Aug 192020
 


Wassily Kandinsky Autumn Landscape with Boats 1908

 

Chinese Regulator: Vaccines Must Have 50% Efficacy, 6 Months Immunity (SCMP)
Brennan, Strzok and DOJ Needed Assange Arrested – And UK Officials Obliged (CT)
The Big Story Behind The Mueller Special Counsel Purpose (CT)
Senate Panel Releases Final Report On Russian Interference In 2016 (ZH)
Will the Dam Break After Clinesmith’s Plea? (RCP)
Justice Delayed or Denied? A Response To Weissmann And Goodman (Turley)
The Specter of a Fascist Coup by Trump Haunts the US (MPN)
The Plot Against The President (HR)
AOC ‘Snubs’ Joe Biden In Speech Nominating Bernie Sanders (Ind.)
Biden ‘Is Just Lost,’ Says Obama’s White House Doctor (WE)
At Least 10 Times More Plastic In The Atlantic Than Presumed (Phys.org)

 

 

 

 

Most of the good news was gone by Tuesday, though US new cases stayed subdued.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m confident if you throw in a pair of ringside playoff seats you can get it down to 40%.

Chinese Regulator: Vaccines Must Have 50% Efficacy, 6 Months Immunity (SCMP)

Covid-19 vaccines must have an efficacy rate of 50 per cent and provide at least six months’ immunity if they are to be approved for use in China, the country’s drug regulator has announced. According to a draft document released by the Chinese Centre for Drug Evaluation (CCDE), 50 per cent is the minimum efficacy rate allowable, although 70 per cent is the target. The document said also that the regulator would consider granting emergency use of vaccines that have not yet completed their final phase of clinical trials. Chinese companies are among the forerunners in the race to produce a vaccine for Covid-19, with four candidates in final testing. A total of 29 products are undergoing clinical trials around the world, seven of which are in the final stage.


On Friday, China issued several documents setting out the standards for clinical trials and research on vaccines, including those based on the unproven mRNA platform. China’s requirement for a minimum 50 per cent efficacy – which means the vaccine would protect half of those injected with it – is in line with the benchmarks set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Unlike the Chinese draft, the FDA does not have a requirement for a minimum period of immunity. The WHO said in a document published in April that it hoped Covid 19 vaccines would protect recipients for a year, a target that China is also seeking, but many scientists are concerned that might not be achievable.

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This is how it all ties together. As I have written many times. Mueller needed Assange muzzled. He wasn’t interested in the truth, or he would have visited him. Mueller/Weissmann needed the RussiaRussia blubber to last. Or they would have come up completely empty.

The Mueller investigation ended on April 11 2019. Julian Assange was dragged out of the Ecuador embassy on April 11 2019.

Brennan, Strzok and DOJ Needed Assange Arrested – And UK Officials Obliged (CT)

Knowing how much effort the CIA and FBI put into the Russia collusion-conspiracy narrative, it would make sense for the FBI to take keen interest after this August 2017 meeting between Rohrabacher and Assange; and why the FBI would quickly gather specific evidence (related to Wikileaks and Bradley Manning) for a grand jury by December 2017. Within three months of the grand jury the DOJ generated an indictment and sealed it in March 2018. The EDVA sat on the indictment while the Mueller probe was ongoing. As soon as the Mueller probe ended, on April 11th, 2019, a planned and coordinated effort between the U.K. and U.S. was executed; Julian Assange was forcibly arrested and removed from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and the EDVA indictment was unsealed.

As a person who has researched this three year fiasco; including the ridiculously false 2016 Russian hacking/interference narrative: “17 intelligence agencies”, Joint Analysis Report (JAR) needed for Obama’s anti-Russia narrative in December ’16; and then a month later the ridiculously political Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) in January ’17; this timing against Assange is too coincidental. It doesn’t take a deep researcher to see the aligned Deep State motive to control Julian Assange because the Mueller report was dependent on Russia cybercrimes, and that narrative is contingent on the Russia DNC hack story which Julian Assange disputes.

This is critical. The Weissmann/Mueller report contains claims that Russia hacked the DNC servers as the central element to the Russia interference narrative in the U.S. election. This claim is directly disputed by WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, as outlined during the Dana Rohrabacher interview, and by Julian Assange on-the-record statements. The predicate for Robert Mueller’s investigation was specifically due to Russian interference in the 2016 election. The fulcrum for this Russia interference claim is the intelligence community assessment; and the only factual evidence claimed within the ICA is that Russia hacked the DNC servers; a claim only made possible by relying on forensic computer analysis from Crowdstrike, a DNC contractor.

The CIA holds a massive conflict of self-interest in upholding the Russian hacking claim. The FBI holds a massive interest in maintaining that claim. All of those foreign countries whose intelligence apparatus participated with Brennan and Strzok also have a vested self-interest in maintaining that Russia hacking and interference narrative. Julian Assange is the only person with direct knowledge of how Wikileaks gained custody of the DNC emails; and Assange has claimed he has evidence it was not from a hack. This Russian “hacking” claim is ultimately so important to the CIA, FBI, DOJ, ODNI and U.K intelligence apparatus…. Well, right there is the obvious motive to shut Assange down as soon intelligence officials knew the Mueller report was going to be public.

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While Trump was president and Jeff Sessions was AG, “the Mueller team was essentially controlling all DOJ activity”.

The Big Story Behind The Mueller Special Counsel Purpose (CT)

Foolishness and betrayal of our country have served to reveal dangers within our present condition. Misplaced corrective action, regardless of intent, is neither safe nor wise. The intelligence apparatus was weaponized against a candidate by those who controlled the levers of government. This is what AG Bill Barr needs to explain to the nation. The purpose behind briefing Durham’s lead investigator William Aldenberg was essentially to provide an understanding of what we the people already know. The purpose behind releasing the investigator name is to cut through the chaff and countermeasures and give face to the unit holding the precarious responsibility of sunlight.

The position of Bill Barr, and indeed our nation today, is a direct result of decisions made by Main Justice -as run by the special counsel- in the Fall of 2017 & Summer of 2018. The events surrounding the leaking of the FISA warrant used against U.S. person Carter Page; the purposeful cover-up by Andrew Weissmann; and the downstream 2018 DOJ decision not to prosecute SSCI Security Director James Wolfe for those leaks, was the fork in the road moment for the Department of Justice – and the institutions of government as a whole. Attorney General Jeff Sessions was recused.

As admitted in his June 2nd testimony Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein was providing no special counsel oversight, and the Mueller team was essentially controlling all DOJ activity. That was when the DOJ made a decision not to prosecute Wolfe for leaking classified information. DC U.S. Attorney Jessie Liu signed-off on a plea deal where Wolfe plead guilty to only a single count of lying to the FBI. If the DOJ had pursued the case against Wolfe for leaking the FISA application, everything would have been different. The American electorate would have seen evidence of what was taking place in the background effort to remove President Trump; and we would be in an entirely different place today if that prosecution or trial had taken place.

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Something tells me it won’t be the final report, not if they can help it. This nonsense needs to stop.

You and I don’t need a bogeyman enemy to live our lives, only the intelligence services do. And politicians of all stripes.

Senate Panel Releases Final Report On Russian Interference In 2016 (ZH)

The Senate Intelligence Committee has released a 966 page final report on Russian election interference in the 2016 presidential election, and outlines “Counterintelligence Threats and Vulnerabilities” during the race. The panel interviewed over 200 witnesses and reviewed over 1 million pages of documents, according to The Hill – finding that while Russia made efforts to interfere in the election through disinformation and cyber campaigns, there was insufficient evidence that the Trump campaign ‘colluded’ with the Kremlin, as we were promised was the case by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and the MSM over the course of several years. “No probe into this matter has been more exhaustive,” said acting Senate Intelligence Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) in a statement, adding “We can say, without any hesitation, that the Committee found absolutely no evidence that then-candidate Donald Trump or his campaign colluded with the Russian government to meddle in the 2016 election.”

Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, the Committee’s Vice Chairman, had a different interpretation – saying “At nearly 1,000 pages, Volume 5 stands as the most comprehensive examination of ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign to date — a breathtaking level of contacts between Trump officials and Russian government operatives that is a very real counterintelligence threat to our elections.” And while there was no evidence of coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia, the panel found that Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort’s contacts with ‘Kremlin-linked’ officials (as the Washington Post describes them) posed a “grave counterintelligence threat.”

“The volume, released Tuesday, states that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort worked with a Russian intelligence officer “on narratives that sought to undermine evidence that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election,” including the idea that Ukrainian election interference was of greater concern.” -WaPo “One of the Committee’s most important — and overlooked — findings is that much of Russia’s activities weren’t related to producing a specific electoral outcome, but attempted to undermine our faith in the democratic process itself,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC).

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Quite a few people doubt it.

Will the Dam Break After Clinesmith’s Plea? (RCP)

• It was no surprise to learn last week that Kevin Clinesmith had altered an official document. Inspector General Michael Horowitz had already reported it, without naming the culprit. Durham had that information and could have indicted Clinesmith long ago. He didn’t because he was interviewing others about FISA abuses and didn’t want to give them any information from Clinesmith’s indictment. Releasing that information now shows Durham has completed his work on FISA fraud.

• Other, more senior FBI officials must have been involved in these FISA abuses, though Durham hasn’t said so yet. Some committed abuse themselves. Others knew about it or should have known. Still others must have discovered the misrepresentations, but failed to report them to the FISA court, as they were required to do. Those failures are felonies.

• Clinesmith has said he gave other FBI members the true document, not just the altered one. The 23rd paragraph of the charging information says Clinesmith “provided the unchanged C.I.A. email to Crossfire Hurricane agents and the Justice Department lawyer drafting the original wiretap application.” That’s a smoking bazooka.

• How can Durham prove the CIA’s truthful information was circulated and then hidden? By thoroughly checking the FBI’s internal document system. It should record everyone who received Clinesmith’s accurate (unaltered) document and those they later passed it to. If the agents and lawyers merely discussed the falsification, then prosecutors will need several witnesses to substantiate it.

• The real leader of the Mueller team, Andrew Weissmann, is still blowing smoke about these mounting legal problems. On Friday, he tweeted, “Clinesmith is charged with adding the words ‘not a source’ to an email about Carter Page, but nowhere does the charge say that is false, i.e. that Page was a source for the CIA.” Notice, Weissmann is not saying he knew nothing or that Page really was a Russian source. He simply saying that a 180-degree change in the document’s wording doesn’t mean what your lying eyes think it means.

• Weissmann’s comment shows the Mueller team is sticking with their existing disclaimer. Their report says they won’t speculate on “whether the correction of any particular misstatement or omission, or some combination thereof, would have resulted in a different outcome.” In order words, “We don’t see something. We don’t say something. And we don’t know if it matters.”

• Clinesmith actually worked on Robert Mueller’s team. He was tasked from the bureau to work with that team, which then submitted his falsified document to the FISA court. That’s crucially important. If attorneys on the special counsel team knew about his crime and did nothing to inform the court, if they continued to use a document they knew was fraudulent, they will face charges. That would implicate Mueller’s team for the first time in illegal activity to undermine the Trump presidency. That’s a much bigger matter than writing a biased report.

• We know from other declassified documents that it wasn’t just Mueller’s FISA application that had false information. All four applications did. Indeed, they depended on it, especially on the Steele dossier. Then-Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe testified that, without Steele, the warrants would not have been granted. Yet none of the agents and prosecutors ever told the FISA court about fraud, misrepresentation, and bias from Steele, Clinesmith, or others.

• The Mueller team must have known Clinesmith’s actions were a problem. They didn’t just get rid him, they tried to shift the blame. That’s the meaning of an opaque footnote in their report, which said that the bureau, not the Mueller team, supervised “an FBI attorney” who worked for the special counsel. Hey, it’s them, not us!

Read more …

Weismann doesn’t argue in good faith.

Justice Delayed or Denied? A Response To Weissmann And Goodman (Turley)

Recently, I posted a criticism of Andrew Weissmann, one of the top prosecutors with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who ran a column with Professor Ryan Goodman encouraging Justice Department attorneys not to assist U.S. Attorney John Durham in his ongoing investigation (at least before the election) and dismissing the basis for the plea agreement reached with former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith. Goodman argues that I was unfair to him and Weissmann in my posting and I wanted to respond. I did include a longer quote from the column to be sure that their point was better understood in context in an updated posting. However, in my view, the defense of this column only highlights the inherent bias that the original posting sought to address.

Rather than append this long discussion at the end of the original column, I felt it deserved its own posting and consideration by readers. [..] On Twitter, Professor Goodman makes four basic points which I make out into roughly six points. I would like to address each below. However, it is worth noting that only one point appears to be a claim of misrepresentation. First, Goodman states that the posting was “seriously flawed” and “Turley badly misrepresents what we said, what Justice Dept charged, and more… This is a pattern for Turley (see final tweet in this thread for that pattern)…” I will address the “pattern” referenced by Goodman below. However, Goodman states that the blog “falsely claims op-ed calls on DOJ lawyers ‘to undermine’ Durham investigation. He points out that “[o]ur op-ed: DOJ lawyers should refuse IMPROPER requests if VIOLATE oath to Constitution and policy on actions that interfere in election; plus Durham CAN indict after 11/3.”

This appears to be the heart of Goodman’s claim of misrepresentation (indeed it appears the only claim). It is a rather curious and tautological point. Goodman simply restates his argument that what Durham is doing is improper and thus says that it cannot be viewed as “undermining” Durham’s investigation. Yes, I believe telling DOJ lawyers that they should refuse to assist in indictment or pleas is undermining Durham’s investigation, even if it is to do so for a few months. Such pleas or indictments are critical parts to an investigation or additional criminal cases. Durham, who even Democratic leaders have acknowledged is an apolitical and dedicated prosecutor, believes that this plea is needed to move forward on what could be a broader prosecution.

Durham was delayed by the pandemic but has moved to complete this long-standing investigation. For Durham, waiting for additional months is an example of an unnecessary example of justice delayed being justice denied. He is allowed to move forward with his case and the cited “unwritten norm” of the authors is highly challengeable. Regardless of the merits, it hardly seems “seriously flawed” to characterize a call for Durham’s subordinates to stand down as undermining his investigation.

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You’ve been programmed. Man, all the people who take this serious…

“Recall similar warnings about Bush and Romney, who are now chums of Democrats in high places.”

The Specter of a Fascist Coup by Trump Haunts the US (MPN)

Should Trump fail to carry the Electoral College, Noam Chomsky admonishes, “he could send Blackshirts out in the streets… preparation for a plan to try to bring the military in to carry out something which would amount to a military coup.” A New York Times columnist opines: “Put nothing past Trump, not even the destruction of the American electoral process.” Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, explains that Trump’s election delay threat is a coup in the making. Economist Jack Rasmus speculates Trump will “call for his radical right, gun-toting friends to come to Washington to surround and protect the White House.”

The left World Socialist Web Site joins the liberal chorus: “In an act unprecedented in American history, Donald Trump has repudiated the Constitution and is attempting to establish a presidential dictatorship, supported by the military, police and far-right fascistic militia acting under his command.” Meanwhile, in the real world, more than 51 million Americans have filed for unemployment since March. Some 27 million people have lost their health insurance on top of around 30 million who were uninsured before, in the face of the massive pandemic. The Federal Reserve has pumped $7 trillion into corporate bonds, municipal securities, loans and grants to business, while millions are going hungry. The pandemic death toll in the U.S. is 168,345 as it rages out of control. California cannot even accurately count the number of cases being reported.

[..] The obsession with the person of Trump is a testament to the political bankruptcy of the increasingly anemic successors of the New Deal and their epigones on the left who, every four years, admonish us that never before have the stakes been so high: we have to vote for the lesser evil. Given their view of the danger of a fascist coup, we should put aside a progressive agenda and vote for the former senator from Mastercard and learn to love endless imperial war and increasing austerity for working people in a repressive security state.

The liberal-left pundits reproach us to vote Democrat simply because the alternative is not Trump. Recall similar warnings about Bush and Romney, who are now chums of Democrats in high places. Vote, but not for any issue, because the so-called liberal agenda is today devoid of issues. Liberalism is dead. Indicative is its standard-bearer barely showing vital signs. Biden is being told to stay in his basement and even sit out his nominating convention.

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The Hollywood Reporter’s only loyalty lies with Hollywood.

The Plot Against The President (HR)

There’s a hush-hush Russiagate documentary on the horizon from a director who hails from Hollywood royalty. But this one makes the case for President Trump. Amanda Milius, daughter of legendary screenwriter-director John Milius and a State Department alum, has directed The Plot Against the President, based on Lee Smith’s 2019 best seller of the same name. Milius, who optioned the book in manuscript form last summer and stepped down in early March from her post as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Content in the State Department’s Bureau of Global Public Affairs, began working on the doc in secrecy shortly thereafter.

Over the past three months, she interviewed Russiagate critics including Congressman Devin Nunes, Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Mike Cernovich and Roger Stone as well as Gen. Michael Flynn’s attorney Sidney Powell. Milius’ father, the screenwriter of such classics as Apocalypse Now and Dirty Harry, is such a larger-than-life figure in Hollywood that he has inspired characters in at least two films: The Big Lebowski(played by John Goodman) and Zeroville (Seth Rogen). His politics have long deviated from the industry’s centrist Democratic leanings (he and Charlton Heston served on the board of the NRA at the same time). Amanda, who attended USC’s School of Cinematic Arts and worked in the film industry for a decade, also shares his pro-Trump sentiments.

