Jul 192020
 


Marion Post Wolcott Coal miner waiting for lift home, Capels, West Virginia 1938

 

More Than Half Of All COVID19 Patients Found To Have Damaged Hearts (ND)
Coronavirus Spike Continues Amid New Catalonia Restrictions (BBC)
CDC Acknowledges Mixing Up Coronavirus Testing Data (Hill)
US Defense-Readiness A Concern As Troop COVID-19 Cases Surpass 20,000 (ZH)
Hydroxychloroquine Should Be Available Over The Counter (TH)
Rouhani Estimates 25 Million Infected In Iran (JTN)
Icelandair Sacks All Cabin Crew, Says Spare Pilots Must Take Over (Ind.)
Pressure From Trump Led To 5G Ban, Britain Tells Huawei (G.)
Trump Wants “Full & Speedy Withdrawal” From Afghanistan (ZH)
NYT Russiagate Propaganda Shredded By Strzok Comments (ZH)
The Biosphere and I Are Both In The Last 1% Of Our Lives – James Lovelock (O.)

 

 

No, you can’t just look at mortality numbers and say everything’s okay. We hardly know a thing, but we do know that. Try morbidity: “More Than Half Of All COVID19 Patients Found To Have Damaged Hearts”.

 

 

I’ve seen reports this morning of new record numbers, but Worldometer doesn’t reflect that. A surge in US deaths was also reported.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hussman

 

 

“55 per cent of patients had an abnormality. One in seven patients were found to have severe abnormalities..”

More Than Half Of All COVID19 Patients Found To Have Damaged Hearts (ND)

An international survey of heart scans in people treated for COVID-19 found that 55 per cent of patients had an abnormality. One in seven patients were found to have severe abnormalities. The study adds further evidence to the emerging picture of COVID-19 as a disease of the vascular system in a significant number of cases, and not always primarily a respiratory disease. It also suggests that a significant of COVID-19 patients will need to be monitored and assessed for permanent damage to the heart. And it raises questions about the extent to which COVID-19 is a disease you may not fully recover from. The research is from a team at the Centre for Cardiovascular Science, University of Edinburgh, UK. They studied echocardiograms from 1216 patients, aged 52 to 71, 70 per cent of them male.

The patients came from 69 countries across six continents. They were all presumed or confirmed cases of COVID-19 when the echocardiograms were taken (between April 3 and April 20, 2020). An echocardiogram uses ultrasound to show how your heart muscle and valves are working. About three-quarters of the patients (901 of them) had no pre-existing cardiac disease. But 46 per cent of their echocardiograms were abnormal, and 13 per cent were found with severe disease. According to the study: Left and right ventricular abnormalities were reported in 479 (39 per cent) and 397 (33 per cent) patients, respectively. There was evidence of new myocardial infarction in 36 (three per cent), myocarditis in 35 (three per cent), and takotsubo cardiomyopathy in 19 (two per cent). Sixty percent of the scans were performed in an ICU unit or emergency room. About 54 percent of the patients had severe COVID-19. Abnormalities were often “unheralded or severe, and imaging changed management in one-third of patients.”

Study co-author Marc Dweck, consultant cardiologist at the University of Edinburgh, U.K., said in a statement: “COVID-19 is a complex, multi-system disease which can have profound effects on many parts of the body, including the heart. “Many doctors have been hesitant to order echocardiograms for patients with COVID-19 because it’s an added procedure which involves close contact with patients. “Our work shows that these scans are important—they improved the treatment for a third of patients who received them.” Dr Dweck continued: “Damage to the heart is known to occur in severe flu, but we were surprised to see so many patients with damage to their heart with COVID-19, and so many patients with severe dysfunction.”

Read more …

These local surges can and will occur in many places.

Coronavirus Spike Continues Amid New Catalonia Restrictions (BBC)

Spain’s north-eastern Catalonia region has again recorded a daily Covid-19 infection figure of more than 1,000, as residents endure new restrictions. Health authorities are trying to halt this week’s surge, which has led to four million people around Barcelona being asked to stay home for 15 days. Catalonia’s is the worst of 150 Spanish outbreaks and neighbouring France says closing borders should be discussed. Spain has recorded 260,000 cases and there have been 28,400 deaths. The latest 24-hour figures from the region’s department of health on Saturday record another 1,226 cases, 894 of them in the Barcelona metropolitan area, adding to a surge over the past week. The surge led to tough new measures being announced on Friday.


Although they did not amount to a full lockdown, they have caused considerable concern in a region that was hoping to see an easing of restrictions. The measures, for an initial period of 15 days, include:
• No meetings of more than 10 people in public or private • No visits to nursing homes • Only leave the house for essential activities • Closure of nightclubs and gyms, restrictions on bars and restaurants, suspension of cultural activities and recreational sport
Barcelona bar owner Maria Quintana told AFP: “We’d just started to see things coming back to life with the arrival of a few foreign tourists, so this is a step backwards.”

Read more …

How to just about literally mix up apples and oranges. And end up with something entirely useless.

CDC Acknowledges Mixing Up Coronavirus Testing Data (Hill)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledged Thursday that it is combining the results from viral and antibody COVID-19 tests when reporting the country’s testing totals, despite marked differences between the tests. First reported by NPR’s WLRN station in Miaimi, the practice has drawn ire from U.S. health experts who say combining the tests inhibits the agency’s ability to discern the country’s actual testing capacity. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told The Atlantic. “How could the CDC make that mistake? This is a mess.”

Viral tests — commonly referred to as PCR tests as most of them use a process known as polymerase chain reaction — are used by health professionals to determine whether or not a person is currently infected with the disease. During the pandemic, viral tests have been the most effective way of being able to diagnose a positive case of COVID-19. They are what state governments have been counting to track the number of confirmed cases of the virus they have. Antibody, or serology, tests serve a different purpose. Unlike viral tests that are taken by nose swab or saliva sample, antibody tests examine a person’s blood to see if their immune system has created antibodies to combat COVID-19. These tests allow doctors to see if someone has previously been exposed to the virus.

As the push for widespread testing in the U.S. has strengthened, antibody tests have been widely produced, many experts have balked at saying that antibodies equate to immunity from COVID-19. Serology tests are also less accurate than PCR tests, increasing the chances for a false negative. Moreover, a negative test means different things for either test. A negative PCR test indicates to physicians that the patient isn’t currently ill with the disease. But, a negative serology test means that the patient has most likely not been exposed to or infected with COVID-19. “The viral testing is to understand how many people are getting infected, while antibody testing is like looking in the rearview mirror. The two tests are totally different signals,” Jha told The Atlantic. [..] According to reports, several states, including Pennsylvania, Georgia, Texas and Florida, have also been combining the results of the two tests.

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“I wouldn’t want any mixed messages going out there to any adversaries that they can take advantage of an opportunity, if you will, at a time of crisis,”

Ha ha! You don’t think they know?

US Defense-Readiness A Concern As Troop COVID-19 Cases Surpass 20,000 (ZH)

Months ago the USS Theodore Roosevelt carrier disaster which saw over 1,000 crew members infected with COVID-19, cutting short its mission in the western pacific also amid public controversy and division within the Navy’s ranks over the handling of the crisis, made it clear that the Pentagon is keenly aware that US national security could be deeply impacted by the pandemic. During that prior saga China even boasted that its own warships in the region were coronavirus-free, prompting US generals to issue their own statements of continued full military readiness. But new infected case numbers put out by Military Times reveals the Department of Defense (DoD) is continuing to fight an uphill battle on this front: “Coronavirus cases are up more than 20 percent in service members this week, to 20,212, as the military’s battle against the pandemic continues to mirror the challenges civilian leaders are facing across the country.”

Military officials have downplayed this grim milestone of over 20,000 US military cases, including three deaths and 425 hospitalizations, as reflective of the rest of the general population. Like the civilian population, military cases have more than doubled since April. “From the first soldier diagnosed in South Korea at the end of February, it took until early June for the military to see 10,000 cases. The next 10,000 cases took six weeks,” Military Times writes. It’s likely that similar to what was observed in USS Roosevelt cases, most military personnel with coronavirus are asymptomatic, but the DoD has struggled to break this down and provide public data. One likely explanation for the rise in military cases is that most major installations are located in states like Texas, which has seen spiking numbers across the population.

[..] In April, when tensions with China in the East and South China Seas were growing, also after the Roosevelt supercarrier was temporarily taken out of commission by outbreak among the crew, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley issued a stern warning to enemies. “We’re still capable and we’re still ready no matter what the threat,” Milley said at the time. “I wouldn’t want any mixed messages going out there to any adversaries that they can take advantage of an opportunity, if you will, at a time of crisis,” he added. “That would be a terrible and tragic mistake if they thought that.”

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Hmmm. I would tend to agree, but HCQ is not harmless in large doses. Not sure dragging in Pearl Harbor and party politics helps much either.

Hydroxychloroquine Should Be Available Over The Counter (TH)

It is time to take the bull by the horns to conquer the Wuhan virus. Drastic action is necessary, like on December 8, 1941 after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. President Trump should order immediate public access to hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) by making the medication available over-the-counter (OTC). Liberals have interfered with public access to this medication for COVID-19 through the old-fashioned route of requiring a prescription and then having a pharmacist fill or reject the prescription. Millions of Americans do not visit physicians, and cannot obtain a prescription for HCQ if they did. Even if you have been exposed to COVID-19, you cannot obtain a prescription for HCQ in most states because regulators prohibit dispensing it without a positive test result, which typically cannot be obtained until late in the progression of the disease.

No one credibly doubts that HCQ is safe, and safer than many medications currently available OTC. No one credibly doubts the dozens of studies showing that early use of HCQ, pre-exposure and immediately after exposure to COVID, has helped many overcome this dreaded disease. Americans do not need a prescription to obtain hundreds of medications which once required a prescription. Nexium, Prevacid, Prilosec, Claritin, Flonase, and Primatene Mist are medications that have been shifted from Rx to OTC in recent years, not because the medical establishment pushed for the change, but because of public demand for it. No demand is higher at this time than for a medication which helps prevent against COVID. Yet Americans are not being allowed to access the medication which they want and need, and instead are being told by FDA and state officials that they cannot have it.

Last month the Oregon pharmacy board, for example, blocked HCQ access as follows: “Prescription orders for chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 infection may only be dispensed if written for a patient enrolled in a clinical trial by an authorized investigator.” They based their ban on an improper statement issued by FDA, which is controlled by opponents of Trump’s reelection. Of course, many government officials in Oregon are against Trump, too. Every state board of pharmacy or medicine is controlled by left-leaning government workers who, by and large, despise President Trump and hope he loses in November. They are accomplishing their dream by choking off public access to HCQ.

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Current official number is 271,000. Why is he saying this now?

Rouhani Estimates 25 Million Infected In Iran (JTN)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday belatedly acknowledged the toll coronavirus has taken on his country, reporting 25 million Iranians may have been infected and 14,000 have died. The staggering number means the estimated COVID-19 cases in Iran are nearly double the rest of the world’s infections and represent about 30 percent of Iran’s population. Rouhani also suggested the worst is not over, warning as many as 35 million more citizens could be infected before the pandemic ends. Tehran began new restrictions on Sunday, with many public places closed and religious gatherings canceled. “Our estimate is that so far 25 million Iranians have been infected with this virus and about 14,000 have lost their lives,” Rouhani said. Rouhani’s office said the number of infections was based on an “estimated scenario” from the health ministry.

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There’s no law there against firing an entire group of people just because they organized?

Icelandair Sacks All Cabin Crew, Says Spare Pilots Must Take Over (Ind.)

From Monday, every crew member on every Icelandair flight will be a pilot. The Icelandic national airline been negotiating with the Icelandic Cabin Crew Association (Flugfreyjufelag Islands/FFI) for months over new contracts in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In June, the two sides signed a five-year agreement that, according to Icelandair, involved “increasing productivity and flexibility”. The carrier has made similar deals with the pilots’ and engineers’ unions. But 10 days ago, cabin crew voted against the proposals by a majority of 73:27. Icelandair now says negotiations have broken down: “It has now become evident that a mutually agreed conclusion will not be reached.”


As a result, it has decided to “permanently terminate the employment of its current cabin crew members and permanently discontinue the employment relationship between the parties”. The airline says it has been “exploring other options regarding safety and service onboard its aircraft”. From 20 July pilots who are currently not required for flying duties will be assigned “responsibility for safety on board”. Passengers are warned: “Services will continue to be at a minimum, as it has since the impact of Covid-19 started.” Icelandair is now seeking new cabin crew, and is reported to be in talks with staff who lost their jobs when Wow Air collapsed in 2018. The cabin crew union said a strike would begin at once.

Read more …

Key: “Huawei was told that geopolitics had played a part, and was given the impression that it was possible the decision could be revisited in future, perhaps if Trump failed to win a second term..”

Pressure From Trump Led To 5G Ban, Britain Tells Huawei (G.)

The British government privately told the Chinese technology giant Huawei that it was being banned from Britain’s 5G telecoms network partly for “geopolitical” reasons following huge pressure from President Donald Trump, the Observer has learned. In the days leading up to the controversial announcement on Tuesday last week, intensive discussions were held and confidential communications exchanged between the government and Whitehall officials on one side and Huawei executives on the other. As part of the high-level behind-the-scenes contacts, Huawei was told that geopolitics had played a part, and was given the impression that it was possible the decision could be revisited in future, perhaps if Trump failed to win a second term and the anti-China stance in Washington eased.


Senior Huawei executives have gone public since Tuesday’s decision saying that they hope the British government will rethink, apparently encouraged by the results of back-channel contacts. The government’s private admissions are out of kilter with public statements last week by ministers, who said Huawei had been banned because of new security concerns raised by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is part of GCHQ. In the Commons, Oliver Dowden, the secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport, said new sanctions forbidding the sale of US-produced components to Huawei – meaning the Chinese company will have to source them from elsewhere – had changed the balance of security risk.

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Not if the Democrats can help it.

Trump Wants “Full & Speedy Withdrawal” From Afghanistan (ZH)

Amid a substantial US pullout from Afghanistan, the administration still doesn’t have a proper US Ambassador for that country. Reports, however, are that the short list includes a long-time war critic, Will Ruger. Though not nominated yet, Ruger is undergoing vetting, and has been meeting with officials. The Vice President for Research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute, Ruger has frequently advocated ending the Afghanistan War. Though the US is heading toward ending that war anyhow, with so many officials taking a wait and see approach, having a proper ambassador who is known to want a pullout would be a clear signal the administration intends to complete the process.


According to Politico: Ruger, a Naval Reserve officer who served a year in Afghanistan a decade ago, is aligned with the president’s thinking about the U.S. footprint in the Middle East and the wars in Afghanistan and Syria, and has been especially vocal about getting out of Afghanistan. “President Trump has correctly concluded that a full and speedy withdrawal of our troops is imperative,” he wrote in the American Interest in late May. “Our national interest isn’t served by continuing to wage a futile battle but by exiting it.” The US is well ahead of its pullout schedule, down to about 8,500 troops in Afghanistan. Officials sayt hey want 4,000 by the election, and some are saying a complete pullout is possible by then.

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This is what the Trump campaign is going to push. Way before Robert Mueller became Special Counsel, it was abundantly clear there was no there there. It was clear in early January 2017 at the latest. And look what happened after. There’s no way to keep this out of the elections anymore.

Also: “Christopher Steele’s “Primary Sub-Source” Was His Own Employee” (Not some Russian Kremlin insider). And that employee greatly disagreed with how Steele used his comments. It was all made up.

NYT Russiagate Propaganda Shredded By Strzok Comments (ZH)

Statement and documents from Sen. Lindsey Graham’s office: WASHINGTON – Today, as part of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ongoing investigation into the Crossfire Hurricane investigation and related FISA abuses, Chairman Lindsey Graham (R- South Carolina) released two recently declassified documents that significantly undercut the reliability of the Steele dossier and the accuracy and reliability of many of the factual assertions in the Carter Page FISA applications. “I’m very pleased the investigation in the Senate Judiciary Committee has been able to secure the declassification of these important documents,” said Chairman Graham. “I want to thank Attorney General Barr for releasing these documents and allowing the American People to judge for themselves.

“What have we learned from the release of these two documents by the Department of Justice? Number one, it is clear to me that the memo regarding the FBI interview of the primary sub-source in January 2017 should have required the system to stop and reevaluate the case against Mr. Page. “Most importantly after this interview of the sub-source and the subsequent memo detailing the contents of the interview, it was a miscarriage of justice for the FBI and the Department of Justice to continue to seek a FISA warrant against Carter Page in April and June of 2017. “The dossier was a critical document to justify a FISA warrant against Mr. Page and this DOJ memo clearly indicates that the reliability of the dossier was completely destroyed after the interview with the primary sub-source in January 2017.

Those who knew or should have known of this development and continued to pursue a FISA warrant against Mr. Page anyway are in deep legal jeopardy in my view. “Secondly, the comments of Peter Strzok regarding the February 14 New York Times article are devastating in that they are an admission that there was no reliable evidence that anyone from the Trump Campaign was working with Russian Intelligence Agencies in any form. “The statements by Mr. Strzok question the entire premise of the FBI’s investigation of the Trump Campaign and make it even more outrageous that the Mueller team continued this investigation for almost two and a half years. Moreover, the statements by Strzok raise troubling questions as to whether the FBI was impermissibly unmasking and analyzing intelligence gathered on U.S. persons.

Whitney Webb Biden Strom Thurmond’

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Say and think what you will, but here’s a formidable man. Born in July 1919. He was 6 days short of turning 50 when the first man walked on the moon.

“I think people will discover all sorts of things they can do that they didn’t do before. Maybe they’ll realise it is not such a good idea to get fat; that much of the suffering they get in middle age and later life is caused by just eating too much of the wrong sort of food.”

The Biosphere and I Are Both In The Last 1% Of Our Lives – James Lovelock (O.)

Is the virus part of the self-regulation of Gaia? Definitely, it’s a matter of sources and sinks. The source is the multiplication of the virus and the sink is anything we can do to get rid of it, which is not at the moment very effective. This is all part of evolution as Darwin saw it. You are not going to get a new species flourishing unless it has a food supply. In a sense that is what we are becoming. We are the food. I could easily make you a model and demonstrate that as the human population on the planet grew larger and larger, the probability of a virus evolving that would cut back the population is quite marked. We’re not exactly a desirable animal to let loose in unlimited numbers on the planet. Malthus was about right. In his day, when the human population was much smaller and distributed less densely across the planet, I don’t think Covid would have had a chance.

How will lockdown affect this prognosis? After this virus, I suspect quite a hefty change will be discernible. I think people will discover all sorts of things they can do that they didn’t do before. Maybe they’ll realise it is not such a good idea to get fat; that much of the suffering they get in middle age and later life is caused by just eating too much of the wrong sort of food. I always find it fascinating how the statistics illustrate that the health of the nation was enormously better at the end of the second world war than it was at the beginning.

Early in your career, you did some research in this field… The first work I did after university was with the Medical Research Council in the department run by the discoverer of the influenza virus, Sir Christopher Andrewes. My job was to measure the number of droplets caused by coughing and sneezing in underground shelters during the second world war. There had been a deadly influenza virus at the end of the first world war and they were mortally afraid of that starting again because the tube was crammed with people.

Read more …

 

 

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A subtle hint:

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jul 122020
 


Berenice Abbott Broome Street, Nos. 504-506, Manhattan 1935

 

Hong Kong Expert Leung: New Virus Strain 30% More Infectious (SCMP)
Chinese Virologist Flees Hong Kong, Accuses Beijing Of COVID-19 Cover-Up (ZH)
How Talking About The Coronavirus As An Enemy Combatant Can Backfire (Conv.)
£5 Billion Of UK Coronavirus Bailouts Go To Firms Based In Tax Havens (LE)
EU Leaders Are Split Over Coronavirus Recovery (O.)
32% Of US Households Missed Their July Housing Payments (CNBC)
Huawei To Request UK To Delay 5G Network Removal (R.)
Tesla Appears Poised To Electrify S&P 500 (R.)
Elon Musk About To Get Another $1.8 Billion Payday From Tesla (CNN)
Roger Stone Commutation Is Not As Controversial As Some Think (Turley)
Flynn Lawyer Says New DOJ Docs Contain ‘Shocking Exculpatory Evidence’ (Fox)

 

 

Two things happened over the past day other than the advancing virus numbers. Trump wore a mask to a hospital and Robert Mueller wrote in the WaPo that Roger Stone is still a convicted felon.

As for the mask: nobody saw it as a positive thing, it’s used only to dump on him. The MSM really wouldn’t have any copy if Trump was not there. What are they going to cover when he’s not re-elected? His pending trial, you say? Beware of Pavlov. Beware of conditioning.

As for Mueller’s WaPo piece, Aaron Maté said this:

“Mueller: Stone “lied about the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks.”


False: Stone had no “intermediary to WikiLeaks,” as both of his suspected but fictional intermediaries, Credico & Corsi, told Mueller’s probe.

That really is the whole Mueller story right there, and the commutation one. Lying about a crime that never happened.

If they had nothing on Stone, and neither on Flynn, something Comey admitted in the Oval Office on Jan 4/5 2017, why was there a Special Counsel? Serious question. Oh, and Stone didn’t want a pardon, because that would have stopped him from fighting his case in court. It would have declared him guilty.

