May 272020
 


G. G. Bain Metropolitan Opera baritone Giuseppe De Luca, New York 1920

 

Despite The Hype, Gilead’s Remdesivir Will Do Nothing To End The Coronavirus Pandemic (Lerner)
WHO Expects Hydroxychloroquine Safety Findings By Mid-June (R.)
Antibody Tests For COVID19 Wrong Up To Half The Time – CDC (CNN)
Coronavirus Cases Are On The Rise In 20 US States (R.) .
Coronavirus Uses Same Strategy As HIV To Dodge Immune Response (SCMP)
China’s Top Virus Warrior ‘Shocked’ By US Coronavirus Death Toll (SCMP)
Neglected Residents, Rotten Food, Cockroaches Found At Canada Care Homes (G.)
Cuomo Gave Immunity to Nursing-Home Execs After Big Campaign Donations (Sirota)
How Hong Kong Avoided A Single Coronavirus Death In Care Homes (Ind.)
Coronavirus Lockdowns Prompt Raft Of Lawsuits Against States (USAT)
Twitter Is Completely Stifling Free Speech – Trump (JTN)
Japan Eyes Fresh $1.1 Trillion Stimulus To Combat Pandemic Pain (R.)
Macron Wants France To Be Europe’s Top Clean Car Producer (R.)
The FBI Documents That Put Barack Obama In The Obamagate Narrative (Solomon)

 

 

• 100,000 deaths broached in the US.

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 19,582
• Brazil + 17,838
• Russia + 8,915
• UK 4,938
• India + 6,604
• Peru + 5,772

 

 

 

 

 

We’re back to “normal” numbers: about 100,000 new cases and 4,500 new deaths.

Cases 5,709,518 (+ 99,864 from yesterday’s 5,609,654)

Deaths 352,750 (+ 4,428 from yesterday’s 348,322)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close- Note: see bottom 2: Pakistan passed Belgium in cases, but has 5 deaths per million pop. vs Belgium’s 806.

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Capitalism at its peak.

Despite The Hype, Gilead’s Remdesivir Will Do Nothing To End The Coronavirus Pandemic (Lerner)

Desperation for the limited supply of remdesivir is so great that Virginia will hold a lottery to determine which of the almost 1,500 severely ill patients in the state will be able to get its several hundred donated doses of the drug. In Minnesota, state officials have come up with an action plan to allocate their supply of the Covid-19 treatment, which calls for designating “triage officers” who will randomly choose among equally eligible patients. And in Alabama, physicians on a coronavirus task force set up by the governor will determine which patients get remdesivir. Some hospitals there will receive just a single course of treatment. Still, Alabama’s state health officer, Dr. Scott Harris, recently offered his thanks to Gilead, the drug’s manufacturer, which donated some 940,000 vials of the drug to the federal government that are being distributed by state health departments.

“Although the total supply of remdesivir is limited, we are grateful that hospitalized COVID-19 patients with severe disease in Alabama can receive this potentially lifesaving medication,” said Harris. It is amid these feelings of scarcity and indebtedness that Gilead is setting the price for its antiviral medicine. The company, which has already arranged for distribution of remdesivir in 127 countries, is expected to begin selling it commercially as soon as June. And while a 10-day course of the drug, which was developed as a potential Ebola treatment with at least $79 million in U.S. government funding, costs only about $10 to produce, according to an estimate by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, its market price is expected to be several hundred times that amount.

Still, price gouging isn’t what has many scientists upset about remdesivir. It’s the fact that the coronavirus drug that has boosted hopes and sent Gilead’s stock price (and according to some analysts, the entire stock market) soaring doesn’t seem to do much for coronavirus patients. said William Haseltine, a scientist who has spent decades studying viruses and helped lead the U.S. government response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. “It is comparable to Tamiflu and maybe not even as good,” Haseltine added, referring to another antiviral drug that has been available by prescription for 20 years and is expected to be sold over the counter in the coming months.

Haseltine, who founded the divisions of biochemical pharmacology and human retrovirology at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, pointed out that Gilead hasn’t released data showing remdesivir’s effect on viral load in people with Covid-19. Meanwhile, the only available information on how the drug affects the amount of the coronavirus in patients, a Chinese study of the drug published in The Lancet, showed that the drug did not lower the viral load. “That’s why I call it the fuzzy-wuzzy drug,” said Haseltine. “When the Chinese tried to find the antiviral effect, it wasn’t there.” Instead, the excitement about remdesivir is based largely on a study sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that showed people taking the drug had a faster recovery than those who didn’t take it: 11 days on average compared to 15 for those taking a placebo.

An article published on May 22 in the New England Journal of Medicine showed mild improvement in hospitalized patients that took remdesivir, though the drug didn’t appear to be of any help to the sickest patients, who needed to receive high-flow oxygen through ventilators or other means. Nor did the drug significantly improve a patient’s chance of surviving Covid-19. Nevertheless, at an April 29 Oval Office press conference with President Donald Trump, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci declared that preliminary results from that trial proved that “a drug can block this virus.” Since then, remdesivir has been positioned as our savior and Gilead as its benevolent dispenser.

While some patients and their families have spent the past few weeks frantically trying to procure remdesivir, another Covid-19 treatment has been quietly been shown to be more effective. Although neither option appears to be the much-needed cure for Covid-19, a three-drug regimen offered a greater reduction in the time it took patients to recover than remdesivir did. People who took the combination of interferon beta-1b, lopinavir-ritonavir, and ribavirin got better in seven days as opposed to 12 days for those who didn’t take it. Critically, the treatment has another leg up on Gilead’s: It clearly reduced the amount of the coronavirus in patients who took it, according to a study published in The Lancet on May 8.

Yet so far there has been no stampede of patients demanding the new regimen or lotteries to mete out the doses, which may be due at least in part to the fact that the treatment hasn’t been the subject of a major marketing campaign. It’s worth noting that each of the three drugs in the new combination is generic, or no longer under patent, which means that no company stands to profit significantly from its use.

Read more …

We’d want to see all the other research from the past 65 years as well, please.

WHO Expects Hydroxychloroquine Safety Findings By Mid-June (R.)

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday promised a swift review of data on hydroxychloroquine, probably by mid-June, after safety concerns prompted the group to suspend the malaria drug’s use in a large trial on COVID-19 patients. U.S. President Donald Trump and others have pushed hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, but the WHO on Monday called time after the British journal The Lancet reported patients getting hydroxychloroquine had increased death rates and irregular heartbeats. “A final decision on the harm, benefit or lack of benefit of hydroxychloroquine will be made once the evidence has been reviewed,” the body said. “It is expected by mid-June.”


Those already in a 17-country study, called Solidarity, of thousands of patients who have started hydroxychloroquine can finish their treatment, the WHO said. Newly enrolled patients will get other treatments being evaluated, including Gilead Science’s remdesivir and AbbVie’s Kaletra/Aluvia. Separate hydroxychloroquine trials, including a 440-patient U.S. study by Swiss drugmaker Novartis, are continuing enrollment. Novartis and rival Sanofi have pledged donations of tens of millions of doses of the drug, also used in rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, for COVID-19. Novartis said The Lancet study, while covering 100,000 people, was “observational” and could not demonstrate a causal link between hydroxychloroquine and side effects. “We need randomised, controlled clinical trials to clearly understand efficacy and safety,” a Novartis spokesman said.

Read more …

You can’t do accurate testing for antibodies if too small a segment of a population is infected.

Antibody Tests For COVID19 Wrong Up To Half The Time – CDC (CNN)

Antibody tests used to determine if people have been infected in the past with Covid-19 might be wrong up to half the time, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in new guidance posted on its website. Antibody tests, often called serologic tests, look for evidence of an immune response to infection. “Antibodies in some persons can be detected within the first week of illness onset,” the CDC says. They are not accurate enough to use to make important policy decisions, the CDC said. “Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about grouping persons residing in or being admitted to congregate settings, such as schools, dormitories, or correctional facilities,” the CDC says.

“Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace.” Health officials or health care providers who are using antibody tests need to use the most accurate test they can find and might need to test people twice, the CDC said in the new guidance. “In most of the country, including areas that have been heavily impacted, the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibody is expected to be low, ranging from less than 5% to 25%, so that testing at this point might result in relatively more false positive results and fewer false-negative results,” the CDC said.

[..] The CDC explains why testing can be wrong so often. A lot has to do with how common the virus is in the population being tested. “For example, in a population where the prevalence is 5%, a test with 90% sensitivity and 95% specificity will yield a positive predictive value of 49%. In other words, less than half of those testing positive will truly have antibodies,” the CDC said. “Alternatively, the same test in a population with an antibody prevalence exceeding 52% will yield a positive predictive greater than 95%, meaning that less than one in 20 people testing positive will have a false positive test result.”

Read more …

While just 15 have seen cases fall for 14 days.

Coronavirus Cases Are On The Rise In 20 US States (R.) .

Twenty U.S. states reported an increase in new cases of COVID-19 for the week ended May 24, up from 13 states in the prior week, as the death toll from the novel coronavirus approaches 100,000, according to a Reuters analysis. Alabama had the biggest weekly increase at 28%, Missouri’s new cases rose 27% and North Carolina’s rose 26%, according to the analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak. New cases in Georgia, one of the first states to reopen, rose 21% after two weeks of declines. The state attributed the increase to a backlog of test results and more testing. Nationally, new cases of COVID-19 fell 0.8% for the week ended May 24, compared with a decline of 8% in the prior week.


All 50 states have now at least partially reopened, raising fears among some health officials of a second wave of outbreaks. The increase in cases could also be due to more testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended states wait for their daily number of new COVID-19 cases to fall for 14 days before easing social distancing restrictions. As of May 24, 15 states had met that criteria, up from 13 in the prior week, according to the Reuters analysis. Washington state, where the U.S. outbreak started, has the longest streak with cases falling for eight weeks in a row, followed by Hawaii at seven weeks and Pennsylvania and New York at six weeks.

Read more …

Viruses don’t use strategies. That’s just another absurdity provoked by all the war comparisons. How can you be at war with something that’s not even considered alive? You might as well declare war on a rock or a mountain, or the sky, the ocean.

The vast majority of people alive in the west today have no first hand experience of war, and neither do the politicians who speak to them in terms of war. What makes them feel comfortable with the language, then? Is it Hollywood?

Coronavirus Uses Same Strategy As HIV To Dodge Immune Response (SCMP)

The novel coronavirus uses the same strategy to evade attack from the human immune system as HIV, according to a new study by Chinese scientists. Both viruses remove marker molecules on the surface of an infected cell that are used by the immune system to identify invaders, the researchers said in a non-peer reviewed paper posted on preprint website bioRxiv.org on Sunday. They warned that this commonality could mean Sars-CoV-2, the clinical name for the virus, could be around for some time, like HIV. Virologist Zhang Hui and a team from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou also said their discovery added weight to clinical observations that the coronavirus was showing “some characteristics of viruses causing chronic infection”.


Their research involved collecting killer T cells from five patients who had recently recovered from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Those immune cells are generated by people after they are infected with Sars-CoV-2 – their job is to find and destroy the virus. But the killer T cells used in the study were not effective at eliminating the virus in infected cells. When the scientists took a closer look they found that a molecule known as major histocompatibility complex, or MHC, was missing. The molecule is an identification tag usually present in the membrane of a healthy cell, or in sick cells infected by other coronaviruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or Sars. It changes with infections, alerting the immune system whether a cell is healthy or infected by a virus.

Coronavirus spread would dramatically drop if 80% of a population wore masks – AI researcher

Read more …

Zhong Nanshan again, who said in late January that the epidemic in Wuhan would be over in 10 days. That was spoken as a Beijing mouthpiece, and that’s what he still is.

China’s Top Virus Warrior ‘Shocked’ By US Coronavirus Death Toll (SCMP)

The US death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has shocked the scientist leading the fight against the disease in China, with the respiratory disease expert attributing the magnitude of American fatalities to a failure by policymakers to heed scientists’ advice. More than 1.66 million Covid-19 infections have been reported in the US, with 98,226 people dying from the disease – the highest number of deaths for any country. In all, 5.49 million people have been infected globally and more than 340,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. “Seventeen years ago, the Sars epidemic was handled so well in the US, completely differently from the situation now,” said Zhong Nanshan, director of the National Clinical Research Centre for Respiratory Disease and the leader of a team of scientists advising the government.

“You can say that [the US] carried out very extensive screening or more screening than other countries … But the heavy casualties still shocked me,” he said in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post. Zhong said his counterparts in the US told him that the American system was ill-prepared for the epidemic, despite the country’s high level of medical care, equipment and facilities. He said this was similar to the early response in Wuhan – the central Chinese city where the outbreak was first identified – when many medical personnel were infected and died. But the main problem in the US was the failure to listen to medical experts, he said. As a result, US President Donald Trump “underestimated the disease’s infectious power as well as its harmful nature. He thought it was a big flu.

US officials also did not listen to medical experts’ views concerning the reopening of the economy, he said. “Opening the economy quickly can be risky. I think they should follow the rules of science and reopen the economy step by step,” Zhong said. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has cautioned against businesses reopening too soon because of the threat of a second wave of infections. Fauci, who is the government’s top medical specialist, has said repeatedly that “the virus will decide when the country is to open back up”.

Read more …

Do explain, Justin. Tell us how you do not see elderly people as disposable. See, there’s no way you never saw a single complaint before the virus came.

Neglected Residents, Rotten Food, Cockroaches Found At Canada Care Homes (G.)

Canadian troops deployed to long-term care homes overwhelmed by coronavirus outbreaks found neglected and malnourished residents, rotten food and insect infestations, and a blatant disregard for critical safety protocol, according to a bombshell report from the country’s armed forces. Military medics were dispatched to long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario in late April, with aim of blunting Covid-19 outbreaks among vulnerable populations. Soldiers deployed to five of Ontario’s worst-hit care homes encountered rotten food, cockroaches and residents in soiled diapers, according to the report published on Tuesday. At one facility, residents had not been bathed in weeks. At another, staff made “derogatory or inappropriate comments directed at residents’”.

Neglect of resident hygiene and health, often leading to infection, was documented at all facilities. At one point, “patients [were] observed crying for help with staff not responding for 30 mins to over two hours,” the report said. [..] Long-term care homes in Canada, many of which are privately run, have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, with residents making up nearly eight out of 10 Covid-19-related deaths across the country. The damage has been felt most acutely in Ontario and Quebec, which have the vast majority of the country’s coronavirus cases and fatalities. An estimated 225 people died at the five homes where the military was assisting in Ontario.

The report chronicled widespread “burnout” among staff, a number of whom hadn’t seen family in weeks. The military also found numerous examples of staff showing little knowledge of how to properly wear personal protective equipment when dealing with coronavirus cases. [..] Meanwhile, the Canadian military said today that some 36 members working in long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec have become sick with Covid-19.

Read more …

Peak America.

Cuomo Gave Immunity to Nursing-Home Execs After Big Campaign Donations (Sirota)

In 2018, hospitals, nursing homes, and their lobbyists gave $2.3 million to New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s political apparatus. Now health care executives are getting immunity for their deadly negligence during the coronavirus pandemic. Critics say New York’s liability shield is linked to higher nursing-home death rates during the pandemic.

As Governor Andrew Cuomo faced a spirited challenge in his bid to win New York’s 2018 Democratic primary, his political apparatus got a last-minute boost: a powerful health care industry group suddenly poured more than $1 million into a Democratic committee backing his campaign. Less than two years after that flood of cash from the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), Cuomo signed legislation last month quietly shielding hospital and nursing-home executives from the threat of lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. The provision, inserted into an annual budget bill by Cuomo’s aides, created one of the nation’s most explicit immunity protections for health care industry officials, according to legal experts.

Critics say Cuomo removed a key deterrent against nursing home and hospital corporations cutting corners in ways that jeopardize lives. As those critics now try to repeal the provision during this final week of Albany’s legislative session, they assert that data prove such immunity is correlating to higher nursing-home death rates during the pandemic — both in New York and in other states enacting similar immunity policies. New York has become one of the globe’s major pandemic hot spots — and the epicenter of the state’s outbreak has been nursing homes, where more than five thousand New Yorkers have died, according to Associated Press data.

Those deaths have occurred as Cuomo’s critics say he has taken a hands-off approach to regulating the health care industry interests that helped bankroll his election campaign. In March, Cuomo’s administration issued an order that allowed nursing homes to readmit sick patients without testing them for COVID-19. Amid allegations of undercounted casualties, the governor also pushed back against pressure to have state regulators more stringently record and report death rates in nursing homes. And then came Cuomo’s annual budget — which included a little-noticed passage shielding corporate officials who run New York hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities from liability for COVID-related deaths and injuries.

Read more …

You think we’ll listen now, listen more, listen better? I predict yes, we will. For two whole weeks.

How Hong Kong Avoided A Single Coronavirus Death In Care Homes (Ind.)

Coronavirus has ravaged care homes across Europe and America, killing tens of thousands, but in Hong Kong, not a single resident in care has even contracted Covid-19. Its apparent success offers vital lessons – ones that the city learned the hard way almost two decades ago. In Sweden and Belgium, care home residents make up roughly half of each country’s Covid-19 deaths. In Spain alone, almost 18,000 nursing home residents have died from the virus, El País estimates. And in England and Wales, more than 90 per cent of those who have died from the coronavirus have been people over the age of 65, including 12,500 care home residents, according to the Office for National Statistics.

No one would have been surprised if Hong Kong suffered from a major Covid-19 epidemic. It shares a border with mainland China, which is crossed by hundreds of thousands of people every day. Most of the city’s tourists come from the mainland, accounting for tens of millions of visitors every year. In early February, Hong Kong had its first death from coronavirus – only the second death outside of mainland China. But to this day, there have been only four Covid-19 deaths in Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million. This is not the first time Hong Kong has faced a novel coronavirus. In 2003, six years after the former British colony was handed back to China, it became the epicentre of the SARS outbreak: 299 people died, accounting for almost 40 per cent of the global death toll. The disease had first appeared the year before in Guangdong, the Chinese province that borders Hong Kong.

As is the case with Covid-19, the elderly were the most susceptible to SARS, and similar to the UK, about a fifth of Hong Kong’s population is over the age of 65. By the epidemic’s end, 54 nursing homes had had cases of SARS. Two nursing home workers died. It was not a trauma the industry would quickly forget. “The nightmare of SARS is still on everyone’s minds, so [care homes] were really afraid,” Prof Terry Lum, the head of the department of social work and social administration at the University of Hong Kong, told The Independent. “We had learned a very painful lesson,” he continued, “and since then the nursing homes had been preparing for another outbreak.” Seventeen years after SARS, Hong Kong’s nursing homes were taking no chances.

On 21 January, an infected tourist from Wuhan crossed the border into Hong Kong, becoming the city’s first case. Four days later, the government announced that it would be enacting the emergency phase of its infectious disease protocol. Because of Hong Kong’s collective memory of SARS, individuals, organisations and businesses did not need to wait for instructions from the government. Nursing homes enacted their own measures, Prof Lum recounted. They began limiting the length of workers’ leaves, in order to prevent them from taking weekend trips to mainland China and possibly bringing the virus back. When nursing homes were instructed to take the temperature of all visitors, they took it one step further: they banned visitors altogether, effectively closing off their residents from the outside world by the end of January. There were still only 13 confirmed cases in Hong Kong at the time.

Read more …

Send your kid to law school. That’s where the money is.

Coronavirus Lockdowns Prompt Raft Of Lawsuits Against States (USAT)

Camping in Scarborough, Maine. Gathering for church in Chincoteague, Virginia. Or just grabbing a burger at Poopy’s Pub and Grub in Savanna, Illinois. Each of these activities became the subject of a federal lawsuit, as residents, businesses and even lawmakers challenged state shutdown orders designed to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. The cases test where the lines are safely drawn, as governors balance protecting public health against individual liberties. Governors say strict rules save lives, but critics who are forced to stay home or shutter their businesses called the steps “draconian” or compared them to “house arrest.” The lawsuits come as President Donald Trump has become increasingly vocal in criticism of state restrictions, encouraged protests at state capitols and urged churches to reopen despite restrictions.

More than 1,300 state and federal lawsuits have been filed over COVID-19, including 240 dealing with civil rights, as of Friday, according to Hunton Andrews Kurth, a law firm tracking the cases. USA TODAY reviewed more than 80 lawsuits that often dealt with conditions at prisons and nursing homes, voting rights, and university tuition. USA TODAY focused on legal challenges to restrictions such as stay-at-home orders and business closures, and also whether abortion or church services can be limited during the pandemic, to gauge which orders were being challenged and how states were responding. The eventual rulings could redefine the balance between state police powers and constitutional rights that advocates contend are too important to sacrifice even temporarily.

Abortions are time sensitive. Buyers want guns during times of crisis. And parishioners seek solace at church. Other lawsuits test whether rules go beyond legislative authorities by requiring people to isolate themselves, stay apart in public and wear masks. “I tend to think there will be some new law made only because there are new scenarios that courts haven’t encountered before,” said Polly Price, a law professor at Emory University. “What they’re balancing is the scientific basis for a particular measure and the state’s need for it, in the face of uncertainty, to protect the public health.”

Read more …

CNN and the WaPo as fact-checkers. Oh boy.

No matter what else happens, Twitter just volunteered to go from being a platform to being a publisher. That has consequences.

Twitter Is Completely Stifling Free Speech – Trump (JTN)

President Trump on Tuesday night lambasted Twitter because the company slapped a message on two of his tweets that linked to a page disputing the accuracy of his posts. “@Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post,” the president tweeted. “Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he added in another tweet. Twitter labeled two of Trump’s tweets in which he warned that mail-in voting is ripe for fraud—he specifically warned that absue would be committed in California. Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this month signed an executive order for every registered voter to receive mail-in ballots for the November 2020 general election.

“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one,” President Trump tweeted in a two-tweet series. “That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!” Twitter plastered a message on both of Trump’s tweets that says “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” That message links to a page that pushes back against the president’s assertions.

“On Tuesday, President Trump made a series of claims about potential voter fraud after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an effort to expand mail-in voting in California during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the page says. “These claims are unsubstantiated, according to CNN, Washington Post and others. Experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud.”

Read more …

Something tells me it will never be enough.

Japan Eyes Fresh $1.1 Trillion Stimulus To Combat Pandemic Pain (R.)

Japan will compile a fresh stimulus package worth $1.1 trillion that will include a sizable amount of direct spending to cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic, a draft of the budget obtained by Reuters showed on Wednesday. The stimulus, which will be funded partly by a second extra budget, will be on top of a $1.1 trillion package already rolled out last month, putting the total amount Japan spends to combat the virus fallout at 234 trillion yen – roughly 40% of Japan’s GDP. The government’s 117 trillion yen ($1.1 trillion) in fresh stimulus, to be compiled on Wednesday, will include 33 trillion yen in direct spending, the draft showed.


To fund the costs, Japan will issue an additional 31.9 trillion yen in government bonds under the second supplementary budget for the current fiscal year ending in March 2021, according to the draft. “We must protect business and employment by any means in the face of the tough road ahead. We must also take all necessary measures to prepare for another wave of epidemic,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a meeting with ruling party lawmakers on Wednesday. Government officials have said the new package will include steps such as an increased medical spending, aid to firms struggling to pay rent, support for students who lost part-time jobs, and more subsidies to companies hit by slumping sales. In the second extra budget, the government will also set aside 10 trillion yen in reserves that can be tapped for emergency spending, the draft showed.

Read more …

Macron comes close to giving away cars for free to save the planet.

Macron Wants France To Be Europe’s Top Clean Car Producer (R.)

President Emmanuel Macron announced an 8 billion euro ($8.8 billion) plan on Tuesday to make France the top producer of clean vehicles in Europe and urged French carmakers to make vehicles in their own country. French car plants are only just starting to rev up production after the coronavirus lockdown, which hit the auto sector badly, and Macron wants to accelerate the transition to electric cars to help revive the industry. “We need a motivational goal: make France Europe’s top producer of clean vehicles by bringing output (up) to more than one million electric and hybrid cars per year over the next five years,” Macron told a news conference. To achieve that goal, he said France would increase the state bonus for consumers buying electric cars to €7,000 euros ($7,690) from €6,000.


But to help dealerships sell the 400,000 vehicles left unsold because of the lockdown, Macron said people buying a traditional car would also receive a €3,000 bonus under a scheme that would apply to three-quarters of households. “Our fellow citizens need to buy more vehicles, and in particular clean ones. Not in two, five or 10 years – now,” Macron said following a visit to a Valeo car parts factory in northern France. No car model currently produced in France should be manufactured abroad, he said. Renault, which produces its Zoe electric model in France, had pledged to make a future Renault-Nissan electric engine in France and not in Asia, as initially envisaged, he said.

Read more …

It’ll be an extreme election season. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.

The FBI Documents That Put Barack Obama In The Obamagate Narrative (Solomon)

Just 17 days before President Trump took office in January 2017, then-FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok texted bureau lawyer Lisa Page, his mistress, to express concern about sharing sensitive Russia probe evidence with the departing Obama White House. Strzok had just engaged in a conversation with his boss, then-FBI Assistant Director William Priestap, about evidence from the investigation of incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, codenamed Crossfire Razor, or “CR” for short. The evidence in question were so-called “tech cuts” from intercepted conversations between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, according to the texts and interviews with officials familiar with the conversations.

[..] The text messages, which were never released to the public by the FBI but were provided to this reporter in September 2018, have taken on much more significance to both federal and congressional investigators in recent weeks as the Justice Department has requested that Flynn’s conviction be thrown out and his charges of lying to the FBI about Kislyak dismissed. U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen of Missouri (special prosecutor for DOJ), the FBI inspection division, three Senate committees and House Republicans are all investigating the handling of Flynn’s case and whether any crimes were committed or political influence exerted.

The investigators are trying to determine whether Obama’s well-known disdain for Flynn, a career military intelligence officer, influenced the decision by the FBI leadership to reject its own agent’s recommendation to shut down a probe of Flynn in January 2017 and instead pursue an interview where agents might catch him in a lie. They also want to know whether the conversation about the Presidential Daily Briefings involved Flynn and “reporting” the FBI had gathered by early January 2017 showing the incoming national security adviser was neither a counterintelligence nor a criminal threat. “The evidence connecting President Obama to the Flynn operation is getting stronger,” one investigator with direct knowledge told me.

“The bureau knew it did not have evidence to justify that Flynn was either a criminal or counterintelligence threat and should have shut the case down. But the perception that Obama and his team would not be happy with that outcome may have driven the FBI to keep the probe open without justification and to pivot to an interview that left some agents worried involved entrapment or a perjury trap.” The investigator said more interviews will need to be done to determine exactly what role Obama’s perception of Flynn played in the FBI’s decision making. Recently declassified evidence show a total of 39 outgoing Obama administration officials sought to unmask Flynn’s name in intelligence interviews between Election Day 2016 and Inauguration Day 2017, signaling a keen interest in Flynn’s overseas calls.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1265258033392820228

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And a bit of Dominic Cummings at the end.

