May 172020
 


Gerry Cranham They all fall in the round I call 1963

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Thank you.

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 112020
 


Andre Derain Boats at Collioure 1905

 

Wuhan Reports 5 New Coronavirus Cases, Its Highest Surge In 2 Months (RT)
New Zealand To Reopen Malls, Cafes From Thursday As Virus Curbs Eased (R.)
How New Zealand Put Coronavirus On The Brink Of Elimination (Wired)
Men Have High Levels Of ACE2 Enzyme Key To COVID-19 Infection (R.)
Inside House Democrats’ $1.2 Trillion+ Coronavirus Relief Proposal (Axios)
43 Million Americans Could Lose Health Insurance Amid Pandemic (G.)
Unemployment Numbers ‘Will Get Worse Before They Get Better’ – Mnuchin (NPR)
A 6.4 Million Discrepancy In The Employment Report (Mish)
Schumer Calls On VA Dep. To Explain Use Of HCQ (AP)
Number Of Hydroxychloroquine Prescriptions Explodes In France (F.)
Zinc Hope In Coronavirus Fight (Telegraph India)
Guaidó’s Mercenary Hit Contract On Maduro Mirrors Official US Bounty (MacLeod)
AG Barr’s Office Shreds Chuck Todd For ‘Deceptive Editing’ (DW)
DNI Has Communications Between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks For 4 Years (GP)

 

 

• For the first time since March 10 (!!!), Italy reported less than 1,000 new cases of coronavirus.

• The US had +20,329 new confirmed coronavirus cases today, the lowest number since late March, bringing the total to 1,367,638, of which 1,030,515 are still active.
 


Click to enlarge in new tab

 

 

 

Cases 4,200,957 (+ 79,179 from yesterday’s 4,121,778)

Deaths 284,150 (+ 3,282 from yesterday’s 280,868)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Open up!

Wuhan Reports 5 New Coronavirus Cases, Its Highest Surge In 2 Months (RT)

Original hotspot of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Chinese city of Wuhan, has reported five new indigenous cases as the number of infections across mainland China has slightly grown as well. China reported seventeen new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday – three more than the day before. Of the newly-detected cases, seven are linked to overseas travel, and 10 are believed to be the result of local transmission. In addition to five indigenous cases in Wuhan, three other came from Jilin province, one from Liaoning, northeastern Chinese province bordering North Korea, and another one from Heilongjiang province, bordering Russia.

While the figure might not sound that alarming, considering that China was adding thousands of cases mid-February, when it was going through the peak of the pandemic, it still marks the nation’s biggest jump in confirmed infections since April, 28. The latest data from Wuhan, which just late last month celebrated the recovery of the last patient with severe Covid-19, can be seen as a worrying sign as well since it the most significant increase in cases for the pandemic ground zero in two months. Last time Wuhan reported more than five new cases in a single day (8) was on March 11. However, it was not before the beginning of April when the last remaining travel restrictions imposed on the city, as it was fighting the outbreak, were lifted after 76 days of lockdown.


Around the same time, Wuhan for the first time reported zero daily deaths from the disease. Considering the steady drop in the number of new coronavirus patients, Beijing has gradually relaxed coronavirus measures across the country, on Thursday declaring the whole territory of China as ‘low risk” in terms of coronavirus. Apart from Hubei, there has been a surge in infections in Shulan, in the northeastern Jilin province, where all of the new cases are believed to be traced to a single woman. Concerned about the possible second wave of the desease, local authorities raised the risk level from low to medium last week.

Read more …

Lockdowns work. In principle. That says little about their execution, but I already covered that. If people want to be skeptical of something, at least make sure you know what you’re skeptical about.

New Zealand To Reopen Malls, Cafes From Thursday As Virus Curbs Eased (R.)

New Zealand businesses including malls, cinemas, cafes and gyms will reopen on Thursday after some of the tightest restrictions in the world to stop the spread of the coronavirus were further loosened on Monday. The Pacific nation was locked down for more than month under “level 4” restrictions that were eased by a notch in late April. It has continued to enforce strict social measures on many of its citizens and businesses, helping prevent widespread community spread of the virus. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the staggered move to “level 2” restrictions will mean retail, restaurants and other public spaces including playgrounds can reopen from Thursday.

Schools can open from next Monday while bars can only reopen from May 21, Ardern said. Gatherings would be limited to 10 people. “The upshot is that in 10 days’ time we will have reopened most businesses in New Zealand, and sooner than many other countries around the world,” Ardern told a news conference. “But that fits with our plan – go hard, go early – so we can get our economy moving again sooner, and so we get the economic benefit of getting our health response right.” Businesses will be required to have physical distancing and strict hygiene measures in place. Air New Zealand announced it would resume seven more domestic routes when the country enters alert level 2.


International travel, however, would not be possible as borders will remain closed except for returning New Zealanders. The measures would be reviewed again in two weeks, Ardern said. The government plans to introduce a new law that would allow authorities to enforce physical distancing and control gatherings of people after questions were raised about the legality of lockdown rules. Three new cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on Monday, the health ministry said in a statement. The cases – two hospital nurses and one related to overseas travel – bring New Zealand’s total confirmed COVID-19 infections to 1,147, the ministry said, adding that 93% of all confirmed and probable cases have recovered.

Read more …

New Zealand is 2,500 miles, 4,000 km, from Australia, its nearest neighbor. Amid all the hosanna, that must not be forgotten. European countries, for instance, have no such advantages.

New Zealand can simply close its doors. But yeah, they did it along with a strict lockdown.

How New Zealand Put Coronavirus On The Brink Of Elimination (Wired)

On February 28, the news emerged of New Zealand’s first case of Covid-19. For Michael Baker, a government advisor and epidemiologist at the University of Otago in Wellington, the following weeks would be a time of extreme anxiety. While New Zealand is now regarded as a global success story in containing the coronavirus – as of May 7 it has reported just 1,489 cases and 21 deaths amongst a population of five million – this did not always appear such a likely outcome. Indeed, scientists believe that without the right strategies being swiftly implemented at crucial times, the country could have experienced more than 1,000 cases a day, overwhelming its fragile healthcare network.

When the news arrived that Covid-19 had reached New Zealand’s shores, Baker had already been monitoring the seemingly inexorable global progression of the pandemic since early January. He was well aware of the devastation wreaked by the virus in Wuhan, and grim reports were already filtering through of the worsening outbreak in Italy. While New Zealand’s relative geographical isolation had provided some protection thus far, he knew how swiftly the tide could turn. “It was the most intense period of my working life,” he says. “The distant drumbeat was getting louder and I felt we were on a knife edge in terms of what would happen.”

A member of the Ministry of Health’s technical advisory group, Baker had read the report of the World Health Organisation’s joint mission to China at the end of February. “It showed that the Chinese had done the almost impossible, they’d stopped a pandemic in full flight which was remarkable,” he says. “This showed that it was containable.” Inspired by this, and reports from fellow island nations such as Taiwan who had also managed to contain the outbreak, he realised that if New Zealand acted swiftly and strongly, it could prevent a disaster before it had even begun. He started calling for an approach to eliminate, rather than merely suppress the virus.

At that point – like most other countries – New Zealand was applying the same action plans for Covid-19 as with a bout of pandemic influenza, steadily ramping up their response as the pandemic progressed to try and mitigate it and flatten the curve. But while the rate at which influenza is transmitted means it is nigh impossible to stop, the data showed that Covid-19 was different. “The fundamental difference is that the virus incubation period is longer for Covid-19,” said Baker. “For influenza, it’s one to three days depending on what strain, and with Covid-19 it’s about five days on average. This means that contact tracing and quarantining contacts really does work if you do it quickly enough.”

Epidemiologists began advising the government to change strategy and implement a preventative full lockdown. This involved completely shutting the borders, and enforcing a maximum containment policy where the entire population bar essential workers were required to stay at home unless for medical reasons or food supplies. “We recommended going early and hard,” Baker says. “There are two advantages to that. First you prevent a lot of cases and deaths, and also if you control it early, there’s fewer chains of transmission that have to be stamped out and so your lockdown is likely to be for a shorter period of time.”

Read more …

Not new, and this take reads a bit too much like a Big Pharma ad. And what does this mean: Inhibitors don’t lead to higher concentrations? Would be bad if they did, no?

“..widely-prescribed drugs called ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) did not lead to higher ACE2 concentrations ..”

Men Have High Levels Of ACE2 Enzyme Key To COVID-19 Infection (R.)

Men’s blood has higher levels than women’s of a key enzyme used by the new coronavirus to infect cells, the results of a big European study showed on Monday — a finding which may help explain why men are more vulnerable to infection with COVID-19. Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is found in the heart, kidneys and other organs. In COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, it is thought to play a role in how the infection progresses into the lungs. The study, published in the European Heart Journal, also found that widely-prescribed drugs called ACE inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) did not lead to higher ACE2 concentrations and should therefore not increase the COVID-19 risk for people taking them.

ACE inhibitors and ARBs are widely prescribed to patients with congestive heart failure, diabetes or kidney disease. The drugs account for billions of dollars in prescription sales worldwide. “Our findings do not support the discontinuation of these drugs in COVID-19 patients,” said Adriaan Voors, a professor of cardiology at the University Medical Center (UMC) Groningen in The Netherlands, who co-led the study. [..] Death and infection tolls point to men being more likely than women to contract the disease and to suffer severe or critical complications if they do. Analysing thousands of men and women, Voors’ team measured ACE2 concentrations in blood samples taken from more than 3,500 heart failure patients from 11 European countries.


The study had started before the coronavirus pandemic, the researchers said, and so did not include patients with COVID-19. But when other research began to point to ACE2 as key to the way the new coronavirus gets into cells, Voors and his team saw important overlaps with their study. “When we found that one of the strongest biomarkers, ACE2, was much higher in men than in women, I realised that this had the potential to explain why men were more likely to die from COVID-19 than women,” said Iziah Sama, a doctor at UMC Groningen who co-led the study.

Read more …

Inside House Democrats’ $1.2 Trillion+ Coronavirus Relief Proposal (Axios)

House Democrats could bring their phase 4 coronavirus relief package (CARES 2) to the floor for a vote as early as this week — but, for now at least, it’s going nowhere. The state of play: Democrats have crafted a $1.2 trillion+ package without input from the White House or Hill Republicans, congressional aides familiar with their plans tell Axios. • GOP leadership says it’s still waiting for billions of aid allocated in the first $2.2 trillion CARES Act to go out the door. • The White House says it wants to evaluate the economic impact of reopening before passing another large stimulus package. But House Democrats see the proposal as a way to lay down a marker of their priorities and prod congressional Republicans and the White House toward more economic relief for individuals, state and local governments, and the U.S. Postal Service.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her caucus also want to show voters that they’re still working, despite members remaining in their districts. Those optics could be important politically given the Senate’s decision to return to Washington last week. (House Republicans have been chiding Democrats for staying home in their districts when, they say, they should be at work.)

Details: The legislation, which is still being drafted and is subject to change, is expected to include:
• Roughly $1 trillion for state and local governments. They want to split this money into separate revenue streams to ensure each community can access it.
• More money for hospitals and COVID-19 testing.
• Roughly $25 billion to keep the U.S. Postal Service afloat.
• Expanded nutritional benefits, Medicaid funding and unemployment insurance (which they call “paycheck guarantee”).
• Another round of direct payments to Americans.

House leadership is also working on narrowing down the guidelines for how these funds are allocated to ensure that people aren’t “double dipping” into the different pots of money, a senior Democratic aide told Axios. For example, they do not want someone who is receiving more unemployment money to also receive money through the Paycheck Protection Program. However, it’s still unclear whether the PPP fund will be replenished. “We’re trying to limit the amount of overlap so people aren’t abusing the system,” the aide said. The package will not include liability protection for businesses, which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said is a top priority for Republicans.

It also will not include a payroll tax cut, something President Trump has insisted on. House Democrats have said both of these proposals are nonstarters. The backdrop: This comes as the pandemic continues to choke the U.S. economy — which shed 20.5 million jobs in April as unemployment hit 14.7%.

Read more …

Want to keep a pandemic going? Make sure people fear seeking treatment.

43 Million Americans Could Lose Health Insurance Amid Pandemic (G.)

As many as 43 million Americans could lose their health insurance in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute. Prior to the pandemic, 160 million Americans, or roughly half the population, received their medical insurance through their job. The tidal wave of layoffs triggered by quarantine measures now threatens that coverage for millions. Up to 7 million of those people are unlikely to find new insurance as poor economic conditions drag on, researchers at the Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation thinktanks predict. Such enormous insurance losses could dramatically alter America’s healthcare landscape, and will probably result in more deaths as people avoid unaffordable healthcare.

“The status quo is incredibly inefficient, it’s incredibly unfair, it’s tied to employment for no real reason,” said Katherine Hempstead, a senior policy adviser for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “This problem exposes a lot of the inadequacies in our system.” If the pandemic results in a 20% unemployment rate, as some analysts expect, researchers at the Urban Institute and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) predict anywhere from 25 to 43 million people could lose health insurance. Many will use social safety nets to obtain insurance, including Medicaid, the public health insurance program for low-income people. However, eligibility criteria varies from state to state, with more restrictions in Republican-led states.“It’s incredibly segmented and every state has a different story,” said Hempstead. “There’s 50 different experiences.”


[..] Of those who lose employer-based insurance, an estimated 7 million Americans will remain uninsured, and will lack access to healthcare during the worst pandemic in a century, RWJF predicted. Another 30 million people lacked insurance even before the pandemic, according to the Urban Institute. “You have people who think they have an infectious disease, but they don’t want to come forward to get tested or get treatment because they’re so worried about what kind of financial liabilities they will have,” said Hempstead. “This problem exposes, really, a lot of the inadequacies in our system.”

Read more …

Steven has no idea how much worse.

Unemployment Numbers ‘Will Get Worse Before They Get Better’ – Mnuchin (NPR)

The worst of the nation’s historic job losses are yet to come, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who told Fox News Sunday that “the reported numbers are probably going to get worse before they get better.” Mnuchin’s comments followed Friday’s report from the Labor Department showing the U.S. lost a staggering 20.5 million jobs in April, bringing the jobless rate to its highest level since the Great Depression — 14.7%. But even that figure fails to account for the millions of workers who have stopped searching for jobs or those considered “underemployed.” Asked by host Chris Wallace whether the nation’s true unemployment rate was close to 25%, Mnuchin responded, “we could be.”


“This is no fault of American business, this is no fault of American workers, this is a result of a virus,” he said before warning, “You’re going to have a very, very bad second quarter.” Two weeks ago, Mnuchin’s outlook was more optimistic — he told Wallace that the economy would reopen through June and “bounce back” over the summer. On Sunday, he said the economy would “have a better third quarter,” followed by “a better fourth quarter, and next year is going to be a great year.” The Trump Administration is considering additional stimulus measures, including a payroll tax cut, according to Mnuchin, who also said on Sunday, “We’re not gonna do things just to bail out states that were poorly managed.” But he said the White House would wait a “few weeks” before considering another relief bill.

Read more …

The BLS doesn’t have the data, so they release a report they know is false.

A 6.4 Million Discrepancy In The Employment Report (Mish)

There is a 6.4 million discrepancy between the change in employment level and the change in unemployment level. Such is a new all time record discrepancy between employment and unemployment in the Household Survey that measures the unemployment rate. I created the lead chart as follows: Discrepancy = Change in Employment Level – (-1 * Change in Unemployment Level)

Confirmation
• The number of employed fell by 22.369 million.
• Those unemployed only rose by 15.938 million.
• Employment discrepancy is 22.369 – 15.938 = 6.431 million

Negligible Labor Force Discrepancy
• Change in Labor Force: -6.431 Million
• Change in Not in Labor Force: +6.570 Million
• The labor force discrepancy is 6.570 – 6.431 = 0.139 million

Discrepancy Comparison
• Employment Discrepancy Percentage: 28.8%
• Labor Force Discrepancy Percentage: 2.1%

Unemployment Rate Formula
• Unemployment Rate = (Unemployed / Labor Force) * 100 Therefore, the unemployment Rate = (23.078 / 156.481) * 100 = 14.7% That is how the BLS calculated the unemployment rate.

Factoring in the Employment Discrepancy
• Unemployment Rate = ((23.078 + 6.431) / 156.481) * 100 = 18.6%

Read more …

They’re not going to rest until there’s an anti-hydroxychloroquine law.

Schumer Calls On VA Dep. To Explain Use Of HCQ (AP)

The Senate’s top Democrat on Sunday called on the Department of Veterans Affairs to explain why it allowed the use of an unproven drug on veterans for the coronavirus, saying patients may have been put at unnecessary risk. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said the VA needs to provide Congress more information about a recent bulk order for $208,000 worth of hydroxychloroquine. President Donald Trump has heavily promoted the malaria drug, without evidence, as a treatment for COVID-19. Schumer’s request comes after a whistleblower complaint filed this past week by former Health and Human Services official Rick Bright alleged that the Trump administration, eager for a quick fix to the onslaught of the coronavirus, wanted to “flood” hot spots in New York and New Jersey with the drug.

Major veterans organizations have urged VA to explain under what circumstances VA doctors initiate discussion of hydroxychloroquine with veterans as a treatment option. “There are concerns that they are using this drug when the medical evidence says it doesn’t help and could hurt,” Schumer said in an interview with The Associated Press. He said given the fact the malaria drug, despite being untested, had been repeatedly pushed publicly by Trump, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie must address whether anyone at the department was pressured by the White House or the administration to use hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.

Schumer said Wilkie also should answer questions about a recent analysis of VA hospital data that showed there were more deaths among patients given hydroxychloroquine versus standard care, including how much patients knew about the drug’s risks before taking it. Wilkie in recent weeks has denied that veterans were used as test subjects for the drug and that it was instead administered at government-run VA hospitals only when medically appropriate, with mutual consent between doctor and patient. Still, Wilkie has repeatedly declined to say how widely the drug was being used for COVID-19 and whether the department had issued broad guidance to doctors and patients on the use of the drug.

In a weekly call with veterans’ groups this past week, Wilkie continued to defend VA’s use of hydroxychloroquine. He dismissed the recent analysis of VA hospital data showing no benefits to patients, suggesting the poor outcomes were because the cases involved older, very sick veterans. He has not said whether the department will continue to use the drug. “Use of this medication for treatment of COVID-19 is considered ‘off label’ — perfectly legal and not rare,” he wrote in an April 29 letter to veterans’ groups.

Read more …

Meanwhile in the real world…

Maybe this should read “French Doctors Attempt Mass Cull Of Their Patients”.

Number Of Hydroxychloroquine Prescriptions Explodes In France (F.)

