Jun 152020
 


Gustave Dore Dante before the wall of flames which burn the lustful 1868

 

The Masks Masquerade (Nassim Taleb)
Millions of US Job Losses Are at Risk of Becoming Permanent (BBG)
Powell Is Now Helpless (Eric Peters)
US Labor Department Throws 401k Investors To The Wolves (F.)
UK Lawmakers Urge FM Sunak To Add 1 Million Workers To Income Schemes (R.)
Beijing Lockdown Spreads In Race To Control Outbreak (SCMP)
Sudden Jump In China Virus Cases Causes Futures To Tumble (ZH)
Second Wave Has Begun in US, Medical System May Be Stressed – Doctor (CNBC)
Greeks Against Second Lockdown – Survey (K.)
Macron Says France Must Seek Greater Economic Independence After Virus (R.)
Putin: Russia Soon Able To Counter “Indefensible” Hypersonic Weapons (ZH)
To Celebrate Obama Day, Here Are Barack’s Greatest Hits (Ben Norton)
Julian Assange Indictment Fails To Mention ‘Collateral Murder’ Video (G.)

 

 

Good thing I’m not into astrology:

• Trump’s birthday: June 14 (a.k.a Obama Day)

• Xi Jinping’s birthday: June 15

 

 

Worldometer reports new cases (midnight to midnight GMT+0) at + 123,645.

My count from about 6 am EDT to 6 am EDT is + 121,464 cases.

But the graph says cases always come down in the weekend, and I’m early today.

 

 

 

 

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 20,004
• Brazil + 17,086
• Russia + 8,246
• India + 13,722
• Pakistan + 5,248
• Chile + 6,938

 

 

Cases 8,017,241 (+ 121,464 from yesterday’s 7,895,777)

Deaths 436,124(+ 3,242 from yesterday’s 432,882)

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

From Worldometer:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 


 

 

Taleb goes into much more detail in the article, please read. The inane “doubts” about mask efficacy cost lives. Wear a Mask in Public!

The Masks Masquerade (Nassim Taleb)

Incompetence and Errors in Reasoning Around Face Covering

SIX ERRORS:

1) missing the compounding effects of masks,

2) missing the nonlinearity of the probability of infection to viral exposures,

3) missing absence of evidence (of benefits of mask wearing) for evidence of absence (of benefits of mask wearing),

4) missing the point that people do not need governments to produce facial covering: they can make their own,

5) missing the compounding effects of statistical signals,

6) ignoring the Non-Aggression Principle by pseudolibertarians (masks are also to protect others from you; it’s a multiplicative process: every person you infect will infect others).

In fact masks (and faceshields) supplemented with constraints of superspreader events can save us trillions of dollars in future lockdowns (and lawsuits) and be potentially sufficient (under adequate compliance) to stem the pandemic. Bureaucrats do not like simple solutions. [..] Note that by infecting another person you are not infecting just another person. You are infecting many many more and causing systemic risk.
Wear a mask. For the Sake of Others.

Read more …

This won’t sink in for a long time yet.

Millions of US Job Losses Are at Risk of Becoming Permanent (BBG)

Twenty-year-old William Lovely used to work at Jason’s Deli in Virginia Beach, delivering catering orders to surrounding businesses. Now, thanks to the coronavirus, he’s struggling to pay his bills. Laid off in March, he’s gone from regular hours and pay to gigging for UberEats or Instacart, earning up to $100 on some days but often coming home with almost nothing. While the restaurant is trying to slowly reopen, Lovely reckons the best he can hope for is a part-time position, requiring him to keep his second job if he’s going to meet his expenses. “My job stopped, but the bills don’t,” he said. Lovely’s experience goes to the heart of the dilemma facing the world economy as it gradually emerges from the virus-enforced lockdown and unprecedented recession: How many of the millions of lost jobs are gone for good?

The hope is the waves of stimulus doled out by governments and central banks should eventually buoy economies and spark a revival in hiring. Furloughed or redundant workers would then return to their employers. The risk though is that the pandemic is inflicting a “reallocation shock” in which firms and even entire sectors suffer lasting damage. Lost jobs don’t come back and unemployment stays elevated. That would force workers to retrain or relocate, both of which are hard, and governments to do more than just try to spend their way out of trouble. It was a theme hit upon last week by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell as U.S. central bankers forecast leaving interest rates near zero until 2022 in part because of a surge in unemployment to the highest level since the Great Depression.


There will be “well into the millions of people who don’t get to go back to their old job,” said Powell, who will testify to Congress on the economic outlook this week. “In fact, there may not be a job in that industry for them for some time.” Unfortunately, new research by Bloomberg Economics reckons 30% of U.S. job losses from February to May are the result of a reallocation shock. The analysis — based on the relationship between hiring, firing, openings and unemployment — suggests the labor market will initially recover swiftly, but then level off with millions still unemployed.

Read more …

The louder you say that the bigger the next bank bailout is going to be.

Powell Is Now Helpless (Eric Peters)

“We’re not even thinking about thinking of raising rates,” declared America’s Fed Chairman, all but eliminating uncertainty about the Fed policy path through 2022. The S&P 500 had completed a historic recovery from the pandemic lows to trade higher on the year, its price utterly disconnected from today’s economic devastation. But markets never discount today, they discount tomorrow. And no sooner had they taken a little peek at what prices looked like back on January 1st then they began to plunge. Some blamed signs of a viral resurgence, though that had swirled for days. Others blamed Millennials whose day-trading resembles the dot.com mania. And a few blamed General Milley, America’s top-ranking general, who apologized for joining the President on his ill-fated march to St. John’s Church.

You see, the generals have turned their backs on Trump over his response to demonstrators. The NFL has too; its commissioner apologized for having opposed taking a knee. Even NASCAR banned the Confederate Flag. And as Trump’s re-election prospects tanked, expectations for a dramatic restructuring of America’s economy soared. Efforts to rebalance the division of profits between capital and labor is demanded by a riotous Main Street. But this terrifies Wall Street, which has worked for years with Republicans, Democrats, CEOs and the Fed to extract an ever-increasing share of national prosperity for those who control capital.

This imbalance is central to today’s tumult. “If we held back because we think asset prices are too high – what would happen to those people who we are legally supposed to be serving?” asked Powell rhetorically, unsuccessfully defending himself from a rising chorus of critics who see the Federal Reserve as amplifying inequality. For decades, the central bank accommodated the financialization of the world’s largest economy. Now that the process is largely complete, even a modest market wobble threatens to devastate the real economy. And Powell is now helpless, caught in a trap of the Fed’s making.

Read more …

The Forbes headline says: “Trump DOL Throws…”, but the watering down of asset quality started a long time ago (Greenspan?!). We can pretend that stocks represent real value, but if that were true the Fed would get out of the way in a split second. As I always say: Remember AAA?

US Labor Department Throws 401k Investors To The Wolves (F.)

Trump U. S. Department of Labor watchdogs just opened the door for private equity wolves to sell the highest cost, highest risk, most secretive investments ever devised by Wall Street to 401k plan sponsors. 401k investors will be devoured like lambs to the slaughter. Last week, the U.S. Department of Labor opened the door for plan sponsors to add private equity funds to their 401(k) plans. That’s a huge win for the private equity industry since 401ks hold nearly $9 trillion in assets and a monstrous setback to American workers who invest in 401ks for retirement security.

After over three decades of egregious retail price gouging by mutual fund companies—as to which the DOL turned a blind eye—401k costs have in recent years been trending downward thanks primarily to widespread excessive-fee private class action litigation. Now, if private equity is embraced, 401k costs will skyrocket, risk will dramatically increase and transparency will plummet. Bad enough that DOL—the federal agency which is supposed to protect employer-sponsored retirement benefit plans—welcomed the wolves of Wall Street to feast on workers’ hard-earned savings, but the explanation the agency provided for its reckless action is perverse.

Ramping up the fees and risks to 401k savers will “overcome the effects the coronavirus had had on our economy” and “level the playing field for ordinary investors” by allowing workers to gamble their limited retirement savings like millionaires who can afford to lose lots. [..] Warren Buffett, arguably the world’s most respected investor, recently escalated his criticism of private equity firms. At last year’s Berkshire Hathaway BRK.B annual meeting Buffett stated, “We have seen a number of proposals from private equity firms where the returns are not calculated in a manner that I would regard as honest… If I were running a pension fund, I would be very careful about what was being offered to me.”

Read more …

Until he has a substantial part of the population on these schemes, and a UBI would likely be both cheaper and more efficient. But UBI is a blasphemy.

UK Lawmakers Urge FM Sunak To Add 1 Million Workers To Income Schemes (R.)

British finance minister Rishi Sunak must extend the government’s already huge coronavirus income support measures to include over 1 million more workers who have missed out, lawmakers said on Monday. People who started jobs after a cut-off date in March for the state’s wage subsidy scheme or who set up a company in the last year should not be excluded, the lawmakers from parliament’s influential Treasury Committee said.Self-employed people who earn more than a threshold set by the government, freelancers in industries such as theatre and television and directors of companies who pay themselves in dividends should also be covered, they said. Mel Stride, who chairs the committee, said Sunak had acted quickly to slow an expected surge in unemployment as the crisis escalated in March.


“If it is to be fair and completely fulfil its promise of doing whatever it takes, the government should urgently enact our recommendations to help those who have fallen through the gaps,” he said. Sunak has recognised that some people are not protected by his support plans but has shown no sign of expanding them again. Nearly 9 million jobs are covered by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which pays temporarily laid-off workers 80% of their salary, capped at 2,500 pounds a month. A separate scheme for self-employed people has received 2.6 million claims. Britain’s budget forecasters have estimated that the two programmes will cost nearly 70 billion pounds ($88 billion) this year, more than the entire government borrowing in the last financial year.

Read more …

This has birthday boy Xi really scared. 11 neigborhoods in Beijing have been shut down.

Beijing Lockdown Spreads In Race To Control Outbreak (SCMP)

Chinese vice-premier Sun Chunlan has prescribed “firm and decisive measures” to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus in Beijing, which reported another 36 new cases in a single day following an outbreak at a food market in the capital. Sun, who has been overseeing China’s Covid-19 control measures since January, told a meeting of the State Council late on Sunday that the risk of the latest outbreak spreading was “very high” because of the market’s large, densely packed and highly mobile population, according to state news agency Xinhua. The new cases bring the number of people affected in the capital by the latest outbreak to 79 – all of them linked to the Xinfadi wholesale market, a food distribution centre in southern Beijing which occupies 107 hectares and supplies food to northern provinces like Shandong, Shanxi, Hebei and Liaoning.


[..] Residential areas near Xinfadi market are once again under strict lockdown, with controlled access pending centralised testing for Covid-19. Beijing Health Commission spokesman Xia Xiaojun said 76,499 samples had been tested on Sunday, with 59 positive. Xia said some of those cases had already been included in the count of confirmed infections, while others were still waiting for diagnosis.

Read more …

Close to 100 new cases.

Sudden Jump In China Virus Cases Causes Futures To Tumble (ZH)

On a day when more than 20 US states are seeing a pick-up in cases, Tokyo reported a jump over the weekend and a fresh outbreak in Beijing prompted officials to close a market there, futures are tumbling, with Eminis down more than 40 points to 2,980 the lowest level since the start of June.The drop follows renewed fears of a second coronavirus wave which massacred shares on Thursday before a modest rebound Friday. But the trigger for tonight’s drop appears to have come out of China, which reported 49 new cases of COVID19 in China on June 14, including 10 imported cases and 39 local cases.

36 local cases were diagnosed in Beijing and 3 in Hebei province, according to the National Health Commission, with China’s Vice Premier Sun Chunlan spooking traders saying that the risks are high for Beijing’s coronavirus resurgence to spread as all cases are related to Xinfadi wholesale market where a large population has visited, according to Xinhua. As reported yesterday, Beijing shut a major food market and imposed lockdown restrictions on residential areas nearby after dozens of people associated with the wholesale market were tested positive for coronavirus.

Additionally, the Global Times reported that 17 out of 19 new imported coronavirus cases registered on Saturday came from South Asia, Chinese health authorities said Sunday, a sharp spike which analysts said indicates that loosening restrictions and worsening contagion in the region poses a danger to the country’s domestic situation. The 17 patients were reported in South China’s Guangdong Province, with 14 flying from Bangladesh and three from India. The 14 patients and the three asymptomatic carriers arrived in Guangzhou on China Southern Airlines flight CZ392 from Dhaka to Guangzhou on Thursday, which prompted the Chinese aviation regulator to suspend the route for four weeks from June 22 in accordance with the latest policy.

Read more …

Here’s a doctor who claims a second wave has started in the US. But I don’t see it. What did happen was that peaks were not simultaneous all over the country, and the first ones were in some of the most populous areas (Northeast).

It’s really just been a shift from Northeast to South and West, though, and I see no overall second wave appearing yet. If and when it does, it will likely also be different in different regions of the country. Note: there is kind of a second wave in Houston.

 

 

 

 

Second Wave Has Begun in US, Medical System May Be Stressed – Doctor (CNBC)

A second wave of coronavirus has started in the U.S. — and people need to remain careful or risk stressing out the health-care system again, said William Schaffner, a professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “The second wave has begun,” said the professor of medicine told CNBC’s “Street Signs Asia” on Monday. “We’re opening up across the country, but many, many people are not social distancing, many are not wearing their masks.” Even so, he said he “cannot imagine” a second shutdown due to the impact of the first one. Several states in America have reported recent spikes in Covid-19 cases as measures are eased throughout the country. The U.S. has the highest number of cases in the world. Nearly 2.1 million people have been infected by the disease and more than 115,000 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Schaffner added that mass gatherings and religious services are also being held. “Many people are simply not being careful, they’re being carefree,” he said. “That, of course, will lead to more spread of the Covid virus.” Despite signs of a second wave, Schaffner said the option of another lockdown is “off the table.” Instead, governments, businesses and religious leaders have to work together to promote mask wearing and social distancing in order to flatten the curve. He said wearing masks is “very, very important” and authorities should “persuade and educate” their residents to make this a “social norm.” “If we all do that in respect of each other, then I think we can make some progress,” said Schaffner.

“If we do all the opposite — if we open up, do not have social distancing, don’t wear masks and congregate in large numbers again, we are going to be very stressed in the medical care system,” he warned. “The complete shutdown was such a financial disaster, and had so many social and cultural implications that I cannot imagine we’ll have a shutdown again,” he said. Other countries, however, have not shied away from reimposing measures when new clusters are detected in the community. In May, South Korea shut all night clubs and bars in Seoul after a new cluster surfaced there. Last week, Beijing reportedly banned tourism and locked down 11 neighborhoods in response to infections related to a wholesale market.

Read more …

If things go well, I should be back in Athens soon. The sentiment here is probably more or less the same as in many other countries.

Greeks Against Second Lockdown – Survey (K.)

Greeks are concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on public health and the economy, while also skeptical about the causes and repercussions of the pandemic, according to a survey conducted by Pulse for Kathimerini. Eighty-four percent say that Covid-19 is “definitely” or “perhaps” a serious risk to public health. The risk appears greater among older age groups and educated individuals. Meanwhile, 76 percent say that the health measures, which damaged the economy, were “definitely” or “maybe” necessary. More specifically, the measures were deemed as necessary by 90 percent of New Democracy voters and 62 percent of SYRIZA voters. Concern is widespread. Thirty-two percent are more worried about their financial situation and 23 percent about their health, while 42 percent said that both issues have them “equally concerned.”

Most people say they are against a fresh lockdown in the case of a second wave in the autumn. The restrictions on public movement appear to have taken an economic and psychological toll. As a result, only 21 percent favor a repeat of the “horizontal restrictions.” Meanwhile, 65 percent favor restrictions only in places where a spike in cases is recorded while 10 percent say that the state “must only give recommendations” to citizens. The survey shows that people with lower education and income levels are more likely to question official theories about the origin of the virus. It appears that lower income individuals (usually people with limited educational opportunities) tend to associate Covid-19 with formal structures which they hold responsible for their condition.


More specifically, 33 percent believe that the virus is being used to “intimidate” the public, an equal share say it is being used to enforce compulsory vaccination, while 35 percent say that the virus is used as an excuse to compromise citizens’ personal data. However, Greeks appear relatively immune to the 5G coronavirus conspiracy, as only 10 percent believe there is any connection between the spread of Covid-19 and mobile phone technology. A key reason perhaps is that 5G technology is still not available in Greece. [..] More than half (52 percent) said Covid-19 was created by humans. Of these, 30 percent claim that the virus was created by humans with a specific purpose in mind (like an experiment on population control), while 22 percent say that the virus was created by mistake (like an accident in a lab). Eleven percent said they did not know where the virus might have come from.

Read more …

1) Does Macron -also- mean independence from the EU?
2) The French are not averse to a bit of nationalism, and Macron like many other leaders can and does use the idea that the virus came from abroad to play into it
3) Of course countries should cut their dependence on others when it comes to essential goods, but the EU wants the opposite
4) If there’s one police force that needs reform, it’s the French

Macron Says France Must Seek Greater Economic Independence After Virus (R.)

President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday he was accelerating France’s exit from its coronavirus lockdown and that the crisis had laid bare the country’s need for greater economic independence. In a televised address to the nation, Macron promised that the 500 billion euro cost of keeping companies afloat and people in jobs during the worst downturn since World War Two would not be passed to households through higher taxes. Restaurants and cafes in Paris will be allowed to reopen fully from Monday, he said, the same day France lifts restrictions at its borders for European Union travellers, bringing sorely needed relief for the hospitality industry.

He said the coronavirus pandemic had exposed the “flaws and fragility” of France’s, and more broadly Europe’s, over-reliance on global supply chains, from the car industry to smart phones and pharmaceuticals. “The only answer is to build a new, stronger economic model, to work and produce more, so as not to rely on others,” Macron said. The coronavirus has killed more than 29,300 people in France and forced Macron, a former investment banker, to suspend his economic and social reform drive aimed at spurring growth, creating jobs and deregulating the economy. The government expects the economy to shrink by 11% in 2020. Macron said he would lay out a detailed blueprint for the final two years of his mandate in July.

[..] The global outpouring of anger has forced France to confront allegations from ethnic minorities and rights groups of racism and brutality within France’s own law enforcement agencies. Macron said skin colour too often reduced a person’s opportunities in France, promising to be unflinching against all discrimination. But he expressed support for French police and said fighting racism should not lead to a “hateful” re-writing of the history of France, whose empire once stretched from the Caribbean to the South Pacific and included much of north and west Africa. “I will be very clear tonight, compatriots: the Republic won’t erase any name from its history. It will forget none of its artworks, it won’t take down statues,” Macron said.

Read more …

The US can only play catch-up, and even that it’s not good at.

Putin: Russia Soon Able To Counter “Indefensible” Hypersonic Weapons (ZH)

The thing about hypersonic missiles is they are supposed to be impossible to defend against. Since Russia began touting its experimental arsenal two years ago, the prospect of devastating weapons capable of traveling at Mach 5, or at least a mile per second, has kept Pentagon generals up at night. “The hypersonic threat is real, it is not imagination,” Air Force Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves told a D.C. defense conference in 2018. “Greaves comments come amid reports that assess Russia will be capable of fielding a hypersonic glide vehicle, a weapon that no country can defend against, by 2020,” a report at the time underscored alarmingly.

The “indefensible” super weapon… but Russian President Vladimir Putin now says the Kremlin will soon have the technology to defend against it — this as more and more information has been slowly revealed concerning the US Department of Defense’s own multi-billion dollar hypersonics program. Putin made the new comments Sunday: “It’s very likely that we will have means to combat hypersonic weapons by the time the world’s leading countries have such weapons,” he said according to the RIA news agency. Russian state media further said Putin referenced an emerging hypersonins ‘arms race’. The Russian president said that Russia’s rivals will soon be “surprised” when they learn the Russian armed forces will be able to “combat them”.

Putin’s words, as conveyed by RT, were paraphrased as follows: Other nations are hastily designing their own hypersonic weapons – but by the time they are acquired, the Russian military will have learned how to shield the country from them, President Vladimir Putin said. The world’s leading military powers will eventually succeed in developing the ultra-fast weapons, President Vladimir Putin told Russia-1 TV. Russia, meanwhile, which seems to be leading the race for hypersonic dominance, won’t be caught off-guard once that happens, he pledged. I think that we can pleasantly surprise our partners with the fact that when they get these weapons, we will have the means of combating them, with a high degree of probability.

Read more …

Balance.

To Celebrate Obama Day, Here Are Barack’s Greatest Hits (Ben Norton)

To celebrate Obama Day, here are Barack’s greatest hits (wars, coups, slavery, sanctions, al-Qaeda, colonialism) In parts of the United States and the bottomless pit of the internet, today, June 14, is considered “Barack Obama Day.” On social media, the hashtag #ObamaDayJune14th is going viral. So I thought I would commemorate this day by listing some of the former Democratic president’s many accomplishments.

As his supporters are so keen to point out, Obama had no major scandals, you see, except for:
• wearing that tan suit one time
• deporting more people than any other president, 2.7 million, earning the ignominious title “deporter in chief”
• dropping 26,171 bombs on seven Muslim-majority countries in his last year in office alone
• overseeing a genocidal war in Yemen that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and unleashed the largest humanitarian catastrophe on Earth
• supporting al-Qaeda in Syria, funneling billions of dollars of weapons to hardened Salafi-jihadist fanatics to try to destroy the country, and fueling the rise of ISIS
• arming al-Qaeda in Yemen as well
• destroying Libya, once the most prosperous country in Africa, leaving behind a failed state with open-air slave markets
• giving the Israeli apartheid regime $38 billion in unconditional military aid and arming it as it bombed civilians in Gaza (in three separate, barbaric wars: 2008-2009, 2012, and 2014)
• creating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a neoliberal “free trade” monstrosity that would have ensured even more dystopian corporate tyranny over the global political and economic system

Oh yeah, and here are some more unforgettable classics from Obama:
• sponsoring the military coup in Honduras, overthrowing its democratically elected left-leaning government and installing a far-right narco-dictatorship led by a neoliberal autocrat whose drug lord brother smuggled thousands of tons of cocaine and machine guns
• managing Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious, in which the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent thousands of guns to murderous drug cartels in Mexico
• backing the parliamentary coup in Brazil, removing the democratically elected Workers’ Party government and paving the way for the fascist Bolsonaro regime
• supporting a soft coup against the democratically elected government in Paraguay
• overseeing a violent coup against Ukraine’s Russia-leaning elected government with the “Euromaidan” movement, in which neo-Nazis and other fascists played a significant role
• subsequently arming the neo-Nazi Azov Battalion in Ukraine
• prolonging the military occupation of Afghanistan, after promising dozens of times he would end the war by 2014
• maintaining a daily “kill list” (known euphemistically as the “disposition matrix”) in which the US president personally approved extrajudicial assassinations of thousands of people, via a covert drone warfare program spanning multiple continents, regularly bombing countries including, but not limited to, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq

Read more …

The US totally ignores the video that’s central to the entire story, and the Guardian ignores teh fact that it’s published 1,000 Assange smear pieces. What a wonderful world.

Julian Assange Indictment Fails To Mention ‘Collateral Murder’ Video (G.)

US prosecutors have failed to include one of WikiLeaks’ most shocking video revelations in the indictment against Julian Assange, a move that has brought accusations the US doesn’t want its “war crimes” exposed in public. Assange, an Australian citizen, is remanded and in ill health in London’s Belmarsh prison while the US tries to extradite him to face 18 charges – 17 under its Espionage Act – for conspiracy to receive, obtain and disclose classified information. The charges relate largely to the US conduct of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including Assange’s publication of the US rules of engagement in Iraq. The prosecution case alleges Assange risked American lives by releasing hundreds of thousands of US intelligence documents.

One of the most famous of the WikiLeaks releases was a video – filmed from a US Apache helicopter, Crazy Horse 1-8, as it mowed down 11 people on 12 July 2007 in Iraq. The video starkly highlights the lax rules of engagement that allowed the killing of men who were neither engaged with nor threatening US forces. Two of those Crazy Horse 1-8 killed in east Baghdad that day were the Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and a driver/fixer, Saeed Chmagh, 40. Their Baghdad bureau chief at the time, Dean Yates, said the US military had repeatedly lied to him – and the world – about what happened, and it was only when Assange released the video (which WikiLeaks posted with the title Collateral Murder) in April 2010 that the full brutal truth of the killings was exposed.

“What he did was 100% an act of truth-telling, exposing to the world what the war in Iraq looks like and how the US military lied … The US knows how embarrassing Collateral Murder is, how shameful it is to the military – they know that there’s potential war crimes on that tape,” Yates said.

Read more …

 

 

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May 272020
 


G. G. Bain Metropolitan Opera baritone Giuseppe De Luca, New York 1920

 

Despite The Hype, Gilead’s Remdesivir Will Do Nothing To End The Coronavirus Pandemic (Lerner)
WHO Expects Hydroxychloroquine Safety Findings By Mid-June (R.)
Antibody Tests For COVID19 Wrong Up To Half The Time – CDC (CNN)
Coronavirus Cases Are On The Rise In 20 US States (R.) .
Coronavirus Uses Same Strategy As HIV To Dodge Immune Response (SCMP)
China’s Top Virus Warrior ‘Shocked’ By US Coronavirus Death Toll (SCMP)
Neglected Residents, Rotten Food, Cockroaches Found At Canada Care Homes (G.)
Cuomo Gave Immunity to Nursing-Home Execs After Big Campaign Donations (Sirota)
How Hong Kong Avoided A Single Coronavirus Death In Care Homes (Ind.)
Coronavirus Lockdowns Prompt Raft Of Lawsuits Against States (USAT)
Twitter Is Completely Stifling Free Speech – Trump (JTN)
Japan Eyes Fresh $1.1 Trillion Stimulus To Combat Pandemic Pain (R.)
Macron Wants France To Be Europe’s Top Clean Car Producer (R.)
The FBI Documents That Put Barack Obama In The Obamagate Narrative (Solomon)

 

 

• 100,000 deaths broached in the US.