If Boris loses the Daily Mail in this fashion, what can he do?

 

 

 

 

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May 262020
 


G. G. Bain Temporary footpath, Manhattan Bridge 1908

 

8,000 Additional Deaths In Mexican Capital As Coronavirus Rages – Study (R.)
Brazil Surpasses US In Daily Coronavirus Death Toll (R.)
WHO Halts Hydroxychloroquine Trial For Coronavirus Amid Safety Fears (G.)
Tail Risk Of Contagious Diseases – Cirillo/Taleb (Nature)
44% of Republicans Think Bill Gates Will Use Vaccine To Implant Microchip (BI)
China’s Coronavirus Campaign Offers Glimpse Into Surveillance System (R.)
Chinese City To Score And Rank Its Residents Based On Health, Lifestyle (CNN)
PBOC Lowers RRR For China Financial Institutions To 9.4% (Xinhua)
Hong Kong Homebuyers Walk Away, Forfeit $1.5 Million In Deposits (SCMP)
Why Joe Biden Can Do No Wrong (Turley)
The Unspooling (Kunstler)
Bill Barr Calls Action of Mueller and Rosenstein “Abhorrent” (CTH)
Michael Moore Film Planet of the Humans Removed From YouTube (G.)
Time for a Selective Debt Jubilee (Willem Buiter)
Debt, Liberty and “Acts of God” (Michael Hudson)

 

New cases in:

• US + 19,790
• Brazil + 11,456
• Russia + 8,946
• India + 6,589
• Chile + 4,895

 

 

 

 

Note: only 1,300 deaths worldwide in 24 hours?!

Cases 5,609,654 (+ 88,909 from yesterday’s 5,520,745)

Deaths 348,322 (+ 1,300 from yesterday’s 347,022)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Few certainties, but important research, that every country and city should do.

8,000 Additional Deaths In Mexican Capital As Coronavirus Rages – Study (R.)

Mexico’s capital registered 8,072 more deaths in the first five months this year than the average from the same period over the past four years, an analysis by independent researchers showed on Monday, suggesting a possible surge due to the coronavirus. Health officials have reported 1,655 deaths from the virus in Mexico City, out of 7,394 deaths nationwide. They have also acknowledged that the true death toll is higher, but difficult to estimate due to a low testing rate. Software developer Mario Romero Zavala and economic consultant Laurianne Despeghel, whose analysis was published in Mexican magazine Nexos, tallied 39,173 fatalities this year through May 20 by extracting data from Mexico City’s online database of death certificates.


Over the prior four years, they calculated just 31,101 deaths on average during the same period, using the same database. Mexico City’s official count of deaths from the coronavirus represents just over 20% of the study’s “excess mortality” – a term used by epidemiologists to estimate the increase in deaths, versus normal conditions, attributable to a public health crisis. Excess mortality is difficult to calculate in Mexico because the most recent data on fatalities from the national statistics institute is from 2018. Despeghel said the analysis was only a first step to measuring the virus’ impact. “While studying excess deaths allows us to identify a higher mortality rate during the COVID-19 crisis, it is not sufficient to attribute it directly or solely to the virus,” she said.

Read more …

But the US will come roaring back. Note that Sweden is in second place after the UK over the past week.

Brazil Surpasses US In Daily Coronavirus Death Toll (R.)

Brazil daily coronavirus deaths were higher than fatalities in the United States for the first time over the last 24 hours, according to the country’s Health Ministry. Brazil registered 807 deaths over the last 24 hours, whereas 620 died in the United States. Brazil has the second worst outbreak in the world, with 374,898 cases, behind the U.S. with 1.637 million cases. Total deaths in the U.S. has reached 97,971, according to Reuters tally compared with Brazil at 23,473.

Read more …

I kid you not, they call it a “solidarity trial”. Do keep providing it for malaria and lupus, but, because of ONE article in the Lancet, not for COVID19.

WHO Halts Hydroxychloroquine Trial For Coronavirus Amid Safety Fears (G.)

The World Health Organization has said it will temporarily drop hydroxychloroquine — the malaria drug Donald Trump said he is taking as a precaution — from its global study into experimental coronavirus treatments after safety concerns. The WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in light of a paper published last week in the Lancet that showed people taking hydroxychloroquine were at higher risk of death and heart problems than those who were not, it would pause the hydroxychloroquine arm of its solidarity global clinical trial. “The executive group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the solidarity trial while the safety data is reviewed by the data safety monitoring board,” Tedros said on Monday. “The other arms of the trial are continuing,”

He said the concern related only to the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for Covid-19, adding that the drugs were accepted treatments for people with malaria and auto-immune diseases. Other treatments in the WHO’s solidarity trial, including the experimental drug remdesivir and an HIV combination therapy, are still being pursued. Hydroxychloroquine has been licensed for use in the US since the mid-1950s and is listed by the WHO as an essential medicine. There are numerous trials under way of the two drugs against coronavirus but neither is a proven treatment. The US National Institutes of Health is also running a clinical trial to establish whether the drug, administered with the antibiotic azithromycin, can prevent hospital admissions and death from Covid-19.

A controversial French doctor who has promoted the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for coronavirus said on Monday he stood by his belief the drugs could help patients recover. He also rejected the Lancet study of the records of 96,000 patients across hundreds of hospitals. “How can a messy study done with ‘big data’ change what we see?”, Prof Didier Raoult asked in a video posted on the website of his infectious diseases hospital in Marseille. “Here we have had 4,000 people go through our hospital, you don’t think I’m going to change because there are people who do ‘big data’, which is a kind of completely delusional fantasy,” he said.

Read more …

Every decision maker should take an in-depth crash course in risk.

Tail Risk Of Contagious Diseases – Cirillo/Taleb (Nature)

The central point we wish to convey is the following: the more fat-tailed a statistical distribution, the more the ‘tail wags the dog’. That is to say, more statistical information resides in the extremes and less in the ‘bulk’—the events of high frequency—where it becomes almost noise. Under fat tails, the law of large numbers works slowly, and moments—even when they exist—may become uninformative and unreliable5. All this makes EVT the most effective and robust approach for risk management purposes, even with relatively small datasets like ours. The presence of a fat right tail in the distribution of pandemic fatalities has the following policy implications, useful in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.


First, it should be evident that it is not appropriate to compare fatalities from multiplicative infectious diseases (fat-tailed, like a Pareto distribution) to those from car accidents, heart attacks or falls from ladders (thin-tailed, like a Gaussian). This remains a common (and costly) error in policy making, and in both the decision sciences and the journalistic literature. Some research papers even criticise the wider public’s ‘paranoia’ with respect to pandemics, not appreciating that such a paranoia is merely responsible (and realistic) risk management in front of potentially destructive events. The main problem is that those articles—often relied upon for policy making—consistently use the wrong thin-tailed distributions, underestimating tail risk, so that every conservative or preventative reaction is bound to be considered an overreaction.

Read more …

Have you seen Bill Gates lately? That’s the guy that all these tough -formerly- Americans are so afraid of.

Are these people still using Microsoft software, further enriching Gates?

44% of Republicans Think Bill Gates Will Use Vaccine To Implant Microchip (BI)

A new survey by Yahoo News and YouGov has found that 44% of Republicans believe that Bill Gates will use the COVID-19 vaccination to implant a location-tracking microchip into the vaccine recipient, a conspiracy theory that has gained traction among fringe groups and conservative pundits. The survey also found that 26% of Republicans do not believe the false microchip vaccine narrative, while 31% remained undecided on the topic. Half of the people surveyed who use Fox News as their main source of TV news also believe the debunked theory. However, the poll also noted that 19% of Democrats, 24% of Independents, and 15% of people who use MSNBC as their source of TV news also believe the microchipping myth.


For the survey, YouGov conducted an online interview of a “nationally representative” group of 1,640 US adults who were a part of YouGov’s opt-in panel between May 20 and 21. There is about a 3% margin of error. An earlier Yahoo News and YouGov poll also found that only 55% of Americans surveyed would want the coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available. The rest were either unsure (26%) or did not plan on receiving the vaccine (19%). President Donald Trump has said that he is “very confident” that a coronavirus vaccine will be ready by the end of the year, while experts have predicted that the vaccine development could take up to 12 to 18 months to prepare.

Read more …

You’re right, maybe this is all Bill Gates too. Maybe he bought the Forbidden City.

China’s Coronavirus Campaign Offers Glimpse Into Surveillance System (R.)

The coronavirus outbreak in China has given unprecedented glimpses into how an extensive system of surveillance cameras works, as monitoring stations are rebranded epidemic “war rooms” helping to check people’s movements and stifle the disease. China is trying to build one of the world’s most sophisticated surveillance technology networks, with hundreds of millions of cameras in public places and increasing use of techniques such as smartphone monitoring and facial recognition. This year, cities and villages across the country have used the system for what the government has labelled “an all-out people’s war on coronavirus”.

While authorities have primarily used mobile location data and ID-linked tracing apps to flag people coming back from abroad for quarantine, the camera surveillance system has played a crucial role, according to officials, state media and residents. The network has been used to trace the contacts of people confirmed as infected with the virus, and to punish businesses and individuals flouting restrictions. “This is a war situation,” said a civil servant surnamed Wang in Tianjin city, who was involved in tracing thousands of people linked to a coronavirus cluster at a department store. “We must adopt war-time thinking.” Despite the hi-tech ambitions of the system, it is heavily dependent on a lot of people watching footage on screens. Known as “grid members”, they sit in monitoring rooms or squint over smart-phone feeds from the networks of cameras.

“This type of surveillance is far more human driven than it is tech driven, said James Leibold, associate Professor at Australia’s La Trobe University, who researched similar systems in China’s far-west Xinjiang. State media, officials and local governments have given accounts of the system in action in the campaign against the coronavirus. In Donghan village in Hubei, the province where the coronavirus emerged late last year, grid member Liu Ganhe saw six villagers gathering without masks, so he called the authorities. “Village cadres rushed to the scene to disperse the crowd and educate the people,” media said, praising the “wartime restrictions” the system was able to enforce.

Read more …

There are really people who could see this happening in the west?!

Chinese City To Score And Rank Its Residents Based On Health, Lifestyle (CNN)

Imagine a smartphone app that has access to your medical records and assigns you a daily score based on your preconditions, recent checkups and lifestyle habits — how much you’ve drunk, smoked, exercised and slept on any given day can all affect your points total, boosting or lowering your ranking. That “health score” will be embedded in a digital QR code accessible on your phone, ready to be scanned whenever needed. This is what the city government of Hangzhou in eastern China has envisioned for its more than 10 million residents, inspired by a “health code” system it adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic to profile people based on their risk of infection.

Across the globe, governments have stepped up the collection of personal data in their fight against the novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 345,000 people and infected close to 5.5 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. But there are also fears that some of these extraordinary measures could be here to stay even after the public health crisis is over, posing a long-term threat to privacy. That concern was amplified among Hangzhou residents when their municipal government announced Friday that it was planning to make permanent a version of the “health code” app used during the pandemic.

Since February, the Chinese government has used a color-based “health code” system to control people’s movements and curb the spread of the coronavirus. The automatically generated quick response codes, commonly abbreviated to QR codes, are assigned to citizens on their smartphones as an indicator of their health status. The color of these codes — in red, amber or green — decides whether users can leave home, use public transport and enter public places. The health codes can also serve as a tracker for people’s movements, as residents have their QR codes scanned as they enter public places. Once a confirmed case is diagnosed, authorities are able to quickly trace where the patient has been and identify people who have been in contact with that individual.

Hangzhou, a coastal city about a hundred miles southwest of Shanghai, was among the first cities to use the health code system to decide which citizens should go into quarantine. But now, the city government says it wants the “health code” to be “normalized” — meaning it could be here to stay well beyond the pandemic.

Read more …

Two years ago, the reserve requirement ratio was 14.2%, now it’s 9.4%. But Chinese banks haven’t shed risk. So this is dangerous. The RRR, simplified, is a gauge of the bad debt they hold, and I bet you it’s way more than 9.4%.

PBOC Lowers RRR For China Financial Institutions To 9.4% (Xinhua)

The average reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for financial institutions stood at 9.4 percent on May 15, down 5.2 percentage points from the beginning of 2018, the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) said. The PBOC has lowered the RRR 12 times since 2018, releasing about 8 trillion yuan (about 1.12 trillion U.S. dollars) in long-term funds to bolster the real economy. Of the total, four RRR cuts in 2018 released 3.65 trillion yuan, five RRR cuts in 2019 released 2.7 trillion yuan and three RRR cuts in the first five months this year released 1.75 trillion yuan. The RRR cuts have led to the contraction of the balance sheet of the PBOC, but this will not cause the tightening of money supply and is contrary to the balance sheet reduction of the central banks of the developed economies such as the U.S. Federal Reserve to reduce the bond holdings, the PBOC said.


The contraction has a strong expansion effect and the main reason is that lowering the RRR means commercial banks will have less money locked up by the central bank and more money for free use, the PBOC said. The RRR cuts have helped meet the liquidity demand of the banking system, boost support for small businesses, cut the social financing cost, promote the market-oriented and law-based debt-to-equity swaps, the central bank said. The cuts have encouraged the rural financial institutions to serve local entities, supported the epidemic prevention and control as well as enterprise work resumption, and played a positive role in bolstering the real economy, the PBOC said.

Read more …

The protests will pick up again.

Hong Kong Homebuyers Walk Away, Forfeit $1.5 Million In Deposits (SCMP)

Nineteen Hong Kong homebuyers who put down deposits for flats at the height of a market rally around June 2018 have walked away from their purchases, forfeiting as much as HK$11.83 million (US$1.53 million) and HK$12.4 million in two instances over the past month. Nine buyers walked away from Hong Kong developer K Wah International’s Solaria project in Tai Po district, forfeiting the HK$11.83 million on Friday, according to the project’s Register of Transactions. The second instance, of 10 forfeitures, was reported from Solaria on April 29. Altogether, more than 100 homebuyers have walked away from their purchases so far this year, according to reports.


Hong Kong’s economy has taken a battering since the heydays of June 2018. The year-long US-China trade war, the city’s anti-government protests and the novel coronavirus outbreak have all taken their toll, pushing the city’s economy into recession over two quarters of economic contraction. The proposed introduction of a new national security law by Beijing, announced at “Two Sessions” last week, has added to the turmoil by sparking fears about market stability.
Centa-City Leading Index, Centaline’s timelier price index for used homes, has declined about 5 per cent between June 2018 and now. It has dropped about 6.8 per cent since June 2019.

Read more …

What exactly is the game? Is CNN supporting Trump?

Why Joe Biden Can Do No Wrong (Turley)

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on special dispensation given Joe Biden by members of Congress, commentators, and the media. We previously discussed the muted media response to false legal comments from President Barack Obama and other Obama officials on the Flynn case. The pattern of media avoidance is more glaring with recent Biden controversies. Notably, the column ran when Biden gave his interview on the radio show “The Breakfast Club” that “if you have a problem figuring out whether you’re for me or Trump, then you ain’t black.” This weekend, I was critical of segments on CNN and NBC’s Meet the Press which quoted Biden but cut off the line where he falsely claimed to have received multiple endorsements from the NAACP.


CNN’s John King derisively referred to controversy as something people are “trying to make hay” out of and then played the interview. However, CNN clipped the tape to leave out the next line where Biden declared “The NAACP has endorsed me every time I’ve run. Come on, take a look at my record.” Despite that invitation to look at his record, CNN and other media routinely cut out the false statement and also omitted any discussion of the false claim linked to the NAACP. On a story about Biden’s claim that all black voters must vote for him (or not be truly black), it would seem material that he also falsely claimed endorsements from the leading organization in the African American community. However, it was routinely omitted from the tape and Biden has not been asked to respond to the rebuttal from the NAACP. It is precisely the type of crafting of the coverage to confine damage for Biden that is discussed in the column.

Read more …

Once Emmet Sullivan gives in, Michael Flynn will be free to speak.

The Unspooling (Kunstler)

What “the Resistance” really fears more than anything is General Michael Flynn’s mouth. He’s been under a judicial gag order since his case went before Judge Emmet Sullivan’s federal district court. Understandably, Gen. Flynn wasn’t eager to complicate his unjust plight with a contempt citation. Judge Sullivan’s recent shenanigans have one object: to keep that gag order in force as long as possible. The moment Judge Sullivan confirms the DOJ’s move to dismiss the charges, as he is duty-bound to do, General Flynn will be free to offer his views to the public. That might be inconvenient in an election season.

I’m sure he has a lot to say. Gen. Flynn was head of the Defense Intelligence Agency for two years (2012 – 2014) under Barack Obama, and he knows a ton about every crooked operation Mr. Obama presided over, including the Benghazi fiasco, the Ukraine regime change op, and especially Mr. Obama’s hijacking of the NSA supercomputer surveillance database known as “the Hammer,” which was set up originally to track terrorists and then used by DNI James Clapper and CIA chief John Brennan to spy on Americans, most particularly Mr. Obama’s political adversaries. It’s rumored that Mr. Obama took the database with him when he left the White House, and it is said to contain great gouts of usefully damning information about just about everyone in government, including senators, congressmen, and Supreme Court justices.

Gen. Flynn became an antagonist to Obama & Co. when he objected to the nuclear deal they were cooking up with Iran and when he spoke out against the CIA’s 2013 Timber Sycamore op to arm and give money to Isis terrorists opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Mr. Obama canned Gen. Flynn in 2014. What really sealed Gen. Flynn’s fate was when he started publicly complaining about the politicization of John Brennan’s CIA. The New York Times quoted him saying, “They’ve lost sight of who they actually work for. They work for the American people. They don’t work for the president of the United States. Frankly, it’s become a very political organization.”

Read more …

There’s a major battle coming, but I don’t see Bill Barr playing a major role in it.

Bill Barr Calls Action of Mueller and Rosenstein “Abhorrent” (CTH)

For well over a year we’ve been saying AG Bill Barr’s biggest challenge is not investigating the soft-coup but rather managing through what We The People are already aware of. With that in mind; and with congress moving to put former DAG Rod Rosenstein and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller under a microscope; it is interesting to note AG Bill Barr recently conceding his two friends were corrupt.

[Transcript] …”Now what happened to the president – and I’ve said this many times – what happened to the president in the 2016 election; and throughout the first two years of his administration was abhorrent. It was a grave injustice and it was unprecedented in American history.” “The law enforcement and intelligence apparatus of this country were involved in advancing a false and utterly baseless Russian-collusion narrative against the president.” The proper investigative and prosecutive standards of the Dept of Justice were abused, in my view, in order to reach a particular result.” ~ (AG Barr, May 18, 2020)

How can AG Barr say the DOJ/FBI conduct during the first two years of the administration “was abhorrent” without specifically implying his two friends, Robert Mueller and Rod Rosenstein were complicit in the “grave injustice” he outlines? It is interesting that no media (of any disposition) has ever questioned AG Barr about Rosenstein and Mueller considering his words that outline their behavior as abhorrent.

Read more …

4 seconds.

Note: it’s not a Michael Moore film, his name was used only for publicity. And now the detractors use it too. Is that wise?

Michael Moore Film Planet of the Humans Removed From YouTube (G.)

YouTube has taken down the controversial Michael Moore-produced documentary Planet of the Humans in response to a copyright infringement claim by a British environmental photographer. The movie, which has been condemned as inaccurate and misleading by climate scientists and activists, allegedly includes a clip used without the permission of the owner Toby Smith, who does not approve of the context in which his material is being used. In response, the filmmakers denied violating fair usage rules and accused their critics of politically motivated censorship. Smith filed the complaint to YouTube on 23 May after discovering Planet of the Humans used several seconds of footage from his Rare Earthenware project detailing the journey of rare earth minerals from Inner Mongolia.

Smith, who has previously worked on energy and environmental issues, said he did not want his work associated with something he disagreed with. “I went directly to YouTube rather than approaching the filmmakers because I wasn’t interested in negotiation. I don’t support the documentary, I don’t agree with its message and I don’t like the misleading use of facts in its narrative.” Planet of the Humans director Jeff Gibbs said he was working with YouTube to resolve the issue and have the film back up as soon as possible. He said in a statement: “This attempt to take down our film and prevent the public from seeing it is a blatant act of censorship by political critics of Planet of the Humans. It is a misuse of copyright law to shut down a film that has opened a serious conversation about how parts of the environmental movement have gotten into bed with Wall Street and so-called “green capitalists.” There is absolutely no copyright violation in my film. This is just another attempt by the film’s opponents to subvert the right to free speech.”

Planet of the Humans, which has been seen by more than 8 million people since it was launched online last month, describes itself as a “full-frontal assault” on the sacred cows of the environmental movement. Veteran climate campaigners and thinkers, such as Bill McKibben and George Monbiot, have pointed out factual errors, outdated footage and promotion of myths about renewable energy propagated by the fossil fuel industry. Many are dismayed that Moore – who built his reputation as a left-wing filmmaker and supporter of civil rights – should produce a work endorsed by climate sceptics and right-wing thinktanks. Several have signed a letter urging the removal of what they called a “shockingly misleading and absurd” documentary. Climate scientist Michael Mann said the filmmakers “have done a grave disservice to us and the planet” with distortions, half-truths and lies.

Read more …

Buiter is your typical career insider. His opinions are pretty useless.

Time for a Selective Debt Jubilee (Willem Buiter)

Across most advanced economies, much of the additional private debt accumulated during the crisis will likely end up being owned by public entities, including central banks, and most of it will never be repaid. To protect their independence and political legitimacy, central banks should not act as fiscal principals. And yet, in the case of small and medium-size enterprises, it is simply obvious that COVID-19-related debt will have to be forgiven. The national Treasury will need to compensate the central bank for any losses it incurs.For publicly traded companies the debt held by public creditors should be turned into equity, in the form of non-voting preference shares, which would minimize the impression that the pandemic had inaugurated a new era of central planning.

Again, the national Treasury will have to indemnify the central bank for any losses it incurs. An equitization option should be attached to all newly issued public debt. The resulting equity instruments could represent claims on part of the government’s primary budget surplus, or their interest rates could be linked to GDP growth. But poorer countries will not have this option. According to the Brookings Institution, emerging markets and developing countries already owe about $11 trillion in external debt and face $3.9 trillion in debt-service costs this year. In April, the World Bank and the IMF offered a modicum of debt relief to many of these countries, and the G20 agreed to a temporary payment standstill for official debt, which paved the way for hundreds of private creditors to do the same.

Yet these forms of assistance offer too little, too late. The fact is that most of these debts never should have been issued in the first place. Grants are the proper way to transfer resources to low-income countries. After World War II, the Marshall Plan involved only grants; today, the case for “corona grants” to low-income countries could hardly be stronger. Under the IMF and the World Bank’s 1996 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, some 36 countries received full or partial debt relief. It is time to return to that idea, starting with a comprehensive round of debt forgiveness for the world’s poorest countries. This selective jubilee should include debts owed to the IMF, the World Bank, other multilateral lenders, national sovereigns, official bodies like state-owned enterprises, and private creditors.

Debt is a dangerous instrument. For far too long, the world has used it to avoid awkward but unavoidable decisions. In the midst of an unprecedented global crisis, something will have to give.

Read more …

I don’t think many people understand how bad the situation will be during and after the virus. Recovery and return to normal are pretty much empty terms now.

Debt, Liberty and “Acts of God” (Michael Hudson)

Western civilization distinguishes itself from its predecessors in the way it has responded to “acts of God” disrupting the means of support and leaving debts in their wake. The great question always has been who will lose under such conditions. Will it be debtors and renters at the bottom of the economic scale, or creditors and landlords at the top? This age-old confrontation between creditors and debtors, landlords and tenants over how to deal with the unpaid debts and back rents is at the economic heart of today’s 2020 coronavirus pandemic that has left large and small businesses, farms, restaurants and neighborhood stores – along with their employees who have been laid off – unable to pay the rents, mortgages, other debt service and taxes that have accrued.

For thousands of years ancient economies operated on credit during the crop year, with payment falling due when the harvest was in – typically on the threshing floor. Normally this cycle provided a flow of crops and corvée labor to the palace and covered the cultivator’s spending during the crop year, with interest owed only when payment was late. But bad harvests, military conflict or simply the normal hardships of life occasionally prevented this buildup of debt from being paid, threatening citizens with bondage to their creditors or loss of their land rights. Mesopotamian palaces had to decide who would bear the loss when drought, flooding, infestation, disease or military attack disrupted economic activity and prevented the settlement of debts, rents and taxes.

Recognizing that this was an unavoidable fact of life, rulers proclaimed amnesties for taxes and the various debts that were incurred during the crop year. These acts saved smallholders from having to work off their debts by personal bondage and ultimately to lose their land. Classical antiquity, and indeed subsequent Western civilization, rejected such Clean Slates to restore social balance. Since Roman times it has become normal for creditors to use social misfortune as an opportunity to gain property and income at the expense of families falling into debt. In the absence of kings or democratic civic regimes protecting debtor rights and liberty, pro-creditor laws obliged debtors to lose their land or other means of livelihood to foreclosing creditors, sell it under distress conditions and fall into bondage to work off their debts, becoming clients or quasi-serfs to their creditors without hope of recovering their former free status.

Read more …

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May 252020
 


Unknown Mark Twain (center, white suit) and a kitten (brown fur, left of center) at Tuxedo Park 1907

 

More Patients Than Beds In Mumbai As India Faces Surge In Virus Cases (R.)
How Russia’s Coronavirus Crisis Got So Bad (Pol.eu)
Coronavirus Forces 100,000 NY Small Businesses To Close Permanently (Patch)
Big Pharma Rejected EU Plan To Fast-Track Vaccines In 2017 (G.)
Why Isn’t the Dollar Collapsing Given Trillions in Printing? (Mish)
Japan Eyes Stimulus Plan Worth Over $929 Billion To Battle Pandemic (TRT)
China Unveils $500 Billion Fiscal Stimulus, Refrains From Going All-in (SCMP)
China Racing To Impose New Law Criminalizing Hong Kong Protests (G&M)
China’s New National Security Law Should Be On G7 Agenda – Patten (R.)
Boris Johnson Bets Big On Dominic Cummings (Pol.eu)
Biden Should Be Named in Criminal Probe in Ukraine, Judge Rules (Lauria)
Tuxedo Park (Guinn)

 

 

Global new cases in past 24 hours: 101,325

New cases in:

• US + 21,475
• Russia + 8,946
• Brazil + 17,815
• India + 8,488
• Peru + 4,205

 

• US #coronavirus death toll rises by 638: Johns Hopkins

• https://covid19info.live/ says 2,008 new deaths in past 24 hours. It also says 52,987(!) new cases. That’s not true

But many places still seem to report quite differently over weekends

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 5,520,745 (+ 93,190 from yesterday’s 5,427,555)

Deaths 347,022 (+ 2,605 from yesterday’s 344,417)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

India scares me, despite their HCQ campaign. If you look at the slums in Mumbai or Delhi, how can you ever know what goes on? And India follows the global thread of relaxing lockdowns. While their numbers started rising under the lockdown.