Despite the warnings around taking hydroxychloroquine to combat the symptoms of COVID-19, prescriptions in France have increased by as much as 7,000% in certain parts of the country since the pandemic began. As reported by La Provence, a study looking at the 466 million French prescriptions written since the pandemic began in France, show a huge spike in doctors prescribing the drug. In the last week of March, for instance, over 10,000 people were prescribed hydroxychloroquine in Marseille alone. In France and the U.S., the use of hydroxychloroquine has been fraught between those who think the risks are small enough to warrant widespread use and those who think that more research is required before widespread prescription.

Following research conducted in China, a French doctor, Didier Raoult–head of the IHU, the Institute of Infectious Diseases in Marseille–claimed at the beginning of March that he had successfully treated patients suffering from coronavirus with the drug. Hydroxychloroquine is an anti-malarial drug also used to treat people suffering from lupus. It is sold under its trader name of Plaquénil in France. Shortly afterwards, President Trump, tweeted the same news, that a combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin could work with patients. The latter is an anti-bacterial drug, given in tandem, to eliminate the risks of bacterial infection.

Health professionals were quick to point out that no one should be using the drug without further research showing clear evidence that the drugs do work under a peer-reviewed clinical trial. Dr Anthony Fauci, Trump’s advisor downplayed the drug’s impacts as purely “anecdotal” and others issued warnings that the drug can cause severe health impacts if taken in an unsupervised capacity, such as heart problems. Before the pandemic, an average of 50 prescriptions were written each day in Marseille for hydroxychloroquine. The day after Didier Raoult announced his findings in Marseille, this had jumped to 450 per day. On March 18th, that figure had spiked again and there were 5,000 prescriptions in just one day across the whole of France.

The research authors believe that 41,000 people were given the drug between March 16 and April 19. Prescriptions have been higher in Paris and Marseille (where Didier Raoult heads the IHU, the Institute of Infectious Diseases). The study also noted that most people who were granted access to the drug across France were from higher socio-economic groups.

Read more …

Indian doctors in New York. “In the absence of options such as remdesivir being available..” Well, we’ll take care of that..

Zinc Hope In Coronavirus Fight (Telegraph India)

Doctors have reported that adding zinc sulfate, a dietary supplement, to hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin may benefit patients with coronavirus disease, adding a twist to the controversy over the rationale for prescribing hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19. Doctors at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine have found that adding zinc sulfate to hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin already given to Covid-19 patients decreased the need for ventilation or admission to intensive care units, and lowered mortality. Their study provides the first evidence through patients that zinc sulfate in combination with the other two drugs may have a role in the treatment of Covid-19, the doctors said.

Their study was posted on Friday in a database for medical research but has not been peer-reviewed yet. “The latest evidence suggests against much benefit from hydroxychloroquine, but this study raises the question of possible benefit of zinc and hydroxychloroquine together,” Joseph Rahimian, the doctor who led the research, told The Telegraph via email. The findings could be relevant to India where experts with the Indian Council of Medical Research and other institutions have introduced the hydroxychloroquine-azithromycin combination for the treatment of Covid-19 patients. Rahimian and his colleagues introduced zinc sulfate to Covid-19 patients as New York entered the ranks of cities hit the hardest by the pandemic.


They tracked the outcomes of the infections in 521 patients who received hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin and 411 who received zinc sulfate in addition to the two drugs. They observed that adding zinc sulfate was associated with a “most striking” decrease in mortality among patients who did not require intensive care. The association was not significant among patients who were treated in intensive care, implying that the addition of zinc should be considered early during treatment. “The benefit is likely to be more pronounced with its earlier use,” Rahimian said. “In the absence of options such as remdesivir being available, zinc with hydroxychloroquine may be a consideration. A randomised trial of the two versus placebo would help clarify whether there is a clear benefit and (the) extent of any potential benefit,” he added.

Read more …

Guaidó’s Mercenary Hit Contract On Maduro Mirrors Official US Bounty (MacLeod)

Juan Guaidó was expecting to be in Venezuela’s Presidential Palace by now. But the comically bungling May 3 invasion attempt by US mercenaries and opposition members was the latest indication of the desperate measures he and his cronies have resorted to. The fighters hired under his name were immediately overpowered in the sleepy coastal village of Chuao by disgruntled members of the House of Socialist Fishermen, and some of the highly trained mercenaries appeared to literally wet themselves in terror when apprehended. Now, a 41-page contract outlining the details and conditions of the coup attempt has been leaked. It sheds new light on the arrangement between Guaidó and Silvercorp, the American private security firm he hired,.

The self-declared President of Venezuela promised to pay Jordan Goudreau, founder of the Florida-based firm, $212.9 million to capture, detain or “remove” President Nicolas Maduro and install him in his place. The contract goes into detail about who the mercenaries were allowed to engage in “kinetic strikes” (i.e. assassinate and kill). It first names a number of paramilitary organizations like the Colombian FARC, and bizarrely, Hezbollah, but also on the list are a number of “illegitimate Venezuelan forces,” that include any armed supporters of Maduro and Constituent Assembly President Diosdado Cabello. Maduro and Cabello happen to be the same figures placed at the top of a US Drug Enforcement Agency hit list.

The US offered $15 million and $10 million respectively for their capture, effectively putting a bounty on the heads of the elected president and the head of his country’s main legislative body. The contract signed by Guaidó and Silvercorp also enables the killing of anyone they deem to be “armed and violent colectivos.” For a sector of Venezuela’s upper-class opposition, the term “colectivo” is a dehumanizing, oft-used catch-all term applied to any working-class person. Trade unionists, pro-government protestors, even anyone riding a motorcycle is presumed to be part of an armed and dangerous gang in the lurid fantasies of the light-skinned elitists of Eastern Caracas. Therefore, the contract essentially permits Silvercorp to kill any member of the government’s popular support base with impunity.

Perhaps more worrying, however, is what Silvercorp envisaged its role to be after a successful coup. The contract stipulates that the mercenary organization would “convert to a National Asset Unit that will act under the direction of the Administration [Guaidó] to counter threats to government stability, terror threats and work closely” with other security forces. Their missions would include, but not be limited to, surveillance, covert operations and target programming. In other words, Silvercorp would transform into a private paramilitary squad answerable only to Guaidó, crushing any opposition to his dictatorship, in much the same way death squads in Colombia and other Latin American countries have operated for decades.

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Chuck Todd is a far-left TV host? Boy, you Americans really have no idea what left and right is anymore.

This is insane al the same. He should be fired.

AG Barr’s Office Shreds Chuck Todd For ‘Deceptive Editing’ (DW)

Attorney General William Barr’s office slammed far-left NBC News host Chuck Todd on Sunday for “deceptive editing” after Todd took remarks that Barr made out of context and used the distorted remarks to smear the Department of Justice (DOJ). On “Meet The Press,” Todd used a deceptively edited portion of Barr’s interview last week with CBS News investigative reporter Catherine Herridge. Todd focused in on the following exchange between Barr and Herridge:

HERRIDGE: In closing, this was a big decision in the Flynn case, to say the least. When history looks back on this decision, how do you think it will be written? What will it say about your decision making?
BARR: Well, history is written by the winner. So it largely depends on who’s writing the history. But I think a fair history would say that it was a good decision because it upheld the rule of law. It helped, it upheld the standards of the Department of Justice, and it undid what was an injustice.

Todd only played the first two sentences of Barr’s comments where Barr said, “Well, history is written by the winner. So it largely depends on who’s writing the history.” Todd then launched into an attack on Barr, saying, “I was struck … by the cynicism of the answer. It’s a correct answer. But he’s the attorney general. He didn’t make the case that he was upholding the rule of law. He was almost admitting that, yeah, this is a political job.” Todd’s comments were false because the very next thing that Barr said, which Todd did not show his viewers, was: “But I think a fair history would say that it was a good decision because it upheld the rule of law. It helped, it upheld the standards of the Department of Justice, and it undid what was an injustice.”

Barr spokeswoman Kerri Kupec responded to the segment by posting screenshots on Twitter of the transcript from what Todd said and what Barr said in his CBS News interview last week, writing: “Very disappointed by the deceptive editing/commentary by @ChuckTodd on @MeetThePress on AG Barr’s CBS interview. Compare the two transcripts below. Not only did the AG make the case in the VERY answer Chuck says he didn’t, he also did so multiple times throughout the interview.”

Read more …

NSA, FBI, DNI have all been lying about Seth Rich for 4 years; hard to believe Mueller wasn’t in on it.

Why? They all knew the correspondence would kill off the Russian hacking story, and exonerate Assange. Couldn’t let that happen.

DNI Has Communications Between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks For 4 Years (GP)

Recently, transcripts of a conversation between George Papadopoulos and a confidential informant believed to be Stefan Halper were released by the DOJ. This transcript confirms that Papadopoulos was spied on and recorded, two things Papadopoulos was not told at the time of the case made against him by the Mueller gang. We know from our previous reporting that a Deep State Anti-Trump former Assistant US Attorney claimed under oath that the FBI did examine Seth Rich’s computer and that she met with an FBI Agent and prosecutor from the Mueller gang. This indicates the meeting should have been recorded in a form 302 but the FBI continues to claim no records related to Seth Rich are available!

We reported in mid-February how Attorney Ty Clevenger, who represents a client who is being sued for his comments about Seth Rich, reported to the courts that despite numerous assurances from the FBI that they had no information related to Seth Rich, emails related to Seth Rich were identified and provided to Judicial Watch. It looked like the FBI was lying to Clevenger all this time. Attorney Clevenger sent a letter to ADNI Rick Grenell that he should receive by this Monday. According to Ty, the NSA, knows exactly who sent the records to Wikileaks. So does the FBI. Seth Rich is the last shoe to drop, and the Trump Admin needs to hurry up and drop it. Clevenger goes on to state the most shocking statement related to the Russia collusion sham to date:


“I am reliably informed that the NSA or its partners intercepted at least some of the communications between Mr. Rich and Wikileaks. Before elaborating on that, however, I should first note the extent to which the “deep state” has already tried to cover up information about Mr. Rich. In an October 9, 2018 affidavit submitted in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, FBI section chief David M. Hardy testified that (1) the FBI did not investigate any matters pertaining to Mr. Rich, and (2) the FBI was unable to locate any records about Mr. Rich. Both claims were unequivocally false.” We now know there is no evidence Russia hacked the DNC and sent the hacked emails to WikiLeaks. Crowdstrike admitted this under oath and the Mueller Report backs this up. Attorney Ty Clevenger asserts the DNI has been covering up for 4 years the fact that they have communications between Seth Rich and WikiLeaks.

Read more …

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 102020
 


Andre Derain The port of Collioure 1905

 

Closing Borders Is The Most Effective Way Of Combatting Coronavirus (SN)
Accepting Death Is Not an Option (Kahn)
Early Herd Immunity: A Dangerous Misconception (Johns Hopkins)
US COVID19 Test Results: Third Consecutive Day Over 300K (CR)
Over 1 Out of Every 1000 People in NY and NJ Die From COVID19 (Mish)
Trump Says ‘No Rush’ On More Aid As Jobless Crisis Grows (AP)
South Korea Reports 34 New Coronavirus Cases, Highest In A Month (R.)
China Reports 14 New Confirmed Coronavirus Cases, Most in 2 Weeks (R.)
China Asked WHO To Cover Up Coronavirus Outbreak: German Intelligence (TN)
Top German Politician Wants To ‘Urgently’ Reopen French Border (RT)
Corona Under Control: Bavaria Lets Residents Go Out & Businesses Reopen (RT)
German Towns Bring Back Lockdown After Infections Spike Within Days (DM)
Facebook Censors Iconic Photo With Soviet Flag Raised Over Reichstag (RT)
Swiss National Bank Battling Enormous Pressure On Safe-Haven Franc (R.)
Obama Says That ‘Rule Of Law Is At Risk’ In Michael Flynn Case (Y!)

 

 

• US adds 1,568 #coronavirus deaths in 24 hours. Total deaths 80,037

 

• Significant progress in slowing growth in India, today 3,115 with plateau for 5 days at about 3,000 cases after earlier rapid increase.

• Pakistan has rapid increase from 1,165 three days ago doubling to 2,301 today.

 

 

 

Cases 4,121,778 (+ 89,015 from yesterday’s 4,032,763)

Deaths 280,868 (+ 4,191 from yesterday’s 276,677)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

First point of Crushing the Curve. Re: New Zealand. As long as air travel is the no. 1 mode of transport, it’s relatively easy to do, and to prove as well. But too late now. Next up: testing.

Closing Borders Is The Most Effective Way Of Combatting Coronavirus (SN)

Scientists in Brazil have found that the countries most affected by the coronavirus spread are the ones who continued to allow unrestricted travel across their borders, prompting further arguments that the most effective method of preventing the spread is tighter frontier controls. The research, carried out by the Federal University of Bahia in Salvador, suggests that screening and quarantining those coming into countries from outside could have been “a cheap solution for humanity”. The researchers based their analysis on records of 7,834 airports, using online flight databases documenting 67,600 transport routes in 65 countries.

The scientists factored in a number of forces, including climate, socioeconomic factors, as well economic and air transport, in an attempt to ascertain how the size of outbreaks was affected in 65 countries which had more than 100 cases. The overwhelming factor was found to be air travel, leading to a conclusion that it is “the main explanation for the growth rate of COVID-19.” The study notes that “The 2019 – 2020 world spread of COVID-19 highlights that improvements and testing of board control measures (i.e. screening associated with fast testing and quarantine of infected travellers) might be a cheap solution for humanity in comparison to health systems breakdowns and unprecedented global economic crises that the spread of infectious disease can cause.”

The data tallies with the fact that the US and the UK, which have the first and third highest air travel globally, have also suffered the most COVID-19 deaths with 74,600 and 30,615, respectively so far. The US did not close its airports until late March, while Britain’s borders have remained completely open with little to no testing or quarantining of incoming travellers happening at all. On the other hand, nations like Austria, Denmark and New Zealand closed their borders within days of their first confirmed cases, and have experienced much fewer deaths. Austria in particular has enacted tight border controls, refusing entry to anyone without a medical certificate confirming they had tested negative for the virus, and placing a mandatory 14 day quarantine on those who do not have them. The country has suffered just 68 deaths per million of its population, with only 606 overall.

Denmark closed its borders to all non-citizens in mid March, only excluding those with ‘credible purpose’ such as non-citizen Danish residents. The Scandinavian nation has recorded just 503 deaths. The UK, on the other hand has allowed some 18 million people to enter from outside the country with hardly any of them undergoing health screenings or being put into quarantine. Labour MP Stephen Doughty noted that “The fact that many of these people then likely arrived and travelled onwards across the UK with little or no adherence to social distancing, and with no checks or protections at the border is deeply disturbing.” The UK has seen 100,000 people arriving from foreign countries at UK airports every single week, all with virtually no health checks whatsoever.

Read more …

A good point. But you’re not making it better by blaming things on the “conservative movement”, or by dragging climate change into the topic.

Accepting Death Is Not an Option (Kahn)

The worst-case scenario with coronavirus is not mass death. It’s that people come to accept mass death—to accept that someone will die in the U.S. every 30 seconds as “just how it is.” Yet that is the proposition being thrust on us now. Yesterday, 2,746 people died of covid-19 in the U.S., the highest daily death toll recorded since the first confirmed deaths on American soil in February. That’s on the high end of leaked Trump administration forecasts for this time period and shows the 3,000 daily deaths come June in those forecasts might be wishful thinking. This is, in a word, horrific. But the Trump administration and its backers from conservative media to the small but vocal “reopen” movement are trying to convince people it’s not only normal but worth it.

They have turned the idea we should avoid the Bad Thing—namely, the needless deaths of thousands of Americans—on its head, arguing we should embrace it full-on and just plow forward with reopening the country. It’s a monstrous idea in the here and now, but it also sets up a dangerous precedent, priming people to accept policy failure—or, worse, reject legitimate policy solutions—on what remains the biggest issue facing humanity: climate change. Unless we demand more from our leaders and each other, we risk an even bigger catastrophe in our lifetimes. There is nothing acceptable about 3,000 people dying every day from coronavirus. What’s so nauseating about this is that we know what it looks like to contain the virus.

We’ve seen it in action. Countries as diverse as South Korea, New Zealand, and Vietnam have all successfully flattened the curve of death and suffering. The steps they broadly followed are proactive lockdowns and a slow reopening as the curve of infections flattened followed by contact tracing, mass testing, and ensuring frontline workers have ready access to personal protective equipment.

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Even if herd immunity were achievable, and this takes the fattest question mark you have ever seen, we don’t need it anymore than we need a vaccine. Which is good, because we have neither.

Early Herd Immunity: A Dangerous Misconception (Johns Hopkins)

We have listened with concern to voices erroneously suggesting that herd immunity may “soon slow the spread” of COVID-19. For example, Rush Limbaugh recently claimed that “herd immunity has occurred in California.” As infectious disease epidemiologists, we wish to state clearly that herd immunity against COVID-19 will not be achieved at a population level in 2020, barring a public health catastrophe. Although more than 2.5 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide, studies suggest that (as of early April 2020) no more than 2-4% of any country’s population has been infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes COVID-19). Even in hotspots like New York City that have been hit hardest by the pandemic, initial studies suggest that perhaps 15-21% of people have been exposed so far.

In getting to that level of exposure, more than 17,500 of the 8.4 million people in New York City (about 1 in every 500 New Yorkers) have died, with the overall death rate in the city suggesting deaths may be undercounted and mortality may be even higher. Some have entertained the idea of “controlled voluntary infection,” akin to the “chickenpox parties” of the 1980s. However, COVID-19 is 100 times more lethal than the chickenpox. For example, on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the mortality rate among those infected with SARS-CoV-2 was 1%. Someone who goes to a “coronavirus party” to get infected would not only be substantially increasing their own chance of dying in the next month, they would also be putting their families and friends at risk.

COVID-19 is now the leading cause of death in the United States, killing almost 2,000 Americans every day. Chickenpox never killed more than 150 Americans in a year. To reach herd immunity for COVID-19, likely 70% or more of the population would need to be immune. Without a vaccine, over 200 million Americans would have to get infected before we reach this threshold. Put another way, even if the current pace of the COVID-19 pandemic continues in the United States – with over 25,000 confirmed cases a day – it will be well into 2021 before we reach herd immunity. If current daily death rates continue, over half a million Americans would be dead from COVID-19 by that time.

As we discuss when and how to phase in re-opening, it is important to understand how vulnerable we remain. Increased testing will help us better understand the scope of infection, but it is clear this pandemic is still only beginning to unfold.

Read more …

Someone tries to claim that less than a million tests per day will be enough.

