN)

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.

Read more …

A lot of things won’t happen without kickbacks. The system is one sick puppy.. and no reform in sight, since both parties are beholden to the industry as a whole.

Hospital Equipment Shortages Renew Spotlight On Supply Chain Middlemen (JTN)

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.”

Read more …

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”

US COVID19 Job Losses Could Be 47 Million, Unemployment May Hit 32% (CNBC)

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 [..]

Read more …

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.

Trump Rips Pelosi For Criticizing His Handling Of Coronavirus Pandemic (NYP)

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.”

Read more …

More games. Scheduled to take at least another month. Posing and posturing.

Pelosi Aims To Move Fast On Next Rescue Package (Pol.)

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) [..]

Read more …

RussiaRussiaRussia is speeding up those hospital boats just to make here look bad. Actually, I don’t want to talk about Maddow.

Rachel Maddow’s Recent Predictions Get Roasted (JTN)

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.

Read more …

Lesson in federalism. There are lots of things the federal government can’t do that are normal in other countries.

Political Distancing (Turley)

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.

Read more …

The virus will change the entire country. But people find it hard to comprehend. Wolf Richter doing well. “Nothing Goes to Heck in a Straight Line”

Many Brick & Mortar Stores Will Not Reopen, CMBS will Default (WS)

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.

Read more …

More from Wolf. Depression.

How Will COVID-19 Impact US Manufacturing? First Indications Are Ugly (WS)

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.”

Read more …

Cruise companies lining up for bailouts. Support people instead. The companies go, but the people will remain.

“We Are Temporarily A Company With No Product And No Revenue” (WS)

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.

Read more …

Why on earth does Airbnb need a $250 million war chest?

Airbnb To Pay Out $250 Million To Hosts To Help Ease Cancellation Pain (R.)

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.

Read more …

Not much has changed. China still cares little about credibility.

China Says Manufacturing Activity Expanded In March (CNBC)

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.”

Read more …

The EU will have to throw out Hungary.

– State of emergency w/o time limit
– Rule by decree
– Parliament suspended
– No elections
– Spreading fake news + rumors: up to 5 yrs in prison
– Leaving quarantine: up to 8 yrs in prison

Hungary’s Viktor Orbán Wins Vote To Rule By Decree Indefinitely (Pol.)

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.”

Read more …

To make sure they have access to health care.

The opposite of Orban.

Portugal Gives Migrants, Asylum-Seekers Full Citizenship Rights (CNN)

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.”

Read more …

Mass gatherings. Religious, soccer, carnival. That’s where most infections originate in Europe.

Five Days Of Worship That Set A Virus Time Bomb In France (R.)

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.

Read more …

“The world is still here. We’re just going to have to learn to live in it differently.”

People Get Ready! (Kunstler)

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.

Read more …

“..the Netherlands will “no longer be a rich country in the North if the South falls.”

Italian Politicians Criticize Netherlands Over Lack Of Solidarity (NLT)

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.”

Read more …

 

It must be possible to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

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

 

 

 

 


Jennifer Baer

 

 

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

 

Mar 252020
 


Harris&Ewing Washington DC in April April 1924

 

Coronavirus Stimulus Package To Exceed $6 Trillion – Kudlow (NYP)
US Senate Leaders Reach Deal With White House On $2tn Coronavirus Package (G.)
Share Buybacks, $4.6 Trillion Driver of Stock Market Bubble, Are Toast (WS)
White House Tells New Yorkers Who Leave State To Self Quarantine (USAT)
LA To Shut Off Water, Power For Non-Essential Businesses That Stay Open (GP)
United States Could Become Coronavirus Epicenter – WHO (R.)
South Korea Says Trump Asked For Equipment To Fight Coronavirus (R.)
EU Left Italy Alone To Fight Coronavirus, Russia, China Didn’t – Ex-FM (RT)
EU Shrugs Off US Sanctions, Gives Millions In Coronavirus Aid To Iran (ZH)
EU Urged To Evacuate Asylum Seekers From Cramped Greek Camps (G.)
Czech Borders May Remain Closed For Two Years, Says Top Official (ExpCZ)
Turkey’s Coronavirus Situation Is Out Of Control – Health Experts (Ahval)
Bolsonaro Says He ‘Wouldn’t Feel Anything’ If Infected With COVID-19 (G.)
Australian Doctors Warned Off After Prescribing Hydroxychloroquine (G.)
Assange Lawyer Baltasar Garzon Hospitalized With Coronavirus (RT)
Pablo Escobar’s ‘Cocaine Hippos’: Invasive Species Restore A Lost World (G.)

 

 

Only yesterday, I quoted a tweet and said: “As for these numbers: It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases, 11 days for the second 100,000 cases and just four days for the third 100,000 cases. 300,000 cases were reached sometime early March 22″.

It took two days to reach 400,000. Not even.

And Prince Charles has it.

 

 

Cases 434,568 (+ 42,621 from yesterday’s 391,947)

Deaths 19,062 (+ 2,464 from yesterday’s 17,138)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 15% !! up 1% every day-

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Live.info:

 

 

From COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

“We’re heading for a rough period but it’s only going to weeks, we think. Weeks and months. It’s not going to be years, that’s for sure..”

Coronavirus Stimulus Package To Exceed $6 Trillion – Kudlow (NYP)

An emergency stimulus package to bailout the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus pandemic will total $6 trillion — a quarter of the entire country’s GDP, the White House said Tuesday. Trump administration economist Larry Kudlow said the package would include $4 trillion in lending power for the Federal Reserve as well as a $2 trillion aid package currently being hammered out by Congress. “This package will be the single largest main street assistance program in the history of the United States,” Kudlow said at the White House coronavirus task force briefing on Tuesday evening.

Included in the package is Congress’ almost $2 trillion emergency bill which, when passed, will issue direct checks for American families, bailouts for the airline industry and a $350 billion loan program for struggling small businesses. The other $4 trillion will allow the Federal Reserve to make huge emergency bailouts to whatever entity it chooses — a measure that was used to prop-up Wall Street firms from collapse during the 2008 financial crisis. “This legislation is urgently needed to bolster the economy,” Kudlow added, warning the economy had tough times ahead. “We’re heading for a rough period but it’s only going to weeks, we think. Weeks and months. It’s not going to be years, that’s for sure,” he said, echoing comments from President Trump that the economy will bounce back to its pre-pandemic high.

Kudlow, a former Reagan administration adviser and media personality, said the huge bailout would “position us for what I think can be an economic rebound later this year.” A tidal wave of U.S. workers are facing unemployment in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak — with White House officials warning of a 20 percent unemployment rate.

Read more …

Forget about re-arranging deckchairs, these people are fighting while the Titanic sinks.

US Senate Leaders Reach Deal With White House On $2tn Coronavirus Package (G.)

US Senate leaders have reached a deal with the Trump administration on a nearly $2tn stimulus package to help rescue the American economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic as Donald Trump considers easing restrictions aimed at combating the contagion. After days of around-the-clock negotiations amongst senators and administration officials, a bipartisan compromise was struck over what is expected to be the largest US economic stimulus measure ever passed. “We have a deal,” said Eric Ueland, the White House legislative affairs director, just before 1am, adding that the text of the bill still needed to be completed.

“We have either, clear, explicit legislative text reflecting all parties or we know exactly where we’re going to land on legislative text as we continue to finish.” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell confirmed a deal had been reached. The bill will then go to the House, and then to Donald Trump, who is expected to ratify it. Tempers flared on Monday on Capitol Hill as senators grappled with the need to pass the critical aid. Democrats twice blocked efforts to move forward with a vote on the legislation, arguing the proposal did not provide strong enough protections for workers, families and healthcare providers nor did it impose strict enough restrictions on businesses that receive federal bailout money.

Republicans, in turn, fumed that Democrats were playing politics in a time of crisis. Late into the night, Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin and Ueland ironed out details with the Republican and Democratic Senate leaders. “This is not a juicy political opportunity,” McConnell, said in a remarks from the floor on Monday. “This is a national emergency.” The deal would provide direct payments of up to $1,200 to most adults and expand unemployment insurance. It also includes a $367bn program for small businesses, to allow them to pay employees who have to stay home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Waffle House Index is an informal measure of disaster severity, because all its restaurants stay open every hour of every day. After floods, tornados and hurricanes, Waffle Houses are quick to reopen, even with a limited menu.

Read more …

Why those bailouts must fail.

Share Buybacks, $4.6 Trillion Driver of Stock Market Bubble, Are Toast (WS)

Share buybacks by companies in the S&P 500 Index in the fourth quarter 2019, before the Coronavirus was even a factor, fell 18% from a year earlier, to $181.6 billion, after falling 13% and 14% year-over-year in the prior two quarters, from the blistering tax-cut records set in 2018, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices today. For the full year, buybacks fell 9.6% from the tax-cut record in 2018, to $729 billion in 2019, the second highest annual total ever. Since the beginning of 2012, these companies have bought back $4.6 trillion with a T of their own shares. To provide a comparison of how big this T-number really is: It blows past the magnitude of Germany’s annual GDP.

Share buybacks were considered illegal market manipulation until 1982, when the SEC issued Rule 10b-18 which provided corporations a “safe harbor” to buy back their own shares. The only thing that share buybacks are supposed to accomplish is to manipulate up share prices. The four biggest US banks were among the 10 biggest share buyback queens in terms of the amount of capital they wasted on share buybacks in Q4 2019. Combined they incinerated $95 billion in capital last year, and $275 billion over the past five years (if your smartphone clips the 6-column table, slide the table to the left):

But now, Financial Crisis 2 has kicked in, and the share buybacks of these four banks along with the share buybacks of other banks have dropped to zero, along with many other companies that are now facing a liquidity crisis. The banks could have used those funds to shore up their capital, which would have been useful now as the bubbles in corporate debt and commercial real estate, that the Fed was so worried about, are coming unglued. But aside from generating fees for Wall Street, share buybacks do zero for the economy. What would have happened in the US economy if that $4.6 trillion in capital that companies incinerated by buying back their own shares since 2012 would have been invested in equipment, structures, expansion projects, and people, or would have been used to reduce debt so that companies, such as Boeing and the airlines, wouldn’t be in such a precarious situation today?