New cases past 24 hours in:

• US + 19,582
• Brazil + 17,838
• Russia + 8,915
• UK 4,938
• India + 6,604
• Peru + 5,772

 

 

 

 

 

We’re back to “normal” numbers: about 100,000 new cases and 4,500 new deaths.

Cases 5,709,518 (+ 99,864 from yesterday’s 5,609,654)

Deaths 352,750 (+ 4,428 from yesterday’s 348,322)

 

 

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening -before their day’s close- Note: see bottom 2: Pakistan passed Belgium in cases, but has 5 deaths per million pop. vs Belgium’s 806.

 

 

From Worldometer

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

Capitalism at its peak.

Despite The Hype, Gilead’s Remdesivir Will Do Nothing To End The Coronavirus Pandemic (Lerner)

Desperation for the limited supply of remdesivir is so great that Virginia will hold a lottery to determine which of the almost 1,500 severely ill patients in the state will be able to get its several hundred donated doses of the drug. In Minnesota, state officials have come up with an action plan to allocate their supply of the Covid-19 treatment, which calls for designating “triage officers” who will randomly choose among equally eligible patients. And in Alabama, physicians on a coronavirus task force set up by the governor will determine which patients get remdesivir. Some hospitals there will receive just a single course of treatment. Still, Alabama’s state health officer, Dr. Scott Harris, recently offered his thanks to Gilead, the drug’s manufacturer, which donated some 940,000 vials of the drug to the federal government that are being distributed by state health departments.

“Although the total supply of remdesivir is limited, we are grateful that hospitalized COVID-19 patients with severe disease in Alabama can receive this potentially lifesaving medication,” said Harris. It is amid these feelings of scarcity and indebtedness that Gilead is setting the price for its antiviral medicine. The company, which has already arranged for distribution of remdesivir in 127 countries, is expected to begin selling it commercially as soon as June. And while a 10-day course of the drug, which was developed as a potential Ebola treatment with at least $79 million in U.S. government funding, costs only about $10 to produce, according to an estimate by the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review, its market price is expected to be several hundred times that amount.

Still, price gouging isn’t what has many scientists upset about remdesivir. It’s the fact that the coronavirus drug that has boosted hopes and sent Gilead’s stock price (and according to some analysts, the entire stock market) soaring doesn’t seem to do much for coronavirus patients. said William Haseltine, a scientist who has spent decades studying viruses and helped lead the U.S. government response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. “It is comparable to Tamiflu and maybe not even as good,” Haseltine added, referring to another antiviral drug that has been available by prescription for 20 years and is expected to be sold over the counter in the coming months.

Haseltine, who founded the divisions of biochemical pharmacology and human retrovirology at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, pointed out that Gilead hasn’t released data showing remdesivir’s effect on viral load in people with Covid-19. Meanwhile, the only available information on how the drug affects the amount of the coronavirus in patients, a Chinese study of the drug published in The Lancet, showed that the drug did not lower the viral load. “That’s why I call it the fuzzy-wuzzy drug,” said Haseltine. “When the Chinese tried to find the antiviral effect, it wasn’t there.” Instead, the excitement about remdesivir is based largely on a study sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases that showed people taking the drug had a faster recovery than those who didn’t take it: 11 days on average compared to 15 for those taking a placebo.

An article published on May 22 in the New England Journal of Medicine showed mild improvement in hospitalized patients that took remdesivir, though the drug didn’t appear to be of any help to the sickest patients, who needed to receive high-flow oxygen through ventilators or other means. Nor did the drug significantly improve a patient’s chance of surviving Covid-19. Nevertheless, at an April 29 Oval Office press conference with President Donald Trump, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci declared that preliminary results from that trial proved that “a drug can block this virus.” Since then, remdesivir has been positioned as our savior and Gilead as its benevolent dispenser.

While some patients and their families have spent the past few weeks frantically trying to procure remdesivir, another Covid-19 treatment has been quietly been shown to be more effective. Although neither option appears to be the much-needed cure for Covid-19, a three-drug regimen offered a greater reduction in the time it took patients to recover than remdesivir did. People who took the combination of interferon beta-1b, lopinavir-ritonavir, and ribavirin got better in seven days as opposed to 12 days for those who didn’t take it. Critically, the treatment has another leg up on Gilead’s: It clearly reduced the amount of the coronavirus in patients who took it, according to a study published in The Lancet on May 8.

Yet so far there has been no stampede of patients demanding the new regimen or lotteries to mete out the doses, which may be due at least in part to the fact that the treatment hasn’t been the subject of a major marketing campaign. It’s worth noting that each of the three drugs in the new combination is generic, or no longer under patent, which means that no company stands to profit significantly from its use.

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We’d want to see all the other research from the past 65 years as well, please.

WHO Expects Hydroxychloroquine Safety Findings By Mid-June (R.)

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday promised a swift review of data on hydroxychloroquine, probably by mid-June, after safety concerns prompted the group to suspend the malaria drug’s use in a large trial on COVID-19 patients. U.S. President Donald Trump and others have pushed hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, but the WHO on Monday called time after the British journal The Lancet reported patients getting hydroxychloroquine had increased death rates and irregular heartbeats. “A final decision on the harm, benefit or lack of benefit of hydroxychloroquine will be made once the evidence has been reviewed,” the body said. “It is expected by mid-June.”


Those already in a 17-country study, called Solidarity, of thousands of patients who have started hydroxychloroquine can finish their treatment, the WHO said. Newly enrolled patients will get other treatments being evaluated, including Gilead Science’s remdesivir and AbbVie’s Kaletra/Aluvia. Separate hydroxychloroquine trials, including a 440-patient U.S. study by Swiss drugmaker Novartis, are continuing enrollment. Novartis and rival Sanofi have pledged donations of tens of millions of doses of the drug, also used in rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, for COVID-19. Novartis said The Lancet study, while covering 100,000 people, was “observational” and could not demonstrate a causal link between hydroxychloroquine and side effects. “We need randomised, controlled clinical trials to clearly understand efficacy and safety,” a Novartis spokesman said.

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You can’t do accurate testing for antibodies if too small a segment of a population is infected.

Antibody Tests For COVID19 Wrong Up To Half The Time – CDC (CNN)

Antibody tests used to determine if people have been infected in the past with Covid-19 might be wrong up to half the time, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in new guidance posted on its website. Antibody tests, often called serologic tests, look for evidence of an immune response to infection. “Antibodies in some persons can be detected within the first week of illness onset,” the CDC says. They are not accurate enough to use to make important policy decisions, the CDC said. “Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about grouping persons residing in or being admitted to congregate settings, such as schools, dormitories, or correctional facilities,” the CDC says.

“Serologic test results should not be used to make decisions about returning persons to the workplace.” Health officials or health care providers who are using antibody tests need to use the most accurate test they can find and might need to test people twice, the CDC said in the new guidance. “In most of the country, including areas that have been heavily impacted, the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibody is expected to be low, ranging from less than 5% to 25%, so that testing at this point might result in relatively more false positive results and fewer false-negative results,” the CDC said.

[..] The CDC explains why testing can be wrong so often. A lot has to do with how common the virus is in the population being tested. “For example, in a population where the prevalence is 5%, a test with 90% sensitivity and 95% specificity will yield a positive predictive value of 49%. In other words, less than half of those testing positive will truly have antibodies,” the CDC said. “Alternatively, the same test in a population with an antibody prevalence exceeding 52% will yield a positive predictive greater than 95%, meaning that less than one in 20 people testing positive will have a false positive test result.”

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While just 15 have seen cases fall for 14 days.

Coronavirus Cases Are On The Rise In 20 US States (R.) .

Twenty U.S. states reported an increase in new cases of COVID-19 for the week ended May 24, up from 13 states in the prior week, as the death toll from the novel coronavirus approaches 100,000, according to a Reuters analysis. Alabama had the biggest weekly increase at 28%, Missouri’s new cases rose 27% and North Carolina’s rose 26%, according to the analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project, a volunteer-run effort to track the outbreak. New cases in Georgia, one of the first states to reopen, rose 21% after two weeks of declines. The state attributed the increase to a backlog of test results and more testing. Nationally, new cases of COVID-19 fell 0.8% for the week ended May 24, compared with a decline of 8% in the prior week.


All 50 states have now at least partially reopened, raising fears among some health officials of a second wave of outbreaks. The increase in cases could also be due to more testing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended states wait for their daily number of new COVID-19 cases to fall for 14 days before easing social distancing restrictions. As of May 24, 15 states had met that criteria, up from 13 in the prior week, according to the Reuters analysis. Washington state, where the U.S. outbreak started, has the longest streak with cases falling for eight weeks in a row, followed by Hawaii at seven weeks and Pennsylvania and New York at six weeks.

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Viruses don’t use strategies. That’s just another absurdity provoked by all the war comparisons. How can you be at war with something that’s not even considered alive? You might as well declare war on a rock or a mountain, or the sky, the ocean.

The vast majority of people alive in the west today have no first hand experience of war, and neither do the politicians who speak to them in terms of war. What makes them feel comfortable with the language, then? Is it Hollywood?

Coronavirus Uses Same Strategy As HIV To Dodge Immune Response (SCMP)

The novel coronavirus uses the same strategy to evade attack from the human immune system as HIV, according to a new study by Chinese scientists. Both viruses remove marker molecules on the surface of an infected cell that are used by the immune system to identify invaders, the researchers said in a non-peer reviewed paper posted on preprint website bioRxiv.org on Sunday. They warned that this commonality could mean Sars-CoV-2, the clinical name for the virus, could be around for some time, like HIV. Virologist Zhang Hui and a team from Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou also said their discovery added weight to clinical observations that the coronavirus was showing “some characteristics of viruses causing chronic infection”.


Their research involved collecting killer T cells from five patients who had recently recovered from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Those immune cells are generated by people after they are infected with Sars-CoV-2 – their job is to find and destroy the virus. But the killer T cells used in the study were not effective at eliminating the virus in infected cells. When the scientists took a closer look they found that a molecule known as major histocompatibility complex, or MHC, was missing. The molecule is an identification tag usually present in the membrane of a healthy cell, or in sick cells infected by other coronaviruses such as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or Sars. It changes with infections, alerting the immune system whether a cell is healthy or infected by a virus.

Coronavirus spread would dramatically drop if 80% of a population wore masks – AI researcher

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Zhong Nanshan again, who said in late January that the epidemic in Wuhan would be over in 10 days. That was spoken as a Beijing mouthpiece, and that’s what he still is.

China’s Top Virus Warrior ‘Shocked’ By US Coronavirus Death Toll (SCMP)

The US death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has shocked the scientist leading the fight against the disease in China, with the respiratory disease expert attributing the magnitude of American fatalities to a failure by policymakers to heed scientists’ advice. More than 1.66 million Covid-19 infections have been reported in the US, with 98,226 people dying from the disease – the highest number of deaths for any country. In all, 5.49 million people have been infected globally and more than 340,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. “Seventeen years ago, the Sars epidemic was handled so well in the US, completely differently from the situation now,” said Zhong Nanshan, director of the National Clinical Research Centre for Respiratory Disease and the leader of a team of scientists advising the government.

“You can say that [the US] carried out very extensive screening or more screening than other countries … But the heavy casualties still shocked me,” he said in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post. Zhong said his counterparts in the US told him that the American system was ill-prepared for the epidemic, despite the country’s high level of medical care, equipment and facilities. He said this was similar to the early response in Wuhan – the central Chinese city where the outbreak was first identified – when many medical personnel were infected and died. But the main problem in the US was the failure to listen to medical experts, he said. As a result, US President Donald Trump “underestimated the disease’s infectious power as well as its harmful nature. He thought it was a big flu.

US officials also did not listen to medical experts’ views concerning the reopening of the economy, he said. “Opening the economy quickly can be risky. I think they should follow the rules of science and reopen the economy step by step,” Zhong said. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has cautioned against businesses reopening too soon because of the threat of a second wave of infections. Fauci, who is the government’s top medical specialist, has said repeatedly that “the virus will decide when the country is to open back up”.

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Do explain, Justin. Tell us how you do not see elderly people as disposable. See, there’s no way you never saw a single complaint before the virus came.

Neglected Residents, Rotten Food, Cockroaches Found At Canada Care Homes (G.)

Canadian troops deployed to long-term care homes overwhelmed by coronavirus outbreaks found neglected and malnourished residents, rotten food and insect infestations, and a blatant disregard for critical safety protocol, according to a bombshell report from the country’s armed forces. Military medics were dispatched to long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario in late April, with aim of blunting Covid-19 outbreaks among vulnerable populations. Soldiers deployed to five of Ontario’s worst-hit care homes encountered rotten food, cockroaches and residents in soiled diapers, according to the report published on Tuesday. At one facility, residents had not been bathed in weeks. At another, staff made “derogatory or inappropriate comments directed at residents’”.

Neglect of resident hygiene and health, often leading to infection, was documented at all facilities. At one point, “patients [were] observed crying for help with staff not responding for 30 mins to over two hours,” the report said. [..] Long-term care homes in Canada, many of which are privately run, have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, with residents making up nearly eight out of 10 Covid-19-related deaths across the country. The damage has been felt most acutely in Ontario and Quebec, which have the vast majority of the country’s coronavirus cases and fatalities. An estimated 225 people died at the five homes where the military was assisting in Ontario.

The report chronicled widespread “burnout” among staff, a number of whom hadn’t seen family in weeks. The military also found numerous examples of staff showing little knowledge of how to properly wear personal protective equipment when dealing with coronavirus cases. [..] Meanwhile, the Canadian military said today that some 36 members working in long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec have become sick with Covid-19.

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Peak America.

Cuomo Gave Immunity to Nursing-Home Execs After Big Campaign Donations (Sirota)

In 2018, hospitals, nursing homes, and their lobbyists gave $2.3 million to New York governor Andrew Cuomo’s political apparatus. Now health care executives are getting immunity for their deadly negligence during the coronavirus pandemic. Critics say New York’s liability shield is linked to higher nursing-home death rates during the pandemic.

As Governor Andrew Cuomo faced a spirited challenge in his bid to win New York’s 2018 Democratic primary, his political apparatus got a last-minute boost: a powerful health care industry group suddenly poured more than $1 million into a Democratic committee backing his campaign. Less than two years after that flood of cash from the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA), Cuomo signed legislation last month quietly shielding hospital and nursing-home executives from the threat of lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus outbreak. The provision, inserted into an annual budget bill by Cuomo’s aides, created one of the nation’s most explicit immunity protections for health care industry officials, according to legal experts.

Critics say Cuomo removed a key deterrent against nursing home and hospital corporations cutting corners in ways that jeopardize lives. As those critics now try to repeal the provision during this final week of Albany’s legislative session, they assert that data prove such immunity is correlating to higher nursing-home death rates during the pandemic — both in New York and in other states enacting similar immunity policies. New York has become one of the globe’s major pandemic hot spots — and the epicenter of the state’s outbreak has been nursing homes, where more than five thousand New Yorkers have died, according to Associated Press data.

Those deaths have occurred as Cuomo’s critics say he has taken a hands-off approach to regulating the health care industry interests that helped bankroll his election campaign. In March, Cuomo’s administration issued an order that allowed nursing homes to readmit sick patients without testing them for COVID-19. Amid allegations of undercounted casualties, the governor also pushed back against pressure to have state regulators more stringently record and report death rates in nursing homes. And then came Cuomo’s annual budget — which included a little-noticed passage shielding corporate officials who run New York hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities from liability for COVID-related deaths and injuries.

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You think we’ll listen now, listen more, listen better? I predict yes, we will. For two whole weeks.

How Hong Kong Avoided A Single Coronavirus Death In Care Homes (Ind.)

Coronavirus has ravaged care homes across Europe and America, killing tens of thousands, but in Hong Kong, not a single resident in care has even contracted Covid-19. Its apparent success offers vital lessons – ones that the city learned the hard way almost two decades ago. In Sweden and Belgium, care home residents make up roughly half of each country’s Covid-19 deaths. In Spain alone, almost 18,000 nursing home residents have died from the virus, El País estimates. And in England and Wales, more than 90 per cent of those who have died from the coronavirus have been people over the age of 65, including 12,500 care home residents, according to the Office for National Statistics.

No one would have been surprised if Hong Kong suffered from a major Covid-19 epidemic. It shares a border with mainland China, which is crossed by hundreds of thousands of people every day. Most of the city’s tourists come from the mainland, accounting for tens of millions of visitors every year. In early February, Hong Kong had its first death from coronavirus – only the second death outside of mainland China. But to this day, there have been only four Covid-19 deaths in Hong Kong, a city of 7.5 million. This is not the first time Hong Kong has faced a novel coronavirus. In 2003, six years after the former British colony was handed back to China, it became the epicentre of the SARS outbreak: 299 people died, accounting for almost 40 per cent of the global death toll. The disease had first appeared the year before in Guangdong, the Chinese province that borders Hong Kong.

As is the case with Covid-19, the elderly were the most susceptible to SARS, and similar to the UK, about a fifth of Hong Kong’s population is over the age of 65. By the epidemic’s end, 54 nursing homes had had cases of SARS. Two nursing home workers died. It was not a trauma the industry would quickly forget. “The nightmare of SARS is still on everyone’s minds, so [care homes] were really afraid,” Prof Terry Lum, the head of the department of social work and social administration at the University of Hong Kong, told The Independent. “We had learned a very painful lesson,” he continued, “and since then the nursing homes had been preparing for another outbreak.” Seventeen years after SARS, Hong Kong’s nursing homes were taking no chances.

On 21 January, an infected tourist from Wuhan crossed the border into Hong Kong, becoming the city’s first case. Four days later, the government announced that it would be enacting the emergency phase of its infectious disease protocol. Because of Hong Kong’s collective memory of SARS, individuals, organisations and businesses did not need to wait for instructions from the government. Nursing homes enacted their own measures, Prof Lum recounted. They began limiting the length of workers’ leaves, in order to prevent them from taking weekend trips to mainland China and possibly bringing the virus back. When nursing homes were instructed to take the temperature of all visitors, they took it one step further: they banned visitors altogether, effectively closing off their residents from the outside world by the end of January. There were still only 13 confirmed cases in Hong Kong at the time.

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Send your kid to law school. That’s where the money is.

Coronavirus Lockdowns Prompt Raft Of Lawsuits Against States (USAT)

Camping in Scarborough, Maine. Gathering for church in Chincoteague, Virginia. Or just grabbing a burger at Poopy’s Pub and Grub in Savanna, Illinois. Each of these activities became the subject of a federal lawsuit, as residents, businesses and even lawmakers challenged state shutdown orders designed to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus. The cases test where the lines are safely drawn, as governors balance protecting public health against individual liberties. Governors say strict rules save lives, but critics who are forced to stay home or shutter their businesses called the steps “draconian” or compared them to “house arrest.” The lawsuits come as President Donald Trump has become increasingly vocal in criticism of state restrictions, encouraged protests at state capitols and urged churches to reopen despite restrictions.

More than 1,300 state and federal lawsuits have been filed over COVID-19, including 240 dealing with civil rights, as of Friday, according to Hunton Andrews Kurth, a law firm tracking the cases. USA TODAY reviewed more than 80 lawsuits that often dealt with conditions at prisons and nursing homes, voting rights, and university tuition. USA TODAY focused on legal challenges to restrictions such as stay-at-home orders and business closures, and also whether abortion or church services can be limited during the pandemic, to gauge which orders were being challenged and how states were responding. The eventual rulings could redefine the balance between state police powers and constitutional rights that advocates contend are too important to sacrifice even temporarily.

Abortions are time sensitive. Buyers want guns during times of crisis. And parishioners seek solace at church. Other lawsuits test whether rules go beyond legislative authorities by requiring people to isolate themselves, stay apart in public and wear masks. “I tend to think there will be some new law made only because there are new scenarios that courts haven’t encountered before,” said Polly Price, a law professor at Emory University. “What they’re balancing is the scientific basis for a particular measure and the state’s need for it, in the face of uncertainty, to protect the public health.”

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CNN and the WaPo as fact-checkers. Oh boy.

No matter what else happens, Twitter just volunteered to go from being a platform to being a publisher. That has consequences.

Twitter Is Completely Stifling Free Speech – Trump (JTN)

President Trump on Tuesday night lambasted Twitter because the company slapped a message on two of his tweets that linked to a page disputing the accuracy of his posts. “@Twitter is now interfering in the 2020 Presidential Election. They are saying my statement on Mail-In Ballots, which will lead to massive corruption and fraud, is incorrect, based on fact-checking by Fake News CNN and the Amazon Washington Post,” the president tweeted. “Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!” he added in another tweet. Twitter labeled two of Trump’s tweets in which he warned that mail-in voting is ripe for fraud—he specifically warned that absue would be committed in California. Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier this month signed an executive order for every registered voter to receive mail-in ballots for the November 2020 general election.

“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent. Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one,” President Trump tweeted in a two-tweet series. “That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!” Twitter plastered a message on both of Trump’s tweets that says “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” That message links to a page that pushes back against the president’s assertions.

“On Tuesday, President Trump made a series of claims about potential voter fraud after California Governor Gavin Newsom announced an effort to expand mail-in voting in California during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the page says. “These claims are unsubstantiated, according to CNN, Washington Post and others. Experts say mail-in ballots are very rarely linked to voter fraud.”

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Something tells me it will never be enough.

Japan Eyes Fresh $1.1 Trillion Stimulus To Combat Pandemic Pain (R.)

Japan will compile a fresh stimulus package worth $1.1 trillion that will include a sizable amount of direct spending to cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic, a draft of the budget obtained by Reuters showed on Wednesday. The stimulus, which will be funded partly by a second extra budget, will be on top of a $1.1 trillion package already rolled out last month, putting the total amount Japan spends to combat the virus fallout at 234 trillion yen – roughly 40% of Japan’s GDP. The government’s 117 trillion yen ($1.1 trillion) in fresh stimulus, to be compiled on Wednesday, will include 33 trillion yen in direct spending, the draft showed.


To fund the costs, Japan will issue an additional 31.9 trillion yen in government bonds under the second supplementary budget for the current fiscal year ending in March 2021, according to the draft. “We must protect business and employment by any means in the face of the tough road ahead. We must also take all necessary measures to prepare for another wave of epidemic,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a meeting with ruling party lawmakers on Wednesday. Government officials have said the new package will include steps such as an increased medical spending, aid to firms struggling to pay rent, support for students who lost part-time jobs, and more subsidies to companies hit by slumping sales. In the second extra budget, the government will also set aside 10 trillion yen in reserves that can be tapped for emergency spending, the draft showed.

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Macron comes close to giving away cars for free to save the planet.

Macron Wants France To Be Europe’s Top Clean Car Producer (R.)

President Emmanuel Macron announced an 8 billion euro ($8.8 billion) plan on Tuesday to make France the top producer of clean vehicles in Europe and urged French carmakers to make vehicles in their own country. French car plants are only just starting to rev up production after the coronavirus lockdown, which hit the auto sector badly, and Macron wants to accelerate the transition to electric cars to help revive the industry. “We need a motivational goal: make France Europe’s top producer of clean vehicles by bringing output (up) to more than one million electric and hybrid cars per year over the next five years,” Macron told a news conference. To achieve that goal, he said France would increase the state bonus for consumers buying electric cars to €7,000 euros ($7,690) from €6,000.


But to help dealerships sell the 400,000 vehicles left unsold because of the lockdown, Macron said people buying a traditional car would also receive a €3,000 bonus under a scheme that would apply to three-quarters of households. “Our fellow citizens need to buy more vehicles, and in particular clean ones. Not in two, five or 10 years – now,” Macron said following a visit to a Valeo car parts factory in northern France. No car model currently produced in France should be manufactured abroad, he said. Renault, which produces its Zoe electric model in France, had pledged to make a future Renault-Nissan electric engine in France and not in Asia, as initially envisaged, he said.

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It’ll be an extreme election season. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets.

The FBI Documents That Put Barack Obama In The Obamagate Narrative (Solomon)

Just 17 days before President Trump took office in January 2017, then-FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok texted bureau lawyer Lisa Page, his mistress, to express concern about sharing sensitive Russia probe evidence with the departing Obama White House. Strzok had just engaged in a conversation with his boss, then-FBI Assistant Director William Priestap, about evidence from the investigation of incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, codenamed Crossfire Razor, or “CR” for short. The evidence in question were so-called “tech cuts” from intercepted conversations between Flynn and Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak, according to the texts and interviews with officials familiar with the conversations.

[..] The text messages, which were never released to the public by the FBI but were provided to this reporter in September 2018, have taken on much more significance to both federal and congressional investigators in recent weeks as the Justice Department has requested that Flynn’s conviction be thrown out and his charges of lying to the FBI about Kislyak dismissed. U.S. Attorney Jeff Jensen of Missouri (special prosecutor for DOJ), the FBI inspection division, three Senate committees and House Republicans are all investigating the handling of Flynn’s case and whether any crimes were committed or political influence exerted.

The investigators are trying to determine whether Obama’s well-known disdain for Flynn, a career military intelligence officer, influenced the decision by the FBI leadership to reject its own agent’s recommendation to shut down a probe of Flynn in January 2017 and instead pursue an interview where agents might catch him in a lie. They also want to know whether the conversation about the Presidential Daily Briefings involved Flynn and “reporting” the FBI had gathered by early January 2017 showing the incoming national security adviser was neither a counterintelligence nor a criminal threat. “The evidence connecting President Obama to the Flynn operation is getting stronger,” one investigator with direct knowledge told me.

“The bureau knew it did not have evidence to justify that Flynn was either a criminal or counterintelligence threat and should have shut the case down. But the perception that Obama and his team would not be happy with that outcome may have driven the FBI to keep the probe open without justification and to pivot to an interview that left some agents worried involved entrapment or a perjury trap.” The investigator said more interviews will need to be done to determine exactly what role Obama’s perception of Flynn played in the FBI’s decision making. Recently declassified evidence show a total of 39 outgoing Obama administration officials sought to unmask Flynn’s name in intelligence interviews between Election Day 2016 and Inauguration Day 2017, signaling a keen interest in Flynn’s overseas calls.

https://twitter.com/i/status/1265258033392820228

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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 interaction.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

And a bit of Dominic Cummings at the end.