More Patients Than Beds In Mumbai As India Faces Surge In Virus Cases (R.)

India on Sunday reported 6,767 new coronavirus infections, the country’s biggest one-day increase. Government data shows the number of coronavirus cases in the world’s second-most populous country are doubling every 13 days or so, even as the government begins easing lockdown restrictions. India has reported more than 131,000 infections, including 3,867 deaths. “The increasing trend has not gone down,” said Bhramar Mukherjee, a professor of biostatistics and epidemiology at the University of Michigan, referring to India’s cases. “We’ve not seen a flattening of the curve.” Mukherjee’s team estimates that between 630,000 and 2.1 million people in India – out of a population of 1.3 billion – will become infected by early July.

More than a fifth of the country’s coronavirus cases are in Mumbai, India’s financial hub and its most populous city, where the Parikhs struggled to find hospital beds for their infected family members. India’s health ministry [..] has said in media briefings that not all patients need hospitalization and it is making rapid efforts to increase the number of hospital beds and procure health gear. The federal government’s data from last year showed there were about 714,000 hospital beds in India, up from about 540,000 in 2009. However, given India’s rising population, the number of beds per 1,000 people has grown only slightly in that time.

India has 0.5 beds per 1,000 people, according to the latest data from the OECD, up from 0.4 beds in 2009, but among lowest of countries surveyed by the OECD. In contrast, China has 4.3 hospital beds per 1,000 people and the United States has 2.8, according to the latest OECD figures. While millions of India’s poor rely on the public health system, especially in rural areas, private facilities account for 55% of hospital admissions, according to government data. The private health sector has been growing over the past two decades, especially in India’s big cities, where an expanding class of affluent Indians can afford private care.

Read more …

Did Putin get lost in the message?

How Russia’s Coronavirus Crisis Got So Bad (Pol.eu)

Now, instead of consolidating public support, Putin appears to be losing it. In early May, the Levada Center, Russia’s sole independent polling agency, found that Putin’s approval rating was down to 59 percent. That might sound enviable to Western politicians, but it’s the lowest rating he has had in 20 years. Thirty-three percent of those polled said they did not approve of his performance. Putin’s hold on power doesn’t look as strong as it did a few months ago. His hands-off response to coronavirus might have something to do with it. On a morning talk show in early March, I watched the deputy director of the research institute under Russia’s consumer watchdog agency say the situation in the country was “terrific — we’ve been living for almost three months along a huge border with China and have only five cases, so all the measures we’re taking are clearly effective.”

On other talk shows, where conspiracy theories reign, hosts and guests floated the notion that the virus didn’t exist. It was a hoax invented by the United States to destroy the Chinese economy, or it was made in an American laboratory and planted in China, or Bill Gates invented it so he could then make money on the vaccine. It was just a version of SARS, which in the end turned out to be less dangerous than everyone feared. Besides, 60,000 people die every year from the flu, and no one cares. What’s the big deal? So many people seemed to believe this, or wanted to believe this, that they ignored the increasingly stringent lockdown measures instituted in Moscow beginning March 25.

They didn’t practice social distancing, traveled all over the city, used services that were supposed to be closed, got together with friends, sniffed, sneezed, coughed and even spit in public. In stores, unmasked and barehanded, they squeezed every tomato in a bin before moving on to examine broccoli, then pushed and hovered at the cash register despite social distancing marks on the floor. On television and social media, we all watched Italians singing on balconies and saw Parisians printing out forms every time they left their apartments. COVID was clearly bad outside Russia. But inside Russia? It was hard to figure out.

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Stop focusing on businesses, start focusing on people. Millions of businesses will close in the US alone, it’s no use trying to save them if you haven’t taken care of the people, their customers, first.

Coronavirus Forces 100,000 NY Small Businesses To Close Permanently (Patch)

The coronavirus crisis has forced more than 100,000 small businesses in New York to close permanently, the governor said Friday. The huge swath of closures means main streets will look at lot different when the state is allowed to reopen. At most risk have been businesses that are owned by minorities, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “Small businesses are taking a real beating,” he said. “They are 90 percent of New York’s businesses and they’re facing the toughest challengers. “The economic projections, vis-a-vis small business, are actually frightening. More than 100,000 have shut permanently since the pandemic hit. Many small businesses just don’t have the staying power to continue to pay all the fixed costs, the lease, etcetera, when they have no income whatsoever.”


All but essential businesses have now been closed since New York’s shutdown started on March 22. Millions of former employees are now registered as unemployed. Cuomo said New York State was launching its own small business relief program, with more than $100 million that it will make available as loans. “We’re going to focus on true small businesses,” he said. “Twenty or fewer employees, less than $3 million in gross revenues.”

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So on the one hand you want a capitalist, neo-liberal system, but on the other you want companies to work for the public good. Make up your mind already.

Big Pharma Rejected EU Plan To Fast-Track Vaccines In 2017 (G.)

The world’s largest pharmaceutical companies rejected an EU proposal three years ago to work on fast-tracking vaccines for pathogens like coronavirus to allow them to be developed before an outbreak, the Guardian can reveal. The plan to speed up the development and approval of vaccines was put forward by European commission representatives sitting on the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) – a public-private partnership whose function is to back cutting-edge research in Europe – but it was rejected by industry partners on the body. The commission’s argument had been that the research could “facilitate the development and regulatory approval of vaccines against priority pathogens, to the extent possible before an actual outbreak occurs”.

The pharmaceutical companies on the IMI, however, did not take up the idea. The revelation is contained in a report published by the Corporate Observatory Europe (COE), a Brussels-based research centre, examining decisions made by the IMI, which has a budget of €5bn, made up of EU funding and in-kind contributions from private and other bodies. The IMI’s governing board is made up of commission officials and representatives of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries (EFPIA), whose members include some of the biggest names in the sector, among them GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Pfizer, Lilly and Johnson & Johnson.

A global lack of preparedness for the coronavirus pandemic has already led to accusations in recent weeks that the pharmaceutical industry has failed to prioritise treatments for infectious diseases because they are less profitable than chronic medical conditions. [..] The COE report says that rather than “compensating for market failures” by speeding up the development of innovative medicines, as per its remit, the IMI has been “more about business-as-usual market priorities”. The report’s authors cite a comment posted on the IMI’s website, since removed, selling the advantages of the initiative to big pharma as offering “tremendous cost savings, as the IMI projects replicate work that individual companies would have had to do anyway”.

The European commission’s “biopreparedness” funding proposal in 2017 would have involved refining computer simulations, known as in silico modelling, and improved analysis of animal testing models to give regulators greater confidence in approving vaccines. Minutes of a meeting of the IMI’s governing board from December 2018 reveal that the proposal was not accepted. The IMI also decided against funding projects with the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, a foundation seeking to tackle so-called blueprint priority diseases such as Mers and Sars, both of them coronaviruses.

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“Stop being so US-centric.”

Why Isn’t the Dollar Collapsing Given Trillions in Printing? (Mish)

I remain amused by all the calls of hyperinflation and high inflation given the Fed has turned on the printing presses. However, currencies cannot be viewed in isolation. To those expecting a total US dollar collapse, here’s my word of advice. Stop being so US-centric. Please note Japan authorizes another $929 Billion to Battle Pandemic. Japan is considering a fresh stimulus package worth over $929 billion that will consist mostly of financial aid programmes for companies hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the Nikkei newspaper said on Monday. | The package, to be funded by a second extra budget for the current fiscal year beginning in April, would follow a record $1.1 trillion spending plan deployed last month to cushion the economic blow from the pandemic. That is a total of 2 trillion dollars for Japan. Adjusted for the relative size of the economies, that is an amazing amount.

Also note that China unveils US$500 billion fiscal stimulus, but refrains from going all-in. Key Points • China will increase its budget fiscal deficit to a record 3.6 per cent of gross domestic product this year, up from 2.8 per cent in 2019 • This is the first time the ratio has exceeded 3 per cent – a red line for decades. • Beijing will also issue special treasury bonds for the first time since 2007 and increase the local government bond quota as it fights the pandemic Supposedly that is not “All In.” And given what is going on elsewhere it isn’t. But the Yuan is not a component of the US dollar index. And it is important that China is crossing red lines.


On May 10, I noted a Major Court Fight Between Germany and EU Looms Briefly, the German constitutional court ruled that the ECB abused its powers ruling on the ECB asset purchases as implausible, and objectively arbitrary. What Germany fears now and has from the outset is “debt mutualization” in which Germany would bailout Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. And despite the German court ruling, Pablo Iglesias, Spain’s Deputy PM. says a “certain [level of] debt mutualisation is a [necessary] condition of the [continued] existence of the EU”. The EU once again faces a breakup crisis. With negative interest rates in the Eurozone and a breakup risk high and rising, it’s no wonder the Euro is not strengthening.

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Kuroda’s still fighting deflation.

Japan Eyes Stimulus Plan Worth Over $929 Billion To Battle Pandemic (TRT)

Japan is considering a fresh stimulus package worth over $929 billion that will consist mostly of financial aid programmes for companies hit by the coronavirus pandemic, the Nikkei newspaper said on Monday. The package, to be funded by a second extra budget for the current fiscal year beginning in April, would follow a record $1.1 trillion spending plan deployed last month to cushion the economic blow from the pandemic. The second extra budget, worth $929.45 billion (100 trillion yen), will include 60 trillion yen for expanding loan programmes that state-affiliated and private financial institutions offer to firms hit by virus, the paper said.


Another 27 trillion yen will be set aside for other financial aid programmes, including 15 trillion yen for a new programme to inject capital into ailing firms, it said. The government is expected to approve the budget, which will also include subsidies to help companies pay rent and wages as they close businesses, at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

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Time for an update on the shadow banks.

China Unveils $500 Billion Fiscal Stimulus, Refrains From Going All-in (SCMP)

The Chinese government has unveiled a fiscal stimulus package of nearly 3.6 trillion yuan (US$506 billion), as Beijing tries to offset the economic shock caused by the coronavirus pandemic and prepare for an “unpredictable” path ahead. Premier Li Keqiang announced details of the plan in his work report at the National People’s Congress on Friday, including an increase of the budget fiscal deficit to a record high of 3.6 per cent of GDP, up from 2.8 per cent last year. It is the first time the ratio has exceeded 3 per cent – a red line for decades – and will add an extra 1 trillion yuan to the budget to bolster the economy after it was lashed by the pandemic.

Beijing will also issue 1 trillion yuan of special treasury bonds for the first time since 2007, though these will not be included in the central government budget and therefore the deficit ratio. The local government special bond quota, another source of infrastructure funding, has been boosted by 1.6 trillion yuan to 3.75 trillion yuan for 2020. While the sum total of new spending and tax cuts is large, it fell short of expectations, reflecting Beijing’s concerns about overspending and worries about debt, analysts said. “The incremental amount [of fiscal stimulus] is small,” said Larry Hu, chief China economist of Macquarie Capital. “Traditionally, China’s stimulus is not released at one go, but step by step … A bigger stimulus will only be seen when numbers are bad enough.”

The aggregate size of China’s total budget fiscal deficit, which includes the government budget deficit and off-budget debts, was about 8.3 per cent of GDP, above last year’s figure of 5.6 per cent, said Hu, adding market expectations were for a “more proactive fiscal policy”.

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Excellent from the Globe and Mail.

China Racing To Impose New Law Criminalizing Hong Kong Protests (G&M)

Police in Hong Kong cracked down on protesters Sunday, arresting at least 180, in the wake of Beijing’s pledge to move quickly on a new law that will extend China’s concept of justice to those who challenge Communist Party leadership in the territory. They were the first protests since Chinese authorities announced their plans to impose the new law, which will criminalize conduct according to Beijing’s definitions of what constitutes separatism, terrorism, subversion and illegal foreign meddling. The draft decision on establishing and improving the legal system and enforcement mechanisms for Hong Kong on national security also gives mainland China the right to place its own enforcers on Hong Kong soil.

The law is expected to be finalized this week by the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp parliament, and enacted soon after. It “has become a pressing priority. We must get it done without the slightest delay,” China’s foreign minister Wang Yi said. For nearly a year, the Asian financial centre has been a city of both peaceful demonstration and violent protest. With the law looming on the horizon, protests erupted as the city streets were drenched in tear gas and blocked by makeshift barricades.

On Sunday, police descended swiftly on protesters with a show of force that bloodied the streets. At least four officers were injured in clashes, according to a spokesperson for the Hong Kong government, who issued a lengthy statement late Sunday calling the protesters’ conduct an “outrageous” and ”serious threat to public safety.” Those who waved “Hong Kong Independence” flags on Sunday undermined “the overall and long-term interests of Hong Kong society,” the spokesperson said, adding: “rioters remain rampant, reinforcing the need and urgency of the legislation on national security.” But in a city where most people self-identify as “Hongkonger” rather than Chinese, the space to oppose the move is already diminishing.

Local police have refused to authorize peaceful protest, making street assemblies illegal. Epidemic health rules bar gatherings of more than eight people. And Beijing’s enthusiastic backing has further empowered Hong Kong’s police, already accused by human-rights groups of brutality in their handling of violent protests, to clear the streets. ”Protesters now face graver potential danger and legal consequences,” said Bonnie Leung, a pro-democracy campaigner in the city. “Given the severity and urgency of the national-security law, people will certainly want to return to the street,” said Avery Ng, a pro-democracy activist who is among a group of 15 recently arrested people that Chinese state media call “riot leaders.” But, he said, “I worry that many people cannot return to the street to protest without risking their personal safety.”

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Chris Patten negotiated the 1997 transition. Is Europe going to join the US on China?

China’s New National Security Law Should Be On G7 Agenda – Patten (R.)

The United Kingdom should ensure that China’s efforts to impose a new national security law on Hong Kong are on the agenda for the G7 meeting in June, Chris Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong wrote in the Financial Times newspaper on Sunday. The last governor of the former British colony said that Britain and its G7 allies should take a stance against Chinese President Xi Jinping’s ‘regime’, which he labeled as “an enemy of open societies”.


“While the rest of the world is preoccupied with fighting COVID-19, he (Xi) has in effect ripped up the Joint Declaration, a treaty lodged at the UN to guarantee Hong Kong’s way of life till 2047”, Patten wrote in the newspaper. China has proposed imposing national security laws on Hong Kong as Communist Party rulers in Beijing on Friday unveiled details of the legislation that critics see as a turning point for the former British colony, which enjoys many freedoms, including an independent legal system and right to protest, not allowed on the mainland.

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The attack goes full frontal, from Guardian to Daily Mail.

Boris Johnson Bets Big On Dominic Cummings (Pol.eu)

Boris Johnson is standing by his man — but it’s a political gamble that might yet cost him. After lengthy face-to-face discussions with Dominic Cummings on Sunday afternoon, the British prime minister told the country he was confident that his chief adviser “acted responsibly and legally, and with integrity” despite alleged breaches of the U.K.’s coronavirus lockdown rules. The revelation that Cummings traveled 260 miles from London to Durham to stay at a property close to family, after his wife developed coronavirus symptoms in late March, has led to calls for his resignation from opposition parties and a handful of Conservative MPs.

But Johnson, speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus press conference on Sunday evening, stood four-square behind Cummings — the strategic guru who masterminded the Brexit campaign and Johnson’s path to a thumping election victory. The prime minister said he fully accepted the adviser’s explanation that he had “no alternative” but to travel to guarantee childcare for his four-year-old son should he and his wife become too ill. “I think he followed the instincts of every father and every parent,” Johnson said. The U.K.’s guidance is that those who develop symptoms, as Cummings’ wife did, “must stay at home for at least seven days.” Other members of the household must stay put for 14 days.

But Johnson said the advice was also “absolutely clear that if you have childcare issues, that is a factor that has to be taken into account.” The official guidance advises parents who develop symptoms to “keep following” general advice “the best of your ability,” but acknowledges “not all these measures will be possible.” In short, discretion is limited.

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The left wing joins in with the right. Not sure that bodes well for Joe.

Biden Should Be Named in Criminal Probe in Ukraine, Judge Rules (Lauria)

Last month District Court Judge S. V. Vovk in Kiev ruled that police must list Biden as an alleged perpetrator of a crime against Shokin, according to a report on the website Just the News. The possible crime cited is “unlawful interference in Shokin’s work as Ukraine’s chief prosecutor,” the website said, according to an English translation of the investigative judge’s order obtained by the site. The district court had earlier ruled that there was sufficient evidence in Shokin’s criminal complaint to investigate Biden, but the police had withheld Biden’s name, listing him only as an unnamed American.

Shokin first alleged last year in a deposition that Biden had pressured then Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire Shokin because he was conducting an investigation into Burisma Holdings, the gas company on whose board Biden’s son Hunter was installed shortly after the fall of President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014. Biden had been appointed the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine, according to a recorded conversation between then Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and then U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffry Pyatt. Nuland and Pyatt discussed how to “midwife” a new Ukrainian government before the democratically-elected Yanukovych was overthrown. Nuland said Biden would help “glue” it all together.

As booty from the U.S.-backed coup, the sitting vice president’s son, Hunter, within weeks got his seat on Burisma, in what can be seen as a transparently neocolonial maneuver to take over a country and install one’s own people. But Biden’s son wasn’t the only one. A family friend of then Secretary of State John Kerry also joined Burisma’s board. U.S. agricultural giant Monsanto got a Ukrainian contract soon after the overthrow. And the first, post-coup Ukrainian finance minister was an American citizen, a former State Department official, who was given Ukrainian citizenship the day before she took up the post. Shokin has alleged, in the same vein, that the U.S. was running the country’s prosecutors’ office.

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Long and great, reading under lockdown.

Tuxedo Park (Guinn)

In a Gilded Age, abstractions are the things we are told represent prosperity. Back then, well, Americans were told that a lot of things represented prosperity. In Twain’s kind of bad story, prosperity was the ability to speculate on land, the freedom to take your shot on building the same kind of fortune as Vanderbilt and Carnegie. Prosperity was walking into the marble and gold edifice of J.P. Morgan’s bank and thinking, in awe, that we Americans could do something like this. Prosperity was the lives that social elites were capable of living, and if you weren’t, then, well, it looks like you might need to brush up on your Social Darwinism to figure out why not.

The excesses empowered by centers of political and social power were not just excesses. They were attempts to apply a layer of gilding to the baser materials underneath – the still vast and unresolved social and economic problems faced by an emerging United States with devastating inequality of both opportunity and circumstance. If it looked and felt like a Golden Age, wasn’t that all that really mattered? Perhaps this all sounds familiar. Perhaps this sounds like the Long Now. That’s because it is.

The Long Now IS a New Gilded Age, a top-down imposition of the idea that it is more important for a people to look and feel prosperous than to prosper. Only instead of land speculation and the pretenses of an aristocratic minority, our gilding largely boils down to the current level of the S&P 500 Index. If we wish to understand the arc that these top-down political narratives follow, especially how they die and how they do not die, we will find no better example than in the least golden yet most gilded retreat of late 19th and early 20th century oligarchs. A place that even Twain himself ended up calling home late in life.

Tuxedo Park.

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https://twitter.com/i/status/1264632759449985027

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Mar 012020
 


Arthur Rothstein Accident on US 40 between Hagerstown and Cumberland, Maryland 1936

 

 

 

HK Coronavirus Outbreak Not At Peak: Gabriel Leung (RTHK)
Indonesia’s Frontline Hospital Defends Policies To Tackle Coronavirus (R.)
Don’t Test, Don’t Tell! (Ben Hunt)
Markets Expected To Fall Further As Coronavirus Hits China’s Economy (G.)
China Pollution Clear Amid Coronavirus Slowdown (BBC)
Bernie Sanders Looks To Blow Away Rivals On Super Tuesday (G.)
US and Taliban Ink Afghanistan Peace Agreement (RT)
‘Get Out Of The Way, Let Us Deal With Assad’, Erdogan Says He Told Putin (RT)
Threat Of Russia-Turkey-NATO Hot War A Godsend For US Foreign Policy (RT)
Greece Vetoes NATO Communique Intended to Support Turkey in Syria (GR)
Turkey Minister: 76,358 Migrants Headed To Border With Greece (K.)

 

Cases 85,683 (+ 1,950 from yesterday’s 83,733)

Deaths 2,933 (+ 73 from yesterday’s 2,860)

 

• First cases: Armenia, Ireland, Luxembourg

• First deaths: US, Australia, Thailand

• China 79,824 cases, 593 new, total deaths 2,870, 41,625 recovered, 2 more doctors die
– new Hubei cases rise, 565 in the provincial capital Wuhan

• South Korea 3,736, 1023 new cases, but :
– estimates of 4,200 infections among Shincheonji church members
– that’s 80% of those tested, there are 210,000 church members, some of whom visited Wuhan

• Italy 1,178 (up 31%!), 29 deaths

• Iran 593, 43 deaths
– Twitter: “The country is imploding – law and order to disappear in the next days.”

• Japan 241 cases, 2 deaths

Singapore 102 cases
France 100
Hong Kong 95, 2 deaths
US 71, 1 death
Thailand 42 cases, 1 death
Bahrain 38
UK 23
Switzerland 18
Norway 15
Iraq 13
Lebanon 7
Holland 7
Pakistan 4
Mexico 4

59 countries affected

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

I added a third counter, from COVID2019.app, a project where 70 people -and counting- work together

 

 

 

 

Leung is behind some of the most dire predictions. But not for his homebase HK.

HK Coronavirus Outbreak Not At Peak: Gabriel Leung (RTHK)

The Dean of the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Medicine, Professor Gabriel Leung, on Sunday warned that the coronavirus outbreak in Hong Kong had not yet reached its peak, saying it was too early to tell when it would be over and people should not let their guard down against the respiratory disease. As of Saturday, Hong Kong had reported 95 confirmed cases of the virus, known as Covid-19, and two deaths. But speaking after a radio programme, Professor Leung said the overall decline in new cases on the mainland did show that the first wave of the outbreak there was largely under control, except in Hubei province, where the disease appears to have originated.

On Sunday, the mainland reported 573 new Covid-19 infections, up from the 427 on Saturday and the highest for a week, although much lower than earlier in the month. The mainland’s National Health Commission also reported 35 deaths, fewer than the 47 on Saturday, which took the death toll to 2,870. All but one of Sunday’s deaths – and all but three of its new cases – were in Hubei. The total number of cases on the mainland is now approaching 80,000. Professor Leung said the rest of the world was now only seeing the beginning of the outbreak and this would make containing the spread of the virus in Hong Kong more difficult. However, he said Hong Kong had actually been doing well at virus control.

“The rest of the world actually views Hong Kong, along with Singapore, as the gold standard in epidemic control,” he said. “If you look at these two places, we have very similar absolute numbers of confirmed cases, yet we have a population that is one third bigger then Singapore, so – on a per capita basis – we’re not doing too badly.”


Corona timeline develops in very similar ways in various locations

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Over 260 million people, 141 tests. It’s almost like the US.

Indonesia’s Frontline Hospital Defends Policies To Tackle Coronavirus (R.)

Indonesia has the resources to cope with a coronavirus outbreak, the director of its leading infectious diseases hospital said, defending detection procedures in the Southeast Asian nation of more than 260 million, where no cases have been reported. The world’s fourth most populous nation has tested 141 suspected cases, a small figure for its population, sparking concern among some medical professionals of a lack of vigilance and a risk of undetected cases. Neighboring Malaysia has reportedly run about 1,000 tests, and Britain more than 10,000. “We can’t doubt our skills and the facts we gather,” said Muhammad Syahril, director of the Sulianti Saroso hospital in Jakarta, the capital, when asked why Indonesia had detected no cases.

“If we don’t have cases, we don’t have cases,” he said in an interview at the hospital on Friday. “Why would we cover it up?” [..] The hospital was ready to tackle any outbreak, armed with experience gained in handling disease such as the 2003-2004 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), he said. A health ministry official previously told Reuters that some hospitals, particularly in eastern Indonesia, had smaller capacity to handle virus cases. But even in Jakarta not all best practices appear to be followed and a recent visit to another hospital revealed some nurses without masks, despite attending to a patient with fever.

Fuelling concern about Indonesia’s vulnerability, four infections were confirmed in travelers who had spent time there, including a Japanese national living in Malaysia and one returning to New Zealand from Iran via the resort island of Bali. Indonesian physician Shela Putri Sundawa worries that screening could miss potential carriers without symptoms. “When people have travel or contact history, but they only have issues with coughing or minor fever, they’ll just be monitored,” she said, calling for tighter surveillance. Tests were run when doctors determined that symptoms pointed “to that direction”, Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto saidlast week. “Imagine if everybody who had a cough or flu was checked, then millions would be checked,” he said, adding that it was “a blessing from the Almighty” that no cases had been found.

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Now repeat this in dozens of other countries.

Don’t Test, Don’t Tell! (Ben Hunt)

Patient comes in from another hospital on Wednesday, Feb. 19 – this is one week ago – already intubated and on a ventilator, and the doctors at UC Davis – who have treated other COVID-19 cases – IMMEDIATELY suspect COVID-19. But the CDC refuses to test for COVID-19. Why? Because it didn’t fit their “criteria” for testing. They didn’t know for sure that the patient was in mainland China within the past 14 days, and they didn’t know for sure that the patient was in close contact with another confirmed case, so BY DEFINITION this patient can’t possibly have COVID-19. No test for you! This is “Don’t Test, Don’t Tell” and it is the single most incompetent, corrupt public health policy of my lifetime. And it’s happening all over the country.

[..] the update: 83 people are in self-quarantine at home, where they are supposed to “check their temperature” daily. Don’t have a thermometer? Not to worry! The Nassau County Health Commission will provide one for you! Who are the 83 in self-quarantine? Why, they’re everyone that Homeland Security says should be in self-quarantine, based on “current guidelines” of someone who was in mainland China within the past 14 days. Has it been 15 days since your mainland China visit? Have you been to Northern Italy in past 14 days? Have you been to Iran in past 14 days? Have you been to South Korea in past 14 days? Well, no self-quarantine for you! You’re fine!

And here’s the kicker. Not only is there ZERO tracking or monitoring of anyone who has been swimming in the coronavirus stew of South Korea, Northern Italy and Iran, but let’s say that you have in fact been to one of those areas recently and now you’re feeling sick. You go to the doctor and you tell her the whole story. Both of you suspect it might be COVID-19. You’re trying to do the right thing here. You call the county health authority. You call the state health authority. You call the CDC. And then you learn the awful truth of Don’t Test, Don’t Tell. It’s not that testing is not available…It’s that testing is not ALLOWED. [..] here’s the other quote from the UC Davis email that I’d like you to pay close attention to:

“When the patient arrived [Wednesday], the patient had already been intubated, was on a ventilator, and given droplet protection orders because of an undiagnosed and suspected viral condition. … On Sunday, the CDC ordered COVID-19 testing of the patient and the patient was put on airborne precautions and strict contact precautions.” Translation: for four days, every healthcare professional treating this patient at UC Davis was exposed to airborne transmission of COVID-19. And so was every healthcare professional at the hospital before UC Davis. Because the CDC refused to test this patient for COVID-19 in a timely manner, the doctors and nurses and technicians caring for this patient were put at risk.