That capital that was incinerated by companies buying back their own shares would come in handy for companies that are now begging for and getting mega-bailouts from taxpayers and to an even larger extent from the Federal Reserve. “COVID-19 has significantly changed the 2020 landscape, as dividends are under pressure and buybacks appear to be gasping for air,” said the report by S&P Dow Jones Indices, adding that “buybacks must now compete with other corporate priorities as uncertainty over liquidity is at its highest since the 2008 financial crisis.” For Q2 2020, buybacks are “expected to be dismal,” and for the rest of the year, “buybacks may see a complete reversal of the 2018 buyback bonanza.” And the report by S&P Dow Jones Indices adds, even after the bottom is perceived to be in, “buybacks may be slow to come back” as companies, struggling for cash, limit spending amid potential government restrictions on buybacks and their dismal public image.

Read more …

New York City: “..56% of all the coronavirus cases in the United States, as well as 60% of all new cases..”

White House Tells New Yorkers Who Leave State To Self Quarantine (USAT)

Travelers leaving the New York metro area should self-quarantine for 14 days to make sure they aren’t passing on the coronavirus, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force said Tuesday. In making the recommendation, task force coordinator Deborah Birx said that the quarantine should apply even to those who aren’t showing symptoms. She said many travelers are headed to locations outside New York City, from Long Island to North Carolina or other states. Brix said 56% of all the coronavirus cases in the United States, as well as 60% of all new cases, are coming from the New York metro area. Greater New York City also accounts for 31% of deaths in the country.


The recommendation follows an order that took effect Tuesday by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis requiring anyone flying to Florida from New York, New Jersey or Connecticut to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Alaska and Hawaii are also requiring anyone arriving from other states to self-quarantine. Already, New Yorkers have been ordered to stay in their homes and the city has virtually shut down in an effort to quell spread of the virus.

Read more …

“..Our city will rise again..”

LA To Shut Off Water, Power For Non-Essential Businesses That Stay Open (GP)

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has announced that the city will be shutting off water and power to any non-essential businesses that defied orders and stayed open during the coronavirus crisis. During his Tuesday press briefing Garcetti announced that the Department of Water and Power will be shutting off services for the businesses that don’t comply with the “safer at home” ordinance. “This behavior is irresponsible and selfish,” Garcetti said of businesses that remained open. KTLA reports that neighborhood prosecutors will implement safety measures and will contact the businesses before issuing further action, according to Garcetti.


“The easiest way to avoid a visit is to follow the rules,” he said. The mayor also noted that Los Angeles is “six to 12 days behind New York” for being hit with a wave of coronavirus cases. He said that he does not believe his city will be running as normal by Easter. “The peak is not here yet,” he said. “It will be bad.” The grimness of his press conference did not end there. He also warned residents to be “prepared for some of the darkness that is ahead.” “Each one of us can be a light. We can light a match of hope. We can navigate that tunnel with each other and not alone. And more importantly, what we do can ensure that more people exit that tunnel together… and that our city will rise again,” he added.

Read more …

Could become? It already is.

United States Could Become Coronavirus Epicenter – WHO (R.)

The United States has the potential to become the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic due to a “very large acceleration” in infections there, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday. The highly contagious respiratory virus has infected more than 42,000 people in the United States, prompting more governors to join states ordering Americans to stay at home. Over the past 24 hours, 85 percent of new cases worldwide were from Europe and the United States, WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters. Of those, 40 percent were from the United States. Asked whether the United States could become the new epicenter, she said: “We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the U.S. So it does have that potential. We cannot say that is the case yet but it does have that potential.”


“…They (the United States) have a very large outbreak and an outbreak that is increasing in intensity,” Harris added. However, she identified some positive signs such as more comprehensive testing, and further efforts to isolate the sick and trace their immediate contacts exposed to the virus. She also referred to “extremely heartwarming” stories of how Americans were helping each other during the crisis. [..] Harris said that new records were to be expected each day until new confinement measures begin to take effect. Up until now, Europe has been the center of transmission with Italy the most badly-hit country with the world’s highest number of deaths, although fatalities have begun slowing there. Asked about a potential tipping point in Italy, she said: “There is a glimmer of hope there. We’ve seen in the last two days fewer new cases and deaths in Italy but it’s very, very early days yet.”

Read more …

Every government asks every other government for help.

South Korea Says Trump Asked For Equipment To Fight Coronavirus (R.)

President Donald Trump asked South Korea to send medical equipment to the United States to fight the coronavirus, promising to help Korean companies gain U.S. government approval, South Korea’s presidential office said. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in offered to send the equipment if his country has any spare, his Blue House office said in a statement late on Tuesday, after the 23 minute phone call, which it said was arranged at Trump’s urgent request. The request for help highlights the diverging paths the two countries took since both discovered their first coronavirus cases on the same day.


South Korea rolled out widespread testing within days, swiftly launching an aggressive program to isolate confirmed cases and trace their contacts. After a big early outbreak, it won praise for slowing the spread of the disease with comparatively little disruption and just 125 deaths, and has brought the number of new infections per day to below 100 for the past 13 straight days. The United States did little testing initially, and has now been shutting parts of the country en masse, with fast-growing outbreaks in a number of states and thousands of new cases per day. Moon told Trump that South Korea “will provide as much support as possible, if there is spare medical equipment in Korea”.

Read more …

The EU fails even where you think it wouldn’t be possible.

EU Left Italy Alone To Fight Coronavirus, Russia, China Didn’t – Ex-FM (RT)

The EU’s initial response to the massive outbreak of coronavirus in Italy was largely “inadequate,” and a lack of European solidarity opened the doors for Russia and China, former Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told RT. The new epicenter of the dreaded pandemic, Italy, has been struggling to stop the spread of Covid-19 for weeks now. The disease has already killed more than six thousand people in the country, with over 60 thousand people infected. The EU clearly underestimated the virus, blaming the outbreak in Italy on its national healthcare system flaws, according to the two-time foreign minister and OSCE representative. As a result, Brussels, which preaches pan-European solidarity, failed to act when this solidarity was needed in the face of a crisis that eventually affected the entire bloc.

Frankly speaking, Brussels is not doing enough. At the very first moment, Italy was practically alone against the virus. Many said it was all because of the Italian habits, because Italians do not respect the rules. Suddenly, they realized all the other countries were equally affected. The situation in other major EU states like Germany and France deteriorated rapidly, forcing them to deal with thousands of infected on their own soil. “Everyone just focused on the situation at home before even thinking about helping others,” Andrea Giannotti, the executive director of the Italian Institute of Eurasian Studies, told RT. The lack of solidarity was recently noted from outside of the bloc – Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic decried European solidarity as a myth, while praising Beijing for its assistance. His remarks came after Serbia received five million masks from China, which it could not get in Europe.

The EU is now trying “to do more” and somehow “make up” for its initial poor execution of a coordinated response, former Italian MP Dario Rivolta said.

Read more …

Proper thing to do, but what about the refugees in Greece?

EU Shrugs Off US Sanctions, Gives Millions In Coronavirus Aid To Iran (ZH)

The White House has not backed off it’s ‘maximum pressure’ campaign on Iran even as the Islamic Republic’s Covid-19 cases and deaths continue to soar, approaching 25,000 confirmed cases Tuesday. Despite even close US ally Britain quietly signalling it’s had enough of Washington’s ill-timed pressures, Secretary of State Pompeo has upped the ante further, on Monday accusing the Iranian regime of everything from hoarding masks and equipment to intentionally spreading the deadly disease to at least five countries. But it appears Europe has finally begun to shirk US demands. On Monday EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell announced 20 million euros in new aid to Iran, and more crucially said the body will support Tehran’s request for IMF assistance.

“We’ve not been able to provide a lot of humanitarian help but there is some 20 million euros in the pipeline … that we expect to be delivered over the next weeks,” Borrell said in a video news conference Monday. “We also agree in supporting the request by Iran and also by Venezuela to the International Monetary Fund to have financial support,” he said further but without disclosing details. European officials consider the situation as urgent and see the US pressure campaign as greatly exacerbating the death toll given Iran lacks much of the basic medicines and equipment to treat at-risk patients and mitigate the outbreak. Recently Iranian health officials said shockingly that one person is dying from the virus every 10 minutes.

The pressure for some kind of dramatic blanket easing of US sanctions is only set to grow, given that last week Iran’s leaders for the first time in a half-century turned to the IMF. Bloomberg reported of the urgent IMF appeal: “Iranians say that their economy is weak and unable to cope with the humanitarian toll because of the U.S. sanctions. Last week, Iran turned to the International Monetary Fund for the first time since the 1960s for aid, though Ali Vaez, the Crisis Group’s Iran project director, said the U.S. may try to block the IMF loan in order to keep up the pressure on the regime.”

Read more …

They don’t care. They haven’t in 5 years.

EU Urged To Evacuate Asylum Seekers From Cramped Greek Camps (G.)

The European Union has been urged to evacuate asylum seekers from overcrowded camps on the Greek islands in order to save lives. The European parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee has called for the evacuation of 42,000 people on the Greek islands as “an urgent preventive” measure to avoid “many deaths” from coronavirus. Holding facilities on all five Aegean isles opposite the Turkish coast are currently six times over capacity. The first case of Covid-19 on the islands was confirmed earlier this month when a Greek woman on Lesbos, the island long on the frontline of the refugee crisis, tested positive. A Greek man, recently returned from Thailand, was diagnosed with the virus on Monday, reinforcing fears of an outbreak in camps seen as especially high-risk environments .

