Aug 112020
 


Joan Miró Caballo, pipa y flor roja (Horse Pipe and Red Flower) 1920

 

FBI Director Wray Subpoenad For All Records Related to Crossfire Hurricane (GP)
Sen. Johnson Subpoenas FBI Director Wray, Puts Bidens On Notice (ZH)
House Will Be Out Of Session For Additional Week In September (Hill)
Schumer Says Democrats Ready For Coronavirus Aid Talks, If Republicans Move (R.)
MSNBC Public Editor Pekary: A Strained Symbiosis With Obama (CJR)
US Demands Hong Kong Exports To US Be Relabelled ‘Made in China’ (SCMP)
No, Americans Aren’t Suddenly Flying Again, Despite What the Media Says (WS)
Let The Dogs Out (Jim Kunstler)
Seattle City Council Approves Millions In Police Budget Cuts (JTN)
Lebanon PM, President Were Warned About 2,750 Tonnes Of Ammonium Nitrate (R.)
US Special Forces Active in 22 African Countries (MPN)
Libya Begins Negotiations With Greece To Demarcate Maritime Borders (LibyaR.)
Greece Armed Forces Placed On High Alert (K.)

 

 

You keep going with these numbers like this, and you might just turn me into an optimist!

The discovery of “SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive antibodies in uninfected individuals, particularly prevalent in children and adolescents”, could well do the rest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mostly for the doctors amongst us (let’s hear you!), but a bit of good news for everyone:

“SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive antibodies were readily detectable [..] in SARS-CoV-2-uninfected individuals and were particularly prevalent in children and adolescents.”

Pre-Existing And De Novo Humoral Immunity To SARS-CoV-2 In Humans (Biorxiv)

Several related human coronaviruses (HCoVs) are endemic in the human population, causing mild respiratory infections1. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the etiologic agent of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is a recent zoonotic infection that has quickly reached pandemic proportions2,3. Zoonotic introduction of novel coronaviruses is thought to occur in the absence of pre-existing immunity in the target human population. Using diverse assays for detection of antibodies reactive with the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) glycoprotein, we demonstrate the presence of pre-existing humoral immunity in uninfected and unexposed humans to the new coronavirus.

SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive antibodies were readily detectable by a sensitive flow cytometry-based method in SARS-CoV-2-uninfected individuals and were particularly prevalent in children and adolescents. These were predominantly of the IgG class and targeted the S2 subunit. In contrast, SARS-CoV-2 infection induced higher titres of SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive IgG antibodies, targeting both the S1 and S2 subunits, as well as concomitant IgM and IgA antibodies, lasting throughout the observation period of 6 weeks since symptoms onset.

SARS-CoV-2-uninfected donor sera also variably reacted with SARS-CoV-2 S and nucleoprotein (N), but not with the S1 subunit or the receptor binding domain (RBD) of S on standard enzyme immunoassays. Notably, SARS-CoV-2-uninfected donor sera exhibited specific neutralising activity against SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV-2 S pseudotypes, according to levels of SARS-CoV-2 S-binding IgG and with efficiencies comparable to those of COVID-19 patient sera. Distinguishing pre-existing and de novo antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 will be critical for our understanding of susceptibility to and the natural course of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Read more …

“..Crossfire Hurricane was a scam, based on absurd gossip and innuendo. This document is Exhibit A to Obamagate, the worst corruption scandal in American history.”

FBI Director Wray Subpoenad For All Records Related to Crossfire Hurricane (GP)

Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) FINALLY subpoenaed FBI Director Christopher Wray for all records related to the bureau’s CI investigation into the 2016 Trump campaign dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane.” The subpoena, which was issued on August 6, demands Wray appear before the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee by August 20 with all documents related to the Crossfire Hurricane investigation. In July of 2016, Peter Strzok opened a counterintel investigation into Trump’s camp dubbed “Crossfire Hurricane” on suspicions (based on no evidence) that the Russians had infiltrated Trump’s circle. The “electronic communication” that launched Crossfire Hurricane was written by Peter Strzok and obtained by Judicial Watch in May of this year as the result of a FOIA lawsuit.

The EC reveals Peter Strzok opened Crossfire Hurricane based on third-hand information that the Russian government “had been seeking prominent members of the Donald Trump campaign in which to engage to prepare for potential post-election relations should Trump be elected U.S. President.” Peter Strzok also alleged Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos claimed to an unnamed individual that “they (the Russians) could assist the Trump campaign with the anonymous release of information during the campaign that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton.” Republican lawmakers have asked why documents related to Crossfire Hurricane have been kept secret for so many years.

Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said its because the Obama Admin had no basis for opening the investigation. “No wonder the DOJ and FBI resisted the public release of this infamous ‘electronic communication’ that ‘opened’ Crossfire Hurricane – it shows there was no serious basis for the Obama administration to launch an unprecedented spy operation on the Trump campaign,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton previously stated. “We now have more proof that Crossfire Hurricane was a scam, based on absurd gossip and innuendo. This document is Exhibit A to Obamagate, the worst corruption scandal in American history.”

Read more …

Maybe that basement is soundproof, and he can’t hear you.

Sen. Johnson Subpoenas FBI Director Wray, Puts Bidens On Notice (ZH)

FBI Director Christopher Wray has been subpoenaed by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs to produce “all documents related to the Crossfire Hurricane Investigation,” which includes “all records provided or made available to the Inspector General” regarding the FISA probe, as well as documents regarding the 2016-2017 presidential transition, according to Politico. The subpoena was issued by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) as part of his investigation into the origins of Russiagate. It gives Wray until 5 p.m. on Aug. 20 to produce the documents. Johnson also released a lengthy letter on Monday in which he defended his Committee’s investigation and accused Democrats of initiating “a coordinated disinformation campaign and effort to personally attack” himself and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in order to distract from evidence his committee has gathered on Joe and Hunter Biden’s Ukraine dealings.

“We didn’t target Joe and Hunter Biden for investigation; their previous actions had put them in the middle of it,” reads the Monday letter, which outlines the timeline and connections between Joe Biden’s policy actions in Ukraine and his son Hunter’s relationship with Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company, according to Just The News. “Many in the media, in an ongoing attempt to provide cover for former Vice President Biden, continue to repeat the mantra that there is ‘no evidence of wrongdoing or illegal activity’ related to Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board,” wrote Johnson. “I could not disagree more.”

Johnson noted evidence gathered by his committee showed Joe Biden met with his son’s business partner, Devon Archer, in April 2014 and within a month the vice president then visited Ukraine and both his son Hunter and the business partner were put on the Burisma board as the firm faced multiple corruption investigations. “Isn’t it obvious what message Hunter’s position on Burisma’s board sent to Ukrainian officials?” Johnson asked. “The answer: If you want U.S. support, don’t touch Burisma. It also raised a host of questions, including: 1) How could former Vice President Biden look any Ukrainian official (or any other world leader) in the face and demand action to fight corruption? 2) Did this glaring conflict of interest affect the work and efforts of other U.S. officials who worked on anti-corruption measures?” -Just The News

Johnson also denied that he had been on contact with, or received documents from, Russian-tied Ukrainians. “The only problem with their overblown handwringing is that they all knew full well that we have been briefed repeatedly, and we had already told them that we had NOT received the alleged Russian disinformation,” wrote Johnson. “The very transparent goal of their own disinformation campaign and feigned concern is to attack our character in order to marginalize the eventual findings of our investigation.”

Read more …

What? They’re going campaigning in COVID time? And what’s even better, they are, but Biden is not?

There are 19 weeks left in the year. House members will only be in Washington for 6 of them.

House Will Be Out Of Session For Additional Week In September (Hill)

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announced Monday that the chamber won’t be called back into session until the week of Sept. 14, giving members an additional week in their districts next month. Lawmakers have been advised that they could be called back before then if there’s a deal on coronavirus-relief legislation. He said they would given 24 hours notice in the event of a vote. The House was previously scheduled to be back in session Sept. 8. Monday’s announcement gives incumbents more time to campaign in their districts ahead of November’s election. If lawmakers don’t return until mid-September, they’ll face a tight deadline to pass government funding legislation by Sept. 30 to avert a shutdown. Under the new schedule, House lawmakers will only be in Washington for six weeks through the end of the calendar year.

Read more …

Everyone’s ready as long as the other side moves first so they themselves don’t lose face. It’s a game, and not a very uplifting one.

Schumer Says Democrats Ready For Coronavirus Aid Talks, If Republicans Move (R.)

U.S. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said on Monday that Democrats are ready to return to the negotiating table over coronavirus relief, if Republicans would agree to a larger bill than they have been willing to accept up to now. “Democrats remain ready to return to the table. We need our Republicans to join us there and meet us half way and work together to deliver immediate relief to the American people,” Schumer said on the Senate floor. Last week, Schumer used similar language to urge White House negotiators to agree to a legislative package at least $1 trillion larger than the $1 trillion bill that Senate Republicans have already proposed. The White House rejected the offer, ending nearly two weeks of almost daily negotiations.

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“A less corrupt, less wealth-enslaved, less warmongering Democratic Party—a party that had paid more than lip service to the needs of working people over the previous eight years—would have walked away with the 2016 election.”

MSNBC Public Editor Pekary: A Strained Symbiosis With Obama (CJR)

Barack Obama and MSNBC have a lot in common. They are rich, sleek, and corporate-friendly. They staff their organizations with urbane meritocrats. Both institutions rely on a kind of soft-focus patriotism that stops shy of nationalism—an American-exceptionalist-lite rhetoric that takes refuge in hope and in appeals to “who we are,” among other superficial aspirational slogans. Consequently, it’s no surprise that Obama meets with little criticism on MSNBC. The alignment isn’t merely political; it’s aesthetic, generational, and class-based. Reverence for Obama is by now the network’s stock-in-trade. It has never critically assessed his presidency.

[..] The Obama brand is appealing, especially in comparison with the current president. Obama is everything that Trump is not: handsome, well read, reasonable-seeming, beautifully turned out; even today, the sight of Obama on television is enough to persuade people that things are still halfway okay. Sadly, however, things are really not all that okay. I’d like to believe the highly artificialized vision of the world that television conjures up in order to seduce, titillate, and comfort the maximum number of people. But how well does the glossy, TV-friendly facade serve the needs of the network’s viewers? Not very, according to former MSNBC producer Ariana Pekary, who quit her job some days ago in an apparent crisis of conscience.

Pekary wrote a much-circulated blog post about her decision to quit the network in early August, calling the cable news obsession with ratings “a cancer” that stokes political division by amplifying the most outrageous voices. The ratings obsession risks lives, she said, by focusing on Trump’s failures in the pandemic, in preference to vital scientific and epidemiological news; it risks democracy itself, by allowing Trump’s excesses to dominate coverage, in preference to intelligent and serious discussion of the threats our society and our world are facing. All of this is true, and worth thinking about, but MSNBC’s coverage demonstrates something subtler and farther-reaching still. Though Pekary was held up by right-wing media as a critic of MSNBC particularly, her concerns were economic, not ideological. “The flawed structure of the industry,” she said, “affects everyone.”

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Even if opinions are divided on this, at least the direction is clear. Endless talks have provided too little result.

US Demands Hong Kong Exports To US Be Relabelled ‘Made in China’ (SCMP)

Goods made in Hong Kong for export to the United States will have to be labelled “Made in China” after September 25, according to a draft US government notice. The move, in accordance with the suspension of the Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992 and the invoking of US President Donald Trump’s executive order on “Hong Kong Normalisation”, will see Hong Kong companies subjected to the same trade war tariffs levied on mainland Chinese exporters, should they make products subject to these duties. A notice will be published on the US Federal Register on August 11, stipulating that “45 days after the date of publication”, goods “must be marked to indicate that their origin is ‘China’”. The move is “due to the determination that Hong Kong is no longer sufficiently autonomous to justify differential treatment in relation to China”.


The confirmation of a move implied by Trump’s previous legislation is another blow to Hong Kong’s struggling economy and to the high-value, if low-volume base of exporters in the city. Goods that fail to comply will face a punitive 10 per cent duty at US ports. Hong Kong has a higher trade deficit with the US than with any other economy, though this dropped by 16 per cent last year to US$26 billion. From January to May this year, Hong Kong’s exports to the US fell by 22.3 per cent in volume from a year earlier. Hong Kong is much more significant as a re-export hub than a direct trading hub in its own right. Its economy is a much different beast than in the 1970s and ’80s, when it was a manufacturing stronghold. Now, only 1 per cent of goods shipped from Hong Kong are made in the city, which instead serves as a logistical gateway to mainland China for both goods made there and going there.

Read more …

Between all the work from home scheduled, and the holidays by car, you have to wonder where airlines will be a year from now.

No, Americans Aren’t Suddenly Flying Again, Despite What the Media Says (WS)

The best day – meaning the least catastrophically worst day – in terms of air passengers entering to security zones at airports to board flights during the Pandemic wasn’t yesterday, as the financial media wanted to have us think, but July 2, when the count of TSA airport security screenings was down by only -63.4% from the same weekday in the same week last year, and on July 3, when the count was down by only -67.1% from a year earlier. That was over the extended Independence Day travel weekend. Now it’s peak summer travel season. Yesterday’s TSA screenings – Sunday being a peak travel day – reached 831,789, the highest during the Pandemic. But it’s peak travel season and Sunday is one of the peak travel days, so last year on that Sunday, the TSA performed 2.65 million screenings, and this Sunday’s was down by -68.6% from Sunday a year ago. And the year-over-year decline has remained roughly in the same range since the beginning of July:

People are traveling to go on vacation. But they’re driving. All kinds of lodgings near or in national parks are booked. People want to get out and do stuff, and they have the stimulus money and the extra $600 a week in federal unemployment insurance. Early indications are that they’re driving more for vacation purposes than they did last year. That’s the big thing. But flying is still an iffy proposition for most people. The seven-day moving average of the daily TSA screenings, which irons out the day-to-day ups and downs, has remained about the same since its best days since the beginning of July – “best” meaning least catastrophically down days. This indicates that the recovery of passenger volume has stalled since the beginning of July and is still terrible, terrible, terrible for the airlines:

Nevertheless, this situation caused the financial media to hyperventilate in an effort to pump up the shares. For example, CNBC reported breathlessly:

No capital-intensive business, such as an airline, can survive for long with roughly three-quarters of its business wiped out overnight, unless it undertakes a large-scale trimming-down, and unless it gets lots of financial help from all corners, including central banks and taxpayers. And that’s happening with airlines. That’s the part in CNBC’s headline that nailed it: Another $25 billion bailout has been tucked into the next stimulus package. It comes on top of the prior $25 billion in bailouts, mostly grants, that were designed to preserve airline jobs until September 30. Airlines have since told over 70,000 employees that they could lose their jobs after the deadline, and have incentivized them to leave voluntarily before the deadline, using a range of incentives, from buyout packages to early retirements.


Today, the WOLF STREET airline index of the seven largest US airlines – Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Spirit, and United – jumped 7.0%. Since word of the second $25 billion bailout package started circulating last Monday, the index has surged 15.7%. But it’s still down 44% from the end of the Good Times in mid-January 2020, and down a whole bunch more since January 2018. That 15.7% gain since last Monday is the little thing sticking up on the right of the chart (market cap data via YCharts):

Read more …

“..America unleashes its dogs of war upon itself…”

Let The Dogs Out (Jim Kunstler)

Attorney General Barr sat through a leisurely chat with Mark Levin on TV last night, a curious hour of understatement and elision, especially concerning the momentous matter of US Attorney John Durham’s way-overdue actions in the Russia Collusion hoax. Mr. Levin dropped the ball so many times in his questioning that it seemed deliberate — for instance failing to ask whether Mr. Barr had detected any prosecutorial misconduct in the pursuit of General Michael Flynn. There’s plenty of reason to suppose that Robert Mueller’s lawyers royally misbehaved in that case, colluding with FBI director Christopher Wray to withhold a ton of exculpatory evidence even to this day.

There are plenty more reasons to suppose that the entire Mueller investigation was a knowing, seditious sham, and that several of his “team” members — e.g. Andrew Weissmann, Jeannie Rhee, Brandon Van Grack, Zainab Ahmad, Aaron Zebley, plus US Attorney Tanisha Guahar, and possibly Mr. Mueller himself — deserve to be indicted for their efforts to overthrow a president. (And, of course, there’s a long list of other now well-known characters in the DOJ, FBI, CIA, and other festering places who played roles in Coup-O-Rama).

Speaking of General Flynn, his mandamus petition comes before an en banc session of the DC Court of Appeals on Tuesday. It’s hard to see how they can get around their earlier three-judge panel’s order under a mandamus petition for DC District Judge Emmet Sullivan to vacate the case, as now demanded by the federal prosecutors who brought it in the first place. We won’t rehearse the tedious legal arguments, except to say that where there is no prosecution, there is no case, and Judge Sullivan has no standing to act as prosecutor himself under the separation of powers in the constitution. But in these dark days of a weaponized judiciary, with its Lawfare henchmen grubbing away in the shadows, there’s no telling what bad faith gears may be turning in that mill.

So, buckle up for what, all of a sudden, looks like an action-packed week. Lay in some tonic water and gin for both Covid-19 relief and some self-prescribed anesthesia as America unleashes its dogs of war upon itself.

Read more …

I don’t know enough about how police are funded across the US. It appears to be a cesspool with many different faces.

Seattle City Council Approves Millions In Police Budget Cuts (JTN)

In the state of Washington the Seattle City Council on Monday approved millions of dollars in police budget cuts. “Total initial cuts to SPD’s budget during the summer session are a down-payment for future potential reductions to the SPD budget. These reductions equate to nearly $4 million in cuts, which actualized over a year will equate to an estimated $11 million,” according to a release. “Cut 32 officers from patrol,” is one of the multiple funding decreases listed. Self-described socialist council member Kshama Sawant, who blasted the city’s budgetary maneuvering, which included other moves in addition to the police funding decreases, said that the police budget cuts were not nearly large enough.


“This budget fails to address the systemic racism of policing, trimming only $3 million from the bloated department’s remaining 2020 budget of $170 million just weeks after 6 of the 8 other Councilmembers publicly declared they would support defunding SPD by 50 percent, as our Peoples Budget and the Justice for George Floyd movement have demanded” Sawant said in the statement.

Read more …

No wonder they resign en masse.

Lebanon PM, President Were Warned About 2,750 Tonnes Of Ammonium Nitrate (R.)

Lebanese security officials warned the prime minister and president last month that 2,750 tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored in Beirut’s port posed a security risk and could destroy the capital if it exploded, according to documents seen by Reuters and senior security sources. Just over two weeks later, the industrial chemicals exploded in a massive blast that obliterated most of the port, killed at least 163 people, injured 6,000 more and destroyed some 6,000 buildings, according to municipal authorities. A report by the General Directorate of State Security about events leading up to the explosion included a reference to a private letter sent to President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Hassan Diab on July 20.


While the content of the letter was not in the report seen by Reuters, a senior security official said it summed up the findings of a judicial investigation launched in January, which concluded the chemicals needed to be secured immediately. The state security report, which confirmed the correspondence to the president and the prime minister, has not previously been reported. “There was a danger that this material if stolen, could be used in a terrorist attack,” the official told Reuters. “At the end of the investigation, Prosecutor General (Ghassan) Oweidat prepared a final report which was sent to the authorities,” he said, referring to the letter sent to the prime minister and president by the General Directorate of State Security, which oversees port security. “I warned them that this could destroy Beirut if it exploded,” said the official, who was involved in writing the letter and declined to be named.

