Mar 022020
 


John Vachon Big Four Cafe, Cairo, Illinois 1940

 

China Leaves Asymptomatic Patients off Coronavirus Infection Tally (Caixin)
Epidemic Won’t Spark Financial Crisis In China (Global Times)
CDC Retesting Patient After Testing Negative, Being Released (KSAT)
CDC Testing Limits May Have Delayed Coronavirus Response (HP)
US Agency Investigating Production Of Faulty Coronavirus Test Kits (R.)
Murder Probe Sought For South Korea Sect At Center Of Coronavirus Outbreak (R.)
China Gives Relief to Shield Trillions of Yuan in Bad Debt (BBG)
Australia Warns It Can’t Stop The Spread Of Coronavirus From Overseas (R.)
Indonesia Confirms First Cases, Linked To Japanese Citizen In Malaysia (SCMP)
Japan’s Factory Activity Shrinks At Fastest Pace Since 2016 (R.)
Buttigieg Drops Out Of Democratic Race Two Days Before Super Tuesday (R.)
Klobuchar Cancels Campaign Rally After Protests (Hill)
Tulsi Gabbard Urges Trump: Don’t Drag Us Into War With Russia (ZH)
Assange Enters The Kangaroo Court (MStar)
EU Accepts Greek Demand For Emergency Foreign Affairs Council (K.)

 

 

 

Cases 89,248 (+ 1,616 from yesterday’s 87,632)

Deaths 3,058 (+ 64 from yesterday’s 2,994)

 

Everyone just dances on. China pretends it’s fine, and the Global Times assures us there will be no financial crisis. As the US CDC is found painfully wanting on multiple fronts. As Super Tuesday draws near, Trump will be criticized heavily for the US response to COVID19, especially now the first US deaths are on the tally. But though he certainly stumbles his way awkwardly through, the CDC would be what it is no matter which party is in charge.

And while western governments, along with China, have no strong desire to perform the best testing they can, because it can only make them look worse, “newly infected” countries like Nigeria (190 million) and Indonesia (260 million), don’t have the desire, and not the means either. This will keep official infection numbers low(er), but does that mean we can all go visit without any worries?

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate fell to 6%):

 

 

A more complete pic of COVID2019.app:

 

 

 

 

“If you don’t have symptoms, it’s not an illness,” he said. “There’s no need to announce it.”

And at the same time, the first lung transplant:

Twitter: “Oh gosh – first lung transplant done for a #COVID19 patient. Hope only a fraction of the 20% severe cases ever need this. Though there is currently 50% 28-day mortality if someone enters ICU (based on China data). But what % or total infected will need ICU? Unclear.”

China Leaves Asymptomatic Patients off Coronavirus Infection Tally (Caixin)

China’s decision to exclude individuals who carry the new coronavirus but show no symptoms from the country’s public tally of infections has drawn debate over whether this approach obscures the scope of the epidemic, with a document received by Caixin showing a significant proportion of one province’s cases show no symptoms. Since early February, the National Health Commission (NHC) has concluded that “asymptomatic infected individuals” can infect others and demanded local authorities to report those cases. However, the commission has also decided not to include these people in its statistics for “confirmed cases” or indeed to release data on asymptomatic cases.

On Feb. 25, in Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province there were 104 asymptomatic infected individuals, according to a Feb. 26 Heilongjiang Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention document obtained by Caixin. That same day the province said it had 480 “confirmed cases,” a tally which did not include the 104 asymptomatic cases. In its Jan. 28 virus prevention and control plan, the NHC demanded the prompt detection and reporting of those with light or no symptoms. According to a document obtained by Caixin, the Heilongjiang CDC confirmed its first asymptomatic individual on Feb. 1 and asked the NHC for permission to leave the case off its public list of confirmed cases.

[..] two days after the fourth edition of the NHC’s Covid-19 guidelines released on Feb. 7 said asymptomatic cases should be reported separately and excluded from the confirmed case tally, Heilongjiang removed 13 asymptomatic infected individuals from its tally of “confirmed cases.” However, multiple studies from both Chinese and overseas researchers have been published, suggesting that individuals infected with Covid-19 can be contagious even if they do not feel ill.

In earlier guidelines, asymptomatic individuals were supposed to be observed and treated at home. But by the fifth edition of the NHC guidlines released Feb. 21, they had to undergo a 14-day quarantine as well as test negative in two separate nucleic acid tests before being released. Health authorities have also developed criteria to determine whether an asymptomatic individual is the source of infection in any given cluster. Nevertheless, at a Feb. 14 press conference, NHC deputy director Zeng Yixin said that the country would only publicize “suspected” and “confirmed cases.” “If you don’t have symptoms, it’s not an illness,” he said. “There’s no need to announce it.”

Read more …

The Party speaks. It’s not feeling well.

Epidemic Won’t Spark Financial Crisis In China (Global Times)

China is not facing a financial system crisis, despite mounting pressure from the coronavirus epidemic on the economy and global stock market routs, but further macro stabilizing measures, including more liquidity injections, might be necessary, analysts said on Sunday. Ominous signals have begun to suggest that the epidemic might have hit the Chinese economy harder than some had expected, which in turn has fueled speculation that China might face a financial crisis. On Saturday, official data showed that China’s manufacturing sector may have experienced a sharp downturn in February worse than during the global financial crisis in 2008.

The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) dropped to 35.7 in February, the lowest level on record, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The non-manufacturing PMI plunged to 29.6, deep in contraction territory. The downbeat data followed hefty losses in the Chinese A-share market on Friday amid a worldwide stock market rout due to concerns over the coronavirus epidemic. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index plummeted 3.71 percent on Friday to drop below the psychologically important level of 3,000. The index lost 4.87 percent for the week. Although the Chinese stock market fared better than Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 12 percent last week, concerns over a potential downtrend in the A-share market or even a broader financial crisis grew.