MEPs fear that if the virus spreads it could become a public health emergency in the squalid camps, where thousands live in unsanitary conditions, often without electricity, heating or running water. “Many of those in the camps are already in precarious health situations due to the bad conditions in which they have lived for a long time,” states the letter from Juan Fernando López Aguilar, a Spanish socialist MEP, who chairs the committee. “There is no chance of isolation or social distancing, nor is it possible to ensure appropriate hygienic conditions,” he wrote. The letter adds that only six intensive care beds are available on Lesbos for residents and asylum seekers. The notorious Moria camp on Lesbos houses nearly 20,000 people in a space designed for 2,200.

[..] The MEPs want people over 60 with existing health conditions evacuated first, but do not spell out whether they should go to other EU member states or the Greek mainland. The European commission said it was working with Greece on an emergency response plan to deal with a potential outbreak of coronavirus on the islands. A commission spokesperson said Greek authorities were taking action to prevent the spread of the disease, with compulsory temperature testing of new arrivals to the camps, suspension of visits, regular cleaning of communal areas, and the setting up of quarantine and recovery areas. The spokesperson also referred to an ongoing push to encourage EU member states to give a home to unaccompanied children on the Greek islands. Seven countries pledged earlier this month to take in 1,600 children from the islands.

Read more …

“There is no time for pessimistic scenarios now..”?! Pray tell, when is that time?

Czech Borders May Remain Closed For Two Years, Says Top Official (ExpCZ)

Czech Crisis Staff head Roman Prymula told Czech Television today that border restrictions in the Czech Republic over the coronavirus situation may last up to two years, and largely depend on the management of the epidemic in other countries in Europe and across the globe, reports the Czech News Agency and Novinky.cz. While the situation in the Czech Republic is thought to improve from mid-April, estimates aren’t as optimistic for other countries in Europe. “The situation in other European countries will not be good,” Prymula told Czech Television. “There it will take months and long months.” According to Prymula, international travel will most likely be limited for the next year or two, and Czech residents should count on taking their summer holidays within the Czech Republic this year.

Prymula’s statements were supported by Czech Minister of Health Adam Vojtech. “The point is to avoid having a second or third wave of the epidemic, so that people from other countries such as Italy, France, Spain, Germany, do not begin to flow [into the Czech Republic],” he told Czech Television. “I do not want to provide false optimism, but I hope that it will be possible to keep the number to 10,000 [infected with coronavirus],” Prymula added. “We are able to operate effectively with up to 15,000 [cases].” [..] He further stated that if the number of infections does not exceed 8,500 by the end of March, it would be possible to ease the current restrictions on movement within the country during the following 10 days. This could theoretically take place place by the Easter holiday (April 12-13).

Prymula’s statement was “shocking”, said TOP 09 chairman Miroslav Kalousek. The statement has presented the urgent question of whether it was right that the emergency staff is headed by a person without political responsibility, Kalousek said. What was said is quite quite unfortunate, TOP 09 leader Marketa Adamova Pekarova said. There is no time for pessimistic scenarios now, she added.

Read more …

Turkey reported its first case only on March 11. It kept its soccer league going for much longer than others.

Turkey’s Coronavirus Situation Is Out Of Control – Health Experts (Ahval)

Health experts have warned that Turkey’s coronavirus situation is out of control and that deaths from the disease could soon be on a par with Italy or Spain, reported the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network on Tuesday. “The recent data on cases and death tolls shows that the situation is out of control in Turkey. If the necessary measures are not taken, Turkey will be like Italy or Spain, where the daily death toll is in the hundreds,” Emrah Altındis, a Turkish professor from Harvard University’s Medical Faculty, told BIRN. Turkey only reported its first coronavirus patient on March 11, but cases and deaths have rapidly risen since then.


The Turkish health minister confirmed on Tuesday seven more deaths due to the coronavirus and announced 343 new cases, raising the total number of cases in the country to 1,872. Turkey has halted incoming flights from dozens of countries and closed a wide range of non-essential businesses and venues, and announced a curfew on elderly and vulnerable citizens over the weekend, though it has refrained from enforcing a full lockdown. However, some medical experts have said that the measures are insufficient.

Read more …

“The first political suicide broadcast live on national radio and television..”

Bolsonaro Says He ‘Wouldn’t Feel Anything’ If Infected With COVID-19 (G.)

Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has claimed he “wouldn’t feel anything” if infected with coronavirus and rubbished efforts to contain the illness with large-scale quarantines as his country’s two biggest cities went into shutdown in a desperate bid to save lives. In a televised address to the nation on Tuesday night, Bolsonaro slammed what he branded the economically damaging “scorched earth” tactics being used to slow the advance of an illness that has now claimed about 15,000 lives around the world. “The virus has arrived and we are fighting it and soon it will pass,” claimed Bolsonaro, who is facing a growing backlash in Brazil for repeatedly dismissing coronavirus as a media “fantasy” and “trick”.

Bolsonaro’s incendiary remarks came as both Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo were placed under partial lockdown by municipal and state authorities who fear an explosion of cases in the coming days. João Doria, the governor of São Paulo, Brazil’s most economically important and populous state, has declared a 15-day quarantine period affecting about 46 million of Brazil’s 210 million citizens. Meanwhile Rio’s mayor, Marcello Crivella, has ordered an indefinite shutdown of that city’s commerce and schools with Rio’s state governor, Wilson Witzel, also introducing drastic measures to counter coronavirus.

But in his five-minute address – which sparked loud protests in both Rio and São Paulo – Bolsonaro railed against such steps and attacked the media for spreading a “feeling of dread” among the population by reporting on the death toll in Italy. “Our lives have to go on. Jobs must be kept … we must, yes, get back to normal,” Bolsonaro said as his government’s health officials announced that the number of deaths in Brazil had risen to 46 with more than 2,200 cases. “A small number of state and municipal authorities must abandon their scorched-earth ideas: the banning of public transport, the closing of commerce and mass confinement,” Bolsonaro said. “What is happening around the world has shown that the at-risk group are those over 60 years old. So why close schools? … Ninety per cent of us will show no sign [of infection] if we are infected.”

[..] “The first political suicide broadcast live on national radio and television,” tweeted Ricardo Noblat, a prominent Brazilian journalist. Brian Winter, the editor-in-chief of Americas Quarterly, tweeted: “Pray for Brazil.”

Read more …

But there are a lot of positive reports too.

Australian Doctors Warned Off After Prescribing Hydroxychloroquine (G.)

Australia’s drugs regulator has been forced to restrict powers to prescribe a drug undergoing clinical trials to treat Covid-19, because doctors have been inappropriately prescribing it to themselves and their family members despite its potentially deadly side-effects. The anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine and the similar compound chloroquine are currently used mostly for patients with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, but stocks in Australia have been diminished thanks to global publicity – including from Donald Trump – about the potential of the drug to treat Covid-19.


Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine have potentially severe and even deadly side effects if used inappropriately, including heart failure and toxicity. Some Australian media outlets have wrongly reported the drug as a “cure” for the virus even though trials have been either inconclusive or too small to be useful, have only been conducted in test tubes, are not yet complete, or have not even received ethics approval. Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration said it was concerned about shortages of the drug for people who need it following increased off-label prescribing as a result of the Covid-19 reports. As well as heart attacks the drug can lead to irreversible eye damage and severe depletion of blood sugar potentially leading to coma, the TGA warned.

Read more …

I think today’s the day for the request to free Assange.

Assange Lawyer Baltasar Garzon Hospitalized With Coronavirus (RT)

Famous Spanish jurist Baltasar Garzon has been admitted to a hospital in Madrid after testing positive for Covid-19. He has provided legal counsel to WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange, among other things. Garzon, 64, was admitted to the Ruber clinic in Madrid on Tuesday, after five days of high fever at home. He tested positive for the coronavirus and was given the prognosis of respiratory failure, Spanish media reported. The former judge of the National Court had self-isolated at his home after complaining about a fever and chest pains, before the symptoms worsened.


Garzon became famous as a judge who cracked down on the Basque separatist organization ETA, and pursued human rights abuse charges against Spain’s Franco government, the Pinochet junta in Chile, and the Argentine military dictatorship. He has provided legal counsel to Assange since 2012, finding himself under considerable pressure at times – such as when masked raiders broke into his office in 2017. The second hardest-hit country in Europe by the Covid-19 outbreak, Spain is struggling with almost 40,000 reported cases, of which 2,700 have been fatal so far.

Read more …

Your good news for today.

Pablo Escobar’s ‘Cocaine Hippos’: Invasive Species Restore A Lost World (G.)

When the drug lord Pablo Escobar was shot dead in 1993, he left behind a zoo stocked with wild animals alongside his multibillion dollar cocaine empire. The lions, giraffes and other exotic species were moved from the luxurious Hacienda Nápoles estate east of Medellín to new homes, but nearly three decades later, dozens of hippos, descendants of animals left behind, are thriving in small lakes in northern Colombia, making them the world’s largest invasive animal. Now scientists say that contrary to the conventional wisdom that large invasive herbivore mammals have strictly negative effects on their new environments, Escobar’s “cocaine” hippos show how introduced species can restore a lost world.

A team of conservation biologists has compared the traits and impacts on the ecosystems from large invasive herbivore species like the Colombian hippo with their extinct counterparts from the Late Pleistocene (around 116,000-12,000 years ago) period like mammoths, giants sloths and giant wombats. They found some modern day invasive species restore parts of ecosystems not seen since before humans began driving the widespread extinctions of megafauna. Their new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that some introduced herbivore species are an almost perfect ecological match for extinct species from the Late Pleistocene, such as modern day wild horses known as mustangs and the extinct pre-domestic horses in North America, while others bring back a mixture of traits.

“The feral hippos in South America are similar in diet and body size to extinct giant llamas, while a bizarre type of extinct mammal – a notoungulata – shares with hippos large size and semiaquatic habitats,” explained study co-author John Rowan, Darwin fellow in organismic and evolutionary biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “So, while hippos don’t perfectly replace any one extinct species, they restore parts of important ecologies across several species.”


