Jan 132021
 
 January 13, 2021  Posted by at 10:31 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  61 Responses »


Alfred Wertheimer Elvis entering the Warwick 1956

 

The Ireland Event (Ben Hunt)
Japan To Suspend Entry Of All Foreigners (NHK)
China Sees Growing COVID-19 Threat As More Cities Locked Down (R.)
Ron Paul Criticized Social Media Censorship Before Being Blocked (Turley)
How Silicon Valley Monopolistic Force Destroyed Parler (Greenwald)
Pence Responds To Pelosi, Won’t Invoke 25th Amendment (Mike Pence)
Trump’s Last Chance to Declassify Secrets of the Russia Collusion Dud (Maté)
Israel Isn’t A Democracy, It’s An ‘Apartheid Regime’ – Rights Group (CNN)
Upbeat Xi Says “Time And Situation On China’s Side” (ZH)
Food Hampers In Wales As English Mum Posts Picture Of £30 Package (WO)
Top Scientists: ‘Ghastly Future Of Mass Extinction’, Climate Disruption (G.)

 

 

“There is nothing the matter with Americans except their ideals. The real American is all right: It is the ideal American who is all wrong.”
– G.K. Chesterton

 

 

 

 

“..a 30x spike in Covid cases in Ireland over the span of two weeks in late December..”

The Ireland Event (Ben Hunt)

And when I say “insane infection numbers” I mean a 30x spike in Covid cases in Ireland over the span of two weeks in late December, where the R number – the basic reproductive rate of the disease – went from something around 1.2 to something around 3. Where you suddenly went from a few hundred new Covid cases every day to more than six thousand cases every day. All in a country the size of Alabama (which, btw, currently has about 4 thousand cases every day). [..] I believe there is a non-trivial chance that the United States will experience a rolling series of “Ireland events” over the next 30-45 days, where the Covid effective reproductive number (Re not R0) reaches a value between 2.4 and 3.0 in states and regions where a) the more infectious UK-variant (or similar) Covid strain has been introduced, and b) Covid fatigue has led to deterioration in social distancing behaviors.

A single Ireland event is a disaster. A series of Ireland events on the scale of the United States is catastrophic. If this were to occur, I’d expect to see a doubling of new Covid cases/day from current levels in the aggregate (today’s 7-day average is 240k/day), peaking somewhere around 500,000 new daily cases before draconian economic shutdowns (more severe than anything we’ve seen to date) would occur in every impacted major metro area. Hospital systems across the country would be placed under enormous additional strain, leading to meaningfully higher case fatality ratios (CFRs) as medical care was rationed. Most critically, this new infection rate would far outpace our current vaccine distribution capacity and policy. Assuming that vaccines are preferentially administered to the elderly, aggregate infection fatality ratios (IFRs) should decrease, but the overall burden of severe outcomes (death, long-term health consequences) would shift to younger demographics.

Current US government policy rejects the possibility of an Ireland event, largely because of what I believe is a politically-motivated analysis by the CDC that models more than 100 million Americans already possessing Covid antibodies, prior to any vaccination effort. Using data from flu monitoring programs in prior years, the CDC models project that 70 MILLION Americans have already gotten sick with symptomatic Covid, but decided to just write it off as a bad cold and never got tested. I am not making this up. Add in another 10 million or so Americans who the CDC models as having already had asymptomatic Covid, add in the 23 million Americans who we know have had Covid, and voila! – per the CDC, one-third of the American population is already effectively immunized against getting Covid in the future. And obviously enough, if >30% of Americans are already effectively immunized against Covid because they’ve already gotten sick, then it’s very difficult to hit the Re numbers of 2.4 – 3.0 that Ireland is currently experiencing.

I think this model is wrong, and I think the CDC knows that it’s wrong. I think it’s wrong because the 2021 behavior of someone who thinks they might have Covid is very different from the 2015 behavior of someone who thought they might have had the flu, but the CDC assumes it is the same in their models. You don’t ignore Covid. You don’t just brush it off. I’d say that no one just brushes off Covid symptoms the way they might have brushed off flu symptoms in the past, but of course that’s not true. I’m sure there are millions of Americans who have, in fact, had symptomatic Covid and ignored it, particularly in spring and early summer when our national testing capability was pathetic. But 70 MILLION Americans? Twenty percent of ALL Americans? More than three times the number of known Covid cases? C’mon, man.

I think the CDC knows this model is wrong because if it were true – if they actually thought that one-third of Americans were already effectively immunized by having Covid antibodies – this would be an ENORMOUS factor in determining vaccination policy. Otherwise, you are going to be wasting one-third of your precious supply of vaccines on people who don’t need it. I think the CDC knows this model is wrong because if it were true, how do you make sense of Covid hospitalization rates?

Read more …

Soon to come in a country near you.

Japan To Suspend Entry Of All Foreigners (NHK)

The Japanese government plans to suspend the entry of all foreigners as the coronavirus continues to spread around the world. Japan halted all new arrivals of non-nationals last month after new strains of the coronavirus that are believed to be highly transmissible were confirmed in the UK and elsewhere. But it continued to allow entry by businesspeople from 10 Asian countries and Taiwan. The government plans to suspend the entry of travelers, regardless of whether a coronavirus variant has been detected in their country, as part of its tighter entry restrictions following the declaration of a state of emergency.


No foreigners will be allowed to enter Japan, except for special reasons, such as a relative’s funeral or childbirth. Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide said last week he plans to ban travel to and from countries and territories where a new strain of the coronavirus has been confirmed. But members of his party and others described the measure as confusing.

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China’s nervous.

China Sees Growing COVID-19 Threat As More Cities Locked Down (R.)

China has recorded the biggest daily jump in COVID cases in more than five months, despite four cities in lockdown, increased testing and other measures aimed at preventing another wave of infections in the world’s second biggest economy. Most of the new patients were reported near the capital Beijing, but a province in northeast China also saw a rise in new cases, official data showed on Wednesday, amid a resurgence that has seen more than 28 million people under home quarantine. The National Health Commission said in a statement that a total of 115 new confirmed cases were reported in the mainland compared with 55 a day earlier. This was the highest daily increase since July 30.

The commission said 107 of the new cases were local infections. Hebei, the province that surrounds Beijing, accounted for 90 of the cases, while northeastern Heilongjiang province reported 16 new cases. [..] Hebei has put three cities – Shijiazhuang, Xingtai and Langfang – into lockdown as part of the efforts to keep the virus from spreading further, while Beijing city authorities have stepped up screening and prevention measures to prevent another cluster from developing there. Heilongjiang province on Wednesday declared a COVID-19 emergency. The city of Suihua, which borders the provincial capital Harbin, put its 5.2 million people under lockdown.

Most of the cases in Heilongjiang have been found in Wangkui county, under Suihua’s jurisdiction, which had already been put into a lockdown earlier this week. Tieli, a city of about 300,000 people that borders Suihua, said on Wednesday it will not allow any people or vehicles to leave for three days as part of new COVID-19 prevention measurs.

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An 85-year old apostle for peace. Boy, you guys screwed up.

Ron Paul Criticized Social Media Censorship Before Being Blocked (Turley)

We have been discussing the chilling crackdown on free speech that has been building for years in the United States. This effort has accelerated in the aftermath of the Capitol riot including the shutdown sites like Parler. Now former Texas congressman Ron Paul, 85, has been blocked from using his Facebook page for unspecified violations of “community standards.” Paul’s last posting was linked to an article on the “shocking” increase of censorship on social media. Facebook then proceeded to block him under the same undefined “community standards” policy. Paul, a libertarian leader and former presidential candidate, has been an outspoken critics of foreign wars and an advocate for civil liberties for decades. He wrote: “With no explanation other than ‘repeatedly going against our community standards,’ @Facebook has blocked me from managing my page. Never have we received notice of violating community standards in the past and nowhere is the offending post identified.”

His son is Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) tweeted, “Facebook now considers advocating for liberty to be sedition. Where will it end?” Even before the riot, Democrats were calling for blacklists and retaliation against anyone deemed to be “complicit” with the Trump Administration. We have been discussing the rising threats against Trump supporters, lawyers, and officials in recent weeks from Democratic members are calling for blacklists to the Lincoln Project leading a a national effort to harass and abuse any lawyers representing the Republican party or President Trump. Others are calling for banning those “complicit” from college campuses while still others are demanding a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” to “hold Trump and his enablers accountable for the crimes they have committed.” Daily Beast editor-at-large Rick Wilson has added his own call for “humiliation,” “incarceration” and even ritualistic suicides for Trump supporters in an unhinged, vulgar column.

After the riots, the big tech companies moved to ban and block sites and individuals, including Parler which is the primary alternative to Twitter. Also, a top Forbes editor Randall Lane warned any company that they will be investigated if they hire any former Trump officials. The riots are being used as a license to rollback on free speech and retaliate against conservatives. In the meantime, the silence of academics and many in the media is deafening. Many of those who have spoken for years about the dark period of McCarthyism and blacklisting are either supporting this censorship or remaining silent in the face of it. Now that conservatives are the targets, speech controls and blacklists appear understandable or even commendable. The move against Paul, a long champion of free speech, shows how raw and comprehensive this crackdown has become. It shows how the threat to free speech has changed. It is like having a state media without state control. These companies are moving in unison but not necessarily with direct collusion.

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“..exactly at the moment when it became the most-downloaded app in the country…”

How Silicon Valley Monopolistic Force Destroyed Parler (Greenwald)

Critics of Silicon Valley censorship for years heard the same refrain: tech platforms like Facebook, Google and Twitter are private corporations and can host or ban whoever they want. If you don’t like what they are doing, the solution is not to complain or to regulate them. Instead, go create your own social media platform that operates the way you think it should. The founders of Parler heard that suggestion and tried. In August, 2018, they created a social media platform similar to Twitter but which promised far greater privacy protections, including a refusal to aggregate user data in order to monetize them to advertisers or algorithmically evaluate their interests in order to promote content or products to them. They also promised far greater free speech rights, rejecting the increasingly repressive content policing of Silicon Valley giants.

Over the last year, Parler encountered immense success. Millions of people who objected to increasing repression of speech on the largest platforms or who had themselves been banned signed up for the new social media company. As Silicon Valley censorship radically escalated over the past several months — banning pre-election reporting by The New York Post about the Biden family, denouncing and deleting multiple posts from the U.S. President and then terminating his access altogether, mass-removal of right-wing accounts — so many people migrated to Parler that it was catapulted to the number one spot on the list of most-downloaded apps on the Apple Play Store, the sole and exclusive means which iPhone users have to download apps. “Overall, the app was the 10th most downloaded social media app in 2020 with 8.1 million new installs,” reported TechCrunch.

It looked as if Parler had proven critics of Silicon Valley monopolistic power wrong. Their success showed that it was possible after all to create a new social media platform to compete with Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And they did so by doing exactly what Silicon Valley defenders long insisted should be done: if you don’t like the rules imposed by tech giants, go create your own platform with different rules. But today, if you want to download, sign up for, or use Parler, you will be unable to do so. That is because three Silicon Valley monopolies — Amazon, Google and Apple — abruptly united to remove Parler from the internet, exactly at the moment when it became the most-downloaded app in the country.

If one were looking for evidence to demonstrate that these tech behemoths are, in fact, monopolies that engage in anti-competitive behavior in violation of antitrust laws, and will obliterate any attempt to compete with them in the marketplace, it would be difficult to imagine anything more compelling than how they just used their unconstrained power to utterly destroy a rising competitor.

Tucker Greenwald

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They smell blood, this won’t stop them.

Pence Responds To Pelosi, Won’t Invoke 25th Amendment (Mike Pence)

Dear Madam Speaker:

Every American was shocked and saddened by the attack on our Nation’s Capitol last week, and I am grateful for the leadership that you and other congressional leaders provided in reconvening Congress to complete the people’s business on the very same day. It was a moment that demonstrated to the American people the unity that is still possible in Congress when it is needed most. But now, with just eight days left in the President’s term, you and the Democratic Caucus are demanding that the Cabinet and I invoke the 25th Amendment. I do not believe that such a course of action is in the best interest of our Nation or consistent with our Constitution. Last week, I did not yield to pressure to exert power beyond my constitutional authority to determine the outcome of the election, and I will not now yield to efforts in the House of Representatives to play political games at a time so serious in the life of our Nation.

As you know full well, the 25th Amendment was designed to address Presidential incapacity or disability. Just a few months ago, when you introduced legislation to create a 25th Amendment Commission, you said, “[a] President’s fitness for office must be determined by science and facts.” You said then that we must be “[v]ery respectful of not making a judgment on the basis of a comment or behavior that we don’t like, but based on a medical decision.” Madam Speaker, you were right. Under our Constitution, the 25th Amendment is not a means of punishment or usurpation. Invoking the 25th Amendment in such a manner would set a terrible precedent.

After the horrific events of this last week, our Administration’s energy is directed to ensuring an orderly transition. The Bible says that “for everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven…a time to heal, … and a time to build up.” That time is now. In the midst of a global pandemic, economic hardship for millions of Americans, and the tragic events of January 6th, now is the time for us to come together, now is the time to heal. I urge you and every member of Congress to avoid actions that would further divide and inflame the passions of the moment. Work with us to lower the temperature and unite our country as we prepare to inaugurate President-elect Joe Biden as the next President of the United States. I pledge to you that I will continue to do my part to work in good faith with the incoming administration to ensure an orderly transition of power. So help me God.

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Last chance for lots of things.

Trump’s Last Chance to Declassify Secrets of the Russia Collusion Dud (Maté)

President Trump’s last days in office offer a final opportunity to declassify critical information on the Russia investigation that engulfed his lone term. Already voluminous public records – including investigative reports from Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Congress and the Justice Department’s inspector general – have established that Trump and his associates were targeted with a baseless Russian collusion allegation. The fraudulent claim originated with the Hillary Clinton campaign, was fueled by a torrent of false or deceptive intelligence leaks, and was improperly investigated by the FBI, potentially to the point of being criminal. Despite these disclosures, key questions remain about the origins and the spread of the conspiracy theory.


And with a Biden administration set to take office and Democrats taking control of both chambers of Congress, there are no guarantees that the ongoing probe of Special Counsel John Durham will fill in the remaining gaps. Both the CIA and FBI have been slow to produce much material that Trump reportedly wants declassified. They argue that disclosure would reveal sources and methods vital to national security. Such claims arouse skepticism because they have been used in the past to cover up malfeasance – as the public learned when deceptive FISA warrant applications used to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page were finally released.

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What’s striking here is that it’s CNN covering it.

Israel Isn’t A Democracy, It’s An ‘Apartheid Regime’ – Rights Group (CNN)

Israel is no longer a democracy but an “apartheid regime” devoted to cementing the supremacy of Jews over Palestinians, the country’s best-known human rights group said in a report published Tuesday. B’Tselem, which until now has confined its work to scrutiny of human rights issues in the Palestinian territories, has now also decided to look at what it calls Israel’s “regime” between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean. “More than 14 million people, roughly half of them Jews and the other half Palestinians, live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea under a single rule,” B’Tselem said in a new analysis titled: “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.”


The human rights group says that the traditional view of Israel as a democracy operating side-by-side with a temporary Israeli occupation in the territories “imposed on some five million Palestinian subjects … has grown divorced from reality.” “Most importantly, the distinction obfuscates the fact that the entire area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River is organized under a single principle: advancing and cementing the supremacy of one group — Jews — over another — Palestinians,” B’Tselem said in its controversial analysis. Years of injustice against Palestinians, culminating in laws that have entrenched discrimination, mean that “the bar for labeling the Israeli regime as apartheid has been met,” B’Tselem said. The allegation that Israel is an “apartheid state” has often been dismissed by rightwing Israelis and their support groups as anti-Semitic. But this argument will be harder to make now that Israel has been labelled this way by such a well-respected Israeli institution, albeit one that enjoys only minority support in its home country.

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“..build and maintain a “super-sized domestic market” to boost consumption…”

Upbeat Xi Says “Time And Situation On China’s Side” (ZH)

While the political gridlock and alarmist headlines out of Capitol Hill as well as a dramatic Democratic move to impeach look to define Trump’s final week in office, Bloomberg notes that China’s President Xi Jinping is sounding “unusually upbeat”. According to the publication he issued an unusually upbeat assessment about China’s future, noting that “time and the situation” were on the country’s side in a new year marked by domestic turmoil in the U.S. The purpose of the speech before a top-level meeting of government officials in Beijing on Monday was to lay out the Communist Party vision over the next three decades, which included the presence of the Politburo Standing Committee, Beijing’s highest decision-making body.

“The world is in a turbulent time that is unprecedented in the past century,” Xi said, striking a tone which many pundits observed stood in contrast to recent more dire sounding warnings. “But time and momentum are on our side. This is where we show our conviction and resilience, as well as our determination and confidence.” And further according to the Monday remarks in the closed-door meeting: “At the same time, we must see clearly that, for now and until this upcoming period of time, while our country is at an important period of strategic opportunity for development, there will always be changes to our opportunities and challenges,” Xi was quoted as saying. “The extensiveness of these opportunities and challenges is unprecedented but, all in all, the opportunities we face outweigh our challenges,” he added, calling for unity, diligence and flexibility to achieve the party’s goals.

The cautious optimism continued, as South China Morning Post writes, while he made vague or remote references to both the pandemic and political turmoil and uncertainty afflicting the United States: In his speech, Xi also again emphasised Beijing’s new “dual circulation” economic strategy first announced in May amid global challenges brought by the pandemic and China’s slowing growth. “Only by being self-reliant and developing the domestic market and smoothing out internal circulation can we achieve vibrant growth and development, regardless of the hostility in the outside world,” Xi said. Elsewhere in the speech he continued urged that self-reliance would in part come through rapid technological innovation in order to build and maintain a “super-sized domestic market” to boost consumption.

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Scum.

Food Hampers In Wales As English Mum Posts Picture Of £30 Package (WO)

An investigation has been launched in England after images shared online showed “woefully inadequate” free school meal parcels sent to families. One mum criticised the free school meals scheme after she claimed she was sent just a few pounds worth of food to feed her children for 10 days. It was claimed the image of a £30 parcel contained just over £5 worth of food. Posting the image on Twitter, user Roadside Mum said: “2 days jacket potato with beans, 8 single cheese sandwiches, 2 days carrots, 3 days apples, 2 days soreen, 3 days frubes. “Spare pasta & tomato. Will need mayo for pasta salad. “Issued instead of £30 vouchers. I could do more with £30 to be honest.”


Footballer and campaigner Marcus Rashford tweeted another picture and wrote: “3 days of food for 1 family… Just not good enough. “Then imagine we expect the children to engage in learning from home. “Not to mention the parents who, at times, have to teach them who probably haven’t eaten at all so their children can… We MUST do better.” England children’s Minister Vicky Ford said she would be “urgently” look into the matter. England’s Department for Education wrote on Twitter: “We have clear guidelines and standards for food parcels, which we expect to be followed. “Parcels should be nutritious and contain a varied range of food.” Chartwells, the company which the mum in England said provided the parcel, said it will investigate.


The hamper received in Caerphilly (left) compared to the hamper received by a mum in England

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Paul Ehrlich. Long time no see.

Top Scientists: ‘Ghastly Future Of Mass Extinction’, Climate Disruption (G.)

The planet is facing a “ghastly future of mass extinction, declining health and climate-disruption upheavals” that threaten human survival because of ignorance and inaction, according to an international group of scientists, who warn people still haven’t grasped the urgency of the biodiversity and climate crises. The 17 experts, including Prof Paul Ehrlich from Stanford University, author of The Population Bomb, and scientists from Mexico, Australia and the US, say the planet is in a much worse state than most people – even scientists – understood. “The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its lifeforms – including humanity – is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts,” they write in a report in Frontiers in Conservation Science which references more than 150 studies detailing the world’s major environmental challenges.


The delay between destruction of the natural world and the impacts of these actions means people do not recognise how vast the problem is, the paper argues. “[The] mainstream is having difficulty grasping the magnitude of this loss, despite the steady erosion of the fabric of human civilisation.” The report warns that climate-induced mass migrations, more pandemics and conflicts over resources will be inevitable unless urgent action is taken. “Ours is not a call to surrender – we aim to provide leaders with a realistic ‘cold shower’ of the state of the planet that is essential for planning to avoid a ghastly future,” it adds. Dealing with the enormity of the problem requires far-reaching changes to global capitalism, education and equality, the paper says. These include abolishing the idea of perpetual economic growth, properly pricing environmental externalities, stopping the use of fossil fuels, reining in corporate lobbying, and empowering women, the researchers argue.

Read more …

 

 

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Dec 272020
 


Winslow Homer Spanish Girl with Fan 1885

 

Developers of Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine Tied to UK Eugenics Movement (Webb)
The Breakthrough Medicines That Could Change The Course Of Covid (G.)
Japan Halts All Foreign Arrivals Over UK COVID Variant (AP)
Britain First To Infect Healthy Volunteers With Covid19 For Research (NYP)
Scientists Call For UK Lockdown After Rapid Spread Of Covid19 Variant (G.)
Two Pandemic Assistance Programs Expire, Leaving 12 Million Without Benefits (ZH)
RussiaGate 2.0, Right on Schedule (Luongo)
This Brexit Deal Is Emphatically Nothing To Celebrate (Lis)
Glenn Greenwald: Coverage Of Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Media Misconduct’ (Hill)

 

 

 

 

Whitney Webb. Long read.

Developers of Oxford-AstraZeneca Vaccine Tied to UK Eugenics Movement (Webb)

For much of 2020, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was treated as an early front-runner, though its lead would later be marred by scandals related to its clinical trials, including the death of participants, sudden trial pauses, the use of a problematic “placebo” with its own host of side effects and the “unintentional” mis-dosing of some participants that skewed its self-reported efficacy rate. The significant issues that emerged during trials have provoked little concern from the vaccine’s two lead developers, despite critical attention from even mainstream media of its complications. The lead developer of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, Adrian Hill, told NBC on December 9th that the experimental vaccine should be approved and distributed to the public before the conclusion of the safety trials, saying,”to wait for the end of the trial would be the middle of next year. That’s too late, this vaccine is effective, available at large scale and easily deployed.”

Sarah Gilbert, the other lead researcher on the vaccine, seemed to believe that pre-mature safety approval was likely, telling the BBC on December 13 that the chances of rolling out the vaccine by the end of the year are “pretty high.” Now, the UK is expected to approve the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine shortly after Christmas, with India also set to approve the vaccine next week. While the controversies surrounding the vaccine’s trials did ultimately undermine its previous frontrunner status, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine remains heavily promoted as the vaccine of choice for the developing world, as it is cheaper and has much less complicated storage requirement than its main competitors, Pfizer and Moderna.

Earlier this month, Dr. Richard Horton, the editor-in-chief of the Lancet medical journal, told CNBC that “The Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is the vaccine right now that is going to be able to immunize the planet more effectively, more rapidly than any other vaccine we have” in large part because it is a “vaccine that can get to lower middle-income countries.” CNBC also quoted Andrew Baum, global head of health care for Citi Group, as saying that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine “is really the only vaccine that is going to suppress or even eradicate SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the many millions of individuals in the developing world.”

In addition to longstanding claims that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will be the vaccine of choice for the developing world, this vaccine candidate has also been treated by several outlets in the mainstream and even independent media as “good for people, bad for profits” due to the partnership’s “explicit intention of supplying [the vaccine] around the world on a not-for-profit basis, meaning that the poorest nations on the planet will not have to worry about being shut out of a cure due to lack of funds.” However, investigation into the vaccine’s developers and the realities of their “no-profit pledge” reveals a very different story than that which has been spun for most of the year by corporate press releases, experts and academics tied to the vaccine and the mainstream press.

For instance, mainstream media has had little, if anything, to say about the role of the vaccine developers’ private company – Vaccitech – in the Oxford-AstraZeneca partnership, a company whose main investors include former top Deutsche Bank executives, Silicon Valley behemoth Google and the UK government. All of them stand to profit from the vaccine alongside the vaccine’s two developers, Adrian Hill and Sarah Gilbert, who retain an estimated 10% stake in the company. Another overlooked point is the plan to dramatically alter the current sales model for the vaccine following the initial wave of its administration, which would see profits soar, especially if the now obvious push to make COVID-19 vaccination an annual affair for the foreseeable future is made reality.

Yet, arguably most troubling of all is the direct link of the vaccine’s lead developers to the Wellcome Trust and, in the case of Adrian Hill, the Galton Institute, two groups with longstanding ties to the UK Eugenics movement. The latter organization, named for the “father of eugenics” Francis Galton, is the re-named UK Eugenics Society, a group notorious for its promotion of racist pseudoscience and efforts to “improve racial stock” by reducing the population of those deemed inferior for over a century.

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Is this a Guardian infomercial? Meant to cast doubt on HCQ and azithromycin, and promote dexamethasone?

The Breakthrough Medicines That Could Change The Course Of Covid (G.)

It remains one of the most dramatically successful outcomes in the battle against Covid-19. A cheap treatment for inflammation was found to save lives of seriously ill patients while a trio of much-touted therapies were shown to have no effect. It is now estimated that the discovery of the effectiveness of the drug dexamethasone has saved around 650,000 lives across the world, according to Professor Martin Landray, a founder of the Recovery programme – the world’s largest randomised Covid-19 drugs trial – which revealed the medicine’s anti-Covid properties last summer. “In the UK alone, dexamethasone has already prevented more than 12,000 deaths,” he told the Observer.

The breakthrough demonstrates the power of large-scale randomised trials in pinpointing effective medicines and will be followed, in the next few weeks, with results from another handful of promising treatments being studied as part of the Recovery programme. These medicines, which could be crucial in the fight to contain Covid-19 next year, are: convalescent plasma, taken from recovering Covid patients; monoclonal antibodies, made by Regeneron, that were used to treat Donald Trump; two anti-inflammatory drugs, tocilizumab and colchicine; and aspirin. All are undergoing trials carried out by thousands of doctors and nurses on tens of thousands of patients in hospitals across Britain. First results are expected in January or early February.

Recovery was set up by Landray and Peter Horby at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The two Oxford scientists realised doctors would soon be looking for treatments once cases started pouring into hospitals but would need a clinical trial to find which were effective. It took them nine days from drafting their first protocol to the enrolling of their first patient, a process that normally takes nine months. One in 10 patients hospitalised with Covid have since entered the trial. And such numbers have been crucial to success, added Landray. Comparing 100 people who get a drug with 100 who do not can produce highly variable results. However, by randomising thousands of patients to get contrasting treatments, robust answers are produced.

“You find out which actually work,” said Landray. “In addition, we can discover which patients will benefit most. Will it be the old or the young or the immuno-compromised? You can only find that out if you have a trial with thousands of people in it.” So far, Recovery – short for Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 Therapy – has pronounced on four medicines: azithromycin, an antibiotic; the drug combination lopinavir-ritonavir; hydroxychloroquine, a treatment for malaria and rheumatic diseases; and dexamethasone. Only the last saved lives or aided recovery. A hit rate of only one in four might seem poor value. However, the extraordinary numbers of lives saved thanks to dexamethasone demonstrates the value of the Recovery programme, the world’s largest randomised Covid-19 drug trial.

The programme also ensured time and money have not been wasted on medicines that were found not to help patients. And that will become an increasingly important issue, Landray said. “When we started Recovery we looked at cheap, widely available but promising drugs, and found one of them – dexamethasone – worked. But the medicines we’re looking at now will cost hundreds of pounds per treatment, so we need to be really sure they work before we deploy them on wide scale,” Landray said.

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The world keeps getting smaller.

Japan Halts All Foreign Arrivals Over UK COVID Variant (AP)

Japan is barring entry of all nonresident foreign nationals as a precaution against a new and potentially more contagious coronavirus variant that has spread across Britain. The Foreign Ministry says the entry ban will start Monday and last through Jan. 31. Last week, Japan banned nonresident foreigners coming from Britain and South Africa after confirming the new variant in seven people over the last two days — five from Britain who tested positive at airports and two others in Tokyo. Japan is also suspending the exemption of a 14-day quarantine for Japanese nationals and resident foreigners in a short-track program that began in November.


The entrants now must carry proof of a negative test 72 hours prior to departure for Japan and self-isolate for two weeks after arrival. Japan is struggling with surging cases since November. It has confirmed a total of 217,312 cases including 3,213 deaths, up 3,700 from the previous 24-hour period. Tokyo alone reported 949 cases, setting a new record, despite calls by experts and government officials for people to spend a “quiet” holiday season.

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“..an experimental nasal vaccine..”

Britain First To Infect Healthy Volunteers With Covid19 For Research (NYP)

The world’s first COVID-19 human challenge is about to start. Britain will infect 2,500 healthy volunteers with coronavirus to study how the infection behaves in the body — specifically the amount it takes before a person develops Covid-19, the Sun reported. The government has budgeted $45 million for the research, which is being conducted by Imperial College, the National Health Service’s Royal Free Hospital and pharmaceutical company hVIVO, a pioneer in viral human challenge models. Human challenge studies aren’t used often because of the ethical questions raised about infecting healthy people.


The Brits, ages 18 to 30, will get a dose of an experimental nasal vaccine, then be infected. The project gets underway in January; scientists expect the first results in May. Alastair Fraser-Urquhart, 18, of Stoke-on-Trent, raised his hand because he wants to help “bring the world out of the pandemic sooner.. “I can’t let this opportunity to do something, to really do something, pass me by when I’m at such low risk.” Fraser-Urquhart and his fellow volunteers will be paid about $5,300 for their three-week stay at the hospital’s specialist diseases clinic, where they will be monitored around the clock, the Mail Online reported. Later, researchers will use the human challenge model to find out how vaccines work to prevent coronavirus.

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January will be dark and bleak in many places.

Scientists Call For UK Lockdown After Rapid Spread Of Covid19 Variant (G.)