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But!: “The most horrible week for the Dow since the GFC in 2008 is hardly visible on the long-term chart.”

Imagine what would need to happen to make it visible.

Markets Expected To Fall Further As Coronavirus Hits China’s Economy (G.)

It is likely the fresh data, which measures the economic impact of Beijing’s efforts to clamp down on the virus, will further spook investors who sent global markets tumbling 11% last week in the worst seven-day period for stocks since the 2008 financial crash. With factories forced to remain closed after the traditional lunar new year holiday shutdown, China’s official Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), a widely watched measure of economic activity, fell further in February than at any time in the last 12 years, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said. The bureau found a significant collapse in domestic and export orders and a contraction of the country’s burgeoning service sector.

Similar surveys expected next month covering Japan and South Korea, both seriously affected by the coronavirus outbreak, could prolong the rout on global stock markets, analysts said. The outbreak has already disrupted supplies to factories in Europe, where companies have struggled to access vital components sourced from east Asia. Investors expect to find out in the next few days whether the outbreak is accelerating in the US, the world’s biggest economy, and how far central banks and governments are prepared to go to deal with an epidemic. “Right now the market is saying that this is unbounded. We don’t know what the limits are and we don’t know where it’s going to peak,” said Graham Tanaka, the chief investment officer at New York-based Tanaka Capital. Stock markets globally lost about $5tn of value last week, as measured by the MSCI all-country index.

Last weekend China’s president, Xi Jinping, told local officials that low-risk areas should “resume full production and normal life”. The government reported that larger factories reached 85.6% of their capacity by the middle of last week. Analysts at ING said: “This isn’t as positive as it sounds. Even if China‘s factory production can recover in March, it will still face the risk of a low level of export orders. This is because the supply chain will continue to be broken, this time in South Korea, Japan, Europe, and the US, where Covid-19 has begun to spread.” Unofficial reports show that factories outside Hubei province, where the virus started, could be working at no more than 75% of their capacity and many nearer 25% to 50% while millions of workers remain trapped in their home province, unable to travel back to their place of work.

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Silver linings are everywhere.

China Pollution Clear Amid Coronavirus Slowdown (BBC)

Satellite images have shown a dramatic decline in pollution levels over China, which is “at least partly” due to an economic slowdown prompted by the coronavirus, US space agency Nasa says. Nasa maps show falling levels of nitrogen dioxide this year. It comes amid record declines in China’s factory activity as manufacturers stop work in a bid to contain coronavirus. [..] Nasa scientists said the reduction in levels of nitrogen dioxide – a noxious gas emitted by motor vehicles and industrial facilities – was first apparent near the source of the outbreak in Wuhan city but then spread across the country.

Nasa compared the first two months of 2019 with the same period this year. The space agency noted that the decline in air pollution levels coincided with restriction imposed on transportation and business activities, and as millions of people went into quarantine. “This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement. She added that she had observed a decline in nitrogen dioxide levels during the economic recession in 2008, but said that decrease was more gradual. Nasa noted that China’s Lunar New Year celebrations in late January and early February have been linked to decreases in pollution levels in the past. But it said they normally increase once the celebrations are over.

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Oh ye of little faith in the DNC.

Bernie Sanders Looks To Blow Away Rivals On Super Tuesday (G.)

Bernie Sanders doesn’t do things by half measures. As he vies to become the 46th president of the United States he is looking to shatter no fewer than three historic records. President Sanders would be the first Jewish incumbent of the most powerful office on Earth. Aged 79 on inauguration day, he would become the oldest president in US history having unseated the current record-holder, Donald Trump, 73. Most striking of all, he would be the first American commander-in-chief describing himself as a “democratic socialist”. Judging by recent attacks from his detractors – Democratic ones, not Trump supporters – that is the political equivalent of carrying the coronavirus.

“I’ll tell you what it adds up to,” said Pete Buttigieg, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, at this week’s TV debate ahead of Saturday’s primary in South Carolina. Buttigieg referenced Sanders’ “radical” policies of universal tax-funded healthcare, debt-free college tuition and a Green New Deal to tackle the climate crisis, then said: “It adds up to four more years of Donald Trump.” On Tuesday Sanders has the chance to take his political insurgency and wipe it across the nation. In the 2020 cycle, Super Tuesday is even more super-charged than usual, providing him with an opportunity to take his already impressive lead over Buttigieg and six other Democratic rivals and virtually blast them out of the water.

In Iowa he finished a splinter-thin second to Buttigieg. In New Hampshire he won. In Nevada he sealed his frontrunner status with a slam-dunk victory. Now Super Tuesday promises to project him to all-but invincible heights. Fourteen states go to the polls on 3 March, between them commanding two-thirds of the 1991 delegates he needs to win outright.

Read more …

At least it sounds good.

If only because John Bolton said on Twitter:

Signing this agreement with Taliban is an unacceptable risk to America’s civilian population. This is an Obama-style deal. Legitimizing Taliban sends the wrong signal to ISIS and al Qaeda terrorists, and to America’s enemies generally.”

US and Taliban Ink Afghanistan Peace Agreement (RT)

Washington and the Taliban movement have signed a deal that lays out conditions for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan. The agreement was signed by US peace envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad and one of the Taliban’s senior leaders, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in Qatar’s capital Doha on Saturday. The deal will see Washington and its allies withdrawing their troops from five bases in Afghanistan within the next 135 days. The remaining American soldiers will leave the country in 14 months if the Taliban fulfills its commitments. The document lays the groundwork for future negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, aimed at bringing a lasting peace to the country.


The US has agreed to facilitate the talks and lift sanctions from Taliban members by August, provided the negotiations commence as planned. Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada called on all of his fighters to honor and abide by the agreement. The US and Afghan governments said earlier that the peace agreement will include guarantees that Afghan territory will not be used by terrorist groups to target the US and its allies. Also, Washington and Kabul agreed on a prisoner exchange with the Taliban by March 10, vowing to release up to 5,000 and 1,000 people respectively. Calling the deal “a decisive step toward real peace in Afghanistan,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke about the victories against Al-Qaeda, the group behind the 9/11 attacks. “Al-Qaeda today is a shadow of its former self. We have decimated its leadership, and now we have the Taliban agreeing that Al-Qaeda must never again find safe haven in Afghanistan,” he said.

Read more …

Seeing 33 of his troops killed didn’t bring home Putin’s message to Erdogan. Whose claims are for domestic purposes only, until someone dares him.

‘Get Out Of The Way, Let Us Deal With Assad’, Erdogan Says He Told Putin (RT)

As tensions in Idlib province reach the boiling point, Turkey has asked Russia to let it fight the Syrian government face-to-face, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed. Erdogan asked Putin “to get out of the way” and let the Turkish troops deal with Syrian President Bashar Assad, the Turkish leader told his AK Party on Saturday. Erdogan was explaining to lawmakers his government’s handling of the escalation in the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib, where Turkish and Syrian troops have engaged in several clashes over the past weeks. The hostilities have all but ruined Turkey’s 2018 agreement with Russia on de-escalating the violence in the area, which remains the last major stronghold of anti-government forces in Syria.

Describing his phone conversation with Putin, Erdogan said if Russia’s interest in Syria was to keep a military presence there, Turkey, a NATO member, does not object to it. I asked Mr Putin: What’s your business there? If you establish a base, do so but get out of our way and leave us face to face with the regime. Moscow intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2015 to help Damascus fight against jihadist groups. Moscow said helping the Syrian government prevented future attacks launched by this would-be entity against other nations, including Russia. Erdogan said Ankara now considers Syrian government troops a legitimate target for its attacks, claiming Damascus lost over 2,100 soldiers in Idlib.

It was not immediately clear if the casualty number only represents Syrian troops killed directly by the Turkish military or includes those killed by Turkish-backed armed groups. Erdogan added that “seven warehouses with chemicals” were also destroyed in Syria, but did not offer any details or evidence regarding whether Syria still had chemical weapons in its possession. The Turkish leader said fighting against the Syrian government is necessary to prevent a humanitarian disaster in Idlib, which would cause a new influx of refugees into Turkey across the border. Part of the Turkish response to the situation was opening the border with Europe to asylum-seekers. Erdogan said the EU failed to support Turkey, which already hosts over 3,6 million refugees from Syria and faces as many as 4 million new arrivals now.

Read more …

Does NATO Article 5 apply to members invading the sovereign soil of other nations?

Threat Of Russia-Turkey-NATO Hot War A Godsend For US Foreign Policy (RT)

Turkey is calling for NATO’s protection after 33 of its soldiers were killed in an apparent Syrian airstrike in Idlib, allegedly while fighting in terrorist ranks. In the regional chaos that ensues, only one player stands to gain.
Speculation over what’s to come next has seen #article 5 trending on Twitter in the hours following the attacks, after Omer Celik, spokesman for Turkey’s ruling AKP party, indicated to reporters in Ankara that he was looking at requesting formal NATO protection against Damascus and, by proxy, the Russian air force. “We call on NATO to [start] consultations. This is not [an attack] on Turkey only, it is an attack on the international community. A common reaction is needed. The attack was also against NATO,” Celik told Turkish media.

Article 5 of the NATO treaty says an attack on one member is an attack on them all. The US State Department also condemned the attack, stating that it stands by its “NATO ally Turkey.” It further stated that it continues to “call for an immediate end to this despicable offensive by the Assad regime, Russia and Iranian-backed forces.” Never one to let us down, the US envoy to NATO Kay Bailey Hutchinson also told journalists that “everything is on the table.” However, it is unclear if NATO has the stamina to back Turkey in any meaningful way in a war against a Syrian government which is backed by Russian air power. It is also unclear if Article 5 extends to NATO allies when they have effectively invaded a foreign entity. In fact, even if no corporate media entity would willingly admit it, the nation defending itself in this specific set of facts is Syria – not Turkey.

That being said, Ankara has found a way to ensure that European nations do not flat-out ignore the situation. Just recently, Turkey reportedly opened up the Idlib border to allow an influx of Syrian refugees to flee to Europe, which will surely magnify regional tensions to a significant extent. Moscow has responded to the situation by highlighting Ankara’s relationship with the various jihadist entities in Syria. According to Russia’s Defense Ministry, the airstrike was carried out when the Syrian Army was repelling an offensive by Syria’s official al-Qaeda offshoot, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, inside the Idlib “de-escalation zone.” Of course, anyone who has been paying attention to the war in Syria can appreciate that Ankara’s material and financial support for terrorist groups in Syria, including and especially Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), has long been documented.

Read more …

Erdogan buys Russian anti-rocket systems, then asks NATO for support with air defense.

Greece Vetoes NATO Communique Intended to Support Turkey in Syria (GR)

Greece blocked the issuance of a joint communique from NATO on Friday night, intended to support Turkey in its war inside Syrian territory. According to Greece’s Kathimerini daily, which quotes Greek Foreign Ministry officials, Athens decided to block the joint NATO declaration because several of its members denied Greece’s demand to add a paragraph, which would have mentioned the issue of refugee and migrant influx from Turkey to Greece. According to this report, the USA, the UK, France, and Germany disagreed with Greece’s demand.


Meanwhile, Turkey asked NATO for additional support, particularly in its air defense in Syria. Most of the members of the North Atlantic alliance see this situation as an opportunity to bring Turkey closer to its allies in the West, pausing Ankara’s flirt with Russia. This was the reason why most of NATO’s ”big” players did not want to anger Turkey, by adding a clause that would mention immigration, particularly at a time when Ankara declares its inability to deal with approximately 4 million refugees and migrants currently in its territory.

Read more …

Greece has sent in the army to hold of some 13,000 migrants at the border. Either the EU acts now, or people are going to be killed.

Turkey Minister: 76,358 Migrants Headed To Border With Greece (K.)

Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu claims, in a Twitter post, that 76,358 migrants had passed through the border city of Edirne by Sunday morning on their way to the border crossing with Greece. “As of 09.55 hours, the number of immigrants leaving our country via Edirne is 76 thousand 358,” said Soylu, according to the Demiroren News Agency. Turkey has opened its borders for migrants to cross into the EU and has aided them by providing buses to Edirne.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Feb 202020
 


Saul Leiter Man with flowers, NY 1950s

 

A few days ago, I was thinking of writing another corona article, focusing on two things: 1) the ease and speed with which the virus spreads -because I think that is hugely underestimated-, and 2) testing. But then the situation with the two cruise ships started going berserk.

I had intended to use the Diamond Princess as a case for the ease and speed of infection, but it became clear quite rapidly that you can’t use the ship to prove any case, other than that people are completely nuts. But we already knew that. And while Dostoyevsky wrote some great books on the topic, it’s not a great framework for a piece on a virus. Unless perhaps if it infects the brain.

Not that I don’t think the ship is still a good example to make the point, but too much plain bonkers stuff has been going on with and around it. The quarantine, the evacuations, the infection numbers, you name it. I’ll get to the testing later, that was/is a whole other chapter.

A problem, if you’re me, with letting an essay simmer for a bit, is that ever more sources start accumulating, until there’s too many to either comprehend or use in an effective way. First thing to do is not to wait another day. Let’s start with 1) The ease and speed with which the virus spreads, aka transmissibility,, and see where we land.

 

1) The ease and speed with which the virus spreads

People continue to have this idea that COVID19 isn’t all that bad, yada yada, an “analysis” crowned by the comparisons to seasonal flu. Which make no more sense then to compare it to bovine flatulence. Stop it.

The way and extent the virus was spreading aboard the Diamond Princess became clear before the evacuation efforts. The US government, and others, were watching it happen, and pulled the plug. What the Japanese were doing and thinking is less clear. It’s sort of fun to see Washington refrain from calling Tokyo on it, best allies and all, but it makes you think at the same time.

So if using the Diamond Princess is not a good example, we need to look elsewhere. This Feb 16 Zero Hedge graph of infections outside China might be a good start. Whether it represents an exponential or a quadratic function is sort of an inside joke by now, but it’s clear enough in either case.

 

 

Even more obvious perhaps is this from the South China Morning Post (SCMP):

Coronavirus Up To 20 Times More Likely Than Sars To Bind To Human Cells

The deadly new coronavirus is up to 20 times more likely to bind to human cell receptors and cause infection than severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), a new study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin has found. The novel coronavirus and Sars share the same functional host-cell receptor, called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2).

The report, published on the website bioRxiv on Saturday, said the new coronavirus had around 10 to 20-fold higher affinity – the degree to which a substance tends to combine with another – for human ACE2 compared with Sars. But the researchers added that further studies were needed to explore the human host-cell receptor’s role in helping the new virus to spread from person to person.

“Compared with SARS-CoV, 2019-nCoV appears to be more readily transmitted from human to human,” the report of the study said. “The high affinity of 2019-nCoV S for human ACE2 may contribute to the apparent ease with which 2019-nCoV can spread from human to human.”

The ACE2 receptor has already been reported as being much more prevalent among Asian people, but please don’t presume the buck stops there. Non-Asians have them as well, and we’re not even sure what role they play, or if fewer of them would protect you from being infected. Allegedly, smokers have more ACE2 enzymes as well. As do older people.

Another transmissibility example is the death of an entire family in Wuhan:

Virus Kills Chinese Film Director and Family in Wuhan

A Chinese film director and his entire family have died from the novel coronavirus in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Chang Kai, a film director and an external communications officer at a Hubei Film Studio subsidiary, died in hospital on Feb. 14 from the virus now called COVID-19, according to a statement from the studio. He was 55.


But Chang’s death was not the first in his family—the Chinese media reported that Chang’s father and mother were infected and died one after the other. Chang and his sister, who looked after their parents at home, were both infected with the virus as a result. His sister died just hours later. Chang’s wife is also infected, still alive, and is still battling the virus in an intensive care unit.

But everything above loses most of its meaning compared to the following, also from the South China Morning Post. You might want to sit down for this one.

Until now, ‘accepted knowledge” is that the first death from COVID19 was registered on January 9 2020, a 61-year old man in Wuhan. And that the incubation time for the virus was maximum 14 days – hence the 2-week quarantines everywhere. No more.

The government of Xinxian county, in the city of Xinyang, on Sunday reported that one of its new cases had been confirmed 34 days after the patient returned from a mid-January visit to Wuhan.

He had been sent to hospital with suspected symptoms on January 28, but twice tested negative before testing positive on February 16. A further two people who attended family gatherings with the man in Xinxian were reported as infected, while three were suspected cases or under hospital quarantine.

The county government announced it would extend the home quarantine period from 14 to 21 days for residents who had been to Hubei or had contact with people who had been there.

It also reported a case that was confirmed 94 days after the patient’s contact with a relative from Hubei. The patient had taken care of his father-in-law, who arrived from Wuhan on November 13 and died days later.

The son-in-law continued to stay in the father-in-law’s house until January 31. However, the government statement said the origin of the son-in-law’s infection had yet to be identified. Zhuhai, in the southern Guangdong province, last week reported two cases with incubation periods longer than 14 days. Similar cases have also been reported in Anhui and Shandong provinces.

This potentially pushes back the first known case to November 13 2019 and the first known death to November 13 and change. “Died days later”. Shall we say 4-5 days? That means the first fatality was November 17-18. While incubation time may have been pushed forward to 94 days.

 

 

 

 

2) Testing

The most important term coming out of the coronavirus news, going forward, will be “false negative”. Closely followed by “asymptomatic”. There are tons of stories about people testing negative 2-3-4- times before testing positive. And also tons of stories about people with no symptoms infecting others. It’s all about the things you don’t see.

The Chinese had it about as wrong as can be early on, and knee-jerked into the Party deny and hide mode. They have it right now, though: the only way to keep the virus from spreading is to limit contact between people, even if that may seem to reach extreme proportions. If there is no vaccine, there is no other way. But if it’s just the Chinese that do isolation, that solves nothing.

When I first read that the passengers of the Holland-America Line cruise ship Westerdam had been allowed to leave the ship when it landed in Cambodia a week ago after, I think, 9 days of floating around aimlessly, I thought this was a “Go Forth and Multiply” message for the virus. Second thought was: who’s in charge here? Still wondering about that one.

The Westerdam had 2,257 people on board, 1,455 passengers and 802 crew. They were not allowed to dock anywhere after a man who had gone off board in Hong Kong tested positive. As we speak, some 255 passengers and 747 crew members are still being held on the ship while further testing was conducted. That means 1,200 passengers and 55 crew have left the ship. Cambodia let lots of them fly to Malaysia, and they flew all over from there.

And only then did they discover an 83-year old American woman who had already flown to Malaysia had tested positive. The ship had a lot of Americans (400?) , Canadians and Dutch people on board. Where did they go? Mostly home, of course. And now all those countries are scrambling to locate these people. Even if they do, who have they infected in the meantime? They’ve been in close proximity to others, like on planes.

And, again, who’s in charge? Did the Holland-America people, and the Cambodian government, keep in constant touch with the WHO and the Chinese? Would it have made any difference if they did? Or is it as bad as it seems, a Wild East sort of set-up with everyone fending for themselves?

What are the odds that someone in the Cambodian government now has a new offshore bank account with $10 million in it, in a deal made before the 83-year old American woman tested positive, in exchange for letting the ship dock and making sure the passengers would leave ASAP?

 

Hard as it may seem to imagine, the Diamond Princess may be, and have been, even more of a mess than the Westerdam. Someone said: “it was a mess on board, and the mess is now moving off board”. And now we have the first 2 fatalities from the ship.

Diamond Princess: everyone confined to their cabins, little interaction, but still in the past week numbers of new infections have exploded, with many dozens of new cases every day. So now we have a total of what, 500-600 new infections ever since the US said: enough!

Why were they, why were larger numbers, not discovered earlier? Well… There were 3,711 people on board. 5-6 days ago, 10-12 days after the first positive test, 1,219 had been tested. Which means that after 10+ days of quarantine, less than a third had actually been tested. As of Monday, 2,404 passengers and crew, out of the 3,711, had been tested. That still left 1,300. Many of whom are now gone.

The remaining 61 American passengers on the Diamond Princess who opted not to join the evacuation will not be allowed to return to the US until March 4, according to the American embassy in Tokyo.

Undoubtedly some logic behind the lack of testing until recently will be offered by Tokyo, but you must wonder how many of the 542 new cases of the last four days had been tested at all, and how long some of them had been infected, probably without showing any signs. For instance, the 14 cases on the flights to the US this week were all asymptomatic virus carriers. All of them, according to official channels.

And now we read that Japan has no intentions of quarantining its citizens who were on board the Diamond Princess:

Earlier in the week, the United States evacuated more than 300 nationals on two chartered flights. A State Department official said there were still about 45 US citizens on board the cruise ship as of Thursday. Americans flown back will have to complete another 14 days quarantine, as will returning Hong Kong residents. Disembarked Japanese passengers, however, face no such restrictions, a decision that has sparked concern.

One more thing, then I’ll stop. Zero Hedge a few days ago quoted a Taiwan Times article saying people can be infected multiple times. And be worse off for it. A first infection leaves your immune system ravaged, and combined with the damage caused by the medication taken, can make you helpless against a second attack.

Chinese Doctors Say Wuhan Coronavirus Reinfection Even Deadlier

Doctors working on the front lines of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak have told the Taiwan Times that it’s possible to become reinfected by the virus, leading to death from sudden heart failure in some cases. “It’s highly possible to get infected a second time. A few people recovered from the first time by their own immune system, but the meds they use are damaging their heart tissue, and when they get it the second time, the antibody doesn’t help but makes it worse, and they die a sudden death from heart failure.. ”


“The source also said the virus has “outsmarted all of us..” [..] “It can fool the test kit – there were cases that they found, the CT scan shows both lungs are fully infected but the test came back negative four times. The fifth test came back positive.” -Taiwan Times

We will now start to see the economic effects (you haven’t seen anything yet in that regard). More on that later. Rule of thumb: companies have 1-2 weeks of supplies in stock. Just-in-Time. Then they need more delivered. But the Chinese economy is on its last legs. Please don’t think it’s about Apple or some other major company. This is about a million smaller companies and (chain) stores in the west. What was it, 80% of US drugs come from China? Or was that just antibiotics?

There are ways to minimize the damage a virus can do. Mankind as a whole, in the places where the proverbial chain literally is as strong as the weakest link, has not minimized it. Instead it has told the virus: “Go Forth and Multiply”. Prepare accordingly. If we’re lucky, this will die down and pass. But that’s the problem: it’ll happen only if we’re lucky, not because we’ve done all we know we could.

 

 

Feb 202020
 


NPC Newsstand with Out-of-Town Papers, Washington DC 1925

 

2 Diamond Princess Passengers Die, Countries Rush To Evacuate Citizens (RT)
Two Coronavirus Patients From Diamond Princess Cruise Ship In Japan Die (SCMP)
New Coronavirus Spreads More Like Flu Than SARS (R.)
First Batch Of Diamond Princess Passengers Arrive In Hong Kong (R.)
Cruise Passengers Relieved To Be Ashore But Stranded In Cambodia (G.)
South Korea Reports 31 New Cases Of Coronavirus (SCMP)
Virus-Hit China Limps Back To Work (R.)
Trump ‘Offered Julian Assange A Pardon If He Denied Russia Link To Hack’ (G.)
Did Trump Offer Assange A Pardon? (ZH)
German Politicians And Professionals Demand Release Of Julian Assange (WSWS)
Roger Stone To Be Sentenced By Judge He Antagonized (R.)
Greece Labels Erdogan A Liar (K.)
Bolton Says His Impeachment Testimony Would Not Have Changed Outcome (NBC)
Russia Becomes A Safe Haven In An Increasingly Turbulent World (BNE)

 

 

Cases 75,757 (+ 560 from yesterday’s 75,197).

Number seems low because China used their accounting again (h/t ZH):

 

China’s National Health Commission may report – as soon as this evening – the first official drop in new cases since the pandemic started. Why does this matter? Because that is now the catalyst everyone is waiting for to pounce and declare that the epidemic is effectively over, even if of course isn’t.


But since for China it is no longer an option to not have people go to work, the Chinese Communist Party will take its chances with another major breakout in coronavirus, or rather pneumonia, which is how all the thousands of new “mystery” deaths will be tagged by the friendly Chinese coroner, who will be instructed to never use the word coronavirus again and instead attributed covid-19 fatalities to far more mundane causes such as pneumonia, and ordinary flu.

 

Deaths 2,130 (+ 120 from yesterday)

• First death among Diamond Princess passengers, first cases in Iran

 

 

I’ll go use these numbers from Worldometer as well:

 

 

 

 

“..as the number of those infected soared to over 620 people, Japanese authorities allowed some 600 passengers to leave the ship on Wednesday ..”

2 Diamond Princess Passengers Die, Countries Rush To Evacuate Citizens (RT)

An elderly couple aboard Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan, where over 620 cases of coronavirus were confirmed, has succumbed to the illness. The fatalities come as Tokyo allows hundreds of passengers to return home. Both passengers were in their 80s, according to public broadcaster NHK, and are the first on board the ship to die of the virus, which has spread to more than 75,000 people and killed over 2,100 worldwide since last December. So far, the majority of fatalities have involved elderly patients with preexisting conditions. The ship was initially quarantined on February 3 with around 3,700 people aboard, and has since turned into the largest disease hotspot outside China.

After more than two weeks in isolation, as the number of those infected soared to over 620 people, Japanese authorities allowed some 600 passengers to leave the ship on Wednesday and board flights back home, with several hundred more expected to disembark the following day. So far, the US has evacuated some 328 American citizens from the vessel on two chartered flights, 14 of whom were confirmed to carry the virus just as they were heading to the airport. They were isolated from the others on board the plane and remain in quarantine in the US.

Over 150 Australian passengers were allowed to return home – where they face another two-week observation period – while several Hong Kongers also disembarked. Canada, Britain and Indonesia are slated to carry out similar evacuations for citizens aboard the ill-fated cruise liner in the coming days. More than 130 Indian crew members will be the last to depart the ship, forced to endure another two weeks on board before facing yet another 14-day quarantine at home.

Read more …

“Americans flown back will have to complete another 14 days quarantine, as will returning Hong Kong residents. Disembarked Japanese passengers, however, face no such restrictions..”

Two Coronavirus Patients From Diamond Princess Cruise Ship In Japan Die (SCMP)

Two passengers from a coronavirus-hit cruise ship moored near Tokyo have died, public broadcaster NHK said on Thursday, as a second group of passengers began disembarking after two-weeks quarantined on-board. More than 620 of the passengers on the Diamond Princess liner have been infected on the ship, which has been quarantined since February 3, initially with about 3,700 people on board. NHK, citing a government source, said the passengers were a man and woman in their 80s. Both had underlying conditions and had been taken off the ship on February 11 and 12 before being treated in hospital, NHK said. The rapid spread of the disease – Japan has well over half of the known cases outside China – has sparked criticism of authorities just months before Tokyo is due to host the Summer Olympics.