“Suggestions that China is facing risk of a financial crisis are just absurd,” Dong Dengxin, director of the Finance and Securities Institute at the Wuhan University of Science and Technology, told the Global Times on Sunday. “If anything, China’s A-share market is facing an upward trajectory given the fact that it has been at its historic lows and that the economic fundamentals have not changed.” [..] In light of moves by China’ s central bank to inject liquidity and local governments to support businesses, some argue the potential risks of a spike in non-performing loans among local governments could cause a financial crisis.

But Dong said that China’s government debt level remains significantly lower than those of developed countries and banks are among the world’s biggest and most regulated. “Everything is very much under control,” he said. China’s A-share market might be at the start of a bull run, according to Yang Delong, chief economist at Shenzhen-based First Seafront Fund. “US stocks have reached its top, whereas the A-share market is bottoming out. Therefore I think the A-share market will increase by 20 percent this year,” he wrote in a note sent to the Global Times on Sunday.

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The CDC is being exposed as a pretty incompetent entiry.

CDC Retesting Patient After Testing Negative, Being Released (KSAT)

A patient released from isolation in San Antonio on Saturday is being retested for the coronavirus at a local health facility, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Officials say the patient met the criteria for release after testing negative for the virus twice. Both of the tests were administered more than 24 hours apart. However, the patient later returned to isolation after a pending lab test came up positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the CDC. The patient was isolated when they were treated at the local medical facility for several weeks after returning from Wuhan, China, on a State Department chartered flight, the CDC says. Out of caution, the CDC says the individual was brought back into isolation at a local medical facility and is getting retested.


The patient did have contact with others while outside of isolation, and health officials are working to trace others that may have been exposed. Metro Health is working to track where the patient went, who they interacted with, the time frames they spent outside of the quarantined facility and who may have been exposed, officials say.“This is an unfolding situation with many unknowns. CDC is making decisions on a case-by-case basis using the best available science at the time. CDC’s priority is to protect both patients and communities,” said the CDC in part, in a press release. Several Texas officials are speaking out after the CDC’s announcement that a patient was released into San Antonio with possible coronavirus exposure. Mayor Ron Nirenberg says it’s unacceptable that CDC officials released the patient and allowed the public exposure.

Read more …

You could be minutes from death, but if you didn’t visit China or French kiss with someone who did, no tests for you.

CDC Testing Limits May Have Delayed Coronavirus Response (HP)

Genetic sequencing of two cases of the novel coronavirus in Washington suggests the disease had been circulating in the state for six weeks — but went undetected because of strict testing restrictions set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a scientist who compared the genetic fingerprints. The study of the coronavirus contracted by a high school student in Snohomish County north of Seattle links the illness to the very first COVID-19 case in the nation, a man who tested positive Jan. 19 after returning to his home in Snohomish county from China. He has since recovered, but the illness was passed on, undetected, via community transmission for “the past six weeks,” noted Trevor Bedford, an associate professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington.

He attributed the lack of earlier detection of an “already substantial outbreak” to the CDC’s “narrow case definition requiring direct travel to China” (or contact with someone known to be ill with coronavirus) before people could be tested. [..] Besides restrictions until recently on when it could be used, the test created by the CDC in early February initially only worked predictably in a handful of labs. Early detection is critical so that people can begin treatment and be isolated before passing on the virus to someone else. As of Friday, fewer than 500 people had been tested in the U.S., according to the CDC, compared with countries like South Korea, where 65,000 have been tested.

[..] Dr. Jeff Duchin, public health officer for Seattle and King County, complained about the testing system Saturday when addressing the first coronavirus death in the nation in Kirkland, Washington. “Testing capacity is so limited,” he said at a press conference. The state public health lab only began testing for COVID-19 on Friday, but officials hope soon to be able to also rely on commercial and university labs. “If we had the ability to test earlier, I’m sure we would have identified patients earlier,” said Duchin. [..] To ease the testing logjam, the FDA announced Saturday that labs and hospitals across the nation will now be able to conduct the test for COVID-19 and won’t have to wait for results from the CDC.

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You can always export them to Africa.

US Agency Investigating Production Of Faulty Coronavirus Test Kits (R.)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed on Sunday that it is investigating a manufacturing defect in some initial coronavirus test kits that prompted some states to seek emergency approval to use their own test kits. On Saturday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state would immediately begin using its own test kit developed in-state after asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday for permission to do so. The FDA said on Saturday it would allow some laboratories to immediately use tests they have developed and validated to achieve more rapid testing capacity for the coronavirus. On Sunday, New York confirmed its first case of coronavirus.


FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement on Sunday that “upon learning about the test issue from CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), FDA worked with CDC to determine that problems with certain test components were due to a manufacturing issue. We worked hand in hand with CDC to resolve the issues with manufacturing.” Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday the United States has 75,000 test kits on hand “and over the next week that will expand radically.” He said over 3,600 people in the United States have been tested to date. Hahn added that the “FDA has confidence in the design and current manufacturing of the test that already have and are continuing to be distributed. These tests have passed extensive quality control procedures.”

Read more …

Also for Chinese government, western governments? They also hid facts.

As for Seoul, they tested only a few 1000 of the 317,320 Shincheonji members and “trainees”..

Murder Probe Sought For South Korea Sect At Center Of Coronavirus Outbreak (R.)

