Jul 112020
 


Berenice Abbott Murray Hill Hotel, New York 1935

 

Trump Commutes Roger Stone’s Sentence (Hill)
Blood Clots Found In ‘Almost Every Organ’ Of COVID Victims (NZH)
Official Covid-19 Statistics Are Missing Something Critical (EM)
The Risk-Free Upsides For China In The WHO’s Coronavirus Origin Quest (SCMP)
Ghislaine Maxwell Wants Bail Release Due To ‘Unprecedented’ COVID19 Risks (G.)
Catholic Church Lobbied For Taxpayer Funds, Got $3.5 Billion (AP)
Now What? (Jim Kunstler)
Democracy and the Illusion of Choice (CP)
American Airlines Tells Boeing: No Financing, No 737 MAX Deliveries (CNBC)
NYPD Limits Retirement Applications Amid 400% Surge This Week (NYP)
Erdogan Declares Hagia Sophia A Mosque After Turkish Court Ruling (R.)

 

 

Like the election of Donald Trump is the perfect symbol for what America has become, Roger Stone is the embodiment of Washington DC. There must be so much to be found out there if they want to go after him. But it’s not about him. Stone made the mistake of bragging about his links to Wikileaks, which he never had. If not for that, they would have left him alone.

That link was needed because from Wikileaks Robert Mueller could get to Russia on the entirely fabricated claims of connections Julian Assange was alleged to have had to Russian hackers (DNC files). Mueller’s investigation ended in absolute and embarrassing failure, and zero evidence, but what he could leave standing, because they could not defend themselves, were accusations against Assange and “13 Russians”.

Mueller chose that route. Which is why I have called him a coward and a liar.

I was reading earlier about the insane pre-dawn FBI raid on Stone’s home, executed by an entire army of agents, and including even helicopters. While they could have simply rung his doorbell. No love lost here for the man, but yeah, let him be.

 

 

Another round of new records all over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ben Hunt

 

 

Commuted, nor pardoned, in order for Stone to be able to fight on in court,

Trump Commutes Roger Stone’s Sentence (Hill)

President Trump on Friday commuted the prison sentence of longtime confidant Roger Stone after the former campaign adviser was sentenced to three years and four months in prison in connection with former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. The decision capped a months-long saga that has roiled the Justice Department and divided some of the president’s advisers. Stone was set to report to prison July 14, but his allies had lobbied for a pardon or a commutation, citing his risk of contracting coronavirus while in jail. The move Friday did not come as a particular surprise, as Trump had at various points in recent months signaled he was leaning toward intervening in Stone’s case. Trump told reporters he was considering a commutation or pardon for Stone as the date he was scheduled to report to prison loomed.

The announcement from the White House came roughly an hour after an appeals court denied Stone’s motion to delay the start of his prison term, scheduled to begin Tuesday. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany issued a statement Friday evening describing Stone as “a victim of the Russia Hoax that the Left and its allies in the media perpetuated for years in an attempt to undermine the Trump Presidency.” McEnany said that Trump had signed an executive grant of clemency commuting his “unjust” sentence. Trump has regularly railed against the prosecutors involved in the case, singled out the Obama-appointed federal judge overseeing the trial for criticism and complained that the conservative provocateur was the victim of a “ridiculous” process.

Stone, who has maintained his innocence and tried to appeal his conviction, was the last of six Trump associates to be charged in connection with Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia that dogged the president’s first two years in office. Mueller did not find evidence to charge Trump campaign associates with conspiring with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election, but found that the campaign welcomed Moscow’s interference efforts. Justice Department leadership moved to reduce Stone’s sentencing recommendation in February in a highly controversial move, leading all four career prosecutors working on his case to quit. Stone was convicted in November by a jury in Washington, D.C., of all counts he was charged with, including lying to Congress in connection with its separate investigation into Russian interference, witness tampering and obstructing an official proceeding.

McEnany argued Friday that Stone was charged with “alleged crimes” arising “solely” from Mueller’s “improper” investigation and that the GOP operative’s imprisonment would put him at “serious medical risk.” However, she said that Trump did not want to “interfere” with Stone’s efforts to appeal his conviction, meaning that those efforts will move forward and his conviction will stand. “Roger Stone has already suffered greatly. He was treated very unfairly, as were many others in this case. Roger Stone is now a free man,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

Read more …

It’s the blood, not the lungs.

Blood Clots Found In ‘Almost Every Organ’ Of COVID Victims (NZH)

Doctors have revealed fresh details on the terrible toll taken on the body by Covid-19, releasing the results of autopsies of those who have died in the pandemic. In a study published in The Lancet journal EClinicalMedicine, Dr Amy Rapkiewicz, the chair of the Department of Pathology at NYU Langone Medical Centre, showed the role played by blood clots in the progression of the disease. Describing how scientists found clotting in tiny blood vessels throughout the body, Rapkiewicz told CNN the findings were “dramatic”. “Because though we might have expected it in the lungs, we found it in almost every organ that we looked at in our autopsy study.” The autopsies also showed the extensive presence of megakaryocytes, large bone marrow cells that don’t usually appear outside the lungs and bones.


“We found them in the heart and the kidneys and the liver and other organs,” Rapkiewicz said. “Notably in the heart, megakaryocytes produce something called platelets that are intimately involved in blood clotting.” “I could not remember a case before where we saw that,” Rapkiewicz told the Washington Post. “It was remarkable they were in the heart.” Speaking to TCTMD, Rapkiewicz said it is “a very interesting observation that seems to be consistent across multiple Covid cases.” Noting that Covid’s effect on blood clotting is at the opposite end of the spectrum from other killer viruses such as ebola, Rapkiewicz said researchers need to be diligent and “learn from our history” and explore what is known about other contagious diseases that affect the body’s coagulation systems.

Read more …

Mortality vs Morbidity. The Quality-Adjusted Life Year (QALY) and its sister statistic, the Disability-Adjusted Life Year (DALY).

Official Covid-19 Statistics Are Missing Something Critical (EM)

At the moment, official record-keeping offers only three options when it comes to Covid-19: infection, recovery, or death. This misses a broad range of other potential outcomes for people who catch the virus — many of them bad. In medicine, physicians talk about “M&M,” or “Mortality and Morbidity.” Many hospitals even hold closed-door “M&M” conferences, where their providers discuss everything that’s gone wrong with their patients over the last week or month. Mortality is a pretty straightforward concept. Have patients died from a particular disease process, and if so, how? Were their deaths avoidable? Can the field of medicine learn anything from them which will improve patient care in the future?

Morbidity, though, is a much trickier concept. It includes the complications, health issues, and other negative outcomes (other than death) that a disease causes. Basically, it’s all the ways that a disease can make you unwell, even if it doesn’t actually kill you. Official statistics capture deaths that occur from Covid-19 reasonably well. Reporting methods are often updated, and epidemiologists have gone back and attempted to quantify Covid-19 deaths that were originally missed. But overall, death counts are a relatively easy metric to apply. Patients are either alive or dead. Knowing the difference is comparatively simple. But these official statistics miss quite a lot. Specifically, they fail to represent Covid-19 morbidity — the harm that the disease causes, even in people that it doesn’t kill.

In terms of measuring the long-term impact of the disease — and accurately evaluating risk — that’s a big problem. Mounting evidence shows that even if Covid-19 kills less than 1% of patients, it doesn’t necessarily leave the others it infects unharmed. Even those who have “recovered” may have long-term impacts from it. Morbidity can happen over a long-term period, so it is a harder variable to study and track in the early stages of a pandemic than death. Anecdotal reports and early data, though, show that Covid-19 morbidity may be a very real concern. According to a report in The Atlantic which followed several people with Covid-19 over multiple months, many had long-lasting symptoms and impairments (including headaches and debilitating fatigue) that didn’t resolve when their active infection stopped.

All of these cases were considered “mild” and didn’t result in the use of a ventilator or a stay in the ICU. And they occurred in people from a variety of age groups, not only older adults and the infirm. Yet despite these “low risk” factors, patients were still experiencing major impacts from the disease months after contracting it. A handful of studies about Covid-19 (as well as scholarship on previous coronaviruses) bears this out. Covid-19 infection can have long-term impacts on the lungs, heart, immune system, and even the brain. These include an increased risk for heart attacks, future respiratory infections (including more severe cases of flu), and neurological impacts like cognitive impairment.

[..] As risk professionals like Nassim Nicholas Taleb have pointed out, the failure to measure Covid-19 morbidity makes it far harder to evaluate the true risk from the pandemic. Simply looking at deaths is not enough. Mortality statistics fail to account for the people who survive the disease but suffer long-term harm — or those who die from its complications long after their initial infection has subsided. This blindness to morbidity may push populations toward more aggressive reopening, or away from risk-reduction measures like mandating face coverings. If deaths are declining, the picture may appear rosy. But in reality, the disease may be causing irreparable harm to millions of people — just in a way that’s invisible in current statistics.

Read more …

How much control do they really have? Are they sending their best people?

The Risk-Free Upsides For China In The WHO’s Coronavirus Origin Quest (SCMP)

China’s decision to allow in a WHO-led coronavirus investigation could offer a risk-free boost to its reputation and help to find an answer to a big question – how the disease began. That was the assessment of health specialists, who said the answers were needed to prevent future outbreaks. Two World Health Organisation experts, an animal health specialist and an epidemiologist, are expected to arrive in Beijing this weekend to meet Chinese scientists and doctors to discuss the terms of a WHO-led mission to trace the origin of the coronavirus. China agreed to the mission after a resolution passed unanimously in May at the World Health Assembly, the WHO’s governing body, calling for the WHO to work to identify the virus’ animal source.

Countries like Australia and the United States had previously led a call for a broader investigation into China’s handling of the outbreak, which was first identified in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December. Sara Davies, an international relations professor specialising in global health governance at Griffith University in Australia, said China might have given approval because WHO officials were clear that the investigation was not about laying blame. “This is a scientific investigation, and that is a deliberate attempt to establish a clear marker that this is not about fault. It’s not the type of investigation that Australia and others were proposing earlier this year,” Davies said. The message was underlined earlier this week when Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian stressed that the search for the origin would not just be in China.

Zhao said China had reached a “fundamental consensus” with the WHO that tracing the source of the disease should take place around the globe, a process that the WHO suggested would be ongoing and involve many countries. Wang Huiyao, president of the Centre for China and Globalisation, said China was honouring its promise to allow a WHO-led investigation when domestic outbreaks were under control. Wang added that China would benefit by addressing persistent claims about the pathogen’s origins. “There have been some doubts and rumours internationally, like the conspiracy theory concerning the laboratory in Wuhan. The investigation will help quash such rumours,” he said.

Read more …

So does Assange.

Ghislaine Maxwell Wants Bail Release Due To ‘Unprecedented’ COVID19 Risks (G.)

Ghislaine Maxwell should be released on bail while awaiting trial for her alleged involvement in Jeffrey Epstein’s child sex trafficking ring because of “the Covid-19 crisis and its impact on detained defendants”, the British socialite’s lawyers argued in Manhattan federal court papers filed on Friday. Maxwell, 58, was arrested on 2 July at her Bradford, New Hampshire, home. She faces up to 35 years in federal prison if convicted. Her lawyers insisted that Maxwell is not a flight risk, and said she is trying to keep a low profile amid unrelenting “carnival-like” media scrutiny. “As this court has noted, the Covid-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented health risk to incarcerated individuals, and Covid-19-related restrictions on attorney communications with pre-trial detainees significantly impair a defendant’s ability to prepare her defense,” Maxwell’s lawyers claimed in their bail argument.

“Simply put, under these circumstances, if Ms Maxwell continues to be detained, her health will be at serious risk and she will not be able to receive a fair trial.” Maxwell’s legal team proposed several bail conditions, including a $5m personal recognizance bond co-signed by six financially responsible people, backed by property in the UK worth over $3.75m. They also proposed limiting her travel to the New York City area, turning in all her travel documents, imposing home confinement in New York City with GPS monitoring, and restricting visitors to her immediate family, close friends and lawyers. A judge has set a hearing for Tuesday to hear bail arguments and to arraign Maxwell on multiple charges, including that she conspired to entice girls as young as 14 to engage in illegal sex acts with Epstein from 1994 through 1997 at his homes in New York City, Florida and New Mexico, and at Maxwell’s residence in London.