[..] The film was financed by a handful of private investors that the Washington-based director declines to name. She produced alongside Jonathan Eisenman. The production companies are Wollman Prods. and 1AMDC Prods. The producers are currently in talks with a few distributors and are planning an Oct. 1 release in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. Milius says the film will offer several additional bombshells that weren’t included in the book, whose thesis is that a coup was engineered by the American establishment elite, including the media, and targeted the president as well as the democratic process.

Trailer The Plot Against The President

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Well, actually she didn’t, it was just protocol. After that she proudly supported Biden. After being snubbed, and seeing her mentor Bernie be snubbed again. Have these people no pride?

AOC ‘Snubs’ Joe Biden In Speech Nominating Bernie Sanders (Ind.)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has delivered a snub to Joe Biden when she delivered a speech endorsing her progressive mentor Bernie Sanders for president. In words that likely infuriated supporters of Mr Biden, the New York congresswoman spoke to second the nomination of Mr Sanders as the party’s official candidate. “I want to thank everyone towards a better, more just future for our country and our world,” she said, speaking to second the Vermont senator after he was formally nominated by labour activist and lawyer Bob King. She said she sought to create “mass people’s movement dedicated to addressing the wounds of racial injustice, colonisation, misogyny, and homophobia”.


When Mr Sanders, 78, announced in April he was suspending his campaign for the presidency, after Mr Biden made a series of stunning primary wins to breathe life into a run that appeared dead, he said his name would remain on the ballot and that he would continue to collect delegates. The purpose was not vanity, he said, as some critics said, but in order to better put pressure on Mr Biden to adopt more progressive policies than he might otherwise have felt obliged to do so. Already that has resulted in a succession of policy think thanks that agreed to several policy points on the economy, the environment and criminal and racial justice. Ms Ocasio-Cortez, 30, praised the campaign of Mr Sanders and other progressive candidates who “reimagined systems of immigration and foreign policy that turn away from the violence and xenophobia of our past”.

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Oh, c’mon, let me have some fun… All the other stuff is already so serious.

Biden ‘Is Just Lost,’ Says Obama’s White House Doctor (WE)

The chief White House doctor to former President Barack Obama is worried about the mental health and stamina of former Vice President Joe Biden, suggesting that “something is not right” with the Democratic presidential nominee. “The best way I can describe him every time I see him is that he’s just lost,” said Dr. Ronny Jackson, the former White House physician to Obama and President Trump. “I won’t make any particular diagnosis about dementia. … But what I will say is that something is not right,” added the retired Navy rear admiral who recently won a House GOP primary in Texas. And it is getting so bad that he is “not comfortable” with Biden being commander in chief.


“I’m not,” he said of the top Democrat, set to be nominated by the Democratic Party for president on Thursday. Jackson’s comments are in an upcoming book from Donald Trump Jr., Liberal Privilege: Joe Biden and the Democrats’ Defense of the Indefensible, out Sept. 1 but already selling fast on his website, DonJr.com. In the book, the president’s son and top campaign supporter addressed current issues and included interviews with key current affairs figures, such as Jackson, who began working in the White House Medical Unit under former President George W. Bush and served as “physician to the president” during the Obama and Trump administrations. He stressed to Trump Jr. that he hasn’t reviewed Biden’s records but said that he witnessed the changes to Obama’s vice president in person and over time.

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How do you like the coating in your intestines?

At Least 10 Times More Plastic In The Atlantic Than Presumed (Phys.org)

The mass of ‘invisible’ microplastics found in the upper waters of the Atlantic Ocean is approximately 12- 21 million tons, according to research published in the journal Nature Communications today. Significantly, this figure is only for three of the most common types of plastic litter in a limited size range. Yet, it is comparable in magnitude to estimates of all plastic waste that has entered the Atlantic Ocean over the past 65 years: 17 million tons. This suggests that the supply of plastic to the ocean have been substantially underestimated. The lead author of the paper, Dr. Katsiaryna Pabortsava from the National Oceanography Centre (NOC), said “Previously, we couldn’t balance the mass of floating plastic we observed with the mass we thought had entered the ocean since 1950.

This is because earlier studies hadn’t been measuring the concentrations of ‘invisible’ microplastic particles beneath the ocean surface. Our research is the first to have done this across the entire Atlantic, from the UK to the Falklands.” Co-author, Professor Richard Lampitt, also from the NOC, added “if we assume that the concentration of microplastics we measured at around 200 meters deep is representative of that in the water mass to the seafloor below with an average depth of about 3000 meters, then the Atlantic Ocean might hold about 200 million tons of plastic litter in this limited polymer type and size category. This is much more than is thought to have been supplied.”

“In order to determine the dangers of plastic contamination to the environment and to humans we need good estimates of the amount and characteristics of this material, how it enters the ocean, how it degrades and then how toxic it is at these concentrations. This paper demonstrates that scientists have had a totally inadequate understanding of even the simplest of these factors, how much is there, and it would seem our estimates of how much is dumped into the ocean has been massively underestimated.”

Read more …

 

 

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May 172020
 


Gerry Cranham They all fall in the round I call 1963

 

There was this comment at the Automatic Earth yesterday that got me thinking. It was sort of wrapped in a bit of -more- innuendo about health officials not getting the results they were looking for in COVID19 numbers, as if the whole virus event is some goal-seeked conspiracy. You’ll be familiar with it by now.

I said back in the day that measures like lockdowns can’t last long, because people are social animals. You would just have hoped that when they were finally, far too late, decided upon, that countries, states, communities, would have made the best of them. But it’s been, and more importantly will be, an awful mess, other than in a few places.

And I did say that too, that the so-called leadership in the world today is good at declaring a lockdown, albeit too late, but not at anything else, not at timing it, not at executing it, let alone at managing the way out of it in reopening societies. It is all so predictable.

But people have been solidly dug into their trenches now, after 2 months, and they’ve done so much reading, and watching pundits, that they’re no longer looking for news, they’re looking for opinions, ones that match their own darkest notions. We’ve come to the point that if there’s nothing suspicious going on, then that’s mighty suspicious.

 

And there’s plenty of such opinions, and plenty among them that lay the blame for freedoms and livelihoods lost somewhere, anywhere. So yeah, in that sense it’s time to reopen, the mental health sense. But not, unfortunately, in the physical health sense. The virus is still prevalent in most communities and many a community will pay a steep price.

But nobody is aware of it, it seems, because nobody really knows what will happen. They’ve only all heard the clamoring for a return to normal. That there will be no return to normal is something nobody wants to tell them. How many people do you think know there’s never been a vaccine for a coronavirus? How many people know that there is no need for a vaccine?

Everyone’s been told to wait for a vaccine, which suits Big Pharma, which gets billions for something they don’t even need to deliver, just try, and it suits the politicians who can all say there’s nothing they can do to prevent more suffering until the magic pill shows up. They can say they opened up because there was so much pressure on them.

But yes, that comment. It made me think that perhaps people don’t understand viruses very well, and also that it’s a very good lead for a description of how they “function”.

 

Is this a fiercely contagious pathogen or not? If it’s so contagious, then it isn’t particularly lethal. If it’s incredibly lethal, then it isn’t so contagious.

 

First of all, remember a virus doesn’t think or plan or have a strategy, none of that. If conditions are right a virus will multiply. And while doing so, it will mutate. These things happen in virustime, counted in time sequences as infinitesimal as the size of a virus itself. And one in a billion or so a mutation will stick for more than two nanoseconds, because it offers an advantage to the virus.

That’s how it gets to spread from, first, animal hosts within the same species, and then, in very rare circumstances, to other species, like humans. And even then it’s exceedingly rare that a virus could do harm to a human being. The odds of that happening are maybe one in a trillion or something, I doubt anyone could tell you, including virologists.

The virus “wants” one thing: to multiply. Just like any other being, including us. And being both very lethal and very contagious doesn’t help it do that (not that it’s trying). Earlier well-known coronaviruses like SARS and MERS got that balance wrong. Because that’s what it is: a trade off between lethality and contagiousness. Neither can be too high.

SARS is noted by the WHO for a case fatality rate (CFR) of 9.6%. At that percentage, with the lethality and contagiousness it had/has, the virus lacks the time to jump from old host to new host, especially when existing and potential hosts are being isolated. MERS had a 34% CFR, and obviously didn’t prevail long.

MERS never even really left Saudi Arabia (and appears to have never achieved human-to-human transmission). SARS did get to other countries, I remember especially Canada, but that whole epidemic was over in 7 months.

 

You need the right amount of contagiousness combined with the right amount of lethality in order to have a pandemic. Jump from host to host, but not too fast, because in no time every potential host would be infected and develop antibodies (herd immunity). And not too lethal, because not enough “old hosts” would be left to infect enough “new hosts”.

The present SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus appears to have struck a delicate balance. People may say it’s not all that contagious, and it’s not so lethal, but it’s those qualities that enabled it to be a pandemic. One thing it hasn’t achieved yet is becoming endemic, and we would be wise to keep it that way. But the odds that we will have a vaccine before we can do that are slim.

Where to go from here is very opaque. People shout out for the world to be opened, but all they will get is a small part of that world. Mass events, bars, restaurants, subways, planes, and so much more, can no longer function the way they did. As long as the virus is out there, it may be ‘only’ modestly contagious and lethal, but enough that people will be willing to avoid many things that were considered normal before 2020.

That will lead to huge changes in society, enormous amounts of jobs that will not return. If we fail to adapt to those things as badly as we failed in our lockdowns, the changes can only become even larger, even deeper, until there may be little left that we still readily recognize.

There are still very few, if any, countries where everyone is tested for SARS-CoV-2. We will need to test everyone at least once a week, and twice on Sundays. And isolate whoever tests positive. It didn’t need to come to this, but we all screwed up something awful, except for a very small number of countries and societies.

 

Get ready for the next round; there is no other way out. And if we let the virus become endemic, and it returns in waves of every year or so, the testing regimen will have to continue too. Until there is a vaccine, but that may never come. Or we reach herd immunity, but that is merely a fickle concept used mostly for cattle and may never come either. Or only at the cost of millions of lives.

We need to prevent the virus from “finding” new hosts. It is that easy. And there are ways to do it. But they don’t rhyme with “I won’t give up my freedom for your safety”. If that’s the route we take, we’re all going to live in very small and separated worlds. And what does “freedom” mean anymore then?

It’s obviously much easier to join the crowd and claim Bill Gates wants to force vaccinate us all, and the elites want to enslave us; and no doubt there’s a few psychos with crazy dreams. But maybe just maybe this is, or should be, more about us, about what we do, what powers we have, and what we do with those.

If the elites, or whoever else, wants to use the virus to make you their bitch, don’t let them. But do you really believe that letting a virus with just the right mix of lethal and contagious, run wild and undetected in your society, is the way to achieve that? Or might it be better to wear a face mask in public for a bit and get tested, or test yourself, until the virus is gone?

If you choose door number one, don’t you agree that you should blame yourself for that choice, not the so-called elites? Maybe you should take responsibility for your own lives, not blame whatever goes wrong on others. Maybe that’s a higher degree of freedom than saying we can’t do anything about it anyway, so let 50 million people die as long as I am free to go to McDonalds.

And you would be playing into Bill Gates’s hands to boot if you do that, provided you believe that he wants to depopulate the planet. How’s that work, he’s your bogeyman, him and the elites, and therefore you give them what they want? They want to depopulate, so you say sure, let the virus roam, while you could prevent it from doing that?

You might want to look up “freedom” in a dictionary.

 

 

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May 172020
 


Dorothea Lange Plantation overseer and his field hands, Mississippi Delta 1936

 

A Third Of COVID19 Hospital Patients Develop Dangerous Blood Clots (BBC)
China Adds Long-Term Organ Damage To List Of Effects Of COVID19 (SCMP)
May 16 Update: US COVID-19 Test Results (CR)
Llamas Could Be Our Secret Weapon Against Coronavirus (G.)
Lack Of Immunity Makes China Vulnerable To Another Wave Of Coronavirus (CNN)
Battle Looms At WHO Amid Pressure On China Over Coronavirus Inquiry (SCMP)
Trump Hints He May Reverse Course And Restore WHO Funding (F.)
Q2 US GDP Forecasts: Probably Around 30% Annual Rate Decline (CR)
Difficulties Abound On NYC’s Road To Reopen (Xinhua)
Brennan Claims Release Of Names Is ‘Abominable Abuse Of Authority’ (Fox)
Had Enough? (Jim Kunstler)
Economic Growth: Who Needs It? (Ms.)

 

 

• Over the past 24 hours US had +23,117 new cases (total 88,851) and +1,277 new deaths.
Note: both numbers are still well below White House predictions for the summer of 30,000 and 3,000, respectively

• Reported global new cases yesterday reached 100,184, new high.

• Russia reports 9,709 new coronavirus infections (yesterday: 9,200)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Note: new global cases yesterday 100,184

Cases 4,743,181 (+ 97,795 from yesterday’s 4,645,386)

Deaths 313,703 (+ 4,723 from yesterday’s 308,980)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

This by now is obvious. But I have my doubts over the following: “..This change in the blood is the result of severe inflammation in the lungs..”, because I haven’t seen any proof that it’s the immune system which makes the blood clot. Far as I can see, the stickiness could occur (e.g if virus impacts hemoglobin) before the blood reaches the lungs, and maybe even worsen the inflammation.

A Third Of COVID19 Hospital Patients Develop Dangerous Blood Clots (BBC)

Up to 30% of patients who are seriously ill with coronavirus are developing dangerous blood clots, according to medical experts. They say the clots, also known as thrombosis, could be contributing to the number of people dying. Severe inflammation in the lungs – a natural response of the body to the virus – is behind their formation. Patients worldwide are being affected by many medical complications of the virus, some of which can be fatal. Back in March, as coronavirus was spreading across the globe, doctors started seeing far higher rates of clots in patients admitted to hospital than they would normally expect. And there have been other surprises, including the discovery of hundreds of micro-clots in the lungs of some patients.

The virus has also increased cases of deep vein thrombosis – blood clots usually found in the leg – which can be life-threatening when fragments break off and move up the body into the lungs, blocking blood vessels. [..] “With a huge outpouring of data over the past few weeks I think it has become apparent that thrombosis is a major problem,” says Roopen Arya, professor of thrombosis and haemostasis at King’s College Hospital, London. “Particularly in severely affected Covid patients in critical care, where some of the more recent studies show that nearly half the patients have pulmonary embolism or blood clot on the lungs.” He believes the number of critically ill coronavirus patients developing blood clots could be significantly higher than the published data in Europe of up to 30%.

The professor’s blood sciences team in the hospital has been analysing samples from patients showing how coronavirus is changing their blood making it much more sticky. And sticky blood can lead to blood clots. This change in the blood is the result of severe inflammation in the lungs, a natural response of the body to the virus. “In severely affected patients we are seeing an outpouring of chemicals in the blood and this has a knock-on effect of activating the blood clotting,” says Prof Arya. And all this ultimately causes a patient’s condition to deteriorate. According to thrombosis expert Prof Beverley Hunt, sticky blood is having wider repercussions than just blood clots – it’s also leading to higher rates of strokes and heart attacks. “And yes sticky blood is contributing to high mortality rates,” she says.

Read more …

Which may all occur because of the impact on hemoglobin.

China Adds Long-Term Organ Damage To List Of Effects Of COVID19 (SCMP)

Understanding is growing of the effects of Sars-CoV-2, the official name of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, on the organs of patients – even after they apparently recover. While most patients, especially those with mild and moderate symptoms, can recover without long-term consequences to their health, studies indicate that those with severe symptoms can have organ damage and require a much longer time for rehabilitation. The commission said some Covid-19 patients might also develop heart problems such as angina and arrhythmia – conditions that could result directly from the virus or arise after a patient has been bedridden for a long time. The guidelines also list potential mental health problems resulting from Covid-19, including depression, insomnia, eating disorders and various changes in cognitive functions.


Other problems identified in the guidelines include muscle and limb-function loss. But kidney damage was not among the conditions named, despite a number of studies citing it as a potential long-term consequence. According to a study published in the journal Kidney International on Wednesday, one-third of 5,449 Covid-19 patients surveyed by researchers at Northwell Health, the biggest health provider in New York state, developed acute kidney failure. Lead researcher Kenar Jhaveri, associate chief of nephrology at Hofstra/Northwell in Great Neck, New York, told Reuters that 14.3 per cent of those with kidney failure required dialysis. There have also been reports of the coronavirus attacking the skin, the central nervous system and blood vessels, resulting in clogging and strokes.

Read more …

The myth that 1 million tests per day would be enough is persistent. A myth because it would take a full year to test everyone.

May 16 Update: US COVID-19 Test Results (CR)

The US might be able to test 400,000 to 600,000 people per day sometime in May according to Dr. Fauci – and that might be enough for test and trace. However, the US might need more than 900,000 tests per day according to Dr. Jha of Harvard’s Global Health Institute. There were 356,994 test results reported over the last 24 hours. This data is from the COVID Tracking Project. The percent positive over the last 24 hours was 7.0% (red line). The US probably needs enough tests to keep the percentage positive well below 5%. (probably much lower based on testing in New Zealand). NOTE: A few states are apparently including antibody tests with virus tests. The Covid tracking project is working to straighten that out.

Read more …

Just let them spit in your face and you’re fine.“In addition to larger antibodies like ours, llamas have small ones that can sneak into spaces on viral proteins that are too tiny for human antibodies..”

Llamas Could Be Our Secret Weapon Against Coronavirus (G.)

The solution to the coronavirus may have been staring us in the face this whole time, lazily chewing on a carrot. All we need, it seems, is llamas. A study published last week in the journal Cell found that antibodies in llamas’ blood could offer a defense against the coronavirus. In addition to larger antibodies like ours, llamas have small ones that can sneak into spaces on viral proteins that are too tiny for human antibodies, helping them to fend off the threat. The hope is that the llama antibodies could help protect humans who have not been infected. International researchers owe their findings to a llama named Winter, a four-year-old resident of Belgium.