The government of Seoul asked for a murder investigation into leaders of a Christian sect at the center of the country’s deadly coronavirus outbreak, saying the church was liable for its refusal to cooperate with efforts to stop the disease. A large majority of the more than 4,000 confirmed cases of the South Korean outbreak, the largest outside China and still growing, have been linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a secretive movement that reveres founder Lee Man-hee. Park Won-soon, mayor of Seoul, said if Lee and other leaders of the church had cooperated, effective preventive measures could have saved those who later died of the virus. “The situation is this serious and urgent, but where are the leaders of the Shincheonji, including Lee Man-hee, the chief director of this crisis?” Park said in a post on his Facebook page late on Sunday.


Seoul’s city government said in a separate statement that it had filed a criminal complaint with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, asking for an investigation of Lee and 12 others on charges of murder and disease control act violations. The prosecutors’ office said it had received the complaint and was reviewing it. Health authorities said the vast majority of the 3,000 cases confirmed in Daegu, another Korean city, were linked to a branch of the church there, where a person who had tested positive in February attended services twice. [..] Health authorities said they have obtained a list of 317,320 Shincheonji members and “trainees”, but have been told by some local governments that it was not exhaustive.

Read more …

When money is your only answer to all questions.

China Gives Relief to Shield Trillions of Yuan in Bad Debt (BBG)

China’s financial regulators will allow the nation’s lenders to delay recognizing bad loans from smaller businesses reeling from the deadly coronavirus outbreak, giving temporary reprieve to trillions of yuan of debt. Qualified small- and medium-sized businesses nationwide with principal or interest due between Jan. 25 and June 30 can apply for a delay to the end of the second quarter, the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory said in a joint statement with the central bank on Sunday. In Hubei province, the center of the outbreak, the waiver applies to all companies, including large firms, according to the statement. Chinese banks are taking extraordinary steps to avoid recognizing bad loans, seeking to protect themselves and cash-strapped borrowers from the economic fallout of the epidemic, as Bloomberg News reported last week.


Regulators told lenders not to downgrade loans with missed payments or report delinquencies to the country’s centralized credit-scoring system before the end of June, according to the statement. The push by banks and regulators to ease the wave of debt going bad is part of a broader effort by President Xi Jinping’s government to shore up the Chinese economy, which some forecasters predict may suffer a rare quarter-on-quarter contraction to start 2020. Gross domestic product may shrink by 2.5% in the first quarter, Nomura Holdings Inc. economists led by Lu Ting said in a report on Saturday, after the country’s manufacturing sector reported record-low activity in February. In addition to pumping billions of yuan into the banking system to make it easier for lenders to extend credit, authorities have cut interest rates, reduced taxes and pledged to adopt more “proactive” fiscal policies.

Read more …

It’s a choice, a trade-off. Close the borders OR get infected.

Australia Warns It Can’t Stop The Spread Of Coronavirus From Overseas (R.)

Australia’s chief medical officer said on Monday it was no longer possible to completely prevent people with the coronavirus from entering the country, citing concerns about outbreaks in Japan and South Korea. Australia, one of the first countries to put restrictions on its borders in a bid to limit the spread of the virus, confirmed its first death from the disease on Sunday. “It is no longer possible to absolutely prevent new cases coming in,” Brendan Murphy, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, told reporters in Canberra. “We have got concerns about Japan and South Korea. They are working hard to control their outbreaks but we are still concerned that people in those countries and other high risk countries may present with an infection.”


The chief medical officer’s comments came as Australian officials confirmed the country’s 30th case of coronavirus, a 40-year old man who arrived in Australia’s second most populated city, Melbourne from Iran. He later travelled to Tasmania. Meanwhile, Australia named the 78-year old man who became the country’s first person to die from coronavirus as James Kwan. He was a passenger on the Diamond Princess ship that was held off Japan’s coast for weeks. Kwan and his wife, who also has the virus, were transferred back to Australia for treatment. Australia barred entry from Feb. 1 to any foreigners who had travelled through China in the two weeks prior to arriving in Australia. It extended that ban to Iran on Sunday. Both bans are in force until at least March 7. Australian citizens and permanent residents are exempted.

Read more …

That country of 260 million with a very sparse health care system. That has neither the desire nor the means to count its victims.

Indonesia Confirms First Cases, Linked To Japanese Citizen In Malaysia (SCMP)

Two Indonesians have tested positive for the coronavirus after being in contact with an infected Japanese national, Indonesian President Joko Widodo revealed on Monday, marking the first confirmed cases in the world’s fourth most populous country. The two had been hospitalised in Jakarta, Widodo told reporters at the presidential palace in the capital. The president said a 64-year-old woman and her 31-year-old daughter had tested positive after being in contact with a Japanese national who lived in Malaysia and was found to have the virus after returning from a trip to Indonesia. Widodo said an Indonesian medical team had traced the movements of the Japanese visitor before uncovering the cases.


“After checks, they were in a sick state. This morning I got a report that the mother and the daughter tested positive for coronavirus,” said Widodo, who said they were being treated at Jakarta’s Sulianti Saroso infectious diseases hospital. Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto told reporters the Japanese visitor was a friend of the two women’s family and had visited their house. He said authorities were checking who else the Japanese visitor may have come into contact with. The confirmation of the first cases of coronavirus came after authorities had defended their screening processes, with some medical experts raising concerns of a lack of vigilance and a risk of undetected cases in the Southeast Asian country of more than 260 million people.

Read more …

Who could have predicted that?

Japan’s Factory Activity Shrinks At Fastest Pace Since 2016 (R.)

Japan’s factory activity was hit by its sharpest contraction in nearly four years in February, raising a red flag over manufacturing in the world’s third-largest economy as the impact from the coronavirus outbreak spreads. The manufacturing slowdown offers the clearest evidence yet of the epidemic’s damaging effects on global growth and businesses and is likely to ramp up pressure on Japanese policymakers to boost growth. The au Jibun Bank Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) slipped to a seasonally-adjusted 47.8 from a final 48.8 in the previous month. The February reading was its lowest since May 2016.