Toxodon-Notoungulata

By comparing ecological traits of herbivore species from before the Late Pleistocene extinctions to the present day, such as body size, diet and habitat, researchers were able to quantify the extent to which introduced species were more or less similar to extinct predecessors. The analysis found that by introducing large herbivore species across the world, humans had restored lost ecological traits to many ecosystems, thereby counteracting a legacy of extinctions and making the world more like the pre-extinction late Pleistocene.

Read more …

 

Someone asked if this was performance art, fair enough. I was wondering what would happen if Trump did this.

 

 

 

 

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

 

Mar 182020
 


Matson Aircraft refueling at Semakh, British Mandate Palestine 1931

 

Global Powers Unleash Trillions Of Dollars To Stem Coronavirus Crisis (R.)
We’re at a Real Risk of Financial Markets Being Closed – Bianco (NZZ)
The Lesson (Henrich)
Boeing Seeks ‘Tens Of Billions’ In Bailouts (ZH)
Hotel Industry To Ask Trump For $150 Billion In Aid (LAT)
American Indian Casinos Close For Coronavirus, Seek $18 Billion Aid (R.)
Mnuchin Warns Senators Of 20% US Unemployment Without Coronavirus Rescue (R.)
18% Of US Workers Have Lost Jobs Or Hours Since Coronavirus Hit (LAT)
COVID-19 Pandemic Could Continue For 2 YEARS – German Health Expert (RT)
New Coronavirus Can Persist In Air For Hours And On Surfaces For Days (R.)
Australian Scientists Map How Immune System Fights Virus (BBC)
A Coronavirus Outbreak In Jails Or Prisons Could Turn Into A Nightmare (Vox)
Cyprus Bans Flights From 28 Countries From March 21 (R.)
Beijing Tells NYT, WSJ, WaPo Journalists To Hand In Credentials (RT)

 

 

It is truly great to see that over the past 10 days or so, millions of coronavirus experts worldwide have come out of hiding whose existence we knew nothing about beforehand. We at the Automatic Earth have been following the virus for well over 2 months, and not only do we still not understand as much as all these experts, we even contradict ourselves and each other from time to time. With all the new expert knowledge and -especially- opinions, no doubt the crisis will be solved real soon now.

 

When I started working very early this working, one of the first things I saw was this from Reuters. Which shows, while for instance Worldometer still had total deaths at 7,915, a 8,410+ number. Somehow it feels too specific for just a random mistake. Worldometer now says 8,010, so there is an increase, but not nearly as much.

 

 

Do note, however, that both cases and deaths are up by much larger numbers in the past 24 hours than ever before…

 

Cases 202,270 (+ 18,137 from yesterday’s 184,133)

Deaths 8,012 (+ 830 from yesterday’s 7,182)

 

These numbers, too, are rising relentlessly.

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

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate is now at 9%!- (Note: some call this rate “misleading”, but that can by definition only be true if you don’t know the parameters. Worldometer is very clear: the death rate is part of Closed Cases, not All Cases. You may argue that Active Cases should be part of the equation, but that would only insert uncertainty into the number. Neither Worldometer nor I imply that 9% will be the ultimate fatality rate, just that at present it’s the rate among Closed Cases.)

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Somebody found a money tree. Or, rather, one in every country.

Global Powers Unleash Trillions Of Dollars To Stem Coronavirus Crisis (R.)

The world’s richest nations prepared more costly measures on Tuesday to combat the global fallout of the coronavirus that has infected tens of thousands of people, triggered social restrictions unseen since World War Two and sent economies spinning toward recession. With the highly contagious respiratory disease that originated in China racing across the world to infect more than 196,000 people so far, governments on every continent have implemented draconian containment measures from halting travel to stopping sporting events and religious gatherings. While the main aim is to avoid deaths – currently at over 7,800 – global powers were also focusing on how to limit the inevitably devastating economic impact.

In the world’s biggest economy, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration has proposed pumping $1 trillion into the market. Trump wants to send cash to Americans within two weeks as the country’s death toll approached 100 and more testing sent the number of coronavirus cases to over 5,700. Airlines are among the worst-hit sector, with U.S. carriers seeking at least $50 billion in grants and loans to stay afloat as passenger numbers evaporate. Britain, which has told people to avoid pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas and theaters, unveiled a 330 billion pounds ($400 billion) rescue package for businesses threatened with collapse. Budget forecasters said the scale of borrowing needed might resemble the vast amount of debt taken on during the 1939-1945 war against Nazi Germany.

“Now is not a time to be squeamish about public sector debt,” Robert Chote, head of the Office for Budget Responsibility, which provides independent analysis of the UK’s public finances, told lawmakers. France is to pump 45 billion euros ($50 billion) of crisis measures into its economy to help companies and workers, with output expected to contract 1% this year. “I have always defended financial rigor in peacetime so that France does not have to skimp on its budget in times of war,” Budget Minister Gerald Darmanin was quoted as saying by financial daily Les Echos. The European Union eased its rules to allow companies to receive state grants up to 500,000 euros ($551,000) or guarantees on bank loans to ensure liquidity.

But even with the promised cash splurges, world stock markets and oil prices were unable to shake off their coronavirus nightmare after Wall Street on Monday saw its worst rout since the Black Monday crash of 1987. The Philippines was the first country to close markets, while Europe – now the epicenter of the pandemic – saw airline and travel stocks plunge another 7%.

Read more …

Central banks have run out of tools. Philippines the first to close markets altogether.

We’re at a Real Risk of Financial Markets Being Closed – Bianco (NZZ)

Mr. Bianco, the Federal Reserve takes massive emergency actions. What does this mean for financial markets? The Central Banks went all in. They fired all of their ammunition and they’ve got only one goal in mind: They have to stop the decline in financial markets. This started late last week with the Fed’s giant repo operation. You can also throw in the announcements of the ECB and the Bank of Japan. Plus, we have the extraordinary actions taken by European governments to stem the effects of the pandemic. The government of Germany for instance is basically guaranteeing everybody’s job.

However, investors don’t seem convinced. What’s going to happen if markets drop further? Central Banks need to stop the stock market from falling through last week’s low. I believe if markets fall through those levels and keep going down, the so-called Fed Put is dead. It doesn’t work anymore, so quit trying to find new ways to exercise it. Just understand Einstein’s definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.

What are the ramifications if the Fed Put doesn’t work anymore? Central Banks will need to move on. So if stocks make new lows we’re at a real risk of financial markets being closed. The Fed and other Central Banks have fired all their ammunition and if markets crash through last week’s lows, there’s nothing left. The Fed can’t buy equities outright without a change of the Federal Reserve Act. It would take weeks for Congress to do that. Even if Congress moves with lightning speed it will take them at least a week, and it will be over before that.

What would be the benefit of closing markets? It took the stock market sixteen trading days to drop by 27% from the all-time highs to Thursday’s lows. We have never seen anything close to that in history. The closest we’ve ever been in history was 1929, when it took 42 days to get from the all-time highs to a 20% correction. The speed in this decline is unprecedented.

Why is it so important to stop this crash? If it continues, you will get margin calls, involuntary liquidation. Markets will lose their ability to price securities, especially things like high yield bonds and emerging markets securities. Funds in those areas will be unavailable for people to redeem because they won’t have any prices. There will be trapped money. Also, you will get broken covenants in the corporate debt area, and that will force changes of control or restructurings. But the biggest damage will be that pensions will become underfunded. Companies will be forced to pony up billions of Dollars to get their pensions back into funding.

[..] You’re been in the investment business for a long time and have seen quite a few crashes. How do you experience this crisis personally? This is unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetime. What’s going on in financial markets today exceeds the financial crisis of 2008, it exceeds 9/11, it exceeds the tech peak, and it exceeds the 1987 crash. Maybe 1929 is still bigger, but few of us were alive then. We’re writing a new chapter for American and world history textbooks. We’re only a few pages into it, and we’re not sure how it will end, but our grandchildren will one day learn school about the great pandemic of 2020 and what it meant for world history.

Read more …

“What I’m opposed to is the hype, hypocrisy and excess that has preceded it. People got greedy, they piled into stocks at ungodly valuations. Companies that didn’t save or prepare for a crisis, instead were focused on short term market gains to juice up their stock prices. Companies such as Boeing that cut corners and blew money on buybacks for financial engineering purposes to enrich upper management and shareholders. I say screw them..”

The Lesson (Henrich)

The lesson of it all? The lesson is that lessons are not being learned. Of course the human species has an ingrained problem: We are all born with a blank sheet and have to learn everything from scratch. It would be helpful though if the elders could pass lessons from past mistakes on to the new generation. But no. So we keep making the same stupid mistakes. And here we are. Just four weeks after all time highs in markets America is again turning into bailout nation. Yes coronavirus is an unforeseen shock. So what? We’re supposed to handle a shock. We’re supposed to be prepared. We’re supposed to have savings and great balance sheets.


After an 11 year recovery and market bull run based on cheap and easy money shouldn’t things be great and shouldn’t we be well prepared for the next downturn? Is that really too much to ask? Apparently. We can’t even go 4 weeks without the Fed going apeshit on cutting rates to zero, launching $700B in QE, making discount windows available and launching $500B, even trillion dollar repos. We can’t even go 4 weeks without the government launching a proposed $850B stimulus package, tax cuts, free money checks of $1,000 to Americans and suggesting bailouts for $BA and $GE. That’s how fragile things are. They must be, otherwise the system would be able to handle a temporary shock. But it can’t. Why? Well for one our supposed great economy ever has the vast majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck:

That’s a systemic problem. Sure you can blame people for living beyond their means, but in general most people just don’t have the income power to keep abreast with rising medial costs, home prices and all the other fun inflationary items that the Fed simply doesn’t count as inflation. How ignorant they are. PCE deflator. Please. And then of course the same lesson again not learned that keeps repeating ahead of every bust: Greed and more greed. When has it ever been a good idea to chase stocks to 150% market cap to GDP or even higher? The answer is never. Yet they convinced themselves and others that it’s different this time. New flash: It wasn’t. A lesson not learned and yet they did it. The chart was screaming unsutainability. And here we are 4 weeks later, yesterday closing at 109.5% market cap to GDP:

Reversion to the mean. And it could eventually get much worse. I showed this chart in Bull Cliff in February and I stated: “Investors keep piling money into this historically priced market….Central banks can deny all they want that they are not responsible for asset price inflation, but everybody knows better. The denials are not only hollow they are straight out lies. And having created the Pavlovian effect we now see in the investment community they are leading investors to abandon all sense of risk when risks are mounting ever more around us as valuations and earnings multiples keep expanding as a result of monetary policy. And hence it may be said that central bankers may be leading investors off the cliff.”