Her antibodies had already proven themselves able to fight Sars and Mers, leading researchers to speculate that they could work against the virus behind Covid-19 – and indeed, in cell cultures at least, they were effective against it. Researchers are now working towards clinical trials. “If it works, llama Winter deserves a statue,” Dr Xavier Saelens, a Ghent University virologist and study author, told the New York Times. To any llama aficionado, this news should come as no surprise. The animals have developed a reputation for healing. Llama antibodies have been a fixture in the fight against disease for years, with researchers investigating their potency against HIV and other viruses.

And their soothing powers go beyond the microscopic. Llamas have become exam-season fixtures at a number of top US colleges. George Caldwell, who raises llamas in Sonora, California, brings his trusted associates to the University of California, Berkeley, UC Davis, Stanford, and other northern California universities and high schools, where their tranquility is contagious, helping students overcome end-of-term anxiety. “When you’re around a llama, you become very calm and at peace,” one Berkeley senior said at a campus event last year.

Read more …

CNN has an article on Dr. Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese government’s senior medical adviser, who, as featured prominently at the Automatic Earth at the time, infamously claimed in late January that the epidemic would be over in 10 days, so early February.

Lack Of Immunity Makes China Vulnerable To Another Wave Of Coronavirus (CNN)

China still faces the “big challenge” of a potential second wave of Covid-19 infections, the country’s top respiratory authority has warned, with the lack of immunity among the community a serious concern as the race to develop a vaccine continues. Dr. Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese government’s senior medical adviser and the public face of the country’s fight against Covid-19, also confirmed in an exclusive interview with CNN on Saturday that local authorities in Wuhan, the city where the novel coronavirus was first reported in December, had suppressed key details about the magnitude of the initial outbreak.

China has reported more than 82,000 coronavirus cases, with at least 4,633 deaths, according to data from the country’s National Health Commission (NHC). The number of new infections surged quickly in late January, prompting city lockdowns and nationwide travel bans. By early February, China was reporting as many as 3,887 fresh cases a day. A month later, however, daily cases had dropped into the double digits — while in the US, the number of daily infections skyrocketed, from 47 new cases on March 6 to 22,562 by the end of the month. Having now largely contained the virus, life in China is slowly returning to normal. Lockdowns have eased and some schools and factories have reopened across the country.

But Zhong said Chinese authorities should not be complacent, with the danger of a second wave of infections looming large. Fresh clusters of coronavirus cases have emerged across China in recent weeks, in Wuhan as well as the northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin. “The majority of … Chinese at the moment are still susceptible of the Covid-19 infection, because (of) a lack of immunity,” Zhong said. “We are facing (a) big challenge, it’s not better than the foreign countries I think at the moment.”

[..] Three US companies are already testing their vaccines on humans, according to the World Health Organization. They’re still in phase 1 or phase 2 trials, which typically involve giving the vaccine to dozens or hundreds of study subjects. Zhong said three Chinese vaccines are under clinical trials in the country — however a “perfect” solution was likely to be “years” away. “We have to test again and again and again … by using different kinds of vaccines. It’s too early to draw any conclusion which kind of vaccine is available for this kind of coronavirus … that’s why I suggest that the final approval of vaccine (will) take much longer,” he said.

Read more …

China’s going to stall.

Battle Looms At WHO Amid Pressure On China Over Coronavirus Inquiry (SCMP)

The World Health Organisation has been on the front line coordinating the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. When its decision-making body gathers, virtually, for its annual meeting on Monday, it will have another battle on its hands, as tensions escalate between China, the United States and other countries over Beijing’s response to the outbreak. The coronavirus will be the focus for the World Health Assembly meeting, to be attended by all 194 WHO member states plus observers, and where policies and budgets are reviewed and approved. But all eyes will be on how countries – including the US, Australia, Canada, France and Germany – pursue an investigation into China’s handling of the pandemic within the framework of the global health body.

That could include taking the Chinese government to the international court. Leaders of these countries have already made clear that they want an inquiry, including investigating the origin of the virus, whether it was initially covered up by China, and if Beijing was slow to tell the world that the virus was being transmitted between humans. The WHO has itself been under fire, attacked for praising China’s pandemic response as “transparent” despite Beijing’s suppression of whistle-blowers and information at the start of the outbreak. Under the WHO constitution, the global health agency can refer unresolved disputes to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the main legal organ of the United Nations. But health and legal experts said that was unlikely – and even if it did happen, the ICJ would not be able to enforce a decision.

“The WHO has never taken another state to the ICJ, and I do not anticipate that,” said Steven Hoffman, professor of global health, law and political science at York University’s Global Strategy Lab in Toronto. “If it happens it will be unprecedented.” Atul Alexander, assistant professor of law at West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, said it would be impossible to enforce a decision by the ICJ as it would need to be enacted by the UN Security Council, where China has veto power as one of five permanent members. “China would have to consent to the jurisdiction of the ICJ, which is never going to happen,” Alexander said.

Read more …

Only, that’s not what he said: “Have not made [a] final decision. All funds are frozen.”

Trump Hints He May Reverse Course And Restore WHO Funding (F.)

President Donald Trump said his administration was considering restoring partial funding to the World Health Organization Saturday morning after suspending U.S. support a month ago in a row over how the group has handled the coronavirus pandemic. On Friday evening, reports began to surface that Trump was prepared to restore about 10% of previous U.S. payments to WHO, reported to roughly match China’s share. Trump hit back at those reports Saturday morning, saying in a tweet that “this is just one of numerous concepts being considered… Have not made [a] final decision. All funds are frozen.”


He announced he would withhold U.S. funding from the WHO on April 14, and accused the group of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the coronavirus pandemic, and said he wouldn’t consider funding until a “60-to-90-day” investigation was completed. WHO officials and China have denied Trump’s claims. The U.S. was the group’s biggest financial supporter, and reportedly provided about $400 million to $500 million of the WHO’s $4.8 billion budget, or about 15%. According to NPR, the U.S. was already nearly $200 million behind on payments to the WHO when Trump announced he would halt future contributions.

Read more …

We’re going to have to look at how sick the economy was beforehand, or we’ll never get any wiser.

Q2 US GDP Forecasts: Probably Around 30% Annual Rate Decline (CR)

Important: GDP is reported at a seasonally adjusted annual rate (SAAR). So a 30% Q2 decline is around 7% decline from Q1 (SA).
• From Merrill Lynch: “We are tracking -5.2% qoq saar for 1Q GDP and expect a -30% qoq saar plunge in 2Q. [SAAR May 15 estimate]”.

• From the NY Fed Nowcasting Report “The New York Fed Staff Nowcast stands at -31.1% for 2020:Q2. [May 15 estimate]”.

• And from the Altanta Fed: GDPNow “The GDPNow model estimate for real GDP growth (seasonally adjusted annual rate) in the second quarter of 2020 is -42.8 percent on May 15, down from -34.9 percent on May 8. [May 15 estimate]”

Read more …

Chinese trolling. Still, reopening New York is a major gamble.

Difficulties Abound On NYC’s Road To Reopen (Xinhua)

Life came to a grinding halt for about 8.3 million residents in New York City when a statewide “PAUSE” order went into effect to curb the spread of COVID-19 nearly two months ago. So far, schools, businesses, and Broadway theaters have been shuttered, with health care workers fighting tirelessly to save lives in overwhelmed hospitals. On Friday, five regions in the central and northern parts of New York state reopened following a phased strategy. Those regions, largely remote and account for less than one-fifth of the state’s population, have not been hit hard by the pandemic. New York City still has to wait, as it has not met the requirements for reopening in new hospitalization, share of total hospital beds and ICU beds available — three of the seven benchmarks set by the state government.


Mayor Bill de Blasio said this month that the city would not see eased restrictions before June, and a true reopening will be “a few months away at minimum.” Despite a flattened curve, the data in New York City remain staggering. By Saturday afternoon, the city’s health department has reported 189,031 cases, more than those of countries including France and Germany. A death toll of 20,576 accounts for nearly a quarter of the national total. “While the (daily new) case count appears to be decreasing, there is still a need for it to go lower, and to have the ability to detect and trace the contacts of cases to prevent a major resurgence in the virus,” Jeff Schlegelmilch, deputy director for the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, told Xinhua.

“In a densely populated place like New York City, none of these things are simple, and all of this needs to be done at a large scale with quick reaction to changes in conditions,” he noted. Experts and officials underlined the significance of testing at the beginning of the crisis in early March. Both the mayor and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo have repeatedly vowed to expand testing capacity, especially in lower-income and minority communities. After more than two months’ efforts, however, the supply still falls short of the demand. “Lack of widespread testing was our Achilles’ heel from day one,” said de Blasio on Thursday. “We’re still playing catch-up.”


Also on Thursday, the mayor announced that any person with COVID-19 symptoms as well as anyone who has been in close contact with a confirmed case is now eligible to receive a test in New York City, which means these basic containment measures have never been fully conducted in the epicenter of the pandemic. Notably, the importance of contact tracing was largely ignored or deemed a mission impossible by local officials. During a press briefing on April 3, New York City’s Health Department Commissioner Oxiris Barbot said contact tracing was “not a good use of our resources” and the city has gone “past the point of contact tracing.” It was not until late April that both Cuomo and de Blasio announced their plans to hire thousands of people to get trained to be contact tracers. The tardy response at the local level reflects the whole picture of the nation. “The United States in general is behind the curve, literally and figuratively, in terms of testing and contact tracing,” said Schlegelmilch.

Read more …

Is this just desperation? He’s one of the names, after all. He wanted to unmask Flynn, but doesn’t want to be unmasked himself.

Also, I’m so tired of hearing how the Russians are going to try again. It shows you how an absolutely dead meme can live on as a zombie in partisan media.

Brennan Claims Release Of Names Is ‘Abominable Abuse Of Authority’ (Fox)

Former CIA director John Brennan, one of the officials who sought to “unmask” Michael Flynn during the presidential transition period, claimed Thursday the release of Obama-era names was an “abominable abuse of authority.” He called the recent actions by the Department of Justice to drop the case against Flynn combined with the release of names “blatant political corruption at the highest levels of U.S. government.” “When you have the administration– the White House, the attorney general, the acting head of the intelligence community all acting in concert to try to advance the personal interests of Mr. Trump… I think this is very, very serious,” Brennan told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace.

“I’m just hoping that individuals like Chris Wray who is a remarkable public servant, will continue to stay strong in the face of this type of abominable abuse of authority,” he said. Brennan, however, was not pressed by MSNBC’s Wallace and Brian Williams on why he sought the name of Flynn in the intercepted phone conversations of Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Rather, he lashed out over the disclosure of the names of the Obama administration officials who purportedly requested to “unmask” Flynn’s identity. Brennan also said he feared Trump officials were not going to stop Russian interference in the presidential election.

“As we have talked about the upcoming November election, how the Russians and others are going to seek to try to once again interfere and influence the outcome, I just am very concerned that some of those at the very top are not going to fulfill the duties that are entrusted to them by the American people,” Brennan remarked.

Read more …

How desperate is Obama’s renewed attack on Trump? What’s with the timing?

Had Enough? (Jim Kunstler)

Last weekend, in a well-leaked conference call, it appears, Judge Sullivan took marching orders from former President Obama who suggested snaring General Flynn on a perjury rap for withdrawing his guilty plea, and whaddaya know, the stratagem laid itself out this past week like a fully-crafted macramé, all the little tufts and knots neatly in place – thanks to the busy little fingers of Lawfare attorneys burning the midnight oil all week to get the thing hoisted up on the wall. The tortured logic of the scheme was really something to behold: by withdrawing a guilty plea Flynn had entered under oath, he would be guilty of lying to the court about being guilty in the first place, and therefore had perjured himself. Imagine the interior of the legal minds responsible for that: dank chambers of rot crawling with centipedes and mealybugs of subterfuge.


The judge’s transparently perfidious moves revealed the desperation of Mr. Obama and scores of former and current officials allied with him, who are themselves liable for prosecution in the unraveling tapestry of RussiaGate. There is a sentiment welling up in this land that enough is enough with these devious pranks of crooked lawyers, and today, being Friday, would be an excellent moment for the DC District US Court of Appeals to issue a writ of mandamus for Judge Sullivan to cut the shit and get on with his bound duty to put the Flynn case to rest. A nice added touch, if necessary, would be to kick Judge Sullivan’s seditious ass off the case and replace him with a judge who understands established law and precedent.

Read more …

Always a relevant question, but perhaps not most appropriate when the walls are caving in.

Economic Growth: Who Needs It? (Ms.)

Ardern hasn’t claimed to be post-growth, but her government’s aim of well-being provided a simpler, faster response to the pandemic than U.S. officials worried by GDP. In early March, with only eight reported cases of COVID-19 in a population of 4.8 million people, New Zealand anticipated the impact on an economy dominated by tourism. They quickly created a twelve billion Kiwi (NZ$) stimulus package (about $7.3 billion in US$), equal to about four percent of their nation’s GDP. Ninety percent of those Kiwi’s went directly to people for income support, wage subsidies, and tax relief for small businesses. Only a fraction went to their airline industry.

By comparison, in late March, the US reported 136,880 cases of COVID-19 in a population of 327 million. Our $2 trillion CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security) stimulus equaled 9.8 percent of GDP, yet only thirty percent, or about $604 billion, was slotted for direct payments and expanded unemployment benefits. Some mortgage and student loan payments were suspended, but not forgiven. Fully a quarter of CARES money went to big corporate loans, mostly for airlines to the tune of about $58 billion. A set aside for “national security” is widely believed to be for Boeing—remember them?

The Small Business Administration (SBA) got $350 billion, nearly 20 percent, but almost entirely for loans, and to businesses not as small as most women-owned micro-businesses. Another quarter of the CARES Act increases health and education funding through state block grants, municipal funding and increases for SNAP and WIC food programs. All bring with them a world of bureaucratic complications for the majority women in this crisis.

Read more …

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May 052020
 


G.G. Bain ‘Casino Theater playing musical ‘The Little Whopper’, NY 1920

 

30,000 New Cases, 3,000 New Deaths Daily Expected in US (CNN)
New Projection Puts US COVID19 Deaths At Nearly 135,000 By August (R.)
New Zealand PM: No Open Borders For ‘A Long Time’ (BBC)
Just 273 Of 18.1 Million People Arriving In UK Prior To Lockdown Quarantined (G.)
France’s First Known COVID19 Case ‘Was In December’ (BBC)
US Treasury Seeks To Borrow A Record $3 Trillion This Quarter (CNBC)
New York AG Asks Major Banks To Clarify Handling Of Small Business Loans (R.)
When the Birdies Sing Like the Fat Lady (Kunstler)
Apple, Google Ban Use Of Location Tracking In Contact Tracing Apps (R.)
Immunity Passports And Vaccination Certificates (Lancet)
‘Time Has Come’ For Universal Basic Income – Scottish PM Sturgeon (Ind.)
US Mortgage Firms Push For Support As Borrowers Halt Payments (R.)
Safe Climate Niche Closing Fast, With Billions At Risk (SMH)
Assange Extradition Hearing Delayed Until September (PR)

 

 

• The tally by Johns Hopkins University recorded 1,015 deaths in the past 24 hours, the lowest one-day figure in a month, with more than 1.17 million cases in the country as of 8:30 pm Monday (0030 GMT Tuesday), and a total 68,689 deaths

• US is improving only in NY,NY,CT and MA. Exclude those states and numbers are rising:

 

 

And while we’re at it, another success story: Sweden.

 

 

 

Cases 3,662,271 (+ 79,382 from yesterday’s 3,582,889)

Deaths 252,747 (+ 4,180 from yesterday’s 248,567)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

I don’t want to quote CNN anymore than NYT or WaPo, but I was looking for these numbers, and CNN has them here. Note: they are from different sources, and the CDC one is only a draft “report”, of which the White House said it’s “not reflective of any of the modeling” done by the White House Coronavirus Task Force or “data that the task force has analyzed.”

Indicative of the level at which CNN “functions” are sentences like these: “Trump, who has consistently appeared to care most about his political prospects during three miserable months..”

30,000 New Cases, 3,000 New Deaths Daily Expected in US (CNN)

President Donald Trump now knows the price of the haunting bargain required to reopen the country — tens of thousands more lives in a pandemic that is getting worse not better. It’s one he now appears ready to pay, if not explain to the American people, at a moment of national trial that his administration has constantly underplayed. Depressing new death toll projections and infection data on Monday dashed the optimism stirred by more than half the country taking various steps to reopen an economy that is vital to Trump’s reelection hopes and has shed more than 30 million jobs. Stay-at-home orders slowed the virus and flattened the curve in hotspots like New York and California, but they have so far failed to halt its broader advance, leaving the nation stuck on a grim plateau of about 30,000 new cases a day for nearly a month.

New evidence of the likely terrible future toll of Covid-19 came on a day when Trump stayed out of sight — his wild briefings that hurt his political prospects now paused — meaning he could not be questioned on his enthusiasm for state openings in the light of new evidence. The White House also took new steps to limit testimony to the House from members of the President’s coronavirus task force, prompting Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi to warn on CNN that it was “afraid of the truth.” Trump, who has consistently appeared to care most about his political prospects during three miserable months, mounted another victory lap on Monday — boasting on Twitter that he was finally getting “great reviews” for his virus management.

