Jan 292020
 


M.C. Escher Fluorescent sea 1933

 

It’s a little amusing, though that word may not fit the topic, to see how people react to the 2019-nCoV (Wuhan coronavirus) “epidemic” that appears to have started in the city of that name. It’s understandable that people compare the warnings about it to those about for instance SARS (also a coronavirus, so either call this one 2019-nCoV or “Wuhan coronavirus”), and conclude that since that episode was not so bad, neither will this one be, but that’s certainly not the definitive story.

If only because stating that the world is due for a large-scale epidemic, a pandemic, is not some scare-mongering exercise, it’s basic statistics and broadly recognized. The last really big one is over 100 years ago. The Spanish flu of 1917-1918 killed an estimated 50 million people, more than WWI which took place from 1914-1918, and saw an estimated 40 million fatalities.

(Un)predictability is key: Adolfo Garcia-Sastre, director of Global Health and Emerging Pathogens Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York City says: “There is no good way to predict [when a flu pandemic will occur], but “this is something that happens every 10 to 40 years”. In essence, since a real flu pandemic hasn’t happened in 100 years, we’re overdue.

There are of course vast differences between today and 1918. But then again, these differences may balance each other out to an extent: on the one hand: 1) medical science has made enormous progress in the past 100 years. But on the other: 2) there are many more people, and they move around and come in contact with each other a lot more too.

 


Cross-sectional model of a coronavirus. Source:
Scientific Animations (CC BY-SA 4.0)

 

World population in 1918 was 1.8 billion; today it’s over 4 times that at 7.7 billion. Add increased mobility through planes, trains and automobiles -in the west and now China- and you will find the number of miles traveled and the number of people “met” per capita has probably gone up by a factor of 10 or more. Just what a virus wants: 10+ times more potential hosts.

The 2009 swine flu killed “only” 200,000 people. Not the “real thing”. SARS affected about 8,000 people and killed 774 in the early 2000s. Hardly even an epidemic, let alone a pandemic. MERS, another coronavirus, infected 186 people and with a death toll of 36. Small change in comparison.

But of course scientists are looking into the matter all the time. And, certainly compared to 1918, they have developed much more sophisticated models to do that, aided greatly by computing power. A simulation of a global pandemic that involves a coronavirus, developed late last year by scientist Eric Toner at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, showed that 65 million people might die within 18 months in such an event.

A more recent model was developed by a team led by Hong Kong University’s medicine dean Gabriel Leung:

The Coronavirus outbreak doubles every 6.2 days [..] That figure validates the forecast of top virologists who claim that Coronavirus is ten times worse than SARS. Hong Kong University is ranked a top 25 college globally and houses the world’s top 1% scientists according to Thomson Reuters. Based on the model used by HKU, up to 150,000 individuals could be affected by Coronavirus in the next three to four months on a daily basis.

Leung’s team said that it confirmed transmission from humans to humans is already occurring in virtually every major city in China. By April to May, Leung said Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing are likely to see widespread infections of Coronavirus, [before the number of infections could begin to gradually decline in June or July, Leung said.


As many as 44,000 people could be infected in Wuhan alone, with only 25,000 likely to be showing symptoms at this time..] Specifically, Leung noted that due to the close ties between Chongqing and Wuhan, Chongqing could see nearly 150,000 people affected per day at its peak.

Chongqing is sometimes presumed to be the world’s most populous city, with 30 million inhabitants, though data are somewhat opaque.

SCMP adds:

Leung, who sits on Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s advisory committee on the coronavirus, called for drastic measures to curb the spread of the virus. “Substantial, draconian measures limiting population mobility should be taken immediately,” he said, calling for the cancellation of mass gatherings, along with school closures and work-from-home arrangements.

He would undoubtedly also cancel all flights to and from Wuhan, and perhaps even all of China, as British Airways has already done, and as other airlines will be forced to follow suit.

Yesterday was the first day that the 2019-nCoV virus had infected over 1,000 new patients. And that’s in official numbers, those are the confirmed ones for a disease with a 2-week incubation period and an R0 rate (how many people are infected by each positive person) of 2.5 to 4. It was also the first day that more new cases were reported outside of Hubei province than inside it.