[..] “Ever since Epstein’s arrest, Ms Maxwell has been at the center of a crushing onslaught of press articles, television specials and social media posts painting her in the most damning light possible and prejudging her guilt. The sheer volume of media reporting mentioning Ms Maxwell is staggering,” her lawyers argued in the court papers. “The ‘open season’ declared on Ms Maxwell after Epstein’s death has come with an even darker cost – she has been the target of alarming physical threats, even death threats, and has had to hire security guards to ensure her safety. The media feeding frenzy, which has only intensified in recent months, has also deeply affected her family and friends,” they said. They said later that “Ms Maxwell will be at significant risk of contracting Covid-19 if she is detained, and she will not be able to meaningfully participate in the preparation of her defense due to the restrictions that have been placed on attorney visits and phone calls in light of the pandemic.”

Read more …

And here’s some more rich sex offenders.

“Catholic dioceses whose financial stress was due not simply to the pandemic, but also to recent payouts to victims of clergy sex abuse…”

Catholic Church Lobbied For Taxpayer Funds, Got $3.5 Billion (AP)

The U.S. Roman Catholic Church used a special and unprecedented exemption from federal rules to amass at least $1.4 billion in taxpayer-backed coronavirus aid, with many millions going to dioceses that have paid huge settlements or sought bankruptcy protection because of clergy sexual abuse cover-ups. The church’s haul may have reached — or even exceeded — $3.5 billion, making a global religious institution with more than a billion followers among the biggest winners in the U.S. government’s pandemic relief efforts, an Associated Press analysis of federal data released this week found. Houses of worship and faith-based organizations that promote religious beliefs aren’t usually eligible for money from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

But as the economy plummeted and jobless rates soared, Congress let faith groups and other nonprofits tap into the Paycheck Protection Program, a $659 billion fund created to keep Main Street open and Americans employed. By aggressively promoting the payroll program and marshaling resources to help affiliates navigate its shifting rules, Catholic dioceses, parishes, schools and other ministries have so far received approval for at least 3,500 forgivable loans, AP found. The Archdiocese of New York, for example, received 15 loans worth at least $28 million just for its top executive offices. Its iconic St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue was approved for at least $1 million. In Orange County, California, where a sparkling glass cathedral estimated to cost over $70 million recently opened, diocesan officials working at the complex received four loans worth at least $3 million.

[..] There is no doubt that state shelter-in-place orders disrupted houses of worship and businesses alike. Masses were canceled, even during the Holy Week and Easter holidays, depriving parishes of expected revenue and contributing to layoffs in some dioceses. Some families of Catholic school students are struggling to make tuition payments. And the expense of disinfecting classrooms once classes resume will put additional pressure on budgets. But other problems were self-inflicted. Long before the pandemic, scores of dioceses faced increasing financial pressure because of a dramatic rise in recent clergy sex abuse claims.

The scandals that erupted in 2018 reverberated throughout the world. Pope Francis ordered the former archbishop of Washington, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, to a life of “prayer and penance” following allegations he abused minors and adult seminarians. And a damning grand jury report about abuse in six Pennsylvania dioceses revealed bishops had long covered for predator priests, spurring investigations in more than 20 other states. As the church again reckoned with its longtime crisis, abuse reports tripled during the year ending June 2019 to a total of nearly 4,500 nationally. Meanwhile, dioceses and religious orders shelled out $282 million that year — up from $106 million just five years earlier. Most of that went to settlements, in addition to legal fees and support for offending clergy.

Loan recipients included about 40 dioceses that have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the past few years paying victims through compensation funds or bankruptcy proceedings. AP’s review found that these dioceses were approved for about $200 million, though the value is likely much higher.

Read more …

“..this bare ruin of a crooked old pol..”

Now What? (Jim Kunstler)

[..] the linchpin of Wokesterism: it’s Whitey’s fault. Whitey is racism incarnate. White Fragility makes redemption impossible. No amount of penance, apology, or remediation can fix it. Which raises another question: why even bother entertaining reparations for slavery? It will never be enough. Which may be exactly why the Woke Inquisition’s real aim is to undermine all of America’s institutions and then bust up the republic. The petulant “Resistance” that dug in after Hillary’s shocking 2016 election loss did the groundwork by enlisting the FBI, CIA, NSC, DOJ and other federal agencies into seditious intrigues that made the federal apparatus of justice look (and act) corrupt and untrustworthy.

Everything about the Mueller inquiry was an exercise in bad faith and perfidy, leaving the engines of official justice so broken that their misdeeds can barely be corrected, let alone prosecuted. To this day, the Lawfare cadres sponsor the continued persecution of General Michael Flynn, months after the DOJ formally dropped its case against him. Do you suppose these turpitudes don’t rankle the substantial number of citizens who still refuse to be driven insane by the Woke terror? And who is the figurehead leading this Democratic Woke party wrecking crew of coercion? The empty shell of Joe Biden, a bumbling senator turned grifting vice-president, now a mere hologram of a candidate.

The renewed campaign of Covid-19 hysteria in the Woke press may be just a psy-op to stuff poor Joe back in his basement and make sure he stays off public view. They took him out for a brief airing yesterday in Pennsylvania, a low-grade fiasco. In a formal speech, Mr. Biden said, “So today, I’m releasing a brewplint [sic] — I think the press had — how to create millions of good-paying union jobs, using Protestant technology [say what?] that we need now, and in the future.” Hmmm. Protestant technology? What could that be? Sounds like another one of Whitey’s endless tricks.

After the speech, some media cornered the candidate beside a campaign limo. He managed to decline taking any questions and waddled stiffly away, glassy-eyed, his hands strangely splayed like seal flippers (another symptom?). Who are they kidding with this pathetic wind-up mummy, this bare ruin of a crooked old pol? What treacherous game are they playing now? What’s next…?

Read more …

Excellent from Rob Urie.

The Russiagate allegations shifted attention away from rejection of the Democrat’s political program in 2016 so that they could run the same program again in 2020…

Democracy and the Illusion of Choice (CP)

[..] from the potential victory of a social democratic program five months ago, electoral choice is now between a right-wing demagogue and the chief architect of the carceral state, militarization of the police and liberal obeisance to capital. There is a connection between the Democrats three-plus years spent pushing the un/disproven Russiagate story and Joe Biden’s miraculous ascent as the establishment candidate in 2020. The Russiagate allegations shifted attention away from rejection of the Democrat’s political program in 2016 so that they could run the same program again in 2020. Amongst the political variables open for ‘discussion,’ the choice of candidate is all there is. The political program is determined at the intersection of campaign contributions, the needs and desires of capital, and the ids of oligarchs freed from public accountability. Democracy has nothing to do with it.

The ‘left’ argument for electing Joe Biden is as a placeholder, without precisely explaining how placeholding has supported the upward redistribution of political and economic power for four decades running. Donald Trump made himself known— seemingly to his political detriment, while five decades in public life left Joe Biden a political unknown who oversaw the writing of the 1994 Crime Bill and the Patriot Act, supported the misguided U.S. war against Iraq, and acted as collection agent for the credit card company MBNA. That both men represent the interests of capital and disjoint constituencies within the neoliberal order again suggests political guidance from outside of electoral politics.

This description is difficult for Democrats because they never took account of their loss in 2016. The stories they told themselves of foreign intrigue and racial backlash weren’t, and still aren’t, supported by the data. The Russiagate pillars have fallen one by one until nothing is left but tribal shorthand for aesthetic aversion to ‘Trump!’ Otherwise, the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) has been the gold standard of ‘ascendance of hate’ reporting since the 2000s. Outside of its made-for-the-establishment-press headlines, the number of racist and neo-Nazi hate groups is falling.

Read more …

Barely an industry anymore.

American Airlines Tells Boeing: No Financing, No 737 MAX Deliveries (CNBC)

American Airlines executives have told Boeing they will not take delivery of 17 737 Max airplanes unless the carrier can secure financing to pay for the aircraft, people familiar with the discussions told CNBC. The 17 Max planes are already built, but will not be delivered until the Federal Aviation Administration recertifies the aircraft and removes a grounding order, which is expected to happen later this summer or by early fall. When the FAA grounded the Max in March 2019, it meant Boeing was not allowed to deliver the 17 Max planes it had built for American. During the 15 months since the grounding, the financing for some of the 737 Max planes expired, leaving them unfunded.

The situation means Boeing Capital, which is Boeing’s financing division, will have to find a way to arrange financing for those planes. This could involve Boeing Capital buying the planes and leasing them to American. Another possible scenario could involve third-party aircraft leasing companies financing the planes in question. While Boeing will not comment specifically on its discussions with American, or on any other order, the company told CNBC: “Our focus continues to be on working with global regulators on the rigorous process they have put in place to safely return the 737 MAX to commercial service. We are not going to comment on discussions with our customers. It is an unprecedented time for our industry as operators confront a steep drop in traffic.

“We continue to work closely with our customers to support their operations, while balancing supply and demand with the realities of the market.” American has already taken delivery of 24 Max planes, and has another 76 ordered with Boeing. The Wall Street Journal previously reported American executives have threatened to cancel some of its Max orders.

Read more …

Who wants the job?

NYPD Limits Retirement Applications Amid 400% Surge This Week (NYP)

New York’s Finest are putting in for retirement faster than the NYPD can handle — while citing a lack of respect and the loss of overtime pay, The Post has learned. A surge of city cops filing papers during the past week more than quadrupled last year’s number — as the city grapples with a surge of shootings — and the stampede caused a bottleneck that’s forcing others to delay putting in their papers, officials and sources said. The NYPD said Wednesday that 179 cops filed for retirement between June 29 and Monday, an astounding 411 percent increase over the 35 who filed during the same period in 2019. The astonishing rush for the door came as 503 cops filed for retirement between May 25 — the day George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, sparking anti-cop protests around the country — and July 3, the NYPD said.

That number represents a 75 percent increase over the 287 who filed for retirement during the same time last year, the NYPD said. Sources said the deluge of applications had overwhelmed the department — due to cancellation of overtime for the workers who process them — and that the number of daily applicants was being limited as a result. On Tuesday, The Post spotted a line of cops waiting outside the office at One Police Plaza where retirement papers get filed. “Apparently, the pension section is only taking a certain amount of people per day and I think they are backed up ’til late July, early August,” one cop said. “That’s why you don’t see like 100 a day, because they are only doing like 35 to 40 a day, by appointment.” A spokeswoman for the NYPD confirmed the “surge in the number of officers filing for retirement.”

“While the decision to retire is a personal one and can be attributed to a range of factors, it is a troubling trend that we are closely monitoring,” the spokesperson added. An NYPD spokeswoman noted that the department is not turning down any applications for officers retiring in the next 30 days — but has told cops putting in to retire after that to come back when a month out due to the increased activity. Sources blamed the situation — which comes amid an alarming spike in shootings — on growing anti-cop sentiment, coupled with a pending city law that would make it a crime for cops to use chokeholds while trying to subdue violent suspects. “There’s just droves and droves of people retiring. But there’s no surprise here, who the hell wants to stay on this job?” one cop said. “Why would you want to stay on this job when people don’t appreciate what you do?”

Read more …

Erdogan turns his back on Turkey’s founder Kemal Ataturk and reaches back to 15th century Ottoman empire.

“For those who don’t know, really near to Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the Turks built the Blue Mosque, which is newer and big enough for all the muslims in the area (and then some). Erdogan is just trying to provoke christians and show to muslims worldwide he is their leader.”

Erdogan Declares Hagia Sophia A Mosque After Turkish Court Ruling (R.)

President Tayyip Erdogan declared Istanbul’s Hagia Sophia a mosque on Friday with the first Muslim prayers to begin in two weeks, after a top court ruled the ancient building’s conversion to a museum by modern Turkey’s founding statesman was illegal. Erdogan spoke on Friday just hours after the court ruling was published, brushing aside international warnings not to change the status of the nearly 1,500-year-old monument that is revered by Christians and Muslims alike. The United States, Russia and church leaders were among those to express concern about changing the status of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, a focal point of both the Christian Byzantine and Muslim Ottoman empires and now one of the most visited monuments in Turkey.