A new model from the University of Washington, previously used by the White House suggested that 134,000 Americans could now die by August — in a revised toll prompted by the likely impact of state openings. The total was more than double the same organization’s estimate last month. A draft internal report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention obtained by The New York Times buckled the White House narrative that the worst of the pandemic is passed and it’s time to get going again. It found that the daily death toll will reach about 3,000 by June 1, nearly double the current number.

Read more …

More from the IHME.

New Projection Puts US COVID19 Deaths At Nearly 135,000 By August (R.)

A new forecast projects nearly 135,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the United States through the beginning of August mainly due to reopening measures under way, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington said on Monday. The forecast U.S. death toll through early August totaled 134,475, a midrange between 95,092 and 242,890, the IHME said. The revised projection almost doubles the number of deaths foreseen in the United States since the last estimate in mid-April. The new projections reflect rising mobility and the easing of social distancing measures expected in 31 states by May 11, said the IHME, whose models are used by the White House.


The increasing contacts among people will promote transmission of the coronavirus, it said. “This new model is the basis for the sobering new estimate of U.S. deaths,” said IHME director Christopher Murray, referring to the reopening measures. The IHME said its new model assumes that public health orders that are currently in place will stay in place until infections are minimized. The IHME’s forecast increases the projected number of deaths in the U.S. by more than 62,000, with a rise of more than 8,700 deaths in New Jersey and more than 7,800 in New York state for the same period, up from estimates released last month.

Read more …

Good thing the Lord of the Rings is finished.

New Zealand PM: No Open Borders For ‘A Long Time’ (BBC)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the country will not have open borders with the rest of the world for “a long time to come”. Ms Ardern was speaking after attending part of Australia’s cabinet meeting via video link. The meeting discussed a possible “trans-Tasman bubble”, where people could go between Australia and New Zealand freely, and without quarantine. But she said visitors from further afield were not possible any time soon. Both Australia and New Zealand have closed their borders to almost all foreigners as part of their Covid-19 response. Ms Ardern said New Zealand and Australia were discussing a “bubble of sorts between us, a safe zone of travel”.


She stressed there was “a lot of work to be done before we can progress…but it’s obviously been floated because of the benefits it would bring”. But, in response to a question about the country’s tourism sector, Ms Ardern said: “We will not have open borders for the rest of the world for a long time to come.” Tourism is one of New Zealand’s biggest industries, directly employing almost 10% of the country’s workforce, and contributing almost 6% of GDP. Most visitors are from Australia, followed by China, the US, and the UK. Ms Ardern said any “trans-Tasman bubble” was only possible because of “the world leading actions” of both countries.

Read more …

And few and far between after, from what I’ve seen.

Just 273 Of 18.1 Million People Arriving In UK Prior To Lockdown Quarantined (G.)

Fewer than 300 people out of the 18.1 million who entered the UK in the three months prior to the coronavirus lockdown were formally quarantined, figures reveal. Passengers on three flights from Wuhan, in China, the source of the Covid-19 outbreak, and one flight from Tokyo, Japan, that was carrying passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, were taken to government-supported isolation facilities between 1 January to 22 March. The figures, provided by the government to the Labour MP and member of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Stephen Doughty, show this totalled 273 people. Additional data provided to the committee shows that there were 18.1m arrivals at the UK border by air, land and sea in the same period.

Although that includes arrivals from all destinations, it is understood that Home Office estimates would still put the number of potentially infected individuals entering the UK from coronavirus-affected countries in that period in the tens of thousands. Doughty said: “The admission that just four flights from two locations, barely a few hundred individuals – out of literally millions of arrivals – were formally quarantined while the pandemic was already raging in a series of locations beggars belief. “On what scientific basis were a handful of flights from Wuhan and one from a Tokyo singled out for extreme attention? But not a single flight from Northern Italy, Spain or the US?

“The fact that many of these people then likely arrived and travelled onwards across the UK with little or no adherence to social distancing, and with no checks or protections at the border – barely a whiff of hand sanitiser – is deeply disturbing. Let alone the arrival of 3,000 fans from Madrid as the pandemic picked up speed.

Read more …

But I thought the French strand didn’t come from China?!

France’s First Known COVID19 Case ‘Was In December’ (BBC)

A patient diagnosed with pneumonia near Paris on 27 December actually had the coronavirus, his doctor has said. Dr Yves Cohen told French media a swab taken at the time was recently tested, and came back positive for Covid-19. The patient, who has since fully recovered, said he had no idea where he caught the virus as he had not been to any infected areas. This news means the virus may have arrived in France almost a month earlier than previously thought. Dr Cohen, head of emergency medicine at Avicenne and Jean-Verdier hospitals near Paris, said the patient was a 43-year-old man from Bobigny, north-east of Paris. He was exhibiting what later became to be known as the main symptoms of coronavirus, including a dry cough, a fever and trouble breathing.


He was admitted to hospital on 27 December, four days before the World Health Organization’s China country office was informed of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause being detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The French patient told French broadcaster BFMTV that he had not travelled before falling sick. Dr Cohen said two of the patient’s children had fallen ill but that the wife had not shown any symptoms. But Dr Cohen pointed out that the patient’s wife worked at a supermarket near Charles de Gaulle airport and could have come into contact with people who had recently arrived from China. The patient’s wife said that “often customers would come directly from the airport, still carrying their suitcases”.

Read more …

The banks need more help, I’m sure.

US Treasury Seeks To Borrow A Record $3 Trillion This Quarter (CNBC)

Massive stimulus to support the U.S. economy through the coronavirus crisis will cause the Treasury to borrow a record $3 trillion this quarter. The department on Monday announced the total, which is actually $2.999 trillion. “The increase in privately-held net marketable borrowing is primarily driven by the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, including expenditures from new legislation to assist individuals and businesses, changes to tax receipts including the deferral of individual and business taxes from April – June until July, and an increase in the assumed end-of-June Treasury cash balance,” the department said in a statement. On top of that borrowing, the Treasury also said it anticipates another $677 billion in the third quarter. First-quarter borrowing totaled $477 billion.


The red ink comes thanks to multiple stimulus efforts Congress has passed to resuscitate an economy brought to a standstill amid social distancing efforts to halt the virus spread. Allocations thus far have totaled more than $2 trillion, and at last one more package is expected to help the more than 30 million Americans who have hit the unemployment line as well as thousands of other businesses that have seen their revenue streams evaporate. The Treasury Department also is backstopping several lending programs for the Federal Reserve, which is leveraging Treasury guarantees in programs aimed at providing another $2.2 trillion in funding to businesses and households.

Read more …

They’ll laugh in her face.

New York AG Asks Major Banks To Clarify Handling Of Small Business Loans (R.)

New York’s Attorney General said on Monday she has asked 11 major U.S. banks to clarify how they had issued loans tied to the U.S government’s $660 billion program to rescue small businesses from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Known as the Paycheck Protection Program, the plan was intended to help small firms weather the worst global economic crisis in decades but has been hobbled by missing paperwork, technology failure and a misdirection of funds to big corporations. Attorney General Letitia James said she is seeking information on the practices, marketing and procedures that banks undertook when they issued those loans.


Also of interest is whether some companies had used their lobbying power to influence the way banks had dispensed the loans, she said. “We are concerned that women and minority groups did not have equal access to loans,” James said in an interview, adding that she worried a disproportionate amount of money had flowed to big companies. A spokesman for James declined to name the 11 banks that had received a letter from the office, sent on April 29, but said they are “large” U.S. banks. The United States has been hardest hit by the coronavirus, which causes a respiratory disease, having seen 67,821 deaths in the country, higher than any other nation in the world.

Read more …

“The beauty of springtime is sublime and, as Edmund Burke noted, that very beauty provokes our thoughts of pain and terror.”

When the Birdies Sing Like the Fat Lady (Kunstler)

And so here we are at a fraught moment in the convergent crises of corona virus and the foundering economic system that it infected, with all its frightful pre-existing conditions. Of course, it isn’t capitalism, so-called, that is failing, but the perversions of capitalism, starting with the appendage of the troublesome term: ism. It isn’t a religion, or even a pseudo-religion like Zoroastrianism or communism. It’s simply the management system for surplus wealth. In a hyper-complex society, the management of wealth naturally grows hyper-complex, too, with lavish opportunities and temptations for chicanery, cheating, fraud, and swindling (the perversions of capital). It’s in the interest of the managers to cloak all that hyper-complex perversity in opaque language, to make it seem okay.

How many ordinary Americans have a clue what all the Municipal Liquidity Facilities, Primary Dealer Credit Facilities, Primary and Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facilities, Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facilities, Main Street New Loan Facilities and Expanded Loan Facilities, Commercial Paper Funding Facilities, currency swap lines, the TALFs TARPs, PPPs, SPVs represent – besides the movement, by keystrokes, of “money” from one netherworld to another (both conveniently located on Wall Street), usually to the loss of non-elite citizens generally and to their offspring’s offspring’s offspring?

Real capital is grounded in the production of real things of real value, of course, and when it’s detached from all that, it’s no longer real capital. Money represents capital, and when the capital isn’t real, the money represents…nothing! And ceases to be real money. Just now, America is producing almost nothing except money, money in quantities that stupefy the imagination – trillions here, there, and everywhere. The trouble is that money is vanishing as fast as it’s being created. That’s because it’s based on promises to be paid back into existence that will never be kept, on top of prior promises to pay back money that were broken or are in the process of breaking. The net result is that money is actually disappearing faster than it can be created, even in vast quantities.

All this sounds like metaphysical bullshit, I suppose, but we are obviously watching money disappear. Your paycheck is gone. That activity you started – a brew-pub, a gym, an ad agency – no longer produces revenue. The HR department at the giant company you work for told you: don’t bother coming into the office tomorrow, or possibly ever again. Your bills are piling up. The numbers in your bank account run to zero. That sure smells like money disappearing. Wait until the pension checks and the SNAP cards mysteriously stop landing in the mailbox. There’s going to be a lot of trouble. Ordinary Americans are going to get super-pissed if money doesn’t disappear from the stock markets, too.

Read more …

Every country develops its own app. And they’re all the best one, I’m sure.

Apple, Google Ban Use Of Location Tracking In Contact Tracing Apps (R.)

Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google on Monday said they would ban the use of location tracking in apps that use a new contact tracing system the two are building to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Apple and Google, whose operating systems power 99% of smart phones, said last month they would work together to create a system for notifying people who have been near others who have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The companies plan to allow only public health authorities to use the technology. Both companies said privacy and preventing governments from using the system to compile data on citizens was a primary goal. The system uses Bluetooth signals from phones to detect encounters and does not use or store GPS location data.

But the developers of official coronavirus-related apps in several U.S. states told Reuters last month it was vital they be allowed to use GPS location data in conjunction with the new contact tracing system to track how outbreaks move and identify hotspots. The Apple-Google decision to not allow GPS data collection with their contact tracing system will require public health authorities that want to access GPS location to rely on what Apple and Google have described as unstable, battery-draining workarounds. Alternatives likely would miss some encounters because iPhones and Android devices turn off Bluetooth connections after some time for battery-saving and other reasons unless users remember to re-activate them. But some apps said they planned to stick to their own approaches.

Software company Twenty, which developed the state of Utah’s Healthy Together contact tracing app with both GPS and Bluetooth, said on Monday the app “operates effectively” without the new Apple-Google tool. “If their approach can be more effective than our current solution, we’ll eagerly incorporate their features into our existing application, provided it meets the specifications of current and prospective public health partners,” Twenty said. Canada’s Alberta province, which does not collect GPS data, said it has no plans to adopt the Apple-Google system for its ABTraceTogether app. Privacy experts have warned that any cache of location data related to health issues could make businesses and individuals vulnerable to being ostracized if the data is exposed. Apple and Google also said Monday they will allow only one app per country to use the contact system, to avoid fragmentation and encourage wider adoption. The companies said they would, however, support countries that opt for a state or regional approach, and that U.S. states will be allowed to use the system.

Read more …

The Lancet should stand for quality. So sure, talk about why immunity passports won’t work. But what’s the use of discussing vaccination certificates when there’s no vaccine?

Immunity Passports And Vaccination Certificates (Lancet)

Many governments are looking for paths out of restrictive physical distancing measures imposed to control the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). With a potential vaccine against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) many months away,1 one proposal that some governments have suggested, including Chile, Germany, Italy, the UK, and the USA,2 is the use of immunity passports—ie, digital or physical documents that certify an individual has been infected and is purportedly immune to SARS-CoV-2. Individuals in possession of an immunity passport could be exempt from physical restrictions and could return to work, school, and daily life. However, immunity passports pose considerable scientific, practical, equitable, and legal challenges.

On April 24, 2020, WHO highlighted current knowledge and technical limitations, advising “[t]here is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection…[a]t this point in the pandemic, there is not enough evidence about the effectiveness of antibody-mediated immunity to guarantee the accuracy of an ‘immunity passport’”.3 In a follow-up tweet, WHO clarified that it is expected that infection with SARS-CoV-2 will result in some form of immunity.4 Caution is warranted about how population level serology studies and individual tests are used. It is not yet established whether the presence of detectable antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 confers immunity to further infection in humans and, if so, what amount of antibody is needed for protection or how long any such immunity lasts.3

Data from sufficiently representative serological studies will be important for understanding the proportion of a population that has been infected with SARS-CoV-2. These data might inform decisions to ease physical distancing restrictions at the community level, provided that they are used in combination with other public health approaches.5 The use of seroprevalence data to inform policy making will depend on the accuracy and reliability of tests, particularly the number of false-positive and false-negative results, and requires further validation.6

Read more …

Not her decision, so easy talk. And the Tories will never go there.

‘Time Has Come’ For Universal Basic Income – Scottish PM Sturgeon (Ind.)

The “time has come” for universal basic income (UBI) in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has said. Speaking at the daily coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, the first minister said there will be “constructive discussions” with the UK government on the matter. Under the scheme, residents would be given a universal payment from the government, with some benefits scrapped. The Scottish government has brought forward four pilots of a similar scheme in different council areas, but it is the UK government that has the ultimate power over creating a national scheme. When asked about the move at the briefing, the first minister said: “The experience of the virus and the economic consequences of that have actually made me much, much more strongly of the view that it is an idea that’s time has come.


The Scottish government would need more control over taxation and social security to make such a scheme a reality but the first minister said she hopes to “get into a constructive discussion” with the UK government about the scheme. She added she would like conversations to take place “hopefully reasonably quickly” after the coronavirus pandemic is over. The first minister added: “Watch this space.” Think tank Reform Scotland devised a detailed proposal for a UBI scheme. It would consist of an annual payment of £5,200 a year for adults and £2,600 for those under 16. Annually, the scheme would cost the Scottish government £20 billion, with measures found to raise £18.34 billion in revenue to support the scheme. When the think tank published its report in April, the first minister described it as “interesting and timely”, adding the coronavirus outbreak strengthened the case “immeasurably”.

Read more …

Support the most bloated zombies! Or: look, if you want to support these guys, forget about supporting anyone else.

US Mortgage Firms Push For Support As Borrowers Halt Payments (R.)

U.S. mortgage firms facing billions of dollars of missed home loan repayments are continuing to push for emergency government support as data published Monday showed a further rise in borrowers asking to halt payments. The number of people seeking to have mortgage payments paused or reduced rose to 7.5% as of April 26 from 7.0% a week earlier as the economic effects of the novel coronavirus outbreak stretched household finances, figures from the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) showed. The MBA estimates that 3.8 million homeowners are now in forbearance. The surge in delayed payments could leave mortgage service companies, which pool home loans and sell them to investors, with a liquidity shortfall of as much as $100 billion over the next nine months, according to the MBA.


That is because mortgage servicers still have to advance scheduled payments to investors even if borrowers fail to make their payments. Mortgage servicers want the Federal Reserve and Treasury to introduce an emergency liquidity facility to cover those payments but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week there were no current plans to offer such a lifeline. In an interview, the MBA’s Chief Executive Officer Bob Broeksmit said it was still discussing the issues with the Fed, Treasury and Federal Housing Finance Agency. “We don’t see it as the end of the matter,” he said. “We understand that the Fed and Treasury will continue to monitor the situation. We continue to advocate for the facility so we can prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”

Read more …

“..3.5 billion people will be exposed to “near-unliveable” temperatures averaging 29 degrees through the year by 2070 [..] That heat compares with the narrow 11- to 15-degree range that has supported civilisation over the past six millennia

Safe Climate Niche Closing Fast, With Billions At Risk (SMH)

As much as one-third of the world’s population will be exposed to Sahara Desert-like heat within half a century if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at the pace of recent years. Scientists from China, the US and Europe found that the narrow climate niche that has supported human society would shift more over the next 50 years than it had in the preceding 6000 years. As many as 3.5 billion people will be exposed to “near-unliveable” temperatures averaging 29 degrees through the year by 2070. Less than 1 per cent of the Earth’s surface now endures such heat. That heat compares with the narrow 11- to 15-degree range that has supported civilisation over the past six millennia, according to research published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Absent climate mitigation or migration, a substantial part of humanity will be exposed to mean annual temperatures warmer than nearly anywhere today,” the paper said. Xu Chi, a researcher at China’s Nanjing University and one of the paper’s authors, said: “We were frankly blown away by our own initial results. As our findings were so striking, we took an extra year to carefully check all assumptions and computations.” “Clearly we will need a global approach to safeguard our children against the potentially enormous social tensions the projected change could invoke.” Among the most exposed nations will be India – where many people live in “already-hot places” – with as many as 1.2 billion people likely to be forced to move if population and warming trends continue. For Nigeria, the number exposed could be 485 million, according to a media release distributed along with the paper.