If Boris loses the Daily Mail in this fashion, what can he do?

 

 

 

 

Support the Automatic Earth in virustime.

 

Apr 182020
 


Edward Hopper Cat boat 1922

 

Antibody Study Suggests Coronavirus Far More Widespread Than Thought (G.)
No Evidence COVID-19 Survivors Have Immunity – WHO (Sky)
Double Warning Over Antibody Tests (BBC)
Existing Drugs ‘May Prove Effective On Coronavirus Before Vaccine Comes’ (SCMP)
Emirates First Airline To Conduct On-Site Rapid COVID-19 Tests (Em.)
US Seeks Access To Wuhan Virology Lab, Trump Questions China Death Toll (SCMP)
US, China and WHO Are All Keen To Pass The Buck (SCMP)
U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Outbreak Much Larger, But Mostly Asymptomatic (JTN)
San Francisco Orders Residents To Wear Face Masks (F.)
UK Moves To Drop Huawei As 5G Vendor On China Coronavirus Transparency (NYP)
Where’s the $2.2 Trillion Bailout Money Going? (WS)
Flight Path (Kunstler)
The Transformation of Emmanuel Macron (CN)
Labour Party’s Own Senior Staff Acted To Keep Corbyn Out Of Power (ML)

 

 

• One week ago, the US #COVID19 #coronavirus death toll was 15,000. In the last 7 days, more than 20,000 Americans have died. The death toll is now 36,000+, Cases top 700,000

• Reported US coronavirus deaths:
– Feb. 17: 0 deaths
– Mar. 17: 111 deaths
– Apr. 17: 36,997 deaths

 

 

• Top 10 States – Positive Tests 4/17/20
1) NY/ 222,284 (TH data);
2) NJ/ 78467;
3/ MA/ 32,181;
4) PA/ 29,441;
5) MI/ 29,263;
6 CA/ 28,263;
7) IL/ 27,575;
8) FL/ 24,119;
9) LA/ 23,118;
10)TX 17,371.

• New York reports 7,753 new coronavirus cases & 1,025 new deaths, a total of 233,951 cases & 17,131 deaths..

• 1,081 sailors from French aircraft carrier test positive for coronavirus. 2,010 sailors have been tested so far.

• Coronavirus global update:
– 85k+ cases in last 24 hours
– 2.2 million cases in total
– 1.5 million active
– 575k recovered
– 155k deaths
– 31% of cases in the U.S.

 

 

 

Cases 2,261,425 (+ 67,867 from yesterday’s 2,193,558)

Deaths 154,734 (+ 7,356 from yesterday’s 147,378)

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live: (Belgium in first place worldwide of deaths per million at 445, 14.3% CFR, before Spain, Italy, France and UK.)

 

 

 

 

We know nothing.

Antibody Study Suggests Coronavirus Far More Widespread Than Thought (G.)

A new study in California has found the number of people infected with coronavirus may be tens of times higher than previously thought. The study from Stanford University, which was released Friday and has yet to be peer reviewed, tested samples from 3,330 people in Santa Clara county and found the virus was 50 to 85 times more common than official figures indicated. To ease the sprawling lockdowns currently in place to stop the spread of Covid-19, health officials must first determine how many people have been infected. Large studies of the prevalence of the virus within a region could play a key role, researchers say.

“This has implications for learning how far we are in the course of the epidemic,” said Eran Bendavid, the associate professor of medicine at Stanford University who led the study. “It has implications for epidemic models that are being used to design policies and estimate what it means for our healthcare system.” The study marks the first large-scale study of its kind, researchers said. The study was conducted by identifying antibodies in healthy individuals through a finger prick test, which indicated whether they had already contracted and recovered from the virus. At the time of the study, Santa Clara county had 1,094 confirmed cases of Covid-19, resulting in 50 deaths.

But based on the rate of people who have antibodies, it is likely that between 48,000 and 81,000 people had been infected in Santa Clara county by early April – a number approximately 50 to 80 times higher. That also means coronavirus is potentially much less deadly to the overall population than initially thought. As of Tuesday, the US’s coronavirus death rate was 4.1% and Stanford researchers said their findings show a death rate of just 0.12% to 0.2%.

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Absolutely nothing.

No Evidence COVID-19 Survivors Have Immunity – WHO (Sky)

There is no evidence that people who have recovered from coronavirus have immunity to the disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said. The UK government has bought 3.5 million serology tests – which measure levels of antibodies in blood plasma. But senior WHO epidemiologists have warned that there is no proof that such antibody tests can show if someone who has been infected with COVID-19 cannot be infected again. Many of the tests being developed are pinprick blood tests similar to instant HIV tests and measure for raised levels of the antibodies that the body uses to fight the virus.


Speaking at a news conference in Geneva, Dr Maria van Kerkhove said: “There are a lot of countries that are suggesting using rapid diagnostic serological tests to be able to capture what they think will be a measure of immunity. “Right now, we have no evidence that the use of a serological test can show that an individual has immunity or is protected from reinfection.” She added: “These antibody tests will be able to measure that level of seroprevalence – that level of antibodies – but that does not mean that somebody with antibodies means that they are immune.” Dr van Kerkhove said it was “a good thing” that so many tests are being developed, but said they will need to be validated “so that we know what they say they attempt to measure they are actually measuring”.

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Huh? “..The government has already paid for three-and-a-half million antibody tests, but has not yet found one that is reliable enough to use..

Double Warning Over Antibody Tests (BBC)

Hopes that coronavirus antibody tests could help the UK end its lockdown have been dealt a blow – after the World Health Organization questioned whether they offer any guarantee of immunity. The UK has placed antibody tests – which check if someone has had Covid-19 – at the centre of an eventual “back-to-work” plan to restart normal life. But experts said they may not prove if someone is protected from reinfection. The UK’s testing co-ordinator has also warned people not to buy private tests. The government has already paid for three-and-a-half million antibody tests, but has not yet found one that is reliable enough to use – and stresses that it will not approve the use of any test until it can be sure its findings can be fully depended on.


Professor John Newton said the public should not purchase unapproved antibody tests until a working test is approved. “We are breaking new ground with this work every day and I am confident this major research effort will make a breakthrough,” he said of efforts to develop a valid serology test, which measures levels of antibodies in blood plasma. “Until then, please don’t buy or take any unproven tests. They may not be reliable for your intended use; they may give a false reading and put you, your family or others at risk.” He added: “As soon as we have found a test that works for this purpose, we will be in a position to roll them out across the country as a back-to-work test.”

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Make Gilead shareholders rich.

Existing Drugs ‘May Prove Effective On Coronavirus Before Vaccine Comes’ (SCMP)

Dr Kim Woo Joo, who led South Korea’s response to Covid-19 and the outbreak of Mers in 2015, said he was “not very optimistic” about the availability of a Covid-19 vaccine in the next 18 months, but said evidence about the effectiveness of remdesivir, an experimental antiviral developed to treat Ebola; AbbVie’s Kaletra, an anti-HIV drug; or other medicines might be possible sooner. “If everything goes well, I am hoping that the effectiveness of these drugs will be scientifically proven within three to four months,” Kim, a professor of infectious diseases at Korea University Guro Hospital, said in an interview on Wednesday with the president of the Korea Society, Thomas Byrne.


Kim added that Seoul National University Hospital and the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, headed by Dr Anthony Fauci – a key player in the US government’s effort to control the coronavirus spread – were collaborating to test remdesivir, which emerged this week as possible treatment option. The health and medical news website Stat reported on Thursday that a Chicago hospital using remdesivir to treat severe Covid-19 patients saw rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms, with most patients discharged within a week. The University of Chicago Medicine recruited 125 people with Covid-19 into Gilead’s two phase-3 clinical trials and gave them daily remdesivir infusions, according to Stat. Of those patients, 113 had severe symptoms, the report said. Gilead’s share price shot up by nearly 15 per cent in after-hours trading after the Stat report and closed 9.7 per cent higher on Friday.

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Want to get tested? Book a flight.

Emirates First Airline To Conduct On-Site Rapid COVID-19 Tests (Em.)

Emirates in coordination with Dubai Health Authority (DHA) will be introducing additional precautions. Passengers on today’s flight to Tunisia were all tested for COVID-19 before departing from Dubai. Emirates is the first airline to conduct on-site rapid COVID-19 tests for passengers. The quick blood test was conducted by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) and results were available within 10 minutes. This test was conveniently done at the Group Check-in area of Dubai International Airport Terminal 3. Adel Al Redha, Emirates Chief Operating Officer said: “The testing process has gone smoothly and we would like to take this opportunity to thank the Dubai Health Authority for their initiatives and innovative solutions.


“This would have not been possible without the support of Dubai Airport and other government authorities. We are working on plans to scale up testing capabilities in the future and extend it to other flights, this will enable us to conduct on-site tests and provide immediate confirmation for Emirates passengers travelling to countries that require COVID-19 test certificates. The health and safety of staff and passengers at the airport remain of paramount importance.” [..] Gloves, masks and hand sanitisers have been made mandatory for all employees at the airport. Passengers are also required to wear their own masks when at the airport and on board the aircraft, and follow social distancing guidelines.Emirates has modified its inflight services for health and safety reasons. Magazines and other print reading material will not be available

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Early on in the pandemic, it took many weeks for a WHO team to get access to China.

US Seeks Access To Wuhan Virology Lab, Trump Questions China Death Toll (SCMP)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday called on China to grant the United States access to the Wuhan laboratory that has emerged as a flashpoint between the two nations in a clash over the origin and handling of the coronavirus. “We are still asking the Chinese Communist Party to allow experts to get into that virology lab so that we can determine precisely where this virus began,” said Pompeo on Fox News. Pompeo’s comment escalated conjecture surrounding the lab as US President Donald Trump amplified doubts around the extent of the Covid-19 spread in China by announcing in a Twitter post that the country “has just announced a doubling in the number of their deaths from the Invisible Enemy. It is far higher than that and far higher than the US, not even close!”


The tweet was not accurate as China only announced a revised increase in deaths out of Wuhan by 50 per cent. The number of cases in China – more than 83,700 – still trails that of the US, which has more than 679,000. Addressing reporters later on Friday, Trump doubled down on his assertion, stating that China had the most deaths in the world. “We don’t have the most in the world – deaths,” Trump said of the US tally, which stands at more than 34,000. “The most in the world has to be China. It’s a massive country. It’s gone through a tremendous problem with this.”

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There you go. The WHO was only granted access in the third week of February, 7-8 weeks after Beijing reported the first cases.

And then it took another 3 weeks before the WHO declared a pandemic on March 11. That’s not just a technicality.

US, China and WHO Are All Keen To Pass The Buck (SCMP)

The first public report of the coronavirus came on December 31, when the health commission in Hubei province – of which Wuhan is the capital – reported 27 cases of pneumonia. The WHO set up an incident management support team the next day and published its first notice about the outbreak on January 5, in which it said there was “no evidence of significant human-to-human transmission”, and advised against travel or trade restrictions on China. Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman for the WHO, told US broadcaster CNN on Monday that at the time, “alarm bells were already ringing through the halls of the WHO”, and that it was “aware it was a very serious matter”. As the number of cases rose, the WHO began issuing technical guidance, with its technical lead on Covid-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, saying on January 14 that it was “certainly possible that there is limited human-to-human transmission” of the virus.

But on Twitter, the WHO’s official account on January 13 and 14 continued to suggest there was “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission”. A critical turning point in the epidemic came on January 20, when Zhong Nanshan, a high-profile Chinese epidemiologist who managed the nation’s response to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak of 2002-03, said that there was human-to-human transmission of the virus and that medical workers had been infected. The WHO then said it was “very clear from the latest information that there is at least some human-to-human transmission”. Trump this week slammed the WHO for having “parroted and publicly endorsed the idea that there was not human-to-human transmission” in mid-January.

The WHO issued multiple notices on the virus that month and maintained its assessments were based on available evidence at the time. On January 22 and 23, the agency convened an emergency committee to determine whether the coronavirus constituted a global public health emergency, but delayed making a declaration. A week later, on January 30, when Tedros did declare a global health emergency, he stressed that it was “not a vote of no confidence” in China, and continued to oppose restrictions on travel and trade with the world’s most populous nation. The WHO said its guidance on travel bans stemmed from its experience with other outbreaks, and that such restrictions might not be effective in curbing the virus’ spread. Despite those recommendations, Trump on January 31 announced a ban on most travellers from China entering the US.

China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying responded by saying the US had “inappropriately overreacted” and gone against WHO guidance. Tedros said later that there was no need for actions that “unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade”. “One of the most dangerous and costly decisions from the WHO was its disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other nations,” Trump said this week. “Fortunately, I was not convinced and suspended travel from China, saving untold numbers of lives.” Tedros met Chinese President Xi Jinping at the end of January, after which it was announced that the WHO would send a team of experts to China to get a better understanding of the outbreak. But it was not until nearly three weeks later that the WHO-China joint mission of experts began their trip, with Wuhan originally left off the agenda, only to be tacked on days later. At the end of the visit, the joint mission produced a gushing report that described China’s response to the outbreak as “perhaps the most ambitious, agile, and aggressive disease containment effort in history”.

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Walking infection bombs.

U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt Outbreak Much Larger, But Mostly Asymptomatic (JTN)

The Navy’s coronavirus testing of the entire crew of the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt is now nearly complete. Of the ship’s 4,800-member crew, more than 600 sailors have tested positive for the virus. However, of those 600, 60% have not shown any symptoms associated with the illness. The virus’s numbers aboard the Roosevelt continue to raise questions about the true spread rate of the illness, as opposed to the numbers that testing in the United States, and around the world, are capturing. The proportion of people who are asymptomatic carriers of the virus remains unknown, but the Theodore Roosevelt’s figure is higher than the 25%-50% range that Dr. Fauci put forward in early April. The numbers from the Naval ship provide data on the epidemiologically underrepresented group that is the younger, largely healthy population. This week, one sailor infected while aboard the ship died, and five remain hospitalized.

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With New York, Maryland and Los Angeles.

San Francisco Orders Residents To Wear Face Masks (F.)

San Francisco residents will be required to wear face masks outside their homes, the city announced Friday, joining New York, Maryland and Los Angeles County, as areas of the U.S. begin to think about what life will look like when social distancing measures are relaxed. The order goes into effect 11:59 p.m. Friday. • Individuals must wear masks on public transit as well as inside public buildings, health facilities and essential businesses such as the grocery store or pharmacy. • Businesses should refuse service to anyone who isn’t wearing a face covering and ensure their workers are wearing masks, the order says. • Residents don’t have to wear face coverings while at home, in the car or outdoors walking or running, though the city recommends bringing along a face covering anyway, even if residents aren’t wearing it at that moment. • Children under 12 are also not required to wear face masks.


City leaders urged residents to continue staying at home, saying that wearing a mask in public “is not a substitute for staying home, staying 6 feet apart and frequent handwashing.” “By covering your face when you go pick up food or ride Muni, you are helping reduce the risk of infecting those around you. As we look to a time where we can begin to ease the Stay Home Order, we know that face coverings will be part of that future – and we want San Franciscans to become more comfortable with this new normal,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said.

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Without Boris the UK gets even more rudderless.

UK Moves To Drop Huawei As 5G Vendor On China Coronavirus Transparency (NYP)

The UK is moving to drop Huawei as a vendor for the country’s 5G cellphone network in a major blow to Communist China over poor coronavirus transparency. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, now recovering from COVID-19, gave the Chinese company a role in 5G infrastructure this year, squashing opposition last month by 24 votes in the 650-seat House of Commons. But now, concern about the Chinese Communist Party’s inaccurate reporting on the coronavirus has lawmakers crafting plans for a retreat. “We need to devise a proper, realistic exit strategy from relying on Huawei,” Conservative Member of Parliament Damian Green told Bloomberg News.


“Our telecom providers … need to know the government is determined to drive down Huawei’s involvement to zero percent over a realistic timescale.” “The mood in the parliamentary party has hardened,” said Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative Party’s chairman of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. “It’s a shared realization of what it means for dependence on a business that is part of a state that does not share our values,” Tugendhat said.

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I’m afraid to ask.

Where’s the $2.2 Trillion Bailout Money Going? (WS)

When the $2.2 trillion bailout package was being put together in Congress in all haste in March, a mad scramble broke out over who would get what. Part of this deal was the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program for “small businesses” – which can be, as we now know, a publicly traded company with over 5,700 employees, or a KKR-backed power company that, upon getting the loan, files for prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy. And so, the program already ran out of money as of Thursday, according to the SBA. “Notice: Lapse in Appropriations. The SBA is currently unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding,” it said on its website. The program dispersed 1.66 million loans, according to the SBA’s tally. There were 30.2 million small businesses in the US in 2019, so about 5.5% got loans.

What’s going to happen to the remaining 94.5% of the small businesses? Congress is contemplating a $250-billion expansion of the program that would cover maybe another 4% of small businesses. In other words, most small businesses aren’t going to get any of it. A small business under the plan is a business with 500 employees or fewer. Loans were capped at $10 million. But wait… 4,412 loans were issued in amounts larger than $5 million each. And we already know which company with 5,700 employees got $20 million. Yup, a restaurant chain, because they and hotel chains were exempted from the employee limit. Restaurants and hotels got their own limit: 500 employees per location. They accomplished this through magnificent lobbying efforts.

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse [RUTH] – with about 5,700 employees at the end of last year and 159 restaurants across the US – disclosed in an SEC filing on April 13 that on April 7, four days after the SBA opened the filing process and as the system was bogged down, it obtained a PPP loan of $20 million, spread over two loans of $10 million each for two of its entities. JPMorgan Chase was the lender. If the company follows the rules, this $20 million will be forgiven. And then there is the curious case of Longview Power LLC, in which KKR, one of the big private equity firms, has a 40% stake as a result of Longview’s bankruptcy in 2015. Longview owns a 700-megawatt coal-fired power plant in West Virginia and has about 140 employees. It was approved for a PPP loan last Friday, and on Tuesday it announced that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

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“Money is not an economy. Money is a medium of exchange within an economy ..”

Flight Path (Kunstler)

The Covid-19 corona virus didn’t initiate the financial disorders of the moment in the US and Europe, but it ensured that there would not be another appearance of any “recovery” a la the central bank interventions of 2008-09. What it portends is a fast-track journey to a whole new disposition of things: first, for a while, a harsher, hungrier, angrier society of broken promises and dashed expectations; and then adaptation when a consensus emerges that the set of facts at hand amount to a new reality. In the meantime, we’re living in the meantime, which is not a comfortable place.

Money is not an economy. Money is a medium of exchange within an economy where people grow things, make things, move things, and serve each other in countless ways. We’re not going to replace all those growings, makings, movings, and services by just giving people money. Money may produce more money by the magic of compound interest, but money is not necessarily wealth, it just represents our ideas about wealth, and interest stops compounding anyway when the trend is clearly for reduced growings, makings, movings, and servicings. That’s exactly how and why capital vanishes. The hocus-pocus of Modern Monetary Theory can only pretend to work around that reality.

The world never reached such a pitch of activity up to the blow-ups of 2008, and it went through the motions for a decade after that. Now that it’s stopped, all that’s left is the law of gravity, and it doesn’t get more basic. The “wealth” acquired in the decade since by the so-called “one-percent” was loaded onto a defective aircraft, like a Boeing 737-MAX, and an awful lot of it will fall to earth now on broken wings. Their agents and praetorians on Wall Street are working feverishly to stave off that crash-landing, like a band of magicians casting spells on the ground while that big hunk of juddering metal augers earthward. Wait for it as spring brings new life across the land and things unseen before steal onto the scene.

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He can transform right back.

The Transformation of Emmanuel Macron (CN)

[..] something strange has happened since the Coronavirus hit France. An apparent humanity buried deep inside the French president has suddenly emerged—and let the bankers be damned. In an interview on Thursday with the Financial Times, Macron talked about economics as a “moral science” and said European debt should be mutualized, meaning northern Europeans should be on the hook for southern debt—or face the wrath of right-wing populists. He said the European Union was not just a market but was really about human beings. In other words, he was calling for state intervention in the economy, going against everything he has heretofore believed. “We are all embarking on the unthinkable,” he said.

“We are at a moment of truth, which is to decide whether the European Union is a political project or just a market project,” he said. “I think it’s a political project . . . We need financial transfers and solidarity, if only so that Europe holds on.” The French president said he sees the crisis as “an existential event for humanity that will change the nature of globalization and the structure of international capitalism,” the newspaper reported. “In recent years [globalization] increased inequalities in developed countries,” he admitted. “And it was clear that this kind of globalisation was reaching the end of its cycle, it was undermining democracy.”

Macron told the FT: “We are going to nationalise the wages and the P&L [the financial accounts] of almost all our businesses. That’s what we’re doing. All our economies, including the most [economically] liberal are doing that. It’s against all the dogmas, but that’s the way it is. “I believe [the EU] is a political project. If it’s a political project, the human factor is the priority and there are notions of solidarity that come into play . . . the economy follows on from that, and let’s not forget that economics is a moral science.”

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If you ever vote for these ghouls again, you deserve what you get.

Labour Party’s Own Senior Staff Acted To Keep Corbyn Out Of Power (ML)

In the June 2017 UK general election, Labour under Jeremy Corbyn came within a whisker of power. If just 2,227 votes had gone the other way, seven Tory knife-edge constituencies would have been won by Labour, putting Corbyn in a strong position to lead a coalition government. Labour achieved 40 per cent in the election, increasing its share of the vote by more than any other of the party’s election leaders since 1945. As we noted at the time, it was one of the most astonishing results in UK political history. A leaked internal Labour report now reveals that senior Labour figures were actively trying to stop Labour winning the general election in order to oust Corbyn as party leader.

The 860-page document, ‘The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014 – 2019’, first leaked to Sky News, was the product of an extensive internal investigation into the way Labour handled antisemitism complaints. The report includes copious damning examples of email and WhatsApp exchanges among Labour officials expressing contempt for Jeremy Corbyn and anyone who supported him, including other Labour staff, Labour MPs and even the public. The document includes:

• Conversations on election night about the need to hide internal Labour disappointment that Corbyn had done better than expected and would be unlikely to resign
• Regular sneering references to Corbyn-supporting party staff as ‘trots’
• Conversations between senior staff in Labour general secretary Iain McNicol’s office in which they refer to former director of communications Seamus Milne as ‘dracula’, and saying he was ‘spiteful and evil and we should make sure he is never allowed in our Party if it’s last thing we do’
• Conversations in which the same group refers to Corbyn’s former chief of staff Karie Murphy as ‘medusa’, a ‘crazy woman’ and a ‘bitch face cow’ that would ‘make a good dartboard’
• A discussion in which one of the group members expresses their ‘hope’ that a young pro-Corbyn Labour activist, whom they acknowledge had mental health problems, ‘dies in a fire’.

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Apr 142020
 


John M. Fox Garcia Grande newsstand, New York 1946

 

Getting A Coronavirus Test In Wuhan: Fast, Cheap And Easy (R.)
South Korea Confirms 111 Cases Of Coronavirus Reinfection (KT)
How Coronavirus Almost Brought Down The Global Financial System (Tooze)
US Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 23,000 (R.)
New York, California, Other States Plan For Reopening As Crisis Eases (R.)
30 Union Members Die, Rest Risk Their Lives So Americans Can Eat Meat (HuffPo)
North America Meat Plant Workers Fall Ill, Walk Off Jobs (R.)
Smithfield Shuts US Pork Plant Indefinitely, Warns Of Meat Shortages (R.)
White House Seeks To Lower Farmworker Pay To Help Agriculture Industry (NPR)
In Mea Culpa, Macron Extends France’s Lockdown Until May 11 (R.)
A French Disaster (Guy Millière)
Older People Being ‘Airbrushed’ Out Of British Virus Figures (BBC)
Québec To Ramp Up Care Home Inspections After 31 Die In Montréal Facility (R.)
Brazil Likely Has 12 Times More Coronavirus Cases Than Official Count (R.)
China Tightens Russian Border Checks, Approves Experimental Vaccine Trials (R.)
China Big Tech Moves Into Healthcare (R.)

 

 

It’s been a few days, but leafing through today’s news, it seems obvious that incompetence once again rules the day. Macron is the first to say he’s sorry for that. Sort of. Still, we should not lose sight of the fact that, as I wrote recently in Little Managers, we don’t elect our ‘Leaders’ to solve pandemics. The best I can do for you is we elect them to make us feel rich, which is why they focused for far too long, as the pandemic already raged, on their economies.

• Over the past 24 hours, the U.S. reported 27,243 new cases of coronavirus and 1,555 new deaths, raising total to 587,752 cases and 23,765 dead.

 

 

1,934,128
Cases 1,862,584 (+ 72,011 from yesterday’s 1,790,573)

120,437
Deaths 114,982 (+ 5,328 from yesterday’s 109,654)

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

I would certainly pay $37 for a test if it were available. And reliable.

Getting A Coronavirus Test In Wuhan: Fast, Cheap And Easy (R.)

Coronavirus tests can be difficult to come by in many countries including in hard-hit parts of the United States and Britain, but in Wuhan, the Chinese epicentre of the pandemic, they are fast, cheap and easy to get. My colleagues and I had just arrived in the central city where the novel coronavirus emerged in humans late last year, and as a foreigner I was told that I was required to take a nucleic test to prove that I was free of the potentially deadly flu-like virus. A government official escorted me to the test site, a table outside the entrance of a shuttered hotel. A single medical worker sat there, dressed in a zipped-up hazmat suit and goggles.

She asked for my personal details and told me to sit. She then stuck a swab down my throat, nearly triggering a gag, and then it was over. “You’ll get your results in about one and a half days,” the official said. The test, while not pleasant, took less than three seconds. Wuhan is testing liberally as it tries to get back up and running after lifting a 76-day lockdown last week. The term “nucleic acid test” has become a familiar one in the city of 11 million people, where many companies are asking workers to present test results before they can return to work, although it is not mandatory. At one Wuhan hospital, people only need to spit into a test tube. That test costs 260 yuan ($37) and results are available by mobile app. Since Feb. 21, 930,315 tests have been carried out in Wuhan, according to government data.