Greece’s culture ministry described the court decision as an “open provocation” to the civilized world, while UNESCO said it regretted it was not notified ahead of time and would now review the building’s status. Erdogan has sought to shift Islam into the mainstream of Turkish politics in his 17 years at the helm. He has long floated restoring the mosque status of the sixth-century building, which was converted into a museum in the early days of the modern secular Turkish state under Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. “With this court ruling, and with the measures we took in line with the decision, Hagia Sophia became a mosque again, after 86 years, in the way Fatih the conqueror of Istanbul had wanted it to be,” Erdogan said in a national address.


In a telling of history at times critical of the Byzantine Empire and the modern republic’s founders, Erdogan said Turkey could now leave behind “the curse of Allah, profits and angels” that Fatih – the Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II – said would be on anyone who converted it from a mosque. “Like all our mosques, the doors of Hagia Sophia will be open to all, locals and foreigners, Muslims and non-Muslims,” said Erdogan, who earlier on Friday signed off on the Religious Affairs Directorate managing the site.

Read more …

 

 

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Apr 282020
 


Jack Delano Bridge with 5-ton coal bucket, Milwaukee Western Fuel Co 1942

 

World Should Have ‘Listened Carefully’ To WHO Advice In January – Tedros (RT)
Germany ‘Rejected China’s Bid For Positive Spin’ On Pandemic Response (SCMP)
COVID19 Mortality In French ICUs 3 To 4 Times Higher Than Reported (RT)
Pelosi Changes Position On Trump Travel Ban Once Called Racist (Turley)
Judge Blocks 30-Day Extension Of Illinois Stay-at-Home Order (CBS)
Alaska Girl Scouts Received PPP Loan For Lost Cookie Sales (AP)
US Doctors Have Started Giving Men With Coronavirus Estrogen (DM)
Italy, UK Explore Possible COVID19 Link To Child Inflammatory Disease (R.)
PETA Presses Pentagon To Stop Troops From Drinking Cobra Blood (Hill)
The Great Conundrum (Kunstler)
Gundlach Is Shorting The Market: Retest Of The Low ‘Very Plausible’ (CNBC)
‘Ducati’ Banknotes Issued To Italian Town Residents (VD)
Amartya Sen: Economics Needs A Moral Awakening (K.)
Brazil Court OKs Investigating Allegations Against Bolsonaro (R.)
Biden’s Conspiracy Theory Given Credence By Media, Democratic Leaders (Turley)
Former Neighbor Of Joe Biden’s Accuser Tara Reade Has Come Forward (BI)
Julian Assange Extradition Hearing Postponed For Up To Six Months (CW)

 

 

• Reported US coronavirus deaths on date:
Feb. 27: 0 deaths
Mar. 27: 1,588 deaths
Apr. 27: 56,255 deaths

 

 

Cases 3,080,101 (+ 71,905 from yesterday’s 3,008,196)

Deaths 212,265 (+ 4,904 from yesterday’s 207,361)

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

From SCMP:

 

 

From COVID19Info.live:

 

 

 

 

• On December 31 China and Taiwan tell WHO of “new pneumonia of unknown origin”.
• On January 30 “we declared the highest level of global emergency on Covid-19” (“Public Health Emergency of International Concern”)
• Why did WHO wait 6 more weeks, until March 11, to declare a pandemic? And isn’t that actually “the highest level of global emergency”?

World Should Have ‘Listened Carefully’ To WHO Advice In January – Tedros (RT)

Countries that ignored the WHO’s advice at the end of January have been less successful in tackling the Covid-19 pandemic, its director warned, as both the organization and world leaders face criticism for mishandling the crisis. “On January 30 we declared the highest level of global emergency on Covid-19 […] During that time, as you may remember, there were only 82 cases outside China. No cases in Latin America or Africa, only 10 cases in Europe. No cases in the rest of the world. So the world should have listened to the WHO then carefully,” World Health Organization Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a virtual press briefing on Monday.


He added that the countries which followed the WHO’s advice – by extensively testing their populations and implementing contact-tracing technologies – are “in a better position than others,” but that the WHO only operates in an advisory capacity and cannot mandate governments to follow its recommendations. However, even as the WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern” on January 30, critics were already arguing that the declaration was too late and didn’t convey the seriousness of the looming pandemic. Moreover, Tedros’ organization assured the public less than two weeks earlier that the virus couldn’t pass from person to person, and even as infections soared in late January and early February, the WHO insisted that travel bans – particularly those affecting China – were “ineffective” and promoted “stigma.”

Read more …

EU tones down report on China, Germany does not.

Germany ‘Rejected China’s Bid For Positive Spin’ On Pandemic Response (SCMP)

China asked Germany to put Chinese efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic in a positive light but Berlin rejected the request, German officials have said, countering statements by Chinese diplomats. The comments came to light on the weekend, just days after diplomatic sources in Europe said the European Union toned down a report detailing Chinese disinformation campaigns amid threats from Beijing. They also come as some Conservative Party parliamentarians in Britain have formed a new group to reassess relations with China. According to the German interior ministry, Chinese diplomats approached German government officials to encourage them to speak out in favour of Beijing’s response to the pandemic.

“The German government is aware of individual contacts made by Chinese diplomats with the aim of effecting positive public statements on the coronavirus management by the People’s Republic of China,” the ministry said in a letter to the Bundestag. “The federal government has not complied with these requests.” The letter, dated April 22, was sent to Green Party legislator Margarete Bause, one of the fiercest critics in Germany of the Chinese Communist Party, in response to her question on whether Chinese diplomats had contacted German officials with the goal of encouraging them to make positive remarks. The ministry said the government had acknowledged China’s efforts to contain the pandemic, particularly since January 23, even without being asked to do so by Beijing.

It also said that Berlin had told Beijing that it believed that transparency was important for combating the pandemic, without saying whether it believed the Chinese government had been transparent. News of the letter emerged on Sunday, the same day that the Chinese embassy in Berlin dismissed an earlier media report saying Chinese diplomats asked their German counterparts to send positive messages to recognise Beijing’s efforts. The Chinese diplomatic moves were first reported on April 12 by German newspaper Welt am Sonntag. The Chinese embassy accused the newspaper of “inaccurate and irresponsible reporting” that was filled with “arrogance and a feel-good attitude”.

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Same story all over. But YouTube banning that video is not a good sign.

COVID19 Mortality In French ICUs 3 To 4 Times Higher Than Reported (RT)

The number of people dying of the novel coronavirus in French intensive care units could be between three and four times higher than the figure provided by the French government, Le Monde newspaper reports, citing a new study. Between 30 and 40 percent of all Covid-19 patients, who are transferred to intensive care units and are put on ventilators in France, are dying, a new study by the European Research Network on Artificial Ventilation (REVA) suggests. This figure is several times higher than the data revealed by Jerome Salomon, the director general for health, a high-ranking official within the French interior ministry. Back in mid-April, Salomon said that the mortality rate in French intensive care units is only 10%.

Now, these estimates are disputed by a collaborative clinical research network uniting up to 200 intensive care centers across France and financed under the health ministry’s own hospital clinical research program (PHRC). As of Sunday, 4,682 Covid-19 patients were treated in intensive care units across France. The study conducted by REVA involved an analysis of 1,000 similar cases of patients who were treated between March 28 and April 25. Matthieu Schmidt, an intensivist at one of Europe’s largest hospitals – Pitie-Salpetriere University Hospital in Paris – and a REVA coordinator, described the mortality rate as “a huge figure.” The medics are still evaluating some data provided by several centers and the eventual figures could be slightly adjusted.

The general trend is unlikely to change and Schmidt described it as “indicative” of the situation in French intensive care. “We have never seen such death rates,” he told Le Monde, adding that the mortality rate during the 2009 swine flu outbreak stood at 25 percent even “with the most serious cases.” He added, however, that Covid-19-linked figures might not be a result of the French health system’s shortcomings but rather an indication that the novel coronavirus causes a severe complex pathology, which is not limited to pneumonia alone. Apart from causing pulmonary organs failure, the disease also causes severe inflammation and affects the vascular system and kidneys, the doctor said.

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‘‘The Trump Administration’s expansion of its outrageous, un-American travel ban threatens our security, our values and the rule of law.”

[..] “Tens of thousands of people were still allowed in from China”.

Yes, but those were Americans

Pelosi Changes Position On Trump Travel Ban Once Called Racist (Turley)

This weekend, CNN’s Jake Tapper did an excellent interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi where he drilled down on one of the most glaring contradictions in the Democratic narrative against President Donald Trump. Pelosi and other Democrats excoriated Trump for his order to block travel from China on January 30th. Pelosi was also in late February calling for people to mass in Chinatown in San Francisco to protest Trump’s comments and actions on China. Now, however, Pelosi is saying the problem was that the travel ban did not go far enough?

The Democrats have been struggling to negate the fact that Trump’s action in January counteracts the criticism that he did nothing, particularly when even that action was opposed by Democrats. Interviews on Sunday were damaging in a number of ways for that effort. In a different interview on Face the Nation, Mayor London Breed also tried to downplay the value of the travel ban by suggesting that she and other were already acting in December and declared an emergency in February. She then added that it is good that Chinatown “basically was a ghost town” in January.” While she referenced the “zenophobia” cited by Pelosi, she appeared to say that it was fortunate that no one was gathering in Chinatown. However in late February, Pelosi was encouraging people to mass in Chinatown.

Tapper’s interview pressed the point. When the order was imposed, Pelosi was publicly and vehemently opposed to even the notion of a ban: ‘‘The Trump Administration’s expansion of its outrageous, un-American travel ban threatens our security, our values and the rule of law.” Now however the order was not racist, but too little too late: “Tens of thousands of people were still allowed in from China. It wasn’t as it is described as this great moment. … If you’re going to shut the door because you have an evaluation of an epidemic, then shut the door”

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Times like these can unite people, or divide them even further.

Judge Blocks 30-Day Extension Of Illinois Stay-at-Home Order (CBS)

A southern Illinois judge on Monday blocked Governor J.B. Pritzker’s 30-day extension of the state’s stay-at-home order, granting a temporary restraining order sought by a Republican state lawmaker who argued the governor overstepped his authority, CBS Chicago reports. Pritzker, however, has vowed to appeal the ruling. CBS affiliate WCIA-TV reports Clay County Circuit Court Judge Michael McHaney granted a restraining order to temporarily block the governor’s latest executive order Monday afternoon. While the judge’s ruling only spares Bailey from the extended stay-at-home order, it does open the door for others in Illinois to join the lawsuit, or file their own. Pritzker said the state Attorney General’s Office will appeal the ruling.

“My team and I will fight this legal battle to the furthest extent possible, to ensure the public health and commonsense, and that those prevail,” he said. “This ruling has put the people of Illinois at risk. I sincerely hope that this matter will be brought to a swift resolution so that we can go back to placing our undivided attention on the work of keeping people safe.” A visibly angry Pritzker lashed out at Bailey, accusing him of putting the public in danger. “Rep. Darren Bailey’s decision to take to the courts to try and dismantle public health directives designed to keep people safe is an insult to all Illinoisans who have been lost during this COVID-19 crisis, and it’s a danger to millions of people who may get ill because of his recklessness,” Pritzker said shortly after the ruling.

“It’s insulting, it’s dangerous, and people’s safety and health has now been put at risk; there may be people who contract coronavirus as a result of what Darren Bailey has done.” The governor said his stay-at-home order has prevented tens of thousands of COVID-19 illnesses and thousands of deaths.

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To pay for magic trick lessons? Really?

Alaska Girl Scouts Received PPP Loan For Lost Cookie Sales (AP)

Selling Girl Scout cookies is normally a foolproof business model, but the coronavirus outbreak cooled sales of for Alaska scourts. The Girl Scouts of Alaska looked for help and the group is expected to receive a federal recovery loan to help compensate for lost cookie sales. First National Bank Alaska facilitated the federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, The Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday. Leslie Ridle, head of one of Alaska’s two Girl Scouts councils, said fears of girls becoming infected with COVID-19 forced the organization to cut its six-week sales season in half. Cookie sales fund nearly everything the council does, including camps and scholarships for 3,500 girls and wages for 20 full-time employees.