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So does China. And France is going back in.

US Special Forces Active in 22 African Countries (MPN)

A new report published in South African newspaper The Mail and Guardian has shed light on the opaque world of the American military presence in Africa. Last year, elite U.S. Special Operations forces were active in 22 African countries. This accounts for 14 percent of all American commandos deployed overseas, the largest number for any region besides the Middle East. American troops had also seen combat in 13 African nations. The U.S. is not formally at war with an African nation, and the continent is barely discussed in reference to American exploits around the globe. Therefore, when U.S. operatives die in Africa, as happened in Niger, Mali, and Somalia in 2018, the response from the public, and even from the media is often “why are American soldiers there in the first place?”

The presence of the U.S. military, especially commandos, is rarely publicly acknowledged, either by Washington or by African governments. What they are doing remains even more opaque. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) generally claims that special forces go no further than so-called “AAA” (advise, assist and accompany) missions. Yet in combat, the role between observer and participant can become distinctly blurry. The United States has roughly 6,000 military personnel scattered throughout the continent, with military attachés outnumbering diplomats in many embassies across Africa. Earlier this year, The Intercept reported that the military operates 29 bases on the continent. One of these is a huge drone hub in Niger, something The Hill called “the largest U.S. Air Force-led construction project of all time.”

[..][ Washington claims that the military’s primary role in the region is to combat the rise of extremist forces. In recent years, a number of Jihadist groups have arisen, including Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and other al-Qaeda affiliated groups. However, much of the reason for their rise can be traced back to previous American actions, including the destabilization of Yemen, Somalia, and the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya. It is also clear that the United States plays a key role in training many nations’ soldiers and security forces. For example, the U.S. pays Bancroft International, a private military contractor, to train elite Somali units who are at the forefront of the fighting in the country’s internal conflicts. According to The Mail and Guardian, these Somali fighters are likely also funded by the U.S. taxpayer.

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This is all about Turkey. Greece already has a new deal with Egypt on maritime borders. Turkey is seeking to claim a lot of area in the region.

Libya Begins Negotiations With Greece To Demarcate Maritime Borders (LibyaR.)

Libya’s Interim Government’s Foreign Minister, Abdul-Hadi Al-Hawaij, revealed that his ministry has held talks with its Greek counterpart. Both Libya and Greece agreed to begin negotiations to demarcate their maritime borders, as well as discuss a number of issues between the two countries. Al-Hawaij noted that Libya welcomes a solution through Article 74 of the Law of the Sea, relating to solutions based on agreements and good-neighbourliness. The Libyan FM welcomed the agreement demarcating the maritime borders between Egypt and Greece. He stressed that Libya welcomes any agreement that is in line with the UN’s Law of the Sea and which preserves the rights of Libyans.


He pointed out that the visits of the Libyan Speaker of Parliament, Ageela Saleh, to a number of countries was meant to clarify the Libyan-Egyptian political initiative. The Speaker claimed that the Libyan people were exhausted from the presence of the Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. “One of the most significant conditions for consensus among Libyans is to push the Turkish intervention in the country away, and leave the matter for Libyans to address the crisis”, he added. Al-Hawaij called on Libyans to end the use of force, and to diminish the power of militias. He stressed that the international community was managing the crisis, and not trying to solve it. He pointed out that Libyans were able to establish a leadership in 1922, in similar circumstances in the city of Sirte, and could be able to do so again.

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This is serious. The Turkish lira is under severe stress; the central bank tried to support it by buying lira with its dollar reserves two weeks ago, but that failed, and now it has no dollars left. This could be very bad for Erdogan, who will go for support among patriots, muslims (re: Hagia Sophia). Prediction: Greece will not give in.

Greece Armed Forces Placed On High Alert (K.)

Greece was placed on high alert Monday after Turkey sent its Oruc Reis survey ship into an area within the Greek continental shelf, a move which Athens described as a threat to peace and stability in the region. According to a navigational telex it issued, Ankara reserved an area south of the Greek island of Kastellorizo to conduct research over the next two weeks. In response, Greece’s armed forces were placed in a state of absolute readiness, with units of the Hellenic Navy and Air Force deployed in the wider sea area where the Turkish research was expected. When the Oruc Reis accompanied by ships of the Turkish Navy entered the Greek continental shelf, Greek warships sent messages at a frequency of about 15 minutes requesting the vessel’s removal from the area.

The messages went unanswered by the vessel which, however, moving at a low speed – similar to that appropriate for a search process – had prepared cables to lower to the seabed in order to proceed with research activities in the area. However, according to sources, exploratory activities were rendered impossible due to the noise caused by the many naval units sailing in the area. This is because exploration of this sort entails the transmission of data from the seabed and the noise of the ships made this transmission impossible. In Athens, an emergency meeting of the country’s top decision-making body on foreign affairs and defense matters, KYSEA, was convened. Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias issued a stern statement calling on Turkey to “immediately end its illegal actions that undermine peace and security in the region.”

He added that the Turkish navtex “is a new serious escalation and exposes in the most obvious way the destabilizing and threatening role of Turkey.” “Greece will not accept any blackmail. It will defend its sovereignty and sovereign rights,” he said.

Read more …

 

 

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Full Moon Aug 3, Astypalea Island, Greece. Photo George Tsitouras.

 

 

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Aug 102020
 


William-Adolphe Bouguereau La naissance de Vénus 1879

 

The Spies Who Hijacked America (Schrage)
Memo Shows FBI May Have Misled Senate About Russia Probe (JTN)
Pelosi, Mnuchin Open Door To Narrower COVID19 Aid Through 2020 (R.)
Fed’s Evans Says Another Coronavirus Aid Package ‘Incredibly Important’ (R.)
The US Economy Is Stronger Than the Eurozone’s (Lacalle)
Hong Kong Media Tycoon, Pro-Democracy Leader Arrested In New Crackdown (JTN)
Should The Government Balance Its Budget? (DO)
One-Fifth Of All Mail-in Ballots Disqualified In NYC Primary (JTN)
The Very Un-Christian Nagasaki Bomb (Kohls)

 

 

We passed 20 million cases, another sad milestone. But both new cases and new deaths are quite low. With US new cases below 50,000, and deaths at “only” 534, overall not a bad weekend, in the grand scheme of things.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pelosi

Aaron Maté Russiagate Monsters under the bed

 

 

If you read just one thing today, try this. From Matt Taibbi’s substack.

“As a doctoral candidate at Cambridge working under “FBI Informant” Stefan Halper, I had a front-row seat for Russiagate..”

The Spies Who Hijacked America (Schrage)

Global scandals now labeled Russiagate, Spygate, and what President Trump calls “Obamagate” shook the political world, but hit me closer to home. I’m the reason the so-called FBI “spy” at the center of Spygate, Stefan Halper, met Carter Page, the alleged “Russian Asset” in Russiagate’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation. On May 19, 2018, this realization blindsided me in London as I was about to fly out for my wedding. The New York Times, NBC News and other sources had outed my PhD supervisor, Stefan Halper, as a spy known to the UK’s MI6 intelligence service as “The Walrus.” It didn’t seem real. Could a former professor I once trusted as a mentor have betrayed his word, profession, and country to start these disasters?

I had moved to England to pursue an academic career and leave DC’s politics behind, only to have my PhD supervisor throw me back into the most outrageous political firestorms I could imagine. Just my luck. Then an even worse question began nagging at me. Did I unintentionally light the match that started it all? As I started to piece together what happened over the next few months, I realized something. The stories that The New York Times, Washington Post, and others were pushing didn’t add up. Many seemed planted to cover up or advance the agendas of several individuals whose tentacles secretly ran through these scandals, and who each had longstanding ties to intelligence services like the FBI, CIA, and MI6. I call these individuals the Cambridge Four.

Strangely, all four were linked through that sleepy British academic town thousands of miles from the alleged “ground zeroes” of Russiagate’s conspiracies, Moscow and DC. In addition to the central “Spygate” figure Halper, they include the central source of “Russiagate’s” fake conspiracy theories, Christopher Steele; former MI6 Director Sir Richard Dearlove; and Halper’s and Dearlove’s partner in a Cambridge Intelligence Seminar linked to titillating — but false — tales of a “Russian spy” seducing Trump’s top national security advisor. My years of work with Halper provided an inside view of how their four networks interconnected. The more I dug up new pieces of this puzzle, the more I saw how these individuals’ seemingly separate acts might fit together in an absurd picture of how these scandals really started.

Armed with first-hand knowledge and evidence, I quietly sought to help federal investigators uncover these scandals’ mysteries. It wasn’t my first rodeo. After witnessing the plane that hit the Pentagon on 9/11, I led G8 and State Department international crime and terrorism efforts with Department of Justice (DOJ), FBI, and intelligence officials and had worked for decades in White House, Congressional, and presidential campaign roles. This helped me keep a stiff upper lip when I was falsely accused in 2019 by the House Intelligence Committee’s Ranking Republican and others on television as being part of a secret anti-Trump cabal. As much as I wanted to defend myself, I knew our best shot of exposing the real forces behind these scandals was for me to remain publicly silent and not let those under investigation know what I knew or was willing to say.

Read more …

MAY have?

Memo Shows FBI May Have Misled Senate About Russia Probe (JTN)

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Sunday released a document it says shows the FBI misled senators on the Intelligence Committee during the Russia probe by falsely suggesting Christopher Steele’s dossier was backed up by one of his key sources. “Somebody needs to go to jail for this,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the panel’s chairman, told the Fox News program Sunday Futures with Maria Bartiromo. “This is a second lie. This is a second crime. They lied to the FISA court. They got rebuked, the FBI did, in 2019 by the FISA court, putting in doubt all FISA applications. “A year before, they’re lying to the Senate Intel Committee. It’s just amazing the compounding of the lies,” Graham added.

The document in question contains the draft talking points the FBI used to brief the Senate Intelligence Committee in February 2018, including an assessment that the primary sub-source of the information contained in the Steele dossier had backed up the former MI-6 agent’s reporting. The primary sub-source “did not cite any significant concerns with the way his reporting was characterized in the dossier to the extent he could identify it,” the FBI memo claimed. “…At minimum, our discussions with [the Primary Sub-source] confirm that the dossier was not fabricated by Steele.” In fact, by the time the FBI provided senators the briefing, agents had already interviewed Steele’s primary sub-source who disavowed much of what was attributed to him in the dossier as in “jest” or containing uncorroborated allegations.

Agents also had been warned by the CIA that Steele’s memos contained disinformation fed to him by Russian intelligence services, and had created a spreadsheet showing most of the claims in the dossier were either debunked, unable to be corroborated or Internet rumor. Graham said the document is so misleading he is demanding FBI Director Chris Wray identify the names of those involved in the briefing. “They misled the hell out of them,” he said. There is widespread evidence released by the Judiciary Committee and the DOJ inspector general contradicting the February 2018 FBI briefing memo including that the primary sub-source:

• told the FBI that he “has no idea” where some of the language attributed to him came from or that his contacts and “never mentioned” some information attributed to him.
• told the FBI he “did not know the origins” or “did not recall” other information contained in the dossier that was supposedly from his contacts
• alleged that Steele used “incorrect source characterization” for one of his contacts. told the FBI that the corroboration for the dossier was “zero” and that he takes what the sources for the dossier told him with “a grain of salt.”
• claimed much of what he told Steele was second-hand or even in jest and never intended it to be treated as intelligence because if was “word of mouth and hearsay” and “conversation that [he] had with friends over beers.”

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Pelosi tried to be a leader and failed. Now she’s a follower. Does that about sum it up?

Pelosi, Mnuchin Open Door To Narrower COVID19 Aid Through 2020 (R.)

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday said they were open to restarting COVID-19 aid talks, after weeks of failed negotiations prompted President Donald Trump to take executive actions that Democrats argued would do little to ease Americans’ financial distress. Discussions over a fifth bill to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic fell apart on Friday, a week after the expiration of a critical boost in unemployment assistance and eviction protections, exposing people to a wave of economic pain as infections continue to rise across the country.

Trump on Saturday sought to take matters into his own hands, signing executive orders and memorandums aimed at unemployment benefits, evictions, student loans and payroll taxes. Trump told reporters in New Jersey before returning to Washington on Sunday that his suspension of the collection of the payroll tax could be made permanent. He said doing so would have no impact on Social Security because reimbursement would be made through the general fund. Trump, noting that Democrats want to resume stimulus discussions, said the White House would be willing to talk to them again “if it’s not a waste of time.”

On Sunday, both Pelosi and Mnuchin appeared willing to consider a narrower deal that would extend some aid until the end of the year, and then revisit the need for more federal assistance in January. That would come after November’s election, which could rebalance power in Washington. “Let’s pass legislation on things that we agree on,” Mnuchin told Fox News in an interview. “We don’t have to get everything done at once. … What we should do is get things done for the American public now, come back for another bill afterwards.”

DDMB Out of work

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Protect small businesses? Half of them are gone forever. Protect the people instead.

Fed’s Evans Says Another Coronavirus Aid Package ‘Incredibly Important’ (R.)

The United States should implement another support package to ensure workers can stay safely at home while the novel coronavirus continues to spread, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said in an interview with CBS News released on Sunday. Evans said it was up to U.S. lawmakers to protect small businesses and vulnerable communities with measures that ensure they can continue to pay their rent and buy food as long as the virus was not under control. “I think that public confidence is really important and another support package is really incredibly important,” Evans said on CBS’s Face the Nation program.


He also said that the most pessimistic economic projections involved not supporting state and local governments, which in turn would have to implement drastic cuts to support some of the federal aid measures. Evans’ comments come after U.S. lawmakers failed to strike an agreement on a second aid package after weeks of negotiations, leaving tens of millions of unemployed Americans without direct federal support.

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And you would expect to see that reflected in the USD’s exchange rate. But not yet.

The US Economy Is Stronger Than the Eurozone’s (Lacalle)

The United States is showing resiliency and strength compared with other leading economies worldwide. The impact of the covid-19 forced shutdown crisis is lower in the United States than in Japan, Germany, France, the average of the European Union 27, and the euro area countries. The recovery is also stronger and more sustainable. This does not mean that the economic impact is small. Recession is severe and its impact on jobs and growth cannot be underestimated, but it is important to show how other economies with larger government spending plans and important entitlement programs are showing a much weaker performance. The second quarter GDP was much better than in the euro area (–9.5 percent quarterly compared to –12.1 percent in the eurozone), although it reflects a notable quarterly drop, and well below the one seen in 2008.

This comparison is important because most mainstream economists believe that higher government spending and public sector help offset the blow of a recession. They do not. The United States quarterly GDP fall, at –9.5 percent, is small compared to Germany’s –10.1 percent, France’s –13.8 percent, Italy’s –12.4 percent, Spain’s –18.5 percent and the European Union 27’s at –11.9 percent. You may have read about the quarterly annualized –32.9 percent figure for the United States, but it is misleading to compare it with the European published figures, which are not annualized. The annualized rate estimates how much the economy would grow or shrink if the rate of change seen in the quarter continued for four consecutive quarters.

If we compared apples to apples, the quarterly annualized GDP collapse would be from –40 percent in Germany to –55 percent in Spain compared to the US’s –32.9 percent. In any case, it seems relevant to insist on three points: 1) the United States GDP decline was smaller than consensus estimates; 2) it is notably lower than the eurozone figure, which was worse than consensus expected; and 3) the advanced US data points to one of the strongest recoveries in the world. The improvement in domestic demand that we already began to observe in the month of May has been confirmed in June. Retail sales registered an increase of 7.5 percent per month, the second-highest number in the historical series after the May data, and this time with a less relevant “base effect.” In year-on-year terms, retail sales have already grown 1.1 percent and, eliminating vehicle sales, this increase amounts to 7.3 percent year on year. Still a lot to improve, though.

Advanced and leading indicators in the United States point to a third quarter GDP rise of 18 to 20 percent in annualized terms, a recovery of more than half of the decline in first half of the year in three months. There is a lot to do and no one can be complacent. If consumption and investment progress within potential, the US economy could close the year at flat growth and 6 percent unemployment in the most optimistic scenario. However, it is more likely that the economy will end the year down 5 percent and with unemployment at 8.5 percent, all according to our estimates. This compares with a eurozone that may likely fall more than 9 percent in 2020, with official unemployment and furloughed jobs reaching an average of 12.5 percent according to Bloomberg.

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Cullusion with foreign forces. It’s like the US. And now they can take him to China under the new law?!

Hong Kong Media Tycoon, Pro-Democracy Leader Arrested In New Crackdown (JTN)

Jimmy Lai, a prominent publisher and pro-democracy leader in Hong Kong, was arrested Monday on charges of foreign collusion under a new national security law sharply criticized by the United States. The 71-year-old founder of the Apple Daily outlet and a longtime antagonist of communist China was taken in custody as police raided his newsroom seeking documents. Lai was already facing other charges related to his organization of protests last year, but the new counts sent shockwaves through Hong Kong. Lai’s arrest was part of a larger police operation. Hong Kong law enforcement officials said at least seven people aged 39 to 72 had been arrested on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces against national security, and conspiracy to commit fraud.

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Twitter thread from Deficit Owl h/t Steve Keen. I’ve said it before: we must have these discussions.

Should The Government Balance Its Budget? (DO)

One popular idea in “Keynesian economics” is that the government should balance its budget over the course of the business cycle, running deficits for stimulus during recessions, then surpluses in booms to bring down the debt. This is a bad strategy, because it neglects the interconnectedness of financial positions in the economy. One entity’s spending is another’s income; so for somebody to run a surplus, somebody else has to run a deficit. So if we say “gov should run a surplus,” what does that imply about private financial positions? In the US, because of structural factors that aren’t going away anytime soon, we nearly always run deficits against the rest of the world (the trade/current account deficit), meaning that we send income overseas that doesn’t come back as spending.

That means that for the US private sector balance to be positive (a surplus), the gov sector balance has to be negative (a deficit) and it has to be at least as large as the losses to the foreign sector (the gov deficit ≥ the current account deficit). The private sector doesn’t need to be in surplus at all times. But we also wouldn’t expect it to be continually in deficit – that would imply, on net, ever-worsening financial positions in the private sector, running down saved assets and/or issuing new IOUs. So what happens to the private sector if the gov “balances its budget over the cycle”? In recessions, depending on the size of the gov deficit, the private sector will be balanced or running small surpluses (because the foreign deficit cancels out some/all of the gov deficit). But in booms, the private sector would be deeply in the red (deficit), because the gov surpluses would be subtracting income out of the private sector, while the foreign sector is doing it too. /7

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This discussion is far from over.

One-Fifth Of All Mail-in Ballots Disqualified In NYC Primary (JTN)

Tens of thousands of mail-in voting ballots in the recent New York Democratic presidential primary election were disqualified without being counted — a sign that the country’s looming presidential election, one which may be conducted significantly by mail, could be facing procedural chaos over countless disputed and uncounted votes. A total of more than 84,000 ballots were disqualified in the city primary — roughly 21%, or one out of every five votes — many of them due to late submissions, lack of postmarks and missing signatures. Kings County — the borough of Brooklyn — alone saw 30,000 ballots invalidated. The disorganized voting and tallying process could signal a coming crisis in November, when much of the American vote is expected to be submitted via mail due to fears of the coronavirus.