US COVID19 Test Results: Third Consecutive Day Over 300K (CR)

The US might be able to test 400,000 to 600,000 people per day sometime in May according to Dr. Fauci – and that might be enough for test and trace. However, the US might need more than 900,000 tests per day according to Dr. Jha of Harvard’s Global Health Institute. There were 300,842 test results reported over the last 24 hours. This data is from the COVID Tracking Project. The percent positive over the last 24 hours was 8.4% (red line). The US probably needs enough tests to push the percentage positive below 5%. (probably much lower based on testing in New Zealand).

Read more …

Singapore is not the greatest example. It had another 876 new cases yesterday.

Over 1 Out of Every 1000 People in NY and NJ Die From COVID19 (Mish)

New Jersey joined New York today in the dubious distinction of coronavirus deaths rates of over 1 in 1,000 people. As states start opening up here are some charts to consider. The chart is not population adjusted. I made the chart as a spot check to see if new deaths were generally in line with the lead chart. There are some new states, notably Texas and Florida, but they are not in the front of the pack, and the day-to-day totals are very noisy.

Three Obvious Standouts • Singapore • South Korea • Japan.


Singapore , South Korea, and Japan all did three things that the US did not do and many in the US still do not want to do.
1) Aggressive Early Testing
2) Cooperative Society on Social Distancing Rules
3) Contact Tracing
1: The US did not do aggressive early testing and it’s too late for that now.
2: The US was late in social distancing and some want to fight it
3: The US did not do contact tracing and may still view that as violation of personal privacy.

Too Late for Early Testing, But Not Overall Testing: Most do want aggressive testing, but despite Trump’s claims, the US is not where we need to be. However, the number of tests is finally ramping up. Coupled with spotty social distancing (compared to other countries) Is that enough? I don’t know, but we are about to find out.

Read more …

Guess the bankers are satisfied for a few weeks.

Trump Says ‘No Rush’ On More Aid As Jobless Crisis Grows (AP)

President Donald Trump says he’s in “no rush” to negotiate another financial rescue bill, even as the government reported that more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs last month due to economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus. The president’s low-key approach came Friday as the Labor Department reported the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression and as Democrats prepared to unveil what Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer calls a “Rooseveltian-style” aid package to shore up the economy and address the health crisis. Some congressional conservatives, meanwhile, who set aside long-held opposition to deficits to pass more than $2 trillion in relief so far, have expressed reservations about another massive spending package.

“We’ve kind of paused as far as formal negotiations go,” Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council told reporters Friday. He said the administration wanted to let the last round of recovery funding kick in before committing to hundreds of billions or more in additional spending. “Let’s have a look at what the latest round produces, give it a month or so to evaluate that.” Kudlow added that talks were in a “lull” and that administration officials and legislators would “regroup” in the next several weeks. Still, White House aides are drawing up a wish-list for a future spending bill, including a payroll tax cut, liability protection for businesses that reopen and potentially billions in infrastructure spending.

Kudlow added that the White House was also considering allowing businesses to immediately expense the costs of modifiying their facilities to accommodate public safety measures necessary to reopen. The notion was brought up on a call with House members advising the White House on reopening plans Thursday evening and drew bipartisan support. “We’re in no rush, we’re in no rush,” Trump told reporters Friday during an event with House Republicans. He called on Democratic-controlled House to return to Washington, adding, “We want to see what they have.”

Read more …

One guy “meets” 1,500 people in one day, infects 42.

South Korea Reports 34 New Coronavirus Cases, Highest In A Month (R.)

South Korea reported 34 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, the highest daily number in a month, after a small outbreak emerged around a slew of nightclubs that a confirmed patient had visited. Of the new cases, 26 were domestically transmitted infections and eight were imported cases, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said. Sunday’s total was the highest since April 9. After battling the first major epidemic outside China, South Korea posted zero or very few domestic cases over the past 10 days, with the daily tally hovering around 10 or less in recent weeks.


The resurgence followed a small but growing coronavirus outbreak centred around a handful of Seoul nightclubs, which a man in his late 20s had visited before testing positive for the virus. At least 15 people were traced to that man as of Friday, and 14 of the 26 cases were reported from Seoul on Sunday, although the KCDC did not specify how many were linked. The outbreak prompted Seoul city to impose an immediate temporary shutdown of all nightly entertainment facilities on Saturday. The city said it is tracking down abut 1,500 people who have gone to the clubs, and has asked anyone who was there last weekend to self-isolate for 14 days and be tested.

Read more …

Time for more lockdowns.

China Reports 14 New Confirmed Coronavirus Cases, Most in 2 Weeks (R.)

China’s National Health Commission reported 14 new confirmed coronavirus cases on May 9, the highest number since April 28, including the first for more than a month in the city of Wuhan where the outbreak was first detected late last year. While China had officially designated all areas of the country as low-risk last Thursday, the new cases according to data published on Sunday represent a jump from the single case reported for the day before. The number was lifted by a cluster of 11 in Shulan city in northeastern Jilin province.


Jilin officials on Sunday raised the Shulan city risk level to high from medium, having hoisted it to medium the day before after one woman tested positive on May 7. The 11 new cases made public on Sunday are members of her family or people who came into contact with her or family members. The new Wuhan case, the first reported in the epicentre of China’s outbreak since April 3, was previously asymptomatic, according to the health commission. Aside from the Shulan cluster and the Wuhan case, the remaining two new confirmed cases were imported infections. It also said newly discovered asymptomatic cases were at 20, the highest since May 1 and up from 15 a day earlier.

Read more …

Is this why Tedros didn’t declare a pandemic for another 7 weeks after?

China Asked WHO To Cover Up Coronavirus Outbreak: German Intelligence (TN)

Chinese leader Xi Jinping asked World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to suppress news about the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the German intelligence agency BND found, according to a report by German magazine Der Spiegel. During a conversation on Jan. 21, Xi reportedly asked Tedros not to announce that the virus could be transmitted between humans and to delay any declaration of a coronavirus pandemic. It took until the end of January before the WHO declared that the coronavirus outbreak needed to receive international attention.


Because of China’s delay, the world wasted four to six weeks it could have used better to counter the virus from spreading, the BND concluded. Germany’s Robert Koch Institute also said that China failed to reveal all relevant information at the outset of the epidemic, leading it to turn to the BND for advice, according to a report in the Sueddeutsche Zeitung quoted by CNA. In a response to the German media reports, Chinese diplomats said the opposite was true, arguing that the communist country’s handling of the virus saved time that was then wasted by other governments.

Read more …

Keeping the borders shut would risk “permanently damaging cross-border coexistence”. But exporting the virus from one country to the next would not?

Top German Politician Wants To ‘Urgently’ Reopen French Border (RT)

The head of Germany’s most populous state has called for the reopening of the country’s French border to be fast-tracked. The federal government earlier warned that such actions risk launching a new wave of Covid-19 infections. “We urgently need to open the border with France,” Armin Laschet, minister president of the country’s North Rhine-Westphalia state, which borders France, told German media. The lockdown there ends on May 11. That would be a good time to send a signal to our neighbors that we are striving for a common European response to the pandemic. Laschet suggested that the German government should also “talk to Austria in this sense.”


France is due to initiate its first phase of relaxing quarantine rules on Monday. However, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said earlier this week that the border will remain closed until at least June 15. The German government has been under pressure to lift restrictions on international travel early as some European countries begin to gradually ease their lockdowns. A group of German lawmakers and members of the European Parliament have called on Interior Minister Horst Seehofer to fast-track the reopening of the border crossings. The foreign minister of the small nation of Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn, has also written a letter to Seehofer, arguing that the shutdown of the border crossings is causing “growing discontent” among the population on both sides of the border and risks “permanently damaging cross-border coexistence” in the region.

Read more …

And how does one define “under control”? “.. the number of fresh cases has dropped by more than half across the region..”

Corona Under Control: Bavaria Lets Residents Go Out & Businesses Reopen (RT)

Despite warnings the Covid-19 crisis isn’t over, one of Germany’s wealthiest states is set to open up, allowing people to go out for any reason and letting almost all businesses – from retail to tourism – welcome visitors again. “Now it is time to act,” proclaimed Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Soeder as he rolled out“a path of reason” for the wealthy Alpine state. “In the beginning we had an explosive [rate of] infection,” Soeder admitted, adding though that “coronavirus is now under control.” Bavaria claims almost one-quarter – over 43,000 – of all confirmed coronavirus infections in Germany, but the number of fresh cases has dropped by more than half across the region, he said, explaining why relaxing the lockdown is an option. The current figures “allow for careful steps toward opening up,” provided that a “combination of caution and freedom” prevail.


Starting from May 6, Bavarians can visit anyone outside their own household. Seeing relatives in nursing homes will also become possible this weekend, although strict rules will remain in place, with visitors still having to wear masks at all times and meet their loved ones outdoors wherever possible. From May 11, zoos, botanical gardens, museums, libraries, galleries, exhibitions, and memorials will likewise open their doors – but only conditionally, meaning that their staff will have to accommodate social distancing and coronavirus hygiene measures. Supermarkets and stores with premises bigger than 800 square meters are also cleared to resume their activities. Locals will be able to more fully enjoy the outdoors in the second half of May when the state-wide ban on open-air dining is lifted. Bavaria, on a par with a handful of other German states, is also allowing hotels and leisure places to welcome visitors again, to much relief of its tourism industry.

Read more …

They’re risking the country falling apart. Just like the US does.

German Towns Bring Back Lockdown After Infections Spike Within Days (DM)

Local authorities in Germany are bringing back lockdown measures after coronavirus infections spiked just days after Angela Merkel started to ease them. Germany has 16 federal states, with the power to relax restrictions, who have all agreed to reimpose lockdown if new cases hit 50 per 100,000 people over seven days. The regional government in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populated state, recorded a spike in coronavirus cases after 150 of 1,200 employees tested positive at a slaughterhouse in Coesfeld. The regional government has postponed reopening restaurants, tourist spots, fitness studios and larger shops which was supposed to happen on May 11.

Reopening schools and daycare centres is set to go ahead as planned. North Rhine-Westphalia’s health minister Karl-Josef Laumann said the slaughterhouse infection rate had pushed the region above 50 per 100,000 people to 61 per 100,000 people. He closed the slaughterhouse temporarily and said employees at all of the state’s meat processing plants would be tested. A different slaughterhouse in the northern state Schleswig-Holstein also saw a rise in employees testing positive for the virus taking the district’s infection rate over the 50 per 100,000 people threshold. In the eastern state of Thuringia, the local government recorded more than 80 infections per 100,000 people over the past week.

The majority of these infections were among employees and residents in six care homes and one geriatrics hospital. Martina Schweinsburg, the chief administrator of Thuringia’s Greiz, said: ‘To be clear: We’re not going to put the entire district in quarantine just two small towns were particularly affected.’

Read more …

Note: the photo apparently wasn’t taken on May 2, but the day after during a re-enactment.

Facebook Censors Iconic Photo With Soviet Flag Raised Over Reichstag (RT)

Social media feeds are filled with historic shots marking Victory Day, but Facebook seems to have taken issue with one that symbolizes the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, and it keeps deleting a recently-colorized version of it. Taken during the Battle of Berlin on May 2, 1945, Yevgeny Khaldei’s ‘Raising a Flag over the Reichstag’ commonly springs to mind when it comes to the subject of World War II and Victory Day celebrations. It universally appears in literature, documentaries and, indeed, in social media posts. RT has even reenacted the iconic moment as part of its V-Day project.

All the more puzzled, then, were social media users who tried posting the iconic shot on Facebook on May 9, as Russia marked 75 years since the defeat of Nazi Germany. While the vintage black-and-white versions of the famous photo seemed to pass FB algorithms with flying colors, the version skilfully colorized by Olga Shirnina (aka Klimbim) –showing the Soviet flag in its original bright red– set off alarm bells. “Your post goes against our Community Standards on dangerous individuals and organisations,” was the message shown to several RT employees who’d set out to verify the reports and tried to post the picture. The warning appeared minutes after posts were completed, after which the image just vanished altogether.

Details provided in the warning only broadly outline the topics banned on FB, such as terrorism and incitement of hate and violence. There is no indication that FB has ever consistently associated the Soviet symbols with any on the list, although the network does have a history of erroneously censoring certain historic shots.


Yevgeny Khaldei – 75 years ago the Soviet banner was raised over the Reichstag. 11 million Soviet soldiers died in WW2 and three-quarters of German losses were suffered at the hands of the Red Army – May 2 1945

Read more …

Just link it to the euro.

Swiss National Bank Battling Enormous Pressure On Safe-Haven Franc (R.)

The Swiss National Bank has no alternative to its ultra-expansive monetary policy, with the coronavirus crisis heaping “enormous” appreciation pressure on the safe-haven Swiss franc, SNB Chairman Thomas Jordan said in newspaper interviews. The SNB was not happy about the negative interest rate of minus 0.75% it charges banks who park money with it overnight, Jordan told the SonntagsZeitung paper. It would lift the rates — the lowest in the world — as soon as circumstances allowed, he said, although this was currently impossible. “We unfortunately have no choice but to maintain the negative interest rate,” said Jordan. “Without it, we would be in a much more difficult situation now.

“The Swiss franc would be massively more attractive and the financing conditions for the Swiss economy would be much worse,” he added. “The negative interest is necessary at the moment to avert major damage to Switzerland.” The SNB was also stepping up foreign currency purchases to dampen the rise of the franc, Jordan said. Sight deposits at the central bank, a proxy for SNB interventions, have risen by nearly 77 billion Swiss francs ($79.33 billion) this year, while the franc has risen to its highest level against the euro since July 2015. “We have emphasized several times … we are active in the foreign exchange markets to reduce the pressure on the Swiss franc,” Jordan told the paper.

“We deliberately never report our transactions in detail, but I would like to emphasise that we are making a substantial commitment,” he said. All this was necessary to prevent the franc from strengthening, hurting Switzerland’s export-orientated economy and triggering deflation.

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It certainly is. But not in the way he means.

Obama Says That ‘Rule Of Law Is At Risk’ In Michael Flynn Case (Y!)

Former President Barack Obama, talking privately to ex-members of his administration, said Friday that the “rule of law is at risk” in the wake of what he called an unprecedented move by the Justice Department to drop charges against former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn. In the same chat, a tape of which was obtained by Yahoo News, Obama also lashed out at the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as “an absolute chaotic disaster.” “The news over the last 24 hours I think has been somewhat downplayed — about the Justice Department dropping charges against Michael Flynn,” Obama said in a web talk with members of the Obama Alumni Association.

“And the fact that there is no precedent that anybody can find for someone who has been charged with perjury just getting off scot-free. That’s the kind of stuff where you begin to get worried that basic — not just institutional norms — but our basic understanding of rule of law is at risk. And when you start moving in those directions, it can accelerate pretty quickly as we’ve seen in other places.” The Flynn case was invoked by Obama as a principal reason that his former administration officials needed to make sure former Vice President Joe Biden wins the November election against President Trump. “So I am hoping that all of you feel the same sense of urgency that I do,” he said.

“Whenever I campaign, I’ve always said, ‘Ah, this is the most important election.’ Especially obviously when I was on the ballot, that always feels like it’s the most important election. This one — I’m not on the ballot — but I am pretty darn invested. We got to make this happen.” Obama misstated the charge to which Flynn had previously pleaded guilty. He was charged with false statements to the FBI, not perjury. But the Justice Department, in a filing with a federal judge on Thursday, asked that the case brought by special counsel Robert Mueller be dismissed, arguing that FBI agents did not have a justifiable reason to question the then national security adviser about his conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak — talks FBI agents and Mueller’s prosecutors concluded he had lied about.

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We try to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the process.

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 092020
 


Tomb of the diver, Paestum c480 BCE

 

Ugly US Jobs Data Hides As Much As It Reveals (R.)
How Australia Got On Top Of COVID19 (SMH)
South Korea’s COVID19 Exceptionalism (Atl.)
South Korea Backtracks On Reopening After COVID19 Cases Jump (NW)
Enough With the Phoney ‘Lockdown’ Debate (Kay)
UK To Place All Incoming Travellers Under 14-Day Quarantine (R.)
COVID19 Death Rate Sinking? Data Reveals A Complex Reality (DW)
Want To Be More Like Sweden? What If We Already Are? (Mish)
Velociraptors Still On The Loose? No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park (McS)
The Bailout Miscalculation That Could Crash the Economy (Taibbi)
Wall Street-Friendly Lawmakers Sought Bailout For Shady Lenders (HuffPo)
Auto Production Collapses By 99% In Mexico and Brazil (R.)
Our Utter Incompetence Actually Helps Us (Kunstler)
What Did Joe Biden Know About Michael Flynn? (York)
Andrew McCabe’s Bizarre CNN Interview (Turley)

 

 

•The US recorded 1,635 #coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 77,178, with a confirmed total of 1,283,829 cases

 

 

• Brazil today now 10,199, total near 150k
• Mexico 23% jump to 1,982, new high
• India today 3,362, small decrease after large increase
• Pakistan 1,791 new high
• Iran recent increasing trend continues 1,556
• Kuwait 641, Qatar 1,311 both new highs

 

 

 

Cases 4,032,763 (+ 98,052 from yesterday’s 3,934,711)

Deaths 276,677 (+ 5,582 from yesterday’s 271,095)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer Deaths among Closed cases is down to 17%. That still needs to come down much more.

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Total nonfarm payroll employment fell by 20.5 million in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bringing the unemployment rate to 14.7%.

That is the highest rate and largest month-over-month increase since the report began in its current form in 1948.

Ugly US Jobs Data Hides As Much As It Reveals (R.)

April really was the cruelest month. Over 20 million Americans lost their jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bringing the unemployment rate to an eye-popping 14.7% – the highest since at least the 1940s. But the headline number leaves out much of the Covid-19 economic story. The report makes for grisly – if unsurprising – reading. The economy shed roughly a decade of job gains. The figure dwarfs the 8.7 million jobs lost in the Great Recession that lasted from December 2007 to June 2009 and suggests an annualized second-quarter GDP contraction north of 30% is possible. It represents the highest recorded losses in the report’s seven-decade history, and includes the wipeout of almost half of the country’s leisure and hospitality jobs.

Comparing this to previous crises and slumps is of limited use, because the United States has never intentionally shut off almost 30% of its economy before. But other things are different too. For one, Friday’s figure doesn’t necessarily paint an accurate income picture. Federal stimulus has added $600 a week to jobless benefits, making them, on average, actually higher than normal salaries in a majority of states, according to the New York Times. This is only temporary and the levels vary by state, but it’s still a huge difference from previous crises. The $1,200 one-off payments made to many Americans also mean households, overall, might not see income decline as much as the depressing statistics would suggest.