“It was frenzied shopping, and people were hoarding cookies like they were toilet paper,” Ridle said of sales before the state ordered business closures last month. Now her Anchorage-based council is sitting on about 144,000 unsold boxes filling the homes of scouting families in southern Alaska, Ridle said. “I’m hearing from lots of families: ‘When am I getting these out of my living rooms?’ ” Ridle said. A First National Bank Alaska loan officer called at night and on weekends, including Easter Sunday, to gather information to obtain the loan, which arrived in the council’s bank account last week, Ridle said. The funding allowed employees to continue working and provide online programs for Girl Scouts stuck at home, like magic trick lessons and flamenco dancing.

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And teach them how to smoke too. WIld assumptions galore.

US Doctors Have Started Giving Men With Coronavirus Estrogen (DM)

Doctors are wondering if giving men two female sex hormones could make them more likely to survive the novel coronavirus. Across the globe, women from most countries have been less likely to become abruptly ill with the virus, and less likely to die from it. This has led many researchers to wonder if the hormones mainly produced in women could be protective, reported The New York Times. Two hospitals in the US are now putting that theory to the test, giving men estrogen or progesterone for a limited amount of time to see if it boosts their immune systems, decreases inflammation and reduces the severity of the illness. The differences in death rates among men and women have been apparent from early on in the pandemic. Last month, Italy’s public health research agency said that more than 70 percent of the country’s deaths have been in men.


And, in February, China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention said the fatality rate among men with coronavirus was 65 percent higher than among women. Scientists say they don’t know why women seem less likely to die, but have suggested that women naturally tend to have stronger immune systems and are less likely to have long-term health conditions which make patients more vulnerable. In China, researchers pointed the finger at men being more likely to smoke and drink, but this was a cultural factor which may be different in other countries. This soon became apparent in the US. In New York, more than 60 percent of the state’s deaths have been among men. Early research has suggested the hormones may reduce the number of ACE2 receptors on the surfaces of cells that the virus uses to enter the body.

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Poor kids.

Italy, UK Explore Possible COVID19 Link To Child Inflammatory Disease (R.)

Italian and British medical experts are investigating a possible link between the coronavirus pandemic and clusters of severe inflammatory disease among infants who are arriving in hospital with high fevers and swollen arteries. Doctors in northern Italy, one of the world’s hardest-hit areas during the pandemic, have reported extraordinarily large numbers of children aged under nine with severe cases of what appears to be Kawasaki disease, more common in parts of Asia. In Britain, doctors have made similar observations, prompting Health Secretary Matt Hancock to tell a coronavirus news briefing on Monday that he was “very worried” and that medical authorities were looking at the issue closely.

Kawasaki disease, whose cause is unknown, often afflicts children aged under 5 and is associated with fever, skin rashes, swelling of glands and, in severe cases, inflammation of arteries of the heart. England’s national medical director, Stephen Powis, told the British briefing he had become aware of reports of severely ill children with Kawasaki-like symptoms in the past few days but stressed it was too early to determine a link with coronavirus. “I’ve asked the national clinical director for children and young people to look into this as a matter of urgency … We’re not sure at the moment.”

In Italy, pediatricians are also alarmed. A hospital in the northern town of Bergamo has seen more than 20 cases of severe vascular inflammation in the past month, six times as many as it would expect to see in a year, said paediatric heart specialist Matteo Ciuffreda. Ciuffreda, of the Giovanni XXIII hospital, said only a few of the infants with vascular inflammation had tested positive for the new coronavirus, but pediatric cardiologists in Madrid and Lisbon had told him they had seen similar cases. He has called on his colleagues to document every such case to determine if there is a correlation between Kawasaki disease and COVID-19.

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Say what?

PETA Presses Pentagon To Stop Troops From Drinking Cobra Blood (Hill)

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is pushing the Pentagon to end the use of live animals during an annual survival training in Thailand that has involved U.S. troops drinking cobra blood. In a letter Monday to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the animal rights group argued that the use of live animals at what’s known as the Cobra Gold exercise puts troops at risk of contracting zoonotic diseases like the coronavirus. “Considering the danger zoonotic diseases pose to the troops — and indeed to all humanity — it is imperative that you end the use of live animals in Cobra Gold and instead use more effective and ethical non-animal training methods,” wrote Shalin Gala, PETA’s vice president of international laboratory methods.


Cobra Gold is a multinational military exercise and the largest in the Indo-Pacific region. It has several stages, including live fire training, landmine destruction and an amphibious assault demonstration. The event includes jungle survival training led by Thai instructors, and photos released by the U.S. military of this year’s exercises in late February and early March show Marines drinking cobra blood and eating live scorpions. PETA, which cited a video from the South China Morning Post that also showed Marines killing chickens with their bare hands and skinning and eating live geckos, previously took issue with the survival training in a March letter to Marines Commandant Gen. David Berger.

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Globalization doesn’t provide the right scale.

The Great Conundrum (Kunstler)

Reality is telling us that things organized on the gigantic scale are entering failure mode; but so many Americans are employed by exactly those activities organized on the gigantic scale. Or were, I should say. The humungous joint effort by the federal government and its caporegime, the federal reserve, to flood the system with dollars is precisely a desperate effort to prop up the giant-scale activities that defined the prior state-of-things. Those giant enterprises even did an end-run around the truly small businesses that were supposed to get scores of billions in grants, loans, and bailouts so congress is attempting a do-over of that play.

The question, then, is how do you go through a swift and dramatic re-scaling of a hypertrophic, excessively complex, ecologically fragile economic system in a way that doesn’t produce a whole lot of damage? I can’t answer that satisfactorily except to say this: at least recognize what the macro trend is (downscaling and re-localization), and support that as much as possible. Don’t knock yourself out trying to save giant, foundering enterprises that need to go out of business. Don’t bankrupt the society or destroy the meaning of its money to prevent the necessary bankruptcy of things that must go bankrupt. Remove as many obstacles as you possibly can to allow smaller-scaled enterprises to thrive and especially to support the rebuilding of local networks that smaller-scaled businesses play their roles in.

Apart from the insane spending orgy of the fed-gov and the fed, a lot of this is already underway organically and emergently. Few have failed to notice the death throes of national chain retail, for instance. Macys, JC Penny, Neiman Marcus and many other outfits like them are whirling around the drain. By the way, even the holy sainted Walmart will not be immune to this trend. Its supply lines have been cut. And, as I averred on Friday, Amazon’s dumb-ass business model will sink with the oil and trucking industries. Realize, too, commerce will persist in human life. It just won’t be the Blue-Light-Special, credit-fueled phantasmagoria we got used to for a few decades. Commerce, i.e. the trade in goods, will have to be reorganized differently. There are huge opportunities for young people who recognize this.

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The bottom’s falling out.

Gundlach Is Shorting The Market: Retest Of The Low ‘Very Plausible’ (CNBC)

Jeffrey Gundlach, CEO of DoubleLine, said Monday that the stock market could sell off again to retest the low in March as he believes investors are too optimistic about the economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m certainly in the camp that we are not out of the woods. I think a retest of the low is very plausible,” Gundlach said on CNBC’s “Halftime Report.” “I think we’d take out the low.” “People don’t understand the magnitude of … the social unease at least that’s going to happen when … 26 million-plus people have lost their job,” Gundlach said. “We’ve lost every single job that we created since the bottom in 2009.” The so-called bond king revealed he just initiated a short position against the stock market.


“Actually I did just put a short on the S&P at 2,863. At this level, I think the upside and downside is very poor. I don’t think it could make it to 3,000, but it could. I think downside easily to the lows or beyond … I’m not nearly where I was in February when I was very, very short,” Gundlach said. The S&P 500 has bounced 30% off its March 23 low of 2,191.86 as investors cheered the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented stimulus measures as well as signs that the pandemic could be easing. In March, the S&P 500 tumbled into a bear market at the fastest pace ever as the outbreak caused unprecedented economic uncertainty. At its worst level of the sell-off, the S&P 500 was down about 34% from its all-time high on Feb. 19. The equity benchmark is now about 16% below that record.

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Some people know their history.

‘Ducati’ Banknotes Issued To Italian Town Residents (VD)

THE small Italian town of Castellino del Biferno has begun minting its own banknotes in a bid to help residents struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 lockdown. The town, which has just 550 residents, is handing the ‘Ducati’ notes out to residents based upon their economic needs. The notes can be spent at local shops for food and necessities, with the shops returning the notes to the town council upon which they are reimbursed for their sales. The denominations of the notes is exactly the same as a Euro, five Ducati is five Euro and 20 Ducati is 20 Euro and so on. The move was agreed to help the elderly, who need the help the most, understand the new currency.


The mayor of Castellino del Biferno received a grant of €5,500 from the government to issue food vouchers to vulnerable families during the pandemic. The town council added its savings and distributed “Ducati” banknotes to over 200 families in town. The mayor of the town hopes the notes will do more than just help people buy everyday items. It’s reported that he sees the crisis money as an opportunity to increase the town’s sense of belonging. To try and do that, the banknotes depict local symbols like the church, the public swimming pool, and also the statue of the Virgin Mary. Castellino del Biferno sits in a mountainous region of southern Italy called Molise. The areas rugged geography and sparse population have so far meant the number of COVID-19 cases is low, although the citizens are still clearly feeling the effects of the Italy-wide lockdown.

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Freedom “is a “balanced approach” between positive and negative freedom”..

Amartya Sen: Economics Needs A Moral Awakening (K.)

Still teaching at Harvard (online these days), Sen is the author of the capability approach to political philosophy, according to which a person is free only to the extent that they are capable to pursue the ends that give value to life. Thus, a lack of access to healthcare is an element of unfreedom, even for someone living in a politically and economically liberal polity. Does the pandemic highlight the importance of capabilities as a constitutive element of freedom? “The European welfare state, including the national health service, is an excellent example of the conception of freedom as capability, including but going well beyond the ‘negative’ conception of liberty as the absence of coercion,” he says, alluding to Isaiah Berlin’s classic taxonomy.

He characterizes the 2008 global crisis as stemming from “an overreliance on ‘negative liberty,’ as the banks were allowed to engage in practices with no social benefit but great potential for destruction, like the insuring of bonds they didn’t own against default.” The ideal, he says, is a “balanced approach” between positive and negative freedom – something understood by the great theoreticians of political economy, from Adam Smith and Condorcet to J.S. Mill, Karl Marx and A.C. Pigou. This approach “was the foundation of the post-war welfare state in Europe.” Sen brings up the example of World War II Britain, where “there was a fear that there would not be enough food and that people would starve.

So the policy of rationing and of controlled prices was implemented. As a result, not only was starvation averted, but undernourishment declined greatly, and severe undernourishment disappeared altogether.” It took the war, he explains, “to make the British government take on the responsibility of feeding the entire British population – though this did not extend to its colonial subjects in India, where there was a major famine during the war years.” He observes that “unfortunately” in the current crisis the “culture of sharing does not seem, so far at least, to be gaining much ground – though the problem is less acute in Europe than it is in the US or India.”

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One corrupt faction trying to oust the other.

Brazil Court OKs Investigating Allegations Against Bolsonaro (R.)

A Supreme Court judge on Monday authorized an investigation of allegations that Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro tried to interfere in the work of the country’s federal police force for political motives, the top court said on its website. Justice Celso de Mello gave the federal police 60 days to carry out the investigation requested by Brazil’s chief public prosecutor Augusto Aras following the accusations made by former justice minister Sergio Moro, who resigned on Friday. Moro said Bolsonaro had pressed him to change the chief of the federal police and accused the president of seeking to interfere in investigations that involved family members, to the point of requesting intelligence files.


Bolsonaro called the accusations unfounded, but they have set off the worst political crisis since he took office in January last year and lost the far-right leader valuable allies. The investigation comes at a bad moment for Bolsonaro who is facing criticism for downplaying the gravity of the coronavirus epidemic that has killed over 4,500 people in the country and virtually paralyzed Latin America’s largest economy. Based on the results of the police investigation, the public prosecutor will have to decide whether to press charges against the president or his former minister.