A Pew Research Center Poll from June found that just one out of every five Americans voted by mail in the 2016 election; many officials across the country have been pushing in recent months for every American voter to receive a mail-in ballot. President Trump has of late warned repeatedly that the mail-in voting process is ripe for fraud and abuse, yet the disarray of New York’s primary suggests procedural issues may form a much larger concern for election integrity in November. A localized ruling by a federal judge last week has thrown the New York primary into even greater disorder. Judge Analisa Torres ruled Aug. 3 that, due to faulty mailing and processing issues, all mail-in votes in the state received up to two days after the election must be counted so long as they were postmarked by the day of the election.

Torres extended that order to cover all elections across the state, claiming that not doing so “would risk running afoul of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal treatment.” State Board of Elections spokesman John Conklin told Just the News that Torres’ ruling has not yet been enforced. “The State Board of Elections is appealing the decision,” he said via email. “If we lose the appeal then all affected boards will have to conduct additional canvassing for absentee ballots received on June 24th and 25th without a postmark. The local boards would then submit amended certifications of their primary results.”

“It is not expected that the outcome in any contest will be changed,” Conklin added. “Absentee ballots can be disqualified for any number of statutory reasons,” he added, including “late postmark, no postmark, the Oath envelope not signed and dated by the voter, the signature on the Oath envelope does not match the signature in the voter’s registration record, the Oath envelope not sealed by the voter, the voter is deceased, the voter showed up in person to vote on Election Day,” and numerous other factors.

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There was zero need to drop it, or the Hiroshima bomb. Japan had been looking for a way to surrender for months. But Russia also declared war on Japan, and that changed things.

The Very Un-Christian Nagasaki Bomb (Kohls)

Seventy-five years ago today, an all-Christian bomber crew dropped “Fat Man,” a plutonium bomb, on Nagasaki, Japan, instantly annihilating tens of thousands of innocent civilians, a disproportionate number of them Japanese Christians, and wounding uncountable numbers of others. For targeting purposes, the bombing crew used St. Mary’s Urakami Cathedral, the largest Christian church in East Asia. At 11:02 a.m., on Aug. 9, 1945, when the bomb was dropped over the cathedral, Nagasaki was the most Christian city in Japan. At the time, the United States was arguably the most Christian nation in the world (that is, if you can label as Christian a nation whose churches overwhelmingly have failed to sincerely teach or adhere to the peaceful ethics of Jesus as taught in the Sermon on the Mount).

The baptized and confirmed Christian airmen, following their wartime orders to the letter, did their job efficiently, and they accomplished the mission with military pride, albeit with a number of near-fatal glitches. Most Americans in 1945 would have done exactly the same if they had been in the shoes of the Bock’s Car crew, and there would have been very little mental anguish later if they had also been treated as heroes. Nevertheless, the use of that monstrous weapon of mass destruction to destroy a mainly civilian city like Nagasaki was an international war crime and a crime against humanity as defined later by the Nuremberg Tribunal. Of course, there was no way that the crew members could have known that at the time. Some of the crew did admit that they had had some doubts about what they had participated in when the bomb actually detonated.

Of course, none of them actually saw the horrific suffering of the victims up close and personal. “Orders are orders” and, in wartime, disobedience can be, and has been, legally punishable by summary execution of the soldier who might have had a conscience strong enough to convince him that killing another human, especially an unarmed one, was morally wrong. When Nagasaki was destroyed, it had been only three days since another U.S. atomic bomb, nicknamed “Little Boy,” had decimated Hiroshima. The Nagasaki bombing on Aug. 9 occurred amid chaos and confusion in Tokyo, where the fascist military government, which had known for months that it had lost the war, was searching for a way to honorably surrender.

The only obstacle to surrender had been the Allied insistence on unconditional surrender, which meant that the Emperor Hirohito, whom the Japanese regarded as a deity, would be removed from his figurehead position in Japan and possible subjected to war crimes trials. That was a deal-breaker, an intolerable demand for the Japanese that prolonged the war and prevented Japan from giving up months earlier.

St. Mary’s Urakami Cathedral after the bomb exploded above it as shown in a photograph dated Jan. 7, 1946.

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1944 CIA memo on how to infiltrate an organisation

 

 

This statue doesn’t like dogs. Think we should topple it?

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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 …

 

 

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jul 142020
 


DPC The Wizard Tree, Cathedral Woods, North Conway, White Mountains, New Hampshire 1900

 

Pandemic May Get ‘Worse And Worse And Worse’ – WHO (RT)
US Kids At Higher Risk From Coronavirus Than Kids In Other Countries (CNBC)
Hong Kong To Impose Most Severe Social Distancing Restrictions (R.)
Italian Doctors: Effects of COVID-19 Worse Than First Thought (Sky)
Japan Has Long Accepted COVID’s Airborne Spread (CBS)
California’s New Lockdown Dims Outlook For US Growth In Pandemic (R.)
Federal Reserve’s $3 Trillion Virus Rescue Inflates Market Bubbles (R.)
Goya “Boycott” Becomes “Buycott” (ZH)
FBI Believed Michael Flynn Was ‘Forthcoming’ And ‘Telling Truth’ (Solomon)
Trump Doesn’t Rule Out Pardoning Michael Flynn (CNBC)
Roger Stone Judge Demands To See Trump Clemency Order (ZH)
Weissmann To Publish Insider Account Of Trump-Russia Investigation (G.)
Top Mueller Aide Weissmann Calls For Roger Stone To Face Grand Jury (Turley)

 

 

Well, I did warn about those second lockdowns, and said they would be much harder than the first ones. Never let a lockdown go to waste, they’re against human -social- nature, no matter how needed they may be. It’s also stunning to see how unprepared everybody is for entering one. There’s no organization anywhere. There should be playbooks for these things, it’s not improv theater. You need to be able to identify the weakest people in society, and look after them.

And in the present day US, where everyone is hellbent on not listening to one another anymore, this can only lead to big trouble. Increasingly, the virus is becoming a political attribute, even if that is about the worst idea imaginable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But who still listens to the WHO?

Pandemic May Get ‘Worse And Worse And Worse’ – WHO (RT)

The Covid-19 pandemic is set to get “worse and worse” if countries do not stick to strict healthcare guidelines, the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned. The disease has already killed more than half-a-million globally. Speaking on Monday during a press briefing from the agency’s headquarters in Geneva via videolink, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gave an alarming prognosis on the pandemic’s course. “Let me be blunt. Too many countries are headed in the wrong direction, the virus remains public enemy number one,” Tedros said. “If basics are not followed, the only way this pandemic is going to go: it is going to get worse and worse and worse.”


The grim prognosis comes after the WHO registered a record daily increase in active coronavirus cases worldwide since the beginning of the pandemic. On Sunday, the global health watchdog registered some 230,370 new cases of the virus. The Covid-19 death rate remains steady, claiming around 5,000 lives on a daily basis. The global coronavirus tally for confirmed infections has risen above the 13-million mark, according to Reuters’ figures for the pandemic. Over 560,000 people have succumbed to the disease. The US, Brazil and India remain the worst-hit nations, accounting for nearly a half of all cases.

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“.. young people in the U.S. are generally sicker than young people in Sweden, for example. ”

US Kids At Higher Risk From Coronavirus Than Kids In Other Countries (CNBC)

Children in the U.S. are more likely than kids in other countries to have underlying conditions that place them at an increased risk of becoming severely sick with Covid-19, complicating the U.S. debate over how and whether to reopen schools this fall, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said Monday. President Donald Trump has been pressuring U.S. schools to reopen this fall, tweeting last week that schools in “Germany, Denmark, Norway and Sweden, along with many other countries” were “open with no problems.” But Gottlieb said Monday it’s difficult to compare the U.S. to most of those countries because they were able to bring the level of daily infection down to a manageable degree before reopening schools.

The outbreak in the U.S., in contrast, continues to set daily new records as the Trump administration ramps up pressure on local officials to commit to reopening schools. The U.S. is suffering from the worst Covid-19 outbreak in the world with more than 3.3 million confirmed cases so far and at least 135,200 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. “The only country that had schools open against a backdrop of a fair degree of spread was Sweden, and that’s what everyone extrapolates from,” he said on “Squawk Box.” “We didn’t study that systematically. We don’t know how many kids were really infected.” [..] Another concern that ought to be considered when deciding whether and how to reopen U.S. schools, Gottlieb said, is that young people in the U.S. are generally sicker than young people in Sweden, for example.

Regardless of age, other underlying conditions more prevalent in American kids puts them at a greater risk of a severe Covid-19 infection. “We have more co-morbid illness among young people in this country — more asthma, more obesity, more diabetes — so there is going to be higher risk with our school age population,” Gottlieb said. Those so-called co-morbidities have resulted in more severe illnesses and even death in Covid-19 patients across all age groups, scientists have found. The CDC says 18.5% of U.S. children between the ages of 2 and 19 suffer from obesity, or about 13.7 million children. About 6 million children under the age of 18 have asthma, according to the CDC, and the agency notes that Black children suffer from asthma at more than double the rate of White children.

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A lot of places see fresh outbreaks. People are eager to call them a second wave, but given how strongly that term is linked to the 1918 flu, I’d be careful with that.

Hong Kong To Impose Most Severe Social Distancing Restrictions (R.)

Hong Kong will impose strict new social distancing measures from midnight Tuesday, the most stringent in the Asian financial hub since the coronavirus broke out, as authorities warn the risk of a large-scale outbreak is extremely high. The measures dictate that face masks will be mandatory for people using public transport and restaurants will no longer provide dine in services and only offer takeaway after 6 pm. Both are new rules that were not implemented during the city’s first and second coronavirus waves earlier this year. If a person does not wear a mask on public transport, they face a fine of HK$5,000 ($645). Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Monday the government would limit group gatherings to four people from 50 – a measure last seen during a second wave in March.


Twelve types of establishments including gyms and places of amusement must shut for a week. “The recent emergence of local cases of unknown infection source indicates the existence of sustained silent transmission in the community,” the government said in a statement late on Monday. The Chinese-ruled city recorded 52 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, including 41 that were locally transmitted, health authorities said. Since late January, Hong Kong has reported 1,522 cases and local media reported an eighth death on Monday. The government said it is very concerned about the high number of imported cases and planned to impose further measures on travellers from high-risk places, including securing mandatory negative test results before arrival.

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“Psychosis, insomnia, kidney disease, spinal infections, strokes, chronic tiredness and mobility issues..”

Italian Doctors: Effects of COVID-19 Worse Than First Thought (Sky)

The long-term effects of COVID-19, even on people who suffered a mild infection, could be far worse than was originally anticipated, according to researchers and doctors in northern Italy. Psychosis, insomnia, kidney disease, spinal infections, strokes, chronic tiredness and mobility issues are being identified in former coronavirus patients in Lombardy, the worst-affected region in the country. The doctors warn that some victims may never recover from the illness and that all age groups are vulnerable. The virus is a systemic infection that affects all the organs of the body, not, as was previously thought, just a respiratory disease, they say. Some people may find that their ability to properly work, to concentrate, and even to take part in physical activities will be severely impaired.

The physicians warn that people who do not consider themselves in a vulnerable group and aren’t concerned at contracting the disease could be putting themselves in danger of life-changing illnesses if they ignore the rules to keep safe. They stress that the need for social distancing, hand washing, and masks is as important now as it ever was. The warnings come amid growing concerns in northern Italy that a second wave of the virus could be imminent. Doctors in two of the main hospitals in the region have reported a handful of new cases of severely ill people with respiratory problems. Dr Roberto Cosentini, head of emergencies at Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in Bergamo, oversaw the response to the virus that swept through this alpine province claiming the lives of at least 6,000 people.

He gave Sky News unprecedented access to the hospital’s emergency rooms in March when the first shocking effects of the virus were broadcast around the world, changing perceptions of the scale of the problem. Now he is leading efforts to again send a warning across the globe that COVID-19 is a lethal killer that affects the whole body, and is not going away. “At first, initially, we thought it was a bad flu, then we thought it was a bad flu with a very bad pneumonia, it was the phase when you came here, but subsequently we discovered that it is a systemic illness with vessel damage in the whole body with renal involvement, cerebral involvement,” he told me in the now silent COVID-19 emergency room that was overwhelmed a few months ago.

“So we are seeing other acute manifestations of renal failure that require dialysis; or stroke, and then acute myocardial infarction, so a lot of complications or other manifestations of the virus. “And also now we see a significant proportion of the population with chronic damage from the virus.”

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Which the WHO still halfway denies.

Japan Has Long Accepted COVID’s Airborne Spread (CBS)

Under pressure from the scientific community, the World Health Organization acknowledged last week the airborne transmission of “micro-droplets” as a possible third cause of COVID-19 infections. To many researchers in Japan, the admission felt anti-climactic. This densely populated country has operated for months on the assumption that tiny, “aerosolized” particles in crowded settings are turbo-charging the spread of the new coronavirus. Very few diseases — tuberculosis, chicken pox and measles — have been deemed transmissible through aerosols. Most are spread only through direct contact with infected persons or their bodily fluids, or contaminated surfaces. Still the WHO has refused to confirm aerosols as a major source of new coronavirus infections, saying more evidence is needed.

But scientists are keeping the pressure on. “If the WHO recognizes what we did in Japan, then maybe in other parts of the world, they will change (their antiviral procedures),” said Shin-Ichi Tanabe, a professor in the architecture department of Japan’s prestigious Waseda University. He was one of the 239 international scientists who co-wrote an open letter to the WHO urging the United Nations agency to revise its guidelines on how to stop the virus spreading. Large droplets expelled through the nose and mouth tend to fall to the ground quickly, explained Makoto Tsubokura, who runs the Computational Fluid Dynamics lab at Kobe University. For these larger respiratory particles, social distancing and face masks are considered adequate safeguards.

But in rooms with dry, stale air, Tsubokura said his research showed that people coughing, sneezing, and even talking and singing, emit tiny particles that defy gravity — able to hang in the air for many hours or even days, and travel the length of a room. The key defense against aerosols, Tsubokura said, is diluting the amount of virus in the air by opening windows and doors and ensuring HVAC systems circulate fresh air. In open-plan offices, he said partitions must be high enough to prevent direct contact with large droplets, but low enough to avoid creating a cloud of virus-heavy air (55 inches, or head height.) Small desk fans, he said, can also help diffuse airborne viral density. To the Japanese, the latest WHO admission did at least vindicate a strategy that the country adopted in February, when residents were told to avoid “the three Cs” — cramped spaces, crowded areas and close conversation.

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Maybe you shouldn’t target growth in a pandemic?!

California’s New Lockdown Dims Outlook For US Growth In Pandemic (R.)

California Governor Gavin Newsom’s decision Monday to reimpose restrictions on bars, restaurants, gyms and even ordinary office work to tamp down a surge of coronavirus infections is dimming economic growth prospects for the nation as a whole. Darkening the outlook further was the decision by California’s two largest school districts – Los Angeles and San Diego – to conduct only online instruction when classes resume next month, a move that will make it challenging for parents of more than 825,000 students to return to work. The Golden State, with 40 million people, employs more workers than any other state in the nation, and its production of goods and services is about equal to the combined output of Florida and Texas, two others states that have also seen resurgences of the virus.

After the Great Recession, California was the nation’s inarguable job growth engine, creating about one in every seven jobs, more than any other state. By comparison, over the course of the 12-year post-financial crisis expansion Texas created one of every eight U.S. jobs, and Florida, about one of every 11. In March, after becoming the first U.S. state to impose a stay-at-home order in response to the coronavirus pandemic, California also became the nation’s job-loss leader. Some 2.6 million jobs disappeared in March and April, about equal to the combined job losses in Texas and Florida. Many states began to reopen in May. California allowed businesses to resume activity at a slower pace than many states did.

That shows in the most recent state-by-state jobs data: during the course May, California added just 141,600 jobs, versus 182,000 in Florida and 237,000 in Texas. Since then, the virus has resurged in much of the country, with the biggest increases in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California, forcing governors in all of those states to reimpose some restrictions. But none has gone as far as Newsom did on Monday; and none of those states has near the footprint of California when it comes to economic heft on a national scale. Before the coronavirus crisis, the state accounted for about 14% of the whole U.S. economy.

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Article gives a few examples, I bring my own. There is no better example of a Fed manufactured bubble than Tesla.

Federal Reserve’s $3 Trillion Virus Rescue Inflates Market Bubbles (R.)

The Federal Reserve’s $3 trillion bid to stave off an economic crisis in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak is fuelling excesses across U.S. capital markets. The U.S. central bank has pledged unlimited financial asset purchases to sustain market liquidity, increasing its balance sheet from $4.2 trillion in February to $7 trillion today. While the vast majority of these purchases have been limited to U.S. Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities, the Fed’s pledge to bolster the corporate bond market has been enough to spur a frenzy among investors for bonds and stocks. “COVID-19 is now inversely related to the markets. The worse that COVID-19 gets, the better the markets do because the Fed will bring in stimulus. That is what has been driving markets,” said Andrew Brenner, head of international fixed income at NatAlliance.

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Brilliant idea. And no, I don’t think a boycott is in place just for talking to the president.

Goya “Boycott” Becomes “Buycott” (ZH)

In what is turning into a spectacular backfire, Goya products are being cleaned out of grocery store shelves in what is being dubbed the “Chick-Fil-A” effect by The Daily Wire. Namely, leftists have called for a boycott over the brand after its CEO publicly praised President Donald Trump. Instead, conservatives took matters into their own hands and are reportedly buying more Goya products than they normally would to show support for the company, its CEO and the President. It’s being called a “Buy-Cott”. It began when radio host Mike Opelka began encouraging people on Twitter to buy $10 worth of Goya products to turn around and donate to their local food bank.


He Tweeted: “My brother came up with a terrific idea and I am encouraging all to join me in purchasing $10 worth of Goya Foods products and donating them to your local food bank. Let’s push a BUY-cott, not a boycott. Let’s show the #Goyaway people what compassion can do.” And this weekend a GoFundMe effort was launched to feed the hungry using only Goya products. It has raised over $43,000 so far. Casey Harper, who started the GoFundMe, said: “I’m not surprised we have raised so much because people are tired of having to walk on eggshells in political discourse. Also, Americans are fundamentally generous people, so a chance to feed the hungry and stand up to cancel culture was an easy win.” Recall, three days ago, we reported that the Goya CEO “refused to apologize” for his comments praising President Donald Trump. As a result, many liberals announced they were boycotting his company. By last Thursday evening, “Goya,” #BoycottGoya and #Goyaway were trending topics on Twitter.

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“..the FBI planned on Jan. 4, 2017 to close down its investigation of Flynn but then reversed course.”