Just as the record lows in unemployment before Covid-19 didn’t give a full picture, the highs present a similar problem. The headline unemployment figure leaves out workers who aren’t looking for jobs. And it classifies over 18 million workers as being on temporary layoff – but it’s impossible to know whether they will be rehired. After the lockdown, demand may remain depressed because people are scared to, say, go to restaurants or spend much at all. Jobless figures during the decade-plus expansion didn’t account for the low quality of jobs, limited benefits, and low labor-force participation rate. Unfortunately, Friday’s statistics mostly make clear what was already known – that the U.S. economy is in an induced coma – without giving clues on how or when it will wake up.

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In a nutshell: by ignoring the WHO.

How Australia Got On Top Of COVID19 (SMH)

It got really serious for Greg Hunt while he was at the cricket. It was a Saturday morning, February 1, while Australia’s Health Minister was watching his 10-year-old son play that he got the message. In between phone calls and text messages, Hunt was cheering his boy on as he walked laps around the Balnarring cricket oval on his home turf of Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. “We now have sustained human-to-human transmission outside Wuhan,” read the message from Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, as Hunt recalls it. “I think we are going to have to close the border to China.” It’s a morning that Hunt says he remembers clearly. The government was already on high alert.

It had been 12 days since Murphy had informed Hunt he was invoking the Biosecurity Act to list the novel coronavirus as a disease of pandemic potential. Behind closed doors, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had already told the national security committee of the cabinet that he’d resolved to “respect the medical advice” as the guiding principle in any response to the epidemic that was spreading in China. Now it was time to act. Hunt immediately connected with Morrison and Murphy on a three-way phone call. Murphy set out the facts and advised: “There’s a very strong risk of this spreading to Australia.” “Are you recommending that we close the border to China?” the Prime Minister asked. Yes, came Murphy’s answer. It was announced at 5pm that same day. It was to be, in Hunt’s words, “almost the biggest, one-day decision a government had made in 50 years”.

Beijing, predictably, put on a show of anger. The Chinese embassy gave Canberra a stern lecture, called Australia “xenophobic” and demanded compensation for Chinese students who were inconvenienced. The Australian government realised that something was badly wrong with the World Health Organisation, or WHO, around this time. The Geneva-based UN organisation kept insisting that there was no cause for countries to ban travel from China. Many nations, Britain and Canada among them, were trusting enough to take its advice. Australia wasn’t the first to shut down arrivals from China. The US and Singapore had done it a day earlier. Taiwan had barred tourists from China’s mainland earlier still, on January 26.

Australian officials since have reflected privately that, if Canberra had been watching China as closely as Taiwan does – and with as much scepticism of its official announcements – Australia would have acted at the same time. Taiwan is the standout global success story in managing COVID-19 to date. It’s an island with roughly the same population as Australia but only six deaths. Australia’s death toll is approaching 100. Taiwan’s restrictions on movement weren’t much more drastic than Australia’s but it moved sooner. Taiwan also was smart enough to put no faith in the WHO. Indeed, Beijing has barred Taiwan from membership of the WHO. Which, in this case, hasn’t done Taiwan any harm whatsoever.

Canberra announced other border closures in short order – Iran, Italy, South Korea. But then it paused before finally banning all foreign arrivals after March 19. Was it a mistake to wait so long? Should Australia have followed its China ban with a global ban sooner?

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What comes before the fall?

South Korea’s COVID19 Exceptionalism (Atl.)

By the end of February, South Korea had the most COVID-19 patients of any country outside China. New confirmed cases were doubling every few days, and pharmacies were running out of face masks. More than a dozen countries imposed travel restrictions to protect their citizens from the Korean outbreak, including the U.S., which had, at the time, recorded an official COVID-19 death toll low enough to count on one hand. But just as South Korea appeared to be descending into catastrophe, the country stopped the virus in its tracks. The government demanded that the Shincheonji Church turn over its full membership list, through which the Ministry of Health identified thousands of worshippers. All were ordered to self-isolate.

Within days, thousands of people in Daegu were tested for the virus. Individuals with the most serious cases were sent to hospitals, while those with milder cases checked into isolation units at converted corporate training facilities. The government used a combination of interviews and cellphone surveillance to track down the recent contacts of new patients and ordered those contacts to self-isolate as well. Within a month, the Korean outbreak was effectively contained. In the first two weeks of March, new daily cases fell from 800 to fewer than 100. (This morning, the nation of 51 million reported zero new domestic infections for the third straight day.) On April 15, the country successfully held a national parliamentary election with the highest turnout in three decades, without triggering another wave.

South Korea is not unique in its ability to bend the curve of daily cases; New Zealand, Australia, and Norway have done so, as well. But it is perhaps the largest democracy to reduce new daily cases by more than 90 percent from peak, and its density and proximity to China make the achievement particularly noteworthy. [..] In mid-March, the U.S. and South Korea had the same number of coronavirus-caused fatalities—approximately 90. In April, South Korea lost a total of 85 souls to COVID-19, while the U.S. lost 62,000—an average of 85 deaths every hour. That the U.S. population is approximately six times larger than South Korea’s does little to soften the horror of the comparison.

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Uh-oh….

South Korea Backtracks On Reopening After COVID19 Cases Jump (NW)

Despite recently reopening businesses amid an impressive decline in new coronavirus case, the South Korean government has issued a nationwide health advisory for bars and nightclubs to close down for 30 more days after health officials tracked 13 new cases to a single person who attended five nightclubs and bars in the country’s capital city of Seoul. “We believe we will have another community infection,” said Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip at a Friday press briefing. “The spread took place in enclosed and crowded spaces. Transmission with no known source of infection can lead to a widespread cluster infection and that is why the government is not letting its guard down.”

The man in question had no symptoms when he visited the nightspots. He eventually tested positive on Wednesday and gained admittance to a hospital in Suwon, a city south of Seoul, according to the UPI wire service. Officials think he may have come in contact with over 1,500 people during his night out. City officials are now using CCTV and credit card records to help identify visitors and are encouraging them to self-isolate and immediately report any coronavirus symptoms to local hospitals. With a decline in new cases, South Korea has allowed places of worship, museums venues, recreational facilities and nightclubs to recently resume business. The country’s high schools begin reopening next week and its lower schools will gradually reopen throughout May.

However, similar to the reopening plans of many U.S. states, South Korea has said it will pull back on and reverse reopenings if new cases emerge. While the number of coronavirus cases in South Korea originally exploded in late February and early March, the country’s Ministry of Health worked hard to conduct rigorous contact tracing, contacting anyone who had attended venues where patients with confirmed cases of coronavirus had gone. Using a combination of interviews and cellphone surveillance, anyone in proximity to these patients and their neighbors were widely tested and all encouraged to self-quarantine.

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People lock themselves down.

Enough With the Phoney ‘Lockdown’ Debate (Kay)

The skeptics who argue that lockdowns “don’t work” usually will support this claim by ticking off nations that have succeeded in fighting COVID-19 without imposing harsh government restrictions. But when you parse the actual data, what you find is that these tend to be high-trust, high-education, high-information societies—such as in Scandinavia and East Asia—where official lockdowns haven’t been necessary precisely because a critical mass of people have effectively locked themselves down on their own. If, say, spring-breakers in Miami were as conscientious and disciplined as, say, most office workers in Stockholm or Tokyo, the state’s governor wouldn’t have had to clear the beaches. But they’re not, so he did. Such spectacles tell us a lot about college students, but not much about lockdowns.


The crowdsourced aspect of lockdowns is bad news and good news. It’s bad news because getting all of society’s actors on the same page will take many months. And so we won’t be able to get our economies up and running on anything like the speedy timeline that most self-styled lockdown opponents are seeking. But it’s good news because a slower, crowdsourced form of lockdown lifting will be subject to a whole slew of negative feedback mechanisms whereby outbreaks naturally lead to corrections. And so we can avoid the problem, depicted in Ferguson’s graphs, by which sudden quantum shifts in centralized policy yield behavioural spikes whose catastrophic effects set off an endless wave of epidemiological boom and bust.

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This should have been a January headline. Now all the clusters are in place.

UK To Place All Incoming Travellers Under 14-Day Quarantine (R.)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce on Sunday that all travellers coming to the United Kingdom will be quarantined for a fortnight, The Times reported. “Passengers arriving at airports and ports including Britons returning from abroad, will have to self-isolate for 14 days,” the newspaper said, adding that travellers will have to provide the address sat which they will self-isolate on arrival. Travellers from Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man will be exempt, as will lorry drivers bringing crucial supplies, the report added.


The authorities will carry out spot checks and those found to be breaking the rules are to face fines of up to 1,000 pounds or even deportation, the report added. According to The Times, travellers will have to fill in a digital form with details of where they plan to self-isolate themselves for the duration of the quarantine. The measures will help reduce the “transmission of the virus as we move into the next phase of our response,” the report said, citing a government source. The measures are expected to come into force in early June.

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The all-cause death number. Hot potato.

COVID19 Death Rate Sinking? Data Reveals A Complex Reality (DW)

When is a COVID-19 death counted as a COVID-19 death? The answer is not as straightforward as one might think, because different countries have different methods for determining a COVID-19 case or declaring COVID-19 as a deceased person’s cause of death. Some countries, like Spain, carry out post-mortem COVID-19 tests, while in others like Germany, the UK, or Turkey it not a common practice. Belgium, for example, counts all coronavirus deaths outside hospitals in its daily statistics: This means the country includes people suspected of having died of coronavirus, without a confirmed positive test result, whereas countries like Italy only count deaths in hospitals. Spain only recently started to count non-hospitalized, coronavirus-related deaths from some regions.

Why is the all-cause death number relevant? There are a few essential lessons we can learn from all-cause death data. According to many scientific experts, it is the only unbiased information we can trust to measure the real impact of the pandemic, and create policies to minimize its effects. The number of people dying of COVID-19 is huge, but it still is not the leading cause of death in many countries. People are more reluctant to go to hospitals because they fear contagion, or simply do not want to burden the health system further. However, a scenario in which the leading causes of death, such as heart disease or cancer, increase by even 5% could translate into hundreds of thousands of people.


David Spiegelhalter, Professor of Public Understanding of Risk from the University of Cambridge, notes the differences in each country: “I would say the all-cause death number is the really unbiased measure of the impact of this epidemic. And it’s the one I look up far more closely,” he told DW. Data collected by DW both on all-cause deaths and COVID-19 deaths shows: Thousands more people are dying directly or indirectly due to COVID-19 than the official numbers suggest. DW’s data analysis focused on Spain, England and Wales, but indicates a pattern present in other countries too.

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Success breeds success.

Want To Be More Like Sweden? What If We Already Are? (Mish)

Unlike most of the rest of the world, Sweden did not mandate coronavirus lockdowns. Instead, most measures were voluntary, but it did cutoff access to nursing homes after a surge in deaths. It has been an experiment worth monitoring. And for weeks, many in the US have been clamoring for the US to be “more like Sweden”. But what do the results really show and what is Sweden saying now? Please note the head of Sweden’s no-lockdown coronavirus plan said the country’s Heavy Death Toll ‘Came as a Surprise’ “We never really calculated with a high death toll initially, I must say,” said epidemiologist Anders Tegnell. “We calculated on more people being sick, but the death toll really came as a surprise to us.”

The deniers will point out that about half of Sweden’s deaths came from nursing homes as if those deaths don’t matter. When it comes to per-capita counts, the US is remarkably like Sweden. This can be portrayed two ways. • See, the lockdowns didn’t help. • Based on population density, Sweden is a total disaster. You should not compare a tiny Nordic country to the US but there it is anyway, for those clamoring to be more like Sweden. On a fatality rate basis, we better hope the US does not become more like Sweden. Clearly Sweden is not the success story widely claimed. Unfortunately, people will look at these charts, continue to make inane flu comparisons and continue to tout Sweden’s success. The one area of attack left open is whether or not the US approach was economically justified. I will not address that question because I will not change anyone’s mind.

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“And will some of the employees returning to work have their limbs torn off and tossed into the air like a juggler tossing bowling pins? Undoubtedly.”

Velociraptors Still On The Loose? No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park (McS)

Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!

Now, I understand why some people might be skeptical about reopening an amusement park when there are still blindingly fast, 180-pound predators roaming around. But the fact of the matter is, velociraptors are intelligent, shifty creatures that are not going to be contained any time soon, so we might as well just start getting used to them killing a few people every now and then. Some might argue that we should follow the example of other parks that have successfully dealt with velociraptor escapes. But here at Jurassic Park, we’ve never been ones to listen to the recommendations of scientists, or safety experts, or bioethicists, so why would we start now?

As some of you know, Dr. Ian Malcolm, our lead safety consultant, had recommended that we wait until the velociraptors have been located and contained before reopening the park, so he wasn’t thrilled when we told him the news. I believe his exact words were “you were so preoccupied with whether you could reopen the park, you didn’t stop to think whether you should.” Talk about a guy on a high horse.

That said, you’ll be pleased to know that, rather than double down on our containment efforts, we’ve decided to dissolve the velociraptor containment task force altogether, and focus instead on how we can get people back into the park as quickly as possible. So rather than concentrating on so-called life-saving measures like “staying in designated safe areas” or “masking your scent,” we’ll be focusing on the details that will get our customers really excited, like a wider selection of fun hats, a pterodactyl-shaped gondola ride to the top of the island, and a brand new Gordon Ramsay designed menu at the Cretaceous Cafe.

In addition to satisfying our customers, the decision to reopen the park is also about allowing the furloughed employees of Jurassic Park to get back to the work they love. Could we have continued to pay their salaries for several months until we got the velociraptor situation under control? Definitely. We’re the wealthiest nature preserve on the planet after all. And will some of the employees returning to work have their limbs torn off and tossed into the air like a juggler tossing bowling pins? Undoubtedly. But we’re confident that with a few safety precautions put in place, we’ll be able to keep the level of workplace injuries and deaths just below levels that would elicit widespread public outrage.

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Do these people really not understand securitization? To skip a few steps, US housing would collapse without these “miscalculations”. There’s now talk of a federal agency to take over for the “servicers”. Another bottomless pit.

The Bailout Miscalculation That Could Crash the Economy (Taibbi)

When Donald Trump signed the $2 trillion CARES Act rescue on March 27, there was immediate praise across the political spectrum for section 4022, concerning homeowners in distress. Under the rule, anyone with a federally-backed mortgage could now receive instant relief. Forbearance, the law said: “…shall be granted for up to 180 days, and shall be extended for an additional period of up to 180 days at the request of the borrower.” Essentially, anyone with a federally-backed mortgage was now eligible for a six-month break from home payments. Really it was a year, given that a 180-day extension could be granted “at the request of the borrower.” It made sense. The burden of having to continue to make home payments during the coronavirus crisis would be crushing for the millions of people put out of work.

If anything, the measure didn’t go far enough, only covering homeowners with federally-backed (a.k.a. “agency”) mortgages. Still, six months or a year of relief from mortgage payments was arguably the most valuable up-front benefit of the entire bailout for ordinary people. Unfortunately, this portion of the CARES Act was conceived so badly that it birthed a potentially disastrous new issue that could have severe systemic ramifications. “Whoever wrote this bill didn’t have the faintest fucking clue how mortgages work,” is how one financial analyst put it to me. When homeowners take out mortgages, loans are bundled into pools and turned into securities, which are then sold off to investors, often big institutional players like pension funds.

Once loans are pooled and sold off as securities, the job of collecting home payments from actual people and delivering them to investors in mortgage bonds goes to companies called mortgage servicers. Many of these firms are not banks, and have familiar names like Quicken Loans or Freedom Mortgage. The mortgage servicing business is relatively uncomplicated – companies are collecting money from one group of people and handing it to another, for a fee – but these quasi-infamous firms still regularly manage to screw it up. “An industry that is just… not very good,” is the generous description of Richard Cordray, former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Because margins in the mortgage service business are relatively small, these firms try to automate as much as possible. Many use outdated computers and have threadbare staffing policies.

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Fully bipartisan.

Wall Street-Friendly Lawmakers Sought Bailout For Shady Lenders (HuffPo)

A bipartisan group of House Financial Services Committee members asked the Federal Reserve in an April letter to extend an emergency loan program to a host of controversial financial firms that offer high-interest loans to low-income Americans. In other words, firms that offer Americans high-interest loans want a low-cost loan from the government. All 14 signatories of the April letter are recipients of campaign contributions this election cycle from the political action committee of the American Financial Services Association, or AFSA, which represents subprime lenders’ interests in Washington.

“It’s bad on the substance to have the Federal Reserve be lending to subprime consumer and small business lenders,” Graham Steele, a former Democratic counsel on the Senate Banking Committee, who now runs Stanford School of Business’ Corporations and Society Initiative. “It doesn’t look good when the members asking for that kind of bailout for these companies are also funded by those predatory lenders.” Writing to Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, the lawmakers encouraged the Fed to expand eligibility for loans from its Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, or TALF, for “non-bank lenders and fintech platforms.” “Non-bank lenders” issue loans that are less regulated than loans made by traditional banks, but they are also willing to take greater risks. And “fintech platforms” are a kind of non-bank lender that operate online and through mobile apps.

The House members – seven Democrats and seven Republicans – were responding to a letter that the AFSA sent to Congress appealing for its members to become eligible for the program. In late March, the Fed reinitiated TALF, a program it created to shore up consumer lenders after the 2008 financial crisis, to address the economic fallout from the public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fed has said that every financial institution is eligible for the emergency loans, but it will not bail out some riskier forms of credit. In the letter, the House members make clear that they specifically want TALF to include loans issued by “installment” lending firms that the program currently excludes. Those firms offer high-interest loans for low-income borrowers to pay off in installments.

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My first reaction is: that’s great, half a million fewer cars! Than I realize of course I’m not supposed to think that. “Bad, bad” for the economy!

Auto Production Collapses By 99% In Mexico and Brazil (R.)

Auto production in Mexico and Brazil, Latin America’s top producers, plunged by an unprecedented 99% in April as a result of the coronavirus crisis, with the two countries building a total of just 5,569 vehicles. In normal times, Mexico and Brazil produce over half a million cars a month combined. The industry accounts for hundreds of thousands of jobs and several percentage points of their respective countries’ gross domestic products. “The situation is difficult and dramatic,” Luiz Carlos Moraes, president of Brazil’s automakers association, told reporters.


The statements on production, made on Friday by Mexico’s Inegi statistics association and Brazil’s Anfavea automakers association, are the first available window into the sheer extent of the crisis for automakers in Latin America. The coronavirus pandemic is putting jobs in peril and raising questions about the sustainability of the industry’s international supply chains, much of which go back to China. The poor results may also be used by auto executives to obtain government aid. Both countries have so far avoided layoffs but much hinges on when production can restart and whether there will be any demand for cars once that happens. Mexico could tentatively restart production on May 18, while Brazil’s top automakers are eyeing a June restart.