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“Mark my words, I think he is going to try to kick back the election somehow, and come up with some rationale why it cannot be held.” It is just the type of thing that a crazed guy in a tightly buttoned raincoat whispers to you on the subway…

Biden’s Conspiracy Theory Given Credence By Media, Democratic Leaders (Turley)

If there are two words that have become a virtual mantra in the media during the last three years under President Trump, they would be “conspiracy theory.” The conspiracy theory label is a wonderful device to attack political opponents. It not only suggests something is objectively untrue but that the person responsible for it is unhinged and unreliable. When Republican members of Congress suggested two months ago that the coronavirus might have come from a research lab in Wuhan, for instance, it was widely denounced as a conspiracy theory, even though some intelligence officials believe the theory is credible.

Unsurprisingly, it is a term almost exclusively reserved in the media for Trump and his supporters. That was evident this week when the ultimate conspiracy theory was voiced by presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, who warned that he was certain Trump plans to delay the election this fall. It is a conspiracy theory that is utterly without factual or constitutional support, yet his warning was deemed a “prediction” in a recent article by Politico. It has been peddled by various Democratic figures and commentators for months and is all the rage on the internet, even though it should be sold as a set that includes a tin foil hat and an electromagnetic ghost detector.

Biden left little doubt of such a plan by Trump. He said, “Mark my words, I think he is going to try to kick back the election somehow, and come up with some rationale why it cannot be held.” It is just the type of thing that a crazed guy in a tightly buttoned raincoat whispers to you on the subway. But Biden was not finished. If you attended a recent online fundraiser, it probably felt like you could not change your seat as Biden grew uncomfortably close and went on to explain that it was the Postal Service which revealed the conspiracy theory to him.

Biden alleged that the administration is pressuring the Postal Service to make changes in its operations as a condition for coronavirus relief. As Biden explained, “Imagine threatening not to fund the post office. Other than trying to let the word out that he is going to do all he can to make it very hard for people to vote, that is the only way he thinks he can possibly win.” The other way would be that his opponent flees to the desert to live in a bunker and protect his mail and “precious bodily fluids.”

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Pretty explicit. You can’t hide him forever, guys.

Former Neighbor Of Joe Biden’s Accuser Tara Reade Has Come Forward (BI)

In March, when a former aide to Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden accused the candidate of sexually assaulting her in 1993, two people came forward to say that the woman, Tara Reade, had told them of the incident shortly after it allegedly occurred – her brother, Collin Moulton, and a friend who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. Now two more sources have come forward to corroborate certain details about Reade’s claims. One of them – a former neighbor of Reade’s – has told Insider for the first time, on the record, that Reade disclosed details about the alleged assault to her in the mid-1990s. “This happened, and I know it did because I remember talking about it,” Lynda LaCasse, who lived next door to Reade in the mid-’90s, told Insider.


The other source, Lorraine Sanchez, who worked with Reade in the office of a California state senator in the mid-’90s, told Insider that she recalls Reade complaining at the time that her former boss in Washington, DC, had sexually harassed her, and that she had been fired after raising concerns. In interviews with Insider, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the politics podcaster Katie Halper – who broke the story of the assault allegations – Reade has said that in the spring or summer of 1993, she was told to meet Biden in a semiprivate corridor to deliver a duffel bag. There, she said, Biden pushed her up against a wall, reached under her skirt, and penetrated her with his fingers. When she resisted his advances, Reade said, Biden expressed annoyance and said, “Aw man, I heard you liked me.” Then, she said, he pointed a finger at her and said, “You’re nothing to me.” After that, she said, he shook her by the shoulders and said, “You’re OK, you’re fine,” before walking away.

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Julian Assange Extradition Hearing Postponed For Up To Six Months (CW)

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s US extradition hearing has been postponed for up to six months after defence and prosecution lawyers agreed it would no longer be in the interests of justice to try the case in May. Assange’s lawyers told the court that, in the midst of the UK’s Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown, they had not been able to meet with their client either in person or over video link to prepare the case. The decision came after Edward Fitzgerald, representing Assange, told the court it had not been possible for Assange’s legal team to take instructions in response to new documents served by US prosecutor Gordon Kromberg.

[..] Observers and journalists dialled in to an hour-long court hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, but frequently had difficulty hearing what the lawyers were saying, even when a court clerk repeated the words of Assange’s defence barrister for those on the conference call. Fitzgerald said the defence team had not been able to gain access to their client, who is being held in Belmarsh Prison, to discuss the case. “Mr Assange is going into battle with his hands tied behind his back,” he said. [..] The government extended coronavirus restrictions on 16 April 2020 for at least another three weeks until 8 May, and even if they were lifted, there would not be enough time to prepare for the hearing, which was scheduled for 18 May.

“It would be impossible to ensure open justice during the lockdown by making provisions for the press and the public to attend, said Fitzgerald. “There would not be time for lawyers to take full and proper instructions from Mr Assange,” he said. Assange’s defence team said in written submissions that solicitors or counsel could not reasonably be expected to sit in close proximity in breach of government guidelines. An attempt by the judge to allow Assange’s lawyers to meet with their client in the cells of Woolwich Crown Court by scheduling an “administrative hearing” on 20 April failed after prison authorities said it would breach the two-metre social distancing rules.

After an intervention by the court, Belmarsh Prison extraordinarily said it was prepared to lift its two-metre distancing rules to allow lawyers to meet Assange on 22 April. But it was not foreseeable that prison cell visits, where multiple people were ordered to travel to prison to congregate in interview rooms in violation of coronavirus distancing requirements, would be lawful, Fitzgerald said in a written submission. [..] The judge said there was space in the court calendar to hear two weeks of the three-week extradition hearing from 20 July. That could be followed by a further week in August. The earliest available date for a full three-week hearing is 2 November. The court adjourned until 4 May to allow Assange’s legal team to take instructions from their client over a preferred date.

Read more …

 

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Feb 052020
 


DPC Pine Street below Kearney after the great San Francisco earthquake and fire 1906

 

China Applies For Drug Patent, Virus Death Toll +65 To 492 (SCMP)
Cruise Ship Carrying 3,700 Quarantined In Japan After 10 Test Positive (G.)
China’s Airlines Told Not To Axe Global Flights As Thousands Cut (R.)
Cathay Pacific Asks All 27,000 Employees To Take 3 Weeks Unpaid Leave (SCMP)
Trump-Pelosi Feud Erupts During SOTU As Impeachment Trial Nears End (R.)
Ocasio-Cortez Among 10 Democrats Planning To Boycott State Of The Union (G.)
Joe Biden Flopped In Iowa. And So Did The Democratic Party’s Reputation (G.)
The Big Tech Money Behind The App That Brought Chaos To The Iowa Caucus (F.)
Oil Flips Into Contango, Indicating Months Of Surplus (R.)
Britain To Ban New Petrol And Hybrid Cars From 2035 (R.)
Tesla Shares March Toward $1,000 (R.)
Musk’s Tesla Stake Worth $30 Billion After Electrifying Stock Surge (R.)
Council of Europe Sides With Julian Assange (IA)

 

 

Here we go again. The WuhanCorona virus continues on its record-setting path.

• Total cases 24,542 (+3872)

• 4,105 new cases in China (record daily high)

• 492 deaths (+65, also a record daily high)

• 185,555 cases under medical observation

Note: this pic below comes from a SCMP app that constantly updates. Numbers in articles do not necessarily. Therefore, they don’t always “add up”.

Note also the addition of recovered cases.

 

 

A few pics I picked up. How stark would you like it?

 

Here someone is trying to make the argument that the mortality rate is falling. That would be great, but I’m not sure it is true. Many factors have changed since the count began.

 

 

 

Gilead’s remdesivir looks like a Hail Mary. Not sure what the new patent application entails. A general anti-viral that came out of Ebola research?!

China Applies For Drug Patent, Virus Death Toll +65 To 492 (SCMP)

Daily deaths caused by the new coronavirus have reached yet another record high in China, with 65 fatalities – all in Hubei province – confirmed in overnight figures released by health authorities. The newly reported fatalities took the death toll in mainland China to 490. According to data released on Wednesday morning by China’s National Health Commission (NHC), confirmed cases around the country rose by 3,887 – also a daily record high – to 24,324, the majority of which were in Hubei, the epicentre of the outbreak. Cases of the novel coronavirus in Hubei rose by 3,156 to 16,678, according to provincial figures as of midnight on Tuesday. Almost 2,000 of those new cases were confirmed in Hubei’s capital of Wuhan, where the virus is believed to have originated at a seafood and meat market.

China has applied for a new patent on an experimental drug to treat the coronavirus. Wuhan Institute of Virology said in an online notice that a patent application had been filed on January 21 for the use of remdesivir, a drug developed by biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences. The drug has not been approved or licensed anywhere in the world, but has been rushed into trials in China after showing signs of effective use on coronavirus patients. Chinese scientists have found remdesivir – and chloroquine, an 80-year-old malaria drug – “highly effective” in laboratory studies aimed at thwarting the coronavirus, they said in a paper published on Tuesday in the journal Cell Research.

The two drugs’ effect on humans required further clinical tests, the Wuhan institute said in the online notice. It made the patent application in the national interest and would not exercise its patent rights if foreign pharmaceutical firms worked with China to curb the contagion, it said.

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The only people that can get off the ship are the ones that are confirmed infected. Hell on water.

One 80-year-old tested positive After leaving the ship. Then 273 were tested. When the first 31 results came in, 10 tested positive. That leaces 3,300 untested?

Cruise Ship Carrying 3,700 Quarantined In Japan After 10 Test Positive (G.)

Thousands of people face spending the next fortnight stuck on a luxury cruise ship quarantined off the Japanese port of Yokohama, after initial results showed 10 passengers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The Diamond Princess, with more than 3,700 passengers and crew onboard, had been prevented from sailing on Monday after an 80-year-old passenger who had travelled on the vessel late last month tested positive after he arrived home in Hong Kong. Of a further 273 people on board who have since been tested following health screenings, 31 results had come back – and of those 10 were positive, according to Japan’s health minister, Katsunobu Kato. It is not clear if more tests will be carried out.

Also on Wednesday, health checks began on 1,800 passengers and crew on a second cruise ship docked in Hong Kong, after 30 staff members reported symptoms including fever, according to Reuters. Hong Kong’s health department said that 90% of the passengers were Hong Kongers and no mainland Chinese were on board. Previously, three mainland Chinese that had been on the ship between 19 and 24 January, and were found to have contracted the virus. No passengers have been able to leave the World Dream ship, operated by Dream Cruises, without permission. David Abel, a British passenger who has been on the Diamond Princess for more than two weeks, said that people were now being confined to their cabins.

“We’re not even allowed to open the cabin door to go down the corridor. They bring the food to us – it’s a knock on the door. For the first time ever the crew are masked up,” he said. [..] Two Australians are among the 10 people who have tested positive, the cruise company Carnival confirmed. The other people infected are three Japanese, three from Hong Kong, one American and one Filipino crewmember. The patients, who are reportedly aged in their 50s to their 80s, were being removed from the ship by the coast guard and taken to local hospitals. The ship’s owner, Princess Cruises, said 3,711 people were aboard the ship, consisting of 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew. About half of the passengers are from Japan, with 223 Australians on the vessel.

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They’ll be stopped soon enough. There are no other options left.

China’s Airlines Told Not To Axe Global Flights As Thousands Cut (R.)

China’s civil aviation authority has urged domestic carriers to continue flying international routes as they consider cuts in response to a drop in demand due to the coronavirus outbreak, state news agency Xinhua reported on Tuesday. Airline capacity is being axed in the world’s second largest aviation market with “the most dramatic change in schedules”, OAG Aviation Worldwide Ltd said, adding that more than 25,000 flights to, from or within China will be canceled this week. The coronavirus epidemic, which has killed more than 400 people in China, has resulted in bans or restrictions on travel to and from China imposed by countries including Singapore and Italy. The World Health Organization’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had said travel bans were unnecessary.


The Civil Aviation Administration of China’s appeal to the country’s airlines was reported on Xinhua’s account on Chinese messaging app Weibo. Data from aviation statistics provider VariFlight showed 41 Chinese carriers canceled nearly two-thirds of the 16,623 planned flights for Tuesday as of 10:30 a.m. Beijing time (0230 GMT). In addition, 10 regional airlines from Hong Kong and Taiwan had canceled 162 flights, while 37 airlines from other countries canceled 168 flights on the same day, VariFlight said. It also said that some 90,000 flights were canceled between Jan. 10 and Feb. 3, and that about 10,000 planned flights on average have been scrapped each day since the start of February.