FBI Believed Michael Flynn Was ‘Forthcoming’ And ‘Telling Truth’ (Solomon)

Months before Michael Flynn was charged with the lying to agents, the FBI told the Justice Department the Trump national security adviser was “very open and forthcoming” in his interview and believed he was telling the truth about his contacts with Russia, according to long withheld government notes that sharply contrast with the criminal case Robert Mueller eventually filed. FBI agents told senior DOJ officials at a Jan. 25, 2017 meeting that Flynn was “telling truth as he believed it” and that he “believe[d] that what he said was true,” according to handwritten notes taken by then-Deputy Assistant Attorney General Tashina Gauhar that were belatedly turned over to Flynn’s defense this month.

The agents also believed Flynn was “being forthright” during his interview and simply didn’t remember some facts from his calls with the Russian ambassador during the post-2016 election transition, Gauhar wrote in the notes. A separate DOJ memo described Flynn as “very open and forthcoming” during the interview. Copies of the notes from Gauhar, former FBI agent Peter Strzok, who led the Russia collusion case, and former DOJ and FBI official Dana Boente were made public in a court filing over the weekend, adding to a large body of belatedly released evidence that suggested the FBI did not believe it had grounds to charge Flynn with a crime as news media were reporting at the time. In fact, Boente stated in handwritten notes dated in March 2017 that the FBI had concluded Flynn wasn’t an agent of Russia. “Do not view as source of collusion,” Boente wrote.

Likewise, the notes show DOJ did not believe it could prosecute Flynn under the Logan Act, lone of the laws that was leaked as a possible Flynn liability in the media. “No reasonable pros to Logan Act,” one of the entry in the notes declared. The notes also confirm previously released evidence showing the FBI planned on Jan. 4, 2017 to close down its investigation of Flynn but then reversed course. Remarkably, the FBI claimed to DOJ the reason it kept the Flynn probe open and interview him was because a news media leak of a classified transcript of his call with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. The “media leaks” about the calls being intercepted brought the “investigation in the open” and “changed the dynamic,” the notes quote FBI officials as saying.

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He won’t have to. Flynn got Sidney Powell.

Trump Doesn’t Rule Out Pardoning Michael Flynn (CNBC)

President Donald Trump on Monday did not rule out granting a pardon to his first national security advisor Michael Flynn, just days after commuting the 40-month prison term of his longtime ally Roger Stone. But Trump said “I don’t have a decision to make” about a potential pardon for Flynn “until I find out what’s going to happen” with Flynn’s efforts to get a dismissal of his conviction for lying to FBI agents. “I think he’s doing very well with respect to his case,” Trump told reporters. “I hope that he’s going to be able to win it.” The Justice Department has asked that Flynn’s conviction be tossed out, but Judge Emmet Sullivan so far has not ruled on that request. A federal appeals court panel ordered Sullivan to dismiss the case, which relates to Flynn’s discussions with a Russian diplomat in the weeks before Trump’s inauguration.


But Sullivan last week asked the appeals court’s full line-up of judges to reconsider that decision. Flynn’s lawyer Sidney Powell said in an email, “As I have said from the inception of my representation, the government has long withheld evidence of Mr. Flynn’s innocence.” “The FBI and [special counsel’s office] made up this prosecution and coerced his plea by multiple means. The result for which we have steadfastly and relentlessly worked is his complete exoneration by the Department of Justice and the judicial system,” Powell said. “We believe it is very important for the Rule of Law and the public’s trust in the system for his case to be dismissed according to the Government’s motion and because of all the newly disclosed evidence of government misconduct and his innocence.”

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Judges questioning their superiors. It’s quite the fashion.

Roger Stone Judge Demands To See Trump Clemency Order (ZH)

US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson demanded more information concerning President Trump’s decision to commute the prison sentence of Roger Stone – a longtime ally who avoided a 40-months in prison sentence for making false statements to special counsel Robert Mueller’s team during the Russia investigation. According to AP, Berman Jackson ordered the parties to provide her a copy of Trump’s executive order commuting Stone’s sentence, as well as clarity for the scope of the clemency – including whether Stone’s two-year supervised release is covered by the decision. To answer Berman Jackson’s question, Trump commuted “the entirety of the two-year term of supervised release with all its conditions.”

“The president told reporters on Monday that he was getting “rave reviews” for his action on Stone and restated his position that the Russia investigation “should have never taken place.” Democrats lambasted Trump’s decision as having undermined the rule of law, and Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the only Republican to vote to convict the president during his impeachment trial, called the clemency decision “unprecedented, historic corruption.” Mueller himself defended the Stone prosecution in a Washington Post opinion piece in which he said Stone “remains a convicted felon, and rightly so.” Although presidents have broad authority to commute prison sentences and issue pardons, the brief order from Jackson — who presided over Stone’s trial last year — made clear that the judge still is seeking information and clarity about the clemency, including the actual executive order from the White House. -AP (via WTOP)

The order was entered into the docket several hours later.

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Oh, and Mery Trump is now free to speak.

Weissmann To Publish Insider Account Of Trump-Russia Investigation (G.)

Andrew Weissmann, an attorney who played a leading role under Robert Mueller in the investigation of Russian election interference, will release a book about the special counsel’s near two-year examination of links between Donald Trump and Moscow. Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation will be published by Random House on 29 September. The publisher promised “a meticulous account of the Mueller team’s probe and its ongoing battles with the Trump administration”. It will be the latest in a lucrative stream of books about Trump, his presidency and the Russia investigation. In court in New York on Monday, the president’s niece, Mary Trump, will find out if a temporary restraining order will be lifted so she can discuss her book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created The World’s Most Dangerous Man, which will be published by Simon & Schuster on Tuesday.

In a statement, Weissmann said: “I felt it was necessary to record this episode in our history, as seen and experienced by an insider. “This is the story of our investigation into how our democracy was attacked by Russia and how those who condoned and ignored that assault undermined our ability to uncover the truth. My obligation as a prosecutor was to follow the facts where they led, using all available tools and undeterred by the onslaught of the president’s unique powers to undermine our work.” Weissmann was active on Twitter over the weekend, after Trump announced the commutation of a prison sentence awaiting Roger Stone, an aide and ally, arising from Mueller’s work.

Stone, 67 and suspected of being the link between Russian intelligence, WikiLeaks and the president himself, was convicted on counts of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice and witness intimidation. He had been due to report to prison on Tuesday, to serve a 40-month sentence. [..] Weissmann agreed with the Republican senator Mitt Romney’s description of an instance of “unprecedented, historic corruption” and advocated that Stone be brought in front of a grand jury. There, Weissmann said, Stone would have “three choices: lie and risk prosecution, refuse to testify and be held in civil and criminal contempt, or tell the truth. Let’s do what we can to get at the truth.”

[..] Weissmann said: “I am deeply proud of the work we did, and of the unprecedented number of people we indicted and convicted – and in record speed. “But the hard truth is that we made mistakes. We could have done more. Where Law Ends documents the choices we made, good and bad, for all to see and judge and learn from.”

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Talking about Weissmann, here’s a video from Jan 2019 of Flynn lawyer Sidney Powell talking about Weissman’s role (he was appointed to it by then FBI director Robert Mueller) in the demise of Arthur Andersen.

 

 

You’d think the Special Counsel never fell flat on his face.

Top Mueller Aide Weissmann Calls For Roger Stone To Face Grand Jury (Turley)

One of the most controversial figures selected by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for his investigative team was Andrew Weissmann. While some criticized Weissmann for perceived bias, many of us focused on his record of prosecutorial excess. Now a law professor at New York University, Weissmann appears eager to fulfill both criticisms. After the commutation of Roger Stone, Weissmann called for Stone to be pulled in front of a grand jury. It did not matter that there was no crime under investigation or likely criminal charge based on the use of a presidential power that is virtually absolute. Weissmann seemed to call for the use of the grand jury for a fishing expedition — precisely the type of alleged excessive use of prosecutorial power that he faced at the Justice Department. Weissmann is reportedly writing a book on the investigation with the reported titled “Where Law Ends: Inside the Mueller Investigation.”

Weissmann wrote “Time to put Roger Stone in the grand jury to find out what he knows about Trump but would not tell. Commutation can’t stop that.” That is certainly true. A commutation does not bar someone from being called into a grand jury. However, ethical prosecutors generally require more than an interest in finding out stuff. Grand juries usually come after an investigation finds probable cause for a crime. There is supposed to be more than a hope and prayer that a grand jury may find a crime. Indeed, this is precisely the type of untethered pursuit that led some of us to criticize the Flynn investigation. In this case, Mueller did not find evidence showing that President Trump or his campaign conspired with the Russian government to obtain hacked emails from the Clinton campaign or Democratic National Committee.

There was no allegation of a crime by Trump linked to the Stone false statements or threats. Stone was convicted on seven counts including one count of obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness tampering. The government proved that Stone had lied to Congress to hide his efforts to contact WikiLeaks. However, he was not accused of lying about knowledge or actions by President Donald Trump. [..] The grand jury is not a device for prosecutorial whim or curiosity. It is a powerful tool that demands a modicum of restraint. Conversely, Weissmann seems to follow Oscar Wilde’s famous observation as a virtual prosecutorial mandate: “I can resist everything except temptation.”

Read more …

 

 

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Jul 092020
 


Berenice Abbott Columbus Circle, Manhattan 1936

 

US COVID19 Cases Rise By Over 60,000, Setting Single-Day Record (R.)
The US Surrendered To The Pandemic. Protect Yourself (MoA)
53% Of Restaurants Closed Amid Coronavirus Have Shuttered Permanently (RD)
United Airlines Sends Furlough Warnings To 36,000 Workers (R.)
US Retail Apocalypse: Over 25,000 Stores Could Close By Year End (ZH)
US Coronavirus Stimulus Reignites China’s Criticism Of Dollar Hegemony (SCMP)
China’s Market Euphoria Trumps Political Risk In Hong Kong (R.)
Some US Government Officials Want To Depeg Hong Kong Dollar (IBT)
Surging Demand for Hong Kong Dollars Underscores Beijing Support (BBG)
UK Judge Orders Christopher Steele To Pay Damages To Russian Bankers (RT)
John Solomon: Indictments Coming In Russia Investigation (WND)
Top US Commander Unconvinced By ‘Russian Bounty To Taliban’ Intel (RT)
Most Americans Believe Russia Targeted US Soldiers (R.)

 

 

COVID, Hong Kong, Russiagate, they’re all familiar subjects. Now come ICU shortages and what can only be called a collapse in US -and international- retail, hospitality and travel industries.

We’re just getting started but everyone wants to think we’re almost done.

The US set a record for new cases, and the world missed it by a hair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tennessee, West Virginia and Utah?!

US COVID19 Cases Rise By Over 60,000, Setting Single-Day Record (R.)

The United States reported more than 60,000 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the biggest increase ever reported by a country in a single day, according to a Reuters tally. The United States faces a bleak summer with record-breaking infections and many states forced to close parts of the economy again, leaving some workers without a paycheck. In addition to nearly 10,000 new cases in Florida, Texas reported over 9,500 cases and California reported more than 8,500 new infections. California and Texas also each reported a record one-day increase in deaths. It was the second day in a row that U.S. deaths climbed by more than 900 in a day, the highest levels seen since early June, according to the tally.


Tennessee, West Virginia and Utah all had record daily increases in new cases, and infections are rising in 42 out of 50 states, according to a Reuters analysis of cases for the past two weeks compared with the prior two weeks. The U.S. tally stood at 60,020 late on Wednesday, with a few local governments not yet reporting. The previous U.S. record for new cases in a day was 56,818 last Friday. The United States has reported over 3 million cases and 132,000 deaths from the virus, putting President Donald Trump’s pandemic strategy under scrutiny.

Read more …

ICU shortages coming up in multiple locations.

The US Surrendered To The Pandemic. Protect Yourself (MoA)

Yesterday the United States registered more than 60,000 new Covid-19 cases. As the number of new cases continues to increase unabated about two weeks from now it is likely to reach hundred thousand new cases per day. The increase of testing is not the cause of higher new case numbers. The rate of people among those who were tested and were found positive has also increased. In Florida, which yesterday had nearly 10,000 new cases, the positive test rate has reached nearly 20%. That means that the epidemic is still accelerating. This did not need to happen. Yesterday Germany, at a quarter the size of the U.S., had 279 new cases. It does 1 million tests per week and the positive rate is decreasing.

China has defeated a new local outbreak in Beijing by testing more than 10 million people. The last two days it reported zero new cases. Many of those who test positive, especially the younger ones, will not fall ill with severe symptoms. But some 10-15% are estimated to need medical support. How many of them will die depends on the quality of care that can be given to them. Some thirty hospitals in Florida have already run out of space in their intensive care units. That is the point where the real emergency begins. Six months after the disease was discovered more is known of how to care for Covid-19 cases. The death rate per cases has therefore decreased. But this only holds when there are sufficient beds, doctors and staff available.


At the current U.S. rate that will soon no longer be the case. We do know that the hospitalization curve follows the testing/symptoms curve by some 10-14 days while ICU admittance follows the above curve with some 15 to 20 days delay. The eventual recovery in an ICU bed takes up to four weeks. A bed once occupied will not be available for quite some time.

Read more …

The changes will be gigantic. So will the misery. We just don’t want to know.

53% Of Restaurants Closed Amid Coronavirus Have Shuttered Permanently (RD)

New research from Yelp shows that as of June 15, there were nearly 140,000 total business closures on the website since March 1. When compared to similar research released in April, which showed more than 175,000 business closures, these latest numbers indicate that more than 20% of businesses closed in April have reopened. In March, restaurants had the highest numbers of business closures listed on the app compared to other industries, and the rate of closure has remained high. Of the businesses that closed, 17% are restaurants, and 53% of those restaurant closures are indicated as permanent on Yelp. Retail, however, is the hardest hit overall.

During the peak of the pandemic, the number of diners seated across Yelp Reservations and Waitlist dropped essentially to zero. In early June, numbers of diners seated are down 57% of pre-pandemic levels. Predictions about the restaurant industry’s fate in a post-pandemic world have been abundant throughout the crisis. The National Restaurant Association estimated that 15% of restaurants could close, while Barclay’s estimate is more optimistic, predicting approximately 10% of restaurants will shutter permanently. Though it’s hard to find a silver lining in Yelp’s data, some predictions have been more dire still.


In May, OpenTable said one in four restaurants were at risk for closure, for example, though those numbers focus on restaurants that use the reservations platform. Casual or fine dining sit-down restaurants and mom-and-pop concepts that are not well capitalized are expected to experience the brunt of this crisis. The Independent Restaurant Coalition, for example, forecast that as many as 85% of independent restaurants could permanently close by the end of the year. Yelp’s data does illustrate how some restaurants have been able to weather the storm, however, reporting a 10-fold increase in searches for takeout since March 10, for example. Takeout and delivery searches are up 148%, with Yelp predicting this off-premise trend could be here to stay.

Read more …

Retail, travel, hospitality. Much of it will never be back.

United Airlines Sends Furlough Warnings To 36,000 Workers (R.)

United Airlines said on Wednesday it was preparing to send notices of potential furloughs to 36,000 U.S.-based frontline employees, or about 45% of staff, as travel demand hit by the coronavirus pandemic struggles to recover. United shares lost 3.3% in midday trading. Not everyone who receives a notification will be furloughed, United said, with the final number depending on how demand evolves and how many employees accept early exit packages and temporary leaves. The furloughs would begin on Oct. 1, when a government-imposed ban on forced job cuts by airlines that accepted billions of dollars in federal payroll aid expires.


“The United Airlines projected furlough numbers are a gut punch, but they are also the most honest assessment we’ve seen on the state of the industry,” Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) President Sara Nelson said in a statement. The Chicago-based airline continues to burn through about $40 million of cash every day, with a number of efforts to cut costs and raise liquidity failing to compensate for the drastic drop-off in travel demand as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the United States. The furlough warnings vary by work group. Flight attendants are among the hardest hit, with about 15,000 of roughly 25,000 set to receive notifications. United is working with the different unions on options to mitigate the final furlough number.

Read more …

Said it a few days ago: A state holding company modeled after Roosevelt’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation.

US Retail Apocalypse: Over 25,000 Stores Could Close By Year End (ZH)

The unprecedented implosion of U.S. commercial real estate during the coronavirus pandemic is likely to get worse as newly delinquent CMBS loans are surging as the list of retail store closures continues to rise. Trepp’s June CMBS remittance report showed CMBS delinquencies hit a high of 10.32%, not seen since 2012. It was noted that that retail CRE loans were in rough shape. Many retail shops are heavily indebted, some have already declared bankruptcy, while others are quickly shrinking their operating size, by reducing store footprint to rein in cost as the virus-induced recession, blended with a plunge in consumption, along with a shift to online, is resulting in a rapid acceleration of the retail apocalypse. Coresight Research’s latest forecast has upwards of 25,000 retail stores could close by year end.


Forbes has released an updated list of confirmed store closures. So far, it looks like 8,708 store units have or will shutter operations this year, and could quickly surpass 2019 totals of 9,302, in a matter of months. With thousands of retail stores closing and the economy contracting, the next conversation Wall Street will have is about deep economic scarring and permanent job loss. Already, 3 million jobs have been eliminated from the economy, some of which have come from the closure of retail stores. The bad news about permanent job loss is that it’s a consumption killer, resulting in less spending at retailers, suggesting an even greater amount of store closures beyond anyone’s wild guess could be seen over the next 12-24 months.

Read more …

They can’t do a thing. They don’t even have the guts to let the yuan float.

US Coronavirus Stimulus Reignites China’s Criticism Of Dollar Hegemony (SCMP)

The US economic policy response to the coronavirus crisis and the threat of financial sanctions on China have reinvigorated criticism in Beijing over the US dollar hegemony, but few analysts see a viable alternative currency emerging any time soon. Chinese officials have recently taken aim at the unprecedented coronavirus stimulus in the United States, which has seen American debt levels balloon and stoked concern in Beijing about the devaluation of the US dollar assets held by Chinese financial institutions. Threats by the US to sanction China over its imposition of a national security law on Hong Kong have also ratcheted up anxiety about being cut off from the US dollar-dominated SWIFT international payments system.

[..] Though the attitude in Beijing may be increasingly wary, few Western economists believe Washington is abusing the power of the US dollar with its coronavirus response. Others point out the impact on exchange rates has so far been relatively mild. “The Federal Reserve, like every other central bank, makes its monetary policy decisions mostly on the basis of domestic considerations,” said Eswar Prasad, the former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China division and now a trade professor at Cornell University. The fact its actions “reverberate around the world” are simply a consequence of its policy mandates, which are purely domestic in nature, Prasad added. Continued expansion of US monetary policy amid a protracted global recession is also likely to be positive for the real world economy, and particularly for economies with current account deficits and significant amounts of US dollar-denominated debt, according to analysts.

“Given the US dollar shortage that emerged with Covid, a weaker dollar is still good for the world, relieving funding pressures in both developed markets and emerging markets,” said Steve Englander, global head of North America macro strategy at Standard Chartered Bank. Reform of international monetary policy is likely to take a back seat to efforts to stabilise the global economy from the coronavirus pandemic. But even in the long-term, it is not clear what shape that would take. “In fact, the Fed’s apparent magnanimity in allowing other countries to have access to dollar financing collateralised by their holdings of US Treasuries will pull countries even deeper into the clutches of the dollar,” Prasad said.