Cases of the new variant Covid-19 virus were confirmed in several European countries on Saturday, including Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. All were linked to people who had arrived from the UK. Meanwhile, Japan has announced it is banning all new entries of foreign nationals from Monday following the discovery of the variant in travellers from the UK. The news came at the same time as a further six million people in east and south-east England had tier 4 conditions, England’s strictest Covid level, imposed on them on Boxing Day. Lockdowns were also introduced in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Around 24 million people in England, more than 40% of the population, are now living in tier 4, as pressure mounts for the whole country to be put in this category.

Scientists from the Independent Sage group have urged that all regions of England be placed in tier 4, meaning that non-essential shops, hairdressers, and leisure and entertainment venues must close. Devolved nations were advised to bring forward their own national lockdowns. Tier 4 should include enhanced travel restrictions, the group said, while arguing that an emergency plan be introduced to enable safe education in January and February. This idea is supported by teaching unions, who have demanded that the government keeps schools closed as evidence has grown that the new virus variant is proving to be particularly infectious among children.

This point was backed by Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia. “If this new variant is behind the increase in this age group, then that is a big worry,” he said. France announced this weekend that it has discovered its first case of the new variant – a French citizen who arrived in Tours after travelling from London a week ago, according to health officials. In Madrid, Spanish officials said three cases of the new variant recently discovered in the country involved relatives of a man who had arrived from the UK on Christmas Eve, while the fourth case also involved a traveller from the UK. None of the patients was reported to be seriously ill.

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Blame it on Trump. But never on Pelosi and Schumer. Let alone Biden.

Two Pandemic Assistance Programs Expire, Leaving 12 Million Without Benefits (ZH)

With Congressional leaders feigning productivity for two months on a renewed stimulus – only for President Trump to veto their 11th hour porkfest and demand they increase direct stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000 per person – a series of assistance programs are set to lapse into the new year. Two of them, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program and the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, will expire Saturday night, leaving around 12 million Americans without the assistance. As we noted in November, this would roughly translate into an income shortfall of $39BN in 1Q if these workers are unable to find work or alternative income support. BofA calculates that based on its work on fiscal multipliers, income loss of $39BN would translate into a 1.2% hit to growth on an annualized basis in 1Q 2021.

One of the two programs expiring Saturday, the PUA, provided unemployment benefits to around 7.3 million gig workers and others not eligible for traditional unemployment, according to the Century Foundation. The expiring programs come after lawmakers cobbled a $900 billion pandemic stimulus package to a $1.4 trillion omnibus spending bill, which President Trump vetoed over the sheer amount of pork and $600 direct checks, which he deemed to small. House Democrats will vote on a standalone bill Monday for $2,000 checks, while Congressional Republicans are expected to flatly reject it. Meanwhile, several additional programs are set to expire on December 31.

Additionally, the concurrent expiration of eviction moratorium, mortgage forbearance programs, and suspension of student loan payments could all be headwinds early next year, creating further obstacles. Unless Trump reverses course and signs the package on Tuesday, the government will shut down – sans another short-term bill to keep it limp things along into 2021.

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“..whoever it was behind this attack the one group who was definitely NOT behind it was the Russians.”

RussiaGate 2.0, Right on Schedule (Luongo)

Without offering any evidence or specifics, Pompeo said Russia was “pretty clearly” behind the cyberattack during an appearance on the conservative talk radio Mark Levin Show. “I can’t say much more, as we’re still unpacking precisely what it is, and I’m sure some of it will remain classified. But suffice it to say there was a significant effort to use a piece of third-party software to essentially embed code inside of US government systems and it now appears systems of private companies and companies and governments across the world as well,” Pompeo explained. Notice how there is no evidence given, just the typical intelligence agency, “believe me” line, which is your first clue that whoever it was behind this attack the one group who was definitely NOT behind it was the Russians.

This week’s cyber attack on the U.S. government was perfectly timed with the Electoral College submitting its votes to the Congress and Joe Biden claiming he’s president-elect. The reason why the release of this ‘attack’ on our government was perfectly timed is because it is a distraction from the growing unrest over the Democrats’ having stolen the election and cowering the courts into irrelevance. This is classic CIA-level misdirection from what was more likely a Chinese or, dare I say it, homegrown operation for the very purpose of blaming the Russians to tamp down the anger and confuse the MAGA crowd. And it resurrects the ghost of RussiaGate for the libs by putting Trump in a Catch-22.

If he doesn’t respond to this it keeps alive the smoldering embers of the TDS crowd watching Rachel Maddow that Trump really does have deep, covert ties to Russia. If he does react, what possible reaction could he take to escalate the tensions with Russia that are already one step below open warfare? Oh, and he has to respond to this while also fighting an uphill battle against the courts and his own bureaucracy to invoke his executive order involving outside interference into the election. [..] Provoking the exact reaction you’d expect from the BlueChecked Sneetches among the Twitterati. RussiaGate was an embarrassment that should have died years ago but it persists precisely because Trump refuses to formally concede and continues to give his people the opportunity to fight the Swamp.

The only way Putin and the Russians were behind this attack on the U.S. government was as a 5-d chess move where Trump invited them to do it on his behalf to ‘prove’ external interference in the election and allow Trump to cross the Rubicon, invoke the Insurrection Act and his 2018 EO on election interference. Yeah, by the way, John Le Carre died this week, life ain’t a movie and Trump isn’t that savvy a player. Ye gods, I wish he was. That we are in this mess proves he isn’t. This pronouncement by Pompeo was just good ol’ fashioned swamp double talk who continues his job of maintaining continuity of U.S. foreign policy on behalf of the Neoconservatives whose raison d’etre is the destruction of Russia to the exclusion of nearly every other consideration of any other human on the planet.

Don’t be confused by this nonsense. Whoever was behind this attack wasn’t the Russians. The motive for this operation lies squarely with China, The Davos Crowd, the Democrats and our own intelligence agencies trying to move the Overton Window away from the real problem, a stolen election. Outing Solarwinds and tying it directly to Dominion Voting Systems is your smoking gun.

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“The certainty of no tariffs, yes—but also of trade barriers, red tape and reduced future prosperity.”

This Brexit Deal Is Emphatically Nothing To Celebrate (Lis)

And so the long wait is finally over. Late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, at the precise moment businesses were shutting up shop for a four-day national holiday, Boris Johnson took to a podium in Downing Street to herald a trade deal with the European Union. This was a good deal, he said. It allowed us to take back control of our money, borders, laws and fisheries. It provided certainty for businesses. Of course, the Prime Minister was wrong on almost all counts. This was the thinnest deal available within the ruinous red lines he had laid out, and preferable only to no deal at all. We already had control of everything he claimed to have won back—even fisheries, whose viability depends on exporting British catches into the EU. On only one point was he correct: his deal does indeed provide certainty. The certainty of no tariffs, yes—but also of trade barriers, red tape and reduced future prosperity.

The alternate press conferences in London and Brussels amply demonstrated who had made the concessions. This was an inevitable consequence of differential power, wealth and size, and the UK fell short. While both sides seem to have budged on fish, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen emphasised the EU’s success in ensuring the far more important level playing field for competition. The UK would lose key rights such as financial passporting. It would no longer enjoy automatic access to the EU’s invaluable security databases. Fundamentally it was a question of how power is exercised. Sovereignty in the 21st century, she said, meant “pulling each other up, instead of trying to get back to your feet alone.”

While von der Leyen combined detailed information with sensitivity in tone, Johnson took to bluster. He dismissed the media question about security, asserting, without evidence, that everything would work out. He preposterously declared that the deal would eliminate non-tariff barriers, when the truth is our departure from the single market and customs union necessitate the greatest introduction of new bureaucracy and commercial obstacles in recent history. And he batted away the ending of UK access to the Erasmus scheme, which has offered new horizons to thousands of students across the continent. The new “Turing scheme,” he insisted bombastically, would be better and wider reaching.

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“.. they’re just manipulating this messaging to sanction certain events that they find politically palatable while demanding everybody stay home for the things that they don’t value .”

Glenn Greenwald: Coverage Of Coronavirus Pandemic ‘Media Misconduct’ (Hill)

Glenn Greenwald, co-founder of The Intercept, said the media’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic was the “worst event of media misconduct.” Speaking on Hill.TV’s “Rising,” Greenwald said that the media’s coverage of the pandemic was initially geared toward forcing people to stay home, and shaming those who went outside for acting irresponsibly. Greenwald then added that the media shifted its tone around its coverage after the protests against police brutality over the summer following the police killing of George Floyd in May.


“Suddenly, it all turned to ‘What these people are doing is noble,’” he said. “And not only do you no longer have the obligation to stay at home, you now have the obligation to go and march against racism on the grounds that racism is the worst public [threat] than the coronavirus pandemic.” Greenwald noted that despite its coverage of the protests, the media continued to shame people who went to church or gathered for outdoor protests for different causes. “What it really made it seem like was there’s no trust or confidence due to public health authorities or media narratives surrounding this pandemic,” he said. “That they’re just manipulating this messaging to sanction certain events that they find politically palatable while demanding everybody stay home for the things that they don’t value .”

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Aug 172020
 


Claude Monet The Wooden Bridge 1872

 

One-Second Coronavirus Test Achieves 95% Success Rate (JP)
Biden and Trump Matchup Tightens As Enthusiasm Hits New High (CNN)
Mueller Aide Weissmann Tells DOJ Attorneys Not To Help Investigators (Turley)
The Manufactured Hysteria Over Mail Delivery (PJM)
A Reality-Based Look At Trump And The Post Office (York)
Washington’s Successful Vote-by-Mail System Wasn’t Built Overnight (CC)
Adam Schiff’s Inaccurate Russia Tweets Raise Double-Standard Question (JTN)
Japan’s Economy Shrinks At Record -27.8% Annual Rate (AP)
UK Housing Market Has Busiest Month In More Than 10 Years (G.)
New Zealand Delays General Election By A Month Amid COVID19 Outbreak (G.)
The Roots Of Wokeness (Sullivan)

 

 

What do you think about the post office narrative? Which side is trying to use it to influence the election?

How about the CNN poll that says all of a sudden Trump has closed the double digit gap to Biden? Is that the Kamala effect, or did CNN wake up to the realization that those huge gaps make people less likely to vote?

How about CNN’s -implied- claim that Biden voters are mpre enthusiastic than Trump voters? Does that ring true?

 

 

Can we move new global cases under 200,000? US new cases at the lowest since June 23. US deaths at “just” 522, but that complies with a weekend pattern.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can anyone at all explain why these tests are not used all over the world? There are many rapid tests with comparable success rates. What are we waiting for? Does anyone understand why these tests are much more useful than the standard CPR ones? This is presented as a breakthrough, but it isn’t, really.

One-Second Coronavirus Test Achieves 95% Success Rate (JP)

An initial clinical trial of a coronavirus-testing technology that is believed to detect viruses in a fluid sample in less than a second has achieved a 95% success rate, according to data released last week from the trial performed at Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer. The test was designed by Newsight Imaging, a Ness Ziona-based start-up firm, and centers on a device that is about the size of a computer mouse, which can identify and classify evidence of a virus in the body in less than a second, using a sample of fluid – blood serum or saliva – inserted into a disposable test cuvette. In spectroscopy, a sample is tested with a broadband light source, Newsight CEO Eli Assoolin told The Jerusalem Post last month when it first received Sheba Medical Center’s IRB Ethics (“Helsinki”) Committee approval to conduct a pilot program for rapid COVID-19 detection tests.


The light that returns from the sample is analyzed to determine its wavelength content. “We collect the spectral signature after the light is absorbed in the sample, and then we can analyze the content of it,” he said, noting that spectral-analysis technology has already been used to identify certain human diseases and abnormalities. “Basically, on one side, you have the source of light, and on the other side, you have the sensor chip – a sensitive and fast camera that can see different wavelengths. In the middle, you put the sample,” Assoolin said. Prof. Eli Schwartz of the Center for Geographic Medicine and Tropical Diseases at Sheba said that under laboratory conditions, the research team was clearly able to differentiate between COVID-19 samples that were positive and those that were negative, with a 95% accuracy rate. “For a new AI-based technology such as this, the results are quite encouraging,” Schwartz said.

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As the virtual Dem convention starts, CNN is in a bit of a bind. They’ve been reporting on various polls that all show Biden leading Trump by double-digit margins, but even their viewers haven’t forgotten how they predicted Hillary had a 95% chance of winning in 2016. And of course the problem with those wide margins is they make people wonder why they should vote, if the outcome is so clear.

So now there’s a poll that shows Trump is fast catching up (the Kamala effect?) , but not without adding the rather curious notion that “Among the 72% of voters who say they are either extremely or very enthusiastic about voting this fall, Biden’s advantage over Trump widens to 53% to 46%.”

Is there anyone who believes that Biden voters are more enthusiastic than Trump voters? Doesn’t that contradict everything we’ve seen?

Biden and Trump Matchup Tightens As Enthusiasm Hits New High (CNN)

Joe Biden’s lead over Donald Trump among registered voters has significantly narrowed since June, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, even as the former vice president maintains an advantage over the President on several top issues and his choice of California Sen. Kamala Harris as a running mate earns largely positive reviews. And on the eve of the party conventions, a majority of voters (53%) are “extremely enthusiastic” about voting in this year’s election, a new high in CNN polling in presidential election cycles back to 2003. Overall, 50% of registered voters back the Biden-Harris ticket, while 46% say they support Trump and Pence, right at the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Among the 72% of voters who say they are either extremely or very enthusiastic about voting this fall, Biden’s advantage over Trump widens to 53% to 46%. It is narrower, however, among those voters who live in the states that will have the most impact on the electoral college this fall. Across 15 battleground states, the survey finds Biden has the backing of 49% of registered voters, while Trump lands at 48%. The pool of battleground states in this poll includes more that Trump carried in 2016 (10) than were won by Hillary Clinton (5), reflecting the reality that the President’s campaign is more on defense than offense across the states. Taken together, though, they represent a more Republican-leaning playing field than the nation as a whole.


The movement in the poll among voters nationwide since June is concentrated among men (they split about evenly in June, but now 56% back Trump, 40% Biden), those between the ages of 35 and 64 (they tilt toward Trump now, but were Biden-leaning in June) and independents (in June, Biden held a 52% to 41% lead, but now it’s a near even 46% Biden to 45% Trump divide). Trump has also solidified his partisans since June. While 8% of Republicans or Republican-leaning independents in June said they would back Biden, that figure now stands at just 4%. And the President has boosted his backing among conservatives from 76% to 85%.

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Weissmann likely doesn’t know what Clinesmith agreed to tell Durham in his guilty plea.

Weissmann’s your typical dirty cop/dirty lawyer. Rumor has it he was in charge of the Mueller probe, not Mueller himself. And yes, he has strong links to the Dems and Hillary.

Mueller Aide Weissmann Tells DOJ Attorneys Not To Help Investigators (Turley)

I recently wrote a column discussing how Democratic leaders, including Vice President Joe Biden, have argued against continuing the investigation by U.S. Attorney John Durham despite growing evidence of misconduct by Justice Department officials and now the first guilty plea by former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith. Now, Andrew Weissmann, one of the top prosecutors with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, has derided the Clinesmith plea while actually calling on Justice Department attorneys to refuse to help on ongoing investigations that could implicate aspects of his own prior work. I was among those who expressed concern when Mueller selected Weissmann due to his history of controversial prosecutorial decisions, including a pattern of prosecutorial overreach in the Enron litigation.

Weissmann’s recent statements (made before the release of his new book on the Russian investigation) have only served to reaffirm those concerns. Recently, Weissmann wrote an extraordinary and disturbing New York Times op-ed (with former Defense Department special counsel Ryan Goodman). In the column, he appeared to call on Justice Department lawyers to undermine the Durham investigation as well as the investigation by U.S. Attorney John Bash’s investigation into the “unmasking” requests by Obama administration officials. They wrote “Justice Department employees in meeting their ethical and legal obligations, should be well advised not to participate in any such effort.”

Consider that line for a moment. Weissmann is openly calling on attorneys to refuse to help on investigations that could raise questions about his own decisions. Durham is looking at a pattern of errors, false statements, bias, and now criminal conduct in the Russian investigation. There is obviously overlap with the Mueller investigation which discussed many of the same underlying documents and relied on work by some of the same individuals. The failure to address misconduct, bias, or criminal conduct by such individuals would be embarrassing to both Weissmann and Mueller. Despite that obvious conflict of interest, Weissmann is calling on attorneys to stand down. It is the same troubling position that was once taken by Sally Yates, who told an entire federal agency not to assist the President in his travel ban.

[..] I believe that the public needs to have a full and transparent account of what happened in the Russian investigation on both sides. Like many, Weissmann would like transparency on only one side and to shutdown the Durham investigation despite Horowitz referring matters for criminal investigation and finding a host of false statements, errs, and professional misconduct. Even the addition of a criminal plea has not stopped Weissmann from denouncing this investigation. For years, I have criticized Weissmann’s record of dubious prosecutorial judgment, bias, and overreach. However, that case against Weissmann is not nearly as powerful as the case he is making against himself.

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What a crazy story.

The Manufactured Hysteria Over Mail Delivery (PJM)

That dastardly Donald Trump is at it again. He is either the evilest man ever to hold the office of president or the dumbest. He is either a Machiavellian genius manipulating the media and his hypnotized followers or a bumbling know-nothing idiot. Trump is being accused of sabotaging the November elections because he won’t give the postal unions and incompetent managers in the postal service $25 billion to play with. The money will stave off catastrophe for about a year at the rate the USPS is burning through cash. Without that money, we’re informed by those in the know, thousands — no, tens of thousands — no, millions of voters who wait until the last minute to mail in an absentee ballot might not have their votes counted because, well, Trump.

The procrastinators in America are up in arms and plan a demonstration to show their outrage. But it probably won’t happen until after the election since that’s when they’ll eventually get around to it. The “crisis” in postal delivery presupposes that, prior to Trump’s shenanigans, the USPS was doing fine — nothing that a few tens of billions of taxpayer dollars couldn’t fix. In fact, that’s what the postal unions are saying. In a statement released on Saturday, the letter carriers and postal workers’ unions assure the public that even without the money, they can do the job. [..] So what’s all the hubbub about? The letter carriers say they can deliver the ballots on time. The postal employees claim they don’t need the extra cash. Where, pray tell, is there a “crisis”?


Nancy Pelosi knows. In fact, she’s about to call the members of the House of Representatives off the campaign trail and back to Washington to deal with the “crisis.” Politico: “Pelosi and other top Democrats, including House Majority Leader Steny Democrats are looking to address organizational issues at the Postal Service in the coming weeks, not to provide additional funding at this time, according to sources familiar with the discussion.” Nothing says “crisis” in Washington quite like pulling politicians away from their campaigns for a political stunt like holding an “emergency” session of Congress.

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The USPS has been a mess for decades. Nothing to do with Trump. But yes, he does think the issue risks being used against him.

A Reality-Based Look At Trump And The Post Office (York)

The idea that the Postal Service will not be able to handle the volume of mail in the election, or not be able to handle it within normal Postal Service time guidelines, does not make much sense. According to its most recent annual report, last year, in fiscal year 2019, the Postal Service handled 142.5 billion pieces of mail. “On a typical day, our 633,000 employees physically process and deliver 471 million mailpieces to nearly 160 delivery points,” the report says. This year, that number is higher, given the Postal Service’s delivery of census forms and stimulus checks. Those alone added about 450 million additional pieces of mail.

In 2016, about 136 million Americans voted in the presidential election. The number will probably be a bit higher this year. If officials sent ballots to every single American registered to vote — about 158 million people — and then 140 million people returned ballots, the roughly 298 million pieces of mail handled over the course of several weeks would be well within the Postal Service’s ability to handle. Of course, officials will not send a ballot to every American registered to vote, and not every voter will vote by mail. Whatever the final number is, the ballots that are cast by mail will not cripple a system that delivers 471 million pieces of mail every day.

There are, of course, compelling examples of election dysfunction, most notably the mess New York made of some of its congressional primaries this summer. But rather than representing a Postal Service problem, that was because some states are unprepared for a dramatic increase of voting by mail. The states have to prepare the ballots, address them, and process and count them when the Postal Service delivers them. That is the focus of the entirely legitimate fears of a possible vote-counting disaster this year. But it’s not the Postal Service.

[..] The Postal Service is not funded by a regular appropriation. It is, instead, an “independent agency” and is expected to support itself, beyond a yearly appropriation of about $55 million to cover the costs of mail for the blind and overseas balloting in elections. The Postal Service has lost money for a very long time. In fiscal year 2019, it had operating revenues of $71.1 billion and operating expenses of $79.9 billion, leaving it with a deficit of $8.8 billion. At the moment, Postal Service officials have told Congress, it has about $14 billion in cash on hand, putting it on the road to fiscal insolvency (without further aid) in late 2021. In the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, the $2 trillion relief measure passed in March, Congress gave the Postal Service a $10 billion borrowing authority. After the bill became law, there were negotiations between the Postal Service and the Treasury Department on the terms of the borrowing; a deal was announced in July.

The ability to borrow $10 billion, the postmaster general said, would “delay the approaching liquidity crisis.” [..] The House HEROES Act would give $25 billion to the Postal Service in what is essentially a bailout. The bill mentions nothing about helping the Postal Service handle the upcoming election or any other election. Indeed, the only stipulation at all placed on the $25 billion is that the Postal Service, “during the coronavirus emergency, shall prioritize the purchase of, and make available to all Postal Service employees and facilities, personal protective equipment, including gloves, masks, and sanitizers, and shall conduct additional cleaning and sanitizing of Postal Service facilities and delivery vehicles.” If the House Democrats who wrote and passed the bill intended the money to be spent specifically for elections, they did not say so in the text of the legislation.

Jie Boden

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From April, but highly appropriate. We’ve discussed this in the Comments, and I keep thinking that one, or a few, states having a working model doesn’t mean it’s endlessly scalable.

Washington’s Successful Vote-by-Mail System Wasn’t Built Overnight (CC)

State officials across the nation are turning to Washington state for advice on how to set up a vote-by-mail system before the November presidential election, but officials say that question is just the first of many they should be asking. Secretary of State Kim Wyman, who is in charge of Washington’s election system, and King County Elections Director Julie Wise, who runs elections in the county where more than a third of Washington voters fill out a ballot, said the list of questions other states need to answer in order to effectively implement vote-by-mail is long and complicated. And mid-April may be too late to start making the switch from a mostly in-person system to a vote-at-home configuration, said Wise, who worked on in-person voting for a decade before moving, along with the state of Washington, to vote-by-mail elections in 2011.

“We’ve been at it for a decade. It’s not an easy lift to make that transition,” said Wise, between meetings to plan for a November election that could change dramatically — even in one of the nation’s five vote-by-mail states — because of the ongoing threat of the coronavirus. “You’re cutting it very short,” was her response to recent inquiries from other states and counties, in addition to sharing a packet of information about how King County votes by mail, from the technology to the people. Among the questions other states and municipalities should be asking, according to Wyman and Wise:


• Do we need to buy new equipment to count the votes? • Do we have current addresses of our voters? Have we tried to mail them anything recently? • How recent are the signature cards from voters? Do we need to ask millions of people to fill out new ones? • Do we have a place to count votes that can accommodate the people needed to verify ballots and count them, while allowing for social distancing? • What state laws would we need to change in order to allow for most votes to be cast by mail? • Will we provide free postage? • How much will that cost? • Will we provide drop boxes and, if so, how many? • Do we need to set up some in-person sites for people to vote or register and how can you do that while accounting for social distancing? • How much will this transition cost? Where will the money come from? And that’s just the beginning of the list.

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It’s not just his tweets. Schiff and the Dems have been getting away for so long with utter falsehoods they themselves may not even recognize them as such anymore. And who’s going to call them on it now? The MSM have been getting away with the exact same thing. But what use is it to go for a soft touch approach like this from John Solomon? Just say Schiff’s a blatant liar. Because he is. And opther people, like a journalist, may claim innocence, but the chair of the House Intelligence Committee can definitely not.

Adam Schiff’s Inaccurate Russia Tweets Raise Double-Standard Question (JTN)

Twitter has on more than one occasion appended or flagged President Trump’s tweets as misleading. But so far, it has not done the same with several posts by House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff that are demonstrably false or misleading, raising questions of a double standard. For instance, Schiff tweeted in July 2018 that “the release of the Carter Page FISA application makes clear, once again, the FBI acted lawfully and appropriately” in reference to the surveillance warrant the bureau used to spy on the Trump adviser during the Russia collusion probe. In fact, the FISA application that Schiff referred to in the tweet contained 51 statements that were inaccurate, misleading or undocumented, and included 17 violations of FBI rules ranging from false and unverified information to omissions of exculpatory evidence of innocence, the Justice Department inspector general reported last December.

Likewise, DOJ officials withdrew two of the four Page FISA applications, and the chief judge of the FISA court ruled in March that the FBI has misled the court. “There is thus little doubt that the government breached its duty of candor to the Court with respect to those applications,” U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said. And last week, an ex-FBI lawyer agreed to plead guilty to a felony and admitted he falsified a document to deceive the court. In other words, the FBI acted unlawfully and inappropriately in the Page FISA debacle. And to date, Twitter hasn’t flagged or appended Schiff’s tweet even though he has enormous influence on the platform with 2.4 million followers.

Just the News identified more than a dozen tweets that Schiff has posted since 2017 that are inaccurate or misleading based on the declassified information that has been made public over the last year by the Justice Department, FBI, and intelligence community. Earlier this month, for instance, Schiff tweeted out a claim that Trump had not taken action to stop Russia from interfering in elections. “Donald Trump has never deterred Russia from interfering in U.S. elections. Far from it. The sum total of Trump’s words and actions has only encouraged Russian meddling in our elections,” Schiff wrote.

[..] Several times, Schiff has tweeted claims that there is evidence Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to hijack the 2016 election. For instance, the California Democrat posted a tweet in April 2018 accusing Republicans of ignoring “when in plain sight — evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.” Multiple investigations ranging from the Senate Intelligence Committee to Special Counsel Robert Mueller have concluded there is no evidence any Trump campaign official – or any other American – colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election. “The investigation did not establish that members of the trump campaign conspired to coordinate it with the Russian government in its election interference activities,” Mueller wrote, saying extensive contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians did not amount to a conspiracy.

Then-Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr last year came to a similar conclusion. “We don’t have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia,” he announced.

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Again, it’s not the lockdowns:

“Private consumption dipped at an annual rate of nearly 29% as shoppers stayed home, leaving malls and restaurants nearly empty of customers. That was without any full shutdown of businesses to contain coronavirus outbreaks [..]”

Japan’s Economy Shrinks At Record -27.8% Annual Rate (AP)

Japan’s economy shrank at annual rate of 27.8% in April-June, the worst contraction on record, as the coronavirus pandemic slammed consumption and trade, according to government data released Monday. The Cabinet Office reported that Japan’s preliminary seasonally adjusted real GDP, the sum of a nation’s goods and services, fell 7.8% quarter on quarter. The annual rate shows what the number would have been if continued for a year. Japanese media reported the latest drop was the worst since World War II. But the Cabinet Office said comparable records began in 1980. The previous worst contraction, a 17.8% drop, was in the first quarter of 2009, during the global financial crisis.

The world’s third largest economy was already limping along when the virus outbreak struck in China late last year. It has weakened as the pandemic gained ground, leading to social distancing restrictions and prompting many people to stay home when they can. “In April, May, a state of emergency was issued, it was a situation where the economy was artificially stopped so to speak, and the impact was severe,” said Yasutoshi Nishimura, minister Economic and Fiscal Policy. “These are tough numbers but they bottomed out in April and May, we would like to put all our efforts into returning to a growth trajectory,” Nishimura told reporters.


[..] The economy shrank 0.6% in the January-March period, and contracted 1.8% in the October-December period last year, meaning that Japan slipped into recession in the first quarter of this year. Recession is generally defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction. [..] Japanese economic growth was flat in July-September. Growth was minimal the quarter before that. [..] For the April-June period, Japan’s exports dropped at a whopping annual rate of 56%. Private consumption dipped at an annual rate of nearly 29% as shoppers stayed home, leaving malls and restaurants nearly empty of customers. That was without any full shutdown of businesses to contain coronavirus outbreaks [..]

Read more …

In a bit of a dip? No panic, let’s blow another housing bubble. The instrument this time is a stamp duty holiday.

UK Housing Market Has Busiest Month In More Than 10 Years (G.)

The housing market has had its busiest month in more than 10 years in July, with the traditional summer lull replaced by a flurry of activity from buyers and sellers, according to the property website Rightmove. The site, which typically lists about 95% of homes for sale in the UK, said the “rulebook has been rewritten”, with the boom fuelled by pent-up demand during lockdown accelerating as the summer has progressed. It said the number of monthly sales agreed in Britain had been the highest since it started tracking the figure a decade ago, up by 38% on the same period last year and worth a combined total of more than £37bn. Would-be sellers were also active, with more properties coming on to the market than in any month since 2008.

Asking prices have fallen by an average of 0.2% across mainland Britain, but this has been driven by a 2% drop in London, where the number of homes coming on to the market is up by 69% year-on-year. In seven regions, asking prices hit record highs as sellers sought to make the most of the demand. The housing market was closed in lockdown and reopened in mid-May, sparking a flurry of activity. July brought a stamp duty holiday on homes costing up to £500,000 in England and £250,000 in Wales and Scotland, which further fuelled activity.


Last week figures from the UK’s largest estate agency firm, Countrywide, showed that demand for homes costing between £500,000 and £750,000 had soared since the tax break was announced, and Rightmove’s figures suggest a similar effect for other agents. The number of sales agreed for large homes was up by 59% annually, while for first-time properties the rise was 29% and on homes with three or four bedrooms, excluding four-bed detached properties, it was 38%.

Read more …

She didn’t want to do it.

New Zealand Delays General Election By A Month Amid COVID19 Outbreak (G.)