“Testing is a good thing,” said Zhao Yan, a emergency medicine doctor and vice president of Wuhan’s Zhongnan Hospital told reporters on a government-organised trip last week. “If you’re an enterprise with 500 employees and you want to start working again, you test everybody.” Across China, officials are simplifying and speeding up the process to obtain a nucleic acid test, even though questions persist about its accuracy. Some Chinese doctors have pushed to raise requirements for discharging hospitalised patients from two negative nucleic acid tests to three. Cities including Beijing have required some arriving travelers to present test results when entering. China has not yet indicated it will require testing for large swathes of the population.

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There go the dreams of reopening your economy.

South Korea Confirms 111 Cases Of Coronavirus Reinfection (KT)

South Korea has confirmed 111 cases of coronavirus reinfection (as of Sunday noon) with most cases reported in Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province, two epicenters of the domestic outbreak. Jung Eun-kyeong, director of Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC), said on Sunday the organization was exploring possible causes of reinfection. “For now it is uncertain what led to reinfection  revived virus that survived treatment or fresh exposure to the virus after recovery,” Jung said. The director said an extensive research was under way and the KCDC would share the result with WHO and other nations battling coronavirus.

Earlier health authorities here have said the virus was highly likely to have been reactivated, instead of the people being reinfected, as they tested positive again in a relatively short time after being released from quarantine. They also said the COVID-19 virus may remain latent in certain cells in the body and attack the respiratory organs again once reactivated. A COVID-19 patient is deemed fully recovered after showing negative results for two tests in a row within a 24-hour interval. The country’s COVID-19 infections reported 32 additional virus cases, bringing total infections to 10,512.

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Oh no. No sirree. The system is bringing itself down, not the virus. This is like you take a house so decrepit that it should long have been condemned, and then you blame a storm when it finally collapses.

How Coronavirus Almost Brought Down The Global Financial System (Tooze)

In the third week of March, while most of our minds were fixed on surging coronavirus death rates and the apocalyptic scenes in hospital wards, global financial markets came as close to a collapse as they have since September 2008. The price of shares in the world’s major corporations plunged. The value of the dollar surged against every currency in the world, squeezing debtors everywhere from Indonesia to Mexico. Trillion-dollar markets for government debt, the basic foundation of the financial system, lurched up and down in terror-stricken cycles. On the terminal screens, interest rates danced. Traders hunched over improvised home workstations – known in the new slang of March 2020 as “Rona rigs” – screaming with frustration as sluggish home wifi systems dragged behind the movement of the markets.

At the low point on 23 March, $26tn had been wiped off the value of global equity markets, inflicting huge losses both on the fortunate few who own shares, and on the collective pools of savings held by pension and insurance funds. What the markets were reacting to was an unthinkable turn of events. After a fatal period of hesitation, governments around the world were ordering comprehensive lockdowns to contain a lethal pandemic. Built for growth, the global economic machine was being brought to a screeching halt. In 2020, for the first time since the second world war, production around the world will contract. It is not only Europe and the US that have been shut down, but once-booming emerging market economies in Asia. Commodity exporters from Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa face collapsing markets.

[..] What Europe and the US have succeeded in doing is to flatten the curve of financial panic. They have maintained the all-important flow of credit. Without that, large parts of their economies would not be on life support – they would be stone dead. And our governments would be struggling with a financial crunch to boot. Maintaining the flow of credit has been the precondition for sustaining the lockdown. It is the precondition for a concerted public health response to the pandemic. During major crises, we are reminded of the fact that at the heart of the profit-driven, private financial economy is a public institution, the central bank. When financial markets are functioning normally, it remains in the background.

But when they threaten to break down, it has the option of stepping forward to act as a lender of last resort. It can make loans, or it can buy assets from banks, funds or other businesses that are desperate for cash. Because it is the ultimate backer of the currency, its budget is unlimited. That means it can decide who sinks and who swims. We learned this in 2008. But 2020 has driven home the point as never before.

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Where are Dr. Fauci’s 200,000 deaths?

US Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 23,000 (R.)

U.S. deaths from the novel coronavirus topped 23,000 on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, as officials said the worst may be over and the outbreak could reach its peak this week. The United States, with the world’s third-largest population, has recorded more fatalities from COVID-19 than any other country. There were a total of nearly 570,000 U.S. cases as of Monday with over 1.8 million reported cases globally. Deaths reported on Sunday numbered 1,513, the smallest increase since 1,309 died on April 6. The largest number of fatalities, over 10,000, was in New York state with the concentration in and around New York City, the most populous U.S. city with about 8.4 million people.


Wyoming reported its first coronavirus death on Monday, the final U.S. state to report a fatality in the outbreak. Sweeping stay-at-home restrictions to curb the spread of the disease, in place for weeks in many areas of the United States, have taken a painful toll on the economy. With businesses closed and curbs on travel, officials and lawmakers are debating when it might be safe to begin reopening some sectors. The Trump administration has indicated May 1 as a potential date for easing the restrictions while urging caution.

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Stop planning. Make sure you get it right first.

New York, California, Other States Plan For Reopening As Crisis Eases (R.)

Ten U.S. governors on the east and west coasts banded together on Monday in two regional pacts to coordinate gradual economic reopenings as the coronavirus crisis finally appeared to be ebbing. Announcements from the New York-led group of Northeastern governors, and a similar compact formed by California, Oregon and Washington state, came as President Donald Trump declared any decision on restarting the U.S. economy was up to him. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was teaming up with five counterparts in adjacent New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island to devise the best strategies for easing stay-at-home orders imposed last month to curb coronavirus transmissions. Massachusetts later said it was joining the East Coast coalition.


“Nobody has been here before, nobody has all the answers,” said Cuomo, whose state has become the U.S. epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic, during an open conference call with five other governors. “Addressing public health and the economy: Which one is first? They’re both first.” The three Pacific Coast states announced they, too, planned to follow a shared approach for lifting social-distancing measures, but said they “need to see a decline in the rate of spread of the virus before large-scale reopening” can take place. The 10 governors, all Democrats except for Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, gave no timeline for ending social lockdowns that have idled the vast majority of more than 100 million residents in their states. But they stressed that decisions about when and how to reopen non-essential businesses, along with schools and universities, would put the health of residents first and rely on science rather than politics.

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How on earth do you get this so wrong?

30 Union Members Die, Rest Risk Their Lives So Americans Can Eat Meat (HuffPo)

Never has so much been asked of America’s grocery store and meatpacking workers. They are working through a pandemic, getting sick and in some cases even dying so that others can put food on the table. Most of them are doing it for lower wages than other essential workers who continue to do their jobs as coronavirus cases balloon. Many who risk their health each day have been relaying their fears and frustrations to the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents 1.3 million workers in the U.S. and Canada and is one of the largest private-sector unions in the country.

Marc Perrone, the UFCW’s president, told HuffPost that the union is working hard to keep up with its members’ concerns, as well as those of nonunion workers now highly interested in organizing. For many in the latter category, the pressure of recent weeks has stripped away any sense that they are paid fairly and protected adequately on the job. “We have more leads than we’ve ever had as a union,” Perrone said. “The question is … are we at the tipping point yet? This pandemic ripped gaping holes in the system. Is it going to change the way workers can unify together to make a move?”

The UFCW has emerged as one of the most important labor unions in the coronavirus crisis because of where it represents workers: in grocery stores, meatpacking and processing plants and pharmacies. Few private-sector unions outside of health care would have so many members continuing to clock in because their work is so crucial to the lives of others. The work seems to have come at a steep cost already. The union is still gathering data on infections and deaths among its membership, but Perrone said that around 30 people appear to have died since the pandemic began. In some cases, he cautioned, a COVID-19 diagnosis has not been confirmed yet.

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Better get some other protein supply in.

North America Meat Plant Workers Fall Ill, Walk Off Jobs (R.)

At a Wayne Farms chicken processing plant in Alabama, workers recently had to pay the company 10 cents a day to buy masks to protect themselves from the new coronavirus, according to a meat inspector. In Colorado, nearly a third of the workers at a JBS USA beef plant stayed home amid safety concerns for the last two weeks as a 30-year employee of the facility died following complications from the virus. And since an Olymel pork plant in Quebec shut on March 29, the number of workers who tested positive for the coronavirus quintupled to more than 50, according to their union. The facility and at least 10 others in North America have temporarily closed or reduced production in about the last two weeks because of the pandemic, disrupting food supply chains that have struggled to keep pace with surging demand at grocery stores.


According to more than a dozen interviews with U.S and Canadian plant workers, union leaders and industry analysts, a lack of protective equipment and the nature of “elbow to elbow” work required to debone chickens, chop beef and slice hams are highlighting risks for employees and limiting output as some forego the low-paying work. Companies that added protections, such as enhanced cleaning or spacing out workers, say the moves are further slowing meat production. Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork processor, on Sunday said it is indefinitely shutting a pork plant that accounts for about 4% to 5% of U.S. production. It warned that plant shutdowns are pushing the United States “perilously close to the edge” in meat supplies for grocers.

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The size of this “industry” is bearable only because we keep it hidden.

Smithfield Shuts US Pork Plant Indefinitely, Warns Of Meat Shortages (R.)

Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest pork processor, said on Sunday it will shut a U.S. plant indefinitely due to a rash of coronavirus cases among employees and warned the country was moving “perilously close to the edge” in supplies for grocers. Slaughterhouse shutdowns are disrupting the U.S. food supply chain, crimping availability of meat at retail stores and leaving farmers without outlets for their livestock. Smithfield extended the closure of its Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant after initially saying it would idle temporarily for cleaning. The facility is one of the nation’s largest pork processing facilities, representing 4% to 5% of U.S. pork production, according to the company.


South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem said on Saturday that 238 Smithfield employees had active cases of the new coronavirus, accounting for 55% of the state’s total. Noem and the mayor of Sioux Falls had recommended the company shut the plant, which has about 3,700 workers, for at least two weeks. “It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running,” Smithfield Chief Executive Ken Sullivan said in a statement on Sunday. “These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain, first and foremost our nation’s livestock farmers.” Smithfield said it will resume operations in Sioux Falls after further direction from local, state and federal officials. The company will pay employees for the next two weeks, according to the statement.

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Stupid is as stupid does. Come autumn, you’re going to need food. Underpaying essential workers will not help. Raise their wages, and you may even attract a few Americans.

White House Seeks To Lower Farmworker Pay To Help Agriculture Industry (NPR)

New White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is working with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to see how to reduce wage rates for foreign guest workers on American farms, in order to help U.S. farmers struggling during the coronavirus, according to U.S. officials and sources familiar with the plans. Opponents of the plan argue it will hurt vulnerable workers and depress domestic wages. The measure is the latest effort being pushed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help U.S farmers who say they are struggling amid disruptions in the agricultural supply chain compounded by the outbreak; the industry was already hurting because of President Trump’s tariff war with China.


“The administration is considering all policy options during this unprecedented crisis to ensure our great farmers are protected, and President Trump has done and will do everything he can to support their vital mission,” a White House official told NPR. The nation’s roughly 2.5 million agricultural laborers have been officially declared “essential workers” as the administration seeks to ensure that Americans have food to eat and that U.S. grocery stores remain stocked. Workers on the H-2A seasonal guest-worker program are about 10% of all farmworkers. The effort to provide “wage relief” to U.S. farmers follows an announcement Friday by the USDA to develop a program that will include direct payments to farmers and ranchers hurt by the coronavirus. Trump said Friday that he has directed Perdue to provide at least $16 billion in relief.

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Well, at least he did it. Where are the others?

In Mea Culpa, Macron Extends France’s Lockdown Until May 11 (R.)

French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday announced he was extending a virtual lockdown to curb the coronavirus outbreak until May 11, adding that progress had been made but the battle not yet won. Following Italy in extending the lockdown but announcing no immediate easing of restrictive measures as in Spain, Macron said the tense situation in hospitals in Paris and eastern France meant there could be no let-up in the country. Since March 17, France’s 67 million people have been ordered to stay at home except to buy food, go to work, seek medical care or get some exercise on their own. The lockdown was originally scheduled to end on Tuesday.

“I fully understand the effort I’m asking from you,” Macron told the nation in a televised address at the end of the lockdown’s fourth week, adding the current rules were working. “When will we be able to return to a normal life? I would love to be able to answer you. But to be frank, I have to humbly tell you we don’t have definitive answers,” he said. Schools and shops would progressively reopen on May 11, Macron said. But restaurants, hotels, cafes and cinemas would have to remain shut longer, he added. International arrivals from non-European countries will remain prohibited until further notice. Macron, whose government has faced criticism over a shortage of face masks and testing kits, said that by May 11, France would be able to test anyone presenting COVID-19 symptoms and give nonprofessional face masks to the public.

Macron also said he had asked his government to present this week new financial aid for families and students in need. Acknowledging his country had not been sufficiently prepared early on to face the challenges posed by the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Macron appeared to seek a humble tone in contrast to the war-like rhetoric of his previous speeches. “Were we prepared for this crisis? On the face of it, not enough. But we coped,” he said. “This moment, let’s be honest, has revealed cracks, shortages. Like every country in the world, we have lacked gloves, hand gel, we haven’t been able to give out as many masks as we wanted to our health professionals.”

The French, long accustomed to being told their high taxes paid for the “best healthcare in the world,” have been dismayed by the rationing of critical drugs, face masks and equipment and have watched with envy the situation in neighbouring Germany. Macron’s acknowledgment of the shortcomings was broadly well-received. “It’s not every day you hear a president offer a mea culpa and dare say ‘we have no definitive answers.’ Reassuring and necessary sincerity,” analyst Maxime Sbaihi of the think tank GenerationLibre said.

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You have to read this to believe it. Mind you, I read a note earlier that said 200 flights came into to Heathrow yesterday from all over the globe, including China, Italy, Spain, whose passengers were barely checked if at all.

A French Disaster (Guy Millière)

On April 9, in France, one of the three European countries most affected by COVID-19 — the others being Spain and Italy, 1,341 people died from the Chinese Communist Party virus. For Italy, the main European country affected so far, the figure on April 9 was 610 deaths; for Spain 446, and for Germany 266. While the pandemic has been stabilizing in Italy and Spain — and in Germany seems contained — in France it seems still expanding. Extremely bad decisions taken by the authorities created a situation of contagion more destructive than it should have been. The first bad decision was that, in contrast to European Union fantasies, borders apparently do matter. France never closed them; instead it allowed large numbers of potential virus-carriers to enter the country.

Even when it became clear that in Italy the pandemic was taking on catastrophic proportions, France’s border with Italy remained open. The Italian government, by contrast, on March 10, prohibited French people coming to its territory or Italians going to France, but to date, France has put no controls on its side of the border. The situation is the same on France’s border with Spain, despite the terrifying situation there. Since March 17, it has been virtually impossible to go from France to Spain, but coming to France from Spain is easy: you just show a police officer your ID. The same goes for France’s border with Germany. On March 16, Germany closed its border with France, but France declined to do the same for its border with Germany.

When, on February 26, a soccer match between a French team and an Italian team took place in Lyon, the third-largest city in France, 3,000 Italian supporters attended, even though patients were already flocking to Italy’s hospitals. France never closed its airports; they are still open to “nationals of EEA Member States, Switzerland, passengers with a British passport, and those with residence permits issued by France” and healthcare professionals. Earlier, until the last days of March, people arriving from China were not even subject to health checks. French people in Wuhan, the city where the pandemic originated, were repatriated by a military plane, and, upon their arrival in France, were placed in quarantine. While Air France interrupted its flights to China on January 30, Chinese and other airlines departing from Shanghai and Beijing continue to land in France.

French President Emmanuel Macron summarized France’s official position on the practice: “Viruses do not have passports,” he said. Members of the French government repeated the same dogma. A few commentators reminded them that viruses travel with infected people, who can be stopped at borders, and that borders are essential to stop or slow the spread of a disease, but the effort was useless. Macron ended up saying that the borders of the Schengen area (26 European states that have officially abolished all passport and border control with one another) could not be shut down and raged at other European leaders for reintroducing border checks between the Schengen area member countries. “What is at stake,” he said, seemingly more concerned with the “European project” than with the lives of millions of people, “is the survival of the European project.”

[..] by the end of March, most doctors and caregivers still had no masks. Several doctors fell ill. As of April 10, eight have died from COVID-19 and several others are in critical condition. On March 20, the government’s spokeswoman, Sibeth N’Diaye, incorrectly said that “masks are essentially useless”. At the end of February, France had almost no tests available, and no means of manufacturing them. The government decided to buy tests from China, but by March 19, the number of tests was still insufficient. While Germany performed 500,000 screening tests per week, France was only able to only perform 50,000. Rather than admit that tests were unavailable, or that the government had mismanaged situation, the France’s minister of health, Olivier Veran, announced that large-scale screening was useless, and that France had chosen to “proceed differently”.

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“..92 homes in the UK reported outbreaks in one day. [..] 2,099 care homes in England have so far had cases of the virus.”

Older People Being ‘Airbrushed’ Out Of British Virus Figures (BBC)

Many older people are being “airbrushed” out of coronavirus figures in the UK, charities have warned. The official death toll has been criticised for only covering people who die in hospital – but not those in care homes or in their own houses. It comes after the government confirmed there had been virus outbreaks at more than 2,000 care homes in England. Meanwhile, scientific advisers for the government will meet later to review the UK’s coronavirus lockdown measures. The evaluation will be passed to the government – but ministers have said it was unlikely restrictions would change.

On Monday, the UK’s chief medical adviser said he would like “much more extensive testing” in care homes due to the “large numbers of vulnerable people” there. Prof Chris Whitty told the daily Downing Street coronavirus briefing on that 92 homes in the UK reported outbreaks in one day. The Department of Health and Social Care later confirmed 2,099 care homes in England have so far had cases of the virus. The figures prompted the charity Age UK to claim coronavirus is “running wild” in care homes for elderly people. “The current figures are airbrushing older people out like they don’t matter,” Caroline Abrahams, the charity’s director, said.

Ms Abrahams said the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing is leading to the spread of coronavirus across the care home sector. “We were underprepared for this, we are playing catch-up on getting enough PPE and testing, I’m wondering if the needs of care homes were taken seriously early on,” she said. She joined industry leaders from Marie Curie, Care England, Independent Age and the Alzheimer’s Society in writing a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock demanding a care package to support social care through the pandemic. They have also called for a daily update on deaths in the care system.

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“The home charges up to C$10,000 a month for each resident,..”

Care homes, nursing homes are a major issue. Stories abound from the UK, France, Belgium, Holland, Canada about elderly people being left alone and untested, and their subsequent COVID19 deaths not counted.

Québec To Ramp Up Care Home Inspections After 31 Die In Montréal Facility (R.)

The Quebec government on Monday said it was putting the safety and general conditions of the province’s 2,600 long-term care and nursing home facilities under the microscope following the deaths of 31 people in a single home for the elderly since March 13. Police and the coroner’s office are investigating the deaths at the Residence Herron, a 139-unit home in Montreal, which has been put under provincial control. Quebec Premier François Legault said health officials had only been informed that the nursing home had a shortage of staff, but not that dozens of residents had died. “[Health officials] didn’t know before Friday night that there were 31 deaths,” Legault told reporters on Monday. “We knew that there were a few deaths, but surely not 31.”


Only five deaths are confirmed to have been caused by COVID-19, with the rest under investigation. Legault blamed the situation on “major negligence” over the weekend and said the facility’s management had not cooperated when authorities first tried to probe reports of problems. “I think that what happened in the month of March was that suddenly many of their residents got the COVID-19, many of the employees decided to leave,” he said. The residence is located on Montreal’s West Island and is owned and operated by Katasa Group, which owns six other retirement homes. The home charges up to C$10,000 a month for each resident, according to the Montreal Gazette. The private nursing home touts itself as having “an enviable reputation in the field of residences for retirees in need of special care,” according to its website.

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Until further- convincing- notice, make that Brazil and every other country.

Brazil Likely Has 12 Times More Coronavirus Cases Than Official Count (R.)

Brazil likely has 12 times more cases of the new coronavirus than are being officially reported by the government, with too little testing and long waits to confirm the results, according to a study released on Monday. Researchers at a consortium of Brazilian universities and institutes examined the ratio of cases resulting in deaths through April 10 and compared it with data on the expected death rate from the World Health Organization. The much higher-than-expected death rate in Brazil indicates there are many more cases of the virus than are being counted, with the study estimating only 8% of cases are being officially reported.


The government has focused on testing serious cases rather than all suspected cases, according to the consortium, known as the Center for Health Operations and Intelligence. The center and medical professionals have also complained of long wait times to get test results. Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta has said that it is difficult to distribute tests in Brazil because of the size of the country but acknowledges that testing needs to improve. Officially, Brazil’s coronavirus death toll rose to 1,328 on Monday, while the number of confirmed cases hit 23,430, according to health ministry data. As of last Thursday, Brazil had had around 127,000 suspected cases and carried out just short of 63,000 tests, ministry figures indicate. A health ministry official on Monday said more than 93,000 tests are still being processed for results.

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Russia is not doing well.

China Tightens Russian Border Checks, Approves Experimental Vaccine Trials (R.)

China has approved early-stage human tests for two experimental vaccines to combat the new coronavirus as it battles to contain imported cases, especially from neighbouring Russia, the new “front line” in the war on COVID-19. Russia has become China’s largest source of imported cases, with a total of 409 infections originating in the country, and Chinese citizens should stay put and not return home, the state-owned Global Times said in an editorial. “Russia is the latest example of a failure to control imported cases and can serve as a warning to others,” said the paper, which is run by the Communist Party’s People’s Daily. “The Chinese people have watched Russia become a severely affected country… This should sound the alarm: China must strictly prevent the inflow of cases and avoid a second outbreak.”


China’s northeastern border province of Heilongjiang saw 79 new cases of imported coronavirus cases on Monday. All the new cases were Chinese citizens travelling back into the country from Russia, state media said on Tuesday. They formed the bulk of new cases on the Chinese mainland, which stood at 89. Heilongjiang’s provincial authority said on Tuesday that it had established a hotline to reward citizens for reporting illegal immigrants crossing into the province. According to a notice, people supplying verified information about illegal cross-border crimes will be granted 3,000 yuan. Those who apprehend the illegal immigrants themselves and hand them over to the authorities will be given 5,000 yuan. As of Tuesday, China had reported 82,249 coronavirus cases and 3,341 deaths. There were no deaths in the past 24 hours.

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The robots, like the doctors, are on Big Pharma’s payroll.

China Big Tech Moves Into Healthcare (R.)

China’s biggest corporate showdown has kicked off. Alibaba, Tencent and Ping An Insurance dominate e-commerce, video games and insurance respectively. Now the trio, worth a combined $1 trillion-plus in market capitalisation, is converging on healthcare. Before Covid-19 hit, China’s medical system suffered from chronic under-investment. Healthcare expenditure, of which the government accounts for over half, was just 5.2% of GDP in 2017, data from the World Health Organization show, far lagging 17% in the United States. A big problem is a shortage of general practitioners, resulting in threadbare primary care. It’s geographically unbalanced too; medical resources are concentrated in wealthier urban areas.

Top-tier hospitals, representing just 8% of the country’s total, received nearly half of all patients in 2016, according to research cited by China Renaissance. Alibaba and Ping An, as well as the Tencent-backed WeDoctor, see potential for profit in filling the gaps left by overstretched, overcrowded hospitals. All three offer cheap online consultations, which have spiked in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. They are racing to develop all-encompassing apps offering diagnosis, prescriptions, referrals, appointment bookings, 1-hour drug delivery and even insurance.

Ping An’s Good Doctor is ahead for now. The app, run by a Hong Kong-listed subsidiary, has 67 million monthly active users as of the end of last year, thanks to a sizable team of in-house doctors and a network of partner hospitals and pharmacies. But Alibaba is beefing up its healthcare arm, also listed in Hong Kong, by reshuffling its pharmaceutical business and appointing a new chief executive. Tencent’s ubiquitous messaging app, WeChat, too has rolled out features like Covid-19 heat maps and hospital appointment bookings. It owns an undisclosed stake in WeDoctor, which is now looking to raise up to $1 billion in a Hong Kong initial public offering this year …

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Jan 092020
 
 January 9, 2020  Posted by at 9:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  8 Responses »


John Vachon Five o’clock crowds, Chicago 1941

 

Pelosi Seeks To Limit Trump’s War Powers (USAT)
Pelosi Loses Senate Democrats On Trump Impeachment Delay (BBC)
McConnell Won’t Haggle With House Over Impeachment Trial Plan (R.)
Can You Locate Iran On A Map? Few Americans Can. (MC)
World Bank Trims 2020 Growth Forecast (R.)
Ghosn: Seeds of Renault-Nissan Crisis Were Sown By Macron (R.)
Carlos Ghosn And The Dark Corners Of Japanese Justice (G.)
Come Home, America: Stop Policing the Globe (Whitehead)
Juan Guaidó’s Surreal Regime Change Reality Show (GZ)
Hunter Biden ‘Biological And Legal Father’ Of Stripper’s Child – Judge (Fox)

 

 

“…citing ‘urgent’ concerns on Iran strategy…”

This of course cannot be about Trump alone. It has to concern an assessment of all past and future presidents too. Plus, you may be forced to change the Constitution. So future potential Democrat presidents will see their hands tied by Pelosi in 2020, and we’ll need an in-depth discussion about Obama and Hillary’s actions in Syria, Libya etc., because, again, it can’t be just about Trump. Is taking out Soleimani so much worse than raping Ghadaffi to death with a bayonet?

This is going to take a lot of time. More than the 10 months until the next election. In which Pelosi should ostensibly run if she wants to usurp the president’s powers.

 

Pelosi Seeks To Limit Trump’s War Powers (USAT)

The House will vote Thursday on a measure that would limit President Donald Trump’s ability to wage war with Iran, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced. The Democratic House speaker said Trump’s action last week – authorizing a drone strike that killed top Iranian General Qasem Soleimani – was “provocative and disproportionate” and done without consulting Congress. Thursday’s debate will shine a spotlight on the Soleimani killing and the possibility of further escalation between the U.S. and Iran. It will also air constitutional questions about the president’s ability to order military action without congressional authorization.