Scores of new countries were added to the list of those with confirmed cases. There are now 19: China, United States, France, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Australia, Nepal, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, Canada, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Germany and UAE (Finland was just added; now there’s 20). Moreover, several of these countries have confirmed human-to-human transmission.

Still, while Hong Kong University’s Gabriel Leung estimates the 2019-nCoV peak at late April-early May 2020, Chinese respiratory diseases expert Zhong Nanshan, echoed by Gao Fu, the director of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said the peak would be reached in 10 days.

 


Infection cycle of a coronavirus

 

The WHO is, as I speak, burying China in compliments for its efforts to control the disease. Which is fine, and likely more constructive than criticism, but we’ve all been able to see the footage of dead and dying people in the corridors of Wuhan hospitals. And we know China’s history on SARS reporting. Beijing is worried sick by now, but the CCP’s biggest worry will always remain power and control. The Hong Kong protests have only enforced that attitude.

But who are we to criticize China anyway? In our own countries, the main concern in the media is still about the economic effects of what may or may not become a pandemic. “It’s going to hurt global trade, it’s going to hurt our economy, woe, woe..” As if it’s such a disaster that for a few months fewer non-essential goods are schlepped halfway across the globe. That period is likely too short for us to realize than we would do good to produce at least essential goods closer to home. The main concern is money, not that 132 people have died and many more will soon. Those are our priorities.

For a bright light to hit home upside our heads that we would actually notice, that would make us take a look at ourselves, we would need a real bad pandemic. Or we will not learn that we should not need a pandemic to realize we should take care of ourselves, our own basic needs, and not let someone 10,000 miles away do that.

As for fewer airline bookings or Louis Vuitton or Apple sales, if that’s your priority, maybe you’re overdue a lesson no matter what. A lesson about what your society needs to survive, vs what are extras, luxuries, added benefits. We seem to have lost comprehension of that difference entirely.

Summary: no panic, but vigilance. Same as every other day. And not too much focus on money and profits. 2019-nCoV doesn’t care about those either. In 2020, with all the resources at our disposal, and with 1918 to guide us, we should be able to see these things coming from miles away, and not need any time to respond. It should be no more than flicking a switch.

Now it’s like: but where will our food come from, and our iPhones? We should have the answers to such questions ready at all times, or we have failed as societies. Maybe someone’s holding up a mirror to us.

A question I can’t resist is: Are we better prepared today than people were in 1918? And I can’t give you the answer. I know we should be with all the wealth and resources and available energy we’ve added, but I can’t.

 

 

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Jan 272020
 


Lewis Wickes Hine A heavy load for an old woman. Lafayette Street below Astor Place, NYC 1912

 

China Extends Holiday, Businesses Shut As Virus Toll Rises To 81 (R.)
Coronavirus Latest: Over 2,800 Global Cases Resulting in 80 Fatalities (ZH)
Coronavirus: 100,000 May Already Be Infected, Experts Warn (G.)
Chinese Nurse Says 90,000 Already Infected (ZH)
WHO To Hold Special Meeting In Beijing As Death Toll Jumps (G.)
Bolton’s Manuscript Leaks On Same Day Amazon Sales Begin (Fox)
Fed Trying to Stop Global Economic Contagion – Martin Armstrong (USAW)
ECB’s Knot: Don’t Expect Real Change In Rates In Coming Years (R.)
French NGOs, Local Authorities Take Court Action Against Oil Giant Total (G.)
Locust Swarms The Size Of Cities (AP)
Julian Assange: ‘Unofficial’ Solitary Confinement as Torture (Cross)

 

 

Going through the latest corona numbers today, mostly released at midnight local time by the Beijing government, we now have:

• 81 deaths (round numbers, up 25 from yesterday, previous 2 days were both up 15)

• 2,744 infected (bit less than the 3,390 predicted by the Fibonacci sequence, but there’s a new category):

5,794 suspected infections (if only half are confirmed, this would blow Fibonacci out of the water)

• 461 critical patients

• reports of 90,000-100,000 infected in Wuhan (see articles below) and virus is spreading fast beyond Wuhan

• reports of 5 million Wuhan residents having left the city for the holiday, prior to the lockdown

Moreover, as Tyler remarked on Twitter: “Coronavirus mortality rises above 5% with 76 dead on 1,423 confirmed Hubei cases. Was 2% three days ago.”

