Dorothea Lange White Angel Bread Line, San Francisco 1933
US tops 100,000, world almost tops 100,00 new cases in 24 hours. Winning.
• Cases 613,829 (+ 71,444 from yesterday’s 542,385)
• Deaths (+ 3,861 from yesterday’s 24,368)
From Worldometer yesterday evening (before their day’s close)
From Worldometer -NOTE: mortality rate for closed cases is at 17% –
I think we just missed the next 100,000 global cases within 24 hours.
• US Coronavirus Cases Top 100,000, Doubling In Three Days (CNBC)
Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. surpassed 100,000 Friday, doubling in just three days as the pandemic accelerates and the U.S. rolls out broader testing measures. Data from Johns Hopkins University showed the total number of coronavirus cases as 101,707 and the total number of deaths in the U.S. as 1,544. The virus emerged in Wuhan, China, in December. It has since spread to more than half a million people in almost every country around the world and continues to pick up speed, the World Health Organization warned earlier this week. “The pandemic is accelerating,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday at a press briefing from the organization’s Geneva headquarters.
“It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 days for second 100,000 cases, and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.” Confirmed U.S. cases passed 50,000 on Tuesday, up from 5,000 last week. At the beginning of the month, there were roughly 100 confirmed cases in the U.S. On Thursday, confirmed cases in the U.S. surpassed that of both China and Italy, making it the country with the largest outbreak in the world. The number of confirmed cases likely underestimates the true number of infections across the country, officials have acknowledged. Testing in the U.S. has been hampered by delays and a restrictive diagnostic criteria that limits who can get tested. With 44,635 confirmed cases as of Friday morning, New York state accounts for almost half of all cases in the U.S., according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
He said Thursday that the rapid growth of confirmed cases is partly due to a “backlog” of infections that had not been confirmed due to lack of testing. However, the virus appears to be spreading to multiple so-called hot spots around the country, including Los Angeles, Detroit, New Orleans and other cities around the country.
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I can quote myself here from last night:
“Taleb is very correct in his assessment that the precautionary principle is the only viable approach. Which means you have to hedge for the worst, and only after that may there be other options.
What he doesn’t say clearly enough, I think, is that the ignorant politicians and their science advisers (who only know how to model), as well as the equally ignorant media, have been so late in reacting they should all be pink slipped. Imagine people would have paid attention to the Jan 25 piece he references, when it was published (it advised “moderate distancing”, immediately). [constrain mobility. Immediately]
A report last week said if China had acted 3 weeks earlier 95% of its cases could have been prevented. That is true everywhere.”
• The UK’s Coronavirus Policy May Sound Scientific. It Isn’t (Taleb, Bar-Yam)
When, along with applied systems scientist Dr Joe Norman, we first reacted to coronavirus on 25 January with the publication of an academic note urging caution, the virus had reportedly infected fewer than 2,000 people worldwide and fewer than 60 people were dead. That number need not have been so high. At the time of writing, the numbers are 351,000 and 15,000 respectively. Our research did not use any complicated model with a vast number of variables, no more than someone watching an avalanche heading in their direction calls for complicated statistical models to see if they need to get out of the way.
We called for a simple exercise of the precautionary principle in a domain where it mattered: interconnected complex systems have some attributes that allow some things to cascade out of control, delivering extreme outcomes. Enact robust measures that would have been, at the time, of small cost: constrain mobility. Immediately. Later, we invoked a rapid investment in preparedness: tests, hospital capacity, means to treat patients. Just in case, you know. Things can happen. The error in the UK is on two levels. Modelling and policymaking.
First, at the modelling level, the government relied at all stages on epidemiological models that were designed to show us roughly what happens when a preselected set of actions are made, and not what we should make happen, and how. The modellers use hypotheses/assumptions, which they then feed into models, and use to draw conclusions and make policy recommendations. Critically, they do not produce an error rate. What if these assumptions are wrong? Have they been tested? The answer is often no. For academic papers, this is fine. Flawed theories can provoke discussion. Risk management – like wisdom – requires robustness in models. But if we base our pandemic response plans on flawed academic models, people die. And they will.
