Feb 092021
 


Horacio Coppola Avenida de Mayo entre Bolívar y Perú, Buenos Aires 1936

 

Five Ways The Government Could Have Avoided 100,000 Covid Deaths (G.)
14 Nursing Home Residents Test Positive For B117 Despite Vaccination (DF)
Israel and Greece Sign Deal To Allow Vaccinated Tourists To Travel (EN)
Why Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine Shipments To Canada Have Been Delayed (Star)
Cuba’s COVID-19 Vaccines Serve the People, Not Profits (CP)
A Very Dangerous Variant Of The Global Virus Is Spreading Again (Bilbo)
Is This The Biggest Financial Bubble Ever? Hell Yes It Is (John Rubino)
House Democrats Reject Push To Lower Income Threshold For Stimulus Checks (F.)
Yellen: US At Full Employment Next Year If Congress Passes Stimulus (CNBC)
Europe’s Debt Cancellation Would Mean Recognition of Insolvency (Lacalle)
No US Combat Deaths in Afghanistan Over Past Year (Antiwar)
As Trump Impeachment Trial Starts, Democrat Agenda Crashes Into Reality (JTN)
It Cost Taxpayers $483 Million To Send National Guard Troops To DC (F.)
Assange Supporters Urge Joe Biden To Drop Prosecution (Ind.)
The -New Normal- War on Domestic Terror (CJ Hopkins)

 

 

All suspended accounts are on the right.

 

 

U.S. COVID update: Lowest number of new cases since Oct.

 

 

NOTE: Don’t miss John Day MD’s guide for COVID prevention and treatment that I published earlier yesterday: Treat Your Own COVID.

It could save your life.

 

 

Look, Prof Devi Sridhar is chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh, and he doesn’t manage one word on the government failing to boost their citizens’ immune systems. It’s all about masks and gloves and testing and borders and messaging. You know, the stuff that attracts attention AFTER people have been infected.

Nobody has a chance in the face of all this myopia.

Five Ways The Government Could Have Avoided 100,000 Covid Deaths (G.)

First, the UK had no border policies in place for months. [..] The second fatal flaw in the UK’s response happened on 12 March, when the government made the fatal decision to stop community testing [..] Third, the government made another harmful decision in March when it delayed the first lockdown. [..] The fourth error was the lack of appropriate personal protective equipment for many health and social workers [..] Finally, the UK has continually lacked both clear leadership and messaging, which are vital in a pandemic. Rather than leading from the front, the government seems to only follow public opinion and polling.

Read more …

The Pfizer vaccine. Google translate.

14 Nursing Home Residents Test Positive For B117 Despite Vaccination (DF)

In an old people’s and nursing home in Belm in the Osnabrück district, there was an outbreak of the British Corona variant despite the vaccination. In 14 seniors the virus is B.1.1.7. – although all residents had been vaccinated for the second time on January 25, the district announced. The home, all employees and their families have been quarantined. The board of directors of the German Foundation for Patient Protection, Brysch, called on the Ministry of Health to closely monitor nursing homes after the second vaccination. Otherwise there would be no reliable data on the danger the mutation posed for the high-risk group. So far there have only been asymptomatic or mild courses of the disease in the residents, which could be a positive effect of the vaccination, said the press spokesman for the Osnabrück district.

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Again: no vaccine has been approved yet, just emergency authorized. But this is based on vaccination passports. Let’s have a legal expert explain it.

Israel and Greece Sign Deal To Allow Vaccinated Tourists To Travel (EN)

Israel and Greece agreed on Monday to pave the way for vaccinated tourists to travel between their two countries in an effort to boost their economies amid the coronavirus pandemic. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced the agreement in Jerusalem on Monday. The deal is designed to allow tourists with vaccination certificates to move between the countries “without any limitations, no self-isolation, nothing,” Netanyahu said at a press conference.


Both economies have large sectors devoted to tourism, an industry devastated by travel restrictions during the 11-month pandemic. The announcement comes at a time of tough new travel restrictions elsewhere around the world as governments grapple with variants of the virus. The United Nations World Tourism Organisation says international arrivals fell 74% last year, wiping out $1.3 trillion (€1 trillion) in revenue and putting up to 120 million jobs at risk. A UNWTO expert panel had a mixed outlook for 2021, with 45% expecting a better year, 25% no change and 30% a worse one.

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No proper research, emergency authorization, of course you’re going to run into gigantic problems. We haven’t seen nothing yet.

Why Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine Shipments To Canada Have Been Delayed (Star)

Moderna’s delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to Canada has hit delays because the company has encountered problems with its European supply chain and restrictions on exports of vaccine supplies, the Star has learned. A senior federal source with knowledge of the file told the Star that Moderna is trying to source the material needed to produce its vaccine, and to meet demand for materials needed to package the vaccines. The source said the company’s own supply for materials has been affected by the European Union’s attempt to control how much material is exported before its member states are supplied with vaccine. In a written statement to the Star, Moderna’s country manager for Canada, Patricia Gauthier, confirmed the company’s effort to scale up production in Switzerland is a factor in delayed deliveries to countries outside of the United States.


The statement said Moderna has provided revised short-term delivery guidance “outside of the U.S., including to the government of Canada based on the ramp up trajectory of drug substance manufacturing in Switzerland.” It also suggested no problems are occurring with its packaging process. “Fill and finish activities continue as planned,” the statement said. “Moderna remains focused on operating at the highest level of quality to ensure the safety of the vaccine.” Moderna also confirmed its contract with Canada specifies “delivery volumes per quarter,” and said it will “meet its contractual commitments for the first quarter and the following quarters in order to deliver 40 million doses by the end of the third quarter.” It said its strategic collaboration with Lonza in Switzerland — which started mass production of Moderna vaccines this year — aims to manufacture up to 1 billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine per year.

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Cuba has a hard time getting the ingedients for its vaccines. Embargo, don’t you know.

Cuba’s COVID-19 Vaccines Serve the People, Not Profits (CP)

Cuba’s socialist approach to developing vaccines against COVID-19 differs strikingly from that of capitalist nations of the world. Cuba’s production of four vaccines is grounded in science and dedicated to saving the lives of all Cubans, and to international solidarity. The New York Times’s running report on the world’s vaccine programs shows 67 vaccines having advanced to human trials; 20 of them are in the final phase of trials or have completed them. The United States, China, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea, and India have each produced many vaccines; most vaccine-manufacturing countries are offering one or two vaccines. Cuba is the only vaccine manufacturer in Latin America; there are none in Africa. The only state-owned entities producing the leading vaccines are those of Cuba and Russia.

Cuba’s Finlay Vaccine Institute has produced two COVID-19 vaccines. Trials for one of them, called Sovereign I, focus on protecting people previously infected with COVID-19. The antibody levels of some of them turned out to be low, and the vaccine might provide a boost. The other vaccine, Sovereign II, is about to enter final human trials. For verifying protection, these trials require tens of thousands of subjects, one half receiving the vaccine and the other half, a placebo vaccine. Cuba’s population is relatively small, 11 million people, too small to yield enough infected people in the short time required to test the vaccine’s protective effect. That’s why Sovereign II will be tested in Iran.

100 million doses of Sovereign II are being prepared, enough to immunize all 11 million Cubans, beginning in March or April. The 70 million remaining doses will go to Vietnam, Iran, Pakistan, India, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Nicaragua. Sovereign II “will be the vaccine of ALBA,” explained Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez, referring to the solidarity alliance established in 2004 by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro. “Cuba’s strategy in commercializing the vaccine represents a combination of what’s good for humankind and the impact on world health. We are not a multinational where a financial objective comes first,” says Vicente Vérez Bencomo, director of Cuba’s Finlay Vaccine Institute. Income generated by vaccine sales abroad will pay for health care, education, and pensions in Cuba just as happens with exports of medical services and medicines.

Cuba’s Center for Genetic and Biotechnological Engineering is developing two other COVID-19 vaccines; One, named “Mambisa” (signifying a female combatant in wars of liberation from Spain), is administered via the nasal route, just as is Cuba’s hepatitis B vaccine. The other vaccine, named “Abdala” (a character in a Jose Marti poem) is administered intramuscularly. The two vaccines are involved in early trials.

Read more …

Austerity is that variant.

A Very Dangerous Variant Of The Global Virus Is Spreading Again (Bilbo)

There is a new variant of the global virus spreading again after being subdued throughout 2020. This is a very dangerous variant and if it takes hold will guarantee massive human suffering, and, a further, substantial shift in national income towards the top-end-of-town. I refer to the creeping infestation that is starting to pop up claiming that austerity will be required to pay for all the “profligacy” associated with government approach to the pandemic. I have seen this virus in the wild and it is creepy and being spread by those who seem to want to gain attention as time passes them by. Overheating threats, austerity threats – it is all part of the economics establishment trying to remain relevant. A vaccine will not work. They need to be permanently isolated.

The Prospect Magazine article (January, 26, 2021) – In defence of austerity – written by a “former head of Treasury” The sub-title begins the twisted framing: “Free money is in vogue—but there’s no such thing” – the only cost of the Bank of England buying all the debt being issued by H.M. Treasury is the wear and tear on the computer keyboards that type in the numbers. The pandemic has exposed to an increasing number of people that there is ‘free money’. They are realising that numbers just appear in bank accounts. Perhaps this former official should watch the recent speech and subsequent Q&A from the Reserve Bank of Australia governor, Philip Lowe to the National Press Club in Canberra (February 3, 2020).

He was asked by a journalist in the Q&A: Could you please explain in the simplest terms, perhaps keeping in mind your audience outside of this room, when the RBA decides to purchase government bonds, as it’s doing, where does the RBA get that money from? Is it simply a matter of printing new money? How does it work? The Governor replied:

“Well, it’s not printing money. People think of it as printing money, because once upon a time if the central bank bought an asset, it might pay for that asset by giving you notes, you know, bank notes. I’d have to run my printing presses to do it. We don’t operate that way anymore, obviously because we live in an electronic world. When we buy a bond from a bank, the way we pay for that is credit. The banks, we’ll use Westpac, who’s the sponsor of today’s event as an example. If we bought a bond from Westpac, we would credit Westpac’s account at the Reserve Bank, and that creates the money electronically. That’s how a modern system works. And then Westpac could use that money hopefully to make some loans to some of its customers. But we can create money electronically, and that’s what we do these days …”

Read more …

John takes a trip through all the bubbles. Read.

Is This The Biggest Financial Bubble Ever? Hell Yes It Is (John Rubino)

If you’re over 40 you’ve lived through at least three epic financial bubbles: junk bonds in the 1980s, tech stocks in the 1990s, and housing in the 2000s. Each was spectacular in its own way, and each threatened to take down the whole financial system when it burst. But they pale next to what’s happening today. Where those past bubbles were sector-specific, which is to say the mania and resulting carnage occurred mostly within one asset class, today’s bubble is spread across, well, pretty much everything – hence the term “everything bubble.” When this one pops there won’t be a lot of hiding places.


Most bubbles start when an influx of outside cash sends the price of something up dramatically. This captures the imagination of the broader investing public and the process takes on a life of its own, culminating in an orgy of bad decisions and eventually a wipe-out of the easy fortunes made on the way up. So to understand the everything bubble, let’s start at the beginning with that influx of outside money. This time it’s coming from the Federal Reserve in what can only be described as the mother of all print runs. M2, a medium-broad measure of the US money supply, has more than tripled so far in this century, and lately the arc has gone vertical, rising by nearly a third in just the past year.

All this extra money has to go somewhere, so no surprise that it’s flowing in lots of different directions. Among the recipients: The bond and money markets, made up of instruments that pay interest, are in the aggregate far bigger than the world’s stock markets. And they’ve been booming, with interest rates falling steadily for four straight decades. Since bond prices are the reciprocal of bond yields, the next chart can be read as an epic bull market in bonds, one which has gained steam in the past year as massive currency creation has forced fixed income investors (who have to invest new cash somehow) to buy bonds regardless of what they yield.

Read more …

Good Lord: “Democrats anticipate that the final package will be passed by both houses of Congress by mid-March.”

House Democrats Reject Push To Lower Income Threshold For Stimulus Checks (F.)

After days of infighting, House Democrats on Monday night released details of proposed coronavirus relief measures that would put the ceiling for full $1,400 stimulus checks to Americans at the same income levels as previous payouts, rejecting calls from more centrist Democrats to lower the threshold. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Neal (D-Ma.) released a draft version of the bill Monday night proposing $1,400 stimulus checks for single earners making up to $75,000 and for joint filers earning up to $150,000. Some centrist Democrats had called for lowering the threshold to $50,000 per year for individuals and $100,000 per year for joint filers, causing outrage from progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-Ny). Child and adult dependents will now be eligible, unlike the previous rounds of stimulus payments.


Responding to concerns that wealthy people would receive checks, the stimulus payments will phase out quicker, zeroing out when individual income reaches $100,000 and at $200,000 for households. Democrats last week passed a budget reconciliation measure, which allows them to pass a stimulus plan with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes required to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. As a result, the final bill will likely be subject to intense jockeying between Democrats because the party can’t afford to lose a single vote in the Senate without Republican support. The measure still has to pass the rest of the House and the Senate, where it meets resistance from centrist Joe Manchin (D-W.Va), who has been leading the charge to lower the income threshold. Democrats anticipate that the final package will be passed by both houses of Congress by mid-March.

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Let’s do the opposite of everything she proposes, then we should be good.

Yellen: US At Full Employment Next Year If Congress Passes Stimulus (CNBC)

The U.S. could return to full employment in 2022 if President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue package is passed, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Sunday. “There’s absolutely no reason why we should suffer through a long slow recovery,” Yellen said during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I would expect that if this package is passed that we would get back to full employment next year.” Long-term unemployment is nearing a historical peak nearly a year since the pandemic began. Nearly 40% of unemployed workers have been out of work for six months, the Bureau of of Labor Statistics reported on Friday, with nearly 9 million fewer Americans working now than last February. The unemployment rate fell to 6.3% in January.

The pandemic-fueled unemployment rate will remain elevated for years to come without more federal support, Yellen said, citing an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office. Without additional stimulus, it could take until 2025 to send the unemployment rate back down to 4%. Yellen also said that former Obama economic adviser Larry Summer’s concerns over Biden’s stimulus plan posing risks to inflation are small compared to economic damage from failing to provide enough economic support during the pandemic. The U.S. has “the tools to deal with” the risk of inflation, Yellen said.

Democrats in Congress have moved to pass the stimulus plan within two weeks without GOP support, using a parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation. The plan is the first of two major spending initiatives Biden will seek and includes provisions like direct payments to Americans, weekly jobless benefits through September and funding for vaccines and testing. The second bill will focus on infrastructure reform, climate change and racial equity, among other things. “We have people suffering … through absolutely no fault of their own,” Yellen said. “We have to get them to the other side and make sure that this doesn’t take a permanent toll on their lives.”

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Everything left is dangerous.

Europe’s Debt Cancellation Would Mean Recognition of Insolvency (Lacalle)

More than 100 economists, led by French economist Thomas Piketty, creator of some of the most absurd proposals embraced by the extreme left, on Feb. 5 published an open letter in which they called for a cancellation of government debt in the hands of the ECB “in exchange for greater public investment”—which, by the way, would be paid with more issuance of public debt. Fascinating. Luís de Guindos, vice president of the ECB, has settled the controversy with two pieces of evidence. “The cancellation of debt [on the ECB balance sheet] is illegal … [and] does not make any economic or financial sense at all,” he explained in a speech, according to Europa Press. The first part is obvious. It is prohibited by the bylaws of the ECB. I will explain the lack of economic logic here.

A debt write-off or cancellation is evidence of the issuer’s insolvency. If, as the economists repeat, the solvency and credit credibility of the eurozone is not at stake, why ask for a cancellation? If, in addition, as Piketty and other defenders of massive state indebtedness maintain, deficits are not a problem and increasing debt is not a concern because it creates reserves, why cancel it? Let’s not forget that many of the parties that have embraced Piketty’s idea in Europe—Podemos, Syriza, and other European radical parties—filed a proposal to exit the euro in 2015 that they have never subsequently withdrawn or rejected. Podemos MEPs presented a resolution in Strasbourg for the European Union to prepare the mechanisms for the “orderly dissolution of the euro zone.” They also proposed to establish “the mechanisms that would allow a country integrated in the single currency to abandon it to adopt another currency,” according to Spanish newspaper Crónica Global.

So basically, radical parties in Europe demand that the ECB forgives their debt and prints more while keeping the option of leaving the euro. Call that baking the cake and eating it. Most eurozone states finance themselves today at negative rates or extremely low yields. It would be a mistake to think that these low interest yields are the consequence of good government fiscal policy. If the eurozone has low interest rates and low yields it’s because European taxpayers keep it solvent—mostly thanks to Germany’s financial solvency. European taxpayers uphold the credibility of the euro as a currency, and with this the ECB can carry out expansionary policies.

Piketty and colleagues open a dangerous option: direct monetization of all and any government spending Argentina-style. And do so ignoring that the euro is the only global reserve currency with redenomination risk, and that its credibility is maintained only because of the widespread confidence in the euro area’s commitment to repay its debts. A euro bond is an asset for many investors globally only because it’s supposed to be of the lowest risk. Opening the Pandora’s box of cancellations means its status as an asset disappears.

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And then Biden wants to go break the deal that made that possible.

No US Combat Deaths in Afghanistan Over Past Year (Antiwar)

For the first time since the US war in Afghanistan started in 2001, no US troops died in combat in the country for an entire year. The last US combat death took place on February 8th, 2020, when two US Army soldiers were killed in a firefight. This means since the US and Taliban signed a peace deal in late February of last year, no US troops have been killed by the group. But with the withdrawal deadline approaching, the Taliban is vowing to again turn their weapons on US soldiers if they stay in Afghanistan past May 1st. While the Biden administration has yet to make a formal announcement, the chances of a US withdrawal by May 1st seem slim. Last week, a congressionally mandated report was released that warned against the May 1st deadline, which could be all the excuse the US needs to stay.


Pentagon officials have said the deadline is uncertain and insist troops levels in Afghanistan remain “conditions-based.” US officials have been complaining about the amount of violence between the Taliban and the US-backed government. On Monday, Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command, said the level of violence is “too high” and that the Biden administration is taking “a close look at the way forward in accordance with the February 2020 peace agreement.” Since the US is not the only country with troops in Afghanistan, the US-Taliban deal paved the way for all foreign and NATO forces to leave the country. While the alliance has also not made a formal announcement, NATO officials told reporters that NATO troops will remain in Afghanistan beyond May 1st.

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Get out the popcorn.

As Trump Impeachment Trial Starts, Democrat Agenda Crashes Into Reality (JTN)

[..] And the emotionally charged case that Trump incited the Capitol riot with his Jan. 6 speech, has developed deep cracks. Less than a half dozen Republicans have shown any interest in conviction as the facts increasingly show the riot was not spontaneous but rather planned for days and weeks with fund-raising, training, and combat threats. Even the former Capitol Police chief has weighed in with a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying the attacks exhibited a “high level of coordination,” undercutting the Democrats’ spontaneous incitement narrative even further. The likelihood of Trump’s conviction has waned as the premeditation evidence mounts, and now Democrats once gleeful they could end the 45th president’s ability to ever hold office again are now pressing to get the trial over quickly as acquittal seems assured.

“It’s not clear to me that there is any evidence that will change anyone’s mind,” Hawaii’s Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz told Politico. Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, often an opponent of Trump, acknowledged the obvious, observing, “Both sides would kind of like to wrap it up fairly quickly.” The Senate trial will start Tuesday with a debate over whether the event is even constitutional with Chief Justice John Roberts refusing to preside, Trump already out of office, and a legitimate debate over whether Trump’s speech was protected “free speech” as Democratic law professor John Turley has argued. Once a dream of Democrats, the trial is feeling more like a burden to them as other elements pose obstacles and challenges to the Biden agenda.

Even Biden himself has little interest in watching the trial, his chief spokeswoman said Monday. “I think it’s clear from his schedule and from his intention that he will not spend too much time watching the proceedings,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

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Expensive theater.

It Cost Taxpayers $483 Million To Send National Guard Troops To DC (F.)

The federal government is projected to spend $483 million to keep National Guard troops in Washington, D.C., until mid-March, amid fears that former President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial may draw more violence. Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday the price of sending National Guard troops to protect the area around the Capitol from January 6 to March 15 will total $483 million, $284 million for personnel and $199 million for operations. 5,000 troops are slated to remain in the city until March 15 as Trump’s Senate impeachment trial poses security concerns, Politico reported, including “mass demonstrations,” but it’s unclear if there is a specific threat. In the aftermath of the Capitol riots, 25,000 National Guard troops flooded Washington, D.C., for Biden’s inauguration in an effort to prevent further violence.