Read more …

Jim quoted Comey in his headline -“I sent them”-, I changed that to a Strzok quote.

Our Utter Incompetence Actually Helps Us (Kunstler)

“Our utter incompetence actually helps us,” declared Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI Peter Strzok to his confidante (10,000 text messages) and paramour, FBI attorney Lisa Page, when he discovered on January 4, 2017, that the agency had omitted to close the barren Crossfire Razor case against General Michael Flynn. There you have a perfect summary of the fantastic hubris at work in the agency-gone-rogue under then-FBI Director Jim “I sent them” Comey days before the swearing-in of a president somehow mistakenly elected by bamboozled voters — or so the thinking apparently went at the highest level there. Or what passed for thinking.

General Flynn, you see, having been anathematized by Barack Obama, and black-spotted by the so-called Interagency (i.e. the giant hairball of competing spy shops set up after the 9/11 fiasco), was about to assume the pivotal job of White House National Security Advisor, and it was known that he was fixing to change things up with all that. He had been director of one such shop, the Defense Intelligence Agency, for a few years and he had a fair idea just how lawlessly debauched the Intel Community had grown under CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, not to mention Mr. Comey, and they all knew that.

So, General Flynn had to go, and then get squeezed hard to somehow rat-out his boss, the incoming President Trump, against whom the Interagency had nothing but a dossier of already discredited oppo research baloney courtesy of the Clinton campaign. The pretext was some conversations General Flynn had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak a few weeks before the inauguration. The FBI cooked up a “narrative” that it was criminal misbehavior for a duly appointed incoming NSA to confab with foreign diplomats – a completely specious notion, of course. The Interagency’s errand boys in the press ran with that preposterous story, and the inconsolable cohort of Hillary voters herding up to form “the Resistance” went along with the gag out of sheer, crazed bitterness.

Attorney General William Barr neatly disposed of that yarn Thursday in his remarkable chat with Catherine Herridge of CBS News (transcript here), saying: “[H]e [General Flynn] was the designated national security adviser for President-Elect Trump, and was part of the transition, which is recognized by the government and funded by the government as an important function to bring in a new administration. And it is very typical, very common, for the national security team of the incoming president to communicate with foreign leaders.”

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Obama will be implicated.

What Did Joe Biden Know About Michael Flynn? (York)

It takes a little digging, but there’s a Joe Biden connection deep inside the documents released as part of the Justice Department’s decision to drop charges against former national security adviser Michael Flynn. It is this: Sally Yates was Barack Obama’s Deputy Attorney General, and as such she played a key role in the Flynn investigation. She told special counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecutors in September 2017 that she did not know about the transition phone call between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak until she was told about it by…President Barack Obama.

It happened on January 5, 2017. Yates was in a group that went to the Oval Office to brief Obama on the findings of the Intelligence Community investigation into Russian campaign meddling. The meeting had all the administration’s top national security officials: FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, National Intelligence chief James Clapper, national security adviser Susan Rice, and other National Security Council officials. “After the briefing, Obama dismissed the group but asked Yates and Comey to stay behind,” a memo of Yates’ interview read. “Obama started by saying he had ‘learned of the information about Flynn’ and his conversation with Kislyak about sanctions.” Yates was totally blindsided. “At that point, Yates had no idea what the president was talking about,” the interview write-up said.

What does that have to do with Biden? The interview notes made no mention of the vice president. But think back to one of the stranger moments in the Trump-Russia investigation: Rice, on January 20, 2017, at almost the exact minute the Obama administration left office, sent an email to herself documenting the January 5 meeting. This is how it began: “On January 5, following a briefing by IC leadership on Russian hacking during the 2016 presidential election, President Obama had a brief follow-on conversation with FBI Director Jim Comey and Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates in the Oval Office. Vice President Biden and I were also present.”

Oh — so Biden was there, too. The Rice memo-to-self always appeared to be an oddly-timed effort to cover for Obama. “President Obama began the conversation by stressing his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the intelligence and law enforcement communities ‘by the book,’ Rice wrote. “The president stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective. He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book.” Got that? By the book.

Read more …

” In this story, McCabe is not a news analyst. He is news. Instead of pressing him on these conflicts and allegations, he was allowed to rage against Trump, Barr, and Flynn. It is a new twist on echo journalism. McCabe the CNN analyst was echoing his own false account and calling it news analysis.”

Andrew McCabe’s Bizarre CNN Interview (Turley)

CNN host John Berman interviewed McCabe. CNN has long used McCabe to give analysis on a host of Trump-related stories despite being fired by Trump, ridiculed for his prior bias, and referred (by career officials) for possible criminal charges. This interview, however, was even more remarkable. The documents released in the Flynn case referred to McCabe and his alleged misconduct. He was not asked about any of the specific allegations against him. Instead, he gave a revisionist history that quickly crossed into fantasy. McCabe told Berman that, in December 2016, they were considering the closure of the investigation involving Flynn but that it was a “close question.” We have previously discussed this history.

On January 4, 2017, the FBI’s Washington Field Office issued a “Closing Communication” indicating that the bureau was terminating “CROSSFIRE RAZOR” — the newly disclosed codename for the investigation of Flynn. CROSSFIRE RAZOR was formed to determine whether Flynn “was directed and controlled by” or “coordinated activities with the Russian Federation in a manner which is a threat to the national security” of the United States or a violation of federal foreign agent laws. The FBI investigated Flynn and various databases and determined that “no derogatory information was identified in FBI holdings.” Due to this conclusion, the Washington Field Office concluded that Flynn “was no longer a viable candidate as part of the larger CROSSFIRE HURRICANE umbrella case.”

After Strzok intervened to stop the closure of the investigation, he texted FBI lawyer Lisa Page “Razor still open. :@ but serendipitously good, I guess. You want those chips and Oreos?” Page replied “Phew. But yeah that’s amazing that he is still open. Good, I guess.” Strzok replied “Yeah, our utter incompetence actually helps us. 20% of the time, I’m guessing :)” So McCabe was left unchallenged in saying that at that time there was a close question as to whether to close Crossfire Razor when his investigators found nothing. Nothing. That made it a close question for McCabe whether to continue to investigate the incoming Trump National Security Adviser.

What McCabe stated next was truly incredible. He told Berman that he then learned that Flynn has arranged “surreptitious meetings” with the Russians. He explained that this was akin to investigating someone for drug dealing and then learning about his meeting with drug dealers. The problem is that there was no evidence of a crime of any kind against Flynn. Moreover, this was not a “surreptitious” meeting. There was no reason for McCabe to know about the communications of the incoming National Security Adviser with foreign officials. It was not “surreptitious.” Flynn reportedly told the transition team about the call and that the Russians wanted to talk after the newly imposed sanctions against them. It is not “surreptitious” just because McCabe did not know about it and he did not reach out to the Transition Team.

Read more …

We try to run the Automatic Earth on people’s kind donations. Since their revenue has collapsed, ads no longer pay for all you read, and your support is now an integral part of the process.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 


“Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there!
He wasn’t there again today,
Oh how I wish he’d go away

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today
I think he’s from the CIA.

– Hughes Mearns et al

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 052020
 


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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

More from the IHME.

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

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


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

Read more …

Good thing the Lord of the Rings is finished.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

The banks need more help, I’m sure.

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

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


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

Read more …

They’ll laugh in her face.

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

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


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

Read more …

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

When the Birdies Sing Like the Fat Lady (Kunstler)

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

Immunity Passports And Vaccination Certificates (Lancet)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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


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

Read more …

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

Assange Extradition Hearing Delayed Until September (PR)

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

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

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

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May 042020
 


Steve Schapiro Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay) with mini gloves, Louisville, KY 1963

 

 

There was another comment at the Automatic Earth yesterday questioning the function and wisdom of various lockdowns. I thought I’d explain this in more detail.

 

Ilargi if you or anyone else could explain what the exit strategy is from a lockdown I’d be interested in hearing it. As it is, this lockdown I repeat is no different than financial QE – everyone comes out weaker than they were before treatment. Financial QE covers up her problem just like lockdown does, but makes it worse in the long run. The only exit strategy I can see is to keep lockdown until a vaccine or effective treatment, neither of which are on the horizon.


If you are arguing that even healthy economies can survive indefinite closure, with intermittent re-openings I don’t know what to tell you. The suggestion is made that Sweden has a huge vested interest in understating fatalities. It is also certainly true that the rest of the world has an even greater vested interest in criticizing the Swedish approach because it demonstrates how useless the total lockdowns are. BTW the reported differences in fatalities between Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia are not statistically significant. Playing with numbers and not understanding how things may not be as they seem.

 

First, let’s re-establish that no lockdown would have been needed if and when politicians and scientists had done what’s in their job descriptions. That does not mean that no lockdown was called for once they did fail. Indeed, it’s the failure to act at the very beginning, say January 31, when the WHO sent out its first warning, that made lockdowns inevitable.

I don’t say that to exonerate the WHO in any way, because it subsequently, for weeks on end, kowtowed to China’s refusal to allow its teams entry into the country, and followed that up by waiting and hesitating another full 6(!) weeks, until March 11, to declare a pandemic.

Second, a lockdown and the way it’s executed are not the same thing. The decisions to lock down their societies may be the only thing(s) the Little Manager politicians have gotten right, but they still did get it right. And sorry, but you cannot use their ginormous failures made both before and during the lockdowns, to argue that the lockdowns themselves are a failure. These are separate issues, don’t let’s get them mixed up.

Lockdowns in and of themselves, when properly executed, cannot NOT work, simply because of the way viruses spread. Yes, we need to know exactly how they do, but not knowing this in the present case is exactly why we need a lockdown, why we need to keep people, who are all potential hosts AND spreaders, away from each other. Until we know precisely how the virus spreads and/or until we know that the people involved are not virus carriers.

Terms such as “indefinite closure” don’t come from me, so please have the courtesy not to suggest I want one. Questioning the principle of a lockdown is not terribly helpful or smart, and neither is suggesting that Sweden is doing well. If only because such questions and suggestions, if you follow their “logic”, seek to deny the very way viruses spread, if not the existence of a virus in the first place.

Which is one of the few things we do know about COVID19: we know it exists and we know it spreads. We may get distances – between people- and timing – of various stages of infection- wrong, but the principle stands.

 

The lockdown is useful, make that inevitable, because it prevents further spread of a deadly virus from one host to another. Our ancestors understood this well before they even knew what viruses were, and I don’t understand why we would today no longer possess that wisdom.

The knowledge we have gained since times of old also allows us to understand that if a virus cannot spread to a new host for an x amount of time, it will die off. Which may sound a tad curious because science does not consider viruses to be microbes or “living organisms”, but that’s not really the issue at hand.

However, the NOT spreading will have to happen in as many instances as you have potential hosts, i.e. infected people, to make it work at a societal level, obviously. And that’s why lockdowns are inevitable: it’s all about numbers.

The “good news” is that the very reason lockdowns are useful already signifies that lockdowns don’t have to last until there is a “vaccine or effective treatment”; no “indefinite closure” is needed. You don’t necessarily have to eradicate a virus to inhibit it from jumping from host to host; you can also put distance and other barriers between (potential) hosts.

And there’s more good “news”. I think it was Nassim Taleb who said a while back that the answer to people saying a lockdown is a bad thing because it also isolates healthy people is: we need a lockdown precisely because we don’t know who is healthy or not.

If we do know who is healthy, however, we don’t need a lockdown. Ergo: testing, testing, testing. Certainly in the beginning, we must test people every 24 hours or so, test them for the virus. test them for antibodies, improve our tests, add more tests, test still more, we can all fill in the rest. And no, that is not an indefinite thing either. Testing will tell us to a much higher degree than we know today, when and where to distance people from each other.

Someone who has tested negative every 24 hours for days or weeks on end can be treated differently from someone who has not. And such a person will be, certainly initially, more careful in interacting with people. Take it from there, and you will in the end actually be rid of the virus, because it will not find enough new potential hosts.

That also means you don’t absolutely need a vaccine. Which is a good thing, because no coronavirus vaccine has ever been “discovered”, and because we have no idea what it would contain. Whenever I hear grand theories about grand bad plans elites or whoever are supposed to have with the virus, I first think: what would the virus need to propagate?

And I always come back to the same answer: it only needs our continuing incompetence: other than lockdowns and face masks, we have given it all the space and opportunity it has needed. It doesn’t need any help from 5G radiation or glyphosate (though both should be subject(ed) to the precautionary principle), or anything people come up with in the extra time their lockdown allows for. All it needs is for us to continue doing what we have: not test.

And opening up our societies again without mass testing, of course, will be the biggest gift we can offer it. This doesn’t mean I deny the possible existence of some plan, or that I want to claim to have knowledge of where the virus originated. It only means that from where I’m sitting, the virus doesn’t need any assistance to do what it has done so far, not that it may or may not have gotten any. Still, door A is factual, and door B is purely hypothetical. And we don’t have seas of time to debate this, we have lives to save.

 

It’s early May, and there no longer are any excuses for anyone in the western world not wearing face coverings in public, and neither are there excuses for countries lacking the capacity to test their citizens appropriately. Still, in most countries, we are nowhere near that capacity. That is inexcusable. Social distancing is not.

What shuts down societies today is not the virus, not the lockdowns, but the failure to adhere to basic principles with which to approach all potentially epidemic microbes or viruses. The failure to be properly prepared -at all times-, because some thirteen-a-dozen politician elected in a popularity contest considers it too expensive, or too much work. Even if warnings about a next epidemic had been sounded for many years.

The exit strategy is testing while Big Pharma looks for a vaccine. Good thing we don’t have to wait for the latter, because, yes, that would risk an indefinite closure. Testing will get us out once our “leaders” resolve to make it a priority. They should all be voted out of office for not having done that yet, and take their scientific advisers with them. And that’s after we may or may not forgive them for their initial failures.

We may need to overhaul a whole bunch of things to make sure no such perfectly preventable failures happen ever again. But you know how people are. And anyway, we’re in a bit of a bind at the moment.

It’s been 125 days since that first WHO warning, and there are still even many rich countries that can’t manage to test their medical and care workers, let alone the rest of their people.

And you want to argue that the problem here is lockdowns?

 

 

 

 

 

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Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

May 012020
 


Joseph-Désiré Court Le Masque 1843

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That in itself is likely the biggest risk we face.

 

 

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

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

 

 

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Apr 272020
 


Dorothea Lange On the road to Los Angeles, California 1937

 

Sweden’s Stay-Open Approach Is Creating Herd Immunity Quickly – Ambassador (JTN)
European Shares Rise On Airline Surge, Upbeat Earnings (R.)
Billionaire Bonanza 2020: Windfalls, Tumbling Taxes, Pandemic Profiteers (IPS)
Over 100,000 Virus Deaths in 2020 If UK Lockdown Ends Early – Ferguson (St.)
UK Economy Will Take Three Years To Recover From Coronavirus – EY (G.)
One In Three UK Doctors Left Without Protective Gear (Ind.)
Italy To Reopen Factories In Staged End To Coronavirus Lockdown (R.)
Fauci Says US Coronavirus Testing Likely Will Double In The Coming Weeks (JTN)
US To Cap How Much Each Bank Can Lend Under Emergency Coronavirus Program (R.)
Not The End Of The Road For US Health Secretary Azar, Trump Says (JTN)
How the Unicorn Blowup & Oil Bust Bleed into CMBS (WS)
When Oil Became Waste (R.)
EU’s COVID Recovery Spending Should Be Guided By Green Finance Plan (R.)
Minks Test Positive For COVID19 At Two Dutch Farms (EN)
Israel’s Top Court Says Government Must Legislate COVID-19 Phone-Tracking (R.)
Assange: Espionage is the Charge, But He’s Really Accused of Sedition (Lauria)

 

 

We passed 3 million global cases.

 

• US records 1,330 #coronavirus deaths in 24 hours: Johns Hopkins

• The US now has an overall death toll of 54,841, with 964,937 confirmed infections, according to a tally by the Johns Hopkins University at 8:30 pm (0030 GMT Monday)

 

• Sweden is the favorite of the anti-lockdown crowd, but contrary to what they claim, Sweden isn’t doing very well at all, so it’s a bit of a mystery why.

• Sweden is no. 8 (out of 200+) in the world in deaths per million people, in which it is 3 times worse than neighbors Denmark and 6 times worse than Norway and Finland. It’s even worse than the US.

• Deaths per million population (Worldometer):
Belgium 612
Spain 496
Italy 441
France 350
UK 305
Netherlands 261
Ireland 220
Sweden 217
Switzerland 186
US 167

 

 

NOTE: lowest number of global deaths for a long time.

Cases 3,008,196 (+ 73,557 from yesterday’s 2,934,639)

Deaths 207,361 (+ 3,678 from yesterday’s 203,683)

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer – Among Closed Cases, Deaths have fallen to 19%

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

As an aside: the ambassador claims that “About 30% of people in Stockholm have reached a level of immunity..” The only numbers of any antibodies I’ve seen on this globally were in the region of 5% or less. How then do the Swedes measure it?

Sweden’s Stay-Open Approach Is Creating Herd Immunity Quickly – Ambassador (JTN)

Sweden’s decision to keep schools, malls and restaurants open with limited restrictions during the pandemic is yielding success, with its capital city about to reach herd immunity in the next few weeks, according to the country’s ambassador to the United States. “About 30% of people in Stockholm have reached a level of immunity,” Ambassador Karin Ulrika Olofsdotter told NPR in an interview published Sunday. “We could reach herd immunity in the capital as early as next month.” Herd immunity means between 60% and 80% percent of a country’s population has become immune to a virus, either recovering from it or through immunization. Sweden banned gatherings of over 50 people but otherwise left schools, restaurants and malls open, provided citizens observe social distancing.


Facilities that don’t comply have been aggressively closed down. Sweden has reported more than 18,500 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2,194 deaths as of Sunday. The country’s approach to the pandemic has bucked much of the Western world, and generated controversy. “We share the same goal as all other countries, and that is of course to save as many lives as possible and protect public health,” Olofsdotter explained to NPR. “So we face the same reality as everyone else. But what’s different, and I think it’s important to underline that all countries are different, is that politicians take the measures that they think works best for their country and their general public.”

Read more …

Airlines receive hand-outs, their shares surge. Why oh why should this proft go to shareholders, when it’s made possible only through taxpayer dollars?? The Airfrance/KLM CEO was set to get a huge bonus because he managed to get the state bailouts; only at the very last minute did a few parliamentarians prevent that from happening? Doesn’t anybody care anymore that we don’t have financial markets but pretend we do?

European Shares Rise On Airline Surge, Upbeat Earnings (R.)