[..] I’m not opposed to the government stepping in to help in an emergency. That’s why we have government. What I’m opposed to is the hype, hypocrisy and excess that has preceded it. People got greedy, they piled into stocks at ungodly valuations. Companies that didn’t save or prepare for a crisis, instead were focused on short term market gains to juice up their stock prices. Companies such as Boeing that cut corners and blew money on buybacks for financial engineering purposes to enrich upper management and shareholders. I say screw them. If you don’t learn the lessons of the past then live with the consequences. And who pays ultimately for the consequences? We’ve seen this movie before

Read more …

Even Tyler Durden vehemently disagrees. But this is major military supplier Boeing.

Boeing Seeks ‘Tens Of Billions’ In Bailouts (ZH)

In its latest 8K, the plunging planemaker has completely drawn down its $13.8 billion credit line that it entered in October 2018 as it “navigates current business challenges” exposing just how fast this company is burning through cash. [..] This comes just hours after sources told Reuters that Boeing is seeking a bailout of ‘tens of billions’ in US government loan guarantees amid the Covid-19 crisis.[..] As we raged previously, this bailout demand comes after the company blew nearly $100 billion on stock buybacks since 2013 helping push its stock to all-time highs not that long ago, and instead of selling stock to get liquidity, they’re asking the Trump administration for a massive bailout.

So, no, nobody in their right minds should give Boeing even one penny in “short term aid”. Instead, management and the board should be ordered to sell as much stock as they need – you know, the opposite of buying it back – to maintain the business, even it means sending the stock price crashing far lower. Because it’s called capitalism, and because there is no reason why taxpayers should foot the bill for a company which instead of saving cash when times were good, was handing it out to shareholders and a handful of executives, and which should now for some insane reason be eligible for a bailout when times suddenly go bad. No: force Boeing – and others like it that spent billions repurchasing its stock while incurring massive amounts of debt – to sell its stock.

After all that’s what a public company’s stock is – a currency – and just as Boeing could repurchase it when it had cash, and lifted its stock price to all time highs, it should now sell its stock and use the proceeds to fund itself, like any other corporation does when it needs funding. Last time we checked, Boeing’s market cap was $73 billion, and it certainly afford to drop much more as the company now does the buyback in reverse. This is also a warning to Congress and the White House: if chronic stock repurchasers such as Boeing, are bailed out instead of ordered to find their own sources of liquidity, there will be a mutiny in America and rightfully so, because it was Boeing’s shareholders that got rich on the way up, and now it is somehow up to taxpayers to make sure the company, loaded up with record amounts of debt used to fund buybacks, survives one more quarter. That, in a word, is bullshit.

Read more …

We have this opportunity to get the rotten apples out, but are we going to use it?

Hotel Industry To Ask Trump For $150 Billion In Aid (LAT)

Staggered by the coronavirus outbreak, the lodging industry requested $150 billion in aid from the Trump administration Tuesday as Marriott International announced plans to furlough tens of thousands of workers. After a White House meeting with President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, hotel industry leaders said the virus outbreak is on pace to cause a bigger economic hit than the 2001 terrorist strikes and the 2008-09 recession combined. In addition to the $150 billion requested by the hotel industry, other sectors of the travel industry — such as convention centers, theme parks and tour companies — have requested $100 billion in funding to overcome the crisis, said Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Assn., the trade group for the country’s travel industry.


That is on top of the $58 billion in aid requested Monday by the airline industry to overcome a surge in flight cancellations amid new travel restrictions. Without federal aid to the travel and lodging industries, the U.S. could lose as many as 4 million jobs in 2020, pushing the unemployment rate from 3.3% to 6.3% across the country, Dow said. Hotel occupancy rates were around 80% a few weeks ago but are now 10% to 20% in the busiest cities of the country, Chip Rogers, president of the American Hotel & Lodging Assn., said in a conference call with reporters. The federal aid, he said, has been requested in the form of grants to keep workers employed until the crisis subsides. Details about how the money would be disbursed had yet to be decided, Rogers said.

Read more …

Should casinos be bailed out? Or only those owed by Native Americans?

American Indian Casinos Close For Coronavirus, Seek $18 Billion Aid (R.)

The Native American gaming industry on Tuesday requested $18 billion in U.S. federal aid as it shut casinos that are the sole source of commercial revenue for dozens of tribes in a bid to slow the coronavirus epidemic. Tribal governments will be unable to provide health and education services and will default on loans unless they get federal support to make up for lost casino money, the National Indian Gaming Association said in a letter to members of the U.S. House of Representatives. “Providing the means for tribal governments to continue paying all employees’ salaries and benefits will immensely help this country recover,” according to the letter addressed to Representatives Deb Haaland and Tom Cole of the House Native American Caucus.


The United States’ roughly 460 Indian casinos are in the process of closing given the threat of coronavirus to tribal members and many non-Native American employees. Tribes are sovereign nations but are following advice from U.S. states and the federal government to slow the virus’ spread. That means shutting American Indian casinos which employ a combined 700,000-plus people directly and indirectly and generated over $37 billion in 2017, making them the largest segment of the U.S. gaming industry, according to the association.

Read more …

Frances Coppola: “Demand is falling because of virus control measures. Giving people money to spend (above their normal income) while simultaneously making it impossible for them to spend it is absurd.”

Mnuchin Warns Senators Of 20% US Unemployment Without Coronavirus Rescue (R.)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned Republican senators on Tuesday that the country’s unemployment rate could hit 20% if they failed to act on a proposed coronavirus rescue package and there was lasting economic damage, a person familiar with the closed-door meeting said. Mnuchin met with senators to persuade them to pass a $1 trillion stimulus package that would send cash to Americans within two weeks and backstop airlines and other companies. The Senate is majority-controlled by President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans. A Treasury official said Mnuchin was not providing a forecast but trying to illustrate the potential risks of inaction.


“During the meeting with Senate Republicans today, Secretary Mnuchin used several mathematical examples for illustrative purposes, but he never implied this would be the case,” Treasury spokeswoman Monica Crowley said in an emailed statement. The warning was similar to one issued to U.S. lawmakers at the depths of the 2008 financial crisis, when Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke went to Capitol Hill to urge passage of a $700 billion plan to buy toxic mortgage assets.

Read more …

“56% of Americans considered the coronavirus outbreak a “real threat,” while 38% said it was “blown out of proportion.”

18% Of US Workers Have Lost Jobs Or Hours Since Coronavirus Hit (LAT)

As fallout from the coronavirus pandemic hits the economy, it’s slamming the American workforce: Some 18% of adults reported that they had been laid off or that their work hours had been cut, a new poll found. The proportion affected grew for lower-income households, with 25% of those making less than $50,000 a year reporting that they had been let go or had their hours reduced, according to a survey released Tuesday by NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist of 835 working adults in the contiguous United States. The poll was conducted Friday and Saturday, just after stocks began their steep plunge and normal life started grinding to a halt, with schools and places of worship closing, concerts and conferences being canceled and sports leagues suspending their seasons. The same poll found that about 56% of Americans considered the coronavirus outbreak a “real threat,” while 38% said it was “blown out of proportion.”

Read more …

Couldn’t we all make this prediction? It depends on 1001 variables. Who needs an expert for this?

COVID-19 Pandemic Could Continue For 2 YEARS – German Health Expert (RT)

A senior German disease control expert has warned that the coronavirus pandemic could continue for two years, depending on how long it takes for an effective vaccine to be developed and if people develop immunity after illness. Speaking on Tuesday, the Robert Kock Institut’s (RKI) president, Prof. Lothar Wieler, said pandemics tend to run their course in waves, and factors influencing how it unfolds from this point include how many people become immune to it after contracting the virus – and how quickly a vaccine is made. The RKI, a German federal agency responsible for disease control and prevention, on Tuesday raised the country’s threat level from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic from ‘moderate’ to ‘high’.

It said the revision comes in light of the continuing increase in new infections of the rapidly-spreading virus, which originated in China late last year and whose symptoms range from fever to serious respiratory illness. Germany has recorded over 7,900 cases of Covid-19 to date, with 20 deaths. New research from RKI scientists and the Helios clinic group also says that the novel coronavirus can more seriously afflict adults aged under 60 who have no underlying health conditions than similar patients suffering severe pneumonia in the regular flu season.

Although countries around the globe have largely stepped up measures to counter the spread of the virus, including border closures, shutting schools and limiting mass gatherings, Covid-19 cases outside of China recently surpassed the total figure recorded inside the country that had, until now, suffered the worst of the outbreak. Italy, in particular, is struggling with the pandemic and recorded a larger single-day number of deaths last weekend than China did at the worst of the peak there.

Read more …

I thought we already knew that, but the article is dated the 17th.

New Coronavirus Can Persist In Air For Hours And On Surfaces For Days (R.)

The highly contagious novel coronavirus that has exploded into a global pandemic can remain viable and infectious in droplets in the air for hours and on surfaces up to days, according to a new study that should offer guidance to help people avoid contracting the respiratory illness called COVID-19. Scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, attempted to mimic the virus deposited from an infected person onto everyday surfaces in a household or hospital setting, such as through coughing or touching objects. They used a device to dispense an aerosol that duplicated the microscopic droplets created in a cough or a sneeze.