New Zealand is to delay its general election by a month due to the outbreak of Covid-19 in Auckland, the country’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has said. Calls had been growing from opposition parties for the election to be moved, with opposition leaders saying it wasn’t “just and fair” to hold an election while an outbreak was underway and level 3 restrictions were in place in the country’s largest city, prohibiting campaigning. Ardern said after consulting with every political party in parliament, as well as the electoral commission, she had decided to move the general election from 19 September to 17 October. She said her first suggestion of moving it by two weeks had been rejected by the Electoral Commission as not enough time to prepare logistics such as venues.

“The Electoral Commission, via the Ministry of Justice, has advised me that a safe and accessible election is achievable on this date,” Ardern said. “Moving the date by four weeks also gives all parties a fair shot to campaign and delivers New Zealanders certainty without unnecessarily long delays.” Ardern said Covid-19 would be with the world “for some time to come” and repeatedly pushing the election date would not lessen the risk of disruption to voters and parties. “This is why the Electoral Commission has planned for the possibility of holding an election where the country is at level 2, and with some parts at level 3. I will not change the election date again.” New Zealand is in the midst of its first outbreak since eliminating the disease in June, with dozens of people infected and held in quarantine in Auckland, a city of 1.5 million.


On Monday nine news cases of Covid-19 were reported, bringing the total number of cases related to the south Auckland cluster to 58. Maori and Pasifika people have been disproportionately infected by the latest outbreak. Five people were in hospital being treated for the disease, and the source of the outbreak remained a mystery, the ministry of health said. “We still don’t have any particular clues as to the origin of the outbreak,” director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said.

Read more …

Must read for today. How do new words enter our lexicon? To what extent are they propagated, and by whom, and for which purposes? Ever heard of critical theory?

In my view, this typifies the institutionalization of education and knowledge. Which claims that the only things that you can learn that are of any value are to be found in schools. Say that often enough and nothing of value can be found there anymore. Knowledge as a monopoly doesn’t work.

The Roots Of Wokeness (Sullivan)

In the mid-2010s, a curious new vocabulary began to unspool itself in our media. A data site, storywrangling.org, which measures the frequency of words in news stories, revealed some remarkable shifts. Terms that had previously been almost entirely obscure suddenly became ubiquitous—and an analysis of the New York Times, using these tools, is a useful example. Looking at stories from 1970 to 2018, several terms came out of nowhere in the past few years to reach sudden new heights of repetition and frequency. Here’s a list of the most successful neologisms: non-binary, toxic masculinity, white supremacy, traumatizing, queer, transphobia, whiteness, mansplaining. And here are a few that were rising in frequency in the last decade but only took off in the last few years: triggering, hurtful, gender, stereotypes.

Language changes, and we shouldn’t worry about that. Maybe some of these terms will stick around. But the linguistic changes have occurred so rapidly, and touched so many topics, that it has all the appearance of a top-down re-ordering of language, rather than a slow, organic evolution from below. While the New York Times once had a reputation for being a bit stodgy on linguistic matters, pedantic, precise and slow-to-change, as any paper of record might be, in the last few years, its pages have been flushed with so many neologisms that a reader from, say, a decade ago would have a hard time understanding large swathes of it. And for many of us regular readers, we’ve just gotten used to brand new words popping up suddenly to re-describe something we thought we knew already. We notice a new word, make a brief mental check, and move on with our lives.

But we need to do more than that. We need to understand that all these words have one thing in common: they are products of an esoteric, academic discipline called critical theory, which has gained extraordinary popularity in elite education in the past few decades, and appears to have reached a cultural tipping point in the middle of the 2010s. Most normal people have never heard of this theory—or rather an interlocking web of theories—that is nonetheless changing the very words we speak and write and the very rationale of the institutions integral to liberal democracy. What we have long needed is an intelligible, intelligent description of this theory which most people can grasp. And we’ve just gotten one: “Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender and Identity,” by former math prof James Lindsay and British academic, Helen Pluckrose. It’s as deep a dive into this often impenetrable philosophy as anyone would want to attempt. But it’s well worth grappling with.

What the book helps the layperson to understand is the evolution of postmodern thought since the 1960s until it became the doctrine of Social Justice today. Beginning as a critique of all grand theories of meaning—from Christianity to Marxism—postmodernism is a project to subvert the intellectual foundations of western culture. The entire concept of reason—whether the Enlightenment version or even the ancient Socratic understanding—is a myth designed to serve the interests of those in power, and therefore deserves to be undermined and “problematized” whenever possible. Postmodern theory does so mischievously and irreverently—even as it leaves nothing in reason’s place. The idea of objective truth—even if it is viewed as always somewhat beyond our reach—is abandoned. All we have are narratives, stories, whose meaning is entirely provisional, and can in turn be subverted or problematized.

Read more …

 

 

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Jul 312020
 
 July 31, 2020  Posted by at 10:08 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  19 Responses »


Elliot Erwitt California 1955

 

Young Children Carry Much Higher Viral Load Than Other Age Groups (SD)
Tokyo Could Declare Emergency If Situation Worsens (R.)
China Reports 127 New Coronavirus Cases, Highest Since March 5 (R.)
Netherlands Refuses To Mandate Mask Wearing In Public (ZH)
Australia To Make Facebook, Google Pay For News In World First (R.)
The Grifters, Chapter 1 – Kodak (Ben Hunt)
Trader Joe’s Won’t Change Packaging On International Food Brands (JTN)
Michael Flynn Case To Be Reheard By Full US Appeals Court (R.)
Kamala Harris’s Record On Antitrust & White-Collar Crime (TMI)
What Does Susan Rice Bring to a Biden Ticket? (Lee Smith)

 

 

New global daily cases record, and global deaths are creeping up again. As are deaths in the US and many European countries, Hong Kong, China, Japan. This ain’t over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Varon

 

 

A new surprise every day.

Young Children Carry Much Higher Viral Load Than Other Age Groups (SD)

A study from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago discovered that children younger than 5 years with mild to moderate COVID-19 have much higher levels of genetic material for the virus in the nose compared to older children and adults. Findings, published in JAMA Pediatrics, point to the possibility that the youngest children transmit the virus as much as other age groups. The ability of younger children to spread COVID-19 may have been under-recognized given the rapid and sustained closure of schools and daycare during the pandemic.

“We found that children under 5 with COVID-19 have a higher viral load than older children and adults, which may suggest greater transmission, as we see with respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV,” says lead author Taylor Heald-Sargent, MD, PhD, pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Lurie Children’s and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “This has important public health implications, especially during discussions on the safety of reopening schools and daycare.”


Dr. Heald-Sargent and colleagues analyzed 145 cases of mild to moderate COVID-19 illness within the first week of symptom onset. They compared the viral load in three age groups — children younger than 5 years, children 5-17 years and adults 18-65 years. “Our study was not designed to prove that younger children spread COVID-19 as much as adults, but it is a possibility,” says Dr. Heald-Sargent. “We need to take that into account in efforts to reduce transmission as we continue to learn more about this virus.”

Read more …

Japan has been doing quite well so far. Opening up may not be a good idea.

Tokyo Could Declare Emergency If Situation Worsens (R.)

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike warned on Friday that the Japanese capital could declare a state of emergency if the coronavirus situation deteriorated further, after new cases jumped by a record single-day high of 463. “If the situation worsens, Tokyo would have to think about issuing its own state of emergency,” Koike said, imploring residents to follow health guidelines to avoid that happening.

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Xi is nervous.

China Reports 127 New Coronavirus Cases, Highest Since March 5 (R.)

China reported 127 new coronavirus cases on the mainland on July 30, up from 105 the previous day, the country’s health authority said on Friday, the highest daily number since March 5. Of the total, 112 were in the far northwestern region of Xinjiang, up from 96 a day earlier. Another 11 were in Liaoning province in the northeast, up from five the previous day. There were four new imported coronavirus cases on July 30, compared to three a day earlier, while the number of new asymptomatic coronavirus carriers stood at 11, down from 21 on the previous day. China has reported a total of 84,292 coronavirus cases by the end of July 30.

Read more …

First, they had no masks or tests, so they told the people these were not needed. Then when all neighbors went in lockdown, they had their “intelligent” lockdown. Now they say no masks, but they will “experiment” with mask requirement in busy places. Confuse people enough and they will turn their backs on you. And all this nonsense about wearing masks outside makes people do worse than turn their backs.

Meanwhile cases there are rising again. So much for the flat curve.

This “mask refusal” was based largely on a report from a Norwegian scientist, who as soon as he saw he was quoted, said: my report says no such thing! But it doesn’t really matter: as soon as masks became a political issue, they were lost.

Something I hadn’t seen before: “Mask-wearing may also prompt people to touch their face more frequently”. Haha, No, masks were supposed to PREVENT people from touching their faces, remember?

Netherlands Refuses To Mandate Mask Wearing In Public (ZH)

American public health experts, led by Dr. Anthony Fauci, have struggled over the past couple of months to push a specific narrative on the public: Wearing a mask doesn’t so much protect you from being infected with SARS-CoV-2, but if you are infected, wearing a mask could stop you from passing the virus to someone else. The mainstream media has backed up these assertions with vague references to “science” and “research”, while a coalition of celebrities and progressive activists have tried to tar anybody who doubts this narrative – or, worse, refuses to wear a mask at all times outside their home – as a “denier”. Well, if everybody who is skeptical of the “masks save lives, period” is a “denier”, then how does one explain the Dutch government’s decision to refuse to mandate mask wearing (the only place where masks must be worn in the Netherlands is on public transit).

On Thursday, Reuters reported that the Dutch government had decided the day before that it would not advise the public to wear masks to slow the spread of coronavirus because their effectiveness has not yet been proven. The decision was announced by the Netherlands Minister for Medical Care Tamara van Ark following a review by the country’s National Institute for Health. Following a resurgence in cases over the past week or so, the Dutch government has decided it will instead seek better adherence to social distancing rules. “Because from a medical perspective there is no proven effectiveness of masks, the Cabinet has decided that there will be no national obligation for wearing non-medical masks” Van Ark said.


[..] The Dutch government insists that it’s strictly following the advice of the experts in the so-called Outbreak Management Team, which doesn’t believe in the general use of masks. Dutch virologist Jaap van Dissel from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said Wednesday that masks can lead to a “false sense of security”. When wearing masks, people might not follow other social distancing rules like keeping their distance which also help prevent spread. Mask-wearing may also prompt people to touch their face more frequently, putting them at risk of accidentally infecting themselves while adjusting their masks.

Read more …

What good is it if they’re the only one?

Australia To Make Facebook, Google Pay For News In World First (R.)

Australia will force U.S. tech giants Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s Google to pay Australian media outlets for news content in a landmark move to protect independent journalism that will be watched around the world. Australia will become the first country to require Facebook and Google to pay for news content provided by media companies under a royalty-style system that will become law this year, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses. It’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection, and a sustainable media landscape,” Frydenberg told reporters in Melbourne. “Nothing less than the future of the Australian media landscape is at stake.”


The move comes as the tech giants fend off calls around the world for greater regulation, and a day after Google and Facebook took a battering for alleged abuse of market power from U.S. lawmakers in a congressional hearing. Following an inquiry into the state of the media market and the power of the U.S. platforms, the Australian government late last year told Facebook and Google to negotiate a voluntary deal with media companies to use their content. Those talks went nowhere and Canberra now says if an agreement cannot reached through arbitration within 45 days the Australian Communications and Media Authority would set legally binding terms on behalf of the government. Google said the regulation ignores “billions of clicks” that it sends to Australian news publishers each year.

Read more …

What an insane story this is.

The Grifters, Chapter 1 – Kodak (Ben Hunt)

On Tuesday afternoon, the White House announced that Kodak – a public company with less than $100 million in market cap, basically a pension fund with a famous brand name attached – would receive $765 million in “loans” from the US government to create a “pharmaceutical start-up” that over a period of 8 YEARS will start making pharmaceutical “supplies”. Whatever the hell that means. This $765 million in non-recourse, non-secured loans for pharmaceutical supply production, given to this micro-cap company with zero experience or expertise in pharmaceutical supply production, comes from the International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), a $60 billion piggy bank established by the Trump administration in 2019 to replace the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

Yes, “international development” and “overseas investment”. The DFC is an institution that, per its mission statement and Congressional charter via the 2018 Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act, is “focused on promoting inclusive economic growth in the world’s least developed countries.” I mean … I knew things were bad in Rochester, but I didn’t know they were that bad. To dust off an old Epsilon Theory catchphrase: They’re. Not. Even. Pretending. Anymore. Who is “they”? On the corporate-grift side, it’s Kodak Chairman and CEO Jim Continenza, who picked up about 3 million shares and cheap options over the past year. It’s Kodak board member George Karfunkel, of the private equity and banking Zyskind-Karfunkel family, with his 6.4 million shares. It’s Kodak board member Philippe Katz, who owns about 4.3 million shares through at least five shell companies.


Based on yesterday’s closing price of $33.20 for the stock, I figure Jim and George and Philippe have made about $400 million over the past 48 hours. The numbers looked even better when Kodak hit $53 earlier earlier in the day, but easy come, easy go.

Read more …

Goya, Red Bull, Trader Joe’s.

Trader Joe’s Won’t Change Packaging On International Food Brands (JTN)

The popular U.S. grocery chain Trader Joe’s says it won’t retire the packaging name on some of its international products – including one called Trader José’s – amid a petition to change the names because of their “racist” connotation. “A few weeks ago, an online petition was launched calling on us to “remove racist packaging from [our] products,” Trader Joe’s said Friday on its website. “Following were inaccurate reports that the petition prompted us to take action. We want to be clear: we disagree that any of these labels are racist. We do not make decisions based on petitions. “We make decisions based on what customers purchase, as well as the feedback we receive from our customers and Crew Members. If we feel there is a need for change, we do not hesitate to take action.”


Trader Joe had suggested earlier this month that it might change the name on some packaging, but apparently held firm amid the poll and a resurgence of so-called “cancel culture,” in which people and entities are being forced to apologize or amend statements or actions deemed racially or culturally insensitive. The Change.org petition was reportedly started by California high school senior Briones Bedell and as of Thursday had roughly 5,000 signatures. Among the other Trader Joe’s packaging names cited on the petition site are Trader Giotto’s and Trader Ming’s.

Read more …

“Never before has appeals court granted en banc hearing to a judge when neither party wanted it.”

Michael Flynn Case To Be Reheard By Full US Appeals Court (R.)

A U.S. appeals court on Thursday agreed to rehear arguments over whether the judge assigned to the criminal case against Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser, must grant a request to dismiss it. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said it would hold an oral argument in the politically charged criminal case on Aug. 11. In a 2-1 decision on June 24, a three-judge panel of the same court ruled in favor of Flynn and the Trump administration and said U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington had to grant the Justice Department’s motion to clear Flynn. Sullivan asked the full court to reconsider the three-judge panel’s ruling, saying the Justice Department’s dropping of the Flynn case was unprecedented and had to be carefully scrutinized.


Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general, was one of several former Trump aides charged under former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that detailed Moscow’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with Russia’s then-ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. Flynn then switched lawyers to pursue a new scorched-earth tactic that accused the FBI of setting him up, and asked the judge to dismiss the charge. After the Justice Department took the highly unusual step of seeking to abandon the case against Flynn, Sullivan appointed a retired judge to argue against the Justice Department’s request. Sullivan, represented by his own lawyers, has said he cannot serve as a “rubber stamp” and must carefully review the facts before deciding on the request for dismissal. The D.C. Circuit panel disagreed in June, saying Sullivan was intruding on the Justice Department’s authority to decide which cases it pursues.

Read more …

Kamala Harris was about the least popular candidate in the Primaries, and one of the first to drop out. She won’t bring in any votes, she’ll take them away.

Kamala Harris’s Record On Antitrust & White-Collar Crime (TMI)

This week, a House subcommittee held a high-profile hearing interrogating the CEOs of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google about their growing market power. But as more congressional Democrats scrutinize corporate America’s monopolistic business practices, their party may end up giving the vice-presidential nomination to a lawmaker who previously expressed misgivings about antitrust enforcement when it comes to Silicon Valley. California Sen. Kamala Harris’ meteoric rise from San Francisco District Attorney to Democratic presidential contender occurred in the span of just over a decade and today, insiders believe she tops Joe Biden’s shortlist for VP.

During the 2020 election, Harris’s record on criminal justice proved too steep a hurdle during her party’s presidential primary just a few short months ago. She was dogged by criticism that as California Attorney General, she had been soft on white-collar crime like mortgage fraud while pursuing low-level offenses like truancy with zeal. Questions also arose about her refusal to act on her staff’s memo that identified what it called “widespread misconduct” at a financial firm run by Steve Mnuchin, who donated to her Senate campaign.

[..] HuffPost procured 1,400 pages of emails which revealed how Harris’ relationships with tech giants had been mutually beneficial. For example, she’d participated in a promotional for Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s 2013 book about women in power, “Lean In,” which increased her national profile. Sandberg would also become a donor to her 2016 Senate campaign. All told, that year, Harris raked in $214,000 in contributions from the industry. During her 2020 presidential run, Harris was a favorite of big tech, taking large sums from lobbyists for companies like Uber and Facebook. Donors from Apple, Amazon and Google’s parent company Alphabet were collectively among her top contributors.

Harris’ position on the size of tech giants did not substantially change during the campaign. When she was asked by the New York Times in January 2019 if companies like Facebook, Amazon and Google should be broken up, Harris responded: “I believe that the tech companies have got to be regulated in a way that we can ensure and the American consumer can be certain that their privacy is not being compromised.” Pressed by the interviewer to respond directly about the size of the companies, Harris continued to sidestep. “My first priority is going to be that we ensure that privacy is something that is intact and that consumers have the power to make decisions about what happens with their personal information and that it is not being made for them,” she said.

Read more …

And who likes Susan Rice? Anybody at all?

“Nominating Rice as Biden’s VP would virtually ensure her immunity, protecting her from investigation or prosecution during the campaign. [..] Crucially, it would also cut off the investigation at the rung below her, thereby insulating Obama and Biden.

What Does Susan Rice Bring to a Biden Ticket? (Lee Smith)

But there is another possible explanation that is worth considering, since it’s at least legally true: Putting Susan Rice on the ticket would protect both Biden and Obama (as well as Rice herself) from the ongoing investigation into the origins of Crossfire Hurricane, the discredited FBI probe of Trump’s ties to Russia. As official reports hinting at the role Obama and Biden may have played in targeting Trump officials were declassified in the spring, Attorney General William Barr said in May that neither were in the sights of John Durham, the U.S. attorney in charge of the investigation. “I don’t expect Mr. Durham’s work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man,” Barr said. “Our concern over potential criminality is focused on others.”

Since Barr’s May statement, it has come to light that Obama and Biden were more directly involved in the targeting of incoming Trump officials than was previously publicly known. In late June, FBI notes of January 2017 Oval Office meetings were declassified, showing that both men were not only keeping close watch on the FBI’s investigation of Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, but were advising it. A New York Times article from earlier this week promoting Rice’s audition obscured the evidence declassified in the last several months. It noted that Trump has accused Rice “of having participated in an Obama administration plot against” Flynn, and added that “no such effort has been documented.” Rice herself personally documented a meeting in which she, Obama, and Biden decided Flynn’s fate.

Presumably, Barr does not want America to take a step closer to resembling a third-world regime on his watch. And so, in order to avoid the appearance of a politicized investigation of senior Democrats in retaliation for what was in fact a politicized investigation of a Republican administration, neither Obama nor Biden are being investigated. But that does not mean that they are shielded if someone wants to save themselves by pointing further up the chain of command. And Rice left a paper trail that implicates herself, Obama, and Biden.

Nominating Rice as Biden’s VP would virtually ensure her immunity, protecting her from investigation or prosecution during the campaign. In February, Barr issued a memo stating that no investigation of a presidential or vice presidential candidate can be undertaken without his written approval. Because it is nearly inconceivable that Barr would expose himself to this type of scrutiny or risk compromising the election, Rice would be safe. Crucially, it would also cut off the investigation at the rung below her, thereby insulating Obama and Biden.

Read more …

 

 

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Jun 142020
 


Gustave Dore Dante and Virgil among the gluttons 1868

 

China Reports 57 New Confirmed, 9 Asymptomatic COVID-19 Cases For June 13 (R.)
Clusters of Coronavirus Disease in Communities, Japan, January–April 2020 (CDC)
The Greatest Science Policy Failure For A Generation – Lancer Editor (G.)
Nadler: ‘Eliminating’ Private Insurance Could Pay For ‘Medicare For All’ (JTN)
Congress Spent $3.06 Million On Failed Impeachment Probe (JTN)
How Beijing Cultivated Wall Street’s Giants (SMH)
The Truth About The May Jobs Report (Axios)
Twitter Reinstates Zerohedge After Admitting It Made An “Error” (ZH)
Finishing Touches Being Put On 10 New Criminal Referrals in Russia Probe (JTN)
Julian Assange Just Called (Varoufakis)

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases for June 9 (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 132,786 (yesterday was updated to 141,973).

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is + 131,902 cases. Remember: it’s weekend.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 28,487
• Brazil + 23,468
• Russia + 8,835
• India + 12,360
• Pakistan + 6,825
• Chile + 6,509

 

 

Cases 7,895,777 (+ 131,902 from yesterday’s 7,763,875)

Deaths 432,882 (+ 4,148 from yesterday’s 428,734)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

..a new outbreak has been linked to a meat and vegetable market in south Beijing..

China Reports 57 New Confirmed, 9 Asymptomatic COVID-19 Cases For June 13 (R.)

China reported 57 new confirmed COVID-19 cases for June 13, the highest since April 13, according to data released by the national health authority on Sunday. The National Health Commission said in a statement that 38 of the new confirmed cases were locally transmitted, with 36 of them in Beijing. This is the highest daily infection count for China’s capital since authorities started releasing data. Beijing recorded a jump in new confirmed cases, up from six a day earlier, after it started doing mass-testing at the Xinfadi market in the city’s southwestern Fengtai district.


The district has put itself on a “wartime” footing and the capital banned tourism and sports events on Saturday, sparking fears of a new wave of COVID-19. Nineteen of the new confirmed cases were so-called imported cases involving travellers from overseas, with 17 of them arriving in Guangdong. China also reported nine asymptomatic cases, one new suspected case and no new deaths from COVID-19 for June 13. The total number of COVID-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 83,132, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634. China does not count asymptomatic patients, who are infected with the virus but do not display symptoms, as confirmed cases.

Read more …

https://twitter.com/DrEricDing/status/1271988040169328641

Clusters of Coronavirus Disease in Communities, Japan, January–April 2020 (CDC)

We investigated clusters of COVID-19 cases and probable primary cases in Japan during January 15–April 4, 2020. We found that healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, and care facilities, such as nursing homes, were the primary sources of clusters, some of which had >100 cases. Japan experienced 2 waves of imported COVID-19 cases, after which local transmission occurred and the epidemic grew (8). Of note, clusters of COVID-19 cases at healthcare and care facilities predominated at epidemiologic weeks 11 (March 9–15) and 14 (March 30–April 4), which corresponds to ≈3 weeks after the 2 waves of imported cases (Figure 1, panel C). Healthcare and care facilities might be located at the end of the local transmission chain because clusters in those facilities only became evident several weeks after community transmission persisted.

We noted many COVID-19 clusters were associated with heavy breathing in close proximity, such as singing at karaoke parties, cheering at clubs, having conversations in bars, and exercising in gymnasiums. Other studies have noted such activities can facilitate clusters of infection (9,10). Japan’s Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare announced 3 situations that could increase the risk for COVID-19 cases and advised the population to avoid the “Three Cs”: closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded places, and close-contact settings (11).

Among the probable primary COVID-19 cases we identified from non-nosocomial clusters, half (11/22) were 20–39 years of age, which is younger than the age distribution of all COVID-19 cases in Japan (Figure 2, panel A). We do not know whether social, biological, or both factors play a role in the difference in transmission patterns between the younger and older persons. We also noted probable primary COVID-19 case-patients appear to transmit the virus and generate clusters even in the absence of apparent respiratory symptoms, such as cough.


Figure 2. Analysis of probable primary cases of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) among 22 clusters in communities, Japan. A) Age ranges of probable primary COVID-19 cases in clusters. Age distribution among all COVID-19 cases in Japan is provided as reference. B) Proportions of symptoms among probable primary cases of COVID-19 clusters at transmission (n = 16) and among at laboratory confirmed diagnosis (n = 22). 1, Asymptomatic; 2, fever; 3, fatigue; 4, cough; 5, sore throat; 6, headache; 7, arthralgia or myalgia; 8, runny nose; 9, diarrhea; 10, difficulty breathing. C) Distribution of probable primary cases of COVID-19 clusters by time of transmission compared with illness onset by age groups (n = 16). Six cases were excluded because the time of transmission was undetermined.

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Richard Horton’s problem today is of course, apart from his bout with cancer, that he was responsible for the entirely fake report on HCQ the Lancet published.

The Greatest Science Policy Failure For A Generation – Lancer Editor (G.)

There is a school of thought that says now is not the time to criticise the government and its scientific advisers about the way they have handled the Covid-19 pandemic. Wait until all the facts are known and the crisis has subsided, goes this thinking, and then we can analyse the performance of those involved. It’s safe to say that Richard Horton, the editor of the influential medical journal the Lancet, is not part of this school. An outspoken critic of what he sees as the medical science establishment’s acquiescence to government, he has written a book that he calls a “reckoning” for the “missed opportunities and appalling misjudgments” here and abroad that have led to “the avoidable deaths of tens of thousands of citizens”.

The Covid-19 Catastrophe: What’s Gone Wrong and How to Stop It Happening Again is a short polemical book, building on a series of excoriating columns Horton has written in the Lancet over the past few months. He lambasts the management of the virus as “the greatest science policy failure for a generation”, attacks the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) for becoming “the public relations wing of a government that had failed its people”, calls out the medical Royal Colleges, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Medical Association (BMA) and Public Health England (PHE) for not reinforcing the WHO’s public health emergency warning back in February, and damns the UK’s response as “slow, complacent and flat-footed”, revealing a “glaringly unprepared” government and a “broken system of obsequious politico-scientific complicity”.

On the page, Horton can sound strident, even arrogant, but that’s not his manner in person at all, at least not in our long Zoom conversation. He’s charming, open, self-critical and full of easy laughter. I suggest that, as bad as things look at the moment, surely people like the chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and the chief scientific officer, Patrick Vallance, have been doing their best. “Individually, they’re great people,” he says. “I’m not criticising individuals, but the system was a catastrophic failure.” As editor of the Lancet, he’s particularly aggrieved that the series of five academic papers the journal published in late January first describing the novel coronavirus in disturbing detail went unheeded. “In several of the papers they talked about the importance of personal protective equipment,” he reminds me.

“And the importance of testing, the importance of avoiding mass gatherings, the importance of considering school closure, the importance of lockdowns. All of the things that have happened in the last three months here, they’re all in those five papers.” He still can’t understand why the government’s scientific advisers didn’t consult their counterparts in China. The world of medicine is a small one, he says, and everyone knows the people responsible for coordinating the Chinese government’s response. “These are people they could have literally sent an email to, or picked the phone up to, and said, ‘Hey, we read your paper in the Lancet, can it really be as bad as that? What is going on in Wuhan?’ And if they’d done that they would have found out that this was indeed as bad as described.”

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Whereas Jerry Nadler’s problem is that his candidate, Joe Biden, has spoken out against Medicare For All. Wait, Nadler knows that; is he trying to embarrass Biden?

Nadler: ‘Eliminating’ Private Insurance Could Pay For ‘Medicare For All’ (JTN)

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, suggested Friday that Congress could pay for a “Medicare for all” health care system without raising taxes by eliminating private insurance entirely. During a discussion with the Medicare for All Caucus, Nadler repeated some of the objections that critics of single-payer health care have raised including, “How are we going to pay for it?” and “We’re gonna have to raise taxes and all.” Nadler recommended that Democrats stop engaging in the tax increase debate.

“The entire mechanism, half a trillion dollars a year of private insurance, and not only the money for the profits, but the money for the markets segmenting; the money for the entire administration that all the insurance companies do; the money that all the hospitals and the doctors have to spend to deal with the bureaucracy of insurance companies – that’s half a trillion dollars a year, all of which could be spent on medical care, instead of being spent on either profits or just administrative costs,” Nader said during the discussion.

“It’s a huge amount of money and we could institute a Medicare for all system without increasing taxes. I mean, that’s not a discussion we have to get into because the cost savings from just eliminating the private insurance leech on the system would pay for all of Medicare for all, all the services, everything we’re talking about and when we get to debating this on a political level, again, we ought to be emphasizing that,” he added. Nadler urged Democrats to begin making his argument in favor of Medicare for all on the campaign trail in this election cycle. “I don’t understand why we didn’t point this out enough and we must in the future,” he said. Such an argument will continue to face strong opposition from the country’s estimated $900 billion private insurance industry and those opposed to a completely government-run health care system.

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More Nadler. He and Schiff will simply say they had every right to do the probe, and lost only because the Senate is partisan. Just like Congress is, but for the other party.

Congress Spent $3.06 Million On Failed Impeachment Probe (JTN)

The Golden Horseshoe is a weekly designation from Just the News intended to highlight egregious examples of wasteful taxpayer spending by the government. The award is named for the horseshoe-shaped toilet seats for military airplanes that cost the Pentagon a whopping $640 each back in the 1980s. This week, our award is going to the the United States Congress for spending $3.06 million in taxpayer dollars between September and December 2019 on the failed impeachment of President Trump. The recently released openthebooks.com report entitled “Congressional Membership Has Its Privileges: Salaries, Pensions, Travel & Other Taxpayer-Funded Perks” breaks down some of the exorbitant annual costs of the nation’s legislative branch.