The scenario used projected the total populations in India and Nigeria to reach 2.2 billion and 600 million, respectively, by 2070, Dr Xu told the Herald and The Age. In Australia, areas of Western Australia and the Northern Territory home to about 200,000 people will be at risk. The research extended current population and greenhouse gas emissions trends into the future, and excluded impacts from the coronavirus pandemic on both. The researchers also considered possible rainfall changed. “The global pattern of population distribution seems less constrained by precipitation – while there is also an optimum around 1000 mm [of rainfall a year ] – so we focused on temperature,” Dr Xu said. “Changes of precipitation regime would definitely have impacts, but such impacts together those of temperature change would be more complex to foresee.”

Read more …

“The UK is proud to be part of the Media Freedom Coalition championing press freedom around the world today.”

Assange Extradition Hearing Delayed Until September (PR)

Hearings in the extradition of WikiLeaks founder, publisher, and editor Julian Assange will resume in September after being postponed from May 18 because of the coronavirus outbreak, which would have prevented lawyers from attending the hearing. Judge Vanessa Baraitser said it would not be possible for it to recommence this month because of strict restrictions on gatherings to curb the spread of COVID-19. Assange’s lawyers have said they have been unable to discuss the case with their client since the coronavirus outbreak. “There have always been great difficulties in getting access to Mr. Assange. But with the coronavirus outbreak, the preparation of this case cannot be possible,” his attorney Edward Fitzgerald told the court. Today, Judge Baraitser said the case would be moved to another Crown Court in September, once one with availability is secured.

The parties were unable to schedule the three week hearing for July or August. In addition, time was needed so that US prosecutors could attend the hearing. The Daily Mail reported the government lawyer, James Lewis, saying, ‘We think it is doubtful flights will have resumed earlier than then so we would rather have a September date because it gives more opportunity to have the American prosecutors actually in court.’ The parties agreed September 7 as the earliest date for the hearings to resume, although an exact date and an appropriate venue were yet to be decided. “It’s going to take some negotiation to find a Crown Court that is open in September, in the current climate, and willing and available to take this hearing,” Judge Baraitser said in Westminster Magistrates’ Court today. The judge will announce the new location, which might be outside London, and the start date for the remaining three weeks of the hearing in writing to the lawyers on Friday.

Assange was not able to attend Monday’s hearing via videolink because his lawyers said he was not well enough to appear. Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks’ editor-in-chief, said in a video posted on social media on Monday that it was “completely unacceptable” that Assange has to spend another four months — and potentially longer — in prison. He described the hearing as a disgrace and denounced the tiny courtroom where only a few journalists could attend. He said this was not open justice and it needs to end. [..] Assange’s father John Shipton was delighted about the delay, saying it will allow family and supporters from Australia to attend. He’s also optimistic Assange might not be behind bars for the whole four months. He said, ‘I’m hoping there will be a very strong and firm bail application. It appears his lawyers held the power in today’s hearing and got the hearing dates they wanted, so it’s a good sign.’

Read more …

 

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CNN in Greece

 

 

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May 012020
 


Joseph-Désiré Court Le Masque 1843

 

No, I’m still not over the fact that they all initially missed the virus when they should have seen it most of all. The reasons why must be evaluated in every single location, in governments, CDC equivalents and obviously the WHO. A main reason is that they were all focusing on their economy, not the virus, -at least somewhat- ironically damaging their economies in the process.

I’m just afraid that you’re not going to prevent the next time, the next huge and deadly miss, as long as elections are popularity contests ultimately controlled by special interests. But at the same time, we’re past that first moment, which was somewhere in November or December (31st at the latest), and the next major threats loom.

After the Big Miss came the lockdowns, and as I said in Little Managers, that’s the one thing all these politicians may actually be somewhat good at. They stink at initial detection and reaction time, they stink at forward vision, but they can get people to stay home for a bit, and sell them that in the media.

They even get praised for it. Which is understandable, since their role is to set old ladies’ minds at ease, and most people, whatever age they are, have such minds, understandable but unfortunate, because 1) we’re about to leave the lockdowns phase as well and 2) they’re sure to screw up this one as royally as the first detection moment.

 

It would be good if everyone by now understood why lockdowns become inevitable after, but only after, initial detection has failed and the virus has been allowed to enter a society, if you face a highly contagious and deadly -to humans- virus that you don’t know anything about, but there are plenty people today who claim the lockdowns are what does the damage.

In case there is such a virus and you miss your first -and only- chance at “Crushing the Curve” (as opposed to flattening it, which is of limited use at best), you must prevent it from jumping from host to host, which means you need to keep people apart from each other to one extent or another. Societies have understood this for 1000s of years, and we don’t?

Keep people apart until you either know more about the virus, or you have a vaccine, or people become immune to it. Well, there’s no vaccine – did you know that no vaccine for a coronavirus was ever developed?-, immunity is in a very early phase, and just about literally everything we think we know about the virus is contradicted within 24 hours or so by a different report or group of “experts”.

 

These are truly not things we should let politicians fresh out of popularity contests decide. But that’s the model of our societies. The various relaxations of the various lockdowns are going to be an unmitigated disaster, guaranteed. We have all the elements for such disasters. It’ll work out fine in a few locations, but in most it will be terrible.

Because these guys and gals are under pressure from people who’ve been complaining about the lockdowns since the moment they were called. Because their “scientists” are, as we saw in The Only Man Who Has A Clue, utterly useless when it comes to even the most basic rules of risk assessment. But then for a few consecutive days numbers of cases and deaths seem to go down, and there is an election coming up next year or the one after that, and off to the races we are.

As long as there are no urgencies or calamities, we don’t notice these things, because everyone is busy living their own lives and fulfilling their own demands. And then when things do go wrong, there’s no redundancy, no resilience, no safety nets, and eventually no nothing. Because everyone’s too busy with their own lives.

We conduct our societies as if there is zero risk of a pandemic or any other disaster, because there’s no profit in redundancy. It’s a miracle we still have fire departments and hospitals, and those in most cases only still exist because someone has found a way to make money off of them (taxes).

 

Still, the worst thing about all the little managers “leading” us into the future is undoubtedly that little managers have no vision for that future. That’s why you hear “re-open”, re-this and re-that so much. But there is no “re-“, there is no going back to “normal”. And when you look at where we were pre-corona, you’d be mad not to ask why on earth we would want to go back there.

Shouldn’t we perhaps at least learn something from this virustime episode? Of course we should. But our “leaders” lack the ideas and vision to learn anything. They don’t go forward into the future, they go backward, fat asses first. They owe their jobs and their power to the past, after all.

And their only “science advisers”, the virologists and epidemiologists, also only look backwards, since their knowledge comes from past events, and they can only model the next “viral event” according to guesses, hunches, and a series of old algorithms. Some can construct a full genome of a virus within days or weeks, but still have no idea what it does.

We have the wrong people in charge at every step of the way. Because we have no idea what risk assessment is. Still, we’re all smart enough to understand that politicians and epidemiologists are the last people we would want to do that. And yes, that brings us straight back to The Only Man Who Has A Clue. When you don’t know what you’re up against, you don’t just try and guess and pray for a good outcome, you go back to basics: masks, testing, distance.

Lockdowns can’t last forever, people are social animals. Also, lockdowns don’t solve the problem, that’s not their goal; they merely buy you time. Would you say we have used that time wisely? Would you say it’s safe now to put less distance between people, who are for all intents and purposes potential hosts for a lethal virus?

I see a lot of claims that we know much more about the virus now, 4-6 weeks later, but I also see tons of contradictory reports, and I can only conclude we still know very little. Indeed, even many things we thought we knew turn out not to be true. And those happen to be the kinds of things that are essential if you want to assess risk.

Politicians and epidemiologists could only possibly have done one thing right -and they largely did- in this process: the lockdown. They understand what it is, and they have the tools to sell and enforce it. But that’s it. They don’t understand the risks involved in relaxing the lockdowns. It’s not just the pressure on them to “normalize” their societies, it’s that they don’t understand risk, period -but think and claim they do-.

That in itself is likely the biggest risk we face.

 

 

And I kid you not, I was setting out to write about finance and bailouts and stuff, and thought a little intro might be helpful, and it got a bit out of hand. Finance and bailouts “and stuff”, coming up, hopefully tomorrow. Got so much to say about that too. Sometimes it’s nice to just read news and opinions for a number of days without writing about it, but for me there’s always a lot of “what are these people thinking?”.

There are all these claims about elites and politicians and their grand schemes and plans and intentions, but so far I always veer back, along with Fat Tony, to the vastly underestimated achievements of sheer incompetence. But by all means, prove me wrong.

 

 

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Thanks for your generosity.

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth for your own good.

 

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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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’.

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Jun 162018
 
 June 16, 2018  Posted by at 9:08 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Paul Gauguin Nevermore 1897

 

Trump Sets Tariffs On $50 Billion In Chinese Goods; Beijing Strikes Back (R.)
Why The U.S.-China Trade Deficit Is So Huge (MW)
Wall Street Builds Immunity To Trade War Rhetoric (R.)
Nomi Prins: The Central Banking Heist Has Put The World At Risk (UH)
Some Of The ‘Most Systemically Important Banks’ In The World Are Tumbling (ZH)
Merger Mania (Lebowitz)
The Key Word In The Trump-Kim Show (Escobar)
Merkel’s Position As German Leader Under Threat Over Immigration Split (CNBC)
US Government Says 2,000 Child Separations At Mexico Border In 6 Weeks (R.)
French Police Cut Soles Off Migrant Children’s Shoes – Oxfam (G.)
In ‘Calais of Italy’ Tension Soars Over Migrant Crisis (AFP)
Greek Police Hunt Golden Dawn Lawmaker Faced with Charges of Treason (GR)

 

 

Negotiating.

Trump Sets Tariffs On $50 Billion In Chinese Goods; Beijing Strikes Back (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump said he was pushing ahead with hefty tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports on Friday, and the smoldering trade war between the world’s two largest economies showed signs of igniting as Beijing immediately vowed to respond in kind. Trump laid out a list of more than 800 strategically important imports from China that would be subject to a 25 percent tariff starting on July 6, including cars, the latest hardline stance on trade by a U.S. president who has already been wrangling with allies.

China’s Commerce Ministry said it would respond with tariffs “of the same scale and strength” and that any previous trade deals with Trump were “invalid.” The official Xinhua news agency said China would impose 25 percent tariffs on 659 U.S. products, ranging from soybeans and autos to seafood. China’s retaliation list was increased more than six-fold from a version released in April, but the value was kept at $50 billion, as some high-value items such as commercial aircraft were deleted.

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Soybeans R Us.

Why The U.S.-China Trade Deficit Is So Huge (MW)

President Donald Trump will let tariffs on Chinese goods worth up to $50 billion take effect after talks between the two countries failed to appease White House demands on reducing huge U.S. trade deficits. The U.S. has run large deficits with China for years and in some cases no longer produces certain goods such as consumer electronics that are popular with Americans. It won’t be easy, and it might even be impossible, to reduce the gap much any time soon. In 2017, the U.S. posted a $375.6 billion deficit in goods with China.

Most glaring is the huge deficit in computers and electronics, but the U.S. is a net importer from China in most market segments except for agriculture. The U.S. is excluding Chinese-made cellphones and televisions from its tariffs. China has been a big buyer of American-grown soybeans and other crops. Planes made by Boeing also are a product in demand in China. What happens next? Trump has vowed to increase tariffs if China retaliates, but the Chinese promised to return the favor. A trade dispute between the two largest economies in the world could result in lasting damage to the global economy if it metastasizes.

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What happens when there is no price discovery.

Wall Street Builds Immunity To Trade War Rhetoric (R.)

Fears of tariffs and a potential global trade war have jostled U.S. stocks over the past few months, but there is a sense among investors that the market is taking the drum beat of rhetoric and statements more in stride. In the latest salvo, U.S. President Donald Trump announced hefty tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese imports on Friday, and Beijing threatened to respond in kind. But even as the developments threatened to ignite a trade war between the world’s two largest economies, the equity market largely shrugged it off. The benchmark S&P 500 index ended down only 0.1 percent on Friday.

That paled compared to losses earlier in the year that were sparked by fears of a U.S.-China trade war that would be detrimental to economic growth. “The market has gotten reasonably comfortably numb to this tariff stuff,” said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana. “They are becoming more accustomed to this being a first foray and negotiating tool.” The U.S. Customs and Border Protection is to begin collecting tariffs on an initial tranche of 818 Chinese product categories on July 6. “It’s kind of the cry-wolf syndrome,” said Peter Tuz, president of Chase Investment Counsel in Charlottesville, Virginia. “I think people fear the tariffs and the uncertainty about it, but think, ‘OK, this is just another negotiating point.’”

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“..a de facto heist that has enabled the most dominant banks and central bankers to run the world”.

Nomi Prins: The Central Banking Heist Has Put The World At Risk (UH)

Over the last decade, she tells me when we meet in London, “under the guise of QE, central bankers have massively overstepped their traditional mandates, directing the flow of epic sums of fabricated money, without any checks or balances, towards the private banking sector”. Since QE began, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, “the US Federal Reserve has produced a massive $4.5 trillion of conjured money, out of a worldwide QE total of around $21 trillion”, says Prins. The combination of ultra-low interest rates and vast monetary expansion, she explains, has caused “speculation to rage … much as a global casino would be abuzz if everyone gambled using everyone else’s money”.

Much of this new spending power, though, has remained “inside the system”, with banks shoring up their balance sheets. “So lending to ordinary firms and households has barely grown as a result of QE,” says Prins, “nor have wages or prosperity for most of the world’s population”. Instead, “the banks have gone on an asset-buying spree”, she explains, getting into her stride, “with the vast flow of QE cash from central banks to private banks ensuring endless opportunities for market manipulation and asset bubbles – driven by government support”. Prins describes “the power grab we’ve seen by the US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan and other central banks”.

Using QE, she argues, “these illusionists have altered the nature of the financial system and orchestrated a de facto heist that has enabled the most dominant banks and central bankers to run the world”.

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They run the world and they’re still failing. Follow the money.

Some Of The ‘Most Systemically Important Banks’ In The World Are Tumbling (ZH)

Since the Federal Reserve hiked rates, “big” US banks have dramatically underperformed “small” US banks, continuing a trend that has been going on since February… But it’s broader than that; this “big” bank blow-up is global. The stock prices of 16 of the most ‘Systemically Important Financial Institutions’ (SIFIs) in the world are now in bear market territory (down by 20% or more from their recent highs in dollar terms); and as the FT reports, this has caused Ian Hartnett, chief investment strategist at London-based Absolute Strategy Research, to issue his first “Black Swan” alert since 2009.

Of the 39 SIFIs, these are the 16 in bear market territory: Deutsche Bank, Nordea, ICBC, UniCredit, Crédit Agricole, ING, Santander, Société Générale, BNP Paribas, UBS, Agricultural Bank of China, AXA, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Bank of China, Credit Suisse and Prudential Financial. At some point, says Hartnett, central bankers will have to respond to bearish signals from almost half the global SIFIs, rather than continuing to tighten monetary policy: “The clue is in the name,” he said. “If these banks are supposed to be systemically important then policymakers ought to be watching them to see what is happening.” “The synchronised dips were a sign of global financial stress.”

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“..there has been $2 trillion in mergers in 2018, and its only June.”

Merger Mania (Lebowitz)

We have written numerous articles describing how cheap money and poorly designed executive compensation packages encourage corporate actions that may not be in the best interest of longer-term shareholders or the economy. The bottom line in the series of articles is that corporations, in particular shareholders and executives, are willing to forego longer term investment for future growth opportunities in exchange for the personal benefits of short-term share price appreciation. Buybacks and mergers, both of which are fueled by the Federal Reserve’s ultra-low interest rate policy have made these actions much easier to accomplish.

On the other hand, corporate apologists argue that buybacks are simply a return of capital to shareholders, just like dividends. There is nothing more to them. Instead of elaborating about the longer term ill-effects associated with buybacks or the true short-term motivations behind many mergers, the powerful simplicity of the following two graphs stands on their own. The first graph, courtesy Meritocracy, shows how mergers tend to run in cycles. Like clockwork, merger activity tends to peak before recessions. Not surprisingly, the peaks tend to occur after the Federal Reserve (Fed) has initiated a rate hike cycle. The graph only goes through 2015, but consider there has been $2 trillion in mergers in 2018, and its only June.

The following graph shows how corporate borrowing has accelerated over the last eight years on the back of lower interest rates. Currently, corporate debt to GDP stands at levels that accompanied the prior three recessions. There is a pattern here among corporate activities which seems similar to that which we see in investors. At the point in time when investors should be getting cautious and defensive as markets become stretched, they carelessly reach for more return. Based on the charts above, corporate executives do the same thing. The difference is that when an investor is careless, his or her net worth is at risk. A corporate executive on the other hand, loses nothing and simply walks away and frequently with a golden parachute.

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The statement does have substance.

The Key Word In The Trump-Kim Show (Escobar)

The Singapore joint statement is not a deal; it’s a statement. The absolutely key item is number 3: “Reaffirming the April 27, 2018, Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” This means that the US and North Korea will work towards denuclearization not only in what concerns the DPRK but the whole Korean Peninsula. Much more than “…the DPRK commits to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula”, the keywords are in fact “reaffirming the April 27, 2018, Panmunjom Declaration…” Even before Singapore, everyone knew the DPRK would not “de-nuke” (Trump terminology) for nothing, especially when promised just some vague US “guarantees”.

Predictably, both US neocon and humanitarian imperialist factions are unanimous in their fury, blasting the absence of “meat” in the joint statement. In fact there’s plenty of meat. Singapore reaffirms the Panmunjom Declaration, which is a deal between North Korea and South Korea. By signing the Singapore joint statement, Washington has been put on notice of the Panmunjom Declaration. In law, when you take notice of a fact, you can’t ignore it later. The DPRK’s commitment to denuclearize in the Singapore statement is a reaffirmation of its commitment to denuclearize in the Panmunjom Declaration, with all of the conditions attached to it. And Trump acknowledged that by signing the Singapore statement.