Health Minister Katsunobu Kato on Thursday defended Japan’s response in parliament, telling lawmakers that officials have taken expert advice and responded to issues on a daily basis. In a move to reassure the public, the health ministry also issued a statement in both English and Japanese that said all passengers had been required to stay in their cabins since February 5 to contain the virus. [..] About 500 passengers were set to disembark on Thursday while another 100 people were to leave for chartered flights home, a health ministry official said. An initial batch of passengers who had tested negative and shown no symptoms left the vessel on Wednesday.

Those who have shared a room with people testing positive were required to remain in quarantine, as were crew. The ministry could not confirm how many people remained on board, or when disembarkation would be complete. More than 150 Australian passengers arrived home after a predawn departure from Tokyo’s Haneda airport. They face another 14-day quarantine. Some Hong Kong passengers also went home, while Canadians were due to leave on a charter flight in the early hours of Friday, Tokyo time, a Canadian government spokeswoman said. An evacuation flight was also being arranged for British nationals to leave Tokyo on Friday.

Earlier in the week, the United States evacuated more than 300 nationals on two chartered flights. A State Department official said there were still about 45 US citizens on board the cruise ship as of Thursday. Americans flown back will have to complete another 14 days quarantine, as will returning Hong Kong residents. Disembarked Japanese passengers, however, face no such restrictions, a decision that has sparked concern.

Read more …

Transmissibility.

New Coronavirus Spreads More Like Flu Than SARS (R.)

Scientists in China who studied nose and throat swabs from 18 patients infected with the new coronavirus say it behaves much more like influenza than other closely related viruses, suggesting it may spread even more easily than previously believed. In at least in one case, the virus was present even though the patient had no symptoms, confirming concerns that asymptomatic patients could also spread the disease. Although preliminary, the findings published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, offer new evidence that this novel coronavirus, which has killed more than 2,000 people mostly in China, is not like its closely-related coronavirus cousins.

“If confirmed, this is very important,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, a virologist and vaccine researcher with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, who was not involved with the study. Unlike Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which causes infections deep in the lower respiratory tract that can result in pneumonia, COVID-19 appears to inhabit both the upper and lower respiratory tracts. That would make it not only capable of causing severe pneumonia, but of spreading easily like flu or the common cold. Researchers in Guangdong province monitored the amount of coronavirus in the 18 patients. One of them, who had moderate levels of the virus in their nose and throat, never had any disease symptoms.

Among the 17 symptomatic patients, the team found levels of the virus increased soon after symptoms first appeared, with higher amounts of virus present in the nose than in the throats, a pattern more similar to influenza than SARS. The level of virus in the asymptomatic patient was similar to what was present in patients with symptoms, such as fever. “What this says is clearly this virus can be shed out of the upper respiratory tract and that people are shedding it asymptomatically,” Poland said. [..] “This virus is clearly much more capable of spreading between humans than any other novel coronavirus we’ve ever seen. This is more akin to the spread of flu,” said Andersen, who was not involved with the study.

Read more …

Yet another new name for the virus is spreading: SARS-CoV-2.

First Batch Of Diamond Princess Passengers Arrive In Hong Kong (R.)

More than 100 Hong Kong residents who were quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise in Japan for over two weeks landed on Thursday morning in the Asian financial hub, where they will face a further 14 days of quarantine. Arriving on a chartered Cathay Pacific aircraft, the 106 passengers were part of a first batch of at least two government arranged flights to bring back hundreds of remaining citizens. Authorities said 55 of the 364 Hong Kong residents on the ship were infected with the coronavirus. They will remain in Japan along with 33 other citizens who have been in close contact with them.


The British-flagged Diamond Princess arrived in Yokohama, near Tokyo, on Feb 3. with about 3,700 people onboard after the virus was diagnosed in a man who disembarked last month in Hong Kong. Over 600 passengers have tested positive for the virus, SARS-CoV-2, so far. Passengers began disembarking on Wednesday from the ship, which is operated by Carnival Corp. The process will be finished by Friday, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said. Passengers arriving in Hong Kong are being taken straight into quarantine at a new public housing estate in the city’s New Territories region.

Read more …

The Westerdam had 2,257 people, 1,455 passengers and 802 crew aboard. There are now 255 passengers and 747 crew. 1,200 potentially infected people have spread all over the globe. Countries are now “scrambling” to find them.

Cruise Passengers Relieved To Be Ashore But Stranded In Cambodia (G.)

The MS Westerdam arrived in Cambodia on 13 February, after repeatedly being denied entry to other ports. But the thrill of the moment, has now evaporated for those still facing a logistical nightmare. Travel options – already limited by the number of airlines serving Cambodia – have been narrowed by a growing list of countries denying entry to passengers from the ship. “We showed up in a city unexpected and there’s only so many flights a night and we have a lot of people we’re trying to funnel through that system and we’re putting a lot of stress on that system,” said Orlando Ashford, president of the Holland America Line, which operates the Westerdam. “It’s a math problem: how many people do you have? How many seats do you have?”

Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan are among those refusing to allow passengers in, making flying to Europe and the Americas difficult. Some airlines, such as Emirates, make a stop in Bangkok before proceeding to hubs such as Dubai, further limiting available flights. Still, Ashford expressed hope that remaining passengers would be on their way home “in a couple of days”. The Westerdam, with 2,257 passengers and crew aboard, began letting passengers off on Friday as they found flights home. But that was stopped once news broke that an 83-year-old American woman who had been on the ship and subsequently traveled to Malaysia was found to be carrying the virus. Some 255 passengers and 747 crew members were held on the ship while further testing was conducted.

Cambodia’s ministry of health said on Wednesday that all the tests came back negative and that all passengers were reported to be healthy and fever-free. After that, remaining passengers were allowed off the ship. Tony Martin-Vegue, whose wife, Christina Kerby, remains in Phnom Penh, began immediately preparing for her return home to California’s Bay Area once she got off the ship. Now he’s not sure when that might happen. “It’s kind of limbo right now,” he said. “I’m worried about how she’s going to get home.”

Read more …

Yesterday 20, now 31. 90 people at a temple service show symptoms.

South Korea Reports 31 New Cases Of Coronavirus (SCMP)

The mayor of a South Korean city at the centre of a new coronavirus outbreak told residents to stay indoors on Thursday as a surge in confirmed cases linked to a local church raised the prospect of wider transmission. Malls, restaurants and streets in Daegu, the country’s fourth largest city with a population of 2.5 million, were largely empty in scenes that local social media users likened to a disaster movie. “We are in an unprecedented crisis,” Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin said at a briefing in the city, about 240km (miles) southwest of the capital Seoul, as he warned of likely further cases. Korea’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) reported 31 new cases of the virus on Thursday, following 20 a day earlier, taking the total across the country to 82.


Of that national tally, 49 patients are from Daegu or nearby and have been traced to an infected person who attended a local church, a scenario that KCDC described as a “super-spreading event”. Kwon cautioned that at least 90 more of the around 1,000 other people who attended services at the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony were also showing symptoms. [..] The cases previously reported in South Korea had mostly involved people who had travelled individually to China or come in contact with somebody who had. Daegu authorities ordered the shutdown of all kindergartens, while schools considered postponing the beginning of the spring semester scheduled for early March The Defence Ministry banned troops stationed in Daegu from leaving their barracks and receiving guests.

Read more …

Breaking the -supply- chains.

Virus-Hit China Limps Back To Work (R.)

The Chinese manufacturing engine that powers much of the world economy is struggling to restart after an extended Lunar New Year break, hindered by travel and quarantine restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus epidemic and still in place in many parts of the country. Case in point: in the southern China manufacturing hub of Dongguan, a factory that makes vaporizers and other products had just half of its workforce of 40 last week and was struggling to function without key personnel. “The quality inspectors, they’re all out,” said Renaud Anjoran, who runs the factory. “One is stuck in Hubei, the other is in an area with no transportation open.” Anjoran said other Dongguan manufacturers were also scrambling with half their normal staff levels, with some having even less than that.

The problems are exacerbating pain inflicted by loss of business from the U.S.-China trade war and present huge logistical challenges as companies, many dependent on migrant workers, grapple with a myriad of restrictions that differ by province, city and local district. Apple on Monday rescinded a quarterly sales target made just weeks ago, saying the ramp up of factories in China was slower than anticipated. Hyundai and Nissan have had to suspend some production – not just in China but also at home – for lack of parts. Some smaller firms, particularly in Southeast Asia and reliant on supplies from China, are having to make tough decisions. Taiwan’s Sica New Materials abruptly shut its factory in Thailand at the end of January, laying off about 350 workers.

“They couldn’t produce because raw materials weren’t being sent from China,” said Pairote Panthakarn from the government’s welfare and labor protection office in Kanchanaburi province, where the factory is located. Sica New Materials did not respond to a request for comment. Sinoproud Cambodia Garments, whose customers include fashion retailer Zara’s parent Inditex, told Reuters it may scale back production as stocks of fabric were getting low. “We hope we get the product in March and if we don’t get the product in March, we might just have to cut back and put the workers on half pay,” said general manager Tu Ailan. Nearly half of 109 U.S. companies responding to a poll by Shanghai’s American Chamber of Commerce said plant shutdowns have already had an impact on their supply chains, while almost all of the remainder expect an impact within the next month.

Read more …

WikiLeaks says on Twitter that there’s much more where this came from.

Julian Assange has always said Russia was not behind the leaked mails, and said they were not hacked, but leaked.. But that was not convenient. And now he’s locked up.

In early 2017, Assange negotiated with Congressmembers (?!) about providing proof Russia was not involved. James Comey shut that down.

Mollie Hemingway on Twitter: “Not only have the media not had a proper reckoning for their deceitful years-long push of the dangerous and false Russia collusion conspiracy theory, THEY ARE STILL DOING IT AS LATE AS TODAY. This propaganda is dangerous to domestic and national security and must stop.”

Trump ‘Offered Julian Assange A Pardon If He Denied Russia Link To Hack’ (G.)

Donald Trump offered Julian Assange a pardon if he would say Russia was not involved in leaking Democratic party emails, a court in London has been told. The extraordinary claim was made at Westminster magistrates court before the opening next week of Assange’s legal battle to block attempts to extradite him to the US, where he faces charges for publishing hacked documents. The allegation was denied by the former Republican congressman named by the Assange legal team as a key witness. Assange’s lawyers alleged that during a visit to London in August 2017, congressman Dana Rohrabacher told the WikiLeaks founder that “on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC [Democratic National Committee] leaks.”


A few hours later, however, Rohrabacher denied the claim, saying he had made the proposal on his own initiative, and that the White House had not endorsed it. “At no time did I talk to President Trump about Julian Assange,” the former congressman wrote on his personal blog. “Likewise, I was not directed by Trump or anyone else connected with him to meet with Julian Assange. I was on my own fact finding mission at personal expense to find out information I thought was important to our country. “At no time did I offer Julian Assange anything from the president because I had not spoken with the president about this issue at all. However, when speaking with Julian Assange, I told him that if he could provide me information and evidence about who actually gave him the DNC emails, I would then call on President Trump to pardon him,” Rohrabacher added. “At no time did I offer a deal made by the president, nor did I say I was representing the president.”

Read more …

Zero Hedge appears to be confused here when they say According to Assange’s lawyer, Rohrabacher, it was him that informed Gen. Kelly..”

It wasn’t Assange’s lawyer, it was Rohrabacher (they are not the same person) who “said it was him that informed Gen. Kelly that “Assange would provide information about the purloined DNC emails in exchange for a pardon..” It should read: “According to Assange’s lawyer, Rohrabacher said it was him that informed Gen. Kelly..”

So their headline “Assange’s Lawyer Flip-Flops – Admits He Offered Russia Exoneration Quid Pro Quo, White House Ignored” doesn’t seem to make sense.

Did Trump Offer Assange A Pardon? (ZH)

Update: The story appears to have changed dramatically. According to Assange’s lawyer, Rohrabacher said it was him that informed Gen. Kelly that “Assange would provide information about the purloined DNC emails in exchange for a pardon,” but never heard back from the White House. It was Assange’s lawyer (not Assange) that offered a quid prod quo to expose the truth that Russia did not hack the DNC emails (none of which has been proven) in exchange for a pardon… but The White House never responded. [..] Attorneys for Julian Assange told a London court on Wednesday that they will provide evidence that the Trump administration offered to pardon the WikiLeaks founder if he was willing to say that Russia had nothing to do with leaks of Democratic Party emails, according to Bloomberg.

During the preliminary extradition hearing, Assange’s lawyers said that former GOP congressman Dana Rohrahbacher offered the deal in 2017, one year after WikiLeaks published emails which were damaging to then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. At the time, the FBI’s ‘Russiagate’ investigation was in full swing as the agency tried in vein to prove that Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 US election.

“At a preliminary hearing Wednesday, Assange’s lawyer Edward Fitzgerald asked the court to allow more witness statements during the extradition hearing that will start next week. The new information includes a witness statement by Jen Robinson, another of Assange’s lawyers, that deals with the alleged offer made by then U.S. Representative. Dana Rohrabacher, he told the court. The witness statement will address “Mr. Rohrabacher going to see Mr. Assange, and saying on instructions of the president, offering pardon or some other way out if Mr. Assange played ball and said the Russians had nothing to do with” the leaks, Fitzgerald said.” -Bloomberg

Read more …

Where were they the past few years?

German Politicians And Professionals Demand Release Of Julian Assange (WSWS)

German-speaking politicians, cultural workers and journalists have published a joint appeal, “Release Julian Assange from prison,” which supports the demand “for the immediate release of Julian Assange, on medical grounds as well on the basis of the rule of law.” The 130 initial signatories have now been joined by 22,000 other supporters. The appeal expresses “great concern for the life of the journalist and founder of Wikileaks” and quotes the findings of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, saying, Assange showed “all the symptoms typical of victims of prolonged psychological torture.” The appeal also refers to the open letter from more than 60 medical doctors, who demand “Assange be transferred to a university hospital, as his state of health is now considered life-threatening.”


“It is obvious that Julian Assange cannot recuperate under the current conditions of detention, nor can he prepare for his extradition proceedings, which are scheduled to begin on February 24, 2020,” the appeal says. “Both constitute serious violations of fundamental principles of human rights and the rule of law, making a fair trial impossible and exposing Julian Assange to considerable suffering and health risks.” The appeal goes on to say, “We remind the German media that Assange is one of their own and that the defence of press freedom is a fundamental tenet of democracy. Notwithstanding the allegations levelled against Assange, we urge the United Kingdom, on the human rights and medical grounds outlined above, to release Julian Assange from custody immediately so that he can recover under expert medical supervision and exercise his fundamental rights without hindrance. We also call on the German Government to make representations to the British Government to this effect.”

Read more …

He’ll either get a new court case or be pardoned.

Roger Stone To Be Sentenced By Judge He Antagonized (R.)

Since his January 2019 arrest, President Donald Trump’s longtime adviser Roger Stone has repeatedly tested the patience of the federal judge who presided over his trial. On Thursday, that judge will tell the self-described “dirty trickster” how long he will serve in prison. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson is scheduled to sentence Stone, a veteran Republican operative whose friendship with Trump dates back decades, after a 12-member jury in November found him guilty on all seven counts of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering. The judge on Tuesday rejected Stone’s bid to delay the sentencing.

The high-profile case has taken on additional importance since Trump last week blasted the federal prosecutors who won Stone’s conviction as “corrupt” after they recommended to the judge a prison sentence of seven to nine years. Attorney General William Barr, appointed last year by Trump as the top U.S. law enforcement official, swiftly intervened and the Justice Department withdrew the recommendation as “excessive,” with all four prosecutors then quitting the case. The Republican president thanked Barr for “taking charge” of the Stone matter, though Barr rebuked Trump for tweeting about the case. Congressional Democrats have accused Trump and Barr of politicizing the U.S. criminal justice system and threatening the rule of law.

Stone has repeatedly pushed the boundaries set by Jackson since his arrest in a dramatic pre-dawn FBI raid on his Florida home. Stone violated the judge’s orders not to talk about the case or post on social media, and she accused him of “middle school” behavior. At one point, Stone posted an image of Jackson on Instagram with what looked like the crosshairs of a gun over her head. “His antics are definitely an aggravating factor, and he can expect a longer sentence than he otherwise would have received,” said Mark Allenbaugh, a co-founder of Sentencing Stats, LLC who previously worked for the U.S. Sentencing Commission that sets federal sentencing guidelines.

[..] Stone, 67, was convicted of lying under oath to U.S. lawmakers about his outreach to WikiLeaks – the website that disclosed many hacked Democratic emails ahead of the 2016 election that proved embarrassing to Trump’s Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton – to protect Trump from looking bad. Mueller’s investigation concluded the emails were hacked by Russia. Stone sought to cast doubt on Moscow’s role.

Read more …

Erdogan has a wild plan to destroy the Treaty of Lausanne, and now out of nowhere tells his party that Greece has agreed with that plan. It didn’t and never will.

Greece Labels Erdogan A Liar (K.)

Greece vehemently dismissed the claim by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that it has accepted the status quo Turkey wants in the Eastern Mediterranean, saying that not only it has not done so, but it has, along with the international community, condemned Turkey’s illegal moves in the region. “As we have repeatedly stressed, illegal actions produce no legal effect,” said Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexandros Gennimatas, who denounced “moves that continue to undermine regional peace and security, creating, among other things, pretexts for the violation of the arms embargo in Libya and for the attempt to usurp the sovereign rights of countries in the region.” ”Unfortunately, in this, too, Turkey continues to be a minority of one,” he said.


Erdogan said earlier Wednesday that Ankara’s resolute stance has led “the rest of the countries in the region, but mainly Greece,” to accept the status quo that Turkey wants in the Eastern Mediterranean. He also stressed that Europeans have no jurisdiction in the region. Moreover, he announced that Turkey has purchased its third offshore drilling ship which will arrive in Turkey next month and begin drilling in 2020, without specifying the location. Speaking to the ruling AKP’s parliamentary group, he stressed that the new drilling rig could reach a depth of 11,400 meters. Meanwhile, the third day on Wednesday of contacts in Athens between Greek and Turkish delegations on confidence building measures coincided with 39 airspace violations over the Aegean Sea by Turkish fighter jets.

Read more …

“Per the audio obtained, Bolton says the House committed “malpractice” and “made a mess” of the impeachment inquiry, calling it “grossly partisan.”

Bolton Says His Impeachment Testimony Would Not Have Changed Outcome (NBC)

Former national security adviser John Bolton said Wednesday he was surprised that Senate Republicans rejected his offer to testify in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. But he said that even if he had testified, it wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the trial because of how House Democrats handled their investigation. “I think the House committed impeachment malpractice,” Bolton said at an event at Vanderbilt University with Susan Rice, who was national security adviser during the administration of former President Barack Obama. “The process drove Republicans who might have voted for impeachment away” because “it was so partisan,” he said. But, he added, “my testimony would have made no difference to the ultimate outcome.”

All but one Senate Republican voted to acquit Trump of abusing the power of his office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate a political opponent. Rice challenged Bolton repeatedly over his decision not to testify in the House or publicly discuss what he knows about the president’s Ukraine pressure campaign, particularly as officials who worked for him on the National Security Council have done so and have since endured Trump’s wrath. [..] Bolton noted that he offered to testify in the Senate trial and that the House didn’t subpoena him after Democrats learned that he would seek a court ruling because the White House had told him not to testify. He wouldn’t speculate about testifying before the House now if he is subpoenaed, because, he said, his lawyer has advised him not to take a position during a national security review by the White House of his book on his time as national security adviser.

Bolton also tried to deflect growing criticism that he isn’t speaking out because he’s simply out to sell his book about his 17 months in the Trump White House. He said he couldn’t speak out now because his book — “The Room Where it Happened”— is still undergoing a prepublication national security review and he believes Trump would have his administration sue him if he discussed its contents before that’s complete. “I’m not out here flacking for it,” he said. “I believe I wrote a book that does not contain any classified information. The staff reviewing it says it does.

Read more …

The benefits of sanctions.

Russia Becomes A Safe Haven In An Increasingly Turbulent World (BNE)

A year ago the main concern of international investors looking at Russia was uncertainty due to its geopolitical showdown with the West. A year on and global economic uncertainty is the main worry, not geopolitics. Russia is now seen by an increasing number of investors as a safe haven in an increasingly turbulent and unpredictable world. “Russia has seen a sharp change from the dominating attitudes from just a year ago: global uncertainty, not geopolitics, now seems the key risk factor. Russia is now seen as a “safe haven,” helped by reserves and sound macroeconomic policies. Low valuations are overtaking high dividend payments in importance and the new Russian government with Putin’s spending initiatives have been taken positively,” BSC Global Markets chief economist Vladimir Tikhomirov said in a note.

The majority of investors are already overweight Russian equities: 59% of dedicated funds are overweight, 33% are even weight and the remainder underweight. Russian President Vladimir Putin has spent the last few years constructing a “fiscal fortress” of record high gross international reserves (GIR) that have now surpassed the pre-crisis peak and are approaching $600bn. At the same time, the budget has been overhauled and the break-even price of oil for the budget to balance has tumbled from $115 in the boom years to around $40 now – well below the average oil prices of the last few years. Under Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, when he ran the tax office, the tax take grew by 20% despite the tax burden only rising by 2pp. And both external and public debt are now covered dollar for dollar with cash.

In short, Russia has probably the best macro fundamentals of any major country in the world. All this has not been lost on bond investors, who have piled into the market and now own about a third of all the Russian Ministry of Finance ruble-denominated OFZ treasury bills – the ministry’s main source of financing the budget. But last year the increasingly good story spilled over into the equity markets. Russia’s dollar-denominated Russia Trading System (RTS) index returned just under 50%, making it on of the top three performing equity markets in the world. This year got off to a very strong start with the market up 10% in the first two weeks, but the coronavirus epidemic in China took the wind out of its sails and the market is currently flat YTD, with the notable exception of the utilities sector, which is up a whopping 16% YTD.

Read more …

 

I have nothing against Warren. But politics sold in the same way as American Idol, and therefore ultimately in the same way as detergent, is very creepy.

 

 

 

The Automatic Earth cannot survive without your Paypal and Patreon donations. If you read us, please support us.

 

Feb 042020
 


DPC The heart of Chinatown, San Francisco, after the earthquake and fire 1906

 

China Death Toll Hits 427 As New Cases In Hubei Increase By Record High (SCMP)
Coronavirus: China Admits ‘Shortcomings And Deficiencies’ (BBC)
Chinese Military Takes Control Of Medical Supplies In Wuhan (SCMP)
Coronavirus Tally In Epicentre Wuhan May Be ‘Just The Tip Of The Iceberg’ (SCMP)
‘Striking’ Coronavirus Mutations Found Within One Family Cluster (SCMP)
Coronavirus Found On Doorknob Of Infected Patient (ZH)
Gordon Chang: Chinese Authorities Falsifying Coronavirus Death Toll (SAC)
Crisis-O-Rama (Jim Kunstler)
Press Freedom Is At Risk If We Allow Julian Assange’s Extradition (G.)
2019 Was Record-Breaking Year For Supertall Skyscrapers (DeZeen)
Unprecedented Cybersecurity Measures To Safeguard Iowa Caucus Results (DMR)

 

 

Lots of Wuhan corona again today, how can I not? For coverage of the Dems boondoggle, see the bottom of this aggregator.

Quite a few articles from SCMP (South China Morning Post), which appears to be “opening up” its news on the crisis. To suggest that what we know about Wuhan may just be the tip of the iceberg is some statement for a Chinese paper. Just last week they could have been arrested for spreading false rumors. SCMP may be based in Hong Kong, but it is owned by Alibaba.

Today’s numbers:

• 20,670 cases (was 17,480 yesterday)

• 427 deaths (was 362 yesterday)

• Mortality rate for city of Wuhan has reached 4.9%. Mortality rate for Hubei province is 3.1%.
– Mortality rate is predicted by doctors to drop because extra medical attention is available, but that extra threatens to be overwhelmed right away. Shortages of beds, equipment, test kits, protective clothing etc.

• New cases in Hubei province reach record high

• First death in Hong Kong, first case in Belgium

• 171,329 cases under observation, up 18,629 overnight, along with 23,214 suspected cases. (These are very fluid numbers)

 

 

 

 

“The latest figures come as the number of daily casualties – and levels of global fear – rise sharply.”

China Death Toll Hits 427 As New Cases In Hubei Increase By Record High (SCMP)

Health authorities in Hubei announced on Tuesday that coronavirus fatalities in the province had risen to 414 after 64 deaths were reported overnight – yet another daily record. In figures current as of midnight on Monday, the health commission of Hubei also reported 2,345 new cases of infection. Of those, 1,242 were reported in Wuhan, the province’s capital and epicentre of the deadly contagion, also known as 2019-nCoV. There have been 425 deaths caused by the virus in mainland China and one in the Philippines. The latest figures come as the number of daily casualties – and levels of global fear – rise sharply.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, America’s leading public health institute, on Monday defended what it called “aggressive actions” it is taking to control the US spread of the coronavirus. These include tough warnings against travelling to China and mandatory federal quarantines for those arriving from the Wuhan area where most of the cases come from. Beijing has criticised the US steps. Meanwhile, the economic fallout from the virus continued amid growing concern that global growth could suffer. CNBC reported Monday that Goldman Sachs was cancelling its annual partner meeting in New York this week over concern that Asia-based partners wouldn’t be able to travel.

The US Department of Health and Human Services notified Congress that it may need to tap some US$136 million to combat the outbreak. On other economic fronts, oil fell to its lowest level in over a year during the US trading day Monday on declining Chinese demand.

Read more …

Apparently, Xi has punished over 400 “servants” for failure. When’s his turn?

Coronavirus: China Admits ‘Shortcomings And Deficiencies’ (BBC)

China’s top leadership has admitted “shortcomings and deficiencies” in the country’s response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak. The Politburo Standing Committee said the national emergency management system had to improve. A crackdown on wildlife markets, where the virus emerged, has been ordered. [..] Chinese television early on Tuesday local time reported new figures from Hubei province, the epicentre of the outbreak, adding another 64 fatalities and 2,345 more cases. The number of deaths in China, excluding Hong Kong, now exceeds the 349 killed on the mainland in the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak of 2002-03.


Reports of the standing committee meeting, chaired by President Xi Jinping, were carried by the official Xinhua news agency. It said lessons had to be learned from what had been a “big test” of China’s governance system. “In response to the shortcomings and deficiencies that were exposed responding to this epidemic, we must improve our national emergency management system and improve our abilities in handling urgent and dangerous tasks,” the report said. One area to be tackled is the trade in illegal wildlife, which should be “resolutely banned”, while supervision of markets should be strengthened. It is thought a market in the city of Wuhan in Hubei province was the source of the viral outbreak. On Monday, a study by a Chinese virologist said bats were the likely source.

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Any way, Xi and the CCP have seen enough. I see everyone talk about that new hospital built in 5 minutes, but with 18,269 added to observation alone in one night, maybe that focus is misplaced.