The scientists then investigated how long SARS-CoV-2 remained infectious on these surfaces, according to the study that appeared online in the New England Journal of Medicine on Tuesday – a day in which U.S. COVID-19 cases surged past 5,200 and deaths approached 100. The tests show that when the virus is carried by the droplets released when someone coughs or sneezes, it remains viable, or able to still infect people, in aerosols for at least three hours. On plastic and stainless steel, viable virus could be detected after three days. On cardboard, the virus was not viable after 24 hours. On copper, it took 4 hours for the virus to become inactivated.= In terms of half-life, the research team found that it takes about 66 minutes for half the virus particles to lose function if they are in an aerosol droplet.

That means that after another hour and six minutes, three quarters of the virus particles will be essentially inactivated but 25% will still be viable. The amount of viable virus at the end of the third hour will be down to 12.5%, according to the research led by Neeltje van Doremalen of the NIAID’s Montana facility at Rocky Mountain Laboratories. On stainless steel, it takes 5 hours 38 minutes for half of the virus particles to become inactive. On plastic, the half-life is 6 hours 49 minutes, researchers found. On cardboard, the half-life was about three and a half hours, but the researchers said there was a lot of variability in those results “so we advise caution” interpreting that number.

Read more …

Encouraging, but looks like a long time option.

Australian Scientists Map How Immune System Fights Virus (BBC)

Scientists in Australia say they have identified how the body’s immune system fights the Covid-19 virus. Their research, published in Nature Medicine journal on Tuesday, shows people are recovering from the new virus like they would from the flu. Determining which immune cells are appearing should also help with vaccine development, experts say. “This [discovery] is important because it is the first time where we are really understanding how our immune system fights novel coronavirus,” said study co-author Prof Katherine Kedzierska. The research by Melbourne’s Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity has been praised by other experts, with one calling it “a breakthrough”.


Many people have recovered from Covid-19, meaning it was already known that the immune system can successfully fight the virus. But for the first time, the research identified four types of immune cells which presented to fight Covid-19. They were observed by tracking a patient who had a mild-to-moderate case of the virus and no previous health issues. The 47-year-old woman from Wuhan, China, had presented to hospital in Australia. She recovered within 14 days. Prof Kedzierska told the BBC her team had examined the “whole breadth of the immune response” in this patient. Three days before the woman began to improve, specific cells were spotted in her bloodstream. In influenza patients, these same cells also appear around this time before recovery, Prof Kedzierska said.


Chest scans showed the patient’s lungs clearing after immune cells appeared

Read more …

Iran has released 54,000 + 85,000 prisoners “temporarily”.

A Coronavirus Outbreak In Jails Or Prisons Could Turn Into A Nightmare (Vox)

The next site of a deadly coronavirus outbreak may not be a cruise ship, conference, or school. It could be one of America’s thousands of jails or prisons. Just about all the concerns about coronavirus’s spread in packed social settings apply as much, if not more, to correctional settings. In a prison, multiple people can be placed in one cell. Hallways and gathering places are often small and tight (often deliberately so, to make it easier to control inmates). There is literally no escape, with little to no space for social distancing or similar recommendations experts make to combat coronavirus. Hand sanitizer can be contraband.

Such an outbreak could not only infect and kill hundreds or thousands of people in prison, but potentially spread to nearby communities as well. Visitors and correctional staff could spread the disease when they go back home, and inmates could spread it when they’re released. Even an outbreak contained within a jail or prison could strain nearby health care systems, as hundreds or thousands of people suddenly need medical care that jails and prisons themselves can’t provide. So if you want to “flatten the curve” to spread out the illness and avoid overwhelming health care systems, experts say, you should worry about coronavirus in prisons and jails.

In the US, the concern is particularly acute because America puts so many people in jail or prison. The US locks up about 2.3 million people on any given day — the highest prison and jail population of any country in the world. With an incarceration rate of 655 per 100,000 people, the US locks up people at nearly twice the rate of Russia, more than five times that of China, more than six times Canada and France, nearly nine times Germany, and almost 17 times Japan. “We can learn what works in terms of mitigation from other countries who have seen spikes in coronavirus already, but none of those countries have the level of incarceration that we have in the United States,” Tyler Winkelman, a doctor and researcher at the University of Minnesota focused on health care and criminal justice, told me.

Read more …

While France and Germany go out of their way to keep EU (Schengen) borders open, EU member Cyprus says no.

Cyprus Bans Flights From 28 Countries From March 21 (R.)

Cyprus on Tuesday announced a two-week ban on flights from 28 countries, including Britain and Greece, to curb the coronavirus outbreak. The measure will come into effect from 0100 GMT on March 21 for a 14-day period, an official statement said. It does not affect cargo flights. The island has already enacted stringent entry requirements, effective from March 16, barring anyone into the island, including Cypriots, without a medical certificate that they are clear of coronavirus. Those who do arrive are placed in compulsory quarantine in a government-supervised facility for two weeks. The east Mediterranean island has reported 49 cases of coronavirus.


Australia’s DFAT travel advisory map has been updated. Every country in the world is labelled “Do Not Travel”, for the first time ever.

Read more …

Best friends.

Beijing Tells NYT, WSJ, WaPo Journalists To Hand In Credentials (RT)

China is pulling the press credentials of US journalists from outlets including the New York Times and the Washington Post whose passes expire in 2020, in the latest move of an ongoing tit-for-tat with America over media access. In a statement about China’s “countermeasures against US suppression of Chinese media organizations in the United States,” Beijing announced that American reporters working for the NYT, Wall Street Journal, Voice of America, Time and the Washington Post whose credentials are due to expire by the end of this year must hand them over within 10 days. These reporters will also not be allowed to work in China – including Hong Kong and Macau – in the future, and other US journalists will face new visa restrictions similar to those Washington recently introduced for Chinese reporters.


“In view of the US’ discriminatory restrictions on visas, administrative review, and interviews of Chinese journalists, China will take reciprocal measures against US journalists,” it added. The back-and-forth expulsions of journalists started in February, when Chinese authorities gave three Wall Street Journalists five days to leave the country after Beijing objected to an opinion piece in the outlet calling China the “real sick man of Asia.” The paper refused to apologize for the piece. Shortly afterwards, the US dramatically reduced the number of journalists it would permit to work for four Chinese state-owned media companies inside the US, cutting the number allowed from 160 to 100. They also reduced the length of time those permitted entry could remain in the US. Beijing condemned the move as reflecting a “Cold War mindset” and warned of retaliation.

Read more …

 

Clean water in Venice for the first time in forever. The flipside of this: Free parking in Athens to limit use of public transportation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you read us, please support us. Help the Automatic Earth survive.

 

Mar 172020
 


Edwin Rosskam Shoeshine, 47th Street, Chicago’s main Negro business street 1941

 

A View From Italy’s Coronavirus Frontline (G.)
The UK Only Woke Up “In The Last Few Days” (BF)
Julian Assange’s Mother Calls For His Immediate Release Over COVID19 Fears (ES)
Americans Get a Taste of Life Under Sanctions (MPN)
De Blasio Urges ‘Nationalization’ Of Key Industries (Fox)
Spain Takes Over Private Healthcare Amid More Lockdowns (G.)
Mitt Romney’s Coronavirus Economic Plan: $1,000 To Each American Adult (Vox)
Chinese Scientists Find Infected Monkeys Developed Immunity (SCMP)
New Zealand Launches Massive Spending Package To Combat COVID-19 (G.)
What The ECB Must Do To Save The Euro Zone Economy (SCMP)
EU Calls For 30-Day Ban On Foreigners Entering Bloc (G.)
Things Have Changed (Kunstler)
DOJ Drops Charges Against Russian Troll Farm for 2016 Election Meddling (L&C)

 

 

As the potential and existing economic and political disruption sinks in, everyone comes with their own re-inventions of the wheel. Predictable behavior. The US and UK can still stumble their way towards a worse outcome than necessary, but Italy no longer has such freedom. They made their big mistakes a few weeks ago.

And as politicans get measures, supplies and treatments wrong, they still have room left for gigantic mistakes is responding to economic consequences. Stuck as they may be bewteen the 2-3 weeks they tell you this will last and the many months they say it will.

Unless someoe stops them real soon, they will spend, trillions this time, bailing out banks and large companies that only exist to a large extent because they were bailed 12 years ago as well, and let the people rot away. But then, who are the main campaign contributors?

 

Cases 184,133 (+ 13,281 from yesterday’s 170,852)

Deaths 7,182 (+ 656 from yesterday’s 6,526)

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer (NOTE: mortality rate is back up to 8%!)

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Steve Keen

 

 

What it will look like.

A View From Italy’s Coronavirus Frontline (G.)

There are the elderly couples who died hours apart and without their families around them. There is the 47-year-old woman who died at home, and who remained there for almost two days because funeral companies refused to collect her body. There are the doctors who lost their lives after assisting their infected patients. Among the 2,158 people to have been killed by the coronavirus pandemic in Italy as of Monday, the oldest was 95 and the two youngest were 39. “The reality is this virus is spreading like wildfire. Death is not certain, but the contagion is real,” said Luca Franzese, whose sister, Teresa, 47, died at home in Naples on 7 March. “My parents are heartbroken, they are destroyed..”

Teresa, who lived with her elderly parents, sister, brother-in-law and their two children, suffered from epilepsy but was otherwise in good health. A week before she died, she came down with the flu. “My parents called her doctor but they refused to come to the house despite knowing she had a disability,” said Franzese. “She went into a coma on 7 March, we tried to call the emergency hotline, they arrived after 40 minutes. In the meantime, I tried to give her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.” Teresa tested positive for the virus postmortem. Franzese spoke of his family’s frustration at being “abandoned” by the authorities after his sister was left to die at home.