Meanwhile, the MSM/Dems/Intel are busy aiming at Bill Barr, but he’s on the record saying Trump shouldn’t have commuted the sentence. Misfire.

The real story lies elsewhere.

But it’s interesting to see it all unfold. Increasingly, I see this developing as a kind of Pavlovian effect, “conditioned reflex”. It’s too easy to predict when the dogs will start salivating. You don’t need to give them food, you just need to blow a whistle. Soon as they hear the name Trump, they can’t stop their watery mouths anymore.

 

 

Never new records in the weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yaneer Bar-Yam

 

 

Mississippi

 

 

“The [outbreak] situation has gone back to almost the same level when we had not placed any surveillance measures on the disease at all”
– Professor Gabriel Leung

Hong Kong Expert Leung: New Virus Strain 30% More Infectious (SCMP)

A top medical expert advising the Hong Kong government on Covid-19 has warned that each infected person could transmit the coronavirus to four others, as the virus has turned more infectious, while the city has now entered the most serious phase of the public health crisis. Professor Gabriel Leung, dean of the University of Hong Kong’s medical school, said he believed there were at least 50 to 60 hidden cases in the community as an international study indicated a strain of the virus had increased its infection rate by 30 per cent due to a DNA mutation. He highlighted Kowloon East and Sha Tin as two areas most at risk of an outbreak and urged the government to prioritise testing resources for the elderly.

“This is the start of a sustained massive local outbreak the likes of which we have never seen before,” Leung said on a radio programme on Sunday. On Saturday, health authorities warned that Hong Kong’s third wave of Covid-19 was by far the most serious of the public health crisis to date, as at least 61 people in the city were either confirmed as infected or had tested preliminary positive. The city reported 16 local infections among 28 cases officially confirmed on Saturday, while another 33 people were awaiting confirmation they had caught the deadly virus. The continued surge takes Hong Kong’s Covid-19 total to 1,431 with seven deaths.

On Sunday, Leung cited an international study which suggested there was a DNA mutation in the most widely circulating strain of the virus, which has changed from 614G from the previous 614D, making it more infectious by about 31 per cent.
He said another local study confirmed such a trend, as the number of people expected to be infected by each case increased in March from 2 1/2 to three, and had now risen to four. But there was no evidence to show that the virus had become more deadly. “Hong Kong is currently facing a real and continuous local outbreak. The situation has gone back to almost the same level when we had not placed any surveillance measures on the disease at all,” Leung said.

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I wrote The Party and the Virus all the way back on February 2. It still tells this story 5+ months later.

Chinese Virologist Flees Hong Kong, Accuses Beijing Of COVID-19 Cover-Up (ZH)

A highly respected Chinese virologist has fled Hong Kong and says that the Chinese government knew about COVID-19 long before they claim they did, and that her supervisors – some of the top experts in the field – ignored research she was conducting at the onset of the pandemic which she says could have saved lives, according to an exclusive interview with Fox News. Dr. Li-Meng Yan, who specialized in virology and immunology at the Hong Kong School of Public Health, fled Hong Kong on April 28 on a Cathay Pacific flight to the United States, knowing that if she were caught she could be jailed or “disappeared.”

“She adds that they likely had an obligation to tell the world, given their status as a World Health Organization reference laboratory specializing in influenza viruses and pandemics, especially as the virus began spreading in the early days of 2020. Yan, now in hiding, claims the government in the country where she was born is trying to shred her reputation and accuses government goons of choreographing a cyber-attack against her in hopes of keeping her quiet. Yan believes her life is in danger. She fears she can never go back to her home and lives with the hard truth that she’ll likely never see her friends or family there again. Still, she says, the risk is worth it. -Fox News

“The reason I came to the U.S. is because I deliver the message of the truth of COVID,” Yan told Fox from an undisclosed location. Yan says she was one of the first scientists in the world to study COVID-19 (aside from Wuhan researchers, perhaps) after he supervisor, Dr. Leo Poon, asked her to look into “the odd cluster of SARS-like cases coming out of mainland China at the end of December 2019,” according to the report. “The China government refused to let overseas experts, including ones in Hong Kong, do research in China,” she said. “So I turned to my friends to get more information.”

Yan’s mainland colleagues – one of whom worked at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, allegedly told Yan on December 31 that the virus was transmissible between humans long before the CCP or the WHO reversed course and admitted this was possible. After she told her boss of this, “he just nodded,” she says. Days after her CCP contacts told her about human-to-human transmission, the WHO put out a statement on January 9 saying: “According to Chinese authorities, the virus in question can cause severe illness in some patients and does not transmit readily between people… There is limited information to determine the overall risk of this reported cluster.”

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Something I’ve been saying all along. And I don’t need the flowery language to know why.

The vast majority of westerners has never experienced a war anywhere near them. But it’s still the only language they understand. What does that tell us?

How Talking About The Coronavirus As An Enemy Combatant Can Backfire (Conv.)

Sometimes war involves battling other countries; other times, it’s the metaphorical kind, like our current “war” against the coronavirus. We see this war reflected in the language that gets used by politicians, policymakers, journalists and healthcare workers. As the “invisible enemy” rolled in, entire economies halted as populations “sheltered in place.” We were told to “hunker down” for the long battle ahead and to “support our troops,” the health care workers, fighting on the “front lines.” These military-inspired metaphors serve a purpose. Unlike the dense linguistic landscape of science and medicine, their messages are clear: Danger. Buckle Down. Cooperate. In fact, studies have shown that sometimes military metaphors can help unite people against a common enemy.

They can convey a sense of urgency so that people drop what they’re doing and start paying attention. However, as someone who has studied the way language influences behavior, I know that this kind of rhetoric can have long-term effects that are less positive, particularly within health and medicine. In fact, research has shown that these metaphors can cause people to make decisions that go against sound medical advice. Militarized rhetoric was popularized with the “War on Drugs,” a term coined by President Richard Nixon in an effort to reduce illicit drug use in the U.S. Since then, the language of war has seeped into our collective lexicon. We’re currently engaged in a war against climate change. Some argue there’s a war on Christmas, while others say there’s a war against truth.

So it’s only natural that when a new, deadly virus emerges, the warspeak persists. Military metaphors aren’t new to medicine; they’ve long played a role in shaping patients’ relationships with illness. Cancer is a key example of this. The cancer is an enemy, invading the patient’s body. Patients are told they must fight, that they are at war, and they must be strong while they receive treatments that target those enemy cells for destruction. The fact they are used so often indicates that these metaphors serve a purpose. They’re simple and straightforward, helping us comprehend and categorize something that’s complex and unpredictable. But this framing contains a potentially dangerous undercurrent.

Language affects cognition, and cognition affects our behaviors. Wartime language has been shown to alter our behavior – and not always for the better. In war, opposing sides are engaged in a struggle. Whoever survives longest and fights hardest wins. Strength and confidence are commended, while fearful behaviors are viewed with contempt. The World War II poster “Keep calm and carry on” exemplifies this mindset. The underlying message of the so-called “War on Terror” was to not allow fear to disrupt our lives. There was a major focus on returning to “life as normal,” and the return to national pastimes, like baseball, was thought to play a huge role in helping the country heal.

These approaches can appear helpful, but in the case of the coronavirus medical advice suggests physical distancing and mask wearing. Unfortunately, this guidance requires disruption. To stay home is to change your routine, to wear a mask is to appear weak and afraid and to avoid everything that makes up our daily routine is to let the enemy win.

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Color me surprised.

£5 Billion Of UK Coronavirus Bailouts Go To Firms Based In Tax Havens (LE)

Almost a third of companies receiving coronavirus bailouts from the Bank of England are based in a tax haven or owned by someone living there, shocking research has revealed. Analysis by TaxWatch UK, a thinktank, found that £4.79 billion in bailout cash has been handed to companies with links to tax havens, or that have been embroiled in financial controversy – close to 30 per cent of the money loaned out under the government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility. One company – Baker Hughes, a subsidiary of American giant General Electric – was granted a £600 million loan, despite the fact that its parent company has been sued by HMRC over unpaid taxes dating back 16 years.

Luxury fashion brand Chanel – whose ultimate parent company is based in the Cayman Islands – also received £600 million, as did EasyJet – which is part-owned by a trust based in the Caribbean territory. A further £25 million went to cruise operator Carnival, whose ships were registered in Panama. Dozens of people have died and over 1,500 confirmed cases of Covid-19 have so far been recorded in connection with the company’s cruises, after major outbreaks on ships like the Diamond Princess earlier this year. Machine manufacturer JCB – whose parent company is located in the Netherlands – received a £600 million bailout. The company donated more than £50,000 to Boris Johnson in 2019 and its chairman, Lord Bamford, contributed a further £20,000 to the prime minister’s leadership campaign.

[..] France was one of the first countries to block offshore firms from claiming state aid, banning companies domiciled in tax havens from accessing its 110 billion euro rescue package. Announcing the ban Bruno Le Maire, the French finance minister, said that “it goes without saying” that “if your head office is located in a tax haven, you cannot benefit from public support.”

Read more …

When presented with a chance to make the EU relevant, all they exhibited was incompetence. They should have issued coronabonds, sold on the same solidarity basis that US warbonds were. Solidarity with your neighbor and your neighbor states. But solidarity with fellow EU citizens is a bridge too far. Why then have an EU?

EU Leaders Are Split Over Coronavirus Recovery (O.)

With the continent heading into a recession not seen since the 1930s, the EU’s institutional heads, the presidents of the European commission and council, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, have struggled to find consensus between sparring member states over both a long-term budget and a huge one-off economic stimulus. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and French president, Emmanuel Macron, have given their backing to a €750bn (£675bn) pandemic recovery fund. But “frugal” northern states have raised issues. Efforts to placate them have angered Hungary’s nationalist prime minister and the European parliament.

“It became obvious deals weren’t going to be made online,” said one EU official. “You need the work in the margins, bilaterals and discussions between advisers to find the common ground. It needed a physical meeting.” But the set-up will be far from normal this weekend. The usual back-slapping and cheek-kissing will be replaced by social distancing in the presence of mask-wearing aides. The army of reporters that flock to the summits has also been banned from taking the usual seats in the expansive foyer of the Justus Lipsius building next door to the Europa.

The European commission forecasts an 8.3% drop in economic activity across the EU this year followed by a 5.8% rebound in 2021 but countries are expected to emerge from the crisis at starkly different speeds, risking a breakdown in the bloc’s single market as the disparity between Europe’s haves and have-nots is exacerbated In Brussels’ latest proposal, Michel, a former Belgian prime minister said to have had a lacklustre first year in his role chairing leaders’ debates, only appeared to stir up new problems. In response to the unapologetically “frugal” positions taken by Mark Rutte, the Netherlands’ prime minister, Michel tabled a €25bn smaller seven-year budget than last proposed, through which day-to-day programmes including the common agricultural policy are funded.

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Let the mass evictions begin.

32% Of US Households Missed Their July Housing Payments (CNBC)

As the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic continues, almost one-third of U.S. households, 32%, have not made their full housing payments for July yet, according to a survey by Apartment List, an online rental platform. About 19% of Americans made no housing payment at all during the first week of the month, and 13% paid only a portion of their rent or mortgage. That’s the fourth month in a row that a “historically high” number of households were unable to pay their housing bill on time and in full, up from 30% in June and 31% in May. Renters, low-income and younger households were most likely to miss their payments, Apartment List found.

In April, May and June, the majority of missed housing payments were made by the end of month, Apartment List reports. Almost 90% of households had paid some or all of their rent or mortgage payment by the end of June. But with late fees tacked on, those households may be more likely to miss their next housing bill, perpetuating a vicious cycle. “Delayed payments in one month are a strong predictor for missed payments in the next,” Apartment List says. While 83% of households who paid their May housing in full and on-time also did so in June, only 30% of households who were late in May did so in June.

[..] Renters are especially vulnerable. About 36% of renters, who are more likely to work in industries devastated by the coronavirus, missed their July housing bill, compared to 30% of homeowners. The federal eviction moratorium, which covers around one-fourth of renters in the U.S., put in place at the beginning of the pandemic has been extended to the end of August. But many people are still worried about an imminent wave of evictions across the country, as tenant protections vary greatly depending on the state and even city. Many — though not all — states and cities have instituted their own eviction bans; some have already expired, leaving tenants vulnerable at a time when coronavirus cases are increasing in many spots in the U.S.

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Pretty sudden 180 by Boris.

Huawei To Request UK To Delay 5G Network Removal (R.)

China’s Huawei Technologies has requested a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to work out a deal to delay its potential removal from the country’s 5G phone network, the Sunday Times newspaper reported on Sunday (July 12). The Chinese telecoms equipment maker is seeking to delay its removal from the country’s 5G telecoms networks until after elections in June 2025, in the expectation that the new government may reverse the decision, the newspaper reported. Huawei will in return pledge to maintain its equipment in Britain, which is also used in the 2G, 3G and 4G networks, the report added.


Britain granted Huawei a limited role in its future 5G networks in January, but ministers have since said the introduction of US sanctions on the company means it may no longer be a reliable supplier. Mr Johnson has faced intense pressure from the United States and some British lawmakers to ban the telecommunications equipment maker on security grounds. China’s ambassador to London, Mr Liu Xiaoming, warned last week that getting rid of Huawei would send a “very bad message” to Chinese business. A government update on the Chinese company is expected to be published before July 22, according to a government minister and official.

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Taking price discovery out of the equation means you have no markets anymore. You have a casino.

Tesla Appears Poised To Electrify S&P 500 (R.)

Wall Street’s most controversial stock may be about to go mainstream. Tesla Inc appears on the verge of joining the S&P 500, a major accomplishment for Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk that would unleash a flood of new demand for the electric car maker’s shares, which have already surged 500% over the past year. Higher-than-expected second-quarter vehicle deliveries, announced last week, have analysts increasingly confident the company will show a profit in its quarterly report on July 22. That would mark Tesla’s first cumulative four-quarter profit, a key hurdle to be added to the S&P 500.


With a market capitalization of about $250 billion, Tesla would be among the most valuable companies ever added to the S&P 500, larger than 95% of the index’s existing components. It would have a major impact on investment funds that track the index. [..] Howard Silverblatt, a senior index analyst at S&P Dow Jones, had to look back to the dot-com era to recall a comparable situation. In 1999, Yahoo surged 64% in five trading days between the announcement that it would be added to the index on Nov. 30 and its inclusion after the close of trading on Dec. 7. Yahoo’s market capitalization at the time was about $56 billion.

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Tesla makes 500,000 cars a year. Yet Musk is set to surpass Buffett in the Fortune 500.

Elon Musk About To Get Another $1.8 Billion Payday From Tesla (CNN)

At the end of May Tesla granted CEO Elon Musk stock options worth $1.8 billion today. Now, it’s about to do that again — for a second time in just over two months. Musk’s pay package, approved by Tesla shareholders in 2018, doesn’t pay him any salary or cash bonuses. Instead, it laid out a plan that could eventually give him 20.3 million stock options over the course of 10 years, in 12 equal blocks of 1.7 million options, as long as the company hits a series of operational and market value goals. The package could eventually make him the world’s richest man. With its stock rising more than 500% over the past 12 months, Musk qualified for the first block of options on May 28, when the company achieved an average $100 billion market cap over the previous six months.

Those options were worth an estimated $770 million at that time, after factoring in Tesla’s share price and the $350.02 cost of exercising each option. Musk would qualify for the next block of stock once Tesla had a six-month average of value of $150 billion. The company’s share price has continued to climb steadily, rising more than 70% since Musk received the previous options grant. That gives the company a current market value of $258.6 billion, and a six-month average of $138.6 billion. That new market value is closer to the next target than it might appear. Tesla shares need only to stay at this level for the next two weeks to hit the six-month average of $150 billion.

The current market value has made the company the most valuable automaker in the world, topping No. 2 Toyota, which is worth about $200 billion. In fact, Tesla is now worth more than the third most valuable automaker – Volkswagen – as well as General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler and Honda – combined.

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Jonnathan Turley has a long list of worse commutations.

Roger Stone Commutation Is Not As Controversial As Some Think (Turley)

Washington was sent into vapors of shock and disgust with news of the commutation of Roger Stone. Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin declared it to be “the most corrupt and cronyistic act in all of recent history.” Despite my disagreement with the commutation, that claim is almost quaint. The sordid history of pardons makes it look positively chaste in comparison. Many presidents have found the power of pardons to be an irresistible temptation when it involves family, friends, and political allies. I have maintained that Stone deserved another trial but not a pardon. As Attorney General William Barr has said, this was a “righteous prosecution” and Stone was correctly convicted and correctly sentenced to 40 months in prison.

President Trump did not give his confidant a pardon but rather a commutation, so Stone is still a convicted felon. However, Trump should have left this decision to his attorney general. In addition to Stone being a friend and political ally, Trump was implicated in those allegations against Stone. While there was never any evidence linking Trump to the leaking of hacked emails, he has an obvious conflict of interest in the case. The White House issued a statement that Stone is “a victim of the Russia hoax.” The fact is that Stone is a victim of himself. Years of what he called his “performance art” finally caught up with him when he realized federal prosecutors who were not amused by his antics. Stone defines himself as an “agent provocateur.” He crossed the line when he called witnesses to influence their testimony and gave false answers to investigators.

But criticism of this commutation immediately seemed to be decoupled from any foundation in history or in the Constitution. Indeed, Toobin also declared, “This is simply not done by American presidents. They do not pardon or commute sentences of people who are close to them or about to go to prison. It just does not happen until this president.” In reality, the commutation of Stone barely stands out in the old gallery of White House pardons, which are the most consistently and openly abused power in the Constitution. This authority under Article Two is stated in absolute terms, and some presidents have wielded it with absolute abandon.

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If they had nothing on Flynn, something Comey admitted in the Oval Office on Jan 4/5 2017, why was there a Special Counsel? Serious question.

Flynn Lawyer Says New DOJ Docs Contain ‘Shocking Exculpatory Evidence’ (Fox)

Newly released documents about the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn show additional “exculpatory evidence” linked to a Justice Department review of the case investigators built against him shortly after President Trump’s election, his lawyers argued in a court filing Friday. “These documents establish that on January 25, 2017 – the day after the agents ambushed him at the White House – the agents and DOJ officials knew General Flynn’s statements were not material to any investigation, that he was ‘open and forthcoming’ with the agents, that he had no intent to deceive them, and that he believed he was fully truthful with them,” Flynn’s attorneys wrote. “In short, there was no crime for many reasons.”

Flynn’s lawyers said that top Justice Department officials and the special counsel’s office knew about the documents for three years before they were able to obtain them, following U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri Jeffrey Jensen’s review of the case. That review was ordered by Attorney General Bill Barr and eventually led the DOJ to drop the charges that former special counsel Robert Mueller had filed against Flynn. And the documents echo statements that former FBI Director James Comey made to lawmakers about Flynn’s FBI interview as early as 2017, Politico reported. Portions of the documents are redacted, but one paragraph, pertaining to an early FBI interview of Flynn, states that “FBI advised that based on this interview, they did not believe General Flynn was acting as an agent of Russia.”

The report acknowledged that some of what Flynn said during the interview was “inconsistent” with surveillance records of his calls – but that investigators “believed that Flynn believed what he was telling them.” Another section of handwritten notes draws similar conclusions. “These disclosures evince … even more reasons requiring dismissal of the case against General Flynn,” his legal team wrote. Just two weeks ago, Flynn’s team received former FBI agent Peter Strzok’s notes as part of the review, which the defense lawyers also said provided evidence to “further exonerate” him. [..] the federal judge who has the authority to make the final decision over whether to dismiss the case refused to do so this week even after being ordered to by an appeals court. Instead, he filed a petition for the entire D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to review the case – a move that could drag the proceedings on beyond Election Day.

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Jul 072020
 


Unknown No Dog Biscuits Today 1939

 

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

 

 

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

That’s just wishful thinking. Or maybe a reaction to America’s new attitude towards China. The main sticking point for Beijing is a conundrum it cannot solve. The CCP wants to have BOTH a global currency AND total control over that currency. It will have to choose between the two, and cannot make up its mind. So it pretends it does’t have to choose.

Sure, there has been some advancement for the yuan, but I bet most of that is on the back of the Belt and Road (BRI), and that will turn out to be one of the main victims of the coronavirus. The BRI is China’s very clever way of exporting its overproduction, but potential buyers have other things on their mind today.

Meanwhile, even with that, the yuan is used in only 1.8% of cross-currency payments. So the claim that the yuan is used in 30% of China’s trade needs to be taken with a huge salt shaker.

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

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

The world’s large investors will not put their money into something that Xi Jinping can declare devalued by 50% on a rainy morning when he sees fit. He will have to cede that kind of control.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Easy pickings.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Targeting China once more?!

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

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


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

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Pretty amazing story. But scary too.

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

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

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

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

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Stay home.

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

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


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

Read more …

Turns out the 2nd wave concerns lockdowns.

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

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

Read more …

Brazilian media reports he tested positive.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

Only in America.