European shares rose on Monday, as airline stocks soared on hopes of state support, while a slew of upbeat earnings added to optimism over signs many countries would soon ease tough lockdown measures. Shares of Lufthansa jumped 7.2%, with Berlin expected to decide on state support, while Air France KLM rose 5.2% after the government said it would give a 7-billion-euros ($7.6 billion) aid package. Positive quarterly reports also helped. German drugs and pesticides company Bayer gained 2.8% and Deutsche Bank jumped 7.7% after their first-quarter earnings topped market expectations.


The pan-European STOXX 600 rose 1.7% by 0720 GMT, following gains in Asian markets after the Bank of Japan pledged to buy unlimited amount of bonds to keep borrowing costs low. The European benchmark ended with weekly losses on Friday, hit by the lack of details in a trillion-euro emergency fund agreed by the euro zone leaders. However, investors are pinning hopes on further stimulus expansion by the European Central Bank, which is scheduled to meet on Thursday. Shares in Adidas, however, fell 1.6% as it reported a 93% plunge in first-quarter profit, and warned of a deeper hit to second-quarter revenue as lockdowns forced it to close stores.

Read more …

From March 18 to April 10, over 22 million people lost their jobs as the unemployment rate surged toward 15%.

Over the same three weeks, U.S. billionaire wealth increased by $282 billion, an almost 10% gain.

Billionaire Bonanza 2020: Windfalls, Tumbling Taxes, Pandemic Profiteers (IPS)

Billionaires dominate our politics, culture, and economy. Their wealth, as this report shows, has concentrated mightily over the last four decades — even as the number of U.S. households with zero or negative net worth is increasing and most of us are living paycheck to paycheck. The current pandemic is exposing our central economic and social reality: Extreme wealth inequality has become America’s “pre-existing condition.” In this report, we show how billionaire wealth has grown astoundingly over the last few decades — and, for some “pandemic profiteers,” even more dramatically since the COVID-19 crisis — even as billionaire tax obligations have plummeted. If this inequality isn’t treated with both short and long-term tax reforms and oversight, America’s “pre-existing condition” of extreme inequality could overwhelm not only our economy, but our democracy itself.

• Between January 1, 2020 and April 10, 2020, 34 of the nation’s wealthiest 170 billionaires saw their wealth increase by tens of millions of dollars. Eight have seen their net worth surge by over $1 billion.

• As of April 15, Jeff Bezos’s fortune had increased by an estimated $25 billion since January 1, 2020. This unprecedented wealth surge is larger than the Gross Domestic Product of Honduras, $23.9 billion in 2018.

• Between March 18 and April 10, 2020, over 22 million people lost their jobs as the unemployment rate surged toward 15 percent. Over the same three weeks, U.S. billionaire wealth increased by $282 billion, an almost 10 percent gain.

• Billionaire wealth rebounded quickly after the 2008 financial crisis. Between 2010 and 2020, U.S. billionaire wealth increased 80.6 percent, more than five times the median wealth increase for U.S. households.

• Between 1990 and 2020, U.S. billionaire wealth soared 1,130 percent — an increase more than 200 times greater than the 5.37 percent growth of U.S. median wealth.

• Measured as a percentage of their wealth, the tax obligations of America’s billionaires decreased 79 percent between 1980 and 2018.

Read more …

The UK is in no position to relax.

Over 100,000 Virus Deaths in 2020 If UK Lockdown Ends Early – Ferguson (St.)

The UK death toll could jump past 100,000 by the end of the year if lockdown is lifted too early, a top professor has warned. Imperial College epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson said if the healthy go back to work while the vulnerable remain in lockdown there will be a huge increase in virus fatalities. The expert said social isolation will need to be kept in place until a pharmaceutical intervention is found, whether that is a vaccine or treatment drugs, and one is unlikely within the next year. His warning comes as the British Government faces intense pressure to reveal its Covid-19 lockdown exit strategy .


Speaking to UnHerd, Prof Ferguson said he is sceptical that the UK can achieve a level of shielding that will be effective. “If you just achieve 80 per cent shielding – and 80 per cent reduction in infection risk in those groups – we still project that you would well over 100,000 deaths this year from that kind of strategy,” he said. The Government is under pressure from senior Tories to relax the strict social-distancing measures amid concern at the damage they are doing to the economy. Sir Keir Starmer has also called on the Prime Minister to produce a clear lockdown exit strategy.

https://twitter.com/ThePalpitations/status/1254529121134264322

Read more …

Modeling in finance is as bad as in epidemiology.

UK Economy Will Take Three Years To Recover From Coronavirus – EY (G.)

It will take the UK economy three years to fully recover from the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a leading forecasting group. As the damage for jobs and growth unfolds, the EY Item Club said it would take until 2023 for the the economy to return to the level reached at the end of last year due to the depth of the crisis. One month on from the imposition of lockdown measures across Britain, effectively bringing large swathes of the economy to a halt, the group warned that almost half of all consumer spending in 2020 – the major engine of UK growth over recent decades – is at risk of either being delayed or lost completely.


The group of economists said GDP was set to collapse by 6.8% in 2020, before returning to positive growth of 4.5% in 2021 as businesses try to make up for lost time and consumers ramp up their spending again. The forecast is based on the assumption that some lockdown restrictions will start to be eased in May, with controls relaxed further in June. As such, the Item Club believes the economy should benefit later in the year from a degree of pent-up demand as people are allowed to travel again and return to the shops. Howard Archer, the chief economic adviser to the Item Club, said the report assumes that the government’s measures aimed at supporting businesses and saving jobs would have a significant positive impact. “[The support] is absolutely crucial to limiting the potential longer-term damage to the economy,” he said.

Read more …

After all the lockdown- and economic recovery talk, there’s still the real world.

One In Three UK Doctors Left Without Protective Gear (Ind.)

More doctors are being forced to treat coronavirus patients without protective equipment, it has been revealed, as Dominic Raab refused to say when shortages would finally end. A third of physicians working in high-risk settings have reported running short of long-sleeved gowns or full-face visors – a situation that has “worsened over the past three weeks”, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) said. Of those working in other hospital areas, 40 per cent are not always equipped with eye protection, while 15.5 per cent are sometimes left without fluid-repellent face masks. They are faced with the “awful” choice “between protecting our own lives or protecting those of the patients we treat”, one physician said.


The grim survey results were disclosed as Mr Raab admitted the government has fallen short on protecting frontline NHS and care staff, more than a month after Boris Johnson insisted PPE would be provided. Asked when there would be “enough”, the stand-in prime minister said: “It’s very difficult to say that with precision and the kind of reliability that you want as a guarantee.” And asked to acknowledge that some medical and care staff had been let down, Mr Raab replied: “I think we’re not in the place on PPE that we’d want to be.”

Read more …

Can’t do anything that involves crowds. Not for a very long time. Forget about soccer games.

Italy To Reopen Factories In Staged End To Coronavirus Lockdown (R.)

Italy will allow factories and building sites to reopen from May 4 and permit limited family visits as it prepares a staged end to Europe’s longest coronavirus lockdown, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Sunday. More than two months after the first case of COVID-19 appeared in a small town outside Milan and following weeks of lockdown, Italy is looking ahead to a second phase of the crisis in which it will attempt to restart the economy without triggering a new wave of infections. “We expect a very complex challenge,” Conte said as he outlined the road map to restarting activities put into hibernation since early March. “We will live with the virus and we will have to adopt every precaution possible.”

Manufacturers, construction companies and some wholesalers will be allowed to reopen from May 4, followed by retailers two weeks later. Restaurants and bars will be allowed to reopen fully from the beginning of June, although takeaway business will be possible earlier. “The reopening is allowed on condition that all companies involved strictly respect security protocols in the workplace,” Conte said, adding that the reopening would lay the ground for deeper reforms of the economy in the months ahead. In addition, parks will be allowed to reopen and limited family visits and funerals with no more than 15 people present will be permitted. But movement between regions remains suspended and people moving about will still have to carry a declaration explaining the reasons for their journeys.

Museums and libraries can reopen from May 18, when sports teams will also be able to resume group training, although Conte said conditions would have to be assessed before any decision on resuming the top-flight Serie A soccer championship. Schools will remain shut, however, until the start of the new academic year in September, leaving families facing childcare problems for months to come.

Read more …

Let’s make a deal: stop talking about relaxing lockdowns until you can test 1 million people per day. That would still mean it takes a year to test every American just once. Which is nowhere near enough.

Fauci Says US Coronavirus Testing Likely Will Double In The Coming Weeks (JTN)

The current amount of COVID-19 testing likely will double in the coming weeks, Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a National Academy of Sciences panel about the virus. “We’re doing about 1.5, 2 million per week,” said Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We probably should get up to twice that as we get into the next several weeks, and I think we will. “Testing is an important part of what we’re doing, but is not the only part,” Fauci noted. “But no doubt it is important to be able to do the identification, isolation and contact tracing.”


Fauci, who has factored prominently in the daily coronavirus task force briefings at the White House, said it is important to have “enough tests to respond to the outbreaks that will inevitably occur as you try and ease your way back into the different phases.” As the nation moves toward reopening in the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump has issued Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, which include three phases.

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aka lend to the big boys until there’s nothing left.

US To Cap How Much Each Bank Can Lend Under Emergency Coronavirus Program (R.)

The U.S. government notified lenders on Sunday that it will cap how much each bank can lend under the emergency loan program designed to keep workers on payrolls amid the coronavirus pandemic, hours ahead of the reopening of the lending program. The Small Business Administration (SBA) will impose a maximum dollar amount for individual lenders at 10% of Paycheck Protection Program funding, or $60 billion per lender, and pace the applications filed, according to SBA guidance on Sunday to lenders that have received a significant number of applications. The steps are “prudent and reasonable” due to the unprecedented demand for the loans, the memo said. U.S. banks were girding over the weekend for another frantic race to grab $310 billion in fresh small-business aid due to be released by the government.


The SBA was due to reopen PPP funding at 10:30 a.m. ET (1430 GMT) on Monday, allowing lenders to resume processing piles of backlogged applications from businesses hurt by the coronavirus shutdown. The SBA will also take applications in one bulk submission with a minimum of 15,000 loans, the SBA said in the memo. The PPP came under criticism after a number of publicly traded companies with thousands of employees and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales got loans, while smaller businesses did not. Nearly 5,000 lenders, including big banks such as JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup as well as community banks, participated in the prior, $349-billion round of funding. No lender accounted for more than 5% of that total, the SBA said previously.

Read more …

US media need this kind of topic; they’d be completely lost without Trump.

Not The End Of The Road For US Health Secretary Azar, Trump Says (JTN)

President Trump emphatically denied Sunday that he is planning to fire Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar, calling reports of an impending dismissal “fake news.” Trump made the comments on Twitter, after multiple reports surfaced over the weekend that Azar’s job is in jeopardy, including in The Wall Street Journal. “Reports that H.H.S. Secretary @AlexAzar is going to be “fired” by me are Fake News,” Trump tweeted. “The Lamestream Media knows this, but they are desperate to create the perception of chaos & havoc in the minds of the public. They never even called to ask.


He added for emphasis: “Alex is doing an excellent job!” White House spokesman Judd Deere also called the reports inaccurate. “The Department of Health and Human Services, under the leadership of Secretary Azar, continues to lead on a number of the President’s priorities,” Deere said. “Any speculation about personnel is irresponsible and a distraction from our whole-of-government response to COVID-19.”

Read more …

CMBS = Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities. The Fed will bail them out.

How the Unicorn Blowup & Oil Bust Bleed into CMBS (WS)

The office segment of the commercial real estate market – and the debt and the commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) that are backed by it – are going through serious gyrations on a combination of factors. Companies have figured out how to make work-from-home manageable. Other companies are moving out, leaving buildings vacant, or are deferring rent payments. Landlords whose cashflow from rents has suddenly crashed are failing to make their mortgage payments or are asking for forbearance. And CMBS are at the receiving end of the process.


That any return to the old normal for landlords, banks, and holders of CMBS is just a dream is now being increasingly accepted, including by Larry Fink, CEO of mega asset-manager BlackRock: “I don’t think any company’s going to go back to 100% of the workforce in the office,” he said at an online event. “That means less congestion in cities. It means, more importantly, less need for commercial real estate.” This new era of office real estate comes on top of the problems currently erupting: Tenants moving out for nicer digs, now that there are plenty available, or tenants laying off people and possibly shutting down. So here are two specific examples of how this is bleeding into CMBS.

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Given the efficiency of the internal combustion engine, plus the ubiquity of plastics made from oil, its overall effect has always been at least 90% waste.

When Oil Became Waste (R.)

The magnitude of how damaged the energy industry is came into full view on April 20 when the benchmark price of U.S. oil futures, which had never dropped below $10 a barrel in its nearly 40-year history, plunged to a previously unthinkable minus $38 a barrel. In just a few months, the coronavirus pandemic has destroyed so much fuel demand as billions of people curtail travel that it has done what financial crashes, recessions and wars had failed to ever do – leave the United States with so much oil there was nowhere to put it. While the unusual circumstance of negative oil prices may not be repeated, many in the industry say it is a harbinger for more bleak days ahead, and that years of overinvestment will not correct in a period of weeks or even months.


“What happened in the futures contract the other day indicated things are starting to get bad earlier than expected,” said Frederick Lawrence, vice president of economics and international affairs at the Independent Petroleum Association of America. “People are getting notices from pipeline companies that say they can’t take their crude anymore. That means you’re shutting down the well yesterday.” Evidence of the erosion of value for a product that has been a mainstay of global society since the late 19th century abounded across the world last week. In Russia, one of the world’s top producers, the industry is considering resorting to burning its oil to take it off the market, sources told Reuters.

Read more …

And who are the experts? Investors. Who only want “to go green” because it promises a big profit.

Green is turning into a swearword, but so many people are invested in it they fail to notice.

The Green New Deals will destroy our ability to save anything, not help it. They will be a huge pool of malinvestment and gobble up what we have left.

EU’s COVID Recovery Spending Should Be Guided By Green Finance Plan (R.)

Planned European Union rules requiring investments to be in line with climate policy should be used to guide economic recovery measures after the coronavirus pandemic, despite not yet being law, the bloc’s expert advisers said on Monday. With the bloc headed for a steep recession and its executive, the European Commission, drawing up a trillion-euro recovery plan, calls are growing from politicians, companies and campaigners to make sure the money does not prop up environmentally damaging industries. The Commission had planned to introduce rules on which investments can be called “green” from 2021, forcing providers of financial products to disclose which investments meet the criteria – known as the EU “sustainable finance taxonomy”.


However, the Commission’s Technical Expert Group (TEG), a 35-member panel of investors, business leaders and climate policy experts, said the rules – designed by the TEG, at the Commission’s request – should inform stimulus plans now. “The opportunity for a resilient, sustainable and fair economic recovery is right before us. We encourage all governments, public institutions and the private sector to use the right tools for the job,” it said in a statement. The TEG has also drawn up a green bond standard for the EU and a framework to assess whether financial instruments, contracts or investment funds conform with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change. “There’s going to be, potentially, a surge of public and private spending to reboot the economy,” said Nathan Fabian, chief responsible investment officer at the U.N.-backed Principles for Responsible Investment investor group and member of the TEG.

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“Authorities “assume that people infected animals”…

Minks Test Positive For COVID19 At Two Dutch Farms (EN)

Two Dutch mink farms have reported cases of COVID-19 among their animals, the country’s Ministry of Agriculture confirmed on Sunday. Minks at the two farms located within 15km of each other in southern Netherlands “showed various symptoms including respiratory problems,” the ministry said in a statement. Mink are dark-colored, semiaquatic, carnivorous mammals bred for their furs. An investigation has been launched to determine the source of the infections. Authorities “assume that people infected animals” as the two farms had employees with symptoms for COVID-19 and stressed that although “human to animal contamination is possible, the impact of this mink contamination on human health is currently negligible”.


To prevent the spread of the disease to other farms, both animals and manure are banned from leaving the infected farms. Samples are being collected from healthy and infected animals with authorities also collecting air and dust samples in the vicinity “as a precaution”. The ministry said public roads around the two frame have been closed and advised people not to walk or cycle within a 400-metre radius until the samples have been analysed.

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They didn’t even bother about legislation. Betcha that’s true for most countries.

Israel’s Top Court Says Government Must Legislate COVID-19 Phone-Tracking (R.)

Citing grave dangers to privacy, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled on Sunday that the government must bring its use of mobile phone tracking deployed in the battle against the new coronavirus under legislation. Circumventing parliament in March, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet approved emergency regulations that enabled the Shin Bet internal security service to tap into cellular data to retrace the movements of people infected by the virus. The technology, customarily used for anti-terrorism, has since yielded data used by the Health Ministry to locate and alert those who have been in their vicinity. The practice has been subjected to some parliamentary oversight following a subsequent court ruling.


Accepting petitions from Israeli rights groups, the Supreme Court said the government must begin legislation by April 30 and complete it within a few weeks if it wanted to continue tracking people’s phones in its bid to stop the virus spreading. “The state’s choice to use its preventative security service for monitoring those who wish it no harm, without their consent, raises great difficulties and a suitable alternative, compatible with the principles of privacy, must be found,” the court said. Citing freedom of the press, the court also ruled that monitoring of journalists confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus can only be done with their consent. If they refuse, members of the media could seek an injunction against the practice, in order to protect their sources.

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After this morning, proceedings have been adjourned until 4 May. Defense and prosecutors both want the May 18 hearing pushed forward to September at the earliest. Even highly partial judge Vanessa Baraitser says question of 18 May start date now “at best uncertain”.

The next period the court would be available for 3 weeks is from 2 November. She should order him freed on bail until then. No threat to his environment, no flight risk.

Assange: Espionage is the Charge, But He’s Really Accused of Sedition (Lauria)

The United States has had two sedition laws in its history. Both were repealed within three years. Britain repealed its 17th Century sedition law in 2009. Though this crime is no longer on the books, the crime of sedition is really what both governments are accusing Julian Assange of. The campaign of smears, the weakness of the case and the language of his indictment proves it. The imprisoned WikiLeaks publisher has been indicted on 17 counts of espionage under the 1917 U.S. Espionage Act on a technicality: the unauthorized possession and dissemination of classified material—something that has been performed by countless journalists and publishers over the decades. It conflicts head on with the First Amendment. But espionage isn’t really what the government is after. Assange did not pass state secrets to an enemy of the United States, as in a classic espionage case, but rather to the public, which the government might well consider the enemy. Assange revealed crimes and corruption by the state.