The index stayed below the 50.0 threshold that separates contraction from expansion for a 10th month, marking the longest stretch since a 16-month run to June 2009 during the global financial crisis. “Near-term prospects for Japan’s industrial sector appear very bleak,” said Joe Hayes, economist at IHS Markit, which compiles the survey. “Weakness was driven by the demand-side in a broad-based fashion. Consumer, intermediate and capital goods producers recorded faster declines in demand and overall order books fell at the sharpest rate in over seven years.” The pressure on the world’s third-largest economy has built rapidly during the past weeks as the virus outbreak is dealing a sharp blow to China’s economy, Asia’s biggest.

Read more …

Good DNC boy. All against Bernie.

Buttigieg Drops Out Of Democratic Race Two Days Before Super Tuesday (R.)

Pete Buttigieg dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination on Sunday, saying he no longer saw a chance of winning, the day after fellow moderate Joe Biden won a big victory in South Carolina. The move shook up the Democratic contest to pick a candidate to take on Republican President Donald Trump in November’s election and came two days before the 14-state Super Tuesday nominating contests that will offer the biggest electoral prize so far. Buttigieg, a 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who gained early momentum after he narrowly won the Iowa caucuses last month and finished a close second in New Hampshire, had sought to unite Democrats, independents and moderate Republican voters.


But he finished a distant third in Nevada and fourth in South Carolina. “Today is a moment of truth … the truth is that the path has narrowed to a close for our candidacy if not for our cause,” Buttigieg told supporters in South Bend on Sunday night. “Our goal has always been to unify Americans to help defeat Donald Trump and to win the era for our values.” [..] An adviser told Reuters that Buttigieg was dropping out to avoid helping the odds of front-runner Bernie Sanders, a senator from Vermont and self-described democratic socialist. “Pete was not going to play the role of spoiler,” said the adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Could he have went through Super Tuesday and beyond? Sure. But this was not a vanity exercise.”

Read more …

Klobuchar out today? Place your bets. She has zero chance, but can take away votes from Sleepy Joe. They’ll keep Warren in, so she can dig into Bernie’s support.

And as all the TV clowns talk about Bernie’s support among black voters, check this:

“Klobuchar was the lead attorney in the county at the time of his initial trial, and she later denied a request for him to attend his mother’s funeral after he was imprisoned.”

Klobuchar Cancels Campaign Rally After Protests (Hill)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) canceled a campaign rally in St. Louis Park, Minn., on Sunday after protesters reportedly affiliated with Black Lives Matter and other civil rights groups took the stage at her event for over an hour. In a statement obtained by The New York Times, Klobuchar’s campaign said the senator offered to meet with demonstrators in exchange for them exiting the stage and allowing her rally to proceed, adding that the protesters initially agreed to such terms before reportedly backing out and refusing to leave the stage.

“The campaign offered a meeting with the senator if they would leave the stage after being on the stage for more than an hour,” a spokesperson for the Klobuchar campaign told the Times. “After initially agreeing, the group backed out, and we are now canceling the event.” The campaign did not immediately return a request for further comment from The Hill. Klobuchar has faced calls to suspend her campaign from Black Lives Matter and NAACP activists over her role in the criminal prosecution of Myon Burrell, an African American man who was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison while still a teenager. Klobuchar was the lead attorney in the county at the time of his initial trial, and she later denied a request for him to attend his mother’s funeral after he was imprisoned.

Burrell’s case has become a point of criticism for Klobuchar’s campaign, as many including the victim’s father believe he may have been wrongfully convicted. “What I need people to understand is this isn’t about partisanship and this isn’t about politics,” said Leslie Redmond, president of the Minneapolis NAACP, in January. “This is about justice. … This isn’t just a situation that happened to the Central Park Five alone. This is a situation that happens all around America. This is a situation that happens right here in Minnesota.” “Young people, young adults were given life sentences to rot away in prison,” he added at the time. “This benefits no one. However, it does benefit politicians who use the criminal justice system to benefit their political careers. Enough is enough.”

Read more …

But Tulsi is still running.

Tulsi Gabbard Urges Trump: Don’t Drag Us Into War With Russia (ZH)

Tulsi Gabbard has once again gone on the offensive, skewering Washington mainstream foreign policy and the Trump administration’s refusal to stand up to “dictator” Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Trump reportedly told Erdogan in a phone call last week as the Idlib crisis escalates, now in an open state of war between the Turkish and Syrian armies, and with Russia supporting the latter, that the US “reaffirmed” its support for Turkey in Idlib. Ankara is now demanding greater support from NATO as well, after Russian jets were widely believed behind last Thursday’s massive air strike which killed 33 Turkish soldiers.


Congresswoman and Democratic presidential hopeful Gabbard attacked this stance in a weekend video statement, urging Trump instead to make clear that “the United States will not be dragged into a war with Russia by the aggressive Islamist expansionist dictator of Turkey via NATO.” She also slammed the mainstream media’s efforts to renew holding up al-Qaeda terrorists on the ground in Idlib as mere “rebels” and “freedom fighters” — saying it’s a disgrace to men and women in uniform who signed up to fight terrorists in the wake of 9/11. “Turkey’s been supporting ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorists from behind the scenes for years,” she pointed out. “Turkey’s Erdogan wants to create an Islamist caliphate in Syria, reestablish the Islamist Ottoman Empire, and is working with al-Qaeda and other terrorists to achieve his goal.” “He wants to be the caliph,” she added, explaining further he’s not a “friend” of America, but remains one of the most dangerous dictators in the world.

Read more …

A kangaroo court in a banana republic.