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But Hong Kong’s airline is not listening…

Cathay Pacific Asks All 27,000 Employees To Take 3 Weeks Unpaid Leave (SCMP)

Cathay Pacific is asking all of its 27,000 employees to take three weeks of unpaid leave over the coming months, the company’s CEO told staff on Wednesday, as Hong Kong’s flagship carrier reels from the devastating impact of the deadly coronavirus on air travel. “I am appealing to each and everyone one of you to help,” said Augustus Tang Kin-wing in a taped video recording. “The situation now is just as grave.” On Tuesday, Hong Kong’s flagship carrier unveiled massive cuts to flying schedules, by 30 per cent worldwide for two months, including in mainland China which would see 90 per cent of its capacity cut during that period.

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Grace, Nancy. It has a place. You lost your gamble, and the way you take your losses tells people a lot about you.

Trump-Pelosi Feud Erupts During SOTU As Impeachment Trial Nears End (R.)

A bitter feud between U.S. President Donald Trump and top Democrat Nancy Pelosi boiled over at his State of the Union speech on Tuesday, with Trump denying her a handshake and Pelosi ripping apart a copy of his remarks behind his back. Trump avoided the subject of his impeachment drama in a pugnacious 80-minute speech, but the raw wounds from the battle were evident with fellow Republicans giving him standing ovations while rival Democrats for the most part remained seated. The Republican-led Senate was expected to acquit him of charges he abused his powers and obstructed Congress during a vote beginning at 4 p.m. EST on Wednesday.


How some Republicans watched SOTU

Seeing Pelosi, the U.S. House of Representatives speaker, for the first time since she stormed out of a White House meeting four months ago, Trump declined to shake her outstretched hand as he gave her a paper copy of his remarks before starting to speak. Despite having not spoken to Trump since their last meeting, Pelosi appeared to be taken aback. She avoided citing the customary “high privilege and distinct honor” that usually accompanies the speaker’s introduction of the president to Congress. “Members of Congress, the President of the United States” was all she said in introducing Trump.


When his speech ended, Pelosi stood and tore up her copy of the remarks he had handed her, later telling reporters it was “the courteous thing to do, considering the alternative.” Kayleigh McEnany, Trump’s campaign spokeswoman, said of Pelosi: “Her hatred for @realdonaldtrump has blinded her to the repulsive nature of her smug, elitist behavior.” After the event, Pelosi tweeted a photo of her with her hand reaching out to Trump and said, “Democrats will never stop extending the hand of friendship to get the job done #ForThePeople. We will work to find common ground where we can, but will stand our ground where we cannot. #SOTU”

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Preaching only to her own little crowd, empty virtue signals. Same as Pelosi: grace has its place.

Ocasio-Cortez Among 10 Democrats Planning To Boycott State Of The Union (G.)

At least 10 Democrats have said they will boycott Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night on the eve of a Senate impeachment trial vote that is expected to acquit him. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, said she would not be attending because she did not want to normalize Trump’s “lawless conduct” and “subversion of the constitution”. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts issued a statement explaining her decision, saying: “The State of the Union is hurting because of the occupant of the White House, who consistently demonstrates contempt for the American people, contempt for Congress, and contempt for our constitution – strong-arming a sham impeachment trial in the Senate. This presidency is not legitimate.”


“On the eve of Senate Republicans covering up transgressions and spreading misinformation, I cannot in good conscience attend a sham State of the Union when I have seen firsthand the damage Donald J Trump’s rhetoric and policies have inflicted on those I love and those I represent.” Both women attended Trump’s State of the Union speech last year just a month after taking office, but have since been the target of his racist attacks. The two other members of “the Squad” of progressive freshman congresswomen who were also subjected to those attacks, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota confirmed they would attend the address.

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Biden is gone. Buttigieg is suspicious. It’s not about the party’s reputation anymore, it’s about the Party itself.

Joe Biden Flopped In Iowa. And So Did The Democratic Party’s Reputation (G.)

If you’re the type of person who thinks the Democratic party is a creaking, incompetent entity whose leadership needs overthrowing, the Iowa caucuses certainly validated your point of view. None of us knew who would win, but we had at least expected a result. We didn’t get one, at least not on caucus night. State Democratic party officials announced that due to “quality control” issues, release of the result would be indefinitely delayed. On a conference call with representatives of the candidates, party officials hung up the phone when asked when the totals would be released. So what do we know? Well, one thing we can say confidently is that “frontrunner” Joe Biden flopped.

There were places where Biden didn’t even meet the 15% threshold needed to maintain viability from the first round to the second round – at one caucus site, the attorney general of Iowa had to switch from Biden to Buttigieg when Biden was disqualified. It explains why Biden’s surrogate John Kerry was heard on the phone the other day asking whether it would be possible for him to enter the race at the last minute to save the Democratic party from being conquered by Sanders. Internal numbers released by the Sanders campaign, showing results from 40% of caucus sites, showed Sanders winning with approximately 30% of the vote, Pete Buttigieg coming in second with 25%, Elizabeth Warren third with 21%, and Joe Biden a very distant fourth with 12%.

If those numbers match the ultimate totals, they are great for Sanders and absolutely horrific for Biden. Sanders will have kicked the crap out of the frontrunner, Barack Obama’s former vice-president and the man most favored to win the nomination. It would be a stunning upset. But Biden caught a lucky break. With the party not releasing the actual result, his campaign sent a letter demanding that the result be suppressed until such time as the “quality control issues” were resolved. If it takes long enough to get the official count, Biden may hope that Iowa is old news, or that the issues surrounding the caucus are discussed far more than the actual result. (That’s one reason we need to make sure we don’t get bogged down too much in talking about the procedural issues rather than the actual outcome.)

[..] If you’re a Sanders supporter, you have reason to be suspicious. We had already seen the Des Moines Register suppress the results of its “gold standard” poll on the eve of the election, after a complaint from Buttigieg. And with 0% of caucus results in, Buttigieg declared himself “victorious”, praising the “incredible result” and saying Iowa had “shocked the nation”. The only thing that had shocked the nation at this point was Iowa’s total inability to perform the relatively simple task of counting people’s votes. But Buttigieg, good McKinseyite that he is, was getting a head start on deploying the PR spin.

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“..cutting-edge technology to stymie a Trump re-election..”

The Big Tech Money Behind The App That Brought Chaos To The Iowa Caucus (F.)

The smartphone app that caused a major delay in reporting results during Iowa’s Democratic caucus was funded by both Democratic presidential candidates and Silicon Valley veterans anxious to use cutting-edge technology to stymie a Trump re-election. The app that was supposed to count and report caucus results was created by Shadow Inc., a for-profit tech company cofounded in February 2019 by former Google engineer Kirsta Davis and Gerard Niemira, an engineer who worked at San Francisco microlender Kiva.org. Both later worked on Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign.


Washington D.C.-based Shadow was acquired last year by Acronym, a nonprofit also based in D.C. and founded in March 2017 by former journalist Tara McGowan to advance “progressive causes through innovative communications, advertising and organizing programs.” It has an affiliated political action committee called Pacronym. Silicon Valley heavyweights make up the liberal-leaning roster of Pacronym’s backers. One supporter is billionaire Michael Moritz, a partner at Sequoia Capital, whose net worth of $4.1 billion stems from his early bets on Google, LinkedIn and PayPal. According to Federal Election Committee data, he gave $1 million to Pacronym, or 12.8% of the $7.8 million that it has raised since early 2019.

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Mighty OPEC loses to tiny virus.

Oil Flips Into Contango, Indicating Months Of Surplus (R.)

The oil market looks set for at least four months of depressed demand because of China’s coronavirus outbreak, with a large crude surplus not expected to clear at least until August, analysts and traders said. Fears of a virus-related slump in global energy demand have flipped the market into contango this week – a structure in which longer-dated oil futures trade at a premium that encourages traders to keep crude in storage for more profitable resale in the future. Brent crude has not been in contango since July 2019. On Tuesday the benchmark was in contango for as much as $0.40 a barrel between prices for closest trading month April and August. For U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude the contango between March and July prices was $0.60 a barrel.

The structure of the market has significant implications. Besides encouraging storage of oil, contango also hurts financial investors who have to pay a premium every month they renew a futures contract. [..] Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, said the flip of time spreads into contango is consistent with the physical market suddenly shifting into a large surplus. “While deferred Brent time spreads are too discounted in our view, evidence that Chinese refiners are pushing back on crude shipments and Atlantic loadings points to ongoing weakness for nearby Brent time spreads,” Goldman said in a market note. China has been the main driver of global energy demand growth in recent years and ING Bank said the market is clearly worried that Chinese refinery demand will retreat.

“The issue for the market is if travel restrictions continue for an extended period … demand loss will become increasingly difficult for the market to swallow,” ING said, adding OPEC+ could come under increasing pressure to cut output by more than laid out in their existing supply pact.

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Until you have been explained exactly where the electricity will come from, this is nothing but a swindle. Do you like being swindled?

Britain To Ban New Petrol And Hybrid Cars From 2035 (R.)

Britain will ban the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars from 2035, five years earlier than planned, in an attempt to reduce air pollution that could herald the end of over a century of reliance on the internal combustion engine. The step amounts to a victory for electric cars that if copied globally could hit the wealth of oil producers, as well as transform the car industry and one of the icons of 20th Century capitalism: the automobile itself. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seeking to use the announcement to elevate the United Kingdom’s environmental credentials after he sacked the head of a Glasgow U.N. Climate Change Conference planned for November known as COP26.


“We have to deal with our CO2 emissions,” Johnson said at a launch event for COP26 at London’s Science Museum on Tuesday. “As a country and as a society, as a planet, as a species, we must now act.” The government said that, subject to consultation, it would end the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans in 2035, or earlier if a faster transition was possible. Countries and cities around the world have announced plans to crack down on diesel vehicles following the 2015 Volkswagen emissions scandal and the EU is introducing tougher carbon dioxide rules. The mayors of Paris, Madrid, Mexico City and Athens have said they plan to ban diesel vehicles from city centres by 2025. France is preparing to ban the sale of fossil fuel-powered cars by 2040.

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Trading hot air.

Tesla Shares March Toward $1,000 (R.)

Shares of Tesla Inc surged 20% on Tuesday to hit $940, extending a stunning rally that has more than doubled the company’s market value since the start of the year as more investors bet on Chief Executive Elon Musk’s vision. The latest surge was partly fueled by Panasonic saying on Monday its automotive battery venture with Tesla was in the black for the first time. “Investors are now starting to believe that Tesla can make mass-volume electric vehicles, and automakers, battery makers and suppliers can make money from EVs,” said Cho Hyun-ryul, analyst at Samsung Securities. Some analysts have attributed the rally to short covering as well. Short interest in Tesla stood at 13.8% as of Jan. 30, according to Refinitiv data.


Shares of heavily shorted companies can at times get pushed higher as traders rush to buy stock to cover their short bets, triggering what is known as a “short squeeze”. Panasonic shares closed up 10%, while those of Tesla’s Asian suppliers South Korea’s LG Chem and China’s CATL also closed higher. Tesla’s surge on Tuesday valued the company at nearly $170 billion, nearly double the combined market capitalization of General Motors and Ford Motor. Tesla last week reported a second consecutive quarterly profit and said it would comfortably make more than half a million vehicles this year. Billionaire investor Ron Baron, whose firm holds a nearly 1% stake in Tesla, said he will not be selling a single Tesla share, adding he believes the carmaker could hit $1 trillion in revenue in 10 years.

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Fridges for Inuit.

Musk’s Tesla Stake Worth $30 Billion After Electrifying Stock Surge (R.)

Tesla is making Elon Musk a lot richer without paying him a dime. A blistering stock rally has bolstered the value of CEO Musk’s 19% stake in the electric car maker by $16 billion since the start of 2020, to $30 billion. Tuesday’s steep climb in the share price could sweeten Musk’s payday under his record-breaking compensation package, which is built on stock options that rely on market value targets. Two milestones have now been achieved that could see Musk unlock options worth $1.8 billion. The controversial chief executive, who is also the majority owner and CEO of rocket maker SpaceX, recently testified that he did not have a lot of cash as he successfully defended himself in a defamation lawsuit. He previously has taken loans using his Tesla shares as collateral.