The Panmunjom Declaration stresses that: “South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. South and North Korea shared the view that the measures being initiated by North Korea are very meaningful and crucial for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and agreed to carry out their respective roles and responsibilities in this regard. South and North Korea agreed to actively seek the support and cooperation of the international community for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

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The risk is real.

Merkel’s Position As German Leader Under Threat Over Immigration Split (CNBC)

A split over immigration between Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister Christian Social Union (CSU) party is threatening to end her 12-year spell as Germany’s leader. Germany’s grand coalition government was formed in March after five months of political deadlock since an election the previous September. It resulted in Merkel’s fourth term as German chancellor. That vote saw a big upswing in support for the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, who campaigned against Merkel’s open-door policy to refugees and migrants arriving from the Middle East and Africa.

Now the CSU, fearful of losing further support from its conservative base, is threatening to withdraw from the country’s grand coalition unless Merkel hardens her immigration stance. “My sources in Berlin say the situation is on a knife-edge right now, some are even giving it an 80 percent probability that Merkel will step down in the next two weeks,” said Nina Schick, director at political consultancy Rasmussen Global, in a telephone call to CNBC Friday. Schick, however, warned that writing Merkel off has long been a dangerous game. “The fundamental rule in German politics since 2006 is don’t underestimate Merkel,” she added.

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CUT IT OUT! Bunch of crazies.

US Government Says 2,000 Child Separations At Mexico Border In 6 Weeks (R.)

The government said on Friday that 1,995 children were separated from 1,940 adults at the U.S.-Mexico border between April 19 and May 31, as the Trump administration implements stricter border enforcement policies. The number represents a dramatic uptick from the nearly 1,800 family separations that Reuters reported had happened from October 2016 through February of this year. The official tally of separations is now nearly 4,000 children, not including March and the beginning of April 2018. In May, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a ‘zero tolerance’ policy in which all those apprehended entering the United States illegally would be criminally charged, which generally leads to children being separated from their parents.

The families were all separated so the parents could be criminally prosecuted, said a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, who declined to be named, on a call with reporters. “Advocates want us to ignore the law and give people with families a free pass,” said the official. “We no longer exempt entire classes of people.” The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request to provide a breakdown of the age of children separated from their parents and held in custody, but the official said they do not separate babies from adults.

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I said: CUT IT OUT!

French Police Cut Soles Off Migrant Children’s Shoes – Oxfam (G.)

French border police have been accused of detaining migrant children as young as 12 in cells without food or water, cutting the soles off their shoes and stealing sim cards from their mobile phones, before illegally sending them back to Italy. A report released on Friday by the charity Oxfam also cites the case of a “very young” Eritrean girl, who was forced to walk back to the Italian border town of Ventimiglia along a road with no pavement while carrying her 40-day-old baby. The allegations, which come from testimony gathered by Oxfam workers and partner organisations, come two months after French border police were accused of falsifying the birth dates of unaccompanied migrant children in an attempt to pass them off as adults and send them back to Italy.

“We don’t have evidence of violent physical abuse, but many [children] have recounted being pushed and shoved or shouted at in a language they don’t understand,” Giulia Capitani, the report’s author, told the Guardian. “And in other ways the border police intimidate them – for example, cutting the soles off their shoes is a way of saying, ‘Don’t try to come back’.” Daniela Zitarosa, from the Italian humanitarian agency Intersos, said: “Police [officers] yell at them, laugh at them and tell them, ‘You will never cross here’. “Some children have their mobile phone seized and sim card removed. They lose their data and phonebook. They cannot even call their parents afterwards.”

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France’s role is not pretty. Macron’s criticism of Italy unveils it.

In ‘Calais of Italy’ Tension Soars Over Migrant Crisis (AFP)

Emmanuel Macron is not a welcome guest in the Italian border town of Ventimiglia, a flashpoint in Europe’s migration crisis. Residents are furious at the French president for charging Rome with “cynicism and irresponsibility” this week after it turned away a rescue boat carrying more than 600 asylum-seekers. “It’s bad what happened to the Aquarius (ship) but how dare Macron criticise Italy!” vented retired teacher Fulvia Semeria who volunteers for the Secours Catholique charity, a key aid group for migrants. “It’s unacceptable from a country that does nothing for migrants and even rejects them,” she said, calling his remarks “insulting and totally unfair”.

The pretty northern town at the gates of the French Riviera has received tens of thousands of asylum seekers pushed back by France since the eruption of Europe’s worst migration crisis three years ago. This is in addition to scores of desperate African refugees landing on its shores after undertaking the perilous journey across the Mediterranean. The influx has seen Ventimiglia dubbed the “Calais of Italy”, in reference to the French coastal town notorious for its sprawling migrant camps. [..] At least 16 migrants have died trying to cross from France into Italy since September 2016, falling off mountains, being hit by cars or electrocuted while hiding under train carriages.

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Pretty crazy. All over a name change.

Greek Police Hunt Golden Dawn Lawmaker Faced with Charges of Treason (GR)

A Golden Dawn lawmaker is on the run after Greece’s authorities issued an arrest warrant following his call in the parliament on Friday for the arrest of the country’s prime minister and president over the provisional ‘Macedonia’ name deal. According to reports, Konstantinos Barbarousis, who could face charges of high treason, escaped a police blockade late on Friday in the western region of Aetoloakarnania where he sought refuge. A huge police operation is under way to locate him and bring him to justice. Judicial authorities do not need Parliament’s approval to lift an MP’s immunity in the case of treason-related charges.

Speaking in Parliament, Barbarousis accused the government of “not legislating in the nation’s interests but in its own.” He called for a coup d’etat and asked on the Greek armed forces to “abide by their oath” and arrest Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, Defense Minister Panos Kammenos and President Prokopis Pavlopoulos. His outburst led to his expulsion form the extremist party, as the speaker of the house barred any members of Golden Dawn speaking during the debate on a no-confidence motion against the government tabled after the Greece, FYROM agreement.

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Jan 112018
 


Gutzon Borglum Repairing the Face of Abraham Lincoln, Mount Rushmore 1962

 

Japan Will Trigger ‘The Great Unwind’ – Albert Edwards (MW)
Central Banks Ready To Pop The ‘Everything’ Bubble (Smith)
The $50 Trillion Question for Bonds (BW)
China Weighs Slowing or Halting Purchases of US Treasuries (BBG)
Is Beijing Bluffing On Treasuries? (BBG)
South Korea’s Largest Cryptocurrency Exchanges Raided For Tax Evasion (R.)
South Korea Preparing Bill That Will Ban All Cryptocurrency Trading (CNBC)
China Moves To Shutter Bitcoin Mines (CNBC)
Buy Off Trump With the Wall (Lowry)
Russian Bid To Influence Brexit Vote Detailed In New US Senate Report (G.)
Assange Gets Ecuador ID; ‘First Step’ To Diplomatic Immunity? (RT)
Greece to Remain Under Lenders’ Supervision Until 2059 – Handelsblatt (GR)
Insect Declines: New Alarm Over Mayfly Is ‘Tip Of Iceberg’ (G.)
Theresa May Vows To Eliminate UK Plastic Waste By 2042 (Ind.)

 

 

As Abenomics goes belly-up, so will a large segment of financial markets. Japan is done.

Japan Will Trigger ‘The Great Unwind’ – Albert Edwards (MW)

Japan is the catalyst that could bring the record-setting bull market for stocks across the globe to a screeching halt, according to Société Générale’s uberbear Albert Edwards. The prominent SocGen strategist says surprise monetary tightening in Japan could be the trigger that finally upend what has been an protracted and unrelenting global rally for assets considered risky. While most investors are busy eyeing rate increases in the U.S. and tapering by the ECB in the eurozone, Edwards says they should also watch developments in the world’s third-largest economy, Japan, where corporate profits are surging and inflation has picked up.

“We’ve been looking for surprises and one thing that can catch us out is if the Bank of Japan starts tightening. If it actually follows the Fed and the ECB and announces some sort of tapering,” he said, speaking at SocGen’s annual strategy conference in London on Tuesday. “This could be far more important than the Fed. A lot of major trends start with Japan. People don’t focus on Japan enough in my view,” he added. Investors on Tuesday got a taste of how BOJ tightening can rattle the markets. The central bank said it would buy less of its long-dated bonds, sparking speculation Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda could back away from its ultraloose monetary policy as early as this year. The surprise announcement sent global bond markets into spin on Tuesday. The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes jumped above 2.5% to its highest since March and the 30-year bond yield logged its biggest one-day jump since Dec. 19.

[..] The BOJ has for years been among the most accommodative central banks in the world and as recent as December reaffirmed its commitment to aggressive qualitative and quantitative-easing program, also known as QQE. With inflation stubbornly running below the BOJ’s 2% annual target, the central bank has since early 2016 kept interest rates in negative territory and even introduced a 0%-target for its 10-year government bond yields to avoid deflation. The determined efforts by the BOJ to boost consumer prices have turned investors against the yen with data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission showing an extreme bearishness toward the Japanese currency. However, downbeat investors on the yen could be caught flat-footed if inflation starts to pick up, prompting the BOJ to halt easing efforts, Edwards warned.

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A concerted effort to let markets implode. And blame Trump.

Central Banks Ready To Pop The ‘Everything’ Bubble (Smith)

Many people do not realize that America is not only entering a new year, but within the next month we will also be entering a new economic era. In early February, Janet Yellen is set to leave the Federal Reserve and be replaced by the new Fed chair nominee, Jerome Powell. Now, to be clear, the Fed chair along with the bank governors do not set central bank policy. Policy for most central banks around the world is dictated in Switzerland by the Bank for International Settlements. Fed chairmen like Janet Yellen are mere mascots implementing policy initiatives as ordered. This is why we are now seeing supposedly separate central banking institutions around the world acting in unison, first with stimulus, then with fiscal tightening. However, it is important to note that each new Fed chair does tend to signal a new shift in action for the central bank.

For example, Alan Greenspan oversaw the low interest rate easy money phase of the Fed, which created the conditions for the derivatives and credit bubble and subsequent crash in 2008. Ben Bernanke oversaw the stimulus and bailout phase, flooding the markets with massive amounts of fiat and engineering an even larger bubble in stocks, bonds and just about every other asset except perhaps some select commodities. Janet Yellen managed the tapering phase, in which stimulus has been carefully and systematically diminished while still maintaining delusional stock market euphoria. Now comes the era of Jerome Powell, who will oversee the last stages of fiscal tightening, the reduction of the Fed balance sheet, faster rate increases and the final implosion of the ‘everything’ bubble.

As I warned before Trump won the election in 2016, a Trump presidency would inevitably be followed by economic crisis, and this would be facilitated by the Federal Reserve pulling the plug on fiat life support measures which kept the illusion of recovery going for the past several years. It is important to note that the mainstream media is consistently referring to Jerome Powell as “Trump’s candidate” for the Fed, or “Trump’s pick” (as if the president really has much of a choice in the roster of candidates for the Fed chair). The public is being subtly conditioned to view Powell as if he is an extension of the Trump administration. This could not be further from the truth. Powell and the Fed are autonomous from government.

[..] So, why is the media insisting on misrepresenting Powell as some kind of Trump agent? Because Trump, and by extension all the conservatives that support him, are meant to take the blame when the ‘everything’ bubble vaporizes our financial structure. Jerome Powell is “Trump’s guy” at the Fed; so any actions Powell takes to crush the recovery narrative will also be blamed on the Trump administration.

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Bond markets want their cake and eat it. First, low yields are a good thing; then rising yields show how good everything has become.

The $50 Trillion Question for Bonds (BW)

Government bond yields, exemplified by the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury, have enjoyed three decades of decline. Their recent jump is prompting a heated debate over whether that bull market is over. It matters because there’s more riding on the question than ever before.

The value of benchmark bonds eligible for inclusion in the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Bond Index, which includes government, corporate and securitized debt from 24 local currency markets, has doubled in the past decade to almost $50 trillion.

While calling the turn in bonds, especially in Europe, has been a widow-making trade in recent years, recent moves certainly look like the trend is no longer your friend. The yield on the two-year Treasury has about doubled in the past year, and is a whisker away from 2%. Even at its current super-low level of about 0.55%, the 10-year German yield is up from its nadir of about minus 0.2% reached in July 2016.

Here’s the thing, though. Even if government bond yields are on a sustained path to higher levels, it’s arguably a positive sign for the global economy. A return to more normal borrowing costs would reinforce hopes that the world is finally free from the debilitating aftershocks from the financial crisis. Moreover, the new normal is still likely to be at lower levels than the old normal. Note that in the past 30 years, the 10-year Treasury yield peaked at about 9.4% in August 1988 and plateaued at 1.36% in July 2016. Its current poke above 2.5% still leaves it at about half of its three-decade average. For central banks seeking to normalize monetary policy, rising government bond yields will come as something for a relief. For investors who bought at the peak of the bull market, however, there could be painful times ahead.

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Only game in town.

China Weighs Slowing or Halting Purchases of US Treasuries (BBG)

China added to bond investors’ jitters on Wednesday as traders braced for what they feared could be the end of a three-decade bull market. Senior government officials in Beijing reviewing the nation’s foreign-exchange holdings have recommended slowing or halting purchases of U.S. Treasuries, according to people familiar with the matter. The news comes as global debt markets were already selling off amid signs that central banks are starting to step back after years of bond-buying stimulus. Yields on 10-year Treasuries rose for a fifth day, touching the highest since March. China holds the world’s largest foreign-exchange reserves, at $3.1 trillion, and regularly assesses its strategy for investing them. It isn’t clear whether the officials’ recommendations have been adopted.

The market for U.S. government bonds is becoming less attractive relative to other assets, and trade tensions with the U.S. may provide a reason to slow or stop buying American debt, the thinking of these officials goes, according to the people [..] “With markets already dealing with supply indigestion, headlines regarding potentially lower Chinese demand for Treasuries are renewing bearish dynamics,” said Michael Leister at Commerzbank. “Today’s headlines will underscore concerns that the fading global quantitative-easing bid will trigger lasting upside pressure on developed-market yields.” The Chinese officials didn’t specify why trade tensions would spur a cutback in Treasuries purchases, though foreign holdings of U.S. securities have sometimes been a geopolitical football in the past.

[..] Any reduction in Chinese purchases would come just as the U.S. prepares to boost its supply of debt. The Treasury Department said in its most recent quarterly refunding announcement in November that borrowing needs will increase as the Federal Reserve reduces its balance sheet and as fiscal deficits look set to widen. “It’s a complicated chess game as with everything the Chinese do,” said Charles Wyplosz, a professor of international economics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. “For years they have been bothered by the fact that they are so heavily invested in one particular class of U.S. bonds, so it’s just a question of time before they would try to diversify.”

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The dollar is still king.

Is Beijing Bluffing On Treasuries? (BBG)

The Bloomberg News report that senior government officials in Beijing recommended slowing or halting purchases of U.S. Treasuries is encountering a wall of skepticism, and rightly so. Even China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange said Thursday that the report “might have cited wrong sources or may be fake news.” There’s a third possibility: that Beijing floated a trial balloon to see how the market would react.To the extent China would have to scoop up incoming dollars to keep the value of the yuan from rising too much too soon, what else can it possibly purchase with those dollars? Treasuries maturing in five years pay 2.32%. If China tries to alter the composition of its $3.1 trillion foreign-exchange war chest by swapping dollars to buy comparable securities denominated in any of the world’s main reserve currencies, it will find German bunds and British gilts paying even less.

Japanese and Swiss bonds offer somewhat higher yields. However, if every central bank in the world had given up on the world’s most liquid security every time it got a half-percent extra yield somewhere else, the dollar’s share in the world’s known reserves wouldn’t have held above 60% for almost a quarter-century. (It’s 63.5% now.) If Beijing wants a bargaining chip in trade tensions with the U.S., it should look elsewhere.In 2009, the Chinese central bank did try to diversify away from the dollar. The euro’s share in known global reserves peaked at 28% a few months after Wen Jiabao, the then Chinese premier, said he was “worried” about the huge amount of money his country had lent to the U.S.Then he – and the world – got something rather more real to worry about as the European debt crisis became an existential threat to that region’s single currency. According to the most recent data from the IMF, the euro’s share in worldwide foreign-exchange reserves is now down to 20%.

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As 2018 progresses, we’ll see many reports, across the globe, of taxes owed on 2017 crypto gains.

South Korea’s Largest Cryptocurrency Exchanges Raided For Tax Evasion (R.)

South Korea’s largest cryptocurrency exchanges were raided by police and tax agencies this week for alleged tax evasion, people familiar with the investigation said on Thursday. “A few officials from the National Tax Service raided our office this week,” an official at Coinone, a major cryptocurrency exchange in South Korea, told Reuters. “Local police also have been investigating our company since last year, they think what we do is gambling,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said Coinone was cooperating with the investigation. Bithumb, the second largest virtual currency operator in South Korea, was also raided by the tax authorities on Wednesday.

“We were asked by the tax officials to disclose paperwork and things yesterday,” an official at Bithumb said, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. South Korean financial authorities had previously said they are inspecting six local banks that offer virtual currency accounts to institutions, amid concerns the increasing use of such assets could lead to a surge in crime. The crackdown on Seoul-based operators of some of the world’s busiest virtual currency exchanges comes as the government attempts to calm frenzied demand for cryptocurrency trading in Asia’s fourth largest economy. Bitcoin’s 1,500% surge last year has stoked huge demand for cryptocurency in South Korea, drawing college students to housewives and sparking concerns about a gambling addiction.