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

Assange Lawyer Named French Justice Minister (AAP)

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


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

Read more …

 

 

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May 162020
 


John French Sloan Backyards, Greenwich Village 1926

 

China Unauthorised Labs Were Told To Destroy Early Coronavirus Samples (SCMP)
French Doctors Think They May Have Treated COVID19 Patients Last Fall (Hill)
How ‘Overreaction’ Made Vietnam A Virus Success (BBC)
China Ready To Put Apple, Other US Companies In ‘Unreliable Entity List’
Dems’ Health Insurer Bailout Follows Bundled Checks from Lobbyists (RS)
Gilead To End Coronavirus Drug Trials, Adding To Access Worry (R.)
FDA Halts Bill Gates Coronavirus Testing Program (Hill)
Trump Names Big Pharma Exec Linked To Bill Gates To Head Vaccine Efforts (LAV)
Ohio Stops Denying Workers Unemployment After Hacker Targets Its Website (V.)
Coronavirus Could Deliver $8.8 Trillion Hit To Global Economy – ADB (Ind.)
Obamagate Is Not a Conspiracy Theory (NR)

 

 

• US in past 24 hours: 26,337 new cases, 1,680 new deaths. Total deaths 88,507.

• Russia dives below 10K new cases for the 2nd time in 14 days with 9,200. China reports 8.

 

 

• Sweden on May 15 had 625 new cases and 117 new deaths. Total 29,207 cases, 3,646 deaths.
• Denmark had zero new deaths and a total of 537.
• Deaths per million: Australia 3.92. Sweden: 346.5
• Finns and Danes are apprehensive about opening the border to Sweden because of Swedish coronavirus protocols

 

 

 

Note: total daily new cases are rising towards 100,000, while deaths are getting lower

Cases 4,645,386 (+ 99,316 from yesterday’s 4,546,070)

Deaths 308,980 (+ 5,117 from yesterday’s 303,863)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

You would think you’d want to preserve those at all cost, lest you lose a view of the virus’s history.

China Unauthorised Labs Were Told To Destroy Early Coronavirus Samples (SCMP)

China on Friday confirmed it had ordered unauthorised laboratories to destroy samples of the new coronavirus in the early stage of the outbreak, but said it was done for biosafety reasons. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly said that Beijing declined to provide virus samples taken from patients when the contagion began in China late last year, and that Chinese authorities had destroyed early samples. Liu Dengfeng, an official with the National Health Commission’s science and education department, said this was done at unauthorised labs to “prevent the risk to laboratory biological safety and prevent secondary disasters caused by unidentified pathogens”. “The remarks made by some US officials were taken out of context and intended to confuse,” he said at a briefing in Beijing.

When the pneumonia-like illness was first reported in Wuhan, “national-level professional institutes” were working to identify the pathogen that was causing it, Liu said. “Based on comprehensive research and expert opinion, we decided to temporarily manage the pathogen causing the pneumonia as Class II – highly pathogenic – and imposed biosafety requirements on sample collection, transport and experimental activities, as well as destroying the samples,” he said. Liu added that this was in line with China’s standard practice for handling highly pathogenic samples, which should not be done by labs that do not meet the requirements.

[..] According to a provincial health commission notice issued in February, those handling virus samples were ordered not to provide them to any institutions or labs without approval. Unauthorised labs that obtained samples in the early stage of the outbreak had to destroy them or send them to a municipal centre for disease control and prevention for storage. Chinese magazine Caixin reported in February that some hospitals had sent samples to private gene sequencing companies to identify the mystery virus early in the outbreak. Some of those results came back as early as December 27 and were identified as being from the same coronavirus family as Sars, the report said. One company had been told to destroy all virus samples, according to the report.

[..] The health commission also rejected claims by US officials that China denied a request by the WHO to visit the high-security Wuhan Institute of Virology, which is at the centre of conspiracy theories that the virus was engineered or escaped from the lab. Li Mingzhu, a senior official with the health commission’s international cooperation department, said the WHO did not make any request to visit the lab during two trips to Wuhan, in January and February. “The WHO has never made a request to visit a certain laboratory, so the statement that the WHO was denied a visit to the Wuhan laboratory is untrue,” Li said.

Read more …

One reason why you would want to preserve samples.

French Doctors Think They May Have Treated COVID19 Patients Last Fall (Hill)

In what would mark a massive shift in the timeline of coronavirus spread, French researchers believe there is evidence coronavirus may have been in Europe as early as November 2019. X-rays obtained exclusively by NBC News show two patients with symptoms in their lungs consistent with the novel coronavirus dated Nov. 16 and Nov. 18, months before COVID-19 was believed to be spreading in the country. Researchers from Colmar, France, announced the X-rays last week and are working to confirm whether the patients had coronavirus. France had originally believed its first case to have been Jan. 24.


The study comes in conjunction with a study by other French scientists who discovered last week that a coronavirus patient had been treated in the country in December. The doctors from the Groupe Hospitalier Paris Seine in Saint-Denis said a sample taken from a 42-year-old fishmonger admitted to the emergency room on Dec. 27 had tested positive for the coronavirus. Similarly, the U.S. recently discovered coronavirus had spread among citizens earlier than previously expected when a medical examiner’s report reclassified a California woman’s death in February as being due to COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — three weeks prior to what was originally believed to be the first U.S. coronavirus death.

Read more …

All winning countries have been told at some stage that they were overreacting.

How ‘Overreaction’ Made Vietnam A Virus Success (BBC)

Despite a long border with China and a population of 97 million people, Vietnam has recorded only just over 300 cases of Covid-19 on its soil and not a single death. Nearly a month has passed since its last community transmission and the country is already starting to open up. Experts say that unlike other countries now seeing infections and deaths on a huge scale, Vietnam saw a small window to act early on and used it fully. But though cost-effective, its intrusive and labour intensive approach has its drawbacks and experts say it may be too late for most other countries to learn from its success. “When you’re dealing with these kinds of unknown novel potentially dangerous pathogens, it’s better to overreact,” says Dr Todd Pollack of Harvard’s Partnership for Health Advancement in Vietnam in Hanoi.

Recognising that its medical system would soon become overwhelmed by even mild spread of the virus, Vietnam instead chose prevention early, and on a massive scale. By early January, before it had any confirmed cases, Vietnam’s government was initiating “drastic action” to prepare for this mysterious new pneumonia which had at that point killed two people in Wuhan. When the first virus case was confirmed on 23 January – a man who had travelled from Wuhan to visit his son in Ho Chi Minh City – Vietnam’s emergency plan was in action. “It very, very quickly acted in ways which seemed to be quite extreme at the time but were subsequently shown to be rather sensible,” says Prof Guy Thwaites, director of Oxford University Clinical Research Unit (OUCRU) in Ho Chi Minh City, which works with the government on its infectious disease programmes.

Vietnam enacted measures other countries would take months to move on, bringing in travel restrictions, closely monitoring and eventually closing the border with China and increasing health checks at borders and other vulnerable places. Schools were closed for the Lunar New Year holiday at the end of January and remained closed until mid-May. A vast and labour intensive contact tracing operation got under way. “This is a country that has dealt with a lot of outbreaks in the past,” says Prof Thwaites, from Sars in 2003 to avian influenza in 2010 and large outbreaks of measles and dengue.

Read more …

The Global Times piece itself is too over the top.

China Ready To Put Apple, Other US Companies In ‘Unreliable Entity List’

China is ready to put U.S. companies in an “unreliable entity list,” as part of countermeasures against Washington’s move to block shipments of semiconductors to Huawei Technologies, the Global Times reported on Friday. The measures include launching investigations and imposing restrictions on U.S. companies such as Apple Inc, Cisco Systems Inc, Qualcomm Inc as well as suspending purchase of Boeing Co airplanes, the report said here citing a source. The Global Times is published by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party. While the Global Times is not an official mouthpiece of the party, its views are believed to reflect those of its leaders. Earlier in the day, the U.S. Commerce Department said it was amending an export rule to “strategically target Huawei’s acquisition of semiconductors that are the direct product of certain U.S. software and technology.”

Read more …

But no M4A.

Dems’ Health Insurer Bailout Follows Bundled Checks from Lobbyists (RS)

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, progressives have argued that a single-payer health care system would prevent people who lose their jobs from going without health care and further exacerbating the public health crisis. “Medicare for All means never losing your health insurance if you lose your job,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted on March 26, the day the Labor Department announced that a record 3.3 million people had filed for unemployment insurance. (The unemployment figure has since risen to 17 million, and it is expected to keep increasing.) But the Democratic leadership in Congress, none of whom are among the 118 cosponsors of the Medicare for All Act, have embraced a different approach.

The leaders are planning to include a measure in the next coronavirus package to expand subsidies for the COBRA health insurance program, allowing people who lose their jobs to keep the same insurance plan that their employer had made available to them. Under the plan, which was viewed by Vox, the federal government would pay the full cost of the premiums to private health insurance companies to keep laid-off people on their plans. The COBRA expansion would not provide coverage to people who become unemployed but were not receiving coverage through their employers. It would also not cover people’s deductibles.

“The Democrats could push to simply expand Medicaid, but instead they are pushing new subsidies for private health insurance companies,” David Sirota, a journalist and former Sanders campaign staffer wrote on Twitter. [..] The Democrats’ proposal mirrors a recommendation put forward recently by the health insurance industry. Less than a week before the Democrats floated their plan, the presidents and CEOs of Blue Cross Blue Shield and America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the health insurance industry’s top lobbying group, sent a list of policy proposals to Congress including a recommendation that it provide full federal subsidization of COBRA premiums.

Read more …

Yeah, let’s worry about NOT having access to a drug that does NOT work.

Gilead To End Coronavirus Drug Trials, Adding To Access Worry (R.)

Gilead Sciences Inc’s two clinical studies of its potential coronavirus treatment remdesivir will wind down by the end of May, closing off a path of patient access to the antiviral medication, according to U.S. researchers involved in the studies. The drug was given emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on May 1, but hospitals are concerned about access. “We would like to see equitable and transparent distribution of this very precious resource,” Dr. Helen Boucher, chief of infectious diseases at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, told Reuters. Gilead’s studies – one in patients with severe COVID-19 and the other in moderate disease – have enrolled around 8,000 subjects, according to FDA statistics.

The trials are “open label” meaning they do not compare the treatment to a placebo and participants know they are getting the drug. Interest in Gilead’s drug has been high given some promising early data and the lack of approved treatments or preventive vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has infected over 4 million people and killed more than 305,000 worldwide. Preliminary results from a trial conducted by the U.S. National Institutes of Health showed that remdesivir cut hospital stays by 31% compared to a placebo. The NIH is now studying remdesivir alone compared to remdesivir in combination with Olumiant, an anti-inflammatory drug approved for rheumatoid arthritis and sold by Eli Lilly and Co.

Remdesivir is still available on a compassionate use basis for pregnant women or children under the age of 18, but most COVID-19 patients will soon have access only under the emergency use authorization. “We participate in the Gilead clinical trials here at Tufts,” Dr. Boucher said. “We were notified that they will wind down … no later than the end of May.” Gilead told Tufts it is transitioning to product distribution under the emergency use authorization.

Read more …

The tests used at the White House don’t appear very accurate, either. Can we shift some of the billions spent on elusive vaccines to better testing?

FDA Halts Bill Gates Coronavirus Testing Program (Hill)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halted a coronavirus testing program promoted by billionaire Bill Gates and Seattle health officials pending reviews. The program sought to send test kits to the homes of people both healthy and sick to try to bring the country to the level of testing officials say is necessary before states can begin safely reopening. The program, which had already gone through thousands of tests, found dozens of cases that had been previously undiagnosed. The Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN) said on its website that the FDA had asked it to pause testing while it receives additional authorizations, but maintained its procedures are safe.

“[T]he Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recently clarified its guidance for home-based, self-collected samples to test for COVID-19. We have been notified that a separate federal emergency use authorization (EUA) is required to return results for self-collected tests,” the program said. “The FDA has not raised any concerns regarding the safety and accuracy of SCAN’s test, but we have been asked to pause testing until we receive that additional authorization.” The pause is emblematic of the fractured national response to the coronavirus, with federal officials proposing guidelines but leaving much of the implementation and administering of tests to states and localities.

Concerns have recently arisen over the reliability of coronavirus antibody tests, which can gauge if someone previously had the illness. However, the SCAN tests do not test for antibodies, and the program said it is working to get back up and running. “We are actively working to address their questions and resume testing as soon as possible,” the program said. Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft who has dedicated much of his personal fortune to global health issues, said the program could be an effective tool in guiding public health responses. “Not only will it help improve our understanding of the outbreak in Seattle, it will also provide valuable information about the virus for other communities around the world,” Gates wrote in a blog post this week.

Read more …

This just about has it all: Bill Gates, forced vaccinations, nanochip implants. Only thing missing is a secret plan to depopulate the planet,

Trump Names Big Pharma Exec Linked To Bill Gates To Head Vaccine Efforts (LAV)

On Friday, Donald Trump announced his appointment of Moncef Slaoui, a former executive with vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline, to lead “Operation Warp Speed”, Trump’s plan to fast track the development of vaccines for COVID-19. Slaoui will serve in a volunteer position, assisted by Army Gen. Gustave Perna, the commander of United States Army Materiel Command. According to the Trump administration, Operation Warp Speed program is focusing on four vaccines, with the hopes of testing and producing 100 million doses by October 2020, 200 million by December, and 300 million doses by January. At Friday’s press conference, Slaoui said he believes the goal of vaccines by January 2021 is a “credible goal”.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was more adamant, stating that, “winning matters and we will deliver, by the end of this year, a vaccine”. Operation Warp Speed and the calls for public-private partnerships mimic the National Institutes of Health’s recent call for bringing together pharmaceutical companies to develop a vaccine for COVID-19. The NIH plan, Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) partnership, emphasizes “a collaborative framework for prioritizing vaccine and drug candidates, streamlining clinical trials, coordinating regulatory processes and/or leveraging assets among all partners to rapidly respond to the COVID-19 and future pandemics.”

The appointment of Slaoui follows previous statements regarding Trump’s desire to have vaccines available to Americans by the fall. “I think we’re going to have a vaccine by the end of the year, and I think distribution will take place almost simultaneously because we’ve geared up the military,” Trump said Thursday afternoon. Trump also told the Fox Business Network that because of the “massive job to give this vaccine” the military is now being mobilized. “We’re going to be able to give it to a lot of people very, very rapidly,” Trump concluded.

At Friday’s press conference Trump said his team has been working 24 hours a day to develop treatments for COVID-19. Despite the heavy focus on vaccines, Trump did state that his administration is working on other treatments, including “therapeutics”. “It’s not solely vaccine based, other things have never had a vaccine and they go away. I don’t people to think this is all dependent on a vaccine, but it would be tremendous,” Trump stated.

Read more …

Big Tech Rules.

Ohio Stops Denying Workers Unemployment After Hacker Targets Its Website (V.)

The state of Ohio won’t deny unemployment benefits to people who refuse to work during the COVID-19 pandemic after people targeted the website it was using to track these workers, according to officials at the state’s Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). The state previously set up a “fraud” website encouraging employers to report those who refused to go back on the job, angering workers and labor rights advocates. State officials say they are now reconsidering the policy after Motherboard reported that a hacker created a script to flood the “COVID-19 Fraud” website with junk data, with the goal of making it impossible to process these claims.


“No benefits are being denied right now as a result of a person’s decision not to return to work while we continue to evaluate the policy,” ODJFS Director Kimberly Hall told Cleveland.com. “Because Ohio is still examining its policies in this area, no adjudications concerning a refusal to return to work have been initiated,” Bret Crow, a spokesperson for the department, told Motherboard in an email. The anonymous hacker previously told Motherboard they created the script as a form of direct action in support of working people. Ohio is among several states that have prematurely reopened against the advice of health experts, forcing many workers to return to their jobs and put themselves at risk of contracting the deadly virus.

Read more …

Or 88? Your guess is as good as theirs.

Coronavirus Could Deliver $8.8 Trillion Hit To Global Economy – ADB (Ind.)

Coronavirus could cut global economic output by as much as $8.8 trillion, with the outlook having worsened significantly in the past month, the Asian Development Bank has said. The bank warned on Friday that Covid-19 would result in $5.8 trillion to $8.8 trillion of lost gross domestic product – or 6.4 per cent to 9.7 per cent of the world’s output. That’s more than twice as bad as the ADB forecast in April. However, government measures to mitigate the economic impact could reduce that figure by as much as 40 per cent, ADB’s chief economist Yasuyuki Sawada said. As some countries, including the UK, lay out plans to ease lockdowns and get more people back to work, Mr Sawada cautioned that containing the pandemic is key to reducing the economic cost.


Testing, tracing, isolation, effective social distancing, and securing protective and medical equipment are all “essential elements” of containing Covid-19, he said. He also pointed to the importance of government support for struggling families and businesses to lessen the adverse effects of the pandemic and to avoid long-term consequences for growth and development. “Rapid and effective containment will allow for a faster recovery,” he said. [..] His words came as the UK government faced criticism from scientists over its easing of lockdown restrictions this week. The Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) warned on Tuesday that the UK faces “inevitable” future lockdowns if the government implements its “potentially dangerous” coronavirus strategy.

Read more …

People who still see it as such will be badly surprised.

Obamagate Is Not a Conspiracy Theory (NR)

Those sharing #Obamagate hashtags on Twitter would do best to avoid the hysterics we saw from Russian-collusion believers, but they have no reason to ignore the mounting evidence that suggests the Obama administration engaged in serious corruption. Democrats and their allies, who like to pretend that President Obama’s only scandalous act was wearing a tan suit, are going spend the next few months gaslighting the public by focusing on the most feverish accusations against Obama. But the fact is that we already have more compelling evidence that the Obama administration engaged in misconduct than we ever did for opening the Russian-collusion investigation.

It is not conspiracy-mongering to note that the investigation into Trump was predicated on an opposition-research document filled with fabulism and, most likely, Russian disinformation. We know the DOJ withheld contradictory evidence when it began spying on those in Trump’s orbit. We have proof that many of the relevant FISA-warrant applications — almost every one of them, actually — were based on “fabricated” evidence or riddled with errors. We know that members of the Obama administration, who had no genuine role in counterintelligence operations, repeatedly unmasked Trump’s allies. And we now know that, despite a dearth of evidence, the FBI railroaded Michael Flynn into a guilty plea so it could keep the investigation going.

What’s more, the larger context only makes all of these facts more damning. By 2016, the Obama administration’s intelligence community had normalized domestic spying. Obama’s director of national intelligence, James Clapper, famously lied about snooping on American citizens to Congress. His CIA director, John Brennan, oversaw an agency that felt comfortable spying on the Senate, with at least five of his underlings breaking into congressional computer files. His attorney general, Eric Holder, invoked the Espionage Act to spy on a Fox News journalist, shopping his case to three judges until he found one who let him name the reporter as a co-conspirator. The Obama administration also spied on Associated Press reporters, which the news organization called a “massive and unprecedented intrusion.”

And though it’s been long forgotten, Obama officials were caught monitoring the conversations of members of Congress who opposed the Iran nuclear deal. What makes anyone believe these people wouldn’t create a pretext to spy on the opposition party? If anyone does, they shouldn’t, because on top of everything else, we know that Barack Obama was keenly interested in the Russian-collusion investigation’s progress.

Read more …

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Apr 182020
 


Edward Hopper Cat boat 1922

 

Antibody Study Suggests Coronavirus Far More Widespread Than Thought (G.)
No Evidence COVID-19 Survivors Have Immunity – WHO (Sky)
Double Warning Over Antibody Tests (BBC)
Existing Drugs ‘May Prove Effective On Coronavirus Before Vaccine Comes’ (SCMP)
Emirates First Airline To Conduct On-Site Rapid COVID-19 Tests (Em.)
US Seeks Access To Wuhan Virology Lab, Trump Questions China Death Toll (SCMP)
US, China and WHO Are All Keen To Pass The Buck (SCMP)
U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Outbreak Much Larger, But Mostly Asymptomatic (JTN)
San Francisco Orders Residents To Wear Face Masks (F.)
UK Moves To Drop Huawei As 5G Vendor On China Coronavirus Transparency (NYP)
Where’s the $2.2 Trillion Bailout Money Going? (WS)
Flight Path (Kunstler)
The Transformation of Emmanuel Macron (CN)
Labour Party’s Own Senior Staff Acted To Keep Corbyn Out Of Power (ML)

 

 

• One week ago, the US #COVID19 #coronavirus death toll was 15,000. In the last 7 days, more than 20,000 Americans have died. The death toll is now 36,000+, Cases top 700,000

• Reported US coronavirus deaths:
– Feb. 17: 0 deaths
– Mar. 17: 111 deaths
– Apr. 17: 36,997 deaths

 

 

• Top 10 States – Positive Tests 4/17/20
1) NY/ 222,284 (TH data);
2) NJ/ 78467;
3/ MA/ 32,181;
4) PA/ 29,441;
5) MI/ 29,263;
6 CA/ 28,263;
7) IL/ 27,575;
8) FL/ 24,119;
9) LA/ 23,118;
10)TX 17,371.

• New York reports 7,753 new coronavirus cases & 1,025 new deaths, a total of 233,951 cases & 17,131 deaths..

• 1,081 sailors from French aircraft carrier test positive for coronavirus. 2,010 sailors have been tested so far.

• Coronavirus global update:
– 85k+ cases in last 24 hours
– 2.2 million cases in total
– 1.5 million active
– 575k recovered
– 155k deaths
– 31% of cases in the U.S.