“Members of Congress have serious, urgent concerns about the administration’s decision to engage in hostilities against Iran and about its lack of strategy moving forward,” Pelosi said. “To honor our duty to keep the American people safe, the House will move forward with a War Powers Resolution to limit the President’s military actions regarding Iran.” But even if the measure passes the House, which is controlled by Democrats, it will face hurdles in the GOP-controlled Senate. And Trump can veto the measure, as he did last year when Congress tried to end the American military role in Yemen.

Pelosi’s decision to move forward with the war powers measure came after Iran retaliated on Tuesday for Soleiman’s killing by launching ballistic missiles at two Iraqi airbases that house U.S. and coalition forces. Trump said that incident did not cause any American casualties and resulted in only minimal damage, as he sought to lower tensions with Iran in an address to the nation Wednesday. But Pelosi and other Democrats said they remained alarmed at the possibility of further military confrontation. “The consequences of this strike already … have been cataclysmic,” said Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He and others said the situation could still easily spiral out of control.

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They get worried over their seats.

Pelosi Loses Senate Democrats On Trump Impeachment Delay (BBC)

The US Congress’ most powerful Democrat is losing support among Senate allies as she holds up President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has delayed sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate in a tussle over rules with Republicans. Senator Dianne Feinstein called on Mrs Pelosi, her fellow California Democrat and ex-neighbour, to “send it over”. The Senate’s Republican leader vowed there would be “no haggling”. Mitch McConnell said he can muster the majority of 51 votes needed among his fellow Republicans in the Senate to codify the proceedings without Democratic support. Senate Democrats said prolonging the standoff would be pointless.


“The longer it goes on the less urgent it becomes,” Senator Feinstein said on Wednesday, Bloomberg News reported. “So if it’s serious and urgent, send them over. If it isn’t, don’t send it over.” The political trial of Mr Trump cannot begin until the Democratic-controlled House sends its articles of impeachment, the charges against the president, to the Senate. Senator Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat, told Politico: “I respect the fact that [Pelosi] is concerned about the fact about whether or not there will be a fair trial, but I do think it is time to get on with it.” Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, said: “I don’t know what leverage we have. It looks like the cake is already baked.” Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, also said he believed it was time to start the Senate trial.

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“If Pelosi sought leverage over the Senate, McConnell said, “no such leverage exists … it will never exist.”

McConnell Won’t Haggle With House Over Impeachment Trial Plan (R.)

U.S. Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said on Wednesday the Senate would not haggle with the House of Representatives over procedures for President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, adding that the Senate would make a decision on calling witnesses for the trial at the appropriate time. Speaking on the Senate floor, the Republican senator expressed exasperation that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a letter to her fellow Democrats on Tuesday night, had indicated she would continue holding back the House-passed articles of impeachment from the Senate until she knows more about Senate plans for the impeachment trial.

McConnell did not specifically answer Pelosi’s demand, but lambasted her actions as “game-playing” and said she could not dictate the Senate’s trial proceedings. “There will be no haggling with the House over Senate procedure. We will not cede our authority to try this impeachment,” McConnell said. If Pelosi sought leverage over the Senate, McConnell said, “no such leverage exists … it will never exist.” He accused Pelosi of wanting to keep Trump “in limbo” over the trial indefinitely. The House in December charged Trump with abusing his power for personal gain by asking Ukraine to announce a corruption investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in November’s presidential election.

It also charged the president with obstructing Congress by directing administration officials and agencies not to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry. Under the U.S. Constitution, the House brings impeachment charges, while impeachment trials are held by the Senate. But McConnell has said that Senate rules prevent the Senate from starting the trial until the House sends it the articles of impeachment, and the House has not done so.

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I like the ones who locate Iran inside the USA.

Can You Locate Iran On A Map? Few Americans Can. (MC)

As tensions between the United States and Iran rise in the aftermath of the American drone strike that killed the country’s most powerful commander, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, a new Morning Consult/Politico survey finds fewer than 3 in 10 registered voters can identify the Islamic republic on an unlabeled map.

Twenty-eight percent of registered voters were able to accurately label Iran on a map of the Middle East region, according to new Morning Consult/Politico polling conducted Jan. 4-5, before the Iranian military fired missiles at two bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops. Twenty-three percent could identify the country on a larger, also unlabeled, global map. Eight percent of voters thought Iran was Iraq on the smaller map.


The polling experiment sheds light on voters’ geographical unfamiliarity with foreign countries, even those with which the United States has been engaged in sustained conflict. Some respondents fared better than others, however.

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When will the first people stand up and say we can’t afford to grow any longer?

World Bank Trims 2020 Growth Forecast (R.)

The World Bank on Wednesday trimmed its global growth forecasts slightly for 2019 and 2020 due to a slower-than-expected recovery in trade and investment despite cooler trade tensions between the United States and China. The multilateral development bank said 2019 marked the weakest economic expansion since the global financial crisis a decade ago, and 2020, while a slight improvement, remained vulnerable to uncertainties over trade and geopolitical tensions. In its latest Global Economic Prospects report, the World Bank shaved 0.2 percentage point off of growth for both years, with the 2019 global economic growth forecast at 2.4% and 2020 at 2.5%.

“This modest increase in global growth marks the end of the slowdown that started in 2018 and took a heavy toll on global activity, trade and investment, especially last year,” said Ayhan Kose, the World Bank’s lead economic forecaster. “We do expect an improvement, but overall, we also see a weaker growth outlook.”

The latest World Bank forecasts take into account the so-called Phase 1 trade deal announced by the United States and China, which suspended new U.S. tariffs on Chinese consumer goods scheduled for Dec. 15 and reduced the tariff rate on some other goods. While the tariff rate reduction will have a “rather small” effect on trade, the deal is expected to boost business confidence and investment prospects, contributing to a pickup in trade growth, Kose said. Global trade growth is expected to improve modestly in 2020 to 1.9% from 1.4% in 2019, which was the lowest since the 2008-2009 financial crisis, the World Bank said. This remains well below the 5% average annual trade growth rate since 2010, according to World Bank data.

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Ghosn also has a French passport.

Ghosn: Seeds of Renault-Nissan Crisis Were Sown By Macron (R.)

Ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn said on Wednesday that a surprise corporate move, orchestrated five years ago by French President Emmanuel Macron who was then economy minister, soured relations between Renault and Nissan and contributed to his ouster. Ghosn, the former head of the car alliance, said Nissan executives and Japanese officials were shocked by a 2015 decision by the French government to increase its voting rights at Renault. “This left a big bitterness. Not only with the management of Nissan, but also the government of Japan,” Ghosn told reporters, although he did not name Macron. “And this is where the problem started.”


In April 2015, as a 37-year-old minister with then-unknown presidential ambitions, Macron ordered a rise in the state’s stake in Renault here designed to secure double voting rights. The overnight move gave the French state a blocking minority in Renault, which in turn controlled Nissan via its 43.4 percent stake in the Japanese firm. According to French and Japanese sources, that rattled the Japanese side of the Renault-Nissan alliance, which feared a national champion was falling under the control of the French government.

Read more …

Ghosn was citing a 99.4% conviction rate in Japanese cases. Why have a lawyer?

Carlos Ghosn And The Dark Corners Of Japanese Justice (G.)

Given his brash demeanour and immense wealth, Ghosn is not a sympathetic character. Indeed, he may well be guilty of financial misconduct. But he is right to shine a light into the dark corners of Japan’s justice system. Anyone familiar with the Japanese justice system would know that Ghosn’s allegations are not far-fetched. In Japan, laws are used as weapons against targeted people and not applied equally. One example of this is the “hostage justice” (hitojichi-shiho) system. Hostage justice boils down to the accused remaining in custody until they incriminate themselves by signing a confession. Often this is drawn up by prosecutors who browbeat the accused without defence counsel.

Knowing that the playing field is tilted in favour of the prosecutors and that they could spend a very long time in jail even before going to court, many innocent defendants confess. Ghosn spent more than 120 days in detention. In the late 1980s, a once high-flying company president called Hiromasa Ezoe was accused of bribery. Despite extreme pressure to confess, Ezoe defied prosecuting authorities by pleading not guilty. Over a decade of judicial purgatory later, he was effectively exonerated by receiving a suspended three-year sentence in 2003. In 2010 he published a book, Where is the Justice?, a savage indictment of a system in which the presumption of innocence is abandoned and defendants are railroaded. Ghosn may well have wanted to avoid this fate.

In Japan, the accused can be held for 23 days without charge – this is almost indefinitely renewable as judges normally give prosecutors the benefit of the doubt. In April 2019, more than 1,000 lawyers and scholars submitted a petition to the justice ministry demanding an end to this antediluvian system. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations has also long lobbied against it. The 2019 petition doesn’t mince its words, asserting that the “long-term detention in the Carlos Ghosn case has triggered surprise and criticism overseas, leading to doubts about Japan’s integrity as a democratic nation that guarantees human rights”.

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“Worldwide, the military runs more than 170 golf courses.”

Come Home, America: Stop Policing the Globe (Whitehead)

It’s time to bring our troops home. Bring them home from Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. Bring them home from Germany, South Korea and Japan. Bring them home from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Oman. Bring them home from Niger, Chad and Mali. Bring them home from Turkey, the Philippines, and northern Australia. That’s not what’s going to happen, of course. The U.S. military reportedly has more than 1.3 million men and women on active duty, with more than 200,000 of them stationed overseas in nearly every country in the world. Those numbers are likely significantly higher in keeping with the Pentagon’s policy of not fully disclosing where and how many troops are deployed for the sake of “operational security and denying the enemy any advantage.”

As investigative journalist David Vine explains, “Although few Americans realize it, the United States likely has more bases in foreign lands than any other people, nation, or empire in history.” Don’t fall for the propaganda, though: America’s military forces aren’t being deployed abroad to protect our freedoms here at home. Rather, they’re being used to guard oil fields, build foreign infrastructure and protect the financial interests of the corporate elite. In fact, the United States military spends about $81 billion a year just to protect oil supplies around the world. The reach of America’s military empire includes close to 800 bases in as many as 160 countries, operated at a cost of more than $156 billion annually.

As Vine reports, “Even US military resorts and recreation areas in places like the Bavarian Alps and Seoul, South Korea, are bases of a kind. Worldwide, the military runs more than 170 golf courses.” This is how a military empire occupies the globe. Already, American military servicepeople are being deployed to far-flung places in the Middle East and elsewhere in anticipation of the war drums being sounded over Iran. This Iran crisis, salivated over by the neocons since prior to the Iraq War and manufactured by war hawks who want to jumpstart the next world war, has been a long time coming. Donald Trump, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton: they all have done their part to ensure that the military industrial complex can continue to get rich at taxpayer expense.

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The opposition will get rid of Guaidó, Maduro doesn’t have to do much.

Juan Guaidó’s Surreal Regime Change Reality Show (GZ)

Fistfights and screaming matches broke out at Venezuela’s National Assembly on January 5, when the legislative body was scheduled to elect its leader. But the melee was not what the corporate US media has portrayed it as. The fights weren’t between the Chavistas who support the Bolivarian Revolution and President Nicolás Maduro on one side and opposition members on the other, but rather between competing members of the opposition itself. The opposition imploded because Juan Guaidó, the former president of the National Assembly and self-declared “interim president” of the country, lost his campaign to be reelected as head of the legislature.

The Venezuelan opposition is in a state of disaster — as it has been since former President Hugo Chávez’s first election in 1998. It’s a loose and ever-changing coalition of around a dozen political parties, with differing ideologies, strategies, and constituencies. The far right, which is comprised mainly of the Voluntad Popular and Primero Justicia parties, is filled with people who have been receiving financial and logistical support from the United States for the past 20 years. In the 2002 coup against then President Chávez, the far right briefly took over, and excluded the more moderate opposition from positions of power. The moderates learned the wrong lesson: instead of challenging the US-backed right, it caved to them, acceding to their plans of regime change and undemocratic maneuvers.

But an important split occurred between the moderates and the extremists during the presidential elections in May 2018. The moderates ignored the far right’s calls for a boycott and won 3 million votes in the presidential elections, out of a voting electorate of around 15 million people (with approximately 20 million eligible voters). In September 2019, these moderate opposition figures sat down with the Maduro administration and came to a wide-ranging agreement that included a bipartisan rejection of US sanctions and the appointment of new members of the National Electoral Council.

Between them, the moderates and Chavistas now represent more than 9 million votes, accounting for a full 60 percent of likely voters and 45 percent of eligible voters. This dialogue between two important sectors of Venezuela electoral politics helps explain why September, October, and November were easily the most stable three months for Venezuela in the past year. The dialogue led directly to the events of January 5 in Caracas.

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Get out of the race, Joe, you’re muddying the field.

Hunter Biden ‘Biological And Legal Father’ Of Stripper’s Child – Judge (Fox)

Hunter Biden, the son of presidential candidate Joe Biden, is the “biological and legal father” of a child he fathered with an ex-stripper, an Arkansas judge ruled Tuesday, contradicting the younger Biden’s previous denials that he had any role in the pregnancy. In an order establishing paternity, Independence County, Ark., Circuit Judge Holly Meyer noted that the results of DNA tests indicated Biden was the father “with near scientific certainty,” and instructed the Arkansas Department of Health to issue a birth certificate listing Biden as the father of 29-year-old Lunden Alexis Roberts’ child.

Roberts, who The New York Post reported was a stripper at a Washington, D.C., club that Biden patronized, received “primary physical and legal custody” of the child. In previous filings, Roberts told the court that Hunter Biden “had no involvement in the child’s life since the child’s birth, never interacted with the child, never parented the child,” and “could not identify the child out of a photo lineup.”

Biden “shall have visitation with the child as agreed between the parties,” Judge Meyer ruled. The next hearing in the case is now set for Jan. 29 at 9:30 a.m. ET, to address “temporary child support for the minor child and other matters,” the judge wrote, adding that the parties have until Jan. 16 to comply with all “pending discovery” which is currently “past due.” Another hearing is set for the morning of March 13 to handle any remaining discovery issues, with a final hearing on May 13 to set “permanent child support for the minor child.”

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Dec 062019
 
 December 6, 2019  Posted by at 10:16 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  5 Responses »


Arthur Rothstein President Roosevelt tours drought area, near Bismarck, North Dakota Aug 1936

 

Mueller Report’s Resurgence Gives Democrats New Dilemma On Impeachment (CNN)
Democrats Offering Passion Over Proof In Trump Impeachment (Turley)
Pelosi Pursues Articles Of Impeachment Against Trump (R.)
Ukraine Fires Prosecutor Investigating Burisma And Hunter Biden (CDMedia)
Fed Goes Hog-Wild with T-Bills, But Repos Drop and MBS Shrink by $22 Bn (WS)
Filmmakers Sue To Shield Visitors To US From Social Media Vetting (IC)
French Strike Against Macron Reforms Enters Day Two (R.)
UK’s Labour Accuses BBC Of Bias In Election Coverage (R.)
Andrew Neil Tells Johnson “It’s Not Too Late” For Election Interview (BBC)
Leak Confirms Turkey’s “Gold-For-Gas” Scheme To Evade US Sanctions On Iran (ZH)
BPA Chemical Levels In Humans Drastically Underestimated (G.)

 

 

There’s a concerted effort to bring back Mueller into the impeachment narrative. I’m not entirely sure why the Dems would want that. A little video with the article suggests Trump would have lied to Mueller -in writing- about contacts with WikiLeaks. You know, Julian Assange, the man who can’t defend himself. The same reason why Mueller could leave him in the report. Along with the 13 Russians. Pelosi can swing from Ukraine back to RussiaRussia. She already did, actually.

So will they bring back Mueller’s bumbling testimony as well? Be careful what you wish for.

Mueller Report’s Resurgence Gives Democrats New Dilemma On Impeachment (CNN)

Democrats are debating a risky step that may immeasurably bolster their impeachment case but could multiply the political price for ramming it home. Including elements of former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report suggesting President Donald Trump was guilty of obstruction would help arguments he did exactly the same in the Ukraine investigation. But reviving the controversy over the special counsel’s probe could blur the much clearer current abuse of power case and play into Trump’s claims that both Washington intrigues are all part of the same “hoax.” Such an accusation would not be based in fact, but it would surely increase the exposure of swing state Democratic House members already facing an existential vote over impeachment. [..]

Democrats provoked fresh speculation that they were moving towards admitting some Mueller evidence by scheduling a Judiciary Committee hearing for Monday with staffers from two committees: Intelligence, which investigated the Ukraine scandal, and Judiciary, which dealt with allegations of obstruction in the Mueller report. This followed comments by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat, that could be taken as a hint that Democrats were examining the Mueller option. “President Trump welcomed foreign interference in the 2016 election. He demanded it for the 2020 election,” Nadler said in his committee’s opening impeachment hearing on Wednesday. “In both cases, he got caught. And in both cases, he did everything in his power to prevent the American people from learning the truth about his conduct.”

But in a situation as emotionally and politically fraught as an impeachment, confronting each action can provoke a politically damaging counter-reaction. Democrats who wanted to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump after the release of the Mueller report failed to convince a critical mass of their own leadership that the case was sufficiently clear to the American people. That was one reason why Pelosi held out so long against rising pressure in her own caucus for an effort to oust the President, amid fears of a political backlash. In the CNN town hall, the speaker suggested that the Ukraine case was far more black and white. “It wasn’t so clear to the public,” Pelosi said, referring to Mueller’s findings.

“The Ukraine (situation) has removed all doubt, it was self-evident that the President undermined our national security, jeopardized the integrity of our election as he violated the oath of office.” The President and his supporters, perpetrating a massive disinformation campaign to create uncertainty and ambiguity about the Ukraine case, has been trying to brand it as an extension of the Mueller saga. Folding in the special counsel’s evidence could help do his work for him. For instance, in the first televised House Intelligence Committee hearing last month, the panel’s top Republican, Rep. Devin Nunes, told witnesses: “the main performance — the Russia hoax — has ended, and you’ve been cast in the low-rent Ukrainian sequel.”

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Turley of course is the one expert who disagreed with the three others.

Democrats Offering Passion Over Proof In Trump Impeachment (Turley)

The most dangerous place for an academic is often between the House and the impeachment of an American president. I knew that going into the first hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on the impeachment of Donald Trump. After all, Alexander Hamilton that impeachment would often occur in an environment of “agitated passions.” Yet I remained a tad naive in hoping that an academic discussion on the history and standards of it might offer a brief hiatus from hateful rhetoric on both sides. In my testimony Wednesday, I lamented that, as in the impeachment of President Clinton from 1998 to 1999, there is an intense “rancor and rage” and “stifling intolerance” that blinds people to opposing views.

My call for greater civility and dialogue may have been the least successful argument I made to the committee. Before I finished my testimony, my home and office were inundated with threatening messages and demands that I be fired from George Washington University for arguing that, while a case for impeachment can be made, it has not been made on this record. Some of the most heated attacks came from Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee. [..] As I stated Wednesday, I believe the Clinton case is relevant today and my position remains the same. I do not believe a crime has been proven over the Ukraine controversy, though I said such crimes might be proven with a more thorough investigation. Instead, Democrats have argued that they do not actually have to prove the elements of crimes such as bribery and extortion to use those in drafting articles of impeachment.

In the Clinton impeachment, the crime was clearly established and widely recognized. As I said 21 years ago, a president can still be impeached for abuse of power without a crime, and that includes Trump. But that makes it more important to complete and strengthen the record of such an offense, as well as other possible offenses. I remain concerned that we are lowering impeachment standards to fit a paucity of evidence and an abundance of anger. Trump will not be our last president. What we leave in the wake of this scandal will shape our democracy for generations to come. These “agitated passions” will not be a substitute for proof in an impeachment. We currently have too much of the former and too little of the latter.

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More Mueller.

Pelosi Pursues Articles Of Impeachment Against Trump (R.)

Warning that U.S. democracy is at stake, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi directed a congressional committee on Thursday to draft articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, a historic step setting up a fight over whether to oust him from office. In a dramatic televised statement, Pelosi accused the Republican president of abusing his power and alluded to Britain’s King George III, the monarch against whom the American colonies rebelled in forming the United States in 1776, saying that in the United States, “the people are the king.” “Our democracy is what is at stake. The president leaves us no choice but to act because he is trying to corrupt, once again, the election for his own benefit. The president has engaged in abuse of power, undermining our national security and jeopardizing the integrity of our elections,” said Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress.

At the heart of the Democratic-led House’s impeachment inquiry is Trump’s request that Ukraine launch an investigation targeting Joe Biden. The former vice president is a top contender for the Democratic nomination to face Trump in the 2020 presidential election. “Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and our heart full of love for America, today I am asking our chairman to proceed with articles of impeachment,” Pelosi said. She had opened the investigation in September. She was referring to Jerrold Nadler, whose House Judiciary Committee has the responsibility of drawing up the formal charges that would later be voted on by the full House. Two people knowledgeable about the process said the panel could draft and recommend the articles of impeachment to the House as early as Dec. 12.

[..] Judiciary Democrats said the report by former Special Counsel Robert Mueller documenting Russian interference in the 2016 election could be part of testimony they hear on Monday from a committee lawyer, who is presenting evidence along with a Democratic lawyer from the House Intelligence Committee. Republican committee lawyers are also expected to testify. Including material from Mueller’s report in an article of impeachment would demonstrate a pattern of behavior involving foreign interference in U.S. elections, House Judiciary Democrat Pramila Jayapal said.

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Talk about a swamp. Giuliani is talking to Ukraine people. Not sure where that fits in.

Ukraine Fires Prosecutor Investigating Burisma And Hunter Biden (CDMedia)

Ukraine has fired the prosecutor investigating cases involving Hunter Biden and Burisma and has transferred responsibility to the Soros-controlled ‘National Anti-Corruption Bureau’ (NABU) for disposal. This is the same NABU led by Artem Sytnyk who was caught on tape bragging about helping the Clinton campaign in its effort to discredit Donald Trump during the 2016 election. Konstantin Kulik was fired from the General Prosecutor’s Office on November 22 due to corruption charges against him. Sources for CD Media describe the firing as being political in nature, as a way to ‘tidy up’ any loose ends regarding Biden and Burisma, to keep the information from the public eye during the ‘impeachment’ campaign in the United States.

They describe Victor Trepak (New Deputy General Prosecutor), Deputy Prosecutor General Vitaly Kasko, and Sytnyk as being under the control of the George Soros/Deep State infrastructure in-country. Trepak was involved in the infamous ‘black ledger’ in the Manafort affair, which is now considered to be fake. The State Bureau of Investigation may be headed by Deputy Prosecutor General Viktor Trepak it was reported by “Ukrainian Truth” with reference to sources, reported Ukrainian news outlet GordonUA.com. “Soros and the Democrats appointed their agents of influence to the General Prosecutor’s Office (Kasko and Trepak). They put Sytnyk in NABU and Kholodnitsky in SAP (Special Prosecutor) in order to destroy the evidence of corruption of the Democrats in Ukraine and to continue the process of the country’s rape with impunity. They are corruption. If they put Trepak, the author of the ‘black ledger’, as the head of the State Bureau of Investigation, then the process of covering up their crimes will be completed,” declared a confidential intelligence source in Ukraine.

In an interview with the Ukrainian news outlet Babel, Kasko discusses the development of Kulik’s firing. According to him, the National Bureau of Investigation will deal with almost all of the cases that Kulik conducted: “All the cases that Kulik was involved in are currently being inventory. In 99 percent of cases, NABU will deal with them. This is a good body to put an end to and clarify what actually happened in these matters. “

Read more …

End the Fed.

Fed Goes Hog-Wild with T-Bills, But Repos Drop and MBS Shrink by $22 Bn (WS)

The total amount of repurchase agreements (“repos”) on the Fed’s balance sheet as of December 4, released today, declined to $209 billion, from $215 billion a month ago. These repos included: • $70 billion in overnight repos, issued on Wednesday morning that unwound today; all prior overnight repos had already unwound. • $88 billion in multi-day repos with maturities of up to two weeks; • $50 billion in 42-day repos; of which $25 billion were issued on November 25 and $25 billion on December 2. They will unwind early next year. Before the repo market blew out in mid-September, the repos on the Fed’s balance sheet were zero. This chart shows the weekly balances of repos on the Fed’s balance sheet as of each Wednesday:

In these “repo operations,” the Fed buys Treasury securities, mortgage-backed securities issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and government “Agency” securities, under an agreement whereby the counter parties have to repurchase those securities on a set date at a set (higher) price. The interest rate is determined by the difference between the price the Fed buys the securities at, and the pre-set higher price it sells the securities back to the original counter party. [..] The Fed has stated many times that it wants to get rid of its holdings of MBS. And it’s progressing with the plan. In November, the Fed shed $22 billion in MBS, exceeding the self-imposed cap of $20 billion per month for the seventh month in a row. Over the past seven months, it has shed $160 billion in MBS, or about $22.8 billion a month on average. Its holdings are now down to $1.42 trillion, below where they had first been in November 2013:

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Big Brother appears inevitable.

Filmmakers Sue To Shield Visitors To US From Social Media Vetting (IC)

A filmmaker working on a documentary that’s critical of U.S. policies. A writer who operates a pseudonymous Twitter account to evade an authoritarian regime in their home country. An activist who uses Facebook to organize protests at the U.S.-Mexico border. These are the kinds of people who might not want U.S. immigration agents poring over their social media profiles before deciding whether they should be allowed into the country. Yet that’s exactly what the State Department now requires as part of the Trump administration’s “extreme vetting” of millions of visa applicants. As of May, people who need a visa to enter the U.S. have to disclose any social media handles they’ve used over the past five years on 20 platforms, from Instagram and Twitter to YouTube and Weibo (the Chinese microblogging service).