A major obstacle is still the absence of an alternative reserve currency, Prasad said. China’s own push to internationalise the yuan has faltered over the past decade, despite its growing economic clout. The most recent figures from the SWIFT system showed that the Chinese currency accounted for just 1.66 per cent of international payment transactions in April versus 43 per cent for the US dollar. Fang Xinghai, vice-chairman of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, said last month that China’s ability to reduce its reliance on the US dollar would be greatly enhanced if it can boost the international usage of the yuan. A debate about the merits of the US dollar as the major reserve currency is likely to re-emerge after the coronavirus, according to Englander, especially when the liquidity was no longer needed. “[But] the question is which currency do you trust to replace it and what improvement would that make.”

Read more …

PBOC is still buying. A lot. Question: with what? Their dollar reserves? They don’t have a lot of those that they can use freely

China’s Market Euphoria Trumps Political Risk In Hong Kong (R.)

The country’s blue-chip CSI300 index hit five-year-highs in recent sessions on a state-endorsed rally and a retail trading frenzy. But Chinese investors and brokerages say they are increasingly drawn by Hong Kong shares, whose gains have been more modest. “Elephants are dancing (in mainland China), but in Hong Kong, many stocks are lying on the floor,” Shen Weizheng, senior advisor at brokerage Direct Access, said during an online pitch to mainland investors on Wednesday. “Buy more Hong Kong stocks. You don’t lose money buying bargains.” Mainland-listed A-shares are on average 35% more expensive than their Hong Kong-listed peers, also called “H-shares” widening from 23% just a month ago.


Share prices of the same company often differ vastly in the two markets. A growing number of U.S-listed Chinese internet companies, including NetEase and JD.com, have chosen to float in Hong Kong through secondary listings amid heightened Sino-U.S. tensions. New York-listed Alibaba, which completed its Hong Kong listing last year, could get the greenlight to enter the benchmark Hang Seng Index .HSI next month. “Capital is flowing into the city. The more intense the rivalry between the U.S. and China, the more unique Hong Kong will be as a centre to welcome back leading Chinese companies listed in the U.S.,” said Hao Hong, managing director at BOCOM International.

Read more …

With China seemingly hell-bent on conquering Hong Kong, why would they not?

Some US Government Officials Want To Depeg Hong Kong Dollar (IBT)

Some aides to U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo have suggested that Washington could punish China by compromising the Hong Kong dollar’s peg to the U.S. dollar. Tensions between the U.S. and China have been escalating for months, worsened by Beijing’s imposition of new security laws in Hong Kong that some think will eliminate the city-state’s autonomy. Bloomberg reported that one way to undermine the Hong Kong dollar peg would be by restricting the ability of Hong Kong banks to purchase U.S. dollars. The matter has been discussed with Pompeo but not yet with senior members of President Donald Trump’s White House staff.

Hong Kong has linked its currency to the U.S. dollar since 1983 and has generally performed well trading within a narrow band. The proposal would also face obstacles among other U.S. government officials who fear it would just hurt Hong Kong banks and not mainland China itself. Last month, Hong Kong’s financial secretary, Paul Chan said that if the US slapped sanctions on the city-state, then China’s central bank could supply it with American dollars. Eddie Yue, chief executive of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Hong Kong’s de facto central bank, said that the 36-year old dollar peg predates the 1992 U.S-China Policy Act which features a provision permitting the U.S. dollar “to be freely exchanged” with the Hong Kong dollar.


Yue suggested that the unlikely event of Trump blocking Hong Kong’s access to U.S. dollars would amount to an “apocalyptic” scenario that could backfire on Washington. “With Hong Kong’s financial system closely integrated with the global economic and financial systems, any move that hits our financial system would also send shockwaves across the global financial markets, including the U.S.,” he said. “Confidence of international investors in using the [U.S. dollar] and holding U.S. financial assets could also be undermined.”

Read more …

Again, the PBOC is buying.

Surging Demand for Hong Kong Dollars Underscores Beijing Support (BBG)

Demand for Hong Kong dollars is intensifying in the face of an increasingly politicized environment, with mainland buying helping to buoy both the pegged currency and local stock market. The city’s de facto central bank sold a combined HK$15.8 billion ($2 billion) to purchase the greenback on Wednesday, the biggest intervention since it started defending the peg on the strong end of the trading band in late April. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority has now spent almost $12 billion this year to keep the currency from strengthening further. Wednesday’s intervention came shortly after news that some Trump aides are considering plans to undermine the peg mechanism in retribution for Beijing’s crackdown on civil liberties in the former British colony.


Mainland-based investors showed their support for the city through buying more than $1 billion worth of Hong Kong shares on the day. The events show how the city’s financial system is increasingly being caught up in the rivalry between Washington and Beijing. For now, Hong Kong’s markets seem immune to the tensions. Red-hot Chinese equities, a stronger yuan and low valuations have helped push Hong Kong stocks into a bull market. Mainland purchases of local equities since Beijing first announced plans for Hong Kong’s controversial security law are now nearing $9 billion. “Bullish sentiment is pushing short-term funds and liquidity into Hong Kong,” said Banny Lam, managing director at CEB International Capital Corp. “China’s stock market is very hot and you see a lot of people using the stock connect to buy these shares. All these factors are attracting liquidity.”

Read more …

Shouldn’t this be big on CNN?

UK Judge Orders Christopher Steele To Pay Damages To Russian Bankers (RT)

A London judge has ordered former British spy Christopher Steele to pay thousands of pounds in damages for not verifying the claims he included in his scandalous Russian dossier, which alleged Donald Trump’s ties with Moscow. Steele was taken to court by Mikhail Fridman and Petr Aven, Russian bankers from Alfa Group, who contested one of the key allegations in the paper – that they were responsible for delivering “large amounts of illicit cash” to President Vladimir Putin in the 1990s. Justice Mark Warby of the High Court of England and Wales ruled on Wednesday that Steele’s claim against Fridman and Aven was “inaccurate and misleading.”


Steele’s firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, violated British data privacy law as it “failed to take reasonable steps to verify the allegation,” and will now pay £18,000 pounds (around $22,600) in damages to each of the bankers, Warby said. Fridman said in a statement that he was “delighted” with the outcome of the trial. He has insisted that the dossier’s claims that Alfa Group was somehow a link between the Russian government and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election were absolutely groundless. “Ever since these odious allegations were first made public in January 2017, my partners and I have been resolute and unwavering in our determination to prove that they are untrue, and through this case, we have finally succeeded in doing so,” Fridman said.

Read more …

The MSM will present it as a poltical ploy. All they think they need to do is lift it over the election, and then throw it out.

John Solomon: Indictments Coming In Russia Investigation (WND)

Investigative reporter John Solomon says there’s a “lot of activity” in U.S. Attorney John Durham’s criminal investigation of the Obama administration’s probe of now-debunked claims of Trump-Russia collusion during the 2016 election. “My sources tell me there’s a lot of activity. I’m seeing, personally, activity behind the scenes [showing] the Department of Justice is trying to bring those first indictments,” Solomon said [..] “And I would look for a time around Labor Day to see the first sort of action by the Justice Department.” Solomon said he’s seeing “action consistent with building prosecutions and preparing for criminal plea bargains.”

“Until they bring it before the grand jury you never know if it’s going to happen. I’m seeing activity consistent with that.” Top former officials, including former CIA Director John Brennan, are said to be targets of the Durham investigation. But Attorney General William Barr has said he doesn’t expect Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, to be subjects of a criminal investigation. “There is overwhelming evidence in the public record now that crimes were committed,” Solomon said. He cited “falsification of documents, false testimony, false representations before the FISA court.”


Solomon said he is hearing from defense lawyers and people “on the prosecution side” that complications with the coronavirus pandemic are “slowing down” the grand jury process. WND reported this week Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said Durham should launch any prosecutions before the November election. [..] A report from DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz found at least 17 “significant” errors or omissions related to the Obama administration’s efforts to use the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act provisions against Trump.

Read more …

How is this still a topic?

Top US Commander Unconvinced By ‘Russian Bounty To Taliban’ Intel (RT)

Intelligence claiming Russia paid Taliban fighters to target US troops in Afghanistan lacked evidence, the top US general in the region has said. His account crushes yet another sensational media report based on anonymous sources. General Kenneth McKenzie, who oversees military operations in the Middle East and Central Asia as the head of US Central Command, told reporters on Tuesday that unverified reports about Russia having placed “bounties” on American soldiers in Afghanistan have yet to be substantiated. “The intel case wasn’t proved to me – it wasn’t proved enough that I’d take it to a court of law – and you know, that’s often true in battlefield intelligence,” the senior commander said. According to McKenzie, “there wasn’t enough there” to consider the intelligence credible.


He described the reports as “worrisome,” but stressed that there was no “causative link” to support the notion that an alleged bounty program had led to US deaths in Afghanistan. McKenzie’s remarks come a week after an assessment by the National Intelligence Council (NIC) concluded that the intelligence community has reservations about the allegations leveled against Russia. The memo said that the CIA and the National Counterterrorism Center had “medium confidence” in the reports, while the National Security Agency (NSA) and other spy agencies expressed “lower confidence.” [..] Responding to the allegations, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov didn’t mince his words, blasting the unverified US media reports as “100 percent bulls**t.”

Read more …

It doesn’t matter what the top commander thinks, or even what US intelligence admits. The public has been indoctrinated. And that is the goal.

Most Americans Believe Russia Targeted US Soldiers (R.)

A majority of Americans believe that Russia paid the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan last year amid negotiations to end the war, and more than half want to respond with new economic sanctions against Moscow, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Wednesday. The national opinion poll conducted on Monday and Tuesday shows that the American public remains deeply suspicious of Russia four years after it tried to tip the U.S. presidential election in Donald Trump’s favor, and most Americans are unhappy with how the president has handled relations with the country.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll follows a series of reports, including several by Reuters, that Russia had been rewarding Taliban-affiliated militants, possibly by offering them bounties, to attack and kill U.S. troops in the region. Moscow denies the allegations. The New York Times and Washington Post both reported that several American soldiers were believed to have died as a result of the bounties. Trump said last week he was not told about the reported Russian effort, because intelligence officials were uncertain about its veracity. The New York Times reported that the president received written briefings about the program earlier this year, and it was also included in a widely read CIA report in May.


Overall, 60% of Americans said they found reports of Russian bounties on American soldiers to be “very” or “somewhat” believable, while 21% said they were not credible and the rest were unsure. Thirty-nine percent said they thought Trump “did know” about Russia’s targeting of the U.S. military before reports surfaced in the news media last month, while 26% said the president “did not know.” Eighty-one percent of Americans said they viewed Russian President Vladimir Putin as a threat to the United States, including 24% who saw him as an “imminent threat.” Only 35% said they approved of Trump’s handling of Russia, compared with 52% who disapproved.

Read more …

 

 

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Jul 072020
 


Unknown No Dog Biscuits Today 1939

 

China’s Yuan Policy Has Made Hong Kong Redundant (Nikkei)
China Shares Rally, Asian Stocks Take A Breather (R.)
New Security Law Starts To Break Down Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Economy (R.)
TikTok Says It Will Exit Hong Kong Market Within Days (R.)
China Slams US As It Joins Global Arms Trade Treaty At UN (R.)
US Restrictions Drove Deutsche Telekom And Huawei Closer Together (Pol.eu)
US To Force Out Foreign Students Taking Classes Fully Online (R.)
South Korean COVID-19 patient Recovering After Double Lung Transplant (R.)
Hospitalizations Jump 50% In California As Coronavirus Infections Soar (R.)
Six Week Lockdown For Melbourne As Record 191 New Cases Reported (Conv.)
Brazil’s Bolsonaro Says Lungs ‘Clean’ After Coronavirus Test (R.)
US Supreme Court Curbs ‘Faithless Electors’ In Presidential Voting (R.)
California Short on Firefighters as Prison “Slaves” Under Lockdown (MPN)
Assange Lawyer Named French Justice Minister (AAP)

 

 

And all of a sudden (well, not that sudden) there’s so much stuff about China. I started off today reading an article in Nikkei entitled “China’s Yuan Policy Has Made Hong Kong Redundant”, and I thought: that is absolute nonsense. The idea seems to be that Shanghai would take Hong Kong’s place, as the renminbi (yuan) turns into a global currency.

That’s just wishful thinking. Or maybe a reaction to America’s new attitude towards China. 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 does’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. So the claim that the yuan is used in 30% of China’s trade needs to be taken with a huge salt shaker.

And yes, it may be true that the yuan is now the sixth most used currency in international payments, but that’s only because there is no competition for the USD, and what competition does exist come from the euro.

The sudden, and rushed, take-over of Hong Kong with the new security law will not help China’s plans to be accepted internationally. US big tech is withdrawing, and even some Chinese tech is moving away.

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.

And reading through all this, why am I getting the feeling that China does not feel well, that its leaders perhaps have fallen victim to bouts of insecurity?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“You can tell someone’s case for the mythical global yuan is not serious when they write “the yuan is now the sixth most used currency in international payments” rather than “the yuan accounts for about 1.8% of cross-currency payments..”

China’s Yuan Policy Has Made Hong Kong Redundant (Nikkei)

Many have claimed that the national security law China has imposed on Hong Kong will be the death of the city, stifling free speech and driving away businesses. But 10 years ago, China made Hong Kong part of a plan which, even more certainly than the national security law, is rendering the city redundant. For years, Hong Kong has been the entrepot for China’s trade in the region — it accounts for 6.3% of China’s total trade — and a leading international financial center. It has provided the infrastructure for the West to invest in mainland China: about two-thirds of foreign direct investment into and from there goes through Hong Kong.

In 2010, China made Hong Kong a critical component of its policy aimed at developing the yuan as an international currency that non-Chinese residents could hold as an asset or use to pay for international transactions. Before 2010, the yuan had almost no international use or circulation, with less than 1% of China’s trade settled in it. The Chinese monetary authorities had to balance the need to have an international currency and the risk of allowing capital to flow freely in and out of the domestic market. In principle, international currencies need to be fully convertible, but for China this was not a viable route.

Hong Kong’s “one country, two systems” principle provided the solution to China’s conundrum and has been pivotal to the emergence of yuan-led finance, underpinning rising demand and facilitating the yuan business. Hong Kong’s judicial institutions, independent from mainland China, were at the heart of its role as a bridge between the Chinese planned economy and the Western market economy. The move worked, and although the international use of the Chinese currency remains limited, it has undergone significant growth. The yuan is now the sixth most used currency in international payments and is used for settling approximately 30% of China’s trade. Yuan-denominated financial instruments are used more in projects that are part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Yuan activities now account for a large chunk of Hong Kong’s trading as an international financial center, according to estimates by market participants. But rather than making Hong Kong stronger, this increases its dependence on Beijing — and hence its vulnerability. By becoming part of the yuan strategy, a policy-led initiative where Chinese policy makers set the pace and guide the market, Hong Kong has been following Beijing’s lead. A bigger, but related, problem for Hong Kong is that by strengthening the yuan trade, it is also strengthening one of its mainland rivals and making itself less important. Around the time it launched its yuan policy, China also put in place a plan to develop Shanghai as its top international financial center by 2020. According to the latest Global Financial Centres Index, Hong Kong at sixth now ranks lower than Shanghai at fourth. Ten years ago Hong Kong was the most important financial center in Asia and in third place globally after London and New York, while Shanghai ranked 11th.

Read more …

Just yesterday, Beijing talked about “fostering a healthy bull market”. And what the Fed can do, the PBOC can too. Buy buy buy.

China Shares Rally, Asian Stocks Take A Breather (R.)

The Chinese share market extended its positive run on Tuesday, in line with the mainland government’s push for a stronger market, while the rest of the region turned cautious on equities. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan see-sawed during the local session and was down 0.2%, after it briefly traded in positive territory. The negative performance on Tuesday came after the index rose 7% which took it to a 4-1/2 month high in the past five trading sessions. Japan’s Nikkei gave up 0.7% while U.S. stock futures shed 0.25% in Asia after hefty gains on Monday in the wake of surging Chinese shares.

In China, Shanghai’s blue chip CSI300 index and Shenzhen shares, which had gained more than 13% in the past five sessions, rose a further 1.5%, led by rises in the tech sector. Ample Finance Group director Alex Wong said while Chinese market sentiment was positive, investors remained cautious to the risk of that being short-lived. “The mood is still quite strong…and I think people will be willing to hold on for a while as we absorb some of the positive news in the world,” Wong told Reuters in Hong Kong. Analysts said jawboning by the Chinese government through a state-sponsored journal on the importance of “fostering a healthy bull market” published on Monday had spurred the buying binge in mainland Chinese shares.

The current China rally has echoes of the past, especially during 2007 and in the buying binge that followed the crash in 2015 that was largely driven by Chinese retail investors. “Shades of John F. Kennedy’s ‘Ask not what your country can do for you’ inauguration speech here and as close as you might get to a Chinese government ‘put’ as anything the Fed has done to date vis-à-vis the U.S. stock (and credit) markets,” said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at NAB, in a research note.

Read more …

The rich can leave if they want to. The rest cannot.

New Security Law Starts To Break Down Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy Economy (R.)

As soon as Hong Kong’s new national security law came into force last week, Ivan Ng removed all the protest-themed paintings, posters and flags from the list of items for sale at his Onestep Printing shop. Sandra Leung at Wefund.hk, which sells protest-themed artwork and accessories, said she has suspended sales of protective gear worn by protesters, flags with the slogan “Liberate Hong Kong,” and other items carrying popular chants. Jeffrey Cheong, owner of Hair Guys Salon, said he closed his shop down for a few days last week to remove pro-democracy decorations. Ng, Leung and Cheong are three of the 4,500 or so small businesses in Hong Kong’s “yellow economy,” which supports pro-democracy protesters and vice versa. That circle of support is showing signs of weakening in the face of the new law.

“We took down all the protest-related products right after the law was implemented, because the law doesn’t have very clear boundaries of (what constitutes) subversion,” Ng said. In the past week, he said his overall sales are down as much as 80%. Leung said she had withdrawn items for sale she described as “sensitive,” such as gas masks used by protesters and items with anti-police slogans. The new law prohibits what China describes broadly as secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with up to life in prison for offenders. It came into force late last Tuesday, about an hour before the 23rd anniversary of China taking back control of the former British colony.

The Hong Kong government went further on Friday, declaring the popular protest slogan “Liberate Hong Kong! Revolution of our times” illegal. Public libraries have started to review books written by pro-democracy activists to see whether they violate the new law. Hong Kong and Beijing authorities insist the city retains a “high degree of autonomy” but critics say the law effectively brings Hong Kong under the control of China’s Communist Party and violates China’s promise to safeguard Hong Kong’s freedom for 50 years after the 1997 handover. Some businesses told local media they had been visited by the police who warned them that pro-democracy decorations were against the new law.

Read more …

Which side of The Great Firewall do you want to be on?

TikTok Says It Will Exit Hong Kong Market Within Days (R.)

TikTok will exit the Hong Kong market within days, a spokesman told Reuters late on Monday, as other technology companies including Facebook suspend processing government requests for user data in the region. The short form video app owned by China-based ByteDance has made the decision to exit the region following China’s establishment of a sweeping new national security law for the semi-autonomous city. “In light of recent events, we’ve decided to stop operations of the TikTok app in Hong Kong,” a TikTok spokesman said in response to a Reuters question about its commitment to the market. The company, now run by former Walt Disney Co executive Kevin Mayer, has said in the past that the app’s user data is not stored in China.