 

 

 

Cases 2,261,425 (+ 67,867 from yesterday’s 2,193,558)

Deaths 154,734 (+ 7,356 from yesterday’s 147,378)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close- (Note: Brazil and Russia keep climbing fast)

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases remains at 21% –

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: (Belgium in first place worldwide of deaths per million at 445, 14.3% CFR, before Spain, Italy, France and UK.)

 

 

 

 

We know nothing.

Antibody Study Suggests Coronavirus Far More Widespread Than Thought (G.)

A new study in California has found the number of people infected with coronavirus may be tens of times higher than previously thought. The study from Stanford University, which was released Friday and has yet to be peer reviewed, tested samples from 3,330 people in Santa Clara county and found the virus was 50 to 85 times more common than official figures indicated. To ease the sprawling lockdowns currently in place to stop the spread of Covid-19, health officials must first determine how many people have been infected. Large studies of the prevalence of the virus within a region could play a key role, researchers say.

“This has implications for learning how far we are in the course of the epidemic,” said Eran Bendavid, the associate professor of medicine at Stanford University who led the study. “It has implications for epidemic models that are being used to design policies and estimate what it means for our healthcare system.” The study marks the first large-scale study of its kind, researchers said. The study was conducted by identifying antibodies in healthy individuals through a finger prick test, which indicated whether they had already contracted and recovered from the virus. At the time of the study, Santa Clara county had 1,094 confirmed cases of Covid-19, resulting in 50 deaths.

But based on the rate of people who have antibodies, it is likely that between 48,000 and 81,000 people had been infected in Santa Clara county by early April – a number approximately 50 to 80 times higher. That also means coronavirus is potentially much less deadly to the overall population than initially thought. As of Tuesday, the US’s coronavirus death rate was 4.1% and Stanford researchers said their findings show a death rate of just 0.12% to 0.2%.

Read more …

Absolutely nothing.

No Evidence COVID-19 Survivors Have Immunity – WHO (Sky)

There is no evidence that people who have recovered from coronavirus have immunity to the disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. The UK government has bought 3.5 million serology tests – which measure levels of antibodies in blood plasma. But senior WHO epidemiologists have warned that there is no proof that such antibody tests can show if someone who has been infected with COVID-19 cannot be infected again. Many of the tests being developed are pinprick blood tests similar to instant HIV tests and measure for raised levels of the antibodies that the body uses to fight the virus.


Speaking at a news conference in Geneva, Dr Maria van Kerkhove said: “There are a lot of countries that are suggesting using rapid diagnostic serological tests to be able to capture what they think will be a measure of immunity. “Right now, we have no evidence that the use of a serological test can show that an individual has immunity or is protected from reinfection.” She added: “These antibody tests will be able to measure that level of seroprevalence – that level of antibodies – but that does not mean that somebody with antibodies means that they are immune.” Dr van Kerkhove said it was “a good thing” that so many tests are being developed, but said they will need to be validated “so that we know what they say they attempt to measure they are actually measuring”.

Read more …

Huh? “..The government has already paid for three-and-a-half million antibody tests, but has not yet found one that is reliable enough to use..

Double Warning Over Antibody Tests (BBC)

Hopes that coronavirus antibody tests could help the UK end its lockdown have been dealt a blow – after the World Health Organization questioned whether they offer any guarantee of immunity. The UK has placed antibody tests – which check if someone has had Covid-19 – at the centre of an eventual “back-to-work” plan to restart normal life. But experts said they may not prove if someone is protected from reinfection. The UK’s testing co-ordinator has also warned people not to buy private tests. The government has already paid for three-and-a-half million antibody tests, but has not yet found one that is reliable enough to use – and stresses that it will not approve the use of any test until it can be sure its findings can be fully depended on.


Professor John Newton said the public should not purchase unapproved antibody tests until a working test is approved. “We are breaking new ground with this work every day and I am confident this major research effort will make a breakthrough,” he said of efforts to develop a valid serology test, which measures levels of antibodies in blood plasma. “Until then, please don’t buy or take any unproven tests. They may not be reliable for your intended use; they may give a false reading and put you, your family or others at risk.” He added: “As soon as we have found a test that works for this purpose, we will be in a position to roll them out across the country as a back-to-work test.”

Read more …

Make Gilead shareholders rich.

Existing Drugs ‘May Prove Effective On Coronavirus Before Vaccine Comes’ (SCMP)

Dr Kim Woo Joo, who led South Korea’s response to Covid-19 and the outbreak of Mers in 2015, said he was “not very optimistic” about the availability of a Covid-19 vaccine in the next 18 months, but said evidence about the effectiveness of remdesivir, an experimental antiviral developed to treat Ebola; AbbVie’s Kaletra, an anti-HIV drug; or other medicines might be possible sooner. “If everything goes well, I am hoping that the effectiveness of these drugs will be scientifically proven within three to four months,” Kim, a professor of infectious diseases at Korea University Guro Hospital, said in an interview on Wednesday with the president of the Korea Society, Thomas Byrne.


Kim added that Seoul National University Hospital and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, headed by Dr Anthony Fauci – a key player in the US government’s effort to control the coronavirus spread – were collaborating to test remdesivir, which emerged this week as possible treatment option. The health and medical news website Stat reported on Thursday that a Chicago hospital using remdesivir to treat severe Covid-19 patients saw rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms, with most patients discharged within a week. The University of Chicago Medicine recruited 125 people with Covid-19 into Gilead’s two phase-3 clinical trials and gave them daily remdesivir infusions, according to Stat. Of those patients, 113 had severe symptoms, the report said. Gilead’s share price shot up by nearly 15 per cent in after-hours trading after the Stat report and closed 9.7 per cent higher on Friday.

Read more …

Want to get tested? Book a flight.

Emirates First Airline To Conduct On-Site Rapid COVID-19 Tests (Em.)

Emirates in coordination with Dubai Health Authority (DHA) will be introducing additional precautions. Passengers on today’s flight to Tunisia were all tested for COVID-19 before departing from Dubai. Emirates is the first airline to conduct on-site rapid COVID-19 tests for passengers. The quick blood test was conducted by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and results were available within 10 minutes. This test was conveniently done at the Group Check-in area of Dubai International Airport Terminal 3. Adel Al Redha, Emirates Chief Operating Officer said: “The testing process has gone smoothly and we would like to take this opportunity to thank the Dubai Health Authority for their initiatives and innovative solutions.


“This would have not been possible without the support of Dubai Airport and other government authorities. We are working on plans to scale up testing capabilities in the future and extend it to other flights, this will enable us to conduct on-site tests and provide immediate confirmation for Emirates passengers travelling to countries that require COVID-19 test certificates. The health and safety of staff and passengers at the airport remain of paramount importance.” [..] Gloves, masks and hand sanitisers have been made mandatory for all employees at the airport. Passengers are also required to wear their own masks when at the airport and on board the aircraft, and follow social distancing guidelines.Emirates has modified its inflight services for health and safety reasons. Magazines and other print reading material will not be available

Read more …

Early on in the pandemic, it took many weeks for a WHO team to get access to China.

US Seeks Access To Wuhan Virology Lab, Trump Questions China Death Toll (SCMP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday called on China to grant the United States access to the Wuhan laboratory that has emerged as a flashpoint between the two nations in a clash over the origin and handling of the coronavirus. “We are still asking the Chinese Communist Party to allow experts to get into that virology lab so that we can determine precisely where this virus began,” said Pompeo on Fox News. Pompeo’s comment escalated conjecture surrounding the lab as US President Donald Trump amplified doubts around the extent of the Covid-19 spread in China by announcing in a Twitter post that the country “has just announced a doubling in the number of their deaths from the Invisible Enemy. It is far higher than that and far higher than the US, not even close!”


The tweet was not accurate as China only announced a revised increase in deaths out of Wuhan by 50 per cent. The number of cases in China – more than 83,700 – still trails that of the US, which has more than 679,000. Addressing reporters later on Friday, Trump doubled down on his assertion, stating that China had the most deaths in the world. “We don’t have the most in the world – deaths,” Trump said of the US tally, which stands at more than 34,000. “The most in the world has to be China. It’s a massive country. It’s gone through a tremendous problem with this.”

Read more …

There you go. The WHO was only granted access in the third week of February, 7-8 weeks after Beijing reported the first cases.

And then it took another 3 weeks before the WHO declared a pandemic on March 11. That’s not just a technicality.

US, China and WHO Are All Keen To Pass The Buck (SCMP)

The first public report of the coronavirus came on December 31, when the health commission in Hubei province – of which Wuhan is the capital – reported 27 cases of pneumonia. The WHO set up an incident management support team the next day and published its first notice about the outbreak on January 5, in which it said there was “no evidence of significant human-to-human transmission”, and advised against travel or trade restrictions on China. Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman for the WHO, told US broadcaster CNN on Monday that at the time, “alarm bells were already ringing through the halls of the WHO”, and that it was “aware it was a very serious matter”. As the number of cases rose, the WHO began issuing technical guidance, with its technical lead on Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, saying on January 14 that it was “certainly possible that there is limited human-to-human transmission” of the virus.

But on Twitter, the WHO’s official account on January 13 and 14 continued to suggest there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission”. A critical turning point in the epidemic came on January 20, when Zhong Nanshan, a high-profile Chinese epidemiologist who managed the nation’s response to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak of 2002-03, said that there was human-to-human transmission of the virus and that medical workers had been infected. The WHO then said it was “very clear from the latest information that there is at least some human-to-human transmission”. Trump this week slammed the WHO for having “parroted and publicly endorsed the idea that there was not human-to-human transmission” in mid-January.

The WHO issued multiple notices on the virus that month and maintained its assessments were based on available evidence at the time. On January 22 and 23, the agency convened an emergency committee to determine whether the coronavirus constituted a global public health emergency, but delayed making a declaration. A week later, on January 30, when Tedros did declare a global health emergency, he stressed that it was “not a vote of no confidence” in China, and continued to oppose restrictions on travel and trade with the world’s most populous nation. The WHO said its guidance on travel bans stemmed from its experience with other outbreaks, and that such restrictions might not be effective in curbing the virus’ spread. Despite those recommendations, Trump on January 31 announced a ban on most travellers from China entering the US.

China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying responded by saying the US had “inappropriately overreacted” and gone against WHO guidance. Tedros said later that there was no need for actions that “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade”. “One of the most dangerous and costly decisions from the WHO was its disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other nations,” Trump said this week. “Fortunately, I was not convinced and suspended travel from China, saving untold numbers of lives.” Tedros met Chinese President Xi Jinping at the end of January, after which it was announced that the WHO would send a team of experts to China to get a better understanding of the outbreak. But it was not until nearly three weeks later that the WHO-China joint mission of experts began their trip, with Wuhan originally left off the agenda, only to be tacked on days later. At the end of the visit, the joint mission produced a gushing report that described China’s response to the outbreak as “perhaps the most ambitious, agile, and aggressive disease containment effort in history”.

Read more …

Walking infection bombs.

U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Outbreak Much Larger, But Mostly Asymptomatic (JTN)

The Navy’s coronavirus testing of the entire crew of the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt is now nearly complete. Of the ship’s 4,800-member crew, more than 600 sailors have tested positive for the virus. However, of those 600, 60% have not shown any symptoms associated with the illness. The virus’s numbers aboard the Roosevelt continue to raise questions about the true spread rate of the illness, as opposed to the numbers that testing in the United States, and around the world, are capturing. The proportion of people who are asymptomatic carriers of the virus remains unknown, but the Theodore Roosevelt’s figure is higher than the 25%-50% range that Dr. Fauci put forward in early April. The numbers from the Naval ship provide data on the epidemiologically underrepresented group that is the younger, largely healthy population. This week, one sailor infected while aboard the ship died, and five remain hospitalized.

Read more …

With New York, Maryland and Los Angeles.

San Francisco Orders Residents To Wear Face Masks (F.)

San Francisco residents will be required to wear face masks outside their homes, the city announced Friday, joining New York, Maryland and Los Angeles County, as areas of the U.S. begin to think about what life will look like when social distancing measures are relaxed. The order goes into effect 11:59 p.m. Friday. • Individuals must wear masks on public transit as well as inside public buildings, health facilities and essential businesses such as the grocery store or pharmacy. • Businesses should refuse service to anyone who isn’t wearing a face covering and ensure their workers are wearing masks, the order says. • Residents don’t have to wear face coverings while at home, in the car or outdoors walking or running, though the city recommends bringing along a face covering anyway, even if residents aren’t wearing it at that moment. • Children under 12 are also not required to wear face masks.


City leaders urged residents to continue staying at home, saying that wearing a mask in public “is not a substitute for staying home, staying 6 feet apart and frequent handwashing.” “By covering your face when you go pick up food or ride Muni, you are helping reduce the risk of infecting those around you. As we look to a time where we can begin to ease the Stay Home Order, we know that face coverings will be part of that future – and we want San Franciscans to become more comfortable with this new normal,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said.

Read more …

Without Boris the UK gets even more rudderless.

UK Moves To Drop Huawei As 5G Vendor On China Coronavirus Transparency (NYP)

The UK is moving to drop Huawei as a vendor for the country’s 5G cellphone network in a major blow to Communist China over poor coronavirus transparency. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, now recovering from COVID-19, gave the Chinese company a role in 5G infrastructure this year, squashing opposition last month by 24 votes in the 650-seat House of Commons. But now, concern about the Chinese Communist Party’s inaccurate reporting on the coronavirus has lawmakers crafting plans for a retreat. “We need to devise a proper, realistic exit strategy from relying on Huawei,” Conservative Member of Parliament Damian Green told Bloomberg News.


“Our telecom providers … need to know the government is determined to drive down Huawei’s involvement to zero percent over a realistic timescale.” “The mood in the parliamentary party has hardened,” said Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative Party’s chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. “It’s a shared realization of what it means for dependence on a business that is part of a state that does not share our values,” Tugendhat said.

Read more …

I’m afraid to ask.

Where’s the $2.2 Trillion Bailout Money Going? (WS)

When the $2.2 trillion bailout package was being put together in Congress in all haste in March, a mad scramble broke out over who would get what. Part of this deal was the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program for “small businesses” – which can be, as we now know, a publicly traded company with over 5,700 employees, or a KKR-backed power company that, upon getting the loan, files for prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And so, the program already ran out of money as of Thursday, according to the SBA. “Notice: Lapse in Appropriations. The SBA is currently unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding,” it said on its website. The program dispersed 1.66 million loans, according to the SBA’s tally. There were 30.2 million small businesses in the US in 2019, so about 5.5% got loans.

What’s going to happen to the remaining 94.5% of the small businesses? Congress is contemplating a $250-billion expansion of the program that would cover maybe another 4% of small businesses. In other words, most small businesses aren’t going to get any of it. A small business under the plan is a business with 500 employees or fewer. Loans were capped at $10 million. But wait… 4,412 loans were issued in amounts larger than $5 million each. And we already know which company with 5,700 employees got $20 million. Yup, a restaurant chain, because they and hotel chains were exempted from the employee limit. Restaurants and hotels got their own limit: 500 employees per location. They accomplished this through magnificent lobbying efforts.

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse [RUTH] – with about 5,700 employees at the end of last year and 159 restaurants across the US – disclosed in an SEC filing on April 13 that on April 7, four days after the SBA opened the filing process and as the system was bogged down, it obtained a PPP loan of $20 million, spread over two loans of $10 million each for two of its entities. JPMorgan Chase was the lender. If the company follows the rules, this $20 million will be forgiven. And then there is the curious case of Longview Power LLC, in which KKR, one of the big private equity firms, has a 40% stake as a result of Longview’s bankruptcy in 2015. Longview owns a 700-megawatt coal-fired power plant in West Virginia and has about 140 employees. It was approved for a PPP loan last Friday, and on Tuesday it announced that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Read more …

“Money is not an economy. Money is a medium of exchange within an economy ..”

Flight Path (Kunstler)

The Covid-19 corona virus didn’t initiate the financial disorders of the moment in the US and Europe, but it ensured that there would not be another appearance of any “recovery” a la the central bank interventions of 2008-09. What it portends is a fast-track journey to a whole new disposition of things: first, for a while, a harsher, hungrier, angrier society of broken promises and dashed expectations; and then adaptation when a consensus emerges that the set of facts at hand amount to a new reality. In the meantime, we’re living in the meantime, which is not a comfortable place.

Money is not an economy. Money is a medium of exchange within an economy where people grow things, make things, move things, and serve each other in countless ways. We’re not going to replace all those growings, makings, movings, and services by just giving people money. Money may produce more money by the magic of compound interest, but money is not necessarily wealth, it just represents our ideas about wealth, and interest stops compounding anyway when the trend is clearly for reduced growings, makings, movings, and servicings. That’s exactly how and why capital vanishes. The hocus-pocus of Modern Monetary Theory can only pretend to work around that reality.

The world never reached such a pitch of activity up to the blow-ups of 2008, and it went through the motions for a decade after that. Now that it’s stopped, all that’s left is the law of gravity, and it doesn’t get more basic. The “wealth” acquired in the decade since by the so-called “one-percent” was loaded onto a defective aircraft, like a Boeing 737-MAX, and an awful lot of it will fall to earth now on broken wings. Their agents and praetorians on Wall Street are working feverishly to stave off that crash-landing, like a band of magicians casting spells on the ground while that big hunk of juddering metal augers earthward. Wait for it as spring brings new life across the land and things unseen before steal onto the scene.

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He can transform right back.

The Transformation of Emmanuel Macron (CN)

[..] something strange has happened since the Coronavirus hit France. An apparent humanity buried deep inside the French president has suddenly emerged—and let the bankers be damned. In an interview on Thursday with the Financial Times, Macron talked about economics as a “moral science” and said European debt should be mutualized, meaning northern Europeans should be on the hook for southern debt—or face the wrath of right-wing populists. He said the European Union was not just a market but was really about human beings. In other words, he was calling for state intervention in the economy, going against everything he has heretofore believed. “We are all embarking on the unthinkable,” he said.

“We are at a moment of truth, which is to decide whether the European Union is a political project or just a market project,” he said. “I think it’s a political project . . . We need financial transfers and solidarity, if only so that Europe holds on.” The French president said he sees the crisis as “an existential event for humanity that will change the nature of globalization and the structure of international capitalism,” the newspaper reported. “In recent years [globalization] increased inequalities in developed countries,” he admitted. “And it was clear that this kind of globalisation was reaching the end of its cycle, it was undermining democracy.”

Macron told the FT: “We are going to nationalise the wages and the P&L [the financial accounts] of almost all our businesses. That’s what we’re doing. All our economies, including the most [economically] liberal are doing that. It’s against all the dogmas, but that’s the way it is. “I believe [the EU] is a political project. If it’s a political project, the human factor is the priority and there are notions of solidarity that come into play . . . the economy follows on from that, and let’s not forget that economics is a moral science.”

Read more …

If you ever vote for these ghouls again, you deserve what you get.

Labour Party’s Own Senior Staff Acted To Keep Corbyn Out Of Power (ML)

In the June 2017 UK general election, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn came within a whisker of power. If just 2,227 votes had gone the other way, seven Tory knife-edge constituencies would have been won by Labour, putting Corbyn in a strong position to lead a coalition government. Labour achieved 40 per cent in the election, increasing its share of the vote by more than any other of the party’s election leaders since 1945. As we noted at the time, it was one of the most astonishing results in UK political history. A leaked internal Labour report now reveals that senior Labour figures were actively trying to stop Labour winning the general election in order to oust Corbyn as party leader.

The 860-page document, ‘The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014 – 2019’, first leaked to Sky News, was the product of an extensive internal investigation into the way Labour handled antisemitism complaints. The report includes copious damning examples of email and WhatsApp exchanges among Labour officials expressing contempt for Jeremy Corbyn and anyone who supported him, including other Labour staff, Labour MPs and even the public. The document includes:

• Conversations on election night about the need to hide internal Labour disappointment that Corbyn had done better than expected and would be unlikely to resign
• Regular sneering references to Corbyn-supporting party staff as ‘trots’
• Conversations between senior staff in Labour general secretary Iain McNicol’s office in which they refer to former director of communications Seamus Milne as ‘dracula’, and saying he was ‘spiteful and evil and we should make sure he is never allowed in our Party if it’s last thing we do’
• Conversations in which the same group refers to Corbyn’s former chief of staff Karie Murphy as ‘medusa’, a ‘crazy woman’ and a ‘bitch face cow’ that would ‘make a good dartboard’
• A discussion in which one of the group members expresses their ‘hope’ that a young pro-Corbyn Labour activist, whom they acknowledge had mental health problems, ‘dies in a fire’.

Read more …

 

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Feb 032020
 


Harris&Ewing “Slaves reunion DC. Lewis Martin, age 100; Martha Elizabeth Banks, age 104; Amy Ware, age 103; Rev. Simon P. Drew, born free.” c1916

 

China Censors Top Media Outlet That Says It Underreports Cases, Deaths (ZH)
Virus Worries Wipe $420 Billion Off China’s Stock Market (R.)
Chinese Shares Drop 9% (G.)
China’s Sinopec Cuts Feb Daily Refinery Output By 12% As Virus Hits (R.)
Huawei, Chinese Chip Makers Keep Factories Humming Despite Coronavirus (R.)
China’s Reaction To The Coronavirus Outbreak Violates Human Rights (G.)
The Democrats’ New Online Troll Fighters Make 2020 Debut In Iowa (CNN)
Democrats Need to Break Their Cold War–Addled Impeachment Fever (Maté)
The Real John Bolton (CP)
Punxsutawney Phil Predicts Early Spring (Slate)

 

As the US and China accuse each other of, respectively, not accepting help and not offering it, numbers continue to rise. Just like doubts about the accuracy of the official numbers from Beijing do. Here are the official numbers:

• 17,480 cases (+2930 from yesterday’s 14,550)

• 362 deaths (+57 from yesterday’s 305)

• 11 U.S. confirmed infected

 

 

Also, the Lancet paper I’ve been citing a lot lately by Gabriel Leung and his team says “We estimated that if there was no reduction in transmissibility, the Wuhan epidemic would peak around April, 2020, and local epidemics across cities in mainland China would lag by 1–2 weeks.”