Assange Enters The Kangaroo Court (MStar)

The most visually striking aspect of the Woolwich courtroom is where Assange sits — in a box covered by bullet-proof glass. This obviously unnecessary “security” measure was aimed at portraying Assange as a dangerous, violent terrorist who must be restrained at all times. Not only was the bullet-proof box dehumanising and degrading, it also made it impossible for Assange to participate in his own defence — a basic principle of due process. Assange could barely even hear the proceedings, let alone communicate with his legal team. Any communications that did occur in the box were not confidential since he was flanked at all times by at least one security guard. On Wednesday, Assange finally had enough. He stood up and began to address the judge, requesting he be permitted to properly communicate with his own lawyers.

The judge cut him off and sent the court into recess rather than allow him to speak. When the court reconvened, Assange’s lawyer formally requested Assange be permitted to sit with his legal team — a position that astonishingly was supported by the lawyer for the prosecution, who apparently found the whole set-up so gross as to discredit the entire proceeding. Yet still, the judge would not relent and Assange remained caged like an animal. However the abuse in the courtroom pales in comparison to the abuse behind closed doors in Belmarsh prison. The night after the trial opened, prison authorities relentlessly harassed Assange. He was shuffled from room to room all night, stripped naked and handcuffed multiple times throughout the ordeal. His legal papers were also confiscated.

When the defence lawyers complained the following day in court, the judge shrugged her shoulders and said that she had no authority over the prison administration who subjected him to such humiliation. The years of suffering Assange has endured while being persecuted by the US, British and other governments is evident simply from his physical appearance. Assange was clearly exhausted in the courtroom, sometimes slumped over. Even before being subjected to nearly a year of HMP Belmarsh, Assange had to deal with the psychological torment of nearly seven years’ confinement in the Ecuadorian Embassy. At the same time it is clear he still has the will to fight and has not compromised his principles an inch. The trial resumes in May, and will likely be followed by an extensive series of appeals.

Read more …

The pace the EU moves at. As Greece’s borders are being overrun. Erdogan is to visit Putin on Thursday.

Greece swears it won’t let the “migrants” enter, which Erdogan has selected for women and children (photo-ops) and militant youth (severity).

EU Accepts Greek Demand For Emergency Foreign Affairs Council (K.)

Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, has convened an extraordinary Foreign Council for next week on developments in Syria and the ensuing migration emergency, at the request of Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias. Dendias had formally requested an extraordinary meeting Saturday. In his statement, Borrell says that the EU-Turkey agreement on repatriation of refugees needs to be upheld and confirms EU supports Greece and Bulgaria in addressing the migration issue. Borrell’s statement:


“The ongoing renewed fighting in and around Idlib represents a serious threat to international peace and security. It is causing an untold human suffering among the population, and having a grave impact on the region and beyond. The European Union needs to redouble efforts to address this terrible human crisis with all the means at its disposal. I am therefore calling for an extraordinary meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council next week to discuss the unfolding situation, in particular at the request of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Greece. Over the past days, I have been in contact with key actors. I have called for an immediate de-escalation and for a lasting ceasefire, deplored the loss of lives, and offered EU support to mitigate the consequences of the crisis. There is only a political solution to this crisis.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Mar 012020
 


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

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

• First cases: Armenia, Ireland, Luxembourg

• First deaths: US, Australia, Thailand

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

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

• Italy 1,178 (up 31%!), 29 deaths

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

• Japan 241 cases, 2 deaths

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

59 countries affected

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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


Corona timeline develops in very similar ways in various locations

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

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Now repeat this in dozens of other countries.

Don’t Test, Don’t Tell! (Ben Hunt)

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

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

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

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

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

Imagine what would need to happen to make it visible.

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

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

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

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

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Silver linings are everywhere.

China Pollution Clear Amid Coronavirus Slowdown (BBC)

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

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

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Oh ye of little faith in the DNC.

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

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

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

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

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At least it sounds good.

If only because John Bolton said on Twitter:

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

US and Taliban Ink Afghanistan Peace Agreement (RT)

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Jun 072018
 


Ivan Aivazovsky Stormy Night at Sea 1850

 

Is Draghi Risking Everything To Teach Rome A Lesson? (ZH)
The Next Economic Crisis Begins in the European Union (Bruno)
David Stockman: Stocks Will Plunge 50% In This ‘Daredevil Market’ (CNBC)
Euro Recovers On Rising Bets ECB May Unwind Stimulus (R.)
Indonesia Joins India In Begging Fed To Stop Shrinking Its Balance Sheet (ZH)
Fed Clambers Back To Positive Real Rates, Now Debate Is When To Stop (R.)
Social Security To Tap Into Trust Fund For First Time In 36 Years (MW)
Opioids Are Responsible For 20% Of US Millennial Deaths (ZH)
The ‘Doomsday Brexit Plan’ Document Should Frighten Us All (TP)
Nearly 4 Million UK Adults Forced To Use Food Banks (Ind.)
How We Created The Anthropocene (BBC)

 

 

“..watch as the EUR and bond yields tumble, and the dollar resumes its relentless push higher.”

Is Draghi Risking Everything To Teach Rome A Lesson? (ZH)

[..] as Bloomberg’s Lisa Abramowicz said in a podcast today, it was the ECB “basically just giving the finger to Italy.” Confirming as much, Anne Mathias, Global Rates and FX strategist for Vanguard, responded that “part of the vocal nature of the ‘talking about the talking about’ [the end of QE] probably has something to do with Italy, especially as they’ve been paring their purchases of Italian debt. What the ECB is trying to say is hey, “this is our party, and you’re welcome to it, but if you’re going to leave it’s not going to be easy for you.” The ECB is trying to show Italy a future without the ECB as backstop.”