Numbers from Beijing:

And the Fibonacci numbers again:


Fibonacci

Another 3-4 days of holiday. What good can it do with that 2-week incubation time? One thing is sure: it’s going to hurt the economy: “On Saturday, overall transportation dropped by 28.8% from the same day last year. Railway transportation fell by 41.5%, roads 25% and passenger flights 41.6%.”

China Extends Holiday, Businesses Shut As Virus Toll Rises To 81 (R.)

The death toll from a coronavirus outbreak in China rose to 81 on Monday, as the government extended the Lunar New Year holiday and more big businesses shut down or told staff to work from home in an effort to curb the spread. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited the central city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, as the government sought to signal it was responding seriously. But Asian shares tumbled, with Japan’s Nikkei average sliding 2.0%, its biggest one-day fall in five months, as investors grew increasingly anxious. Demand spiked for safe-haven assets such as the Japanese yen and Treasury notes. The total number of confirmed cases in China rose about 30% to 2,744, with about half in Hubei province, whose capital is Wuhan.


As worries grew around the world, Chinese-ruled Hong Kong, which has had eight confirmed cases, banned entry to people who had visited Hubei in the past 14 days. The ban did not cover Hong Kong residents. The nearby gambling hub of Macau, which has had at least one case of the flu-like virus, imposed a similar ban on those arriving from Hubei, unless they can prove they are virus-free. The city of Haikou on Hainan island in southern China said tourists from Hubei would be quarantined for 14 days. “Hubei people are getting discriminated against,” a Wuhan resident complained on the Weibo social media platform. The number of deaths from the virus in Hubei climbed to 76 from 56, health officials said, with five deaths elsewhere in China.

Read more …

Slightly different numbers here and there, but the trend is clear:

Coronavirus Latest: Over 2,800 Global Cases Resulting in 80 Fatalities (ZH)

• In China there are now 2,744 confirmed cases as of 1200am on Jan 27, an increase of 39% resulting in 80 deaths, up 43%. This is triple the 916 mainland China cases reported late on Friday. Across the globe, there are now 2,807 confirmed cases and 80 Chinese fatalities, as so far nobody outside of China has died from the disease (that we know of).

• Some very unpleasant math: in China’s Hubei province where Wuhan is located, epicenter of the coronavirus breakout, there have been 1,423 cases and 76 deaths, resulting in a mortality rate of over 5%.

• 5th US Coronavirus infection confirmed by CDC in 4 states (AZ, CA, IL, WA)

• Incubation is asymptomatic, contagious, and can be as long as 14 days

• 5 million may have left Wuhan for Lunar New Year

• 1st case was Dec 1 NOT Dec 31 so infect pop may be much bigger

• 3 Beijing hospitals using AIDS drugs to treat virus

[..] the outbreak-related news out of China went from bad to worse on Sunday, as Wuhan’s Mayor not only informed the public that he suspects the number of cases in the city to increase by a considerable margin (as we mentioned below), but also that some 5 million residents of Wuhan – roughly half of the city’s population – had already left the city before the quarantine was fully implemented. Some left early last week for the lunar new year holiday, while others fled after learning about Beijing’s plans to cut off the city from the outside world (except for the flow of personnel and supplies needed to fight the outbreak). Anybody who tries to leave Wuhan on Sunday will find the roads blocked and guards ordering them to turn back.

The barricade, at one of the tolls for highways exiting the city, was blocked with red and yellow plastic barriers and cones. “Nobody can leave,” a policeman told AFP. But that’s far from the only disturbing news to emerge in the past few hours. To try and assuage citizens’ frustration about the virus overshadowing the LNY holiday, Beijng announced an extension of the holiday. That should take a bigger bite out of China’s GDP as factories, offices and government services will remain shuttered – but ideally China’s battered travel and tourism industry might be able to make up for some of the hit. As we noted earlier, Suzhou, a factory hub, was the first city to announce a holiday-like shutdown of industry until Feb. 8. China’s top transportation official confirmed on Sunday that travel has plummeted for the holiday. On Saturday, overall transportation dropped by 28.8% from the same day last year. Railway transportation fell by 41.5%, roads 25% and passenger flights 41.6%.