Punishing such legitimate criticism of government as sedition has deep roots in British and American history. Sedition was seen in the Elizabethan era as the “notion of inciting by words or writings disaffection towards the state or constituted authority.” Punishment included beheading and dismemberment. “In their efforts to suppress political discussion or criticism of the government or the governors of Tudor England, the Privy Council and royal judges needed a new formulation of a criminal offence … This new crime they found in the offence of sedition, which was defined and punished by the Court of Star Chamber.… If the facts alleged were true, that only made the offence worse,” wrote historian Roger B. Manning. Sedition fell short of treason and did not need to provoke violence.

Though the Star Chamber was abolished in 1641, the British Sedition Act of 1661, a year after the Restoration, said, “…a seditious intention is an intention to bring into hatred or contempt, or to exite disaffection against the person of His Majesty, his heirs or successors, or the government and constitution of the United Kingdom.” Under President John Adams, the first U.S. Sedition Act in 1798 put it this way: “To write, print, utter or publish, or cause it to be done, or assist in it, any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government of the United States, or either House of Congress, or the President, with intent to defame, or bring either into contempt or disrepute, or to excite against either the hatred of the people of the United States, or to stir up sedition, or to excite unlawful combinations against the government, or to resist it, or to aid or encourage hostile designs of foreign nations.”

While WikiLeaks publications have never been proven false, the U.S. government is certainly portraying its work as “scandalous and malicious writing against the United States” and has accused him of encouraging “hostile designs” against the country. Congress did not renew the Act in 1801 and President Thomas Jefferson pardoned those serving sentences for sedition and refunded their fines.


1918 protest in front of the White House against the Sedition Act.

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Apr 212020
 


Gordon Parks Muhammad Ali in training 1966

 

There are times when you think: now things must be easy to comprehend, but as it turns out, they are still not. Let me try once more. See, I was thinking it must have become much easier to gauge the impact in the US of COVID19 when I published the graph below from TheNewAtlantis.com a few days ago. That the stories about seasonal flu etc. at least should be dead and buried, because, well, just look at the graph.

No such “luck”. That warped comparison keeps on rearing its head. The graph is plenty clear about it, however. In a period of about 3 weeks, COVID19 obliterated all other causes of death far behind.

 


click to enlarge in new tab

 

 

I have followed the progress of the virus since early January, so plenty of graphs are available. Below are those from Worldometer and SCMP, starting February 20.

On February 2, the US had 5 cases and zero deaths. Then we get to the graphs.

On February 20, there were 75,750 global cases, 74,500 of which were in China. There were 2,130 deaths, of which just maybe 10 were outside China.

The US had fewer than 15 cases and zero deaths.

 


 

 

One month later, things had changed quite dramatically, or so it seemed.

On March 20, there were 250,000 global cases and over 10,000 deaths. Cases had tripled, deaths had almost quintupled. Italy had overtaken China in most fatalities, from zero a month earlier.

The US had emerged “on the forefront”. It now had 10,400 cases and 150 deaths. Yes, that is just one month ago, 32 days to be exact.

 


 

 

Today, on April 21 2020, you would hardly recognize the situation as it was on February 20 or March 20.

There are now over 2,500,000 cases and over 172,000 deaths.

The US has become the frontrunner, and by a very large margin. It has over 800,000 cases and over 43,000 deaths.

From those 10,400 cases and 150 deaths 32 days ago.

Moreover, of those 43,000 deaths, almost half, 20,000, died in just the past 7 days.

And it’s at this point that people want to call the peak.

 


 

Investor John Hussman developed a model from early February which he’s been updating ever since. His model followed (or actually, predicted) actual numbers quite well:

Apr 15 (637,716 cases, 30,826 deaths): Assuming sustained containment efforts, the “optimistic” projection (my adaptive model) suggests that U.S. daily new cases may have peaked. This does NOT mean these efforts can now be abandoned. Most U.S. fatalities are still ahead, and we still lack capacity to test/track/trace.

 

 

But 5 days ago, John started getting worried:

Apr 16 (667,801, 32,917): This isn’t good. U.S. fatalities just jumped off book. We shouldn’t see 31,000 yet.

Apr 18 (735,076, 38,903): So much for the optimistic scenario. We’re way off book. I had hoped this was just a one-time adjustment. Understand this:

PEAK daily new cases in a containment scenario is also PEAK infectivity if containment is abandoned at that moment.

 

 

 

I’ve long said that people are social animals, and you cannot -and shouldn’t- keep them apart for too long. But at the same time, containment measures in case of epidemics go back a very long way in history. And it’s very well for people to develop models that appear to show that the virus will do whatever it can until it no longer does, and it will soon disappear even if we didn’t do anything to prevent it from spreading.

But those are still just models, just like the one John Hussman developed. And until they are proven, which takes time, the actual numbers we have now speak loudly. Globally, we went from 250,000 to 2,500,000 cases in one month, and from 10,000 fatalities to 172.000. In the US in that same month we went from 10,400 cases to over 800,000 and from 150 deaths to 43,000.

“PEAK daily new cases in a containment scenario is also PEAK infectivity if containment is abandoned at that moment”, says Hussman. Of course everybody wants their freedom back. But at what price? If you don’t, because you can’t, know what the price will be, are you still willing to pay that price?

What I mean is, everyone’s trying to call a peak, but for most that’s merely because they want there to be a peak. The numbers don’t really say that; they may seem to do, but that’s just over 1,2 or 3 days at best. While half of all US fatalities have been over the past 7 days.

If the peak has really already occurred, we will not know it until about 10-14 days from now. So the only thing we can do is to wait that long. Perhaps it would be a good idea to listen to what those have to say who are so enthusiastically labeled “heroes” all over the globe, the doctors, nurses and other frontline caretakers.

If they are indeed your heroes, and that’s not just some empty phrase, listen to what they have to say about the pressure on them, on the system they work in, on the numbers of cases and deaths they see themselves confronted with.

But also listen when they say things you may not like to hear. If anybody deserves a relaxation of a lockdown, and of pressure overall, surely it must be them, before you.

Guess it’s too much to ask that perhaps you may have learned some lessons lately, about things that you don’t need to do but that you always did. Or to ask you if you heard the birds singing louder in the bluer skies this morning.

Just out of curiosity: Did you know that Anne Frank spent 2 whole years locked down behind a wall?

 

 

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Support the Automatic Earth. It’ll do you good.

 

Apr 162020
 


Dorothea Lange Richmond, California 1942

 

Coronavirus Testing Hits Dramatic Slowdown In US (Pol.)
Antibody Tests For Coronavirus Can Miss The Mark (NPR)
The Coronavirus Is Particularly Unkind To Those Who Are Obese (LAT)
New York Taps Mckinsey To Develop ‘Trump-Proof’ Economic Reopening Plan (R.)
New Zealand PM: Many Restrictions To Be Kept In Place When Lockdown Ends (R.)
Investors Are Underestimating The Economic Shock The World Is Facing (AEP)
Trump Threatens To Adjourn Congress Over ‘Scam’ Preventing Appointments (R.)
US Coronavirus Small-Business Program Funding Nearly Spent (LAT)
Real Time US Labor Market Estimates During 2020 Coronavirus Outbreak (Bick)
Overcapacity/Oversupply Everywhere: Massive Deflation Ahead (CHS)
US Opposition Seen Stalling Major IMF Liquidity Boost (R.)
We Scientists Said Lock Down. But UK Politicians Refused To Listen (G.)
Inception (Ben Hunt)
The Golden Rule (Ben Hunt)
Major Blow To Keystone XL Pipeline As Judge Revokes Key Permit (G.)
FBI Repeatedly Warned Steele Dossier Fed By Russian Misinformation (Solomon)

 

 

We are facing prolonged discussions and chaos about testing. Everyone wants to reopen their economies, but that is not feasible if there is no testing. Nobody wants to go to a bar or an office or factory floor if they can catch a deadly virus there. Very few people will volunteer to sit on, or work on, a plane or train under such conditions, and few countries would welcome travelers anyway.

But from what I gather, testing facilities and capacities are few and far between, other than perhaps in Wuhan or maybe maybe Seoul. Testing 1% of people doesn’t get you anywhere, not with 15-50% of people being asymptomatic carriers infecting others around them.

Many countries claim they don’t need to do more testing, and most do that only because they can’t. And then you get into antibodies testing, and you find the mess and uncertainties are even bigger there. The entire situation screams for one thing: lockdown, minimize contact, but that’s what they all want to get away from.

 

• US records nearly 2,600 #coronavirus deaths in 24 hours – a new record and the heaviest daily toll of any country, Johns Hopkins University reports.

• The total number of US deaths is now 28,326 — higher than any other nation

 

 

Cases 2,094,884 (+ 80,884 from yesterday’s 2,014,000)

Deaths 135,569 (+ 7,977 from yesterday’s 127,592)

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

How accurate is it anyway?

Coronavirus Testing Hits Dramatic Slowdown In US (Pol.)

The number of coronavirus tests analyzed each day by commercial labs in the U.S. plummeted by more than 30 percent over the past week, even though new infections are still surging in many states and officials are desperately trying to ramp up testing so the country can reopen. One reason for the drop-off may be the narrow testing criteria that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last revised in March. The agency’s guidelines prioritize hospitalized patients, health care workers and those thought to be especially vulnerable to the disease, such as the elderly. Health providers have been turning away others in part due to shortages of the swabs used to collect samples.

It’s not clear whether demand has peaked among the groups on the CDC’s priority list. But after being overwhelmed for weeks, commercial labs say they are now sitting with unused testing capacity waiting for samples to arrive. The continued glitches in the U.S. testing system are threatening to impede attempts to reopen the economy and return to normal life. Expanding testing as much as possible is essential so officials have enough data to determine when it’s safe to lift social distancing measures and allow people to go back to work. Continued testing beyond that point will help officials detect — and stamp out — sparks that could set off new outbreaks. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn told POLITICO on Tuesday the White House Coronavirus Task Force is continuing to discuss whether changes to the testing criteria are warranted.

“This is part of an ongoing discussion that we’re having,” he said. “People are working overtime on that one.” Hahn’s comments came as the American Clinical Laboratory Association reported that the number of samples commercial labs handle each day fell from 108,000 on April 5 to 75,000 by April 12. The group’s members, including commercial giants Quest and LabCorp, analyze about two-thirds of all coronavirus tests in the U.S. “ACLA members have now eliminated testing backlogs, and have considerable capacity that is not being used,” ACLA President Julie Khani told POLITICO. “We stand ready to perform more testing and are in close communication with public health partners about ways we can support additional needs.”

Read more …

You couldn’t create a bigger mess if you tried with all your might.

Antibody Tests For Coronavirus Can Miss The Mark (NPR)

Dozens of blood tests are rapidly coming on the market to identify people who have been exposed to the coronavirus by checking for antibodies against it. The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t set standards for these kinds of tests, but even those that meet the government’s informal standard may produce many false answers and provide false assurances. The imperfect results could be a big disappointment to people who are looking toward these tests to help them return to something resembling a normal life. First of all, it’s not clear whether someone who has antibodies to the coronavirus in their blood is actually immune. Your body produces these antibodies within about a week of infection.

In many other diseases, people do have a period of immunity after they have been exposed to a microbe and recover from illness. But that has not been demonstrated yet with the coronavirus. Another problem is that test results are wrong much more frequently than you might expect. While tests may truthfully say they are more than 90% accurate, in practical use they can often perform far below that level. [..] Dr. Jeremy Gabrysch runs a mobile medical service in Austin, Texas. He got a supply of antibody tests made by a major Chinese manufacturer and says he has tested several hundred people in the last few days. “We offer the test for people who may have suspected they might have had coronavirus back in February or March when testing with the nasal swab [and PCR diagnostic test] was very limited,” he says. The charge: $49 a test.

Gabrysch says he only tests people when he has other evidence they might have been exposed. “If they had an illness that sounds like it could have been coronavirus and they had a positive antibody test, then it’s very likely that this is a true positive, that they indeed had COVID-19,” he says. The test he’s using, produced by Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech in China, boasts a specificity of 99%, which means it only falsely says a blood sample contains antibodies against the coronavirus 1% of the time. But despite that impressive statistic, a test like that is not 99% correct, and in fact in some circumstances could be much worse.

That’s because of this counterintuitive fact: The validity of a test depends not only on the technology, but how common the disease is in the population you’re sampling. “It is kind of a strange thing,” admits Dr. H. Gilbert Welch, a scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who studies issues surrounding tests and screening. “An antibody test is much more likely to be wrong in a population with very little COVID exposure.” This is a result of statistics, rather than the technology of any given test.

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But not those above 65. A very curious finding.

The Coronavirus Is Particularly Unkind To Those Who Are Obese (LAT)

America’s obesity epidemic appears to be making the coronavirus outbreak more dangerous — and potentially more deadly — in the United States, new research suggests. For younger and middle-aged adults in particular, carrying excess weight may significantly boost the likelihood of becoming severely ill with COVID-19. The evidence for this comes from thousands of COVID-19 patients who sought treatment in emergency departments in New York, and it’s prompting alarm among doctors and other health experts. In the U.S., 42.4% of adults have obesity, which means their body-mass index, or BMI, is 30 or more.

In one of two new studies released this week, COVID-19 patients who were younger than 60 and had a BMI between 30 and 34 were twice as likely as their non-obese peers to be admitted to the hospital for acute care instead of being sent home from the ER. They were also 1.8 times more likely to require critical care in a hospital’s intensive care unit. More severe obesity posed an even greater risk to COVID-19 patients in this under-60 age group. When these patients had a BMI of 35 or higher, they were 2.2 times more likely than their non-obese peers to need standard hospital care and 3.6 times more likely to end up in the ICU. “Obesity appears to be a previously unrecognized risk factor for hospital admission and need for critical care,” wrote the authors of the study published this month in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

But that only applies to relatively younger patients; among those ages 65 and older, there was no link between obesity status and hospital care. The authors, from New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine, suggested that the country’s high prevalence of obesity might be nudging rates of severe illness and death higher in the U.S. than in South Korea, China and Italy, where obesity rates are lower. The results also give doctors a new way to predict which COVID-19 patients who are not yet senior citizens run a higher risk of hospitalization and critical illness. “Unfortunately, obesity in people <60 years is a newly identified epidemiologic risk factor,” wrote the researchers, who included 3,615 patients in their study.

Read more …

We need more Wall Street.

New York Taps Mckinsey To Develop ‘Trump-Proof’ Economic Reopening Plan (R.)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has hired high-powered consultants to develop a science-based plan for the safe economic reopening of the region that can thwart expected pressure from President Donald Trump to move more rapidly, state government sources told Reuters on Wednesday. Cuomo, along with many other U.S. governors, shut his state economy to limit the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus and has warned that he is are prepared to keep businesses shut – perhaps for several months more – unless he can assure public safety. Governors from seven East Coast states formed a coalition on Monday, led by New York, to develop a joint reopening plan. Three governors from the West Coast formed a similar plan. The 10 states, mostly led by Democrats, together make up 38% of the U.S. economy.


As part of Cuomo’s effort, McKinsey & Company is producing models on testing, infections and other key data points that will underpin decisions on how and when to reopen the region’s economy, the sources said. Cuomo has also recalled three former top aides: Bill Mulrow, a senior adviser at Blackstone Group; Steven Cohen, an executive vice president and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes Inc; and Larry Schwartz, a deputy Westchester County executive. Deloitte is also involved in developing the regional plan, a source said. The goal is to “Trump-proof” the plan, said an adviser to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. “We think Trump ultimately will blink on this, but if not, we need to push back, and we are reaching out to top experts and other professionals to come up with a bullet-proof plan,” to open on the state’s terms, said a Cuomo adviser.

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Please don’t claim you’re about to eliminate the virus. Ramp up testing as of your life depended on it.

New Zealand PM: Many Restrictions To Be Kept In Place When Lockdown Ends (R.)

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday that significant restrictions would be kept in place even if the country eases the nationwide one-month lockdown enforced to beat the spread of the coronavirus. New Zealand introduced its highest, level 4 lockdown measures in March, under which offices, schools and all non-essential services like bars, restaurants, cafes and playgrounds were shut down. A decision on whether to lift the lockdown would be made on April 20. The measures were tougher than most other countries, including neighbouring Australia, where some businesses were allowed to operate.


Ardern said if New Zealand moves to the lower level 3 of restriction, it would permit aspects of the economy to reopen in a safe way but there will be no “rush to normality”. “We have an opportunity to do something no other country has achieved, eliminating the virus,” Ardern said at a news conference. New Zealand reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, taking the total to 1,401 in a nation of about 5 million people. There have been nine deaths. Ardern said under level 3, some people could return to work and businesses reopen if they are able to provide contactless engagement with customers. Shops, malls, hardware stores and restaurants will remain shut but can permit online or phone purchases.

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It’s been a while since I saw a piece by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. Very much stuck in business-only mode.

Investors Are Underestimating The Economic Shock The World Is Facing (AEP)

Investors are repeating the mistake they made all through February and early March. They are again underestimating the immense economic shock of COVID-19. Can there be any parallel in market history to the surreal clash of narratives we saw this week? Global bourses soared even as the International Monetary Fund painted a series of scenarios ranging from dire – the most violent slump since the Great Depression – to catastrophic, with all the potential chain-reactions spelt out in its Global Financial Stability Report. Yet Goldman Sachs tells us that COVID-19 is under control and the worst is over. “The number of new active cases looks to be peaking globally, projections of cumulative fatalities and peak healthcare usage are coming down,” it says.

From this breathtaking premise, Wall Street’s fashion leader argues that we should “look through” the Great Lockdown to sunlit uplands ahead, anticipating a further 8% rise in the S&P 500 index by the end of the year. We can disregard normal bear market rules. This time we will avoid the textbook sequence of events in recessions: a swift crash followed by a torrid buy-the-dip rebound, and then a slow downward grind over months as reality hits home, ending only in capitulation at far lower levels. Authorities have spared us such a fate by rescuing everything immediately. “The Fed and Congress have precluded the prospect of a complete economic collapse,” it says.

I agree that $5 trillion of central bank QE, vast fiscal packages (10% of GDP in the US), and blanket guarantees, have averted disaster. They have – in a disjointed way – bought time and given us a chance of emerging from this global sudden stop without irreparable damage to the productive system. What is surely wrong is to imagine that this pandemic is a one-off shock lasting three months or so, followed by an early release from lockdowns and a swift return to near normality. The first glimpses of antibody data – such as Denmark’s test on blood donors – show that we are nowhere near the safe threshold of herd immunity.

They confirm fears that the mortality rate is at least 1% of infections and that therefore no democracies can let the virus run its course without overwhelming their health services and destroying their political legitimacy. The supposed trade-off between lives and the economy is an illusion. The most certain way to turn this crisis into a depression is to give up too soon, as Spain is already doing, and Donald Trump is itching to do. We would end up in the worst of all worlds, with multiple waves, and another forced closure of the economy to avert a winter tsunami, requiring trillions more in fiscal relief. [..] “We need a vaccine. Until we get one, the stock markets are in cloud-cuckoo land,” says professor Anthony Costello from University College London.