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They’re getting serious.

South Korea Preparing Bill That Will Ban All Cryptocurrency Trading (CNBC)

South Korea’s justice minister said on Thursday that a bill is being prepared to ban all cryptocurrency trading in the country. That news is a major development for the cryptocurrency space, as South Korea is one of the biggest markets for major coins like bitcoin and ethereum. According to industry website CryptoCompare, more than 10% of ethereum is traded against the South Korean won — the second largest concentration in terms of fiat currencies behind the dollar. Meanwhile, 5% of all bitcoin are traded against the won. “There are great concerns regarding virtual currencies and justice ministry is basically preparing a bill to ban cryptocurrency trading through exchanges,” Park Sang-ki said at a press conference, according to the ministry’s press office.

Bitcoin tumbled more than 12% following Park’s remarks, according to CoinDesk’s bitcoin price index that tracks prices from four exchanges. At 1:26 p.m. HK/SIN, the cryptocurrency price retraced some of its losses to trade at $13,547.7. Park added that he couldn’t disclose more specific details about proposed shutdown of cryptocurrency trading exchanges in the country, adding that various government agencies would work together to implement several measures. Reuters further reported that a press official said the proposed ban on cryptocurrency trading was announced after “enough discussion” with other government agencies including the nation’s finance ministry and financial regulators.

Cryptocurrency trading in South Korea is very speculative and similar to gambling. Major cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum are priced significantly higher in the country’s exchanges than elsewhere in the world. For example, bitcoin traded at $17,169.65 per token at local exchange Bithumb, which was a 31% premium to the CoinDesk average price. That difference in price is called a “kimchi premium” by many traders. [..] earlier this week, industry data provider CoinMarketCap tweeted that it would exclude some South Korean exchanges in price calculations due to the “extreme divergence in prices from the rest of the world” and for “limited arbitrage opportunity.”

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Beijing doesn’t see bitcoin as an asset to its power politics.

China Moves To Shutter Bitcoin Mines (CNBC)

China is moving to eradicate the country’s bitcoin mining industry over concerns about excessive electricity consumption and financial risk, reflecting authorities’ judgment that cryptocurrencies are not a strategic industry. A multi-agency task force has instructed provincial governments to “actively guide” companies in their respective regions to exit the cryptocurrency mining industry, according to a document seen by the Financial Times. The move to pressure miners follows China’s shutdown of local bitcoin exchanges and its ban on initial coin offerings. Miners create new bitcoins by solving complex maths problems whose solutions are used to validate new bitcoin transactions. Though ostensibly a computational task, the reliance on raw computing power makes the process more akin to industrial manufacturing than traditional high-technology businesses.

Many bitcoin miners have established operations in remote areas without even registering a company. Some have also skirted Chinese regulations that forbid end users from purchasing electricity directly from power producers rather than grid operators. China mines about three-quarters of the world’s bitcoins, according to Liao Xiang, chief executive of Lightningasic, a Shenzhen-based mining operation. Chinese miners have taken advantage of cheap electricity in regions rich in coal or hydroelectric power, including Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, Sichuan and Yunnan. The global industry accounts for 0.17% of global electricity consumption, more than 161 individual countries, according to Digiconomist, a website that tracks the industry.

[..] Bitcoin mining “consumes a large amount of electricity and also encourages a spirit of speculation in ‘virtual currencies'”, according to the document. Mining operations contradict efforts to prevent financial risk and to discourage activities that “deviate from the needs of the real economy”, it added. The internet finance task force, which includes the People’s Bank of China, has previously led regulatory tightening efforts on peer-to-peer lending and online consumer loans. The order does not call on regional authorities to shut mining operations directly, but rather to squeeze them out by strictly enforcing policies on electricity consumption, land use, tax collection and environmental regulation

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How Democrats sell out Dreamers.

Buy Off Trump With the Wall (Lowry)

There is a very easy way for Democrats to get major concessions from President Donald Trump on immigration: Give him his Wall. This is the key to a deal codifying the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the Obama-era de facto amnesty for a segment of so-called Dreamers. All it takes is giving Trump a plausible start to the Wall that the president can then, in his inimitable way, promote as the greatest structure built on a border since Hadrian began his famous handiwork at the northern limit of the Roman Empire in 122. That the Democrats very likely won’t do this speaks to their irrational aversion to a Wall that they can’t view dispassionately any more than Trump can. It used to be that enhanced security on the border, and yes, a physical structure that in places is effectively a wall, had bipartisan support.

The Secure Fence Act of 2006 passed the House by a vote of 283-138 and the Senate 80-19. It called for building roughly 700 miles of double-layer fencing on the border, and no one seemed to believe that the United States had irreparably sullied its reputation. This wasn’t the first time anyone had thought of a fence, of course. There had been barriers in the San Diego area for a very long time, although not particularly robust ones. Beginning in the 1980s, more serious structures were built. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, there are 46 miles of fencing overall and 13 miles of double fencing in the San Diego-Tijuana corridor, where there used to be a nightly influx of undocumented immigrants. In some sections, the barriers are 10-feet-tall military helicopter pads indistinguishable from a wall.

Again, no one believes San Diego has closed itself off from the world by adopting a common-sensical and — in this urban area — effective prophylactic against illegal immigration. But Democrats now find find physical barriers on the border offensive, especially if they have enough solidity to be called a Wall. One immigration advocate, in a typical sentiment, told The Huffington Post that the Wall is a “tool to instill hate and division.” This lunacy has rapidly become Democratic orthodoxy. Harry Enten of 538 notes that in 2006 almost 40% of Democrats supported building a Wall. By February of last year, Democrats were against it by 89% to 8%.

The hostility toward the Wall is part of a broader Democratic leftward lurch on immigration, but also a simple schoolyard calculus that if Trump supports something, they must oppose it. This forecloses the most basic legislative give-and-take. If Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer gave Trump something significant on the Wall, they would be able to find their way home — as John Jay said after concluding an unpopular treaty with the British in 1795 — by the light of their own burning effigies. Their voters would scorn them as traitors complicit in the alleged horrid bigotry of Donald J. Trump.

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Well, no. Just another instance of everything being insinuated, in the hope that a sliver is remembered. Fake news.

Russian Bid To Influence Brexit Vote Detailed In New US Senate Report (G.)

Russia’s attempts to influence British democracy and the potential vulnerability of parts of the UK political system to anti-democratic meddling during the EU referendum have been detailed in a report prepared by the US Senate. The report by Democrats on the Senate foreign relations committee, titled Putin’s asymmetric assault on democracy in Russia and Europe: implications for US national security, pinpoints the way in which UK campaign finance laws do not require disclosure of political donations if they are from “the beneficial owners of non-British companies that are incorporated in the EU and carry out business in the UK”. This opacity, the report suggests, “may have enabled Russian-related money to be directed with insufficient scrutiny to various UK political actors”.

“Investigative journalists have also raised questions about the sources of sudden and possibly illicit wealth that may have been directed to support the Brexit ‘Leave’ campaign.” The UK Electoral Commission has already launched an investigation into the issue. The senators point out that Ukip and its then-leader, Nigel Farage, did not just fan anti-EU sentiment but also “criticised European sanctions on Russia, and provided flattering assessments of Russian President Putin”. The report adds that although officially the Russian government asserted its neutrality on Brexit, its English-language media outlets RT and Sputnik covered the referendum campaign extensively and offered ‘’systematically one-sided coverage’’. The senators also challenge the adequacy of the investigations by Facebook and Twitter into the allegations of widespread social media interference by the Russians during the referendum.

They reference University of Edinburgh research showing more than 400 Russian-run Twitter accounts that had been active in the US election had also been actively posting about Brexit. In addition, the senators noted that research conducted by a joint team of experts from the University of California at Berkeley and Swansea University reportedly identified 150,000 Twitter accounts with various Russian ties that disseminated messages about Brexit. The report also points to the vast flow of Russian money into the UK, including the London property market. It records how the Metropolitan police noted that a total value of £180m in properties in the UK had been put under investigation as possibly purchased with corrupt proceeds by secretive offshore companies.

Overall the report breaks little new ground in terms of fresh evidence but says the picture remains incomplete. “The allegations that have emerged of Russian interference prior to the Brexit referendum are all the more stunning given the innate resilience within British society to the Kremlin’s anti-democratic agenda,” the senators wrote. The report, which chronicles Russian disinformation efforts in 19 countries, calls on Donald Trump to assert leadership on Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, saying: “Never before in American history has so clear a threat to national security been so clearly ignored by a US president.”

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Don’t hold your breath. US and UK want revenge.

Assange Gets Ecuador ID; ‘First Step’ To Diplomatic Immunity? (RT)

The Ecuadorian ID reportedly granted to Julian Assange could mark his first step to obtaining diplomatic immunity, as Ecuador wants to resolve Assange’s indefinite embassy stay, human rights activist Peter Tatchell told RT. “Granting an identity card is potentially the first step towards granting citizenship of Ecuador. And there is a possibility that he could be then granted a diplomatic status, which would give him diplomatic immunity,” Tatchell said. He added that diplomatic immunity would mean that the WikiLeaks co-founder would be “free to leave the embassy and travel to Ecuador and the British government would not be able to lay a finger on him.”

Ecuadorian media reports Assange was given an ID card issued on December 21, citing “reliable sources” and providing the civil registry number of the document. The whistleblower also uploaded a photo of himself on Twitter wearing a yellow, blue and red shirt, the colors of the Ecuadorian flag, but made not comments on the issue. nEcuador usually issues such ID cards for people claiming residency status, which are called cedulas. It is, however, unclear whether Assange was granted residency status or full citizenship.

However, Tatchell says “the Ecuadorian government has made it very clear that it wants a resolution [of this whole situation around Assange] and they are prepared to negotiate [to give] a way for Julian Assange [to leave] the embassy.” He added that “granting him [Assange] an identity card is a new development that can open the door for further things in the future.” The Vienna convention on diplomatic relations states that someone who holds a diplomatic passport is immune from prosecution, the activist explained. It is still no guarantee, however. “There is still a possibility that, even if he was granted diplomatic immunity by the Ecuadorians, the British government might still try to snatch him,” Tatchell said, although “many British officials would be glad to see Assange getting a diplomatic passport and leaving [the UK],” he added.

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Debt. Colony. Forever.

Greece to Remain Under Lenders’ Supervision Until 2059 – Handelsblatt (GR)

In a report about Greece’s new omnibus bill and a potential break from its bailout in August 2018, German newspaper Handelsblatt claims the country will remain under lenders’ supervision for another 40 years. The newspaper says the enormous bill, which was introduced to parliament on Tuesday and is expected to be put to vote next Monday, is highly detailed but lawmakers have not been given enough time to scrutinize it. “The plan is that the multi-bill will pass from the Greek parliament before the next Eurogroup meeting on January 22, so that Greece’s lenders can release the next €5.5 billion bailout tranche, leading the country out of its bailout obligations by August 2018,” the paper notes. It adds that the short time afforded to lawmakers to study the bill and debate it is exactly what Greek PM Alexis Tsipras needs for a smooth vote.

The German paper also notes protests and strikes against the bill scheduled for next Friday and Monday. In spite of the fact the bill will lead to further wage and pension cuts, as well as tax increases, the government majority in parliament — despite vocal unhappiness from some of Tsipras’ own SYRIZA lawmakers — is expected to vote for it, the report says. “Tsipras has pledged to his supporters that the country will break its austerity vicious circle next August and throw out its despised lenders for good,” the report adds. “But with the country committed to more austerity measures until 2022, that is self-delusion.” “A total of 80% of the Greek debt remains in the hands of the country’s lenders,” Handelsblatt concludes. “This means that until Greece pays up its debt, which, with today’s rates it will manage to do by 2059, the country will be under its lenders’ financial supervision.”

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Same findings as the German report last year. This is the food chain that feeds us.

Insect Declines: New Alarm Over Mayfly Is ‘Tip Of Iceberg’ (G.)

Modest levels of pollution found in many English rivers are having a devastating impact on mayflies, new research suggests, killing about 80% of all eggs. Clouds of emerging mayflies were once a regular sight on English summer evenings and they are a key part of the food chain that supports fish, birds and mammals. The finding that even pollution well below guidelines can cause serious harm adds to concerns about plummeting insect numbers. In October, a study found that the abundance of flying insects has plunged by 75% in 25 years, prompting warnings that the world is “on course for ecological Armageddon”, with profound impacts on human society.

Paul Knight, chief executive of Salmon and Trout Conservation (STC), which is conducting an in-depth three-year survey of rivers, said: “The results of this groundbreaking new study are irrefutable. We believe this is just the tip of the iceberg. Lose your invertebrates and other species will follow.” The new research looked at the blue-winged olive, a common mayfly present across the British Isles and most of continental Europe. Its numbers have fallen significantly in recent decades and it has almost vanished from some English rivers. The prime suspects for this decline are fine sediment and phosphate pollution in rivers, which are washed off farmed fields and also result from untreated sewage. Some research has been done on how the larval and adult stages of mayflies are affected by pollution, but not on their eggs.

“The young life stages are the most vulnerable, just as with human babies,” said Nick Everall, at the Aquascience Consultancy and who led the research published in the journal Environmental Pollution. Blue-winged olive eggs are laid on river beds and then have to survive for up to eight months over winter before hatching into nymphs. However, experiments in the laboratory found that the fine sediment settles on the eggs and suffocates them, by preventing oxygen transferring into the egg. The sediment can also allow fungus to grow and kill the eggs, while phosphate is known to affect the development of eggs.

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The Cynical Society:

1) The BBC broadcasts David Attenborough’s new Blue Planet 2 series, in which one episode is all about -plastics- pollution
2) All of Britain watches, so the national conversation becomes ‘something must be done’
3) May has to do/say something, but the plastics industry are her friends, and she judges it’s all lip service anyway that will fade (and those who really care are not her voters)
4) She decides to pay only lip service too, and pushes the issue forward by 25 years, i.e. not her problem

Theresa May Vows To Eliminate UK Plastic Waste By 2042 (Ind.)

Theresa May will commit the UK to eliminating all avoidable plastic waste by 2042 as she launches the Government’s environmental plan for the next 25-years. Under the pledge waste such as the carrier bags, food packaging and disposable plastic straws that litter the country and pollute the seas would be abolished. But the target was given a frosty reception from environmental groups with one leading organisation saying it “lacks urgency, detail and bite”, while another said the country “can’t afford to wait” so long. The broader 25-year plan, first promised three years ago, will also urge supermarkets to set up “plastic-free aisles” for goods with no packaging and confirm plans to extend the 5p charge for carrier bags to all English retailers.

It comes as the Government seeks to burnish its environmental credentials with recent pledges on animal protection and plastic microbeads. But with concern growing around plastic waste, Ms May will say: “We look back in horror at some of the damage done to our environment in the past and wonder how anyone could have thought that, for example, dumping toxic chemicals, untreated, into rivers was ever the right thing to do. “In years to come, I think people will be shocked at how today we allow so much plastic to be produced needlessly. [..] Friends of the Earth CEO Craig Bennett said: “A 25 year plan is clearly needed – but with the nation facing an accelerating environmental crisis we can’t afford to wait a quarter of a century for urgent action to tackle the issues that already threaten our lives, health and planet.”

He went on: “If Theresa May wants to champion the environment she must spell out the bold measures her Government will take in the next few weeks and months.” WWF Chief Executive Tanya Steele welcomed “any step” to reduce plastic waste, adding that plastic-free aisles can spur change. But she said: “If we really want to solve this problem, we need to think bigger and ultimately move towards an end to single-use plastics.” Shadow Environment Secretary Sue Hayman said the plan was now “years behind schedule” branding the plan “a cynical attempt at rebranding the Tories image”. She went on: “[It] appears to contain only weak proposals with Britain’s plastic waste crisis kicked into the long grass.” Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said “The Conservatives should be eliminating all avoidable plastic waste now – a target of 2042 beggars belief.”

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Jun 172017
 
 June 17, 2017  Posted by at 9:51 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  3 Responses »


Fred Lyon Broadway and Kearny Street, North Beach, San Francisco 1952

 

All Hell Is Going To Break Loose In The Bond Market (SBA)
The Fog of Markets (720G)
10 Years After Global Financial Crisis, World Still Suffers Debt Overhang (SMH)
Amazon, the Death of Brick & Mortar, Buys into Brick & Mortar (WS)
Special Prosecutor Mueller Is a Political Hack (Washington)
Fear of Contagion Feeds the Italian Banking Crisis (DQ)
China’s Smaller Banks Endure Record Borrowing Costs amid Squeeze (BBG)
Most Of Central London Hospital To Be Sold Off, Plans Reveal (G.)
Five Talks on Power, Populism, Politics & Europe (Varoufakis)
Spain Says Eurogroup May Block Greek Loan If Officials Not Granted Immunity (R.)
Swedish Commuters Can Use Hand Implant Chip Instead Of Train Tickets (Ind.)

 

 

“..the Federal Reserve has not allowed the market to do its one and only job, and that is to determine fair value.”

All Hell Is Going To Break Loose In The Bond Market (SBA)

This past Wednesday we heard from the Federal Reserve with regard to monetary policy, and as I predicted they did raise the federal funds rate 25 basis points however, instead of yields rising, they are dropping. More than a year and a half ago I had said publicly that the Federal Reserve’s attempt at trying to normalize bond yields would backfire-and this is exactly what is happening. It is clear to me that the Federal Reserve has absolutely lost control of what is occurring in the bond market. Remember, this is uncharted territory, we have never been here before in the history of the financial world-so the Federal Reserve actually has no idea of how the market will react in the current environment with regard to their attempt at normalizing interest rates. The yield curve as seen in the picture above continues to flatten out, and this trend will continue until the curve inverts.