After the third case was confirmed in California on Sunday, health officials in Virginia have announced that three patients suspected to have contracted the virus are under observation, according to Fox. More alarmingly, a student at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University is being monitored for the virus after reporting a fever and a cough. Though it has yet to be confirmed, this underscores the difficulty in stopping the spread of the virus to the US, as Chinese students return to their American schools for the new semester, as the Hartford Courant reports. More suspected cases have been reported in California and Texas (though the Texas cases have mostly been cleared).

Read more …

Neil Ferguson. Note: no separate reports on infection rates among children.

Coronavirus: 100,000 May Already Be Infected, Experts Warn (G.)

About 100,000 people could be infected with the new coronavirus around the world, experts have warned, as the UK government faced calls to reassure people that the NHS is ready to deal with any British cases within days. Prof Neil Ferguson, a public health expert at Imperial College, said his “best guess” was that there were 100,000 affected by the virus even though there are only 2,000 confirmed cases so far, mostly in the city of Wuhan in China where the virus first appeared. “Sooner or later we will get a case,” he said. “There are very large numbers of Chinese tourists across Europe right now. Unless the Chinese manage to control this, and I’m sceptical about whether that is possible, we will get cases here.”

Ferguson, whose team have been modelling the disease for the World Health Organization, said they estimated the virus had a reproductive rate of 2.5-3, meaning that each person infected would potentially transmit it to up to three others. “My best guess now is perhaps 100,000 cases right now,” he said, although it could be between 30,000 and 200,000. “Almost certainly many tens of thousands of people are infected.” Most of the cases that have been exported to other countries from China have been mild, he said. That could mean mild cases of disease spread more easily than severe, life-threatening cases, which sounds like good news. But on the other hand, it means it is possible there will be a reservoir of mild disease in the country that goes unnoticed and can spread until it affects somebody vulnerable because of underlying poor health, who becomes seriously ill.

“People looking for people with a travel history to China are not necessarily looking in their local population,” he said. There is a lot still unknown, he explained. “We don’t have reports as yet as to the extent to which children are becoming infected, probably because of the bias towards severe cases.” Unlike Sars, which made everyone who contracted the virus severely ill, the new virus appears to be able to slip under the radar, he said. Firstly, there are the many mild carriers, who will infect other people without necessarily being recognised. Secondly, there are reports from China of people who have infected others before they have experienced any symptoms.

Ferguson said it was possible this is not quite as it appears. It may be that the authorities have not actually identified the index case – the person who infected a group of people – making it look as though they picked up the virus from someone who had no symptoms.

Read more …

This is from a few days before Ferguson gave his 100,000 infected estimate. The lack of medical supplies is also noteworthy. Stories about “amateur” equipment.

Chinese Nurse Says 90,000 Already Infected (ZH)

A viral video, reposted on Twitter 48 hours ago, has more than 800k views and reveals an urgent message from a Wuhan nurse, who claims more than 90,000 people in China have been infected with the fast-spreading coronavirus. An unverified translation of the nurse, posted by @purplelovehime, has been retweeted more than 13.7k times since Saturday, states: “I am Jin Wei. I am currently inside the Wuhan outbreak region, Han Hou area. I would like to describe the condition inside the Hubei province, as well as the outbreak situation in the entire China. Currently, there are already 90,000 cases of pneumonia contraction.”

“What is the rate of contraction? If one person contracted this disease and is not properly quarantined and treated, this I individual will infect 14 people that came in contact with him. That is a significant multiplier. During the spring festival, in our culture, families like to get together, dine together. But this is unlike any other years. I hope that people can stay home, do not gather, and do not visit families. There is a spring festival every year. If everyone can stay safe, you can always get together later,” the unverified translation of the nurse said. The translation went on to say that medical supplies from bio suits, medical masks, goggles, and gloves “are in great shortages.”