The majority of troops remaining in the city will do so voluntarily, according to Politico. Republican lawmakers have questioned the need for National Guard troops around the Capitol Hill complex. “We still have National Guardsmen out there, away from their families, away from their jobs, supplementing the police, and yet we can’t get a briefing on what is this dire threat that requires so many people. We still don’t have answers,” Rep. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) told Fox News. Security forces were largely unprepared for the pro-Trump mob that breached the Capitol last month. National Guard troops were only called in after rioters stormed the building, and members of both parties are calling for investigations into security lapses surrounding the attack. But keeping thousands of troops in the city has been rocky: nearly 200 have contracted Covid-19, according to the Military Times.

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Bit of a campaign going on, even the New York Times chimes in. 10 years too late.

Assange Supporters Urge Joe Biden To Drop Prosecution (Ind.)

Media freedom groups and supporters of Julian Assange have asked the Biden administration to drop the US’s pursuit of the WikiLeaks’ founder, saying Donald Trump was opposed to the idea of a “free press”. In their first appeal to the US government since Joe Biden became president less than three weeks ago, more than 20 groups working to promote human right and a free media, wrote to the department of justice, asking it to drop the case against Mr Assange, saying they were fearful “the way that a precedent created by prosecuting Assange could be leveraged”.

“The indictment of Mr Assange threatens press freedom because much of the conduct described in the indictment is conduct that journalists engage in routinely — and that they must engage in in order to do the work the public needs them to do,” said the letter, signed by groups including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Freedom of the Press Foundation. “Journalists at major news publications regularly speak with sources, ask for clarification or more documentation, and receive and publish documents the government considers secret. In our view, such a precedent in this case could effectively criminalise these common journalistic practices.” There was no immediate response from the White House. But in a short statement released on Monday evening, a spokesperson for the department of justice, said: “We are continuing our efforts to seek the extradition of Julian Assange.”

[..] In their letter, the activists point out the Obama administration, of which Mr Biden was a key part, decided not to pursue the prosecution of Mr Assange. “The Trump administration positioned itself as an antagonist to the institution of a free and unfettered press in numerous ways. Its abuse of its prosecutorial powers was among the most disturbing,” the letter says. “We are deeply concerned about the way that a precedent created by prosecuting Assange could be leveraged—perhaps by a future administration—against publishers and journalists of all stripes.” The New York Times said the department had a deadline of Friday to file a brief in the British court if it wanted to continue to pursue the matter. The department is currently headed by a caretaker official, Monty Wilkinson, the acting attorney general. The letter was addressed to him.

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War on Domestic Terror goes global.

The -New Normal- War on Domestic Terror (CJ Hopkins)

If you enjoyed the Global War on Terror, you’re going to love the new War on Domestic Terror! It’s just like the original Global War on Terror, except that this time the “Terrorists” are all “Domestic Violent Extremists” (“DVEs”), “Homegrown Violent Extremists” (“HVEs”), “Violent Conspiracy-Theorist Extremists” (“VCTEs”), “Violent Reality Denialist Extremists” (VRDEs”), “Insurrectionary Micro-Aggressionist Extremists” (“IMAEs”), “People Who Make Liberals Feel Uncomfortable” (“PWMLFUs”), and anyone else the Department of Homeland Security wants to label an “extremist” and slap a ridiculous acronym on. According to a “National Terrorism Advisory System Bulletin” issued by the DHS on January 27, these DCEs, HVEs, VCTEs, VRDEs, IMAEs, and PWMLFUs are “ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority [and] perceived grievances fueled by false narratives.”

They are believed to be “motivated by a range of issues, including anger over Covid-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results, police use of force,” and other dangerous “false narratives” (e.g., the existence of the “deep state,” “herd immunity,” “biological sex,” “God,” and so on). “Inspired by foreign terrorist groups” and “emboldened by the breach of the US Capitol Building,” this diabolical network of “domestic terrorists” is “plotting attacks against government facilities,” “threatening violence against critical infrastructure” and actively “citing misinformation and conspiracy theories about Covid-19.” For all we know, they might be huddled in the “Wolf’s Lair” at Mar-a-Lago right now, plotting a devastating terrorist attack with those WMDs we never found in Iraq, or generating population-adjusted death-rate charts going back 20 years, or posting pictures of “extremist frogs” on the Internet.

The Department of Homeland Security is “concerned,” as are its counterparts throughout the global capitalist empire. The (New Normal) War on Domestic Terror isn’t just a war on American “domestic terror.” The “domestic terror” threat is international. France has just passed a “Global Security Law” banning citizens from filming the police beating the living snot out of people (among other “anti-terrorist” provisions). In Germany, the government is preparing to install an anti-terror moat around the Reichstag. In the Netherlands, the police are cracking down on the VCTEs, VRDEs, and other “angry citizens who hate the system,” who have been protesting over nightly curfews.

Read more …

 

 

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Jan 252021
 


Amedeo Modigliani Jeanne Hebuterne 1919

 

Israel: 60% Drop In Hospitalizations For Age 60+ 3 Weeks After 1st Shot (ToI)
Nevada District To Partially Reopen Schools As Student Suicides Surge (Hill)
California Refuses To Disclose COVID19 Data Used To Drive Lockdowns (ZH)
Covid-19 Variant In California May Explain Sharp Rise In Cases (F.)
Tulsi Gabbard: Domestic-Terrorism Bill Targets Almost Half The Country (NR)
Biden 2020 Run Backed By $145 Million In ‘Dark Money’ (ZH)
Rubio: Trump Impeachment Trial Is ‘Stupid’ (Hill)
Impeachment Trial To Keep National Guard Troops At Capitol (Pol.)
UN Agency: China Surpassed US In Foreign Direct Investments In 2020 (Hill)
Boeing 737 Max Cleared To Fly Again ‘Too Early’ (BBC)
Australia Says ‘Inevitable’ That Facebook & Google Will Pay For Content (RT)
Facebook Feeds Private Messages of Its Users Directly to the FBI (TFTP)
Toxic Chemicals Threaten Humanity’s Ability To Reproduce (IC)

 

 

 

 

Build Back Better
https://twitter.com/i/status/1351507371386949639

 

 

Could be good news. But I’m a bit reluctant to attach too much meaning to 6 vs 18 infections among 50,777 people. Once you apply normal procedures like margin of error to this, then what are you left with? What would a bookmaker make of it?

Israel: 60% Drop In Hospitalizations For Age 60+ 3 Weeks After 1st Shot (ToI)

Vaccines are quickly averting serious cases of COVID-19 among the most vulnerable members of society, an Israeli healthcare provider has indicated. The full effects of Pfizer’s vaccine are only slated to kick in around a month after the first shot, but data from Israel, home to the world’s fastest vaccination drive, has already shown that there is a stark drop in infections even before this point. Attracting widespread international interest by sharing early data, Maccabi Healthcare Services reported earlier this month that it has seen a 60 percent reduction in coronavirus infections three weeks after the first shot is administered. But it wasn’t clear if the benefits were being felt equally by those who have a propensity to mild infection and those who would be likely to take COVID-19 badly.

Now, Maccabi is starting to answer the question that hospitals and health ministers around the world are anxiously asking, amid fears of health service meltdowns: How quickly will COVID-19 wards start to see the benefits of vaccination? The decrease in hospital admissions is swift after vaccination, Maccabi suggests in its latest data, finding that hospitalizations start to fall sharply from Day 18 after people receive the first shot. Galia Rahav, head of infectious diseases at Israel’s largest hospital, Sheba Medical Center, described the data as “very important.” By Day 23, which is 2 days after the second shot, there is a 60% drop in hospitalizations among vaccinated people aged 60-plus, Maccabi revealed after monitoring 50,777 patients. It compared their hospitalization rate at that point with their hospitalization rate soon after receiving the vaccine, using 7-day moving averages.

“This is very important data,” Rahav, who is unconnected to the study, told The Times of Israel. “It has an impact because amid high infection rates and the spread of variants it’s hard to see from general figures how vaccination is influencing things. “By giving an insight into hospitalizations among just those elderly people who were vaccinated, this data is valuable.” However, she cautioned that some of the drop may be due to a tendency of newly vaccinated people to adhere to lockdown rules, which causes a drop in infection and hospitalization.The new data also supports Maccabi’s earlier claim of a 60% infection rate drop after three weeks, reporting that it saw the same drop with a new sample comprising only the 60-plus age group. Maccabi’s graph gives a real picture of infection in Israel, showing that until Day 13, vaccinated over-60s had similar infection rates as the overall 60-plus population. Then, a gap opens, and by Day 23, there were 18 daily infections among the 50,777 overall, but just six among the vaccinated.

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One dimension is not enough.

Nevada District To Partially Reopen Schools As Student Suicides Surge (Hill)

The Clark County School District in Nevada is moving to partially reopen schools in response to a surge of student suicides, The New York Times reports. Eighteen students in the county took their own lives in the final nine months of 2020, the Times reports, leading the Clark County school board to approve returning some elementary school grades and struggling classes back to in-person learning despite the continuing spread of the coronavirus. “When we started to see the uptick in children taking their lives, we knew it wasn’t just the COVID numbers we need to look at anymore,” said Clark County superintendent Jesus Jara. “We have to find a way to put our hands on our kids, to see them, to look at them. They’ve got to start seeing some movement, some hope.”

According to Jara, the 18 suicides in the nine months that schools have been closed is double the number of suicides recorded in the school district in the entire previous year. The youngest student to kill themselves was nine years old. The pandemic has had a devastating effect on students’ mental health, grades and attendance around the world and health and education experts have struggled with the best way to protect students – and the faculty, staff and family members who may be more vulnerable – while tending to their mental health and education. In Virginia’s largest school district, the number of F’s nearly doubled among middle school and high school students.

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has called for schools to remain open if at all possible, saying there is a way for them to do so safely. The Times reports that Clark County, which includes the city of Las Vegas, invested in the GoGuardian Beacon alert system following the sixth student suicide. The system monitors student writing on iPads provided by the school district, looking for suicide risks. More than 31,000 alerts were made between the months of June and October.

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“..they won’t answer why indoor religious services are strictly forbidden while other venues where people gather are just fine..”

California Refuses To Disclose COVID19 Data Used To Drive Lockdowns (ZH)

California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) promised months ago that the state’s COVID-19 policy decisions would be driven by transparent data that would be shared with the public. Now, his administration is refusing to disclose key information used to determine when lockdown orders are implemented or rescinded – and has denied a public records request filed with the California Health and Human Services (CHHS) Agency on May 28 by the Center for American Liberty (CAL) seeking both the data and science behind the state’s lockdown decisions, according to Fox News. State health officials now say they rely on a ‘very complex set of measurements that would confuse and potentially mislead the public,’ AP reports.

In short, California says you’re too stupid to understand their rationale for mandating thousands of businesses into financial ruin through what appear to be arbitrary and unscientific decisions. To wit, at least two California judges have struck down the state’s draconian mandates over lack of scientific evidence to support lockdowns and restaurant restrictions. Not only that, according to SFGATE, there’s growing speculation that California’s ban on outdoor dining may have contributed to the state’s COVID-19 surge. Not the best of optics as as a GOP effort to recall Newsom continues to gain momentum. According to CAL executive director Mark Trammel, the Golden State won’t answer why, for example, they won’t answer why indoor religious services are strictly forbidden while other venues where people gather are just fine.

“If it’s safe enough to go to a marijuana dispensary or Macy’s or Costco that same standard should apply to parishioners in our congregation they should be able to sep in pews and wear a mask,” Trammel told Fox News in a recent interview. Dr. Lee Riley, chairman of UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health infectious disease division thinks the state’s lack of transparency is troubling. “There is more uncertainty created by NOT releasing the data that only the state has access to,” he told the Associated Press in an email.

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Get your own variant!

Covid-19 Variant In California May Explain Sharp Rise In Cases (F.)

The post-Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s surge of Covid-19 cases has been felt in nearly all 50 states, but perhaps none more so than California. More specifically, Southern California, and even more specifically, Los Angeles County, have been experiencing daily case counts never before seen in the past 11 months. Hospitals have been in surge mode since the week before Christmas, with ICU capacity down to 0% in many facilities. Reminiscent of New York City back in April 2020, refrigerated trucks for deceased bodies of those who succumbed to complications due to Covid-19 infections were seen outside of many hospitals, where morgues became full in recent weeks. Some hospitals have been using tents, hallways, and even hospital gift shops as patient care areas. Some hospitals were operating at 200% capacity.

Most have canceled non-emergency surgeries, procedures, and admissions. Death rates of hospitalized patients have risen, in part due to stresses on personnel and equipment availability, and in part due to the fact that only the very sickest patients would be provided an inpatient hospital bed. Initial thoughts that the relatively cooler weather, even for Southern California, combined with pandemic fatigue and complacency, all in the midst of holiday gatherings and travel, would explain the remarkable uptick in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. By early January 2021, test positivity in Los Angeles County was in the 20% range, and one Angeleno was dying from Covid every six to eight minutes. But just as the U.K. has identified a more transmissible variant, termed B.1.1.7, South Africa has identified another highly transmissible variant, and a third variant has arisen in Japan and Brazil, California has found one of its own.

The California strain, known as Cal.20C, has been identified in 35-50% of recently diagnosed cases in Los Angeles. And as has been the case for the other variants across the world, all of which have crossed oceans and borders, the Cal.20C variant is more infectious than the prior forms of coronavirus, or SARS-CoV2. In addition, this and the previously identified variants are not necessarily more deadly, nor do they necessarily cause more significant illnesses. The variant, although named for the western-most state, has also been found in other states in the Southwest as well as the Northeast.

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“You start looking at obviously, have to be a white person, obviously likely male, libertarians, anyone who loves freedom, liberty, maybe has an American flag outside their house..”

Tulsi Gabbard: Domestic-Terrorism Bill Targets Almost Half The Country (NR)

Tulsi Gabbard, the former Democratic representative from Hawaii, on Friday expressed concern that a proposed measure to combat domestic terrorism could be used to undermine civil liberties. Gabbard’s comments came during an appearance on Fox News Primetime when host Brian Kilmeade asked her if she was “surprised they’re pushing forward with this extra surveillance on would-be domestic terror.” “It’s so dangerous as you guys have been talking about, this is an issue that all Democrats, Republicans, independents, Libertarians should be extremely concerned about, especially because we don’t have to guess about where this goes or how this ends,” Gabbard said. She continued:

“When you have people like former CIA Director John Brennan openly talking about how he’s spoken with or heard from appointees and nominees in the Biden administration who are already starting to look across our country for these types of movements similar to the insurgencies they’ve seen overseas, that in his words, he says make up this unholy alliance of religious extremists, racists, bigots, he lists a few others and at the end, even libertarians.” She said her concern lies in how officials will define the characteristics they are searching for in potential threats.

“What characteristics are we looking for as we are building this profile of a potential extremist, what are we talking about? Religious extremists, are we talking about Christians, evangelical Christians, what is a religious extremist? Is it somebody who is pro-life? Where do you take this?” Gabbard said. She said the proposed legislation could create “a very dangerous undermining of our civil liberties, our freedoms in our Constitution, and a targeting of almost half of the country.” “You start looking at obviously, have to be a white person, obviously likely male, libertarians, anyone who loves freedom, liberty, maybe has an American flag outside their house, or people who, you know, attended a Trump rally,” Gabbard said.

Tulsi Liberty
https://twitter.com/i/status/1353403241820635136

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We’ll never know how much. Would it be an idea to just stop this? So a billionaire gets one vote, just like a plumber?

Biden 2020 Run Backed By $145 Million In ‘Dark Money’ (ZH)

President Biden’s campaign received a record-breaking amount of anonymous donations to outside groups backing him, which means the public “will never have a full accounting of who helped him win the White House,” according to Bloomberg. In total, $145 million in so-called dark money donations, “a type of fundraising Democrats have decried for years,” backed the Biden campaign – and combined with his $1.5 billion record-breaking haul. Of note, Biden’s campaign called for banning certain types of nonprofits from spending money to influence elections, and that any organization spending over $10,000 to benefit a candidate register with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and disclose its donors. They didn’t specifically call on their own supporters to do so, however.

“That amount of dark money dwarfs the $28.4 million spent on behalf of his rival, former President Donald Trump. And it tops the previous record of $113 million in anonymous donations backing Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012. Democrats have said they want to ban dark money as uniquely corrupting, since it allows supporters to quietly back a candidate without scrutiny. Yet in their effort to defeat Trump in 2020, they embraced it.” -Bloomberg. One such dark money recipient, Priorities USA Action Fund designated by Biden as his preferred vehicle for outside spending, backed Biden with $26 million originally (and anonymously) donated to its nonprofit arm, Priorities USA.

Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil deflected when asked about the funds, saying in a statement “We weren’t going to unilaterally disarm against Trump and the right- wing forces that enabled him.” Another entity funneling dark money to benefit Biden was the Future Forward PAC, which spent $104 million backing Biden. While they received tens of millions from known sources, such as $46.9 million from Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, $3 million from Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson, and $2.6 million from Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt – they received $61 million from Future Forward USA Action – none of which requires disclosure of sources.

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“I don’t own the Senate seat, it doesn’t belong to me,” he added. “If I want to be back in the U.S Senate, I have to earn that every six years.”

Rubio: Trump Impeachment Trial Is ‘Stupid’ (Hill)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Sunday that he would vote to dismiss the article of impeachment against former President Trump at the earliest opportunity, calling the upcoming Senate trial detrimental to national unity. “I think the trial is stupid,” Rubio said on “Fox News Sunday.” “We already have a flaming fire in this country,” he added, saying the trial would be “a bunch of gasoline.” “The first chance I get to vote to end this trial I’ll do it,” the Florida senator told Fox News’s Chris Wallace. Rubio went on to say that then-President Ford’s pardon of former President Nixon after his resignation was “in hindsight important” for “moving the country forward” despite widespread consensus that Nixon had committed criminal offenses. “I think [Trump is] entitled to due process,” Rubio added.


“The House doesn’t have much of a record of witnesses because they rammed it through very quickly … I think this is going to be very bad for the country.” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) earlier in the show pushed back on claims that convicting a former president was unconstitutional, saying the “preponderance of opinion” allowed for such a conviction. Romney was the only Republican to vote for conviction in the president’s early 2020 impeachment trial. Wallace went on to ask Rubio, who is up for reelection in 2022, about rumors that former White House adviser Ivanka Trump is considering a primary challenge for the Senate seat. “I don’t really get into the parlor games of Washington,” Rubio said. “I don’t own the Senate seat, it doesn’t belong to me,” he added. “If I want to be back in the U.S Senate, I have to earn that every six years.”

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“Morale is low among the troops, who described having to stand guard for hours at a time in full gear with limited access to food and water..”

Impeachment Trial To Keep National Guard Troops At Capitol (Pol.)

Former President Donald Trump’s upcoming Senate impeachment trial poses a security concern that federal law enforcement officials told lawmakers last week requires as many as 5,000 National Guard troops to remain in Washington through mid-March, according to four people familiar with the matter. The contingency force will help protect the Capitol from what was described as “impeachment security concerns,” including the possibility of mass demonstrations coinciding with the Senate’s trial, which is slated to begin the week of Feb. 8. Despite the threat, the citizen soldiers on the ground say they have been given little information about the extension and wonder why they are being forced to endure combat-like conditions in the nation’s capital without a clear mission.

“Quite frankly this is not a ‘combat zone,’ so combat conditions shouldn’t apply,” said one Guard member on the ground in D.C. who has deployed twice to Afghanistan. Several National Guard units have seen their deployments extended involuntarily, though a majority of Guardsmen remaining in Washington will do so on a volunteer basis. Around 7,000 troops will continue to provide riot security through the beginning of February, with that number decreasing slightly to 5,000 by the time Trump’s impeachment trial begins. “We are not going to allow any surprises again,” said one Guard member, referring to the widespread lack of preparedness for the insurrection on Jan. 6. There is also some concern over potential unrest surrounding March 4, the date some QAnon conspiracy theorists believe Trump will be inaugurated for the second time.