The oversight report, which is published annually under the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, was initially sponsored by the late Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and then-Senator Barack Obama. According to this year’s analysis, during the period between Sept. 24 2019, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared an impeachment inquiry, and Dec. 13, 2019, when the House Judiciary Committee sent two articles of impeachment to the Senate, the lower chamber ran up a bill to taxpayers of over $3 million. That price tag included the salaries of more than 100 congressional staffers and employees who, for those four months, essentially worked full-time on the impeachment proceedings.

It also factors in the hourly fees of the six attorneys who were hired as lawyers of record for witnesses who made appearances during hearings, and acted as impeachment counsel for the House Democratic impeachment managers throughout the trial. The high cost of the impeachment effort is primarily due to the House’s decision to use congressional staffers to investigate the president for potentially impeachable crimes. For reference, during the impeachment of President Clinton 1998, the majority of the fact-finding was done by Independent Counsel Ken Starr’s staff. For President Nixon’s impeachment inquiry, the bulk of the investigating was handled by special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski, in addition to a Senate select committee.

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Nutshell: the Fed hands Goldman Sachs buckets full of billions to aid it in selling off the US to China for profit.

How Beijing Cultivated Wall Street’s Giants (SMH)

In November 2018 Peter Navarro, the White House trade adviser who at the time was intimately involved in President Trump’s trade war with Beijing, launched a scathing attack on what he called the “globalist billionaires” of Wall Street. He accused the “self-appointed group of Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers” of engaging in their own “shuttle diplomacy” with the Chinese side and attempting to sabotage US trade negotiations by putting enormous pressure on the White House to give way to Beijing. Navarro further accused the financial elite of being “unregistered foreign agents” acting as part of Beijing’s influence operations in Washington. It was strong stuff, but was there any foundation to it?

Beijing has been working on Wall Street for a long time. When Prime Minister Zhu Rongji visited the United States in 1999, he holed up in New York’s Astoria Hotel and spent days in back-to-back meetings with business leaders. “Zhu seems never to tire of courting Corporate America,” reported The New York Times. The titans of US finance have for decades been guiding the nation’s China policy. Whenever presidents Clinton, Bush or Obama threatened to take a tougher stance on China’s trade protectionism, currency manipulation or technology theft, Wall Street chiefs used their influence to persuade them to back off. And it was pressure from Wall Street that proved decisive in the Clinton White House’s decision to support China’s admission to the World Trade Organisation, despite China’s serial violation of trade rules.

Twenty years later, The New York Times was writing: “In Washington, on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms, Beijing has used the country’s size and promise for decades to quell opposition and reward those who helped its rise.” Financial institutions have been Beijing’s most powerful advocates in Washington. The finance sector – the big banks, hedge funds and investment vehicles – is thus in the centre of the map of power in the US, and occupying pride of place is Goldman Sachs. No organisation has been more important to the CCP’s campaign to penetrate US elites, or more willing. For the CCP, titans of finance are easy targets, as there’s a concordance of interests.

Wall Street executives, anticipating an Eldorado when Beijing opens up its vast finance markets to foreigners, have been advising Chinese companies about which American companies to buy and lending them the money to do it, taking a cut from the sales. In the words of a senior White House official, “people who like making deals really like the Chinese Communist Party”. The CCP is pushing on an open door. But the alignment of interests may not be long term, as it’s Beijing’s intention to eventually make Shanghai the financial capital of the world, displacing New York and the City of London. As Lenin reputedly said: “The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”

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The markets gain a trillion on the responses to a few questions of 41,000 Americans. You get what you deserve.

The Truth About The May Jobs Report (Axios)

The responses of fewer than 41,000 people were used to determine a major part of last month’s U.S. unemployment rate, the Bureau of Labor Statistics tells Axios. That’s the lowest number in modern history and is one of many unusual developments in government data collection that have affected important readings for months. The surprises in May’s nonfarm payrolls report, which found there were only 21 million unemployed while 30 million Americans were collecting unemployment insurance benefits, were largely the result of oddities in data collection. A portion of the jobs report is determined by a household survey in which government workers interview people at their homes and determine whether any person over the age of 16 is “employed, unemployed, or not in the labor force” — the only three possible designations.

The coronavirus pandemic has “depressed” survey responses since March, as BLS stopped conducting in-person meetings, restricting its ability to reach new households, Julie Hatch Maxfield, BLS associate commissioner for employment and unemployment statistics, tells Axios. “The first month of the sample we get a lot of information and that sets up the whole thing going forward,” she says. This has taken the response rate from 82% in January to 73% in March to 67% in May. “Response rates probably will be depressed even when interviewers go back into the field,” Maxfield notes. In May, BLS identified 9 million people who had lost their jobs but were counted as “not in the labor force” rather than unemployed because they hadn’t been searching for a job in the last four weeks due to the pandemic.

If those people were considered unemployed it would have taken the unemployment rate to 17.9%. A similar calculation would have put the unemployment rate at 19.8% in April and 7.5% in March, BLS says in a report about the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on its data. A separate “misclassification error” categorized millions of workers who had been absent and likely lost their jobs as employed. Additionally, workers who were paid by their employer for any part of the pay period including the 12th of the month were counted as employed, even if they weren’t actually at their jobs.

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Too much power. Take it away.

Twitter Reinstates Zerohedge After Admitting It Made An “Error” (ZH)

133 days after Twitter “permanently” banned Zero Hedge on January 31, the social network has reinstated us after admitting it made an error. As a reminder, what happened in late January was confusing. Shortly after we asked if “This [Is] The Man Behind The Global Coronavirus Pandemic”, referring to Wuhan Institute Of Virology scientist Peng Zhou (who three months later was being investigated by western spy agencies for his role in creating Covid) and some low-grade “reporter” from Buzzfeed decided to report us to Twitter for “doxxing” Zhou using publicly available information, Twitter told us that the account had been suspended for “violating Twitter rules against abuse and harassment”, which was false as we neither incited abuse nor harrassment, but merely asked questions.

But the confusing part is that at the same time, Twitter fabricated an entirely different explanation for its decision when speaking to outside media, telling them the suspension was due to “platform manipulation” – whatever that means. An odd mix of conflicting explanations but in any case, neither was true as we said at the time, and as we further told Bloomberg, the suspension was “unjustified, and likely motivated by reasons other than the stated ones” adding that “we are confident that we did not violate any of the stated Twitter terms: we neither incited harassment, nor did we ‘dox’ the public official, whose contact information is as of this moment listed on the Wuhan institute’s website.”

Fast forward to late Friday night, when unexpectedly we received a brief email from Twitter Support informing us that “we made an error in our enforcement action” as a result of which “we have unsuspended your account.” Speaking to Bloomberg, a Twitter spokesperson said that “we made an error in our enforcement action in this case. Based on additional context from the account holder in appeal, we have reinstated the account. We have a dedicated appeals process for all account holders.” Funny how mistakes happen when you ban first and ask questions later (and only when prompted to do so). In any case, no bad blood right – honest mistake? Well, not really: before all this happened, none other than Twitter’s CEO was following us.

Not anymore. The @zerohedge account also remains highly shadow banned (try searching for the actual zerohedge account on twitter, good luck), perhaps as an innocuous consequence of the “error.” That’s OK though, we never expected an apology. We are just glad that we will be able to share facts and perspectives with our now 700K Twitter followers, a number which has spiked by more than 30K in just the past few hours since the suspension was overturned.

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The Flynn hearing ended in a delay, but these wheels will churn on.

Finishing Touches Being Put On 10 New Criminal Referrals in Russia Probe (JTN)

Congressional Republicans are putting the finishing touches on as many as 10 new criminal referrals asking the Justice Department to investigate key figures in the Russia probe for misconduct ranging from perjury to illegal leaking of classified information, officials told Just the News. The referrals have been spurred by recently declassified evidence that provided explosive new revelations about the conduct of investigators in the now-disproven Russia collusion case, including documents showing FBI agents planned to shut down their investigation of former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn for lack of evidence in January 2017 before they were overruled by superiors.

Other newly released evidence showed numerous Obama administration officials engaged in unmasking Flynn’s name in secret intelligence intercepts during the transition period after the 2016 election and uncovered conflicts in testimonies previously given by former top FBI and intelligence community officials. “Congress is days away from making multiple criminal referrals to DOJ related to conspiracies against Michael Flynn, crimes committed during the conduct of Crossfire Hurricane, false testimony to Congress by top Obama officials, and criminal leaks of classified information from the top rung of the IC,” said a source with direct knowledge of the referrals. The planned referrals come as the Justice Department has expanded its own criminal investigation into the conduct of current and former employees during the Russia probe.

Attorney General William Barr said this week the investigation is looking at why the FBI tried so aggressively to open and sustain an investigation into Trump’s campaign before the 2016 election when it lacked the sort of evidence to justify it, and whether those efforts amounted to conspiracy to defraud the courts or violate the rights of some of the Americans that were targeted. “I think before the election I think we were concerned about the motive, the force behind the very aggressive investigation that was launched into the Trump Campaign without — you know, with a very thin, slender reed as a basis for it,” Barr told Fox News. “It seemed that the Bureau was sort of spring-loaded at the end of July to drive in there and investigate a campaign. And they — there really wasn’t much there to do that on.”

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Julian is not completely shut off from the world. Good.

Julian Assange Just Called (Varoufakis)

Julian called me a little earlier on, at 14.22 London time to be precise. From Belmarsh High Security Prison of course. This is not the first time but, as you can imagine, every time I hear his voice I feel honoured and moved that he should dial my number when he has such few and far between opportunities to place calls. “I want a perspective on world developments out there – I have none in here”, he said. Which, of course, placed a considerable burden on me to articulate thoughts on capitalism’s fate during this pandemic and the repercussions of it all on politics, geopolitics etc. The knowledge that Her Majesty’s Prison authorities would discontinue our discussion at any moment made the task harder.

In a feeble attempt to paint a picture for him on as broad a canvass as possible, I shared with Julian my main thought of the last weeks: Never before has the world of money (i.e. the money markets, that include the share markets) been so decoupled from the world of real people, real stuff – from the real economy. We watch in awe as GDP, personal incomes, wages, company revenues, businesses small and large, collapse while the stock market is staying relatively unscathed. The other day, Hertz declared bankruptcy. When a company does this, its share price goes to zero. Not now. In fact, Hertz is about to issue $1 billion worth of new shares. Why would anyone buy shares of an officially bankrupt company?

The answer is: Because central banks print mountain ranges of money and give it for almost free to financiers to buy any piece of junk floating around the stock exchange. “Complete zombification of the corporations”, is how I put it to Julian. Julian commented that this proves that governments and central banks can keep corporations afloat even when they sell next to nothing at the marketplace. I agreed. But, I also pointed out a major conundrum that capitalism faces for the first time. It is this: Central bank money printing keeps asset prices very high while the price of ‘stuff’ and wages fall. This disconnect can go on growing.

But, when Hertz, British Airways etc. can survive in this manner, they have no reason not to fire half the workforce and to cut the wages of the other half. This creates more deflation/depression in the real economy. Which means that the Central Banks must print more and more to keep asset and share prices high. At some point, the masses out there will rebel and governments will be under pressure to divert some income to them. But this will deflate asset prices. At that point, because these assets are used by corporations as collateral for all the loans they take out to stay afloat, they will lose access to liquidity. A sequence of corporate failures will commence under circumstances of stagnation. “I don’t think capitalism can easily survive, at least not without huge social and geopolitical conflicts, this conundrum”, was my conclusion.

Julian thought about this for a moment and asked me: “How important is consumption to capitalism? What percentage of GDP is at stake if consumption does not recover? Do the corporations need workers or customers?” I answered that it was high enough to make this conundrum real. Yes, Central Banks and robots can keep the corporations going without customers or workers. But, robots cannot buy the stuff they produce. So, this is not a stable equilibrium. The losses in people’s incomes will accelerate, thus generating pivotal discontent.

Read more …

 

 

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Apr 252020
 


Jack Delano “Untitled” near Durham, North Carolina 1940

 

Wuhan Was The Fentanyl Capital Of The World. Then Coronavirus Hit (LAT)
‘Wuhan Plague’ Plaques Are Popping Up Around Atlanta (Vice)
Trump Owed Tens Of Millions To Bank Of China (Pol.)
Trump Doesn’t Owe Bank of China Money (Christopher Balding)
Small Business Owners Asked To Sign PPP Loans Without Forgiveness Pledge (IC)
Small Business Rescue Earned Banks $10 Billion In Fees (NPR)
People In Their 30s And 40s, Barely Sick With COVID19, Die From Strokes (WP)
South Dakota County Offers Drive-Through Covid-19 Testing Friday (Strong)
Nearly 60 New Coronavirus Cases Confirmed On Cruise Ship In Japan (R.)
China Pressured EU To Drop COVID19 Disinformation Criticism (R.)
US Weighs Taking Equity Stakes In US Energy Companies – Mnuchin (R.)
Economics Professor: Australia Would Be ‘Better Off’ Without Lockdown (DM)
Brazil Justice Minister Resigns Over Bolsonaro’s Investigations Meddling (IC)
Denver Health Execss Get Bonuses 1 Week After Workers Asked To Take Cuts (CBS)
Amazon To Be Fined €100K For Every ‘Non-Essential’ Delivery in France (RT)

 

 

Daily US coronavirus death toll down sharply in past 24 hours to 1,258, the lowest daily toll in the country in nearly three weeks: Johns Hopkins

4/24/20 – Top 12 State Cases
New York: 271,590
New Jersey: 102,196
Mass : 46,023
Illinois: 39,658
California: 39,254
Pennsylvania: 38,652
Michigan: 36,641
Florida: 30,174
Louisiana: 26,140
Connecticut: 23,921
Texas: 22,806
Georgia: 22,147

• “At least 30 New Yorkers ingested household cleaners in the 18 hours since the president suggested using it to fight #coronavirus”

• “The timing on the bleach stuff is interesting, since the DOJ started cracking down on MMS, the diluted form of bleach being sold as a miracle cure for any disease under the sun on social media… six days ago.”

 

 

Cases 2,845,858 (+ 100,389 from yesterday’s 2,745,469)

197,846
Deaths 191,791 (+ 6,055 from yesterday’s 185,156 )

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: among Active Cases, Serious or Critical fell to 3%. Among Closed Cases, Deaths have fallen to 20%

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: Note: Turkey, Russia, UK are the biggest risers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep it locked down.

Wuhan Was The Fentanyl Capital Of The World. Then Coronavirus Hit (LAT)

For drug traffickers interested in getting in on the fentanyl business, all roads once led to Wuhan. The sprawling industrial city built along the Yangtze River in east-central China is known for its production of chemicals, including the ingredients needed to cook fentanyl and other powerful synthetic opioids. Vendors there shipped huge quantities around the world. The biggest customers were Mexican drug cartels, which have embraced fentanyl in recent years because it is cheaper and easier to produce than heroin. But the novel coronavirus that emerged in Wuhan late last year before spreading across the planet has upended the fentanyl supply chain, causing a ripple effect that has cut into the profits of Mexican traffickers and driven up street drug prices across the United States.

Few industries — illicit or not — have been unscathed by the pandemic that has upended the global economy and killed more than 190,000 people worldwide. The narcotics trade, which relies on the constant movement of goods and people, has been stymied by lockdowns, travel bans and other efforts to contain the virus, according to government officials, academic researchers and drug traffickers. Mexican production of fentanyl and methamphetamine appears especially hard hit. Both drugs are made with precursor chemicals that are typically sent on planes or cargo ships from China, where despite U.S. pressure to ban them, they continue to be sold legally. That supply chain was shut down in January when authorities in Wuhan enacted a lockdown that forced residents to stay inside for more than two months.

In February, after a major manufacturer of the chemicals closed, vendors began posting apologies on the online sites where chemicals are typically sold, said Louise Shelley, a professor at George Mason University who tracks global fentanyl production. “They were saying: ‘We’re not producing or selling or shipping,’” she said.

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The headline says: “racist”. I like everything Winnie.

‘Wuhan Plague’ Plaques Are Popping Up Around Atlanta (Vice)

Racist plaques depicting Winnie the Pooh holding a bat with chopsticks have begun to pop up around Atlanta, and police have no leads as to who is responsible. The round, bronze and teal plaques bearing the words “Wuhan Plague,” referencing the Chinese city where the coronavirus originated, first appeared April 13 on an electrical box in Inman Park, according to Atlanta police. Another appeared three days later at a coffee shop in the neighborhood of Reynoldstown. The most recent incident occurred on April 18 at Atlanta’s Candler Park Market. Winnie the Pooh’s association with Chinese culture originated in 2013 when parody comparisons between the cuddly bear and Prime Minister Xi Jinping went viral on social media — and China then banned Pooh images.


The plaques appeared to be glued to the sites where they were posted. Hodgepodge Coffeehouse owner Kristle Rodriguez said her employees alerted her to the plaque at her site. Rodriguez said she immediately called the cops and the building’s landlord, who quickly removed the plaque. “The adhesive was still wet, meaning this happened late morning or early afternoon,” she wrote in a Facebook post Friday. “This isn’t amusing, funny, politically incorrect, edgy, or punk rock. This is super fucking gross and racist. There’s enough xenophobia and ignorance being spouted from this administration, we certainly don’t need street art reinforcing this shit.”

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Curious article, because it’s not true.

Trump Owed Tens Of Millions To Bank Of China (Pol.)

But Trump himself has taken on debt from China. In 2012, his real estate partner refinanced one of Trump’s most prized New York buildings for almost $1 billion. The debt included $211 million from the state-owned Bank of China — its first loan of this kind in the U.S. — which matures in the middle of what could be Trump’s second term. Steps from Trump Tower in Manhattan, the 43-story 1290 Avenue of the Americas skyscraper spans an entire city block. Trump owns a 30 percent stake in the property valued at more than $1 billion, making it one of the priciest addresses in his portfolio, according to his financial disclosures. Trump’s ownership of the building received a smattering of attention before and after his 2016 campaign.

But the arrangement with the Bank of China in 2012 has gone largely unnoticed. The questions surrounding Trump’s ties to the Bank of China come as his campaign is claiming that Biden would be a gift to the Communist country and America’s chief economic rival. After the first version of this article was published, the Bank of China issued a statement Friday evening stating that it sold its debt on the building weeks after the 2012 loan on the property. Vornado Realty Trust owns 70 percent of the building. “On November 7, 2012 several financial institutions including the Bank of China participated in a commercial mortgage loan of $950 million to Vornado Realty Trust,” said Peter Reisman, managing director and chief communications officer of Bank of China U.S.A.

“Within 22 days, the loan was securitized and sold into the [commercial mortgage-backed securities] market, as is a common practice in the industry. Bank of China has not had any ownership interest in that loan since late November 2012.”

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Balding explains.

Trump Doesn’t Owe Bank of China Money (Christopher Balding)

Let me explain the deal structure and why Trump doesn’t owe Bank of China money. First, Trump is a minority passive owner of a real estate trust. 30% so not nothing and he is the president but it isn’t even his company. He doesn’t manage it even before he became president 1/n

Second, the nitty gritty of the financing goes like this (and this is very common in general especially in real estate) assume Citibank agrees to lend the building $1 billion to refinance their loan in 2012. Rather than lend the entire $1 billion themselves, Citibank will 2/n

get on the phone to other banks to take a piece of the $1b they need to raise. Let’s assume in this case it was five banks of $400m, $200m, $200m, $100m, and $100m. In this case Bank of China is one of the $200m slots. They lend that company the $1b to refinance their other 3/n

loan. However, the banks aren’t done. They don’t want to make a 10 year loan on real estate when they make more money from fee and churn of debt securities. So right after they made they $1b loan, Citibank lawyers (I don’t know if it was Citibank just an example) are 4/n

Drafting offering documents to sell off different pieces of the entire $1b loan to investors. The $1b loan is not actually 5 different loans but 5 different injections into a special purpose vehicle that is capitalized with the loan capital from those banks. The SPV 5/n

Which will receive the annual payments then sells off pieces of the loan in say $10m or $25m increments to investors. The banks then receive all of their original loan back as the entire $1b is sold off piece by piece. Typically, banks will have capital out on these projects 6/n

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In the US, small is ugly.

Small Business Owners Asked To Sign PPP Loans Without Forgiveness Pledge (IC)

Randy George had never laid anyone off in his 20 years running his bakery and café in Middlesex, Vermont. But after Vermont Gov. Phil Scott shut down restaurants to slow the spread of the coronavirus, half of his sales disappeared virtually overnight. He’s had to put 28 of the staff of Red Hen Baking Co. on furlough. George decided to sign up for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, created by Congress’s CARES Act relief bill to help small business owners stay afloat. At first, the program was funded with $350 billion, an amount that ran out about two weeks after it began; Congress is now working on a deal to add another $320 billion.

The key feature of these loans, which are being run by the Small Business Administration, is that they are supposed to be entirely forgiven if an owner spends most of the money on payroll and doesn’t lay anyone off. The details of how that forgiveness will work, however, are far from clear, making some small business owners wary to use it at all. In bank loan contracts reviewed by The Intercept, owners have been asked to sign onto terms that said that “forgiveness may apply” or “all or part of the Loan may be forgiven” — releasing the banks from liability but giving business owners no contractual guarantee of loan forgiveness, or even guidance on how to comply with the rules or how to pursue it. One didn’t mention forgiveness at all. The application materials, which are produced on SBA letterhead, have even fewer details.

“Loan forgiveness will be provided for the sum of documented payroll costs, covered mortgage interest payments, covered rent payments, and covered utilities,” most applications read. No other information is offered about what “covered” means. The CARES Act contains some details about how these are defined, but it’s buried in an almost 900-page bill. And no concrete information has been given to small business owners about how they should go about getting their loans forgiven. Some owners were told that to gain forgiveness, they’d have to submit a request to their banks. Others were told that they have to go straight to the SBA. That’s left many people questioning whether the loans will indeed be converted to grants at all. “The keystone, the cornerstone of this program is not assured,” George said.

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Won’t surprise a single soul.

Small Business Rescue Earned Banks $10 Billion In Fees (NPR)

Banks handling the government’s $349 billion loan program for small businesses made more than $10 billion in fees — even as tens of thousands of small businesses were shut out of the program, according to an analysis of financial records by NPR. The banks took in the fees while processing loans that required less vetting than regular bank loans and had little risk for the banks, the records show. Taxpayers provided the money for the loans, which were guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. According to a Department of Treasury fact sheet, all federally insured banks and credit unions could process the loans, which ranged in amount from tens of thousands to $10 million. The banks acted essentially as middlemen, sending clients’ loan applications to the SBA, which approved them.


For every transaction made, banks took in 1% to 5% in fees, depending on the amount of the loan, according to government figures. Loans worth less than $350,000 brought in 5% in fees while loans worth anywhere from $2 million to $10 million brought in 1% in fees. For example, on April 7, RCSH Operations LLC, the parent company of Ruth’s Chris Steak House, received a loan of $10 million. JPMorgan Chase & Co., acting as the lender, took a $100,000 fee on the one-time transaction for which it assumed no risk and could pass through with fewer requirements than for a regular loan. In total, those transaction fees amounted to more than $10 billion for banks, according to transaction data provided by the SBA and the Treasury Department.

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As he used a needlelike device to pull out the clot, he saw new clots forming in real time around it.

People In Their 30s And 40s, Barely Sick With COVID19, Die From Strokes (WP)

Thomas Oxley wasn’t even on call the day he received the page to come into Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in Manhattan. There weren’t enough doctors to treat all the emergency stroke patients, and he was needed in the operating room. The patient’s chart appeared unremarkable at first glance. He was male, no medications, no history of chronic conditions. He had been feeling fine, hanging out at home during the lockdown like the rest of America, when suddenly, he had trouble talking and moving the right side of his body. Imaging showed a large blockage on the left side of his head. Oxley gasped when he got to the patient’s age and covid-19 status: 44, positive.

The man was among several recent stroke patients in their 30s to 40s who were all infected with the virus. The median age for that type of severe stroke is 74. As Oxley, an interventional neurologist, began the procedure to remove the clot, he observed something he had never seen before. On the monitors, the brain typically shows up as a tangle of black squiggles – “like a can of spaghetti,” he said – that provide a map of blood vessels. A clot shows up as a blank spot. As he used a needlelike device to pull out the clot, he saw new clots forming in real time around it. “This is crazy,” he remembers telling his boss.

Reports of strokes in the young and middle-aged – not just at Mount Sinai but in many other hospitals in hard-hit communities – are the latest twist in our evolving understanding of the mysteries of covid-19. Even as the virus has infected nearly 2.8 million people worldwide and killed 195,000 as of Friday, its origins, biological mechanisms and weaknesses continue to elude top scientific minds. Once thought to be a pathogen that primarily attacks the lungs, it has turned out to be a much more formidable foe – affecting nearly every major organ system in the body.

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Small is beautiful. A lot of the solutions will have to come from communities.

South Dakota County Offers Drive-Through Covid-19 Testing Friday (Strong)

A health center in Stanley offered one of the first COVID-19 test drive through services in the state that did not require symptoms or pre-screening. As southern Mountrail County continues to be a hotspot for COVID-19, one medical center stepped up to offer free drive through testing without an appointment. At least 160 cars came through the testing site in Stanley from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with some holding as many as nine people who wanted to be tested. “We’re preparing probably to do between three and 400 tests,” said Dr. Rich Laksonen. Stanley is not in the southern part of the county, but Laksonen said the center wanted to help the state learn more about where the virus is spiking in the county.


“Being that we are the facility that services the count, we saw that need to determine where in Mountrail County these hotspots are located,” said Laksonen. Laksonen said they were compelled to drop restrictions on the site making it “no appointment, or symptoms necessary.” It’s one of the only in the state. “We also wanted our residents in northern Mountrial County to come in and get a test whether we have symptoms or not,” he said. Laksonen said the community was appreciative of the effort. Medical staff say it is too soon to tell how many will test positive. It will take 24 to 48 hours for the dozens of people that came out Friday to know their results.

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It’s fitting this should be in Japan again.

Nearly 60 New Coronavirus Cases Confirmed On Cruise Ship In Japan (R.)

Nearly 60 new cases of coronavirus infections were confirmed among crew members of an Italian cruise ship docked in Japan, domestic media reported on Saturday. With testing of all crew members now complete, the new number, reported by public broadcaster NHK, brings the total infections onboard the Costa Atlantica to around 150, roughly one quarter of the vessel’s 623 crew members. TV Asahi said 57 crew members tested positive. The infection cluster onboard the vessel docked in Nagasaki comes as hospitals are running out of beds in some parts of Japan, where the national tally of virus cases has risen above 12,800. Some 345 people have died.


Of those infected onboard the Costa Atlantica, only one crew member has been admitted to hospital, NHK said, while others remain on board, having shown slight or no symptoms. The vessel has been docked in Japan since February for repairs and maintenance after the pandemic prevented scheduled repairs in China. Nagasaki authorities had quarantined the vessel on arrival, and ordered its crew not to venture beyond the quay except for hospital visits. But prefecture officials said earlier this week that some of the crew had departed without their knowledge, and sought detailed information on their movements.

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And China refuses an international investigation.

China Pressured EU To Drop COVID19 Disinformation Criticism (R.)

China sought to block a European Union report alleging that Beijing was spreading disinformation about the coronavirus outbreak, according to four sources and diplomatic correspondence reviewed by Reuters. The report was eventually released, albeit just before the start of the weekend Europe time and with some criticism of the Chinese government rearranged or removed, a sign of the balancing act Brussels is trying to pull off as the coronavirus outbreak scrambles international relations. The Chinese Mission to the EU was not immediately available for comment and China’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to faxed questions about the exchange. An EU spokeswoman said “we never comment on content or alleged content of internal diplomatic contacts and communication with our partners from another countries.”

Another EU official said that the disinformation report had been published as usual and denied any of it had been watered down. Four diplomatic sources told Reuters that the report had initially been slated for release on April 21 but was delayed after Chinese officials picked up on a Politico news report hat previewed its findings. A senior Chinese official contacted European officials in Beijing the same day to tell them that, “if the report is as described and it is released today it will be very bad for cooperation,” according to EU diplomatic correspondence reviewed by Reuters. The correspondence quoted senior Chinese foreign ministry official Yang Xiaoguang as saying that publishing the report would make Beijing “very angry” and accused European officials of trying to please “someone else” – something the EU diplomats understood to be a reference to Washington.

The four sources said the report had been delayed as a result, and a comparison of the internal version of the report obtained by Reuters and the final version published late Friday showed several differences. For example, on the first page of the internal report shared with EU governments on April 20, the EU’s foreign policy arm said: “China has continued to run a global disinformation campaign to deflect blame for the outbreak of the pandemic and improve its international image. Both overt and covert tactics have been observed.”

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Yeah, let’s buy us some shale.

US Weighs Taking Equity Stakes In US Energy Companies – Mnuchin (R.)

The U.S. government is considering taking equity stakes in U.S. energy companies as it seeks to help the nation’s oil and gas sector amid the coronavirus outbreak, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Friday. President Donald Trump, speaking at a White House event with Mnuchin, said he wants to help industry and suggested the federal government could buy fuel for the country in advance as well as purchase airline tickets in advance. “We’re looking at a whole bunch of alternatives,” Mnuchin said. “You can assume that’s one of the alternatives, but there’s many of them,” Mnuchin said, referring to possible equity stakes.


The oil sector has been hit hard by a dramatic drop in demand as the coronavirus has effectively shut down economies around the globe. “The energy business is very important to me, and we’re going to build it up. This really hurt the energy business as much as any other business because it totally knocked out – the supply kept coming,” Trump said. Trump helped negotiate a reduction in output from OPEC and other countries including Russia, but the move has not removed the market’s oversupply. The president encouraged Mnuchin to look at buying oil for later use. “The United States is the largest user of oil. We could buy oil at a great price into the future. That gives them the infusion they need, and we have oil at a great price into the future,” Trump said.

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Well, if you wait long enough… Meanwhile, there are no buyers for your products anyway, so why bother?