That would mean another 3 months. Mobility is a factor, mind you, as the graph shows, though a minor one. But imagine the Chinese economy being on lockdown for another 3 months. Where will OPEC sell their oil? Where will WalMart buy its supply? What will happen to the Chinese confined to their homes and/or cities? Will there be a global economy left?

 


Epidemic forecasts for Wuhan and five other Chinese cities under different scenarios of reduction in transmissibility and inter-city mobility

 

 

 

This is why I wrote yesterday’s The Party and the Virus. Question is when will the rest of the world increase pressure on China for real numbers? Will that first take multiple deaths in Europe or the US?

China Censors Top Media Outlet That Says It Underreports Cases, Deaths (ZH)

Let’s be honest, do you think China is reporting the actual coronavirus cases and deaths? After all, Beijing has been the master of falsifying its economic growth figures for years, what makes you think they’ll change in the reporting of the deadly virus outbreak? Balaji S. Srinivasan, angel investor and entrepreneur, also former CTO of Coinbase, tweeted Saturday that a top news organization in China, Caijing, had one of their articles banned by Beijing after it noted Chinese officials were significantly underreporting coronavirus confirmed cases and deaths, especially among the elderly. Srinivasan said, “If half the claims in this article are true, #nCoV2019 seems to have completely overloaded Wuhan’s healthcare system. It appears particularly deadly for the elderly. But this 45-year-old had to be anesthetized and intubated in order to breathe.”

“In the past two days, he had seen a 45-year-old patient, a family of five, his parents had died of the new coronavirus pneumonia, and his son was infected. The patient’s condition was very serious. She used high-flow oxygen inhalation and non-invasive mask ventilation, but her blood oxygen saturation was only 50%. Finally, she had to be anesthetized and intubated with ECMO. “Before intubation and anesthesia, she watched us prepare, tears kept flowing down, and that fear made people feel very distressed,” said Shen Jun. There are still many cases like this, “Our doctors have made a decision Determined to do everything possible to treat all patients,” Caijing wrote.

Srinivasan points out that the Chinese newspaper found hospitals in Wuhan and elsewhere were intentionally recording coronavirus deaths as “general pneumonia” to keep the death count low. The article also notes test kits for the virus were in low supply, which allowed those who were infected, to continue their daily lives during a 7-10-day incubation period, enabling the virus to spread even more. The healthcare system was so overloaded in Wuhan, which forced hospital officials to send the dying home; hospitals didn’t have enough beds to house the sick. “Caijing understands that at least five suspected deaths at the hospital have not been diagnosed, so it does not count towards the confirmed deaths. This means that the number of confirmed and fatal cases that people can see at present does not fully reflect the full picture of the epidemic,” the article noted.

And then there’s this, from SixthTone’s David Paulk: “The 8 people detained in Wuhan for “spreading rumors” — who we wrote about in a Jan. 2 article that was censored — were doctors trying to raise the alarm about a new SARS-like virus.” We leave the last word to Zeng Guang, the chief scientist of epidemiology at China’s CDC, who, on Jan. 29 made a rare candid admission about why Chinese officials cannot tell people the truth in an interview with the state-run tabloid Global Times: “The officials need to think about the political angle and social stability in order to keep their positions,” which is all one needs to know about any “facts” coming out of China.

Read more …

“More than 2,500 stocks fell by the daily limit of 10%.”

Virus Worries Wipe $420 Billion Off China’s Stock Market (R.)

Investors erased $420 billion from China’s benchmark stock index on Monday, sold the yuan and dumped commodities as fears about the spreading coronavirus and its economic impact drove selling on the first day of trade in China since the Lunar New Year. The market slide came even as the central bank poured cash in to the financial system – a show of support for the economy -and despite apparent regulatory moves to curb selling. The total number of deaths in China from the coronavirus rose to 361 as of Sunday. It had stood at 17 when Chinese markets last traded on Jan. 23. By lunchtime, the benchmark Shanghai Composite index sat 8% lower near an almost one-year trough and poised to post its worst day in more than four years.


The yuan opened at its weakest level in 2020 and slid almost 1.2%, past the symbolic 7-per-dollar level CNY=, as the falls soured the mood in markets throughout Asia. Shanghai-traded oil, iron ore, copper and soft commodities contracts all posted sharp drops, catching up with sliding global prices. The new virus has created alarm because it is spreading quickly, much about it is unknown, and authorities’ drastic response is likely to drag on economic growth. “This will last for some time,” said Iris Pang, Greater China economist at ING. “It’s uncertain whether factory workers, or how many of them, will return to their factories,” she said. “We haven’t yet seen corporate earnings since the (spread of the) coronavirus. Restaurants and retailers may have very little sales.” More than 2,500 stocks fell by the daily limit of 10%.

Read more …

Fluid, but 9% seems right.

Chinese Shares Drop 9% (G.)

Stock markets in China have seen the biggest daily fall for five years as traders rushed to sell amid continued fears about the impact on the global economy of the coronavirus epidemic. The benchmark Shanghai composite index fell 8.7% on Monday on a wave of negative sentiment that has built up for 10 days during the long market shutdown for the lunar new year. The Shenzhen composite was off 9.1% and dangerously close to the daily maximum permitted fall of 10% after which trading is suspended. The yuan fell through the seven-to-the-US-dollar mark for the first time since December. The losses were the worst on the Chinese markets since 2015 although they pared back slightly later in the day to 7.7%. [..]

Chinese authorities have reeled off a series of measures to tackle the market panic. On Sunday they announced they flood the financial system with 1.2 trillion yuan (US$170bn) in extra liquidity, a measure designed to buy up securities from investors seeking to sell. On Monday the People’s Bank of China – the country’s central bank – lowered the interest rate it charges banks for short-term funding upon which many banks rely to remain trading. Capital Economics said that while the move might take some pressure off the banks the rate cut was not enough to offset the drag on economic activity from the coronavirus outbreak and that more rate cuts were therefore on the way.

The growing fears about the Chinese economy also prompted the finance ministry to subsidies on interest payments for some companies hit by the coronavirus outbreak, state-run newspaper Guangming Daily said. [..] Many economists are predicting that the coronavirus will have a significant impact on the Chinese economy. Many businesses have been shut as part of the lockdown to contain the virus while most overseas airlines have suspended flights to the country and Chinese people are now banned from travelling overseas. Goldman Sachs has forecast that the virus could knock Chinese growth down to 5.5% for the year, from 6.1% in 2019, with knockon effects for the rest of the world economy. Economists at Citigroup said the steps taken by Chinese authorities were “unlikely” to be enough to prevent a sharp downturn in the first quarter.

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Bloomberg claims Chinese oil demand is down 20%.

China’s Sinopec Cuts Feb Daily Refinery Output By 12% As Virus Hits (R.)

China’s Sinopec Corp, Asia’s largest refiner, is cutting throughput this month by around 600,000 barrels per day (bpd) as the rapidly spreading coronavirus hits fuel demand, four people with knowledge of the matter said on Monday. The cut is equivalent to roughly 12% of the state refiner’s average daily throughput last year. Sinopec asked refineries last Friday to cut production and gave plants different reduction targets based on local fuel demand and logistics, the sources told Reuters. They declined to be named as they are not authorized to speak to media. Sinopec is closely monitoring the changing market situations and stands ready to ensure supplies, the refiner said in an email to Reuters.


“Company is closely monitoring the changing market situations, and will optimize operation rates and product mix based on market demand,” the company said, without commenting directly on the throughput cut rates. The four sources estimated cuts of about 2.5 million tonnes in total, equal to about 600,000 bpd on average, for February. One plant in eastern Jiangsu province is lowering runs by 10%, while a plant in Tianjin, near Beijing, is cutting throughput by 20%, two people with direct knowledge of the plants’ operations said. A plant manager with a central-China based Sinopec refinery said his plant has since Friday lowered processing rates to 60% of capacity. He said his plant was operating at near full rates before the cut.

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Total lockdown, except for…

Huawei, Chinese Chip Makers Keep Factories Humming Despite Coronavirus (R.)

Some Chinese technology firms are continuing to manufacture parts and products despite government calls across various cities and provinces for work to be halted as Being seeks to stop the spread of the coronavirus ravaging the country. Chinese telecom giant Huawei said on Monday it had resumed production of goods including consumer devices and carrier equipment, and operations are running normally. The company restarted manufacturing in line with a special exemption that allows certain critical industries to remain in operation, despite Beijing’s call to halt all work in some cities and provinces. The spokesman said most of the production was in Dongguan, a city in the southern Guangdong province.


Other companies have also kept production running, in some cases even through Chinese New Year, in a sign of the critical importance Beijing places on its domestic tech supply chain, a subject of friction with the United States Yangtze Memory Technologies, a state-backed maker of flash memory chips based in Wuhan – the city where the virus outbreak originated – confirmed on Monday that it has not yet ceased production. “At present, production and operations at YMTC are proceeding normally and in an orderly manner,” a company spokesman wrote in a statement on Monday. The spokesman added that no factory employees have been confirmed as infection cases, and that the company has enacted certain isolation measures and partitions to ensure the safety of employees. State media reported that the chip maker did not cease operations over the Lunar New Year holiday.

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Are we going to argue that keeping borders open does not violate human rights?

China’s Reaction To The Coronavirus Outbreak Violates Human Rights (G.)

When the World Health Organization declared the 2019nCoV coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency, it effusively praised China’s response to the outbreak. The WHO issued a statement welcoming the government’s “commitment to transparency”, and the WHO director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, tweeted: “China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response.” The WHO is ignoring Chinese government suppression of human rights regarding the outbreak, including severe restrictions on freedom of expression. In turn, Chinese state media are citing the WHO to defend its policies and try to silence criticism of its response to the outbreak, which has included rights violations that could make the situation worse.

China’s response to the outbreak included a month-long government cover-up in Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak, that led to the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Local authorities publicly announced that no new cases had been detected between 3-16 January in the lead up to a major Communist party meeting, likely to suppress “bad news”. Despite early evidence of human-to-human transmission when medical staff became infected, this information was not relayed to the public for weeks. Hardly a “commitment to transparency”. Chinese police punished frontline doctors for “spreading rumours” for trying to warn the public in late December. Police are still engaged in a campaign to detain Chinese netizens for spreading so-called “rumours”.

Rumours included reports of potential cases, including people turned away from hospitals or dying without ever being tested and quickly cremated, criticism of the government, the distribution of masks, or the criticism of the discrimination of people from Wuhan or others who may be infected. Activists have been threatened with jail if they share foreign news articles or post on social media about the coronavirus outbreak. That the Chinese government can lock millions of people into cities with almost no advance notice should not be considered anything other than terrifying. The residents of Wuhan had no time to buy food, medicine, or other essentials. Authorities hastily announced the lockdown in the middle of the night with an eight-hour gap before it went into effect, giving people time to flee and thus raising questions on the rationale for such extreme measures.

[..] The international community should support all efforts to end this outbreak, but human rights should not be a casualty to the coronavirus crisis. The WHO declares that core principles of human rights and health includes accountability, equality and non-discrimination and participation. It even acknowledges that “participation is important to accountability as it provides … checks and balances which do not allow unitary leadership to exercise power in an arbitrary manner”. The WHO’s admiration for the unitary actions of the Chinese dictator Xi Jinping exercising power in an arbitrary manner is a direct contradiction of its own human rights principles.

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DNC and CNN are even regurgitating Mueller.

Twitter comment: “Brace yourself, the DNC is launching its troll army (branded as “troll fighters”) headed by a former Hillary staffer to counter “disinformation”. If you use the word “rigged”, they will come after you. Get ready to be called a Russian all over again.”

The Democrats’ New Online Troll Fighters Make 2020 Debut In Iowa (CNN)

Days after the 2016 Iowa caucuses, the instructions were clear. “[U]se any opportunity to criticize Hillary and the rest (except Sanders and Trump — we support them),” they read. The guidance had been circulated among a group of Russians who were covertly running a vast network of social media accounts seeking to divide Democrats and push the candidacy of Donald Trump. (The instructions were later found during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.) Four years later, unhappy with Silicon Valley’s efforts to curb the manipulation of its platforms, the Democratic Party has developed capabilities of its own to monitor and tackle online disinformation.

The first-in-the-nation caucuses here Monday will be the Democrats’ first 2020 test of its new team on a day when voters have their say. The effort reflects Democrats’ growing discontent with Silicon Valley executives like Mark Zuckerberg and highlights concerns that viral disinformation could have an impact on this year’s election. “It’s like algorithmic wars here, it’s kind of crazy,” a Democratic National Committee staffer who works on the Democrats’ new counter disinformation team said on Saturday as preparations were underway in Des Moines. The staffer asked not to be identified due to the nature of their work and possibly being subjected to online harassment themselves.

“Both Republicans and foreign actors, like Russia, have an incentive to divide the American electorate and may try to use the Iowa Caucus to further that goal,” the DNC wrote in a “counter disinformation update” sent to campaigns on Thursday. Among the new weapons in the Democrats’ online arsenal is a monitoring tool called “Trendolizer.” When stories from websites known to peddle misinformation mention candidates and begin getting shares on social media, Trendolizer detects it and an alert is sent to the relevant campaigns. Another tool built in-house at the DNC monitors Twitter traffic. On Monday, it’ll watch for misinformation about how and where to caucus. Variations of the word “rigged” had been loaded into system when CNN was shown it Saturday — attempts to undermine legitimate vote results using disinformation is something Democrats are watching out for.

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Today is closing argumants in the Senate “trial”. One more chance for Schiff to take revenge on the entire world, including Jerry Nadler, and repeat the same old points another 20 times. And announce a “surprise” subpoena for John Bolton in the House.

Democrats Need to Break Their Cold War–Addled Impeachment Fever (Maté)

Sondland, according to Schiff’s account, told Yermak, “You ain’t getting the money until you do the investigations.” But both Sondland and Yermak offer a radically different account. According to Sondland, he told Yermak in “a very, very brief pull-aside conversation,” that he “didn’t know exactly why” the military funding was held up, and that its linkage to opening an investigation was only his “personal presumption” in the absence of an explanation from Trump. Yermak does not even recall the issue of the frozen aid being mentioned. To overcome that, Schiff has gone to the extraordinary step of arguing that it’s not just Sondland who is lying but the Ukrainians as well. “Like they’re going to admit they were being shaken down by the president of the United States,” Schiff told the proceedings.

Sure, that’s one possibility, but it is also wildly speculative. Ukrainian officials say they did not learn about the weapons freeze until it was publicly reported more than one month after the Trump-Zelensky call. And even after they did find out, and even voiced concerns to their US counterparts, there is no record of any complaints about the alleged linkage. As Democratic Senator Chris Murphy recalled of a meeting with Zelensky in early September—after the funding freeze became known—the Ukrainian president “did not make any connection between the aid that had been cut off and the requests that he was getting from [Trump attorney Rudy] Giuliani.”

House impeachment managers have not overcome this evidentiary flaw. They have tried to claim that the White House effectively admitted to their allegation in an October 2019 news conference by acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. But as I detailed back when Mulvaney’s comments initially caused a stir, Democrats and media outlets pundits rendered them as damning by isolating one fragment and ignoring the bulk of what Mulvaney said.

The absence of concrete evidence explains the last-minute excitement over compelling the potential testimony of another Trump administration official, former national security adviser John Bolton. A New York Times report about Bolton’s forthcoming memoir led to declarations that Bolton confirmed the quid pro quo allegation at the heart of the impeachment trial. As in other cases, that is based on a mistaken and maximalist interpretation of the available facts. The Times did not quote from Bolton’s manuscript. In its characterization of what Bolton wrote, the Times reports that Bolton said Trump “preferred sending no assistance to Ukraine until officials had turned over all materials they had about the Russia investigation that related to Mr. Biden and supporters of Mrs. Clinton in Ukraine”.

If this account is accurate, then Bolton is not confirming that Trump conditioned military assistance to Ukraine’s announcement of an investigation into Joe Biden and his son. Instead, Bolton is relaying that Trump “preferred” that Ukraine assist efforts to uncover the extent of Ukrainian meddling to hurt Trump’s campaign and help Democrats in 2016—meddling that did in fact happen. Recall that Trump is not on trial for preferring that Ukraine hand “over all materials they had about the Russia investigation,” but for pressuring Ukraine to announce an investigation of Trump’s political rival.

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Dems’ new favorite boy.

The Real John Bolton (CP)

It isn’t enough for the corporate media to praise John Bolton for his timely manuscript that confirms Donald Trump’s explicit linkage between military aid to Ukraine and investigations into his political foe Joe Biden. As a result, the media have made John Bolton a “man of principle,” according to the Washington Post, and a fearless infighter for the “sovereignty of the United States.” Writing in the Post, Kathleen Parker notes that Bolton isn’t motivated by the money he will earn from his book (in the neighborhood of $2 million), but that he is far more interested in “saving his legacy.” Perhaps this is a good time to examine that legacy. Bolton, who used student deferments and service in the Maryland National Guard to avoid serving in Vietnam, is a classic Chicken Hawk.

He supported the Vietnam War and continues to support the war in Iraq. Bolton endorsed preemptive military strikes in North Korea and Iran in recent years, and lobbied for regime change in Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen. When George W. Bush declared an “axis of evil” in 2002 consisting of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, Bolton added an equally bizarre axis of Cuba, Libya, and Syria. When Bolton occupied official positions at the Department of State and the United Nations, he regularly ignored assessments of the intelligence community in order to make false arguments regarding weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Cuba and Syria in order to promote the use of force.

When serving as President Bush’s Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and Disarmament, Bolton ran his own intelligence program, issuing white papers on WMD that lacked support within the intelligence community. He used his own reports to testify to congressional committees in 2002 in effort to justify the use of military force against Iraq. Bolton presented misinformation to the Congress on a Cuban biological weapons program. When the CIA challenged the accuracy of Bolton’s information in 2003, he was forced to cancel a similar briefing on Syria. In a briefing to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2005, the former chief of intelligence at the Department of State, Carl Ford, referred to Bolton as a “serial abuser” in his efforts to pressure intelligence analysts. Ford testified that he had “never seen anybody quite like Secretary Bolton…in terms of the way he abuses his power and authority with little people.”

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Luckily there’s still important news going on.

Punxsutawney Phil Predicts Early Spring (Slate)

Across much of the United States, many have been enjoying a mild winter. And if the world’s most famous groundhog is to be believed, the trend will continue and there will be an early spring. In fact, on Sunday morning, Punxsutawney Phil declared that early spring “is a certainty.” Well, obviously the groundhog didn’t actually declare anything but that didn’t matter to the thousands of people who gathered at sunrise on Sunday to watch as Phil emerged from his den in Punxsutawney, Pa. The groundhog allegedly did not see his shadow, according to members of his “inner circle,” meaning there will be an early spring. According to legend, if he had seen his shadow it would have signified six more weeks of winter.


[..] Since Phil’s weather-predicting career began in 1887, he has seen his shadow 104 times and has failed to see it on a mere 20 instances (a few years are missing from the official record). That makes this year’s prediction relatively rare and marks the first time Phil hasn’t seen his shadow two years in a row. Phil’s forecast “seems fitting considering the lack of winter weather this winter so far,” notes the Washington Post. But truth be told, Phil doesn’t have the best track record. From 2010-2019, Phil predicted a longer winter seven times and an early spring three times. He was right only 40 percent of the time, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He has been on a particularly poor streak lately as Phil got it wrong the past three years.

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Jan 252020
 


Harris&Ewing Happy News Cafe, “restaurant for the unemployed”, Washington, DC 1937

 

China Virus Death Toll Rises To 41, More Than 1,300 Infected Worldwide (R.)
UK Researcher: Over 250,000 Chinese Will Have Coronavirus In 10 Days (ZH)
GOP Senators Incensed By Schiff’s ‘Head On A Pike’ Remark (AP)
Adam Schiff’s Very Scary Warmongering Speech (Daniel Lazare)
Adam Schiff Is Turning Into A Tom Clancy Character (Tucker Carlson)
The Big Sleep (Jim Kunstler)
2016 WH Meeting with ‘Whistleblower’ and Ukrainians on Burisma (AG)
No One Has Suggested My Son Did Anything Wrong: Joe Biden Doubles Down (Turley)
Professors Donate To Democrats Over Republicans By A 95:1 Ratio (Turley)
Four Australian MPs Urge Britain To Ban Huawei (SMH)

 

 

Numbers growing by the hour.

China Virus Death Toll Rises To 41, More Than 1,300 Infected Worldwide (R.)