[..] Now, thousands of Guard members will remain in Washington far longer than they initially expected when they packed their suitcases for what they believed to be a short-term mission on Jan. 6. The rank-and-file have so far been given no official justifications, threat reports or any explanation for the extended mission, said two Guard members — nor have they seen any violence thus far. “There is no defined situation, or mission statement. … This is very unusual for any military mission,” said one member, who has deployed twice to Afghanistan. “We are usually given a situation, with defined mission perimeters, and at least a tentative plan on how to execute those objectives.”

[..] Morale is low among the troops, who described having to stand guard for hours at a time in full gear with limited access to food and water, waiting for hours to be transported to and from their hotels, and very little sleep. Many are washing socks and cold-weather undergarments in hotel bathroom sinks because they do not have access to laundry facilities. Some have been forced to purchase their own food out of pocket to supplement the sparse meals they have been provided, which do not provide enough calories to sustain the long days. Even meals ready to eat are hard to come by due to logistical and transportation issues. “Even if they do arrive all on time, the calories are just not there for the amount of work we put in and time we’re spending on our feet, in the cold, in full gear,” one Guard member said.

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Western stimulus money being transferred out of originating countries because their interest rates are too low.

UN Agency: China Surpassed US In Foreign Direct Investments In 2020 (Hill)

A United Nations trade agency reported that China surpassed the U.S. as the largest recipient of foreign direct investments (FDI) in 2020. The UN Conference on Trade and Developments (UNCTAD) concluded that China became the largest FDI receiver last year over the U.S., with flows increasing by 4 percent to $163 billion, Bloomberg News reported. Most countries saw decreases due to the coronavirus pandemic, including the U.S., which saw its flow drop by 49 percent to $134 billion, according to UNCTAD’s Investment Trends Monitor. The U.S.’s decrease was seen in wholesale trade, financial services and manufacturing. China’s return to positive GDP growth and targeted investment facilitation program assisted in the country’s FDI levels, the agency noted in a release.


Globally, flows fell by 42 percent to $859 billion due to the coronavirus pandemic, compared to $1.5 trillion in 2019. The global foreign direct investment reached its lowest level since the 1990s, including 30 percent lower than investments after the 2008-2009 financial crisis. North American flows dropped by 46 percent to $166 billion, but Europe saw declines of about 66 percent to negative $4 billion. The decreases were found to be concentrated in developed countries, where flows dropped 69 percent. Meanwhile, developing countries accounted for 72 percent of the global FDI, the highest percentage recorded.

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And there’s Sully.

Boeing 737 Max Cleared To Fly Again ‘Too Early’ (BBC)

A former senior manager at Boeing’s 737 plant in Seattle has raised new concerns over the safety of the company’s 737 Max. The aircraft, which was grounded after two accidents in which 346 people died, has already been cleared to resume flights in North America and Brazil, and is expected to gain approval in Europe this week. But in a new report, Ed Pierson claims that further investigation of electrical issues and production quality problems at the 737 factory is badly needed. Regulators in the US and Europe insist their reviews have been thorough, and that the 737 Max aircraft is now safe. In his report, Mr Pierson claims that regulators and investigators have largely ignored factors, which he believes, may have played a direct role in the accidents. He explicitly links them to conditions at the company’s factory in Renton, near Seattle at the time. Boeing says this is unfounded.

Lion Air flight JT610 crashed into the sea off Indonesia in October 2018. Five months later, Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302 came down minutes after take-off from the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Investigators believe both accidents were triggered by the failure of a single sensor. It sent inaccurate data to a piece of flight control software, called MCAS. This automated system then repeatedly forced the nose of the aircraft downwards, when the pilots were trying to gain height. Ultimately each aircraft was pushed into an unrecoverable dive. Efforts to make the 737 Max safe have focused on redesigning the MCAS software, and ensuring it can no longer be triggered by a single sensor failure.

For Ed Pierson, this does not go nearly far enough. A US Navy veteran, who had a senior role on the 737 production line from 2015-2018, he was a star witness during congressional hearings into the disasters involving the Max. He told lawmakers he had become so concerned about conditions at the factory, he had told his bosses that he was hesitant about taking his own family on a Boeing plane. [..] Mr Pierson’s concerns are supported by the celebrated aviation safety campaigner Captain Chesley Sullenberger. Best known as “Sully”, one of the pilots who safely ditched a crippled and engineless Airbus plane in the Hudson river off Manhattan in 2009, he too believes that modifications to the Max do not go far enough. He believes changes are needed to warning systems aboard the plane, which were carried over from a previous version of the 737 and are “not up to modern standards”.

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One member of the Five Eyes defies the others.

Australia Says ‘Inevitable’ That Facebook & Google Will Pay For Content (RT)

Australia’s treasurer has advised the tech giants to accept that their platforms will have to start paying for content, amid threats from Facebook and Google to limit services in the country if such a policy is enacted. Canberra is finalizing legislation that would require the internet behemoths to obtain licenses to use content created by Australian news outlets. Both companies have warned that they would retaliate over the revenue-sharing scheme, with Google saying last week that it would remove its search engine from Australia, and Facebook declaring that it would strip news from the feeds of all Australian users. On Sunday, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg pushed back on the ultimatums, signaling that the Australian government wouldn’t reverse course.

“My view is that it is inevitable that the digital giants will be paying for original content,” he said, suggesting that Australia was leading the way in what would soon become a worldwide norm. He also admonished Facebook and Google for their hostility towards the proposed regulation, describing their threats to pull out of Australia as a “big disservice.” Google has been particularly unreceptive to the proposed legislation. Earlier this month, it was revealed that the Silicon Valley giant has been experimenting with blacklisting some Australian news sites from its search results, apparently as a future strategy to avoid having to pay for hosting the content. The move shocked Australian media outlets, which accused Google of carrying out a flagrant show of force to stop the revenue-sharing code from becoming law.

A spokesman for Nine, the corporate owners of the Sydney Morning Herald, described the tech behemoth’s “experiment” as a “chilling illustration of their extraordinary market power.” The proposed law was drafted last July following an inquiry by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The commission concluded that a large proportion of the country’s media are reliant on referrals from Google and Facebook, despite the fact that news outlets have little or no influence over the powerhouse corporations.

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They’re US intelligence pure and simple.

Facebook Feeds Private Messages of Its Users Directly to the FBI (TFTP)

Deferring all responsibility for the planning of the raid on the capitol, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg had stated shortly after the incident that the protests were largely organized off Facebook. However, she was not telling the truth, and likely knew that large portions of the pro-Trump protests were talked about and organized on Facebook. But was Facebook wiped off the internet like Parler? No, no it was not. Here’s why. This week, Facebook began furnishing the Federal Bureau of Investigation with data on Trump supporters who discussed the events at the capitol on their platform — up to and including their private messages. Through this action the social media giant is acting as a de facto intelligence collecting arm of the US government.

In contrast, when Syed Farook, otherwise known as the San Bernardino mass shooter, wouldn’t unlock his iPhone for the feds, Apple refused to create a backdoor for them to access it acting as an actual private company supporting the privacy rights of its customers. But Facebook is more than willing to open up its data mining services for their friends in the federal government — because, as we have stated numerous times, Facebook is not private. As TFTP reported in 2018, Facebook announced that it partnered with the arm of the government-funded Atlantic Council, known as the Digital Forensic Research Lab that was brought on to help the social media behemoth with “real-time insights and updates on emerging threats and disinformation campaigns from around the world.”

The Atlantic Council is the group that NATO uses to whitewash wars and foster hatred toward Russia, which in turn allows them to continue to justify themselves. It’s funded by arms manufacturers like Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing. It is also funded by billionaire oligarchs like the Ukraine’s Victor Pinchuk and Saudi billionaire Bahaa Hariri. The list goes on. The highly unethical HSBC group — who has been caught numerous times laundering money for cartels and terrorists — is listed as one of their top donors. They are also funded by the pharmaceutical industry, Google, Goldman Sachs and others. However, the funding that comes from the United States, the US Army, and the Airforce directly negates the “private” aspect of the partnership. The “think tank” Facebook partnered with to make decisions on who they censor is directly funded by multiple state actors — including the United States — which voids any and all claims that Facebook is a wholly “private actor.”

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It’s scary stuff, and it makes you wonder how it links to all the talk of erasing gender-specific words etc.

Toxic Chemicals Threaten Humanity’s Ability To Reproduce (IC)

Shanna Swan is the senior author of a 2017 study that documented a dramatic drop in sperm counts in Western countries over the past half-century. That meta-analysis of 185 studies involving 42,935 men found that total sperm count fell 59 percent between 1973 and 2011. Swan, a reproductive epidemiologist, pointed to the role of environmental chemicals in that trend. Now she has written “Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperiling the Future of the Human Race,” a book that ties industrial chemicals in everyday products to a wide range of changes taking place in recent years, including increasing numbers of babies being born with smaller penises; higher rates of erectile dysfunction; declining fertility; eroding sex differences in some animal species; and potentially even behaviors that are thought of as gender-typical.

Your study showed that baby boys who had been exposed to four different phthalates at the end of the first trimester in the womb had a shorter anogenital distance, or AGD. Can you explain what AGD is and why it’s important? Nobody is going to like that term, so you could use taint or gooch instead. But basically it’s the distance between the anus and the beginning of the genitals. And scientists have recognized its importance for a long time. I have a paper from 1912 that looks at AGD and showed that they were nearly 100 percent longer in males than in females. Our work has shown that chemicals, including the diethylhexyl phthalate, shorten the AGD in males.

You’ve also linked phthalate exposure to a lack of interest in sex. Yes, we found a relationship between women’s phthalate levels and their sexual satisfaction. And researchers in China found that workers with higher levels of bisphenol A, commonly known as BPA, in their blood were more likely to have sexual problems, including decreased desire. Of course, phthalates, which are added to plastics, food, cosmetics, and other products, aren’t the only problem. You write about lots of chemicals that interfere with the hormonal system and reproduction, including the pesticide atrazine, which you’ve linked to lower sperm quality, and glyphosate, which you’ve recently shown decreases AGD in rats and perhaps also in humans.

It’s worth pointing out that all of these chemicals we’re talking about are still in use in the U.S., while some other countries have banned them. Anyway, tell me about the relationship between endocrine disrupting chemicals and how children play? Sexually dimorphic play is controversial. Some people say it’s all socially determined. And it undoubtedly does have social determinants, but it also has physiological determinants. And we showed that in two studies. We asked mothers of young children to tell us how their children play. It’s pretty simple: How often do they play with guns? Play with dolls? Play dress-up? Play with tea sets, etc. And it turns out that when boys are exposed to the same chemicals that affect AGD, they play in a less male-typical manner.

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Jan 222021
 


Vincent van Gogh Laboureur dans un champ 1889

 

1000s Of Guardsmen Forced To Vacate Capitol, Sleep In Parking Garage (Pol.)
Words of Division (MacDonald)
Trump as Othello in a Corporate Theater (Ford)
Round Up the Usual Suspects; Don’t Forget Putin (Ray McGovern)
The Capturing of the Capitol (Tracey)
State Legislatures Make “Unprecedented” Push On Anti-Protest Bills (IC)
12,000 Israelis Test Positive For Covid19 Despite Receiving Pfizer Jab (RT)
Merkel To Close German Borders Unless EU Agrees On Covid-19 Fight (RT)
Fauci : Covid Vaccines Less Effective Against Some New Strains (CNBC)
Time to Worry About Stock Market Leverage Again (WS)
Large US Military Convoy Enters Northeast Syria (AMN)
Google, Facebook Give Australian Local Government PR Website ‘News’ Status (R.)

 

 


The 21st second of the 21st minute of the 21st hour of the 21st day of the 21st year of the 21st century.

 

 

All good now, but what a blunder.

1000s Of Guardsmen Forced To Vacate Capitol, Sleep In Parking Garage (Pol.)

Thousands of National Guardsmen were allowed back into the Capitol Thursday night, hours after U.S. Capitol Police officials ordered them to vacate the facilities, sending them outdoors or to nearby parking garages after two weeks pulling security duty after the deadly riot on Jan. 6. One unit, which had been resting in the Dirksen Senate Office building, was abruptly told to vacate the facility on Thursday, according to one Guardsman. The group was forced to rest in a nearby parking garage without internet reception, with just one electrical outlet, and one bathroom with two stalls for 5,000 troops, the person said. Temperatures in Washington were in the low 40s by nightfall. “Yesterday dozens of senators and congressmen walked down our lines taking photos, shaking our hands and thanking us for our service.

Within 24 hours, they had no further use for us and banished us to the corner of a parking garage. We feel incredibly betrayed,” the Guardsman said. All National Guard troops were told to vacate the Capitol and nearby congressional buildings on Thursday, and to set up mobile command centers outside or in nearby hotels, another Guardsman confirmed. They were told to take their rest breaks during their 12-hour shifts outside and in parking garages, the person said. Top lawmakers from both parties took to Twitter to decry the decision and call for answers after POLITICO first reported the news Thursday night, with some even offering their offices to be used as rest areas. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) tweeted: “If this is true, it’s outrageous. I will get to the bottom of this.”

And Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) noted that the Capitol complex remains closed to members of the public, “so there’s plenty of room for troops to take a break in them.” By 10 p.m., Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) said the situation was “being resolved” and that the Guardsmen would be able to return indoors later in the night. “Just made a number of calls and have been informed Capitol Police have apologized to the Guardsmen and they will be allowed back into the complex tonight,” added Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who lost both of her legs in combat. “I’ll keep checking to make sure they are.”

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“This characterization of America’s worsening racism is not just factually ungrounded, it is also a tasteless rhetorical move in an inaugural address. Reflexive invocations of “systemic racism” and “white supremacy” have become the Tourette’s Syndrome of left-wing professors and activists.”

Words of Division (MacDonald)

It’s an odd way to seek national unity: call a significant portion of the American public white supremacists, racists, and nativists. Welcome to the Biden presidency. Joe Biden’s inaugural speech as 46th president is predictably being hailed for its “unifying” message. And just as predictably, his invocations of the divisive bromides of the identitarian Left are being swept under the rug. According to Biden, we are a “great nation” and a “good people.” But we also oppress minorities with an ever-rising fervor. “Growing inequity” is among the greatest challenges facing the country, according to Biden, along with the “sting of systemic racism” and encroaching “white supremacy.” Only now are we confronting “a cry for racial justice, some four hundred years in the making.”

One might have thought that more than 50 years of civil rights legislation; the banishing of Jim Crow segregation; the ubiquity of racial preferences throughout corporate America, higher education, and government; trillions of dollars of tax dollars attempting to close the academic achievement gap; and the election of black politicians by white voting districts would have reduced inequity, not increased it. But to Biden’s speechwriters, steeped in academic victimology, racial inequity is always with us, requiring constant remediation from government. Biden rattled off a litany of white America’s sins: the “harsh, ugly reality” of “racism, nativism, fear, [and] demonization”; “anger, resentment, hatred, [and] extremism.” He did not name white Americans as such, but he did not need to. That qualifier is inherent in the language he chose to adopt.

This characterization of America’s worsening racism is not just factually ungrounded, it is also a tasteless rhetorical move in an inaugural address. Reflexive invocations of “systemic racism” and “white supremacy” have become the Tourette’s Syndrome of left-wing professors and activists. They are au courant, shallow terms of the moment, lacking depth or weight. In fact, such terms are so overused today that it is easy to tune them out. But that would be a mistake. The “systemic racism” conceit means that every American institution is illegitimate and needs to be reconstructed. Biden’s cabinet nominees, whether in health, finance, environmental policy, or education, have declared that eradicating systemic racism is their top priority. How this agenda will play out has already been adumbrated in the CDC’s initial priority list for Covid vaccinations: hold off on vaccinating the elderly, despite their higher risk levels, because the elderly are disproportionately white. Racial quotas will become even more the order of the day than now.

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“The Democratic Party remained a safe vehicle for corporate agendas for the next 20 years – until an Orange Demon was conjured to scare the Democratic base back into the party’s corporate bosom, in 2016.”

Trump as Othello in a Corporate Theater (Ford)

Donald Trump has slunk off the national stage for the time being, but we must remember who made him a contender for president in the first place: the Democrats and their corporate media. As Wikileaks revealed , the Clinton campaign encouraged friendly media to boost Trump’s Republican primary prospects, hoping to set up a straw man that could easily be knocked down in November, 2016. By Election Day, the corporate press had lavished $5 billion in free media on Trump – more than Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and all of Trump’s Republican presidential competitors, combined. If you are desperate to flush the stink of four years of Trump out of your brain, remember who put it there, through constant, daily repetition.

How long will the Orange Menace stay gone? Not long; soon either Trump will make a comeback or the corporate media will inflate another racist straw man to run against. The only way the corporate Democrats can mobilize their base to eek out slim national victories while keeping Joe Biden’s promise to the rich that “nothing would fundamentally change ,” is to position themselves as the sole defense against the racist hordes. That’s how Bill Clinton succeeded in completing Ronald Reagan’s quest to “end welfare as we know it,” while vastly expanding the structures of mass Black incarceration (Sen. Joe Biden proudly “wrote the bill”), gutting safeguards against bankers blowing up the economy, and facilitating the exodus of good jobs to sweatshops overseas. Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America confederacy stampeded Blacks and “progressives” into the corporate Democratic corral, where they were politically neutered.

The Democratic Party remained a safe vehicle for corporate agendas for the next 20 years – until an Orange Demon was conjured to scare the Democratic base back into the party’s corporate bosom, in 2016. [..] When Blacks and progressives rallied behind Bill Clinton to defeat Gingrich, the corporate rulers were enabled to plunge the society into a great leap backward that wiped out the last vestiges of the New Deal, condemned another generation of Black youth to the Gulag, and set the stage for two economic catastrophes that rivaled the Great Depression, while the U.S. military vastly intensified its rampages around the world, the national security state penetrated every digital device on the planet, and huge corporations perfected the tools of public self-surveillance.

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MICIMATT

Round Up the Usual Suspects; Don’t Forget Putin (Ray McGovern)

But, don’t go away, Russia, not just yet. The MICIMATT still finds you convenient as the kind of “threat” it can cite to justify spending untold billions of dollars on defense, enriching the already rich. The way the U.S. system is structured, it matters little in the grand scheme of things on where the money is spent – whether a Republican or Democrat sits in the Oval Office. In short, the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Intelligence-MEDIA-Academia-Think-Tank complex rules the roost (MEDIA in all caps, as the linchpin). Clinton wonders aloud who Trump “is beholden to”. Well, speaking of beholden, Joe Biden enters office with zero vaccination against being beholden – to the MICIMATT. It is fair to say that, without that the MICIMATT’s blessing, candidates end up like Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard.

There are just enough straws in the wind to make the MICIMATT and its clients and supporters nervous. What would happen, should Putin and Russia become less demonized? Could there be a thaw in the unnecessarily chilly relations with Moscow? What could that mean for bloated defense spending – particularly at a time when those funds are so desperately and demonstrably needed at home? It appears likely that strategic arms negotiations with Russia will be high on President Joe Biden’s agenda, as will cooperation with Russia and the other parties to the Iran nuclear deal from which Trump withdrew. Assuming William Burns, former ambassador to Russia, is confirmed as CIA director, Biden will have at his beck and call a straight-speaking, highly experienced expert who has dealt with President Putin. Burns was also one of the chief US negotiators of the Iran nuclear deal.

In my view, it is also significant that President-elect Biden has held back from explicit condemnation of Russia by name amid the recent flurry of accusations of Russian hacking of several US institutions over the past several months. Yes, he has referred to what Secretary of State Pompeo and Attorney General Barr have said blaming Russia, and it can be argued that he has indirectly implicated Russia in the context of his sparse statements on this issue. In my experience, though, the Kremlin is likely to have taken note of the caution that Biden has exercised on this neuralgic issue. Nor has this likely escaped the attention of the MICIMATT and induced some worry about the long-term viability of the portrayal of Putin as villain.

Oliver Stone told me recently that, in one of his conversations in Russia, Mr. Putin, somewhat exasperated, said something along the lines of, “Now Russians are thought of like Jews before World War II”. Think about that. Amid the Russia Russia Russia over the past four-plus years, Putin has kept his voice down – and his powder dry – while staying open to negotiations to reduce arms competition, cyber warfare, and other facets of bilateral tension. If past is precedent, he is likely to see opportunities to take a fresh look at US intentions under President Biden – especially during the traditional “honeymoon” period normally accorded a new president. But clearly, Putin is also aware of the parallels between the demonization of him and Russia and how Jews were blamed for just about everything during the Thirties. Evidence-free accusations by the likes of Pelosi and Clinton will make the task of restoring a modicum of trust an uphill battle.

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“It was the refusal of American media to question the necessity of these extraordinary measures that will be one of the longest-lasting consequences of the entire bizarre affair.”