Economics Professor: Australia Would Be ‘Better Off’ Without Lockdown (DM)

An economics professor has been slammed as ‘cold’ and ‘heartless’ for suggesting Australia prioritised health over the economy by going into coronavirus lockdown. University of New South Wales Professor Gigi Foster sparked outrage from fellow panellists and other economic professors while answering questions about the impacts of shutdown measures on Q&A on Monday. Professor Foster suggested Australia hadn’t properly weighed up the economic consequences of tough restrictions introduced to reduce the death toll, and argued the ‘economy is about lives’ too. ‘What frustrates me is when people talk about the economic costs of the lockdown they often don’t think in detail in terms of counting lives,’ Professor Foster said.

‘Has anyone thought about how would you get a measure of the traded lives when we lock an economy down? What are we sacrificing in terms of lives? ‘Economists have tried to do that and we try to do that in currencies like the value of a statistical life. ‘If you do that kind of calculus you realise very quickly that even with a very, very extreme epidemic, in Australia, we are still potentially better off not having an economic lockdown in the first place because of the incredible effects that you see. ‘Not just in a short-run way but in many years to come.’ Her views prompted a shocked response from fellow panellists on the ABC program.


‘How can you say that?’ ACTU secretary Sally McManus fired back. ‘We’re avoiding what’s happened in the UK, what’s happening in the US, the idea of having our ICUs overrun, our healthcare workers dying as well is just the most horrible thought.’ ‘It’s horrible either way,’ Professor Foster replied. ‘The coronavirus has made the world awful. There’s absolutely no doubt about that. ‘In order to have a proper discussion about trade-offs, you need to think in terms of lives you’re giving up. ‘I know it’s invisible lives and difficult to imagine when we aggregate, for example, all of the health effects and the mental health effects and the effects of people right now who have illnesses other than COVID-19.’

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Moro is no Mother Teresa himself.

Brazil Justice Minister Resigns Over Bolsonaro’s Investigations Meddling (IC)

As the country slept Friday morning, far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro fired the Federal Police Director Maurício Valeixo, bringing to a head a long-simmering battle with Justice Minister Sergio Moro. Moro, in turn, promptly resigned — in a new, major episode of deepening chaos in Brazilian politics. The official notice firing the Federal Police head bears Moro’s digital signature, but in a press conference Friday morning, the outgoing justice minister claimed that he was not informed of the move and did not sign the document. This and other revelations made by Moro could serve as grounds for impeachment, if the Brazilian body politic can muster the political will to support such a drastic measure. Members of Congress are already gathering signatures for a congressional inquiry into Moro’s allegations.

In his press conference, Moro suggested that Bolsonaro removed Valeixo because the president opposed investigations being conducted by the Federal Police. “He was concerned about investigations underway in the Federal Supreme Court and that a change would also be opportune at the Federal Police,” Moro said of Bolsonaro’s thinking. Moro said Bolsonaro’s concerns were not a reasonable justification for firing Valeixo, but added that he nonetheless searched for “an alternative solution, to avoid a political crisis during a pandemic.” In the end, Moro said, “I understood that I could not set aside my commitment to the rule of law.”

Notably, the Federal Police are conducting several investigations that could impact Bolsonaro, his politician sons, and several members of their inner circle. Moro loomed large over Brazilian politics during the past several years, even before he accepted Bolsonaro’s offer to serve as justice minister. He was the judge at the center of the influential Operation Car Wash anti-corruption investigation that put former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in prison, removing the popular politician from the 2018 presidential election and clearing the way for Bolsonaro’s victory. When he entered government, Moro was among the most popular political figures in the country and was seen as an important ally for Bolsonaro, but also as a potential rival in the 2022 elections.

The ex-judge’s standing, however, was seriously weakened after The Intercept began publishing an explosive series, in English and Portuguese, on malfeasance and potential illegal actions by Moro and Car Wash prosecutors. As a result of the series, Lula was eventually released from prison.

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Is there anything more American?

Denver Health Execss Get Bonuses 1 Week After Workers Asked To Take Cuts (CBS)

Top executives at Denver Health Medical Center received significant bonuses this month for their performance in 2019, ranging from $50,000 up to $230,000, one week after frontline hospital workers were asked to voluntarily take leave without pay or reduce their hours as the hospital dealt with the financial downturn resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. On April 3, Denver Health CEO Robin Wittenstein emailed hospital workers noting “the current situation will stress us financially.” She announced a hiring freeze and asked employees to voluntarily take leave without pay, use personal time off or reduce their normal work week.


“The goal is to reduce our total salary expense without the need to lay off employees or implement mandatory PTO/furloughs,” wrote Wittenstein. She said the hospital was also considering mandating workers to use their paid time off, mandatory leave without pay and other steps. “The goal is to avoid these extreme measures if at all possible,” she wrote. One week later, on April 10, Wittenstein and her executive staff saw their 2019 Management Incentive Plan bonuses deposited into their bank accounts.

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Macron pleasing the unions AND his small businesses.

Amazon To Be Fined €100K For Every ‘Non-Essential’ Delivery in France (RT)

Amazon will face a fine each time it delivers non-essential goods in France until it improves the safety conditions of its workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The company earlier closed its warehouses in protest. On Friday, an appeals court in Versailles, outside Paris, upheld last week’s ruling, which restricted Amazon’s French warehouses to only shipping IT products, health items, groceries and pet food until it ensures the safety of its workers. Jeff Bezos’ e-commerce giant was given 48 hours to comply with the ruling, and will be fined €100,000 ($108,020) for every delivery that doesn’t meet the court’s requirements.


On April 14, a court ruled that Amazon had failed to guarantee the safety of its workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic, and said that the company must submit an updated professional risk assessment before it can resume full operations. Amazon argued that it had already updated its work safety protocols and introduced disease-control measures to prevent its workers from being infected with the coronavirus. Following the ruling on April 14, the company completely shut down its French warehouses until Saturday.

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Trara Reade’s mom called Larry King in 1993.

 

 

 

Merkel is a chemist by trade. She understands a thing or two.

 

 

 

 

 

https://twitter.com/i/status/1253855510903865345

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth for your own good.

 

Apr 192020
 


Unknown A couple wearing smog masks, London 1953

 

Did COVID19 Outbreak Start Months Earlier And Not In Wuhan? (RT)
New Wave Of Infections Threatens To Collapse Japan Hospitals (AP)
Florida Prison System Begins To Reveal Ravages Of Coronavirus (MH)
UK Care Home Deaths ‘Far Higher’ Than Official Figures (BBC)
Anger In Sweden As Elderly Pay Price For Coronavirus Strategy (O.)
A Scam To Enrich Execs: COVID19 Bailouts Fuel More Share Buybacks (Feierstein)
The Trickle-Up Bailout (Matt Taibbi)
Russia Reports Record Daily Rise In Coronavirus Cases (R.)
Spain To Allow Children Outside After Six Weeks (BBC)
CDC Reviewing ‘Stunning’ Testing Results From Boston Homeless Shelter (B25)
38 Days When Britain Sleepwalked Into Disaster (Times)
UK Medical Staff Face Weeks Without Protective Gowns (O.)
Lockdown Puts Increasing Strain On Britain’s Food System (Ind.)
Pandemics Have Reshaped The World In Unpredictable Ways Throughout History (ProsM)

 

 

“The curve is flattening; we can end lockdown now”

=

“This parachute has slowed my rate of descent; I can take it off now”

 

 

 

 

 

Cases 2,345,476 (+ 84,051 from yesterday’s 2,261,425)

Deaths 161,196 (+ 6,462 from yesterday’s 147,378)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: among Active Cases, Serious or Critical fell to 3%

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Just as everyone says it was the lab.

Did COVID19 Outbreak Start Months Earlier And Not In Wuhan? (RT)

The novel coronavirus may have first passed to humans somewhere in southern China months before the outbreak in the city of Wuhan, a new study found, cutting against widely held theories about the origins of the pandemic. Mapping a “network” of coronavirus genomes and tracing mutations over time, a team of researchers led by a Cambridge University geneticist determined the first Covid-19 infection may have come as early as September in a region south of Wuhan, noting the pathogen could have been carried by humans well before it mutated into a more lethal form. “The virus may have mutated into its final ‘human-efficient’ form months ago, but stayed inside a bat or other animal or even human for several months without infecting other individuals,” geneticist Peter Forster told the South China Morning Post.


Phylogenetic network of 160 SARS-CoV-2 genomes © PNAS / Peter Forster

He leads the ongoing yet to be peer-reviewed research, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. “Then, it started infecting and spreading among humans between September 13 and December 7, generating the network we present in [the study]”. Though the virus is thought to have transmitted from bats to another host animal – pangolins are a popular candidate – and finally to humans, the new findings could overturn prevailing ideas as to precisely how, when and where it made the interspecies leap. Initial theories posited the jump to humans took place at a wet market in Wuhan, but the new study has called that into question, suggesting Covid-19 might have originated south of the central-Chinese city.


“If I am pressed for an answer, I would say the original spread started more likely in southern China than in Wuhan.” Any solid conclusions, however, could only be made after analyzing more bats and other potential host animals, as well as tissue samples from early patients, Forster cautioned. “But it is the best assumption we can make at the moment, pending analysis of further patient samples stored in hospitals during 2019,” the researcher told Newsweek in a separate interview.

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For two whole months, Shinzo Abe had just one thing in mind: the Olympics. Everything else had to be pushed aside.

New Wave Of Infections Threatens To Collapse Japan Hospitals (AP)

Hospitals in Japan are increasingly turning away sick people as the country struggles with surging coronavirus infections and its emergency medical system collapses. In one recent case, an ambulance carrying a man with a fever and difficulty breathing was rejected by 80 hospitals and forced to search for hours for a hospital in downtown Tokyo that would treat him. Another feverish man finally reached a hospital after paramedics unsuccessfully contacted 40 clinics. The Japanese Association for Acute Medicine and the Japanese Society for Emergency Medicine say many hospital emergency rooms are refusing to treat people including those suffering strokes, heart attacks and external injuries.

Japan initially seemed to have controlled the outbreak by going after clusters of infections in specific places, usually enclosed spaces such as clubs, gyms and meeting venues. But the spread of virus outpaced this approach and most new cases are untraceable. The outbreak has highlighted underlying weaknesses in medical care in Japan, which has long been praised for its high quality insurance system and reasonable costs. Apart from a general unwillingness to embrace social distancing, experts fault government incompetence and a widespread shortage of the protective gear and equipment medical workers need to do their jobs. Japan lacks enough hospital beds, medical workers or equipment. Forcing hospitalization of anyone with the virus, even those with mild symptoms, has left hospitals overcrowded and understaffed.

[..] Medical workers are now reusing N95 masks and making their own face shields. The major city of Osaka has sought contributions of unused plastic raincoats for use as hazmat gowns. Abe has appealed to manufacturers to step up production of masks and gowns, ventilators and other supplies. A government virus task force has warned that, in a worst-case scenario where no preventive measures were taken, more than 400,000 could die due to shortages of ventilators and other intensive care equipment. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said the government has secured 15,000 ventilators and is getting support of Sony and Toyota Motor Corp. to produce more.

Japanese hospitals also lack ICUs, with only five per 100,000 people, compared to about 30 in Germany, 35 in the U.S. and 12 in Italy, said Osamu Nishida, head of the Japanese Society of Intensive Care Medicine. Italy’s 10% mortality rate, compared to Germany’s 1%, is partly due to the shortage of ICU facilities, Nishida said. “Japan, with ICUs not even half of Italy’s, is expected to face a fatality overshoot very quickly,” he said. Japan has been limiting testing for the coronavirus mainly because of rules requiring any patients to be hospitalized. Surging infections have prompted the Health Ministry to loosen those rules and move patients with milder symptoms to hotels to free up beds for those requiring more care.

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Wherever you put large groups of people together, this happens with a highly contagious virus.

Florida Prison System Begins To Reveal Ravages Of Coronavirus (MH)

For weeks the Florida Department of Corrections refused to address rumors that inmates with coronavirus-like symptoms — or those who had come into contact with symptomatic inmates or staff — were being segregated by the hundreds from the general population. That changed on Friday, when the agency acknowledged that more than 4,500 inmates are being isolated in one way or another as COVID-19, the highly infectious disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has spread throughout the third-largest prison system in the country. As of Friday evening, 45 inmates and 71 staff members had tested positive for COVID-19, according to the FDC. Four inmates had died, all of whom had been incarcerated at Blackwater River Correctional Facility, a compound near Pensacola run under contract by the Geo Group.


The medical examiner in Santa Rosa County revealed the deaths. The new data was made public amid a growing chorus of criticism by a handful of lawmakers, including an influential Republican, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, who is vice chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. The department found itself on the defensive this week when those four deaths were revealed not by prison administrators — including its communication staff, which has ignored questions from reporters for several weeks — but by journalists who sought out information from the Santa Rosa County medical examiner. After the first two deaths were reported by the News Service of Florida, confirmation was hastily posted on the department’s website.

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About 20 times higher.

UK Care Home Deaths ‘Far Higher’ Than Official Figures (BBC)

New data has added to growing evidence that the number of deaths linked to coronavirus in UK care homes may be far higher than those recorded so far. The National Care Forum (NCF) estimates that more than 4,000 elderly and disabled people have died across all residential and nursing homes. Its report comes amid calls for accurate data on virus-linked deaths. Only 217 such care home deaths have been officially recorded in England and Wales up to 3 April. The NCF, which represents not-for-profit care providers, said its findings highlight significant flaws in the official reporting of coronavirus-related death statistics.


It collected data from care homes looking after more than 30,000 people in the UK, representing 7.4% of those people living in one of the country’s thousands of care settings. It said that, across those specific homes, in the week between 7 April and 13 April, there had been 299 deaths linked to coronavirus. That was treble the figure for the previous week and double that in the whole of the preceding month. If that number was reflected across all residential and nursing homes, NCF estimated there have been 4,040 coronavirus-related deaths in care homes which are not yet included in official figures.

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And then the nurses start dying too.

Anger In Sweden As Elderly Pay Price For Coronavirus Strategy (O.)

It was just a few days after the ban on visits to his mother’s nursing home in the Swedish city of Uppsala, on 3 April, that Magnus Bondesson started to get worried. “They [the home] opened up for Skype calls and that’s when I saw two employees. I didn’t see any masks and they didn’t have gloves on,” says Bondesson, a start-up founder and app developer. “When I called again a few days later I questioned the person helping out, asking why they didn’t use face masks, and he said they were just following the guidelines.” That same week there were numerous reports in Sweden’s national news media about just how badly the country’s nursing homes were starting to be hit by the coronavirus, with hundreds of cases confirmed at homes in Stockholm, the worst affected region, and infections in homes across the country.

Since then pressure has mounted on the government to explain how, despite a stated aim of protecting the elderly from the risks of Covid-19, a third of fatalities have been people living in care homes. Last week, as figures released by the Public Health Agency of Sweden indicated that 1,333 people had now died of coronavirus, the country’s normally unflappable state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell admitted that the situation in care homes was worrying. “This is our big problem area,” said Tegnell, the brains behind the government’s relatively light-touch strategy, which has seen it ask, rather than order, people to avoid non-essential travel, work from home and stay indoors if they are over 70 or are feeling ill.

The same day prime minister Stefan Löfven said that the country faced a “serious situation” in its old people’s homes, announced efforts to step up protections, and ordered the country’s health inspectorate to investigate. Lena Einhorn, a virologist who has been one of the leading domestic critics of Sweden’s coronavirus policy, told the Observer that the government and the health agency were still resisting the most obvious explanations. “They have to admit that it’s a huge failure, since they have said the whole time that their main aim has been to protect the elderly,” she said. “But what is really strange is that they still do not acknowledge the likely route. They say it’s very unfortunate, that they are investigating, and that it’s a matter of the training personnel, but they will not acknowledge that presymptomatic or asymptomatic spread is a factor.”

The agency’s advice to those managing and working at nursing homes [..] is that they should not wear protective masks or use other protective equipment unless they are dealing with a resident in the home they have reason to suspect is infected. Otherwise the central protective measure in place is that staff should stay home if they detect any symptoms in themselves. “Where I’m working we don’t have face masks at all, and we are working with the most vulnerable people of all,” said one care home worker, who wanted to remain anonymous. “We don’t have hand sanitiser, just soap. That’s it. Everybody’s concerned about it. We are all worried.” “The worst thing is that it is us, the staff, who are taking the infection in to the elderly,” complained one nurse to Swedish public broadcaster SVT. “It’s unbelievable that more of them haven’t been infected.”

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No more of this.

A Scam To Enrich Execs: COVID19 Bailouts Fuel More Share Buybacks (Feierstein)

To anyone doubting the Covid-19 bailouts will line executives’ pockets, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker says he’ll “find a way around” the rules against it. This after making $150 million while AAL’s stock plummeted 70%. Stock buybacks are the ultimate vehicle of self-enrichment. Consider the following as a ‘case study’ of Wall Street’s legal fraud. Under CEO Doug Parker’s leadership from 2013-2020, American Airlines has seen its stock plummet 70%. When one looks at Parker’s pay awarded vs the company’s three-year average economic profits, his pay-for-performance metrics are abominable. The media worships Parker for his stewardship of AAL during this crisis and reports that, for the past three years, Parker’s salary and bonus were zero.

However, they fail to mention that AAL’s legal Ponzi stock-buyback scheme saw Parker’s 2016-2018 take-home pay rocket to $70.2 million. (According to the FT, Parker’s total award from selling stock since 2013 is $150 million). It’s not bad for Parker, but it’s horrendous for AAL employees, shareholders and American taxpayers who will be stuffed with a $20 billion bailout. Fair? Not on your life. Debt-fuelled stock buybacks and dividend payments are engineered to artificially increase stock prices so that self-interested CEOs like Parker can “earn” higher compensation. Increasing debt creates an illusion of better earnings. However, buybacks cannibalize corporate balance sheets, leaving taxpayers exposed to unlimited “bailouts” when these leveraged bets go wrong.

What’s the difference between rogue hedge fund managers and airline CEOs? Not much, except some airline CEOs have been given golden parachutes to the tune of nearly $17.5 million. So who is enabling these CEOs to line their pockets with taxpayer money? Last summer, the US Federal Reserve released the results of its annual Comprehensive Capital Analysis and Review (CCAR). The CCAR is a bank stress test, which all the banks passed, and after passing the stress test, the Federal Reserve approved $125 billion in share buybacks! Yet, even though the banks all passed the stress test, the Financial Times recently reported that the president and chief executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (who oversaw TARP during the GFC of 2008) is recommending big US banks raise $200 billion in capital now to act as a buffer against economic shock from the “coronavirus pandemic.” This is a bit like putting on your seatbelt after your airbag has already deployed.

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“..80% of the benefit of the bill went to just 43,000 taxpayers each earning over $1 million a year. The average tax break for those 43,000 individuals was $1.6 million..”

The Trickle-Up Bailout (Matt Taibbi)

Because the CARES Act was rushed to the floor, members didn’t have all of the information they might have wanted before the vote. After the bill passed, Democratic staffers sent these tax provisions in the CARES Act, sections 2303 and 2304, to the Joint Committee on Taxation, to be scored. They were stunned to learn they would cost $195 billion over ten years. In other words, what seemed like a run-of-the-mill offhand legislative pork provision ended up dwarfing the airline bailout and other main parts of the bill. “The cost of caring for this small slice of the wealthiest one percent is greater than the CARES Act funded for all hospitals in America,” says Texas Democrat Lloyd Doggett. “It’s greater than CARES provided for all state and local governments.”

The JCT analysis found that 80% of the benefit of the bill went to just 43,000 taxpayers each earning over $1 million a year. The average tax break for those 43,000 individuals was $1.6 million, an interesting number when one considers the loudness of the controversy over $1,200 relief checks for everyone else. Doggett joined Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in sending a letter to the Trump administration, demanding to know the provenance of these tax breaks. “This irresponsible provision must be repealed,” he says. It’s possible we’ll find out someday whose idea it was to insert those breaks. By then, however, other windfalls from the Covid-19 rescue might have rendered the $195 billion bailout appetizer quaint.

With the Fed’s announcement on April 9th of a $2.3 trillion program that includes purchases of junk bonds, the toolkit for support of the financial economy now encompasses nearly every conceivable official response apart from subsidy of stock markets. The sheer quantity of money raining down on the finance sector appears transformational, a “joyful noise” heard around the world.

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Russia has done something very wrong.

Russia Reports Record Daily Rise In Coronavirus Cases (R.)

Russia on Sunday reported a record rise of 6,060 new coronavirus cases over the previous 24 hours, bringing its nationwide tally to 42,853, the Russian coronavirus crisis response center said. The number of coronavirus cases in Russia began rising sharply this month, although it had reported far fewer infections than many western European countries in the outbreak’s early stages.

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There should be different ways.

Spain To Allow Children Outside After Six Weeks (BBC)

Spanish children have been kept indoors since 14 March, under strict measures to curb the spread of Covid-19. Now Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez aims to relax the rule on 27 April so they can “get some fresh air”. Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau, who has young children herself, this week pleaded with the government to allow children outside. Spain has seen more than 20,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic and almost 200,000 reported cases. In a televised briefing on Saturday evening, Mr Sánchez said Spain had left behind “the most extreme moments and contained the brutal onslaught of the pandemic”.


But he said he would ask parliament to extend Spain’s state of alarm to 9 May as the achievements made were “still insufficient and above all fragile” and could not be jeopardised by “hasty decisions”. Another 565 deaths were reported on Saturday, well down from the peak of the pandemic, and the government allowed some non-essential workers to resume construction and manufacturing last Monday. However, the main lockdown measures remain in place, with adults only allowed out to visit food shops and pharmacies or work considered essential. Children have been barred from leaving their homes completely.

Read more …

“The number of positives was shocking, but the fact that 100 percent of the positives had no symptoms was equally shocking..”

CDC Reviewing ‘Stunning’ Testing Results From Boston Homeless Shelter (B25)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now “actively looking into” results from universal COVID-19 testing at Pine Street Inn homeless shelter. The broad-scale testing took place at the shelter in Boston’s South End a week and a half ago because of a small cluster of cases there. “It was like a double knockout punch. The number of positives was shocking, but the fact that 100 percent of the positives had no symptoms was equally shocking,” said Dr. Jim O’Connell, president of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, which provides medical care at the city’s shelters. O’Connell said that the findings have changed the future of COVID-19 screenings at Boston’s homeless shelters.

“All the screening we were doing before this was based on whether you had a fever above 100.4 and whether you had symptoms,” said O’Connell. “How much of the COVID virus is being passed by people who don’t even know they have it?” The 146 people who tested positive were immediately moved to two different temporary isolation facilities in Boston. According to O’Connell, only one of those patients needed hospital care, and many continue to show no symptoms. “If we did universal testing among the general population, would these numbers be similar?” said Lyndia Downie, president and executive director at the Pine Street Inn.

“I think there are no many asymptomatic people right now. We just don’t know. We don’t have enough data on universal testing to understand how many asymptomatic people are contagious.” Hundreds of tests are now set to be conducted at additional Boston homeless shelters in the coming days. “It tells you, you don’t know who’s at risk. You don’t know what you need to do to contain the virus if you don’t actually have the details or facts,” said Marty Martinez, Boston’s chief of Health and Human Services.

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His own party appears to be after his head.

38 Days When Britain Sleepwalked Into Disaster (Times)

On the third Friday of January a silent and stealthy killer was creeping across the world. Passing from person to person and borne on ships and planes, the coronavirus was already leaving a trail of bodies. The virus had spread from China to six countries and was almost certainly in many others. Sensing the coming danger, the British government briefly went into wartime mode that day, holding a meeting of Cobra, its national crisis committee. But it took just an hour that January 24 lunchtime to brush aside the coronavirus threat. Matt Hancock, the health secretary, bounced out of Whitehall after chairing the meeting and breezily told reporters the risk to the UK public was “low”.

This was despite the publication that day of an alarming study by Chinese doctors in the medical journal, The Lancet. It assessed the lethal potential of the virus, for the first time suggesting it was comparable to the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed up to 50 million people. Unusually, Boris Johnson had been absent from Cobra. The committee — which includes ministers, intelligence chiefs and military generals — gathers at moments of great peril such as terrorist attacks, natural disasters and other threats to the nation and is normally chaired by the prime minister. Johnson had found time that day, however, to join in a lunar new year dragon eyes ritual as part of Downing Street’s reception for the Chinese community, led by the country’s ambassador.

It was a big day for Johnson and there was a triumphal mood in Downing Street because the withdrawal treaty from the European Union was being signed in the late afternoon. It could have been the defining moment of his premiership — but that was before the world changed. That afternoon his spokesman played down the looming threat from the east and reassured the nation that we were “well prepared for any new diseases”. The confident, almost nonchalant, attitude displayed that day in January would continue for more than a month. Johnson went on to miss four further Cobra meetings on the virus.

As Britain was hit by unprecedented flooding, he completed the EU withdrawal, reshuffled his cabinet and then went away to the grace-and-favour country retreat at Chevening where he spent most of the two weeks over half-term with his pregnant fiancée, Carrie Symonds. It would not be until March 2 — another five weeks — that Johnson would attend a Cobra meeting about the coronavirus. But by then it was almost certainly too late. The virus had sneaked into our airports, our trains, our workplaces and our homes. Britain was on course for one of the worst infections of the most deadly virus to have hit the world in more than a century. Last week, a senior adviser to Downing Street broke ranks and blamed the weeks of complacency on a failure of leadership in cabinet. In particular, the prime minister was singled out. “There’s no way you’re at war if your PM isn’t there,” the adviser said.

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If Osaka can ask for raincoats to be donated as hazmat suits, so can Britain. No shortage of raincoats.

UK Medical Staff Face Weeks Without Protective Gowns (O.)

Doctors and nurses treating Covid-19 patients face shortages of protective full-length gowns for weeks to come, it has emerged, as anger builds over the failure to stockpile the garments. Critical shortages of the gowns have meant that some trusts have already had to make do with the best available alternatives as a result of the shortages, which forced a sudden change in Public Health England (PHE) guidelines on the use of gowns on Friday. Concerns are being raised within the NHS over why the gowns did not form part of the government’s pandemic stockpile. It is understood shortages are already forcing some NHS workers to use the controversial new guidelines, which tell them to wear a plastic apron with coveralls should the specialist fluid-repellent gowns run out. Workers are also advised to reuse washed aprons.

Meanwhile, surgeons are being told by senior colleagues not to put themselves at risk should they be unable to wear a protective gown. Professor Neil Mortensen, from the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said surgeons should not risk their health if fluid-repellent gowns or coveralls could not be used. “We are deeply disturbed by this latest change to personal protective equipment (PPE) guidance, which was issued without consulting expert medical bodies,” he said. “After weeks of working with PHE and our sister medical royal colleges to get PPE guidance right, this risks confusion and variation in practice across the country.”

Health unions warned that staff could begin to refuse to work if they felt the new guidelines put them at serious risk of contracting the coronavirus. Sara Gorton, Unison’s head of health, said: “Managers must be truly honest with health workers and their union reps over the weekend. If gowns run out, staff in high-risk areas may well decide that it’s no longer safe for them to work.” Last night, the British Medical Association (BMA) also warned that it would support doctors who refused to work with inadequate PPE. “There are limits to the level of risk staff can be expected to expose themselves and their patients to,” said Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA council chair.

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No kidding, there’s a video somewhere here entitled: “Flocks of chickens to be slaughtered over coronavirus.. “

Lockdown Puts Increasing Strain On Britain’s Food System (Ind.)

From a mosque in Banbury, taxi drivers left out of work during the lockdown are picking up an unusual fare: hundreds of doughballs and garlic dip that had been destined for local pizza restaurants and are now being diverted to people’s homes. Yasmin Kaduji, who runs Banbury Community Fridge is one of thousands of people working overtime across the UK to get meals to three million people thought to be going hungry due to the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, at the same time British farmers are warning they have been forced to throw millions of gallons of milk down the drain because it no longer has a buyer, cheesemakers are binning artisan cheese and meat processors have an overabundance of sirloin, rib-eye steaks and prime roasting joints. Supply and demand are severely misaligned.

While supermarket stocks have returned closer to normal after being plundered last month, more deep-rooted problems lay ahead for Britain’s food supplies which are set to come under increasing strain as lockdown is extended for at least another three weeks and could go on for much longer. The problem is not that there is not enough food but that the well-established routes that supply it have been upended so abruptly. When we saw empty shelves last month, the primary cause was not inconsiderate stockpilers, as some government ministers claimed, but the fact that a massive part of the food industry had been shut down overnight without a plan in place for how hundreds of millions of meals would be redirected.

Tim Lang, professor of food policy, at London’s City University, argues that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the fragility of our food system; a system which stretches out over thousands of miles, dozens of countries, and is reliant on migrant labour and air freight. That system has been reshaped, according to Professor Lang’s analysis, largely to suit the interests of nine companies which sell 90 per cent of the food we buy. Supermarkets have been happy to rely on sprawling supply chains that are left exposed during a crisis, as long as the price is right and the product sells. This, along with a “dangerously complacent” government, has left the UK vulnerable in the current situation, Professor Lang argues.

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But the incumbent order always protests violently first.

Pandemics Have Reshaped The World In Unpredictable Ways Throughout History (ProsM)

In just four years—from 1347 to 1351—between a third and a half of the population of Europe died. That would be world-shaking enough in itself, but it also completely rewrote the social order. Before the Black Death, European society had for centuries been structured around what we’d later call feudalism: to over-simplify massively, the system by which poorer people would work for richer ones in exchange for access to their land, and put up with having no freedom of movement because otherwise they didn’t eat. But when plague caused the population to collapse, food and land prices plummeted, too. Land without workers turned out to be worthless, so the lords found themselves competing for labourers. Despite assorted ruling class efforts to overcome the laws of supply and demand, wages rose, and keeping peasants tied to particular scraps of land proved impossible.