Chinese Military Takes Control Of Medical Supplies In Wuhan (SCMP)

China has deployed hundreds of military officers to control the flow of medical and essential supplies in Wuhan, ground zero of the deadly coronavirus outbreak, state media and sources said. A People’s Liberation Army logistics team of 260 officers, with 130 military trucks, started delivering basic supplies on Sunday, according to state broadcaster CCTV. It said they delivered 200 tonnes of supplies to supermarkets in the Hubei province city of 11 million people on the first day. The team is made up of officers from the PLA’s airborne troops and air force stationed at the Wuhan garrison, and ground force troops from local military academies.


The logistics operation began the same day as 1,400 medical personnel from the PLA were sent to staff the first completed temporary hospital in Wuhan. The Huoshenshan hospital, which was built from scratch in eight days in response to the crisis and will be controlled by the military, was due to open on Monday. A defence ministry statement said the medical staff deployment had been personally approved by President Xi Jinping. A source close to the PLA, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the logistics team was there to make sure donations to charity organisations like the Red Cross Society reached their intended recipients. “The Beijing leadership realised that almost all the donation points in Hubei and Wuhan have had delivery problems, that there are some opportunists using this crisis to make money,” the military source said.

Read more …

“Testing kits are in short supply, meaning only the ‘fortunate’ who test positive are admitted to hospital for treatment…”

“A doctor at the Union Hospital in Wuhan, who declined to be identified, said staff could only test about 100 patients a day, and they had to wait 48 hours for the results.”

Coronavirus Tally In Epicentre Wuhan May Be ‘Just The Tip Of The Iceberg’ (SCMP)

The official number of coronavirus cases in Wuhan might not reflect the true scale of the crisis as there may be many patients who are undiagnosed and not reported, medical experts said. Wuhan – the city of 11 million people where the deadly virus outbreak began in December – has so far reported more than 5,000 confirmed cases of the pneumonia-like illness, or about one-third of the total number across mainland China. But some medical experts have expressed concern that the real number could be much higher because cases are only classified as confirmed once a patient has twice tested positive for the new strain of coronavirus. Given that there is also a shortage of coronavirus testing kits, the figure could be much lower than it actually is.

Professor David Hui Shu-cheong, a respiratory medicine expert from Chinese University of Hong Kong, said the official tally in Wuhan could be “just the tip of the iceberg” because it only reflected the acute cases where patients were admitted to hospital. “There are many community cases that remain undiagnosed – unlike in Hong Kong, where cases are more carefully handled, including the mild ones. Of the 15 confirmed cases [in Hong Kong], 10 of [the patients] didn’t even need to be put on oxygen,” Hui said. “So we’re talking about different denominators here. For an actual picture, one usually has to wait until after the outbreak settles for a general population, zero-prevalence study to be carried out – where blood tests would reflect the number of positive cases containing the antibody without presenting the symptoms,” Hui said.

[..] A doctor at the Union Hospital in Wuhan, who declined to be identified, said staff could only test about 100 patients a day, and they had to wait 48 hours for the results. “When the National Health Commission announces the numbers, they’re already two days old,” the doctor said. “We also have to turn away patients with mild symptoms, knowing that many of them will return later [when their condition worsens]. But we don’t have the space in the testing centre, or the hospital beds.” [..] “There have also been many patients who died of undifferentiated respiratory and undiagnosed pneumonia symptoms in Wuhan since December – before the virus testing kits were made available,” Tsang said.

Read more …

This is what worries the experts. Any mutation can mean a more infectious and deadly virus.

‘Striking’ Coronavirus Mutations Found Within One Family Cluster (SCMP)

Chinese scientists say they have detected “striking” mutations in a new coronavirus that may have occurred during transmission between family members. While the effects of the mutations on the virus are not known, they do have the potential to alter the way the virus behaves. Researchers studying a cluster of infections within a family in the southern province of Guangdong said the genes of the virus went through some significant changes as it spread within the family. Viruses mutate all the time, but most changes are synonymous or “silent”, having little effect on the way the virus behaves. Others, known as nonsynonymous substitutions, can alter biological traits, allowing them to adapt to different environments.

Two nonsynonymous changes took place in the viral strains isolated from the family, according to a new study by Professor Cui Jie and colleagues at the Institut Pasteur of Shanghai. This case indicated “viral evolution may have occurred during person-to-person transmission”, they wrote in the paper published in the journal National Science Review on January 29. “Close monitoring of the virus’s mutation, evolution and adaptation is needed,” they added. Cui’s team also detected a total of 17 nonsynonymous mutations from cases around the country between December 30 and late January, they wrote.

[..] theoretically, mutations can make recovered patients sick again and cheat existing detection methods because they target only a small segment of the viral genome. A study led by University of Minnesota researcher Li Fang predicted that a single mutation at a specific spot in the genome could significantly increase the virus’s ability to bind with cells on the surface of the human respiratory system, according to their paper published in the Journal of Virology on January 29.

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Lovely. Now we have a 2 week incubation time and 5 days on surfaces.

Coronavirus Found On Doorknob Of Infected Patient (ZH)

Until now, the prevailing conventional wisdom was that China’s coronavirus epidemic, which has spread to over 20,600 people around the globe as of February 3, did so by air or, according to some recent and unconfirmed speculation, human feces. That may be about to change. According to the Global Times, new ways of transmitting the coronavirus have been reported, and virus nucleic acid has been detected outside human bodies, sparking public fears that the virus could be transmitted in unknown and undetected ways. Concerns emerged after scientists found coronavirus nucleic acid on the doorknob of a confirmed Guangzhou-based patient’s house, the first case of novel coronavirus detected outside the human body, Guangzhou Daily reported Monday. The finding was confirmed by China’s Health Commission, which said on Monday that the coronavirus can survive for five days maximum on smooth surfaces under suitable circumstances.


That would mean that mobile phone screens, computer keyboards, faucets and other household objects may indirectly transmit the virus, experts said. A man from Northeast China’s Jilin Province, who was confirmed with coronavirus infection on Monday, shared his experience, saying he had used the same microphone with another confirmed patient during a meeting in January. In another case, a 40-year-old man from North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, who lives upstairs of a confirmed patient, was also diagnosed with coronavirus infection on Saturday. Aside from respiratory droplets and contact transmissions, the person has no clear contact histories with people from other cities, patients, or wild animals and has never been to a market, according to the local health authority on Sunday.

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”..what we are witnessing is essentially a breakdown in government and keeping accurate statistics is a very minor part of their priorities right now.”

“This is only going to get worse,” Chang concluded, adding the virus will likely not be contained until “April or May.”

Gordon Chang: Chinese Authorities Falsifying Coronavirus Death Toll (SAC)

Local Chinese authorities have just lost the ability to pick up corpses due to a breakdown in government,” said Gordon Chang, a well known expert on China on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” “So really what we are having right now is, they are completely overwhelmed,” Chang added. “They are not able to keep accurate statistics. So what we are witnessing is essentially a breakdown in government and keeping accurate statistics is a very minor part of their priorities right now.” Chang said that while he understands the preventative measure, he believes the quarantine has “made the problem worse.” “I can understand why they want to quarantine but remember, the Wuhan mayor said about 5 million people from his city left before the quarantine was imposed,” he said.


“Also right now the quarantine has aggravated a problem and that is [that] people can’t get to hospitals, so they are at home…they are dying.” “They are infecting other people in their households because they are not, in a sense, quarantined from wives, husbands, brothers, sisters,” he continued. “The quarantine has made the problem worse. It’s also created panic. That panic has had consequences on, for instance, social cohesion which is absolutely necessary if you want to beat an epidemic.” “It’s not just Wuhan,” he said. “Many Virologists think that [conditions in] Wuhan will be duplicated in cities like Shanghai, maybe even Beijing. Clearly there is fear everywhere throughout China right now.” “This is only going to get worse,” Chang concluded, adding the virus will likely not be contained until “April or May.”

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Releasing a virus to hide economic issues seems a bit far-fetched for now. Not impossible, but we’d like to see some proof.

Crisis-O-Rama (Jim Kunstler)

[..] there’s also a theory that the Coronavirus affords a cover for cascading failures in China’s corrupt and shifty banking system. The country had already stepped across some frontiers in demographics, energy consumption, and industrial growth that were shoving it toward contraction for the first time in two generations. Coronavirus has shut down a lot of production in big things like cars and big-little things like cell phones, and supply lines are shutting down to world markets. This amounts to the first big test of the integrated global economy, as well as the world’s debt-saturated business model. When a lot of parties and counterparties can’t pay each other because their revenue flows are cut off, the securities, currencies, equities, and other abstract representations of wealth go south.

The US and Europe are no better positioned for a crisis in their banking arrangements, and confidence is starting to crack. Both economic mega-regions have relied on central banking hocus-pocus to prop up stock markets and maintain the illusion that the logic of bonds still applies. The first thing to go moneywise in a contracting financial system is the magic of compound interest. The US Federal Reserve has been massively gaming the Repo markets — overnight lending that uses bonds as collateral — since September, raising suspicions that more than one of its “primary dealer” banks are insolvent. Juicing them with “liquidity” is like painting over sheetrock infested with black mold. Looks good for a week or so, and then you’re in intensive care.

Nobody knows yet what the effect of Britain’s escape from the EU will do to the Union’s remainers, but Europe’s bonded debt arrangements are even dodgier than America’s, since there is absolutely no EU central control of each member’s fiscal affairs.

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I kid you not, the Guardian of all outlets has the gall to run a story supporting Julian Assange by a guy named Roy Greenslade. He even quotes editor Kathy Viner, who all but tightened the noose around Julian’s neck along with writer Luke Harding, but now says:

“State power should never be used to suppress the actions of whistleblowers and investigative journalists pursuing stories that are clearly in the public interest. The US extradition case against Julian Assange is a troubling attack on press freedom and the public’s right to know.“

It was the Guardian’s stories on Assange through time that were a troubling attack on press freedom. If you still keep your subscription to them after this, you are lost.

Press Freedom Is At Risk If We Allow Julian Assange’s Extradition (G.)

Later this month, a journalist will appear at a London court hearing in which he faces being extradited to the United States to spend the rest of his life in prison. The 18 charges against him are the direct result of his having revealed a host of secrets, many of them related to the US prosecution of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They included the “collateral murder” video which showed a US helicopter crew shooting 18 people in Baghdad in 2007, including two Reuters war correspondents, Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Among the files were thousands of military dispatches and diplomatic cables that enabled people in scores of countries to perceive the relationships between their governments and the US.

They also showed the way in which American diplomats sought to gather personal information about two UN secretary generals. Unsurprisingly, the revelations were gratefully published and broadcast by newspapers and media outlets across the world. “Scoop” is far too mundane a term to describe the staggering range of disclosures. By any journalistic standard, it was a breathtaking piece of reporting, which earned the journalist more than a dozen awards.

So, you might think that this press freedom hero, now incarcerated in Belmarsh prison, would be enjoying supportive banner headlines in Britain’s newspapers ahead of his case. Thus far, however, coverage of his plight has been muted. Why? The answer is that our hero is none other than Julian Assange, the man who skipped bail to avoid an extradition order to Sweden over an allegation of rape, which he denies, and took shelter in the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years until police were allowed to enter and arrest him last April. Many falsehoods were told about Assange during his time inside the embassy, including bizarre stories about his smearing faeces on the walls, ruining the floors by skateboarding and torturing a cat.

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It’s really a shame that the term “tall-building syndromw” was already taken by another phenomenon.

2019 Was Record-Breaking Year For Supertall Skyscrapers (DeZeen)

A record 26 towers over 300 metres were completed in 2019 according to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, while there was a drop in the number of 200-metre-tall buildings completed. Of the 26 new supertall towers the 530-metre-high Tianjin CTF Finance Centre by SOM is the tallest. It is the seventh tallest skyscraper in the world, along with its sister tower the Guangzhou CTF Finance Centre. The record-number of supertall skyscrapers in 2019 beat the previous year’s 18 supertall towers, which was also a record at the time. Following the Tianjin CTF Finance Centre, the second tallest building completed in 2019 was the RMJM-designed Lakhta Centre in Russia. At 462 metres high it is currently the tallest building in Europe.


Lakhta Centre, Russia, by RMJM and Gorproject

Algeria set the record for the tallest building on the African continent with the 265-metre-high Great Mosque of Algiers, or Djamaa el Djazaïr. Designed by China State Construction Engineering, the mosque also has the world’s tallest minaret. Another notable supertall was the Exchange 106 Tower in Kuala Lumpar. The £7.6 billion project stalled during the Malaysia Development Berhad embezzlement scandal. At just over 445 metres it was the fourth tallest to complete last year. Overall there was over a 13 per cent drop in the number of buildings completed that were over 200 metres. In 2019 there were 126 of these skyscrapers built compared to 146 in 2018. The CTBUH report suggested this was due to the lag from projects cancelled during the 2008 financial crash, and not a result of more recent global events.

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Hard to believe in many ways. Robby Mook? Why not, and next you’re bringing back Oliver North?!

Unprecedented Cybersecurity Measures To Safeguard Iowa Caucus Results (DMR)

Both parties in Iowa and their app and web development vendors partnered last fall with Harvard’s Defending Digital Democracy Project to develop strategies and systems to protect results and deal with any misinformation that’s reported on caucus night. They worked with campaign experts Robby Mook and Matt Rhodes — as well as experts in cybersecurity, national security, technology and election administration — and simulated the different ways that things could go wrong on caucus night. Mook, 2016 campaign manager for Hillary Clinton, and Rhodes, Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign manager, helped develop a public-service video to alert campaigns to the warning signs of hacking and misinformation.

It was released in 2018, days after a federal indictment detailed how Russian intelligence operatives hacked Clinton’s presidential campaign, the DNC and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2016. According to the indictment stemming from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference, Russian officers targeted state and county offices in several states, including Iowa, to steal voter data and other information. They were successful in Illinois, but not in Iowa. Ever since, both parties in Iowa have been working to safeguard caucus results and held training sessions to assure caucus leaders know about heightened security measures. Party officials acknowledge the 2020 election cycle poses a heightened threat of disinformation. But “until Mitch McConnell decides to act on the bipartisan-passed House of Representatives election security bills sitting on his desk, cybersecurity prevention will continue to play a growing role in our elections,” Price said.

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 December 21, 2019  Posted by at 10:42 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Unknown Butler’s dredge-boat, sunk by Confederate shell, James River, VA 1864

 

Assange Testifies In Trial Of Company That Spied On Him Inside Embassy (RT)
Former Intelligence Chiefs Fit Perfectly Into Media Advocacy Culture (Hanson)
Reindeer Games (Jim Kunstler)
It’s Time for J.J. Abrams To Be Impeached From Star Wars (Reason)
Americans Are Not ‘Free To Choose’ Anymore (Mauldin)
China’s $13 Trillion Problem Is Becoming Everyone’s (Pesek)
How Murder, Kidnappings And Miscalculation Set Off Hong Kong’s Revolt (R.)
Ryanair Will Not Refund Passengers Who Refuse To Fly On Boeing 737 Max (Ind.)
Boeing 737 MAX Production Shutdown Impacts Suppliers, Workers, Customers (F.)
Colombia Orders Uber To Cease Ride-Hailing (R.)
Now Fake Facebook Accounts Are Using Fake Faces (CNN)
How Ancient Mexican Metropolis Dodged Inequality Trap (R.)

 

 

The only coverage of Julian’s court appearance yesterday that I could find is from RT. ¿Perqué?

Assange Testifies In Trial Of Company That Spied On Him Inside Embassy (RT)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange briefly stepped out of maximum security prison in the UK to testify via video-link in a Spanish case against a company that spied on him inside the Ecuadorian embassy, allegedly on the US’ behalf. Assange, who is being held at Belmarsh prison in southern London pending his hearing on extradition to the US, was driven over to the Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Friday, where a video-link was set up for him to speak with a judge in Madrid. The proceedings were closed to the press on the grounds of “national security.” The High Court in Madrid is hearing Assange’s case against Undercover Global Ltd, a Spanish security company that allegedly bugged him during his stay at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.


Undercover Global was contracted to provide embassy security between 2015 and 2018, and in that capacity secretly recorded Assange’s every move via hidden cameras, microphones and electronic surveillance, the lawsuit says. Assange told the court “he was absolutely unaware that the cameras recorded audio, that hidden microphones had been introduced” into the fire extinguisher mounts inside the embassy, his attorney Aitor Martinez told reporters in Madrid after the testimony. Assange was “an absolutely passive subject of an illegitimate interference that would have been eventually coordinated by the United States,” Martinez added. If the illegal surveillance targeted Assange’s legal team and violated his attorney-client privilege, that has ramifications on the proceedings against him in both the UK and the US, his lawyers have argued.

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Rand Paul: “In the advocacy culture of our new media, ex-government officials such as Brennan, Clapper and McCabe can be paid to appear on news programs to analyze (or vindicate) their own unethical behavior.”

Former Intelligence Chiefs Fit Perfectly Into Media Advocacy Culture (Hanson)

Former FBI Director James Comey and Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have lots of things in common. One, they ran the nation’s key intelligence and investigatory agencies under former President Barack Obama. They were deeply involved in the “Russian collusion” hoax. And they participated in the surveillance of the Trump campaign and transition. Comey and McCabe both signed applications for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court warrants requesting surveillance on Trump campaign aide Carter Page. A report by Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz criticized Comey and McCabe’s FBI for falsehoods and misrepresentations during its investigation of the Donald Trump campaign.

Clapper, Brennan and the FBI helped to disseminate the fallacious Steele dossier to the press and among government agencies. Two, Comey, McCabe, Brennan and Clapper have all lied either under oath or in the public sphere. Horowitz has said that he referred Comey for criminal prosecution for leaking classified memos he wrote about his confidential conversations with the president, but the Justice Department did not pursue charges. Comey signed FISA warrant applications that the inspector general has determined were misleading at best and at worst simply flat-out wrong. In testimony before the House Judiciary and Oversight Committees, there were 245 occasions on which Comey claimed he couldn’t remember details or couldn’t answer questions. Comey did not tell the truth when he said the Steele dossier was not the prime evidence that he submitted to the FISA court.

He also lied about when he was briefed on the dossier. McCabe was given a criminal referral for lying to federal investigators. His story about conspiring to catch Trump on tape in an effort to remove him under the 25th Amendment cannot be reconciled with the version of the account told by his apparent partner in that gambit, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Brennan has on two occasions lied under oath to Congress, first about collateral deaths caused by drone strikes abroad, then about CIA spying on Senate staffers’ computers. Clapper got caught lying about the surveillance of U.S. citizens and claimed he gave the “least untruthful” answer. Both have given accounts of their knowledge of the Steele dossier that are contradicted by a number of sources. Clapper falsely claimed of the dossier that “more and more of it has been corroborated.”

Three, all four of these former intelligence chiefs detest the president of the United States. Comey has compared Trump to a Mafia don and stated that he is morally unfit to be president. McCabe, who was likewise fired from the FBI, has called Trump’s behavior “disgusting.” Clapper said that Trump may be working with Putin as a Russian “asset.” Brennan called Trump a “disgraced demagogue” as well as venal, corrupt and amoral.

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“..when does this faction finally lose its appetite for self-degradation and dishonor?”

Reindeer Games (Jim Kunstler)

Mr. Trump appears eager and avid to go to trial, where his side could call witnesses to his heart’s delight while denying the opposition any witnesses, just as the Dems did in the house. His managers could call in the Bidens, Joe and Hunter, to explain their 2014 adventures in Ukraine, and the impressive payments tendered to them — for what? The defense could compel the testimony of the rogue CIA agent, Eric Ciaramella, to explain his pretensions of whistleblowing, and also his enabler, Intel IG Michael Atkinson, who left a procedural slime-trail in his handling of the “whistleblower” ruse. They could call in the fact-witness to all that, Rep. Adam Schiff, who would excite the wonder and loathing of the nation in being forced to reveal his part in that charade and to recount the myriad falsehoods he has spawned in three years of RussiaGate chicanery — which, in a truly just world, would prompt his expulsion from the house.

They could haul in Messrs Obama, Brennan, Clapper, Comey, Mueller, Weissman, Rosenstein, McCabe, Ohr, Lynch, Strzok, Ms. Page, Ms. Yates, Mrs. Lynch, Mr. Halper — though I suspect that bunch would be better left to the ministrations of John Durham, just as the Democratic primaries roll out. A trial like that would be a rich spectacle for sure after subjecting the nation to three years of malicious, perfidious sedition. But other gusts of rumor intimate that senators on the Republican side would prefer to not open any cans of Ukrainian worms in a trial, since money laundered through the Ukrainian oligarch mills may have found its way into their pockets as well. Who knows…?

The simplest explanation for this hot mess is that Mrs. Pelosi’s team wanted desperately to just distract the country’s attention from the Horowitz report — which it pretty much failed to do — and now that she’s shot her wad with that gambit, she’s left holding a bag of meritless impeachment bullshit that will disappoint and embarrass the Resistance just as much as the Mueller investigation managed to do. Which leads to the question: when does this faction finally lose its appetite for self-degradation and dishonor?

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There you go. Put Schiff in charge.

It’s Time for J.J. Abrams To Be Impeached From Star Wars (Reason)

For the last four years, we have been living a collective nightmare. Our shared values have been undermined. Our cherished culture has come under attack. At its least harmful, this nightmare has taken the form of empty nostalgia, in which the leaders who have been entrusted with ushering us into the next era have instead looked into the past, distracting us with symbolic gestures that serve no purpose except to cover up a lack of vision. At its worst, a combination of incompetence, erraticness, and sometimes sheer malice has squandered decades of progress. The ensuing conversation has been fruitless and ugly, and the experience has left many of us polarized, angry, and exhausted.


This week, it finally started to look as if that nightmare might end—but only in the weakest and most slapdash manner. This resolution, which is not really a resolution, is not only a disaster: It’s a disappointment, a pointless, abysmal letdown that is virtually certain to fully satisfy almost no one. The result is a rushed and poorly executed product of bad management, empty thinking, and shallow wish-fulfillment that will only further the public’s loss of faith in the entire enterprise. I speak, of course, of the Star Wars franchise, which in late 2015 returned to movie theaters under the managerial oversight of Lucasfilm’s Kathleen Kennedy, with a strong creative influence from Hollywood’s reigning prince of blockbuster mediocrity, J.J. Abrams.

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Close to what I recently wrote on capitalism and free markets, but from a professional investor point of view. Problem is, what does John Mauldin mean when he says “socialism”? Everyone means something different. That also makes polls on socialism suspect.

Americans Are Not ‘Free To Choose’ Anymore (Mauldin)

When you write for a wide audience, no matter what you say, or how carefully you say it, some people will misunderstand. Sometimes it’s amusing. Reading through my feedback (and I do read all of it), I get called both heartless capitalist and bleeding-heart socialist in reaction to the same article. In fact, I’m neither. I am a capitalist, and proudly so. I believe free markets are the best way to bring maximum prosperity and peace for everyone. But I’m not heartless, nor do I think markets are perfect. Even the best medicines can have serious side effects. That is doubly so when you aren’t taking the medicine correctly. I also don’t think the word capitalism means what we think it means, at least those of us of a certain age.

Take a look at the data from an interview Charles Payne did with David Bahnsen on Fox Business a few weeks ago. Asked if they favor capitalism or socialism, 49% of Millennials favored socialism. But if you ask if they favor big business or “free enterprise,” the numbers change significantly. In the future, I intend to substitute “free market” for capitalism where possible. Capitalism, at least the free market version, can’t work without competition. It motivates producers to offer the best products at the lowest prices, and lets consumers choose whatever best fits their needs. Yet instead of encouraging and protecting competition, the US government increasingly suppresses it. Last February I wrote about a then-new book, The Myth of Capitalism, by old friend Jonathan Tepper and Denise Hearn. They aren’t leftists at all. They respect classical capitalism and want it to work better than it is.

Here’s a quick snippet from the book. “Free to Choose” sounds great. Yet Americans are not free to choose. In industry after industry, they can only purchase from local monopolies or oligopolies that can tacitly collude. The US now has many industries with only three or four competitors controlling entire markets. Since the early 1980s, market concentration has increased severely. We’ve already described the airline industry. Here are other examples: • Two corporations control 90 percent of the beer Americans drink. • Five banks control about half of the nation’s banking assets. ª Many states have health insurance markets where the top two insurers have an 80 percent to 90 percent market share. For example, in Alabama one company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, has an 84% market share and in Hawaii it has 65% market share.


Getty

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Just like America’s.

China’s $13 Trillion Problem Is Becoming Everyone’s (Pesek)

China’s Xi Jinping probably tops any list of people who can’t wait to see the back of 2019. These last 12 months produced the slowest mainland growth since the early 1990s, the biggest pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong’s history and mounting criticism of Beijing’s human rights record. By taking such an authoritarian stance, Taiwan has slipped further away from Beijing’s grip, while some political wags questioned whether Communist Party members were losing faith in President Xi’s governing style. But Xi has an even bigger challenge on his hands, and not just Donald Trump’s trade war antics. Make that 13 trillion challenges.

This figure refers to the size, in U.S. dollar terms, of China’s onshore bond market. And generally, its growth and development have long been touted as a vital rite of passage for the second-biggest economic power. The trouble with debt markets, though, is they tend to expose cracks in financial systems. Herein lies Xi’s biggest problem. Keeping growth north of 6% is reasonably easy for a command economy. Even amid the trade war, Xi’s party can order up giant infrastructure projects, slash taxes and cajole local governments to ramp up fiscal stimulus. It has its own ATM—the People’s Bank of China.

Trouble is, the more you borrow, the more investors can push back and the more even the most authoritarian of governments can lose control as punters vote with their feet. That risk is increasing along with a recent jump in private-sector debt defaults to a record high. According to Fitch, 4.9% of private companies missed bond payments from January to November, up from 4.2% for all of 2018. When you combine state and private companies, China Inc.’s onshore defaults risks are growing apace—from none a few years back to at least $18 billion so far this year. There’s an obvious caveat here. We can only discuss the default risks we know about—the ones regulators in Beijing cop to, not those that are being papered over with public assistance.

Signs of stress are also emerging in the offshore debt market. So are this year, there have been at least $75 billion defaults. With well over $200 billion of debt maturing over the next 24 months, Standard and Poor’s warns of increasing missed payments episodes. This trajectory collides with U.S. President Trump’s trade war. Ignore all that excitement over Trump’s “phase one” deal with Xi. It’s a polite ceasefire than won’t hold. With Trump getting zero from Xi in terms of re-ordering U.S.-China trade dynamics and facing the risk of removal from office, the odds of him lashing out anew at Asia are growing, not waning. It means that Xi’s annus horribilis won’t end even as calendars switch to 2020. The year ahead may very well be the one in which China’s debt troubles supersede all else.

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Very long, certainly for Reuters. But useful background.

How Murder, Kidnappings And Miscalculation Set Off Hong Kong’s Revolt (R.)