This was the case with the disastrous “herd immunity” thesis. The idea behind herd immunity was that the outbreak would stop if enough people got sick and gained immunity. Once a critical mass of young people gained immunity, so the epidemiological modellers told us, vulnerable populations (old and sick people) would be protected. Of course, this idea was nothing more than a dressed-up version of the “just do nothing” approach. Individuals and scientists around the world immediately pointed out the obvious flaws: there’s no way to ensure only young people get infected; you need 60-70% of the population to be infected and recover to have a shot at herd immunity, and there aren’t that many young and healthy people in the UK, or anywhere. Moreover, many young people have severe cases of the disease, overloading healthcare systems, and a not-so-small number of them die. It is not a free ride.
And Taleb’s best friend, Fat Tony has a message for many people out there:
Read more …
As the WaPo: contends “Disease Modelers Factor In New Public Health Risk: Accusations Their Work Is A Hoax”. What, accused by Taleb? Why is anyone still quoting the WaPo? Doesn’t their record speak for itself?
40 million is one of the highest numbers I’ve seen. Luckily, not every politician is Bolsonaro.
• Up To 40 Million Lives Could Be Saved If Countries Act Quickly (Ind.)
If all countries implemented strict anti-coronavirus measures and did so rapidly, up to 40 million lives worldwide could be saved in theory this year, British scientists have calculated. Acting early can cut death numbers by up to 95 per cent but failing to curb the effects of Covid-19 could lead to huge loss of life, they found. Their study concludes that testing and isolation of suspected cases as well as wide social-distancing measures early on can have a dramatic impact. Scientists at Imperial College London studied the health impacts of the pandemic in 202 countries, to compare three scenarios: theoretical death rates without any interventions or distancing with two that could be achieved by policies to curb or suppress spread of the disease.
In all three cases, health systems in all countries would still be quickly overwhelmed without high-cost steps to prevent coronavirus, the report warns. If governments globally did nothing to combat the virus, the pandemic in all likelihood would have caused around 7 billion infections 40 million deaths this year, they concluded. But by taking strict measures as soon as possible, 95 per cent of deaths could be prevented, saving 38.7 million lives, based on an average of 0.2 deaths per 100,000 population per week. If these strict measures are delayed, 30.7 million people’s lives are saved, the research found. “Delays in implementing strategies to suppress transmission will lead to worse outcomes and fewer lives saved,” the academics report.
A midway scenario that involved shielding the elderly and slowing but not interrupting transmission – with a 40 per cent reduction in social contacts among the general population – only halved the number of lives lost. “How individual countries respond in the coming weeks will be critical in influencing the trajectory of national epidemics,” the report says. But lower-income countries are likely to face a much higher burden than wealthier nations, with 25 times more patients in poor nations needing critical care than beds available, while in high-income countries demand outstrips supply by seven times, the report says. Dr Patrick Walker, an author of the report, said: “We estimate that the world faces an unprecedented acute public-health emergency in the coming weeks and months.
“Our findings suggest that all countries face a choice between intensive and costly measures to suppress transmission or risk health systems becoming rapidly overwhelmed. However, our results highlight that rapid, decisive and collective action now will save millions of lives in the next year.”
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Weird turnarounds: Fausi goes from a 1.0% CFR to 0.1% in 2 weeks, Neil Ferguson takes just 10 days to move from 500,000 deaths to under 20,000. Oh, and Deborah Brix claims the US have “..enough data now of the real experience with the coronavirus on the ground..” and, well, after all: “Models are [just] models”.
Now, she of course in fact merely has new models based on new data (so why diss models?), and it’s not nearly enough; re: testing. What Fauci and Ferguson hope to accomplish in risking their credibility with their sudden “moodswings” is unclear, but they’re not sufficiently supported by new data either. Not in that amount of time. Political pressure perhaps?
• Dr. Fauci: Coronavirus Death Rate Like Very Bad Flu (WND)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, co-authored an article published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine predicting the fatality rate for the coronavirus will turn out to be like that of a “severe seasonal influenza.” In an exceptionally bad flu season, the case fatality rate is about one-tenth of 1 percent, the authors write. Regarding the current coronavirus pandemic, they said: “If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%.”
Taking into account the unreported cases, they conclude “that the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.” Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. His current assessment is a signicant downgrade from the figure he cited in testimony to the House of Representatives on March 11 in which he called for a cancellation of any large gatherings. Fauci estimated at the time – prior to the current shutdown – that the true mortality rate of the coronavirus outbreak, taking into account unreported cases, was “somewhere around 1%, which means it is 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu.”