If they don’t, their visas could be denied. Two U.S.-based documentary film organizations filed suit on Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C. to challenge the policy, arguing that it will have a chilling effect on the filmmakers they work with. Along with the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, the International Documentary Association and Doc Society are suing the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security because their international members are “concerned that their political views will be used against them during the visa process.” “They self-censor to avoid being associated with controversial ideas or sensitive topics,” the complaint states. The nonprofit groups surveyed over 100 international filmmakers and found that “a significant majority said it would chill their speech online.”

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“We’re going to protest for a week at least, and at the end of that week it’s the government that’s going to back down…”

French Strike Against Macron Reforms Enters Day Two (R.)

France faced a second day of travel chaos, shuttered schools and understaffed hospitals on Friday as unions said they would be no let-up in a strike against Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms until the president backed down. Much of France ground to a halt on Thursday as transport workers went on strike – joined by teachers, doctors, police, firemen and civil servants – while smoke and tear gas swirled through the streets of Paris as some protests turned violent, leading to dozens of arrests. On Friday there were heavy cancellations of rush-hour trains into Paris and 10 out of 16 metro lines were closed while others ran limited services.


Traffic jams totaling more than 350 kilometers clogged the main roads in and around the capital, according to traffic app Styadin, as many commuters took to their cars. Rail workers extended their strike through Friday, while unions at the Paris bus and metro operator RATP said their walkout would continue until Monday. “We’re going to protest for a week at least, and at the end of that week it’s the government that’s going to back down,” said 50-year-old Paris transport employee Patrick Dos Santos. The strike pits Macron, a 41-year-old former investment banker who took office in 2017 on a promise to open up France’s highly regulated economy, against powerful unions who say he is set on dismantling worker protections.

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With 6 days left, what’s the use?

UK’s Labour Accuses BBC Of Bias In Election Coverage (R.)

Labour’s co-campaign coordinator Andrew Gwynne said they had recorded numerous examples where his party’s leadership had received “more negative treatment, harsher scrutiny and slanted editorial comment” than Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives. “That bias has been reflected in the framing, content and balance of BBC reporting during the campaign,” Gwynne wrote in a letter to the BBC’s Director General Tony Hall. “If the Conservatives are allowed to ‘play’ or manipulate the BBC, and this behavior goes unchecked, then the corporation will have effectively been complicit in giving the Conservative Party an unfair electoral advantage.”

The broadcaster, which is funded by a tax on all television-watching households and regularly faces accusations of bias from across the political spectrum, is bound by strict rules to ensure impartiality. “The BBC will continue to make its own independent editorial decisions, and is committed to reporting the election campaign fairly, impartially and without fear or favor,” a BBC spokesman said. Labour, trailing the Conservatives by about 10 points in opinion polls before the Dec. 12 vote, are particularly unhappy that Johnson has not agreed to be interviewed by veteran journalist Andrew Neil, who has already subjected the other major party leaders to tough questioning.

Labour said they had agreed to the Neil interview on the understanding that Johnson had also signed up. “Instead, the BBC allowed the Conservative leader to pick and choose a platform through which he believed he could present himself more favorably and without the same degree of accountability,” Gwynne said. On Thursday, having just interviewed the head of the Brexit Party Nigel Farage on BBC TV at prime-time, Neil issued an on-air challenge to Johnson to appear before him. He also detailed a series of questions he would ask, focusing on whether Johnson could be trusted over campaign promises.

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Ready for prime time TV. If Boris is MIA, just broadcast this.

Andrew Neil Tells Johnson “It’s Not Too Late” For Election Interview (BBC)

The BBC’s Andrew Neil says he wants to quiz Boris Johnson about whether he can be trusted. The Conservative leader is – so far – the only main party leader not to submit to an election grilling on BBC One.

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Great story. Who has the movie rights?

Leak Confirms Turkey’s “Gold-For-Gas” Scheme To Evade US Sanctions On Iran (ZH)

We first started noticing major ‘odd’ exports of gold from Turkey to Iran in May 2012. Turkey’s trade balance fluctuated wildly as gold stocks flowed out of the country in bursts. “Turkey’s going to continue it,” the Turkish economy minister said. “If those casting aspersions on the gold trade are searching for immorality, they should take a look in the mirror.” Then, in 2014, we discussed Turkey’s “200 tons of secret gold” trade with Iran detailing how a complex network that spanned Turkey, China, Dubai and Iran was used to skirt US sanctions on energy exports from Iran. The operation featured an Iranian-born businessman who liked fast horses, faster cars and the fastest planes.

His unique skill: Getting gold into sanctions-encircled Iran. Enough gold that for a time he became the government’s key instrument in improving Turkey’s irksome economic imbalance. At the time, the plot revealed what one observer called, “one of the most complex illicit finance schemes [prosecutors] have seen.” In 2017, the man at the center of the scheme, Reza Zarrab, was arrested (and briefly disappeared) and was tied to Turkey’s president. “Zarrab is thought to have been close to the Erdogan family and, indeed, he was given Turkish citizenship, alongside Iranian. This is a real stress point.”

Zarrab pleaded guilty in October 2017 and turned against Mehmet Hakan Atila – a director at Turkey’s Halkbank – who was convicted on Jan. 3, 2018, and after serving a total 32 months behind bars was returned to Turkey and has since become the head of the Istanbul stock exchange. And since then “one of the biggest money-laundering schemes ever” has disappeared from the headlines… until now. Thanks to a massive leak of more than a million documents from a British offshore shell company provider, think Panama Papers 2.0, we now learn exactly how Iran’s national oil company and its subsidiaries hopscotch the globe, with the help of intermediaries, in search of tax havens that help it try to wriggle free from the grip of crippling U.S.-led sanctions.

Read more …

We’ll end humanity yet.

BPA Chemical Levels In Humans Drastically Underestimated (G.)

Humans are probably being exposed to far more of a widely used dangerous chemical – found in plastics, canned goods and receipt paper – than previously understood, according to a new study. The analysis, in the peer-reviewed scientific journal the Lancet, uses a new method for evaluating exposure to BPA, or bisphenol-A. BPA disrupts hormones critical to many body functions and is linked with obesity and other diseases. Pregnant women who are exposed to it are more likely to have children who have problems with growth, behavior and fertility, as well as a higher cancer risk. Many companies have phased out using BPAs, marketing new products with similar replacement bisphenols as safer without sufficient evidence for their claims, experts say.


The new research examined levels of BPA in urine but also counted the metabolites of BPA. Metabolites are formed when the body breaks down and eliminates a chemical. Using the new method, the scientists analyzed the urine of 29 pregnant women in their second trimester and found their BPA exposure levels to be an average of 44 times higher than what was measured with the traditional method. Patricia Hunt, a co-author of the study who is a molecular biosciences professor at Washington State University, said she was “horrified” by the high levels her group found in the pregnant women.

Read more …

 

 

 

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Dec 052019
 
 December 5, 2019  Posted by at 9:38 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Arthur Rothstein Interior of migratory fruit worker’s tent, Yakima, Washington Jul 1936

 

The Market Will Need The Fed Again In 2020 (Axios)
The Repo Market Is Broken And Fed Injections Are Not A Lasting Solution (MW)
Is Something Broken? Quants Running “Scared” As Nothing Makes Sense (ZH)
Legal Experts Called By Democrats Say Trump’s Actions Are Impeachable (R.)
Gaetz Grills Impeachment Witnesses Over Democratic Donations (Fox)
Judiciary Committee Member: Unfair, Politically Biased Ordeal (USAT)
The 10 Most Important Revelations From The Russia Probe FISA Report (Solomon)
Illinois’ Unfunded Pension Liability Rises To $137.3 Billion (R.)
China Set To Make History With Record Number Of Bond Defaults In 2019 (ZH)
France Braces For Biggest Strikes Of Macron’s Presidency (G.)
Uber Faces £1,500,000,000 Bill For Unpaid VAT (Metro)
Julian Assange in Videoconference: The Spanish Case Takes a Turn (IPD)

 

 

The Fed will never be able to get out. That was clear the moment they stepped in.

The Market Will Need The Fed Again In 2020 (Axios)

The No.1 risk to the stock market continuing its outperformance next year is not President Trump or consistently weak U.S. economic data or even China, senior analysts at John Hancock Investment Management say, but whether or not the Fed continues to stimulate the economy through what they call “not QE.” What it means: Fed chair Jerome Powell has insisted the central bank’s bond buying program — initiated after rates in the systemically important repo market spiked to five times their normal level in September — is not quantitative easing. But “it walks and talks” like QE, analysts say, and has injected close to $1 trillion of liquidity into the repo market and added more than $260 billion to the Fed’s balance sheet.

The intrigue: The new “not QE” program was “like a fourth rate cut this year,” John Hancock co-chief investment strategist Matthew Miskin said during a media briefing Tuesday in New York. And it has given a boost to the stock market. The big picture: “The equity market has benefited from a super aggressive Fed,” Ethan Harris, head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, told Axios during a separate event Tuesday at BAML headquarters. “I mean the Fed basically anesthetized the markets to the trade war escalation this summer.”

Because the Fed was able to mask the economy’s pain from the market, a strong sell-off may be needed to motivate the Trump administration to secure what Harris calls a “skinny” trade deal with China and avert the Dec. 15 tariffs that will hit billions of dollars worth of consumer goods. The converse is also true, Miskin argued. “If things turn more sour because we’re not getting a trade deal or the tariffs go on Dec. 15, the stress underpinning … the market will re-emerge and the Fed’s definitely going to have to be there,” he told Axios.

Read more …

End the Fed.

The Repo Market Is Broken And Fed Injections Are Not A Lasting Solution (MW)

The Federal Reserve’s ongoing efforts to shore up the short-term “repo” lending markets have begun to rattle some market experts. The New York Federal Reserve has spent hundreds of billions of dollars to keep credit flowing through short term money markets since mid-September when a shortage of liquidity caused a spike in overnight borrowing rates. But as the Fed’s interventions have entered a third month, concerns about the market’s dependence on its daily doses of liquidity have grown. “The big picture answer is that the repo market is broken,” said James Bianco, founder of Bianco Research in Chicago, in an interview with MarketWatch. “They are essentially medicating the market into submission,” he said. “But this is not a long-term solution.”

This chart shows the more than $320 billion of total repo market support from the Fed since Sept. 17, when for the central bank began pumping in daily liquidity after overnight lending rates jumped to almost 10% from nearly 2%. Initially, the central bank rolled out roughly $75 billion in daily lending facilities to arm Wall Street’s core set of primary dealers with low-cost overnight loans to keep the roughly $1 trillion daily U.S. Treasury repo market running. The facilities allow banks to snap up loans by pledging safe-haven U.S. Treasurys or agency mortgage-backed securities with the New York Fed, but crucially without the typical risk-based pricing that lenders regularly charge when funding each other.

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“..the answer is yes: the market is broken, and you can thank central banks for that.”

Is Something Broken? Quants Running “Scared” As Nothing Makes Sense (ZH)

It was a year where the S&P put the mini bear market of December 2018 in the dust, and after a dramatic reversal which saw most central banks flip from hawkish to dovish throughout the year…

… the MSCI World index is just shy of its January 2018 highs, and the S&P has returned an impressive 24% (despite the jittery start to December), and stands at all time record highs, despite, paradoxically, a year of record equity fund outflow. On paper, this should have been a great year for investors after a dismal 2018. In reality, however, 2019 has been just as painful for not just for hedge funds, which have substantially underperformed the S&P again and in October saw a record 8 consecutive months of outflows, the most since the financial crisis…

… but especially for quants, which after a relatively solid year, suffered the September quant crash that destroyed most of their YTD gains, and have generally been unable to find their bearings in a year in which nothing seemed to work. It’s also Georg Elsaesser, a Frankfurt-based fund manager at Invesco, is trying to calm down his newbie quant clients as choppy stock moves make life difficult for anyone trading factors, which wire up all those systematic portfolios on Wall Street. “Some of them are kind of scared,” Elsaesser told Bloomberg. “They’re asking the questions: Is something going wrong? Is something broken?” Well actually, the answer is yes: the market is broken, and you can thank central banks for that.

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All three are Democrat donors who have a deep dislike of Trump. They couldn’t hide that, didn’t even try, instead went on RussiaRussia rants.

But this was supposed to be about the Constitution, not about their opinions. Turley was the only one who stuck to what was on the table.

Legal Experts Called By Democrats Say Trump’s Actions Are Impeachable (R.)

The hearing on Wednesday was the committee’s first to examine whether Trump’s actions qualify as “high crimes and misdemeanors” punishable by impeachment under the U.S. Constitution. Three law professors chosen by the Democrats made clear during the lengthy session that they believed Trump’s actions constituted impeachable offenses. “If what we’re talking about is not impeachable, then nothing is impeachable,” said University of North Carolina law professor Michael Gerhardt. But George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley, who was invited by the Republicans, said he did not see clear evidence of illegal conduct. He said the inquiry was moving too quickly and lacked testimony from people with direct knowledge of the relevant events.

“One can oppose President Trump’s policies or actions but still conclude that the current legal case for impeachment is not just woefully inadequate, but in some respects, dangerous, as the basis for the impeachment of an American president,” said Turley, who added that he did not vote for Trump. [..] Republicans focused their questions on Turley, who largely backed up their view that Democrats had not made the case for impeachment – although he did say that leveraging U.S. military aid to investigate a political opponent “if proven, can be an impeachable offense.” Democrats sought to buttress their case by focusing their questions on the other three experts – Gerhardt, Harvard University law professor Noah Feldman and Stanford University law professor Pam Karlan – who said impeachment was justified.

Karlan drew a sharp response from Republicans for a remark about how Trump did not enjoy the unlimited power of a king. “While the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron,” she said. White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham on Twitter called Karlan “classless,” and first lady Melania Trump said Karlan should be “ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering” for mentioning her 13-year-old son.

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Matt Taibbi: “We laughed at this logic when George W. Bush used it to justify his Mideast wars: “We will fight them over there so we do not have to face them in the United States of America.”

Michael Tracey: “This woman was ostensibly called to testify about the legal and Constitutional questions around impeachment and instead ends up going on a bizarre Cold Warrior rant implying that Russia plans to invade the United States”

Gaetz Grills Impeachment Witnesses Over Democratic Donations (Fox)

Turning to the professors, he asked UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Michael Gerhardt to confirm that he donated to President Barack Obama. “My family did, yes,” Gerhardt responded. Shifting his attention to Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman, Gaetz noted the educator has written several articles that portray Trump in a negative light. “Mar-a-Lago ad belongs in impeachment file,” Gaetz said, repeating the title of an April 2017 piece Feldman wrote for Bloomberg Opinion. Gaetz further pressed Feldman, asking him: “Do you believe you’re outside of the political mainstream on the question of impeachment?” Responding to Gaetz, Feldman said impeachment is warranted whenever a president abuses their power for personal gain or when they “corrupt the democratic process.”

The professor added he was an “impeachment skeptic” until the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky. After the exchange, Gaetz turned to Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan and challenged her on reported four-figure donations to Clinton, Obama and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. “Why so much more for Hillary than the other two?” he added, smiling. The Florida lawmaker went on to criticize Karlan for a remark she made while answering an earlier question by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas. Karlan had told Jackson Lee that there is a difference between what Trump can do as president and the powers of a medieval king. “The Constitution says there can be no titles of nobility, so while the president can name his son ‘Barron’, he can’t make him a baron.”

Gaetz fumed at the remark, saying it does not lend “credibility” to her argument. “When you invoke the president’s son’s name here, when you try to make a little joke out of referencing Barron Trump… it makes you look mean, it makes you look like you are attacking someone’s family: the minor child of the president of the United States.”

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Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Ariz., serves on the House Judiciary Committee.

Judiciary Committee Member: Unfair, Politically Biased Ordeal (USAT)

By now we have all heard the news that President Donald Trump’s counsel will not be participating in the House Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearing Wednesday. As a member of the committee, I believe President Trump has made the right decision. In their obsession and rush to impeach the president by the end of the year, Democrats have rigged the process from the start. I wouldn’t blame anyone, let alone the president, for being skeptical about this unfair process. Closed door secret meetings, selectively leaked details, refusing to allow Republican witnesses, and releasing the Schiff report and witness list right before the hearing all indicate an unfair, politically biased ordeal.


With little to no information provided by Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, right now it appears anything goes. The president was provided little notice and no indication of who would be the witnesses or if there would be additional hearings. This leaves more questions than answers as we head into the next phase of an already tainted process. House Democrats do not seem to grasp that they cannot legitimize such an illegitimate process halfway through. This process has been unfair for the president and the Republicans from the start, with Democrats ignoring the historical precedents outlined in the Clinton and Nixon impeachments. When it comes to Trump, Democrats have created a whole new set of rules. For them, the end justifies the means, no matter how devoid of due process and fairness those means are.

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I don’t have space for all 10, but Solomon is a must read.

The 10 Most Important Revelations From The Russia Probe FISA Report (Solomon)

Derogatory information about informant Christopher Steele The FBI stated to the court in a footnote that it was unaware of any derogatory information about the former MI6 agent it was using as “confidential human source 1” in the Russia case. This claim could face a withering analysis in the report. Congressional sources have reported to me that during a recent unclassified meeting they were told the British government flagged concerns about Steele and his reliance on “sub-sources” of intelligence as early as 2015. Bruce Ohr testified he told FBI and DOJ officials early on that he suspected Steele’s intelligence was mostly raw and needed vetting, that Steele was working with Hillary Clinton’s campaign in some capacity and appeared desperate to defeat Trump in the 2016 election.

And documents show State Department official Kathleen Kavalec alerted the FBI eight days before the first FISA warrant was obtained that Steele may have been peddling a now-debunked rumor that Trump and Vladimir Putin were secretly communicating through a Russian bank’s computer server. Most experts I talked with say each of these revelations might constitute derogatory information that should be disclosed to the court. On a related note, Horowitz just released a separate report that concluded the FBI is doing a poor job of vetting informants like Steele, suggesting there was a culture of withholding derogatory information from informants’ reliability and credibility validation reports.

News leaks as evidence One of Horowitz’s earlier investigative reports that recommended fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe for possible prosecution put an uncomfortable spotlight on the bureau’s culture of news leaks. Since then, a handful of other cases unrelated to Russia have raised additional questions about whether the FBI uses news leaks to create or cite evidence in courts. One key to watch in the Horowitz report is the analysis of whether it was appropriate for the FBI to use a Yahoo News article as validating evidence to support Steele’s dossier. We now know from testimony and court filings that Steele, his dossier and Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson played a role in that Yahoo News story.

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It’s not just the Fed, but they haven’t exactly helped.

Illinois’ Unfunded Pension Liability Rises To $137.3 Billion (R.)

Illinois’ growing unfunded pension liability, which increased by $3.8 billion to $137.3 billion at the end of fiscal 2019, underscores the need for state action to boost funding or cut costs, analysts said on Wednesday. The increase was fueled by actuarially insufficient state contributions and lower-than-expected investment returns, according to a new state legislative report. Illinois has the lowest credit ratings among U.S. states at a notch or two above the junk level due to its huge unfunded pension liability and chronic structural budget deficit.


Eric Kim, a Fitch Ratings analyst, said growth in the unfunded liability is expected to continue as long as contributions lag actuarial requirements and pension benefits are protected under the Illinois Constitution. “For us, what this all speaks to is the state addressing fundamental structural budget challenges,” he said. Earlier this year, Governor J.B. Pritzker created pension task forces, including one to explore asset sales to boost pension funding. Laurence Msall, president of Chicago-based government finance watchdog the Civic Federation, said the state has not effectively attacked core pension problems, including unsustainable costs. “At best Illinois is running in place, while trying to avoid sliding downhill,” he said.

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A normal market phenomenon?

China Set To Make History With Record Number Of Bond Defaults In 2019 (ZH)

While China is bracing for what may be a historic D-Day event on December 9, when the “unprecedented” default of state-owned, commodity-trading conglomerate Tewoo with $38 billion in assets may take place, it has already been a banner year for Chinese bankruptcies. According to Bloomberg data, China is set to hit another dismal milestone in 2019 when a record amount of onshore bonds are set to default, confirming that something is indeed cracking in China’s financial system and “testing the government’s ability to keep financial markets stable as the economy slows and companies struggle to cope with unprecedented levels of debt.”

After a brief lull in the third quarter, a burst of at least 15 new defaults since the start of November have sent the year’s total to 120.4 billion yuan ($17.1 billion), and set to eclipse the 121.9 billion yuan annual record in 2018. The good news is that this number still represents a tiny fraction of China’s $4.4 trillion onshore corporate bond market; the bad news is that the rapidly rising number is approaching a tipping point that could unleash a default cascade, and in the process fueling concerns of potential contagion as investors struggle to gauge which companies have Beijing’s support. As Bloomberg notes, policy makers have been walking a tightrope as they try to roll back the implicit guarantees that have long distorted Chinese debt markets, without dragging down an economy already weakened by the trade war and tepid global growth.

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The French know how to strike.

France Braces For Biggest Strikes Of Macron’s Presidency (G.)

Emmanuel Macron is braced for the biggest strikes of his presidency as French rail workers, air-traffic controllers, teachers and public sector staff take to the streets on Thursday against proposed changes to the pension system. French rail transport is expected to almost completely grind to a halt with 82% of drivers on strike and at least 90% of regional trains cancelled, amid fears that the transport disruption could continue for days. In Paris, 11 out of 16 metro lines will shut completely, with commuters scrambling to hire bikes and scooters. Many schools will close and even some police unions have even warned of “symbolic” closures of certain police stations. Shops along the route of a march in Paris have been advised to close in case of violence on the edges of the demonstration. About half of the scheduled Eurostar trains between Paris and London have been cancelled.


The standoff is a crucial test for the centrist French president, whose planned overhaul of the pensions system was a key election promise. The government argues that unifying the pensions system – and getting rid of the 42 “special” regimes for sectors ranging from rail and energy workers to lawyers and Paris Opera staff – is crucial to keep the system financially viable as the French population ages. But unions say introducing a “universal” system for all will mean millions of workers in both the public and private sectors must work beyond the legal retirement age of 62 or face a severe drop in the value of their pensions. The row cuts to the heart of Macron’s presidential project and his promise to deliver the biggest transformation of the French social model and welfare system since the postwar era.

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Does Uber have more lawyers than drivers?

Uber Faces £1,500,000,000 Bill For Unpaid VAT (Metro)

Car-sharing giant Uber is a step closer to being liable for an estimated £1.5 billion in unpaid UK tax. Campaigners have won an important legal step that could pave the way for the taxman to come knocking on the beleaguered firm’s door. The move is on top of another legal challenge to stop Uber operating in London. Uber has long-argued that it is a platform that brings drivers and riders together, rather than a transport business. This means that it falls to individual drivers to pay VAT on any rides instead of the company itself. But as the threshold for VAT is only for individuals earning more than £85,000 a year, none of the drivers need to charge it. Campaigners from the Good Law Project calculates this has cost the public £1.5 billion in lost revenue so far.


The law team initially attempted to take Uber to court to force them to disclose their tax affairs but the case looked like being too expensive. Instead, they challenged HM Revenues and Customs and demanded the taxman assess Uber for VAT liabilities. HMRC objected, saying its dealings with Uber were commercially sensitive and it should not have to disclose whether or not it is investigating. Today the Court of Appeal rejected HMRC’s arguments and Mrs Justice Lieven said HMRC now had to disclose whether or not they had made an assessment over Uber’s payment of VAT. The case for the Good Law Project is being led by anti-Brexit campaigner Jolyon Maugham QC who said: ‘The more time passes without an assessment being raised the more VAT is lost – forever.’

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Again, Assange -with his aides- is the only person who has abided by the law. All other parties involved have not. That should have a huge bearing on the case.

Julian Assange in Videoconference: The Spanish Case Takes a Turn (IPD)

The UK Central Authority has had a change of heart. On December 20, Assange is set to be transferred from his current maximum-security abode, Belmarsh, to Westminster Magistrates Court to answer questions that will be posed by De la Mata. To date, the evidence on Morales and the conduct of his organisation is bulking and burgeoning. It is said that the company refurbished the security equipment of the London Ecuadorean embassy in 2017, during which Morales installed surveillance cameras equipped with microphone facilities. While Ecuadorean embassy officials sought to reassure Assange that no recordings of his private conversations with journalists or legal officials were taking place, the opposite proved true.

An unconvinced Assange sought to counter such measures with his own methods. He spoke to guests in the women’s bathroom. He deployed a “squelch box” designed to emit sounds of disruption. These were treated as the measures of a crank rather than those of justifiable concern. The stance taken by Ecuador has not shifted, despite claims by Morales that any recordings of Assange were done at the behest of the Ecuadorean secret service. Instead, Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno has used the unconvincing argument that Assange, not Ecuador, posed the espionage threat. “It is unfortunate that, from our territory and with the permission of authorities of the previous government, facilities have been provided within the Ecuadorean embassy in London to interfere in the processes of other states.” The embassy, he argued, had been converted into a makeshift “centre for spying.”

German broadcasters NDR and WDR have also viewed documents discussing a boastful Morales keen to praise his employees for playing “in the first league…We are now working for the dark side.” The dark side, it transpires, were those “American friends,” members of the “US Secret Service” that Morales was more than happy to feed samples to. NDR has added its name to those filing charges against UC Global for allegations that its own journalists were spied upon in visiting the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

The allegations have the potential to furnish a case Assange’s lawyers are hoping to make: that attaining a fair trial in the United States should he be extradited to face 18 charges mostly relating to espionage would be nigh impossible. The link between UC Global, the US intelligence services, and the breach of attorney-client privilege, is the sort of heady mix bound to sabotage any quaint notions of due process. The publisher is well and truly damned.

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Simon Kuestenmacher: Map shows that #lightning follows shipping lanes: As it turns out particles in ship exhaust increase the likelihood and intensity of thunderstorms. Really cool fact that I had never considered! Source: https://buff.ly/2B0tcOV

 

 

 

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Nov 082019
 
 November 8, 2019  Posted by at 9:40 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , ,  16 Responses »


Whatever happened to Nancy?