A spot-on follow up question from Pimm Fox asked if this is “a situation in which the ECB is cutting off its nose to spite its face, because you can stick to rules for the sake of sticking to rules, but when you have a potential crisis, why wait for it to be a real crisis such as Italy, which the new government has pledged to spend a lot of money, to lower taxes, while they still have a huge government deficit. Why would the ECB do this.” The brief answer is that yes, it is, because sending the Euro and yields higher on ECB debt monetization concerns, only tends to destabilize the market, and sends a message to investors that the happy days are ending, in the process slamming confidence in asset returns, a process which usually translates into a sharp economic slowdown and eventually recession, or even depression if the adverse stimulus is large enough.

As for the punchline, it came from Abramowicz, who doubled down on Pimm Fox’ question and asked if the “European economy can withstand the shock” of the ECB’s QE reversal, which would send trillions in debt from negative to positive yields. While the answer is clearly no, what is curious is that the ECB is actually tempting fate with the current “tightening” scare, which may send the Euro and bond yields far higher over the next few days, perhaps even to a point where Italy finds itself in dire need of a bailout… from the ECB. Then again, don’t be surprised if during next Thursday’s ECB press conference, Mario Draghi says that after discussing the end of QE, no decision has been made or will be made for a long time. At that moment, watch as the EUR and bond yields tumble, and the dollar resumes its relentless push higher.

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Downsize Germany or else.

The Next Economic Crisis Begins in the European Union (Bruno)

Mercantilism is a practice of conducting economic affairs that Europe practiced especially during the period between the 16th and 17th centuries. It’s the progenitor of colonialism and favors the idea that a state’s—or nation’s—power increases in direct proportion to its ability to export. The more a nation exports, producing a trade surplus, the stronger it becomes. The current “imperfection” of the euro stems from this concept. Germany has become a mercantilist power within a union of nation states (the EU) that had agreed to pursue common as well as national interests. The result has not only been an imbalance of trade; rather, it’s been a complete political and economic disparity.

Some EU countries, of which Germany represents the best example, have also used their surplus to lower their inflation rate below the eurozone-accepted two-percent standard. Indeed, Germany’s trade surplus formula was predicated on a minimal increase in salaries—and reduced government spending on infrastructure and other public services. The result has been the accumulation of significant competitive advantages. Ironically, whenever the euro drops in value, Germany gains with respect to the PIGS. The products that make up the core of its surplus become even more competitive within and beyond the EU.

That explains President Donald Trump’s ever more vociferous suggestions to ban the import of German cars in the United States. It’s no accident that Trump launched a literal trade war, focusing on Germany and China, just days before the start of the G7 Summit in Canada. Germany’s accumulated gains from the low inflation and the more competitive conditions allow it to literally “colonize” (financially speaking) the so-called less virtuous or “deficit” nations. Germany can buy up their best businesses and services. In the meantime, Germany has also acquired a political dominance to match its surplus within the EU itself.

It can control the rules of the EU economy and influence their evolution. That’s why there are few options for the PIGS. And that’s why society and political discourse have deteriorated. The rise of the so-called populist—I prefer the term “protest”—parties, Left or Right, in countries like Italy is a trend destined to expand throughout the EU and cause irreparable fissures. If the EU does not change (and by change, I mean a downsizing of Germany’s stature), the fissures will be irreparable, and one or more states will leave, breaking the union.

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“It’s all risk and very little reward in the path ahead..”

David Stockman: Stocks Will Plunge 50% In This ‘Daredevil Market’ (CNBC)

David Stockman is intensifying his bear case. President Ronald Reagan’s Office of Management and Budget director blames a bull market that’s getting longer in the tooth — paired with headwinds ranging from President Donald Trump’s leadership to fiscal policy decisions to questionable earnings. “I call this a daredevil market. It’s all risk and very little reward in the path ahead,” Stockman said Tuesday on CNBC’s “Futures Now.” “This market is just way, way over-priced for reality.” His thoughts came as the Nasdaq was reaching all-time highs again, while S&P 500 rose slightly but the Dow failed to extend its win streak to three days in a row.

“The S&P 500 could easily drop to 1,600 because earnings could drop to $75 a share the next time we have a recession,” Stockman warned. “We’re about eight or nine years into this expansion. Everything is crazily priced. I mean the S&P 500 at 24 times at the end, tippy top of a business cycle.” One of his biggest gripes with the bulls is the notion that President Donald Trump’s tax cuts are providing a fundamental lift to stocks. “These tax cuts are going to add to the deficit in the 10th year of an expansion. It’s just irresponsible crazy,” he said. “It’s all going to stock buybacks and M&A deals anyway. That doesn’t cause the economy to grow. It’s just a short-term boost to the stock market that doesn’t last.”

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All it takes is some hollow words.

Euro Recovers On Rising Bets ECB May Unwind Stimulus (R.)

The euro stayed near two-week highs against many of its rivals on Thursday, on rising bets the ECB may soon announce it will start winding down its massive bond purchase program. Jens Weidmann, the head of Germany’s central bank, said expectations the ECB would taper its bond-buying program by the end of this year were plausible while his Dutch counterpart, Klaas Knot, said there was no reason to continue a quantitative easing program. The trio of comments drove the euro to a two-week high of $1.1800 sharp. The common currency last traded at $1.1781, extending its gains so far this week to 1.15%.

“In the near term, we are likely to see event-driven trading on the euro. We should expect the euro to jump 100 pips (one cent) quite easily on comments from key officials,” said Kyosuke Suzuki, director of forex at Societe Generale. The ECB has been debating whether to end the unprecedented 2.55 trillion euro ($2.99 trillion) bond purchase program this year as the threat of deflation has passed. Still many market players were surprised by the flurry of comments as they had thought uncertainty caused by a political crisis in Italy could make policymakers cautious about indicating an end to stimulus at its policy meeting on June 14.