The Capturing of the Capitol (Tracey)

The US military is routinely shown to be one of the most trusted institutions in American life — so it wasn’t as though their mere presence on the streets of Washington automatically provoked universal horror. After the massive nationwide riots last summer, virtually everyone I spoke to expressed satisfaction with the National Guard’s handling of the chaos. Similarly, the vast number of soldiers deployed to DC this week to ward off a potential “insurrection” were greeted with plentiful selfies and free cheeseburger deliveries. But this operation, which reportedly consisted of 25,000 military personnel — not including the innumerable federal, state, and local law enforcement officials on the ground — was another thing altogether. Downtown DC had been transformed into a brazenly fortified, militarised zone unlike anything in living memory.

Roads were blocked off by oversized armoured vehicles which had been stationed for maximum visibility. The boarding-up of endless storefronts — a result of both the Covid-related economic downturn and prolonged riot-induced anxiety — added to the sense of dystopia. Soldiers patrolled with large rifles slung around their shoulders, directing traffic and checking the “papers” of motorists. One Guardsman from Pennsylvania told me that “legitimate business” was the standard by which they were to adjudicate whether cars would be allowed to pass through. The rifles brandished by many of the troops were conspicuously without a magazine loaded. This is not uncommon for a peacetime mission. The aim was evidently not to subdue any kind of imminent, actionable threat that would require live ammunition, as many politicians and journalists had frantically warned was the case, but to simply act as a gigantic deterrent.

That objective was apparently accomplished. I did not see a single protester anywhere in the city on Inauguration Day, much less any “insurrectionists” or “armed rebels” trawling around, as had been so gravely forecast. The FBI (then still technically under the jurisdiction of Donald Trump) had warned that all 50 state Capitols were at severe risk, and therefore also needed to fortify their defences with military deployments and obtrusive fencing and barriers. Then the day came and went, and… nothing. In both Albany, NY, and Sacramento, CA a total of one Trump hat-wearing man showed up at each.

And so Joe Biden was sworn in without incident, appealing for “unity”, while the city surrounding him was essentially under full-scale military occupation. The night before, I saw multiple platoons marching the streets in two-by-two formation — en route to who knows where. The general public couldn’t get anywhere close to the Inauguration site, the interior of which had been cordoned off with barbed wire. The few stragglers who hopelessly tried to enter the outskirts of the National Mall — mostly foreign media desperate for a story — were fooled by the Secret Service into standing in a line-to-nowhere that never moved.

It was the refusal of American media to question the necessity of these extraordinary measures that will be one of the longest-lasting consequences of the entire bizarre affair. It confirmed that journalists will uncritically accept extravagant shows of intrusive state force, so long as the political incentives are correctly aligned. During the riots in the summer, the US media generally reacted with horror to the prospect of the American military being deployed to allay “civil unrest,” with many claiming that it would be tantamount to white supremacy for soldiers to deter arson attacks against small minority-owned businesses and private residences. But place DC under complete military occupation as a final rebuke to Trump and his shameful supporters, and the show of state force is to be celebrated rather than adversarially probed. Particularly with Democrats now controlling the House, Senate, and Presidency, the wisdom of this occupation is probably never going to be examined in any meaningful way. Will we ever learn how much it cost taxpayers? Doubtful.

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Fear rules fear.

State Legislatures Make “Unprecedented” Push On Anti-Protest Bills (IC)

Elly Page had never seen anything like what’s happened in recent days. A senior legal adviser at the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law, Page has been tracking the proliferation of anti-protest bills across the U.S. since Donald Trump became president in 2017. “The number of bills we have seen in the past three weeks is unprecedented,” she said. Since the day of the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, at least nine states have introduced 14 anti-protest bills. The bills, which vary state by state, contain a dizzying array of provisions that serve to criminalize participation in disruptive protests. The measures range from barring demonstrators from public benefits or government jobs to offering legal protections to those who shoot or run over protesters. Some of the proposals would allow protesters to be held without bail and criminalize camping. A few bills seek to prevent local governments from defunding police.

The pushes by close to a fifth of state legislatures are part of a pattern that began to pick up speed after the summer’s uprisings in response to the police killing of George Floyd, which in many communities included significant property damage. In a handful of states, lawmakers did what they often do: introduced new legislation — however unnecessary — to show that they were responding to their constituents’ concerns. The rate of new bills being offered sped up dramatically this month as lawmakers kicked off their legislative sessions at the very moment that Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol. Bills quickly arose in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Rhode Island.

“There has generally been an uptick at the beginning of odd-numbered years, when most states begin their biennial legislative sessions. But this year beats prior recent years,” Page said in an email. Since January 1, she noted that 11 state legislatures have introduced 17 bills, including those filed before the Capitol insurrection. “Compare that to 0 during the same period in 2020, 9 in 2019, 5 in 2018, and 13 in 2017,” she said, adding that the 2017 spike was mostly due to North Dakota responding to that winter’s Standing Rock protests.

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That’s a lot, no matter how you see it.

12,000 Israelis Test Positive For Covid19 Despite Receiving Pfizer Jab (RT)

More than 12,400 people in Israel have tested positive for coronavirus after being vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, including 69 who had received their second dose, the country’s Health Ministry said. Some 189,000 people were tested for Covid-19 after being vaccinated, with 6.6 percent getting a positive result, according to ministry data reported by Israeli outlets. The majority were apparently infected shortly after receiving the first jab of the two-part vaccine – a period when the inoculation isn’t expected to have kicked in yet. However, 1,410 people tested positive two weeks after their first injection, by which time partial immunity should have already taken effect.

Moreover, 69 patients became infected with the novel coronavirus despite already having been administered both shots of the vaccine, the ministry said. Israel began administering the second doses almost two weeks ago, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu being the first to complete the course. Pfizer has said that a spike in immunity occurs between Day 15 and Day 21 after the first jab, when the effectiveness of its vaccine increases from 52 to 89 percent. According to earlier trials, the protection offered by the vaccine reaches the 95 percent level a week after the second dose is administered, the pharma giant said. When it comes to vaccines, the results of clinical trials may differ from how the immunization performs in the field, where it’s administered to a much greater number of people.

On Tuesday, Israel’s coronavirus tsar, Nachman Ash, reportedly complained to Israeli ministers about the insufficient protection provided by the first shot of the American vaccine. It turned out to be “less effective than we had thought” and “lower than Pfizer presented,” Ash said, as cited by Army Radio. However, the head of the infection unit at Sheba Medical Center – where Netanyahu got his jabs – told Israeli media that the Pfizer vaccine “works wonderfully” after two shots. According to Professor Gili Regev-Yohai, 102 of the medics at the center were tested a week after completing the vaccination course, and all but two of them showed antibody levels between six to 20 times higher than seven days earlier.

[..] Despite already vaccinating more than 20 percent of its own population, Israel doesn’t seem as eager to share immunization with Palestinians in the occupied territories. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization expressed its “concerns” over unequal access to vaccines between Israelis and Palestinian. A WHO representative for Palestine said that the UN body has been in discussions with Israeli authorities on the possibility of allocating vaccines to the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Israeli Health Minister, Yuli Edelstein, has said her department may offer the Palestinian Authoritiy surplus doses after Israelis have received their jabs.

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Scientist Angela’s not liking what she sees..

Merkel To Close German Borders Unless EU Agrees On Covid-19 Fight (RT)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the European Union must find common ground in fighting coronavirus and stopping the spread of new strains that have already swept through the UK and Ireland recently. On Tuesday, Merkel warned that Germany could close its borders unless neighboring states acted together. “We need to make sure that everyone around us is doing the same. Otherwise we have to look at measures such as entry restrictions.” “The EU is one area,” Merkel said in Berlin on Thursday morning, hours before she was scheduled to join a video summit of EU leaders focused on Covid-19. The chancellor warned about the dangers from the spread of the new mutant virus and that they need to be “taken very seriously.”


“We act out of precaution for our country,” Merkel said, adding that everything is now about getting the getting the pandemic under control. EU leaders are to consider whether to approve vaccine passports, which would allow for inoculated people to travel more freely, and whether to apply travel restrictions. Merkel said Germany is at a difficult stage of the pandemic. “On the one hand, the number of daily infections is gradually going down,” she told a press conference. “But the virus is still very dangerous. We have a shockingly high death count, more than 1,000 people today.” On Wednesday, Germany extended its national lockdown until February 14 and brought in new rules making it mandatory to wear medical-grade masks in shops and on public transport. So far, Germany has recorded 50,010 deaths and 2.1 million cases of coronavirus.

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Has anyone seen any reported evidence of vaccine efficacy?

Fauci : Covid Vaccines Less Effective Against Some New Strains (CNBC)

New data shows that the Covid-19 vaccines currently on the market may not be as effective in guarding against new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Thursday. A handful of new strains of the coronavirus have emerged overseas that have given scientists some cause for concern. Some variants that have been identified in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil appear to be more transmissible than previous strains but not necessarily more deadly. While it’s no surprise the virus is mutating, researchers are quickly trying to determine what the changes might mean for recently developed lifesaving vaccines and therapeutics against the disease.

Some early findings that were published in the preprint server bioRxiv, which have yet to be peer reviewed, indicate that the variant identified in South Africa, known as 501Y.V2, can evade the antibodies provided by some coronavirus treatments and may reduce the efficacy of the current line of available vaccines. “Furthermore, 501Y.V2 shows substantial or complete escape from neutralising antibodies in COVID-19 convalescent plasma,” researchers with South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases wrote. Their conclusions, they said, “highlight the prospect of reinfection … and may foreshadow reduced efficacy of current spike-based vaccines.”

Even if the drugs are less effective, they will still likely provide enough protection to make the vaccines worth getting, Fauci said during a White House press briefing. Both vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna have proven to be highly effective, creating a “cushion effect” that would allow for some dip in their effectiveness. “We’re following very carefully the one in South Africa, which is a little bit more concerning, but nonetheless not something that we don’t think we can handle,” Fauci said.

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Stimulus arriving in the wrong places.

Time to Worry About Stock Market Leverage Again (WS)

Margin debt – the amount of money that individuals and institutions borrow against their stock holdings – spiked by 56 billion in December, after having already spiked by 63 billion in November, by far the two largest month-to-month increases on record, to $778 billion, according to FINRA which regulates brokers and exchanges. Since March, this measure of margin debt surged by nearly $300 billion, or by 62%. Margin debt as tracked by FINRA at its member firms isn’t the only form of stock market leverage, but it’s the only form that is disclosed monthly. There are many other forms of stock market leverage by institutions and individuals that are not disclosed, or are only disclosed voluntarily in SEC filings by the brokers and banks that lend to their clients against their portfolios, such as “securities-based loans” (SBLs). We don’t know how much total stock market leverage there is, but margin loans indicate the trends, and we had another WTF moment:

High margin balances tend to precede epic stock market sell-offs, as annotated in the chart above. With these two-decade charts, the long-term changes in the dollar amounts are less relevant since the purchasing power of the dollar has dropped over the period. But on a short-term basis, the movements are very indicative about rising or falling leverage in the stock market. On a year-over-year basis, margin debt surged by nearly $200 billion in December, by far the most ever. Stock market leverage is an accelerator. When stocks already rise, and investors feel confident, they borrow money to buy more stocks, and they can borrow more against their stocks because their value has risen. And this additional borrowed money is then chasing after stocks and thereby creating more buying pressure, and prices surge further.

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Aaannd …we’re baaack!

Large US Military Convoy Enters Northeast Syria (AMN)

A large U.S. military convoy was seen entering northeastern Syria on Thursday, marking the first time since Damascus issued its letter to the United Nations Security Council demanding the immediate withdrawal of American forces from the Arab Republic. According to a field report from northeastern Syria on Thursday, the U.S. military convoy entered the Al-Hasakah Governorate from neighboring Iraq, as they were observed entering the Arab Republic via the Al-Waleed Crossing. The report said the U.S. military convoy consisted of a large amount of weapons and logistical equipment, which were transferred to their bases inside the Al-Hasakah and Deir Ezzor Governorates east of the Euphrates River.


They would add that the U.S. military convoy consisted of over 40 trucks and armored vehicles that were escorted by helicopters until they reached their destinations. These movements by the U.S. military have become routine, with the latter often moving troops and equipment back and forth from neighboring Iraq.

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Oz threatens to make them pay for news, they threaten to limit/cut their “services”, and then decide themselves what constitutes news. Major legal battle.

Google, Facebook Give Australian Local Government PR Website ‘News’ Status (R.)

Google and Facebook Inc have granted an Australian local government news provider status, drawing questions about the internet giants’ efforts to curate news media. Bundaberg Council, a regional government, told Reuters a website it runs received classification as a Google “news source”, making it the country’s first local government with that accreditation. That means a council-funded website containing only public relations content gets priority in Google News searches about the agriculture hub of 100,000 people, accompanied by a “news source” tag. Bundaberg also has the country’s only confirmed council-run Facebook page tagged as a “News & Media Website”. The designation shows the gaps left in the country’s traditional news market as smaller publications wither and disappear.


Bundaberg Council’s news website says it does not publish court and crime reports, politics, “investigative journalism” or “negative stories”. “It’s just another example of the way these tech giants are allowed to operate outside any accountability framework at all,” said Denis Muller, an Honorary Fellow at University of Melbourne’s Centre for Advancing Journalism. “If they want to classify a council PR website as a news website, well, they can, and there’s nothing stopping them.” Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook are fighting an Australian federal government plan to make them pay media outlets for original content that appears on their platforms, telling a Senate inquiry that the new rules may lead them to cancel some core services in the country.

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Jean-Léon Gérôme Slave market 1866

 

Thousands Of Troops Dig In For Inauguration (Hill)
FBI Vetting Guard Troops In DC Amid Fears Of Insider Attack (AP)
The Senate’s Cadaver Synod: The Trial Of Citizen Trump (Turley)
Trump Social Media Ban Sparks Calls For Action vs Other Populist Leaders (G.)
Trump To Issue Around 100 Pardons And Commutations Tuesday (CNN)
Despair, Depression, And The Inevitable Rise of Trump 2.0 – Greenwald (RT)
Biden Team Already Holding Talks With Iran On US Return To Nuclear Deal (ToI)
Biden May Cancel Keystone XL Pipeline Permit On First Day In Office (R.)
3rd of Recovered Covid Patients Return To Hospital In 5 Months, 1 In 8 Die (Y!)
Parler Resurfaces On Web, Promises Platform To Be Revived Soon (JTN)
Prepare For A Surge In Global Inequality (RWER)
Anteroom of Our Own Extinction (Steppling)

 

 

Benefits of boosting your vitamin D levels.


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UK Parliament: David Davis Vitamin D

 

 

A lot of all this appears to be fear-mongering blown up to 11. I’ve so far seen reports from Connecticut, Utah, Florida, Mass. state capitols, and everything’s more than quiet.

Thousands Of Troops Dig In For Inauguration (Hill)

The National Guard is playing a leading role as the country confronts a domestic terrorism threat following the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The Capitol is now crawling with more troops than in the United States’s main theaters of war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria combined as the National Guard fortifies key areas around Washington, D.C., for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration. The Secret Service is even referring to the new perimeter around the Capitol as the “Green Zone” — the same name used for secure zones in Iraq and Afghanistan’s capital cities. And it’s not just D.C. Amid FBI warnings of the potential for violence at all 50 state Capitols, governors in roughly a dozen states have called up their National Guards to bolster law enforcement.

But there are also worries the military is part of the problem, as several veterans have been arrested in connection with the Capitol riots. And at least one person arrested is a current member of the National Guard in Virginia. Following heavy criticism of the Guard’s response to last summer’s racial justice protests in the city, D.C. and Pentagon officials had originally sought to minimize its role in security surrounding the inauguration. In June, hundreds of guardsmen from around the country poured into the nation’s capital at President Trump’s request, despite objections from local authorities. A National Guard helicopter also hovered over protesters in the way the military does to insurgents overseas as a show of force, a move that drew widespread scrutiny and rebuke.

After that, as officials anticipated protests when Congress met to certify Biden’s electoral victory, D.C. officials requested and the Pentagon approved just 340 unarmed guardsmen to help the city with traffic control. Defense officials have said Capitol Police turned down offers of Guard help before the riots. That all changed after the Capitol siege. As of Friday, more than 7,000 guardsmen from across the country were in Washington, D.C., with up to 25,000 from all 50 states, three territories and D.C. expected to be in the city by Inauguration Day. Troops have erected 7-foot “non-scalable” fences around the Capitol and other nearby government buildings and set up checkpoints with military vehicles and concrete barriers on streets throughout the area.

Sacredest place

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Tweet: “The beauty of this claim is it’s perfect. If something happens, no matter how small, they can use it to target Trump supporters. And if nothing happens, they can credit their vigilance and… use it to target Trump supporters.”

FBI Vetting Guard Troops In DC Amid Fears Of Insider Attack (AP)

U.S. defense officials say they are worried about an insider attack or other threat from service members involved in securing President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, prompting the FBI to vet all of the 25,000 National Guard troops coming into Washington for the event. The massive undertaking reflects the extraordinary security concerns that have gripped Washington following the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump rioters. And it underscores fears that some of the very people assigned to protect the city over the next several days could present a threat to the incoming president and other VIPs in attendance.

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told The Associated Press on Sunday that officials are conscious of the potential threat, and he warned commanders to be on the lookout for any problems within their ranks as the inauguration approaches. So far, however, he and other leaders say they have seen no evidence of any threats, and officials said the vetting hadn’t flagged any issues that they were aware of. ”We’re continually going through the process, and taking second, third looks at every one of the individuals assigned to this operation,” McCarthy said in an interview after he and other military leaders went through an exhaustive, three-hour security drill in preparation for Wednesday’s inauguration. He said Guard members are also getting training on how to identify potential insider threats.

About 25,000 members of the National Guard are streaming into Washington from across the country — at least two and a half times the number for previous inaugurals. And while the military routinely reviews service members for extremist connections, the FBI screening is in addition to any previous monitoring. Multiple officials said the process began as the first Guard troops began deploying to D.C. more than a week ago. And they said it is slated to be complete by Wednesday. Several officials discussed military planning on condition of anonymity. “The question is, is that all of them? Are there others?” said McCarthy. “We need to be conscious of it and we need to put all of the mechanisms in place to thoroughly vet these men and women who would support any operations like this.”

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“He pulled Formosus out of his tomb, propped him up in court, and convicted him of variety of violations of canon law. Formosus was then taken out, three fingers cut off, and eventually thrown in the Tiber River.”

The Senate’s Cadaver Synod: The Trial Of Citizen Trump (Turley)

With the second impeachment of President Donald Trump, the Congress is set for one of the most bizarre moments in constitutional history: the removal of someone who has already left office. The retroactive removal would be a testament to the timeliness of rage. While it is not without precedent, it is without logic. The planned impeachment trial of Donald Trump after he leaves office would be our own version of the Cadaver Synod. In 897, Pope Stephen VI and his supporters continued to seethe over the action of Pope Formosus, who not only died in 896 but was followed by another pope, Boniface VI. After the brief rule of Boniface VI, Pope Stephen set about to even some scores. He pulled Formosus out of his tomb, propped him up in court, and convicted him of variety of violations of canon law. Formosus was then taken out, three fingers cut off, and eventually thrown in the Tiber River.

While some may be looking longingly at the Potomac for their own Cadaver Synod, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats have stated that their primary interest is in the possible disqualification of Trump from holding future federal office. Disqualification however is an optional penalty that follows a conviction and removal. It may be added to the primary purpose of removal referenced in the Constitution. The Trump trial would convert this supplemental punishment into the primary purpose of the trial. This did happen before but that precedent is only slightly better than the Cadaver Synod. That case involved William Belknap who served as Secretary of War to President Ulysses S. Grant. Belknap resigned after allegations of corruption — just shortly before a House vote of impeachment.

The Senate held a trial but acquitted him. Twenty nine of 66 voting senators disagreed in a threshold motion that Belknap was “amenable to trial by impeachment . . . notwithstanding his resignation.” In fairness to the Democrats, I have long rejected the argument that there comes a point when it is too late to impeach a president while he is in office. As I said in both the Clinton and Trump impeachment hearings, the House is under a duty to impeach if it believes that a president has committed a high crime and misdemeanor. If that occurred on the last day of a term, it would still be warranted.