 

NATO Alliance Experiencing Brain Death, Says Macron (BBC)
Merkel & Stoltenberg Slam Macron’s ‘Brain-Dead NATO’ Comment (RT)
Big Tech Is Dragging Us Towards The Next Financial Crash (G.)
Fed Goes Nuts with Repos & T-Bills but Sheds Mortgage Backed Securities (WS)
Colonel Vindman Is an ‘Expert’ With an Agenda (Giraldi)
Obama Admin Tried To Partner With Hunter Biden’s Ukraine Gas Firm (Solomon)
Assange Lawyers’ Links To US Govt & Bill Browder (Komisar)
Brazil Court Ruling Could Free Lula (BBC)
Human Population Came From Our Ability To Cooperate (PhysOrg)

 

 

A slow quarter for French arms sales?

NATO Alliance Experiencing Brain Death, Says Macron (BBC)

President Emmanuel Macron of France has described Nato as “brain dead”, stressing what he sees as waning commitment to the transatlantic alliance by its main guarantor, the US. Interviewed by the Economist, he cited the US failure to consult Nato before pulling forces out of northern Syria. He also questioned whether Nato was still committed to collective defence. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a key ally, said she disagreed with Mr Macron’s “drastic words”.


Russia, which sees Nato as a threat to its security, welcomed the French president’s comments as “truthful words”. Nato, which celebrates 70 years since its founding at a London summit next month, has responded by saying the alliance remains strong. “What we are currently experiencing is the brain death of Nato,” Mr Macron told the London-based newspaper. He warned European members that they could no longer rely on the US to defend the alliance, established at the start of the Cold War to bolster Western European and North American security.

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Oh wait, it’s time to play good cop bad cop. Gotcha.

Merkel & Stoltenberg Slam Macron’s ‘Brain-Dead NATO’ Comment (RT)

NATO is alive and well and integral to Europe’s security, German chancellor Angela Merkel and NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg have insisted, hitting back at French President Emmanuel Macron’s claim the alliance is “brain-dead.” Macron’s “drastic words” were “unnecessary, even if we do have problems and must get it together,” Merkel complained at a Berlin news conference on Thursday, insisting the “transatlantic partnership is indispensable for us.” Stoltenberg backed her up, declaring “European unity cannot replace transatlantic unity,” and warning that the EU cannot defend Europe without outside assistance. When the UK finally leaves the alliance, some 80 percent of NATO’s defense will be funded by non-EU countries, he warned.

The general secretary praised Germany as “the heart of NATO” and lauded Merkel’s government for boosting its military spending. With most of NATO’s member countries failing to chip in their promised 2 percent of GDP, Germany announced on Thursday it hopes to hit that target for the first time by 2031 – seven years later than the date agreed upon by the alliance’s members in 2014. That fervent defense of the military bloc’s image hardly addressed the problems brought up by Macron, though. Macron had urged France’s fellow NATO members to “reassess the reality of what NATO is in light of the commitment of the United States” in an interview with The Economist published Thursday, suggesting “we are currently experiencing the brain-death of NATO” and lamenting that Europe was losing its grip on its “destiny.”

After the US’ unilateral decision to pull troops out of Syria without consulting the rest of NATO, Europe can hardly trust the Americans to defend it, Macron suggested.

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I think it’s the Fed, not Apple.

Big Tech Is Dragging Us Towards The Next Financial Crash (G.)

In every major economic downturn in US history, the ‘villains’ have been the ‘heroes’ during the preceding boom,” said the late, great management guru Peter Drucker. I cannot help but wonder if that might be the case over the next few years, as the United States (and possibly the world) heads toward its next big slowdown. Downturns historically come about once every decade, and it has been more than that since the 2008 financial crisis. Back then, banks were the “too-big-to-fail” institutions responsible for our falling stock portfolios, home prices and salaries. Technology companies, by contrast, have led the market upswing over the past decade. But this time around, it is the big tech firms that could play the spoiler role.

You wouldn’t think it could be so when you look at the biggest and richest tech firms today. Take Apple. Warren Buffett says he wished he owned even more Apple stock. (His Berkshire Hathaway has a 5% stake in the company.) Goldman Sachs is launching a new credit card with the tech titan, which became the world’s first $1tn market-cap company in 2018. But hidden within these bullish headlines are a number of disturbing economic trends, of which Apple is already an exemplar. Study this one company and you begin to understand how big tech companies – the new too-big-to-fail institutions – could indeed sow the seeds of the next crisis. No matter what the Silicon Valley giants might argue, ultimately, size is a problem, just as it was for the banks. This is not because bigger is inherently bad, but because the complexity of these organisations makes them so difficult to police. Like the big banks, big tech uses its lobbying muscle to try to avoid regulation. And like the banks, it tries to sell us on the idea that it deserves to play by different rules.

Consider the financial engineering done by such firms. Like most of the largest and most profitable multinational companies, Apple has loads of cash – around $210bn at last count – as well as plenty of debt (close to $110bn). That is because – like nearly every other large, rich company – it has parked most of its spare cash in offshore bond portfolios over the past 10 years. This is part of a Kafkaesque financial shell game that has played out since the 2008 financial crisis. Back then, interest rates were lowered and central bankers flooded the economy with easy money to try to engineer a recovery. But the main beneficiaries were large companies, which issued lots of cheap debt, and used it to buy back their own shares and pay out dividends, which bolstered corporate share prices and investors, but not the real economy. The Trump corporate tax cuts added fuel to this fire. Apple, for example, was responsible for about a quarter of the $407bn in buy-backs announced in the six months or so after Trump’s tax law was passed in December 2017 – the biggest corporate tax cut in US history.

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Will future history books recognize that the Fed collapsed the economy, or will they say it happened DESPITE their genius interventions?

Fed Goes Nuts with Repos & T-Bills but Sheds Mortgage Backed Securities (WS)

Total assets on the Fed’s balance sheet, released today, jumped by $94 billion over the past month through November 6, to $4.04 trillion, after having jumped $184 billion in September. Over those two months combined, as the Fed got suckered by the repo market, it piled $278 billion onto it balance sheet, the fastest increase since the post-Lehman month in late 2008 and early 2009, when all heck had broken loose – this is how crazy the Fed has gotten trying to bail out the crybabies on Wall Street:

In response to the repo market blowout that recommenced in mid-September, the New York Fed jumped back into the repo market with both feet. Back in the day, it used to conduct repo operations routinely as its standard way of controlling short-term interest rates. But during the Financial Crisis, the Fed switched from repo operations to emergency bailout loans, zero-interest-rate policy, QE, and paying interest on excess reserves. Repos were no longer needed to control short-term rates and were abandoned.


Then in September, as repo rates spiked, the New York Fed dragged its big gun back out of the shed. With the repurchase agreements, the Fed buys Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae, and hands out cash. When the securities mature, the counter parties are required to take back the securities and return the cash plus interest to the Fed. Since then, the New York Fed has engaged in two types of repo operations: Overnight repurchase agreements that unwind the next business day; and multi-day repo operations, such as 14-day repos, that unwind at maturity, such as after 14 days.

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“Vindman’s concern is all about Ukraine without any explanation of why the United States would benefit from bilking the taxpayer to support a foreign deadbeat one more time. ”

Colonel Vindman Is an ‘Expert’ With an Agenda (Giraldi)

Washington inside-the-beltway and the Deep State choose to blame the mess in Ukraine on Russian President Vladimir Putin and the established narrative also makes the absurd claim that the political situation in Kiev is somehow important to US national security. The preferred solution is to provide still more money, which feeds the corruption and enables the Ukrainians to attack the Russians. Colonel Vindman, who reported to noted hater of all things Russian Fiona Hill, who in turn reported to By Jingo We’ll Go To War John Bolton, was in the middle of all the schemes to bring down Russia. His concern was not really over Trump vs. Biden. It was focused instead on speeding up the $380 million in military assistance, to include offensive weapons, that was in the pipeline for Kiev.

And assuming that the Ukrainians could actually learn how to use the weapons, the objective was to punish the Russians and prolong the conflict in Donbas for no reason at all that makes any sense. Note the following additional excerpt from Vindman’s prepared statement: “….I was worried about the implications for the US government’s support of Ukraine…. I realized that if Ukraine pursued an investigation into the Bidens and Burisma, it would likely be interpreted as a partisan play which would undoubtedly result in Ukraine losing the bipartisan support it has thus far maintained.” Vindman’s concern is all about Ukraine without any explanation of why the United States would benefit from bilking the taxpayer to support a foreign deadbeat one more time.

One wonders if Vindman was able to compose his statement without a snicker or two intruding. He does eventually go on to cover the always essential national security angle, claiming that “Since 2008, Russia has manifested an overtly aggressive foreign policy, leveraging military power and employing hybrid warfare to achieve its objectives of regional hegemony and global influence. Absent a deterrent to dissuade Russia from such aggression, there is an increased risk of further confrontations with the West. In this situation, a strong and independent Ukraine is critical to US national security interests because Ukraine is a frontline state and a bulwark against Russian aggression.”

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“Burisma’s own American legal team was lobbying State to help eliminate the corruption allegations against it in Ukraine.”

Obama Admin Tried To Partner With Hunter Biden’s Ukraine Gas Firm (Solomon)

A State Department official who served in the U.S. embassy in Kiev told Congress that the Obama administration tried in 2016 to partner with the Ukrainian gas firm that employed Hunter Biden but the project was blocked over corruption concerns. George Kent, the former charge d’affair at the Kiev embassy, said in testimony released Thursday that the State Department’s main foreign aid agency, known as USAID, planned to co-sponsor a clean energy project with Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian gas firm that employed Hunter Biden as a board member. At the time of the proposed project, Burisma was under investigation in Ukraine for alleged corruption. Those cases were settled in late 2016 and early 2017. Burisma contested allegations of corruption but paid a penalty for tax issues.

Kent testified he personally intervened in mid-2016 to stop USAID’s joint project with Burisma because American officials believed the corruption allegations against the gas firm raised concern. “There apparently was an effort for Burisma to help cosponsor, I guess, a contest that USAID was sponsoring related to clean energy. And when I heard about it I asked USAID to stop that sponsorship,” Kent told lawmakers. When asked why he intervened, he answered: “”Because Burisma had a poor reputation in the business, and I didn’t think it was appropriate for the U.S. Government to be co-sponsoring something with a company that had a bad reputation.”

[..] And internal State memos I obtained this week under FOIA show Hunter Biden and Archer had multiple contacts with Secretary of State John Kerry and Deputy Secretary Tony Blinken in 2015-16, and that Burisma’s own American legal team was lobbying State to help eliminate the corruption allegations against it in Ukraine. Hunter Biden’s name was specifically invoked as a reason why State officials should assist, the memos show. A month after Burisma’s contact with State, Joe Biden leveraged the threat of withholding U.S. foreign aid to force Ukraine to fire its chief prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, who at the time was overseeing the Burisma probe.

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Yes, worrying.

Assange Lawyers’ Links To US Govt & Bill Browder (Komisar)

Now look at another Assange link. Mark Summers, who is representing Julian Assange is, along with Bailin, a member of Matrix Chambers. But while he is Assange’s lawyer, Summers is acting for Assange’s persecutor, the U.S. government, in a major extradition case involving executives of Credit Suisse in 2013 making fake loans and getting kickbacks from Mozambique government officials. Does Assange, or those who care about his interests, know he is part of chambers working for the U.S. government? And where do you put this factoid? Alex Bailin is representing Andrew Pearse, one of the Credit Suisse bankers that the U.S. government, represented by Summers, is seeking to extradite!

But there’s chambers where two members are each supporting both Browder and Assange. Geoffrey Robertson is founder of Doughty Street Chambers. He is also a longtime Browder / Magnitsky story promoter. He has pitched implementation of a Magnitsky Act in Australia and has served Browder in UK court. In 2017 British legal actions surrounding an inquest into the death of Alexander Perepilichnyy, he represented Browder, who claimed that the Russian, who died of a heart attack, was somehow a victim of Russian President Putin. Perepilichnyy had lost money in investments he was handling for clients and had to get out of town.

Needing support, he decamped to London and gave Browder documents relating to his client’s questionable bank transfers. He died after a jog, Browder claimed he was poisoned by a rare botanical substance, obviously ordered by Putin, but forensic tests found that untrue. Robertson accused local police of a cover-up. He is a legal advisor to Assange and is regularly interviewed by international media about the case. Jennifer Robinson of Doughty Street Chambers also has a Browder connection. She is acting for Paul Radu a journalist and official of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) which is being sued by an Azerbaijan MP. OCCRP is a Browder collaborator.

Browder admits in a deposition that OCCRP prepared documents he would give to the U.S. Justice Department to accuse the son of a Russian railway official of getting $1.9 million of $230 million defrauded from the Russian Treasury. The case was settled when the U.S. couldn’t prove the charge, and the target declined to spend more millions of dollars in his defense. OCCRP got the first Magnitsky Human Rights award, set up for Browder’s partners and acolytes. Robinson is also the longest-serving member of Assange’s legal team. She acted for Assange in the Swedish extradition proceedings and in relation to Ecuador’s request to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights Advisory Opinion proceedings on the right to asylum.

Why did Assange or his advisors choose lawyers associated with the interests of the U.S. government and Browder? Or how could those lawyers be so ignorant about the facts of Browder’s massive tax evasion and his Magnitsky story fabrications?

Read more …

Imagine a country so corrupt you can put your political counterparts on trial.

Brazil Court Ruling Could Free Lula (BBC)

Brazil’s top court has voted to overturn a rule about the jailing of criminals – a change which could lead to ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva being freed from custody. The ruling, announced on Thursday, stipulates that convicted criminals should go to prison only after they have exhausted their appeal options. The change could lead to the release of thousands of prisoners, including Lula. The left-winger led Brazil between 2003 and 2010, but was jailed last year. He was favourite to win last year’s presidential election but was imprisoned after being implicated in a major corruption investigation.


However, even if he is released, he will be barred from standing for office because of his criminal record. Lula has consistently denied all the accusations against him and claims they are politically motivated. After he was barred from running, right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro went on to win the race. Lula’s lawyers say they will seek the former president’s “immediate release” after speaking to him on Friday.

Read more …

And here I was thinking opposable thumbs.

Human Population Came From Our Ability To Cooperate (PhysOrg)

Humans may owe their place as Earth’s dominating species to their ability to share and cooperate with each other, according to a new study published in the Journal of Anthropological Research. In “How There Got to Be So Many of Us: The Evolutionary Story of Population Growth and a Life History of Cooperation,” Karen L. Kramer explores the deep past to discover the biological and social underpinnings that allowed humans to excel as reproducers and survivors. She argues that the human tendency to bear many children, engage in food sharing, division of labor, and cooperative childcare duties, sets us apart from our closest evolutionary counterparts, the apes.

In terms of population numbers, few species can compare to the success of humans. Though much attention on population size focuses on the past 200 years, humans were incredibly successful even before the industrial revolution, populating all of the world’s environments with more than a billion people. Kramer uses her research on Maya agriculturalists of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and the Savanna Pumé hunter-gatherers of Venezuela to illustrate how cooperative childrearing increases the number of children that mothers can successfully raise and—in environments where beneficial—even speed up maturation and childbearing. Kramer argues that intergenerational cooperation, meaning that adults help support children, but children also share food and many other resources with their parents and other siblings, is at the center of humans’ demographic success. “Together our diet and life history, coupled with an ability to cooperate, made us really good at getting food on the table, reproducing, and surviving,” Kramer writes.

[..] She found that Maya children contributed a substantial amount of work to the family’s survival, with those aged 7-14 spending on average 2 to 5 hours working each day, and children aged 15-18 spending as much as their parents, about 6.5 hours a day. Labor type varied, with younger children doing much of the childcare, older children and fathers fill in much of the day-today cost of growing and processing food and running the household. “If mothers and juveniles did not cooperate, mothers could support far fewer children over their reproductive careers,” Kramer writes. “It is the strength of intergenerational cooperation that allows parents to raise more children than they would otherwise be able to on their efforts alone.”

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 262019
 


Francisco Goya The dummy 1791

 

Trump Has Just Taken The Biggest Economic Gamble Of His Presidency (AEP)
A Nation at War With Itself (Pat Buchanan)
Trump Attacks Democrat ‘Coup’ In 1st Post-Mueller Interview (RT)
US Is Investigating Assange Under Espionage Act – WikiLeaks (NP)
UN Special Rapporteur On Privacy Meets Assange In Prison: “I Will Act” (Maurizi)
Macron Responds To Gilets Jaunes Protests With €5 Billion Tax Cuts (G.)
Macron: Smaller Schengen Zone Because EU Migration Policies ‘Do Not Work’ (RT)
Irish Backstop Could Undermine EU Standards – Report (G.)
Juncker Refuses To Reject Huawei ‘Just Because It’s Chinese’ (RT)
Huawei Leak Highlights Collapse Of Discipline In May’s Cabinet (G.)
European Equities May Benefit As $1 Trillion In US Buybacks Vanish (ZH)
Universe Expands Faster Than Expected – NASA

 

 

Ambrose calls the depletion of Ghawar a “first-order shock”. Common knowledge though. Still, Trump may not be aware of it either if Ambrose isn’t.

Trump Has Just Taken The Biggest Economic Gamble Of His Presidency (AEP)

Donald Trump’s double strangulation of Iran and Venezuela is reducing spare capacity in the global oil markets to wafer-thin levels very fast. If anything goes wrong in the geopolitical cauldron of world energy over the next six months, we will discover whether Saudi Arabia really is capable of cranking up an extra 2 million barrels a day of crude. What we learnt from the rare glimpse of Saudi Aramco’s books this month is that the legendary Ghawar field is badly depleted. It cannot pump more that 3.8m barrels a day. This is a first-order shock. The company has always asserted with magisterial confidence that it can produce 5m barrels a day without difficulty.

Jean-Louis Le Mee, from Westbeck Capital, says the physical oil markets are on fire. They are heading for a supply deficit of 1.3m barrels a day by the third quarter even if OPEC matches every barrel of lost oil from Iran sanctions. “These numbers should have every investor worried,” he said. Global spare capacity is arguably as low today as it was during the great oil shocks of the last half century. We are skating on thin ice. The immediate wild card is renewed fighting in Libya but other supply problems are stacking up fast. Draconian new rules on shipping fuel to lower sulphur emissions imply a surge in demand for variants of diesel. Bank of America says this will add 1.1m barrels a day in short-term crude demand over coming months. “We see a risk of $US100 Brent by year-end,” it said.

The options markets are not priced for this so the theatrics could be spectacular. Libya is again on the cusp of full-blown civil war after the fateful march on Tripoli by general Khalifa Haftar, the mercurial Nasserist of Benghazi. The National Oil Corporation warns that a free-for-all by rival militias could cause a near total collapse in crude exports. The world could lose another 700,000 barrels a day. Brent crude has risen to a six-month high of $US74.50, up 25 per cent from its average levels over the winter. It has not yet reached the pain threshold for Europe or emerging markets but it is getting close. Oil has of course been much higher in the past – $US148 in 2008 – but the nominal price is not the macro-economic variable that matters. Trouble starts earlier if crude is rising because of a negative supply shock. That is what we face today.

Read more …

No, I haven’t become a fan of Buchanan. But his view warrants attention.

“How does a nation so divided stand united in the world? And if it cannot stand united in the world, how long does it remain a great nation?”

A Nation at War With Itself (Pat Buchanan)

President Donald Trump has decided to cease cooperating with what he sees, not incorrectly, as a Beltway conspiracy that is out to destroy him. “We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” Trump said Wednesday. “These aren’t, like, impartial people. The Democrats are out to win in 2020.” Thus the Treasury Department just breezed by a deadline from the House Ways and Means Committee to deliver Trump’s tax returns. Thus the White House will invoke executive privilege to deny the House Judiciary Committee access to ex-White House counsel Don McGahn, who spent 30 hours being interrogated by Robert Mueller’s team. Thus the Justice Department is withholding from the Oversight Committee subpoenaed documents dealing with the decision to include a question on the 2020 Census about citizenship status.

Across the capital, the barricades are going up figuratively as they did physically in the 1960s and ’70s. Once more, it’s us against them. Cognizant of the new reality, Trump seems to be saying: These House investigations constitute a massive political assault, in collusion with a hostile media, to destroy my presidency. We do not intend to cooperate in our own destruction. We are not going to play our assigned role in this scripted farce. We will resist their subpoenas all the way to November 2020. Let the people then decide the fate and future of the Trump presidency — and that of Nancy Pelosi’s House.

[..] Whatever may be said about the “deplorables,” they are not obtuse. They do not believe that people who call them racists, sexists, nativists and bigots are friends and merely colleagues of another party or persuasion. Trump’s defiance of subpoenas, however, will force the more moderate Democrats to join the militants in calling for hearings on impeachment in the House Judiciary Committee, which is where we are headed. The media are already salivating over the possible removal of a president they have come to loathe more than their great nemeses of the 20th century — Joe McCarthy and Richard Nixon. And the media will reward those who echo the call for impeachment. This week, two more Democrats running for president, including Sen. Kamala Harris, came aboard. Soon, the House will capitulate to the clamor and the stampede will be on.

Read more …

Sometimes I think the Democrats work for Trump. They hand him everything on a platter by getting lost in a fictional narrative.

Trump Attacks Democrat ‘Coup’ In 1st Post-Mueller Interview (RT)

Trump unloaded on Democrats, accusing them of an “attempted coup” in his first interview since the release of the Mueller report. Rehashing his usual rhetoric, Trump called the ‘Russiagate’ flop “bigger than Watergate.” On a victory lap since his election campaign was cleared of collusion with Moscow, Trump relied on a few tried and trusted tropes as he bashed the “13 angry Democrats” and “dirty cops” from the FBI for sparking the Russia investigation in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity. The long-awaited publication of the redacted version of the Mueller report appears to have given Trump a huge boost of confidence as he sounded more assertive than ever, taking aim at his political opponents and doubling down on his innocence.


“The greatest scandal in the history of our country. Bigger than Watergate, because it means so much. This wasn’t stealing information from an office in the Watergate apartments. This was an attempted coup. It’s inconceivable. Like a third world country.” Trump lashed out at former rival Hillary Clinton for “destroying the lives” of his staffers, and blasted the FBI for going light on her during her private server investigation. But now, he said, the “tables have turned” and “it’s time to look at the other side,” calling the Russia investigation an “attempted overthrow of the United States government” and “a disgraceful thing.”

Read more …

Death penalty. For which UK cannot extradite. US is talking to Daniel Domscheit-Berg, who had a big fall-out with Assange. Letter sent to him is underneath the article.

US Is Investigating Assange Under Espionage Act – WikiLeaks (NP)

Right after the London police carried Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy, the United States demanded his extradition. A March 2018 indictment charges him with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison. But that is not the entire truth. Only one day after writing the indictment, the US Attorney’s Office admitted it was also investigating Assange for the „unauthorized receipt and dissemination of secret information“. That is what the Department of Justice wrote in a letter to former WikiLeaks spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg, which we are publishing in full.

This accusation can be charged under the Espionage Act of 1917, a World War I era federal law intended to protect military secrets which has also been used to charge Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. Convictions under the Espionage Act can be punished by death. The death penalty is not only inhumane and archaic, it has legal consequences: The United Kingdom is not allowed to extradite Assange if he faces the death penalty. Charging Assange for publishing classified information is an attack on press freedom, „obtaining and disseminating secret information“ is the very task of journalism. If WikiLeaks is charged, every journalist and media outlet publishing secret information will be on trial. While the Obama administration debated this dangerous precedent, the Trump government shows no restraints.

[..] In Virginia, a federal grand jury is secretly investigating Assange and WikiLeaks. In December 2017, an FBI agent filed an affidavit to support charging Assange with a computer hacking conspiracy. Based on that, the grand jury issued an indictment against Assange on March 6, 2018. This document was unsealed and published immediately after his arrest in London. It is the official justification for the extradition request. But that is not the whole story. Just one day after writing the indictment, on March 7, 2018, the same US Attorney, Tracy Doherty-McCormick, wrote a letter to the lawyers of Daniel Domscheit-Berg in Germany.

Sporting the Department of Justice seal, the chief federal prosecutor requests a „voluntary questioning“ of Domscheit-Berg, explicitly „about possible violations of US federal criminal law regarding the unauthorized receipt and dissemination of classified information“ – a drastic accusation under the Espionage Act. The US Attorney goes on to explain some conditions for Domscheit-Berg. He must answer all questions fully and truthfully, the US may use all statements and information for criminal investigations and cross-examination. In return, whatever Domscheit-Berg testifies will not be used for prosecutions against him.

Read more …

Bit late perhaps?!

UN Special Rapporteur On Privacy Meets Assange In Prison: “I Will Act” (Maurizi)

He is the first person who has been able to visit Julian Assange at the Belmarsh prison besides Assange’s lawyers. In fact, although two weeks have passed since the arrest of the WikiLeaks’ founder, no other visitors are allowed apart from his lawyers. The UN Special Rapporteur on Privacy, Professor Joe Cannataci, just visited Julian Assange at the Belmarsh prison, a high security prison marked by the strictest prison regime in the UK, and in fact even visitors have to undergo to intensive controls, including police interviews, and of course meetings are monitored. Repubblica just interviewed the UN Rapporteur Cannataci.

Professor Cannataci, how did Assange seem to be doing? «My visit went well, Mr Assange was ready to answer my questions. We have already started gathering facts and asked questions of Assange’s legal team and of the Ecuadorian ambassador in London»

How is Julian Assange? We were all shocked by his appearance the day of his arrest… «I am not a physician, and so I am unable to make a medical assessment of him and of course I met him in prison, which is never a pleasant place to meet, however, it seemed to me he was in fairly good condition».

Were you able to talk to him with some privacy, or were you under surveillance? «No, my impression was that the UK authorities assured us a level of privacy intended for meetings with legal counsel. Usually in the UK prisons you have the following rules: for social meetings, like meetings with relatives, you don’t expect privacy, whereas meetings with legal counsels are usually not subjected to monitoring. These kinds of meetings are held in special places, usually 10-15 small rooms where detainees can meet their lawyers confidentially. I had asked for a confidential meeting and I am happy that the UK government agreed to provide us such a private meeting».