[..] the lead author of a dire coronavirus study cited by the White House, Downing Street and other governments in their decisions implement unprecendented “social distancing” measures has drastically revised the estimated death toll of the pandemic in the U.K. The study by Imperial College of London published March 16 estimated that 2.2 million Americans and 500,000 Britons could die. But lead author Neil Ferguson testified Wednesday to a parliamentary committee that the U.K. death toll is unlikely to exceed 20,000 and could be much lower. And more than half that number would have died anyway by the end of the year, because of their age and underlying illnesses, he told the panel.
[..] At the White House Coronavirus Task Force daily briefing Thursday, coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx mentioned Ferguson’s dramatic downgrade of his estimate. She said the predictions of models also “don’t match the reality on the ground in either China, South Korea or Italy.” “Models are models. There’s enough data now of the real experience with the coronavirus on the ground, really, to make these predictions much more sound,” said Birx. “So when people start talking about 20% of a population getting infected, it’s very scary,” she said. “But we don’t have data that matches that.”
Ferguson issued a clarification Thursday via Twitter, arguing his evidence to Parliament “referred to the deaths we assess might occur in the UK in the presence of the very intensive social distancing and other public health interventions now in place.” “Without those controls, our assessment remains that the UK would see the scale of deaths reported in our study (namely, up to approximately 500 thousand),” he wrote.
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China, from zero to hero. Nice story, but…
• China Closes Borders, Claims Wuhan ‘Basically Blocked’ Coronavirus (SAC)
The Chinese government is reporting that the city of Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus began is no longer an area of “high risk” for the transmission of the coronavirus and hasn’t seen any new cases since March 18. The report comes as the country plans to close its borders to foreigners beginning Saturday, March 28 after limiting inbound and outbound international flights on Thursday. “The suspension is a temporary measure that China is compelled to take in light of the outbreak situation and the practices of other countries,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “China will stay in close touch with all sides and properly handle personnel exchanges with the rest of the world under the special circumstances. The above-mentioned measures will be calibrated in light of the evolving situation and announced accordingly.”
The city of Wuhan first shut down on January, 23. That date, however, was too late in stopping the spread of the virus as millions of people fled shortly before the quarantine was ordered. According to the city’s mayor, it was nearly 5 million people. Many of the millions who left travelled abroad for the Chinese Lunar New Year. Earlier this month, President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak began and claimed that the virus “has basically been curbed” in the city. He reportedly visited hospitals and quarantined citizens. The city is located in Hubei province, which claims to have had no cases for 22 consecutive days outside of Wuhan.
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“..repeat offenders staring down the possibility of 3-18 months in prison..”
• Countries Worldwide Roll Out Draconian Measures To Fight Covid-19 (RT)
New regulations in Singapore which threaten prison time for anyone found violating “social distancing” protocols exemplify the harsh rules being imposed around the world in the fight against coronavirus.
According to a press release from the Ministry of Health, Singaporeans who fail to maintain a distance of one meter from other people in “non-transient” public interactions can be fined up to 10,000 Singapore dollars ($6,985) and even risk a six-month jail sentence. The strict measures come as nations around the world adopt similarly extreme provisions to halt the spread of coronavirus.
Jordan introduced some of the most radical anti-coronavirus policies to date. The country initially imposed an around-the-clock lockdown, with officials promising to deliver bread and water to all citizens. Those who violated the strict quarantine were threatened with a year in prison. At least 800 were arrested over a span of several days, the Guardian reported. The measures were later eased, with the government permitting people to take walks and visit shops and pharmacies.
Authorities have begun to ratchet up efforts to stop quarantine violators in Italy. The country deployed more than 100 soldiers tasked with enforcing lockdown measures in Lombardy, the hardest-hit region in Europe. More than 90,000 Italians have been slapped with fines which can potentially reach €3,000 ($3,300). Italians can also end up behind bars for three months for flouting the stay-in-place protocols.
Spain might have the most stringent rules in Europe. Since announcing a countrywide lockdown in mid-March, residents have only been allowed outside for essentials such as grocery shopping or medical needs. The provisions, originally scheduled to be lifted after fifteen days, have been extended until April 11. Those found in violation of the rules face astronomical fines, with repeat offenders staring down the possibility of 3-18 months in prison. More than 30,000 fines have been issued and 900 arrests made for disobedience, according to reports.