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says the plan that ignited the revolt in her city was born of a straightforward quest for justice. While on a trip to Taiwan, a Hong Kong man strangled his Hong Kong girlfriend, then returned home and confessed. The city lacked an extradition pact with Taiwan, and Lam argued the only way to send him back for trial was new laws that also would enable sending criminal suspects to mainland China. She dismissed fears about the proposal – which would mean Hong Kong residents could face trial in China’s Communist Party-controlled courts – and pushed ahead. As protests raged this summer, even in private Lam kept to her story that she, not Beijing, was the prime mover, driven by “compassion” for the young victim’s devastated parents.

“This is not something instructed, coerced by the central government,” she told a room of Hong Kong businesspeople at a talk in August. A Reuters examination has found a far more complicated story. Officials in Beijing first began pushing for an extradition law two decades ago. This pressure to extend the arm of Chinese law into Hong Kong’s independent British-style legal system intensified in 2017, a year before the slaying and two years before Lam’s administration announced its extradition bill. The impetus came from the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), the Communist Party’s powerful internal anti-corruption body, which has been spearheading Chinese President Xi Jinping’s mass anti-graft campaign.

Xi’s crackdown spilled over dramatically into the streets of Hong Kong in the early hours of January 27, 2017. Among the targets of CCDI investigators at the time, two mainland Chinese officials with knowledge of the probe told Reuters, was a Chinese billionaire living in the city named Xiao Jianhua. A businessman with close ties to China’s political elite, Xiao was abducted that morning from his serviced apartment at the luxury Four Seasons Hotel. Unidentified captors whisked him out the entrance in a wheelchair with his head covered, a witness told Reuters.

The sensational kidnapping, widely reported at the time, was assumed by most people in this city of 7.5 million to have been the work of Chinese agents; Beijing has never commented publicly on the matter. Frustrated at the lack of legal means to get their hands on Xiao, the two Chinese officials told Reuters, the CCDI that same year began pressing mainland officials in charge of Hong Kong affairs about the urgent need for an extradition arrangement. The CCDI wanted a less politically damaging method than kidnapping for snaring fugitive mainlanders in Hong Kong, the officials said. The two sides failed to strike a deal, but the killing in Taiwan would provide a new opening.

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People book Ryanair 6-8 weeks before the flight, but planes are assigned less than 24 hours before.

Ryanair Will Not Refund Passengers Who Refuse To Fly On Boeing 737 Max (Ind.)

As Boeing winds down production of the 737 Max aircraft, the Ryanair boss has said passengers will “love them” when the planes are finally flying again. Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Europe’s biggest budget airline, has ordered 210 of a special version of the Max, seating eight extra passengers. None has so far been delivered, as the Boeing jet is grounded worldwide. The no-fly stipulation was declared worldwide after a second crash involving the Boeing 737 Max. [..] Boeing had initially predicted that software fixes would enable the 737 Max to be flying by the end of 2019. But as that hope faded, airlines have gradually removed it from the schedules in early 2020.


Michael O’Leary told The Independent: “As every day passes, it keeps moving backwards. “We originally hoped we’d get 30 aircraft for the summer, then it was 20, now it’s only 10. “If there really is more, another one month’s delay, it looks much more likely we will get zero aircraft in advance of the June-July-August summer peak.” But when the Boeing 737 Max is flying for Ryanair, anxious passengers who do not wish to travel on it will have no advance warning. “You won’t know, because on average you book seats on Ryanair six to eight weeks in advance of travel,” said Mr O’Leary. “We only do the aircraft allocations the night before, because we don’t know which aircraft is where. “During the first year, you’ll have a 10 per cent chance you’ll be on a Max aircraft. “Will anyone know or care? Frankly, I don’t think they will.”

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The airlines will demand compensation. But what about the crews, who work far fewer hours and lose wages?

Boeing 737 MAX Production Shutdown Impacts Suppliers, Workers, Customers (F.)

The effluence of Boeing’s long-avoided decision, announced Monday, to halt production of 737 MAX aircraft until the plane is recertified for service has begun rolling downhill, causing the biggest third-party supplier to the program to suspend production of MAX fuselages. Spirit AeroSystems, a former division of Boeing based in Wichita, Kansas, said today it will stop making MAX fuselages – effectively the body of the plane, excluding its small nose cone and large tail section – effective Jan. 1. That’s the same day Boeing will stop building MAX planes, about 400 of which currently are finished but undeliverable and parked on ramps, unused taxiways and even employees’ parking lots at Boeing facilities.

Meanwhile, United Airlines, which had to park 14 MAX planes and stop taking delivery of others nine months ago when the Federal Aviation Administration took away the MAX’s certification, said today that it has pushed back plans to bring the MAX back into its schedule all the way to June 4. Most recently it had been targeting an April restart of MAX flying. But continued delays in getting the plane recertified by the FAA (and ultimately by the aviation safety regulators of other nations) has made it very difficult for airlines to predict when they’ll be able to fly MAX planes once again. United has the smallest batch of MAX planes in its fleet of the three U.S. carriers that have bought the newest, and significantly re-designed version of the venerable 50-year-old 737 line.

Southwest had 34 copies of the MAX when the grounding took place, while American had 24. All three carriers also have large orders for more MAX planes and have been unable to add them to their fleets since March, reducing their ability to retire older planes or to grow their fleet size. That reduced growth opportunity has affected the airlines’ abilities to grow their revenue and profits as planned, and has increased their costs somewhat by forcing them to underuse the pilots, flight attendants and other employees who were expected to staff the now-grounded MAX planes.

[..] leaders of the Transport Worker Union unit that represents Southwest’s 17,00 flight attendants today released a letter they sent this week to Southwest president Gary Kelly and vice president of inflight operations Sonya Lacore. The union leaders asked for additional help in addressing the “financial toal” on flight attendants whose pay has been reduced significantly while the MAX planes have been idled. The MAX groundings have left Southwest with more flight attendants on the payroll that it need. But rather than lay off hundreds of them and incur huge costs for retraining and re-scheduling attendants who’d be displaced by the resulting wave of seniority displacements, Southwest has retained all those extra attendants. But that means many attendants now are being assigned fewer flight hours, which diminishes their earnings.

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Are Colombia’s laws that much different from other countries?

Colombia Orders Uber To Cease Ride-Hailing (R.)

Colombia on Friday ordered Uber to cease its ride-hailing operations in the Andean country, effective immediately, after a judge ruled the company violated competition rules. Following a lawsuit filed against Uber by COTECH SA, the Superintendency of Industry and Commerce (SIC) said the U.S. company had breached market rules. Uber has more than 2.3 million active users in Colombia and around 88,000 driver partners. The app, however, has existed in a regulatory no-man’s land in Colombia. The Technology Ministry deems ride-hailing apps legal while transport authorities say they are against the law.


In a statement the SIC said Uber generated “a significant advantage in the market” by rendering transport services for individuals via its application. The SIC said that following analysis, it ordered Uber’s ride-hailing services “through the use of the Uber application to cease immediately.” The order applies to Uber, Uber X and Uber VAN. Uber said in a statement that it rejects the ruling and immediately appealed it. “This decision reflects an act of censorship and infringes on the Inter American Convention on Human Rights, which has already condemned attempts to block Uber for violating the neutrality of the web, liberty of expression and freedom of internet,” Uber said in a statement.

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Interesting, but since this is CNN, they blame Russia China, not America. A deepfake group that spends $10 million on Facebook ads sounds like a professional campaign.

Now Fake Facebook Accounts Are Using Fake Faces (CNN)

Artificially-generated faces of people who don’t exist are being used to front fake Facebook (FB) accounts in an attempt to trick users and game the company’s systems, the social media network said Friday. Experts who reviewed the accounts say it is the first time they have seen fake images like this being used at scale as part of a single social media campaign. The accounts, which were removed by Facebook on Friday, were part of a network that generally posted in support of President Trump and against the Chinese government, experts who reviewed the accounts said. Many of the accounts promoted links to a Facebook page and website called “The BL.” Facebook said the accounts were tied to the US-based Epoch Media Group, which owns The Epoch Times newspaper, a paper tied to the Falun Gong movement that is similarly pro-Trump.

The publisher of the Epoch Times denied that Epoch and The BL were linked in emails to the fact-checking organization Snopes earlier this year. The dystopian revelation of the use of artificially-generated images in this way points to an increasingly complicated online information landscape as America enters a presidential election year. Silicon Valley and the US intelligence community are still struggling with the fallout from widespread online interference in the 2016 presidential election. The Facebook accounts used profile pictures that appeared to show real people smiling and looking directly into a camera. But the people do not and have never existed, according to Facebook and other researchers. The images were created using artificial intelligence technology.

The same basic methods are used to produce deepfake videos — fake videos that the US intelligence community has warned could be used as part of a foreign disinformation campaign targeting Americans. [..] In all, Facebook said Friday, it had removed a network of 610 Facebook accounts, 89 pages, 90 groups, and 72 Instagram accounts. About 55 million accounts followed one or more of the pages, and the vast majority of followers were outside the United States, Facebook said. Facebook did not say if all of all these followers were real — some of them may themselves have been fake accounts. The network of pages removed on Friday had spent almost $10 million on Facebook ads, according to Facebook.

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It’s a question of organization.

How Ancient Mexican Metropolis Dodged Inequality Trap (R.)

Fragments of pre-Aztec murals recently unearthed on the outskirts of what was once the largest city of the Americas are adding to mounting evidence that even commoners there enjoyed the finer things in life. Each year, millions of tourists visit the towering pyramids and temples of the sprawling metropolis of Teotihuacan, far from the latest discoveries on the city’s southern edge. “We’re now finding that life on the periphery was pretty good,” said Boston University archeologist David Carballo, who discovered brightly-colored paintings over fine stucco on three buildings he began excavating there in July.

Decorated with flowers and birds that appear to be singing, the murals evoking a paradise found nearly three kilometers (2 miles) from Teotihuacan’s core came as a complete surprise, he said. Carballo and his team have also found other signs of wealth nearby, including jade, a finely carved stone mask, and shells from Mexico’s Pacific and Gulf coasts. The unpublished mural discoveries point to the radically different path charted by Teotihuacan, which thrived from about 100 B.C. to 550 A.D., compared to other ancient civilizations. At a time when daily life in the biggest contemporary Mayan cities, or ancient Rome and Egypt, was marked by a tiny elite lording over impoverished or enslaved masses, most of Teotihuacan’s estimated 100,000 inhabitants fared far better.

[..] In the city’s La Ventilla district, another aspect of Teotihuacan’s egalitarian character comes into view: stone, multi-family apartment compounds where over 90% of Teotihuacanos lived. Off limits to tourists despite extremely rare glyphs painted on a plaza, the narrow streets of La Ventilla’s residential compounds suggest a densely-packed urban existence. The compounds boast white lime-plaster floors, built-in drainage systems, open-air courtyards and murals. Lying 48 km northeast of Mexico City, Teotihuacan has more than 2,000 such compounds, thanks to a century-long building boom that ended around 350 A.D.

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Nov 282019
 
 November 28, 2019  Posted by at 9:52 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  13 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Brooding woman 1891

 

Is Censure The Democrat Escape Clause? (Noble)
Tulsi Gabbard Slams Democrats for Calling Trump Supporters ‘Deplorables’ (GP)
China Threatens Retaliation After Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Bill (ZH)
Obama Holdover Investigated for ‘Illegally Leaked’ Classified Document (ET)
The Real Barack Obama Has Finally Revealed Himself (Jacobin)
Reuters Gamed A Poll To Show Rising Support For Trump Impeachment (ZH)
Fewer Than 120,000 Tactical Votes Could Block Boris Johnson Premiership (Ind.)
US Wants NHS On Table For Post-Brexit Trade Deal – Labour Dossier (Ind.)
Christopher Steele Distributed Other Dossier Reports (Solomon)
“Russian Trolls” Did Not “Sow Discord” – They Influenced No One (MoA)
Brick & Mortar Rent Meltdown, Manhattan Style (WS)
Merkel Says NATO Is ‘More Important’ Now Than During Cold War (RT)

 

 

Well, censure appears to be the word of the day.

Is Censure The Democrat Escape Clause? (Noble)

Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) is not one of those who represent a 2016 Trump-voting district. In fact, her safe Democrat district encompasses part of eastern Detroit. Even so, Lawrence has seen the writing on the wall: Among independent voters, enthusiasm for impeachment is waning, and Lawrence – who previously supported the idea – is perhaps now thinking beyond her own chances of re-election. “I will tell you, sitting here knowing how divided this country is,” Lawrence explained Nov. 24 during a radio interview, “I don’t see the value of taking [Trump] out of office, but I do see the value of putting down a marker saying his behavior is not acceptable.”

An editorial, published Nov. 23 by The Detroit News, suggests censure of the president rather than impeachment, and The Chicago Tribune followed suit on Nov. 25. It is neither unfair nor inaccurate to point out that the left-wing media rarely take up a political narrative not preapproved by someone within the Democratic Party. So the sudden appearance of editorials arguing for censure strongly suggests that Democrat strategists are leaning in that direction or at least testing the waters. Unlike impeachment, censure is not a constitutional measure. That is not to say that censure is unconstitutional, but that it is simply a course of action devised by Congress and not described in the nation’s founding document. There is no mandatory consequence to censure, and nobody would suggest that censure could lead to removal from the office of president.

It has been used most often to rebuke or reprimand members of Congress, though Trump, were he censured, would not be the first commander in chief to have faced it. In effect, censure is an act of disapproval. For a member of Congress, it may entail such undesirable consequences as loss of committee memberships or even suspension; it comes with no penalties when used against executive branch officials. And that is how it should be, or the concepts of separation of powers and co-equal branches of government would likely be swept away in an avalanche of partisan censure votes. Both the Senate and the House have the power to censure or reprimand, and each chamber may do it without the approval or involvement of the other. Censure requires only a simple majority. At least some Democrats, surely, are considering how much easier than impeachment censure will be. They also may be considering how a censure resolution will provide the opportunity to pontificate at length – on live TV – about Trump’s moral turpitude and failings, both as a human being and as a president.

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A lone voice in the wilderness: “..you can’t win support from people that you treat “like garbage.”

Tulsi Gabbard Slams Democrats for Calling Trump Supporters ‘Deplorables’ (GP)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard once again defended supporters of President Donald Trump, as well as her appearances on Fox News, during an interview with Joe Rogan on Tuesday night. The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said that you can’t lead Americans as president if you’re going to throw “half of them away.” “It’s one thing to say you’re gonna go on Fox News and tussle with Sean Hannity about things you disagree on, but what they see as more dangerous is finding areas where you actually do agree,” Gabbard proclaimed.

“I have a platform to be able to speak to millions of people across the country about the kind of leadership I bring in the area of foreign policy. What I would do here in this country, what I would do there in that country if I were president today. And I have the opportunity to deliver that message directly to people’s living rooms or offices or wherever they are.” Rep. Gabbard was attacked by Sen. Kamala Harris during the November Democratic Primary debate for her willingness to appear on Fox News.

“I think in some of these areas, Tucker and I will disagree on a whole host of things, but on some of these issues of foreign policy he’ll say, ‘Yeah, I agree with you,’” she continued. “And I think when you look at this cancel culture — I was attacked on the debate stage for going on Fox News — how do you think you’re gonna lead this country, all Americans, if you’re completely not only shutting out and not willing to do talk to half the country that watches Fox News, but you’re in fact disrespecting and dismissing them just because they may disagree with you, or they watch a different news channel than you do. I think that’s the bigger issue here, is you know, yeah, there’s a political consequence.” She noted that you can’t win support from people that you treat “like garbage.”

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Trump had no choice, he was outnumbered. China also has no choice, it must respond, but Xi knows what situation Trump is in.

China Threatens Retaliation After Trump Signs Hong Kong Democracy Bill (ZH)

[..] on day 510 of the trade war, it appears the president was confident enough that a collapse in trade talks won’t drag stocks too far lower, and moments after futures reopened at 6pm, the White House said that Trump had signed the Hong Kong bill backing pro-democracy protesters, defying China and making sure that every trader’s Thanksgiving holiday was just ruined.Needless to say, no differences will be “settled amicably” and now China will have no choice but to retaliate, aggressively straining relations with the US, and further complicating Trump’s effort to wind down his nearly two-year old trade war with Beijing.

Trump’s signing of the bill comes during a period of unprecedented unrest in Hong Kong, where anti-government protests sparked by a now-shelved extradition bill proposal have ballooned into broader calls for democratic reform and police accountability. “The Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act reaffirms and amends the United States-Hong Kong Policy Act of 1992, specifies United States policy towards Hong Kong and directs assessment of the political developments in Hong Kong,” the White House said in a statement. “Certain provisions of the act would interfere with the exercise of the president’s constitutional authority to state the foreign policy of the United States.”

The legislation, S. 1838, which was passed virtually unanimously in both chambers, requires annual reviews of Hong Kong’s special trade status under American law and will allow Washington to suspend said status in case the city does not retain a sufficient degree of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework. The bill also sanctions any officials deemed responsible for human rights abuses or undermining the city’s autonomy. The House cleared the bill 417-1 on Nov. 20 after the Senate passed it without opposition, veto-proof majorities that left Trump with little choice but to acquiesce, or else suffer bruising fallout from his own party. the GOP.

Trump also signed into law the PROTECT Hong Kong act, which will prohibit the sale of US-made munitions such as tear gas and rubber bullets to the city’s authorities. While many members of Congress in both parties have voiced strong support for protesters demanding more autonomy for the city, Trump had stayed largely silent, even as the demonstrations have been met by rising police violence. Until now.

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A tangled web.

Obama Holdover Investigated for ‘Illegally Leaked’ Classified Document (ET)

The Obama holdover heading the Pentagon office reportedly under investigation by the U.S. attorney who is conducting the criminal probe of the Trump–Russia investigation was accused of leaking a classified document, in a recent court filing for retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. The connection hasn’t been previously reported. According to a Nov. 21 report by independent journalist Sara Carter, U.S. Attorney John Durham is questioning personnel in the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA). ONA awarded about $1 million in contracts to FBI informant Stefan Halper, who appears to have played a key role in alleged U.S. intelligence agency spying on 2016 Trump campaign advisers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.

In addition, however, a court filing indicates that ONA’s director, James H. Baker, “is believed to be the person who illegally leaked the transcript of Mr. Flynn’s calls” to The Washington Post. Specifically, the filing states, “ONA Director Baker regularly lunched with Washington Post Reporter David Ignatius.” The filing adds that Baker “was Halper’s ‘handler’” at ONA. Moreover, according to the court filing, the tasks assigned to “known long-time operative for the CIA/FBI” Halper “seem to have included slandering Mr. Flynn with accusations of having an affair with a young professor (a British national of Russian descent).” The filing notes that Flynn’s defense team has requested phone records for then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, likewise in order to confirm contacts with Ignatius.

The filing singles out records for Jan. 10, 2017, when, according to the filing, “Clapper told Ignatius in words to the effect of ‘take the kill shot on Flynn.’” The Pentagon’s current inspector general has already found that Baker’s office “did not maintain documentation of the work performed by Professor Halper or any communication that ONA personnel had with Professor Halper.” As a result, according to the inspector general, ONA staff “could not provide sufficient documentation that Professor Halper conducted all of his work in accordance with applicable laws and regulations.”

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Quite the attack.

The Real Barack Obama Has Finally Revealed Himself (Jacobin)

What does Barack Obama want? To ask the question is both to wonder how one of the world’s most influential people chooses to dedicate his time and to consider to what ends he thinks it is best put to use. As Nathan Robinson and I argued a little more than two years ago, a post-presidency offers us the ideal heuristic for doing exactly that. In office, or so it has often been suggested, Obama’s fiery progressive spirit was endlessly stifled by a combination of events, GOP obstruction, and the inherent conservatism of the American legislative process. Having left such constraints behind, many believed, post-2016 Obama would now be free to do just about anything he wanted — meaning that the former president’s real self could finally surface from beneath the depths of institutional necessity under which it had hitherto been submerged.

This prediction turned out to be true enough, just not in the way many Obama partisans assumed. Equipped with fame, wealth, and a vast reservoir of residual goodwill Obama now has more power to do good in an hour than most of us do in a lifetime. The demands of etiquette and propriety notwithstanding, he no longer has intransigent Blue Dog senators to appease, donors to placate, or personal electoral considerations to keep him up at night. When he speaks or acts, we can be reasonably certain he does so out of sincere choice and that the substance of his words and actions reflect the real Barack Obama and how he honestly sees the world.

It therefore tells us a great deal that, given the latitude, resources, and moral authority with which to influence events, Obama has spent his post-presidency cozying up to the global elite and delivering vapid speeches to corporate interests in exchange for unthinkable sums of money. Though often remaining out of the spotlight, he has periodically appeared next to various CEOs at events whose descriptions might be read as cutting satire targeting the hollowness of business culture if they weren’t all-too real. As the world teeters on the brink of ecological disaster, he recently cited an increase in America’s output of oil under his administration as a laudable achievement.

When Obama has spoken about or intervened in politics, it’s most often been to bolster the neoliberal center-right or attack and undermine the Left. Having emerged from seclusion to endorse the likes of Emmanuel Macron and Justin Trudeau, Obama also rang up Britain’s austerity-loving Conservative prime minister Theresa May on election night in 2017 to offer reassurance and trash the Labour Party’s electoral prospects. Only last week, while denouncing the Democratic Party’s “activist wing,” the former president who had once introduced himself to the nation as a progressive, community-minded outsider inveighed against those pushing for a more ambitious direction — contemptuously instructing a group of wealthy donors not to concern themselves too-much with the irrational zealotry of “certain left-leaning Twitter feeds.”

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Why do we still have polls left? What purpose do they serve other than entertainment?

Reuters Gamed A Poll To Show Rising Support For Trump Impeachment (ZH)

After several major polls revealed a sharp decline in support for impeaching President Trump in the wake of unconvincing public testimony by aggrieved bureaucrats (and at least one House Democrat publicly opposing the move), Reuters/Ipsos now claims support for impeachment has increased. “The latest poll, conducted on Monday and Tuesday, found that 47% of adults in the United States felt Trump “should be impeached,” while 40% said he should not. The result, combined with Reuters/Ipsos polling over the past several weeks, showed that the number of Americans who want to impeach the president increasingly outnumbers those who do not.” -Reuters The problem? Reuters sampled a disproportionate number of Democrats. Buried at the bottom of their report, they disclose:

“The Reuters/Ipsos poll was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States. It gathered responses from 1,118 adults, including 528 Democrats, 394 Republicans and 111 independents. It has a credibility interval, a measure of precision, of 3 percentage points.” In other words, Reuters sampled more Democrats than Republicans and independents combined to arrive at their conclusion. They also reveal that ” about eight in 10 Democrats [were] supportive of impeaching Trump, and eight in 10 Republicans opposed,” and that seven in 10 Republicans felt the House impeachment inquiry had not been conducted fairly. As we noted during the 2016 US election, Reuters/Ipsos wasoversampling Democrats when they found that Hillary Clinton had a giant lead over Donald Trump – using a poll that sampled 44% Democrats and 33% Republicans.

But hey, Adam Schiff needs something to back his claim that support for impeachment has grown “dramatically” over the past two months.

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And here’s another poll. Does anyone fully understand this system?

Fewer Than 120,000 Tactical Votes Could Block Boris Johnson Premiership (Ind.)

Fewer than 120,000 anti-Brexit tactical votes in the right seats could deny Boris Johnson an overall majority in the House of Commons, new polling suggests. A large-scale survey of almost 40,000 voters found that Conservatives are heading for 366 seats in the House of Commons, giving Mr Johnson a comfortable majority of 82. But analysis for the Best for Britain campaign for a second EU referendum found that in 57 seats, the Tory candidate could be defeated by 4,000 or fewer anti-Brexit voters voting tactically. And the campaign said that as few as 117,314 pro-EU tactical votes in the right seats could produce a hung parliament which could deliver a Final Say referendum.

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Scary enough fpr you?

US Wants NHS On Table For Post-Brexit Trade Deal – Labour Dossier (Ind.)

US negotiators pushed for “full market access” to services including the NHS in talks on a post-Brexit free trade deal with the UK, a cache of leaked documents has revealed. The papers were dramatically unveiled by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said they left “in tatters” the prime minister’s denial that the NHS will be on the table in trade talks. The 451-page dossier of official files showed the US had “pushed hard” to extend patents on drugs developed by American corporations in a way which would raise prices to NHS patients. A UK negotiator said such a move could put Britain “in difficult territory”.

And the dossier made clear that the US has been “emphatic” in its insistence that climate change should not even be mentioned in the deal, which Boris Johnson wants to strike as soon as possible after the UK leaves the European Union. But furious Conservatives accused Mr Corbyn of “out-and-out lying” and suggested he was peddling conspiracy theories in a bid to distract attention away from his difficulties over antisemitism allegations and Labour’s plans for Brexit and taxation. Mr Johnson dismissed the Labour leader’s claims as “total nonsense”, and said: “I can give you an absolute cast-iron guarantee that this is a complete diversion. That the NHS under no circumstances would be on the table for negotiation, for sale.”

[..] After a slew of bad headlines about his refusal to apologise for his handling of antisemitism during a TV interview on Tuesday, Mr Corbyn came back fighting with the claim that Mr Johnson’s government was “preparing to sell our NHS”. He pointed to details in the dossier which showed that the US was pushing for a deal in which all services would be opened up to American companies unless they were specifically exempted. “Total market access” should be the “baseline assumption of the trade negotiations” because it “incentivises freer trade”, the dossier said. UK officials assured their US counterparts that Britain would be “a liberalising influence” and that together they could “fly the good flag for services liberalisation”.

“That’s a green light for breaking open Britain’s public services so corporations can profit from them,” said Mr Corbyn. And he warned: “The US is demanding that our NHS is on the table in negotiations for a toxic deal – it’s already being talked about in secret. That could lead to runaway privatisation of our health service. “Mega-corporations see Johnson’s alliance with Trump as a chance to make billions from the illness and sickness of people in this country. “And if the Conservatives have their way and this deal goes forward, the changes I’ve revealed will be almost irreversible.”

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A foreigner paid for dirt on a political opponent. What do we call that?

Christopher Steele Distributed Other Dossier Reports (Solomon)

Just before Christmas 2015, the British intelligence operative Christopher Steele emailed a report to private clients that included an American lawyer for a Ukrainian oligarch. The title of the dossier was “FIRTASH Abortive Return to Ukraine,” and it purported to provide intelligence on why the energy oligarch Dmitri Firtash tried, but failed, to return to his home country of Ukraine. “FIRTASH’s talk of returning to Ukraine a genuine ambition rather than merely a ruse to reveal Ukrainian government’s hand. However the oligarch developed cold feet upon the news of a negative reception at Boryspil airport,” Steele reported on Dec. 23, 2015.

Perhaps most important to the recipients, the former MI6 agent’s report purported to share the latest thinking of Russian and U.S. officials on Firtash, who at the time faced U.S. criminal charges and was awaiting extradition from Austria. Those charges and extradition remain unresolved four years later. Firtash insists on his innocence, while the U.S. government stands by it case despite recent criticism from Austrian and Spanish authorities. “The prevarication over his return has lost FIRTASH credibility with the Russians, but his precarious position in Austria leaves him little choice but to acquiesce with Moscow’s demands,” the Steele report claimed. “Separate American sources confirm that US Government regards FIRTASH as a conduit for Russian influence and he remains a pariah to the Americans.”