My objection to this second impeachment was that it proceeded without any deliberation of the traditional impeachment process. It was a snap impeachment, which is to the Constitution what Snapchat is to conversations. It reduces the process to a raw, brief and partisan vote. This could have been avoided. A hearing could have been held in a day to allow the language of the article to be amended and the implications of the impeachment considered. It would also have allowed for a formal demand for a response from the president. Instead, the impeachment was pushed through on a partisan muscle vote with only ten Republicans supporting the single article.

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This is exactly what Merkel doesn’t want. It has to be done according to laws, not political preferences.

Trump Social Media Ban Sparks Calls For Action vs Other Populist Leaders (G.)

“I do not celebrate or feel pride,” the Twitter boss Jack Dorsey said this week after banishing Donald Trump. But for many around the world the decision brought hope: might similar action soon be taken against other populist provocateurs they accuse of using social media to stir chaos? “I have to follow YouTube’s rules when I post my videos, or I get banned. Journalists have to obey their outlet’s rules when they publish a story. So why shouldn’t presidents have to obey any rules when they publish something online?” wondered Felipe Neto, one of Brazil’s most famous and politicized online celebrities. “It’s as simple as that.” From Rio to Delhi, activists and academics have been asking similar questions following the US president’s suspension from platforms including Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

Calls for action have been particularly loud in Brazil, which has been led since 2019 by Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right tweeter-in-chief who basks in portrayals as the “tropical Trump”. “Twitter has put a muzzle on Trump. We’ll need another for Brazil,” tweeted Marcelo Freixo, one of several political rivals urging sanctions. Critics accuse Bolsonaro of repeatedly using social media to undermine democracy and incite violence. In an incendiary YouTube broadcast on the eve of his 2018 election he promised a historic “cleanup” of “red” rivals. In office, Bolsonaro has refused to moderate, using social media to encourage anti-democratic protests and urge “upstanding” supporters to buy guns to avoid being “enslaved”. In recent months Bolsonaro has questioned Brazil’s electronic voting system, convincing many that if he loses the next election he will reject its results as Trump has done – with unpredictable consequences for a young democracy.

“His obsession with arming the greatest possible number of his followers has an obvious goal,” warned Neto, who has 41m YouTube followers. “Bolsonaro and his family are preparing the ground not to accept election defeat – and things promise to be far worse than in the US [Capitol invasion].” Pedro Doria, a technology columnist, said he felt uneasy that unelected big tech bosses had the power to silence presidents. But he was also deeply troubled by Bolsonaro’s unchecked use of social media to preach political rupture. “If Trump was expurged from Twitter because he incited a mob against the Capitol, well, Bolsonaro is preparing himself to do the same … It makes no sense to wait for him to actually act on trying to overthrow the Brazilian democratic regime.”

In India, many have called for similar sanctions against the prime minister, Narendra Modi, and figures from his ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). While Modi’s regular use of Twitter is largely anodyne and uncontroversial, numerous senior and mid-level BJP politicians have been accused of politically motivated hate speech on their social media accounts.

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One last chance for Julian.

Trump To Issue Around 100 Pardons And Commutations Tuesday (CNN)

President Donald Trump is preparing to issue around 100 pardons and commutations on his final full day in office Tuesday, according to three people familiar with the matter, a major batch of clemency actions that includes white collar criminals, high-profile rappers and others but – as of now – is not expected to include Trump himself. The White House held a meeting on Sunday to finalize the list of pardons, two sources said. Trump, who had been rolling out pardons and commutations at a steady clip ahead of Christmas, had put a pause on them in the days leading up to and directly after the January 6 riots at the US Capitol, according to officials Aides said Trump was singularly focused on the Electoral College count in the days ahead of time, precluding him for making final decisions on pardons.

White House officials had expected them to resume after January 6, but Trump retreated after he was blamed for inciting the riots. Initially, two major batches had been ready to roll out, one at the end of last week and one on Tuesday. Now, officials expect the last batch to be the only one — unless Trump decides at the last minute to grant pardons to controversial allies, members of his family or himself. The final batch of clemency actions is expected to include a mix of criminal justice reform-minded pardons and more controversial ones secured or doled out to political allies. The pardons are one of several items Trump must complete before his presidency ends in days. White House officials also still have executive orders prepared, and the President is still hopeful to declassify information related to the Russia probe before he leaves office.

But with a waning number of administration officials still in jobs, the likelihood that any of it gets done seemed to be shrinking. The January 6 riots that led to Trump’s second impeachment have complicated his desire to pardon himself, his kids and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. At this point, aides do not think he will do so, but caution only Trump knows what he will do with his last bit of presidential power before he is officially out of office at noon on January 20. After the riots, advisers encouraged Trump to forgo a self-pardon because it would appear like he was guilty of something, according to one person familiar with the conversations. Several of Trump’s closest advisers have also urged him not to grant clemency to anyone involved in the siege on the US Capitol, despite Trump’s initial stance that those involved had done nothing wrong.

“There are a lot of people urging the President to pardon the folks” involved in the insurrection, Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham said Sunday on Fox News. “To seek a pardon of these people would be wrong.” One White House official said paperwork had not yet been drawn up for a self-pardon. Still, Trump is expected to leave the White House on January 20 and could issue pardons up until noon on Inauguration Day. Other attention-grabbing names, like Julian Assange, are also not currently believed to among the people receiving pardons, but the list is still fluid and that could change, too.

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“Greenwald warned that Biden could set the stage for a “smarter, more stable version” of Trump to take power.”

Despair, Depression, And The Inevitable Rise of Trump 2.0 – Greenwald (RT)

“I don’t think it’s particularly difficult… to know what to expect from the Biden administration,” the acclaimed American journalist told Chris Hedges, host of RT’s On Contact, on Sunday. Biden, Greenwald continued, has enjoyed a five-decade career in Washington and made his policy priorities well known over these years. Biden is “somebody who has repeatedly supported militarism and imperialism” and “one of the crucial leading advocates of the invasion of Iraq,” he said. On the domestic front, Biden is “a loyal servant of the credit card and banking industry” and the “architect of the 1994 crime bill,” the latter of which has been blamed for dramatically upping the incarceration rate of black men in the US.

That leftists involved in Black Lives Matter protests rallied around Biden, given his involvement in passing the crime bill (he was one of 61 senators who voted for it) is “ironic,” Greenwald told Hedges, but also serves as an example of how the Democratic Party operates. “Democrats are very good at creating a brand that is radically different than the reality, but essentially the Democratic party serves militarism, imperialism, and corporatism,” he said. “That’s who funds them, that’s what they believe in. It’s why you see neocons migrating so comfortably back to the Democratic Party, why you see Bush and Cheney operatives cheering for Joe Biden, why Wall Street celebrated when he picked Kamala Harris.”

Biden’s campaign didn’t only draw support from the left – who Biden then spurned by packing his cabinet with Obama administration alumni while giving progressives like Bernie Sanders the cold shoulder. The former vice president was also supported by Republican hawks like Bill Kristol and Max Boot, as well as the much-maligned ‘Lincoln Project’ Republicans, who fundraised $67 million to shoot attack ads against Trump in the runup to November’s election. The rallying of the establishment – Democrat and Republican alike – behind Biden could have far-reaching consequences, Greenwald warned. “It’s not a coincidence that after eight years of Obama and Biden, we got Donald Trump,” he said. “Obviously, if you go back and do exactly the same thing that the ‘Obiden’ administration did for 8 years, which is what Biden’s preparing to do, any rational person has to expect the same outcome.”

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Is this legal? How about the Logan Act? What about Michael Flynn?

Biden Team Already Holding Talks With Iran On US Return To Nuclear Deal (ToI)

Officials in the incoming Biden administration have already begun holding quiet talks with Iran on a return to the 2015 nuclear deal, and have updated Israel on those conversations, Channel 12 News reported Saturday. The network gave no sourcing for the report, and no details on what was allegedly discussed. US President-elect Joe Biden has indicated his desire to return to the accord, while Israel is pushing for any return to the deal to include fresh limitations on Iran’s ballistic missile program and support for terror and destabilization around the world. On Wednesday, Walla News reported that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is assembling a team to strategize for the first talks with the Biden administration on Iran’s nuclear program.

The team will include officials representing national security elements, the Foreign Ministry, the Defense Ministry, the military, the Mossad spy agency, and the Atomic Energy Commission, the report said, citing unnamed sources in the Prime Minister’s Office. Netanyahu is considering appointing a senior official to head the team and to serve as an envoy in talks with the US on the Iranian nuclear program, the report said. A possible candidate to head the team is Mossad chief Yossi Cohen, the report said. Channel 12 reported Saturday that Cohen was in Washington this week to meet with officials in the outgoing and incoming administrations.

US President-elect Joe Biden is expected to take a more conciliatory approach to Iran than the Trump administration and has said that if Iran returns to the terms of the 2015 nuclear agreement, he too would rejoin, removing the crushing economic sanctions that have wreaked havoc on the Iranian economy over the past two years. The US president-elect has indicated that he wants to negotiate more broadly with Tehran if Washington returns to the deal, notably over its missiles and influence across the Middle East. Iran has said it could welcome the return of the Americans to the agreement, but only after they lift sanctions. It has rejected negotiation on other issues. Former US president Barack Obama, with Biden as his vice president, signed the Iran nuclear deal with world powers in 2015.

The Trump administration withdrew from the accord in 2018 and pressured Iran with crippling economic sanctions and other measures. Obama signed the agreement despite fierce protest from Israel, and had a rocky relationship with Jerusalem and Netanyahu, while the premier and Trump have been in lockstep on most Middle East policy issues. The prospect of the US reengaging with Tehran has drawn warnings and alarm from Netanyahu and his allies. Last week, speaking alongside US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in Jerusalem, Netanyahu warned against the US rejoining the nuclear agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). “If we just go back to the JCPOA, what will happen and may already be happening is that many other countries in the Middle East will rush to arm themselves with nuclear weapons. That is a nightmare and that is folly. It should not happen,” Netanyahu said.

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Hardly a time to open new pipelinnes.

Biden May Cancel Keystone XL Pipeline Permit On First Day In Office (R.)

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden is planning to cancel the permit for the $9 billion Keystone XL pipeline project as one of his first acts in office, and perhaps as soon as his first day, according to a source familiar with his thinking. President Donald Trump, a Republican, had made building the pipeline a central promise of his presidential campaign. Biden, who will be inaugurated on Wednesday, was vice president in the Obama administration when it rejected the project as contrary to its efforts to combat climate change. The words “Rescind Keystone XL pipeline permit” appear on a list of executive actions likely scheduled for the first day of Biden’s presidency, according to an earlier report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC).


Biden, a Democrat, had earlier vowed to scrap the oil pipeline’s presidential permit if he became president. Canada’s ambassador to the United States said she would continue to promote a project that she said fit with both countries’ environmental plans. “There is no better partner for the U.S. on climate action than Canada as we work together for green transition,” Ambassador Kirsten Hillman said in a statement. The project, which would move oil from the province of Alberta to Nebraska, had been slowed by legal issues in the United States. It also faced opposition from environmentalists seeking to check the expansion of Canada’s oil sands by opposing new pipelines to move its crude to refineries. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said on Twitter that cancellation would eliminate jobs, weaken U.S.-Canada relations and undermine American national security by making the United States more dependent on OPEC oil imports.

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Covid triggers diabetes?

3rd of Recovered Covid Patients Return To Hospital In 5 Months, 1 In 8 Die (Y!)

Almost a third of recovered Covid patients will end up back in hospital within five months and one in eight will die, alarming new figures have shown. Research by Leicester University and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found there is a devastating long-term toll on survivors of severe coronavirus, with many people developing heart problems, diabetes and chronic liver and kidney conditions. Out of 47,780 people who were discharged from hospital in the first wave, 29.4 per cent were readmitted to hospital within 140 days, and 12.3 per cent of the total died. The current cut-off point for recording Covid deaths is 28 days after a positive test, so it may mean thousands more people should be included in the coronavirus death statistics.

Researchers have called for urgent monitoring of people who have been discharged from hospital. Study author Kamlesh Khunti, professor of primary care diabetes and vascular medicine at Leicester University, said: “This is the largest study of people discharged from hospital after being admitted with Covid. “People seem to be going home, getting long-term effects, coming back in and dying. We see nearly 30 per cent have been readmitted, and that’s a lot of people. The numbers are so large. “The message here is we really need to prepare for long Covid. It’s a mammoth task to follow up with these patients and the NHS is really pushed at the moment, but some sort of monitoring needs to be arranged.”

The study found that Covid survivors were nearly three and a half times more likely to be readmitted to hospital, and die, in the 140 days timeframe than other hospital outpatients. Prof Khunti said the team had been surprised to find that many people were going back in with a new diagnosis, and many had developed heart, kidney and liver problems, as well as diabetes. He said it was important to make sure people were placed on protective therapies, such as statins and aspirin. “We don’t know if it’s because Covid destroyed the beta cells which make insulin and you get Type 1 diabetes, or whether it causes insulin resistance, and you develop Type 2, but we are seeing these surprising new diagnoses of diabetes,” he added.

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PanQuake looks more interesting. The roll-out is a bit chaotic, but some good people involved.

Parler Resurfaces On Web, Promises Platform To Be Revived Soon (JTN)

The website of the social media platform Parler has resurfaced after going offline earlier this month. While the platform still has not become operational again, the message indicates that it will revive “soon.” “Now seems like the right time to remind you all — both lovers and haters — why we started this platform,” the website says. “We believe privacy is paramount and free speech essential, especially on social media. Our aim has always been to provide a nonpartisan public square where individuals can enjoy and exercise their rights to both. We will resolve any challenge before mli us and plan to welcome all of you back soon. We will not let civil discourse perish!”


The platform vanished earlier this month after a move by Amazon Web Services. Buzzfeed reported that in a letter to Parler, the AWS Trust and Safety Team had stated “we cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites violence against others.”

Introducing PanQuake: Revealing Project X (full censored event) #TalkLiberation from PanQuake – Talk Liberation on Vimeo.

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Global AND national.

Prepare For A Surge In Global Inequality (RWER)

The United States prepares for moving out of the Trump era with the incoming President promising more rounds of stimulus spending to revive an economy ravaged by Covid-19. Other members of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development, a predominantly rich nation’s club, have also been generous with their spending and signalled that they are willing to keep their wallets open to spend more if necessary. The evidence clearly is that the Covid-crisis has upended the fiscal conservatism that has been the hallmark of the neoliberal era since the 1980s. However, not all nations seem to display this ability to depart from the prevailing orthodoxy. Where this weakness is most visible is the developing world, where governments, with very few exceptions, have not been loosening their purse strings to deal with the health emergency, throw out a safety net to protect devastated citizens, and stall and reverse the recession to restore livelihoods and normal economic activity.


Estimates from the World Bank in the January 2021 edition of its flagship Global Economic Prospects (GEP) report point to stark differences across countries at different levels of development in the level of fiscal support governments have provided in the wake of the Covid-shock (Chart 1). While planned and under-consideration measures in the advanced economies (AEs) are expected to have taken fiscal support spending to 22.6 per cent of their GDP, the comparable figures in emerging market and developing economies (EMDEs) as a group and low income economies (LICs) among them are placed at 6.2 and 2.4 per cent respectively (Chart 1). Government spending in 2020 was needed not just to address the immediate crisis, but to revive employment, investment and growth in the medium and long term.

If poorer countries have spent and are likely to spend less, while richer countries pump-prime their economies, the damage inflicted by the crisis is bound to worsen preexisting inequalities. Those inequalities are bound to increase, though the performance of a few exceptional cases like China, which influences the EMDE total, may conceal the magnitude of change in the aggregate figures. Underlying the difference in spending levels are the willingness and ability to resort to enhanced deficit spending, or expenditure financed with borrowing. Not that government debt has not risen in the poorer countries, albeit to a smaller extent than in their advanced counterparts. While the fiscal deficit in the AEs is estimated to have risen from 3.3 per cent of GDP in 2019 to 14.2 per cent in 2020, that in the EMDEs has moved from 4.8 per cent to 10.4 per cent and in the LICs from 3.3 to 5 per cent (Chart 2).

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“Almost one in three households suffers hunger, regularly. Almost half of black and hispanic households. Households with children are most vulnerable to the government policies. So half of the kids in the U.S. have inadequate nutrition.”

Anteroom of Our Own Extinction (Steppling)

This is now about a year into the pandemic and there have still been no debates, no public roundtables and no referendums. Nothing. Just decrees by the government. I honestly have given up trying to make sense of statistics, really. But a couple of things have not changed; the fatality rate if you catch Covid 19 is under 1% (and yes, case fatality is different than infectious mortality and that in turn is different from mortality rate). And depending on how it is being counted, it is often a good deal less than that. And yet the entire planet has been subjected to severe restrictions on travel, and coerced to follow pseudoscientific behaviour like mask wearing and social distancing. Today in many places there is what amounts to martial law. Police or national guard patrol the streets after dark. Many countries have banned public events, closed restaurants and nightclubs, and limited any public gatherings. Many schools remain closed or only partially open.

The economic consequences of these non-debated government policies have been catastrophic. In the U.S. something like 60 million jobs have been lost, many never to return. A hundred and fifty thousand restaurants have gone bankrupt. Only one in three museums will ever reopen. In San Francisco they decided NOT to count the numbers of new homeless. No reason was given but one can guess. The homeless situation in the U.S., in big cities in particular, was critical even before the pandemic. Now the numbers are unprecedented. Not even during the ‘Great Depression’ was there anything like the current level of those without basic shelter. Food insecurity is at a crisis level. Feeding America, the largest hunger relief organization in the US, estimates over 50 million people go hungry every night including something close to twenty million children.

“Since mid-March 2020, numerous surveys have documented unprecedented levels of food insecurity that eclipse anything seen in recent decades in the United States, including during the Great Recession. Over the past five years, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates of food insecurity in the United States have hovered around 11% to 12%. As of March and April 2020, national estimates of food insecurity more than tripled to 38% In a national survey we fielded in March 2020 among adults with incomes less than 250% of the 2020 federal poverty level (based on thresholds from the US Census), 44% of all households were food insecure including 48% of Black households, 52% of Hispanic households, and 54% of households with children.” – American Public Heath Association (Dec 2020)

And yet, congress just passed another defense budget increase. According to Defense News… “..the final version of the 2020 defense appropriations bill, part of a broad $1.4 trillion spending deal to finalize federal spending for 2020 and avert a government shutdown. The defense bill would provide $738 billion.” Almost one in three households suffers hunger, regularly. Almost half of black and hispanic households. Households with children are most vulnerable to the government policies. So half of the kids in the U.S. have inadequate nutrition. Half will suffer long term developmental problems, almost guaranteed.

Read more …

 

 

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Just the roads built by the Roman Empire

 

 

 

 

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Mar 212020
 


Dorothea Lange Ex-slave with long memory, Alabama 1937

 

Coronavirus – Getting Angry (John Bronte)
China Is Avoiding Blame by Trolling the World (Atlantic)
From ‘Chinese virus’ to ‘Trumpandemic’ (RT)
Cuomo Orders New York Lockdown, Shuts Down Non-Essential Businesses (NYP)
New Best Friends: Trump And Archfoes Cuomo And Newsom Bond (JTN) )
Trump’s Approval Rating Soars During Handling Of Coronavirus (JTN)
Biden Plans Shadow Coronavirus Briefings (Pol.)
Cuba’s Interferon Alpha 2B, Successful in Treating COVID-19 (TeleSur)
The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming (Wired)
Pentagon Sends 2,600 Europe-based Personnel Into Quarantine (RT)
Boeing Suspends Dividend, Halts Buybacks, Stops Paying CEO And Chairman (Y!)
National Guard Chief Denies Rumors Of Martial Law Response To Virus (Solomon)
Schiff Claims ‘Immunity’ To Keep Impeachment Phone Subpoenas Secret (JTN)
Strength and Weakness (Kunstler)
CoronaBonds To Hold The Payments System Together (Steve Keen)
Personal Coronavirus Update 02 March 21st 2019 (Steve Keen)

 

 

Relentless. And unfortunately incresiangly political.

 

Cases 279,320 (+ 32,126 from yesterday’s 250,618)

Deaths 11,587 (+ 1,565 from yesterday’s 10,255)

 

From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)

 

 

From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 11% !! –

 

 

I would like to have better graphs than the SCMP and COVID2019.app ones, and by that I mean things that I can use in this format. But I don’t see them. Johns Hopkins doesn’t provide these nor does COVID19info.live. The latter even has two different numbers for Confirmed and Infected. Do we need that?

Great admiration for what the Wordometer people are doing, but it would be nice(r) to have multiple sources.