TikTok has also said previously that it would not comply with any requests made by the Chinese government to censor content or for access to TikTok’s user data, nor has it ever been asked to do so. The Hong Kong region is a small, loss-making market for the company, one source familiar with the matter said. Last August, TikTok reported it had attracted 150,000 users in Hong Kong. Globally, TikTok has been downloaded more than 2 billion times through the Apple and Google app stores after the first quarter this year, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower. The source said the move was made because it was not clear if Hong Kong would now fall entirely under Beijing’s jurisdiction in light of the new law.

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Easy pickings.

China Slams US As It Joins Global Arms Trade Treaty At UN (R.)

China on Monday joined a global arms trade treaty spurned by the United States, taking a swipe at U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration by accusing it of bullying, unilateralism and undermining efforts to combat global challenges. China’s U.N. ambassador, Zhang Jun, said he had deposited China’s instrument of accession to the treaty, which regulates a $70 billion global cross-border trade in conventional arms and seeks to keep weapons out of the hands of human rights abusers. China, which announced its plans in September, becomes the 107th party to the pact, approved by the U.N. General Assembly in 2013. Then-U.S. President Barack Obama signed it, but it was opposed by the National Rifle Association and never ratified by the U.S. Senate.


Trump said in April last year that he intended to revoke the status of the United States as a signatory. In July 2019, the United States told U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that Washington did not intend to become a party to the treaty and that it had no legal obligations from its 2013 signature. Without naming the United States, but amid escalating tensions between Beijing and Washington, Zhang said in a statement that a “certain country … walked away from international commitments, and launched acts of unilateralism and bullying.” [..] China was the fifth-largest global arms exporter between 2014 and 2018, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, although China itself does not publish figures for how many arms it exports.

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A comment on Twitter about an article in German in Handelsblatt:

”Deutsche Telekom has doubled down on Huawei even as concerns rose, including discussions w/Chinese firm about how to get around US sanctions & “tactical” announcements to get T-Mobile/Sprint deal in US approved..”

US Restrictions Drove Deutsche Telekom And Huawei Closer Together (Pol.eu)

Global telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom strengthened its strategic partnership with Huawei last year despite growing defiance toward the dominant Chinese 5G vendor, documents reviewed by POLITICO show. The internal company records describe how Deutsche Telekom and Huawei agreed on a deal in mid-2019 that said the Chinese supplier would take measures to avoid supply chain disruption caused by U.S. measures, as well as cover the costs of potential damages and delays. The deal was struck just weeks before the U.S. administration imposed restrictions on businesses dealing with the Chinese firm in May 2019 — a milestone for Washington’s efforts to push back against Huawei’s dominance on 5G equipment.

It laid the groundwork for a partnership between the two companies for the early rollout of 5G networks in Europe, despite national lawmakers’ efforts in key markets like Germany, the Netherlands and Poland to reduce the use of Chinese equipment. In the months after the deal, the companies underlined mutual commitments to treat each other in preferential ways. Deutsche Telekom executives described Huawei repeatedly as a “strategic partner” that is “key for our 5G plans,” according to the internal documents. On Huawei’s end, Deutsche Telekom was described as a “preferred customer” for its 5G equipment. Deutsche Telekom has repeatedly declined in the past to disclose how much of its networks consist of Huawei equipment.

But in its internal communication, it has likened the scenario of not being able to use Huawei in its broader 5G rollout to “armageddon,” a recent report in German paper Handelsblatt showed. [..] At the core of the mutual agreement is a commitment by Huawei to shoulder the burdens and costs of the U.S. restrictions that have bogged down the Chinese vendor in the past year. “This pledge by Huawei to pay for any disruption adds to that incentive to stick with Huawei,” said Thorsten Benner, director of the Berlin-based Global Public Policy Institute, calling it a “care-free package” offered to Deutsche Telekom.

Read more …

Targeting China once more?!

US To Force Out Foreign Students Taking Classes Fully Online (R.)

Foreign students must leave the United States if their school’s classes this fall will be taught completely online or transfer to another school with in-person instruction, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency announced on Monday. It was not immediately clear how many student visa holders would be affected by the move, but foreign students are a key source of revenue for many U.S. universities as they often pay full tuition. ICE said it would not allow holders of student visas to remain in the country if their school was fully online for the fall. Those students must transfer or leave the country, or they potentially face deportation proceedings, according to the announcement.


Colleges and universities have begun to announce plans for the fall 2020 semester amid the continued coronavirus pandemic. Harvard University on Monday announced it would conduct course instruction online for the 2020-2021 academic year. The ICE guidance applies to holders of F-1 and M-1 visas, which are for academic and vocational students. The State Department issued 388,839 F visas and 9,518 M visas in fiscal 2019, according to the agency’s data. The guidance does not affect students taking classes in person. It also does not affect F-1 students taking a partial online course-load, as long as their university certifies the student’s instruction is not completely digital. M-1 vocational program students and F-1 English language training program students will not be allowed to take any classes online.

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Pretty amazing story. But scary too.

South Korean COVID-19 patient Recovering After Double Lung Transplant (R.)

After a record 112 days on a specialised life-support system, a South Korean COVID-19 patient is recovering from double lung transplant surgery, doctors say, in only the ninth such procedure worldwide since the coronavirus outbreak began. The 50-year-old woman was diagnosed with the disease and hospitalised in late February and then spent 16 weeks on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) support, which involves circulating a patient’s blood through a machine that adds oxygen to red blood cells. That’s the longest that any COVID-19 patient in the world has spent on ECMO support, her doctors said.

Various drugs such as the anti-malarial hydroxychloroquine, the HIV treatment Kaletra and steroids failed to stop her pulmonary fibrosis – scarring in the lungs – from worsening, said Dr Park Sung-hoon, professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Hallym University Sacred Heart Hospital. That left few options other than a lung transplant. “The probability of success in lung transplants on ECMO patients is 50%, and fortunately, our patient was well prepared before the surgery when we found the donor,” said Dr Kim Hyoung-soo, director of the hospital’s ECMO programme, who was in charge of the surgery.

The patient declined to be identified or interviewed. The doctors who conducted the eight-hour surgery described her destroyed lungs as hard like rock. She had an acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) when she came to hospital, Park said, and could not live without the ECMO machine’s help. ECMO is typically used on patients who need more help than ventilators can provide, and who are considered to have a 90% chance of dying. Half of patients recover in two to three weeks on ECMO, and a lung transplant is considered for those who don’t, Kim said.

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Stay home.

Hospitalizations Jump 50% In California As Coronavirus Infections Soar (R.)

New coronavirus cases soared in California over the July Fourth weekend, stressing some hospital systems and leading to the temporary closure of the state capitol building in Sacramento for deep cleaning, officials said on Monday. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has increased by 50% over the past two weeks to about 5,800, Governor Gavin Newsom said at a briefing. About a third of those hospitalized were in Los Angeles County, state and local records showed, with about 630 confirmed and suspected coronavirus patients requiring intensive care. And 25% of the hospitalizations in the county in July were among patients aged 18 to 40, health officials said, as new cases increasingly hit a younger population that may have been lax about safety precautions in recent weeks.


Farther north, nearly 1,400 inmates at San Quentin State Prison have been sickened by the virus, putting pressure on hospitals in Marin County, where the facility is located, Newsom said. All told, 271,684 Californians have tested positive for the virus, including 11,529 in the past 24 hours, state records show. About 6,300 have died. Determined to slow the spread of the disease over the holiday weekend, state alcohol regulators visited nearly 6,000 bars and restaurants to make sure they were complying with new rules banning indoor dining and closing bars that do not serve food, Newsom said.

Read more …

Turns out the 2nd wave concerns lockdowns.

Six Week Lockdown For Melbourne As Record 191 New Cases Reported (Conv.)

The Victorian government will lock down all metropolitan Melbourne for six weeks from Wednesday night, as a new wave of the coronavirus takes hold in the city. The lockdown will also cover the Mitchell Shire, north of Melbourne, which includes the towns of Broadford, Seymour, Kilmore, Tallarook, Pyalong and Wallan. Under the restrictions, people will only be able to leave their home to shop for essential goods and services, for care and compassionate reasons, exercise, and for work and study if it cannot be conducted from home. The dramatic action comes as the Victoria-NSW border closes on Tuesday night, amid some chaos in Albury-Wodonga, and follows the lockdown of suburbs in 12 Melbourne postcode areas, and the “lock in” of 3,000 residents in nine community housing towers.

Read more …

Brazilian media reports he tested positive.

Brazil’s Bolsonaro Says Lungs ‘Clean’ After Coronavirus Test (R.)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said on Monday he had undergone another test for the novel coronavirus and his lungs were “clean,” after local media reported he had symptoms associated with the COVID-19 respiratory disease. Bolsonaro has repeatedly played down the impact of the virus, even as Brazil has suffered one of the world’s worst outbreaks, with more than 1.6 million confirmed cases and 65,000 related deaths, according to official data on Monday. CNN Brasil and newspaper Estado de S.Paulo reported that he had symptoms of the disease, such as a fever. Bolsonaro told supporters outside the presidential palace that he had just visited the hospital and been tested.


“I can’t get very close,” he said in comments recorded by Foco do Brasil, a pro-government YouTube channel. “I came from the hospital. I underwent a lung scan. The lung’s clean.” The president’s office said in a statement that the president is at his home and is “in good health.” [..] Over the weekend, Bolsonaro attended several events and was in close contact with the U.S. ambassador to Brazil during July 4 celebrations. The U.S. embassy in Brasilia said via Twitter that Todd Chapman, the ambassador, had lunch on July 4 with Bolsonaro, five ministers and Bolsonaro’s son, Eduardo, who is a federal congressman. The ambassador has no symptoms, but will undergo testing and is “taking precautions,” the embassy said.

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The Electoral College still exists because some people think it’s in their advantage.

US Supreme Court Curbs ‘Faithless Electors’ In Presidential Voting (R.)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to free “faithless electors” in the complex Electoral College system that decides the outcome of presidential elections from state laws that force them to support the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote. The justices unanimously rejected the idea that electors, who act on behalf of a state in the Electoral College vote that occurs weeks after voters go the polls, can exercise discretion in the candidate they back. The decision erased a potential complicating factor in the Electoral College as President Donald Trump seeks re-election on Nov. 3 against Democratic challenger Joe Biden. The court sided with Washington state and Colorado, which had imposed penalties on several “faithless electors” – so named because they defied pledges in 2016 to vote for the winner of their states’ popular vote, Democrat Hillary Clinton.


Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the ruling “reaffirmed the fundamental principle that the vote of the people should matter in choosing the president.” State officials have said faithless electors threaten the integrity of American democracy by subverting the will of the electorate and opening the door to corruption. The plaintiffs had argued that the Constitution requires them to exercise independent judgment to prevent unfit candidates from taking office. “The Constitution’s text and the nation’s history both support allowing a state to enforce an elector’s pledge to support his party’s nominee – and the state voters’ choice – for President,” liberal Justice Elena Kagan wrote on behalf of the court.

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Only in America.

California Short on Firefighters as Prison “Slaves” Under Lockdown (MPN)

It is the height of California’s dangerous forest fire season. But despite blazes currently raging, the state’s fire department is dangerously understaffed. That is because many firefighters today are not the burly full time professionals of another era, but underpaid convict laborers risking their lives for pennies. Almost 40 percent of California’s firefighters are prisoners. But the state’s penitentiaries are themselves ablaze with COVID-19 outbreaks, leading to widespread lockdowns in what has become a routine for American’s dealing with competing crises. Jails have been among the deadliest hotspots for transmission of the coronavirus. At the notorious San Quentin State Prison just north of San Francisco, there are nearly 1,400 active cases.

Meanwhile, the state has announced the deaths from COVID-19 of 16 inmates at the California Institute for Men in Chino, San Bernardino County. In response to the crisis, prison authorities have enacted strict lockdowns, including at CCC Susanville, the home of the wildfire training program, where there are 224 confirmed active cases of the virus. This is severely hampering the fight against wildfires. Approximately 3,100 inmates work with the fire department tackling blazes, around 2,200 in the front line, and 900 in support roles. Only those with the least serious convictions are considered. Prisoners are paid between $2.90 and $5.12 per day (less than the average income of a sweatshop laborer in Nicaragua), plus $1 per hour of hazard pay during active emergency situations like the deadly fires that engulfed the state late last year.

They work alongside full-time firefighters making an average of $91,000 per year before overtime pay and bonuses but tend to do the harder, less desirable, or more dangerous tasks, leading to multiple deaths in recent years. This has led to widespread condemnation of the practice as akin to “modern slavery,” especially because inmates are effectively barred from even applying to the fire department once their sentences are over. In order to become a firefighter, an emergency medical technician license is required, something that is all but impossible to achieve with a criminal record. Despite this, prisoners still “volunteer” as the work is far more fulfilling than the alternative: more time locked up.

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“Eric Dupond-Moretti has been appointed as French Justice Minister. Earlier this year, he launched a campaign to grant the Australian asylum in France.”

Assange Lawyer Named French Justice Minister (AAP)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s lawyer Eric Dupond-Moretti has been appointed as France’s new justice minister. Dupond-Moretti, a prominent criminal defence lawyer, was elevated to the ministry by incoming Prime Minister Jean Castex on Monday. The 55-year-old is known for a his record number of acquittals and led a push by European lawyers for French President Emmanuel Macron to grant asylum to Assange in February. “We consider the situation is sufficiently serious that our duty is to talk about it,” Dupond-Moretti said about Assange’s case at the time.


The Frenchman has said the case against the Australian is unfair, citing Assange’s poor health and alleged violations of his rights while in jail in London Dupond-Moretti’s team also warned of “consequences for all journalists” if Assange is extradited and jailed in the US. French members of Assange’s legal team said they had been working on a “concrete demand” for Macron to grant Assange asylum in France, where he has children. It’s unclear whether Dupond-Moretti will now use his position to grant the Australian asylum.

Read more …

 

 

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Jun 162020
 


Gustave Dore Dante and the Angel of the Church before the Door of Purgatory 1868

 

Biden Appears Likely To Pick Kamala Harris As VP (Mcleod)
Gaslighted by the Ruling Class (Chris Hedges)
New Zealand Ends Covid-Free Run With Two Cases From UK (G.)
China Reports 40 New Coronavirus Cases In Mainland, 27 In Beijing (R.)
Virus-Hit Beijing Tightens Outbound Travel; Shanghai Demands Quarantine (R.)
FDA Warns Against Combination Of HCQ And Remdesivir (R.)
FDA Revokes Emergency Use Status For HCQ To Treat COVID19 (R.)
Fed Says It Is Going To Start Buying Individual Corporate Bonds (CNBC)
Fed Launches Long-Awaited Main Street Lending Program (R.)
Hong Kong Chief Says Opponents Of Security Law Are “Enemy Of The People” (R.)
Disorders Now and To Come (Kunstler)
Even At 50% Attendance, It’s An Economic Disaster (Y!)

 

 

First: there will be no Debt Rattle tomorrow, Wednesday June 17, or any other articles, because I’m going to try to fly to Athens. The entire game plan, the conditions etc., has kept on changing all the time, but it looks like it might happen.

What I understand at this point is that I will be tested at the airport upon arrival and then sent to a hotel for the night awaiting test results. Then if I test negative I’m free to go, the 1 week mandatory quarantine was scrapped two days ago. If I test positive there’s a 2 week quarantine. That would probably also apply if anyone else on the plane tests positive.

With all the extra safety measures and stuff at airports and planes, something tells me it’ll be a long day tomorrow.

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 124,600.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is + 124,778 cases.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 20,722
• Brazil + 23,674
• Russia + 8,248
• India + 10,243
• Pakistan + 5,248
• Chile + 5,143

 

 

Cases 8,141,389 (+ 124,778 from yesterday’s 8,017,241)

Deaths 439,705 (+ 3,581 from yesterday’s 436,124)

 

 

 

 

I ike the slogan for Yaneer Bar-Yam’s EndCoronavirus.org:

THERE’S NO SENSE IN BEING PRECISE WHEN YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.
John von Neumann (1903 – 1957)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

The game plan would be clear enough: Kamala Harris is black and aggressive, tough on crime, and her role will be to stir unrest among African-Americans, get them out on the streets, seen as THE new issue with which to defeat Trump, now that RussiaRussia and impeachment were such abject failures.

But but: Kamala Harris was about the most unpopular candidate running in the Dem prelimiaries, and because of that, one of the first to bow out. How does that not matter?

It sounds convincing though, almost like a done deal: Bookmakers agree, putting Harris’ chances at around 50%. No other candidate [..] has a better than one in ten chance.

Still, reading things like this can’t help to make me think: they don’t really want to win.

Biden Appears Likely To Pick Kamala Harris As VP (Mcleod)

Amid an anti-police movement that has swept the country, the Democratic Party is choosing to run on a “tough on crime” ticket for November. A new Reuters exclusive reports that California senator and former prosecutor Kamala Harris is the clear favorite for the job of vice-president in a Biden White House. Bookmakers agree, putting Harris’ chances at around 50 percent. No other candidate, according to betting analyst Oddsmaker, has a better than one in ten chance. The nationwide protests, sparked by the police killing of George Floyd on May 25, have been increasingly led by Black Lives Matter, and the calls to defund or dismantle the entire policing system are growing louder. In response, more than 30 states mobilized the National Guard to quash the unrest.

A recent poll found that 74 percent of the country, including 87 percent of Democrats, support the protests, with two-thirds backing Black Lives Matter. Despite this, Biden is moving towards choosing a running mate that is most famous in activist circles for her conservative, “lock them up” stance when it comes to crime. As District Attorney of San Francisco, Harris strongly opposed marijuana legalization. Under her jurisdiction, arrests and convictions for the drug increased, as did the percentage of black people arrested for its possession. Yet during her unsuccessful run for the Democratic nomination last year, she laughed and joked about illegally using marijuana herself.

During the Democratic debates, she was also accused by Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of blocking evidence that would have freed an innocent man from a death sentence. Harris was also a vocal supporter of the controversial three strikes law that sent repeat offenders to prison for life. When running for Attorney General, her position was to the right of her Republican opponent. Nevertheless, many in the business world appear very excited about the potential pick. “She understands the moment,” claimed Marc Lasry, Chairman of the Avenue Capital Group and a member of Biden’s national finance committee, “They want someone who will galvanize people. She seems to be that person.”

It seems unlikely, however, that either Biden or Harris will galvanize protestors demanding racial justice. Biden’s 1994 Crime Bill imposed the three strikes rule, leading to a great increase in the number of people in prison. Between 1994 and 1998, the total number of people in U.S. prisons rose by 19 percent and continued climbing for a decade longer. Biden himself began his political career by opposing racial desegregation and bussing, something that Harris grilled him on in the Democratic debates. “There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day. That little girl was me,” she said directly to him.

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The rulinng class in this case is Joe Biden.

Gaslighted by the Ruling Class (Chris Hedges)

In 1994, then Senator Biden pushed through the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act. It was supported by the Congressional Black Caucus, evidence of the growing disconnect between black political elites and those they should protect. The caucus has, in the face of the current crisis, once again called for the tired and toothless reforms that got us into this mess. “Black elected officials have become adept at mobilizing the tropes of Black identity without any of its political content,” notes Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor in the New York Times.