Indeed, the yield spread of Italian debt to German Bunds widened on Wednesday as Italian bonds are seen as the biggest beneficiary of the ECB’s buying. “This euro buying is essentially short-term trade. People don’t know when Italian debt problems will be solved but they do know when the ECB might announce an exit from stimulus,” said Mitsuo Imaizumi, chief currency strategist at Daiwa Securities.

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But then Europe and Japan signal they’ll do the same.

Indonesia Joins India In Begging Fed To Stop Shrinking Its Balance Sheet (ZH)

On the same day that the governor of Malaysia’s central bank quit, and just days after Urjit Patel, governor of the Reserve Bank of India, took the unprecedented step of writing an oped to the Federal Reserve, begging the US central bank to step tightening monetary conditions, and shrinking its balance sheet, thereby creating a global dollar shortage which has slammed emerging markets (and forced India into an unexpected rate hike overnight), Indonesia’s new central bank chief joined his Indian counterpart in calling on the Federal Reserve to be “more mindful” of the global repercussions of policy tightening amid the ongoing rout in emerging markets.

As Bloomberg reports, in his first interview with international media since he took office two weeks ago, Bank Indonesia Governor Perry Warjiyo echoed what Patel said just days earlier, namely that the pace of the Fed’s balance sheet reduction was a key issue for central bankers across emerging markets. As a reminder, the RBI Governor made exactly the same comments earlier this week, arguing that slowing the pace of stimulus withdrawal at a time when the US Treasury is doubling down on debt issuance, would support global growth, as the alternative would be an emerging markets crisis that would spill over into developed markets.

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Get the hell out. Take their powers away.

Fed Clambers Back To Positive Real Rates, Now Debate Is When To Stop (R.)

The Federal Reserve will likely raise its target interest rate to above the rate of inflation for the first time in a decade next week, igniting a new debate: when to stop. The Fed has been gradually hiking rates since late 2015 with little sign of tighter conditions hampering economic recovery. The expected June increase will raise the stakes as the Fed seeks to sustain the second-longest U.S. expansion on record while continuing to edge rates higher. With inflation still tame, policymakers are aiming for a “neutral” rate that neither slows nor speeds economic growth. But estimates of neutral are imprecise, and as interest rates top inflation and enter positive “real” territory, analysts feel the Fed is at higher risk of going too far and actually crimping the recovery.

The Fed is “gradually entering a new world when rates are at 2 percent,” nearing zero on a real basis and approaching where they are no longer felt to be stimulating economic activity, said Thomas Costerg, senior U.S. economist at Pictet Wealth Management. The last time rates moved into positive real territory on a sustained basis was the spring of 2005 when the Fed began tightening rapidly after a period of arguably too-lax monetary policy, ending just months before the start of the 2007-2009 financial crisis. The debate over the current cycle’s end point “came earlier than I expected,” Costerg said, with the Fed facing imminent calls on where the neutral rate of interest lies.

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Opaque topic, but this is obviously not good.

Social Security To Tap Into Trust Fund For First Time In 36 Years (MW)

Medicare’s finances were downgraded in a new report from the program’s trustees Tuesday, while the projection for Social Security’s stayed the same as last year. Medicare’s hospital insurance fund will be depleted in 2026, said the trustees who oversee the benefit program in an annual report. That is three years earlier than projected last year. This year, like last year, Social Security’s trustees said the program’s two trust funds would be depleted in 2034. For the first time since 1982, Social Security has to dip into the trust fund to pay for the program this year. It should be stressed that the reports don’t indicate that benefits disappear in those years.

After 2034, Social Security’s trustees said tax income would be sufficient to pay about three-quarters of retirees’ benefits. Congress could at any time choose to pay for the benefits through the general fund. Medicare beneficiaries also wouldn’t face an immediate cut after the trust fund is depleted in 2026. The trustees said the share of benefits that can be paid from revenues will decline to 78% in 2039. That share rises again to 85% in 2092. The hospital fund is financed mainly through payroll taxes. Social Security trustees said that reserves for the fund that pays disability benefits would be exhausted in 2032. Combined with the fund that pays benefits to retirees, all Social Security reserves would be exhausted by 2034, they said.

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Better start acting.

Opioids Are Responsible For 20% Of US Millennial Deaths (ZH)

The opioid crisis has become a significant public health emergency for many Americans, especially for millennials, so much so that one out of every five deaths among young adults is related to opioids, suggested a new report. The study is called “The Burden of Opioid-Related Mortality in the United States,” published Friday in JAMA. Researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Ontario, found that all opiate deaths — which accounts for natural opiates, semi-synthetic/ humanmade opioids, and fully synthetic/ humanmade opioids — have increased a mindboggling 292% from 2001 through 2016, with one in every 65 deaths related to opioids by 2016. Men represented 70% of all opioid-related deaths by 2016, and the number was astronomically higher for millennials (24 and 35 years of age).

According to the study, one out of every five deaths among millennials in the United States is related to opioids. In contrast, opioid-related deaths for the same cohort accounted for 4% of all deaths in 2001. Moreover, it gets worse; the second most impacted group was 15 to 24-year-olds, which suggests, the opioid epidemic is now ripping through Generation Z (born after 1995). In 2016, nearly 12.4% of all deaths in this age group were attributed to opioids. “Despite the amount of attention that has been placed on this public health issue, we are increasingly seeing the devastating impact that early loss of life from opioids is having across the United States,” said Dr. Tara Gomes, a scientist in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s.