What are you investigating exactly, in relation to this meeting with Julian Assange? «At the end of March Mr Assange submitted an official complaint, which said that his right to privacy had been infringed during his time in the embassy of Ecuador. Together with my team, I made a preliminary assessment to see if his privacy has been infringed, therefore I am gathering the facts, these facts lead to a number of questions about behaviour which took place in the embassy. Today we are still in the preliminary stage. After my meeting with Mr Assange, I had a meeting with his legal team and then a meeting with the ambassador of Ecuador».

Read more …

I tell you: Macron simply doesn’t know he’s lost it all. He’s blind: “Did we take a wrong turn?’ I believe quite the opposite.” And that in the face of 25 weekends of protests against him.

Macron Responds To Gilets Jaunes Protests With €5 Billion Tax Cuts (G.)

Emmanuel Macron has vowed to make his style of politics more “humane”, but insisted he would press on with his project to liberalise the French economy and overhaul its welfare state despite five months of demonstrations by gilets jaunes (yellow vest) anti-government protesters. In his first press conference in two years as president, Macron promised €5bn worth of cuts to income tax for lower and average earners as well as pension rises for the poorest and vowed no more schools or hospitals would be closed during his presidency, as he responded to protests.

The centrist politician conceded that he needed to inject more “humanity” into his style of governance but insisted he would not make changes to his pro-business programme, despite the ongoing anti-government Saturday protests by gilets jaunes, which resulted in sporadic rioting and arson in Paris and other cities. Macron said he recognised the protesters’ “just demands” and “anger and impatience for change” and their feeling of not being taken into account by the “elites”, including the presidency, but public order must now be restored. He said although he respected the demonstrators who gathered at the start of the movement in November, he said it had “transformed progressively” and been marred by episodes of antisemitic violence, homophobia and rioting.

He said he stood by his project to liberalise the French economy, defending his controversial cuts to its wealth tax, which protestors sought to overturn. He said France was unique in Europe in not having dealt with its structural problem of mass unemployment so he would not go back on his planned “transformation” of the country. He said: “I asked myself: ‘Should we stop everything that was done over the past two years? Did we take a wrong turn?’ I believe quite the opposite.” [..] He promised to scrap the École nationale d’administration elite graduate training school for French civil servants and public officials. Saying the French style of governance needed to shift, Macron said he planned to make it easier for citizens to propose national referendums, and also would introduce 20% proportional representation into the lower house of parliament.

Read more …

Schengen, Dublin, they don’t serve Macron’s career, so out with them.

Macron: Smaller Schengen Zone Because EU Migration Policies ‘Do Not Work’ (RT)

The Schengen agreement and the current migrant-sharing mechanism are deeply flawed and need urgent fixing, French President Emmanuel Macron has said. Europe must “have borders” even if it means a smaller Schengen zone, he said. In the first major press conference since the Yellow Vest movement took off in November, Macron unveiled a range of policy measures to placate the protesters, including a proposed overhaul of the European-wide migration policy and the Schengen agreement. The embattled French leader argued that the agreement that guarantees free movement across the Schengen area, while “wonderful,” does not work anymore. The same, he said, applies to the Dublin Regulation that determines which EU member-state is responsible for accepting asylum seekers.


Under the current version of the agreement, which came into force in 2013 and applies to all EU member-states except Denmark, the main criteria for determining responsibility is the first point of entry. “The common borders, Schengen, Dublin agreements do not work anymore,” Macron said, adding that it is essential for Europe to make “profound” changes in its way of handling migrant arrivals. Macron called for reinforced border security, which might entail having a Schengen “with fewer states.” The Schengen area comprises 26 states, including 22 EU member-states and four non-EU countries: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. It is named after the 1985 agreement that abolished internal borders allowing people within the zone to travel freely from one country to another.

Read more …

Trojan horse.

Irish Backstop Could Undermine EU Standards – Report (G.)

It is a dastardly trap, designed to lock freedom-loving Britain into the European Union’s protectionist customs union: that is the argument against the so-called backstop, cited by hardline Brexit advocates as the main reason why they have thrice voted down Theresa May’s deal with the European Union. But as the dust settles after months of chaos in Westminster, suspicions are growing on the other side of the Channel that the backstop could in fact be the very opposite: a brilliant deception device constructed by crack UK negotiators, which would allow a more reckless British prime minister to undermine the EU’s green and social standards while still keeping access to the European single market.

A new report, commissioned by the German Green party and seen by the Guardian, will exacerbate concerns in Berlin over the small print of the withdrawal agreement in its current form. The deal, agreed between the EU and the UK in November 2018 but voted down three times in the House of Commons, states that the whole of the UK would remain in a de facto customs union with the EU until a trade and security agreement has been reached that prevents the setting up of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. nTo prevent Britain from diverting from EU standards on environmental or social protection after the backstop has come into effect, the customs territory would “include the corresponding level playing field commitments and appropriate enforcement mechanisms to ensure fair competition between the EU27 and the UK”.

The new German report, however, warns that the wording of the deal means the EU side will find it impossible to stop a more aggressive Britain led by a Boris Johnson or a Jacob Rees-Mogg from flouting such standards while still being able to export British products into the single market. “If the EU wants to have a level playing field, it must not just set up the goals but also assign a referee,” said the author of the report, EU law expert Dr René Repasi. “At the moment it has even given the UK licence to assign its own players with officiating the match.”

Read more …

On 5G, individual countries make the decisions.

Juncker Refuses To Reject Huawei ‘Just Because It’s Chinese’ (RT)

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says he won’t bar Chinese firms like Huawei from doing business with Europe, as long as they respect market rules, despite continued US pressure to ban the company. “We are not rejecting someone because he is coming from faraway, because he is Chinese, the rules have to be respected,” Juncker said at a press conference with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe on Thursday. Asked about his response to the US call to “eliminate” Chinese telecoms equipment from Europe’s 5G buildout, Juncker was defiant. “The European Union and our internal market are open markets and all those respecting our rules governing this internal market are welcome,” he said.


Last month, Europe’s Parliament passed a resolution “expressing their deep concern” about alleged Chinese cybersecurity threats, but a subsequent statement from the European Commission regarding 5G cybersecurity did not include such language, instead merely urging member states to develop a “toolbox of mitigating measures” to combat cybersecurity risks to their growing 5G infrastructure. The US has leaned heavily on allies to keep Huawei and other Chinese telecoms out of their countries, claiming the company could act as a spy for the Chinese government. Washington has even threatened to withhold intelligence from Germany over their refusal to ban the Chinese firm, pressure China’s foreign minister has called “abnormal” and “immoral.”

Read more …

May invites Huawei. Will she stand up to Trump in other areas too?

Huawei Leak Highlights Collapse Of Discipline In May’s Cabinet (G.)

Leaks from deep within Theresa May’s bitterly divided administration have become widespread and common: as one despairing official remarked recently, “this government is a sieve”. But the revelation of the highly sensitive news that ministers have decided to set aside cybersecurity concerns and involve the Chinese firm Huawei in the creation of Britain’s 5G network is regarded by many as a leak too far. The decision was taken at the national security council, on which ministers sit alongside officials and members of the security services. The secrecy of its discussions has never before been breached. A full-scale inquiry is now expected to be launched, but a slew of other briefings and counter-briefings from private meetings in recent weeks and months has not just gone unpunished but become almost unremarkable.


There are several, allied reasons for this pervasive culture of briefing and counter-briefing, which means multiple competing accounts of cabinet meetings are available shortly after ministers walk out of Downing Street. One is simply the ready availability of instant electronic communication – a string of WhatsApp messages is a lot quicker and more straightforward than the old-fashioned gossip over lunch or in a Westminster bar (though that still happens too, of course). Another is the historic significance of the issues at stake and the lack of trust on both sides of the Brexit debate, which means all the key players want to ensure their point is heard even if they lost the argument in the room.

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The Fed will make up the difference. Can’t have stocks going down.

European Equities May Benefit As $1 Trillion In US Buybacks Vanish (ZH)

European equities may start to finally see some love, as they are now positioned to take advantage of one significant coming tailwind from the U.S., according to Bloomberg. Over the next 12 months, US stocks are going to lose a significant amount of support that they have received from buybacks, as the nearly $1 trillion buyback bonanza that has fueled stock purchases in the United States starts to come to an end, according to Sanford C. Bernstein strategists. This could be an area where European stocks, due to their low dependence on buybacks, could see help as a result. Bernstein strategists led by Inigo Fraser-Jenkins said: “This would remove one advantage of U.S. equities over Europe. As the buyback support is reduced it will make a stronger relative case for Europe.”


And the decision of the U.S. central bank to hold off on rate increases may have temporarily reduced concerns about debt hurting equities, but the topic is still on the table and credit spreads are expected to keep widening over the next year. Furthermore, the significance of share repurchases to the US rally has been pronounced, with $1 trillion in buybacks in just 2018 alone, far overshadowing the $100 billion in net inflows from active and passive funds. And even though European equities have rallied to the tune of more than $1.5 trillion since December’s lows, shorting these stocks remains a popular trade globally, according to Bank of America Corp.’s latest fund manager survey. And many traders are still on the sidelines, as Europe’s ugly politics and mixed economic data continues to weigh on sentiment.

Read more …

To find this out, we must travel back in time.

Universe Expands Faster Than Expected – NASA

The universe is expanding considerably faster than it should be, Nasa has confirmed. The space agency’s Hubble Space Telescope shows that it is growing about 9 per cent faster than had been expected, based on the trajectory it started with shortly after the Big Bang, according to astronomers. While such a discrepancy had already been suggested, the new measurements reduce the chance this is a mistake to just one in 100,000. Such a confirmation could require astronomers to find new physics theories to explain the universe‘s strange behaviour. “This mismatch has been growing and has now reached a point that is really impossible to dismiss as a fluke.

This is not what we expected,” says Adam Riess, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University, Nobel laureate and the project’s leader. The speed of the universe’s expansion, known as the Hubble constant, is a central part of physics and our understanding of the universe. But it has repeatedly been observed to behave unexpectedly – the more astronomers find out about it, the more wrong it appears – in ways that have forced scientists to wonder whether our assumptions about it had been wrong. The new study confirms that speculation, and requires further work to explain how exactly the universe is growing.

The research saw Professor Riess and his team analyse light from 70 stars in a galaxy near ours, known as the Large Magellanic Cloud, using a new method that allowed them to capture the stars quickly. The stars they observed are called Cepheid variables, and change brightness predictably, allowing them to be used to measure intergalactic distances. The new method allowed the researchers to measure many more of those stars far more quickly. Normally, Hubble can only look at one star each time it takes one of its 90-minute orbits around Earth, but the new method allowed it to see dozens in that same time.

Read more …

 

 

Apr 212019
 


Rembrandt van Rijn The deposition 1632-33

 

Yellow Vests Back In Action Despite ‘Unifying’ Notre Dame Disaster (RT)
Mueller Team Ignored Findings Of Former US Intelligence Officials (SP)
The Deep State vs. WikiLeaks (Escobar)
Julian Assange Put Through ‘Hell’ At Embassy, Says Former Diplomat (Sky)
UK PM May To Be Told To Quit By Top Conservative (R.)
London Home Prices Had Biggest Monthly Drop Since Lehman (DQ)
Battle To Save Amphibians From Global Killer Disease (G.)
Emissions From Thawing Arctic Permafrost 12 Times Higher Than Thought (Ind.)
Climate Change: The Facts – Our Greatest Threat, Laid Bare (G.)
Climate Change – The Facts (David Attenborough)

 

 

I predicted Macron would use the Notre Dame fire against the Yellow Vests, and he delivers. “We have to unify under our great leader, Me!”

Curious numbers here, 6 cops for every protester:

“The total number of people who took to the streets on Saturday reached 9,600, with 6,700 of them protesting in Paris, the Interior Ministry said.”

“Some 60,000 police officers were deployed across the country..”

Yellow Vests Back In Action Despite ‘Unifying’ Notre Dame Disaster (RT)

Yellow Vests protests brought clashes and tear gas back to the streets of Paris, despite politicians’ calls for “unity” in the wake of the Notre Dame fire. For protesters, the response to the fire only showed more inequality. Saturday’s protests mark the 23rd straight weekend of anti-government demonstrations, but the first since Notre Dame de Paris went up in flames on Monday. Officials were quick to criticize the protesters for returning to the streets so soon after the disaster. “The rioters will be back tomorrow,” Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told reporters on Friday. “The rioters have visibly not been moved by what happened at Notre-Dame.”


Joan of Arc monument, Toulouse

For many of the protesters, grief over the destruction of the 800-year-old landmark has made way for anger. With smoke still rising from Notre Dame, a group of French tycoons and businessmen pledged €1 billion to the cathedral’s reconstruction, money that the Yellow Vests say could be better spent elsewhere. “If they can give dozens of millions to rebuild Notre Dame, they should stop telling us there is no money to respond to the social emergency,” trade union leader Philippe Martinez told France 24. Some 60,000 police officers were deployed across the country, while a security perimeter was set up around Notre Dame in Paris.


A planned march that would have passed the site was banned by the authorities, but sporadic incidents of vandalism and looting took place across the city, with at least one car torched. There were also clashes between protesters and gendarmerie in the capital. The police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse the crowd, arresting 189 people, according to France Info. Yellow Vest rallies also took place in Nantes, Pau, Caen, Montbeliard, Bordeaux, Lyon and other French cities. The total number of people who took to the streets on Saturday reached 9,600, with 6,700 of them protesting in Paris, the Interior Ministry said.

Read more …

“How many of you wouldn’t be scared shitless by the head of the CIA declaring you the next target?”

Mueller Team Ignored Findings Of Former US Intelligence Officials (SP)

A group of former military and intelligence officials, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), conducted their own forensic tests that received a bit of attention in the United States press because they were some of the first people with prior backgrounds in government to question the central allegations of hacking into DNC servers. They asserted their examinations of the files showed DNC emails published by WikiLeaks were leaked, not hacked. However, the Mueller report makes no mention of the claims made by VIPS over the past two to three years—not even to debunk them.

The report stated, “Unit 26165 officers appear to have stolen thousands of emails and attachments, which were later released by WikiLeaks in July 2016.” But “appear to have” indicates the team did not have incontrovertible proof. They could only speculate. “The Office cannot rule out that stolen documents were transferred to WikiLeaks through intermediaries, who visited during the summer of 2016,” the report acknowledged. “For example, public reporting identified Andrew Müller-Maguhn as a WikiLeaks associate who may have assisted with the transfer of these stolen documents to WikiLeaks.”

Yet, this is wildly misleading. The source for this example is a 2018 profile of Müller-Maguhn by journalist Ellen Nakashima that was published by the Washington Post. Müller-Maguhn told Nakashima it “would be insane” for him to hand deliver sensitive files, especially when the CIA has labeled WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service.” “How many of you wouldn’t be scared shitless by the head of the CIA declaring you the next target?,” he said.

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Comey didn’t want Assange’s knowledge to get public, because it would have killed the “Russians hacked the DNC” narrative. And that would be a threat to the whole Russiand-did-it story Mueller kept in his report. These guys are just story tellers, it’s fiction.

The Deep State vs. WikiLeaks (Escobar)

[..] it was only in 2017, in the Trump era, that the Deep State went totally ballistic; that’s when WikiLeaks published the Vault 7 files – detailing the CIA’s vast hacking/cyber espionage repertoire. This was the CIA as a Naked Emperor like never before – including the dodgy overseeing ops of the Center for Cyber Intelligence, an ultra-secret NSA counterpart. WikiLeaks got Vault 7 in early 2017. At the time WikiLeaks had already published the DNC files – which the unimpeachable Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) systematically proved was a leak, not a hack. The monolithic narrative by the Deep State faction aligned with the Clinton machine was that “the Russians” hacked the DNC servers.

Assange was always adamant; that was not the work of a state actor – and he could prove it technically. There was some movement towards a deal, brokered by one of Assange’s lawyers; WikiLeaks would not publish the most damning Vault 7 information in exchange for Assange’s safe passage to be interviewed by the US Department of Justice (DoJ). The DoJ wanted a deal – and they did make an offer to WikiLeaks. But then FBI director James Comey killed it. The question is why. Some theoretically sound reconstructions of Comey’s move are available. But the key fact is Comey already knew – via his close connections to the top of the DNC – that this was not a hack; it was a leak.

Ambassador Craig Murray has stressed, over and over again how the DNC/Podesta files published by WikiLeaks came from two different US sources; one from within the DNC and the other from within US intel. There was nothing for Comey to “investigate”. Or there would have, if Comey had ordered the FBI to examine the DNC servers. So why talk to Julian Assange? The release by WikiLeaks in April 2017 of the malware mechanisms inbuilt in “Grasshopper” and the “Marble Framework” were indeed a bombshell. This is how the CIA inserts foreign language strings in source code to disguise them as originating from Russia, from Iran, or from China. The inestimable Ray McGovern, a VIPS member, stressed how Marble Framework “destroys this story about Russian hacking.”

No wonder then CIA director Mike Pompeo accused WikiLeaks of being a “non-state hostile intelligence agency”, usually manipulated by Russia. Joshua Schulte, the alleged leaker of Vault 7, has not faced a US court yet. There’s no question he will be offered a deal by the USG if he aggress to testify against Julian Assange. It’s a long and winding road, to be traversed in at least two years, if Julian Assange is ever to be extradited to the US.

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Moreno is a corrupt criminal.

Julian Assange Put Through ‘Hell’ At Embassy, Says Former Diplomat (Sky)

Julian Assange was always respectful but went through “hell” in the Ecuadorian embassy as officials tried to “break him down”, according to a former senior diplomat. Fidel Narvaez worked at the London embassy for six of the seven years the WikiLeaks figurehead lived there and says they became friends. Assange was evicted a few weeks ago after a change of government in Ecuador. Its new president, Lenin Moreno, publicly criticised the whistleblower and gave the impression the government ended his stay after growing tired of his alleged bad behaviour.


Assange birthday party, Ecuador embassy, July 2015

Speaking to Sky News, Fidel Narvaez disputed claims that Assange had assaulted guards, didn’t clean up after himself, didn’t take care of his pet cat and even smeared human excrement on the walls of the embassy. He said: “Julian had a respectful relationship with staff, diplomats and administrative staff. I don’t recall a single incident when he disrespected someone until I left in July 2018. “He was 100% respectful. Clean and tidy? What is clean and tidy? Did he put the dishes in the dishwasher? Probably not at weekends. Is that a crime?”


Mr Narvaez worked at the embassy in Knightsbridge in central London between 2010 and 2018 as consul and first secretary. Assange went into the embassy in June 2012 and did not leave until he was carted away by British police a few weeks ago with the agreement of the authorities in Ecuador. Mr Narvaez said: “The last year was hell for Julian in that embassy. “I was there the first months of the last year and I witnessed when Julian was told that he would no longer be allowed to have internet or access to the phone and wouldn’t be able to have visitors. “The strategy was very clear – break him down. The government didn’t know how to end the asylum and face the catastrophic historical shame for doing that.”

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Oh, that’s right, Brexit!

UK PM May To Be Told To Quit By Top Conservative (R.)

A top member of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party will tell her in the coming week that she must step down by the end of June or her lawmakers will try again to depose her, the Sunday Times reported, without citing sources. May survived a vote of no confidence in December and although party rules mean lawmakers cannot challenge her again until a year has passed, lawmaker Graham Brady will tell her the rules will be changed unless she quits, the newspaper said.


Brady, who chairs the Conservative Party’s influential 1922 Committee of backbench lawmakers, will tell her that 70 percent of her members of parliament want her to resign over her handling of Brexit, the Sunday Times said. Britain was originally due to leave the European Union on March 29, but that deadline was pushed back to April 12 and then again to Oct. 31 as May failed to break an impasse in parliament on the terms of Brexit.

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Third world real estate.

London Home Prices Had Biggest Monthly Drop Since Lehman (DQ)

London home prices in February took their biggest one-off hit since the dark days of the last crisis, according to data published Thursday by the UK’s Office of National Statistics. The average price of a residential property in London tumbled 2% in February from January, the sharpest monthly drop since November 2008, when the City was grappling with the fallout from the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. For the 12-month period, the average price dropped 3.8%, the sharpest year-over-year fall since August 2009, during the Global Financial Crisis. The average home in London is now worth £459,800 ($600,000), down 5.9% from the peak in July 2017:

But it’s still more than double the median UK home price (£225,000). In other words, while prices may have moderated somewhat they’re still well beyond the reach of average Londoners. Here are some more standouts from the ONS report: The slowdown is spreading out from London. Home prices in the south east of England recorded an annual decline (-1.8%) for the first time since 2011. Prices also fell in the North East and remained virtually unchanged in Yorkshire and the Humber. Home price annual growth is slowing in England; prices tick down in Scotland.


Prices did increase in a few places. Home price growth was strongest in Wales and the North West, increasing in both regions by 4.1% in the year to February 2019. It’s a very different story in the capital, which during the first decade and a half of this century enjoyed much faster home price growth than the rest of the country but which is now suffering a much sharper slowdown.The most exclusive boroughs of the city center — often referred to as Prime Central London — have been hit hardest, with prices falling an estimated 14% from their 2014 peak.

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It’s all interconnected and we are killing it all.

Battle To Save Amphibians From Global Killer Disease (G.)

Frogs, salamanders, and toads across the world are now under attack from a widening range of interacting pathogens that threaten to devastate global amphibian populations. That is the stark warning of leading zoological experts who will gather this week in London in a bid to establish an emergency plan to save these endangered creatures. “The world’s amphibians are facing a new crisis, one that is caused by attacks by multiple pathogens,” said Professor Trent Garner of the Zoological Society of London, which is hosting the conference. “We desperately need to devise strategies that can protect them.”


The golden toad of Costa Rica, which is now considered to be extinct. Photograph: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

Thirty years ago experts noticed that amphibian populations were plunging in different areas of the world as an emerging fungal disease known as chytridiomycosis, or simply chytrid, began taking its toll of frogs and toads. At least 100 species have since been wiped off the face of the planet. These include the golden toad in Costa Rica (Incilius periglenes); the southern gastric-brooding frog of Australia (Rheobatrachus silus); and Arthur’s stubfoot toad (Atelopus arthuri) in Ecuador. Hundreds of other amphibian species have also suffered severe declines – as a result of chytrid infections.


But scientists also know chytrid is not the only cause of the amphibian deaths now occurring around the world. Another pathogen known as the ranavirus, which exists in at least four varieties, has been observed killing amphibians. In addition they found that there are at least two species of chytrid, and within these, many different genetic types.

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Nitrous oxide emissions, that is. But the article says nothing about amounts, so what to make of it? How much of the stuff is there?

Emissions From Thawing Arctic Permafrost 12 Times Higher Than Thought (Ind.)

Emissions from thawing Arctic permafrost may be 12 times higher than previously thought, scientists have discovered. Permafrost is a mix of soil, rock or sediment that has been frozen for at least two years which is mostly found in the uppermost areas where temperatures are rising more quickly than the rest of the world. When it thaws because of global warming, it releases large quantities of carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere, causing temperatures to rise and creating a perpetual cycle where more permafrost melts. Nitrous oxide, a third greenhouse gas nearly 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide, stays in the atmosphere for an average of 114 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).


It has “conventionally been assumed to have minimal emissions in permafrost regions”, according to a fresh study published in the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics journal. However the research team behind the study, led by Harvard University scientists, has found that nitrous oxide emissions are 12 times higher than previously thought and therefore more of a threat. The group used a small plane with a probe on its nose to measure greenhouse gases over 120sqm of thawing permafrost in the North Slope of Alaska. They found that nitrous oxide emissions reached what was previously thought to be the expected yearly limit within just one month in August 2013. Nitrous oxide also poses a second threat because “up in the stratosphere, sunlight and oxygen team up to convert the gas into nitrogen oxides, which eat at the ozone”, Harvard University said in a statement.

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Attenborough trying to make up for lost time.

Climate Change: The Facts – Our Greatest Threat, Laid Bare (G.)

You sense that Our Planet was unfortunately timed for the BBC. In Climate Change: The Facts, the gloves are now not so much off as thrown to the floor in a certain rage. It’s right there in the title, bold and stark. This hour-long documentary, part of the Our Planet Matters season, is wide-ranging yet concise, easy to understand, not blighted by the ego of, say, An Inconvenient Truth, and it is designed to do for climate change denial what 2017’s Blue Planet did for single-use plastic. That’s not to say it should be Attenborough’s responsibility to get the wider public to pay attention, nor that it is down to the BBC. It isn’t.

But Climate Change: The Facts is a rousing call to arms. It is an alarm clock set at a horrifying volume. The first 40 minutes are given over to what Attenborough calls, without hyperbole, “our greatest threat in thousands of years”. Expert after expert explains the consequences of rising CO2 levels, on the ice caps, on coastal regions, on weather and wildlife and society itself. The most powerful moments are in footage shot not by expert crews who have spent years on location, but on shaky cameras, capturing the very moment at which the reality of our warming planet struck the person holding the phone.

In Cairns, Australia, flying foxes are unable to survive the extreme temperatures; rescuers survey the terrible massacre, and we learn that while 350 were saved, 11,000 died. A man and his son talk through their escape from raging wildfires, over the film they took while attempting to drive through a cavern of blazing red trees. These are horror movies playing out in miniature. It is difficult to watch even five minutes of this and remain somehow neutral, or unconvinced.

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After -how many?- too many years of silence, David Attenborough finally speaks out in his 90s. A very late wake-up. By now he’s so old, it’s not going to hurt him much, he won’t be around to see it. What if he’d done this 20-30-30 years ago? He’s THE voice on planet issues. And hey, he’s got the best camera people on the topic, so yeah, go full screen for the entire hour this doc lasts (click YouTube, bottom right corner).

Climate Change – The Facts (David Attenborough)

After one of the hottest years on record, Sir David Attenborough looks at the science of climate change and potential solutions to this global threat. Interviews with some of the world’s leading climate scientists explore recent extreme weather conditions such as unprecedented storms and catastrophic wildfires. They also reveal what dangerous levels of climate change could mean for both human populations and the natural world in the future.

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