The Black Death didn’t just kill people. It probably killed feudalism, too. It’s too early to know how coronavirus might reshape 21st-century society. But we can certainly speculate. Perhaps, as large chunks of the workforce simultaneously shift to working from home for the first time, it’ll kill the idea that you need to be in the office to get stuff done. If it turns out that employees will do their work even if they’re not literally in their managers’ line of sight, bosses could finally shake their addiction to presenteeism. That could have all sorts of unpredictable knock-on effects: less pressure on transport networks, lower emissions, even relief for overheated housing markets as people discover they can live further from work. Or perhaps it could drive an increase in mothers’ participation in the workforce: more flexible office culture, after all, would make it easier to combine work with caring responsibilities.

[..] Now that a fear of financial ruin might drive sick, contagious people to work when they should be in isolation, perhaps we can go back to talking about the state as the enabler of our freedoms rather than the barrier to them. Or perhaps it won’t: where this will take us, we just don’t know, and your guess is as good as mine. But pandemics have been reshaping the world in unpredictable ways throughout history. If this crisis is even a fraction as serious as it seems, don’t be surprised if the world afterwards looks very unlike the world before.

Read more …

 

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Apr 102020
 


Edward Hopper Burly Cobb’s House, South Truro 1930-33

 

Doctors Alarmed After Some COVID19 Patients Test Positive After Recovering (RT)
Doctors Say Ventilators Are Overused For COVID19 (Stat)
Pay Cuts, Furloughs, Layoffs For Doctors, Nurses, Healthcare Workers (BI)
New York Has More Cases Than Any Country (BBC)
Trump: Widespread Testing ‘Would Never Happen’, Not Needed To Reopen US (NW)
UK Gov’t: Keep Economy Running, We Will All Get COVID-19 Anyway (Nafeez Ahmed)
Ex-IMF Head Economist: Western Economies Slow To React (BBC)
Americans In Lebanon Decline Repatriation Offer: ‘It’s Safer In Beirut’ (CNN)
US Shouldn’t Bail Out Hedge Funds, Billionaires – Chamath Palihapitiya (CNBC)
WHO Chief And Taiwan In Row Over ‘Racist’ Comments (BBC)
Japan Will Pay Its Firms to Leave China, Relocate Production (N18)
China Factory Gate Deflation Deepens (R.)
How Greece Flattened The Coronavirus Curve (AlJ)
Saudi Energy Minister Says OPEC+ Oil Pact Hinges On Mexico Joining (R.)
US Banks Prepare To Seize Energy Assets As Shale Boom Goes Bust (R.)
Chicago Jail Reports 450 Coronavirus Cases Among Staff, Inmates (R.)
Assange Not Infected But Says Many in Belmarsh Are (CN)

 

 

US records 1,783 virus deaths in past 24 hours: Johns Hopkins
April 7: 1,939, April 8: 1.973

 

 

Cases 1,615,049 (+ 85,971 from yesterday’s 1,529,078)

Deaths 96,791 (+ 7,380 from yesterday’s 89,411)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 21% ! NOTE 2: the number of active cases that are critical or severe is going down. 4% now.

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Info.live:

 

 

 

 

We keep seeing articles that depict how poor our understanding of the virus is. Sometimes I even wonder how many people died from that, instead of the virus itself.

Doctors Alarmed After Some COVID19 Patients Test Positive After Recovering (RT)

Troublesome results from South Korea and China, showing some of the patients who recovered from the coronavirus test positive again, could throw off widely accepted strategies for battling the virus, from shutdowns to vaccines. After about 50 recovered patients in the city of Daegu tested positive for Covid-19 again, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) launched an investigation into whether they were somehow reinfected, or if the virus had made a comeback. “While we are putting more weight on reactivation as the possible cause, we are conducting a comprehensive study on this,” said KCDC Director-General Jeong Eun-kyeong, as quoted by Bloomberg.

While reinfection would be problematic, reactivation is a more troubling prospect. In addition to raising questions about post-recovery immunity to the virus, it would pose a major challenge to mitigation strategies adopted around the world. If there is a high risk of Covid-19 reactivating among the people considered cured, that would mean longer quarantines and delays in reopening businesses and public spaces. Other possibilities include false positives, if the tests pick up residue from the initial infection, or prolonged “shedding” of the virus load missed by the tests at discharge because the levels were just under the limit.

South Korea has often been cited as one of the success stories of the pandemic, keeping the total number of infections to 10,400 and the death toll to 204, through strict quarantine, widespread testing and contact tracing measures. Further troubling news comes from China, where the novel coronavirus was first detected in December last year. A team of scientists at Fudan University analyzed blood samples from 175 patients discharged from a hospital in Shanghai and found that almost a third had “unexpectedly low” levels of antibodies, and in at least ten cases, no antibodies at all.

“Whether these patients were at high risk of rebound or reinfection should be explored in further studies,” the team said in a preliminary research paper released on Monday. While it has not been peer-reviewed or evaluated, the authors say they did the world’s first systematic examination of antibody levels in recovered Covid-19 patients. All of the people examined had recovered from mild symptoms, and most of those with low antibody levels were young, in the 15-39 age group. By contrast, the 60-85 age group had three times the amount of antibodies, the scientists said. If some patients do not develop antibodies, this could have serious implications for both vaccinations and “herd immunity.”

Read more …

More poor understanding.

Doctors Say Ventilators Are Overused For COVID19 (Stat)

Even as hospitals and governors raise the alarm about a shortage of ventilators, some critical care physicians are questioning the widespread use of the breathing machines for Covid-19 patients, saying that large numbers of patients could instead be treated with less intensive respiratory support. If the iconoclasts are right, putting coronavirus patients on ventilators could be of little benefit to many and even harmful to some. What’s driving this reassessment is a baffling observation about Covid-19: Many patients have blood oxygen levels so low they should be dead. But they’re not gasping for air, their hearts aren’t racing, and their brains show no signs of blinking off from lack of oxygen.

That is making critical care physicians suspect that blood levels of oxygen, which for decades have driven decisions about breathing support for patients with pneumonia and acute respiratory distress, might be misleading them about how to care for those with Covid-19. In particular, more and more are concerned about the use of intubation and mechanical ventilators. They argue that more patients could receive simpler, noninvasive respiratory support, such as the breathing masks used in sleep apnea, at least to start with and maybe for the duration of the illness. “I think we may indeed be able to support a subset of these patients” with less invasive breathing support, said Sohan Japa, an internal medicine physician at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “I think we have to be more nuanced about who we intubate.”

That would help relieve a shortage of ventilators so critical that states are scrambling to procure them and some hospitals are taking the unprecedented (and largely untested) step of using a single ventilator for more than one patient. And it would mean fewer Covid-19 patients, particularly elderly ones, would be at risk of suffering the long-term cognitive and physical effects of sedation and intubation while being on a ventilator. None of this means that ventilators are not necessary in the Covid-19 crisis, or that hospitals are wrong to fear running out. But as doctors learn more about treating Covid-19, and question old dogma about blood oxygen and the need for ventilators, they might be able to substitute simpler and more widely available devices.

An oxygen saturation rate below 93% (normal is 95% to 100%) has long been taken as a sign of potential hypoxia and impending organ damage. Before Covid-19, when the oxygen level dropped below this threshold, physicians supported their patients’ breathing with noninvasive devices such as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP, the sleep apnea device) and bilevel positive airway pressure ventilators (BiPAP). Both work via a tube into a face mask. [..] because in some patients with Covid-19, blood-oxygen levels fall to hardly-ever-seen levels, into the 70s and even lower, physicians are intubating them sooner. “Data from China suggested that early intubation would keep Covid-19 patients’ heart, liver, and kidneys from failing due to hypoxia,” said a veteran emergency medicine physician. “This has been the whole thing driving decisions about breathing support: Knock them out and put them on a ventilator.”

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Obvious no. 1 for the government to prevent.

Pay Cuts, Furloughs, Layoffs For Doctors, Nurses, Healthcare Workers (BI)

Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston started temporarily laying off 900 workers this week, a move it expects will last through June. Salaried employees are facing a 15% cut, and hourly workers who don’t care for patients will be working fewer hours. The hospital confirmed that workers won’t face cuts if they are treating patients with COVID-19,. Though some hourly workers already had reduced hours due to lower volume, they won’t see more cuts if they’re moved onto the COVID-19 response team, said hospital spokeswoman Heather Woolwine. The cuts at MUSC came as the hospital saw a 75% drop in surgeries, 30% fewer patients arriving at the hospital, and 70% fewer patients arriving there by ambulance. Without staffing changes, it projected a $100 million loss through June 30.

In Oklahoma, Hillcrest HealthCare System announced it is putting about 600 employees on an estimated 90-day furlough, which is a temporary layoff without pay, though some might be called back sooner if they’re needed. The furloughs affect workers in administration, surgery, and outpatient care, where patient visits have gone down, said Rachel Weaver Smith, spokeswoman for Hillcrest. About 20% of staff are facing furloughs, reassignments, or reduced hours or pay, but the changes don’t extend to staff treating people with COVID-19, Weaver Smith said.

[..] There’s no central place where hospitals are reporting all of their layoffs or how much money they’re losing. The American Hospital Association, which represents more than 5,000 hospitals, has sounded the alarm about the industry’s financial difficulties and said that quickly distributing funding from the CARES Act would help facilities keep their doors open. About $30 billion will go out in the coming days, according to Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, but it’s not clear when or how the rest will be distributed.

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There are some 20 million people in NY State. Much less than in Spain, Italy etc.

New York Has More Cases Than Any Country (BBC)

New York state now has more coronavirus cases than any other country outside the US, according to latest figures. The state’s confirmed caseload of Covid-19 jumped by 10,000 on Thursday to 159,937, placing it ahead of Spain (153,000 cases) and Italy (143,000). China, where the virus emerged last year, has reported 82,000 cases. The US as a whole has recorded 462,000 cases and nearly 16,500 deaths. Globally there are 1.6 million cases and 95,000 deaths. While New York state leads the world in coronavirus cases, its death toll (7,000) lags behind Spain (15,500) and Italy (18,000), though it is more than double the official figure from China (3,300).


Photo: Reuters- Lucas Jackson

Photos have emerged of workers in hazmat outfits burying coffins in a mass grave in New York City. Drone footage showed workers using a ladder to descend into the huge pit where the caskets were stacked. The images were taken at Hart Island, off the Bronx, which has been used for more than 150 years by city officials as a mass burial site for those with no next-of-kin, or families who cannot afford funerals. Burial operations at the site have ramped up amid the pandemic from one day a week to five days a week, according to the Department of Corrections. Prisoners from Rikers Island usually do the job, but the rising workload has recently been taken over by contractors.

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Imagine you’re a country that has imposed a 2-3 month lockdown on its people, and you’re slowly getting out. Would you then invite mass numbers of untested Americans?

Trump: Widespread Testing ‘Would Never Happen’, Not Needed To Reopen US (NW)

President Donald Trump on Thursday said a widespread COVID-19 testing program to assess whether workers can safely return to their workplaces is “never going to happen” in the United States. As he addressed reporters during the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing, Trump touted the fact that 2 million Americans had been tested for the virus as a “milestone” in the U.S. fight against the global pandemic caused by SARS-Cov-2. The 2 million tests that have been administered so far represents a high water mark after weeks of problems in obtaining and administering tests caused by the Trump administration’s rejection of a test developed by the World Health Organization. However, that number means only .61 percent of the 330 million U.S. population has been tested for COVID-19.

That’s a paltry number compared to many other countries which have implemented testing programs. Italy, for example, has administered tests to approximately 1.4 percent of its population, and South Korea, which flattened its infection curve with widespread testing, has reached .9 percent of its population. Most public health experts have stressed the need for the U.S. to significantly expand its testing program, both with currently available tests to determine whether a given person is infected with SARS-Cov-2, and with so-called “antibody tests” to determine whether a person has successfully fought off the virus and is therefore immune to it.

Both varieties of test, experts say, must be administered in far greater quantities than currently being done in order to allow Americans to return to work without fear of infection, though Trump has repeatedly suggested that the U.S. could begin to emerge from social distancing measures within a few weeks. But when asked how his administration could discuss “reopening” the U.S. economy without an adequate testing program in place, Trump claimed that such a program was not just unnecessary, but was something that was simply not in the cards. “Do you need it? No. Is it a nice thing to do? Yes,” Trump said.

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Long piece by Nafeez. I don’t know, when people spell Government with a capital G, I scratch my head.

UK Gov’t: Keep Economy Running, We Will All Get COVID-19 Anyway (Nafeez Ahmed)

Leaked recordings of a Home Office conference call on Tuesday, exclusively obtained by Byline Times, reveal that the Government has all but given up in its fight against the Coronavirus and is intent on simply finding “a method of managing it within the population”. The recordings show Home Office Deputy Science Advisor Rupert Shute stating repeatedly that the Government believes “we will all get” COVID-19 eventually. The call further implied that the Government now considers hundreds of thousands of deaths unavoidable over a long-term period consisting of multiple peaks of the disease. While urging the importance of reducing the burden on the NHS by staying at home, Shute downplayed the risk of people contracting the virus at work.

He said: “It’s perfectly okay to carry on around your business. And it’s vitally important that you do as there’s a whole bunch of supply chains and the economy that needs to continue running… So carrying on with your normal work is not putting you in harms way anymore so than staying at home or going out shopping. So I keep coming back to this point that we are all going to get this at some point. And it’s about making sure that we have a really strong NHS there to support us when we do get sick.” The policy being communicated by the Home Office privately among Government staffers is at odds with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement at a press conference three weeks ago that the next 12 weeks could “turn the tide of this disease”.


[..] A fuller analysis of leaked recordings obtained by Byline Times reveals that the Government remains committed to the idea that the vast majority of the UK population will contract COVID-19, making a minimum number of deaths inevitable, albeit over a longer period of time. Using the Government’s own lowest estimate of a fatality rate at around 0.5%, this confirms that it has resigned itself to the expectation that some 264,000 Britons will inevitably die in ensuing months and years from the disease. The recordings provide a sobering insight into how the scientific advice feeding into Government policy is evolving – without, however, being meaningfully communicated to the British public or being subjected to external scientific scrutiny.

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Western politicians focus on the economy, and only miles after that see anything else.

Ex-IMF Head Economist: Western Economies Slow To React (BBC)

The coronavirus was “taken a little more lightly” by western economies compared to those in Asia, says a former IMF chief economist. Raghuram Rajan said western economies are facing a drop in economic growth by as much as 6% this year. The widespread closure of businesses is having a huge financial impact as governments prevent the virus spread. His comments come as the IMF warns the global economy faces its worst crisis since the 1930s depression. “I think in the west, partly because there hadn’t been a direct experience of a serious epidemic, it was taken a little more lightly,” Mr Rajan told the BBC’s Asia Business Report on Friday. “This is something happening in faraway lands, it’s not going to be serious here.

“It’s all too easy to point fingers after the fact but what I’m saying is that the countries in East Asia that had the experience of previous pandemics, which didn’t quite rise to the level of pandemics I should say… but previous epidemics, they took this seriously right from the get-go.” Mr Rajan, a former governor of India’s central bank, praised South Korea and Singapore as two Asian economies that have handled the virus outbreak well. For his native India, he warned that it had “limited tools” given how densely populated the country is. “It’s hard to do social distancing anywhere in the normal course. Your markets are chock-full of people. Your dwellings are chock-full of people. And so I think the government is trying to attempt to reduce the pace of increase with this lockdown.”

His said it was necessary to send the message to people to take this pandemic seriously. “This is not fun and games, this is really about life and death, and if it really explodes in India, we really don’t have the resources to deal with that.” The economist, who is a finance professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, gave a bleak forecast for western economies as he expects them to shift from expansion to contraction. “At this point, we’re probably thinking of western countries seeing a shift in GDP growth from about 2 percentage to 3 percentage points, to negative 4 or 5 percentage points. “Each country is going to lose 5 to 6 percentage points of GDP at the very least over this year. So cumulate that, that’s significantly more than $2 trillion”.

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When Iran became a major case, there were fears for Lebanon as well. But so far it’s done well.

Americans In Lebanon Decline Repatriation Offer: ‘It’s Safer In Beirut’ (CNN)

Carly Fuglei was with a group of Danish friends in Beirut last month when she first considered moving back to the United States. They were preparing to leave Lebanon amid fears of a major coronavirus outbreak there, and tried to convince her to do the same. But the 28-year-old humanitarian consultant from Montana decided to stay. After Lebanon closed its borders on March 19 to stem the spread of the global pandemic, she began furnishing her rooftop terrace. Her time in Beirut, she realized, would be indefinite. “I made that decision for a combination of personal reasons and calculations about the virus that we’re all making,” says Fuglei. “I think that I am probably safer here.”

It’s a decision that several US citizens in Beirut who CNN spoke to have echoed, citing skyrocketing cases in the US. When the US government last week said it would fly its citizens and permanent residents to the US on a chartered flight for $2,500 per person, some Americans took to Twitter to publicly decline the offer. “And no, Mom, I’m not going,” Beirut-based freelance journalist Abby Sewell wrote in a tweet about the US embassy announcement. Responding to her tweet, a Lebanese journalist said: “For once I’m like no America is not safer than here.” Sewell’s mother, Meg Sewell, replied: “Actually, for the moment I might have to agree.” Sewell tells CNN she never considered taking the US embassy’s offer.

“From everything I’m reading, the situation is worse in the US, in terms of the number of cases, prevention measures or lack thereof, and how overburdened the health system is,” she says. “Also, since I’ve been living overseas for years, I don’t have health insurance in the US now, so if I did go back and then got sick, I would be looking at paying thousands of dollars out of pocket.” [..] Just under 12,000 tests for coronavirus have been carried out so far in Lebanon. That equates to around 0.1% of the population (by contrast, roughly 0.3% of the population in Britain, and 1.1% of the population of Germany have been tested). As a result, the ministry of public health believes it is underestimating the scale of its outbreak. It has urged more people to get tested. Lebanon’s ministry of public health has vowed to boost the number of screenings to as many as 2,000 a day. It says anyone with mild to severe symptoms is entitled to be tested.

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It will take pitchforks to change this.

US Shouldn’t Bail Out Hedge Funds, Billionaires – Chamath Palihapitiya (CNBC)

Chamath Palihapitiya, founder and CEO of investment firm Social Capital, told CNBC on Thursday that the U.S. shouldn’t be bailing out billionaires and hedge funds during the coronavirus pandemic. “On Main Street today, people are getting wiped out. Right now, rich CEOs are not, boards that have horrible governance are not. People are,” Palihapitiya, an early Facebook executive, said on CNBC’s “Fast Money Halftime Report.” “What we’ve done is disproportionately prop up poor-performing CEOs and boards, and you have to wash these people out.” “Just to be clear on who we are talking about. We’re talking about a hedge fund that serves a bunch of billionaire family offices, who cares? They don’t get the summer in the Hamptons?” he said.

“These are the people that purport to be the most sophisticated investors in the world.” Palihapitiya also said he was concerned that the Federal Reserve’s plans to support to economy during the COVID-19 crisis are going to have consequences. The Fed earlier in the day announced a slew of new moves aimed at getting another $2.3 trillion of financing into businesses and governments, including its Main Street business lending program and market interventions. The central bank said its loans will be geared toward businesses with up to 10,000 employees and less than $2.5 billion in revenues for 2019. Programs would total up to $2.3 trillion and include the Payroll Protection Program and other measures aimed at getting money to small businesses and bolstering municipal finances with a $500 billion lending program, it added.

But Palihapitiya said it would have been better to just give more money to Americans. “I’m not disagreeing with what the Fed has to do. What I’m saying is it’s creating a land mine, and it’s creating a bill that will have to come due,” he said. “It would be better for the Fed to have given half a million to every man, woman and child in the United States,” he added.

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“For years, we have been excluded from international organisations, and we know better than anyone else what it feels like to be discriminated against and isolated..”

WHO Chief And Taiwan In Row Over ‘Racist’ Comments (BBC)

A row has erupted after the chief of the World Health Organization (WHO) accused Taiwan’s leaders of spearheading personal attacks on him. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he had been subjected to racist comments and death threats for months. But President Tsai Ing-wen said Taiwan opposed any form of discrimination, and invited Dr Tedros to visit the island. Taiwan said it had been denied access to vital information as the coronavirus spread. The WHO rejects this. Taiwan is excluded from the WHO, the United Nations health agency, because of China’s objections to its membership. The Chinese Communist Party regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and claims the right to take it by force if necessary. The WHO has also been criticised by US President Donald Trump, who has threatened to withdraw US funding to the agency.


Dr Tedros said he had been at the receiving end of racist comments for the past two to three months. “Giving me names, black or negro,” he said. “I’m proud of being black, or proud of being negro.” He then said he had received death threats, adding: “I don’t give a damn.” The WHO chief said the abuse had originated from Taiwan, “and the foreign ministry didn’t disassociate” itself from it. But Ms Tsai said Taiwan was opposed to discrimination. “For years, we have been excluded from international organisations, and we know better than anyone else what it feels like to be discriminated against and isolated,” Reuters news agency quoted her as saying. “If Director-General Tedros could withstand pressure from China and come to Taiwan to see Taiwan’s efforts to fight Covid-19 for himself, he would be able to see that the Taiwanese people are the true victims of unfair treatment.”

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Many countries will follow. Big shift.

Japan Will Pay Its Firms to Leave China, Relocate Production (N18)

Japan is willing to fund its companies to shift manufacturing operations out of China, Bloomberg has reported as the disruptions caused to production by the coronavirus pandemic has forced a rethink of supply chains between the major trading partners. As part of its economic stimulus package, Japan has earmarked $2.2 billion to help its manufacturers shift production out of China. Of this amount, 220 billion yen ($2 billion)is for companies shifting production back to Japan and 23.5 billion yen for those seeking to move production to other countries. China is Japan’s biggest trading partner under normal circumstances, but imports from China have slumped by almost half in February due to lockdowns to curb the spread of the virus hitting manufacturing and the supply chain.


Shinichi Seki, an economist at the Japan Research Institute, predicted that there would be a shift in the coming days as there already was renewed talk of Japanese firms reducing their reliance on China as a manufacturing base. “Having this in the budget will definitely provide an impetus,” he told Bloomberg. Companies, such as car makers, which are manufacturing for the Chinese domestic market, will likely stay put, he said. The Japanese government’s panel on future investment had last month discussed the need for manufacturing of high-added value products to be shifted back to Japan, and for production of other goods to be diversified across Southeast Asia. More than 37 per cent of the 2,600 companies surveyed by Tokyo Shoko Research Ltd. in February had also said they were diversifying procurement to places other than China amid the coronavirus crisis.

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Someone mentions the D word!.

China Factory Gate Deflation Deepens (R.)

China’s factory gate prices fell the most in five months in March, with deflation deepening and set to worsen in coming months as the economic damage wrought by the coroanvirus outbreak at home and worldwide shuts down many countries. The world’s second-largest economy is trying to restart its engines after weeks of near paralysis to contain the pandemic that had severely restricted business activity, flow of goods and the daily life of people. Friday’s data from the National Bureau of Statistics suggested a durable recovery was some way off, with China’s producer price index (PPI) falling 1.5% from a year earlier, the biggest decline since October last year. It compared with a median forecast of a 1.1% fall tipped by a Reuters poll of analysts and a 0.4% drop in February.


Headline consumer inflation also eased somewhat last month, partly led by government control measures, while core prices remained benign, leaving more room for monetary easing, some analysts said. The overall decline in the factory gate gauge was exacerbated by a slump in global oil and commodities prices, which filtered through to crude oil, steel and non-ferrous metal industries, the statistics bureau said in a statement accompanying the data. “The issue of having more supply than demand, and persistently low oil prices, will intensify deflationary pressures,” said Yang Yewei, a Beijing-based analyst with Southwest Securities.

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3 different articles on “How Greece Did It” today, This one from Al Jazeera, others are the Independent and an op-ed at Bloomberg.

How Greece Flattened The Coronavirus Curve (AlJ)

When Greece cancelled carnival celebrations in late February, many people thought the measure excessive. In the western city of Patra, which hosts Greece’s most flamboyant carnival parade, thousands defied the ban and took to the streets. “The government has ordered an end to all municipal activities … but this is a private enterprise. No one can shut it down,” said a jubilant reporter for the local Ionian TV in front of a crew dressed up as 17th-century French courtiers. “They’re gathering here on St George’s Square, where the [Greek] revolution began in 1821, and that’s symbolic,” he said. Greeks quickly put their revolutionary spirit aside, however, and largely heeded government advice to remain indoors. The result has been a remarkably low number of deaths – 81 by Tuesday, compared to more than 17,000 in neighbouring Italy.

Even adjusted for population sizes, Italy’s fatality rate is almost 40 times greater. Compared with other European Union members, too, Greece has fared better. Its fatalities are far lower than in Belgium (2,035) or the Netherlands (1,867), which have similar populations, but a much higher GDP. “State sensitivity, co-ordination, resolve, swiftness, seem not to be matters of economic magnitude,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis recently told a pared-down session of parliament. “Our schools closed before we had the first fatality. Most countries followed a week or two later, after they had mourned the loss of dozens,” he said.

George Pagoulatos, a political economist who heads the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), a think-tank, agrees that the government displayed “a very professional, managerial approach early on”, albeit largely dictated by inherent national weaknesses. Greece had very shallow resources with which to tackle a large outbreak. A decade of austerity saw its national healthcare expenses cut by three-quarters. Its intensive care beds numbered just 560 last month, though the government has now raised that to 910, and hired more than 4,000 extra doctors and nurses. Another weakness is that at least a quarter of Greece’s population is over 60, and elderly patients have been deemed particularly at risk from coronavirus.

All this has meant that a forward line of defence was Greece’s only real defence – but it has paid off. Greece is using only a tenth of its ICU beds, and has plenty of capacity left over.

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Put pressure on Mexico but not the US. BAU.

Saudi Energy Minister Says OPEC+ Oil Pact Hinges On Mexico Joining (R.)

Saudi Arabia’s energy minister said on Friday that a final OPEC+ oil supply pact to reduce 10 million barrels per day (bpd), which was agreed on Thursday, hinges on Mexico joining in the cuts. OPEC, Russia and other allies, a group known as OPEC+, outlined plans on Thursday to cut their oil output by more than a fifth, but said a final agreement was dependent on Mexico signing up to the pact after it balked at the production cuts it was asked to make. Discussions among top global energy ministers will resume on Friday. “I hope (Mexico) comes to see the benefit of this agreement not only for Mexico but for the whole world. This whole agreement is hinging on Mexico agreeing to it,” Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman told Reuters by telephone.


Global fuel demand has plunged by around 30 million bpd, or 30% of global supplies, as steps to fight the coronavirus have grounded planes, cut vehicle usage and curbed economic activity. The kingdom will host an extraordinary meeting by video conference at 12.00 GMT on Friday for energy ministers from the Group of 20 major economies. Asked about other countries such as the United States, Canada and Brazil joining the OPEC+ cut pact, Prince Abdulaziz said: “They will do it in their own way, using their own approaches, and it is not our job to dictate to others what they could do based on their national circumstances.” [..] The planned output curbs by OPEC+ amount to 10 million bpd, or 10% of global supplies, with another 5 million bpd expected to come from other nations, according to sources, to help deal with the deepest oil crisis in decades.

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Shale outdid subprime in sheer craziness.

US Banks Prepare To Seize Energy Assets As Shale Boom Goes Bust (R.)

Major U.S. lenders are preparing to become operators of oil and gas fields across the country for the first time in a generation to avoid losses on loans to energy companies that may go bankrupt, sources aware of the plans told Reuters. JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Citigroup are each in the process of setting up independent companies to own oil and gas assets, said three people who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. The banks are also looking to hire executives with relevant expertise to manage them, the sources said. The banks did not provide comment in time for publication. Energy companies are suffering through a plunge in oil prices caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a supply glut, with crude prices down more than 60% this year.

Although oil prices may gain support from a potential agreement Thursday between Saudi Arabia and Russia to cut production, few believe the curtailment can offset a 30% drop in global fuel demand, as the coronavirus has grounded aircraft, reduced vehicle use and curbed economic activity more broadly. Oil and gas companies working in shale basins from Texas to Wyoming are saddled with debt. The industry is estimated to owe more than $200 billion to lenders through loans backed by oil and gas reserves. As revenue has plummeted and assets have declined in value, some companies are saying they may be unable to repay.

Whiting Petroleum Corp became the first producer to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on April 1. Others, including Chesapeake Energy Corp, Denbury Resources Inc and Callon Petroleum Co, have also hired debt advisers. If banks do not retain bankrupt assets, they might be forced to sell them for pennies on the dollar at current prices. The companies they are setting up could manage oil and gas assets until conditions improve enough to sell at a meaningful value.

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A whole bunch of scared people together in not very much space.

Chicago Jail Reports 450 Coronavirus Cases Among Staff, Inmates (R.)

Some 450 inmates and staff have tested positive for coronavirus at Chicago’s largest jail, county corrections officials said on Thursday, representing one of the nation’s largest outbreaks of the respiratory illness at a single site so far in the pandemic. The surge of cases at Cook County Jail marks the latest flare-up of COVID-19 at jails and prisons in major cities across the United States, where detainees often live in close quarters. The situation gained national attention earlier this week when inmates posted handmade signs pleading for help in the windows of their cells overlooking a public street. “Sheriff’s officers and county medical professionals are aggressively working round-the-clock to combat the unprecedented global coronavirus pandemic,” the Cook County Sheriff’s Office said in a written statement on Thursday.


Those measures include opening an off-site 500-bed “quarantine and care facility” for prisoners, an effort to move as many inmates as possible from double to single cells, and the opening of a testing site at the jail. “Front line” staff members were being checked for fever at the start of each shift and issued protective equipment if they interact with inmates, according to the sheriff’s department.[..] In Monroe, Washington, inmates at a minimum-security prison vandalized the facility in a protest on Wednesday evening after officials announced that six prisoners had tested positive for COVID-19, according to Washington state’s Department of Corrections. State and local police and corrections officers quelled the disturbance at the prison 24 miles northeast of Seattle using pepper spray, sting balls and rubber pellets, the corrections department said.