The death toll from China’s coronavirus outbreak jumped on Saturday to 41 from 26 a day earlier as the Lunar New Year got off to a gloomy start, with authorities curbing travel and cancelling public gatherings. More than 1,300 people have been infected globally with a virus traced to a seafood market in the central city of Wuhan that was illegally selling wildlife. Health authorities around the world are scrambling to prevent a pandemic. State-run China Global Television Network reported in a tweet on Saturday that a doctor who had been treating patients in Wuhan, 62-year-old Liang Wudong, had died from the virus. It was not immediately clear if his death was already counted in the official toll of 41, of which 39 were in the central province of Hubei, where Wuhan is located.

U.S. coffee chain Starbucks said on Saturday that it was closing all its outlets in Hubei province for the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, following a similar move by McDonald’s in five Hubei cities. Wuhan, a city of 11 million, has been in virtual lockdown since Thursday, with nearly all flights at the airport canceled and checkpoints blocking the main roads leading out of town. Authorities have since imposed transport restrictions on nearly all of Hubei province, which has a population of 59 million. In Beijing on Saturday, workers in white protective suits checked temperatures of passengers entering the subway at the central railway station, while some train services in eastern China’s Yangtze River Delta region were suspended, the local railway operator said.


The number of confirmed cases in China stands at 1,287, the National Health Commission said on Saturday. The virus has also been detected in Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Nepal, Malaysia, France, the United States and Australia. Australia on Saturday announced its first case of coronavirus, a Chinese national in his 50s, who had been in Wuhan and arrived from China on Jan. 19 on a flight from Guangzhou. He is in stable condition in a Melbourne hospital.


Fibonacci

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Very informative on contagion. We’ll see in 10 days if he is right.

UK Researcher: Over 250,000 Chinese Will Have Coronavirus In 10 Days (ZH)

When it comes to estimating the human capital and potential fallout from a highly contagious epidemic, arguably the most important variable is the R0 (“R-naught”) value of the disease, which represents the average number of secondary cases arising from an average primary case in a entirely susceptible population. That’s the technical definition, a simpler one is that the R0, or basic reproductive number, of a contagious disease is the number of cases that a case of the disease generates over the course of its infectious period in a susceptible population. The higher this number, the more dangerous the disease, the more lethal the outcome.

Some indicative R0s are 0.9 – 2.1 for the common flu while the 1918-1919 pandemic-causing Spanish flu was estimated to have ranged from 1.4 – 2.8, with a mean of 2. Some other notable R0s are shown below, and note that SARS was between 2 and 5:

So what about the R0 of 2019-nCoV, also known as the coronavirus that has claimed over three dozen lives in China and infected (at least) 1,000 people? Naturally, since the disease is most active in China which is notoriously opaque especially when it comes to matters that can cause a mass panic, the best one can do is guess, and that’s what the World Health Organization did yesterday when it issued a statement on the coronavirus epidemic with the following projection:

Human-to-human transmission is occurring and a preliminary R0 estimate of 1.4-2.5 was presented. Amplification has occurred in one health care facility. Of confirmed cases, 25% are reported to be severe. The source is still unknown (most likely an animal reservoir) and the extent of human-to-human transmission is still not clear.

Needless to say, while 2.5 is quite high, and in line with that of the Spanish flu epidemic which infected about half a billion people back in 1918, killing as many as 100 million before it eventually fizzled out, the real coronavirus R0 number may end up being far higher. That is the working hypothesis of Jonathan Read, a UK expert on the transmission and evolutionary dynamics of infectious diseases, who has published a paper with four colleagues that estimates transmission parameters for the Wuhan coronavirus, calculates that the R0 of 2019-nCoV to be between 3.6-4.0 or roughly the same as SARS, and reaches a conclusion about spread of the coronavirus epidemic that is frankly terrifying.

In “Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV: early estimation of epidemiological parameters and epidemic predictions“, Reed et al, write that with an R0 of between 3.6 and 4.0, roughly 72-75% of transmissions “must be prevented by control measures for infections to stop increasing.”

This is a major problem because Reed estimates that only 5.1% of infections in Wuhan are identified (as of Jan 24), “indicating a large number of infections in the community, and also reflecting the difficulty in detecting cases of this new disease.” Furthermore, since all of this is happening in China which is not known for making the most socially-beneficial decisions under pressure, there is an ominous possibility that Reed is actually overly optimistic.

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Sounds desperate. But this is not new for Schiff, making stuff up.

GOP Senators Incensed By Schiff’s ‘Head On A Pike’ Remark (AP)

Senate Republicans said lead impeachment prosecutor Adam Schiff insulted them during the trial by repeating an anonymously sourced report that the White House had threatened to punish Republicans who voted against President Donald Trump. Schiff, who delivered closing arguments for the prosecution, was holding Republican senators rapt as he called for removing Trump from office for abusing his power and obstructing Congress. Doing anything else, he argued, would be to let the president bully Senate Republicans into ignoring his pressure on Ukraine for political help. “CBS News reported last night that a Trump confidant said that key senators were warned, ‘Vote against the president and your head will be on a pike.’ I don’t know if that’s true,” Schiff said.

After that remark, the generally respectful mood in the Senate immediately changed. Republicans across their side of the chamber groaned, gasped and said, “That’s not true.” One of those key moderate Republicans, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, looked directly at Schiff, shook her head and said, “Not true.” “Not only have I never heard the ‘head on the pike’ line,” Collins said in a statement, “but also I know of no Republican senator who has been threatened in any way by anyone in the administration.” [..] “That’s when he lost me,” Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican moderate, said about Schiff’s remark, according to her spokeswoman. She denied having been told what the network reported about the White House. Schiff’s invocation of it, she added, ”was unnecessary.”

Collins, another moderate who is up for reelection this year, is one of the few Republican senators who has expressed an openness to calling witnesses in the impeachment trial. She had been listening intently to Schiff’s presentation and writing down some of his points. When he made the “pike” comment, she looked directly at Schiff and slowly and repeatedly shook her head back and forth. When he finished his speech and the trial adjourned, GOP Sens. John Cornyn of Texas and John Barrasso of Wyoming made a beeline for her seat. Collins again shook her head and said, “No.”

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Schiff the neocon warmonger. Hard to deny by now.

Adam Schiff’s Very Scary Warmongering Speech (Daniel Lazare)

All the usual suspects are praising Adam Schiff’s marathon two-and-a-half-hour Senate speech on Wednesday to the skies. Neocon columnist Jennifer Rubin calls it “a grand slam” in the Washington Post. Legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin describes it as “dazzling” on CNN. New York Times columnist Gail Collins says it was “a great job” and that Schiff is “a rock star” for pulling it off. But in fact it was the opposite – a fear-mongering, sword-rattling harangue that will not only raise tensions with Russia for no good reason, but sends a chilling message to dissidents at home that if they deviate from Russiagate orthodoxy by one iota, they’ll be driven from the fold.

What is that orthodoxy? It’s that Russia invaded poor innocent Ukraine in 2014, that it interfered in the US presidential election in 2016 in order to hurt Hillary Clinton and propel Donald Trump into the White House, and that it’s now trying to smear Joe Biden merely because he had allowed his son to take a high-paying job with a notorious Ukrainian oligarch at a time when he was supposedly heading up the Ukrainian anti-corruption effort.

[..] Schiff’s emergence as leader of the Democratic impeachment drive means that the party is re-grouping along the most retrograde Cold War lines. As reckless and appalling as Trump’s behavior is in the Persian Gulf, the emerging Democratic worldview is shaping up as no less extreme. Because it sees Russia as mounting a multi-pronged offensive, the clear implication is that the US must respond in kind. This means more troops deployments, more forces mobilized to counter Russian threats from Venezuela to the Middle East, more TV talking heads going on and on about this or that Kremlin conspiracy, and more labelling of people like Tulsi Gabbard and Jill Stein as Russian assets.

Remember, this is the Los Angeles neocon who backed the invasion of Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq, and Saudi Arabia’s unprovoked war against Yemen, an assault that, since March 2015, has cost 100,000 lives and brought half the country to the brink of starvation. He supported Obama’s war in Libya and called for the establishment of a no-fly zone in Syria and relies on arms manufacturers and military contractors for major financial support. But while Bernie supporters may have thought that Democrats were edging away from such views, they’re plainly in the wrong. Schiff’s new-found prominence shows that the neocons are back in the saddle. Impeachment advocates should be careful of what they wish for because the anti-Trump forces are turning out to be no less dangerous than those helping him to remain.

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Bob Mueller couldn’t lay Russiagate to rest.

Adam Schiff Is Turning Into A Tom Clancy Character (Tucker Carlson)

Tucker Carlson said the Democrats’ impetus for impeaching President Trump can be distilled to a policy disagreement since the president has inflamed permanent Washington by pledging to execute a foreign policy countering what the government’s “neocons” have done for the past several decades. “By now you may be wondering, ‘How is this the impeachment we were promised? Wasn’t it supposed to be the abuse of power, the contempt of Congress?” the host asked his “Tucker Carlson Tonight” audience. “The genesis of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, it turns out, wasn’t the now-famous Ukraine phone call or even his victory three years ago — It actually began February 13th, 2016. That’s the day that Trump debated Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz [and others] … in South Carolina,” he said.

“Trump said things that, until then, no major Republican candidate had been willing to say out loud – he said America should reach an agreement with Russia rather than fighting proxy wars against them. He called the trillions of dollars we spent in the Middle East a waste. At the time, it seemed like Trump was asked attacking Republican orthodoxy, but now it’s clear, and this impeachment makes it crystal clear, that Trump was attacking the consensus of both parties in Washington. It’s a neoconservative consensus. ” In that way, Trump also politically enraged Schiff, who spent much of this week making his case for removing Trump from office while speaking on the Senate floor.

“[Schiff] went on like this all day long — voice rising, eyes bulging — and over time he began to sound less like a congressman from Burbank and more like a character from a Tom Clancy novel,” Carlson said. “The greatest threat to America, Schiff said, is not Russia’s First Guard’s tank army, it’s the president of United States who quite possibly could be the first nonvoting member of the Politburo.” Carlson recalled that Schiff claimed Friday that Trump had been “manipulated to disbelieve his own intelligence agencies” and “accept the propaganda of the Kremlin” as fact. He warned that Schiff appears to want to continue in what he characterized as the problematic customs of the past — “keep[ing] America overextended abroad, stuck in quagmires across the world that [have killed] our finest young men.”

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“.. to make the forthcoming raft of indictments against RussiaGate coupsters look like a mere act of revenge rather than long-delayed justice..”

The Big Sleep (Jim Kunstler)

The impeachment case against Mr. Trump might mercifully spell the end of the Master Narrative the Democrats have been confabulating since 2016: that Donald Trump invited the wicked Vlad Putin to checkmate Hillary Clinton and thereby crushed the hopes and dreams of those wishing to make Ukraine the 51st state… or something like that. Because according to Mr. Schiff, there is no nation on this planet as dear to the interests of America than darling Ukraine, with its radioactive forests, decrepitating Soviet infrastructure, and dedication to liberty. Those who were only puzzling over Nancy Pelosi’s motives in bringing this case, and assigning it to the two sketchiest characters in her charge, Schiff & Nadler, must finally be convinced that she is no longer sound of mind.

What was she thinking? Did she really want to set up the voters to lose faith in the basic electoral process by preemptively delegitimizing the 2020 election? (“Trump can only win if he cheats!”) Is she that desperate to flip the Senate to prevent anymore judicial appointments? Could be. Or is the impeachment spectacle a different kind of set-up: to make the forthcoming raft of indictments against RussiaGate coupsters look like a mere act of revenge rather than long-delayed justice for a three-year campaign of perfidious sedition by some of the highest officials in the land? Anyway, after another day of this boresome torment, the Senate will get to hear Mr. Trump’s defense in a full-throated way — really for the first time since the whole nasty business began, and in a conspicuous venue where it can’t be ignored anymore.

If nothing else, it will probably be more interesting and certainly more dignified than the idiotic vaudeville put on by Schiff & Nadler. Even if the President’s managers move to dismiss the case out-of-hand for its utter lack of merit and the legal errors in its construction by two House committees, I doubt they will miss the opportunity to use the time allotted to lay out the story of what actually happened the past three years — a crime spree of government against itself. The temptation to call witnesses must be anguishing, though, from a legal standpoint the Houses’s case deserves to be thrown out summarily just to reestablish the principle that impeachment is not a frivolity. But the nation would miss the chance for Mr. Schiff to have to explain exactly what happened around the “whistleblower” episode and, of course, there would be no more possible excuses for producing the “whistleblower” him-or-herself in the witness dock. I think we would discover what an absolutely shady operation that was.

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“Kiev officials are scrambling to make amends with the president-elect after quietly working to boost Clinton.”

2016 WH Meeting with ‘Whistleblower’ and Ukrainians on Burisma (AG)

In an exclusive report, Wednesday night, Fox News host Laura Ingraham revealed that the New York Times last May quashed a story about a White House meeting in January of 2016 between Obama administration officials—including the so-called whistleblower—and Ukrainian officials that addressed Hunter Biden’s problematic position at Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma Holdings. Ingraham said she obtained a chain of State Department emails between NYT journalist Ken Vogel and State Department official Kate Schilling centering on the reporter’s request for comment on the story. [..] Democrats say the president withheld military aid from Ukraine until he could get a guarantee from the Ukrainian President Zelensky that the Bidens would be investigated.

However, a document unearthed last October shows that Ukrainian officials had actually opened a new probe into Burisma months before President Trump’s July 2019 phone call with the Ukrainian president. Some Republicans have called for Hunter Biden to testify in the Senate impeachment trial. Ken Vogel is the reporter who wrote the oft-cited January 2017 piece in Politico titled: Ukrainian efforts to sabotage Trump backfire. Subtitled: “Kiev officials are scrambling to make amends with the president-elect after quietly working to boost Clinton.” Media reports referring to Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 election did not become controversial until Biden announced his candidacy for president in April of 2019.

Then, as President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani conducted his very public investigation into the matter throughout 2019, Democrats and their allies in the media started characterizing the claim that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election as a “conspiracy theory.” In Vogel’s May 1, 2019 email to Schilling about the Obama White House meeting, the reporter reportedly mentioned the name of the CIA analyst widely believed to be the anti-Trump whistleblower, whose complaint against the president sparked the Democrats’ impeachment efforts. Ingraham did not reveal his name because Fox News hosts are banned from doing so until the identity is confirmed, but she was likely was referring to Eric Ciaramella, who has been outed in conservative media as the whistleblower.

In the email, Vogel wrote, “We are going to report that (State Department official) Elizabeth Zentos attended a meeting at the White House on 1/19/2016 with Ukrainian prosecutors and embassy officials as well as … [redacted] from the NSC … the subjects discussed included efforts within the United State government to support prosecutions, in Ukraine and the United Kingdom, of Burisma Holdings … and concerns that Hunter Biden’s position with the company could complicate such efforts.”

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We all know many people have suggested just that. So why repeat that line all the time?

No One Has Suggested My Son Did Anything Wrong: Joe Biden Doubles Down (Turley)

We have previously discussed the denials of former Vice President Joe Biden that his son did anything wrong in Ukraine. As I have written, not only did Hunter Biden clearly enter into a corrupt (but arguably lawful) contract but Joe Biden did not do enough to confirm that his son was not engaging in influence peddling. Nevertheless, this week, Joe Biden continued this indefensible position and declared bizarrely that “no one has suggested my son did anything wrong.” According to the Washington Post, Joe Biden declared on the campaign trail that “There’s nobody that’s indicated there’s a single solitary thing that he did that was inappropriate, wrong … or anything other than the appearance. It looked bad that he was there.”

He then curiously added “He acknowledges that he in fact made a mistake going on the board.” So, in other words, he did nothing wrong but he apologized for it. Joe Biden continues to maintain that “no one” has accused his son of wrongdoing when there is a chorus of such allegations. He seems to be drawing a distinction between what is criminal and what is not — as if the criminal code is the only measure of wrongdoing or unethical conduct. Hunter Biden not only clearly engaged in influence peddling but he is clearly a relevant witness. Ukraine was a virtual gold rush for Washington’s elite and Hunter Biden was one of the first in line to cash in. Biden’s quest for a Ukrainian windfall took him to one of Ukraine’s most controversial and corrupt associates, Mykola Zlochevsky, who leveraged his post as minister of ecology and natural resources to build a fortune.

Before fleeing Ukraine, Zlochevsky paid Hunter Biden and several other Americans to be directors of his energy company, Burisma Holdings. Hunter Biden had no experience in the field — but he did have a notable connection to the vice president, who publicly has bragged about making clear to the Ukrainians that he alone controlled U.S. aid to the country. A stepson of former Secretary of State John Kerry also was asked to serve as a director but reportedly declined and warned Hunter Biden not to do it; Biden didn’t listen. He later told The New Yorker that “the decisions that I made were the right decisions for my family and for me.” His decisions certainly were profitable, but they were not “right” as an ethical matter for himself or his father.

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Woke education.

Professors Donate To Democrats Over Republicans By A 95:1 Ratio (Turley)

Diversity in hiring is the top priority of most colleges and universities. However, the effort to hire more women, minorities, and LGBT individuals notably lacks one group: ideological diversity. It is well-known that most faculty are composed of an overwhelming majority of liberal and democratic members. However, this view, while generally accepted, is largely anecdotal. Now a new study by Heterodox Academy Director of Research Sean Stevens and Brooklyn College Professor Mitchell Langbert claims to have put hard numbers on that lack of diversity. In reviewing records with the Federal Election Commission, they say that they found that professors gave to Democrats over Republicans by a 95:1 ratio.


The researchers looked at 2,301 political donations and found that 2,081 went to Democrats while just 22 went to Republicans. Only nine professors gave to both parties. An earlier study found that Democrats outnumbered Republicans by a 10:4 ratio. Business Management Associate Professor Mitchell Langbert reviewed the party affiliations of 8,688 professors at 51 of the top 60 liberal arts colleges listed in U.S. News and World Report’s 2017 rankings. [..] A recent study at Harvard found that only 35 percent of conservative students felt free to share their views on campuses. That chilling effect is the result of not just open hostility to conservative voices on campus but a striking lack of diversity among academics in terms of ideology.

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Ausralia panders to China on just about any other topic.

Four Australian MPs Urge Britain To Ban Huawei (SMH)

Four Australian MPs and chairs of parliamentary committees have launched an unprecedented combined intervention into Britain’s Huawei debate, urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson to follow Australia’s ban. But their calls came amid further signs Johnson is likely to rebuff pleas from Australia and the United States and allow the Chinese telecommunications manufacturer to supply some parts of the country’s 5G network. Reuters, citing two sources, reported British officials had given the green light to Huawei involvement – the same position taken when Theresa May was prime minister but failed to resolve the issue after it split her National Security Council (NSC).

The NSC is expected to back Chinese involvement when it meets next week. The council’s decision will be announced in Parliament, prompting the last-ditch intervention from the quartet of Australian MPs. Liberal MPs Andrew Hastie, Tim Wilson, James Paterson and Labor’s Kimberley Kitching all issued statements to The Times of London explaining why Liberal and Labor Australian governments had banned the company from building the national broadband network and supplying the 5G rollout. Hastie, who chairs the Intelligence and Security Committee, said it was about “digital sovereignty” and urged solidarity among the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network, comprising Australia, the US, UK, New Zealand and Canada.

“Our membership of the Five Eyes community is central to our defence and security strategy,” he said. “In a time of growing strategic uncertainty, Australia values that membership more than ever.” Senator James Paterson, who chairs the Joint Corporations and Financial Services Committee, said the ban had been uncontroversial when imposed in Australia. “Successive Australian governments from both sides of politics banned Huawei from our broadband and 5G networks with very little controversy,” he said. “No one in the Australian political system regrets those decisions today.”

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 272019
 


Alfred Palmer Women as engine mechanics, Douglas Aircraft, Long Beach, CA 1942

 

Barr None (R.)
The Democrats May Prove The Greatest Barrier To A Full Trial (Turley)
Trump Stock Market Rally Is Far Outpacing Past US Presidents (CNBC)
Today’s Central Bankers Threaten Civilization (Mises)
Rachel Maddow Called Out For Shamelessly Peddling Fake News (ZH)
Huawei Benefited From Billions Of Dollars In State Support (ZH)
China Threatens EU With “Disastrous” Consequences Of Company Curbs (ZH)
Rain Keeps UK Boxing Day Shoppers At Home (R.)
Trump Says Home Alone 2 ‘Will Never Be The Same’ (Ind.)

 

 

Bill Barr going after Big Tech? Let’s wait and see…

Barr None (R.)

Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren has made breaking up tech giants a plank for her bid to win the U.S. presidency. But chances are Team Trump will steal her thunder. One of the few things Democrats and Republicans agree upon is that Silicon Valley firms have gotten too big. Warren wants to send Amazon to the chopping block, arguing Jeff Bezos’s online-shopping colossus shouldn’t be allowed to both run a marketplace and sell its own stuff on it. She ran a fake political message on Facebook. It claimed founder Mark Zuckerberg was backing President Donald Trump for re-election to prove a point that the social-media network has an obligation to fact-check campaign-related advertising.