It was only after he made an appeal for help via Facebook that a local funeral company eventually came to collect her body. But as with other coronavirus victims, she was buried quickly and without ceremony to mitigate the risk of infection posed by her corpse. Her parents, who have underlying health issues, tested negative for the virus, as did Luca and a nephew. The rest of Teresa’s immediate family of seven have tested positive. [..] not all of the dead had other health issues, at least as far as is known. Luca Carrara lost his father, Luigi Carrara, 86, and mother, Severa Belotti, 82, within a few hours of each other. He told the Italian press they were in good health. “I was unable to see my parents, they died alone, that’s what this virus is,” he added. “The truth is this is not a banal flu and if you end up in hospital, you leave either alive or dead.”

https://twitter.com/i/status/1239741543654834179

Read more …

Actual headline (way too long): The UK Only Realised “In The Last Few Days” That Its Coronavirus Strategy Would “Likely Result In Hundreds of Thousands of Deaths””

Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet, tweets: “It said it took a study from Imperial to understand the likely burden of COVID-19 on the NHS. But read the first paper we published on COVID-19 on Jan 24. 32% admitted to ITU with 15% mortality. We have wasted 7 weeks. This crisis was entirely preventable.”

The UK Only Woke Up “In The Last Few Days” (BF)

The UK only realised “in the last few days” that attempts to “mitigate” the impact of the coronavirus pandemic would not work, and that it needed to shift to a strategy to “suppress” the outbreak, according to a report by a team of experts who have been advising the government. The report, published by the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team on Monday night, found that the strategy previously being pursued by the government — dubbed “mitigation” and involving home isolation of suspect cases and their family members but not including restrictions on wider society — would “likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over”.

The mitigation strategy “focuses on slowing but not necessarily stopping epidemic spread — reducing peak healthcare demand while protecting those most at risk of severe disease from infection”, the report said, reflecting the UK strategy that was outlined last week by Boris Johnson and the chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance. But the approach was found to be unworkable. “Our most significant conclusion is that mitigation is unlikely to be feasible without emergency surge capacity limits of the UK and US healthcare systems being exceeded many times over,” perhaps by as much as eight times, the report said. In this scenario, the Imperial College team predicted as many as 250,000 deaths in Britain.

“In the UK, this conclusion has only been reached in the last few days,” the report explained, due to new data on likely intensive care unit demand based on the experience of Italy and Britain so far. “We were expecting herd immunity to build. We now realise it’s not possible to cope with that,” professor Azra Ghani, chair of infectious diseases epidemiology at Imperial, told journalists at a briefing on Monday night. As a result, the report — which its authors said had “informed policymaking in the UK and other countries in the last weeks” — said: “We therefore conclude that epidemic suppression is the only viable strategy at the current time.”

A suppression strategy, along the lines of the approach adopted by the Chinese authorities, “aims to reverse epidemic growth, reducing case numbers to low levels and maintaining that situation indefinitely”. It requires “a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members”, and “may need to be supplemented by school and university closures”. An “intensive intervention package” will have to be “maintained until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more)“, the report said, painting an extraordinary picture of what life could be like in the UK for the next year and a half.

Read more …

And in a country as screwed up as Britain, jail is the last place to be.

“An Iranian judiciary spokesman says the country has temporarily freed about 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, in an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”

Julian Assange’s Mother Calls For His Immediate Release Over COVID19 Fears (ES)

The mother of imprisoned WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has appealed for his immediate release from Belmarsh Prison over fears he could catch coronavirus while behind bars. Christine Assange’s plea came after a leading prison boss warned last week that the worsening Covid-19 epidemic will kill inmates throughout the UK, describing the conditions inside jails as a fertile breeding ground for the virus. Coronavirus cases have surged throughout the UK in recent days, with 14 more deaths confirmed on Sunday.


More than 1,500 people nationwide have tested positive for the virus since the outbreak began, but officials say the true figure of people with the disease is likely to be far higher. In a series of posts on social media, Ms Assange described her son as being “weak from chronic illness” and implored Britons and Americans to push politicians into action over his case. Those with underlying health conditions are more at risk of contracting the virus.

Read more …

Be kind.

Americans Get a Taste of Life Under Sanctions (MPN)

Across fifty states, Americans are collectively bracing for the incoming COVID-19 pandemic to hit. In the face of the virus, people are resorting to panic buying, stocking up on vital foods and goods, leading to pressing shortages of key products like hand sanitizer and toilet paper. Perhaps more concerning, however, is that health experts all agree that the country is ill-equipped for the coming medical emergency. “We are not prepared, nor is any place prepared for a Wuhan-like outbreak,” said Dr. Eric Toner of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “And we would see the same sort of bad outcomes that they saw in Wuhan – with a very high case fatality rate, due largely to people not being able to access the needed intensive care.”

Chief among the problems is a lack of ventilators, a crucial machine to help critically ill patients breathe properly. New York City, for example, has barely one sixth of the ventilators it would need for a critical outbreak. If things get truly bad, the city has drafted laws to compel prisoners at Rikers Island jail to dig mass graves. One of the principal reasons why the U.S. is so unprepared is that it spends so little on public health in comparison with what it spends on war. The U.S. military’s projected budget is $934 billion per year, the Pentagon’s is $712 billion. In contrast, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) costs the taxpayer only $6.6 billion. At a time of crisis, many Americans are reassessing which organization they feel is truly protecting them from danger. While increasing the military budget, President Trump has consistently argued for cuts to the CDC. Amazingly, the Trump administration confirmed last week that it intends to slash funding from the body, even as the country begins reeling from the impact of COVID-19.

The crippling shortages, inability to move and the likely overwhelming of medical services will give Americans a taste of what it is like to live under sanctions that it imposes on a number of countries worldwide. U.S. sanctions on Venezuela, declared illegal and a “crime against humanity” by the United Nations, are conservatively estimated to have killed more than 40,000 people between 2017 and 2018 alone. Diabetics, for example, have been unable to get insulin because of the embargo, leading to mass deaths. The Cuban government estimates that the American embargo has cost it over $750 billion. Meanwhile, Iran, wracked by the virus that has caused more than 850 confirmed deaths, has been decimated by Trump’s increased sanctions.

The Iranian rial lost 80 percent of its value, food prices doubled, and rents and unemployment soared. Because of the sanctions, patients with conditions like leukemia and epilepsy have been unable to get treatment. After the coronavirus hit it, no country would sell the Islamic Republic basic medical supplies like masks, fearful of reprisals from the world’s only superpower. The shortages are so bad that doctors are being forced to share facemasks with other hospital staff. Eventually the World Health Organization stepped in and began supplying Iran directly. The Iranian government also invented an app to deal with COVID-19, hoping to share information with its citizens to help fight its spread but Google removed it from its app store citing the sanctions that prevent it from promoting anything Iranian-made. The effect of the sanctions in helping spread COVID-19 across Iran and beyond is immeasurable.

Read more …

Why is it taking so long? Could it be because these industries pay for campaigns?

De Blasio Urges ‘Nationalization’ Of Key Industries (Fox)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is arguing that the best way to tackle the coronavirus outbreak is for the federal government to take over critical private companies in the medical field and have them running 24 hours a day. The mayor, who made multiple media appearances over the weekend, said that the current situation calls for drastic measures which include nationalizing certain industries. “This is a case for a nationalization, literally a nationalization, of crucial factories and industries that could produce the medical supplies to prepare this country for what we need,” de Blasio told MSNBC’s Joy Reid on Saturday, calling for “24/7 shifts” during what he called a “war-like situation.”


The following day, de Blasio reiterated this message, telling CNN that “the federal government needs to take over the supply chain right now.” He specified the need for companies that make ventilators, surgical masks, and hand sanitizers to be taken over and made to work around the clock. New York state already has started producing hand sanitizer in response to shortages and price gouging. The city itself has also taken drastic steps to deal with the crisis, forcing restaurants to limit themselves to takeout and delivery service, and closing many establishments to prevent the spread of the virus through crowds. The mayor predicted that coronavirus will continue to be a problem “for at least six months.” Sunday evening, it was announced that New York City schools will be shutting down until at least April 20, a measure de Blasio previously had resisted, despite facing pressure to do so.

Read more …

Temporarily, but better than nothing.

Spain Takes Over Private Healthcare Amid More Lockdowns (G.)

In Spain, where the coronavirus toll climbed to 309 on Monday with 9,191 confirmed cases, the government announced sweeping measures allowing it to take over private healthcare providers and requisition materials such as face masks and Covid-19 tests. The health minister, Salvador Illa, said private healthcare facilities would be requisitioned for coronavirus patients, and manufacturers and suppliers of healthcare equipment must notify the government within 48 hours. The Spanish government declared a state of emergency on Saturday, placing the country in lockdown and ordering people to leave their homes only if they needed to buy food or medicine or go to work or hospital. The transport minister, José Luis Ábalos, said it was “obvious” the measures would be extended beyond the planned 15-day period.

Read more …

Romney is but a follower. Tulsi Gabbard started this. House Resolution HRes 897.

Mitt Romney’s Coronavirus Economic Plan: $1,000 To Each American Adult (Vox)

On Monday, Sen. Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican and former GOP presidential nominee, called for $1,000 cash payments to every American adult as coronavirus measures to keep people in their homes threaten to put millions out of work. “While expansions of paid leave, unemployment insurance, and SNAP benefits are crucial, the check will help fill the gaps for Americans that may not quickly navigate different government options,” Romney argued in a press release. This, to be clear, is not the same as Yang’s proposal. Yang wanted monthly checks as a regular government policy, while Romney is supporting a one-off $1,000 check as an emergency measure. In that context, $1,000 might not be enough:


Former Obama chief economist Jason Furman has proposed payments of as much as $3,000 per adult and $1,500 per child. But the fact that a conservative Republican is proposing unrestricted cash payments during a GOP administration – in which even heavily regulated government programs like food stamps are under attack – is notable. And Romney is not alone in this. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), one of the most conservative members of the Senate GOP and a likely future presidential contender, went on Fox & Friends on Monday morning to call on Congress to dispense with complicated mechanisms like tax credits and instead put “cash in the hands of affected families”:

Some Democrats not in leadership have also been pushing their own versions of this idea. There is already a cash bill in the House from Democratic Reps. Tim Ryan and Ro Khanna that would give at least $1,000 to every American making under $65,000, and as much as $6,000 to some families with children. Harvard economist Greg Mankiw, who served as chief economist to President George W. Bush, has argued that cash payments are needed not so much to stimulate the economy as to help people whose jobs are impossible to perform due to social distancing. It’s a humanitarian measure, not a stimulus measure.