Signs made by prisoners pleading for help in a window of Cook County Jail in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., April 9, 2020 REUTERS/Jim Vondruska

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“More than 150 Belmarsh guards are in self-isolation and the prison is barely functioning..”

Assange Not Infected But Says Many in Belmarsh Are (CN)

Julian Assange has told a friend in a telephone conversation on Wednesday that he is living in a prison in which the coronavirus is “ripping through” the population. He told photojournalist Vaughan Smith, founder of London’s Frontline Club, that he is isolated 23 1/2 hours a day and spends 30 minutes in a prison yard packed with other inmates. More than 150 Belmarsh guards are in self-isolation and the prison is barely functioning, Smith said. Assange did not show up for a video link to his case management hearing at Westminster Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday. A court official was overheard by three people present in the courtroom saying that Assange was “unwell.” He is not infected with Covid-19, but Vaughan says his life is threatened by it in prison.

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Thanks everyone for your generous donations.

 

 

Sound on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth. It’s good for your mental health.

 

Apr 062020
 


John M. Fox WCBS studios, 49 East 52nd Street, NYC 1948

 

Coronavirus Has Lit The Fuse On A Time Bomb In China’s Economy (SCMP)
Consider the Possibility That Trump Is Right About China (Schadlow)
Head Of WHO Accused Of Putting Lives At Risk By Parroting China’s Lies (DM)
China Owes US £351 Billion (DM)
It Started In China, But Europe Is The Hub For Global Coronavirus Spread (IC)
Japan To Declare State Of Emergency On April 7 (ZH)
Tracking Site Suggests White House Model Overestimates Hospitalizations (JTN)
Illinois Adjusts On The Fly To Meet Medical Supply Needs In ‘Wild West’ (CST)
Mexico’s President Has ‘Unorthodox’ Coronavirus Plan To Help Economy, Poor (R.)
Bailing Out the Bailout (Matt Taibbi)
Boris Johnson Received Oxygen Treatment After Being Admitted To Hospital (BI)
Dr.Zelenko Has Now Treated 699 Coronavirus Patients With 100% Success (TSU)
COVID-19 Attacks The 1-Beta Chain of Hemoglobin (Chemrxiv)

 

 

Are things actually calming down a little? Seems much too early to say. Some countries may apprear to be slowing down, but others have just started.

And perhaps some numbers have been exaggerated, but we all know many numbers have been lowballed for a long time too.

If the US has less than 3,000 deaths in 10 days, then maybe.

 

 

Cases 1,282,383 (+ 67,896 from yesterday’s 1214487)

Deaths 70,183 (+ 4,578 from yesterday’s 65605)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 21% !

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID2019Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Someone called it the end of the Asian century.

Coronavirus Has Lit The Fuse On A Time Bomb In China’s Economy (SCMP)

The coronavirus outbreak has already taken a great toll on the Chinese economy, with all headline readings pointing towards a record slowdown in growth during the first two months of the year. But there is an even greater danger for what was once the world’s fastest-growing major economy: that Covid-19 will become the catalyst that will bring its many long-simmering problems to the boil. At the centre of these problems is a rising systemic risk in its banking and financial systems caused by a high level of debt accrued over the past decade. The outbreak could not have occurred at a worse time. The past 10 years have not only seen the economy saddled with this debt, but it has also involved a steady structural slowdown that last year saw the growth rate fall to 6.1 per cent, the lowest in decades.


Now, just at the very time the country might consider spending more to prop up that growth rate, a raging pandemic means it will be making much less money than usual. The latest data from the Chinese Ministry of Finance shows fiscal revenue plunged by 9.9 per cent in the January-February period, the steepest drop since 2009. Overall tax revenue fell 11.2 per cent, driven by a 19 per cent slump in value-added tax (VAT) revenue, the main source of fiscal income. These drops come just as the government has offered a handsome tax cut in response to the pandemic. Meanwhile, the escalation of the pandemic in the rest of the world will only further weigh on China’s economic growth, corporate profits and personal income. In turn, this will inevitably drag down government revenue in months to come.

Beijing’s proposed stimulus spending will only exacerbate China’s already-massive debt pile, which had reached 310 per cent of gross domestic product by the end of last year, according to the Institute of International Finance. Many economies that have experienced such levels of debt have gone on to suffer a financial crash or economic crisis. China now accounts for about 60 per cent of the US$72.5 trillion emerging market debt. A deleveraging campaign had reduced Beijing’s debt mountain in 2018. But it has since returned to credit-driven stimulus to support growth and combat the effects of its trade war with the United States. About 80 per cent of China’s debt stock was accumulated over the past decade as the country strived to achieve the politically significant milestone of doubling its economic sizefrom 2010 to 2020. The milestone was a key goal in President Xi Jinping’s Chinese dream of “national rejuvenation”.


While the coronavirus threat has receded in China itself, any hope of an early recovery is forlorn as Covid-19 is still ripping through the major developed economies – essentially, China’s customers and trade partners. Plunging demand from abroad will create a second shock wave that will hit China’s export-oriented economy just as it is recovering from the first shock of having to lock down its cities. China’s balance sheet will be hit by both dwindling revenue and a spiralling demand for spending. Rising corporate debt, surging local government borrowings, and soaring non-performing loans for commercial banks are three areas that could wreck its fragile financial and banking systems. The non-financial corporate debt-to-GDP ratio jumped from 93 per cent in 2009 to 153 per cent last year [..]

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Nadia Schadlow is a former deputy national-security adviser for strategy.

Consider the Possibility That Trump Is Right About China (Schadlow)

China, America’s most powerful rival, has played a particularly harmful role in the current crisis, which began on its soil. Initially, that country’s lack of transparency prevented prompt action that might have contained the virus. In Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, Chinese officials initially punished citizens for “spreading rumors” about the disease. The lab in Shanghai that first published the genome of the virus on open platforms was shut down the next day for “rectification,” as the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported in February. Apparently at the behest of officials at the Wuhan health commission, news reports indicate, visiting teams of experts from elsewhere in China were prevented from speaking freely to doctors in the infectious-disease wards.

Some experts had suspected human-to-human transmission, but their inquiries were rebuffed. “They didn’t tell us the truth,” one team member said of the local authorities, “and from what we now know of the real situation then, they were lying” to us. Now China’s propagandists are competing to create a narrative that obscures the origins of the crisis and that blames the United States for the virus.

This irresponsible behavior and lack of transparency revealed what Trump’s National Security Strategy had identified early on: that “contrary to our hopes, China expanded its power at the expense of others.” Instead of becoming a “responsible stakeholder”—a term George W. Bush’s administration used to describe the role it hoped Beijing would play following China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001—the Chinese Communist Party used the advantages of WTO membership to advance a political and economic system at odds with America’s free and open society. Previous National Security Strategy documents had tiptoed around China’s adversarial conduct, as if calling out that country as a competitor—as the 2017 document unequivocally did—was somehow impolite.


[..] Dependence on China for crucial medical equipment throughout the pandemic has illuminated the dangers of a hyper-globalized economy. Experts had warned of American dependence on key drug ingredients from China. The Wall Street Journal has reported that China is the only maker of key ingredients for certain classes of drugs, including established antibiotics that treat a range of bacterial infections such as pneumonia. American reliance on Chinese suppliers for other pharmaceuticals and medical supplies is also worrisome. Americans should not depend on an authoritarian rival state for its citizens’ health—any more than the United States and other free and open societies should give Chinese companies, and by extension the Chinese Communist Party, control over communications infrastructure and sensitive personal data.

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The Daily Mail does not take prisoners.

“The British and US governments fund about a quarter of WHO’s $2.2 billion annual budget, while China gave $44.3 million last year.”

Head Of WHO Accused Of Putting Lives At Risk By Parroting China’s Lies (DM)

It seems the new virus first began appearing in Wuhan last November to the bafflement of local doctors. On December 31, China reported a cluster of pneumonia-like cases to the WHO. On the same day, Taiwan tipped off the Geneva-based body that it had learned of medical staff in China falling ill – a clear sign of human-to-human transmission. Yet it said the information was not shared since the nation is excluded from a key WHO platform. Chen Chien-jen, Taiwan’s vice-president and an epidemiologist, said the WHO’s failure to obtain first-hand information on human transmission led to crucial delay. ‘An opportunity to raise the alert level both in China and the wider world was lost.’

The WHO confirms receiving an email mentioning ‘news reports of atypical pneumonia reported in Wuhan, and that Wuhan authorities said they believed it was not SARS’ but denies there was any mention of medical staff falling ill. There are suggestions Chinese authorities knew of human-to-human transmissions early in January, even as they detained doctors desperately trying to warn about a potential epidemic and accused them of spreading false ‘rumours’. Taiwan sent its own team to Wuhan in mid-January after failing to obtain clarification through official channels, which confirmed human transmission. There have also been credible claims on Chinese social media, repeated by online news reports, that an infected disease specialist in Wuhan alerted a senior WHO official in Asia because they had trained together and remained friends.

On January 11, a Chinese government respiratory expert who initially said the virus was ‘under control’ admitted he might have been infected in Wuhan. Media reports show medical staff were being treated in hospital for symptoms by January 15. Yet on January 14, the WHO confidently told the world that ‘the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus identified in Wuhan’. It seems the new virus first began appearing in Wuhan last November to the bafflement of local doctors. On December 31, China reported a cluster of pneumonia-like cases to the WHO. On the same day, Taiwan tipped off the Geneva-based body that it had learned of medical staff in China falling ill – a clear sign of human-to-human transmission.

Yet it said the information was not shared since the nation is excluded from a key WHO platform. Chen Chien-jen, Taiwan’s vice-president and an epidemiologist, said the WHO’s failure to obtain first-hand information on human transmission led to crucial delay. ‘An opportunity to raise the alert level both in China and the wider world was lost.’ The WHO confirms receiving an email mentioning ‘news reports of atypical pneumonia reported in Wuhan, and that Wuhan authorities said they believed it was not SARS’ but denies there was any mention of medical staff falling ill. There are suggestions Chinese authorities knew of human-to-human transmissions early in January, even as they detained doctors desperately trying to warn about a potential epidemic and accused them of spreading false ‘rumours’.

Taiwan sent its own team to Wuhan in mid-January after failing to obtain clarification through official channels, which confirmed human transmission. There have also been credible claims on Chinese social media, repeated by online news reports, that an infected disease specialist in Wuhan alerted a senior WHO official in Asia because they had trained together and remained friends. On January 11, a Chinese government respiratory expert who initially said the virus was ‘under control’ admitted he might have been infected in Wuhan. Media reports show medical staff were being treated in hospital for symptoms by January 15. Yet on January 14, the WHO confidently told the world that ‘the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus identified in Wuhan’.

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More Daily Mail. Because it’s a quiet Monday morning.

China Owes US £351 Billion (DM)

Britain should pursue the Chinese government through international courts for £351 billion in coronavirus compensation, a major study into the crisis has concluded. It comes as 15 senior Tories led by former Deputy Prime Minister Damian Green write to Boris Johnson to demand a ‘rethink and a reset’ in relations with Beijing. The first comprehensive investigation into the global economic impact of the outbreak concludes that the G7 group of the world’s leading economies have been hit by a £3.2 trillion bill that could have been avoided if the Chinese Communist Party had been open and honest about the outbreak late last year.

Britain’s slice of the compensation sum includes the full cost of Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s economic bailout and hike in NHS spending in response to the crisis. The landmark study also directly highlights crunch British policy decisions made earlier this year – such as not cancelling flights from London to Wuhan in January – that were hampered or directly affected by misinformation from China and the acquiescent World Health Organisation. The report, to be published tomorrow by the Henry Jackson Society, a British foreign policy think-tank, says there is evidence that China directly breached international healthcare treaty responsibilities, and outlines ten legal avenues major nations could take to pursue damages from them.


It is titled ‘Coronavirus Compensation: Assessing China’s potential culpability and avenues of legal response’ and concludes: ‘The CCP (Chinese Communist Party) sought to conceal bad news at the top, and to conceal bad news from the outside world. Now China has responded by deploying an advanced and sophisticated disinformation campaign to convince the world that it is not to blame for the crisis, and that instead the world should be grateful for all that China is doing. ‘The truth is that China is responsible for Covid-19 – and if legal claims were brought against Beijing they could amount to trillions of pounds.’ Legal avenues include bringing a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague against China for breaking sanitary commitments, going to the UN and International Court of Justice, or the WTO.

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Europe was very late. Maybe Americans should take note.

It Started In China, But Europe Is The Hub For Global Coronavirus Spread (IC)

When the coronavirus began to spread, Mongolia took sensible precautions. It halted border crossings from China, with which it shares a 2,877-mile border. Mongolia also imposed travel bans on people from South Korea and Japan, the other epicenters of the pandemic at the time. Yet the virus nonetheless found its way to Mongolia, where the first infected person — known as the “index case” — was a Frenchman who had come to the country from France via Moscow. The story is the same for many other countries that became part of the pandemic due to infected people carrying it from Europe. South Africa’s first coronavirus cases had gone to northern Italy for a skiing trip. South America’s first case was a Brazilian who had traveled to Italy’s Lombardy region, and Bangladesh’s first cases were Bangladeshis who had also come from Italy.


Panama’s index case was imported from Spain, and Nigeria’s first experience with coronavirus was an Italian business traveler. Jordan’s was imported from Italy. As Covid-19 cripples the U.S. and ravages many countries in the world, politicians are battling to craft a narrative of who is to blame for its damage. The virus started in China, of course, but narratives of how it went from epidemic to global pandemic often leave out a crucial element: the role of Europe. European countries have been hit much harder than Asian nations and have spread the virus significantly more than other regions. The Intercept went through news reports of Covid-19 index cases across the world, and the results were startling. Travel from and within Europe preceded the first coronavirus cases in at least 93 countries across all five continents, accounting for more than half of the world’s index cases.

Travel from Italy alone preceded index cases in at least 46 countries, compared to 27 countries associated with travel from China. One of the reasons European travel facilitated the spread of the coronavirus was because those countries were late to close air links. Italy closed one terminal of Milan’s main airport on March 16, when the northern region of Lombardy already had 3,760 cases in a population of 10 million people. By contrast, China had shut down flights out of Hubei province on January 23, when there were 500 reported cases worldwide and 17 deaths in Hubei among a population of 58 million. London’s Heathrow and Paris’s Charles De Gaulle airports are still open as cases soar in both of those cities, while Spain’s air operators only closed major terminals in Madrid and Barcelona when air traffic had ground to a halt anyway.

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Any state of emergency that doesn’t start the moment it’s announced is suspicious. Why not next week, month?

Japan To Declare State Of Emergency On April 7 (ZH)

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has decided to declare a coronavirus emergency, according to the Nikkei, as new cases in the capital surged at a record pace. And while the Japanese publication notes that the government will hold an unofficial meeting of a panel of experts and start preparing for the declaration, Kyodo reported moments ago that Japan will declare a state of emergency on April 7, which would take effect on April 8. An emergency declaration gives governors in the areas covered formal powers, such as issuing requests that people stay home; Tokyo and surrounding areas, as well as Osaka, are expected to be affected by the declaration.

Abe has been criticized for not having already declared an emergency – a hesitance thought by many to stem from a strong desire to hold the Olympics this summer in Tokyo as originally planned. The International Olympic Committee decided in late March to postpone the games to 2021 after consulting with the prime minister and others. And yet, a conflict is set to emerge almost instantly because Japan’s constitution does not permit the government to demand that individuals stay home, owing to civil liberties concerns. Is Japan – which already buys billions in stocks just to avoid a market crash and preserve social order – about to also have a constituational crisis?


In any case, we find it strange that there were almost “no cases” in the weeks leading up to Japan’s reluctant decision to postpone this year’s Olympics, only to see a sudden record surge afterwards as Japan’s cases “mysteriously” soared, demonstrating once again that the coronavirus – or rather the tracking of its case and death toll – is first and foremost a political priority. Abe met with parties including Health Minister Katsunobu Kato and Yasutoshi Nishimura, the economic and fiscal policy minister, on Sunday to discuss the spread of infections. “If necessary, we will decide [to declare an emergency] without hesitation,” said Nishimura, who heads the government’s coronavirus response, on a show of public broadcaster NHK on Sunday. “We are looking for signs of an overshoot,” he said, referring to an explosion in cases, and noted that the atmosphere has grown extremely tense.

Read more …

After going through model after model to make accouncements and set policy, Fauci says: “disease models “don’t tell you anything. You can’t really rely upon models..”

Tracking Site Suggests White House Model Overestimates Hospitalizations (JTN)

A web site that tracks actual hospital beds in use suggests the model used by top White House health officials to project the trajectory of the coronavirus has so far overestimated the number of Americans hospitalized by the disease by tens of thousands. Those projections, popularly known as the “Murray” model after the model’s lead author, University of Washington professor Christopher Murray, were explicitly cited by Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, at a press conference in the last week. Birx told reporters that Murray’s model, which predicts a shortage of tens of thousands of hospital beds throughout the country by the middle of April, underscored the task force’s “concern that we had with the growing number of potential fatalities” based on the model’s projections.

Yet a comparison of actual hospitalized patients by state and nationally suggests the model has so far overestimated the number of beds needed to treat pandemic patients. The forecast predicted, for example, that the United States would need around 164,750 hospital beds for COVID-19 patients on Saturday. Yet the COVID Tracking Project, a team of journalists and data analysts who collect and tabulate coronavirus data from state tallies around the country, reported only around 22,158 currently hospitalized coronavirus patients nationwide on Saturday. The discrepancies are also stark when looked at on a state-by-state basis. The model estimated that 65,434 patients would need hospital beds in New York State on Friday. In reality, there were 15,905 hospitalizations in that state by Sunday morning, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Notably, the model touts its predictions as occurring under “full social distancing” through May of this year, meaning the projected hospitalizations are meant to occur even with significant quarantine measures. It is unclear why the model’s numbers are so significantly higher than the actual numbers observed in hospitals across the country. Officials have offered explanations for various model fluctuations ranging from data assumptions to the impact of stay-at-home orders. [..] at a White House press conference on Saturday, Birx said that coronavirus modelers are “re-evaluating all of their models in light of the level of the impact of the mitigation.” “Just to be clear, we won’t know how valid the models are until we move all the way through the epidemic,” she said.


Dr. Anthony Fauci, meanwhile, reportedly said during a recent meeting that disease models “don’t tell you anything. You can’t really rely upon models.” Fauci has elsewhere indicated a preference for overestimating the possible effect of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, telling reporters in March: “I think we should be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting.”

https://twitter.com/AndyGrewal/status/1247010974974054406

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The entire west is wild. Most organizational models are horror material. No money in them, no political gain.

Illinois Adjusts On The Fly To Meet Medical Supply Needs In ‘Wild West’ (CST)

In a state where the government usually operates on the basis of buy now, pay later (often much, much later), the emergency of the coronavirus pandemic has required a decidedly different approach. About two weeks ago, Illinois officials tracked down a supply of 1.5 million potentially life-saving N95 respirator masks in China through a middleman in the Chicago area and negotiated a deal to buy them. One day before they were expecting to complete the purchase, they got a call in the morning from the supplier informing them he had to get a check to the bank by 2 p.m. that day, or the deal was off. Other bidders had surfaced.

Realizing there was no way the supplier could get to Springfield and back by the deadline, Illinois assistant comptroller Ellen Andres jumped in her car and raced north on I-55 with a check for $3,469,600. From the other end, Jeffrey Polen, president of The Moving Concierge in Lemont, drove south. Polen isn’t in the medical supply business, but he “knows a guy,” an old friend who specializes in working with China’s factories. As they drove, Andres and Polen arranged to meet in the parking lot of a McDonald’s restaurant just off the interstate in Dwight. They made the handoff there. Polen made it back to his bank with 20 minutes to spare. Illinois already has received part of the mask shipment. There’s more on the way.

That’s just a taste of the “Wild West” world of emergency procurement taking place over the past several weeks as the state fights for equipment and supplies to protect frontline workers and patients in the battle against COVID-19. Most of that work is being performed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration through a rapid-procurement strike team, pulling together procurement specialists from around state government under the auspices of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. [..] They’re all looking for what we have come to know as PPE or personal protective equipment — masks, gloves, gowns and face shields — plus coronavirus testing kits and swabs and, most prized of all, ventilators to help those most seriously ill keep breathing.


There’s a separate team working just on ventilators, said Deputy Governor Christian Mitchell, who is overseeing the procurement efforts for Pritzker. When they find what they need, they have to move immediately to complete the purchase before losing out to another bidder — even as the competition causes prices to jump to levels that would have been ridiculous just a month ago.

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Not everybody had endless pockets. PEMEX must be hurting something bad.

Mexico’s President Has ‘Unorthodox’ Coronavirus Plan To Help Economy, Poor (R.)

Mexico’s president unveiled a plan on Sunday to lift the economy out of the coronavirus crisis, vowing to help the poor and create jobs, but his promise of fiscal discipline sparked criticism that the measures fell far short of what was needed. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador pledged Mexico would create 2 million new jobs in the next nine months and boost small business and housing loans. He also vowed to tighten public sector austerity to avoid debt. Governments worldwide have unleashed unprecedented spending pledges to minimise damage to their economies from the coronavirus, including a $2-trillion package by Mexico’s top trading partner, the United States.

But Mexico’s leftist leader, targeting measures for the “most vulnerable”, said he would use a budget stabilization fund and cash from public trusts to fund plans to shield the poor from a slump economists expect to be severe. “This crisis is temporary, transitory,” Lopez Obrador said in a televised speech. “Normality will return soon. We will defeat the coronavirus, we will reactivate the economy.” Last week, Lopez Obrador said about $10 billion was available from various rainy day funds, while the finance ministry said “buffers” for the economy included a stabilization fund of about $6.6 billion available from the end of 2019.


Known by his initials “AMLO”, the president said Mexico would announced next week investments in the energy sector worth 339 billion pesos ($13.5 billion) to boost the economy, which some private analysts forecast to contract by up to 10% in 2020. That sum is far less than $92 billion in energy investments the private sector has proposed to the president.

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“The coronavirus emergency is probably temporary. The bailout looks like forever.”

Bailing Out the Bailout (Matt Taibbi)

Congress needed a year of intense infighting to approve a $4.7 trillion budget, but just a single week to draft this $2 trillion deal. Although members quibbled over numbers before the vote — Bernie Sanders insisted on more unemployment insurance, while others worried about creating a “slush fund” for airlines and other industries — the bill ultimately cruised through, passing in a voice vote in the House and 96-0 in the Senate. The Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, the only comparable “We need a gazillion dollars in 10 minutes” legislation in recent history, passed after a bitter battle, with 63 House Democrats and 91 House Republicans opposing. Analysts and politicians insisted the new bailout, in the broad strokes, was uncontroversial, a fire hose of money for virus-ravaged hospitals, workers, and small businesses.

Even critics of Wall Street agreed that this one isn’t a complete washout compared with the last disaster, when the taxpayer was asked to bail out the very people who’d caused the crisis. “At least this bailout has a Main Street component,” says Dennis Kelleher of Better Markets, a financial watchdog group. There are serious logistical questions about how money is supposed to get to Main Street — like, for instance, the use of the tiny Small Business Administration to push $377 billion in emergency loans out the door — but the larger problem has to do with the meat of the bill: the backstopping of the financial sector. As happened in the run-up to September 2008, Wall Street in recent weeks warned of Armageddon if the Fed did not immediately start spending billions per minute to buy every conceivable kind of financial product.

The Fed responded by dusting off emergency lending facilities like the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, the Commercial Paper Funding Facility, the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility, the Primary Dealer Credit Facility, the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility, and the Primary Market Corporate Credit Facility, all of which saw action after the crash of 2008. Each would be used to step in and buy financial products in the various markets frozen due to virus panic.The Fed furthermore announced that on March 23rd it would begin buying $50 billion in government-backed mortgage securities, in addition to $75 billion in Treasury bills, every day.

They’ve since lowered those numbers, but the scale of these interventions dwarfs any of the Fed’s actions post-2008. A $50 billion buying spree roughly represents as much Fed support of mortgage markets in one day as was done across a month at the peak of the last round of Quantitative Easing. Taken in conjunction with the CARES Act, the Fed and the Treasury were now positioned to become a major ongoing buyer of everything from mortgages to U.S. government debt to exchange-traded funds to corporate bonds to money-market funds.

[..] The Fed “balance sheet” as of Friday was already at $5.3 trillion, nearly $800 billion higher than its previous peak in May 2016. Wall Street analysts are predicting this number will eventually reach $10 trillion, and why not? Fed chief Jerome Powell signaled that assistance would be unlimited when he said the central bank “would not run out of ammunition.” As with 2008, the emergency support is supposed to be temporary, but there’s less belief that this is even ostensibly true this time around. There will be a lot of howling over the irony: Trump when he ran for president in 2016 said then-Fed chief Janet Yellen should be “ashamed” of creating a “false stock market” for Barack Obama. Our future will be a parody of the Yellen economy. Short-term loans to make payroll and keep tenants in storefronts are only a part of the rescue. The coronavirus emergency is probably temporary. The bailout looks like forever.

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Bad sign. Who’s going to run the country appears up for grabs.

Boris Johnson Received Oxygen Treatment After Being Admitted To Hospital (BI)

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will remain in hospital on Monday after being admitted for “persistent symptoms of coronavirus,” ten days after first testing positive for it. The prime minister was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital in Westminster at 8pm on Sunday on the advice of his doctor after continuing to exhibit a high temperature. A spokesperson insisted on Sunday that Johnson’s hospital admission was not an “emergency” measure but had merely been for precautionary reasons in order to carry out tests. However the Times of London newspaper reported that the prime minister was treated with oxygen on arrival. Downing Street has repeatedly insisted that Johnson was only experiencing “mild symptoms” of the virus.


However, aides have reportedly become “increasingly worried” about the prime minister’s health in recent days, according to multiple reports, with Johnson heard “coughing and spluttering” his way through conference calls. Johnson was “more seriously ill than either he or his officials were prepared to admit,” according to the Guardian, which reported a source suggesting that Johnson “was being seen by doctors who were concerned about his breathing.” The Sun newspaper reported a Downing Street source suggesting that Johnson would remain in hospital “as long as necessary.” Asked about the prime minister’s condition on Monday the Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told the BBC that Johnson was “still very much in charge of the government.”

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He’s down to 99.9% now. One person died who wouldn’t stick to the regimen.

Dr.Zelenko Has Now Treated 699 Coronavirus Patients With 100% Success (TSU)

Last Wednesday, we published the success story from Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, a board-certified family practitioner in New York, after he successfully treated 350 coronavirus patients with 100 percent success using a cocktail of drugs: hydroxychloroquine, in combination with azithromycin (Z-Pak), an antibiotic to treat secondary infections, and zinc sulfate. Dr. Zelenko said he saw the symptom of shortness of breath resolved within four to six hours after treatment. Hydroxychloroquine is now being used worldwide, according to a map from French Dr. Didier Raoult. In the meantime, scientists at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine believe they’ve found potential vaccine for coronavirus.

Now, Dr. Zelenko provides updates on the treatment after he successfully treated 699 COVID-19 patients in New York. In an exclusive interview with former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, Dr. Vladmir Zelenko shares the results of his latest study, which showed that out of his 699 patients treated, zero patients died, zero patients intubated, and four hospitalizations. Dr. Zelenko said the whole treatment costs only $20 over a period of 5 days with 100% success. He defines success as “Not to die.” Dr. Zelenko first posted his Facebook video message last week calling on President Trump to “advise the country that they should be taking this medication.”

There are many other success stories about hydroxychloroquine across the country. Last week, Dr. William Grace, an oncologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said they’ve not had a single death in their hospital because of hydroxychloroquine. “Thanks to hydroxychloroquine, we have not had a death in our hospital,’ Dr. Grace said.


Also, in a study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) also confirmed some of Dr. Dr. Zelenko’s findings. The study by NIH showed that Zinc supplementation decreases the morbidity of lower respiratory tract infection in pediatric patients in the developing world. A second study also conducted by NIH titled: “In Vitro Antiviral Activity and Projection of Optimized Dosing Design of Hydroxychloroquine for the Treatment of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2),” also showed hydroxychloroquine to be more potent in killing the virus off in vitro (in the test tube and not in the body).

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One for our medical commenters. A Chinese study that suggests the virus in first instance attacks blood cells, not lungs. This could also explain why chloroquine is effective. By the way, word has it that doctors are taking hydroxychloroquine on a regular basis to protect themselves. Note: It is no use when taken either too early or too late.

@yishan on Twitter: “Virus is disrupting the hemoglobin’s oxygen capacity. It is attacking our BLOOD first, not the lungs. It is NOT a respiratory ailment (primarily), lung breakdown symptoms are a consequence of the attack on blood hemoglobins. Hypoxia is happening BEFORE lungs are affected.”

COVID-19 Attacks The 1-Beta Chain of Hemoglobin (Chemrxiv)

The novel coronavirus pneumonia (COVID-19) is an infectious acute respiratory infection caused by the novel coronavirus. The virus is a positive-strand RNA virus with high homology to bat coronavirus. In this study, conserved domain analysis, homology modeling, and molecular docking were used to compare the biological roles of certain proteins of the novel coronavirus. The results showed the ORF8 and surface glycoprotein could bind to the porphyrin, respectively. At the same time, orf1ab, ORF10, and ORF3a proteins could coordinate attack the heme on the 1-beta chain of hemoglobin to dissociate the iron to form the porphyrin. The attack will cause less and less hemoglobin that can carry oxygen and carbon dioxide.