Read more …
Just like Trump has, I would add.
• COVID-19 Has Exposed Just How Broken American Economy & Society Are (Ritter)
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed some uncomfortable truths about the state of America today. First and foremost is the fragility of the American economy. After years of outsourcing manufacturing, the United States has constructed an economy where services industries comprise some 55 percent of overall economic activity. In the age of globalization, with interconnectivity functioning seamlessly, this model has been able to generate the appearance of prosperity, with a booming stock market and increased GDP. The reality, however, is that the American economy lacks resilience in time of crisis. The ongoing trade war with China, combined with a depressed global oil market, were in the process of exposing this reality before the coronavirus pandemic.
The national lockdown, and resulting economic stoppage, only accelerated what was a gradual economic recession in progress. Even if the US economy could be taken off stimulus-driven life support, the conditions that preceded the shutdown still exist and, if anything, have only been exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic on global economic health. American corporations have been shown to have little capacity to plan for “rainy day” contingencies, instead focusing all their economic resources on the generation of short-term profit. And the American working class has been likewise exposed as living on the edge of catastrophe, with few Americans able to fall back on savings that would enable them to ride out a period of sustained economic inactivity or, worse, to pay for emergency health care.
The other uncomfortable truth about America that has been exposed by the crisis is the overall fragility of American society. The medical emergency brought about by the need to treat this virus has shown that what passes for a national healthcare system is, in fact, a fragile construct of for-profit institutions susceptible to being rapidly overburdened and unable to function once the cash-stream of overpriced healthcare has been cut off. The coronavirus crisis has revealed the reality of the US healthcare system today – most Americans don’t have the wherewithal to get quality healthcare when needed – the cost of such care is prohibitive, as are the insurance premiums one must pay to cover it.
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“The peak unemployment rate in the US was 24 percent in the depth of the Great Depression..”
• US May Be Headed For Highest Unemployment Ever (RT)
The coronavirus pandemic will push the US jobless rate even higher than it was during the Great Depression if all the gloomy forecasts are true, Roger Farmer, an economist at the University of Warwick, believes. Earlier this week, a US Federal Reserve official predicted that the outbreak will leave 30 percent of Americans jobless while the country’s GDP will fall by 50 percent. According to James Bullard, president of the St. Louis branch of the US Federal Reserve Bank, that could happen quite soon – in the second quarter of this year. “If that turns out to be correct it will be the highest ever recorded. The peak unemployment rate in the US was 24 percent in the depth of the Great Depression,” Professor Farmer told RT.
The economist noted that the decline may be short-term as the situation will start to improve as soon as social isolation ends. Much will depend on the right stimulus, such as direct wage subsidies that can help the economy to rebound. “If job losses become permanent and employment relationships are destroyed, the recovery will take longer,” the analyst said. Another forecast released by the developers of the US Private Sector Job Quality Index (JQI) warned that some 37 million workers across the US are vulnerable to layoffs due to the shutdowns triggered by the health crisis.
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Economist DeLong says: test test test. Which is the one thing everyone says they do, but nobody does, other than in token numbers.
• Yet Another Rant on Coronavirus & Trump (Brad DeLong)
Could “reopening America for business” on Easter backfire? Oh, yes it could. Oh, it definitely could backfire: BIGTIME. The experience so far is that, in a society not undertaking social distancing, coronavirus cases double in a little less than five days—grow 100-fold in a month. If, say, the virus has been largely suppressed and only 10000 in the U.S. have it Easter week, then after the u.S. is opened up 1 million will have it on May 15, and then 100 million on June 15, at which point the epidemic will have pretty much run its course. But from May 1 to June 15 hospitals will have been overwhelmed. The likely death rate will have been not 1% but 6%. 5 million additional Americans will have died. In return we will have produced an extra $1 trillion of stuff. That’s a tradeoff of $200K per life, which is not a good tradeoff to aim at making.