From SCMP: (Note: the SCMP graph was useful when China was the focal point; they are falling behind now)

 

 

From COVID2019.app: (New format lacks new cases and deaths)

 

 

 

 

“I regard the current course of English speaking democracies (other than New Zealand) as mass murder by the political elite. I think history will regard it that way too.”

Coronavirus – Getting Angry (John Bronte)

First – no matter what you say about the Chinese data – and the Chinese data was full of lies at first – China has controlled the outbreak. Shanghai, Beijing, Chongqing are all functional mega-cities with no obvious health catastrophes. The virus has been managed to very low infection rates in Singapore and Taiwan. The numbers (completely real) in Korea show a dramatic slowdown in infection. Korea has not shut restaurants and the like. The place is functioning. But it has had rigorous quarantine of the infected and very widespread testing. It has complete social buy-in. China tests your temperature when you get on a bus or a train. It tests you when you go into a classroom, it tests you when you enter a building. There is rigorous and enforced quarantine.

But life goes on – and only a few are dying. In Singapore nobody has died (yet) though I expect a handful to do so before this over. This is sad (especially for the affected families) but it is not a mega-catastrophe. There is a story in the Financial Times about a town in the middle of the hot-zone in Italy where they have enforced quarantine and tested everyone in the town twice. They have no cases. The second stylized fact – mortality differs by availability of hospital beds.
• A. Coronavirus provided you do not run out of hospital beds probably has a mortality of about 1 percent. In a population that is very old (such as some areas in Italy) the mortality will be higher. In a population that is very young base mortality should be lower. Also co-morbidities such as smoking matter.
• B. If you run out of ICU beds (ventilators/forced oxygen) every incremental person who needs a ventilator dies. This probably takes your mortality to two percent.
• C. Beyond that a lot of people get a pneumonia that would benefit from supplemental oxygen. If you run out of hospital beds many of these people also die. Your mortality edges higher – but the only working case we have is Iran and you can’t trust their data. That said a lot of young people require supplementary oxygen and will die. If you are 40 and you think this does not apply to you then you are wrong. Mass infection may kill you. Iran has said that 15 percent of their dead are below 40.

I will put this in an American perspective with a 70 percent strike rate by the end.
• Option A: 2 million dead
• Option B: 4 million dead
• Option C: maybe 6 million dead.
By contrast, Singapore: a handful of dead. China has demonstrated this virus can be controlled. The town in Italy has demonstrated it can be controlled even where it is rife. Life goes on in Singapore. Schools are open. Restaurants are open in Korea. The right policy is not “herd immunity” or even “flattening the curve”. The right policy is to try to eliminate as many cases as possible and to strictly control and test to keep cases to a bare minimum for maybe 18 months while a vaccine is produced.

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@Jake_Hanrahan: “Blown away by the amount of people talking about China’s response to Covid-19 as some kind of model to follow. Are you serious? They have disappeared at least two whistleblowers and hid news of the problem for weeks before it became impossible to do so.”

China Is Avoiding Blame by Trolling the World (Atlantic)

The evidence of China’s deliberate cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan is a matter of public record. In suppressing information about the virus, doing little to contain it, and allowing it to spread unchecked in the crucial early days and weeks, the regime imperiled not only its own country and its own citizens but also the more than 100 nations now facing their own potentially devastating outbreaks. More perniciously, the Chinese government censored and detained those brave doctors and whistleblowers who attempted to sound the alarm and warn their fellow citizens when they understood the gravity of what was to come. Some American commentators and Democratic politicians are aghast at Donald Trump and Republicans for referring to the pandemic as the “Wuhan virus” and repeatedly pointing to China as the source of the pandemic.

In naming the disease COVID-19, the World Health Organization specifically avoided mentioning Wuhan. Yet in de-emphasizing where the epidemic began (something China has been aggressively pushing for), we run the risk of obscuring Beijing’s role in letting the disease spread beyond its borders. China has a history of mishandling outbreaks, including SARS in 2002 and 2003. But Chinese leaders’ negligence in December and January—for well over a month after the first outbreak in Wuhan—far surpasses those bungled responses. The end of last year was the time for authorities to act, and, as Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times has noted, “act decisively they did—not against the virus, but against whistle-blowers who were trying to call attention to the public health threat.”

This is what allowed the virus to spread across the globe. Because the Chinese Communist Party was pretending that there was little to be concerned about, Wuhan was a porous purveyor of the virus. The government only instituted a lockdown in Wuhan on January 23—seven weeks after the virus first appeared. As events in Italy, the United States, Spain, and France have shown, quite a lot can happen in a week, much less seven. By then, mayor Zhou Xianwang admitted that more than 5 million people had already left Wuhan.

If that weren’t enough, we can plumb recent history for an even more damning account. In a 2019 article, Chinese experts warned it was “highly likely that future SARS- or MERS-like coronavirus outbreaks will originate from bats, and there is an increased probability that this will occur in China.” In a 2007 journal article, infectious-disease specialists published a study arguing that “the presence of a large reservoir of SARS-CoV-like viruses in horseshoe bats, together with the culture of eating exotic mammals in southern China, is a time bomb. The possibility of the reemergence of SARS and other novel viruses from animals or laboratories and therefore the need for preparedness should not be ignored.” It was ignored.

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When is China going to admit they screwed up royally?

From ‘Chinese virus’ to ‘Trumpandemic’ (RT)

Washington has passed off blame to Beijing for its own failures in addressing the Covid-19 outbreak, China’s Foreign Ministry said, hitting back at the ‘Chinese virus’ rhetoric with the ironic term ‘Trumpandemic.’ “Some people in the United States attempt to stigmatize China’s fight against the epidemic and shirk its responsibility to China,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told reporters on Friday, referring to the finger-pointing adopted by President Trump and other top officials (after weeks of US media outlets calling it the ‘Chinese’ and ‘Wuhan’ virus). “This practice ignores the huge sacrifices made by the Chinese people to safeguard human health and safety, and denigrates China’s major public health security contributions.”

Over the last two months, Beijing has helped the US buy time in its efforts to combat the coronavirus by providing “timely information” and other aid, the spokesman said, noting that the US president himself acknowledged as much during a press briefing last week. But most of that assistance has gone to waste, he lamented. “It is a pity, as many US media and specialists have noted, that the US has wasted the precious time China has bought.” Despite being the only country that has managed to contain the outbreak, China has been accused of suppressing information in the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak – which began in the city of Wuhan late last year. The spokesman insisted the country has taken “the most comprehensive, strictest and most thorough prevention and control measures,” and has been “open” and “transparent” about the virus.

Geng went on to list the numerous joint meetings between American and Chinese health officials in recent weeks, arguing Beijing was doing its part to assist the US response to the lethal illness, but implored Washington to take responsibility for its own shortcomings. “We hope that the United States will respect objective facts, respect international public opinion, do its own thing… stop slandering other countries, passing on responsibilities, and play a constructive role in fighting the epidemic,” he said. While President Trump argues that the phrase “Chinese virus” is “not racist at all,” stating that he uses the term simply because the pathogen “comes from China,” his insistence on the label has piqued the ire of Beijing. In a string of tweets earlier on Friday, Chinese state media outlet Xinhua slammed the moniker as bigoted, and fired back with its own Trumpian term of derision, renaming the outbreak the “Trumpandemic.”

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After cases exploded. It’s a pattern. New York has a very big problem.

Cuomo Orders New York Lockdown, Shuts Down Non-Essential Businesses (NYP)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday ordered the Empire State to shut down and asked local businesses and manufactures to step up as officials mounted a desperate struggle to slow the corona≠virus pandemic. “I want to be able to say to the people of New York – I did everything we could do,” Cuomo told reporters at the state Capitol. “And if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.” The restrictions take effect Sunday night at 8 p.m. and will shut down all nonessential businesses across the state, leaving just grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential operations open. All non-solitary outside activities, like basketball and other team sports are also banned.

The lockdown also requires all nonessential government and private-sector employees to work from home. Cuomo said the MTA will continue to run city subways, buses and Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road trains. The agency announced Friday it will allow backdoor boarding on local buses beginning Monday to help protect bus drivers from exposure “We have to do it, we have to be serious,” Cuomo said. “Everyone has personal freedom, and everyone has personal liberty, and I’ll always protect that,” he added. “But everyone also has a responsibility to everyone else.”

Laundromats and gas stations will be allowed to remain open, as will liquor stores and restaurants for take-out and delivery service only. Doctors’ and veterinarians’ offices can remain open, too. The new emergency action came as the Empire State’s coronavirus case count ballooned. Officials had tallied more than 7,100 cases across the state by 12 a.m. Friday — more than 4,400 in New York City. Just 10 hours later, the city Health Department reported the Big Apple’s case load had surged to more than 5,100 cases.

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Not friends, but working together. These people all recognize their own faults. They’re all 2-3 months late.

New Best Friends: Trump And Archfoes Cuomo And Newsom Bond (JTN) )

It’s often said that crises bring out the worst or the best in people. Adrift in a lifeboat at sea, strangers will either figure out how to cooperate, or kill and eat each other. It may be that the nation’s capital is being enveloped in a cloud of nice — instead of choosing the kill and eat option. President Trump suggested as much yesterday when he looked over a slightly-less-packed-than-usual press room. “I like this social distancing,” he mused. “I think it’s making you guys nicer. All these empty spaces … “You guys over there should probably move further from each other,” he said, flapping his hand at a few reporters, “but it’s nice”

The niceness cloud has also enveloped Trump and a couple of his legendary enemies: California Governor Gavin Newsom, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, and President Trump have very recently become the Three Caballeros. At every press conference — and all three leaders are doing daily COVID-19 press updates — praise is bestowed and compliments showered. There are gratuitous namechecks — as with the lover who feels compelled just to repeat the name of the beloved — and many allusions to late night phone calls when details of policy are apparently being hashed out. In his press conference yesterday, for instance, as Trump detailed the FDA’s expedited approval of a new virus treatment, he managed to work in the news that he’d spoken with Cuomo “at great, great length last night; he wants to be first in line.”

Considering that he and the governor are now besties, Cuomo will probably in fact be first in line to get the prescription drug to his state’s consumers — just as he’s recently gotten everything on his virus wish list, from a national guard deployment to Westchester County, site of an early hot spot, to a mobile testing drive-through, also for Westchester, to an Army Corps of Engineers deployment, to a Navy hospital ship which will soon be docked in New York Harbor in case New York City runs out of hospital beds.

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Red alert at the DNC: “30% of Democrats approve, which is about double the number from last week’s poll..”

Trump’s Approval Rating Soars During Handling Of Coronavirus (JTN)

New polling Friday showed President Trump’s approval ratings among Americans have soared during the coronavirus crisis, including his handling of the pandemic response and the economy A new Axios-Harris poll, released Friday, showed the president with an 53 percent overall approval among U.S. adults surveyed March 17 and 18, compared to 49 percent among those polled March 14 and 15. 56 percent of respondents in the latest poll said they approved of the president’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, an increase from 51 percent last week. And 60 percent of Americans this week said they approved of the president’s handling of the economy, a slight increase from 59 percent last week.

Despite stock market declines and rising unemployment figures released this week, the president’s approval rating for “Stimulating Jobs,” remained unchanged at 60 percent among both groups polled. When asked “Which of the following sources do you get your information from regarding the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?” 44 percent of Americans named “The White House/President,” an increase of 11 points from the previous survey. Respondents naming “National media” fell to 53 percent from 55 percent, while those answering “Local media,” dropped to 51 percent from 57 percent. Additionally, a new ABC News/Ipsos poll released Friday found that 55 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, a double-digit increase in support from the week before.

“In the new poll, 55% of Americans approve of the president’s management of the crisis, compared to 43% who disapprove,” reported ABC’s Kendall Karson. “Trump’s approval on this issue is up from last week, when the numbers were nearly reversed.” The ABC/Ipsos poll also found “30% of Democrats approve, which is about double the number from last week’s poll, and 69% disapprove, down from 86%,” Karson wrote. “Meanwhile, an overwhelming 92% of Republicans approve, up from 86% last week. Only 8% disapprove, compared to 11% in last week’s poll.”

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The Dems of course can’t have Trump ratings rising, but pray tell, how are regular appearances of Biden going to counter that trend?

Biden Plans Shadow Coronavirus Briefings (Pol.)

Joe Biden is planning a regular shadow briefing on coronavirus to start as early as Monday to show how he would handle the crisis and address what he calls the lies and failures of President Trump. Biden gave a preview of what’s to come in a conference call with reporters Friday, where he listed a litany of false and misleading statements from Trump, who has been holding regular White House press conferences concerning coronavirus preparedness and response that have been broadcast live on all major networks. “President Trump stop saying false things, will ya?” Biden said. “People are worried they are really frightened, when these things don’t come through. He just exacerbates their concern. Stop saying false things you think make you sound like a hero and start putting the full weight of the federal government behind finding fast, safe and effective treatments.”

Biden made his comments from his home in Wilmington, Delaware, where he has been holed up for more than a week in adherence with Centers for Disease Control guidelines that urge people to practice social distancing. Immediately after the initial onset of the crisis, Biden also held his fire against the president out of concern it would look too political — an accusation leveled at him anyway by Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale, who said that “Biden will take attention from real updates Americans should know just to score political points.” Ever since his commanding victories Tuesday against Bernie Sanders in Florida, Illinois and Arizona, Biden has made no public appearances or statements. Instead, he said, he has been spending time privately talking to health officials, businesses, governors and members of Congress.

Now, he said, his house is being outfitted with equipment that would enable him to livestream events, have interactive tele-press conferences and broadcast interviews with network television.

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I’m suspicious of any cure or treatment announced, but I’m also curious to see how much coverage the US MSM will give to Cuba potentially saving American lives.

Cuba’s Interferon Alpha 2B, Successful in Treating COVID-19 (TeleSur)

For 40 years, Cuba has been using a molecule named Interferon Alpha 2B , which has successfully been used to combat the new Coonavirus in China and elsewhere. “The world has an opportunity to understand that health is not a commercial asset but a basic right,” Cuban doctor Luis Herrera, the creator of the Interferon Alfa 2-B medication, one of the most successful medications in the fight against COVID-19 told teleSUR Tuesday. Interferon has been known for more than 40 years: first, it was produced from original sources in local sites, then nationally and later in the United States and even Finland. “At the beginning of the 80s, an important professor from Houston came to Cuba and advised our President Fidel Castro than the Interferon we had here was a very interesting molecule for a different purpose,” Herrera told teleSUR.

“Then a group of people went to Finland to get training in the production of interferon,” while people were also producing Interferon from recombined sources using genetic engineering. The first one was Beta Interferon in Japan, and the second one was the family of Alpha Interferon by Genetec in California, according to the Cuban doctor. “One year later in Cuba, we cloned different genes of Interferon from local sites, and we started to produce Interferon in 1981 and 1982, which we used in the outbreak of dengue fever, and we presented the results in the United States in California.” One of the ways the virus can multiply inside the cells is by decreasing the levels of Interferon naturally produced in human cells. The molecule thus, through a different metabolic way, can create conditions to limit the replication of the virus.

During the MERS-CoV epidemic three years ago – another type of coronavirus – people realized that Interferon was decreased during the replication of the virus, highlighted Herrera. In China, practically a few weeks after the beginning of the outbreak, people started to use Interferon in a way to avoid complications in people infected with the virus. According to Herrera, this molecule has “some side effects but not too critical.” “The main idea of Interferon is just to avoid complications,” he told teleSUR. “Young people and people with a good immuno-response perhaps don’t need the medicine or people who won’t have complications and respond to the virus-like any other flu, but old people or people susceptible to have a bad immuno-response will have better chances of avoiding complications by using Interferon.”

https://twitter.com/nickylabour4eva/status/1240580660739391490

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The good doctor can’t keep himself from taking a jab at Trump. Pity. Nothing much else to say that we didn’t already know.

And as the graph shows, the mass testing that for instance South Korea is supposed to have done is not quite what it’s made out to be. 0.6% of the population is not that.

The Doctor Who Helped Defeat Smallpox Explains What’s Coming (Wired)

Larry Brilliant says he doesn’t have a crystal ball. But 14 years ago, Brilliant, the epidemiologist who helped eradicate smallpox, spoke to a TED audience and described what the next pandemic would look like. At the time, it sounded almost too horrible to take seriously. “A billion people would get sick,” he said. “As many as 165 million people would die. There would be a global recession and depression, and the cost to our economy of $1 to $3 trillion would be far worse for everyone than merely 100 million people dying, because so many more people would lose their jobs and their health care benefits, that the consequences are almost unthinkable.”

Now the unthinkable is here, and Brilliant, the Chairman of the board of Ending Pandemics, is sharing expertise with those on the front lines. We are a long way from 100 million deaths due to the novel coronavirus, but it has turned our world upside down. Brilliant is trying not to say “I told you so” too often. But he did tell us so, not only in talks and writings, but as the senior technical advisor for the pandemic horror film Contagion, now a top streaming selection for the homebound. Besides working with the World Health Organization in the effort to end smallpox, Brilliant, who is now 75, has fought flu, polio, and blindness; once led Google’s nonprofit wing, Google.org; co-founded the conferencing system the Well; and has traveled with the Grateful Dead.

[..] When will we be able to leave the house and go back to work? I have a very good retrospect-oscope, but what’s needed right now as a prospecto-scope. If this were a tennis match, I would say advantage virus right now. But there’s really good news from South Korea—they had less than 100 cases today. China had more cases imported than it had from continuous transmission from Wuhan today. The Chinese model will be very hard for us to follow. We’re not going to be locking people up in their apartments, boarding them up. But the South Korea model is one that we could follow. Unfortunately, it requires doing the proportionate number of tests that they did—they did well over a quarter of a million tests. In fact, by the time South Korea had done 200,000 tests, we had probably done less than 1,000.

Now that we’ve missed the opportunity for early testing, is it too late for testing to make a difference? Absolutely not. Tests would make a measurable difference. We should be doing a stochastic process random probability sample of the country to find out where the hell the virus really is. Because we don’t know. Maybe Mississippi is reporting no cases because it’s not looking. How would they know? Zimbabwe reports zero cases because they don’t have testing capability, not because they don’t have the virus. We need something that looks like a home pregnancy test, that you can do at home.

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The neocons are not amused.

Pentagon Sends 2,600 Europe-based Personnel Into Quarantine (RT)

Thousands of US troops and military staff based in Europe have been ordered into self-isolation after at least 35 of them tested positive for Covid-19, further complicating Washington’s power projection across the Atlantic.
Some 2,600 European Command (EUCOM) troops and personnel were isolated on Friday in an effort to stem the spread of the lethal virus, following nearly three dozen positive test results. The Defense Department noted that the troops quarantined were not ill, but were isolated as a precaution due to recent travel, among other reasons. “These individuals are not necessarily sick, but may have been exposed and are doing their due diligence following health preventative measures,” the Pentagon said in a statement.


EUCOM commander, US Air Force General Tod Wolters, told reporters earlier about the positive tests, adding that all 72,000 of his troops were taking measures to avoid further exposure to the illness. “We’re preparing for worst-case scenarios with respect to the potential spread,” Wolters said in a teleconference from EUCOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. “For months, we have embraced precautionary measures.” The Pentagon did not clarify how it planned to isolate the 2,600 personnel, however. The quarantine comes as several branches of the US armed services struggle to contain the coronavirus, especially on board the crowded Navy vessels. The USS ‘Boxer’ became the first ship to confirm more than one infected sailor earlier this week, prompting the crew to adopt what it called an “aggressive mitigation strategy.”

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The CEO delays receiving many millions so the company will receive many billions, which will then be used to pay the CEO additional many millions. File under Business Model.

Boeing Suspends Dividend, Halts Buybacks, Stops Paying CEO And Chairman (Y!)

Boeing says its CEO and its chairman will forgo all pay until the end of the year — and that’s just one of the steps the company is taking to ensure that it weathers the financial effects of the coronavirus epidemic. CEO David Calhoun and Board Chairman Larry Kellner were named to their current positions last December, as part of a corporate house-cleaning related to the past year’s 737 MAX crisis. Calhoun was due to receive a base annual salary of $1.4 million and was eligible for millions more in performance-based payments and stock options. Kellner was getting an annual cash retainer of $250,000 and was eligible for other compensation.


Boeing said it was also suspending its dividend and extending its current pause on stock buybacks until further notice. “Boeing is drawing on all of its resources to sustain operations, support its workforce and customers, and maintain supply chain continuity through the COVID-19 crisis and for the long term,” the company said in a statement. The move came after former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley said she was resigning from Boeing’s board of directors to protest the company’s request for at least $60 billion in federal support. The company’s shares have plunged from a 52-week high of $398.66 to today’s closing value of $95.01, primarily due to the virus outbreak. This week, President Donald Trump told reporters that “we have to protect Boeing” but also voiced his disdain of stock buybacks.