Across the aisle, Republican Senator Josh Hawley has sponsored several pieces of legislation including a “Do Not Track” bill that is backed by Democrats. The Trump Administration is likely to strike first. It has already been laying some groundwork, including by the tweeter-in-chief himself. In November Trump blasted out a message accusing Alphabet’s Google of suppressing votes by limiting the targeting capabilities of political contenders. The president’s top trustbuster launched a probe in July into whether the sheer size of market-leading online platforms has stifled innovation and reduced competition. Although unnamed, it’s clear Attorney General William Barr is targeting Amazon, Alphabet and Facebook.

He also over the summer appointed his own antitrust adviser. It’s an unusual move: The agency already has a division dedicated to the issue, headed by Makan Delrahim. He, though, had been more skeptical about Big Tech and anti-competitive concerns, before starting to change his tune around a year ago. Barr has also been a good Trump soldier. He has been critical of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and the Trump campaign’s potential involvement – and launched his own investigation into the origins of that case, which the president has demanded.

Read more …

“In 1999, the Democrat from New York famously opposed witnesses in the trial of President Clinton as nothing more than “political theater.” Now Schumer has declared that witnesses and a full trial are essential for President Trump..”

The Democrats May Prove The Greatest Barrier To A Full Trial (Turley)

When William Shakespeare wrote that “all the world is a stage” and “one man in his time plays many parts,” he could have probably had in mind Senator Charles Schumer. In 1999, the Democrat from New York famously opposed witnesses in the trial of President Clinton as nothing more than “political theater.” Now Schumer has declared that witnesses and a full trial are essential for President Trump, and that a trial without witnesses would be deemed the “most unfair impeachment trial in modern history.” That does not include the Clinton case where Schumer sought to proceed to a summary vote without a trial. As the Senate now gears up for the third presidential impeachment in history, the fight has begun over the rules and scope of a trial.

The Framers were silent on the expected procedures and evidence for a trial, beyond the requirement of a two-thirds vote to convict a president. The only direct precedent on these issues is derived from two very different trials, those of President Johnson and Clinton. By sending a thin record to the Senate, the House could not have made things easier for Trump. Since the House did not take time to subpoena critical witnesses, such as former national security adviser John Bolton, or to compel testimony of other witnesses, the Senate could simply declare that it will try the case on the record supplied by the House, a record that Democrats insist is already conclusive and overwhelming. Moreover, in reviewing the past trials of Johnson and Clinton, Democrats may have to struggle with precedents of their own making.

Indeed, Republicans could argue that a trial without witnesses is impeachment in Democratic style. The first question for the trial could be whether there should even be a trial held at all. In early England, the House of Lords often refused to hold trials on impeachments, which often were raw political exercises. In the Clinton trial, Democrats moved to dismiss both impeachment articles as meritless. The motion by Senator Robert Byrd failed on a largely party line vote with Democrats, including Senator Joe Biden, Senator Dianne Feinstein, and Schumer, opposing having any impeachment trial at all.

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It’s not a stock market rally.. It’s a Fed rally.

Trump Stock Market Rally Is Far Outpacing Past US Presidents (CNBC)

President Donald Trump’s stock market stacks up well against the majority of his presidential predecessors. The S&P 500 has returned more than 50% since Trump was elected, more than double the 23% average market return of presidents three years into their term, according to data from Bespoke Investment Group dating to 1928. The bellwether index gained more than 28% this year, well above the average 12.8% return of year three for past U.S. presidents. “Year three has been by far the best year of the cycle with an average gain of 12.81%, and the playbook has stuck to the script in year three of the current cycle,” the firm said in a note to clients last month.

Despite the volatility from the U.S.-China trade war, 2019 has been a year of all-time highs for the major stock averages. The S&P 500 crossed 3,200 for the first time ever last week, hitting its seventh round-number milestone of 2019. While business investment slumped due to uncertainty surrounding the world’s two largest economies, public market investors remained confident enough to put money into stocks. Trump’s market got a boost from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell and the central bank, which lowered interest rates three times this year, the first time since the end of the financial crisis. The Fed slashed rates on fears of slowing growth at home and abroad. Trump was highly critical of Powell for not lowering rates more and faster, often mentioning the near $15 trillion in negative yielding government securities outside the U.S.

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This is where that Trump rally comes from. Very close to what I’ve been writing about central banks. “There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion.”

Today’s Central Bankers Threaten Civilization (Mises)

Let us begin with a basic question, that lies at the heart of this issue: Who profits from a loan that is guaranteed to pay back less than the amount borrowed? Obviously, it is the borrower and not the lender, which in our case is the government and those closely connected to it. Negative rates and negative-yielding bonds by definition favor the debtors and punish the savers. In addition, these policies are an affront to basic economic principles and to common sense too. They contradict all logical ideas about how money works and they have no basis and no precedent in any organic economic system. Thus, now, in addition to the hidden tax that is inflation, we also have another mechanism that redistributes wealth from the average citizen to those at the top of the pyramid.

Thus, this very concept of a central authority being able to bend and twist the rules, even when the result is illogical, has implications that extend way beyond daily economic activities. In fact, it ultimately divides society into two classes, those who profit from this arbitrary and unilateral rewriting of the rules and those who are forced to pay the price even though they never agreed to it. In fact, they weren’t even asked. Of course, we can also look at it from the collective perspective of the so-called social contract of Rousseau and argue that this system of overt (taxation) and covert (monetary policy) redistribution is legitimate, or even benign. You might still believe that the state will take care of you in the future, and thus you are willing to sacrifice a part of your wealth and savings today to make sure that happens.

In that case, it is useful to remember that the current central banking system is not that old. It’s only been around for about hundred years, or two long-term debt cycles combined. The first cycle ended when President Nixon officially tried to demonetize gold in 1971, empowering a centralized system whereby a few decide who receives the currency first and at what interest rate, allowing them to create bubbles in certain asset classes, protect different key industries and to use it to finance wars and enrich politicians and those close to them. So far, total credit on a global scale stands around $240 trillion. It’s hard to conceive of such a number, but if you consider that 1 trillion seconds are equal to 31,709 years, you might begin to wrap your head around just how leveraged the system has become.

We should never forget that debt is always consumption brought forward. That being said, debts need to be paid back or forgiven — there is no other outcome. In addition, the amount of debt that a system can take on is limited, and when a credit-based system can’t grow any further, the logical outcome is the collapse of the whole system. As Ludwig von Mises described this a long time ago, “There is no means of avoiding the final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as the result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion, or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.”

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Just the fact that she still has a job says enough.

Rachel Maddow Called Out For Shamelessly Peddling Fake News (ZH)

Conspiracy theorist and MSNBC host Rachel Maddow has been called out by Washington Post columnist Erik Wemple for breathlessly peddling the Steele Dossier – becoming a “clearinghouse” for the largely debunked opposition research funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the DNC in 2016 (and fed to the MSM six weeks before the 2016 US election by the former British spy who wrote it). Wemple has been writing about the media’s coverage of the Steele dossier since it was significantly undercut earlier this month by Michael Horowitz, the DOJ Inspector General. Thursday’s feature details how Maddow spewed Russophobic propaganda to the American public based on Steele’s fabricated claims.

Horowitz absolutely shredded the dossier, writing in his report on FBI FISA abuse that “The FBI concluded, among other things, that although consistent with known efforts by Russia to interfere in the 2016 U.S. elections, much of the material in the Steele election reports, including allegations about Donald Trump and members of the Trump campaign relied upon in the Carter Page FISA applications, could not be corroborated; that certain allegations were inaccurate or inconsistent with information gathered by the Crossfire Hurricane team; and that the limited information that was corroborated related to time, location and title information, much of which was publicly available.”

Maddow began using the dossier to smear Trump in March of 2017 – when both CNN and the New Yorker falsely claimed that US authorities had loosely confirmed ‘some of the details’ from the dossier. An emboldened Maddow claimed that while the “baseline” dossier claim that Trump colluded with Russia to win the 2016 election had yet to be proven, “all the supporting details are checking out, even the really outrageous ones. A lot of them are starting to bear out under scrutiny. It seems like a new one each passing day.” Based on the conclusions reached by both the FBI and DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz, Maddow was peddling conspiracy theories.

“When small bits of news arose in favor of the dossier, the franchise MSNBC host pumped air into them,” writes Wemple. “At least some of her many fans surely came away from her broadcasts thinking the dossier was a serious piece of investigative research, not the flimflam, quick-twitch game of telephone outlined in the Horowitz report.” “She seemed to be rooting for the document.”

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Makes sense for Xi.

Huawei Benefited From Billions Of Dollars In State Support (ZH)

The Wall Street Journal continued its string of reports on the Chinese government’s shadowy campaign to support mission-critical companies in the private sector on Christmas Day by exposing for the first time to totality of government support for Huawei. Billions of dollars in credit facilities backed by state-controlled “policy banks”, coupled with pro-business tax breaks, allowed Huawei to cement its position as the world’s leading telecoms giant, according to WSJ. Huawei’s grants, credit facilities, tax breaks and other forms of financial assistance details for the first time how Huawei had access to as much as $75 billion in state support as it grew from a little-known vendor of phone switches to the world’s largest telecom-equipment company—helping Huawei offer generous financing terms and undercut rivals’ prices by some 30%, analysts and customers say.

Around the world, Huawei is vying to build next-generation 5G telecom networks, much to Washington’s chagrin. In a well-documented campaign, the US has struggled to convince it allies to exclude Huawei equipment from their 5G infrastructure, claiming that Huawei parts would compromise security and allow the Chinese government to tap into civilian and military communications. But thanks in part to all of this government support, Huawei is able to offer telecoms equipment at world-beating prices. Its biggest competitors, Nokia and Ericsson, can’t even come close. This government support also undermines Huawei’s claims that it operates independent of Beijing, and that it would under no circumstances cooperate with state intelligence against its customers.

Nevermind that multiple investigations have uncovered evidence that Huawei builds backdoors into its equipment to allow easy access by Chinese intelligence forces. It’s important to remember that Huawei’s commercial interests align with those of the Chinese government in more ways than one. “While Huawei has commercial interests, those commercial interests are strongly supported by the state,” said Michael Wessel, a member of a U.S. congressional panel that reviews U.S.-China relations, in an interview. The U.S. has raised concerns that use of Huawei’s equipment could pose a security risk, should Beijing request network data from the company. Huawei says it would never hand such data to the government.

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Divide and rule.

China Threatens EU With “Disastrous” Consequences Of Company Curbs (ZH)

Less than two weeks after Beijing issued an overt threat at Germany, when Chinese ambassador to Germany Ken Wu told ex-Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel that if Germany excludes Huawei 5G from its communication networks, then China could “declare German cars unsafe” for its domestic market, effectively giving Angela Merkel a quid-pro-quo ultimatum that a ban of Huawei – as demanded by the Trump administration – would lead to retaliation against German auto exports, Beijing’s ambassador to the EU, Zhang Ming, doubled down and warned the bloc against pursuing policies to curb Chinese companies’ access to Europe, saying it would damage its own interests and deter investment.

The ambassador, a veteran diplomat and previously a senior foreign ministry official in Beijing, said plans to clamp down on foreign corporate ownership, trade opportunities and 5G mobile communications technology threatened to trigger a backlash from “suspicious” Chinese entrepreneurs. Ming added that EU countries needed to promote international co-operation and free markets, by which of course he meant free markets that suit China. “Otherwise, it’s disastrous for them,” he warned in an interview with the FT. “What I hope to see is that the EU will keep to the principles of multilateralism and free trade, as well as the principles of openness, fairness, justice and non-discrimination.”

Zhang said the hardening attitude on the EU side had made “many Chinese entrepreneurs working in Europe suspicious” and “also had some kind of impact on Chinese investment in the EU.” “My colleagues and I are strongly committed to promoting China–EU co-operation, so I’m following the development with interest and concerns,” said the envoy who was a former vice-minister of foreign affairs and took his current post in Brussels in 2017. “Capital is very sensitive, and even cowardly in some cases. In case of any changes or developments, they will feel highly vigilant or even be scared away”

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Oh, sure. Because rain is so rare in the UK. People just stay home and wait for the usual balmy weather to set in again.

Rain Keeps UK Boxing Day Shoppers At Home (R.)

UK shoppers sheltered at home on Thursday, with the numbers hitting post-Christmas sales set to drop significantly for a fourth year in a row, initial data showed. Footfall up to 12 p.m. on Dec. 26, known in Britain as Boxing Day and a key date for retailers, was down 10.6% compared with the same period a year ago, market research company Springboard said, adding that bad weather had deterred shoppers. High streets were most affected by the rainy weather with consumers reluctant to go out in the morning, Springboard said. Black Friday sales in November and a growing number of people shopping online have reduced Boxing Day footfall in recent years. “Boxing Day is indisputably a less important trading day than it once was,” said Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard, adding that the Boxing Day footfall was 10.9% lower than during Black Friday morning.

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A 2-second cameo in a 27-year old movie. Tons of publicity.

“Trump’s repeated cameos were down to a contractual clause ensuring he appear on-camera if a production filmed in one of his buildings.”

Trump Says Home Alone 2 ‘Will Never Be The Same’ (Ind.)

Donald Trump has said Home Alone 2 “will never be the same” after his cameo was cut from the film by a Canadian TV broadcaster. When he was a real estate mogul and New York celebrity, Trump briefly appeared as himself in 1992’s Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, offering travel advice to Macaulay Culkin’s character. But the scene was missing from the film when it was broadcast on Canada’s CBC Television this week, leading a spokesperson having to deny that it was cut for political reasons. “As is often the case with features adapted for television, Home Alone 2 was edited to allow for commercial time within the format,” a representative said. On Twitter, Trump addressed the missing scene furore, and joked that Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau may have been to blame.


“The movie will never be the same! (just kidding),” he tweeted. “I guess Justin T doesn’t much like my making him pay up on Nato or trade!” On Christmas Eve, Trump boasted that “young kids” always reference his Home Alone cameo to him. “It turned out to be a very big hit, obviously,” he said during a conference call to US troops overseas. “It’s a big Christmas hit – one of the biggest. So it’s an honour to be involved in something like that.” Trump made a number of cameos in films and television series throughout the 1990s. Speaking in 2017, Matt Damon explained that Trump’s repeated cameos were down to a contractual clause ensuring he appear on-camera if a production filmed in one of his buildings.

Read more …

 

Pangaea with modern-day international borders

 

 

 

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Dec 092019
 
 December 9, 2019  Posted by at 10:14 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  6 Responses »


Lewis Wickes Hine News of the Titanic and possible survivors 1912

 

US Banks’ Reluctance To Lend Cash May Have Caused Repo Shock: BIS (R.)
BIS Offers Stunning Explanation Of What Happened On Repocalypse Day (ZH)
The Incredible Shrinking Private Sector (G.)
Northern Ireland Customs Protocol Could Thwart Brexit Plans (G.)
Boris Johnson’s Promise Of Brexit By End Of 2020 Torpedoed By EU Chief (Mi.)
The Invisible Tories (Craig Murray)
China Tells Government Offices To Remove All Foreign Computer Equipment (G.)
NATO Seeks To “Dominate The World”, Eliminate Competitors: Lavrov (ZH)
Russian Air Defense System Shot Down US Drone Over Libyan Capital (R.)

 

 

From what I understand, big banks moved from cash to Treasuries, which decreased the amount of cash available for lending. Hedge funds also play a role. Have they become market makers?

US Banks’ Reluctance To Lend Cash May Have Caused Repo Shock: BIS (R.)

The unwillingness of the top four U.S. banks to lend cash combined with a burst of demand from hedge funds for secured funding could explain a recent spike in U.S. money market rates, the Bank for International Settlements said. Cash available to banks for short-term funding all but dried up in late September, and interest rates deep in the plumbing of U.S. financial markets climbed into double digits. That forced the Fed to make an emergency injection of billions of dollars for the first time since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago.

While the exact cause of the squeeze is unclear – with explanations ranging from large withdrawals for quarterly tax payments to a big settlement of a trade in U.S. Treasuries – BIS analysts said the growing reliance on the biggest U.S. banks to keep the repo market functioning may have been a big factor. The big four banks, which BIS did not name in its report, have become net providers of funds to repo markets as they account for more than half of all Treasuries held by banks in the United States at the Federal Reserve.

The repo market underpins much of the U.S. financial system, helping ensure banks have liquidity to meet their daily operational needs. In a repo trade, Wall Street firms and banks offer U.S. Treasuries and other high-quality securities as collateral to raise cash, often just overnight, to finance their trading and lending. The next day, borrowers repay the loans plus what is typically a nominal rate of interest and get their bonds back. In other words they repurchase, or repo, the bonds.

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Did the big banks know the Fed would move in? Were there conversations between JPM and the Fed prior to the move into Treasuries??

BIS Offers Stunning Explanation Of What Happened On Repocalypse Day (ZH)

About a month ago, we first laid out how the sequence of liquidity-shrinking events that started about a year ago, and which starred the largest US commercial bank, JPMorgan, ultimately culminated with the mid-September repo explosion. Specifically we showed how JPM’s drain of liquidity via Money Markets and reserves parked at the Fed may have prompted the September repo crisis and subsequent launch of “Not QE” by the Fed in order to reduce its at risk capital and potentially lower its G-SIB charge – currently the highest of all major US banks.

Shortly thereafter, the FT was kind enough to provide confirmation that the biggest US bank had been quietly rotating out of cash, while repositioning its balance sheet in a major way, pushing more than $130bn of excess cash away from reserves in the process significantly tightening overall liquidity in the interbank market. We learned that the bulk of this money was allocated to long-dated bonds while cutting the amount of loans it holds, in what the FT dubbed was a “major shift in how the largest US bank by assets manages its enormous balance sheet.”

The moves saw the bank’s bond portfolio soar by 50%, and were prompted by capital rules that treated loans as riskier than bonds. And since JPM has been aggressively returning billions of dollars to shareholders in dividends and share buybacks each year, JPMorgan had far less room than most rivals to hold riskier assets, explaining its substantially higher G-SIB surcharge, which indicated that the Fed currently perceives JPM as the riskiest US bank for a variety of reasons. An executive at a large institutional investor told the FT that what JPM did “is incredible”, adding that “the scale of what JPMorgan is doing is mind-boggling . . . migrating out of cash into securities while loans are flat.”

The dramatic change, which occurred gradually over the year, and which may have catalyzed the spike in repo rates in September, was first flagged by JPMorgan at an investor event back in February. Then CFO Marianne Lake said that, after years of industry-leading loan growth, “we have to recognize the reality of the capital regime that we live in”. About half a year later, the rest of the world did too when the overnight general collateral rate briefly did something nobody had ever expected it to do, when it exploded from 2% to about 10% in minutes, an absolutely unprecedented move, and certainly one that was seen as impossible in a world with an ocean of roughly $1.3 trillion in reserves floating around.

[..] in a novel twist, the BIS also found that hedge funds exacerbated the turmoil in the repo market with their thirst for borrowing cash to juice up returns on their trades. Here is what the BIS said: “US repo markets currently rely heavily on four banks as marginal lenders. As the composition of their liquid assets became more skewed towards US Treasuries, their ability to supply funding at short notice in repo markets was diminished. At the same time, increased demand for funding from leveraged financial institutions (eg hedge funds) via Treasury repos appears to have compounded the strains of the temporary factors.”

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Britain.

The Incredible Shrinking Private Sector (G.)

The latest GDP figures released on Wednesday suggest on the surface the overall economy is doing better, but further inspection highlights the underlying weakness. The domestic private sector is in a dire state, having now shrunk for four consecutive quarters – the worst result since the 1990s recession – and the economy is now more dependent on government spending to keep it afloat than at any time since the GFC . First the good news – things are better than we previously thought. The GDP figures contained some fairly significant revisions of past data, based on more accurate underlying data. Whereas in June it appeared the economy grew by just 1.5% – the worst since 2001 – now the ABS estimates in June the economy was growing at an annual rate of 1.7% and is now growing at 1.8% in trend terms:

This is good, and yet it is pretty sad really how low the bar has become to think economic growth can be called “good”. The current growth rate of 1.8% is around 1% point below the long-term trend and well below the old marker of 3% growth that used to be considered average. In the September quarter the economy grew by 0.4% (seasonally adjusted), or 0.5% (trend), still below average, but what is important is where this growth is being generated. The biggest driver was net exports – contributing 0.35% pts of that growth.

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They don’t appear to have all the details figured out.

Northern Ireland Customs Protocol Could Thwart Brexit Plans (G.)

Northern Ireland customs arrangements may thwart Boris Johnson’s plan to leave the EU by December 2020, according to a document said to be leaked from civil servants in the Department for Exiting the EU. In the document, seen by the Financial Times, staff raised concerns about the readiness of the new customs arrangement, calling the protocol to keep part of the EU customs code in Northern Ireland, a “major” obstacle to Brexit delivery. The FT reported that the document was sent to senior Whitehall officials last week and said that implementing the Northern Ireland protocol before next December was a “strategic, political and operational challenge”.

The protocol would implement a form of customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK – an alternative arrangement to the Northern Irish “backstop” in the withdrawal agreement. Civil servants reportedly highlighted the “legal and political” repercussions both within the UK and Europe of failing to deliver Brexit on time, which Boris Johnson has made it the focal issue of his election campaign. Doubt was also cast on the free-trade agreement that Johnson has pledged to establish with the EU next year, with the document, marked “official sensitive”, reportedly stating that “delivery on the ground would need to commence before we know the outcome of negotiations”.

The government said it did not comment on leaks, but insisted that its deal with the EU would comprehensively withdraw the whole of the UK – including Northern Ireland. It reiterated its commitment to complete the process before December 2020.