“Financial planners tell people to have six months of living expenses in an emergency fund. Sadly, many people do not,” Mankiw writes on his blog. “Considering the difficulty of identifying the truly needy and the problems inherent in trying to do so, sending every American a $1000 check asap would be a good start. A payroll tax cut makes little sense in this circumstance, because it does nothing for those who can’t work.”

https://twitter.com/i/status/1238516118391791617

Read more …

Interesting for 2021, perhaps. Not now.

Chinese Scientists Find Infected Monkeys Developed Immunity (SCMP)

Scientists who infected monkeys with the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 have found that those that recovered developed effective immunity from the disease – a potentially important discovery in the race to develop a vaccine. But the researchers also found that the animals could become infected through their eyes, which means wearing a face mask may not be enough to protect people from the disease. Scientists around the world have been racing to develop a vaccine and the first clinical trials could be held in China and the US within a month. But a number of cases, where people who had tested negative for the disease and were discharged from hospital only to give a positive result a few days later, have cast doubt on the process.

The rate of reoccurrence ranged from 0.1 to 1 per cent nationwide, according to China’s state media reports. However, in some provinces such as Guangdong up to 14 per cent of the discharged patients had reportedly returned to hospital because of the test results. If it turns out that these patients had been reinfected by the same virus, then vaccines will not prove effective. But the monkey experiment carried out by a team from the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences may help dispel that fear. [..] after tests returned negative results and X-rays showed their internal organs had fully recovered, two monkeys were dosed with the virus through the mouth. The scientists recorded a temporary temperature rise, but other than that everything appeared to stay normal. Autopsies were performed on these two monkeys about two weeks later, and the researchers could not find a trace of the virus in their body.

[..] Professor Zhong Nanshan, a leading government scientist, said in Guangzhou last week that they had found a strong presence of antibodies in recovered patients, which meant the virus could no longer use them as a carrier again. “Now the question everyone cares about is whether the close contacts and family members may be infected because [the patient] tested positive again. So far I have not seen any evidence,” Zhong said.

Read more …

People first, not businesses. Wage subsidies for companies is not the way to go. Give people the money, so companies don’t have to pay them, move the salary burden from their books.

New Zealand Launches Massive Spending Package To Combat COVID-19 (G.)

New Zealand’s government has announced a spending package equivalent to 4% of GDP in an attempt to fight the effects of Covid-19 on the economy, in what ministers called the most significant peace-time economic plan in the country’s modern history. It includes covering wages for people who are required to self-isolate but cannot work from home, or those caring for relatives who are sick with the virus, even if they are not sick or do not test positive for Covid-19. “This package is one of the largest in the world on a per capita basis,” Grant Robertson, the finance minister, told reporters at New Zealand’s parliament on Tuesday. On Tuesday, authorities began spot checks on travellers, with two people arriving from south-east Asia already facing deportation for failing to self-isolate.


Stephen Vaughan at Immigration NZ said: “This kind of behaviour is completely irresponsible and will not be tolerated which is why these individuals have been made liable for deportation.” The NZ$12.1bn stimulus includes wage subsidies, bolstering the healthcare sector’s response to the virus, more money for low-income families and those on social welfare, and changes to business tax. New Zealand has only eight confirmed and two probable cases of Covid-19. But a decision to impose strict travel restrictions on the weekend – requiring almost all travellers arriving from anywhere to self-isolate for 14 days – is expected to wreak havoc on business, especially in the country’s tourism sector, New Zealand’s biggest export earner. Businesses hard-hit by the virus – experiencing more than a 30% decline in revenue compared to last year – will be eligible to receive wage subsidies to keep paying staff.

Read more …

Disband itself.

What The ECB Must Do To Save The Euro Zone Economy (SCMP)

It doesn’t take much to expose the flaws in the euro zone economy but the coronavirus epidemic has already ripped asunder any hope of getting back to sounder growth for a long time. Europe is clearly heading into recession as the pandemic takes a heavy toll on consumer demand, business activity and financial market confidence. We are heading into uncharted territory with the national lockdowns in Italy and Spain foreshadowing bigger trouble ahead for Europe’s largest economies, Germany and France, with plenty of negative spillover likely for the rest of the region. Just how deep the recession descends depends upon how effectively Europe’s policymakers respond. Judging by the official response so far, it’s no surprise markets are panicking.


Europe’s bond and credit markets are definitely showing the strain. It’s not so much that Germany’s yield curve has turned negative on safe-haven and flight-to-quality flows, but that bond spreads for riskier markets have started to surge. The bellwether 10-year spread of Italian government bonds over equivalent German yields has exploded out to 2.34 per cent in recent days as investors have fled for cover. Talk about Italy’s “doom loop” has resurfaced again, with deepening recession risk, the fragility of the Italian banking sector and the potential threat of future credit default combining to put the wind up the markets. It hasn’t helped that the European Central Bank seems to be turning its back on the bond market’s plight.

Read more …

27 countries, 27 different policy sets. What EU?

EU Calls For 30-Day Ban On Foreigners Entering Bloc (G.)

The European commission has proposed a 30-day ban on foreigners entering the bloc as EU governments imposed closures and lockdowns rarely seen outside wartime in a continuing effort to curb the rapid spread of the coronavirus outbreak. As the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, urged countries to “test, test, test” for the virus, saying it “cannot be fought blindfolded”, the commission president called for an end to all non-essential travel to Europe. “The less travel, the more we can contain the virus,” Ursula von der Leyen said. “We think non-essential travel should be reduced right now in order to not spread the virus further, be it within the EU or by leaving the EU.”

Von der Leyen said the restrictions – which would not apply to UK nationals – should last for 30 days initially but may be extended if necessary. Permanent EU residents, family members of EU nationals, diplomats, doctors and coronavirus researchers would also be exempted, she said. Officials said the move, which could be approved by leaders in a video conference on Tuesday, was aimed mainly at removing the need for national controls at borders between the 26 members of the passport-free Schengen zone. Germany, which has recorded 5,813 cases and 13 deaths from Covid-19, introduced border controls with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland on Monday, allowing through only those with a valid reason for travel such as residents, cross-border commuters and delivery drivers.

In line with a growing number of EU countries, the federal government and state leaders also agreed to close almost all shops except food stores, banks, pharmacies and petrol stations, ban religious gatherings, shutter hotels and restrict visits to hospitals and care homes. Schools in most German states were closed and Bavaria declared a disaster situation to allow the state’s authorities to push through new restrictions faster. The German president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, urged citizens to limit their social contacts. “Restrictions on our lives today can save lives tomorrow,” he said.

Read more …

“Something old and played-out is limping offstage, and something new is stepping on. Aren’t you glad you watched all those debates?”

Things Have Changed (Kunstler)

Where does this all lead? Eventually, to a land and a people who operate their society in a very different way at a much more modest scale. The task of reorganizing our national life is immense. (There will be plenty to do, so don’t worry about that.) You can forget about the grandiose techno-narcissistic visions of electrified motoring and a robotic nirvana of perpetual sex-crazed leisure. Everything we do has to be downscaled, from whatever manufacturing we can cobble back together to rebuilding commercial ecosystems at a finer grain from region to region — in other words, what we now call small business, geared locally.

Expect giant AgriBiz to founder on a shortage of capital, especially, and expect smaller farms to organize emergently, worked by more humans working together. That is, if we want to keep eating. Expect the small towns in the well-watered parts of the country to revive while the groaning metroplexes spiral down into entropic sclerosis. Consider the value of our vast inland waterway system and the opportunities to move goods on them, when the trucking industry unravels. Consider lending a hand at rebuilding the railroad system in this country.

There will be economic roles and social roles for all those willing to step up to some responsibility. Young people may see tremendous opportunity replacing the wounded economic dinosaurs wobbling across the landscape. It’ll be all about going local and regional and making yourself useful in exchange for a livelihood and the esteem of others around you — aka, your community. Government has been working tirelessly to make itself superfluous, if not completely ineffectual, impotent, and rather loathsome in the face of this crisis that has been slowly-but-visibly building for half a century. Something old and played-out is limping offstage, and something new is stepping on. Aren’t you glad you watched all those debates?

Read more …

But don’t worry, the New York Times already runs an article entitled: “Can Russia Use the Coronavirus to Sow Discord Among Americans?”

How can anyone continue to read that rag?

DOJ Drops Charges Against Russian Troll Farm for 2016 Election Meddling (L&C)

And after all of that, the Russian troll farm’s American lawyers have the last laugh? The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia led by former William Barr aide Timothy Shea has filed a motion to dismiss the case against Concord Management and Consulting LLC, which has often been referred to as the Russian troll farm defendant. Concord Management was one of many people or entities charged in a Feb. 2018 indictment by then-special counsel Robert Mueller during his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Thirteen Russians and three companies were charged in the indictment. Federal prosecutors now want to dismiss their case against Concord Management.


“The United States will continue its efforts to apprehend the individual defendants and bring them before this Court to face the pending charges, but because substantial federal interests are no longer served by continuing with the proceedings against the Concord Defendants, the government moves, respectfully, to dismiss with prejudice Count One of the indictment as to them,” the filing said. The Department of Justice alleged that Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch nicknamed “Putin’s chef,” and Concord bankrolled the troll farm as part of a massive conspiracy to interfere in the 2016 election.

Read more …

 

 

 

If you read us, please support us. Help the Automatic Earth survive.