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What are words worth?

National Guard Chief Denies Rumors Of Martial Law Response To Virus (Solomon)

The National Guard has deployed a few thousand troops to help states hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, but it wants Americans to know that rumors of impending martial law are blatantly false. One of the Guard’s top generals tweeted out that assurance Friday as officials blamed misinformation and propaganda campaigns for the false rumor. “I hear unfounded rumors about #NationalGuard troops supporting a nationwide quarantine,” wrote Gen. Joseph Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau. “Let me be clear: There has been no such discussion.” From New York to Wisconsin, National Guard troops have been deployed to several states to provide assistance that ranges from sterilizing public areas to delivering needed supplies. Those missions are likely to continue for some time.

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“Sovereign immunity”, no less. Carte blanche for any and all surveillance, on peers, journalists, lawyers? Does that sound okay to anyone at all, other than Schiff?

Schiff Claims ‘Immunity’ To Keep Impeachment Phone Subpoenas Secret (JTN)

The House Intelligence Committee and its chairman Adam Schiff invoked “sovereign immunity” in a motion to dismiss a Judicial Watch lawsuit seeking to obtain controversial phone records subpoenas issued during the Trump impeachment inquiry. The committee’s subpoenas of phone records ultimately led to the publication of multiple Americans’ phone records, including those of reporter John Solomon, California Rep. Devin Nunes, the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and others. In the motion, lawyers from the Office of General Counsel for the House of Representatives assert four reasons for dismissing the case, including protection under the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause.

“First, the doctrine of sovereign immunity deprives the Court of jurisdiction over the House Defendants, and no express and unequivocal waiver exists,” the argument says. “Second, given that the records sought by Plaintiff involve matters pursued and obtained by the House Defendants as part of the House-authorized impeachment inquiry, they are absolutely protected by the Speech or Debate Clause.”

“Third, Plaintiff fails to state a claim because Congress has created a comprehensive scheme for the review of government records—the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)—that preempts the common law right sought to be vindicated by this litigation,” the lawyers write. “Finally, under governing case law, the records Plaintiff seeks to review are not ‘public records’ and, therefore, are not subject to the common law right of public access. And even if the records are ‘public records,’ Plaintiff has not demonstrated that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the House Defendants’ interest in non-disclosure.”

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“His role was not the good father, it was the half-crazy old uncle in the attic..”

Strength and Weakness (Kunstler)

Yes, he is peculiar-looking: the strange blond helmet, the orange face. Note, back in one of America’s earlier hard times, a lot people thought Mr. Lincoln looked like a great ape, and had much sport with that image of him in the newspapers. It’s also a fact that the decisions he made led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of mostly young men in the bloodiest slaughters then imaginable. Yet those young men going to their deaths called him Father Abraham in their songs around the campfire. I’m not saying that Donald Trump is another Lincoln — certainly not in sheer rhetoric — but I am saying we don’t know yet what his mettle will show in this crisis, and where it might take us. One thing for sure: he’s been subjected to more political abuse than any character on-the-scene in my lifetime, and it’s amazing that he didn’t fold or quit or lose his shit as it went on and on and on.

And so, you now have the strange and ironic spectacle of his organized opposition, the Democrats, hoisting up onto their pinnacle of leadership absolutely the weakest candidate possible to oppose Mr. Trump in the election: Joe Biden. There was something certainly supernatural about his ascent in the recent cluster of primaries, as if some gang of someones worked strenuously behind the scenes to make it happen. If Mr. Biden ever had any charisma even in his prime as a young senator, there was no sign of that now, either in his own bumbling behavior or in the sparse crowds that were flushed out of the DNC’s voter registration thickets to show up at his rallies. In fact, he emanated the exact opposite of charisma, a faltering flop-sweat odor of weakness, and of every kind of weakness: physical, mental, and ethical.

His role was not the good father, it was the half-crazy old uncle in the attic — the kind who puts on his threadbare best suit every day to go down to a corner bar and sip beers until it’s time to stagger back home, where a dutiful niece-in-law might give him supper, if he could manage to ask for it politely. The kind who, until his forced retirement due to incompetence and blundering, had worked as an errand boy for the local mob, picking up receipts from the numbers racket, and was then cast off like a banana peel in a drainage ditch when his usefulness ended.

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CoronaBonds are one way, sure. But if you take the salary pressure away from companies by having the government pay 50-70% of them, would you still need to bailout companies, or would you be only subsidizing zombies?

CoronaBonds To Hold The Payments System Together (Steve Keen)

The coronavirus could cause the financial system to collapse unless something is done to enable basic payments to continue during the fight against it. While some businesses are doing very well out of it—toilet paper and hand sanitizer produces come to mind—many, if not most, could collapse as their sales collapse and/or their workers become unable to turn up to work. Workers—especially those in the jovially-named “gig economy”—will be unable to pay their rents and mortgages. If we insist on these payments being honoured, mass bankruptcy could result that could take viable companies down with it—even toilet roll producers. So what to do? The answer is fundamentally simple: the Treasury issues “Coronabonds” that raise a substantial sum—enough to cover say 3 months of standard mortgage, rent and food payments for an average family.


These Coronabonds could be priced at zero percent yield: interest rates are at that level anyway, and given the current stockmarket carnage, financial corporations would jump at the opportunity to park their money in an asset that won’t fall in value. Using the US Economy as our template, let’s say that $1 trillion of these bonds were issued. They would then be bought by the financial sector—raising $1 trillion to be spend by the government on tenants, mortgagees and firms. The cost to the Treasury would be zero because that would be the yield of the bonds. The public debt would rise, but it would be debt carrying no servicing costs.

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Good friend Steve Keen “escaped” to Thailand.

Personal Coronavirus Update 02 March 21st 2019 (Steve Keen)

As I noted in my first update, I had decided that for both medical and visa reasons, the best place to be during the Coronavirus crisis was Thailand. Outside of China (the epicentre of this crisis), the world’s governments have been dominated by the Neoliberal emphasis upon efficiency, with a total ignorance of the need for resilience as well in a complex system. I didn’t expect any of them to be able to respond effectively as this exponential crisis exploded, so the safest thing was to go for the highest level of social isolation possible—and southern Thailand, below the major tourist spots, made sense on that ground alone. There was also nascent research implying that heat and humidity slow the spread of the virus. This is from the abstract for the paper: “One degree Celsius increase in temperature and one percent increase in relative humidity lower R by 0.0383 and 0.0224, respectively.”

I had already started to make this inference from the statistics from the John Hopkins University site. Thailand began with the second highest number of cases to China, but the number of cases rose far more slowly than in the rest of the world. On January 31st, Thailand had 19 cases, while Australia had 9, the Netherlands zero, and the UK 2. The Netherlands recorded its first cases on February 27th, finishing the day with 2 cases; by this stage, Australia had 23 cases, the UK 15 and Thailand was still far higher at 40 cases. However, as of March 19th, Australia had about 700 cases, The Netherlands and the UK about 2500 each, and Thailand had under 250. This time series plot from my soon-to-be-released program Ravel illustrates the divergence of Thai data from the rest of the world—or rather the three other countries where I could have considered living

during this crisis.

[..] My partner and I arrived in Bangkok on Thursday March 19th, one day before Thailand started closing its border to non-nationals (my partner is a Thai citizen, though she hasn’t lived here for over 25 years). One day later, and I would have had to continue on my own to Australia, which is mishandling this crisis as impressively as any other Western government. Even Thai tourists are thin on the ground now, as Thailand has wisely cancelled its annual Thai New Year holiday and festival. We went to a popular beach yesterday looking for potential places to stay for a year, and it was almost empty. We’re now looking for a house to rent here, for the year that I think it will take before there’s any prospect of a post-Covid-19 “normal” developing.

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Apr 282015
 


NPC National Service Co. front, 1610 14th Street N.W., Washington DC 1920

The New Nothingness (Steen Jakobsen)
The Real War On The Middle Class (Ron Paul)
Over Half Of Americans Killed By Police Each Year Are Mentally Ill (Economist)
Who Is Really Choosing America’s Next President? (ProPublica)
If Greece Falls, No One Wants Their Prints On The Murder Weapon (Reuters)
Greece Shakes Up EU-IMF Talks Team But Keeps Varoufakis (AFP)
Greece PM Leaves Referendum Option Open, Rules Out Elections (Reuters)
Grexit, Grimbo, now Grexhaustion, Acropolis Now?
Greek President Promises Repayment of all Debt (Spiegel)
The Limits Of Propaganda (Dmitry Orlov)
Leaking CIA Secrets Leads To Severe Punishment, Unless You Are The Boss (RT)
Maryland Governor Declares State of Emergency, Activates National Guard (CBS)
The Hidden Lives Of Chernobyl’s Wildlife (BBC)
Norway’s Shift From Oil Starts With Two Left Feet (Bloomberg)
BP Oil Hunt Off Australia Coast Causes Fear of Another Deepwater Horizon (BBG)
East Australia 1 Of 11 Areas Good For 80% Of World Forest Loss (Guardian)
Is The Universe Really A 2-D Hologram? (Science Daily)

Best line in a while: “..I am normally introduced as someone who has predicted five of the last two crises.”

The New Nothingness (Steen Jakobsen)

“The era of procrastination, of half-measures, of soothing and baffling expedients, of delays, is coming to its close. In its place we are entering a period of consequences.” – Churchill

I have noticed a very troubling trend recently – everywhere I go, I’m the optimist. This concerns me and should concern you as well as I am normally introduced as someone who has predicted five of the last two crises. I write this on the Copenhagen-bound plane that brings me back from a visit to Slovenia and Croatia, where everyone has given up on the future. I found the same on a recent trip to Hong Kong and Australia, and on another occasion in Turkey before that. We have zero growth, zero inflation and zero hope. That combination has left the countries of this circumstance in total apathy as zero rates are being interpreted as meaning that no reforms are needed. No inflation means no new margins as well as no new wage bargaining, and zero hope means politics and elections may change the affiliation of countries’ leaders, but not their politics and certainly not their vision for the future.

This is one of the unintended consequences of zero-bound economies and policies. This apathy has, however, reached a zenith-point that needs to be addressed. Media and policymakers continue to talk about what we can’t do, leaving no room for talk of we can do and characterising dreams as mere fantasies, things best left to children. This new nothingness is creating a youth, a political system and an economic outlook which is based more in peoples’ heads and minds than it is in reality. Every country I visit has terrible macro policies, and features a political class who are mainly interested in maintaining the status quo (as well as a dynamic micro economy). There are always business people and students who are willing to do more and better – to go higher, longer and further – but they are drowned in this “nothingness reality”.

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“These politicians also disregard the harm US foreign policy inflicts on Americans.”

The Real War On The Middle Class (Ron Paul)

One of the great ironies of American politics is that most politicians who talk about helping the middle class support policies that, by expanding the welfare-warfare state, are harmful to middle-class Americans. Eliminating the welfare-warfare state would benefit middle-class Americans by freeing them from exorbitant federal taxes, including the Federal Reserve’s inflation tax. Politicians serious about helping middle-class Americans should allow individuals to opt out of Social Security and Medicare by not having to pay payroll taxes if they agree to never accept federal retirement or health care benefits. Individuals are quite capable of meeting their own unique retirement and health care needs if the government stops forcing them into one-size-fits-all plans.

Middle-class families with college-age children would benefit if government got out of the student loan business. Government involvement in higher education is the main reason tuition is skyrocketing and so many Americans are graduating with huge student loan debts. College graduates entering the job market would certainly benefit if Congress stopped imposing destructive regulations and taxes on the economy. Politicians who support an interventionist foreign policy are obviously not concerned with the harm inflicted on the middle-class populations of countries targeted for regime change. These politicians also disregard the harm US foreign policy inflicts on Americans. Middle- and working-class Americans, and their families, who join the military certainly suffer when they are maimed or killed fighting in unjust and unconstitutional wars.

Our interventionist foreign policy also contributes to the high tax burden imposed on middle-class Americans. Middle-class Americans also suffer from intrusions on their liberty and privacy, such as not being able to board an airplane unless they submit to invasive and humiliating searches. Even children and the physically disabled are not safe from the Transposition Security Administration. These assaults are justified by the threat of terrorism, a direct result of our interventionist foreign policy that fosters hatred and resentment of Americans.

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So are their killers.

Over Half Of Americans Killed By Police Each Year Are Mentally Ill (Economist)

To the sound of electric guitars, heavily armed police officers fire assault rifles, drive squad cars fast and pull their guns on fleeing crooks. “Are you qualified to join the thin blue line?” asks a narrator, in the sort of breathless voice you might expect in a trailer for “Fast & Furious 7”. The advert’s aim is not to sell movie tickets, however, but to recruit police officers in Gainesville, a city of 127,000 in Florida. Would-be cops who take this video seriously are likely to be disappointed. The reality of the job, as one officer from a large west-coast agency explains, is far less glamorous. “The public want us to come up and deal with a neighbour who is mowing their lawn at 3am. They want us to deal with their disruptive child. They want us to deal with the crazy person who is walking down the street shouting.”

As crime has fallen across America since the 1990s, policing has shifted more towards social work than the drama seen on TV. Police culture, however, has not caught up. The gap may help to explain why American police are so embattled. The latest controversy is the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old man from Baltimore who died on April 19th after being arrested (six officers have since been suspended). That followed the killing on April 4th in South Carolina of a 50-year-old man, Walter Scott, who was shot in the back by a police officer after running away from his car (the officer was charged with murder after a video of the killing emerged). In another case in Tulsa on April 2nd, a 73-year-old reserve police officer killed a man when he accidentally fired his gun instead of his taser. All three victims were black.

No one knows how many people die in contact with America’s roughly 18,000 law-enforcement agencies. The FBI publishes reports, but police forces are not required to submit data. The incomplete FBI figures show that at least 461 people died in “justifiable homicides” in 2013, an increase of 33% since 2005. Other sources suggest the true number could be as high as twice that. In Britain, by contrast, police shot and killed precisely no one in 2013. American police resort to violence more partly because they meet it more. “We’ve never had a population who are so well-armed,” points out Ron Teachman, the chief of police in South Bend, Indiana. Twenty-six police officers were killed with guns in the line of duty in 2013, far more than in any other rich country.

“When you go to a police academy, the first thing they say to you is that it’s dangerous and you could get killed out there,” says Jim Bueermann, a retired police chief and the head of the Police Foundation, a think-tank. Yet fewer police officers are killed now than in the past, and the number who are shot is less than the number who die in traffic accidents. Over time, suggests Mr Bueermann, a justified alertness to danger may have warped into a belief that the swift use of force is the only thing keeping cops safe. At its worst, this manifests itself in a fiercely defensive culture. For example, in Seattle last year more than 100 cops sued the Department of Justice to protest against a revised use-of-force policy, arguing that it would cripple morale and endanger cops (the case, which was not supported by the city’s police union, was thrown out).

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The amounts are stunning. Democracy?

Who Is Really Choosing America’s Next President? (ProPublica)

Super PACS that get nearly all of their money from one donor quadrupled their share of overall fund-raising in 2014. The wealthiest Americans can fly on their own jets, live in gated compounds and watch movies in their own theaters. More of them also are walling off their political contributions from other big and small players. A growing number of political committees known as super PACs have become instruments of single donors, according to a ProPublica analysis of federal records. During the 2014 election cycle, $113 million – 16% of money raised by all super PACs – went to committees dominated by one donor. That was quadruple their 2012 share. The rise of single-donor groups is a new example of how changes in campaign finance law are giving outsized influence to a handful of funders.

The trend may continue into 2016. Last week, National Review reported that Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s bid for the Republican presidential nomination would be boosted not by one anointed super PAC but four, each controlled by a single donor or donor family. The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling helped usher in the era of super PACs. Unlike traditional political action committees, the independent groups can accept donations of any dollar size as long as they don’t coordinate with the campaign of any candidate. Previously, much of the focus in big-money fundraising was on “bundlers” – volunteers who tap friends and associates for maximum individual contributions of $5,400 to a candidate, then deliver big lump sums directly to the campaigns. Former president George W. Bush awarded his most prolific bundlers special titles such as “Ranger” and “Pioneer.”

While bundling intensified the impact of wealthy donors on campaigns, the dollar limits and the need to join with others diluted the influence of any one person. With a super PAC, a donor can single-handedly push a narrower agenda. Last year, National Journal profiled one such donor – a California vineyard owner who helped start the trend by launching his own super PAC and becoming a power player in a Senate race across the country. Beyond the single-donor groups, big donations are dominant across all kinds of super PACs, according to the analysis. Six-figure contributions from individuals or organizations accounted for almost 50% of all super PAC money raised during the last two cycles. “We are anointing an aristocracy that’s getting a stronger and stronger grip on democracy,” said Miles Rapoport, president of Common Cause, an advocacy group that seeks to reduce the influence of money on politics.

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They can’t escape it.

If Greece Falls, No One Wants Their Prints On The Murder Weapon (Reuters)

While Greece’s leaders insist Europe must heed and respect the democratic will of the Greek people, its creditors reply that they too have democratic mandates from their voters. In Varoufakis’ narrative, euro zone countries did not lend all that money to save Greece in the first place but to protect their own banks, which had imprudently lent Athens billions. Nonsense, say euro zone officials. Those banks took losses in 2012 when Greek debt to private bondholders was restructured. Varoufakis has widened the circle of blame to the ECB, accusing it of «asphyxiating» Greece by starving its banks of liquidity and severely limiting their short-term lending to the government.

That prompted an indignant response from ECB President Mario Draghi, who told the European Parliament the central bank’s support for Greece amounted to some €110 billion, but it was barred by treaty from monetary funding of governments. For weeks Greek officials have been telling their euro zone counterparts they have run out of money, only to find spare cash to make the next debt payment. “They have cried wolf so often that when they are really going bust, no one will believe them,” one EU negotiator said on condition of anonymity. Insiders say the ECB is determined that the central bank will not be the institution that pulls the plug. If it considers support for Greek banks is no longer tenable, it will seek a political decision by European Union governments. “This is not something unelected central bankers should decide,» a source in the Eurosystem of central banks said.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is eager to hold Tsipras’ hand until the last minute in the hope that he will impose an unpalatable economic reform deal on left-wingers in his Syriza party before it is too late. For Juncker, one of the fathers of Europe’s single currency, the departure of a single member from the 19-nation euro zone would be a grievous blow to the bloc’s global standing and could set a dangerous precedent, encouraging investors to speculate against other member states in future crises. Even if it stayed in the euro zone, a Greek default on other European governments or the ECB would be one of the most acrimonious moments in the history of the EU. Amid mutual recrimination over ruined Greek savers and cheated European taxpayers, some fear demonstrations by Greek pensioners or hospital patients and violence in Athens. If it happens, there will be plenty of blame to go around, but no one to take responsibility.

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Lot of goal-seeked mis-reporting on this.

Greece Shakes Up EU-IMF Talks Team But Keeps Varoufakis (AFP)

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras shook up the team handling crucial talks with its creditors Monday after relations between his embattled finance minister and the EU hit a new low. A government statement said a “political negotiation team” would be formed under junior foreign minister Euclid Tsakalotos, a 55-year-old Dutch-born economics professor, to assist the troubled talks after months of fruitless discussions on Athens’ new loan deal. While some see the move as an attempt to sideline Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, whose negotiating style has infuriated Brussels, the radical left government insisted that it would continue to support the maverick economics professor against “manipulated” media attacks.

A government source claimed that the changes did not affect Varoufakis, who will be in charge of Tsakalotos’ “political team”. “This changes nothing as far as Varoufakis is concerned,” the official told AFP. “He will continue to represent Greece at Eurogroup meetings.” The move on Monday came after a stormy Eurogroup meeting in Riga last week where Varoufakis was reportedly “isolated” by his fellow finance European ministers. He reacted by quoting former American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), who spurred major reforms in the United States after the Great Depression. “FDR, 1936: ‘They are unanimous in their hate for me; and I welcome their hatred,'” Varoufakis tweeted on Sunday.