The nurse, in an emotional plea, said everyone in Wuhan and surrounding cities to “not go out! Stay home!” The translation ended with the nurse delivering some “very bad news:” “The coronavirus has mutated. It is now a second-generation virus. When it was still in its first generation, we were still able to treat this… However, after the last mutation, it became deadly… The rate of infection are now increasing exponentially. So please remember do not go out, do not visit people, do not gather in a group, do not have dinner party.”

Read more …

60 million under lockdown now? hard to keep track.

WHO To Hold Special Meeting In Beijing As Death Toll Jumps (G.)

The head of the World Health Organisation will hold a special meeting with officials in Beijing on Monday to discuss how to contain the coronavirus that has killed 80 people and left more than 400 in a critical condition. In an effort to reduce chances of infection during what is China’s busiest travel season, officials announced the end of this week’s lunar new year holiday would be postponed until at least 2 February. Authorities have also widened sweeping restrictions that have curbed the movement of tens of millions of people. A total of 17 cities are now under lockdown, with several areas banning long-distance bus services, including Beijing, Shanghai and the eastern province of Shandong, home to 200 million people.


On Monday, Chongqing municipality, which has a population of 30 million, adopted similar measures. The municipality borders Hubei province, where the vast majority of deaths, have been recorded. The suspension of long-distance bus services, the cheapest way to travel, is likely slow down the return of millions of migrant workers who have visited their families over the lunar new year. By postponing the end of the holiday to Sunday from Friday, officials hoped to “effectively reduce mass gatherings” and “block the spread of the epidemic,” a cabinet statement said. Many of China’s big retail chains have also said they will temporarily close their stores, while some online businesses and banks have advised employees returning from Hubei province to work from home.

Read more …

As the “trial” restarts today, Bolton will hover in the background. From the Dems’ worst enemy to their best hope.

Aaron Maté: “Bolton news is fuzzy. Bolton isn’t saying Trump tied Ukraine weapons $ to opening a Burisma/2016 probe. Bolton says Trump wanted Ukraine to “[turn] over all materials they had about the Russia investigation that related Mr. Biden & and supporters of Mrs. Clinton in Ukraine.” Huh?”

Bolton’s Manuscript Leaks On Same Day Amazon Sales Begin (Fox)

Former national security advisor John Bolton’s team was under fire from conservative commentators Sunday night, after a report in The New York Times revealed a bombshell excerpt from Bolton’s forthcoming book that could prove pivotal in President Trump’s impeachment trial — just as the Amazon product page for the book went live. The drama began earlier Sunday when the Times exclusively reported that Bolton’s manuscript included a claim that Trump explicitly linked a hold on Ukraine aid to an investigation of Joe and Hunter Biden. Trump told Bolton in August, according to a transcript of Bolton’s forthcoming book reviewed by the Times, “that he wanted to continue freezing $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine until officials there helped with investigations into Democrats including the Bidens.”

The Times further claimed Bolton had shared a manuscript of his forthcoming book with “close associates” — prompting Bolton’s team to deny the claim, and assert that the National Security Council’s [NSC’s] review process of pending manuscripts is “corrupted” and prone to leaks. A “pre-publication review” at the NSC is standard for any former government officials who held security clearances and publicly write or speak publicly about their official work. The review typically would focus on ferreting out any classified or sensitive material in advance of publication, and could take from days to months.

Conservatives, however, suggested Sunday evening that Bolton’s team may have leaked the information themselves while using the media as unwitting tools to juice their book sales. Online merchants began taking orders for Bolton’s book, entitled “The Room Where It Happened,” just as the Times’ story broke, with a March release date. Sarah Tinsley, a senior adviser to Bolton, told Fox News he had submitted a hard copy draft of his manuscript to the NSC several weeks ago for “pre-publication review,” but had not shared it with anyone else. The NSC is the White House’s internal national security and foreign policy arm.

[..] “Just like James Comey, John Bolton is trying to get rich off of a lie- and leak-fueled campaign to overturn the 2016 election results,” wrote The Federalist’s Sean Davis.”I suspect it will work out as well as all of Bolton’s other wars.” Davis added: “John Bolton is running the exact same revenge playbook against Trump that James Comey used. He’s even using the same agent and leaking to the same reporters. All because he’s mad Trump fired him for leaking and trying to start new wars. It’s so boring and predictable. … If you think anyone other than Bolton’s lawyer, publisher, or agent leaked this to 1) juice sales of his book, and 2) get revenge against Trump for firing Bolton and refusing to start a bunch of new wars, you’re an idiot.”