The lung cells have extremely intense poisoning and inflammatory due to the inability to exchange carbon dioxide and oxygen frequently, which eventually results in ground-glass-like lung images. The mechanism also interfered with the normal heme anabolic pathway of the human body, is expected to result in human disease. According to the validation analysis of these finds, chloroquine could prevent orf1ab, ORF3a, and ORF10 to attack the heme to form the porphyrin, and inhibit the binding of ORF8 and surface glycoproteins to porphyrins to a certain extent, effectively relieve the symptoms of respiratory distress. Favipiravir could inhibit the envelope protein and ORF7a protein bind to porphyrin, prevent the virus from entering host cells, and catching free porphyrins. Because the novel coronavirus is dependent on porphyrins, it may originate from an ancient virus.

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It must be possible to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. These are no longer the times when ads pay for all you read, your donations have become an integral part of it. It has become a two-way street; and isn’t that liberating, when you think about it?

Thanks everyone for your wonderfully generous donations over the past days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support us in virustime. Help the Automatic Earth survive. It’s good for your health.

 

Feb 292020
 


Harris&Ewing National Emergency War Garden Commission display, Wash. DC 1918

 

China Reports Catastrophic Data: PMIs Crash To Record Lows (ZH)
New York Scrambles To Replace US Government’s Faulty Coronavirus Test Kits (R.)
US Sanctions on Iran Helped Coronavirus Spread Undetected (NI)
Chinese Lab That First Shared Virus Genome Closed For ‘Rectification’ (SCMP)
Australia Defied WHO On Coronavirus (SMH)
Israeli Scientists Claim To Be Weeks Away From Coronavirus Vaccine (NYPost)
A Big Coronavirus Mystery: What About The Children? (Harvard)
China Will Meet US Trade Deal Ag Demands, But May Invoke Force Majeure (SCMP)
China’s Consumers Will Not Rescue Economy When Outbreak Is Over (SCMP)
Southeast Asian Supply Chains Feel The Squeeze From Covid-19 (SCMP)
No More Kid Gloves (K.)
Barr Is Wrong On FISA Reforms (Turley)
The Public Doesn’t Really Decide The Nominee (Turley)
The Only Questions That Should Matter In The Assange Extradition Battle (SMH)
Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day Four (Craig Murray)

 

Numbers are rising very fast in South Korea, Iran and Italy. Total cases were up 841, 621, 901, 1,190, 1,314 in the past few days. Today: 1,950.

Major batch of new cases expected today from South Korea due to intensified testing.

 

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

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

 

• South Korea 813 new cases, total 3.150, 16 deaths, one case of reinfection
• Italy 896 (yesterday 653) cases, 21 deaths
• Iran 593 (yesterday 245) cases, 26 deaths
• Japan 241 (+705 Diamond Princess)
• China 427 new cases and 47 new deaths, total 2,835
• UK 20 cases, first death is Diamond Princess’s 6th death
• Germany 60 cases
• US 66 cases
• France cases 57 from 38 yesterday
• First case: Israel (3 cases), Mexico, Iceland, Azerbaijan, Wales, Belarus, Estonia

 

Trump names Pence, Kudlow, Mnuchin, aka an economic team, to face the crisis. China tries something similar by talking about what happens when the outbreak is over.

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From Worldometer (Note: mortality rate down to 7%)

 

 

 

 

Xi’s biggest worry.

China Reports Catastrophic Data: PMIs Crash To Record Lows (ZH)

[..] it turns out that Nomura’s dire forecast was optimistic, because moments ago China’s National Statistics Bureau reported the latest, February PMIs and they were absolutely catastrophic: Manufacturing PMI crashed to 35.7 in Feb, far below the 45.0 consensus estimate, and sharply down from 50.0 in January. A record low. Non-Manufacturing PMI plummets to 28.9, also far below the 50.5 consensus, estimate, and down nearly 50% from the 54.1 in Jan. This too was a record low. Putting these numbers in context, they are far, far worse than the prints for both series reported during the financial crisis, when the mfg PMI dropped to “only” 38.8, while the non-manufacturing PMI never even contracted.

What is even more ominous is that while China’s non-mfg PMI has traditionally been stronger, in February not only did it collapse into deep contraction, but it plunged to 5 points below where the manufacturing sector currently finds itself, a catastrophic 20-handle. This means that China’s service industries, long seen as the guiding light to China’s successful transition away from a manufacturing-led economy, is now devastated. Commenting on the unprecedented number, Bloomberg’s China economist Tom Orlik said that “the first credible gauge of how China’s economy is fairing under virus lock down – the official PMI – is pointing to a brutal drop into contraction.” Well, no: anyone who read our recent series analyzing “high-frequency”, real-time Chinese data already was already aware of the catastrophic collapse in China’s economy.

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Because the testing issue was’t confusing enough yet.

New York Scrambles To Replace US Government’s Faulty Coronavirus Test Kits (R.)

New York health officials are trying to get their own coronavirus testing kits up and running after getting stuck with faulty tests from the federal government that they said left them unable to diagnose people quickly in the nation’s most populous city. New York state’s Department of Health filed an emergency application on Friday with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be allowed to use a testing kit for the new coronavirus it has developed in-state, according to an official involved in the process. “Upon FDA approval, which we believe is imminent, New York State’s public health laboratory, the Wadsworth Center, can immediately begin testing,” Jonah Bruno, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Health, wrote in an email.

Public health officials say the ability to test locally and get results within hours will be critical to a rapid response to the fast-spreading virus that originated in China, causing a sometimes fatal respiratory illness, and has spread to 46 countries. The weeks-long struggle to expand local testing has been criticized as an early misstep in the response by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to the outbreak. Three weeks ago, the FDA gave the green light for state and local labs to start using a testing kit developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But most labs that received the kits complained they had faulty components and produced inconclusive results, which the CDC later acknowledged.

[..] The CDC kits were meant to work by comparing a sample swabbed from a patient’s nose or mouth against three distinctive stretches of the virus’ genetic material, which are in small tubes labeled N1, N2 and N3. Most labs only had issues with the kit’s third component, N3. After reviewing their data, the FDA and CDC told labs this week that the tests would work fine if they only looked for the N1 and N2 bits of the virus, ignoring the faulty N3 component. But in New York, both the state lab and the New York City lab said that in their kits the N1 component was also flawed, and that the workaround proposed by the CDC and FDA was of no use.

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US sanctions kept Iran from buying the same faulty test kits that New York is using?!

US Sanctions on Iran Helped Coronavirus Spread Undetected (NI)

The Trump administration is partially reversing course on economic sanctions that have slowed down Iran from importing coronavirus test kits as the country faces down the most deadly COVID-19 outbreak outside of East Asia. Iranian authorities have confirmed 388 cases of the new coronavirus disease as of Friday afternoon. U.S. sanctions, the Iranian government’s record of dishonesty, and the elusive nature of the virus itself have made it difficult to understand the true extent of the epidemic. The U.S. Treasury announced on Thursday morning that it was lifting some terrorism-related sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran, which re-opens a channel for humanitarian trade that had been closed since September 2019. The announcement does not lift the restrictions on humanitarian trade with other Iranian banks under terrorism-related sanctions.

Iran’s healthcare sector has blamed the banking sanctions for a lack of testing equipment to diagnose COVID-19. Thirty-four people have reportedly died from the virus in Iran, suggesting a large number of undiagnosed cases of COVID-19, which scientists believe has a two percent mortality rate. In fact, independent researchers estimate that eighteen thousand Iranians may have been infected already. “Several international companies are ready to ship the coronavirus diagnosis kit to Iran, but we cannot pay them,” said Ramin Fallah, vice president of the Iranian Union of Importers of Medical Equipment, in a Monday interview with Iranian media. “They also insist that the money should only be sent through banks. Although there are ways to get around [sanctions], it is time-consuming.”

[..] Iranian authorities have not inspired confidence in their current ability to deal with the outbreak transparently, either. [..] Officials have downplayed the extent of the outbreak even as the virus spreads within the government itself. Member of Parliament Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani claimed on Monday that fifty people had died in his home district of Qom alone, but Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi denied accusations of a coverup. On Tuesday, Harirchi announced that he had contracted COVID-19. Another lawmaker, Mahmoud Sadeghi, tested positive for the virus the same day. But President Hassan Rouhani continued to claim that the viral panic was worse than the virus itself, denouncing “foreign propaganda,” refusing to quarantine cities, and promising a return to normalcy.

By Wednesday, the tone in the Rouhani administration turned to panic as cabinet member Ma’soumeh Ebtekar was diagnosed with COVID-19 and retired Amb. Hadi Khosrowshahi suddenly died of the disease. The government proceeded to ban Chinese nationals from entering the country, canceled flights to India, halted religious pilgrimage groups, and canceled Friday prayers in major cities. Presidential advisor Hesameddin Ashena called for “taking the situation seriously” and “not politicizing the issue.”

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The Party was not amused.

Chinese Lab That First Shared Virus Genome Closed For ‘Rectification’ (SCMP)

The Shanghai laboratory where researchers published the world’s first genome sequence of the deadly coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has been shut down. The laboratory at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre was ordered to close for “rectification” on January 12, a day after Professor Zhang Yongzhen’s team published the genome sequence on open platforms. It closed temporarily the following day. The release of the data helped researchers develop test kits for the virus. “The centre was not given any specific reasons why the laboratory was closed for rectification. [We have submitted] four reports [asking for permission] to reopen but we have not received any replies,” a source with the centre said, requesting anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity.

“The closure has greatly affected the scientists and their research when they should be racing against the clock to find the means to help put the novel coronavirus outbreak under control,” the source said. The laboratory is a Level 3 biosafety facility, the second-highest level, and passed an annual inspection by the China National Accreditation Service for Conformity Assessment on January 5. It also obtained the required credentials to conduct research on the coronavirus on January 24. It was not clear whether the closure was related to the publishing of the sequencing data before the authorities. China’s National Health Commission announced hours after the release by Zhang’s team that it would share the genome sequence with the World Health Organisation. It later emerged that the information had been sent through the officially designated Wuhan Institute of Virology.

[..] Zhang’s team isolated and finished the genome sequence of the then-unknown virus on January 5, two days before China’s official announcement that mysterious pneumonia cases in Wuhan were caused by a hitherto unknown coronavirus.
The Shanghai centre reported its discovery to the National Health Commission on the same day and recommended “relevant prevention and control measures” be taken in public places, because the patient from whom the sample was collected had suffered very severe symptoms and the virus resembled a group previously found in bats. The team made the finding public on January 11 after it saw that the authorities had taken no obvious action to warn the public about the coronavirus.

The findings by Zhang’s team were published in the scientific journal Nature on February 3. The research said the virus sample was collected from a patient who showed symptoms of fever, dizziness and coughing and was admitted to a Wuhan hospital on December 26. The Shanghai centre has a long-term cooperation relationship with Wuhan Central Hospital. The patient was identified as a 41-year-old male vendor who worked at the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market in Wuhan, which was believed to be a key link of infections at the early stage of the outbreak. The lab’s closure not only affected Zhang’s research but also studies by other scientists since it is an open facility, according to another researcher with knowledge of the matter.

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“Australia’s group of state and federal medical officers, convening daily, usually by phone hook-up, is the peak point of the pure medical advice, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). No politicians sit in on their meetings.

Australia Defied WHO On Coronavirus (SMH)

Countries have shut down some of the institutions they hold dearest. Japan has closed all schools. Saudi Arabia has halted pilgrimages to Mecca. And the Chinese government has postponed indefinitely its two big annual political assemblies. Australia’s group of state and federal medical officers, convening daily, usually by phone hook-up, is the peak point of the pure medical advice, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC). No politicians sit in on their meetings.

[..] The medical officers’ “pandemic” call was a big moment. For a start, they were way ahead of the UN body that is supposedly the lead global agency on international health emergencies, the Geneva-based World Health Organisation. Why were the Australians ahead of the world? For a very simple reason. They don’t trust the WHO. The information from multiple international sources is that the WHO is under intense pressure from the Chinese government, and succumbing to it. The Australian Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, told the NSC that it was medically inexplicable that the WHO hadn’t already declared a global pandemic. It’s politics, in other words.

That’s why Australia had earlier forged ahead of the WHO in declaring the China travel ban, on February 1. It was, again, on the unanimous advice of the AHPPC. The travel ban was decided immediately after the US made the same call. Beijing instantly lashed both the US and Australia on that occasion – the Chinese Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, People’s Daily, calling it “racist”. But, of course, that decision now looks very wise, more so with each passing day. The WHO followed suit 10 days later. When Morrison announced the China travel ban four weeks ago, there were about 7000 infections disclosed by Beijing. By Thursday this week that number had ballooned to 78,000. The number of countries announcing travel bans has grown proportionately, and mostly they have acted too late.

In any case, the political manipulation of the WHO is nothing novel. It was slow to declare HIV-AIDS to be a pandemic in the 1980s because of intense political pressure. Then it was pressure from the US. Now it’s from China. Either way, the politics trumps the medical advice. So this week the AHPPC didn’t hesitate to act ahead of the Geneva-based outfit. And when the medical officers’ advice went to federal health minister, Greg Hunt, and to Morrison, they didn’t hesitate, either. Morrison convened a three-hour meeting of the National Security Committee of cabinet on Thursday morning. They discussed the unfolding evidence, reviewed the state of medical preparations, and made three key decisions.

[..] The Australian system for dealing with communicable diseases is less prone to politics. Morrison hid from the bushfires; he had no such option on the coronavirus. The Chief Medical Officer, Murphy, does not need the government’s permission to invoke the Biosecurity Act. He informed Health Minister Greg Hunt on January 20 that he was triggering the act, automatically setting in train a pre-ordained process of monitoring and advice. Hunt encouraged Murphy and the AHPPC to give the government the full, frank and unvarnished medical advice without any view to politics. And so far, Morrison and his NSC have respected the medical advice.

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One of multiple “hopeful” vaccine stories yesterday.

I said yesterday: “Note: they’re ‘adapting’ a vaccine (against an avian virus), not developing a new one”, and “Note 3: I’m not sure it’s the antibodies that do the harm nor that it’s the virus that uses them. The problem I think is a “cytokine storm”, in which the immune system causes the overproduction of immune cells (and their activating compounds – called cytokines), which then attack the host body.”

Israeli Scientists Claim To Be Weeks Away From Coronavirus Vaccine (NYPost)

Israeli researchers scrambling to develop a coronavirus vaccine say it could be ready in just three weeks – and available for use within 90 days, according to reports. The scientists at the Galilee Research Institute, known as MIGAL, are adapting its vaccine against the avian coronavirus infectious bronchitis virus, or IBV, to work for the novel coronavirus known as COVID-19, the Jerusalem Post reported. “Congratulations to MIGAL on this exciting breakthrough. I am confident that there will be further rapid progress, enabling us to provide a needed response to the grave global COVID-19 threat,” said Ofir Akunis, Israel’s minister of science and technology.

The independent research institute, which specializes in the fields of biotechnology, environmental sciences and agriculture, says on its website that its team “includes 80 PhDs and a total of 260 researchers distributed into 53 labs that are managed by seasoned senior group leaders.” Its vaccine for IBV, a bronchial illness that affects poultry, has already been proven in preclinical trials conducted at Israel’s Veterinary Institute, according to the news outlet. “Our basic concept was to develop the technology and not specifically a vaccine for this kind or that kind of virus,” said Dr. Chen Katz, MIGAL’s biotech group chief.

“The scientific framework for the vaccine is based on a new protein expression vector, which forms and secretes a chimeric soluble protein that delivers the viral antigen into mucosal tissues by self-activated endocytosis, causing the body to form antibodies against the virus,” he added.

Read more …

Children and caretakers.

A Big Coronavirus Mystery: What About The Children? (Harvard)

GAZETTE: You’ve been quoted you as saying you expect between 40 percent and 70 percent of humanity to be infected with this virus within a year. Is that still the case?

LIPSITCH: It is, but an important qualifier is that I expect 40 to 70 percent of adults to be infected. We just don’t understand whether children are getting infected at low rates or just not showing very strong symptoms. So I don’t want to make assumptions about children until we know more. That number also assumes that we don’t put in place effective, long-term countermeasures, like social distancing for months at a time which, I think, is a fair assumption. It may be that a few places like China can sustain it, but even China is beginning to let up.

GAZETTE: You mentioned children having been hit only lightly by this. What about other parts of the population? What do we know about the impact of this from a demographic standpoint?

LIPSITCH: It’s definitely the case that the older you are, the more at risk of getting infected you are and, if you get symptomatic infection, the more at risk of dying you are. Men also seem to be overrepresented among those getting severe illness. The reasons why are a really important research question. One thing that also needs to be looked at is the impact on health-care workers because they are at high risk of getting infected, and I would like to know whether they’re at higher risk of getting severe infection. Some of the anecdotal cases of young physicians dying make me wonder whether they’re exposed to a higher dose and that’s making them sicker.

[..] GAZETTE: What’s the most important unanswered question to your mind?

LIPSITCH: One of the most important unanswered questions is what role do children play in transmission? The go-to intervention in flu pandemic planning is closing schools, and that may be very effective or it may be totally ineffective. It’s a costly and disruptive thing to do, especially in the United States, because many people rely on school breakfast and lunch for nutrition. So we really need evidence that closing schools would help. We need detailed studies in households of children who are exposed to an infected person. We need to find out if the children get infected, if they shed virus, and if that virus is infectious.

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Michael Pettis tweets: “I understand that Chinese agriculture will be badly affected by Covid-19, and so I am not surprised that China will go ahead with planned agricultural imports. In fact I suspect they’ll actually increase them.”

China Will Meet US Trade Deal Ag Demands, But May Invoke Force Majeure (SCMP)

China will “definitely” honour its agricultural purchase commitments as part of its phase one trade deal signed with the United States in January, despite the coronavirus epidemic, a former senior Chinese government official said on Friday. Wei Jianguo, a former deputy minister responsible for foreign trade at the Ministry of Commerce, told a press conference organised by the government in Beijing that China was fully committed to the deal. However, the coronavirus outbreak that followed the signing of the deal in Washington may mean China has to invoke a force majeure clause in the trade deal with regard other planned purchases, “if some parts fail to happen”, Wei said, adding that Beijing will redouble its efforts to implement the deal “once the coronavirus epidemic is over”.


“China is fully able to complete the agreed amount of agricultural product imports [from the US],” Wei said, without mentioning purchases of non-agricultural products, such as manufactured goods and energy. Wei’s comments mark the first on-the-record confirmation from Beijing insiders that China has no plan to walk away from the trade deal because of the coronavirus epidemic, which has caused huge damage to its economy. It is also the latest suggestion, however, that China may look to a clause in the deal which states that both parties will enter consultations if “a natural disaster or other unforeseeable event outside the control of the parties delays a party from timely complying with its obligations”.

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How to sneakily invoke the idea that it’ll all soon be over.

China’s Consumers Will Not Rescue Economy When Outbreak Is Over (SCMP)

Around a third of Chinese consumers will not increase spending once the outbreak of coronavirus has been brought under control, a private survey has shown, challenging Beijing’s hope that consumer expenditure will quickly rebound to cover losses suffered amid the epidemic. China has repeatedly said that the impact of the coronavirus, which has infected over 78,000 people and killed over 2,700 in China alone, will be short-lived and that it is still on track to achieve its economic development goals in 2020. However, according to the online survey conducted by Rong360.com, a Beijing-based firm providing financial and credit information and products, 31.4 per cent of respondents said they would not increase consumer spending.


More importantly, nearly two thirds, or 64.4 per cent, said they would be more “restrained” in spending in the long term, while another 12.6 per cent said they would cut spending, with only 11 per cent saying they would increase expenditure. The remaining 12 per cent said they would keep their lifestyle unchanged. Spending on travel, pets, gifts and accessories would be among the first items to be cut, with around 30 per cent of the 1,000 respondents to the survey, which was conducted between February 11-17, saying they would reduce travel and entertainment. For short-term spending, 68.6 per cent of respondents said they would increase expenditure after the epidemic, especially on entertainment, cosmetics, catering, movies, massages, fitness and sportswear.

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And soon, so will Europe and America.

Southeast Asian Supply Chains Feel The Squeeze From Covid-19 (SCMP)

As countries brace themselves for the full economic impact of the virus, one country has its eye on the future. Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said the country had a two-pronged line of attack for dealing with the virus: a US$4.7 billion war chest to help companies and individuals through the economic storm, and a plan to ensure the city state would be first out of the gate towards full recovery. The plan involved having Singapore businesses re-examine their labour and material supply chains to “make sure that we’re never held to ransom by a single source or a single market”, Chan said at a meeting with business leaders on Wednesday. Singapore learned a similar lesson in 2007, when the construction sector – then reliant on Indonesia for 90 per cent of its sand – nearly came to a standstill after Indonesia banned sand exports to the republic.

With a new train line and the two integrated resorts in the works, the government released its national stockpile of sand to the market and bore 75 per cent of the price hike of sand for public projects. Since then, the government has made it mandatory for the sector to diversify its sources of sand. Chan said at the business meeting that the Singapore government wanted to delve deeper and examine where the suppliers of Singapore businesses got their raw material from. “We’re not just talking about the first layer of the supply chain, we’re even going into the second, third layer to look at where the components form that supply chain in order for us to have a really resilient supply chain for our respective businesses,” said Chan.

“If the supply chain breaks, even if it’s the smallest part, it disrupts the entire supply chain.” What is unclear is how much countries really can diversify their sourcing, given that China is the top supplier of intermediate goods for many countries. China’s size, broad-based supply chain, and infrastructure provisions made it an “unmissable market for most”, said Wiranto. Half of Vietnam’s imports come from China, Korea and Japan; almost half of Korea’s come from China, Japan and the United States; while over 20 per cent of Malaysia’s imports are from China. Raw materials aside, there is also a fear that the rapid spread of the coronavirus outside China will affect other supply chains. “Businesses might be looking at alternatives from Vietnam, but as the virus becomes more global over recent days, even supply chains which they thought are safe from interruptions could be disrupted,” said Song, the CIMB economist.

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Turkey’s actions threaten Greece. For now, neither NATO or the EU have taken Ankara’s side, but…

No More Kid Gloves (K.)

Facts on the ground change rapidly. Turkey’s President has been trapped in a huge quagmire exclusively of his own making. His embroiling Turkey in adventures abroad has turned into a boomerang. For the first time, his handling of the situation is openly questioned in Ankara itself. He seems to have no exit strategy. With his barefaced move to send crowds of migrants and refugees to the border with Greece, Erdogan has handed us a great diplomatic gift. Europeans finally understand that they have to deal with an unpredictable unreasonableness. But they are still groping for a response. Like the United States, they are afraid to “lose” Turkey, which, in turn, plays the usual haggling game with Moscow, Washington and Brussels, only this time with a strong dose of desperation.

How about Greece? The government is doing the right thing. It reminds Europe where its responsibilities lie and also shows that it will no longer be “business as usual.” National, and not political, reasons necessitate a different approach in dealing with the problem. When you face open blackmail and the open, undisguised use of the migration/refugee issue as a means to an end, you can no longer handle it with kid gloves. Some will take exception to this and recommend patience. The drama of the refugees is unspeakable, but no country should bear the burden alone. Especially a country bruised by a great crisis and which bears no responsibility for what has happened in Syria. Northern Europeans should grasp the gravity of the situation and stop facing the issue from the coziness of their sofas.

One last thing: this crisis is at its very beginning and could transmute into something else. Erdogan under pressure, including pressure from nationalists, can become even more unpredictable. A national consensus is imperative! It makes no sense to debate who is responsible for which things. The situation is critical.

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And Trump is right.

Barr Is Wrong On FISA Reforms (Turley)

Attorney General Bill Barr appears on a collision course with President Donald Trump over reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. Civil libertarians like Sen Rand Paul (R., Tenn.) are pushing for reforms in light of the abuses uncovered from the Russian investigation. Despite my respect and friendship for Barr, he is wrong in my view and the President should push forward with the reforms. When President Trump declared “Now is our chance to fix it,” he is absolutely correct. Sen. Paul has indicated that the President is onboard with reforms, tweeing “Good talk with @realdonaldTrump yesterday and I’m pleased he is urging FISA reform NOW – and not a reauthorization of the current Patriot Act.”

I have long respected Sen. Paul’s fight for such reforms and I have been a long critic of FISA since I first went into that “court” as a young intern with the National Security Agency in the Reagan Administration. Such legislative reforms are even more pressing given the FISA court’s baffling decision to appoint a defender of the abusive use of the court as its “reformer.” Paul is pushing for limits on how the court can be used against Americans. They include modest limitations that would still allow robust surveillance, including mandatory and random audits of FISA applications by the Inspector General, ending the Call Detail Records program, mandatory disclosure of exculpatory evidence in FISA applications, and appointing amici in all “sensitive investigative matters” with access to all FISA court documents.

This includes dealing directly and honestly with the status of the controversial records program under Section 215, that gathers metadata on domestic text messages and phone calls. I am leery of efforts to again kick this can down the road with temporary extensions of existing authority. The FISA court was designed to circumvent the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of probable cause of a crime — using the term but making it little more than probable cause to suspect someone is working for a foreign power. That is why applications for surveillance are uniformly approved. The court has little real basis to deny such applications.

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Superdelegates revisited.

The Public Doesn’t Really Decide The Nominee (Turley)

As we have been discussing, establishment figures in the Democratic party and the media have been preparing to block any nomination of Bernie Sanders, including using the “superdelegates” to hand the nomination to another candidate. The New York Times reported Thursday that the Democratic establishment was preparing for open warfare over blocking Sanders, even if it shatters the unity of the party. If Sanders does not receive the necessary votes, they intend to take away the nomination even if he has the most votes in the first round. The key again are the superdelegates who are not elected in the primaries but given votes as elected officials. On MSNBC, former Obama adviser Anton J. Gunn was particularly blunt. He declared “The party decides its nominee. The public doesn’t really decide the nominee.”

In 2016, many of us objected to the concerted effect of the Democratic establishment and the Democratic National Committee to rig the primary for Hillary Clinton. Later it was revealed that the Clintons have largely taken over the DNC by taking over its debt and the DNC openly harassed and hampered Sanders at every stage. Despite this effort, Sanders came close to beating Clinton, who has never forgiven him for contesting a primary that she literally bought and paid for with the DNC. The simmering rage was still evident in Clinton’s attack on Sanders and suggestion that she might not support him if he were the nominee (a suggestion that she later took back). Well the supers are back and Sanders may again find that it is the party elite, not the voters, who determine who will be the next nominee.

The irony is that the elite hardly has an inspiring record. In 2016, every poll showed that voters did not want an establishment figure so the establishment rigged the process for the ultimate establishment figure. Clinton lost to the most unpopular Republican candidate in history. I remain convinced that Sanders could have won that election, a position recently suggested by Michael Bloomberg. Yet, the same people that gave us the Clinton nomination will be working their magic again at the Democratic Convention. What is fascinating is that the establishment would prefer to risk the election by alienating the huge young following of Sanders rather than allow Sanders to be the nominee. If they give the nomination to another establishment figures like Biden or a billionaire like Bloomberg, the establishment would enrage millions of Sanders followers who could well stay home in 2020.

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Two claims: A) that Assange’s work is not political, and B) that nothing in the law applies even if it were.

The Only Questions That Should Matter In The Assange Extradition Battle (SMH)

Murray’s account contains some astonishing observations. On day one, he says, the US prosecutor, James Lewis QC, explicitly addressed his opening remarks “not to the court but to the media”. This is unprecedented. In this address, says Murray, Lewis explicitly denied that the espionage charges against Assange also threatened mainstream media like The Guardian and The New York Times. Later under questioning from the magistrate, Murray says, Lewis changed his mind and admitted that yes, they would be affected, but this part of his remarks was not offered to the media (who might well find such assertions alarming).


On day two, Assange’s defence, Edward Fitzgerald QC, said the prosecution must prove three things: that Assange had helped Manning decode a hash key necessary to hack classified material, that Assange had solicited the material from Manning and that he had knowingly put lives at risk. There is, said Fitzgerald, no evidence on any of these counts, some of which were disproved in Manning’s court-martial. And the prosecution has admitted it cannot prove harm. But even that is not the point. No one should be arguing the substantive case here. For now, the questions are; is this a political crime? Should Assange receive a fair trial? Does anyone believe he’ll get one in Trump’s America? And do we really think, given his poor health, he would survive prison there? The answers have to be yes, yes, no and, resoundingly, no.

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The hearing resumes only in March?!

“During Lewis’s presentation, he was interrupted by Judge Baraitser precisely once. During Fitzgerald’s reply, Baraitser interjected seventeen times.”

Your Man in the Public Gallery – Assange Hearing Day Four (Craig Murray)

Yesterday the prosecution continued its argument that the provision in the 2007 UK/US Extradition Treaty that bars extradition for political offences is a dead letter, and that Julian Assange’s objectives are not political in any event. James Lewis QC for the prosecution spoke for about an hour, and Edward Fitzgerald QC replied for the defence for about the same time. During Lewis’s presentation, he was interrupted by Judge Baraitser precisely once. During Fitzgerald’s reply, Baraitser interjected seventeen times. In the transcript, those interruptions will not look unreasonable: “Could you clarify that for me Mr Fitzgerald…” “So how do you cope with Mr Lewis’s point that…” “But surely that’s a circular argument… “But it’s not incorporated, is it?…”


All these and the other dozen interruptions were designed to appear to show the judge attempting to clarify the defence’s argument in a spirit of intellectual testing. But if you heard the tone of Baraitser’s voice, saw her body language and facial expressions, it was anything but. The false picture a transcript might give is exacerbated by the courtly Fitzgerald’s continually replying to each obvious harassment with “Thank you Madam, that is very helpful”, which again if you were there, plainly meant the opposite. But what a transcript will helpfully nevertheless show was the bully pulpit of Baraitser’s tactic in interrupting Fitzgerald again and again and again, belittling his points and very deliberately indeed preventing him from getting into the flow of his argument. The contrast in every way with her treatment of Lewis could not be more pronounced.

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