Musk does not take a salary, choosing instead a risky options package that envisions the stock market value of Tesla rising to $650 billion over 10 years, a prospect that was derided by some investors when the deal was announced in 2018. That target now looks less crazy. Shares of Tesla have rallied over 50% since the company posted its second consecutive quarterly profit last Wednesday, which was viewed as a major accomplishment for a company competing against established automotive heavyweights including General Motors Co and BMW. Tesla shares have climbed about 400% since early June, helped by the company’s better-than-expected financial results and ramped-up production at its new car factory in Shanghai. [..] Musk’s Tesla stake worth $30 billion after electrifying stock surge

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Now apply the Force.

Council of Europe Sides With Julian Assange (IA)

The attitude of European institutions is changing after years of silence. In this case, it was Andrej Hunko and Gianni Marilotti that convinced the European Assembly to speak up. The moment that press freedom advocates have been waiting for so long has finally arrived. The European institutions are starting to officially state that they don’t want Julian Assange to be extradited to the U.S. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has become the first one to step in and call for Assange’s immediate release, joining the call of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, who some months ago clearly stated that Assange should walk free.

The call was made on the 28th of January, 2020, when the PACE was debating on a resolution for the Member States included in a report on Threats to Media Freedom and Journalists’ Security in Europe. Drafted by the Labour member of the British House of Lords, George Foulkes, the document opens stating that the Council of Europe and its Assembly are firmly committed to strengthening media freedom in all its aspects, including the right to access to information, the safeguard of editorial independence and of ‘the ability to investigate, criticise and contribute to public debate without fear of pressure or interference’. Several amendments to the report were proposed inside the PACE Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, and Lord Foulkes, who is part of it, was happy to accept the one on Assange.

Lord Foulkes said: “UK colleagues supported it because we don’t want to see him extradited by the UK Government to the United States and facing centuries in prison.” The Council of Europe is the continent’s leading institution on human rights and includes 47 member states, 28 of which are also part of the European Union. What this Parliamentary Assembly, made up of members of national legislatures says about freedom of the press is something civil society should take notice of. In this light, you would hope that the work of Wikileaks and his founder can hardly be forgotten. Or maybe it could — it seemed to be surprisingly off the agenda until some weeks ago, but January 2020 seems to have marked a change of course.

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Every color is home to 1 billion people. Find Wuhan on the map.

 

 

 

Please donate what you can.

 

Jan 092018
 


Thomas Abercrombie Beirut 1957

 

Americans Wait For Tax Refunds Before Seeing A Doctor (BBG)
US Has The Worst Rate of Child Mortality Among 20 Rich Nations (CNBC)
Chapter 11 Bankruptcies Spike 107% from a Year Ago (WS)
The New Gilded Age: First Time Arrogance, the Second Time Vengeance (Rosen)
Retail Investors Are Finally True Believers with Record Exposure (WS)
iPhone Addiction May Be A Virtue, Not A Vice For Investors (R.)
‘It Can’t Be True.’ Inside the Semiconductor Industry’s Meltdown (BBG)
The Decline of Anti-Trumpism (David Brooks)
Cryptocurrencies Are Selling Off (BBG)
Fund Managers Say US Regulator Told Them To Suspend Bitcoin ETF Bids (R.)
US Energy Watchdog Terminates Plan To Subsidize Coal, Nuclear Sectors (AFP)
Fairy Tale (Jim Kunstler)
Theresa May’s Cabinet Reboot Descends Into Chaos (BBG)
Merkel, Coalition Negotiators Agree To Scrap 2020 Climate Target (R.)

 

 

A nation of expendables. To think how hard earlier generations fought for health care.

Americans Wait For Tax Refunds Before Seeing A Doctor (BBG)

As tax season approaches, some consumers are waiting for their refund checks to spend on a long-delayed purchase – a visit to the doctor or dentist. U.S. consumers boosted their out-of-pocket health spending by 60% in the week after they got a tax refund, according to new research from JPMorgan Chase, based on data from Chase customer accounts. Spending stayed high for about 2 1/2 months, with about two-thirds of the extra spending money going to in-person payments to doctors and dentists. Much of the rest was used to pay down past bills. Health insurers and employers have raised copays and deductibles for consumers, making them bear a larger portion of the cost of care when they go see a health-care provider.

As a result, patients sometimes lack the cash to get the care they may need, according to the report. “Cash-flow dynamics are a significant driver of out-of-pocket spending for health care,” the study found. “Even when consumers knew with near-certainty the size and source of a major cash infusion, they still waited until the infusion arrived before spending.” The researchers found that availability of cash had far less of an impact on health-spending decisions among those with credit cards, or who had higher bank-account balances.

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Until about 1970, the US had the lowest child mortality rates. Then something happened.

US Has The Worst Rate of Child Mortality Among 20 Rich Nations (CNBC)

The United States has the worst child mortality rate among a group of 20 wealthy democracies, an analysis released Monday found. And despite overall improvement in the child mortality rate in the U.S. and those 19 other countries, the U.S. has persistently outpaced those nations in that grim metric for decades, the Health Affairs report said. “From 2001 to 2010, the risk of death in the US was 76% greater for infants and 57% greater for children age 1-19,” the report said. And during the same decade, children between the ages of 15 and 19 were 82 times more likely to die from gun-related homicide in the U.S. than in the comparison countries.

The authors of the Health Affairs report said that in the full 50-year period their study looked at, the U.S. had more than “600,000 excess deaths” among kids because of the country’s lagging performance in curbing child mortality. Those excess deaths have occurred even as the U.S. spends more money on health care for kids than the other countries. Among the countries looked at, “there has never been a better time to be born in any of these 20 countries,” the Health Affairs report said. “Despite this generalized trend, children are less likely to survive and transition into adulthood in the US than in other [countries examined],” the report said. “Persistently high poverty rates, poor educational outcomes, and a relatively weak social safety net have made the US the most dangerous of wealthy nations for a child to be born into.”

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Due to the tax law.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcies Spike 107% from a Year Ago (WS)

New Chapter 11 bankruptcies in the US more than doubled in December 2017 from a year ago to 699 filings. That jump of 362 filings from December 2016 was the largest year-over-year jump since the Financial Crisis. This chart shows Chapter 11 filings back to 2011, based on data from the American Bankruptcy Institute. I marked the prior five Decembers with red dots. Note how they’re near the low point of the seasonal swings. That makes the spike in December 2017 even more spectacular. A spike like this in Chapter 11 filings in a month of December is unheard of in normal times. Normally, bankruptcies jump during tax season, the first four or five months of the year, but not at the end of the year. But these are not normal times.

In December, Chapter 11 filings soared 61% from November. This is also highly unusual, as over the prior five years, presumably the “normal times,” the number of filings from November to December has fallen by an average 8.7%. The chart below shows the year-over-year change in Chapter 11 filings. I marked the prior Decembers in yellow. I circled the oil bust and the brick-and-mortar meltdown. But December 2017 was special.

I think companies and their owners and creditors know one thing: They can write off losses in 2017 under the old corporate tax rates, at 35%, thus getting the government to pick up 35% of the tab of their losses via lower taxes. In 2018, the new tax law applies and all kinds of uncertainties have yet to be ironed out, and these companies – the owners and creditors – are thinking (I assume) that it’s better to try to recognize the loss in 2017, support it with a Chapter 11 filing, and pull the write-off into 2017 against a tax rate of 35%, rather than 21% in 2018. A tax-law change of this drastic nature motivates people jump through all kinds of hoops to save some money – including waiting in line for hours to pay property taxes early, a hitherto unthinkable strategy. And I think this is the likely suspect for the spike.

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Wonderful history lesson about the robber barons. Go read.

The New Gilded Age: First Time Arrogance, the Second Time Vengeance (Rosen)

The U.S. is now living through a second Gilded Age. Where once the robber barons were millionaires, today they’ve added a few zeros to their wealth and became billionaires. However, they act with no-less impunity, but a greater sense of entitlement. The Trump administration, together with the Republican-controlled Congress, are functional shills for the current generation of robber barons. As evident from the recently-passed tax bill, legislators jump when their big-money donors order them to deliver the goods — and they did. The U.S. economy has rebounded from the 2007-2009 “great recession,” with the stock market hitting new highs, unemployment the lowest in a generation and home prices recovering. But Americans still haven’t regained the wealth they lost, with incomes remaining stagnant and, on the whole, working Americans worse off than since the late-1990s.

The Federal Reserve’s most recent Survey of Consumer Finances finds that median net worth for all families (measured in 2016 dollars) dropped 8% since 1998. Most sobering, the poorer you are, the worst your fate – and this is compounded by race, education level, gender and age factors. America’s poorest, the bottom fifth, saw their net worth fall 22%; the broad working class, the second-lowest income tier, were the hardest hit with their net worth shrinking by more than a third (34%); and those dubbed “middle class,” with incomes from $43,501 to $69,500, were barely treading water, with their worth gaining a whopping 3.5%. Since 1998, the top 10% saw their worth rise 146%. The share of the nation’s wealth held by the top 1% rose to 38.6% while that portion controlled by the bottom 90% fell 22.8% (from 33.2% in ’89).

Looking at the nation’s income for the period of 2013 to 2016, the same phenomenon is evident: income going to the top 1% climbed to 23.8% (from 20.3%) while the share going to the bottom 90% slipped to about 50% (from 54%). And then there is debt, the lubricant of the U.S. post-WW-II “consumer revolution.” During the 2013 to 2016 period, those with the lowest income (below $25,300), saw their debt rise by 57%; for the lower-middle class (incomes between $25,301 and $43,500), debt increased 58%; and for the middle class (incomes from $43,501 to $69,500), debt rose by a modest 12.5%.

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What beaking points are made of.

Retail Investors Are Finally True Believers with Record Exposure (WS)

As far as the stock market is concerned, it took a while – in fact, it took eight years, but retail investors are finally all in, bristling with enthusiasm. TD Ameritrade’s Investor Movement Index rose to 8.59 in December, a new record. TDA’s clients were net buyers for the 11th month in a row, one of the longest buying streaks and ended up with more exposure to the stock market than ever before in the history of the index. This came after a blistering November, when the index had jumped 15%, “its largest single-month increase ever,” as TDA reported at the time, to 8.53, also a record:

Note how retail investors had been to varying degrees among the naysayers from the end of the Financial Crisis till the end of 2016, before they suddenly became true believers in February 2017. “I don’t think the investors who are engaging regularly are doing so in a dangerous fashion,” said TDA Chief Market Strategist JJ Kinahan in an interview. But he added, clients at the beginning of 2017 were “up to their knees in it and then up to their thighs, and now up to their chests.” The implication is that they could get in a little deeper before they’d drown. “As the year went on, people got more confident,” he said. And despite major geopolitical issues, “the market was never tested at all” last year. There was this “buy-the-dip mentality” every time the market dipped 1% or 2%.

But one of his “bigger fears” this year is this very buy-the-dip mentality, he said. People buy when the market goes down 1% or 2%, and “it goes down 5%, then it goes down 8% — and they turn into sellers, and then they get an exponential move to the downside.” In addition to some of the big names in the US – Amazon, Microsoft, Bank of America, etc. – TDA’s clients were “believers” in Chinese online retail and were big buyers of Alibaba and Tencent. But they were sellers of dividend stocks AT&T and Verizon as the yield of two-year Treasuries rose to nearly 2%, and offered a risk-free alternative at comparable yields. And he added, with an eye out for this year: “It’s hard to believe that the market can go up unchallenged.” This enthusiasm by retail investors confirms the surge in margin debt – a measure of stock market leverage and risk – which has been jumping from record to record, and hit a new high of $581 billion, up 16% from a year earlier.

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Duh!

iPhone Addiction May Be A Virtue, Not A Vice For Investors (R.)

Apple investors are shrugging off concerns raised by two shareholders about kids getting hooked on iPhones, saying that for now a little addiction might not be a bad thing for profits. Hedge fund JANA Partners and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) pension fund said on Saturday that iPhone overuse could be hurting children’s developing brains, an issue that may harm the company’s long-term market value. But some investors said the habit-forming nature of gadgets and social media are one reason why companies like Apple, Google parent Alphabet Inc and Facebook Inc added $630 billion to their market value in 2017. “We invest in things that are addictive,” said Apple shareholder Ross Gerber, chief executive of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth and Investment Management.