Read more …

“The EU/UK future relationship cannot be settled in 11 months.”

Boris Johnson’s Promise Of Brexit By End Of 2020 Torpedoed By EU Chief (Mi.)

Michel Barnier has torpedoed Boris Johnson’s promise that Brexit will be done and dusted by the end of next year. The Sunday Mirror has seen minutes of a private meeting between the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator and MEPs which rubbish the PM’s pledge. Mr Johnson has said he will not extend the transition period beyond 2020 – which raises the danger of the UK crashing out with no deal. Trade talks are planned after Britain formally leaves the EU on January 31. But Mr Barnier told EU Employment and Social Affairs Committee MEPs: “The EU/UK future relationship cannot be settled in 11 months.” He added that means prioritising some areas while more time will be needed for other issues such as transport.

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Dominic Cummings focuses on social media, not canvassing.

The Invisible Tories (Craig Murray)

I live in a marginal constituency, where the excellent Joanna Cherry of the SNP has a lead of just over 1,000 over the Tories. If the most recent opinion polls are correct, the parties’ standings at this moment are similar to the result last time, the momentum is with the Tories and this should be a key Tory target. Yet I have not received one single Tory leaflet (and I live on one of the main residential streets) nor have I seen one single Tory campaigner, including when I have been out delivering leaflets for Joanna Cherry myself. Nor have I seen one single Tory poster in a house.

It is not just on TV that the Tories have been skipping interviews and debates, they seem to have eschewed any semblance of a ground campaign too, in what presumably is a key target seat for them. Boris Johnson is not popular with any of the local residents I have spoken to, and there is no enthusiasm at all for Brexit in this part of Edinburgh. In short, I am absolutely unable to square the opinion polls with the evidence of my own eyes and ears.

What is your experience?

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Sounds like quite the undertaking.

China Tells Government Offices To Remove All Foreign Computer Equipment (G.)

China has ordered that all foreign computer equipment and software be removed from government offices and public institutions within three years, the Financial Times reports. The government directive is likely to be a blow to US multinational companies like HP, Dell and Microsoft and mirrors attempts by Washington to limit the use of Chinese technology, as the trade war between the countries turns into a tech cold war. The Trump administration banned US companies from doing business with Chinese Chinese telecommunications company Huawei earlier this year and in May, Google, Intel and Qualcomm announced they would freeze cooperation with Huawei.


By excluding China from western know-how, the Trump administration has made it clear that the real battle is about which of the two economic superpowers has the technological edge for the next two decades. This is the first known public directive from Beijing setting specific targets limiting China’s use of foreign technology, though it is part a wider move within China to increase its reliance on domestic technology.

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“We have an answer to all the threats that the Alliance is multiplying in this world.”

NATO Seeks To “Dominate The World”, Eliminate Competitors: Lavrov (ZH)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has charged NATO with wanting to “dominate the world” a day after 70th anniversary events of the alliance concluded in London. “We absolutely understand that NATO wants to dominate the world and wants to eliminate any competitors, including resorting to an information war, trying to unbalance us and China,” Lavrov said from Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, while attending the 26th Ministerial Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). He seized upon NATO leaders’ comments this week, specifically Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, naming China as a new enemy alongside Russia. Stoltenberg declared at the summit that NATO has to “tackle the issue” of China’s growing capabilities.

Lavrov told reporters Thursday: “I think that it is difficult to unbalance us and China. We are well aware of what is happening. We have an answer to all the threats that the Alliance is multiplying in this world.” He also said the West is seeking to dominate the Middle East under the guise of NATO as well. The new accusation of ‘world domination’ comes at a crisis moment of growing and deep divisions over the future of the Cold War era military alliance, including back-and-forth comments on Macron’s “brain death” remarks, and looming questions over Turkey’s fitness to remain in NATO, and the ongoing debate over cost sharing burdens and the scope of the mission.

“Naturally, we cannot but feel worried over what has been happening within NATO,” Lavrov stated. “The problem is NATO positions itself as a source of legitimacy and is adamant to persuade one and all it has no alternatives in this capacity, that only NATO is in the position to assign blame for everything that may be happening around us and what the West dislikes for some reason.”

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Who operated each contraption?

Russian Air Defense System Shot Down US Drone Over Libyan Capital (R.)

The U.S. military believes that an unarmed American drone reported lost near Libya’s capital last month was in fact shot down by Russian air defenses and it is demanding the return of the aircraft’s wreckage, U.S. Africa Command says. Such a shootdown would underscore Moscow’s increasingly muscular role in the energy-rich nation, where Russian mercenaries are reportedly intervening on behalf of east Libya-based commander Khalifa Haftar in Libya’s civil war. Haftar has sought to take the capital Tripoli, now held by Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA). U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, who leads Africa command, said he believed the operators of the air defenses at the time “didn’t know it was a U.S. remotely piloted aircraft when they fired on it.”


“But they certainly know who it belongs to now and they are refusing to return it. They say they don’t know where it is but I am not buying it,” Townsend told Reuters in a statement, without elaborating The U.S. assessment, which has not been previously disclosed, concludes that either Russian private military contractors or Haftar’s so-called Libyan National Army were operating the air defenses at the time the drone was reported lost on Nov. 21, said Africa Command spokesman Air Force Colonel Christopher Karns. Karns said the United States believed the air defense operators fired on the U.S. aircraft after “mistaking it for an opposition” drone. An official in Libya’s internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) told Reuters that Russian mercenaries appeared to be responsible.

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Oct 152019
 
 October 15, 2019  Posted by at 9:43 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  11 Responses »


Paul Gauguin A seashore 1887

 

Trump Tells Turkey To Stop Its Syria Invasion (R.)
‘You’ve Been Duped By Spooks & Terrorists’ (RT)
Bernie Wants You to Own More of the Means of Production (Jac.)
No Choice But To Invest In Oil, Shell CEO Says (R.)
New German Rules Leave 5G Telecoms Door Open To Huawei (R.)
James Comey Is Swimming In Cash (BI)
Ghislaine Maxwell’s Open Secret (Webb)
Behind Hong Kong’s Black Terror (Escobar)
Trio Wins Economics Nobel For Science-Based Poverty Fight (R.)

 

 

Did they plan this in advance?

Trump Tells Turkey To Stop Its Syria Invasion (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday demanded Turkey stop its military incursion in Syria and imposed new sanctions on the NATO ally as Trump scrambled to limit the damage from his much-criticized decision to clear U.S. troops from Turkey’s path. Vice President Mike Pence said Trump had told Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call on Monday to agree to an immediate ceasefire. He also said he would travel to the region soon to try to mediate the crisis. Pence said Trump had been firm with Erdogan on the phone. “The United States of America simply is not going to tolerate Turkey’s invasion in Syria any further. We are calling on Turkey to stand down, end the violence and come to the negotiating table,” Pence told reporters.

Turkey launched a cross-border operation into northern Syria on Wednesday just days after Erdogan told Trump in a phone call that he planned to move ahead with a long-planned move against America’s Kurdish allies in the region. Trump abruptly announced a redeployment of 50 American troops from the conflict zone to get them out of harm’s way, dismissing criticism that this would leave the Kurds open to attack. This was widely seen as giving Erdogan a green light for his operation. With lawmakers in the U.S. Congress moving to impose sanctions of their own, Trump issued an executive order authorizing sanctions against current and former officials of the Turkish government for contributing to Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria.


In a statement, Trump said he had increased tariffs on imports of Turkish steel back up to 50 percent, six months after they were reduced, and would immediately stop negotiations on what he called a $100 billion trade deal with Turkey. “Unfortunately, Turkey does not appear to be mitigating the humanitarian effects of its invasion,” said Trump.

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The New York Times had no credibility left anyway.

‘You’ve Been Duped By Spooks & Terrorists’ (RT)

A damning report by the New York Times, which accused Russia of bombing four UN-protected hospitals in Syria, is a product of misinformation by Western intelligence services and jihadists, the Russian military said. On Sunday, the leading US newspaper said it had irrefutable proof that Russian warplanes had bombed four sites in Syria, which it knew to be locations of civilian hospitals. The accusation stems from analysis of social media, interviews with witnesses, data provided by local plane spotters and records of communications of the Russian military deployed in Syria. The bombings, which happened on May 5 and 6, are just a faction of attacks on civilian infrastructure, for which Moscow carries responsibility, the newspaper alleged.

Responding to the accusation on Monday, the Russian military said Times report was flawed for several reasons, including failure to explain that Idlib Governorate, where the four alleged bombings took place, lives under rule of brutal jihadists. That detail affects the entire narrative, indicating its flawed sourcing. “Gadgets, modern radio scanners, protected notebooks, internet connection are all things that the local civilian population simply cannot afford. They are more interested in daily surviving under the yoke of the terrorists,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov. He was referring to the equipment used by “plane spotters”, who provided their data to Times.


The newspaper said those observers “insisted on anonymity for their safety”, but the Russian military says they shouldn’t have bothered and identified them as the people behind a “combat intelligence system” based on equipment developed by a US company called Hala Systems. The system known as Sentry is a collection of suitcase-sized sensors connected into a network plus an AI-based algorithm, which uses signals from those sensors as well as social media data to analyze and predict airstrikes in Idlib. Hala Systems says it’s a for-profit company that develops and operates the system on grants from governments of Canada, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark the United States, and Germany.

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Electable?

Bernie Wants You to Own More of the Means of Production (Jac.)

Bernie Sanders released a proposal today that would gradually shift 20 percent of corporate equity into funds owned and controlled by the workers in each company. The plan, which would apply to all publicly-traded companies and large closely-held companies, would move 2 percent of corporate stock into worker funds each year for a decade. Once the shares are transferred into the funds, workers would begin receiving dividends and have the ability to exercise the voting rights of the shares, including the right to vote on corporate board elections and on shareholder resolutions. Sanders’s plan is by far the most radical worker ownership proposal put forward by a presidential candidate in recent memory.

By last count, the market value of publicly-traded domestic companies stood at $35.6 trillion. This means that the Sanders plan would shift at least $7.1 trillion of corporate equity into worker funds by gradually diluting the value of previously-issued corporate stock. Those who stand to “lose” from the proposal are the incumbent owners of corporate equity, which are overwhelmingly affluent people. At present, the top 10 percent of families own around 86.4 percent of corporate equities and mutual fund shares, with the top one percent owning 52 percent by themselves.


Closely-held businesses, which will also be affected by the scheme if they are large enough, have similarly concentrated ownership, with the top 10 percent of families owning 87.5 percent of private business equity and the top one percent of families owning 57.5 percent of it. Of course, these incumbent owners will not actually lose anything in an absolute sense. The average historical return of the US stock market has been 9.8 percent per year, while the average return of the last 10 years has been just over 13 percent. The effect of the two percent share issuances is to knock the total rate of return down by two percentage points, meaning that incumbent owners still get richer year-over-year, just less so than they would absent the Sanders plan.

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Well, they’re on oil company. What did you expect?

No Choice But To Invest In Oil, Shell CEO Says (R.)

Royal Dutch Shell still sees abundant opportunity to make money from oil and gas in coming decades even as investors and governments increase pressure on energy companies over climate change, its chief executive said. But in an interview with Reuters, Ben van Beurden expressed concern that some shareholders could abandon the world’s second-largest listed energy company due partly to what he called the “demonisation” of oil and gas and “unjustified” worries that its business model was unsustainable. The 61-year-old Dutch executive in recent years became one of the sector’s most prominent voices advocating action over global warming in the wake of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

Shell, which supplies around 3% of the world’s energy, set out in 2017 a plan to halve the intensity of its greenhouse emissions by the middle of the century, based in large part on building one of the world’s biggest power businesses. Still, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from Shell’s operations and the products it sells rose by 2.5% between 2017 and 2018. A defiant van Beurden rejected a rising chorus from climate activists and parts of the investor community to transform radically the 112-year-old Anglo-Dutch company’s traditional business model. “Despite what a lot of activists say, it is entirely legitimate to invest in oil and gas because the world demands it,” van Beurden said. “We have no choice” but to invest in long-life projects, he added.

[..][ “We can sustain an upstream portfolio all the way into the 2030s if there is an economic rationale for doing that and a societal rationale for doing that,” van Beurden said. “Fortunately enough, we have more of those than we have money to spend on them.” Van Beurden rejected as a “red herring” arguments that Shell’s oil and gas reserves, which can sustain its current production for around eight years, would be economically unviable, or stranded, in the future. A lack of investment in oil and gas projects could lead to a supply shortage and result in price spikes, he said. “One of the bigger risks is not so much that we will become dinosaurs because we are still investing in oil and gas when there is no need for it anymore. A bigger risk is prematurely turning your back on oil and gas.”


Shell plans to increase its annual spending to around $32 billion by 2025 from the current $25 billion, with up to one tenth allocated to renewables and the power business. The company, the world’s largest dividend payer, plans to return $125 billion to shareholders in the five years to 2025.

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“..banning the Chinese vendor would add years of delays and billions of dollars in costs to launching 5G networks.”

New German Rules Leave 5G Telecoms Door Open To Huawei (R.)

Germany has finalised rules for the build-out of 5G mobile networks that, in a snub to the United States, will not exclude China’s Huawei Technologies. Government officials confirmed that Germany’s so-called security catalogue foresaw an evaluation of technical and other criteria, but that no single vendor would be barred in order to create a level playing field for equipment vendors. “We are not taking a pre-emptive decision to ban any actor, or any company,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told a news conference in Berlin on Monday. The United States has piled pressure on its allies to shut out Huawei, the leading telecoms equipment vendor with a global market share of 28%, saying its gear contained ‘back doors’ that would enable China to spy on other countries.


German operators are all customers of Huawei and have warned that banning the Chinese vendor would add years of delays and billions of dollars in costs to launching 5G networks. The Shenzhen-based company has denied the allegations by Washington, which imposed export controls on Huawei in May, hobbling its smartphone business and raising questions over whether the Chinese company can maintain its market lead. U.S. officials have also argued that, under China’s national intelligence law, all citizens and companies are required to collaborate in espionage efforts.

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No kidding: “It’s a lot!” Comey told the Times. “Seriously, it’s crazy.”

James Comey Is Swimming In Cash (BI)

Losing a job and having your career go up in flames can be scarring. But the smoldering embers sometimes give forth to fertile new soil from which to start anew. Few have had a more public and dramatic firing than former-FBI director James Comey, who President Donald Trump infamously and suddenly ousted in 2017 amid inquiries into Russian meddling and suspicions that he did not have Comey’s loyalty. That fateful decision sent Comey’s law-enforcement career up in smoke — and precipitated the special-counsel investigation by Robert Mueller — but also laid the groundwork to launch a lucrative second-act in media, including six-figure speaking fees, prestigious writing contracts, a TV series, and a multimillion dollar book deal.

In a profile of his post-FBI life by Matt Flegenheimer in The New York Times, Comey asserts his primary preoccupation now, as a self-described “unemployed celebrity,” is stopping Trump. This vocation, while lacking the official powers of his former post in the FBI, appears well-suited for raking in piles of cash. Comey may have lost a roughly $170,000 annual salary as FBI director, but now he earns as much in a single speaking engagement. He’s been traveling the country giving six-figure paid speeches on leadership, as well as gratis appearances at universities, according to the NYT. “It’s a lot!” Comey told the Times. “Seriously, it’s crazy.”


Comey recently gave talks at Yale, the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and the Sacramento Speaker Series, and he’s due to speak at “Politicon” in Nashville later this month. He also has a contract to write opinion columns for The Washington Post, according to the NYT. And then there’s the forthcoming CBS Studios miniseries, in which he’ll be portrayed by actor Jeff Daniels. The series is based on Comey’s bestselling 2018 book, “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership,” which reportedly netted him millions as well. Of course, Comey was already a multimillionaire before accepting the job in 2013 as FBI director under President Barack Obama. In financial filings, he reported a net worth of $11 million, not including an anticipated $3 million payout from hedge-fund giant Bridgewater Associates, where Comey spent a couple years as general counsel.

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Whitney Webb continues her series.

Ghislaine Maxwell’s Open Secret (Webb)

Media reports cite Prince Andrew and Ghislaine Maxwell as having developed a close relationship at least by February 2000, when Andrew had spent a week at Epstein’s controversial New York penthouse at 9 East 71st Street. One report published in 2000 by London’s Sunday Times claimed that the two were introduced by Andrew’s ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, often referred to as “Fergie” in the press, and further claims that this introduction had taken place several years prior. Epstein is alleged to have first been introduced to Andrew via Maxwell in 1999. Years after this introduction was made, Jeffrey Epstein would provide financial assistance to Ferguson at Prince Andrew’s behest by paying Ferguson’s former personal assistant £15,000, allegedly in order to allow for “a wider restructuring of Sarah’s £5 million debts to take place,” according to The Telegraph.

Oddly, by April of that year, Maxwell and Prince Andrew were spotted by their fellow diners at a posh New York restaurant holding hands, prompting both the Prince and Maxwell to claim that their relationship was merely “platonic.” However, a separate report from 2007 in the Evening Standard refers to Maxwell as one of Prince Andrew’s former girlfriends. Within a year of their close relationship having become public, Andrew and Ghislaine were reported to have gone on eight different vacations together, of which Epstein accompanied them for five. Andrew also brought Maxwell and Epstein to celebrate the Queen’s birthday in 2000 as his personal guests.


Several reports from this period also provide interesting insight into Maxwell’s business activities and private life. One article from 2000, published in London’s Sunday Times, states that “for all her high-profile appearances on Manhattan’s A-List merry-go-round, she [Maxwell] is secretive to the point of paranoia and her business affairs are deeply mysterious.” It goes on to say that Maxwell “has been building a business empire as opaque as father’s” — referencing Robert Maxwell’s business empire, which included multiple front companies for Israeli intelligence — and adds that “her office in Manhattan refuses to confirm even the nature or the name of her business.”

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A slightly different take.

Behind Hong Kong’s Black Terror (Escobar)

The new slogans of Hong Kong’s black bloc – a mob on a rampage connected to the black shirt protestors – made their first appearance on a rainy Sunday afternoon, scrawled on walls in Kowloon. Decoding the slogans is essential to understand the mindless street violence that was unleashed even before the anti-mask law passed by the government of the Special Administrative Region (SAR) went into effect at midnight on Friday, October 4. By the way, the anti-mask law is the sort of measure that was authorized by the 1922 British colonial Emergency Regulations Ordnance, which granted the city government the authority to “make any regulations whatsoever which he [or she] may consider desirable in the public interest” in case of “emergency or public danger”.

Perhaps the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, was unaware of this fine lineage when she commented that the law “only intensifies concern over freedom of expression.” And it is probably safe to assume that neither she nor other virulent opponents of the law know that a very similar anti-mask law was enacted in Canada on June 19, 2013. More likely to be informed is Hong Kong garment and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, billionaire publisher of the pro-democracy Apple Daily, the city’s Chinese Communist Party critic-in-chief and highly visible interlocutor of official Washington, DC, notables such as US Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and ex-National Security Council head John Bolton.


On September 6, before the onset of the deranged vandalism and violence that have defined Hong Kong “pro-democracy protests” over the past several weeks, Lai spoke with Bloomberg TV’s Stephen Engle from his Kowloon home. He pronounced himself convinced that – if protests turned violent China would have no choice but to send People’s Armed Police units from Shenzen into Hong Kong to put down unrest. “That,” he said on Bloomberg TV, “will be a repeat of the Tiananmen Square massacre and that will bring in the whole world against China….. Hong Kong will be done, and … China will be done, too.”

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Science fights poverty?! Sounds like absolute BS to me. I asked Steve Keen if he knows the winners. He replied:

“No. Experimental economics is the latest fad, though it’s not supposed to encompass real world experiments like the IMF’s program for Argentina.”

Trio Wins Economics Nobel For Science-Based Poverty Fight (R.)

U.S.-based economists Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer won the 2019 Nobel Economics Prize on Monday for work fighting poverty that has helped millions of children by favoring practical steps over theory. French-American Duflo becomes only the second woman to win the economics prize in its 50-year history, as well as the youngest at 46. She shared the award equally with Indian-born American Banerjee and Kremer, also of the United States. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said their work had shown how poverty could be addressed by breaking it down into smaller and more precise questions in areas such as education and healthcare, and then testing solutions in the field.

It said the results of their studies and field experiments had ranged from helping millions of Indian schoolchildren with remedial tutoring to encouraging governments around the world to increase funding for preventative medicine. “It starts from the idea that the poor are often reduced to caricatures and even the people that try to help them do not actually understand what are the deep roots of (their) problems,” Duflo told reporters in Stockholm by telephone. “What we try to do in our approach is to say, ‘Look, let’s try to unpack the problems one-by-one and address them as rigorously and scientifically as possible’,” she added.


The team pioneered “randomized controlled trials”, or RCTs, in economics. Long used in fields such as medicine, an RCT could for example take two groups of people and study what difference a treatment makes on one group while the other group is only given a placebo. Applied to development economics, such field experiments found for example that providing more textbooks and free school meals had only small effects, while targeting help for weak students made a big difference to overall educational levels. “It’s a prize not just for us but for the whole movement,” Banerjee later told a joint news conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where they both work. Kremer is a researcher at Harvard University.

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When small men begin to cast big shadows, it means that the sun is about to set


Lin Yutang