And, while it could be better, it could be much worse… The right way to do it is to lockdown while we test, test, test, test, test: • Test a random-sample panel of 10000 Americans weekly to get a handle on the progress of the disease. • Test everyone for antibodies. • Let those who have had the disease and so are no immune go back to work—after testing to make sure that they are immune. • Indeed, draft those who have recovered to be hospital orderlies and nurses. • Make decisions based on knowledge of where the epidemic is in the community, and tune quarantine, social distancing, and shutdown measures to those appropriate given where the epidemic is. But we do not know where the epidemic is.
And because we are not testing on a sufficient scale, we will not know when and if the virus is truly on the run until a month after the peak, when deaths start dropping. And even then we will not know how much the virus is on the run. And removing social distancing before the virus is thoroughly on the run means that the virus comes roaring back. Once the virus is thoroughly on the run, then normal public health measures can handle it:
• Test, test, test. • Test patients presenting with symptoms. • Trace and test their contacts. Do what Japan and Singapore did—close to the epicenter in Wuhan, yet still with true caseloads lower than one in ten thousand. • Test those crossing borders, symptomatic or not. • Test those moving from city to city via air. •Test a random sample on the interstates, to see how much virus is leaking from place to place that way. • Test a random sample of the population to see whether and how much the disease was established, and then test another one.
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“..Pelosi and Democratic leadership still have their eyes on protecting corporations and not the people,” said one House Democratic staffer.”
• Millions Will Struggle To Pay Rent In April, But Few In Congress Care (IC)
On Wednesday, April 1, rent payments will be due for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic — yet even with unemployment at a record high, major bill payments have barely factored into U.S. politicians’ response to the crisis. On Friday, the House passed an emergency multi-trillion dollar relief package, which was approved by the Senate on Wednesday night and will now head to President Donald Trump’s desk. It’s about five times bigger than Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus and represents a massive upward transfer of wealth. Though it includes a significant expansion of unemployment benefits and a onetime check of up to $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 for couples, it’ll take up to three weeks for people to begin receiving those relief checks, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
That will be too late for the nearly 3.3 million people who filed for unemployment benefits last week, and others who have become underemployed as a result of the pandemic. While some states — namely New York — have taken steps to temporarily block evictions, congressional Democrats, with the exception of a handful of progressive lawmakers, have shown almost no interest in addressing the bills due in less than a week, one of the most pressing financial concerns ordinary people currently face. “It shows that Pelosi and Democratic leadership still have their eyes on protecting corporations and not the people,” said one House Democratic staffer.
[..] For the most part, demands to cancel rent have been coming from the political left, tenants’ rights groups and other progressive activist circles. They have made modest and incremental gains in a handful of cities and states, but as of yet no change has been enacted that meets the size of the crisis. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order leaving the decision to pause evictions up to local jurisdictions, which has prompted a confusing patchwork of temporary measures in cities like San Francisco and San Bernardino. States like Washington and Pennsylvania, meanwhile, have adopted more widespread measures.
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Left on March 7. And we still can’t say: leave them alone?!
• Panama Canal Blocks Cruise Ship With 138 Ill, 2 COVID-19 Cases On Board (BI)
The Panama Canal Authority will block the MS Zaandam, a Holland America cruise ship with two confirmed cases of COVID-19 on board, from entering the canal. “Following protocol of Panama’s Ministry of Health, if a vessel has individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 on board, it cannot make any port operations or transit the Canal,” the Panama Canal Authority said in a statement sent to Business Insider on March 27. The Holland America previously considered having the ship sail through the Panama Canal in order to head back to Fort Lauderdale for a March 30 arrival.
The Zaandam has been stranded off the coast of South America and Central America after different ports began closing to cruise ships due to coronavirus concerns. A bout of respiratory disease then broke out on the ship, prompting 138 sick passengers and crew members to report to the vessel’s medical center. Holland America confirmed that four passengers have died on board, and two individuals have tested positive for COVID-19. The cruise on the Zaandam was scheduled to last 14 days, embarking from Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7. For some passengers, the cruise would end after 14 days in San Antonio, Chile. For others, it was due to April 7 in Fort Lauderdale.
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Sanctions made Russia stronger, and Venezuela too.