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That wouldn’t be wise.

Trump Threatens To Adjourn Congress Over ‘Scam’ Preventing Appointments (R.)

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened on Wednesday to shut down Congress so he could fill vacancies in his administration without Senate confirmation, saying he was frustrated lawmakers were not in Washington to vote on his nominees for federal judgeships and other government positions. “The current practice of leaving town, while conducting phony pro forma sessions, is a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during this crisis,” an angry Trump told reporters at his daily White House briefing on the coronavirus crisis. “It is a scam that they do. It’s a scam and everyone knows it, and it’s been that way for a long time,” Trump said. No U.S. president has ever used the authority, included in the Constitution, to adjourn both chambers of Congress if they cannot agree on a date to adjourn.


It was not immediately clear if Congress’ current absence from Washington because of the global pandemic could be classified as being due to a failure to agree on an adjournment date. The Senate and House of Representatives have both announced plans to return to Washington on May 4, and had been scheduled to be out of Washington for two weeks in April for their annual Easter break even before the coronavirus crisis. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell discussed nominations with Trump on Wednesday and promised to find ways to confirm those “considered mission-critical” to the pandemic, a McConnell spokesman said. “However, under Senate rules, that would take consent from Democratic leader Chuck Schumer,” the spokesman said.

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It was obvious before it started that it would be a mess.

US Coronavirus Small-Business Program Funding Nearly Spent (LAT)

Democrats and the Trump administration were at a stalemate Wednesday over how to resupply the popular Paycheck Protection Program, which helps small businesses cope during the coronavirus pandemic and is due to run out of money as soon as Wednesday night. The standoff came as Senate Democrats pushed the administration to lay the groundwork for how the nation may reemerge from social distancing and stay-at-home orders. Republicans and Democrats agree they need to provide more funding to the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers forgivable loans to help small businesses maintain their payrolls amid the deep economic fallout from the coronavirus. But the GOP balked at additional Democratic demands, such as tagging some of the funding for businesses that don’t have an existing relationship with a bank that supply the loans.

Participating banks have largely given preference to their current customers. As of 9 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday, the Small Business Administration had approved 1.5 million applications totaling more than $324 billion of the $349 billion that Congress authorized in last month’s $2.2-trillion coronavirus relief package, according to the agency. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), chairman of the Senate committee with jurisdiction over small business, said that the program is expected to “grind to a halt” Wednesday evening as it hits its spending limit. “Now 700,000 small business applications are in limbo & no new loans will be made until the game of chicken in Congress ends,” Rubio said on Twitter. “Inexcusable.”

[..] The standoff over the funding program comes as Democrats on Wednesday released a national coronavirus testing strategy, arguing that they’re filling a void left by the Trump administration, which hasn’t released a plan to scale up COVID-19 testing to allow Americans to return to work and school. “The U.S. lags the world in testing and we lead the world in COVID-19 cases,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). “We are raising the alarm bells.” [..] Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), chairmen of two Senate committees responsible for health policy and spending, have said they want to make COVID-19 antibody testing free to all Americans. They acknowledged the need for widespread testing before people will feel comfortable resuming normal activities outside their homes. But Alexander said the money Congress has already authorized should be used to ramp up testing — not new funding.

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It takes weeks for jobs numbers to come out. That is too long in virustime. These guys try to fill the gap.

Real Time US Labor Market Estimates During 2020 Coronavirus Outbreak (Bick)

Labor market statistics for the United States are collected once a month and published with a three week delay. In normal times, this procedure results in timely and useful statistics. But these are not normal times. Currently, the most recent statistics refer to the week of March 8- 14; new statistics will not be available until May 8. In the meantime, the Coronavirus outbreak has shut down a substantial portion of the U.S. economy. More timely and frequent data on the impact on the labor force would surely be useful for both policy makers and the broader public. Our core survey closely follows the CPS, which allows us to construct estimates consistent with theirs. The first wave of our survey covers the week of March 29-April 4. Our findings reveal unprecedented changes in the US labor market since the most recent CPS data were collected:

1. The employment rate decreased from 72.7% to 60.7%, implying 24 million jobs lost.
2. The unemployment rate increased from 4.5% to 20.2%.
3. Hours worked per working age adult declined 25% from the second week of March. Half of this decline is due to lower hours per employed as opposed to lower employment.
4. Over 60% of work hours were from home, compared with roughly 10% in 2017-2018.
5. Those who still have their jobs are working fewer hours; 21% report a decline in earnings.
6. Declines were most pronounced for workers who were female, older, and less educated.

Effective policies require timely and accurate data on the scale of the downturn, yet traditional data sources are only made available at a significant lag. For example, the March 2020 Employment Situation report by the the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) only reflected labor market outcomes from the week ending Friday March 13, which precedes most major developments related to the outbreak. The April 2020 Employment Situation report will reflect labor market outcomes from the third week of April, but is not scheduled for release until May 8. The gap between the data needs of policymakers and the time lag of traditional data sources has left policymakers “flying blind” to a significant degree. The goal of this project is to help fill that void. [..]

Our major findings for the last week of March are as follows.
1. Dramatic reductions in employment. (a) We find an employment rate of 60.7% during the first week of April, compared with 72.7% in the second week of March, implying 24 million fewer workers. (b) We find an unemployment rate of 20.2% during the first week of April, compared with 4.5% in the second week of March. One positive note is that over half of the unemployed reported being temporarily laid off, suggesting that many could return to work quickly if conditions improve.

2. Even larger declines in aggregate labor supply than implied by employment alone. (a) Hours worked per working age adult declined 25% from March. In the first week of April, individuals worked 20.4 hours on average, compared with 27.5 weekly hours in the second week of March. (b) Hours worked per employed declined 12% from March. Even those who are still employed are working 4.5 fewer hours per week, a reduction of over half a day of work. This implies that just under half of the decline in hours per working age adult were due to reductions in hours worked per employed, and are therefore not reflected in changes to the employment rate.

3. Unprecedented increase of the share of hours worked from home. (a) We find that 63.8% of work hours were from home during the first week of April, compared with roughly 10% in the Spring of 2017 and 2018.

4. Lower earnings even for individuals still working the same job as in February. (a) We find that 21.9% of workers still working the same job as in February experienced a reduction in their earnings last week compared to February. About half of these reported that their reduction in earnings was 50% or larger. (b) At the same time, 11% of workers with the same job as in February report higher weekly earnings last week compared with February. 5. Disparities in labor market outcomes by sex, age, education, race, and hourly status. (a) Although negative effects are widespread, they are more pronounced among workers who are female, older, and less educated.

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Charles is right. Restart the whole circus now and there will be no buyers.

Overcapacity/Oversupply Everywhere: Massive Deflation Ahead (CHS)

Oil is the poster child of the forces driving massive deflation: overcapacity / oversupply and a collapse in demand. Overcapacity / oversupply and a collapse in demand are not limited to the crude oil market; rather, they are the dominant realities in the global economy. Yes, there are shortages in a few high-demand areas such as PPE (personal protective equipment), but across the entire spectrum of global supply and demand, there is nothing but a vast sea of overcapacity / oversupply and a systemic decline in demand as far as the eye can see. Here’s a partial list of commodities that are in Overcapacity / oversupply:

1. Overvalued assets 2. Overpriced income streams (as income craters, so will the asset generating the income) 3. Labor: low-skill everywhere, high-skill in sectors experiencing systemic collapse in demand 4. AirBnB and other vacation rental properties 5. Overpriced flats, condos and houses 6. Overpriced rental apartments 7. Overpriced commercial office space 8. Overpriced retail space 9. Overpriced used vehicles 10. Overpriced collectibles

I think you get the idea. Should China restart its export factories, then almost everything being manufactured will immediately be in oversupply, as the global export sector was plagued with mass overcapacity long before the Covid-19 pandemic crushed demand. Incomes will crater as revenues and profits crash, small businesses close their doors, never to re-open, local governments tighten spending, and whatever competition still exists will relentlessly push the price of labor, goods and services lower. Globalization has generated hyper-specialization in local and regional economies, stripping them of resilience. Fully exposed to the demand flows of a globalized class of consumers with surplus discretionary income, regions specialized in tourism, manufacturing, commodity mining, etc.

All these regions are now facing a structural collapse of global demand, and they have no diversified local economy to cushion the blow to jobs, incomes, profits and tax revenues. Thousands of small business that could barely squeak through a 20% decline in revenues are facing a 50% or more decline as far as the eye can see. With costs such as rent, labor, fees, taxes and healthcare at nosebleed levels, an enormously consequential number of small businesses globally cannot survive more than a modest, brief drop in revenues, as their costs remain high even as their sales plummet: costs are sticky, profits slide quickly to zero and beyond.

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No, I don’t like Soros being involved, and no, I don’t like the US squeezing Iran in virustime.

But most of all, all countries should think twice before letting the IMF have anything to do with their money supply. It doesn’t come free.

US Opposition Seen Stalling Major IMF Liquidity Boost (R.)

U.S. opposition is expected to prevent the International Monetary Fund this week from deploying one of its most powerful tools to help countries fight the coronavirus: creating a new allocation of Special Drawing Rights. The move, akin to a central bank “printing” new money, has been advocated by economists, finance ministers and non-profit groups to provide as much as $500 billion in urgently-needed liquidity for the IMF’s 189 member countries. SDRs, based on dollars, euro, yen, sterling and yuan, are the IMF’s official unit of exchange. Member countries hold them at the Fund in proportion to their shareholdings. The IMF last approved a $250-billion new allocation of SDRs in 2009, during the last financial crisis, boosting liquidity for cash-strapped countries. Doing so again now could provide more flexibility to the 100 countries that have already sought IMF emergency loans and grants, and allow new lending to countries with “unsustainable” debt burdens, such as Argentina.


An SDR expansion has attracted some celebrity advocates, such as investor George Soros and U2 lead singer Bono’s ONE anti-poverty organization, along with trade unions and faith-based groups. Finance officials will debate the issue during this week’s virtual IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings, but multiple sources familiar with the Fund’s deliberations say the United States, the IMF’s dominant shareholder, actively opposes such a move. The Trump administration opposes providing countries such as Iran and China with billions of dollars in new resources with no conditions, two of the sources said. [..] The U.S. Treasury Department would prefer to see the IMF focus on using its $1 trillion in existing resources, including $100 billion in emergency loans and grants, to aid countries’ health responses to the crisis, the sources said.

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You would think this should wake up Britain. But what are the odds?

We Scientists Said Lock Down. But UK Politicians Refused To Listen (G.)

In mid-February a colleague mentioned that for the first time in his life he was more concerned than his mother, who had been relatively blase about the risks of Covid-19. It felt odd for him to be telling her to take care. We are both professors in a department of infectious disease epidemiology, and we were worried. Two months on, that anxiety has not gone, although it’s also been joined by a sense of sadness. It’s now clear that so many people have died, and so many more are desperately ill, simply because our politicians refused to listen to and act on advice. Scientists like us said lock down earlier; we said test, trace, isolate. But they decided they knew better.

Am I being unfair? The government assures us that its decisions and timing are based on science, as if it is a neutral, value-free process resulting in a specific set of instructions. In reality, the science around coronavirus is in its infancy and developing daily, with researchers across the world trying to understand how the virus spreads, how the body responds – and how to treat it and control it. The speed at which our knowledge has increased is impressive, from the sequencing of the virus in January through to having candidate vaccines in early February.

Mathematical models are being refined to predict the extent and speed of spread and estimate the impact of control methods. My own group is studying the response of communities, showing how the epidemic is amplifying existing social inequalities. People with the lowest household income are far less likely, but no less willing, to be able to work from home or to self-isolate. But while scientists carry out observations and experiments, testing, iterating and discovering new knowledge, it is the role of policymakers to act on the best available evidence. In the context of a rapidly growing threat, that means listening to experts with experience of responding to previous epidemics.

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Ben Hunt is angry enough to start a revolution. While he’s also running a program delivering masks and other PPE to medical workers.

Inception (Ben Hunt)

The past few months are not a litany of errors and honest mistakes by the institutions we have charged with protecting us from disease and ruin. They are a litany of betrayals, and their Answers – their False Stories – have been revealed as lies. First we’re going to vaccinate ourselves to their Answers, to their False Stories, so that we think for ourselves again. Without this, we will inevitably fall back into the patterns of crony capitalism and obscene financialization that got us here in the first place. It’s a vaccine that we don’t administer anymore … an intentional decision by the high-functioning sociopaths and political entrepreneurs who rule us, of course.

Like all effective vaccines, it mimics the virus itself in its ability to trigger a physiological response in us. They want to nudge you into allegiance to a policy or a vote or a party. We want to un-nudge you into independence of spirit and thought. They want to infect you with an Answer. We want to innoculate you with a Process. The Process is one of the Old Stories. It is, in fact, the Oldest Story of what makes for a good and just human society. It is a narrative that has directly motivated hundreds of millions of people to organize themselves in hundreds of thousands of beneficial social forms, large and small, for thousands of years. We’re going to use that incepted Process to burn down these systems of iniquity from within and below.

We’re going use that incepted Process to build something better together, as brothers and sisters exercising our birthright – our autonomy of mind. I’m going to tell you exactly how we’re going to develop millions and millions of doses of the Old Story vaccine, and I’m going to tell you exactly how we’re going to administer them and exactly how we are going to change the world from below and from within. And you won’t believe me.

I mean, this happens all the time. I will sit down with someone and walk them through the entire plan … how we’re developing the science of what Isaac Asimov called “psychohistory”, how that gives us the ability to not only measure the narratives of social control that oligarchic institutions broadcast but also to design effective jamming narratives of our own, how we create a decentralized epistemic community of distributed trust and mutual support that we call the Pack, how we burn down these oligarchic institutions from below by jamming their Answers and from within by replacing the current sociopathic leadership with members of the Pack … and it is literally as if a switch goes off in their head and their eyes go dim. But then I’ll say “yada-yada-Trump” or “yada-yada-Biden” or “yada-yada-the-Fed” or “yada-yada-Bitcoin” and they’ll perk right up again!

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I’m cheating a bit. This is part of the article above, Inception. But the article is long and this is a very good bit.

“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Now go and learn it.”

The Golden Rule (Ben Hunt)

It’s the Golden Rule. It’s the Oldest Story of fundamental human ethics. You can find it in ancient Egyptian stories, preserved in papyri from the Middle Kingdom. You can find it in the ancient Sanskrit epic “Mahabarata”, as the way in which dharma manifests itself in human affairs. You can find it in the ancient Greek writings of Thales and Pythagoras. You can find it in the ancient Persian texts of Zoroaster. But here’s my favorite: A gentile came before two teachers, Shammai the strict and Hillel the tolerant, and to each in turn said, “I will convert to Judaism if you can teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” Shammai chased him away. But Hillel said to the gentile, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Now go and learn it.” The rest is commentary.


The Golden Rule is all you need to know to organize a good and just society. Everything else, all of the rules and principles and books and words and laws that engulf us … ALL of it … is just commentary. The Golden Rule is the vaccine. The Golden Rule is the simplest and most powerful form of the idea of reciprocity, ready and primed for inception in every human dreamer. The Golden Rule is the formal description of empathy. The Golden Rule is the only law of the Pack. The Golden Rule IS the full hearts of Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose. The Golden Rule is the meme that we’re going to inject in a mass-customized way straight into everyone’s veins with the Narrative Machine. And then YOU are going to burn down the current system of oligarchic iniquity from below and within. And then YOU are going to change the world. All on your own. With no centralized organization and no Answer imposed from above.

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Note that this takes place as the world is fast running out of space to store oil reserves in. I’m waiting for numbers of fully loaded tankers floating off ports for weeks or months.

Major Blow To Keystone XL Pipeline As Judge Revokes Key Permit (G.)

The controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has been dealt a major setback, after a judge revoked a key permit issued by the US Army Corps of Engineers without properly assessing the impact on endangered species. In a legal challenge brought by a coalition of environmental groups, a federal judge in Montana ordered the Army Corps to suspend all filling and dredging activities until it conducts formal consultations compliant with the Endangered Species Act. The ruling revokes the water-crossing permit needed to complete construction of the pipeline, and is expected to cause major delays to the divisive project. Keystone XL is a 1,179-mile pipeline which would transport around 830,000 barrels of oil a day from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada to Nebraska, eventually heading to refineries on the Gulf Coast.


Campaigners welcomed Wednesday’s ruling as a victory for tribal rights and environmental protection. “The court has rightfully ruled against the Trump administration’s efforts to fast track this nasty pipeline at any cost. We won’t allow fossil fuel corporations and backdoor politicians to violate the laws that protect people and the planet,” said Tamara Toles O’Laughlin of environmental group 350.org Judith LeBlanc, director of the Native Organizer Alliance, said: “The revoking of the permit is a victory for treaty rights and democracy. Tribal nations have a renewed opportunity to exercise our legal and inherent rights to protect the water of the Missouri river bioregion for all who live, farm and work on the land.”

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Prepare to hear much more about this from Horowitz. Someone will do a major write-up.

FBI Repeatedly Warned Steele Dossier Fed By Russian Misinformation (Solomon)

The FBI received repeated warnings dating to 2015 that Christopher Steele, the ex-British spy it used to build a case against President Trump, had concerning contacts with Russian oligarchs and intelligence figures that might call into question the credibility of his intelligence reporting, newly declassified documents showed Monday. The suspect sources included a person described as a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and a Russian intelligence figure under separate counterintelligence investigation by the FBI, the memos show. And the red flags included a warning that Russian intelligence appeared to be aware as early as July 2016 that Steele was working on a U.S. election-related investigation, making him susceptible to misinformation.

The revelations are found in newly declassified footnotes from Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz’s December, 2019 report about failures in the Russia probe that included using false evidence to secure a FISA warrant against Trump campaign adviser Carter Page in October 2016. Some of those red flags were raised prior to the bureau’s decision to rely on Steele’s dossier as key evidence in seeking the FISA warrant targeting the Trump campaign in the final days of the 2016 election, and nearly all were raised before Special Counsel Robert Mueller opened his probe in spring 2017.

For instance, FBI officials urged in 2015 that Steele undergo a re-evaluation as an informant (a “validation review,” in spy parlance) after the bureau’s transnational organized crime office learned that he had received contact from five Russian oligarchs, all of whom wanted to have contact with the bureau. “The report noted that Steele’s contact with 5 Russian oligarchs in a short period of time was unusual and recommended that a validation review be completed on Steele because of this activity,” one footnote stated.

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