The anecdote of the Firtash report underscores that challenges the FBI faced when it used Steele in 2016 as a human source in the Russia collusion probe. He not only opposed Trump and was paid by Hillary Clinton’s opposition research firm to dig up dirt on the then-GOP nominee, he also was in the business of selling intelligence to private clients – all perfectly legal — while informing for the FBI.

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Robert Mueller gave it away.

“Russian Trolls” Did Not “Sow Discord” – They Influenced No One (MoA)

The U.S. has claimed that the Russia government tried to influence the 2016 election through Facebook and Twitter. Russia supposedly did this through people who worked the Internet Research Agency (IRA) in St. Petersburg (Leningrad), Russia. The IRA people ran virtual persona on U.S. social networks which pretended to have certain political opinions. It also spent on advertising supposedly to influence the election. U.S. intelligence claimed that the purpose of the alleged Russian influence campaign was to “sow discord” within the United States. But the IRA had nothing to do with the Russian government. It had no interests in politics. And a new study confirms that the idea that it was “sowing discord” is blatant nonsense.


IRA influencer

The Mueller investigation indicted 13 Russian persons and three Russian legal entities over the alleged influence campaign. But, as we wrote at that time, there was more to it than the media reported: “The published indictment gives support to our long held believe that there was no “Russian influence” campaign during the U.S. election. What is described and denounced as such was instead a commercial marketing scheme which ran click-bait websites to generate advertisement revenue and created online crowds around virtual persona to promote whatever its commercial customers wanted to promote. The size of the operation was tiny when compared to the hundreds of millions in campaign expenditures. It had no influence on the election outcome.”

The IRA hired people in Leningrad for little money and asked them to open accounts on U.S. social media. The virtual persona they created and ran were to attract as many persons to those accounts as possible. They did that by posting funny dog pictures or by taking strong political positions. They were ‘influencers’ who sold their customers’ products to the people they attracted. The sole purpose was the same as in any commercial media. Create content to attract ‘eyeballs’, then sell those eyeballs to advertisers.

The IRA also bought advertisement to attract more people to its accounts. But the amount it spent was tiny. The final price tag for the 2016 election was $6.5 billion for the presidential and congressional elections combined. The IRA spend a total of $100,000 to promote its own accounts. But only some $45,000 of that was spend before the election. It was 0.000007 cent for every election dollar that was spend during that time. It is statistically impossible that the mostly apolitical IRA spending had any effect on the election.

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Not the same all over Manhattan, but the trend is there.

Brick & Mortar Rent Meltdown, Manhattan Style (WS)

These are major shopping corridors in Manhattan, and in nearly all of them, asking rents for ground-floor retail space have been dropping for years – and in some of them by half. For example, the average asking rent on Madison Avenue between 57th Street and 72nd Street, plunged 22% in the second half of 2019, compared to the same period last year, to $906 per square foot per year, and is down 47% from the first half in 2015, according to the bi-annual Manhattan Retail Report released today by the Real Estate Board of New York. The REBNY report points out, “An increased amount of leases expiring has contributed to the high availability rates [meaning, vacancies] that has led owners to lower asking rents and offer more short-term lease agreements.”

Falling asking rents and better terms in the Madison Avenue corridor – better deals for prospective tenants – help bring out prospective tenants, according to the report: “Softening rents has led to increased absorption as recent leases consist of retailers relocating to smaller-sized storefronts with better co-tenancy. Notables tenants such as Akris, Mont Blanc, and Morgane Le Fay indicate that apparel tenants still dominate this corridor.” The report is entirely focused on ground-floor retail spaces. Of the 17 shopping corridors in Manhattan tracked by the REBNY, average asking rents fell in 11 of them. But since 2015, asking rents in all but three of them have dropped sharply.

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The true colors of Mutti.

Merkel Says NATO Is ‘More Important’ Now Than During Cold War (RT)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said NATO is now equally or more important than it was during the Cold War, a praise being sang to a military bloc long without its arch-rival and with a history of interventions.
East Germany native Angela Merkel provided her very complimentary take as NATO braces to mark their 70th anniversary at a special summit in London. Keeping the military bloc in place today “is even more in our very own interests as it was in the Cold War – or at least as important as it was in the Cold War,” the Chancellor told German MPs. “Because, and the Foreign Minister [Heiko Maas] said yesterday, Europe currently cannot defend itself on its own,” she reiterated.

Slightly contradicting her own words, the chancellor admitted that the US “no longer automatically takes up responsibility when it’s burning around us.” As the formal etiquette prescribes, Merkel called NATO a “bulwark for peace and freedom” over the past 70 years, without highlighting the bloc’s war on former Yugoslavia and the 2011 bombardments of Libya. The German leader has recently locked horns with France’s Emmanuel Macron over his famous “NATO’s brain death” remark that sent shockwaves through European elite circles. Macron’s “drastic words” were “unnecessary, even if we do have problems and must get it together,” Merkel complained at the time.

Rebuking Macron was also NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who said last week that “European unity cannot replace Transatlantic unity as we need both … especially after Brexit.” But bringing the 70-year-old alliance together is increasingly becoming a challenge for its members. On the latest occasion, Turkey – a country that has one of NATO’s largest standing armies – refused to sign a new defense plan for the eastern European countries, according to Reuters.

Read more …

 

Clive James died yesterday.

 

 

 

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Nov 272019
 


Margaret Bourke-White Beach Accident, Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY 1951

 

The House Will Not Vote On Impeachment. It Will Censure Trump (MoA)
The One Terrific Impeachment Defense The White House Is Not Making (DW)
Obama Privately Said He Would Speak Up To Stop Sanders (Hill)
MSNBC Doesn’t Try To Hide ‘Contempt’ Towards Gabbard (Hill)
China Risks Losing Its Financial Window On The World (G.)
More Than Half Of China’s Banks Fail Central Bank Stress Test (ZH)
Boeing’s Problems Mount As FAA Vows To Ramp Up 737 MAX Oversight (BI)
Is Macron Right? Is NATO, 70, Brain Dead? (Buchanan)
Questions Cloud Story Behind Browder, Magnitsky (Spiegel)
Narrative Managers Faceplant In Hilarious OPCW Scandal Spin Job (CJ)
A Tale of Prince Andrew and Julian Assange (George Galloway)

 

 

Sounds logical. Will logic decide this though? It doesn’t seem to have had much influence so far.

The House Will Not Vote On Impeachment. It Will Censure Trump (MoA)

If more Democratic swing-state representatives defect from the impeachment camp, which seems likely, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have a big problem. How can she proceed?
• If the House votes down impeachment Donald Trump wins.
• If the House holds no vote on the issue Donald Trump wins.
• If the House votes for censure Donald Trump will have won on points and the issue will be over.
• If the House votes for impeachment the case goes to the Senate for trial.

The Republican led Senate has two choices:
• It can decide to not open an impeachment trial by simply voting against impeachment. Trump wins.
• It can open a impeachment trial, use it to extensively hurt the Democrats and, in the end, vote against impeachment. Trump wins big time.

Should the House vote for impeachment the Senate is likely to go the second path. During impeachment the whole Senate sits as the High Court. The House of Representatives sends ‘managers’ who act as prosecutors. The chief justice of the U.S. presides. A vote for impeachment at the end of the trial requires a two-third majority. The Republican majority in the Senate could use such a trial to bring disarray into the Democrats’ primary. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennet are all senators and Democratic primary candidates. They would probably have to stop campaigning to attend the trials. Another leading Democratic candidate would be a top witness.

The Republican senators would immediately call up a number of people for questioning. These would include Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, his business partner Devon Archer, John Kerry who was Secretary of State when Biden intervened for Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky and of course the CIA spy and (not-)whistleblower Erik Ciaramella. It would also be of interest to hear how deep the former CIA director John Brennan was involved in the issue. The Senators could use the impeachment trial to dig into all the crimes the Democrats under Obama committed in Ukraine. They would concentrate not on the Maidan coup but on the aftermath when the deals were made. There surely is a lot of dirt out there and it is not only Joe Biden’s.

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Free speech.

The One Terrific Impeachment Defense The White House Is Not Making (DW)

As Texans will certainly remember, then-Governor Rick Perry was indicted in 2014 by a grand jury for abusing his official capacity when he threatened to withhold $7.5 million in funding for the Travis County district attorney’s Public Integrity Unit unless the district attorney, who had previously been convicted of drunk driving and subsequently incarcerated, resigned. Sounds a lot like a quid pro quo, no? At the time, the special prosecutor’s operative legal theory required that the First Amendment not protect a governmental actor’s right to threaten taking a lawful action in order to attain a preferred political outcome. If the special prosecutor were wrong, then Governor Perry’s attempted quid pro quo would hardly be illegal at all — it would actually be constitutionally protected speech.

At the time, powerful and ideologically diverse group of attorneys argued that the special prosecutor sought to criminalize constitutionally protected speech. The group included right-leaning legal luminaries such as law school professors Eugene Volokh and former Judge Michael McConnell, as well as former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey. The group also includes historically liberal-leaning First Amendment scholars, such as Floyd Abrams and Alan Dershowitz. The counsel of record on this notable amicus brief was then-private attorney James C. Ho — for whom, in the interest of full disclosure, I served as a law clerk upon his successful nomination as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

The amicus brief argued that “[a] political official has the right to threaten to perform an official act in order to persuade another government official to engage in some other official act.” It continued: “That is not a crime — it is core political speech.” Governor Perry’s quid pro quo with respect to withholding funds from the Travis County district attorney’s Public Integrity Unit, the brief contended, “is protected free expression, and the [g]overnor cannot be prosecuted for it.” The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is the Lone Star State’s highest court for criminal cases, agreed. “[P]ublic servants have a First Amendment right to engage in expression, even threats, regarding their official duties,” the Court held. “Many threats that … public servants make as part of the normal functioning of government” would be criminalized under the special prosecutor’s legal theory, the Court continued.

The Court’s rationale is not even remotely partisan or political; it is pure logic and common sense. Quid pro quos routinely happen in politics as a day-to-day reality of politics. Before issuing his DAPA executive amnesty, President Barack Obama consistently threatened to use his “pen and phone” if Congress did not take the legislative action he desired. Unruly congressmen often have their committee assignments threatened by committee chairmen if they fail to vote in accordance with congressional leadership’s desires. Heck, does anyone think that neither House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) nor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) engages in dozens of quid pro quos on a weekly basis as a rudimentary requirement of executing their chamber-wide leadership jobs?

The Trump impeachment defense should adopt this line of argumentation. How on earth can the president of the United States be impeached for engaging in constitutionally protected speech? How on earth can the president’s deployment of constitutionally protected speech, in the context of foreign policy, amount to an “abuse or violation of some public trust” that merits impeachment less than one year away from a presidential election?

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Oh boy: “..we have a field of very accomplished, very serious and passionate and smart people..”

Obama Privately Said He Would Speak Up To Stop Sanders (Hill)

President Obama privately said he would speak up to stop Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) from becoming the Democratic presidential nominee, Politico reported Tuesday. The former president reportedly said if Sanders held a strong lead in the Democratic primary, he would speak out to prevent him from becoming the nominee. A close adviser to Obama told Politico he could not confirm whether Obama would stand up against Sanders. “He hasn’t said that directly to me,” the adviser said. “The only reason I’m hesitating at all is because, yeah, if Bernie were running away with it, I think maybe we would all have to say something. But I don’t think that’s likely. It’s not happening.”


An Obama spokesperson, when asked about his previous comments on Sanders, referred to the president’s past comments that he would back whomever became the Democratic nominee. “Look, we have a field of very accomplished, very serious and passionate and smart people who have a history of public service, and whoever emerges from the primary process I will work my tail off to make sure that they are the next president,” Obama said earlier this month, according to his spokesperson.

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This must be the weirdest poll graph I’ve ever seen.

MSNBC Doesn’t Try To Hide ‘Contempt’ Towards Gabbard (Hill)

Progressive journalist Michael Tracey claimed Tuesday that MSNBC is has dropped all pretenses for their “contempt” towards Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii). The political news contributor said the left-leaning network has treated her fellow 2020 Democratic candidates, including businessman Andrew Yang and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) unfairly, but he argued that with Gabbard it, “crosses a certain threshold.” “Fundamentally they’re beholden to whatever the market incentives are and right now it’s within their market interests to depict Tulsi as an infiltrator, as a Trojan horse in the Democratic Party and not deal on the substance with what she’s saying which is why over and over again they tar her as a Russian plant essentially,” Tracey told Hill.TV.


“There’s nobody who can really offer any kind of countervailing view because it’s just not economically advantageous for them at this point,” he added. Tracey pointed to a fiery exchange between Gabbard and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) during last week’s 2020 primary debate as a prime example. During the debate, Harris accused Gabbard of being a conservative media darling and consistently going on Fox News to bash President Obama during his tenure. “I think that it’s unfortunate that we have someone on this stage who is attempting to be the Democratic nominee for president of the United States, who, during the Obama administration, spent four years full-time on Fox News criticizing President Obama,” Harris said. Gabbard dismissed the criticism, calling it “ridiculous.”

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I think Hong Kong is a lot more than a “financial window”. It feels like China would be blind without it.

China Risks Losing Its Financial Window On The World (G.)

[..] although the leisure sector may have landed in the rough, the decision by the US Congress to pass the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act could represent a more significant long-term threat to the territory’s economic fortunes. The bill has infuriated Beijing as an “intervention” in its affairs but despite the delicate stage of US-China trade talks, Donald Trump is expected to sign the legislation because of its near-unanimous backing in Congress. The bill means the US would make an annual check that Hong Kong has sufficient autonomy from Beijing to qualify for the special US trading consideration that bolsters its status as a world financial centre. It also gives officials the power to levy sanctions against officials responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.

A second bill, which the Senate also approved unanimously on Tuesday, would ban the export of certain crowd-control munitions to Hong Kong authorities. George Magnus, the former chief economist of the investment bank UBS and now an associate of the London School of Economics’s IDEAS thinktank, said the legislation was potentially damaging for China. “Hong Kong is China’s financial window on the world, and vice versa. The territory lends China capital, clout and kudos. All of this is now at risk.” The consultancy Capital Economics said the bills highlighted a growing feeling that Hong Kong’s autonomy was “deteriorating” and could persuade some firms to look for new accommodation in east Asia. “The bill itself would not directly reduce the territory’s international status unless other countries follow suit,” Capital said this week.


“But it could lead the large number of foreign firms operating in the city to increasingly focus their energy on other Asian financial centres with less uncertain outlooks.” [..] with most experts agreed that Beijing will not back down and allow Carrie Lam’s government to give concessions to the pro-democracy groups, it is hard to see how the situation can be resolved quickly and pull the economy back from a disastrous, prolonged recession. Dan Harris, a lawyer at the Seattle firm of Harris Bricken who has done business in the region for decades, says the ongoing protests mean Hong Kong as an international financial centre is “no more”. “It’s finished as an international business centre because it was based on trust, safety and the rule of law and that’s all gone. Companies are looking to leave. No one is thinking of moving in,” he said.

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There are bank runs, small ones for now.

More Than Half Of China’s Banks Fail Central Bank Stress Test (ZH)

[..] with less income from lending and without the full suite of funding options available to much larger peers, the interest rates that China’s legion of small banks may have to offer to attract deposits could further undermine their stability. The irony is that to preserve their critical deposit base, small banks have to hike deposit rates even higher to stand out, in the process sapping their own lifeblood and ensuring their self-destruction, or as we dubbed it earlier, China’s own version of Europe’s “doom loop.” Dai Zhifeng, a banking analyst with Zhongtai Securities, told Reuters the funding difficulties risked distorting small banks’ behavior, making failure even more likely: “Lacking core competitiveness, some of them have turned to high-risk, short-sighted operations,” he said, adding that a liquidity crunch was possible at some institutions.


But for a nation with a $40 trillion financial system, double the size of US banks, and well over 4,000 small, medium and massive, state-owned banks, here please recall that the 4 largest banks in the world are now Chinese:• ICBC: $4TN • China Construction: $3.4TN • Agri Bank of China: $3.3TN • Bank of China: $3.1TN … the question how many banks will fail in the near future, is especially relevant not only for China but for the entire world. Luckily, we got an answer from none other than China’s central bank, which on Monday said that China’s banking sector is “showing signs of strain”, with more than 13% of 4,379 lenders now considered “high risk” by the central bank. In other words, take the 5 banks listed above which either suffered a bank run and/or were bailed out or nationalized, and add to them over 500 which are about to suffer the same fate.

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Full control of the process is the only thing the FAA could do. They are co-responsible for the entire crisis.

Boeing’s Problems Mount As FAA Vows To Ramp Up 737 MAX Oversight (BI)

The FAA said on Tuesday that it planned to exercise full control over all aspects of certification of Boeing’s 737 Max, even once the plane returns to commercial service. Relatively routine activities, such as certifying individual airplanes as they roll off the production line — as opposed to certifying the overall type of plane — will be performed by FAA officials, an agency spokesperson told Business Insider. Normally, routine day-to-day activities like certifying individual planes of an already certified type — the issuing of Airworthiness Certificates — which are among the final phases of the manufacturing process, are delegated to the planemaker.

Additionally, the likelihood of the plane being cleared to fly in 2019 was cast into further doubt, as was the possibility of Boeing resuming deliveries of completed planes to airline customers before the plane was fully cleared to reenter commercial service, according to The Air Current, an aviation industry publication. Boeing had stated earlier this month that it expected to resume deliveries in December, and for the plane to be fully cleared to fly again in January. However, it was not clear whether airline customers would accept delivery of the plane while it was not allowed to carry passengers.


“The FAA notified Boeing today that the agency will retain authority over the issuance of Airworthiness Certificates for all newly manufactured 737 MAX aircraft,” the FAA said in a statement. “This action is in line with Administrator Steve Dickson’s commitment that the agency fully controls the approval process for the aircraft’s safe return to service.” [..] “The FAA has not completed its review of the 737 MAX aircraft design changes and associated pilot training. The agency will not approve the aircraft for return to service until it has completed numerous rounds of rigorous testing. The FAA will take all the time it needs,” the agency added.

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NATO is a monster that has taken on a life of its own because of arms manufacturers.

Is Macron Right? Is NATO, 70, Brain Dead? (Buchanan)

During the Cold War, NATO enjoyed the widespread support of Americans and Europeans, and understandably so. The USSR had 20 divisions in Germany, surrounded West Berlin, and occupied the east bank of the Elbe, within striking distance of the Rhine. But that Cold War is long over. Berlin is the united free capital of Germany. The Warsaw Pact has been dissolved. Its member states have all joined NATO. The Soviet Union split apart into 15 nations. Communist Yugoslavia splintered into seven nations. As a fighting faith, communism is dead in Europe. Why then are we Americans still over there?

Since the Cold War, we have doubled the size of NATO. We have brought in the Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania but not Finland or Sweden. We have committed ourselves to fight for Slovenia, Croatia, Albania and Montenegro but not Serbia, Bosnia or North Macedonia. Romania and Bulgaria are NATO allies but not Moldova or Belarus. George W. Bush kept us out of the 2008 Russia-Georgia clash over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. And Barack Obama refused to send lethal aid to help Ukraine retrieve Crimea, Luhansk or Donetsk, though Sen. John McCain wanted the United States to jump into both fights. In the House Intel Committee’s impeachment hearings, foreign service officers spoke of “Russian aggression” against our Ukrainian “ally” and our “national security” being in peril in this fight.


But when did Ukraine become an ally of the United States whose territorial wars we must sustain with military aid if not military intervention? When did Kyiv’s control of Crimea and the Donbass become critical to the national security of the United States, when Russia has controlled Ukraine almost without interruption from Catherine the Great in the 18th century to Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 20th century? Among the reasons Trump is president is that he raised provocative questions about NATO and Russia left unaddressed for three decades, as U.S. policy has been on cruise control since the Cold War. And these unanswered questions are deadly serious ones.

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Yes, it takes a group of Germans to probe how Americans fell for Browder. And for their own Deep State, which used the story because RussiaRussia.

Questions Cloud Story Behind Browder, Magnitsky (Spiegel)

There are two versions of what happened to Magnitsky. The more well-known version has all the makings of a conspiracy thriller. It’s been repeated in thousands of articles, TV interviews and in parliamentary hearings. In this version of the story, the man from the Moscow cemetery fought nobly against a corrupt system and was murdered for it. The other version is more complicated. In it, nobody is a hero. The first version has had geopolitical implications. In 2012, the United States passed the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions against Russian officials who were believed to have played a role in his death. The measure was signed into law by then-President Barack Obama after receiving a broad bipartisan majority.

Back then, if there was one thing that politicians on both sides of the aisle could agree on, it was their opposition to a nefarious Russian state. In 2017, Congress passed the Global Magnitsky Act, which enabled the U.S. to impose sanctions against Russia for human rights violations worldwide. The facilitator behind these pieces of legislation is Bill Browder, Magnitsky’s former boss in Moscow. “When he was put to the ultimate test, he became the ultimate hero,” Browder says of Magnitsky. Browder was born in the U.S.. For years, his company, Hermitage Capital Management, was one of the largest foreign investors in Russia. At the time, Browder was an advocate for Russian President Vladimir Putin in the West. That is, until he was prohibited from entering Russia in 2005.

[..] Browder tells a gripping story of how Magnitsky, the whistleblower, is believed to have died. This narrative is his ticket into the political sphere. It’s why he’s received by members of parliament, diplomats and human rights activists alike, often with open arms. They support his push for more legislation because they see it as setting an important precedent: Corrupt regimes all over the world that are violating their citizens’ rights must be held accountable and made to suffer consequences in the form of entry bans and frozen accounts as laid out by the Global Magnitsky Act. The law makes it more difficult, if only slightly, for autocrats to sneer at and ignore human rights.

But there’s another version of the Magnitsky saga, one that is more contradictory than Browder’s telling and more difficult to summarize. The legal documents that underpin it fill dozens of binders, not only in Moscow, but also in London and New York. After sifting through thousands of pages, one might begin to wonder: Did the perfidious conspiracy to murder Magnitsky ever really take place? Or is Browder a charlatan whose story the West was too eager to believe?

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Now dig into Bellingcat’s role in MH17.

Narrative Managers Faceplant In Hilarious OPCW Scandal Spin Job (CJ)

Before we begin I should highlight that Bellingcat is funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, which according to its own cofounder was set up to do overtly what the CIA had previously been doing covertly, namely orchestrating narrative management geared toward the elimination of governments which refuse to comply with US interests. NED is funded directly by the US government, which means that Bellingcat is funded by the US government via an organization set up to promote imperialist regime change agendas. Bellingcat is also funded by Open Society Foundations, another imperialist narrative management operation.

[..] Bellingcat’s latest phenomenal report on how you’re supposed to think about important geopolitical disputes, titled “Emails And Reading Comprehension: OPCW Douma Coverage Misses Crucial Facts”, addresses the leaked OPCW email which was recently published by WikiLeaks and various other outlets revealing that the OPCW omitted crucial information from its Douma report which indicated that a chemical weapons attack was unlikely to have occurred. I encourage you to go and check out Bellingcat’s new masterpiece for yourself. Don’t worry about giving them clicks; that’s not where they get their money.

The first thing you’ll notice about Bellingcat’s article is that at no point does it even attempt to address the actual inflammatory comments within it, such as the OPCW whistleblower’s assertion that the samples tested where a chlorine gas attack is alleged to have occurred in April 2018 contained levels of chlorinated organic compounds which were so low that it would be unreasonable to claim with any confidence that a chlorine gas attack had occurred at all. The whistleblower writes in the leaked email to the OPCW cabinet chief that the levels “were, in most cases, present only in parts per billion range, as low as 1–2 ppb, which is essentially trace quantities.”

As we discussed previously, early skeptics of the establishment Douma narrative highlighted the bizarre fact that when the OPCW published its Interim Report in July of last year its report contained no information about the levels at which the chlorinated organic chemicals occurred. Chlorinated organic chemicals occur at trace levels in any industrialized area, so they are only indicative of a chlorine gas attack when samples test at high levels. The email said they didn’t. The OPCW omitted this in both its Interim and Final Reports. The whistleblower told journalist Jonathan Steele that the levels found “were comparable to and even lower than those given in the World Health Organisation’s guidelines on recommended permitted levels of trichlorophenol and other COCs in drinking water.”

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You go George.

A Tale of Prince Andrew and Julian Assange (George Galloway)

The grand old Duke of York sleeps tonight on a feather pillow in a royal palace. Julian Assange, the publisher of the century sleeps in the hell of Belmarsh Prison, Britain’s own Guantanamo Bay. The Duke of York lied about the length duration and nature of his relationship with the presumed deceased child-sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. Julian Assange told the truth about the high crimes and misdemeanours of the rich and powerful during times of war and peace. The FBI need to speak to the Queen’s favorite son, but no power on earth will be deployed to make him testify about what he might have seen, or even have participated in, at the townhouse in Manhattan, a Sodom and Gomorrah of our times.

The same US Justice system has caused the cruel incarceration of Assange and his Kafkaesque entrapment in an extradition saga which may last for years – if he doesn’t die before it is over as no less than 60 doctors have recently warned he may well do. The US-UK extradition arrangements may be the most unequal treaty ever concluded by Her Majesty’s ministers. In this case the former Blair government Home Secretary David Blunkett, a blind man who could, nonetheless, see exactly what he was doing. In essence extradition from Britain to the US became virtually on request without the slightest need to show just cause. But not vice versa. It would be easier to pull a camel through the eye of a needle than for Britain to extradite a US citizen to face justice in the UK.

I was a member of the British Parliament at the time this treaty was signed. Not that this mattered a jot or tittle. The Treaty was signed during the Summer Recess when no Parliament was sitting and through the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. Only when it was already in operation was I even able to oppose the extradition of its first victims – alleged City of London financial fraudsters, as well as a fitted-up “terrorist” London man Babar Ahmad. Under the old extradition rules neither case could have satisfied the previous requirement to produce prima facia evidence sufficient to persuade a British judge. Under the new Treaty it was easy peasy lemon squeezy. And off they went.

Prince Andrew will face no such ordeal albeit now banished from Royal Circles and effectively reduced to the ranks, his epaulettes ripped off his glittering array of obscure medals turned to scrap metal on his tunic. Although accused of sexual abuse of a teenager and with an admitted close relationship to the alleged procurer of underage female victims, Ghislaine Maxwell, in whose London home it is alleged one of the sexual encounters took place – the US will never require the Prince to give evidence and the UK will never offer him up. Assange, who was falsely accused of rape, has spent virtually the last decade locked up in one form or other of incarceration. And faces up to 175 years of prison time, if successfully extradited.

It is a tale of two cities – Buckingham Palace and Belmarsh Maximum Security Prison. A tale of two individuals – one now a proven liar and one a well attested truth-teller. A tale of two fates. The Prince who became a moral pauper, the other an impecunious journalist who became a moral giant. It is a tale of our times.

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