• Venezuela’s Coronavirus Response Might Surprise You (Flores)
Within a few hours of being launched, over 800 Venezuelans in the U.S. registered for an emergency flight from Miami to Caracas through a website run by the Venezuelan government. This flight, offered at no cost, was proposed by President Nicolás Maduro when he learned that 200 Venezuelans were stuck in the United States following his government’s decision to stop commercial flights as a preventative coronavirus measure. The promise of one flight expanded to two or more flights, as it became clear that many Venezuelans in the U.S. wanted to go back to Venezuela, yet the situation remains unresolved due to the U.S. ban on flights to and from the country. Those who rely solely on the mainstream media might wonder who in their right mind would want to leave the United States for Venezuela.
[..] These media outlets painted a picture of a coronavirus disaster, of government incompetence and of a nation teetering on the brink of collapse. The reality of Venezuela’s coronavirus response is not covered by the mainstream media at all. [Their articles shortchange] the damage caused by the Trump administration’s sanctions, which devastated the economy and healthcare system long before the coronavirus pandemic. These sanctions have impoverished millions of Venezuelans and negatively impact vital infrastructure, such as electricity generation. Venezuela is impeded from importing spare parts for its power plants and the resulting blackouts interrupt water services that rely on electric pumps. These, along with dozens of other implications from the hybrid war on Venezuela, have caused a decline in health indicators across the board, leading to 100,000 deaths as a consequence of the sanctions.
[..] First, international solidarity has played a priceless role in enabling the government to rise to the challenge. China sent coronavirus diagnostic kits that will allow 320,000 Venezuelans to be tested, in addition to a team of experts and tons of supplies. Cuba sent 130 doctors and 10,000 doses of interferon alfa-2b, a drug with an established record of helping COVID-19 patients recover. Russia has sent the first of several shipments of medical equipment and kits. These three countries, routinely characterized by the U.S. foreign policy establishment as evil, offer solidarity and material support. The United States offers more sanctions and the IMF, widely known to be under U.S. control, denied a Venezuelan request for $5 billion in emergency funding that even the European Union supports.
Second, the government quickly carried out a plan to contain the spread of the disease. On March 12, a day before the first confirmed cases, President Maduro decreed a health emergency, prohibited crowds from gathering, and cancelled flights from Europe and Colombia. On March 13, Day 1, two Venezuelans tested positive; the government cancelled classes, began requiring facemasks on subways and on the border, closed theaters, bars and nightclubs, and limited restaurants to take-out or delivery. It bears repeating that this was on Day 1 of having a confirmed case; many U.S. states have yet to take these steps. By Day 4, a national quarantine was put into effect (equivalent to shelter-in-place orders) and an online portal called the Homeland System (Sistema Patria) was repurposed to survey potential COVID-19 cases.
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If I were a Briton, I’d be very worried about the state of my judicial system by now.
• RT Loses Challenge Against Claims Of Bias In Novichok Reporting
The Kremlin-backed news channel RT has lost a high court challenge to overturn a ruling by the UK media regulator that it broadcast biased programmes relating to the novichok poisoning in Salisbury and the war in Syria. Ofcom fined RT £200,000 after determining that seven programmes, including two presented by the former MP George Galloway, were in breach of UK broadcasting rules relating to due impartiality regarding matters of political controversy. The programmes fronted by Galloway, a regular presenter on the 24-hour news channel, covered the poisoning of the Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury two years ago. While the poisoning was blamed on Russia, Galloway cast doubt on the assertion.
Ofcom also found that four news and current affairs broadcasts addressing the US’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, and a news programme concerning the Ukrainian government’s position on Nazism and the treatment of Roma people, breached impartiality rules. RT contended that Ofcom had not taken into account the fact that the “dominant media narrative” at the time of the poisonings – that Russia was to blame – meant it could leave that view out of its own programming. The broadcaster also said the requirement to be impartial interfered with its right to freedom of expression. Lord Justice Dingemans, who delivered the high court judgment remotely on Friday, said the requirement for media to be balanced was paramount in the era of fake news.
“At present, the broadcast media maintains a reach and immediacy that remains unrivalled by other media,” he said. “Indeed, there is reason to consider that the need [for due impartiality] is at least as great, if not greater than ever before, given current concerns about the effect on the democratic process of news manipulation and of fake news.” He saud RT was not restricted from broadcasting its point of view on the Salisbury poisonings, the war on Syria or events in Ukraine. “The only requirement was that, in the programme as broadcast, RT provided balance to ensure that there was ‘due impartiality’,” he said.
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