Read more …

You don’t think they’ve given up yet?

Fed Trying to Stop Global Economic Contagion – Martin Armstrong (USAW)

Legendary geopolitical and financial analyst Martin Armstrong says, “The Fed is trapped. If it stops (injecting money into the repo market by billions of dollars daily), interest rates will rise.” Armstrong goes on to explain, “The Bank of Japan came out and said we’re going to buy government bonds unlimited. They, too, are trying to prevent interest rates from rising. . . . The ECB cannot afford rates to go up. . . . This is a global contagion that’s developing, and it’s pretty serious. The rise in interest rates has tremendous implications all the way around the globe. . . . Interest rates are rising because there is increased risk – period.” The big risk, according to Armstrong, is global governments, including the U.S., Armstrong says.

“You have to understand, at some point in time, capital begins to figure out who is the greatest risk, and the risk is government. At that stage in the game, when that point is reached, then you have shifts. The capital will move from public types of investments, such as government bonds and things of that nature, and then will move into the private sector. That’s equities, and that can be gold and real estate in different places. You try to go to tangible assets.” So, what could go wrong with the Fed trapped in the repo market and cannot stop liquefying bad debt? Armstrong says, “What can go wrong is that they lose the game. They are doing this to try to prevent interest rates from rising. If they did not do this, the short term rate would be up dramatically.”

What could go wrong is the Fed can continue to fuel the repo market with cheap money and interest rates can rise anyway? Armstrong says, “Correct. They have already lost control, otherwise they wouldn’t be doing this. . . .They are trying to keep rates down. If the Fed loses, rates are going to go up, and you are going to see this in the Treasury auctions. Then it won’t matter what the Fed is trying to do in the repo market. You will see this stress in the Treasury auctions, and the government will have to start paying higher prices. This is what’s going to take place.”

Read more …

The ECB is using Bernanke’s “savings glut” boondoggle to destroy your savings and pensions. Lagarde said it very clearly: jobs are better than savings.

What actually IS happening is they protect bankers’ profits by annihilating (your) savings in a broad sense. Pitchforks!

ECB’s Knot: Don’t Expect Real Change In Rates In Coming Years (R.)

European Central Bank policymaker Klaas Knot on Sunday said he does not expect interest rates to fundamentally change in the coming years. “I don’t see any move towards fundamentally different rates in the coming years,” Knot said in an interview with Dutch television program Buitenhof. Rates could go up again in the future, the Dutch central bank governor said, but for now are being kept historically low by an abundance of savings and by a structurally low inflation rate in the euro zone. Knot also warned of the lingering threat of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit at the end of this year, which he said could lower economic growth in the Netherlands by 0.5%. “The imminent threat of a no-deal Brexit on Jan. 31 is negligible”, Knot said. “But the Brexit risk has only been postponed, as it seems impossible to have a comprehensive trade agreement that includes financial services in 11 months.”

Read more …

This might work in France. But how about the EU?

French NGOs, Local Authorities Take Court Action Against Oil Giant Total (G.)

An alliance of 14 French local authorities and several NGOs will take unprecedented court action this week against the French oil firm Total to try to force the firm to drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. It is the first climate change litigation against a private company in France. Campaigners want the court to ensure Total does more to curb its emissions. Total is on the list of top 20 global fossil fuel companies whose joint exploitation of the world’s oil, gas and coal reserves can be directly linked to more than a third of all greenhouse gas emissions in the modern era, according to analysis last year. The towns and local authorities that have brought the case range from Bayonne, in the south-west, to La Possession, on Réunion island in the Indian Ocean, and Sevran, north of Paris.