The bill authorized $30.2 billion over six years for police and prisons. Biden boasted that he “added back into the Federal statutes over 50 death penalties — 50 circumstances in which, if a person is convicted of a crime at a Federal level, they are eligible for the death penalty.” The bill, he bragged, authorized “over 70 increased — 70, seven zero — 70 increased penalties in new offenses covering violent crimes, drug trafficking, and gun crimes.” It also established the Community Oriented Policing Services or COPS Program that has handed more than $14 billion to state and local governments, most of the money used to hire more police. COPS also provided $1 billion to place police in schools, accelerating the criminalization of children.

The 1994 bill more than doubled the prison population. The United States now has 25 percent of the world’s prison population, although we are 4 percent of the world’s population. Half of the 2.3 million people in our prisons have never been charged with physically harming another person and 94 percent never had a jury trial, coerced to plea out in our dysfunctional judicial system. Biden proudly said in 1994 he represented a new Democratic Party that was tough on law and order.

“Let me define the liberal wing of the Democratic Party,” he said at the time. “The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is now for 60 new death penalties. That is what is in this bill. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party has 70 enhanced penalties, and my friend from California, Senator Diane Feinstein, outlined every one of them. I gave her a list today. She asked what is in there to every one of them. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party is for 100,000 cops. The liberal wing of the democratic Party is for 125,000 new State prison cells.” There is only one way to defeat these forces of occupation and the ruling elites they protect. It is not through voting. It will come from the streets, where tens of thousands of courageous men and women, facing arrest, indiscriminate police violence, economic despair and the threat of Covid-19, are fighting for not only an end to racism, but freedom.

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No cases for 24 days. Then they allow two UK women in for compassionate reasons. These women then go into a 2-week Isolation but remain untested for 9 days, until one of them gets sick.

Gov’t comment: “The women had “done everything right”. I’m starting to think New Zealand’s success story was based on pure luck.

New Zealand Ends Covid-Free Run With Two Cases From UK (G.)

New Zealand has recorded its first new cases of coronavirus for 24 days after two women who arrived in the country from Britain were found to be infected. The pair were released early from government quarantine and permitted to drive from the city of Auckland to Wellington, the capital – nearly 650km away – before being diagnosed, health officials said. Their trip was an approved exemption from the mandatory isolation period for new arrivals to the country in order to visit a dying parent. The women had “done everything right” and had not put other members of the public at risk, said Ashley Bloomfield, New Zealand’s director-general of health, on Tuesday.

After both women tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday, one reported that in hindsight she had been experiencing symptoms, but had attributed them to a pre-existing medical condition. The pair marked New Zealand’s first new cases of Covid-19 for more than three weeks, and were diagnosed one week after the last known case in the country had recovered. The discovery of the new cases came one week after all domestic restrictions on the country were lifted, with Bloomfield warning at the time that more cases of the virus would inevitably arise as people infected with it crossed the border. The women – one aged in her 30s and the other in her 40s – had arrived in Auckland on a flight from the UK via Brisbane, Australia, on 7 June, Bloomfield said.

All new arrivals to the country – only New Zealanders, their families, and essential workers are currently permitted to cross the border – are required to spend two weeks in managed isolation at a hotel. But six days after the women arrived, Bloomfield said they travelled from Auckland to Wellington “in a private vehicle” after they were granted a compassionate exemption to do so and made a safety plan with officials. They had not been tested for Covid-19 at the time. The pair had made the drive of approximately eight hours without refuelling their vehicle or disembarking for any reason, including to use public toilets, he said. “They had no contact with anybody else during that trip,” added Bloomfield. He was “not nervous” that the women had infected anyone else, adding that they would now remain in self-isolation with a relative in Wellington.

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Given how fast it spread in the past 2-3 days, it’s obvious the disease had been present for a 1 or 2 weeks.

China Reports 40 New Coronavirus Cases In Mainland, 27 In Beijing (R.)

Mainland China reported 40 new confirmed coronavirus cases for June 15, down from 49 a day earlier, the National Health Authority said on Monday. Twenty seven of the new cases were in Beijing, down from 36 a day earlier. The city is facing a new outbreak of the virus that is believed to have originated in a local grocery market. The NHC reported 8 new imported coronavirus cases in mainland China as of the end of June 15, down from 10 a day earlier. The commission also reported 6 new asymptomatic cases, down from 18 a day earlier. The total number of coronavirus cases in mainland China now stands at 83,221, and the death toll remains unchanged at 4,634. China does not count asymptomatic patients, who are infected with the virus but do not display symptoms, as confirmed cases.

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1 outbreak, 106 cases and counting.

Virus-Hit Beijing Tightens Outbound Travel; Shanghai Demands Quarantine (R.)

Beijing banned high-risk people from leaving the Chinese capital and halted some transportation services on Tuesday to stop the spread of a fresh coronavirus outbreak to other cities and provinces. China’s financial hub of Shanghai demanded some travellers from Beijing be quarantined for two weeks, as 27 new COVID-19 cases took the capital’s current outbreak to 106 since Thursday. That makes it the most serious flare-up in China since February, stoking fears of a second wave of the respiratory disease which emerged in the central city of Wuhan late last year and has now infected more than 8 million people worldwide. “Beijing will take the most resolute, decisive, and strict measures to contain the outbreak,” Xu Hejian, spokesman at the Beijing city government, said at a press conference on Tuesday.


The outbreak has been traced to the sprawling Xinfadi wholesale food centre in the southwest of Beijing where thousands of tonnes of vegetables, fruits and meat change hands each day. Beijing had designated 22 neighbourhoods as medium-risk areas as of Monday. Medium-risk areas are required to take stringent measures to block the potential entry of infection. All high-risk groups in Beijing, such as people who are close contacts of confirmed cases, are not allowed to leave the city, state media reported on Tuesday, citing municipal officials. All outbound taxi and car-hailing services have also been suspended. Some long-distance bus routes between Beijing and nearby Hebei and Shandong provinces were suspended.

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A non-clinical study that showed no evidence. It’s becoming a familiar theme.

FDA Warns Against Combination Of HCQ And Remdesivir (R.)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday issued a warning to healthcare providers against administering malaria drug hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine in combination with Gilead Sciences’ experimental COVID-19 drug, remdesivir. The agency, based on data from a recent non-clinical study, said the co-administration may result in reduced antiviral activity of remdesivir. It also added it had no such evidence from a clinical setting and that it continues to evaluate all data related to remdesivir.


The warning comes hours after the agency revoked the emergency use authorization of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, which has been touted by the U.S. President Donald Trump. FDA said it was no longer reasonable to believe that oral formulations of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine may be effective in treating the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Gilead’s drug had received emergency use authorization earlier in May as a potential treatment for COVID-19, clearing the way for broader use of the drug in more hospitals around the United States.

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We get not a word about zinc.

But we do get a rehash of France, Italy and Belgium halting HCQ use, without mentioning that they did so based on a fully discredited piece in the Lancet, which itself has issued apologies for it.

FDA Revokes Emergency Use Status For HCQ To Treat COVID19 (R.)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday revoked its emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, but quickly came under fire from President Donald Trump, who said only U.S. agencies have failed to grasp its benefit in fighting the coronavirus. Based on new evidence, the FDA said it was no longer reasonable to believe that hydroxychloroquine and the related drug chloroquine may be effective in treating the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. The FDA also warned that the drugs have been shown in lab studies to interfere with Gilead Sciences Inc’s antiviral drug remdesivir – the only medicine so far to show a benefit against COVID-19 in formal clinical trials.


The move comes after several studies of the decades-old malaria pills suggested they were not effective either as a treatment for or to prevent COVID-19. [..] Current U.S. government treatment guidelines do not recommend its use for COVID-19 patients outside of a clinical trial. France, Italy and Belgium late last month halted use of hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients. But the United States last month sent 2 million doses to Brazil, which has emerged as the pandemic’s latest epicenter. Hundreds of trials testing hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine as interventions for COVID-19 are still underway, including a U.S. study designed to show whether hydroxychloroquine in combination with azithromycin can prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

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Call it what you want: nationalization, socialism, communism.

Or simply: the strongest attempt to kill off price discovery so far.

Fed Says It Is Going To Start Buying Individual Corporate Bonds (CNBC)

The Federal Reserve is expanding its foray into corporate credit to now buy individual corporate bonds, on top of the exchange-traded funds it already is purchasing, the central bank announced Monday. As part of a continuing effort to support market functioning and ease credit conditions, the Fed added functions to its Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility. The program has the ability to buy up to $750 billion worth of corporate credit. Its March 23 initial announcement is largely considered a watershed moment for the financial markets, reeling from the coronavirus threat spread. “The decision to buy a broad portfolio of corporate bonds represents a shift to a more active strategy for the secondary market corporate credit facility, rather than the passive approach originally envisioned,” said Steven Friedman, senior macroeconomist at MacKay Shields.

The move comes less than a week after a downbeat Federal Open Market Committee view of the U.S. economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Moving to a more aggressive bond-buying strategy “may also reflect the Committee’s view that the economic recovery from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis will be an extended and challenging one, with credit markets requiring extensive support,” Friedman added. Under the latest guidelines, the Fed said it will buy, on the secondary market, individual bonds that have remaining maturities of five years or less. Those purchases will go along with the ETFs the Fed already has been buying, which are balanced toward investment-grade indexes but also include some junk bond funds that track debt which had been investment grade before the crisis but had been downgraded after.

The intent of the individual debt purchases will be “to create a corporate bond portfolio that is based on a broad, diversified market index of U.S. corporate bonds,” the Fed said in a news release. “This index is made up of all the bonds in the secondary market that have been issued by U.S. companies that satisfy the facility’s minimum rating, maximum maturity, and other criteria. This indexing approach will complement the facility’s current purchases of exchange-traded funds,” the statement said.

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The Fed doesn’t help Main Street. It simply sees an opportunity to help banks make more money at the expense of Main Street under the guise of a beneficial narrative.

Fed Launches Long-Awaited Main Street Lending Program (R.)

The Federal Reserve on Monday launched its Main Street Lending Program, the most complex program undertaken yet by the U.S. central bank to help keep the backbone of the economy from buckling under the strains of the coronavirus pandemic. The program, targeted at companies that were in good shape before the pandemic but may now need financing to retain workers and fund operations, will offer up to $600 billion in loans through participating financial institutions to U.S. businesses with up to 15,000 employees or with revenues up to $5 billion. Lenders must register using the lender portal here and are encouraged by the Fed to begin making program loans to for-profit firms “immediately.”

The central bank also sought feedback on Monday on a proposal to expand the program to allow nonprofit organizations to borrow under the program as well. Administered by the Boston Fed, the Main Street program for businesses aims to offer credit for those that may be too large to qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program, which targets businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Unlike the PPP, which was established by Congress in late March and offers loans that can be converted to grants if businesses meet certain requirements, the loans offered under the Fed program must be repaid.

It has taken nearly three months for the Fed to design, build and launch a program to extend credit to companies in all walks of the economy, a huge departure from its role as a lender to the banking sector. Fed officials adjusted the Main Street program twice by expanding the range of loan sizes to make it available to more companies that need help keeping workers on staff. It also extended the loans to five years, with payments deferred for the first two years, to better help businesses struggling because of the crisis. “Supporting small and mid-sized businesses so they are ready to reopen and rehire workers will help foster a broad-based economic recovery,” Fed Chair Jerome Powell said in a statement last week after the most recent adjustment.

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A.k.a. deplorables.

Hong Kong Chief Says Opponents Of Security Law Are “Enemy Of The People” (R.)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Tuesday urged opponents of Beijing’s plan to impose national security legislation in the financial hub to stop “smearing” the effort, saying those who did were “the enemy of the people”. Beijing last month announced a plan to introduce legislation in Hong Kong to tackle secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign interference and which could see Chinese security agencies set up bases in the city. Critics see the law as the most serious threat to a “one country, two systems” formula, agreed when the former British colony returned to Chinese rule in 1997, aimed at ensuring its freedoms and role as a global financial centre.

The Chinese government and Lam’ s Beijing-backed city administration say the law will not curtail freedoms but will target a small number of “troublemakers” and help bring stability after a year of anti-government protests. “I urge opponents who still use the usual tactics to demonize and smear the work to stop because by doing this they become the enemy of the Hong Kong people,” Lam said before a cabinet meeting, referring to the legislation. “The vast majority want to restore stability, and have safety, satisfaction and employment.” The government has mounted a campaign to rally public support for the legislation, with billboards, a booklet with questions and answers and a video of Lam defending the law “in the public interest”.

In the video, posted on the city government’s website, Lam decried a “terrorist threat” against a “traumatized” city, saying advocates of independence were “colluding with foreign forces” and undermining security. “Hong Kong has become a gaping hole in national security, and our city’s prosperity and stability are at risk,” said Lam as she stood flanked by the Chinese and Hong Kong flags, the first bigger than the second.

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“Have Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi appealed to their followers to end their violence? Maybe I missed that.”

Disorders Now and To Come (Kunstler)

Never in US history has there been a faction as dishonest as today’s Democratic Party or as habituated to the application of bad faith in political conflict. Their addiction to malicious hoaxes and engineered untruths knows no limits — and naturally so, since they are motivated primarily by dissolving all boundaries in policy, law, sexual relations, and personal conduct. They’ve been busy proving the past few weeks that they’re against the social contract as a basic proposition, exhorting for an end to law enforcement while inciting street violence, crimes against property, and murder.

Many voters are onto them, of course, so the Resistance is also determined to derail the 2020 elections by any means necessary, only starting with ballot fraud but surely escalating to new, innovative chicanes and disruptions. Their chosen candidate for president — that is, their putative “leader” — is an obvious empty vessel fronting for sinister forces in the background. They stuffed Joe Biden in a basement twelve weeks ago and have no intention of setting him loose on the landscape where he would reveal his unfitness with every breath he takes and every move he makes. The news media especially, in its bad faith role, pretends not to notice, but its minions are too self-important to realize that there are other ways for citizens to learn what is happening out there.

Events are rushing ahead at a pace you can barely follow. Summer begins in another week and why, now, would you expect any lessening in civil disorders? A heat wave is upon us here in the crowded eastern US at the end of this week and that’s always an invitation to raucous behavior on the steamy streets. Have Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi appealed to their followers to end their violence? Maybe I missed that. They are hinting at a return to Covid-19 lockdown conditions — but you can forget about anyone following that when the temperature tops ninety degrees (and certainly the Dem leadership knows that).

The devastation of small business, careers, livelihoods, households, and futures continues. Take measures to protect your own future, as far as possible. Put your energy into imagining how you can be helpful to other people, and perhaps incidentally earn their trust and their assistance in mutually beneficial ways. Think about finding a plausible place to live where the rule of law perseveres. Think about how you might fit into an economy run at a smaller scale. Start taking action on that thinking. There’s potential for a lot of people to get hurt in the disorders-to-come. There’s plenty you can do to not be one of them.

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The problem with all mass events.

Even At 50% Attendance, It’s An Economic Disaster (Y!)

College football is twelve Saturdays away. It may be hard to believe amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but Division I colleges and universities across the country began to bring their football players back to campus for workouts this month. Now a number of schools have reported that some of their players tested positive for COVID-19: Auburn had three players test positive; University of Central Florida had three; Oklahoma State had five; Arkansas State had seven. That won’t stop the season from happening. The general attitude from schools is that the players who tested positive will self-isolate for two weeks, and the show will go on. The show must go on, because the money demands it.


“We are going to play football in the fall,” said the 76-year-old West Virginia University president Gordon Gee, “even if I have to suit up.” Gee said that a month ago, when the return of college football was still in question, since some universities were hesitant to commit to having classes in the fall. The California State University system, which includes football schools like San Diego State and Fresno State, announced it would start the fall with mostly online-only classes. The thinking at that time was that schools couldn’t have college football players come back if they didn’t have the rest of their students back on campus. There were also fears that the college football season might get pushed to spring 2021, which would mean NFL-bound stars like Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields would almost surely opt not to play.

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Jun 042020
 


G. G. Bain On beach near Casino, Asbury Park 1911

 

Malaria Drug Touted By Trump Fails To Prevent COVID19 In High Profile Study (R.)
Big HCQ Study the Media Went Nuts Over Turned Out to Be a Scam (RS)
Concerns Mount Over Study Attacking Hydroxychloroquine (JTN)
WHO Set To Resume Hydroxychloroquine Trial In Battle Against COVID19 (R.)
Brazil Sets Record For Daily Coronavirus Deaths, Beating Tuesday (R.)
US Airlines Gain Final Approval To Drop Services To 75 Domestic Airports (R.)
Qantas To Boost Domestic Capacity To 15% Of Normal By End Of June (R.)
What Will it Take to Save the Airlines? (Horan)
Protest Disrupts Hong Kong Legislative Debate Over China Anthem Bill (R.)
HSBC Breaks Silence And Backs National Security Law For Hong Kong (SCMP)
Rosenstein Points Clear Finger At FBI (JTN)
Rosenstein: Trump Did Not Commit ‘A Crime That Warrants Prosecution’ (JTN)
With US In Crisis, Germany Reluctant To Be ‘Leader Of The Free World’ (SCMP)
Nation Feigns Surprise At Government Handout To Rich Homeowners (Chaser)

 

 

Worldometer puts global new cases in past 24 hrs at + 121,413. I counted under 80K yesterday, using their numbers.

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 20,578
• Brazil + 28,663
• Russia + 8,536
• India + 9,572
• Chile + 4,942
• Pakistan + 4,801

 

 

The UK had more COVID19 deaths yesterday than the 27 EU countries combined.

 

 

 

Cases 6,596,501 (+ 122,212 from Saturday’s 6,474,289)

Deaths 388,421 (+ 5,507 from Saturday’s 382,914)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

 

 

This just goes on. WIth one study fully discredited, they seamlessly switch to the next. This time HCQ doesn’t kill, but it’s “ineffective”. Ineffective in what? In preventing infection. Only, no-one ever said it would do that. HCQ and zinc combine to prevent the virus, once you are infected, from doing further and grave damage to your body.

That’s all. When used for malaria, the idea never was that HCQ could prevent infection either. Instead, it helps the body fight the pathogen.

Oh, and if you’re Reuters and you think that after all the articles about HCQ, you still must put “Malaria Drug Touted By Trump” in your headline, I’d say you have a very big bias issue.

Malaria Drug Touted By Trump Fails To Prevent COVID19 In High Profile Study (R.)

The malaria drug promoted by U.S. President Donald Trump as a treatment for COVID-19 was ineffective in preventing infection in people exposed to the coronavirus, according to a widely anticipated clinical trial released on Wednesday. The new trial found no serious side effects or heart problems from use of hydroxychloroquine. Vocal support from Trump kicked off a heated debate and raised expectations for the decades-old drug that could be a cheap and widely available tool in fighting the pandemic that has infected more than 6.4 million people and killed over 382,000 worldwide. In the first major study comparing hydroxychloroquine to a placebo to gauge its effect against the new coronavirus, University of Minnesota researchers tested 821 people who had recently been exposed to the virus or lived in a high-risk household.