He also owns stock in coffee retailer Starbucks Corp, casino operator MGM Resorts International and alcohol maker Constellation Brands Inc. “Addictive things are very profitable,” Gerber said. Still, the investment community is increasingly holding companies to higher social standards, and there is some concern that market-leading tech companies could draw attention from regulators much like alcohol, tobacco and gambling companies have in the past. Alphabet and Facebook could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday. Facebook has said social media can be beneficial if used appropriately. In a statement to Reuters, Apple said it has offered a range of controls on iPhones since 2008 that allow parents to restrict content, including apps, movies, websites, songs and books, as well as cellular data, password settings and other features.

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This leaves many questions about what the industry knew and what they did not. Hard to believe they were all entirely ignorant for 20 years.

‘It Can’t Be True.’ Inside the Semiconductor Industry’s Meltdown (BBG)

It was late November and former Intel Corp. engineer Thomas Prescher was enjoying beers and burgers with friends in Dresden, Germany, when the conversation turned, ominously, to semiconductors. Months earlier, cybersecurity researcher Anders Fogh had posted a blog suggesting a possible way to hack into chips powering most of the world’s computers, and the friends spent part of the evening trying to make sense of it. The idea nagged at Prescher, so when he got home he fired up his desktop computer and set about putting the theory into practice. At 2 a.m., a breakthrough: he’d strung together code that reinforced Fogh’s idea and suggested there was something seriously wrong. “My immediate reaction was, ‘It can’t be true, it can’t be true,’” Prescher said.

Last week, his worst fears were proved right when Intel, one of the world’s largest chipmakers, said all modern processors can be attacked by techniques dubbed Meltdown and Spectre, exposing crucial data, such as passwords and encryption keys. The biggest technology companies, including Microsoft, Apple, Google and Amazon.com are rushing out fixes for PCs, smartphones and the servers that power the internet, and some have warned that their solutions may dent performance in some cases. Prescher was one of at least 10 researchers and engineers working around the globe – sometimes independently, sometimes together – who uncovered Meltdown and Spectre. Interviews with several of these experts reveal a chip industry that, while talking up efforts to secure computers, failed to spot that a common feature of their products had made machines so vulnerable.

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David Brooks exposes everything his paper -NYT- has done for well over a year: make it all up. A mea culpa between the lines.

The Decline of Anti-Trumpism (David Brooks)

Let me start with three inconvenient observations, based on dozens of conversations around Washington over the past year: First, people who go into the White House to have a meeting with President Trump usually leave pleasantly surprised. They find that Trump is not the raving madman they expected from his tweetstorms or the media coverage. They generally say that he is affable, if repetitive. He runs a normal, good meeting and seems well-informed enough to get by. Second, people who work in the Trump administration have wildly divergent views about their boss. Some think he is a deranged child, as Michael Wolff reported. But some think he is merely a distraction they can work around. Some think he is strange, but not impossible. Some genuinely admire Trump. Many filter out his crazy stuff and pretend it doesn’t exist.

My impression is that the Trump administration is an unhappy place to work, because there is a lot of infighting and often no direction from the top. But this is not an administration full of people itching to invoke the 25th Amendment. Third, the White House is getting more professional. Imagine if Trump didn’t tweet. The craziness of the past weeks would be out of the way, and we’d see a White House that is briskly pursuing its goals: the shift in our Pakistan policy, the shift in our offshore drilling policy, the fruition of our ISIS policy, the nomination for judgeships and the formation of policies on infrastructure, DACA, North Korea and trade. It’s almost as if there are two White Houses. There’s the Potemkin White House, which we tend to focus on: Trump berserk in front of the TV, the lawyers working the Russian investigation and the press operation.

Then there is the Invisible White House that you never hear about, which is getting more effective at managing around the distracted boss. I sometimes wonder if the Invisible White House has learned to use the Potemkin White House to deke us while it changes the country. I mention these inconvenient observations because the anti-Trump movement, of which I’m a proud member, seems to be getting dumber. It seems to be settling into a smug, fairy tale version of reality that filters out discordant information. More anti-Trumpers seem to be telling themselves a “Madness of King George” narrative: Trump is a semiliterate madman surrounded by sycophants who are morally, intellectually and psychologically inferior to people like us. I’d like to think it’s possible to be fervently anti-Trump while also not reducing everything to a fairy tale.

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Still up and down, but that will be a big problem at some point, not some quaint feature..

Cryptocurrencies Are Selling Off (BBG)

Bitcoin slumped, dragging down smaller rivals such as ether and litecoin, as concerns that regulators will tighten their grip on the market weigh on the the world’s largest cryptocurrency. Regulators in China and South Korea are increasing oversight on cryptocurrency trading and mining, while the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission late last year started cracking down on some digital token sales, known as ICOs. Coinmarketcap.com’s decision to exclude Korean pricing data for coins helped create the appearance of a large drop in prices, which some traders attributed as playing a part in the selloff. “News on the regulatory front is dragging down cryptos,” said Gabor Gurbacs at VanEck Associates.

“South Korea and China tightening is weighing on bitcoin and in the ICO market, things started slowing down, with the SEC cracking down on illegal offerings.” Bitcoin slumped as much as 17% to $14,820, the most in more than two weeks. The rout in bitcoin is part of a broader selloff in the cryptocurrency realm, with all of the top 10 by market cap falling, and most tumbling by at least 10%, according to Coinmarketcap.com. Cardano fell 16%, while litecoin slumped as much as 16% to as low as $230. Bitcoin is little changed this year after surging about 1,400% in 2017.

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Liquidity concerns.

Fund Managers Say US Regulator Told Them To Suspend Bitcoin ETF Bids (R.)

Two U.S. companies shelved proposals to launch bitcoin exchange-traded funds, citing ongoing concerns by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), filings showed on Monday. Staff at the regulatory agency “expressed concerns regarding the liquidity and valuation” of futures contracts based on the digital asset, according to one of the filings. The move adds a new hurdle to the bid by Wall Street firms to capitalize on investor interest in cryptocurrencies, and it opens a rare public divergence between two financial regulatory agencies over how to regulate them. Trusts controlled by Rafferty Asset Management and Exchange Traded Concepts each canceled plans to launch three bitcoin funds that could be traded by retail investors as easily as stocks. Neither firm could be reached for comment.

Fund managers thought the proposals had a chance at winning approval given the launch last month of futures contracts based on bitcoin on both the CME and the CBOE exchanges. Regulators have been scrambling to figure out how to deal with this relatively new asset, and no single one has control. The SEC has dominion over funds, while the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) governs futures contracts. The CFTC has been under pressure to address concerns it did not fully assess the potential risks that bitcoin poses to the financial system. [..] The SEC’s decisions also face close scrutiny given its power to clear the way for products that could be among the more volatile traded in U.S. equity markets.

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It was always nonsense, and they know it.

US Energy Watchdog Terminates Plan To Subsidize Coal, Nuclear Sectors (AFP)

The US energy watchdog terminated Monday a key proposal by President Donald Trump’s administration to subsidize coal and nuclear plants, finding it neither justified nor reasonable. The decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was handed down in a unanimous verdict by its five members, a majority of whom belong to the president’s Republican Party. Energy Secretary Rick Perry had in September proposed providing federal aid to nuclear and coal power plants with at least 90 days’ worth of production capacity, arguing the move was necessary to make the national grid more resilient in case of extreme events.

Both sectors have seen their share of the energy market diminish in recent years, losing out to oil, natural gas and renewables – which had all opposed Perry’s plan. There are currently only two nuclear reactors under construction in the US, in addition to the 99 in service. Coal is also facing a crisis, and Trump made reversing its decline a major campaign pledge. In announcing its decision, FERC cited an existing department study’s findings that “changes in the generation mix, including the retirement of coal and nuclear generators, have not diminished the grid’s reliability or otherwise posed a significant and immediate threat to the resilience of the electric grid.”

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Of the Oprah kind.

Fairy Tale (Jim Kunstler)

Oprah might be the Democratic Party’s last best hope before it collapses into the mausoleum of US political history, where the Whigs, Free Soilers, and Anti-Federalists lie a’moldering. Politics in this land has failed in its effort to become show business, while show business is succeeding wildly in its attempt to replace politics. All Washington can produce these days is a succession of tedious irresolvable soap operas. Hollywood is enacting a grand moral drama of clear-cut heroines and villains, victims and oppressors, sticking to archetypal story-line of our lifetime: the campaign for freedom, equality, and decency. Show business loves the desert sunshine; politics is mired in the Potomac swamp. Oprah even has better hair than the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Oprah herself is an object lesson in the social and political themes that America dares not talk about: a person of humble origins who succeeded wildly in American life by signing onto a once-sturdy and now-fading common culture. In fact, Oprah probably embodies all that remains of American common culture, and the multitudes adore her for it. They are reassured to know that the binding verities still exist. She moves in a realm where blackness and whiteness are emphatically irrelevant — which is surely a relief to people of good will who are sick of race-hustling from all quarters. Though she has credibly acted plenty of sharecropper roles in the movies, Oprah speaks English beautifully and doesn’t apologize for moving up from the ghetto patois of her rough childhood. She may not write all her own material — such as Sunday’s Golden Globes speech that may live on like MLK’s I Have a Dream oration — but she delivers her message with conviction.

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Stumbling from failure to failure.

Theresa May’s Cabinet Reboot Descends Into Chaos (BBG)

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May’s attempt to give her government a 2018 reboot was marred by a chaotic cabinet reshuffle as senior ministers refused to follow her orders. It’s a development that bodes ill for her ability to successfully navigate the next, even trickier stage of Brexit talks. May’s office flagged Monday’s events as “a refresh” of her top team. But instead of the usual parade of lawmakers arriving at her office in quick succession to accept their new roles, things went off script. First Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, then Education Secretary Justine Greening were locked in discussions with her after rejecting proposed moves. Hunt eventually won his argument to stay on, but Greening, who spent more than two hours in 10 Downing Street, quit rather than accept another job.

May was said to be “disappointed” at losing Greening, who opposed Brexit, and could now vote with pro-European Union rebels in the House of Commons. It was not the restart she wanted. There were echoes of her botched decision to call an election in her announcement of a reshuffle she didn’t have to carry out. In both instances May seemed to dissipate any political goodwill she recouped. She had begun the new year in a position of relative strength, having concluded a problematic first phase of talks over Brexit – still the issue that will define her political legacy and will only get more complicated this year. “She can’t have the government she would choose and has to select from a small group of people,” said Matt Beech, director of the Centre for British Politics at the University of Hull. “Even with a majority she’d be facing tough decisions because her party’s completely divided on Brexit.”

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Want to know when you’re being had? Look no further. The reasoning here is that the German economy is doing so well that climate targets can’t be met. But that’s an impossible contradiction. Because it tries to make you believe that the investments needed to meet the targets will be made when the economy is not doing so well. But they won’t, because by then the story will be that the money is needed to support the economy.

Merkel, Coalition Negotiators Agree To Scrap 2020 Climate Target (R.)

Germany’s would-be coalition partners have agreed to drop plans to lower carbon dioxide emissions by 40% from 1990 levels by 2020, sources familiar with negotiations said on Monday – a potential embarrassment for Chancellor Angela Merkel. Due to strong economic growth and higher-than-expected immigration, Germany is likely to miss its national emissions target for 2020 without any additional measures. Negotiators for Merkel’s conservative bloc and the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) told Reuters the parties had agreed in exploratory talks on forming a government that the targeted cut in emissions could no longer be achieved by 2020. Instead, they would aim to hit the 40% target in the early 2020s, the sources said, adding that both parties are still sticking to their goal of achieving a 55% cut in emissions by 2030.

The deal would represent something of a U-turn for Merkel, who has long presented herself as an advocate of climate protection policies on the international stage. Sources said both parties had also agreed that the share of renewable energy in Germany’s electricity consumption should rise to 65% by 2030 from roughly a third last year. Currently, the government plans to raise the renewable energy quota to between 45 and 55% by 2025. Negotiators also agreed to cut the tax on electricity in order to reduce energy costs, according to a document seen by Reuters. They also plan to tender an extra 4 gigawatts of solar energy as well as onshore and offshore wind-generating capacity.

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