“In the absence of a multidisciplinary approach to this issue that combines access to treatment, harm reduction and education, this crisis will impact the U.S. for generations,” she added. Over the 15-year period, more than 335,000 opioid-related deaths were recorded in the United States that met the study’s criteria. Researchers said this number is an increase of 345% from 9,489 in 2001 (33.3 deaths per million population) to 42, 245 in 2016 (130.7 deaths per million population).

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“At what stage of their hapless fiddling, constant arguing and pitiful attempts to administer the kiss of life to the corpse that Brexit has turned out to be, does a politician officially earn the title of – stupid idiot?”

The ‘Doomsday Brexit Plan’ Document Should Frighten Us All (TP)

This is the first paragraph of The Times article (paywall) regarding Britain’s now famous Doomsday Brexit plan. “Britain would be hit with shortages of medicine, fuel and food within a fortnight if the UK tries to leave the European Union without a deal, according to a Doomsday Brexit scenario drawn up by senior civil servants for David Davis.” The Times confirms that the port of Dover will collapse “on day one” if Britain crashes out of the EU, leading to critical shortages of supplies. This was the middle of three scenarios put forward by senior advisors. A type of best guestimate if you like. You simply do not want to know the outcome of the worst of those three scenarios. Indeed, we have been spared from such details.

The article states that the RAF would have to be deployed to ferry supplies around Britain. And yes, we’re still on the middle scenario here. “You would have to medevac medicine into Britain, and at the end of week two we would be running out of petrol as well,” a contributing source said. The report continues to describe matters such as cross-channel disruption for heavy goods vehicles, which would also be catastrophic. Massive carparks will be required. A senior official said in the ‘Doomsday’ Brexit plan: “We are entirely dependent on Europe reciprocating our posture that we will do nothing to impede the flow of goods into the UK. If for whatever reason, Europe decides to slow that supply down, then we’re screwed.”

Let’s not worry about the fact that French borders are often left in chaos due to the all too familiar strikes that appear almost monthly during holiday season for one reason or another. Home secretary Sajid Javid makes an unconvincing comment stating he’s ‘confident’ a deal will be done. That’s hardly the type of assurance we need is it? UK officials emphasised that the June EU summit due on the 28th was heading for a “car crash” because “no progress has been made since March” to devise plans for a long-term deal. If your confidence in Brexit is starting to wane, don’t worry, half the nation are not just anxious but downright fearful – mainly because, neither in or out has given any concreate evidence of likely outcomes. This is probably because Brexit hasn’t been done before – and was designed that way. Deliberately.

At what stage of their hapless fiddling, constant arguing and pitiful attempts to administer the kiss of life to the corpse that Brexit has turned out to be, does a politician officially earn the title of – stupid idiot? “Just bloody get on with it” shout the Brexiteers, except both they and the UK government still can’t decide what ‘it’ is.

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I’ve asked it before: where will Britain be 10 years from now?

Nearly 4 Million UK Adults Forced To Use Food Banks (Ind.)

Nearly 4 million adults in the UK have been forced to use food banks due to ”shocking” levels of deprivation, figures have revealed for the first time. An exclusive poll commissioned by The Independent reveals one in 14 Britons has had to use a food bank, with similar numbers also forced to skip meals and borrow money as austerity measures leave them “penniless with nowhere to turn”. The findings come as a major report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) shows more than 1.5 million people were destitute in the UK last year alone, a figure higher than the populations of Liverpool and Birmingham combined. This includes 365,000 children, with experts warning that social security policy changes under the Tory government were leading to “destitution by design”.

Destitution is defined as people lacking two “essential needs”, such as food or housing. The polling on food poverty, from a representative sample of 1,050 UK adults carried out for The Independent by D-CYFOR, suggests that 7 per cent of the adult population – or 3.7 million people – have used a food bank to receive a meal. A million people have decreased the portion size of their child’s meal due to financial constraints, the survey says. The results come after it emerged in April that the number of emergency meals handed out at food banks had risen at a higher rate than ever, soaring by 13 per cent in a year, with more than 1.3 million three-day emergency food supplies given to people in crisis in the 12 months to March.

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I haven’t read the book -and it’s not out yet- but this seems, let’s say, naive. If you figure that a constant increase in energy use is the culprit, how can you say renewable nergy is the solution, and not call for using less energy?

How We Created The Anthropocene (BBC)

Factories and farming remove as much nitrogen from the atmosphere as all of Earth’s natural processes, and the climate is changing fast because of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use. Beyond these grim statistics, the critical question is: will today’s interconnected mega-civilisation that allows 7.5 billion people to lead physically healthier and longer lives than at any time in our history continue from strength to strength? Or will we keep using more and more resources until human civilisation collapses? To answer this, we re-interpret human history using the tools of modern science, to provide a clearer view of the future.

Tracing the ever-greater environmental impacts of different human societies since our march out of Africa, we found that there are just five broad types that have spread worldwide. Our original hunter-gatherer societies were followed by the agricultural revolution and new types of society beginning some 10,500 years ago. The next shift resulted from the formation of the first global economy, after Europeans arrived in the Americas in 1492, which was followed in the late 1700s by the new societies following the Industrial Revolution. The final type is today’s high-production consumer capitalist mode of living that emerged after WWII.

A careful analysis shows that each successive mode of living is reliant on greater energy use, greater information and knowledge availability, and an increase in the human population, which together increase our collective agency. These insights help us think about avoiding the coming crash as our massive global economy doubles in size every 25 years, and on to the possibilities of a new and more sustainable sixth mode of living to replace consumer capitalism. Seen in this way, renewable energy for all takes on an importance beyond stopping climate breakdown; likewise free education and the internet for all has a significance beyond access to social media – as they empower women, which helps stabilise the population.

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