They argue that the climate emergency is already being felt by ordinary citizens and not enough is being done by large firms. Under a French law called the duty of vigilance, large companies must set out clear measures to any prevent human rights violations or environmental damage resulting from their activities. The non-governmental organisations bringing the case said Total had not included enough substantial detail in its vigilance plan to curb emissions, and the firm was out of step with the Paris climate agreement’s goals on limiting global heating. On Tuesday, a court summons will be made in Nanterre, outside Paris.

Sandra Cossart, the head of Sherpa, a French NGO working on economic transparency and corporate-related human rights, said: “It’s the first climate litigation in France against a private company, and it aims to change that company’s strategy in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.” Sandra said that under the duty of vigilance law, “Total is legally required to identify the risks resulting from its contribution to global warming and to take the necessary measures to reduce its emissions.” She said the case was an “important moment” to show that big companies have to step up on the climate emergency. “The more impact you have, the more responsibility you have.”

Read more …

Best line of the day: “Even cows are wondering what is happening..”

“One especially large swarm in northeastern Kenya measured 60 kilometers long by 40 kilometers wide (37 miles long by 25 miles wide).”

Locust Swarms The Size Of Cities (AP)

The worst outbreak of desert locusts in Kenya in 70 years has seen hundreds of millions of the bugs swarm into the East African nation from Somalia and Ethiopia. Those two countries have not had an infestation like this in a quarter-century, destroying farmland and threatening an already vulnerable region with devastating hunger. “Even cows are wondering what is happening,” said Ndunda Makanga, who spent hours Friday trying to chase the locusts from his farm. “Corn, sorghum, cowpeas, they have eaten everything.”

When rains arrive in March and bring new vegetation across much of the region, the numbers of the fast-breeding locusts could grow 500 times before drier weather in June curbs their spread, the United Nations says. “We must act immediately,” said David Phiri of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, as donors huddled in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, a three-hour drive away. About $70 million is needed to step up aerial pesticide spraying, the only effective way to combat them, the U.N. says. That won’t be easy, especially in Somalia, where parts of the country are in the grip of the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group.

Even a small swarm of the insects can consume enough food for 35,000 people in a single day, said Jens Laerke of the U.N. humanitarian office in Geneva. Farmers are afraid to let their cattle out for grazing, and their crops of millet, sorghum and maize are vulnerable, but there is little they can do. About 70,000 hectares (172,973 acres) of land in Kenya are already infested. [..] A single swarm can contain up to 150 million locusts per square kilometer of farmland, an area the size of almost 250 football fields, regional authorities say. One especially large swarm in northeastern Kenya measured 60 kilometers long by 40 kilometers wide (37 miles long by 25 miles wide).

Read more …

Quite afew comments on this, but I would be careful linking street protests to changes in Julian’s conditions. The imates may have helped.

Julian Assange: ‘Unofficial’ Solitary Confinement as Torture (Cross)

The sustained violation of the human rights of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, has been carried out in full view of the world throughout his arbitrary detention in HMP Belmarsh. Until now, condemnation of his treatment and pleas to end his suffering have been met with denial and silence by the British authorities. But the announcement this week that Assange has been moved out of Belmarsh healthcare unit where he has been detained in solitary confinement since May, is a sign that the campaign to stop his persecution is gaining traction.

Also of significance is the involvement of his fellow inmates in helping to secure Assange’s release from solitary confinement, which suggests that within the walls of Belmarsh it is understood that the healthcare unit has been weaponized to arbitrarily isolate and punish a prisoner. Moving Assange from solitary confinement shows a shift from official government position that solitary confinement ‘does not exist’ Until now the British authorities have not only denied that Assange has been detained in solitary confinement, but that solitary confinement is not practised in British prisons.

In an attempt to mitigate growing public outrage, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) has been sending out letters in response to the influx of complaints it has been receiving regarding the abuse of Assange. In its response it refuses to address his case and produces a list of standards and laws written for the protection of prisoners as evidence he is in ‘safe hands.’ However, anyone who has followed the continued arbitrary detention of Assange in Belmarsh will know he has been placed effectively outside the reach of laws and standards; even access to his lawyers and legal documents, normally preserved by statutory prisoner rights – has been harshly restricted, all of which has had a crippling effect on preparation for his defence in a case of historical significance.

Read more …

 

https://twitter.com/i/status/1221454003491540992

 

 

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