Analysts saw Greece’s reshuffling of its negotiators, with another co-ordinating team to be formed to support talks with EU-IMF officials in Athens, as a bid to placate its creditors. “To bypass Varoufakis and make clear the seriousness of the situation to the Prime Minister directly following the Riga shouting match between finance ministers, Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem reportedly phoned Tsipras after the meeting,” Christian Schulz, a senior economist at Berenberg said. “Tsipras called German chancellor Merkel on Sunday, with German sources describing the tone of the talk as ‘positive’. However, as long as the institutions and Eurozone finance minister can’t certify that Greece is doing the requested reforms, Greece can’t get fresh money,” he added.

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Neutral.

Greece PM Leaves Referendum Option Open, Rules Out Elections (Reuters)

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Tuesday said he would have to resort to a popular referendum if lenders insist on demands that the government deems unacceptable but was confident of striking a deal to avoid such a scenario. Athens is weeks away from running out of cash, but talks with EU and IMF lenders on more aid have been deadlocked over reform measures including pension cuts and labour market liberalisation that Greece must implement. Speculation has grown that Tsipras could call elections or a referendum to break the impasse. In his first major television interview since being elected in January, Tsipras said he expected a deal with creditors by May 9, three days before a debt payment to the IMF of about €750 million falls due.

He ruled out a default but stressed that the government’s priority was to pay wages and pensions. Pressed on what the government’s options were if no deal was found, Tsipras ruled out snap elections, saying it had only been a few months since the government had been voted in. But he said the government did not have the right to accept demands from lenders that fell outside the limits of its mandate to end austerity cuts and would have to ask Greeks to decide. “If the solution falls outside our mandate, I will not have the right to violate it, so the solution to which we will come to will have to be approved by the Greek people,” Tsipras told Star television in the interview. “But I am certain we will not reach that point. Despite the difficulties, the possibilities to win in the negotiations are large. We should not give in to panic moves. Whoever gets scared in this game loses.” [..]

Some of his sharpest comments were reserved for the previous government and certain unnamed quarters in Europe, which he accused of laying a “trap” for his government when it took power in the hope of tripping it up. “They derive pleasure from the prospect of a failure in the talks,” he said, saying his government took over a “minefield” when it came to power in January. “We received a country that was in a situation of financial asphyxiation.” He also hit out at the ECB, calling its decision to place a cap on Treasury bill purchases by banks – which prevented banks from financing the government – a “politically and ethically unorthodox” decision.

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“I’m sure it’ll get worse as the days go by..”

Grexit, Grimbo, now Grexhaustion, Acropolis Now?

The standoff between Greece and its creditors has spawned another bit of rivalry: the battle among analysts to coin the latest buzzword for the painfully protracted drama. “There’s definitely an element of who can come up with the best word to fit the scenario,” said Chris Weston, chief market strategist at IG. Word play on Greece has been picking up this month. Last week brought the word “Grimbo,” or Greece in limbo, coined by a group of Citigroup economists – led by Chief Economist Willem Buiter. They are the same people responsible for the now widely-used “Grexit” term in February 2012, when the idea Greece might leave the euro zone first became a possibility. On Friday, economists at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch decided they wanted in on the game as well, coining “Grexhaustion.”

“There is always a deadline after the final deadline (contributing to the Grexhaustion),” economists Gilles Moec and Ruben Segura-Cayuela wrote, noting that the continual confrontation between Greece and its creditors has had one major casualty: the country’s economy. “Traders have gotten fairly comfortable with the idea of where Greece is, so there’s a bit of mocking and complacency,” said Weston, who suggested “Gretch” as a potential entrant. “Outside of the pain clearly evident in Greece, the rest of the world is quite happy to coin these great phrases as long as it doesn’t see a pickup in [market] volatility.” The Greece situation remains a Sisyphean mire. Over the weekend, media reports said the country’s colorful finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, faced a tough crowd and numerous snubs at a Latvian meeting with his euro zone counterparts.

The country is running out of cash and it needs a last tranche of bailout aid in order to meet debt repayments and to pay its domestic wages and pension bill this month. On Monday, Greece revamped its negotiating team, taking Varoufakis off the field and tapping Deputy Foreign Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, an economist well liked by officials representing creditors, as coordinator. Fresh entrants to the Greek vocabulary one-upsmanship are likely already lurking in the wings. “I’m sure it’ll get worse as the days go by,” said Richard Jerram, chief economist at Bank of Singapore, noting that the first two letters of the country’s name lend themselves well to word play. “A lot of countries couldn’t really do that,” Jerram noted, although he added that he finds other vocabulary plays more amusing than the ones that involve just “shoving ‘Gr’ in front,” such as “Acropolis Now,” a play on the movie title “Apocalypse Now.”

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And next up, we have….

Greek President Promises Repayment of all Debt (Spiegel)

Time is running out for Greece and its international creditors. If an agreement isn’t found by June, the country will face insolvency. The new Greek president, Prokopis Pavlopoulos, has now told SPIEGEL ONLINE his views on the conflict: He rules out the possibility of a Grexit and promises that all the loans made to Greece will be paid back, but he is also critical of past austerity programs. “Some of the measures imposed on us go beyond EU law,” Pavlopoulos said to SPIEGEL ONLINE at his official residence in Athens. “We want to be equal members of Europe. Among other things, the law professor feels that international lenders’ criticisms of the minimum wage and other labor rights in his country are problematic.

Pavlopoulos pointed out that in Germany, too, there is a minimum standard of living. “We are not asking for anything more than for the Greek people to enjoy what Germany’s Constitutional Court considers as an established social right for the German people,” Pavlopoulos said. He also claimed that parts of the austerity programs “were not at all growth friendly, but rather would lead the Greek economy to a recessionary course.” Pavlopoulos is a member of the conservative Nea Dimokratia party and has been in office since March. Earlier in his career, he served as an advisor to former Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis, who led Greece as it transitioned from a military dictatorship to a European democracy. The comments mark the first time the new president has expressed his views on the euro debt dispute to any German media organization.

“Greece in the late 1970s fought a great battle to join Europe,” the president noted. For him, he said, it was “not conceivable to see Greece outside of Europe.” He also said that he views a Grexit, Greek’s possible exit from the euro zone, as unthinkable. “The thought of Grexit does not even enter my mind,” he said. Although Greece is under tremendous financial stress, with the government now forcing hospitals, universities and public agencies to hand over their savings to the central bank. Pavlopoulos stated that his country would fulfill all of its obligations. “We pay everything we owe to the last euro,” he said. “We need to keep a balanced budget and gradually decrease our debt.” The president also expressed optimism that the dispute over Greece’s debt can still be resolved. Pavlopoulos said negotiations for a new bailout program are “entering the home stretch.”

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“..their only option is to try to squelch every voice except their own.”

The Limits Of Propaganda (Dmitry Orlov)

As Paul Craig Roberts has recently reported, the US government is in the process of launching an all-out war on truth. Those who express views contrary to the party line out of Washington will be labeled a threat. Eventually they may find themselves carted to one of the concentration camps which Halliburton (Dick Cheney’s old company) has constructed for $385 million. But that may take a while. In the meantime, we can expect lots of other, less dramatic developments.

Indeed, some of these are already happening. Here they are, listed in order of severity.

1. Self-censorship. Those who have previously tried to get the truth out no matter out become more reticent and prone to equivocation when reporting on “hot” issues.

2. Topic-avoidance. They start avoiding certain “hot” issues that they feel are most likely to get them into trouble.

3. Response to harassment. A few incidents of mild official harassment cause certain blogs to start watering down their content, or pulling down content in response to harassment.

4. Blacklisting. The officials start censoring content on a case-by-case basis, blocking or shutting down certain internet sites that they consider seditious.

5. Blocking communications. The officials start dealing with the “hard cases” of uncooperative individuals who remain, shutting down their communications by disabling their cell phones, shutting down internet access, and by imposing travel restrictions so that the “hard cases” are forced to remain in places where they can be watched.

6. Detention. Those found to be truly uncooperative, who try to circumvent the restrictions, are rounded up and shipped off to the above-mentioned camps.

This may seem like a dire prognosis, but actually I just want to present a relatively complete list of public measures for your consideration. Yes, there will be a few “hard cases” who will insist on getting right in the face of Washington officialdom in futile hopes of somehow affecting the political process or winning over a few of their compatriots. But at some point such individuals become indistinguishable from people with mental problems. That is because if you live in the US, actually know how the political system there operates, and still think that the US is a democracy, then you DO have a mental problem. You can’t have it both ways: either you buy into the official propaganda, or you don’t.

Also, it bears pointing out that the vast majority of people in the US are quite happy listening to Washington’s propaganda, be it from Fox or NPR, don’t consider it propaganda, and have been conditioned to consider anyone who attempts to tell them the truth to be tin hat-wearing conspiracy theorist nut case. And that means that tin hat-wearing conspiracy theorist nut cases have a role to play. They are important to have, in the same way that a village idiot is important to have, so that children can learn what idiocy looks and sounds like. So, why bother sending them to a concentration camp? And so it seems likely that the village idiots… ahem, truth-tellers will remain free-range for the time being, unless they really lose it and start tilting at windmills. But then that becomes a bona fide mental health issue.

Unless, of course, full-on war hysteria breaks out. In that case, while the external goons are busy pretending to be “not winning, not losing” but somehow “keeping America safe” in yet another wretched part of the world, the internal goons have to be kept busy. Rounding up undesirables would give them something to do. That’s the state of affairs in the United States and its subservient territories: Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand and a few others. But Washington’s propaganda isn’t working at all well in the rest of the world, be it Russia or China or Latin America.

In all of these places, Washington’s message control has more or less failed. This is why the people in Washington are in a bit of a panic, and labeling internal dissidents as a “threat” is just them flailing in search of an answer. They can’t stop lying, and they can’t even pretend to rule the world if everyone knows that they are lying, so their only option is to try to squelch every voice except their own. They may succeed at this within the US (some would say they already have) but as far as the rest of the world—good luck!

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Aint’ that the truth.

Leaking CIA Secrets Leads To Severe Punishment, Unless You Are The Boss (RT)

The problem with the lenient treatment of former CIA Director, David Petraeus, isn’t that he was lightly punished for his leaks. It is that other whistleblowers are punished at all. It’s a tale of two CIA employees. The first, Jeffrey Sterling, has just been convicted of leaking information about a bungled agency sortie to James Risen, a reporter. The operation took place almost 20 years ago, around the time everyone was doing the Macarena and Tom Cruise’s first Mission Impossible movie was released. Federal prosecutors are calling for a 24-year prison sentence for Sterling. The second, David Petraeus, has already learned his fate. He received a $100,000 fine and two-years probation. The six-figure sum may seem like a lot to you, but it’s less than the former 4-star general earns for a single speech.

Petraeus was the boss, Sterling an underling. However, Sterling’s so-called misdemeanor pales into insignificance when compared to Petraeus’ actions. The latter handed his lover, Paula Broadwell, information on the identities of covert officers, diplomatic discussions, war strategy and even private chats with the current US President, Barack Obama. This is about as top-level as it gets. Petraeus’ apologists emphasize that the difference between the two cases is that the public never learned the information that Broadwell was given. They use this to justify the leniency shown to the almost four-decade military veteran. Nevertheless, the case of John Kiriakou rather knocks this defense on the head. In 2007, Kiriakou admitted that the CIA had a secret torture program.

The following year, authorities issued criminal charges against him for slipping a journalist the name of a covert agent. As in Petraeus’ case, this name wasn’t published. Regardless, in 2012 Kiriakou was handed a 30-month federal prison sentence. He was partially released in February. Kiriakou freely admitted to his mistakes and those of the CIA. It’s pretty certain that his honesty was his downfall. On the contrary, Petraeus initially lied to FBI officials when they quizzed him about his, probably inadvertent, whistleblowing activities. Lying to federal agents is a felony that carries a sentence of up to five years in prison. For reasons unknown, the former CIA Director wasn’t charged with lying.

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Long time coming.

Maryland Governor Declares State of Emergency, Activates National Guard (CBS)

Governor Larry Hogan has declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to address the growing violence and unrest in Baltimore City. “I have not made this decision lightly. The National Guard represents a last resort in order to restore order,” Hogan said during a news conference Monday night. “People have the right to protest and express their frustration, but Baltimore City families deserve peace and safety in their communities and these acts of violence and destruction of property cannot and will not be tolerated.” Hogan said he executed the request 30 seconds after it was made by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “When the mayor called me, which quite frankly we were glad that she finally did, we signed the executive order,” he said.

“It’s obviously very disappointing to us as Marylanders and people who love the city of Baltimore. What started out as a peaceful protest … I would say 95% of the people involved were conducting themselves in a very peaceful manner, it was well under control. We had a lot of outside agitators come in from around the country, and we had some rogue gangs and young people that were just out looking to cause problems.” Major General Linda Singh, the adjutant general of the Maryland Army National Guard, said during the news conference that the guard would be out in activation beginning Monday night. Up to 5,000 troops were available to patrol the streets and protect property. Hogan said he spoke to President Obama at length about the violence.

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Curious phenomenon. You’d need to check disease rates, though.

The Hidden Lives Of Chernobyl’s Wildlife (BBC)

Automatic cameras in the Ukrainian side of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone have provided an insight into the previously unseen secret lives of wildlife that have made the contaminated landscape their home Throughout 2015, the cameras will be positioned at 84 locations, allowing a team of scientists to record the type of animals passing through the area and where they make their home. In the first four months since the cameras were deployed, the team has “trapped” more than 10,000 images of animals, suggesting the 30km zone, established shortly after the April 1986 disaster when a nuclear reactor exploded, ejecting radioactive material across the surrounding terrain and high into the atmosphere, is now home to a rich diversity of wildlife.

The network of cameras is gathering data that will help scientists choose the most appropriate species to fit with collars that will then record the level of radioactive exposure the animal receives as it travels across the zone. “We want an animal that moves over areas of different contamination – that’s the key thing we need,” explained project leader Mike Wood from the University of Salford, UK. “So we would consider some of the larger animals, such as wolves, because they would be ideal because the way the animal moves through the areas actually affects its contamination levels.” Commenting on the herds of Przewalski’s horses, Dr Wood observed: “They seem to have adapted quite well to life within the zone. “From the images from our cameras, they are clearly moving around in quite large groups,” he told BBC News.

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“This is hardly a good starting point for a major transition.”

Norway’s Shift From Oil Starts With Two Left Feet (Bloomberg)

Norway’s prime minister is fond of saying the nation is facing a “new normal” as a decade-long boom in its petroleum industry starts to fade. Erna Solberg has given little explanation of what that means, except to say that “knowledge is the next oil” and “fish will be Norway’s Ikea,” ideas she echoed in a speech on Friday at her party’s annual convention in Oslo. It’s no wonder then that economists are scratching their heads as to what will fill the gap in the economy once oil takes up less space. The biggest element crippling the oil and non-oil industry is the exorbitant price of labor. Average hourly wage costs in Norway were 47% higher than those in the European Union last year, according to government statistics.

“And that’s after taking into account the considerable weakening of the krone through 2013 and 2014,” said Kari Due-Andresen, chief economist at Svenska Handelsbanken. “This is hardly a good starting point for a major transition.” Rising oil and gas prices over the last 15 years kept Norway afloat, even during the financial crisis when the rest of the world was suffering. As western Europe’s biggest crude producer, the country relies on oil and gas for more than one-fifth of its gross domestic product. With oil investments set to drop and Brent crude stuck around $65 per barrel, politicians, economists and the central banker agree the nation’s economy needs some remodeling. So if the oil economy is slowing, what’s Norway left with?

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There’ll be many.

BP Oil Hunt Off Australia Coast Causes Fear of Another Deepwater Horizon (BBG)

Five years after the Gulf of Mexico oil spill poured millions of barrels of crude into the sea, BP Plc is being challenged over its hunt for oil in the pristine waters off southern Australia. Just over a year before the U.K.-based company has said it expects to start drilling, environmentalists say the company hasn’t yet disclosed its full emergency-response plans for a potential spill in the Great Australian Bight, home to about 18 threatened species from whales to turtles. BP’s initial models show a less than 10% chance that a worst-case incident would lead to oil threatening areas where whales are likely to feed. It’s clear the project will face significant scrutiny before drilling begins.

“The Gulf of Mexico scenario was an absolute disaster, but the stakes are much higher out here,” said Peter Owen, the Wilderness Society’s South Australia director. “This is an undeveloped, non-industrialized part of the world, and the risks are high. It’s very deep, very rough and very remote.” BP said that it has “the technological capability and expertise to safely explore the Great Australian Bight,” according to an e-mailed statement. The company had initially planned to begin drilling in early 2016 and pushed that out because of potential delays with the rig.

More than 85% of species in the Bight aren’t found anywhere else, according to Australia’s national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organization. Species in the Bight include the southern right, sperm and blue whales as well as sea lions and sharks. BP estimated last year it would spend more than A$1 billion ($785 million) to drill 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of Port Lincoln, in a region it describes as “pretty much the last big unexplored basin in the whole world.” About 250 kilometers to the north, endangered southern right whales gather to give birth, drawing visitors to cliff-top lookouts on the nearby coast.

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Let’s get to number 1!

East Australia 1 Of 11 Areas Good For 80% Of World Forest Loss (Guardian)

Eastern Australia is one of the world’s 11 deforestation hotspots that together will account for 80% of global forest loss by 2030, a new report has warned. Between 3m hectares and 6m hectares of rainforest and temperate forest, mainly stretching across New South Wales and Queensland, could be lost between 2010 and 2030 on current trends, according to the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Forests report. This deforestation is part of a wider loss that could reach 170m hectares of forest worldwide by 2030 in 11 key areas, including the Amazon, Borneo, Sumatra, the Congo Basin and East Africa. Ten of the 11 areas are found in the tropics and contain some of the greatest biodiversity in the world, including animals such as tigers, orangutans and gorillas, as well as Indigenous communities.

About 70% of the eastern forests of Australia have already been cleared or disturbed, with just 18% of the area under any sort of protection, the WWF report states. Australia’s forestry loss has primarily been caused by land clearing for livestock, with unsustainable logging and mining also blamed for tree felling. WWF said the watering down of environmental protections by the previous LNP government in Queensland led to a sharp rise in land clearing, with 275,000ha torn down in the past financial year – a tripling of vegetation loss rates since 2010.

While the new Labor state government has promised to reverse this loss, the New South Wales government is set to amend land-clearing protections, despite pledging $100m to protect the state’s threatened plants and animals. “We are deeply concerned about NSW,” said Dermot O’Gorman, chief executive of WWF Australia. “These are laws that have been shown to have been effective in saving hundreds of thousands of animals, so it’s important that biodiversity continues to be protected. “Maintaining forest protections is vital at state level. We’ve lost the large majority of the eastern Australian forest, which means the remaining forests are even more important to maintain. “If business as usual continues, we will see more Australian species disappear, as well as the continuing decline of our water, topsoil and local and regional climate.”

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“Our universe, in contrast, is quite flat – and on astronomic distances, it has positive curvature..”

Is The Universe Really A 2-D Hologram? (Science Daily)

At first glance, there is not the slightest doubt: to us, the universe looks three dimensional. But one of the most fruitful theories of theoretical physics in the last two decades is challenging this assumption. The “holographic principle” asserts that a mathematical description of the universe actually requires one fewer dimension than it seems. What we perceive as three dimensional may just be the image of two dimensional processes on a huge cosmic horizon. Up until now, this principle has only been studied in exotic spaces with negative curvature. This is interesting from a theoretical point of view, but such spaces are quite different from the space in our own universe. Results obtained by scientists at TU Wien (Vienna) now suggest that the holographic principle even holds in a flat spacetime.

Everybody knows holograms from credit cards or banknotes. They are two dimensional, but to us they appear three dimensional. Our universe could behave quite similarly: “In 1997, the physicist Juan Maldacena proposed the idea that there is a correspondence between gravitational theories in curved anti-de-sitter spaces on the one hand and quantum field theories in spaces with one fewer dimension on the other,” says Daniel Grumiller (TU Wien). Gravitational phenomena are described in a theory with three spatial dimensions, the behaviour of quantum particles is calculated in a theory with just two spatial dimensions – and the results of both calculations can be mapped onto each other.

Such a correspondence is quite surprising. It is like finding out that equations from an astronomy textbook can also be used to repair a CD-player. But this method has proven to be very successful. More than ten thousand scientific papers about Maldacena’s “AdS-CFT-correspondence” have been published to date. For theoretical physics, this is extremely important, but it does not seem to have much to do with our own universe. Apparently, we do not live in such an anti-de-sitter-space. These spaces have quite peculiar properties. They are negatively curved, any object thrown away on a straight line will eventually return. “Our universe, in contrast, is quite flat – and on astronomic distances, it has positive curvature,” says Daniel Grumiller.

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