The last time the yield curve inverted, the 2008 economic meltdown occurred, and the time before that we suffered the.com bubble meltdown. The fact is we are existing in a multiple bubble economy at this time, worse, and unlike anything which has ever been seen before. The reason why these bubbles exist is simple: the Federal Reserve has not allowed the market to do its one and only job, and that is to determine fair value. The Federal Reserve’s interest rate suppression cycle has not only allowed, but has been the driving force behind mass malinvestments across the entire spectrum of asset classes and as such, bubbles have been created. The Federal Reserve has created distortions across the spectrum of asset classes which is frankly beyond belief, worse than has ever been witnessed in the history of finance. What this means is when the yield curve inverts this time, we will experience a meltdown magnitudes greater then the 2008 crash.

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“..till injuries were wrought to the structure of human society which a century will not efface, and which may conceivably prove fatal to the present civilization.”

The Fog of Markets (720G)

“The year 1915 was fated to be disastrous to the cause of the Allies and to the whole world. By the mistakes of this year the opportunity was lost of confining the conflagration within limits which though enormous were not uncontrolled. Thereafter the fire roared on till it burnt itself out. Thereafter events passed very largely outside the scope of conscious choice. Governments and individuals conformed to the rhythm of the tragedy, and swayed and staggered forward in helpless violence, slaughtering and squandering on ever-increasing scales, till injuries were wrought to the structure of human society which a century will not efface, and which may conceivably prove fatal to the present civilization.” – Winston S. Churchill – The World Crisis: 1915

After reading that quote several times, it remains shocking that the politicians and individuals of that era unconsciously “conformed to the rhythm of the tragedy.” The paragraph above from Winston Churchill, describes the mass mindset of World War I when it was still in its infancy. War-time narratives, nationalism, destruction and the tremendous loss of life led most people to quickly accept and acclimate to an event that was beyond atrocious. Amazingly, less than a year before the period Churchill discusses, the same people likely would have thought that acceptance of such a calamity would be beyond comprehension. Wars and markets are obviously on two different planes, and we want to make it clear the purpose of this article is not to compare the evils of war to financial markets. That said, we must recognize that quick acceptance of abnormal circumstances, as Churchill describes, is a trait that we all possess.

The seemingly unabated march upwards in stock prices occurring over the last eight years has had a mind-numbing effect on investors. The relentless grind higher is backed by weak fundamentals providing little to no justification for elevated prices. Indeed, if there was no justification for such valuations during the economically superior timeframe of the late 1990’s, how does coherent logic rationalize current circumstances? For example, feeble economic growth, stagnating corporate earnings, unstable levels of debt, income and wage inequality and a host of other economic ills typically do not command a steep premium and so little regard for risk. This time, however, is different, and investors have turned a blind eye to such inconvenient facts and instead bank on a rosy future. Thus far, they have been rewarded. But as is so often the case with superficial gratification, the rewards are very likely to prove fleeting and what’s left behind will be deep regret.

Despite our education and experience which teach the many aspects of the discipline of prudent investing, investors are still prone to become victims of the philosophy and psychology of the world around them. These lapses, where popular opinion-based investment decisions crowd out the sound logic and rationale for prudence and discipline, eventually carry a destructively high price. Investors, actually the entire population, have become mesmerized by the system as altered and put forth by the central bankers. We have somehow become accustomed to believe that debt-enabling low interest rates make even more debt acceptable. Ever higher valuations of assets are justifiable on the false premise of a manufactured and artificial economic construct.

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Long from Australia, with lots of sources. Bit confusing even.

10 Years After Global Financial Crisis, World Still Suffers Debt Overhang (SMH)

Let’s start with the question of debt. Lord Adair Turner, who chaired the UK Financial Services Authority between 2008 and 2013 and helped redesign global banking, says the world since has not addressed this root cause of the crisis and that means it’s at risk of another one. Lord Turner, now chairman of New York-based Institute for New Economic Thinking, says the world is suffering from “irrational exuberance” and “debt overhang”. The latter term refers to countries trapped in a vicious cycle of debt, and when nations ultimately default on that debt – he predicts that the next crisis will come courtesy of China and that’s just a number of years away – it ends in their economic destruction.

The Institute of International Finance (IIF) says global levels of debt held by households, governments, and non-financial corporates jumped by over $US70 trillion in the past decade to a record high of $US215 trillion, equating to 325 per cent of global GDP. “There’s been no deleveraging,” Lord Turner says. “Once you’ve got too much debt in the economy … it’s incredibly difficult to get rid of it. “If you say, ‘I’m going to write it off’, your banks go bankrupt … if you try get rid of it by people paying down that debt … the attempt to pay it back is what drives the economy into recession.” To avoid that, interest rates then fall, and that simply encourages more borrowing, he says.

[..] Steve Keen, Professor of Economics at Kingston University in London, a long-time doomsayer on Australia’s mortgage binge, says simply: “It’s dangerous”. He says the Reserve Bank and Australian politicians ignore the dangers of private household debt today just as former US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke did before the GFC. Keen says the risk of recession is even higher now that APRA has slightly tightened lending standards. “It’s inevitable,” he says, sticking to his bold prediction that it will happen before year’s end.

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Grow your own food.

Amazon, the Death of Brick & Mortar, Buys into Brick & Mortar (WS)

Amazon, which is getting blamed profusely for the meltdown of brick-and-mortar stores and malls across the US, and which has been dabbling with its own initiatives into brick-and-mortar operations – including bookstores, after nearly wiping bookstores off the face of the US – said it would buy brick-and-mortar Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion. Amazon will get Whole Foods’s $15.7 billion in annual sales and more importantly, its brand, semi-loyal customers, and about 450 brick-and-mortar stores across 42 states. Whole Food shares jumped 27%. But in early trading, the shares of the largest brick-and-mortar grocery sellers in the US are getting crushed: Wal-Mart Stores -6.5%; Kroger, largest supermarket chain in the US, -14%; Costco -7%; Target -10%.

Amazon already sells groceries online via AmazonFresh, and a few months ago announced it would create a grocery store pickup service, another foray into brick-and-mortar. Selling groceries online has been tough in the US, though everyone has been trying, from innumerable startups to Safeway and Google Express (in cooperation with Costco et al.). Consumers are used to buying at the store by running through the aisles with their carts and choosing what they see or what’s on their list, or both, and they want to touch and check their produce before buying it, and they don’t want the dented apples or squished grapes or wilted lettuce. And they need it now on the way home from work so they can fix dinner.

With this acquisition, Amazon’s efforts to muscle its way into the grocery business and even more into the every-day lives of Americans have thus taken a quantum leap forward. But what industry is Amazon muscling into? Over the past six years, sales at grocery stores are up a total of 14%, not adjusted for inflation, according to the retail trade report by the Commerce Department. Over the same period, the Consumer Price Index for food rose 14%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hence, on an inflation-adjusted basis, “real” sales have been flat for six years.

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Did anyone doubt this? Safe to predict the investigation will be dragged out forever.

Special Prosecutor Mueller Is a Political Hack (Washington)

Torture FBI special agent Colleen Rowley points out: Mueller was even okay with the CIA conducting torture programs after his own agents warned against participation. Agents were simply instructed not to document such torture, and any “war crimes files” were made to disappear. Not only did “collect it all” surveillance and torture programs continue, but Mueller’s (and then Comey’s) FBI later worked to prosecute NSA and CIA whistleblowers who revealed these illegalities.

Iraq War Rowley notes: When you had the lead-up to the Iraq War … Mueller and, of course, the CIA and all the other directors, saluted smartly and went along with what Bush wanted, which was to gin up the intelligence to make a pretext for the Iraq War. For instance, in the case of the FBI, they actually had a receipt, and other documentary proof, that one of the hijackers, Mohamed Atta, had not been in Prague, as Dick Cheney was alleging. And yet those directors more or less kept quiet. That included … CIA, FBI, Mueller, and it included also the deputy attorney general at the time, James Comey.

Post 9/11 Round-Up FBI special agent Rowley also notes: Beyond ignoring politicized intelligence, Mueller bent to other political pressures. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Mueller directed the “post 9/11 round-up” of about 1,000 immigrants who mostly happened to be in the wrong place (the New York City area) at the wrong time. FBI Headquarters encouraged more and more detentions for what seemed to be essentially P.R. purposes. Field offices were required to report daily the number of detentions in order to supply grist for FBI press releases about FBI “progress” in fighting terrorism. Consequently, some of the detainees were brutalized and jailed for up to a year despite the fact that none turned out to be terrorists.

9/11 Cover Up Rowley points out: The FBI and all the other officials claimed that there were no clues, that they had no warning [about 9/11] etc., and that was not the case. There had been all kinds of memos and intelligence coming in. I actually had a chance to meet Director Mueller personally the night before I testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee … [he was] trying to get us on his side, on the FBI side, so that we wouldn’t say anything terribly embarrassing. …

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EU’s post-Cyprus resolutions are being dumped whenever that’s easier.

Fear of Contagion Feeds the Italian Banking Crisis (DQ)

Spain’s Banco Popular had the dubious honor of being the first financial institution to be resolved under the EU’s Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive, passed in January 2016. As a result, shareholders and subordinate bondholders were “bailed in” before the bank was sold to Santander for the princely sum of one euro. At first the operation was proclaimed a roaring success. As European banking crises go, this was an orderly one, reported The Economist. Taxpayers were not left on the hook, as long as you ignore the €5 billion of deferred tax credits Santander obtained from the operation. Depositors and senior bondholders were spared any of the fallout. But it may not last for long, for the chances of a similar approach being adopted to Italy’s banking crisis appear to be razor slim.

The ECB has already awarded Italy’s Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) a last-minute reprieve, on the grounds that while it did not pass certain parts of the ECB’s last stress test, the bank is perfectly solvent, albeit with serious liquidity problems. By contrast, Popular was also liquidity challenged but, unlike MPS, it passed all parts of the ECB’s 2016 stress test, which shows you how ineffectual these tests are — and how subjective the resolution process of a European bank can be. In a speech to the Italian Banking Association on Thursday, the Vice President of the ECB, Vítor Constâncio, suggested that under certain circumstances, it might be wiser to save a bank than to resolve it. What’s more, taxpayers should be called upon not only to save banks like MPS but also to make whole all holders of the bank’s subordinate debt, under the pretext that they were misled into purchasing them (as indeed some retail customers, but certainly not all, were).

A taxpayer-funded bailout of bondholders is also on the cards for the two mid-sized Veneto-based banks, Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca, which have already received billions of euros in taxpayer assistance. Italy’s Minister of Economy Pier Carlo Padoan continues to insist the two banks will not be wound down. This is the same man who insisted last year that a) there would be no need of any future bail outs; and b) Italy did not even have a banking problem on its hands. Padoan has no choice but to deny all rumors of a bail-in; otherwise there would be a massive rush for the exits. In the weeks and even days leading up to Popular’s collapse, Spain’s Economy Minister Luis de Guindos repeatedly reassured investors that the bank was perfectly safe and solvent.

All the while government agencies, including Spain’s social security fund, and regional government authorities were emptying the deposits they held with the bank as fast as they could. The total is unknown but it certain ran into billions of euros. To avoid a similar fate, Banca Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca were instructed by the European Commission last week to find an additional €1.25 billion in private capital. That money still hasn’t arrived, and now Italy’s government is trying to persuade the European Commission and the ECB to water down the requirement to €600-800 million, while also urging Italian banks to chip in to the bank rescue fund. If they don’t and the two Veneto-based banks end up being wound down, they will have to cough up as much as €11 billion to refund the banks’ depositors.

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Deleveraging my donkey.

China’s Smaller Banks Endure Record Borrowing Costs amid Squeeze (BBG)

China’s smaller banks, caught between a seasonal cash squeeze and an official deleveraging drive, are stomaching record high borrowing costs to raise funds. Issuance of negotiable certificates of deposit jumped to 758 billion yuan ($111.5 billion) this week, the most since the securities were introduced in 2013 as a lifeline for smaller banks. The yield on one-month AAA rated NCDs has surged nearly one percentage point this month to an all-time high of 5.05%, while that on AA+ contracts reached 5.30%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The increase in NCD costs comes at a tough time for Chinese lenders, which face an unprecedented 4.5 trillion yuan of maturities this quarter. The pressure has been aggravated by the deleveraging drive, with the one-month Shanghai Interbank Offered Rate climbing for 22 days in a row to a two-year high.

The certificates are used mainly by smaller lenders – banks outside of China’s top 10 by market value accounted for 76% of total sales this year. “The smaller banks have no choice but to take the blow,” said Shan Kun, Shanghai-based head of China markets strategy at BNP Paribas. “They need to sell NCDs to get financing as they cut leverage gradually and as they have to cope with tighter liquidity this month. The rates will likely continue to climb, or at least stay elevated in the near term.” When cash supply tightens, small- and medium-sized lenders are usually among the hardest-hit because they lack the retail deposit arsenal of larger banks, said Yulia Wan, a Shanghai-based banking analyst at Moody’s Investors Service. They also may not have enough bonds to use as collateral to borrow money in the repo market. The banks need the money to finance longer-term and less liquid assets, such as debt and investment in loans and receivables, she added.

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Grand plans going back to Osborne and Cameron.

Most Of Central London Hospital To Be Sold Off, Plans Reveal (G.)

Almost all of a central London hospital is to be sold and its services diverted to already stretched facilities around the capital under plans for NHS modernisation seen by the Guardian. Charing Cross hospital, a flagship NHS facility in the heart of London, is to be cut to just 13% of its current size under proposals contained in sustainability and transformation plans published last year in 44 areas across England. Many of the officially published plans lacked precise detail about how local services would change, but internal supporting documents seen by the Guardian reveal the scale of the closures at the London site. The proposals claim much of the care currently offered at Charing Cross can be transferred to “community settings” such as local GP services, but health campaigners and clinicians say the transformation could endanger patients.

The documents include a map detailing how 13% of the current hospital site will remain, with the rest of its prime real estate in central London sold off. The plan is to introduce the changes after 2021. NHS chiefs have stated as recently as March that “there have never been any plans to close Charing Cross hospital”, and in March 2015 the then prime minister, David Cameron, said it was “scaremongering” to suggest that the Charing Cross A&E departmentwas earmarked for closure. The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, echoed the claims. However, in the internal NHS documents the apparent downgrading of Charing Cross is outlined in great detail. The plan is to axe 10 major services at Charing Cross – 24/7 A&E, emergency surgery, intensive care and a range of complex emergency and non-emergency medical and surgical treatments. The remaining services would be a series of outpatient and GP clinics, X-ray and CT scans, a pharmacy and an urgent care centre for “minor injuries and illnesses”. Around 300 acute beds will be lost.

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Yanis.

Five Talks on Power, Populism, Politics & Europe (Varoufakis)

1 Yanis Varoufakis on power, populism and the future of the EU
2 Can Europe Make It? – Yanis Varoufakis speaks to openDemocracy
3 Yanis Varoufakis blows the lid on Europe’s hidden agenda
4 Yanis Varoufakis and his plan to take on Europe – again
5 Greece, Austerity, Brexit and Europe’s other darlings at GFMF2016

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In the EU, there’s immunity for officials committing crimes.

Spain Says Eurogroup May Block Greek Loan If Officials Not Granted Immunity (R.)

The Eurogroup of finance ministers may block an 8.5-billion-euro (7.44 billion pounds) loan to Greece if it does not grant immunity to privatisation agency officials from Spain, Italy and Slovakia, Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos said on Friday. In 2015, a Greek prosecutor charged three officials at the country’s privatisation agency with embezzlement for withholding interest payments and breach of duty in relation to a sale and lease-back deal of 28 state-owned buildings. The case is still pending. “If there’s not a definitive solution for the situation of these three experts, the Eurogroup will block the payment,” de Guindos said in Luxemburg.

Greece would do “whatever necessary” to immediately settle the legal case, a Greek government official said. European Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici said he was confident the problem would be resolved and that he would continue to discuss the issue with Spain during his visit to Madrid next week. “The problem has to be solved. We should not over dramatise it. The disbursement will happen and at the same time will find a solution to this problem,” Moscovici said on his arrival at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Luxemburg on Friday.

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Next up: a chip that makes your kids smarter. Try and resist that.

Swedish Commuters Can Use Hand Implant Chip Instead Of Train Tickets (Ind.)

Gone are the days when an e-ticket was seen as cutting edge – one Swedish rail company is offering passengers the option of using a biometric chip implanted into their hand in lieu of a paper train ticket. SJ is the first travel company in the world to let people use this innovative method that seems straight out of a sci-fi film. The tiny chip has the same technology as Oyster cards and contactless bank cards – NFC (Near Field Communication) – to enable conductors to scan passengers’ hands. Before you pack your bags for Sweden, the scheme is only applicable to those who already have the biometric implant – SJ is not offering to chip people. Around 2,000 Swedes have had the surgical implant to date, most of them employed in the tech industry.

State-owned operator SJ has said it expects about 200 people to take up the microchip method, but users must be signed up as a loyalty programme member to access the service. Customers buy tickets in the normal way by logging onto the website or mobile app, and their membership number, which is the reference code for the ticket, is linked to their chip. There are still kinks to be ironed out with the scheme, which began in earnest last week. Some passengers’ LinkedIn profiles were appearing instead of their train tickets when conductors scanned their biometric chip, while a number of train crew haven’t got the new SJ app which facilitates the scanning of biometric chips yet. “It’s just a matter of days before everyone has it,” says a spokesperson for SJ.

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