It found 11.8% of subjects given hydroxychloroquine developed symptoms compatible with COVID-19, compared with 14.3% who got a placebo. That difference was not statistically significant, meaning the drug was no better than placebo. “Our data is pretty clear that for post exposure, this does not really work,” said Dr. David Boulware, the trial’s lead researcher and an infectious disease physician at the University of Minnesota. Several trials of the drug have been stopped over concerns about its safety for treating COVID-19 that were raised by health regulators and previous less rigorous studies. “I think both sides – one side who is saying ‘this is a dangerous drug’ and the other side that says ‘this works’ – neither is correct,” said Boulware.

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“How many people who might have been helped by the drug, if used properly early in the process, might be alive had countries and doctors not been so discouraged from using it?”

Big HCQ Study the Media Went Nuts Over Turned Out to Be a Scam (RS)

Hydroxychloroquine is back in the news today after a major study, which was widely touted by the media a few weeks ago, has turned out to be a scam. The study was also used to change coronavirus treatment policies by the World Health Organization. Now, we are learning that that the company that supposedly did the study, and has helped push others, is a front company of some kind. Further, the person who put the data together is not a scientist, but a science fiction author. The studies produced by this company were published by Lancet, a renowned medical journal, and used as evidence to attack Donald Trump with.

Lancet has now issued an “expression of concern,” demanding that the company provide details on their data and methodology. Given what’s already been revealed, you’d think they’d just disown the studies altogether, but I suspect they want to save face. While these studies being frauds is bad, what’s worse is that the media took their message far and wide, literally painting hydroxychloroquine as some kind of death sentence. How many people who might have been helped by the drug, if used properly early in the process, might be alive had countries and doctors not been so discouraged from using it? We may never know the answer to that, though the usual suspects continue to dig in behind their narrative.


This does provide some notion to how flawed the medical journal system is. Why would something like this be published and used to make life and death decisions when Lancet wasn’t even aware of their methodology? It seems rather insane on it’s face.

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Time to seriously investigate Surgisphere, who funds it?, and while you’re at it, look at how the Lancet dumped its own standards when it published this. The suggestion that a scifi writer and an adult content provider are behind Surgisphere are a bonus.

Concerns Mount Over Study Attacking Hydroxychloroquine (JTN)

Two major medical journals have issued alerts that recent scientific data regarding the drug hydroxychloroquine may have significant flaws, with the two journals claiming “substantive concerns” and “significant scientific questions” have been raised regarding the validity of the cited information. A study published on May 22 in the journal The Lancet by medical data analytics company Surgisphere determined that hydroxychloroquine — a drug repeatedly touted by President Trump as a possible viable treatment for the coronavirus — was “associated with an increased risk of in-hospital mortality” when given to COVID-19 patients. A total of 9,273 patients in the study received some form of hydroxychloroquine treatment. Patients given that drug, the study concluded, are also more likely to experience “de-novo ventricular arrhythmia,” a condition in which the heart beats irregularly.

Those conclusions so alarmed the World Health Organization that it announced at the end of last month that it would be pausing its own hydroxychloroquine trials “while the data is reviewed by the Data Safety Monitoring Board.” Barely a week after that announcement, serious questions are beginning to arise surrounding the study by Surgisphere. The World Health Organization has since resumed its hydroxychloroquine trials. The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine, meanwhile, have both signaled concerns over Surgisphere’s data and analytical methods. A breakdown of the alleged problems surrounding the Surgisphere study — as well as questions regarding the company itself — was published late last month by medical student James Todaro at his website “Medicine (Un)Censored,” an aggregator of COVID-19 news that heavily touts the purported benefits of hydroxychloroquine in treating the disease.


Todaro wrote on the website that the Surgisphere study had numerous data issues, including overcounting COVID-19 deaths on the Australian continent as well as the study’s claim that it included in its dataset nearly every single hospitalized COVID-19 patient in North America. The study also “reports patient data from Africa that requires sophisticated patient monitoring technology and electronic medical record systems,” factors Todaro clams are unlikely to be present in sufficiently high numbers in many African hospitals.

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The WHO is an empty facade.

WHO Set To Resume Hydroxychloroquine Trial In Battle Against COVID19 (R.)

The World Health Organization will resume its trial of hydroxychloroquine for potential use against the coronavirus, its chief said on Wednesday, after those running the study briefly stopped giving it to new patients over health concerns. The U.N. agency last month paused the part of its large study of treatments against COVID-19 in which newly enrolled patients were getting the anti-malarial drug to treat COVID-19 due to fears it increased death rates and irregular heartbeats. The study continued with other medicines. But the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said its experts had advised the continuation of all trials including hydroxychloroquine, whose highest-profile backer for use against the coronavirus is U.S. President Donald Trump.


“The executive group will communicate with the principal investigators in the trial about resuming the hydroxychloroquine arm of the trial,” Tedros told an online media briefing, referring to WHO’s initiative to hold clinical tests of potential COVID-19 treatments on some 3,500 patients in 35 countries. The WHO’s decision to suspend its trial prompted others to follow suit, including Sanofi, which said on May 29 it was suspending recruitment for its trials. A Sanofi spokesman said the company would review available information and run consultations in the coming days to reassess its position following the WHO’s latest decision on Wednesday. The WHO’s chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan, called for other trials of the drug to proceed. “We owe it to patients to have a definitive answer on whether or not a drug works,” she said, adding that safety monitoring should also continue.

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Hoe much longer for Bolsonaro?

Brazil Sets Record For Daily Coronavirus Deaths, Beating Tuesday (R.)

Brazil registered a record number of daily deaths from the coronavirus for the second consecutive day, according to Health Ministry data released on Wednesday. The nation recorded 1,349 new coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, and 28,633 additional confirmed cases, the data showed. Brazil has now registered 32,548 deaths and 584,016 total confirmed cases.

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As the country opens up, airlines cut flights. But of course.

US Airlines Gain Final Approval To Drop Services To 75 Domestic Airports (R.)

Fifteen U.S. airlines were granted final government approval on Wednesday to temporarily halt service to 75 domestic airports as travel demand has been crushed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Transportation Department said all airports would continue to be served by at least one air carrier. Despite some objections to a tentative list made public on May 22, the government did not make any changes.The U.S. airline industry has been awarded $25 billion in government payroll assistance grants to help weather the pandemic. While carriers must maintain minimum service levels to receive the assistance, many petitioned to stop service to airports with low passenger demand. The department has previously allowed some airlines to halt service to some airports and rejected other requests.


Both United Airlines and Delta Air Lines won approval to halt flights to 11 airports. Allegiant Air was allowed to halt service to six airports, while JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Frontier Airlines gained approval to stop flights to five airports each. U.S. air carriers have said they are collectively burning through more than $10 billion in cash a month as travel demand remains a fraction of prior levels. They have parked more than half of their planes and cut thousands of flights. Cities that Delta can halt service to include Aspen, Colorado; Bangor, Maine; Santa Barbara, California and Flint, Michigan. United can halt service to airports including Chattanooga, Tennessee; Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina as well as Key West, Florida.

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The 15% is a good indication of how long of a battle this will be.

Qantas To Boost Domestic Capacity To 15% Of Normal By End Of June (R.)

Australia’s Qantas Airways and Air New Zealand on Thursday outlined plans for significant boosts to domestic capacity as pandemic-related travel restrictions ease, sending their shares higher. Qantas said it would lift domestic capacity to 15% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of June, up from 5% now. The airline said more flights are likely in July depending on travel demand and further opening of state borders, with the ability to increase to up to 40% of pre-crisis capacity by the end of July. Air New Zealand said it would raise domestic capacity to 55% of normal levels during July and August, up from 20% after a strict nationwide lockdown was lifted in May.


Qantas shares were trading 5% higher at 0240 GMT, while Air New Zealand shares were up 4.8%. Australia and New Zealand have both reported few new COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. Qantas Chief Executive Alan Joyce said there was pent-up demand for domestic air travel. “We are already seeing a big increase in customers booking and planning flights in the weeks and months ahead,” he said in a statement.

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Hubert Horan has 40 years of experience in the management and regulation of transportation companies (primarily airlines). Horan currently has no financial links with any airlines or other industry participants

What Will it Take to Save the Airlines? (Horan)

Coronavirus has created the greatest challenge the airline industry has ever faced. For the large legacy carriers serving intercontinental markets, the threat is comparable to the meteor that caused massive climate change and drove dinosaurs into extinction. While the industry was clearly viable prior to coronavirus, it faced a number of serious competitive and financial issues that will impede efforts to deal with the impact of the coronavirus meteor. The industry requires major, painful restructuring. Baring staggering increases in taxpayer subsidies (beyond the $60 billion already pledged in the US), it is unclear how most (perhaps any) of these carriers survive under current ownership in anything like their current form. None of the needed changes are even being discussed within the industry at this point, and the processes needed to manage the needed restructuring do not currently exist.

Airline economics depend critically on extremely high capacity utilization. Small changes have huge profit leverage. US airlines filled 85% of their seats in 2019 (up from 58% when the industry was deregulated and 70% 20 years ago). Once an airline has committed to the costs of operating a given schedule, almost all of the lost revenue from a shortfall of passengers directly reduces the bottom line. Coronavirus-driven traffic losses have been vastly larger than anyone could have ever imagined. Traffic through TSA checkpoints in US airports was down 96% versus the year before in mid April and 88% in mid-May. While the industry had faced demand shocks in the past (9/11 in the US, various wars, the original SARS outbreak in Asia), none were global in scope, and none were seen as driving permanent declines in demand. Never before has flying on an airplane required accepting serious medical risk.


In a recent poll only 23% of US travelers thought flying on an airplane was safe. While no one knows what will happen, this analysis assumes that there is no widely available vaccine and no reliable way to prove individual immunity during 2020. Perhaps infection rates decline gradually and economic activity gradually increases. Perhaps there are new outbreaks and efforts to reopen the economy are put on hold. Perhaps economic activity declines seriously as companies realize that recent losses are unsustainable, and major new waves of layoffs and bankruptcies occur. But the idea of a rapid, “V-shaped” recovery to the January status quo seems wildly improbable.

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No Tiananmen square commemoration, but a vote over a bill that would criminalise disrespect of China’s national anthem. Happy days. [UPDATE: the law passed].

Protest Disrupts Hong Kong Legislative Debate Over China Anthem Bill (R.)

Police and firefighters entered Hong Kong’s legislature on Thursday after two pro-democracy lawmakers threw foul-smelling liquid to protest against China’s “murderous” crackdown by Chinese troops in and around Tiananmen Square 31 years ago. Lawmakers Eddie Chu and Ray Chan rushed to the front of the chamber during a debate over a controversial bill that would criminalise disrespect of China’s national anthem, splashing the reeking fluid as guards grappled with them. Police and firefighters later arrived on the scene. “A murderous state stinks forever. What we did today is to remind the world that we should never forgive the Chinese Communist Party for killing its own people 31 years ago,” Chu said later, before he and Chan were removed from the chamber.


A final vote on the bill is expected later on Thursday with people in Hong Kong set to commemorate the bloody 1989 crackdown by lighting candles across the city. For the first time, police have banned an annual vigil to mark the event that is usually held in downtown Victoria Park, citing the coronavirus outbreak. The disruption in the legislature came after pro-establishment lawmakers vetoed most amendments to the anthem bill proposed by democrats. If passed, the bill could punish those who insult the anthem with up to three years jail and/or fines of up to HK$50,000 ($6,450). It states that “all individuals and organisations” should respect and dignify the national anthem and play it and sing it on “appropriate occasions”.

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You know the oddest thing about this? HSBC backs a law without knowing what’s in it. Not only hasn’t it been released yet, it’s still being drafted.

This is the biggest bank in Europe. Maybe it should no longer be.

HSBC Breaks Silence And Backs National Security Law For Hong Kong (SCMP)

HSBC has broken its silence and offered its support for the national security law that Beijing is drafting for Hong Kong, days after a former city chief who is now a state leader criticised the banking giant for not making its stance on the legislation clear. It posted an article on HSBC China’s WeChat account on Wednesday, with the headline saying the group’s Asia-Pacific CEO had signed a petition supporting the new law. The article noted that the Hong Kong Association of Banks had already issued a statement saying the law would contribute to a stable business environment and raise investor confidence in the city.


“As a key member of the association, HSBC reiterates that under the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, it respects and supports all laws that stabilise Hong Kong’s social order and boost the economy to develop prosperously,” it said, referring to the framework under which Beijing governs the city. The HSBC group is headquartered in London. It is the biggest bank in Hong Kong and Europe and is dual-listed in the city and London. China’s top legislature, the National People’s Congress, announced on May 21 that its standing committee would draft a tailor-made national security law for Hong Kong. The law is likely to be passed by August, with Beijing identifying it as a necessity amid anti-government protest violence and perceived external interference. It aims to prevent, stop and punish secession, subversion of state power, terrorism and foreign interference in Hong Kong, but opposition politicians and critics warn it could be used to suppress dissent and erode long-standing freedoms.

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The Senate questioning is not the main dish. But it’s an okay starter. Let’s see them squirm and turn on each other.

Rosenstein Points Clear Finger At FBI (JTN)

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein made clear in his Senate testimony he is no Harry Truman or Janet Reno, two larger-than-life Washington figures from yesteryear who embraced the idea that no matter what went wrong on their watch the bucks stops at the top. During three-plus hours of uncomfortable interrogation by Republicans and Democrats alike, Rosenstein repeatedly tried to blame others – the FBI and its former deputy director Andrew McCabe often – for failures in a Russia probe he personally supervised. Rosenstein testified he would not have signed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant targeting Trump adviser Carter Page for a fourth time in summer 2017 if the FBI had just told him about exculpatory evidence.

He acknowledged the Robert Mueller special counsel probe went on for 18 more months after the FBI knew, by August 2017, that there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election. And he claimed the FBI kept him in the dark about the fact that its field agents had recommended closing down an investigation of Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn all the way back in January 2017. McCabe, the former deputy director and acting director of the FBI, “was not fully candid with me,” Rosenstein said in explaining how he could be so in the dark on so many critical Russia probe issues. Rosenstein’s performance before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday frustrated many of the committee’s members.


“He acted like he wasn’t responsible and, you know, that it was somebody else’s responsibility to verify these facts,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said on Fox News after the testimony. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, took Rosenstein to task during the middle of the hearing. “You came into a profoundly politicized world and yet, all of this was allowed to go forward under your leadership,” Cruz said. “That, unfortunately, leads to only two possible conclusions—either you were complicit in the wrongdoing, which I don’t believe was the case, or that your performance of your duties was grossly negligent.” Rosenstein could only muster this in response: “You always wish you could have done more.”

Read more …

Question is: did Rosenstein?

Rosenstein: Trump Did Not Commit ‘A Crime That Warrants Prosecution’ (JTN)

Former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on Wednesday appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee at an oversight hearing about the Crossfire Hurricane investigation and denied that he has ever suggested removing President Trump from office using the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “I did not suggest or hint at secretly recording President Trump,” Rosenstein also said during questioning from Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono. The Hawaiian senator blasted the hearing as a ploy to bolster President Trump’s “conspiracy theories and to help the president’s reelection” and said that it “wastes this committee’s time.”

Hirono asked Rosenstein if he concurred with Attorney General Barr’s statement in a letter to Congress, in which Barr wrote that, “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” “Did Attorney General Barr accurately present your view regarding the obstruction of justice?” Hirono asked.


“Senator I do not believe that the evidence collected by the special counsel warrants prosecution of the president, that is correct,” Rosenstein replied. The senator pressed the issue of the letter again and asked Rosenstein if he concurred “that there was no obstruction of justice involved?” Rosenstein responded to the senator, reiterating his previous response: “Yes, I do not believe that the president committed a crime that warrants prosecution. And that’s the issue that we review as prosecutors.”

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People read this as if it’s something serious. But the US hasn’t led the world in many decades. The leader of the free world doesn’t bomb Syria, Libya, Iraq.

With US In Crisis, Germany Reluctant To Be ‘Leader Of The Free World’ (SCMP)

Germans have long viewed the United States as a protector of human rights and democracy around the globe, the undisputed leader of the free world. But many have recoiled in horror at America’s chaos in the last week since the killing of black man George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, which US president Donald Trump threatened to end with military force. The demonstrations have resonated in Germany, a deeply pacifist nation for which military force is anathema. Thousands have protested in front of the US embassy in Berlin and elsewhere, as demonstrations against racism and US police brutality spread in other countries including Britain, France and Australia.

The eruption of violence across the United States, coupled with the disorder in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic there, has fed into angst in Berlin and other capitals that the United States has lost its way and could be inexorably abdicating its status as leader of the free world. That could create an ominous vacuum that neither Germany nor the European Union is equipped to handle or eager to fill. “Germany is not the leader of the free world,” Juergen Hardt, the head of foreign policy affairs in parliament for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, told South China Morning Post, flatly making clear that Europe’s leading nation has no such aspirations.


“There are certainly signs that America is losing the unity and virtues that long made it so strong,” the close Merkel ally and unabashed supporter of tight and trusted transatlantic relations added with a heavy heart. “The whole world always had the faith that America could resolve its issues in the end. You always had a sense that they’d figure it out at some point. That’s why there’s always been such enormous confidence in the United States. There are doubts growing about that now.”

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“The news has come as a great surprise to Liberal Minister Peter Dutton, who had completely forgotten he owned nine houses when he helped make the decision. ”

Nation Feigns Surprise At Government Handout To Rich Homeowners (Chaser)

The nation has put on its best surprised face today, upon learning that the Liberal government has chosen to give the next round of stimulus money to rich homeowners, in order to help them increase the values on their properties. “Wow never saw that coming,” sighed one Australian today. “I’ve always said the one industry that really needs propping up in this country is the housing market. Absolutely nobody there is getting rich off that already. Glad we could give those battlers a hand up.” The news has come as a great surprise to Liberal Minister Peter Dutton, who had completely forgotten he owned nine houses when he helped make the decision.


“Gosh, the government wants to give thousands of dollars to me, a struggling home owner?” blushed Dutton. “Why this is even better than that handout to child care owners a few months back, which coincidentally also benefited me. Good golly, what are the odds.” Asked what they had planned for the thousands of entertainment industry and tourism industry workers who were currently now entering their third month of unemployment, the government said they already had plans underway to retrain them as real estate agents, to help boost the country’s much more needy housing industry.

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.

 

 

 

 

History says, Don’t hope
On this side of the grave,
But then, once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme.

– Seamus Heaney

 

 

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.

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@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?”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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May 282020
 


Edward Hopper Railroad crossing 1926

 

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

 

 

The coronavirus death toll in Europe crossed 175,000

New cases past 24 hours in:

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

New deaths past 24 hours in:

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

India Invites Scepticism As It Sticks By Hydroxychloroquine (SCMP)

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

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

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

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Every government’s nightmare.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

China Approves Hong Kong Draft Security Law (NBC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Like either gives a damn about the UN.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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More reason to bail out people, not companies.

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

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


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

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Not everyone in Australia wants a travel bubble, apparently.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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How many consecutive investigations is that now?

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

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

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

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

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Openly lying to a court.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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What the heck, let’s do some gossip.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minneapolis Ablaze Amid Looting (ZH)

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


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

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